My recent blog post has provoked responses that mean so much to me. Who’da thought….
I have been having stimulating dialogue with friends and family that hopefully will move us to rethink who we think we are. For me doing that might lead to some deepening of my sub and conscious awareness.
The two pieces below are particularly thought-provoking.
I have a new
friend. He is nice. He is black. I am white. I didn’t mean to but I offended
Here is the
In December 2018,
I saw the film, Green Book. I flipped. I loved it. No, I mean I really
loved it. I was in the local movie art house and there was hardly anyone
else watching with me. I would say maybe 10 people at most. I laughed. I cried.
I thought Viggo Moretensen and Mahershala Ali were beyond brilliant. I ached for
each of them in the many cathartic moments of the film. I was enraged at the
America that made it necessary to publish a horror like Green Book.
I was beyond the stratosphere at the music. Don Shirley’s classical music background blending with a jazz originality to create a sound that kept my head, my hands, my feet, and my heart moving constantly every time he played. (Just so you have all the information… the pianist, Kris Bowers, composed the movie score and played the piano parts and he too is brilliant.)
I’m glad the theatre was empty. The way I was swinging with the music, I may have been asked to leave.
And when it was over, I stood up as in those rare standing ovation moments at the theatre. I say rare because for me to stand means to know you have witnessed a genius rarity not likely to happen again. I yelled, “BRAVO!” I applauded. I was ignored as the very few fellow audience members left, walking rapidly, perhaps nervous that some cuckoo was on furlow for a matinee.
I practically danced up the aisle. As I left the theatre, the ticket taker was standing at the door. She is black. I stopped. I took her hand. She withdrew it. Undaunted, I gushed my enthusiasm for the film. I asked if she had seen the movie. She looked hard at me. She said in a very clear voice. “No! I don’t watch rubbish.”
I guess that should have been my first clue. But, I ignored it. I couldn’t wait to get home and call my near and dear ones. If they ever wanted to see or speak to me again they needed to pass the test of seeing this movie.
Fast forward to the next day after the Academy Award ceremony…
Don’t hit me. I didn’t watch. I never watch. They
always leave out the one movie I thought was really great or the actor or the
writer…and basically, I am not sure about awarding best anything to any
artist. The competition is within the artist. Don’t tell me
someone is better than someone else. I don’t believe you can compare
apples and oranges. However, God forbid the money men and women don’t
make their money back on their product. And for them, it isn’t about
art. It is about “product”.
All to say, if they called my name for an Oscar, I’d probably be there.
My new friend and I were talking about the Oscars. Those who know
me know. Those who don’t know me are pretty sure. I have an opinion
on everything. Ask my daughters.
I had read Spike Lee was angered by Green Book’s big win. I opined that it might be sour grapes. I had seen his film, BlacKkKlansman and thought it was great. The perfect example of trying to compare apples and oranges.
My friend said he enjoyed Green Book, but he was also in agreement with Spike Lee. For him, the Academy was doing its usual thing. Rewarding the white man as he rescued the black man. Another movie to make the whites feel good.
I don’t often keep my own counsel. I continued on and on about how Green Book detailed the possibility of a bigot changing his tune. And isn’t that what is needed in a world gone mad with so much hate and bile. A world growing more and more into “them and us”. Separating humans of ever color from each other.
As I pontificated, I assured him, I knew what he was feeling.
There came a very pregnant pause. A close
to delivery pregnant pause. The pause was so awkward it actually shut my
After some time, we broke the pause with
banal conversation. Not going near the subject, we talked awhile and then
After we parted, I recalled what I had been saying. What was it that brought about the pause that did not refresh? As I did, I realized my new friend had been trying to tell me something without telling me something. No matter we are both minorities. I am Jewish and a woman. But I am white. He is black. I cannot and will never know what it feels like to be black.
Later that same day, I wrote an apology. I wrote that of course I could never know how he feels. I have had some of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown my way, but against being born black in this world, past or present, not comparable.
