Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You're going to Hollywood!

I watched American Idol a couple of weeks ago when the four remaining "idols" got to return to their hometown for a visit.  It was amazing to me the turnout, the tears, the quivering teens with their cardboard declarations of love, and the "star quality" that can suddenly earn you the love of an entire town or city, if not the nation.

The final four

And while I "kind of" get that, I still have to wonder, where were all the swooning fans when Scotty was ringing up groceries at the local market or singing at a school function?  Where were all the screaming "We love you Lauryns" when she was singing at her church - why is it  that we only garner that kind of loyalty and blind "I want to marry you" kind of attention when everyone else is paying attention?  Is it some kind of deep intrinsic belief that if everyone else loves you then you must be lovable? Or desirable? Or worthy?  Is it our monkey see, monkey do mentality or is it more simple than that.  Is it simply a matter of money? 

We are not only a celebrity obsessed society, and I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but a nation obsessed with money.  If you have it, we idolize you.  Why do you think the "celebrities", and I use that term loosely, like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Dennis Rodman, Robert Downey Jr,  and Charlie Sheen, just to name few, can not only commit criminal acts, receive a mere slap on the wrist, but come back to open arms, an even brighter celebrity spotlight and possibly an offer to host their own new daytime talk show, write a book or star in a new blockbuster movie?  If any of us "everyday folk", the masses so to speak, even attempted to try that one on, we would live forever with that "bad boy/girl" label, possibly lose not only our jobs but our families as well and severely endanger our "God given" right to be loved.

I have never been the competitive type. I feel that we are all winners in one way or another, or to someone or another.  I think that is why competitive sports always bothered me.  Yes, you are the winner.  But at someone elses' loser expense.  When People magazine declares the most sexy or most beautiful person in the world on their cover, all I can think is, "really, in the world"?  Maybe I take things to literal.  But there is no way that People magazine has seen every person in the world.  So that title loses all credibility for me.  Same with American Idol or these types of shows.  The best singer?  I don't know, I think better singers were voted off much earlier in the game.

street musicians and their "tip" bowl
But again, I'm "just sayin" that until someone is recognizable, reaches some level of fame, their talent, beauty, intellect, offerings, aren't really noted or considered worthy.  And it's sad really, because so much of the best talent, the greatest writers, musicians, creators, people, are still out there somewhere.  And we will probably never take notice of them unless we put the computer on snooze and turn off the TV.
From one of my lifetime Canadian Idols, Joni Mitchell, expressing my thoughts exactly.

I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
And the children let out from the schools
I was standing on a noisy corner
Waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood
And he played real good
On his clarinet for free

Now me I play for fortunes
And those velvet curtain calls
I've got a black limousine
And two gentlemen
Escorting me to the halls
And I play if you have the money
Or if you're a friend to me
But the one man band
By the quick lunch stand
He was playing real good for free

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed
He was playing real good for free

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A matter of life and death

Leaving the San Francisco ArtMarket on Saturday night, I turned down 5th Street to access the I-80 on ramp towards the Bay Bridge.  5th Street, in the SOMA neighborhood (South of Market) is home to many homeless and unfortunate souls.  I sat at the stop light in the safety and comfort of my BMW, listening to Adele belt out the lyrics "we could've had it all" and couldn't help but wonder about each of the people who sat huddled up against the building.  What was their story? There was one woman in particular, skin and bones, and though I'm not a good judge of age, I would guess she had to be in her late 70's.  In just a matter of minutes (the amount of time that it took the light to change from red to green) I saw her young, happy, with a family, and a house. A few pets, maybe kids. What had happened during her lifetime that she now found herself begging for everything from food, drink to large pieces of cardboard? Was it drugs, alcohol, mental illness?  Wasn't there one family member or friend who had a hand to offer, to help pull her up or at least give her a safe place to lay her head at night?

The human will to live is truly amazing.  I find myself questioning though if it is truly our will to live that is so great or is it our fear of dying that is more powerful.  And is it our actual death or the means in which it is delivered to us that we are fearful of?  I know that for me personally, I'm not afraid of dying, but I certainly don't want to jump off a building to do it.  Yes, I can handle the thought of dying if I am one of the lucky ones who "died peacefully in his sleep", and then again, like everyone else, I'm not quite as enamored with it if it comes in a package wrapped with great pain and suffering.

As I drive off, up and over the bridge, with the incredible bay views that hold a distinct air of hope and promise, I wonder if those people have burnt all of their bridges, or did they simply outlive or never have any bridge in the first place.

