Stuck at home, it's the perfect time to organize and enjoy old photo albums.
They remind me of my FIRST motorcycle trip in 1998. My friend Rich taught me how to travel on two wheels. We rode 4,000 miles in eight days, passing through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada and North Dakota.
That's my bike in front -- a handsome motorcycle totally unsuited for long-distance touring. I replaced it with a more comfortable machine soon after. Through fate, I got the bike back recently and plan to display it in my personal museum.
I hope everyone is safe and healthy. If you need anything (including an ear to listen), reach out to me. We have to stick together during this tough time.
Ground was broken on my new garden this weekend. That's good news. Aching muscles are bad news -- but inevitable when you normally work at a desk. My back isn't used to shoveling dirt. No regrets, though; I anticipated physical pain in this new project and am willing to put up with it. When I feel an ache, I remember how hard my mother worked to keep two boys safe and happy. I view endurance as gratitude.
Three things came together recently and led me to do something rewarding: create a memorial garden.
The first was a strong impulse I feel to show appreciation to my mother for her herculean effort raising my brother Richard and me. My mother died early when she was only 54 years old (1991). She's been gone for thirty years now but is not forgotten. I don't have a physical place to talk to her so I want to create one. It will help me express my emotions for her lasting contribution to my life.
I've never gardened before. The idea sounds cool but I never tried it. I've long believed gardening might become a hobby of mine when I got "old." Well... that time seems to have arrived. This is the second factor moving me to create a memorial garden.
The third impetus is the Coronavirus. We're all sitting at home, bored, looking for something to do. What better than pursue a long-held desire? Now is a perfect time to initiate projects consistent with public health safety.
I plotted out some space in our backyard, researched how to garden and ordered memorial plaques. I got two -- one for my mom and one for Robin's father Milton whom she loved dearly. I predict she'll feel as good about this idea as I do. Since Milton's death in 2006, Robin has been thinking about him frequently. She leaves messages for him on his Legacy web-page.
My plan is to fill the garden with beautiful flowers. I don't know which will grow so that'll be a trial-and-error process. I'll plant a bunch, see which thrive and replace those that don't. Tending to a garden is, I hear, a major part of its appeal: you watch living things and actively nurture them. Connecting with nature is something I like to do so gardening is a natural fit.
Record stores sell old vinyl cheap so you can take chances on things that may or may not be good. Last month I picked up David Brenner's first comedy album (1983) for only $3; I finally got around to listening to it. One of his bits resonates today.
Brenner jokes about how New Yorkers are tough and can handle anything. He says, "This happened once; I saw it happen. There was a steam explosion in the street and a manhole-cover flew up into the air. When manhole-covers fly up in the air, your typical New Yorker's reaction is: 'I call heads.'"
I have a question for you. The question affects me (quite seriously) but you guys hold the answer. I don't know it; I have only observed different reactions from people that arise for reasons unknown to me.
The question is: why do some people accept me as female when others cannot?
I am who I am and the perceptions of others don't change that. I've been this way since birth and my condition will never change. I know in my heart and soul that I'm female as surely as you know you're human and not a dog.
When meeting new people, some are able to see and accept me as female; others cannot. Why?
Is it the depth of their empathy? Their prior life experiences? Their contact with people who are different? Their understanding of gender? Their tolerance of social deviance? Their emotional intelligence? Their awareness of gender-diversity?
I honestly don't know why some of you are able to see my true nature and be open to becoming my friend while others write me off instantly as incomprehensible. This matters because, to the extent possible, I'd like to be accepted. If I can learn what the common reason for acceptance/rejection is, maybe I can consciously deploy that knowledge to convince strangers to like me or at least perceive me accurately.
In the coming weeks we'll be forced to hunker down. There will be no sporting events or new entertainment to distract us; Hollywood and television productions have shut down. We'll get bored and, even worse, some of us will feel isolated. Humans are social animals and without interaction, we suffer.