He acknowledged my apology. We have not continued the discussion. Hopefully someday we will. Slow and steady as the friendship deepens, anything is possible.
I don’t know. I do know there are those who want to see a better world. Me, for one. And for me, a better world would be one where we all wake up one morning and find we are color blind. If that were true, then Green Book and BlacKkKlansman and all movies about race would be Fairy Tales. A collection of very Grimm Fairy Tales.
Is it possible?
As long as we are still breathing the world of possibilities will always exist? Right?
Of course, Right!
P.S. It seems no matter where I turn, going to the movies, reading a book, I am surrounded by with racism, bigotry, and the inherent anger, resentment and frustration.
In a recent biography of Frederick Douglass, David W. Blight writes of an event which occurred in Washington, D.C. on the 11th anniversary of the end of the Civil War as well as the 11th year anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. At the unveiling of a monument honoring Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, with President Ulysses S. Grant and all of official Washington present, Frederick Douglass spoke:
It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man…
He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration… My white fellow-citizens… you are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.
Excerpt from oration delivered by Frederick Douglas at the Unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., April 14 1876
That speech was given in 1876. It is 2019. Have
things changed? Externally, yes.
However, haven’t I been reading how the Executive Branch, the Congress, our Supreme Court are colluding and searching for ways to limit and deconstruct the civil rights legislation LBJ pushed through after JFK’s assassination.
Isn’t this what happened to the promises of Reconstruction after the Civil War?
I think this is the time to bring out my favorite Voltaire quote (a very dear, very old, very close friend of mine),
Look for the Silver Lining was one of my mother’s favorite songs so we know this is an ancient tune. Praise the internet for shortening research time. Look for the Silver Lining, written in 1919 (the year my mother married) by Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva for the Broadway show SALLY.
I was not a child until at the very least, 1938. I remember my mother telling me how she went to see Sally in the 1920’s, falling in love with the star of that show, Marilyn Miller and the Silver Lining song she sang.
As I write this now, I ponder, was that the reason I was named Sally? Then why did my mother add the hyphen and the Jane? Since she is the only one knows the answer, I shall add it to my ever-growing mountain of unanswered questions. Am’t I supposed to get smarter as I get older? I used to think so. I think whatever intelligence I thought I had has definitely reversed direction and is heading towards oblivion. And I have to tell you, on certain days I am mightily relieved… oblivion is so much nicer than the news.
But I digress (my favorite pastime and present-time, too)!
Here are my suggestions… I chose the song, Look For the Silver Lining because of two recent movies I was privileged to see, both documentaries.
Now for those of you who don’t know me – give me good trash! As a friend of mine once said, “Oh, Sally-Jane, she can be had by the commercials.” That was before I became addicted to streaming. And now I don’t know from commercials… so I save myself for the trash. That is, until seeing these two documentary films.
RBG, the title of the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, our Supreme Court Justice, who like Atlas single-handedly holds the world safe to keep it from spinning out of orbit. Well, that’s what it feels like for me, my friends. In future history books, she will be known as The Great Dissenter. And I feel, every dissenting opinion she writes will, when we straighten up this mess, be turned into laws that will help not hinder the people. It is also the very candid and real journey of a woman climbing a female sand mountain. I would like to think it’s not as high a mountain as it used to be. But the verdict isn’t in yet, I fear.
This is not just another dance company looking for funds. (Tell me any cultural organization you know that isn’t having difficulty getting funding for their programs. Museums, orchestras, non-profit theatres they are all in trouble). This dance company has a very unusual program. As someone put it quite succinctly, ”this documentary titled, Moving Stories, shows dance as soft power supporting people that political and social failures have hurt.”
The film profiles the Dancing to Connect program of Battery Dance Company. Six empathetic and inspirational dancers from the company each travel to 6 different locations around the world – New Delhi, Bucharest (Roma children), Busam (where traumatized children escaped North Korea), and defectors from China mix with South Korean teens to create motion through their emotions, and a young Iraq hip-hop dancer, given lessons through Skype moves towards his destiny.