After much study, it has been determined that most Americans are literally 1 to 2 paychecks away from being homeless. If we don't have money, family or friends, people to help, we too, could find ourselves pushing that old Safeway cart, just walking and walking, looking for a place to rest our blistered feet.  I just know that as I quickly glanced at the lineup of homeless people today, I was hoping that it was hope that kept them here, that they "knew" things were going to get better, that this was a small bump in the road, a temporary setback.  But for many of them, my hope diminished as quickly as they did in my rear view mirror.

The absence of the will to live is, alas, not sufficient to make one want to die."
Michel Houellebecq

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

*Nothing is as far away as one minute ago

I've been moping around, feeling dull, defeated and uninspired for well over a month now.  Me, the one who preaches "things happen for a reason", "when one door closes", "when life gives you lemons", and even though I try with all my might to be a student of that school of thinking, right now I'm just not feeling it.  I've always thought of myself as an optimistic "when life give you lemons" kind of person, if not making lemonade, then I was at least shaking up a raspberry lemon drop martini!  But now instead of making lemonade it seems I'm more inclined to grab that lemon, viciously slice it up and use it to scour the sink.

Things have changed around me, drastically, and as empty as it all feels, a total wipe out, it is a clean slate. It is starting all over again, looking for a new job or new line of work, possibly a new home, possibly a new town, a completely new living situation, but somehow at this point in my life it feels like a much more daunting climb than a great new adventure that I should be embracing.  I feel a heaviness and can get blisters on my feet just thinking about it.
Of course there are always the self-help books to read, the people with their wise quotes and sage advice, dear friends that make you laugh, and for me, "they already saved my life once" re-runs of Sex and the City, to make you feel that you can get through anything.  And the truth is, I know, that of course I can.  It is just a matter of ramping up and wanting to.

The glue that keeps me together
Sex and the City
I have good intentions.  Every morning.  I wake to the delightful beeping sound of my coffee pot, slip on my Uggs, throw on my old blue and white flannel shirt, turn just the right amount of lights on in the house, sit down at the computer with coffee cup in hand and start making my daily to-do list.  It is two pages long.  Oh good, I am so busy.  I have so much to do.  That should keep me out of my own head for awhile.  I immediately go to task, crossing off the quick and easy top two, only to lose focus, slowly fade, distract myself from what I should be doing.  Instead I spend way too much time Googling subjects I really don't need to know much about or start organizing files only to find that I get sidetracked into reading old journals, birthday cards and poetry, for hours.  That's okay, isn't it?  It's okay if I just take this time to pout, to reflect, to imagine, to daydream, what if?  But then guilt overtakes me. Get busy. This is a waste!  A waste of time!  Who is that yelling at me?

It is raining today in Napa.  May 17th, very unusual.  I haven't had heat in my apartment all winter and have made do with my sumptuous Restoration Hardware favorite throw, which I love, and a small space heater.  It is all I can do to keep from wrapping myself up in it, throwing myself on the sofa and watching endless episodes of House Hunters, Seinfeld or anything on HGTV.

Me and my Restoration Hardware Blanket
So I went to boil some water for tea and thought, "Hmm, maybe I should bake something today, something I've never made but have been thinking of trying."  Kill two birds with one stone, heat up the house a bit and make something delicious.  I spent all of about 15 seconds contemplating that idea and decided against it.  Just didn't have the energy or the calories to spare for that.

It reminds me of how they say "youth is wasted on the young" - that is how I am feeling about time.  When I am working or have little time to engage in things that I think I would love to do, like, for example, exercise, clean out closets, bake or cook more, garden, take a class, visit a museum, my list could go on and on, I just never seem to have the time.  Now, it seems that whenever I am given this luxury of time in my life, it is always when things in my life have lost their way, a lost love, a lost job, an empty space somewhere.  So I get the time, but lose the desire.  It is a rather odd predicament - you have the time but no desire, or you have the desire and little time.  Is it always this way?  Wanting what we don't have?

So my question - In life, does the grass ever seem green, no matter what side you're on?  And can we ever learn to embrace the entire pasture?

*title quote by Jim Bishop

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Mother Lode

If you ask anyone what the greatest gift in life is, especially if that person you are asking has lived a good portion of their life and has come to realize the loneliness of a dollar, the high price of fame, or the worthlessness of their worldly possessions, they would more than likely say something about love.  Being in love, receiving love, giving love.

But love can come and go - with the exception of that hard to find unconditional love.  How many of us really don't put any conditions on love?  Most of us will love someone if they are good, successful, true, and meet our expectations.  Wedding vows are obsolete as evidenced by our high divorce rate.   I don't even know if they still use the ridiculous vow, "for better of worse" - I remember hearing Judge Judy during an interview. She said when she married it was for better or better.  I have to respect her honesty. Sickness or health?  I have seen a few relationships end because one partner was too sick for the other to deal with.  They didn't want to waste what time they might have here on earth being a nursemaid.  They didn't sign up for that. Love or no love.