Here's my suggestion: write letters. Not e-mail, real letters. Pull out some paper, think about family and friends you haven't spoken to in ages and write them. Tell them what you've been up to, ask about their lives and share fun facts. Then drop the missives in the mail. You'll be rewarded with happy phone calls and other responses from people you like, all grateful you reached out to them.
I wrote several friends today. For amusement, I used my 80-year old Royal, built in 1939. It's a manual typewriter so it doesn't need electricity, just heavy strokes. I signed the letters with a snazzy Montblanc rollerball. Write letters YOUR way. Express your individuality and enjoy the process. Everyone benefits!
A decade ago I saw a terrific show on Broadway ("Million Dollar Quartet") about the true story of a 1956 jam-session at Sun Records by four musical giants: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Last week I took Robin to see it again at a local theater in Northport. The productions were both magical.
Of these four musicians, do you know if any are still alive? You probably know Elvis died at 42 and Johnny moved on at age 71. You probably don't know that Carl died at 65. Did you know that Jerry Lee Lewis is still alive? He's 84 and still a character.
Jerry Lee led a wild life. After a meteoric rise, his career crashed when it was revealed he'd married his 13-year old first cousin Myra when he was 22 years old. Amazingly, she was his THIRD wife. He married twice earlier and neither divorce was settled before he moved on to the next one. Since then, Jerry Lee married four more times, for a total of seven wives.
My favorite Jerry Lee story is when he got busted in 1976. It was 3:00 in the morning, he was drunk and somebody lent him a gun. So what does he do? He drives over to Graceland, accidentally crashes through the gate and demands to talk to Elvis. Elvis refuses to see him and calls the cops. Probably a wise move since Jerry Lee had a history of violence and once came close to killing his bass player.
It's probably also not a surprise that Jerry Lee had IRS troubles. He owed the government over $2 Million and they seized all his assets (including five motorcycles). As I said, he is a character. I'm amazed he's still alive.
I had some unexpected free time today so I pursued my favorite hobby -- playing with clothes. I had an outfit planned with a vintage orange jumpsuit but, sadly, that didn't work out. Buying clothes at thrift-stores without trying them on yields hit-and-miss. This morning it was a wild miss.
I salvaged the jumpsuit (which doesn't fit me above the waist) by using it as wide-legged pants. I pulled a top out of my closet that kinda sorta goes with it and added white heels and a scarf-belt. Surprisingly even though the outfit isn't impressive, creating it on the fly gave me real joy. I enjoy improvising.
It's obvious to all that I'm no influencer, just a simple gal trying to find happiness where I can. This is where I aim my efforts.
When I was in college and law school, I relaxed from intense academic effort by smoking dope and listening to music. Usually at the same time. Both calmed my anxiety and gave me sorely-needed rest. My favorite genre, popular at the time, was reggae music.
Everyone knows Bob Marley but my preferred reggae man is Max Romeo. Max sings beautifully and his lyrics address political and social issues like poverty. I admire his courageous sympathy for the disadvantaged. Plus his songs rock.
Remembering Max's best record ("War ina Babylon"), I realized I haven't heard it in four decades. So I searched for and found the album, now available on purple vinyl. Purple! And it sounds as grand as it did back in the late-1970s.
I'm happy to report that Max, 75 years old, is alive and well. His career soared in the beginning but later fizzled. At one point, Max was toiling at a NYC electronics store when a producer coaxed him to return to Jamaica and play again. He did and prospered. Now three of his four children are pursuing musical careers.
Have you ever heard reggae music? If not, start with Max's "War ina Babylon" (available at Amazon).
What do you do in the doldrums of Winter? You gear up! The best way to generate enthusiasm for Spring is to prepare for adventure. The process lifts your spirits. You imagine having fun outdoors and preparation makes those excursions easier.
I'm a biker/hiker. I use two types of outdoor gear -- motorcycle stuff and hiking stuff. This Winter I surveyed my closets, identified what's missing and filled gaps. I just added two pieces which make me smile -- a handsome hiking hat and a black leather motorcycle vest. Both are attractive and useful.
First, the hat. I've never been a hat-person because hats require panache I lack. But I also never shirk from protecting myself.
