How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

My Dear Friends…

I often ask myself why certain life stories inspire my Blah, Blah Blogging?

Self:  Why did Buddy Guy in the recent American Masters series on PBS inspire you to write about him?

More Self:  I can always depend on you to ask the right question at the right time.

Even More Self:  Who are you talking to? 

Back to the first Self:  Don’t ask. Just go with the flow.

There are so many reasons I tuned into the story of Buddy Guy:

  1.  I love the Blues. I have a vision of myself from forever as a singer of the Blues. Sitting atop a piano, looking strangely like a bad imitation of Julie London, plaintively crying a river of blues. My audience suitably sobbing (free tissue packs included in the price of admission.) Scratch a comedienne and you’ll find a tragedienne.
  2. I knew the name Buddy Guy.  I didn’t really know who he is.
  3. American Masters always find really interesting people to profile.
  4. Their documentaries are gloriously, artistically interesting and informative.

Buddy Guy is a blues guitar player in the style of his heroes and mentors, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. Familiar names but little known to me.  Buddy was born 83 years ago in a small town in Louisiana. From the beginning he never thought of himself as special. And as I listened to him describe his life in this small town, where his family were share croppers and as a child, he picked cotton. Before I even heard him play, I felt I was being osmotically drawn to him right through all the electronic apparatus between him and me. As I watched and listened to him learn to play, at first with only two strings before he had enough money to buy a real guitar, I thought… ”What is it about this man that touches me so deeply? First, his humility… what can I say, is humbling. At a time when everyone is “look at me-ing” all over the place, he put his focus where it belonged… on discovering, exploring, and practicing his gift.

He needed to breathe.
He needed to play.
One was inextricably linked to the other.
I related. Even when I didn’t want to, that is how I lived.

BREATHE IN… 1,2,3

WORK… and a-1 and a-2 and a-3

In the first moments of this profile, I watched as he listened to the greats of his time, first in Baton Rouge then after moving on to Chicago.  All he ever wanted to do was try to play like they did.  He never thought he’d ever become a professional musician. He just wanted to play his guitar.  Chicago was a mecca for the Blues. He could and did watch. He could and did listen. For him it was simple. He needed to breathe. He needed to play. This was all very familiar to me. I was hooked.

Throughout the documentary, various personalities, guitar players (of all ages), managers, agents, tell Buddy’s story.  And then we have the Brits. I find it interesting that most Americans of the 50’s and 60’s and even into the 70’s (my ignorance astounds me, but then it always has) didn’t know about Buddy or Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy Waters, or John Lee Hooker, but Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones knew. Eric Clapton knew. Stevie Ray Vaughn knew, and when Buddy went to London as a tourist…. the Brits pounced on him and made him play with them and it was the breakthrough he needed because it was when the Stones toured the States that they demanded and got these great unknown (Ha! Ha!) guitar players included in their tours. 

An amazing piece of Black History. Of course there are so many unknown amazing pieces of Black History to shake up the shame I share with whoever is willing to share it with me.  

Another piece of my ignorance follows the various interviews of one, John Mayer. I had only heard of him as the escort of various People Magazine movie and television stars.  (Please don’t give me grief. People magazine is my go to the beauty salon, doctor offices, necessary reading material. I call ahead to be assured the establishments carry the latest issues.) So who knew from John Mayer? Turns out these movie stars knew a good thing after all.  He was truly erudite, intelligent and bonkers over Buddy. And I understand he can play guitar as well as other things, too.

Buddy Guy’s life story stirred my thinking about the creative process.

As I view some of the artists today, I am saddened. It’s not as if I do not see the talent, the gift. In my thinking however, the gift really is only one small part of an artist’s process. Without discipline, without working the gift, it can only go so far. In fact, I would say, without the kind of practicing that Buddy Guy did, his glorious gift would never have developed the way it did. Practice doesn’t guarantee success, but without it the shelf life of the artist’s gift is a short one.  

Right???  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. So THAT is how you get to Carnegie Hall…

P.P.S. More enticement to watch documentary…

Losing or Gaining Perspective?

My Dear Friends and Family,

The Confession: I love music. However, I am not now or have I ever considered myself expert in the field of music… modern, classical, R&B, pop. I simply know what I like and what I don’t like. I think I would qualify as your average, every day, listener, EXCEPT for my opinionated Big Mouth. 

