Homecoming

Last week I went back to my hometown of New York City for 3 days to see Bette Midler’s last performance on Broadway in Hello Dolly!.

(Note: Actually, it turned out to be no more than 2 and a ½ days because of a 6 hour delay sitting at the airport in L.A. waiting for the fog, sleet, storm (and likely frogs and pestilence – at this point, you’d believe that, wouldn’t you?) to lift on the east coast.)

CMON PEOPLE. I HAVE BETTE TO SEE! #whatstorm

There’s an old saying that literally says you can’t go home again, probably based on the title of the famed Thomas Wolfe book about a young writer who pens a best-selling novel about his hometown, and is met with nothing but death threats and rage by the people he once knew for his distorted depiction of them, when he very unwisely decides to return there.

Well, that didn’t happen to me, neither the best-seller nor the anger, which in NYC can happen for no reason whatsoever if you are walking anywhere in the vicinity of Electoral College POTUS Tower.

Only in New York. #gooddeal

In fact, I am here to tell you that you very well CAN go home and it can not only fulfill your every expectation but go far beyond them.

Meaning:

– You can get to see your favorite live performer ever once again perform live in the place where you first saw them and they can be every bit as brilliant, and perhaps even more so, than you had ever remembered or imagined.

I’m not crying.. YOU’RE CRYING. #iloveyoubette

– You can spend 2 and a ½ days, give or take, navigating bone-chilling, sub-freezing Arctic tundra weather conditions and yet still wonder how you could have ever left town to begin with and consider how much more quickly you want to revisit and/or even move there again.

– You can pay the equivalent of a really good used car to see two live shows and rent a nice (but not) fantastic hotel room for three nights and still brag, believe and recount to anyone who will listen that, in the end, all things considered, you really did get some kind of deal.

And, in fact, all three might even be true.

You got it right, Audrey.

But you will also, inevitably, experience other things when you go back to the town where you were raised and spend some time, even a mere two and a ½ days, when you are there. In NYC, here’s some of what they were for me:

– The stroll past Electoral College POTUS (okay nee TRUMP) TOWER where I wondered how someone who grew up not only in the same city but borough that I did (Queens), in fact in a neighborhood just 10 minutes away – was allowed to flourish in my hometown. How could all of us have laughed him and his valueless greed off all those decades ago? What were we thinking in allowing him to bribe, cajole, threaten people and build a presumed and/or faux fortune on the backs of many unpaid or sub-paid or illegal workers in exchange for some laughs and shekels and faux eighties glamour?

We say he is the OPPOSITE of the values that every real New Yorker stands for (Note: Okay, it was me who posted that), but is he? Aren’t we just as guilty in a different way for not using our voices before it was too late?

At least when NYers use their voice, they can still crack me up #womenmarch2018

– The aftermath of the fun Italian dinner in the West Village where I find out we’re right down the street from St. Vincent’s Hospital – the place where I last spent a week in the nineties watching one of my closest friends dying of AIDS – along with so many young men – his age and mine.

But as we move closer, I’m told St. Vincent’s is long gone and in its place a lovely yet stone cold (at least that night) memorial park exists with beautiful salutatory proverbs, some benches and endless memories of a time I will never forget but don’t particularly want to remember this well on this night here. A time that one week later I’m still finding it really difficult to shake. It may have taken years to move on, but spend enough moments in your hometown and it’s amazing what moves right back onto your front burner of thought. And stays there.

Hard to capture in just one picture…

– The walk through the set of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, I mean, Times Square, at midnight – as bright as the Neon Museum or a nuclear test site – take your pick – where I finally accept that parts of the city have totally and intractably fallen victim to corporatism. This part will never return and generations of young people, many of whom are my current students, will never know a world that isn’t slapped with a Disney insignia, candy brand or their favorite breakfast cereal.

Watching HBO’s The Deuce just isn’t enough #sorryMaggie

Is this better than the strip bars, hookers, pimps, pickpockets and porn houses in the former Times Square that I knew? Absolutely…NOT. They were part of the real world fun. As a native New York younger person you knew to hold on to your wallet, got a thrill if a hooker or pimp gave you a look to which you were too terrified to respond, and could never make it past the gigantic bouncers with front door duty at the strip bars. As for the porn houses, no young person in 2018 is going to pay for porn (Note: Seriously?), so that’s not even a factor. What is a factor is that there was an authentic ALIVENESS to that world – one more outgrowth of a sub-section of humanity – that they will see only the worst pictures of and yet never truly EXPERIENCE – even from a distance that, truly, was safe. One wonders, what exactly will they look back on years later when they go visit?

Yes – Bette was great. The new musical we lavishly spent too much money to see from orchestra seats, The Band’s Visit, was haunting, original and moving. Food was fantastic and it didn’t even cost a fortune (Note: You have to save money somewhere). As for the people — always good humored in that snide New Yorker hometown kind of way that will always be deeply imbedded in my soul. Willingly or unwilling.

