Hello, Goodbye

January 1, 2014

There.  I got the date on the page. Finally, the New Year.  2013 was  rough for me.   I won’t go into details, but I will say I learned a lot and that hopefully I am a wiser and better person as a result of those circumstances that were difficult for me. I am also grateful for those that stuck by me when that was something that was not so easy to do.

So I’d like to share my top five reasons why, in spite of a year that pretty much sucked for me, I feel so fortunate:

  1. “You can’t always get what you, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”—Mick Jagger.  I got what I needed.
  2. I ran through the jungle and I took John Fogarty’s advice and didn’t look back.
  3. I got some pleasant surprises.  One was from some new family members who showed up at my home this past Thanksgiving to share the holiday.  I didn’t know they were coming.   And after all these years I finally learned why the horses whinnied whenever the name Frau Blücher was mentioned in the Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein.
  4. I was part of one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever seen.
  5. I finally understand in cosmic way, why I ended up in LA and will probably be calling this city my home for the rest of my life.

As for my New Year’s resolution, I promise to take better care of myself.  That’s not easy, especially given that I am such high maintenance.

And for those of you who read my blog:  Happy New Year!   However, I don’t have any pithy little saying that sums up what I want for all of you because we are each unique individuals.  And that’s just the way I like it.

50 Shades of Success

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered.  The anniversary of his death was 6 days ago.  I should have published this post on that day.  But like everything I do in my life, I am late.  No matter, here goes my story anyway:

First you must know that I have been a huge Beatles fan since I was 7 years old.  And next month that means I will have been a Beatlette for  50 years.  In my opinion that’s a long time.  So I need to tell you what I was doing, thinking and feeling when I heard the news.

Harry and I were living in our first house in Studio City, a  “shack” my father-in- law  called it, but hey, it was south of Ventura Boulevard, just where the terrain started to get hilly and I had a view of the valley from the a window located above the kitchen sink.  We had enclosed the porch and made that space a family room of sorts with the TV and a navy blue couch decorated with peacocks that we bought on sale at Macy’s, I think.  The TV was on and I was doing something, perhaps preparing dinner, when I heard the news bulletin announcing that John Lennon was killed by a man using a gun as Lennon exited a car in front of his apartment building in Manhattan.

Just a couple of days before, I learned I was pregnant with the first of our three planned children.  I was stunned by what I heard.  Then I was very sad. And then I thought to myself ‘how could I bring a child into a world where someone would purposely take the life of someone I considered an integral part of something extraordinary.’  That’s the last things I remember.

Perhaps last week’s anniversary of his passing prompted me to think about some of his songs.  One song came to mind recently, “Woman.”  The song was a tribute to his wife Yoko Ono.  One line in particular has been a brain worm of sorts for me lately: Lennon thanks Ono for “teaching him the meaning of success.”   We never learn the particulars of what Lennon considered success, but this “not knowing” is both unimportant and important at the same time.  It is unimportant because what Lennon considered HIS success could only have be defined by Lennon himself. We don’t really need to know the particulars of why he considered himself successful.  While we maybe curious about those “things,”  they can not necessarily be applied to anyone else in world but him.  There is no “lesson” for the rest of us in knowing, nothing to take “home” as some ideas that we can use for ourselves.  The “not knowing” is also just as important however,  because it is a reminder that Lennon’s view of success applied to him only.  And that is the important lesson for all of us.  We must not let ourselves fall victim to letting other people define what is successful for each of us as individuals. Success is just as subjective and nebulous as happiness.  My therapist’s late father once said, we should simply try to be the best person we can be.  And for right now that is good enough for me.

50 Shades of Success

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was murdered.  The anniversary of his death was 6 days ago.  I should have published this post on that day.  But like everything I do in my life, I am late.  No matter, here goes my story anyway:

First you must know that I have been a huge Beatles fan since I was 7 years old.  And next month that means I will have been a Beatlette for  50 years.  In my opinion that’s a long time.  So I need to tell you what I was doing, thinking and feeling when I heard the news.

Harry and I were living in our first house in Studio City, a  “shack” my father-in- law  called it, but hey, it was south of Ventura Boulevard, just where the terrain started to get hilly and I had a view of the valley from the a window located above the kitchen sink.  We had enclosed the porch and made that space a family room of sorts with the TV and a navy blue couch decorated with peacocks that we bought on sale at Macy’s, I think.  The TV was on and I was doing something, perhaps preparing dinner, when I heard the news bulletin announcing that John Lennon was killed by a man using a gun as Lennon exited a car in front of his apartment building in Manhattan.

