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Okay, here’s the deal… this front page is my regular, ongoing, run-of-the-mill “whatever’s on my mind today” blog. The page “Invasive Species” is a murder mystery work in progress that I’m posting for anyone who is interested in following along, as it unfolds. If you like it, subscribe to the blog and you’ll get a notification when new pages are posted. And as always – I love comments! Enjoy…
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I was a fourth grader, and had spent Sunday at my grandparents’ farm. I didn’t care whether we left and got home BEFORE The Ed Sullivan Show started, or whether we watched it at Baba’s and left after. All I knew was – my ten year old self just had to see what the hype was all about.
By this time, I already was aware of how influenced we could by our friends or the cumulative roll of public opinion. I couldn’t articulate it in those terms, but it made me cautious. Excited but cautious. Like … all this hoopla could be a crock.
So I waited. Ed did his introduction, calling them “youngsters from Liverpool.” I remember that he pronounced their name funny – everyone else said it was though it was spelled Beadles, but he said it, either as Bea Tells or Bea’les, I found that odd.
Girls screamed their way through the intro, while my parents and uncles cracked jokes. The camera switched to the performing stage and there were the Beatles. Weird hair (for the times) combed forward, matching suits, looking pretty much like they did in photos we’d seen. Okay, let’s see what this —
“one, two, three four…”
“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you, remember I’ll always be true…”
From the first three words, I was transported. Where? I don’t know. It wasn’t just that I developed an immediate crush on Paul. It was about the whole experience. All these years later I still cannot explain it. The best I can do is say this – some gut-deep part of me that I didn’t know existed was opened, awakened. It was exciting. Scary exciting. We had laughed at the photos of British teens fainting in a state of hysteria but as I watched them, I understood. As dramatic as this might seem to those who were not “there” – it was a true paradigm shift.
And the first of many such shifts, I have to say. For the next six years, they did it over and over again. Every Beatles album took us someplace new, someplace we hadn’t even imagined. And the musical world followed.
As the band broke up, I continued to listen to them individually. Loved Plastic Ono Band, thought All Things Must Pass was heaven. Switched loyalties among the four of them over the years (yes, Ringo, too), thought they all went on to great individual careers but I always missed the alchemy of “The Fab Four.” When I later learned what the word synergy meant, I understood it by thinking, “oh, like the Beatles.” Alchemy, yes. The universal elixir, turning base metals to gold. That’s what it was.
In the past twenty years or so, younger friends have asked in in total earnestness:
“What was so great about the Beatles?”
When asked that, I pause. I can tell them that everything they ever did, they were the first ones to do it. I can site classics like Yesterday and rattle off a dozen tunes from the Lennon/McCartney song writing team. I can point to George’s superior guitar skills, even at the young age of 22, or John’s cutting edge insights or Paul’s ability to know an audience. But the truth is, I can’t explain it.
You had to be there. You simply had to be there.
I am from the mainland, a second generation American from Eastern European ancestry. THAT is my background, my history. My grandparents gave up everything they had and everyone they knew just for the privilege of living in America. Never regretted it, never looked back.
I grew up in the same house for the first 18 years of my life before wanderlust got ahold of me. I moved from a steel town in Ohio to Miami, Florida, back to another part of of Ohio, to Denver, Colorado, Napa, California, Los Angeles and finally – nearly 28 years ago – to Hawaii. First to the Big Island, then to Maui.
Yes, like so many others, I came to Hawaii from somewhere else. I am not Hawaiian, I don’t (to my knowledge) try to “be” Hawaiian. At least I hope I haven’t turned into one of those.
Nevertheless, every January 17th, no matter how happy I am (and this is a very happy year thus far), I am overcome by a sadness. The word sombre comes to mind. On this day, 121 years ago, the government of my country, the land that my grandparents gave up everything for, overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. Why? Basically because the Queen’s desire for a new constitution which would bring a balance of power (BALANCE, not absolute) back to the Hawaiians might be a little troublesome to the American businessmen’s long term plans of trade and commerce. Seriously. That’s why. The Hawaiian Islands was a monarchical kingdom that the US, represented by a small handful of men, then “conquered” for our convenience and profitability.
Sound familiar? On my more radical days, it feels like it’s happening right here again with the whole 1% vs. 99% thing. Or maybe not. I don’t really know.
But back to the point. When I first came to Hawaii, this revelation about the overthrow confused and upset me, made me sort of uncomfortable, even embarrassed. I’m not sure why; my people were getting stomped on in Europe while this all happened. But it did.
Now it just makes me sad.
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I see a lot of year’s end “letting go” posts as I scroll through my Facebook page and I decided this time I’m going in the opposite direction. So last evening, a friend and I had a conversation that we called The Best of 2013. We casually and without a lot of direction compiled our own list of Favorites from this year that is ending. Starting with the usual Favorite Movie, Favorite Song (I couldn’t come up with one) type stuff, we eventually wandered into increasingly more specific and ultimately more meaningful terrain. Just a few of our 2013 Favorites were:
Favorite new toy
Favorite phone pic
Favorite Facebook post (neither of us really came up with one)
Favorite thing to wear
Favorite holiday experience
Favorite new friend
That last one gave us each pause. What was my favorite moment in 2013?