The Disclaimer:  Yes I was a singer.  Yes I was a dancer.  Yes I played a very bad piano.  All to say I knew about music… definitively not as an expert but as a participating viewer, listener and performer.

This information is leading you to an adventure I had in the world of music and, oh, so much more, on Hulu Streaming last Friday evening:  Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Over the course of six weeks during the summer of 1969, thousands of people attended the Harlem Cultural Festival to celebrate Black history, culture, music and fashion held in Morris Park in the Bronx (an almost as infamous borough as Brooklyn, but not quite).

I am and always will be the Brooklyn girl who had friends and went to school with all races and religions.  In 1969, I was thirty-six.  OMG was I ever 36? I guess I had to have been to get to 37 and on up and up and up. My life was circumscribed by my children and my career. In combination, there was not a spare breath for any other activity. I was living  and  working in Washington, D.C., a recently desegregated Southern city that had been rocked by the recent assassinations of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, JFK, Bobby Kennedy. Of course I was aware of the Happening in Woodstock… the crazies invading a bucolic setting in New York State where wild men and women made music, love, drank wine, did drugs and more… a veritable hippie Sodom and Gomorrah.

In 1969, the whole world knew about Woodstock. 
In 1969, no one knew about the Summer of Soul concerts in Morris Park.

The only people that knew about the Summer of Soul concerts in Morris Park were the 40,000 to 50,000 people who attended them. Definitely a Black majority coming out of Harlem… which is where the subtitle (When The Revolution Could Not be Televised) comes from.  Woodstock had television and movie studios vying for the rights to film the concert. Summer of Soul sponsors had to beg for money to film and record their concerts.  And we are thankful for those sponsors that had the foresight to make a record of an historical and cultural moment in Black History 52 years before BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I could do chapter and verse about the difference between Woodstock and Morris Park… it wouldn’t work… it’d be comparing apples and oranges. They are just two different fruits or vegetables. There is a striking difference, however, other than color in the demeanor of the attendees of Woodstock and Morris Park.  A psychologist would have a grand time looking at the behavioral differences.  Considering the line up of this concert, it will be no hardship for you to watch this concert and make your own evaluation.  A picture is worth a thousand words. 

These artists are enough to pump even this ‘ole soul. Stevie Wonder (looking like he’s 12), Gladys Knight and the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, The 5th Dimension, The Chamber Brothers, David Ruffin (I didn’t know him, but I did know My Girl), Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Jesse Jackson (not singing but speaking eloquently), and an unbelievably incredible and stirring performance by Nina Simone.  There are so many more and I am showing my ignorance by not knowing them before this documentary.  

The point is I know them now. To watch these beautiful artists, is to be reminded of how long it takes this nation , indivisible (we hope), under God, to change a light bulb and the way it thinks.

Yup, as the privileged white woman watching this concert, I went through it all.  From despair to hope.  I am happy to report I came out on the side of HOPE.  That is what good music always does for me.

Right???  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

Gratified and Satisfied…

My Dear Friends,

We have all heard it a million times… writing is such a lonely craft. No matter how writers try to distract themselves from themselves, eventually they must succumb and begin the lonely climb from sub to conscious thought, from pen to paper or fingers to computer. Yes, I am describing my own journey. And then the thoughts are dispersed to the person or in this case, the “list” of those brave souls that signed on to accept and read my blog. All to say, I thankfully, always get some response to what I write.

So that even if I write in the wilderness, eventually after sending the blog out, someone or someones rescue me from my solitude and brings me into their thoughts and responses and I am profoundly gratified and satisfied.

Hey, let us not forget my friends… I began my game of life as a performer. My passion was in putting myself before an audience and hoping I gave them pleasure or challenge or both. That give and take audience response was my initial lifeline from dysfunctional family life to dysfunctional married life. My ever growing, developing, nurturing, constantly challenging, and most loving relationship with my daughters was and always will be my raison d’être, but performing was definitely my second choice.

So writing in the wilderness is very difficult for me. And without response… OI VEY! … you’ve got to be kidding… a killer… an absolutely killer. I’ve been told to not be bothered by the lack of response… blog readers don’t usually respond. Well, in this last Blog about the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot…. I specifically asked for a response… and I got it.

I’m going to try and figure out how to rework my blog so I can keep this “audience” response going. In the meantime, I want to share some of the responses I received.