Everytime I think I’m out, it pulls me back in…

But there is also always a downside to the past that equals the downside of the present. Even my memories of Times Square – where once I recall slipping away from a guy (with some sort of concealed weapon – a knife or gun I believe) who wanted to take my wallet (or worse) thanks to the closing of a subway door.

As we lament the past in the age of T—P it might be good to remember that it wasn’t all good. But as we build up to the future to also know that it wasn’t all bad. It just – was. Time marches on and we do – hopefully WOKE to both.

As Bette continues to entertain us. At least for the foreseeable future.

Bette Midler – “Shiver Me Timbers”

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Chair

If I were a religious person, or at this point believed in God at all, I might consider this weekend’s —

  1. flooding destruction of the Texas coast (Note: And now further inland),
  2. pardoning of a convicted racial profiling former sheriff by a bitter, angry and at best unqualified US president and
  3. banning of transgender people from the military randomly despite any real support for it from our military leaders or objective evidence that it is needed —

The beginning of a MASSIVE DIVINE PUNISHMENT for the United States.

Heck, maybe I’ll join a church, rejoin a synagogue, or start my own religion just so I can come up with some irrefutable reasons.   

The Patron Saint of the Chair

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’m not a somewhat spiritual person. I often think there has got to be something more than what we can all see in any moment (especially this moment) and some mysterious order to a universe that has personally given me pizza, Bette Midler, and the ability to block it all out by playing electronic Scrabble with myself.

… and Jon Hamm and puppies

On the other hand…I have five fingers (as the desperate vaudevillian said as he tried to make a joke when, alas, he had clearly run out of them for a demanding audience).

If you’re anything like me – and perhaps if you are reading this you are in danger of being so – you can’t for the life of you or anyone else rationally understand why Sheriff Joe could get convicted in court some weeks ago and this weekend be rewarded for his crimes of putting brown-skinned people (many of whom were guilty of nothing at all except being non-white) in holding pens where the temperatures were upward of 140 degrees and the stench of their own feces and menstrual blood wafted in the air all around them day after day, week after week and, perhaps, longer.

Where do I even start? #horrified

Here is the ACLU’s list of some of Sheriff Joe’s crimes against humanity.

So how can it be that some minority kid who smoked a little pot or sassed back a law officer sits incarcerated for years?

Who would have thought former George W. Bush speechwriter and leading conservative thinker at the Atlantic, David Frum, could explain it to me.

I’ll wear nice pants

The link is here and you should read it. But Frum’s primary point is that Trump has chosen to do the Sheriff Joe pardon and the military transgender ban precisely this weekend because it is under the cover of the floods, hurricane, and who knows, by the time you read this (pestilence?), in Texas as a way to divert your attention from the heinousness of his actions. He argues it is a sort of a reverse showmanship –- rather than trying to get your attention he is seeking to hide it via the bigger event.

Of course, Trump being Trump, that’s not totally it. It’s also a big F-K YOU to anyone who dares to reel him in, challenge him, disagree with him, unseat or even partially bask in his glory. I’ve felt this for quite a while. But in his writing this weekend Frum quotes the tweet of the editor of a conservative website and states the case far more eloquently than I do.

Still, who would have also ever thought 10 years ago – when I proclaimed to anyone who would or wouldn’t listen that Dubya would be THE WORST PREISDENT IN HISTORY by a mile in my lifetime and two lifetimes after mine – that the very man who put so many of those empty, callow words in his mouth could be so in sync with what I was thinking?

The next logical conclusion might be well, if that’s possible perhaps things are not as bad as the avalanche of massive divine punishment you are cleverly predicting by not predicting, and thus absolving yourself of all responsibility for putting it out there?

Where I’m at right now

Of course, I have no way of knowing, not being a person of God or any particular faith. Though I am culturally Jewish and reacted mightily to the chants of “Jews Will Not Replace Us” by those protestors just two weeks ago in Charlottesville, VA.   That place where a woman was killed by one of them. The them being part of the group Herr Trump (aka The American Fuhrer) defended as “many good people” several days later.

Too much to call him Herr Trump (aka The American Fuhrer)? Or too soon? Well, let’s let God be the judge on that one.   I’m willing to give Him/Her/It the Power on this one just so I don’t have to decide.

Insert your pop culture god of choice

What will be decided in the ensuing months and year (or two) is just how much help our Electoral College Potus received from the Russians in order to get elected in the first place and how many laws he and his minions broke in the process, if any. There will also be verdicts on the man’s (Fuhrer’s?) businesses, taxes, financial dealings and perhaps even sexual habits. Given all of the accusations in that infamous dossier, one can be hopeful.

You know the one…. (image care of the brilliant Full Frontal with our girl Samantha Bee)

That’s because you can’t hide the truth from God or a special prosecutor like Bob Mueller.   Unless, of course, you are crazy enough go nuclear and….

Okay, let’s not even joke about the possibilities of that. The one thing we know about Trumpian diversions is that they ARE always done under the cloak of protecting himself, his supporters and every member of his extended family. Truly, there is not an underground shelter big enough. Not even North Korea could build that.

God willing.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Bad Moon Rising”