Notes from the Edge

Carrie Fisher wrote these words for Meryl Streep to say as a fictionalized version of herself in the semi-autobiographical film Postcards from the Edge:

I can’t feel my life.  I look around and I know so much of it is good…but I just can’t believe it…I don’t want my life to imitate art.  I want my life to be art.

Those lines are condensed from a climactic speech where a perennially snide, yet terribly insecure and newly sober actress for the first time admits she realizes how fortunate she is to be alive and to have opportunities in which to thrive.

an eye opener

It was an embarrassingly honest bit of contemporary self-parody 30 years ago. 

I mean, who is truly going to feel sorry for a talented young woman born into a wealthy show business family whose real life inspiration played Princess Leia in Star Wars?

But who knew it would have additional resonance all these decades later where so many of us are walking around wringing our hands over what our 2021 lives are, are not, or may never be?

The very same people who could have predicted that both Princess Leia AND the actress who played her would also be gone.

Stop that!

It doesn’t help that the news gives us daily warnings that the Covid Monster we assumed we were beginning to slay is actually still lurking just outside our door and ingeniously getting even closer.  

The latest tidbit is that the viral load for those infected with its new and improved Delta variant is ONE THOUSAND TIMES higher than its original and almost TWICE as CONTAGIOUS.

This reminds me of another line from another even more classic film, The Wizard of Oz.  After her house accidentally drops on the Wicked Witch of the East and that witch’s evil sister stands before her, an already nervous Dorothy is immediately warned by her friend Glinda that:

This is the Wicked Witch of the West.  And SHE’S WORSE THAN THE OTHER ONE!!

I’LL GET YOU MY PRETTY!

Considering film is our best cultural representation of what it’s like to be human, it shouldn’t be at all surprising that so many of us are in our current emotional states.

Well, I for one, had to take at least a partial step back from all of it this week.  There is nothing clever nor particularly profound about this decision except, well, I had to do anything but intermittently freak out amid, well, intermittently freaking out.

And as someone once told me, sometimes it’s better to do something, or anything, than nothing.

(Note:  I think it was a therapist who gave me that advice but I can’t be entirely sure I actually didn’t once read it in some old Carrie Fisher interview).

… or maybe it was Gary.

In any event, since I wasn’t up for volunteering in a space where I would be around anyone or anything I didn’t know (or anything or anyone who wasn’t vaccine certified), I chose to go back to the one constant in my life that has almost never let me down – friends.

One day I had an outside lunch with a buddy who I’ve known for over FORTY YEARS and haven’t seen in two.  Another evening was spent with two guys I haven’t seen in person in three years but have known for THIRTY. 

Another close friend I first met in 1982 is here for the summer and we’ve had a bunch of get-togethers.  I’ve also had a ton of long conversations with family members and others close to me that I haven’t talked to in a while. 

And now I’m all verklempt

I even – and I know this is shocking – made it a point to actually pay more attention to the person I see every day of my life – my HUSBAND – and actually make it a priority to LISTEN to what he had to say before I SAID anything.

The latter might not seem like a lot but, well… okay… the long married/long term couples will tell you…

I can’t tell you any of these was a panacea aka CURE for what’s been lurking outside my door, or yours, but it did help – A LOT. 

At least for a while.  Until it didn’t.

It was at that time that I reached out to even more people and began to listen and look around at my surroundings.

And breathe. 

It’s been too long Johnny

That helped too.  A bit.  At which time, things got somewhat anxious again and I started to write stuff.  Not a lot but enough to get me through some rough hours.  As it has so many times, through so many decades before.

And when that lost its effect I even went for a run and…worked out?!!??  A bunch of times.  That, in turn, bought me a whole bunch of extra, non-worrying hours.   Much as it hurt and I didn’t want to do it.

Oh, and it also brought….appreciation.

I’m kidding… I think

See, at the end of the day what you realize is that any life at all is art, woefully imperfect and consistently stressful, daunting and even haunting, though it may be.

I wish I could cure Covid but I can’t.  I wish I could thoroughly avoid Covid but, practically speaking, it’s impossible and not advisable. 

Though what I can do, and all of us can do, is live our lives with some meaning AND with the people that make us laugh and make us happy, and not let it poison so much of what is good about living at all.

It’s not a perfect art but, as Ms. Fisher observed all those decades ago, that’s not what life’s about anyway.

She also once famously said:

Instant gratification takes too long.

Amen to that, also.

Meryl Streep – “I’m Checking Out” from Postcards from the Edge

Three Holidays

There are no less than THREE holidays in Los Angeles this weekend, and that doesn’t include the celebration of the lifting of masks for the vaccinated or the opening up of tens of thousands of businesses nationwide.

Not that I’m rushing to take off my mask if you’re standing next to me or jonesing to get back to a packed gym or movie theatre.

For one thing, I can jog around the hills of my neighborhood and have weights at home.  And secondly, what movie am I going to go out and risk my life to see?

Peter Rabbit 2?  A Quiet Place 2?  Fast and Furious 9?

Surely you jest

Yes, 9!!!  Or as it’s better known, F9.   

To which I say to the studios – f U.

But let’s not go there, even though I went there, in this celebratory time.

And yes, OF COURSE, I’m exaggerating.