From Jim:
In my reading lately I’ve come across the concept referred to as the attention economy. Mostly in reference to social media like Facebook, Twitter,  etc. it is the idea that our attention is finite and of value and we should pay attention to how we ‘spend’ it.

These dark, ironic ‘humor’ movies and shows make me feel like I’ve not only wasted my time but been ripped off in terms of my attention. And since everything is tracked these days I am starting to be much more circumspect in how I allocate my attention. 

Here is the original article which introduced the phrase attention economy into my brain… I Talked to the Cassandra from the Internet Age (NY Times)

From Donna:
I saw the trailer for “I Care A Lot”. Half way through the trailer, it ’sceeved’ me out and I moved on. What a horrible plot!!!… The world is frightening enough these days without adding to it.

From Pamela:
I was afraid of that. I saw the blurb and could feel the ickiness. Glad you STOPPED WATCHING!!! Your senses are too precious to fill with such a vile version of humanity!

From Paula:
In CA almost impossible to have someone declared incapacitated in the courts.  Court also sends out its own independent investigator.  Anyway wanted you to know this so that you can sleep again…

FYI, I never watch movies like this anymore (even in the past I rarely watched) – no matter what the reviews.  Too much ugliness in the world already. I need an escape.

From Vel:
Just read your blog and SO glad I decided to pass on that film! But here’s a bit of news that gives that swindling racket a ‘Hooray for you, Girl’ upbeat twist: At 93, She Waged War on JPMorgan—and Her Own Grandsons

From Dianne:
I read your blog.  That movie sounds horrible.  Glad you switched over to reliable Agatha. 

From Lana:
Ugh. I watched that movie last night. I wanted to quit part way through it — I actually found it very uncomfortable and a little bit horrifying. I also wanted to see if it had a satisfying end (yes, sort of). But I went to bed with a flutter in my throat, kind of wishing I hadn’t watched it. But it made me wonder if, during the Trump era, producers made more movies like that — characters derelict of conscience or humanity

In reading up on the backstory of the movie, I see an article in The New Yorker was part inspiration: 
The Takeover
The whole thing scared the be-jesus out of me. 

From Ron: 
This came from reading your blog …

Now if you have any responses to these responses… write on MacDuff!  

While there have been shows where some audience members left before I did, (I’ve been in a few “turkeys” in my time), but as Laurence Olivier said, “If you haven’t had any bad reviews, you can’t call yourself an actor”.  

You see this is the kind of digression that counts as a distraction when I am trying to write. All I meant to say is… if you want to respond to any of the responses my machines are always open.   

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

A Distraction Story…

My Dears,

I don’t know what to do with myself. My nerves are frayed. My ability to focus has sharply declined.  AND… I feel a little like my tv set when it goes into its “buffering” state.  You know… the picture and sound disappear and there is that little circle that goes round and round.  I imagine that this buffering circle is running after the sound and the picture… and I sit there praying it catches them before I forget what it is that I was watching.  

In both worlds of the pandemic and election craze daze, we have reached the stage of repetition in the  stories and warnings and expose’ and charts and statistics and rallies and tallies that only brings numbness and confusion. 

Sooooo…  in an effort to distract myself from myself I want to tell you a story about my dance audition for The High School of Performing Arts.  

How’s that for an oxymoron! (Oxymorons exist… I know  few of them…sorry, it was just sitting there and I had to.)

I was 13 and full of myself.  I thought I was a gift from the muse Terpsichore.

For my audition I was asked to prepare two different kinds of dances.

My first creation was my interpretation of Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz.

My second choreographic choice was to the Boston Pops version of the popular tango, Jealousy.

I thought each one reflected my brilliance as a dancer and choreographer.

Come on, guys, give me a break.  I was a 13 year old who dreamed of stardom. If I became a star, I would be loved like I loved Betty Grable. Love and stardom were intricately and undeniably linked.   

On the day of the audition, I changed into my leotard, walked into the big bare room with my two recordings, covered my nervousness and insecurities with a solid slice of bravura because I knew any minute I was about to be “discovered”.   

Imagine my surprise as I discovered, there among the other people who were auditioning us, sat the High Priestess of Dance herself, Martha Graham.  And I knew for sure the only reason she was there was to “discover ME”.