The funny thing was, it came to me instantly. In a year that held a million wonderful memories during a great mainland vacation, my favorite moment took place only one island away. I was at a restaurant with a friend, listening to a jazz trio after a killer great meal. The lead guy invited his niece up to sing “When Sunny Gets Blue,” one of my all-time favorite songs and I was so happy. Could this night possibly get any better? She took the mic, opened her mouth and … totally SUCKED. We were about five feet away from the band and I tried my damnedest to keep a straight face. It took a great evening and made it absolutely perfect.
Now the memory is a little bittersweet, as the past is – well – the past. So what’s the takeaway? What, from that moment (as well as the other Favorites) do I take with me into 2014? I guess it would be along the lines of: Be present. Surround myself with the people and environment that I truly enjoy. Allow myself to feel that all is right in my world. And above all – don’t take any of it TOO seriously.
Wishing you the same in 2014. And hoping you get to bring your “favorites” along for the ride…
For years I’ve tried to distill the meaning of Christmas into its essence, into something that doesn’t divide us, but instead offers something we can all relate to. And for me, it comes down to one concept:
There the world was, a few thousand years ago, in the middle of political unrest, caught between a burgeoning economy and an expanding empire that utilized an increasingly brutal use of coercion to maintain that empire. In other words, things were kind of a mess.
In the middle of all this, a child was humbly born who would, as a young man, try to explain that rather than brute force and politics, the better (and frankly, more practical) route would be love and compassion. And to top it off, he tried to explain that every one of us carried the potential for those traits – love and compassion – within us. Really? Dang!
Things are a little dark out there this year (arguing over whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Really?) but for me, a good focus for this time of year is to believe that he was right – that love and compassion do, in fact, exist within us all.
My wish for us all (myself included, lol) is that we are able to access those traits within ourselves.
Hope. Now THAT’s a gift.
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My opinions tend to be on the liberal side, particularly regarding social equality. I think the fuss we kick up regarding race, religion, sexual orientation are just ridiculous. Good grief, I can’t believe we are still defending barriers that exist only because we created them. But THAT’S JUST ME.
Nevertheless, I know there are people that I like – and even love – who don’t necessarily share my perspective on these issues. Now if I am in a ‘real life, in person’ situation where something is said or done that is grossly counter to those beliefs, I will speak up. Calmly and (hopefully) with respect, and I have no qualms about doing so.
But I don’t look for those moments. If I encounter someone who I know has very different beliefs in certain areas, here’s what I know: A) We both know we each think the other is nuts, and B) we both know we will not change the other’s mind. So we establish a bit of a social comfort zone. I don’t think it’s phony or cowardly; it is simply a mutual willingness to tread carefully on areas of disagreement so we may focus on the things we have in common. It’s a way to create a little moment of positive connection in this crazy world. No, I don’t want to know how you think my president is the worst thing that’s happened to us and no, you don’t want to know that I’d – as an ordained member of Christ Consciousness – would love to perform the marriage ceremony for my friend to his future husband. We usually avoid those areas. What would stepping into it accomplish?
However, I’ll be honest – I would not speak as candidly to that person as I would to a friend who I know shares my beliefs. And again, I’m hoping it’s not an indication of being a coward. I honestly don’t think so. I interact with many people in different environments in my life and I tend to lead with whatever the person(s) and I have in common. So – for better or for worse – I’m slightly different in the various aspects of my life. I’m not afraid of being disliked, so I’d like to think the root is more along the lines of courtesy and consideration.
But social media has changed all that. I’m thinking of a recent Facebook melee, but that’s only one instance of a larger development. Suddenly, my and everyone else’s comments are made in a room full of everyone we’ve ever known in our lives. On one hand, it’s interesting because we’re learning things about each other that we might not have otherwise known. But on the other hand, in many cases we were probably happier NOT knowing!
Add this to the fact that we are already incredibly polarized, that we seem to be divided into THIS camp or THAT camp with nowhere in between to be, and, well….
It’s mind boggling. Everyone is so angry. I tell ya … if my spiritual beliefs were different (I believe this life is only an illusion anyway ;-) ), I’d be pretty freaked out about it all. As it is, I am still usually able to keep a sense of humor and an element of detachment. Like now, in fact.
So where do we go now? What’s next?
This post is simply from my perspective. Now I want to hear about yours.
I was twenty-two and absolutely crazy about him and those big puppy dog brown eyes. We made it through a few crazily romantic months … At work I wrote him notes about “winter, spring, summer or fall” and he wrote me love letters on musical staff paper in his barely legible musician’s scrawl. Every night, after each set, we would just gaze into each other’s eyes or I would listen to his dreams and plans, in an attempt at being the salve he continually craved. He didn’t care for “unpleasantness” so we never discussed problems or things that weren’t working for me. It began to feel a little stale but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
One evening he brought a woman to our table to introduce me to her. He referred to her as his new friend.
I smiled, acted happy to meet her and like nothing in the world was wrong. Inside I was confused, broken-hearted, but tried to keep the feeling of betrayal at bay.
One sleepless nights a few days later, this song came on the radio around 2AM. Somehow it eased its way into my conscious mind and I got it. I was done.
Yesterday, thirty-seven years and a bajillion lifetimes and people later, I was getting my back iced at my physical therapist’s office and the song flashed into my mind, the chorus playing in a continual loop.
The eyes are now blue but once again, I got it.
And, reluctantly, I am done.
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It’s been over fifty years, but I’ll never forget the trepidation I felt the first time I saw him. The one lesson that had been drilled into my brain was to never talk to strangers or to ever accept gifts from them. I had spent my entire four years of life with only members of my rather large extended family and this guy was most DEFINITELY a stranger. Not only that, but he was also in disguise. The beard was shiny white – like my dolls’ hair, NOT like any real beard I’d ever seen. I remember his eyes – peering at me over glasses that were more like little windows than the kind in my grandmother’s eyeglasses, which made everything look bigger. No, this man was obviously pretending to be somebody he wasn’t.
The worst part was – my own father wanted me to sit on this dude’s lap! Dad said that if I sat on his lap like the other kids were doing, this man would give me a toy. “Daddy, how could you?” I thought, and began to cry. Right there in the middle of The Hub, Steubenville, Ohio’s flagship department store. What sick grown up game was this?
Luckily, my mom intervened. “Stop it! She doesn’t have to go and I’m glad she doesn’t want to.” I was folded into the layers of my mom’s winter coat and held, while my dad was dispatched to “get the damn toy.” He got it, I took it, left with my parents and was happy to get away from the guy in the weird red suit who was obviously pretending to be someone that – I knew at age four – didn’t really exist.
Fast forward a few years to sitting around my parents’ kitchen table with a variety of aunts and uncles telling tales, when I learn about my mom’s first encounter with the idea of Santa Clause:
My grandparents, who immigrated from Serbia (Yugoslavia), were Eastern Orthodox. This religion, similar to Byzantine Catholic, followed the Gregorian, rather than the modern Julian calendar and celebrated their holidays on a different time scale. So Christmas was celebrated on January 7th, rather than December 25. America was very different from where they came from, so catching up with the culture was always kind of hit or miss.
When my mom was in first grade, she returned to school after the Christmas break, only to be regaled with stories of all the cool presents Santa brought to her classmates. “What did Santa bring you, Annie,” she was asked.
“Santa? I don’t know who that is.”
“You mean Santa didn’t bring you anything?”
“No, I guess not.”
“Oh, then that means you must be bad! Santa brings presents to good boys and girls but not to bad ones!”
Mom remembers going home in tears about this, until her older brother and sister helped her sort out the whole Santa thing.
Mom also said that although she remained neutral on the topic, my dad, aunts and uncles tried to convince me of his existence. But she said I never bought it. This is not to say I didn’t have an active imagination; I most certainly did. I had imaginary friends, created extravaganzas, and even put on Alakazam magic shows for younger cousins. Just could never wrap around the Santa concept. She said as early as age three, my reaction to Santa stories was, “Oh, that’s just dumb!”
I knew that as a mom, it would be asked of me someday, and dreaded the moment more than “Where do babies come from?” For years I thought about how I’d handle it.
Then when he was about six, my son asked:
”Mom, is there really a Santa Clause?”
So I began:
”Well, I can’t really say for sure. Everyone has to figure that out for themselves, and –“
There was way more of my often rehearsed speech to say, like talking about the spirit of Santa, the meaning of giving, etc. but he had cut me off midway through my second sentence.
“Okay, then I think I’ll believe in it for another year and then see where it goes from there. Does that sound okay?”
“Sounds just right.”
“Cool.” And he was off to play with his friends, the last word ever about the jolly man in the red suit.
We did the Christmas thing every year – trees, music, presents, lights, the whole thing and it was fun. When he’d read the “from Santa” gift tag – even at a young age – he’d just look at me with that “yeah, right” expression. I’d just smile and he’d roll his eyes.
This whole tangent was triggered by a short conversation I had with him, now twenty and on his own, the other day:
“How as your Thanksgiving?”
“Good. And yours?”
“Good. (pause) Mom, about Christmas coming up … you know I don’t really care about the holiday thing that much, right?
”Oh, I’m so sorry, Son. I think that’s my fault, cause I’m kinda ambivalent about it myself.”
“No, you don’t get what I mean. I mean, thank you for not pushing it on me, especially now. I really appreciate that.”
“Oh. Okay. You’re welcome? I guess?”
He laughed, patted me on the back and went back to his house.
So there you have it. Three generations of “American Christmas” skeptics. Nature? Or Nurture? Hard to say…