Just a couple of days before, I learned I was pregnant with the first of our three planned children.  I was stunned by what I heard.  Then I was very sad. And then I thought to myself ‘how could I bring a child into a world where someone would purposely take the life of someone I considered an integral part of something extraordinary.’  That’s the last things I remember.

Perhaps last week’s anniversary of his passing prompted me to think about some of his songs.  One song came to mind recently, “Woman.”  The song was a tribute to his wife Yoko Ono.  One line in particular has been a brain worm of sorts for me lately: Lennon thanks Ono for “teaching him the meaning of success.”   We never learn the particulars of what Lennon considered success, but this “not knowing” is both unimportant and important at the same time.  It is unimportant because what Lennon considered HIS success could only have be defined by Lennon himself. We don’t really need to know the particulars of why he considered himself successful.  While we maybe curious about those “things,”  they can not necessarily be applied to anyone else in world but him.  There is no “lesson” for the rest of us in knowing, nothing to take “home” as some ideas that we can use for ourselves.  The “not knowing” is also just as important however,  because it is a reminder that Lennon’s view of success applied to him only.  And that is the important lesson for all of us.  We must not let ourselves fall victim to letting other people define what is successful for each of us as individuals. Success is just as subjective and nebulous as happiness.  My therapist’s late father once said, we should simply try to be the best person we can be.  And for right now that is good enough for me.

Forrest Gump & The Fireball in the Sky

Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump.  Remember the scenes in the movie that depicted him with presidents, winning ping-pong games that changed international relations and speaking in front of thousands of people at a major Vietnam War protest in Washington D.C? It was his karma to sort of find himself in the midst of important moments of history.   And last night I was Forrest.

Harry and I were driving home from McDonalds’s, ice cream cones in hand, heading east on Ventura Blvd when all of sudden a huge (Harry said it looked like the size of a refrigerator) fireball streaked across the sky and appeared to have made contact with the Earth somewhere in the hills of Sherman Oaks or Encino.  So instead of going home we decided (that’s how f***ing big it was) to see if we could find the spot the fireball landed.  We only drove a few blocks south into the hills.  There was nothing.  No sirens, no fire trucks screaming by, nada.  As we drove home, I searched the local news stations on the radio for any word on what we just saw.  Zilch.

The thing that struck me about what I had just seen was that it was clear it was on fire, it was big, and it’s trajectory across the sky was very low.  To be honest, at first I thought it was some small airplane that had exploded.  That’s why I call the West Valley Police Station (not 911) to ask if anyone else had reported the fireball in the sky.  To put it mildly, he treated me like someone whose perception of reality was not the same as the rest of the “normal” folks.  As soon as I realized this, I just said to the cop, “Well, OK then,” and I hung up.

Called a couple of local TV news stations.  They were on the story, but didn’t have a confirmation of what exactly it was; both stations said it is “probably” a meteor.  Both admitted to waiting for confirmation from the Jet Propulsion Lab and Griffith Park Observatory, respectively.

Then Evan’s wife came home and said people were Tweeting (another new verb) about it.  At least I felt validated, though not necessarily relieved.  So I obsessed about what I thought I saw until I went to bed.  After I dispensed with plane theory, I thought it might have been some secret missile test that went sour.  And while I haven’t totally abandoned that idea, I think it was most likely some piece of crap, probably a piece of a disintegrating satellite.  But that is too scary for most normal people.  So “they,” whoever they are, called it a meteor.  I gotta tell you, I am not scientist, but something about that idea doesn’t match up with my perception of what I saw and how I processed the experience.  As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I have a great internal “bullshit” meter and after reading the stories on the internet today about what I saw last night, the needle is in the red zone.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

If you like to read, than you never even have to think about your answer to the question, “Fiction or Non-Fiction?” I guess it is like mustard.  Most people love it or hate it, am I right? Most people don’t “kinda” like mustard.   Anyway, I read a lot.  Not whole books but lots of other stuff and it all falls into the category of non-fiction.  I guess I am drawn to non-fiction because I am constantly surprised about what goes on this world.  For me real life is far more unpredictable that what can be made up. I think one of the main reasons I get out of bed in the morning is just to see what is going to happen next.  Curiosity is a terrific motivater.  At least it is for me.