And so I danced with a fury as if my life depended on it. And for me, in a way it did. At 13 I knew family and home had a shelf life. I needed to begin my climb sooner rather than later. I moved to The Blue Danube increasing the tempo with speed of dips and turns never once looking in HER direction. And of course the ending was an overdramatic leap into the air with a slide flat out onto the floor. The thought of that move today would be the end not the beginning.

I immediately rose up from the floor and changed the record before they had a chance to say, Thank you and usher me out.

My interpretation of Jealousy followed along the lines of the movie The Red Shoes. I used the dramatic orchestral flourishes to interpret going “crazy” as I tangoed through the morass of a troubled mind… The everything and the kitchen sink approach…

I’m not going to keep you in suspense. I was accepted as a student in the dance department. I had also auditioned for the drama department. Of course, I was hedging my bets. It was not quite as dramatic as my dancing. I think I did a scene from something I wrote where I played all the parts.  Over-the-top defined me then as now. 

Many years later when I could bear to think about what I put Martha Graham through, I tried to imagine what she thought. I had spirit and energy. I had an intense desperation bordering on insanity to succeed, which is absolutely necessary for any budding wanna-be artist. And she had to have been amused or at least distracted from her problems for those few moments.

Phew! That felt good. There is no question about it. Distraction was definitely needed. In spiritual terms, I really want to believe that no matter what the outcome during this pandemic and after November 3 … All will be well. And honestly, my friends, in the deepest part of me, I do believe that is true. My sense of life is as long as I have it… life that is… all IS well. 

I am the microcosm in the macrocosm. No Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Anarchist or Nihilist brings the sun up and good old Mother Nature laughs (and lately cries) at those who think they can.

Right???  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane 💗

P.S. I promised I wasn’t going to get into it… but I had my fingers crossed… So, if you are so inclined, give this a look:

P.S. Last Call To Vote

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!!

W.O.U. We Owe U

My Dear friends and family,

Have you been enjoying some of the most extraordinary watching on your computers, your television, your i- pads, your smart phones?  The outpouring from every cultural corner of the world has been extraordinary. 

Whether you choose to avail yourself of these privileges afforded you during this crises or not, if you are able, and it doesn’t have to be a large sum, but you have a debt that must be paid.

It is clear.  The world will never be the same.  There is a permanent change to all that were used to.  Much adjusting and adapting must be done.  Hopefully, most of it will be for the better. 

However, we must guard against those things that without our help will disappear and leave our lives the emptier and shallower, and in my thinking, more meaningless.  Of course, I am talking about those institutions we take for granted will always be there.  Without support, they will not.

Here are some suggestions:

The local hospital, the library, the live theatre, dance and music organizations, the museums, public radio and television, all of those you have, in the past subscribed to. These represent our cultural history.  It wasn’t so long ago we all went to see and hear a play, a recital, a dance, an opera, a lecture critical or not, something that challenged our minds and sensitivities.  Now we turn to all our electronic accoutrement and in the convenience of our homes and with the kind generosity of these very same institutions reap the continued benefit of that challenge.

They need your help to sustain that challenge for the future or they will be gone.  If we all do it, it doesn’t have to be much.  All those political ads that ask for $5 or $10…they are counting on the multiples of giving people to make the difference.  Be a multiple people person, and send to the group or groups of your choice what you can to help keep them alive.

And most importantly, send to your local shelter and food bank and community organizations that are helping people who have been displaced and discounted by this virus to get back onto their feet again.  Never far from my thoughts, ever:  “There but for the Grace of God…” I know you can finish the sentence.

Stay Well!

Love – Sally-Jane



AMERICA: Oh my god! Coronavirus! What should we do?

CALIFORNIA: Shut down your state.

AMERICA: Wait… what? Why?

CALIFORNIA: Because 40 million people live here and we did it early, and it’s working.

NEW YORK: Welcome aboard.

OHIO: Whoa… whoa… let’s not be hasty now. The president said that this whole coronavirus thing is a democratic hoax.

CALIFORNIA: He also said that windmills cause cancer. Shut down your state.

TEXAS: But the president said that we only have 15 cases and soon it’ll be zero.

CALIFORNIA: The president can’t count to fifteen. Nor even spell it. Shut down your state.

NEW JERSEY: Us too?

CALIFORNIA: Yes, you guys too. Just like when Christie shut down the bridge, but it’s your whole state.

FLORIDA: But what about all these kids here on spring break?? They spend a lot of money here!

