Saturday, September 9, 2017

Love Is All Around & Mary Tyler Moore


My family and maybe some of my friends know I have a bit of the shine. I don't see dead people exactly but I have premonitions about things, weird hunches, strange dreams, one too many coincidences. I hear music a lot -- like in my basement I sometimes hear music. We have a stone foundation. I don't know if music is being carried through the ground and into the rock, but it's older music like Big Band era music so I wonder. Here's another thing, I like cemeteries.

Today I decided to go to Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield.  It's a beautiful old cemetery in what is nearly Southport. I've been there once before to visit the grave of a young man whose family established a music scholarship in his name. I wanted to say thank you to David John Nogan for his help with Will's tuition at Loyola NOLA.

This time I was going to see Mary Tyler Moore's grave. I loved Mary Tyler Moore. Her shows yes, but I also loved her great style, the way she tossed her hat, and swished her beautiful 1970's long hair. She was just so cool. I remember reading her obituary and feeling so sad for all of us who lost her. And then I read that she too was buried at Oak Lawn in Fairfield. And I knew someday I'd visit her grave. 

I brought with me the following offerings: one of Will's old baseballs, a guitar pick from Will's new school in Minneapolis-St. Paul and some Mardi Gras beads with trumpets on them. My feeling was these were symbols of the old Will and the new Will. I wanted to leave the guitar pick and baseball for Mary Tyler Moore, the patron saint of Minneapolis-St. Paul, to watch over Will as he transitions from young boy to young man in Minnesota. The beads were for David John Nogan, the musician who died far too young with connections to Louisana, where Will went to college last year. 

I need a Venn diagram to explain this more clearly.  But in my mind, it makes perfect sense. Say goodbye to Louisiana, say hello to Minnesota and ask two souls to watch over Will.

Our dog Daisy ate the cover off the baseball on the way to the cemetery. She's obviously feeling better. My offerings now shrunk to two.

I drove in slowly, respectfully, minding the narrow paths that wind through Oak Lawn. I saw baby deer and big deer and none of them seemed to mind my passing. They would slowly shuffle out of the way, like here comes another one out to ruin my lunch. 

I found the section where Mary Tyler Moore was buried and circled slowly. I saw two people sitting near the center of section D, but I didn't really make a connection. I finally decided to get out of the car and walk around. I felt self-conscious because I'd just jumped in the car without thinking about what I was wearing. And that would be -- ripped jeans, my painting Birkenstocks with colorful splatter all over them and a kind of macrame detailed Lucky jeans shirt. But I thought, "Hey Mary Tyler Moore was a 1970's kind of gal, she'll get my hippie vibe." 

Here's where the shine part comes into play. 

The two people in the cemetery I would describe as a salt-and-pepper gentleman with glasses and a blond woman of a certain age, also with glasses and a vague European accent possibly of German or Austrian descent. With them, was an older dog who seemed friendly enough. But there are signs everywhere that say No Dogs Allowed. I felt sort of judgmental about them until I remembered my own dog was in the car with the AC blasting. 

I approached, said hello and met the dog. I asked the dog's name of the woman because he seemed to be her dog. 

The man answered, "Spanky." 

"Oh,' I said 'like that kid's show from back in the day?" 

He smiled. "Right," he said.

"Our Gang," I said. 

And I kept walking around in circles trying to find the place where Mary Tyler Moore was buried. The man, the woman and dog started packing up to leave.

There was something kind of strange about them. The woman sat upright, rather austerely, herding the dog as they left with commands of, "Heel!" The man sat on a stone bench in an enclosure surrounded by an orange mesh fence. I think he was reading a newspaper now that I think about it. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that this area surrounded by fence might be where Mary Tyler Moore was buried. I did see a large white statue but I couldn't read the grave stone and I certainly didn't want to cross the orange fence to get a better look. 

Then I saw the man walking back toward me. Maybe he'd forgotten something I thought. 

He asked, "Can I help you with something?" 

"I"m looking for the grave of Mary Tyler Moore," I said. "Is this it? Do you know?" I asked, pointing to the fenced-in area. 

"Yes," he said. "We haven't finished with it yet. Pouring the cement and," his voice trailed off. 

And then I realized. "Are you her husband?" I asked. He nodded yes. 

I'm not a person who is light on her feet - I don't think quickly in situations like these. In an emergency, I'm a champ. Public speaking, not so much. I started babbling, explaining the story of taking Will to Minnesota, and that even though I know Mary Tyler Moore's not from Minnesota, I just wanted to leave something of Will's for her. 

"That's very sweet," he said. I showed him the guitar pick. 

"He's a musician," I said. 

"Leave it here," he said pointing to a row of stones on her grave. "Weight it down so it won't blow away." 

I thanked him as he watched me place the guitar pick on his wife's grave. Her husband was Jewish I remembered that too. I looked it up, the reason why Jews leaves stones on the graves of their loved ones. Putting stones on a grave keeps the person's soul down in this world. That's what I found out about the stones.

He had kind eyes. I must've sounded crazy with my ripped jeans and guitar pick rant about my kid in Minnesota. He's a cardiologist her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, so my guess is he's seen it all.

"I loved her," I said, starting to tear up. 

"Me too," he said.

NB: I did some more research. Of course, Mary Tyler Moore started a wonderful pet adoption charity called Broadway Barks and Spanky the dog was a rescue pit bull belonging to her housekeeper Anna, likely the woman I saw today. Moore said that Spanky could sense when her blood sugar dropped which helped with managing her diabetes.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Same As It Ever Was


Last week I dropped Will off at school. He's a sophomore now in college. My friend Lou Lou just dropped her daughter Olivia off at Tulane - a second generation who will live and breathe the walls of Josephine Louise dorm at Tulane University. Please god, let them be freshly painted.

I thought it would be easier this time, easier than before when Will was a freshman. His first summer back from college was a challenge. It's a strange time in a young man's life where he wants to do and be all things men do - or at least the fun things they do. But he's not quite old enough, he doesn't have enough money, he can't figure it out, women are difficult, cars are expensive. Strange times indeed. 

I'm reading a book called Lift by Kelly Corrigan at the random suggestion of a friend. It's a letter to her children to help them remember their young lives. In a way, this blog has been the same. Not all my posts are about our son Will, but I like to think the good ones are like:


I have no real music skills, unlike most of the members of my family. Certainly, unlike Will. I don't play the piano. I'm just an okay singer. I do have one very unique musical talent however. I can remember the lyrics to many, many songs. Like the other day I burst into Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. "I'd be inclined," he sings. That's a twisty phrase for song lyrics. It would have no place in today's songs, but Neil Diamond rocked those lyrics and his denim jumpsuits back in the day. 

I saw Neil Diamond in the airport one time. I'd just spent a weekend with my Tulane roommate Lou Lou bumming off all the other recently graduated kids who were living in Aspen. We'd been to see Lyle Lovett and his Large Band featuring the super talented singer Francine Reed. We'd biked up to see Hunter S. Thompson's cabin in the woods, slightly fearing for our lives because it was rumored he shot at lookyloos. 

When it was time to head home, I cabbed it to the tiny Aspen airport. And that's when I saw him -- bathed in a beautiful light, talking on a pay phone no less, was Neil Diamond in full-on denim -- denim bell bottoms, denim jacket with sheepskin collar, denim shirt. Sweet Caroline, I couldn't believe it was him. I was suddenly back in 1970's Texas listening to my dad's vinyl. 

In New Orleans, I was lucky to see live music all the time. One of the most amazing concerts I saw while at Tulane - and there were many like Bonnie Raitt and David Crosby jamming at the Maple Leaf with Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes on percussion. Anyway, one of the most amazing concerts I saw was David Byrne's Burning Down the House tour. Incredible show. Incredible performances. Thinking of that show takes me back to college days. I don't want to romanticize that time or  gloss over the tough parts, but that was some kind of fun that night. 

The song lyrics I thought of as I dropped Will off at college were these words from The Talking Heads' more subdued song Once in a Lifetime:

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground


Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Same as it ever was
Look where my hand was
Time isn't holding up
Time isn't after us

This year Will is in school in St. Paul, MN - quite a departure from New Orleans. It was his choice and I think a very mature decision based on how he felt after his first year. I've never been to Minnesota until just now. People couldn't be nicer, just as you would expect from Midwesterners. I did feel that I shouldn't burst into tears there, on the street for example. Minnesotans don't cry. So I waited until I got back home and had myself a nice outburst at JFK airport in parking terminal 2. Ah New York, the land of crazy and plenty of crying. 

It doesn't get any easier, dropping your kid off 20 hours away in a place you've never been until last week. It's tough when they're freshman and when they're sophomores. Maybe it gets easier when they're a junior. For now, it's just me and the old man and our dog moping around. Same as it ever was, indeed. 



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tag Sale - Everything (Including this Lipo Machine) Must Go


My friend was out shopping tag sales last weekend and came across an estate sale for a doctor. The sale items included a "gently used" liposuction machine -- apparently the doctor was a plastic surgeon. 

His first thought was, "Who in the world is going to buy this?"

My first thought was, "How hard could it be?"

NB I love the bucket attachment in this image. Ewww....



Monday, July 31, 2017

IKEA Is Swedish for Crap


Yesterday was Sunday and I decided the lesser of two evils in terms of weekend days to go to IKEA in New Haven. Where to begin? First, the traffic was still pretty heavy even though it was a Sunday. Second, I hadn't slept well so never a good idea to go shopping when you're tired. Third, it's IKEA, the place that lures you into buying crap just because it's cheap. Oh and the kicker? It was almost lunch time, and what was once only a handful of food trucks has turned into a mini-Austin, Texas food truck fest.

I went in search of very specific items like a new duvet cover for the guest room to replace the old duvet cover that ripped in the washing machine. I also needed 2 new pillows and a bedspread for Will's room. Here's what I came home with:
  • Duvet cover that doesn't match anything in the guest room (to be returned)
  • Bedspread (keeping)
  • 2 pillows (keeping, already in use)
  • 2 storage boxes that look like mini-ottomans or stools (to be returned, what was I thinking with the white fabric?)
  • 4 small plastic bins I was going to use to organize tools in the basement but they don't hold anything (to be returned)
  • 3 tin planters that I was also going to use to organize nails/screws in the basement but we don't have any loose nails/screws so I don't need them (to be returned)
  • Gray stain to stain my back porch (already stained, looks good)
  • Set of three of the world's crappiest paint brushes to apply said stain (1 down, 2 to go)
When I finished staining the porch, Will took a look from inside the kitchen. He said, "I like it. It looks very rusty." Meaning rustic. #epicfail

I've decided IKEA should install a mandatory meditation room directly in front of check out as part of their corporate social responsibility. All IKEA shoppers would be forced to sit and stare at their carts and ask rhetorical questions of themselves like, "Do I really need this lucky bamboo? Am I actually going to follow these ridiculous anime assembly instructions?" No. At least 50% of the time, the answer will be no. 

The long and short of it is, I have to go all the way back to New Haven to return this stuff. On a positive note, it is IKEA so I can get a soft serve yogurt cone for a buck. 

NB: This is a picture of a small child wrapped in a bath mat that makes her look like a polar bear cub. This is what happens at IKEA people.





Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Blog, and Falconry, Are Making A Comeback



I don't even remember how it started, but this is the conversation I had with my husband Rod last night. Wait, I think it was related to him watching ESPN.

Anytime I have a conversation like this, I am reminded of the far wittier and more prolific blogger and author, Jenny Lawson aka @theBloggess.

Rod: Falconry is making a comeback.

Me: What?

Rod: Falconry. It's making a comeback.

Rod again: Someday, I may come home with a surprise for you.

Me: If you come home with a falcon, we're going to have a problem. 

The End. 

NB: This image is from a Groupon for a discounted falconry experience in San Juan Capistrano, California. Apparently, falconry is making a comeback. In California.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Just the Way You Are


This sign makes me sad. I think it's supposed to be sweet, but it makes me sad. 

I saw it on a walk through my neighborhood today. At first, I thought what a cute idea. Then I looked closer and saw that small children wrote their 2017 resolutions on this board. One says, "Stop sucking my thumb." The other says, "To focus better at school." And that makes me sad. 

I feel like knocking on my neighbor's door and saying, "Hey I sucked my thumb until I was driving and I hide chocolate bars in a small Igloo cooler in the pantry. I hide them from MYSELF!"  

But I totally get it. We want our kids to do better. "You can do better!" we say. I think it comes from a place of wanting better for them, wanting what we think we lack or didn't have or should've done differently. 

Now that Will is away at college, I'm thinking about all the things I wish I hadn't done as a parent. I think about what I put in his head with my "you can do better" prodding. 

Maybe, instead of worrying about the next thing and the next thing, I should've just sat in the grass and watched him play baseball. Or let him use every single dish in our home to bake his psychedelic, 7 different food coloring birthday cake with his friends. Or let him take hour long showers and run out all the hot water because at least I could hear him singing. Or not lose my shit when he forgot something again, because maybe what he forgot was never important to him or really even matters in the long run.

Will is an awesome kid. But I often think he is an awesome kid in spite of us. That our constant wanting better for him should've been, "You're pretty awesome just the way you are." Period. Mic drop.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Welcome to Kakistocrastan




I learned another new word reading Paul Krugman's Op-Ed in the New York Times about the war of words currently taking place in social media and traditional media between Georgia's Representative from Atlanta, John Lewis, and our PEOTUS, Donald Trump. The word is: kakistocracy.

Here's the word kakistocracy used in a sentence by poet James Russell Lowell, who wrote in 1876: “Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?”