Hiking in the sun, I wondered afterward why the top of my head hurt. Sunburn! In a spot where my hair is getting sparse. I never expected that and never thought to put sunscreen on the top of my head. I assumed (incorrectly) that my scalp was protected by a robust head of hair. Ahh... age. Our minds think our bodies haven't changed but look in the mirror, buddy. It's happenin'.
So a hat is necessary. To keep my head from getting sunburned. By the way, anyone who uses the phrase "bald patch" is dead to me, so be careful with your comments. :-)
This Dorfman Pacific hiking hat is so stylish it's hard to believe it's intended for hiking. No reason you can't look good while conquering the outdoors!
My new "Street & Steel" motorcycle vest is also fun. It conveys the right kind of style that helps one fit in with a crowd of bikers, which is where I find myself. When in Rome...
When I was young, I was eager to grow up and become an adult. Adults have freedom! They can do whatever they want! Adults can eat candy all day and their mothers can't stop 'em.
Reality differs from childhood wishes. Being an adult is hard. Some say it sucks and I won't argue with that. Certainly adulthood is difficult -- we have to worry about money, making a living and doing unpleasant things. Our parents become less willing to support us so we need to figure out other ways to survive. Like college and jobs. Ugh.
Adulthood diminishes our dreams. We realize we're not going to be ballerinas, astronauts or professional baseball players. Instead we need to struggle and, unless your parents are rich and easing your path, doing well requires sustained effort.
I achieved my career goals but I didn't expect it to be so hard. The journey changed my outlook. Rather than soaring easily to vast heights, I trudged a slow slog up the career ladder. Doing just a little better than the year before was usually good enough. Boredom at work became a relief since it meant I wasn't actively miserable -- and anxiety was pain I grew to know with frequency. For decades, possessing a net worth of zero was my goal because that would mean I'd climbed out of crippling debt from school loans and credit cards. My expectations evolved in the wrong direction. And don't get me started on physical aging. Ouch.
"When you become a teenager, you step onto a bridge....The opposite shore is adulthood. Childhood lies behind. The bridge is made of wood. As you cross it, it burns behind you." (Gail Carson Levine)
When you were a kid, what did you think adulthood was going to be like?
I added something to my daily routine -- a small bowl of blueberries and flaxseed every morning. Both have amazing health benefits. Not only are they natural, they're giving me super-powers.
Do you know that linen is made from flax? And do you know that before the 20th Century, most clothing was made from linen, not cotton?
In ancient Egypt, Europe in the Middle Ages, and North America up to the 19th Century, linen was by far the most common clothing fabric. It remained dominant until farm-labor became cheap (due to slavery) and industrialization made cotton easier to grow. Linen is stronger, more absorbent and dries faster than cotton but much more expensive to produce.
I feel like I'm eating history going back to the Egyptians. Do you ever wear linen?
I have two things planned. The first is visiting a friend who used to be my secretary 20 years ago (Nancy). Sadly, even though Nancy is only in her forties, she contracted Lyme disease which disables her. She has to use a walker and the illness severely limits her life. My sorrow about her bad luck encourages me to see her often. Plus, she's a wonderful friend.
The other thing I'm doing is fun. An opera singer who's performed around the world grew up near me before embarking on his international career. Now living in Germany, he's returning home to give a concert of African-American spirituals. Songs like, "Swing low sweet Chariot" and "Sometimes I feel like a motherless chile’." Sung with talent, these soulful songs should be moving to hear. Also it's nice to attend a live event close to home.
The singer's name is Zelotes Edmund Toliver. Isn't that a cool name?
How 'bout you? What are your weekend plans?
My favorite place to hang out with friends right now is the cocktail lounge at TWA Hotel. The place has early-1960's decor, cool music, delicious drinks, tasty appetizers and a fun retro- vibe. Since discovering it on my birthday last November I've been back several times, including last week. The hotel is convenient to get to, especially for anyone flying into New York.
The place's coolness was just officially confirmed -- it's the site of a fancy fashion-shoot in Vogue (March, pp. 326-7). The lounge's bright red, mid-century modern style is perfect setting for hip events.