So this morning, I go to my computer and hunt down the e-mail from Home Depot that tells me the status of my order for a new bedroom rug.  I find the e-mail, click on the UPS tracking number and up comes their screen that looks like this:

Top of Form

Shipment Progress

  • What’s This?
Location Date Local Time Activity
Jackson, MS, United States 10/31/2013 10:12 A.M. Train derailment.
Atlanta, GA, United States 10/28/2013 11:28 P.M. Departure Scan
10/28/2013 8:14 P.M. Origin Scan
10/28/2013 7:27 P.M. Forwarded to the facility in the destination city.
United States 10/28/2013 3:46 P.M. Order Processed: Ready for UPS

I thought to myself, ‘Holy crap,’ there was a train accident.  ‘Was anyone hurt,’ I wondered.  I checked my Yahoo home page, currently my most used source of news.  Nothing about a derailment in Jackson, Mississippi.  Then I googled it and sure enough there it was on the webpage of channel 16, WAPT News in Jackson, MS.  Here’s the link in case you want to read about it or watch their video:

http://www.wapt.com/news/central-mississippi/jackson/train-derails-in-jackson/-/9156912/22697576/-/12eil1nz/-/index.html

I read enough to find out that no one was injured and then I began to think about whether or not I would get my rug.  And as I ruminated about how this incident affected my decorating plan for the master bedroom, I also thought it was a bit weird that UPS would have reported this on their Tracking page for customers.  I don’t know, maybe it is me, but I think if it had been my job to write the descriptor of this problem, I would have said something, milder,  and more simple, like “Delayed.”  I mean really, did I NEED to know a train derailed and all that might imply?

But if someone ever comments on my “new” bedroom rug, if it ever arrives, I will have a story to tell.  And it will be non-fiction, ‘cause you can’t make this stuff up.

Lions and Tigers and…

Bears. Oh My!  That’s right folks, a bear in Pasadena yesterday.  I found out via e-mail from the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s department. The communication said in part,

“Advisory: Traffic Alert, Avoid Area: Bear by E/B 210 fwy near Arroyo Bl, Pasadena & Rose Bowl by Altadena. #BeBearAware:

Hi Melanie Rome,

Please avoid the area and avoid the bear.”

There are two things I love about this e-mail alert.  Number one, it was decided that the biggest problem, by virtue of what issue is addressed first, is the affect that a bear has on traffic.  That’s right, there’s nothing worse than screwing up one’s commute in LA, even if it involves a bear.  President Obama’s trips to Tinsel Town always cause traffic tie-ups, especially during peak rush hour(s).  But his visits don’t get the same amount of press coverage.  Did you know that  yesterday’s bear-near-the freeway story was considered “live, late-breaking news” by a couple of local TV stations and included video of the bear (not the band) on the run?  In fact, in the body of the e-mail from the Sheriff is a link where you can view “actual footage” of bear lumbering over fences and passing through backyards.  This is news, right?

The second part of my personalized message advises me to avoid the bear. Apparently, I am operating under the mistaken assumption that if you can read the warning, you are smart enough to know that confronting the bear might not be a good idea.  What does this say about the general intelligence of the population?  I guess I have come to realize that my perception about people gives them far more intellectual credit then they deserve OR perhaps the Sheriff’s department believes we are all really stupid. I guess you really can’t blame them if you can imagine the kinds of folks the Sheriff’s department deals with on a daily basis.

None the less, I live in a foothill area.  And the e-mail I received yesterday has made me slightly nervous that one day I might go out into my backyard and find a bear frolicking in my swimming pool.

However, if I do find myself someday face-to-face with a bear, I know exactly what I would do:   “Drop, cover and hold on.”

Wait a minute, I think I am supposed to do that when there is an earthquake.

Never mind.

Same As It Ever Was

When someone says to you, “I just want you to happy,” what does that really mean?  For me, at least, the word “happy,” is way too nebulous, like clouds and cotton candy.  And feeling happy is way too subjective.  So I did what any other 21st century person would do and I googled (now that google is a verb) quotes on happiness.  I am interested in what other people have to say about this topic.

So here’s a quote I came across that made sense to me,

Jung is a little dry, but I like it.  Makes sense to me. Especially since it seems to me that if you are “happy” all the time it would a little like having a continuous orgasm.  Eventually, you even want that to stop.  OK, maybe not everyone, but I would.

Here’s one that makes wonder if the man works…at all, like does he actually fetch his own glass of water when he is thirsty (probably not)?

And there are those who do not believe in delayed gratification,

This one shoots down the myth that it takes a lot to make smart people happy,

I am very curious how old Franklin was when he said this (below), because I have noticed that the older I get the less busy I am able to be.  I’ve been working since I was 14 and I am now 56 and I can tell you that I am starting to feel a bit raggedy.  So does this mean I should not want to age???

