This won’t take long. In this blog I share two videos. One is a professional production. The other is what happens during pandemisolockatine.
First is a song, Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Here is the introduction from Yo-Yo Ma’s Facebook Page:
There are so many stories made invisible: too-often-violent histories hidden beneath the surfaces of our cities, our institutions, our music. It’s our job to keep looking, to make them visible, to take action. Today is always a good day to learn. I’m honored to mark this 155th Juneteenth with a new song by the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens. #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth #songsofchange
Lyrics to “Build a House” – Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma
You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine
I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high
And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”
I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home
You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down
So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home
I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down
But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own
I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.
You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.
No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.
I am also reading a book that I think is important and that you might want to check out. It is titled, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.
In a recent coffee klatsch with my new very best friend, Voltaire, he reminded me, “Sally-Jane…
In light of this very wise and prescient statement, I am all too aware of how little we know of American History. Of course, it didn’t help that history books until a recent time had a very one-sided version of what happened before, during and after the founding of these United States of America.
I am old enough to remember that my history books taught that many American Indian tribes were our enemies, but not how the enmity originated.
I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Jackson forcing them off their ancestral lands in the East onto the infamous march West… The Trail of Tears.
I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Johnson shredding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation promises, aided and abetted by Confederate officers and soldiers into proclaiming Jim Crow as the law of the South and founding the KKK.
I could go on but I think I would rather present you with a cornucopia of gifted artists and writers who will, through document and performance, enlighten your way .
It has been spoken. It has been written. You cannot grow… You cannot know…
Where do I come from…?
How did I get here…?
Read on MacEveryone….
Don’t ask me why I chose this book, She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore. I knew nothing about it. Maybe because I was celebrating my bookstore having finally come out of its pandemic hibernation. And the title was definitely quirky. I chose a winner. The author is black and beautiful and she writes like a dream. In fact dreams have a lot to do with this magically and very realistic story. I never understood what it meant to read a book of magic realism. I’m not sure I do now but I am beginning to understand this category mixes the reality of the founding of Liberia in the 19th Century and the fantastical but oh, so real journey of the three main characters towards their destiny. Their imprint is indelible in my psyche, my soul, but most of all, my spirit.
In the PBS program, Twilight: Los Angeles, award-winning director Marc Levin weaves, Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful one-woman theater piece of the same name with news footage and interviews to create a portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope surrounding the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America’s conscience.
I have a confession to make. I am usually not a podcast listener. But I have an investigative reporter feeding me with brilliant podcasts. She also happens to be my daughter.
I don’t know about you but with recent events, I have been witness to friends and relatives clucking of tongues, sighing, and head shaking, saying things like… “This is terrible.” “Shocking!” “What can I do? I feel so powerless.” Then, like the air going out of a balloon, nada! We are not only tongue tied. We are idea tied.
Give me a break! You know about David slinging rocks at Goliath, right? You heard how Joshua outplayed Louis Armstrong at the battle of Jericho, right? Please my friends, use these metaphors to create a new reality of what you, you alone, can do.
Here is an example of what one citizen of the town of Northampton, MA did upon hearing that the town council in response to the recent protests was voting to increase the budget of the police department. OK, OK, so there is a whiff of nepotism in the air, the writer, Pamela Schwartz is my daughter. Hey, leave us not forget, it’s my Blog and I gave myself permission. All right? All right!
So read on and hopefully we all can understand the many ways that we, as individuals, can make a difference and try to change this racist world we live in.
There is no quick fix. There is, however, a very easy and simple way to slow our country’s downward spiral. VOTE!
If you are in doubt about the uselessness of your vote, please go to your PBS Streaming Channel (It’s as easy as it is important to add this app to your TV) and Tune in to the PBS Documentary ‘PBS’ American Experience: “The Vote”
Cluck your tongues, sigh, shake your heads, but understand, the VOTE, is in your not really powerless hands. Right? Of course, right!
P.S. I leave you with a quote from Margaret Mead who struggled against world opinion and condemnation to provide safety and health for women and children …
P.P.S. And here’s another example of creative citizenry:
I feel compelled to send this to my near and dear. I am going to do something I rarely do – allow you to determine for yourselves what you think and feel about the two articles I am sending. The first by Courtney Ariel titled: For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies
May 7th: Dress in Hazmat suit, gloves, mask. Carry wipes and survival portion of peanut butter cookies….
Arrive Fort Lauderdale Airport. Wheelchair Server in mask waits while I wipe down the wheelchair. He explains why the airport looks abandoned… “It went from 180 flights a day to 6.”
Arrive at gate my usual 90 minutes before flight. Most of my fellow passengers sit patiently. I know I look like a cartoon. Not a giggle, not a murmur, just head and eyes turned away from each other. It felt as if by looking they would be exposed to the virus. Not a lot of sound. Oh, so serious… or should I say, terrified.
Airline glitch: We were there in plenty of time to be loaded onto the plane 2 or 3 at a time. They waited until 15 minutes before flight time and loaded everyone the usual way with all standing belly to belly in the aisle. The plane was 2/3rd full. The middle seat was empty but if you were in an aisle seat you were inches apart from someone across the aisle and exposed to the line of passengers as they went down the aisle to their seat.
Albany arrival was smooth and as I was picked up by a masked man in a van who closely resembled a good friend, I diligently threw away my hazmat suit, gloves, wiped the handles on the door and settled myself for the anticipated beautiful ride through the Berkshire mountains to my home.
Quarantined from May 7th – May 21st. Grateful for the help and thoughtfulness of friends and family as I made the adjustment from South to North. I was afforded a glimpse of the winter I thought I had missed – snow, sleet, rain, cold temperatures greeted me throughout my quarantine. It was just fine with me. By the end of my isolation, I had survived the transition and as a reward, the weather changed and a much awaited warm spring had arrived. I have so much to be grateful for… first and foremost, the pulse is pulsing. This is good. Everything else is a plus… food, shelter, family, friends (although at this age there is a growing list of absenteeism from the list). So this sense of disquiet that I find growing inside of me…. where is it coming from??
Let me try to explain it to me and pass it on to you.
It is not news to anyone today. We are being challenged.
There are those of us who are being physically challenged with the arrival of this virus. All speed to healing and return to health. And then there are those of us who are economically challenged. This may be the time to look at what we were doing and rethink and re-tool, remembering as we go… we are not human doings, we are human beings. Please, I am not being glib. I remember so many times in this very long life of mine I thought it was all over only to discover if I just moved a little to the left or to the right (and I am not speaking politically) I would get out of my own way and be able to see a different picture of my life and how I was living it. For me, it opened up the world of possibilities.
However, how do I see those possibilities if I am afraid? I think the biggest challenge all of us face is the emotional challenge… and that is the basis of my disquiet. And what is that emotional challenge? I am glad you asked…
Every time I have heard in a documentary or film or theatre or book, FDR’s assertion, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”, my head shakes like a bobble head in the car window. He was right. I know he was right. So if he was so right why am I still afraid? I am doing everything I am supposed to do. It doesn’t seem to help. I can’t tell you how many times I know I have caught the virus. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have any symptoms, I know I have it. On one level, it simply proves I am a member of the human race because I know I am not alone. I have plenty of friends and family that are sure they too either go to sleep with the virus or wake up with the virus.
What does this mean? Well, for me, it means I have to take greater pains to guard against a fear that not only consumes me but paralyzes me. As I get older, I recognize more and more the lack of control I have over life as I live it. There are actually not days, but minutes that I can surrender the illusioned control and live from that one moment to the next. And those are the GOOD days. Because the actual truth is that actually no one has any control over any of this life as we live it.
It has only taken 86 years (a drop in Methuselah’s bucket) but this is how fear operates in my life. It is mostly hidden and it has many disguises. For me, the top three disguises are shame, guilt, and most of all, anger. Every time I feel shame or guilt or anger, and I take the time to do a little self examination about where these feelings are coming from, up pops… you got it…fear! I’m telling you guys. I’m a regular scaredy cat and most of the time I don’t know it. The mask that covers my fear is the best on the market.
And herein is the beginning of my disquiet. As I have come out of quarantine and joined the rest of the world around me, I am confronted not only by my fear, but almost everyone I come into contact with as well. And I don’t care what you mask it with…. impatience, annoyance, or the most reliable, anger… it is fear. My belief is if I can’t get a handle on my fear I am going to spread it. It is far more dangerously contagious than the virus. For me, the negativity and the hopelessness of fear are far more isolating than any quarantine.
I think one of the many ramifications of fear today is this growing pervasive attitude of selfishness. I read about it a lot and I see it when I walk around the lake.
“I don’t have to wear a mask.”
“I don’t have to self-distance.”
“The sign at the beach reads closed until further notice… not for me.”
In this pandemic, where so much is unknown as well as the lack of consensual leadership, the attempt to convince the human condition that we are all in this together is almost impossible.
I have known for a long time that there is little and mostly no control in life. I remember that maybe every other day, for maybe a minute or so. And when I do, I realize even though I want to desperately, I cannot really judge someone’s selfish behavior. I cannot sit them down and explain that their selfishness comes from the basic fear we are all experiencing and “we are all in this together”… they would do what the lady with the dog in the Ramble of Central Park in New York City did and call the police to have me arrested for harassment.
So I must find my way, recognize that the life as I knew it has changed and when the dust settles (testing, vaccines, no curves at all) it is going to be not only different, but better.
Right??? Of course, right!!!!
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️
OK Everybody, back to your smiley face…
P.S. Below is a link to a Documentary by Showtime about the live (yes, I said LIVE) television Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris that ran for an hour and a half every Saturday Night from 1950-1954. (Preceded by Sid Caesar’s Admiral Broadway Reviewfrom January – June 1949 and followed by Caesar’s Hour from 1954- 1957.)
Yes, I was alive but I was very busy between school and performing and it was unthinkable to spend a Saturday night watching TV with my parents so I never got to watch it. It was de regeur watching for my family. Of course back then I knew about the comedians of the cast but as the years past I knew more about the writers from that show, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Woody Allen to name just a few.. funny men making funny words for funny people. Well, I found this Documentary on YouTube ( I loooovvvveeeee YouTube) I laughed so hard.
Lucky for me the bathroom was nearby. For some this is will be a new happening, for others a stirred memory and for a few others it might just be “Sid? What was his last name again?”
This is my gift to you, my wonderful friends and family, for being a patient and considerate and conscientious pandemic person. This is far from over but who doesn’t need a reward for Good Behavior. Have a laugh on me…
The woman in the closet video is definitely a reminder that you are not alone. And if, during this pandemic crisis, you haven’t experienced some paranoia, then please check your pulse because you probably don’t have one.
I don’t know about you guys, but my anxiety level is an up and down affair, and lately mostly up. The more tuned in I am to the current events of the day with news briefings, emails from political organizations that accurately highlight the criminal ineptitude of the current Senate and administration, the more increased my blood pressure. However, as I prepare to pack and fly north, I recognize even more how the pressure is rising.
And I am totally serious. (Photos of flight day to be shared later.) But with every item secured, the pressure went up a notch.
I thought to myself: “Self! You are making yourself sick.”
What to do???
And in a flash it came to me. Stop thinking of yourself. If I thought the quarantine was a challenge to my mental health, just try focusing only on yourself. STIFLING! BORING! CRUEL AND INHUMAN!
The operative word is inhuman. I understand survival is numero uno. However, I have come to realize without caring for friend, neighbor, family, we revert to the animal. And all you animal activists, I recognize the many animals that can make the human seem more selfish than most in the animal kingdom, so please don’t yell at me. I’m just saying that I think we have a more developed brain – not to be more selfish and “what about me?”, but to think of OTHERS. What a concept… think of others.
Well, I’m here to tell you that as my pressure was hitting a high point I remembered a friend of mine was going through a very rough time. It hadn’t anything to do with the virus. It was a very private misery. I literally stopped thinking about myself and thought about what she was going through. I wrote to her of my feelings for what she was going through. I didn’t even know it at the time… but, something lifted. Yes, and the pressure dropped. I got it.