I’ve been vaccinated and so have almost 70% (oh wait, that’s 60% receiving at least one dose) of California.  So truly, I’m not risking MY life by going out to a movie theatre and sitting or standing next to you – Delta Variant – at least according to medical science.

Right?

Exactly.

Should this be me?

But if life is at all worth living for any reason it is for these times of celebration.  And, I’ll admit it, I like a party.

But am I the only one trying to balance the demands of Father’s Day, Gay Pride and now Juneteenth, all in the space of a single long weekend?

It feels strange.  Even for a fella who has lived more than half his life in L.A., headquarters of the Trump Resistance and a place more than half of America considers the strangest city of them all.

Strange? Yeah, OK fine.

Juneteenth commemorates that day in 1865 – June 19th – when the Union Army issued a special order to proclaim and enforce freedom for all slaves when it advanced into the state of Texas.

See, even though Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation “ended” U.S. slavery, Texas was a bastion of Confederacy AND the most remote of the slave owning states.  Meaning it didn’t adhere to federal law and needed a little…um…prodding…to make Lincoln’s proclamation true reality.

Yet leading conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation are already using the Juneteenth Holiday to say that while there were issues or problems in our history, look at how we…are overcoming them.

Nice sentiment, right?  Cause well, Juneteenth is finally a holiday WHOPEEE!!!!

Well, this would be fine if the half-century struggle to make it a holiday hadn’t been continually squelched by ultra right wing Republican U.S. senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.  

His most recent argument?  

Giving workers another day of paid leave would cost too much.  

I can’t with these morons

Of course, one presumes he meant money. But the ugly truth is that, as any thinking white person who ever heard a racist sentiment expressed in a segregated room knows, these are coded words to avoid saying out loud that its real threat is to the superiority and dominance of Whiteness as an American institution.  

Open the door to Juneteenth, as we now have, and well…THAT COULD ALL BE GONE!!!  OMG!!!!!!

See, the new Fox News/Republican Party talking point this week, and likely all through to Election Day, 2022, is the danger of what Juneteenth demands – teaching something called critical race theory in schools.   

The entire Fox audience after they hear “critical race theory”

So much so that there is now legislation in Texas (Note: Of all places) that would ban any teacher from the discussion of slavery and the possibility of any institutional racism in America. 

Which begs the question of how exactly they will handle explaining future Juneteenth holidays to their students.  Perhaps, try to NOT discuss it?  

Well, as any one of us who learned about sex from our friends or from porn knows, THAT always works.

Critical race theory is more than 40 years old and hardly the MARIXIST conversion of America’s children that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is now shouting to anyone who unwisely still tries listening to him.  In fact, all it really asks is for us to discuss the idea that racism may have contributed to American public policy over the years (i.e. slavery, criminal justice, housing, etc.). 

Which is why it’s so confusing when a group like the Heritage Foundation and its chief spokesperson now says making Juneteenth a holiday is the perfect answer to those who are promoting critical race theory…Juneteenth says no, we don’t need to destroy the very structures of this nation, the things that make us great.

Wait… what?

That’d be like Anita Bryant proclaiming the legalization of gay marriage, gay adoption and gay teachers in schools proves just how great of a country America is.

(Note: For those of you who don’t know, Ms. Bryant was a C-list singer who spent half her life screaming that we gays were an abomination, a threat to children and a festering infection on the social fabric of American society.  Or, well, words to that effect).

Though Ms. Bryant and her ilk are part of the reason why June is Gay Pride Month nationwide, why this weekend in Los Angeles there is a virtual/live celebration parade on the streets for the 51st straight (Note: No pun intended) year, and why White Straight People don’t need one.

That would be one boring parade

Still, if Cruz, Heritage, Johnson, et. al. keep up their intransigence and hypocrisy, who knows?  They might marginalize themselves right down the evolutionary scale just enough to lay claim to OUR status.  And without mass, or masked, snickers.

I’m clearly joking, kind of.  Though no one can say the evils of homophobia and racism didn’t contribute to Pride and Juneteenth.   You need an oppressor to break free of in order to celebrate the gloriousness of your survival.

Which is yet another reason why this weekend is confusing.  

Especially when you realize both these holidays fall on FATHER’S DAY!!!

Welp. That about does it.

Who among us doesn’t have some loaded history with our parents, much as we may love them?  And if you don’t, get some therapy or just, well, go away.

I had to look it up in order to find out that Father’s Day was started in the U.S. in 1910 by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd in honor of her father William, who fought in the Union Army (Note: Thank God!!!) during the Civil War.  Sonora was 16 when her Mom died in childbirth and, together with her Dad, helped raise her five other siblings.  As the story goes, her single Dad was so exemplary that when he passed away she, and her brothers, wanted to find a way to honor him and all the great fathers of the world.

Nothing about Father’s Day feels controversial until you realize that its origins were around a single man who shared co-parenting duties with his underage daughter for his five other kids.  I mean, is that the kind of thing we want to promote?  And what about the costs of all of those presents?  Not to mention, what if you didn’t have a good father, or no father at all?

Better to avoid the entire subject, or any of these subjects, at all.

Or celebrate each and every one as thoroughly as you can while you still have a chance to carry on about any great thing you get at any key moment in your life.

Madonna – “Holiday”