CALIFORNIA: Those kids invented the tide pod challenge. Shut down your state.

LOUISIANA: But wait let’s have Mardi Gras first. It entertains people.

CALIFORNIA: It also kills them. Shut it down.

GEORGIA: Ok well how about we keep the state open for all of our mega churches? Maybe we can all pray really hard until the coronavirus just goes away!

CALIFORNIA: Which is working like a charm for mass shootings. Jesus told us to tell you to shut down your state.

OKLAHOMA: What about the tigers?

CALIFORNIA: What about a dentist. Shut it down.

WYOMING: Hold up, maybe we should go county by county like the president said.

CALIFORNIA: Stop acting like there are counties in Wyoming. There are no counties in Wyoming. Wyoming is a county. Shut it down.

PENNSYLVANIA: But big coal.

CALIFORNIA: But big death. Shut it.

WEST VIRGINIA: But we were the last state to get coronavirus!

CALIFORNIA: And don’t make us explain to you why that was. Shut it down.

NORTH CAROLINA: But the republican national convention is coming here!

CALIFORNIA: SHU…     Oh, ok fine, do what you want.



Waiting for Godot… Again

Samuel Beckett’s existential play, Waiting For Godot is my favorite play. Two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for the arrival of someone named Godot who never arrives. I have always seen this play as a metaphor for life/death/God. Recently, that metaphor became a reality.

Alright already, what the hell am I talking about?

Twenty Questions!!!  Fugetaboutit!! How about three? What is joined at the hip with LIFE? What is not animal, vegetable or mineral?  What has many different shapes and names and, according to Mel Brooks, does not like garlic?

You got it! DEATH!

Come on guys, it’s almost Halloween. So many of its forms are present in and around houses, so many movies have him/her as the main character (Darth Vader was not named after Mickey Mouse) and what do you think the Gothic look is all about.

Death. Of course, death.

Is my focus on death coming from a general malaise and melancholia? We all know there is plenty of reasons for these feeling at this time in the world and most particularly in the United States and most, most particularly in Washington, D.C.. 

RIGHT ???  OF COURSE, SHE’S RIGHT!!!

But, no! It is not!! Where is it coming from??  Thank you for asking.

Recently, I had a health scare… or as the medical world calls it, “an incident”. It happened only a week ago.  I am bored telling what happened so if you want details you’ll have to call the Emergency Room of the hospital, my primary physician, my cardiologist/nurse practitioner, my children local friends and the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker… oi vey, the list goes on.

Suffice it to say, I survived. No, not suffice it…. I am over the top happy to report, I’M STILL HERE!!

I know you are wondering, and if you’re not, you should be… So, if I’m still here what’s with this DEATH THING? I think there are medical records that have reports of people scaring themselves to DEATH.

After “the incident” and from Sunday through the following week, almost every day, I waited around for DEATH to arrive.

I tried to pretend I wasn’t waiting.  But just like you can’t fool Mother Nature (an old television commercial), I can no longer fool myself. Maybe for a few minutes I could, or even an hour, but eventually, my fear coupled with a large dose of  neurotic anxiety, got the better of me. And I do mean better because I allowed the scare I had to hang out in my consciousness.  In the past, I would attempt to hide what I was really feeling.  I wanted to be BRAVE. Here was the actress, again, playing, yet, another role. Not that sometimes acting “as if” can’t work miracles because it can and it does.   It is just that there is a time and place for everything. I needed to find out what happened. If I was acting as if nothing happened, I would be actually hurting myself. Been there. Done that.

The Emergency Room staff and tests were wonderful.  I was dismissed with their seal of approval.  As my Physician Assistant said to me, “ Right now, you are the healthiest person in the ER.”

And then he added those ever magic words…FOR A WOMAN YOUR AGE.

Wait a minute! I wrote a show with that title… a funny show about perceptions of a society about us elders. 

I have long recognized myself as the older, and I mean older older, woman.  No more wolf whistles for me.  No more leaping across the dance floor or dance class. No more 2-hour one woman shows (truly the hardest to accept).  What is my problem?  All those limitations and more to come as time goes by, they are actually getting in the way of my health care and allowing my neurotic tendencies to have a field day. 