The next time I begin to take myself too seriously I shall get out from under my own microscope. Unfortunately, these days, I cannot go ‘round with a real care package and hug. It’s the virtual picnic hamper, the virtual hug, the virtual everything. But don’t forget the real phone call… human vocal chords can work wonders.
For me, after thinking of others the next best way to distract me from me is to watch good funny movies.
Of late because I am old, I have focused on, for some, unheard of gems. And I only realized recently there was a master hand behind many of them. He is my very personal (though he doesn’t know it) 2,000 years older than me friend, Mel Brooks. These are movies that he didn’t necessarily write or perform in, but it’s his absurd sometimes not so funny and always irreverent humor rooting around in the mix of the movie.
The In Laws movie, circa 1979 with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.
The In Laws movie, circa 2003 with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks
Ishtar, circa 1980’s. A major flop in the 1980’s and now it is a cult movie written and directed by Elaine May (and occasionally, Buck Henry) with Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Charles Grodin. Fantastically prescient about the coming trouble in the middle east and oh, so funny.Makes Wag The Dog look like a sitcom.
Bowfinger, circa 1999 starring Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy (when he was funny)
Waiting For Guffman, circa 1997, directed by Christopher Guest and written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy with Catherine O’Hara in the cast (previous to Schitt’s Creek fame)
And last and probably least…
So Fine, circa 1981, starring Ryan O’Neal and if you don’t blink Sally-Jane Heit as a brunette in a scene in Bergdorf Goodman; written by Andrew Bergman of the 1979 In Laws and other comedies.
And just so you don’t think I’m too old to appreciate the new…
After Life streaming on Netflix written by and starring Ricky Gervais. He has definitely got his finger on the pulse of the human condition and he is VERY funny!
Like they always say: What goes around comes around. Or, is it what comes around goes around? Either way have a laugh on me and always…
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.
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!
How does the Muppet song go? IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN… Well, it’s not easy being in quarantine.
We can do it with a little from our friends.
I love to perform. And my most favorite part of my performances was when the audience laughed. To make someone laugh is just thrilling. Laugh and the world laughs with you is SO true.
I have a very vivid imagination. You have no idea. Well, actually some of you do. Don’t tell. So when I pass the humor sent to me onto you, I imagine even in quarantine, you are laughing with me and for just that moment or moments I’m not in isolation. I’m not hand-washing, sanitizing, I am making a joyful noise.
So here comes the fourth edition.
And after the laughs… I have included an addendum of another event that happened in 1964. It has a familiar ring of truth and I wanted to share along with the laughs, what to me is a very important insight.
I must admit that during that first dark, cold night, as I began to understand the tremendous scope of the problems that would be facing us in the months and years to come, I toyed with the idea of sending the children out on a plane to stay with you until everything settled down.
I realized that the schools might not be able to resume for an indefinite period of time. It looked for a few hours as if the damage had been so extensive to all utilities and streets that even a semblance of normal life could not be resumed for weeks or months.
But this was just a fleeting thought in a weary mind. I would have been ashamed of myself had it not been for the next thought that came so swiftly: We must be together… That night I saw strain, heavy hearts, and fear in people separated from their loved ones by the sudden disaster… As long as we are together, we are confident of the future…
That Good Friday night I knew that we had survived miraculously. And for this reason, there must be a purpose to our lives. Apparently the children must sense this, too. For they have remained calm. They have been fully aware of the emergency, but they have not feared. We are proud that they are such dependable, responsible youngsters. I would not undermine their confidence in the future — in themselves — by sending them away for safety.
What is safety, anyway? How can you predict where or when tragedy will occur? You can only learn to live with it and make the best of it when it happens. These children have learned this — and they are all the better for it. They were in the midst of devastation. And they feel that they are a part of the tremendous task ahead in rebuilding this land we love… The children are not afraid. Their father and I are not afraid. Please, don’t you fear for us.