Dialogue With Myself: How Monsters Are Made

Myself:  How did this happen again?

Me:  What?

Myself:  Where did this monster come from?

Me:  Who?

Myself: Putin! And if you quote Voltaire again to me, I shall silence you forever.

Me:  No Voltaire! It is simply the human condition to follow the leader.  

Myself:  What’s that supposed to mean?

Me:  From birth we are taken care of and even as we struggle for our independence at various stages of our life, there is a kind of comfort remembering and/or returning to when someone else was in charge of our life; making decisions, providing food, shelter, safety and for a few special supporters and defenders, oligarchilian privileges.  

Myself:  That’s a generalization!

Me:  After reading about Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hussein, Amin and now Putin, I am beginning to think the exceptions are losing ground and I am not sure why.  Part of me thinks if it is not immediate, not in my vicinity it is ignorable. I can speak my soap box speech trippingly on my tongue about the outrageous fortunes of Ukrainians and any other peoples and land grab in the sight of Putin and his gang and still make my dinner reservations.  In other words, a television war a la Viet Nam, et al.

Myself:  You know I never realized you are a cynic and a defeatist.  

Me:  I am not. I am just trying to understand how in full sight we got us another monster.

Myself:  Well, it’s not my fault. I didn’t vote for him.

Me:  I know but people like you and me did vote for him.  How??  Why??  And didn’t we do the same thing only a little over 4 years ago.

Myself:  I knew it.  You just can’t stay away from 2016.

Me:  You’re right!  I can’t.  I want to know how we find ourselves again behind this eight ball of human error.  But it is different this time.  Hitler rose from the ashes of World War I along with a worldwide economic depression.  Hitler not only promised the German people bread and autobahns (highways) but also a return to their former glory.  As the German people struggled to survive they grabbed Hitler’s lifeboat.  

Myself:  You want to tell me what the hell this has to do with Putin?

Me:  I am trying to figure that out myself, Self.

Myself:  Well, hurry it up.  I am not getting any younger.

Me:  OK.  Try this on for size.  Putin came to power as the Soviet Union dissolved.  

Myself:  Girl, you are really reaching on this one.

Me:  Wait!  The Soviet Union consisted of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia… and more.  Almost overnight this powerful Union was reduced to Russia alone.  

Myself:  Yeah, so???

Me:  I think as Putin came to power, he vowed to himself and his fellow cronies that he would return the U.S.S.R. to its former glory.  Hitler lookalike???

Myself:  Why would you think that?

Me:  Because Putin suffers from a Napoleon Complex.

Myself:  Is this another one of your arm-chair psychoanalysis?

Me:  Short men tend to compensate for their lack of height through domineering behavior and aggression.  Provoking conflict and invading countries makes him feel taller.  If you don’t believe me, ask Angela Merkle.

“I understand why he has to do this — to prove he’s a man,” Merkel said. “He’s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.”

Like I said…Napoleon Complex.

Combine Putin’s complex with the U.S.S.R. breakup, countries that provided Russia with political and economic advantages and you have the perfect storm to create the perfect monster. He may be short, but on a big white horse with his shirt off or his big black dog by his feet, invading the Crimea, Ukraine; the Soviet Union will be restored, Putin its Emperor aka WORLD CHAMPION BULLY.

Myself:  Even for you, that’s a stretch.

Me:  Maybe.  But if the shoe fits…

**A PAUSE IN THE DIALOGUE WHILE ME AND MYSELF INDULGE IN A HARD THINK…**

Myself:  I am not sure I agree with your reasoning behind Putin and his power grabs. I am sure he is a monster. What puzzles me most, after what the world has been through in just the twentieth century alone, how did he rise to power?  And then I remember the quote from Edmund Burke 

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. 

Edmund Burke

And this one from Primo Levi.  Primo was an Italian chemist, partisan, writer and Jewish Holocaust survivor.

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous.  More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

Primo Levi

Me:  It’s a sad realization.

Myself:  It’s depressing.

Me:  I have a crazy idea.

Myself:  Another one?

Me:  Do you remember Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Dictator?

Myself:  Seriously, has anyone ever examined your headball for loose screws.

Me:  Let me show you something.

Myself:  I take it back.  Brilliant. 

Me:  So what I think is if we come together maybe… no guarantees… we can stop these monsters before they get started.  Right???