I accept that there is a segment of society that discounts the older generation.  We are THE IRRELEVANTS.  Actually, some of my nearest and dearest are included in that group of discounters. It’s ok. I know what I know about myself. I love a challenge. I want to continue to explore. I still love to travel; not able to go to all the places I want to go but there is enough for me to see and please my gypsy spirit. I love asking questions. I love reading and learning anew.  I love living alone but I am not a hermit.

If everything is so good,  why was I waiting for DEATH?

Because “ the incident” occurred in my 86th year and some, not all, thank goodness, of the medical profession that I encountered were discounters of my generation.  No one says it like it is… no one actually said to me, “Oh, come on, you’re 86, what do you expect?”  However, I am not an 86 year old you can readily fool. As an actor, I am a student of human behavior. I have to be to do what I do. 

So, remember…

There was an easily discernible for me eye rolling and hidden yawns that set my alarm to ringing. Hey medical profession, I want some answers!  I want some explanations.  Attention must be paid. I know answers may not be readily accessible and information limited, but do not…do you hear me…DO NOT BLOW ME OFF. 

I waited for DEATH because initially I felt I was not being heard. It made me feel helpless and hopeless. Frankly, it felt a little like being in my childhood home.  

So what to do when this happens. Become proactive. What does that mean?

I became my own best friend and medical advisor. I found medical professionals that talked to me. I mean really talked me and answered my questions and actually advised me.  I am on the trail of the cause for my “incident”.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me… I am still waiting for DEATH. I think it is appropriate at this stage of my life.

Actually, I think it is appropriate at every stage of my life. DEATH is ginormous… gigantic… bigger than sliced bread… BUT, it has a sister, brother, whatever that for me is more bigger and definitely better.

LIFE, LIFE, LIFE!

Right?  Of course, Right!!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

WHEN DOING NOTHING IS NOT DOING NOTHING

My Friends ~

I went to Fort Lauderdale for the winter. I left behind the bitter onslaught of this past season’s cruel rain, ice, snow, blizzardly winds that my friends, family and neighbors experienced. I escaped. But did I? I may have escaped the weather… but I didn’t escape life.

If you want to skip my saga, and turn back to a good book or a good streaming on Netflix or Amazon or my personal favorite, Acorn TV, I shall not be insulted. I certainly wish I could have skipped it.

old-woman-young-girlHere’s the deal. I still got older. I still became more vulnerable. I still pretended I wasn’t older and more vulnerable. And when I wrote the blog about gratitude I missed the point completely. Let me explain!

January was the flu.

February was the cough.

March was the compressed fracture of the third lumbar resulting from the cough.

A broken back???? Here’s the poem I wrote:

HACK! HACK! YOU BROKE YOUR BACK!!!

Aw come on guys, enough is enough. These are supposed to be the golden years??? I’m afraid only in my fillings.

I thought the gratitude I expressed for January and February was supposed to cover me for the year.  Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old – I wuz robbed!  The lumbar episode of March challenged all notions of gratitude and for the most part, all my theories of “growing old”.

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As long as I thought I was doing what I always did… a few exceptions like dancing till dawn, drinking champagne from a satin heeled slipper (an orthopedic oxford doesn’t have the same look or feel), cutting my one woman show from an hour and a half to an hour (with relief some said that made the show better… what do they know?), some dietary alterations (no lactose, no gluten, no fast foods, no fun) I thought to escape the label of “old lady”.

And then came the Ides of March. Actually from the beginning of the month, the pain came. And some of you know that without any education, I am my own Doctor, I prescribed continuing pilates, massages, shiatsu all of the remedies that slowly but surely were making my back worse.

Thank goodness for good friends who won’t put up with my complaining and called me on my medical education. “Where was it you got your degree?”  One of my friends went so far as to find me a doctor nearby that was the doctor for the Miami City Ballet. It was high season in Florida. Getting an appointment was going to be at the very least, difficult, if not impossible.

I checked out her website. I have a website, why wouldn’t she?  It said she attended to dancers and performers. I called her office. And before I let her assistant get a word in, I announced I was a performer.  “I’m a little older than most of the dancers and performers she works with, but I am still doing it… performing that is… and I need HELP!” And then, she asked me who the doctor was that referred me, and before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth, I dropped the name of the top orthopedic surgeon in New York City. I knew him slightly, but I never saw him professionally. I got the appointment. And I owe him.

Well, within days of the appointment, after an x-ray which determined I had the compressed fracture and an MRI which showed it was recent (coming from the cough), I thought I would start treatment. Up to that point the pain prevented me from doing anything. But I was told NO!

