Saturday, September 25, 2010

Prehistoric Angels

With all of the nuances of a nonevent, the seasons slowly change.  Tiny transformations barely noticeable. Overlapping. Inconspicuous.  Initially subtle.  I watched as pelican after pelican soared gracefully past my window, today.  Some in large flocks, creating linear shapes against the backdrop of the sky.  Others, singularly making their way along along the warm autumn air currents, wings spread as if their spans might reach from cloud to cloud.  Prehistoric looking angels heading south towards Mexico paying their last respects to the Southern California coast.  Another summer spent.  Another fall burning its way into a late California heat spell.  Another year into the autumn of my journey.
There is something about observing the way in which nature denotes the transformations of one season into another.  Intuitive.  Profound.  Exquisitely complex.  Internal clocks shifting until there is a new balance found.  From where we have been to where we are going.  A time to move from one place to another and then another.
And all along the way, we spend some time in each season.  Hopefully nurturing the present while anticipating the future and building upon the past.  Each season coming and going like a checkpoint along the journey of our life.  There is a flow to all of it.  A quintessential rhythm rounding out the seasons.  Winter.  Spring.  Summer.  Fall.  Winter.  Spring.  Summer.  Fall.
And just as the Pelicans make their way back down south each autumn, following the fibrous evanescent thread of instinct, we also journey our way through the sequential seasons of our lives.  Making our way through the translucent veil which segues the very subtle transformation of one season into another, into another.  Gossamer.  Gauzy.  Ethereal.  Our spirits open wide like the wings of a pelican making its way back to home.  Carrying all that has been, all that is, and all that will be.

Happy Autumn...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

You Took the Words Right Out of my Mouth or Why Meat Loaf is Still Delicious

*Meat Loaf with Tim Curry on the big screen.
I consider myself pretty lucky.  I grew up during a time in which many of the greatest rock and roll icons in the world were growing up too.  The Who, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones serenaded me through my teenage years, filling my soul with hope and unrest and a bit of rebellion.(Maybe more than just a bit.)  From Mick Jagger professing that he would never be my "beast of burden", to Bruce Springsteen's long, plaintive wails calling for me to tie my hair back in a long white bow, I was being seduced by a generation of gritty, throaty, talented young men whose music became integral parts of the soundtrack of my life.  But in 1977, a guy who I was quite interested in came over to my house and brought me a new record to listen to.  When he dropped the needle down on the shiny, black vinyl, and I first heard the pleading voice of Meat Loaf, my heart momentarily skipped a beat.  The album, Bat Out of Hell(which has sold over 40 million copies to date), exemplified something that my parents would never understand.  Pain, turmoil, chaos, love and adolescent hormones raged in every chord of this album.  I melted into the lyrics and into that guys arms...  He and I never really worked out.  Meat Loaf never left me.

For the first time in over thirty years, last weekend, I went to watch Meat Loaf sing in concert for the second time.  The first time I saw him, I was "barely seventeen" and he weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds.  He lumbered around the stage, stopping frequently to take hits off of an oxygen canister because his asthma was so problematic.  He only played for about an hour.  The experience was a letdown, especially for an energetic teenager.  I forgave Meat Loaf for his lackluster performance.  I continued a love affair with his music over the years.  So when I saw that he was playing out in Palm Springs in a casino that my dad spends some time at, I asked him to get us some tickets for the concert.  Mark, our four Angel Daughters, and I really enjoy going to concerts, so I thought this would be fun for us to do.  I must admit that I was not expecting very much as we(Meat Loaf and many of his fans) are getting older.  His daughter Pearl was the opening act, but she never announced her relationship to him.(Doesn't want to succeed on the nepotism factor?)  Her voice was gritty and strong and lovely, but the reception from the audience was sadly, less than enthusiastic.  She tried her hardest to get the crowd going and smiled the entire time.  Looking back now, I understand why this happened.

1.  The audience did not realize that Pearl was Meat Loaf's daughter.(Sometimes it is best to use who you know to your advantage.)

2.  The audience consisted of mostly casino players, many of whom were probably comped tickets by the pit bosses.(People tend to enjoy things more when they pay for them themselves.)

3.  The audience was comprised of mostly older people who no longer appreciate loud music.(And some of them appeared to have their hearing aides turned way down.)

None of it had to do with Pearl's performance.  She was talented and enthusiastic and lovely.

As for me, let's just say I get very absorbed in enjoying the experience and people around me might or might not consider me a little bit wild once the music begins to play.  Now my youngest Angel Daughter knows where she gets it from...

The concert opened with the song "Hot Patootie-Bless my Soul" which originated in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I am pretty sure that I do not have to explain The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but in case I do, let me just say that it is a very bizarre, very popular cult classic that still has a major following today.  Scenes from the movie flashed on the screen behind the band but most of the audience remained fairly docile.  Not a great sign for someone who loves to stand up and dance!

The third song in the set was Bat Out of Hell which got a mediocre rise out of the seemingly partially dozing, partially unimpressed crowd.  I must admit that the gigantic bat was a bit cheesy, but I did get a kick out of it.  After the song was over, Meat Loaf was fairly winded and told a few stories to the audience.  He let us all know that he is sixty-two years old and that if he can still get up there and put on this kind of a show, then the audience should be sending some of that energy right back to him.(Check out the heads of the people in the audience.  Very few people are standing down on the floor.)

It was then that he turned to the audience and made an announcement.  He told security to get the hell out of the way(using other very strong expletives!) and to allow anyone who wanted to dance to move up to the stage!  What was security supposed to do???  They got out of the way, and the individuals in the partially stunned crowd who were enjoying the concert, moved their way up towards the stage!  We ended up in the front row, Mark and Angel Daughter Number One leaning right on the stage and me and my other two daughters, standing on the chairs!  In all of my years going to live concerts, this was an absolute first!  Everyone behaved really well, and the house began to rock!
From that point on, everyone was dancing and singing and enjoying the concert.  I am pretty sure that the folks who were not getting into it before, ended up leaving.  Meat Loaf sang his heart out and the audience sent the love and energy right back to him and his extremely talented band.  When I walked into the concert, I was the forty-eight year old mother of four young adult women.  When I left the concert, I was a seventeen year old girl on a date with her friends.  Meat Loaf took me back to a place in time when I was young and my world could be described by the words in a song.
Of course he did a fantastic rendition of "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" with his longtime duet partner, Patti Russo.  Even my daughters sang along to that one.(If you have never heard it, you must go listen to it.  It is quite a racy classic.)

Meat Loaf's voice was strong and melodic.  His energy was good and his sense of humor was apparent.  He was irreverent, in your face, and very likable.  He was like an old friend.  It felt really good to spend the evening with him and his band.  Their energy was contagious.(after we got rid of the fuddy-duddies;))

When he put on his red, sparkly jacket, he joked about how much other rock and roll artists would forever envy him for having it.

But his singing was seriously good.  Meat Loaf has been through a lot with his voice over the years.  There were times when it was reported that he would lose it for good.  So to hear him belt out some very powerful melodies was both exciting and inspirational.
His guitar player, Randy Flowers, was fantastic as were all of the musicians in the band.  Angel Daughter Number Four thought it was hysterical because Randy smiled directly at me a couple of times.  She kept pointing it out to me whenever he did.  I just let her know that her good ole mom still has it;), but that I only have eyes for her daddy.  Funny when our children see us through different eyes!
By the end of the concert, Meat Loaf was still going strong.  Sixty two just isn't what it was when I was growing up.  It amazes me that older people are so much younger than they used to be!  I love it.  Getting older no longer means that we must fade quietly into the background of life.
Nope, we can still rock and roll and do it well!

Reflecting upon the days when I was young and free-spirited and quite a bit rebellious might have reminded me of my teenage years and the boys I once knew(What were their names?) and the songs that rocked my soul, but it also reminded me of something else.  That everything that happened then, is part of who I still am now.  And everyone who had an effect on who I was then, is a part of my history.  My story.  My life.  And who I am now.  There is no way to erase or change the things that brought us to this point.  There is no way to change the things that make us who we are now.  So we might as well embrace them.  And dance...

*The five of us at the Meat Loaf concert.  AD3 had previous plans:(

*AD1, AD2, and AD4 with Pearl in the background.
*AD2 and her Angel Momma

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

May You Be Inscribed and Sealed For a Good Year-And a Blessing For All

As I sit here contemplating these words, Jewish people all over the world are preparing for the days of awe, ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipppur in which we reflect upon the year that has passed.  This is a time for reflection.  A time to ruminate.  A time to pull out our proverbial "scorecard" and to be honest with ourselves and God about the things we could have done better, the hurt that we might have purposely or inadvertently caused others, and most importantly, what we can do to repair our relationships with each other and the world.  On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrate the new year.  We attend synagogue.  We pray, and we spend time with family and friends.  Apples and honey are often eaten as a symbolic way of hoping for a sweet New Year.  It is a time of celebration.  Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, we fast, we attend synagogue, we pray that God will forgive us our wrongs and we pray that we will be inscribed in The Book of Life for another year.  Yom Kippur is also known as "the day of atonement".  It is a very serious day on which we are required to make repairs and right wrongs.  On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed.  It is a hugely meaningful time for Jewish people.  For us, these are the most important days of the year.  Even Jews who are not religious usually attend temple, as well as observe the meaning of these days.

As we head into these days of awe, I was reminded of this little prayer book that my husband received anonymously in the mail several months ago.  There was no note, no inscription and no return address on the package.  Only this small silver bible and nothing else.  I had never seen this type of a prayer book before, so I looked it up online to see if I could trace its origins.  I found that these bibles were produced in the early sixties, but not much else.  A true mystery.  And as much as this bothered me, my dear husband was satisfied with the idea that someone sent this to him anonymously and that whoever it was wanted to keep it that way.  It is definitely old.  It has that musty odor which only comes with time.  The pages are clear and mostly unmarred, although the plastic box that it came in carried the scratches from a lifetime of use.

Twenty-six years ago tonight, I was going over the details of a lacy, long white gown covered in tiny pearls.  I was absorbed in the particulars of a day which seemed as if it would be the most important day of my life.  I was laying out jewelry, traipsing around the house in pajamas and high-heeled shoes to break them in, and smiling.  Yes, I was definitely smiling.  For the next day, on September 9, 1984, I was getting married at the age of twenty-two years old.

And what I did not know at the time, but I do know now, is that I would be marrying a man who could receive an antique silver bible in the mail, not really concerning himself too much about the origins of this mysterious gift.  I, on the other hand, like to solve the riddle.  While I contemplate, he accepts.  While I analyze, he concedes.  While I delve in, he hangs back waiting patiently to find out whether or not I will need his back-up.  And if I need him to back me up, well then it is definitely time to get out of the way!

Looking back over the past twenty-six plus years, I have come to the realization that Mark is my perfect fit, and I am his.  We have grown up together.  We have transformed one another.  We have created an impeccable fit.  My head fits perfectly into the crux between his neck and collarbone when we hug.  I would know the rhythm of his heartbeat anywhere.  We often think the same thoughts and say the same words at the same time.  September 9, 1984 was only one of the best days of my life.  One of many.  Oh so many.

Happy Anniversary, my love.  The ying to my yang.  The cookie to my milk.  The other half of my heart.  And there is no riddle as to why someone would want to pass along their prayer book to you, anonymously or not.  Because you are that kind of man.  Humble and kind and a true mensch.

In your eyes...

And to all who honor me by stopping by and taking the time to spend a moment or two in my little corner of the world, whether Jewish or not, I pray for your health.  I pray for your joy.  I pray for your wellness.  L'Shana Tovah-For a Good Year.