Myself:  We always do much better together.  Of course, right!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. This a really depressing time for many of us, coming out of the pandemic (if we actually are) and a war that no one thought was possible… I struggle to find the hope. And then, my daughter recommended I watch “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”… for which Jessica Chastain just won the SAG Award for Best Actress. Watch Tammy Faye to find hope? Are you nuts?! But I always listen to my daughters (when it suits me, of course). Do you yourself a favor my friends, DON’T MISS IT.

I Forgot To Remember

All right, already. I get it. You age. You lose inches. I was 5’7”. Now I am 5’5”. Does this mean there is a corresponding loss of gray matter in my brain?

Please relax and follow my thoughts as best you can.

My lovely Doctor takes very good care of me. He will not allow me to read any of my test results. He understands the high level of anxiety I operate under, aka neurotic lady, and knows any test results sent to me will be read as a death sentence. Therefore, he promises he will interpret my test results and call me.  Like I said… a good guy.

A few days ago, he changed the routine of my blood pressure pills. Tell me if this is too much information. A few days ago, I watched some television, got into bed, read, and after an hour or so, fell asleep.  🎶Hitchcockian spooky chord🎶

I awoke with a start. It was 11:30 P.M. Shoot me! I go to bed early.  🎶another spooky chord🎶 

First silently, then aloud:

Me:  Did I take my evening pills? 🎶the most chillingest spooky chord🎶

And then began the evening from Hell. As I age, the levels of stress don’t just creep up on me anymore.  They jump, leap and pole vault into world breaking Olympic records of anxiety.

I think passing a certain age, for me 85, for people of my heightened sensibilities, (nicer sounding than “nutcase”), closing my eyes brings about many nights of Hell.

It’s not that complicated.

If I close my eyes tonight, will I open my eyes tomorrow?

I wish I could say this is a new phenomenon for me. But I have always had a little of the Angel of Death from Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’ Two Thousand Year Old Man in me. I imagine I sleep wearing a bejeweled necklace of peeled garlic. As Mel Brooks would tell it, “Vel, the Angel from death, flies in. Takes one whiff from my necklace. Feh!  Flies right back out again.  And I am good for another night.”

The night when I couldn’t remember if I took my pills I went through my  DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES scenario.  However, a new subtext was added to my already high anxiety.  First the inches? Now the memory? 

My whole life, as an actress and writer, is predicated on MEMORY.  And I was good at it. I never had any difficulties. There was the usual opening night nervous actor’s nightmare of standing on stage, mouth open, no words coming out… panic personified. But this wasn’t a nightmare. This was real. I thought about all those times I listened to friends complain about memory lapses. I always had what I thought were words of logical comfort.  

Me:  Stop! You are not losing it. Remember, the brain can only absorb so much information.  As it absorbs new information, it has to release old information to make room for the new.  Right? You don’t know what information the brain released. Right?  So of course you can’t remember. Because the brain released that information. It isn’t there anymore.  Right? You can’t possibly remember what you don’t know. Right? Feel better???

Somehow that convoluted rationale doesn’t work anymore. What a surprise! This new stage of my life is giving me a real run for my money. What I mean is on certain days of the week, when a new twinge twinges or a I can’t remember if I took my pills, it frightens me. Then I remember what one of my many therapists said to me. Don’t laugh. Every stage of life required an ”at-that-stage-of-life” therapy.

Me:  I’m afraid.

Fear of death Therapist:  Can you talk about it?

Me:  I don’t have enough money.  You don’t have enough time.

Fear of death Therapist:  You do know that fear and excitement have exactly the same physical characteristics.  Heart pounds, pulse quickens, breath is short.  Choose excitement!

Me:  Excuse me…???

Fear of death Therapist:  You can choose fear.  You can choose excitement.  CHOOSE EXCITEMENT!!!

I forgot she said that. Not because I had a brain blip. But because fear clogged my brain arteries. As long as I can do it, it is my job to unclog those arteries. Let in the light. I guess It’s time to get out the shovel, dig deeper into awareness and acceptance… one more time. No matter how much I try to hold back the dawn, I continue to change. A euphemism for the aging process. I know I have no idea how many more changes are left for me. I also know if someone tells me one more time the only constant is change, we are done, finished, kaput.

Just to keep you in the loop, I forgot to take my pills that night. Spoiler alert! I am still here, a sadder but wiser girl.