Then there is cute and probably how most people feel:

BTW, I googled Spike Milligan because I didn’t know who he was and why someone would want to quote him.  Turns out Milligan was very famous English comedian who died in 2002.

Finally, this quote really speaks to me:

Turns out Orwell was right about several things, because, my friends,  as he predicted, “Big Brother IS watching.”  Just ask my son Aaron who was recently nabbed by a red light camera.  The cost of the ticket and driver’s ed is over $500.  As Aaron will tell you, THIS…does not make me happy.

Or So It Seemed

The last time I posted on this blog was when Harry and I were vacationing in Maine. I can’t really explain why it has been so long between posts. Perhaps it is because I feel my life changing.  And it is indeed true, change is hard.   And it was during this period that for various reasons, I decided I would longer write, especially this blog.  But tonight I changed mind, at least for today.

I was tidying up the kitchen, more specifically, a white wire basket piled high with receipts, magazines, old grocery lists,  and one white envelope with my name scrawled on the outside along with the return address of the place where my friend Patty had worked before she died.

I opened the envelope.  Inside were three typed pages of prose that Patty had written.  She desperately wanted to be a writer.  “A writer’s writer,” she would say.  And because I occasionally write, Patty thought I was a good person to give her feedback on her work.  Or so I thought.

I opened her envelope and started to read.  She wrote about her father and how she felt as she watched him die.  I read what she wrote first while I was standing at the kitchen table and for the second time, I sat down. When I was done, I went outside, sat in my rocking chair and stared at the partial moon that had changed location from where it was earlier in the evening.  I thought about Patty’s piece and I felt the old feeling, the need to write the post.  ‘Ah,ha,’ I thought I will write something about memory and the power of words. ‘That will make a good post.’

But something happened in the middle of writing this post.  I came to the realization that my assessment about why Patty had wanted me to read what she wrote was wrong.  She didn’t want me to tell her what I good writer she was.  She had given me a gift, though I didn’t know then that that’s what it was.  And what’s worse is, I didn’t even read it when she first gave it to me. At face value, it would appear to be three pages of writing.  In fact, it really was something very out of the ordinary, a window into her soul.  To be that vulnerable, takes a lot of courage.

Don’t Touch My Bags If You Please

“Where are you from?”

If you are walking the streets of some parts of Los Angeles your response to this question might be to run as fast as you can away from the person doing the asking.  But I was vacationing in Maine, recently, and being a middle-aged woman amongst mostly other middle-aged people, I thought it was OK to answer even though  my response is usually more informative than required.

“I live in Los Angeles, but I was born in New York and raised in Maryland,” I have been replying.

And there is, at least for me, an important reason for that.  I didn’t want people to think I was a native Californian, or even more importantly someone who calls LA home.

We moved here in 1979 and I never thought it would be for the rest of life.  But I am 99% sure it will be.

This realization bothered me for a very long time.  I thought of myself as one who had an east coast sensibility.  And to be blunt there are a lot of things about this city that I don’t like.  Things that would allow other people to make assumptions about me given my residence status.
Joke (by Neil Simon):  When it is 20 degrees and snowing in New York, it is 78 degrees in Los Angeles.

When it is 90 degrees with 80% humidity in New York, it is 78 degrees in Los Angeles.

There are 2 million interesting people in New York and there are 78 in Los Angeles.

Pretty funny if you are an east coast snob, don’t you think?  So, I guess that makes me an east coast snob. But not anymore.

“ What’s changed?” you might be asking yourself.

The answer is “Me.”

I needed to give up my dream of living on the east coast.  This resulted in grief.   And grieve I did. Had my own personal pity party.

The death of a dream, I have come to find out, is a pretty stressful thing.  Everyone  knows (because a there are a lot of therapists here) that losses involve going through stages.  That means first came the anger (which came to a head during last month’s long and intense heat wave causing me to have a “meltdown).

Then came the acceptance. (I guess I am here for duration).

Finally, there is the end.  Of the dream, that is.

I am now a born again Los Angeleno. Maybe I should start handing out pamphlets on Hollywood Blvd or LAX.  Not likely, but I tell you this: beginning today,  I will work out, consider a little plastic surgery, talk about the traffic and weather or lack thereof, and avoid eating.  I will also root for the Dodgers and hopefully make a meaningful contribution to the effort of making Los Angeles a better place to live.

As Stephen Stills sings, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”

OR, “You can’t always get what you want.  And sometimes,  you get what you need,” The Rolling Stones,