Moving Stories is about far more than how Dancing to Connect teaches stigmatized, abused, frightened children to dance. It is about how the children learn to unlock their hesitation and dance together. Together…. oh, what a lovely word!
Just so we are clear. I have not given up my good trash viewing. However, what I have done, for myself, and hopefully, for those who are interested is to signal for all who are depressed by a world gone mad – a light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise known as hope (and I don’t care what you say this is not a dirty word… another lovely word… how’s this – “Together hope”?) Hey guys, who knows maybe the world has always been mad. Yet another question for my growing mountain of unanswered questions.
Maybe that is why the song popped into my head. Sure the lyrics are cornball and cliché, but isn’t it written somewhere, it’s only a cliché because it is true. Well, if it isn’t written somewhere, it is now.
Here are the cornball cliché lyrics:
Look for the silver lining Whenever a cloud appears in the blue Remember, somewhere the sun is shining And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you
A heart full of joy and gladness Will always banish sadness and strife So always look for the silver lining And try to find the sunny side of life
One more suggestion… Won’t you join me as we sing together in hope?
AS THE DAMSEL OF OLD OR MAYBE AS AN OLD DAMSEL, I HAVE BEEN BESIEGED!
We have read about it happening worldwide. People at home abed or lined up inside and outside hospitals with – I’m afraid if I say it will it come back and bite me again – THE FLU.
I come from good peasant stock. In the home where I grew up, getting sick was not an option. Being one of eight, my mother did not allow it for two reasons: time and money. She didn’t have the time or the money to cater to any illness.
Many is the time I remember being sent home from school with this or that ailment and my mother taking one look and sending me right back. And the tussle would begin. And if memory serves my mother won out more times than the school. This is all to say I had a healthy disrespect for being sick.
Probably because I have been fortunate in avoiding the usual colds and flu until….. the end of December… All I can tell you, my friends, is that January is a complete blur. I think I was around for it. I just don’t have the specifics.
And bugs and viruses (Are they twins or different species? Not sure.) have no respect for people… infants to seniors, rich and poor. In today’s world when it comes to infection we are one sneezing, coughing, fevered, unhappy family. If being part of the global family means sharing our bugs and illnesses, I am going to opt for hermithood.
If it sounds like I am bitching…you got that right. Phew! Glad that’s done!
Now let me get to the gratitude because it is that gratitude that began the healing process. I am firmly convinced that my bitchy attitude made the healing harder. Once I realized self-pity and the ever-present judgment and blame was ruling my consciousness, I surrendered. I think it is amazing that no one called me on my negativity. In recovery, all I got was support and love.
I shall remember, my dear friends, that when a friend or loved one is not feeling well, give them the “ah-ha, oh, yes, I understand. It must feel terrible. Is there anything I can do for you.” And mean it. Because, in fact, that verbal caring goes a long way in recovery.
Yes, my mother’s need for us to not be ill was based on time and money. Time is certainly a factor in getting well. It took me over a month and I am still working on it. And I am not negating money. No, it is essential to recovery. But it isn’t the ultimate.
I would like to share with all those “billionaires” who think that by buying votes they can buy their health. I am here to tell you that can only happen if it comes wrapped in LOVE.
To all my friends and family, Thank You for your time and money, but mostly thank you for healing me with your love and kindnesses which cannot be bought.
As I watch the leaves change and fall, mostly fall without changing this year, I hear two questions consistently from friends, relatives, and passers-by:
How did this happen?
Are people ever going to be nice again?
There are plenty of pundits that give chapter and verse concerning both of these questions. Answers are about economics, racism, politics as given reasons for the way the vote went and for the lack of civility. Yes, I think they are connected… somewhat. But that is not all of it.
Alright already, so what happened??? Phew! I never thought you’d ask.
The following thoughts were provoked by my viewing the PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick – The Vietnam War. And over the course of very intense viewing, my thoughts began to brew and now they are spilling over. Ready or not, I want to share because I believe we can be better and nicer, no matter who we voted for.