This particular change is difficult for me. I am loathe to surrender my memory advantage. In an argument or discussion, it has always been my get-out-of-jail card. It is difficult to be judgmental and opinionated if you don’t have the facts as I see them, right???  

Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. Take a look at how Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in the film, Gigi handle their memory lapses.  All to say, be kind to others and mostly to yourself.

Will You Be My Valentine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loves begins in the womb.

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

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

Love is pain.  Love is punishment.  

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

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

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

However, recent movies shine a light on changing attitudes. 

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

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

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

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

It is unconditional.

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

Can I just go back to counting Valentines, please?

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

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

Simple answer.  I can’t.

Like a dream it came to me.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Not My Fault

I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!

Doing nothing has become a national disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about miracles!!!

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

DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU

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

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did You Make A Resolution?

Did anyone you know make a resolution?

What is a New Years’ Resolution?

Is it a wish?

Is it a prayer?

Is it a confession?

Is it none of the above?

Is it all of the above?

Maybe resolutions are out of fashion because they open you to judgement and criticism?  

What am I talking about, you ask? Look guys… sit back and relax and let me try to explain not only to you, but to myself how my circuitous mind works.

I find it interesting that in conversations today, most particularly after you’ve opened yourself to how you think and feel with someone, their response to you can be something really hurtful and on occasion, downright cruel. This usually is followed by a coward’s cover-up of, “nothing personal”.
Oh yeah, right!!!

As the world divides (and the divisions are growing like viruses in a petri dish), there are fewer and fewer conversations without the “nothing personal” caveat.  This caveat allows us humans to judge, criticize, and obliterate the others.  

Definition of The Others:  They don’t look like you.  The don’t think like you.  They don’t talk like you.  You get the idea.  

This makes me aware of the loss of our moral muscles.  Muscles I took for granted would always be there.  Like everything else worth holding onto, if you don’t practice, if you don’t use those muscles, you lose those muscles.  I never thought I would witness such a profound and growing loss.  And it’s not just here… it is worldwide. When 9/11 happened, there was a moment, literally just a moment, where the world came together in shock, pain… a global sense of the outrage, the grief, the loss. That moment, unfortunately, was squandered and I believe we continue our downward spiral culminating in the current divisive incivility.

In this environment, it is difficult to make any resolutions.

And yet, I believe these once a year resolutions, particularly in times of stress, sturm and drang, have a special purpose.  They take us out of ourselves into a world of others.  Think about it.  Isn’t it a kind of ritual (only after the family geshtangananga, of course), when you sit down at a Thanksgiving table to go around and have each person give their thanks for whatever?  Well, New Years’ Eve or New Years Day is the time to look over the year and resolve ways and habits to give you not a face lift but a life lift.  Right?

Phew!  We finally got to where I wanted to go from the beginning. Like I said before a circuitous route.

MY RESOLUTIONS:  

As an 88 year old woman living in the Pandemic of Covid, circa year two going into year three, I am on my knees in gratitude for my vaccinations and booster, my masks, provision of clean water for drinking and washing, good food, shelter, clothing.  I resolve to not take any of this for granted.  I further resolve to hold any whining about any inconvenience in my life to an in-my-closet-stifled-silent-scream.

The Scream
Edvard Munch

I resolve to contribute to certified organizations that bring health, cleanliness, food, and shelter to peoples in need.  (The link above is not a recommendation, simply a list.)

And most importantly, I resolve to take myself out of myself.  It can really get so boring in there. Let me tell you… nothing leads to depression more than boredom.  Depression is not a good thing for anyone.  For the elderly it is a disaster.  You hear me?  A disaster.  So stop already. 

 I can just hear you, guys…. ”Oh, sure.  That’s easy for you to say.”

A lot you know.  

Nothing is easy for anyone who once was able to do or be or say anything and now cannot, whether due to age or money or health or any change.  Even though it is the only constant, humans don’t do change very well. It takes us forever to figure out the obvious.  Dare I write the words Climate Change… oops, I just did.  

You already know that laughing lowers blood pressure and raises spirits.  Here is something else you can try.  And remember you don’t have to sing or dance.  Just look as this guy.  He can’t do either and they love HIM…

 Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

The Human Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where has Spirit gone?

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

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

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

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

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

RIGHT? OF COURSE, RIGHT!!!!

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

P.P.P.S.