Perhaps it is easier to attain unconditional love if we can love from a distance, without the everyday nitpicking and monotony that can whittle away little pieces of our once undeniable devotion.  We might love someone but not be able to live with them.  Sad but true, sometimes love can flourish in our hearts, just not if those two hearts reside in the same house. Love is and will probably always remain a mystery.  The great classical thinkers like Plato and Aristotle have had their theories, but that is all they are, theories.

But for me true unconditional love has been found in the love of a mother.  The love of my mother, the love of my daughter.  There are no conditions here.  A mothers love is like the suns love of the earth.  She gives and gives of herself, her life, and doesn't expect anything in return.  At least my mother.  And the way she has loved and taught me extends to my own daughter.  She can do anything.  I am blinded by love when it comes to her. There are no conditions. She owes me nothing. Brush aside any of our differences, our disappointments or concerns, and the foundation is solid love - all heart.

I didn't realize at the time, when I was growing up, that I had hit the mother lode.  That I was lucky enough to have one of the most "normal" families around.  Our family was perfect - a  bit Cleaverish, and with all of us being extremely strong willed, a little dash of Bunker.  Mom worked at home, raising four kids, Dad worked two jobs or whatever was needed to provide us with the good old American dream life.  We had love, discipline (a little), rules, and that much needed consistency. Dinner was at the same time every night, along with the anticipated and dreaded glass of spilled milk (everyone would momentarily hold their breath, suppressing their laughter).  There were always fresh chocolate chip cookies or some other home baked treat in the cookie jar (being the envy of the neighborhood I found out many years later).  We had an extremely clean house, clean clothes, parent's that were always home, a swimming pool in the back yard, we were living the dream.  And I thought everyone lived this way.  I thought all dads and moms were good.  I thought all parents loved their children the way my parents loved their children.  What a revelation to find out that it isn't always so.  To learn that what I had was rare, beautiful and what is sought after by every living person.  A family that loves you.  A mother that warms, nourishes, supports and cheers you on.  Every single step of the way.  How many people can say that their mother is their number one fan? I am raising my hand here.

So on this Mother's Day, I want to wish you a happy Mother's Day Mom.  You deserve so much more than a yearly thank you, a simple Hallmark card, some See's candy or a bouquet of flowers.  I would love to give you the world, but if I know you, and I believe I do, I think you would be happier with just my heart.  Well, you have my heart and I want to thank you for giving me yours.  We are one - we share the same heart.

I didn't write the poem below, it is from Hafiz, but he gave it to the world, and I in turn want to give it to my mom - thank you for being the light in my sky.  

Happy Mother's Day Mom - with all my unconditional love xo


Monday, May 2, 2011

Ding Dong Osama bin Laden's dead

Is it just me, or is there something fundamentally wrong with people celebrating in a party animal style fashion when someone is killed, someone is dead?  A good or bad person.  Yes, I know.  Osama is a bad bad man.

And yes, he should have been taken out many many years ago, but years ago we were helping to arm him and thought he was our "friend".  But that said, he is now dead, and our military can be proud, Mission Accomplished.  But I wouldn't be so quick to jump on the party bandwagon.  I am not saying that bin Laden deserved to live, it is just that his death worries me as much as his life did.  The death of a leader (again, good or bad) can have severe consequences.  Not that him being alive didn't deliver some mighty severe consequences, but my gut feeling, and I am not alone in this, is that the death of Osama bin Laden may very well bring more violence and terror our way.

I hope that the families and friends of those killed in 9/11 and other terrorist activities around the world that were masterminded by bin Laden can feel some closure, that some kind of justice has been served.  But for some reason I have a sick feeling deep in my stomach.  Just because Osama is dead does not mean we can return to our pre-9/11 relaxed lifestyle.  No, we will still have to go through the rigorous airport security, use caution when traveling abroad, and all of the other changes that have since changed our world.

All I know is that when I heard last night that Osama was dead, I didn't feel jubilant, I didn't feel much of anything.  It felt like a dirty deed, or a hated chore had been completed.  We could now move on - put our attention on other things. I realized too that a lot of people would be relieved, that billions of dollars and lives later, people would feel that justice was served.  I for one, don't believe that killing someone helps or justifies the lives that were lost.  It is just one more person dead.  And if that deserves a celebration, then party on.

Me, I will simply say a prayer for all of mankind and hope it is true, that the death of Osama bin Laden will bring more peace to the world, more peace to the hearts of those whose loss has been much greater than mine, and hope to hell that maybe that place "somewhere over the rainbow"  really exists.

No country for old men (or women)