PS-And yes, it is very appropriate to say Happy Rosh Hashanah or Happy New Year to your Jewish friends.  Thank you for asking, Kim-D, dear one:)  On Yom Kippur, an appropriate sentiment would be to say, "May you be sealed."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

For Crying Out Loud You Know That I Love You

Last week slammed in.  Hard.  Very, very hard.  Brick wall, concrete floor, falling from the top of a skyscraper hard.  Mortality took center-stage as we said good-bye to one of our beloved cats, Angel Daughter Number Three's bed mate and best friend for over ten years, Max.  He was part Maine-Coon, and part dinosaur whenever we had his very unmanageable coat shaved skin close.  He worked his way into mine and Angel Daughter Number One's hearts in the restroom of a Petco where we brought him to see if he was friendly.  He was sweet as can be.  We brought all seventeen pounds of him home on that day.  He was a two year old full-grown cat who had been relinquished to an animal rescue organization by his previous owner.  His first home was only a pit-stop on his journey to find AD3.  When they bonded, it was true love.  

Next, my dad and step-mom unexpectedly lost a dear friend of over thirty years to lymphoma.  Very sobering reality, as my step-mother told me that she will never again complain about getting older.  Losing an old friend is like losing a part of ourselves.  But that, unfortunately, can apply in both death and in life.  Sometimes friends actually choose to die away from us.(A story for another day.  Maybe.)

And finally, but almost most shockingly of all, Angel Daughter Number Two lost a very old and very dear friend suddenly.  He was twenty years old. 20.  Two decades of life and only beginning to become a man.  But who knows what he might have become if he had more time.  More time to grow, more time to learn from his mistakes, more time to evolve.  Grief brings with it insurmountable anguish and pain.  It crashes into us with a thunderous blow.  But it also brings along with it unanswerable questions.  Questions that those of us who are left behind are forced to contemplate for the rest of our own lives.  And sometimes, shrapnel.  And fallout.  And guilt.  So, I comforted and listened.  Hugged and cried. Faced anger and resentment.  Talked to my daughters about the fragility of life and what we leave behind when we believe that our own actions do not have a major effect on anyone else.  How one action can set off another, setting off another, and so on, and so on, and so on.  It is difficult to hear, but even more difficult to be honest about.  And it is very difficult to accept when you are only twenty or sixteen or even forty-five if you have never really thought about it before.  That is why I must pass along what I know to my own children.  Because age should bring along with it perspective, but when you are sixteen or eighteen or twenty, the benefit of perspective is a difficult concept to bring into focus.  The corners are muddled together with the vaporous edges of teenage angst.  And although the despondency is both very real and very justifiable, there must also be perspective.  So there have been a lot of tears.  A lot of tears.  And "You just don't understand"s.  And blundering through the barrage of mixed emotions that accompany grief.  I am watching my twenty year old make her way through this daze of loss, anger and sadness.  There is not a whole lot that I can do.  I have said everything that there is to say through the sheerness of some slightly veiled honesty.  Now Father Time must take over.

So after the week of every other day sad news, we got in the car and drove out to Palm Springs to see my dad.  Our youngest daughter drove out with us and then AD1 and AD2 drove out separately to meet us there.  Unfortunately, AD3 had already made plans to spend the weekend with her boyfriend and his family at a BBQ cook-off in Reno, so she was not able to come.

Having a major distraction from all of the heartache and frustration was something that we all needed.  Seeing my dad always makes us happy.  We live about two hours away from each other which makes it difficult to get together on a regular basis, but when we do, it is always a good thing.  I must admit that even at forty-eight years old, I am a daddy's girl.(but don't tell him!)
And so are they.

*My youngest kidlet having her picture taken by her Pop-Pop.

The weekend brought us into the circle of family which, when done right, can be the safest place in the world.  And when done poorly, can be the most insecure place on earth.(I have been to both places and still float back and forth between the two realms.)  It also brought me back to my restless and stormy days as a seventeen year old girl.  When the world was a very arduous, angst-filled place and music filled in for words unspoken.  Thank you, Father Time.  But for today, I will stop here. And soon enough, I will take you here:

To the land of Rock and Roll.

The twenty-something masseuse from the spa who turned me into jello, asked me what we were doing that night.

"Going to see Meatloaf in concert."

"Oh, you're going to have meatloaf for dinner?"


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