Pandemic Induced Holiday Moods vs. A Good Laugh

My Dear Friends and Family,

The season of holiday anxieties is upon us for a second pandemic year.

And if you tell me you have no stress then I will come over to your house and show you the gnomes and elves that live in your garden.

Added pandemical stress to normal seasonal stress is to be expected.  Here’s just a sampling of reasons why:

  • To fly or not to fly.
  • How do I love to party?  Let me count how many are coming.
  • Proof of vaccination… no interpreting the truth.
  • Recent test results… not by Trumpian guidelines.

The list could go on and on. Of course, the pandemic adds stress to holiday stress.  We can agree on that… right?!

I have been thinking of what to give to my dear family and friends who have stayed with me since forever reading my Blah, Blah Blogs (or not as the case may be).

I thought about sending each of you an apple to keep you healthy and wise with a card that begs you not to believe everything you read… excepting what I write, of course.

And then it came to me.  When I am so anxious that I can’t even thread a needle.  After I get a bigger needle, I go to my back up life saver… THE LAUGH.

Sometimes I watch outrageous movies, but mostly clips from sketches of an old LIVE television series called YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, starring, Sid Ceasar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Nanette Fabray. Ceasar’s writers were the crème de la crème of comedy:  Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Woody Allen.

And then it came to me.  My gift to you… THE BIG LAUGH.

If these sketches don’t punch the air out of your balloon of anxiety, nothing will.  After all, my friends, anxiety is and remains the middle name for all comedy.  Every great comedian is part fool and part neurotic.

Comedy, aka anxiety, sits forever on the other side of tragedy.  And that is why it will always be the cure for what ails you.

So I am sending all of you lots of love and LAUGHS.  

Santa is not known for his HO! HO! HO! for nothing.  They don’t call this the season to be jolly for nothing.

Right???  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S.  For further funny bone tickling try to get the documentary, Hail Sid Ceasar! The Golden Age of Comedy.  Just the best.

P.P.S. I’m sneaking this in because it still tickles my funny bone.

P.P.P.S. There are many more Sid Caesar sketches on YouTube. Help Yourself.

He’s Still Here

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

“I like neurotic people.”  

That’s it!  He likes me.  I love him.

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

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

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

His death was and still is a shock to me.

My inner monologue upon hearing about his demise:

INNER ME:

I can’t believe it.

What’d you expect?  He was 91.

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

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

DUH!!!

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

No dates.  It was a long time ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

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

                                 

                

New Tricks

Among other things, this is the name of a British Television series available on Amazon Prime. If nothing else, just view the first episode because it’s so apropos. It is also the last part of an adage I have recently adapted to a new circumstance in my old life.  

 Do you think it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks?

All right, already, what in the Sam Hill (this is a euphemism for swearing because I didn’t feel like writing ‘hell’…sue me) is that woman trying to tell us???

It’s always great when you ask the right question.  

Recently, two dear friends, submitted samples of my writing (these very Blogs you receive) to the Editor and Publisher of The Berkshire Eagle, suggesting I might write a monthly Column for the Op-ed page of the newspaper.  I was grateful and, at the same time, a little unsure about my “style” of writing conforming to a newspaper. Who knows? Maybe it was just my way of preparing myself for rejection.  Remember, I spent my life auditioning. Maybe I still am. I think my percentages ran to about 50/50 of getting the part to “You’re very special”, words that always indicated you didn’t get it. “Next…”  All to say I wasn’t expecting a call from the publisher.  

But he did call and offered me an Op-ed column.  I accepted.  Immediately, I went to work writing.  The subject had been on my mind for about as long the Berkshire County Cottage and Division Street Bridges had been closed, which they were for many years, causing great inconvenience to the community and some  economic hardships to affected businesses. I spent the last two years gossiping about it to friends, neighbors and whoever would listen, like the women in Meredith Wilson’s musical Music Man.

Related news: A new iteration of Music Man arrives on Broadway mid-December, starring Hugh Jackmam. Y’All fuggetaboutit! He’s mine!

This opportunity gave me permission to share my thoughts with the community in which I live. It brings a very different color and responsibility to writing. The Blog and the Column are very personal. And that is where the similarity begins and ends.

I began the Blah, Blah, Blog as a very personal and almost intimate look into my absurd take on a long life (soooo grateful). Readers chose to sign up to see what the crazy lady was going to write about next or unsubscribe.