My thoughts before viewing: I was a 30-year-old unpolitical wife, mother of 3 babies, and a professional actor, singer, dancer living in Washington, D.C., a city that had no rights and an 80 percent black population. In this city of political shenanigans, I was innocent, which is another word for dumb. I read newspaper headlines and scripts. Viewing this series began my late education of Vietnam. My passion for movies gave me somewhat of a head start.
Two films. Indochine, a French movie starring Catherine Deneuve and an American cult classic, Medium Cool. The French film gave me a history of Vietnam – brilliant and devastating. The second was shock treatment for this American, thinking it couldn’t happen here – the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago with the world watching as Mayor Daly’s storm troopers beat the anti-war demonstrators. I remember running around the house screaming “This can’t be happening! This can’t… someone is going to stop it… Isn’t someone, please, going to stop it?!” I was awakened from a deep sleep. And it wasn’t by anything as gentle as a sweet kiss. It was the rudest awakening ever!
To begin with, I began my viewing with one chapter (2 hours) a night. However, after the first five chapters, I had difficulty sleeping. I also noticed I was holding onto my chair like I was being sent to the moon. Such tension! And though at this point I knew what was happening and what was going to happen, I kept talking to the television and telling it, “No, don’t let it happen, please, don’t!”
I fell in love with all the foot soldiers – American, North and South Vietnamese – that were interviewed so many years later. Every one of the grunts, airmen, seamen… and all the others who, as Westmoreland and Lyndon Johnson kept increasing the draft, were being sent to Vietnam and I wondered how Ken Burns had found them. They came to do what their fathers did in World War II and when they got to Vietnam, recognized this wasn’t Europe or even Japanese occupied islands… this was a Political Swamp... Having nothing to do with helping anyone except politicians in their quest for elected office. Sound familiar???
And that’s when I decided I had to pace myself. From number 6 to the last of the series, I watched one every three days. Not only was I able to sleep, but I was able to think through each one I had seen and slowly, as I said at the beginning, my thoughts took me to new places that connected dots in a way I had not previously been aware of.
As Nixon became the spokesperson of The Silent Majority, (I had forgotten that one), everything I believed in, all the brilliant history of The Founding Fathers, our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, were being used as kindling for a fire that is still raging.
Then there was Kent State. The National Guard and State troopers shot and killed college students on their own campus during an anti-war demonstration. I don’t think I was the only one who walked around afterward in a disbelieving daze. But did you know that in a poll 58 percent of the American people approved of the shooting?
All of this and more came out in this series. And I am thinking, “This is not new.”
Here’s what I need to know… how do these beautiful soldiers, sailors, airmen, POWs on all sides… how do they make sense of a war where so many died, were wounded and when they returned were shunned and shamed. These are the true poets of this series.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, in the last installment, throw us a life raft. And if you choose to, you can climb into it with me… It involves the selection and building of the Vietnam Memorial. The meaning of it to the veterans who make a constant stream of visits to touch a name, to say a prayer, to be where a buddy they lost can for the moment be found. And even more thrilling, the story of the many Vietnam veterans who returned to Vietnam to redeem and reconcile their tours of duty to help rebuild a destroyed country.
Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu created an environment in South Africa of reconciliation and truth-telling.
The first President of the first all-German Parliament after World War II, Richard von Weizsäcker had this to say,
“The desire to forget prolongs the exile, and the secret of salvation is remembrance. We cannot save ourselves, nor can we undo what has been done. We have lived through unfathomable and abysmal events and take part in them. But one thing we can and must do. Look at our past steadily, recognize its truth. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations.”
OK guys… all praise to PBS, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and all who made it possible to help us look at our past without punishment or judgment. Yes, you can disagree with various points in this series, but you cannot disagree that it is time to look at this most divisive war and how it ruptured the country. With the direction our country is moving, along with the lack of civility I referred to at the start of this blog, it’s worth looking at…
Do not look away.
Do not say that was then.
Do not say now is now.
Because, my dear friends, now is then.
The men and women in this film give new meaning to forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation.
I am not embarrassed to admit it. I wanted to make the trip, but I didn’t want to make the trip. How could I not want to travel? I have always wanted to travel and I always have. As often possible and to destinations around the world. I got so good at it that I could actually make a trip with just a carry-on.
Why did this opportunity to travel to France and England feel like I was being asked to climb the Matterhorn in heels? I broke through an age barrier. I was over 80 and I was going off on my own. That’s what happened.
Oh, sure, I would be meeting with friends and family. But basically, I was going on my own. I would not have a group identification number. No one would be handling my baggage… and my friends, gone are the days when I could travel with just a carry-on. I have to make room for all possibilities and my exercising and stretching equipment.
Yes, age definitely demanded a different kind of attention to the details of travel. Is this what Bette Davis meant when she said, “Growing old is not for sissies”?
Let’s get one thing clear. I want to grow old. I want to grow very old. I want to be the oldest old lady on the planet. But I was having difficulty with that wish and desire coming together with the reality of what I could and couldn’t do.
Let me tell you what always got me into trouble. For too long my bywords were, “I COULD DO THAT”. And every time I did do that which I thought I could do and couldn’t, I paid the price. Here’s how I think… there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences. Well, my consequences forced me into a new set of bywords, “I USED TO DO THAT”.
If I took this trip, would I be able to “keep up” and not “try to keep up”, or pretend I was still 60 and could climb and leap over rivers and streams? The fear and the challenge were palpable.
Well, my friends… I did it!
I left on August 17th, traveled with family to southern France, to see the most wonderful exhibit, Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years: 1970-1983 at the Luma Arles. It is a brilliant exhibit offering the early years of her work, once more proving she is the Cassandra of photography.
While there, the sights and sounds of Provence and the Camargue and their crazy version of bull fights. Here’s a fun video showing what the bulls think of all this…
It was in Arles as I was walking in the town that I realized how good I felt. I wasn’t afraid of what might happen. I was thrilled with what was happening. I landed. And I landed on both feet and they were carrying me to new places and new peoples. I was challenged each day by deciding what I could or couldn’t do… and after a very short while it became easier and easier to know, “I can do this” or “I cannot do that”. Freedom, my friends. New found freedom. A different kind of freedom. Hooray!
It was then onto my friends in Gascony, Mary and Barry, who bought a derelict chicken house 30 years ago and turned it into a provincial French/English country house and something I think Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II would approve (after all this is the part of France that did belong to England for many years).
From there I journeyed into the small medieval fortified village of Lectoure (this area is part of the 100 years war and so many other wars) where I met my new best friends, Thierry and Marc who own a fantastic hotel, L’Hôtel Particulier Guilhon, in which my room belonged in two different centuries, one of the past…
and one of the future…
Through them, I met another new best friend, Pascale, who gives new meaning to eclectic vintage clothing… no one does chic like the French.
For me, the best reasons to travel belong to the cultures you breathe and the people you meet. And once I decided that it was all right to not do it all… to do what I could do… it all fell into place.
I left France full of canard (duck), cream, butter, pate (we drank it all day), and of course, le pain (bread)… not to say my insides didn’t beg for relief but once I arrived in London and could eat a simple sandwich and some unadorned meats and chicken, all was well.
In London, I met up with friends, whom I had met when my over 50-year-old daughters were 7, 9, and 11.
And the coup de grace was visiting my gifted friend Helaine Blumenfeld and her husband Yorick (doesn’t look anything like Hamlet’s friend) at their home in Grantchester (love the series), en route stopping to see her brilliant sculpture in Canary Wharf in London.
I must say by the time I came to London just knowing I was 3 days away from flying home, I was ready.
Yes, growing old may not be for sissies… but growing old has its advantages… list your own… because believe me, those advantages are to be celebrated.
And with all that I have enumerated in this testament of aging travel… I leave you with the best advantage of the whole trip.
ORDER A WHEELCHAIR… and if the pusher is cute… ENJOY!!!!!