Follow me on Twiddle my thumbs.Two more weeks of doing nothing, giving the bone more time to heal and then I could begin a program of physical therapy. I had already been doing nothing since January. I have to tell you, I thought I could hear my mother and every teacher I ever had yelling, whispering in my earballs: “Look at her! Nothing! She is doing nothing!” Joan of Arc wasn’t the only one who heard voices.

When I finally received the go ahead, I was like a kid that had won a prize. I emphasize kid because, like a kid I was off to the races. I was going to be the fastest healer this side and that side of the Mississippi… I did the therapy three times a week, I added some stretching and some massage on the other days and by the end of the first week… I was hurting again.

The therapist sat me down. He said a nice thing first. Always start with the nice thing first. “You know you look younger than your age, right?” “Thank you,” I said. “On the outside you’re like a shiny tomato.” “Thank you,” I said. “Inside, you’re an octogenarian and your bones are mushy”.  I laughed. But I did not thank him.

shadow walk dance

And very slowly, and I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y because the older you are the longer is the healing, I am getting it. I read an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin. And I quote: ”Everybody who gets old has to assess their ever-changing but seldom improving situation and make of it what they can. And they make the best of it. As the saying goes, consider the alternative!”

And I love this one from the same essay: “You’re only as old as you think you are! Now you don’t honestly think having lived eighty-four years is a matter of opinion.” You don’t… Do you?

For myself and fellow fossils, there is no such thing as doing nothing. If we have made it through to or any part of our seventies, eighties and ever onward it means we are doing more every minute of every day than ever we did at any other time in our life.

And dat’s da trut!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

ANTIDOTE FOR THE BLUES

Lately I have noticed a “blue” state of mind.  I have always known I was susceptible.  Hey, I even cry at supermarket openings.

I know much of what causes me to be blue are all the electronics… for the most part the computer and the cell.  Land lines are almost obsolete so I don’t count them.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t turn any of them on without being bombarded by explosive negativity.  Words and phrases like EMERGENCY, URGENT, DISASTER, IT’S OVER, WE ARE FINISHED… pound my susceptible nature and I find myself thinking about building a bomb shelter like they did in the ‘50’s.  The worst thing about this happening is  that I don’t even recognize how profoundly I am being affected by all this negativity.  So, how did I discover that I was depressed, blue, anxious and negatively affected?

I went to a high school music concert.

All right, I shall admit it wasn’t an ordinary high school.  It was the Interlochen Arts Academy in the woods of Interlochen, Michigan.  A school well known for its music program, as well as for its dance, drama and art programs.
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The siren call for me was my granddaughter, Kiri.  Kiri is a fine French Horn player and she is graduating the high school this May and this past weekend was a weekend of final concerts.  I had to puddle hop to get there, which if I was only a little depressed before getting on those tin cans called planes sunk me even lower.

The first concert was Friday night and I watched and heard over an hundred young musicians play some very difficult music and fill the concert hall with such a gift of passion and talent…straight from the Bible my friends it was a “…joyful noise.”

After the concert I noticed a spring in my step that wasn’t there before.

The six horns she plays and studies with gave their concert Saturday afternoon.  One after the other played their solos and some horn concertos.  The spring in my step was by now almost a leap.  Who says Nanas can’t  jump!
Sunday was the piece de resistence.  Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Combining the Traverse City Symphony with the Interlochen Choir, 100 musicians and 100 choristers. Climaxing with the last movement of the Symphony, Ode To Joy, the rafters of the concert hall shook not just from the instruments and the chorus but from the emotions the music provoked from the audience as we followed every note in rapture, leading to a thousand people standing and screaming bravo, stamping their feet.  And suddenly the classical music hall morphed into a rock concert with music by Beethoven.

IMG_5066Now I didn’t spring, I didn’t leap, I didn’t jump, I flew out of the hall.  And that’s when I discovered I had been depressed.  And I wasn’t anymore.

And that lift came from high school students disciplined and enthralled by what they do .

OK SJ, get with the program.  Yes, I can either go back to my electronic mood swinging instruments (computer, cell) which carries with it so much negativity or I can find my own Ode To Joy.

Hey, guys, if 14 to 18  year olds can give such joy and pleasure and here is the most important word, HOPE, then THIS is my antidote for the blues.

Love ~ SJ