Subscribers or purchasers of a Newspaper have a completely different set of expectations. Yes, the Op-ed page is a page for people’s opinions. Not judgements, which most of you know is my favorite form of opinion.  I think newspaper readers (the few that are left) represent a wider variety of thought and opinion than blog readers. As I wrote the op-ed piece, I realized I was very self conscious. I write the Blog from absurd insights inside my brain, and over the years (since 2014) each of you has chosen to subscribe to peek inside that overworked mechanism.

A column goes out to a wider and more diverse audience. That alone creates a different writing environment.  It became a challenge. Life threw down a gauntlet. Was I up to it?

Well, what in the Sam Mountain do you think? (higher form of swear words.) As I wrote and researched the subject, I became more and more comfortable and actually enjoyed this new challenge. The gauntlet was in my hand and it fit like a glove.  (I can’t believe I wrote that…)

Here is my answer to the original question I posed.

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?

Have a look and let me know: Sally-Jane Heit: Bridges to democracy

Right???

Of course, right!

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S.

What Is Past Is Prologue

My Dear Friends and Family,

Your first quiz, for a free pass and tour of the National Archive Building:

What Federal Building in Washington, D.C. has that statement inscribed on it?

You are just too smart for me. You are right!

Northeast corner of the National Archives  Building in Washington, D.C.

Sooo…. What has any of this to do with anything? You always know the right question to ask. 

The news of the world at the present time gives me very little pleasure.  I really do try to limit the news media of the day, but somehow it creeps in, not on little cat paws, but earthquaking Shrek-sized feet.  I have lost my Pollyanna credentials, but still keep an optimist’s eye, even if it is a little cockeyed, on what I read and experience.  I don’t know about you but for me it is getting harder and harder to join Candide (by my dear friend Voltaire’s character) in his famous exclamation,

“This is the best of all possible worlds.”  

Really???  I don’t think so!!! Maybe instead he should exclaim along with the rest of us as we struggle with the ways of the world,

“Wha’ happened?”

How many times can I quote Voltaire again?  “History doesn’t repeat itself.  People do.”

If something still bites me, I shall of course put my Five Hundred Dollars in.  It used to be two cents but with inflation…

So I am going to go back into my memories to write about them.  Not to worry family and friends, no names.  And the only fool you will find in my stories? C’est moi.

Here’s a sample…

Even if I need fingers and toes to count, I think I can figure it out.  I just turned 88, right?  So if this wedding took place when I was 8, then that was 80 years ago.  Get out!  80 years ago… Yikes… we are talking 1941.  On October 19, 1941 my eldest sister got married. 

I was there and I loved every minute of it.  Against parental sturm and drang, the lovers persevered.  Like every World War II movie you ever saw.  The parents said wait until the war was over.  Unequivocally, my sister said, NO!  (You must have heard that word from her a million times)  Well, having missed out on my eldest brother’s wedding because they had eloped (which they were never forgiven for), Nana surrendered and told Pop to surrender too.  (That’s the kind of marriage they had)  Here comes the juicy stuff.

It was to be a home wedding… 

~ SJ Heit October 19, 2021

Stories like that one give me a sense of peace and continuity. As I begin to write some memories, there are many thoughts that crowd into an already overcrowded mindball.  I think the most important thought for me is this…

When does my memory meet with a perspective that will allow me to remember the memory and at the same time, give it enough air to be able to see it in a perspective of whatever smarts I have gleaned over these many years? 

Not many, I can assure you.  

My favorite Three Little Words have always been, I LOVE YOU. Abused, misused, and ultimately, on good days with great humility, expanded to include the judged, and found wanting persons who brought grief to my person;  a real achievement for this Master of Judgement.  Today those 3 words are neck and neck with these 3 words, I DON’T KNOW (for every control freak I have ever known, including yours truly, this is yet another miracle).

The Heit Family on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Circa 1938

There will be some memories that I shall want to share with you and some I shall not.  Not because of shame or guilt. Come on guys, we have all lived with those emotions forever, so as not helpful as they are, they are very familiar.  And in this case, familiarity really does breed contempt.  Most importantly, hopefully, there is a way to acknowledge their presence and yet fold them into my life.  

Oi vey, who asked me to do this?  No one, that’s who.

Not true.  I am asking me to do this.  

Today, this is the phrase I trot out for all important occasions and decisions, IF NOT NOW, WHEN???!!!

Right??  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane