Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

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I’m not religious or particularly spiritual. Pretty much I think that when you die (Note: That’s YOU, not ME) it’s the end. I most certainly don’t imagine there’s a heaven or a hell, especially given the sheer numbers that have come before me. And if there is, well, I can’t imagine facing the same kind of overcrowding we’re now experiencing in Los Angeles. The mind, or whatever would be left of it at that point, boggles at the traffic. In either direction.

But still….

And yet…

There are those moments.

Here’s a story:

Many moons ago in the 1970s I went to grad school. I was 20 at the time, a too young overachiever with an attitude about many things I knew nothing about. This served me well since I was in journalism school and the ability to play along and ask intelligent questions about subjects one knows nothing about with a certain air of…confidence…is an essential skill. It is a skill that, in fact, I occasionally call on to this day. As most of our readers and subscribers realize and have probably come to expect, if not sometimes dread.

Anyway, I was unbelievably lucky back then to fall in with a small group of fellow students who grounded me through our intensive one-year, four quarter (nee semesters for those not in academia) program. One of these people, let’s call her “A” to protect her privacy, actually did die this week. Even though she and I hadn’t talked in the last number of years we all managed to sporadically keep in touch through social media, or via others in the group who had spoken to one of us and had information about someone else. Unfortunately – or perhaps realistically – this is how it goes as we get older. It doesn’t mean the love isn’t still there. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. At any given moment, any of us could call the other and pick up almost exactly where we left off.

My lovely friends.... and hair

My lovely friends…. and hair

These enduring friendships, which are often formed at pivotal, peak moments in our lives or developmental cycles (Note: Which hopefully happen all through our lives) are the closest I get to religious experiences. Which makes the following all the more ironic. See, A was not only smart (a Smith gal) but one of the nicest and pure of heart people you’d ever want to meet. This has nothing to do with her untimely death – which is, I suspect, what you’re thinking about now. Rather, she was…to put it bluntly…just….nice. Like…..sweet. Almost naive. Except, she wasn’t by any means. More specifically she was a gentle soul.

Who LOVED The Beatles.

Particularly PAUL MCCARTNEY.

Yes, Paul McCartney. Of The Beatles. Not Band on the Run Paul McCartney or the Michael Jackson dueting This Girl is Mine Paul McCartney. Certainly not Silly Love Songs or even Live and Let Die Paul McCartney. Though I’m sure she very much liked all of those. (Note: Eh, maybe she could’ve done without the Jackson tune, but, well, I’ll never quite know).

That's our Paul

That’s our Paul

She enjoyed Ringo, George and most certainly John (NOTE: That’s Starr, Harrison and Lennon for my students, who I don’t ever underestimate but whom I always want to make sure I inform in case they’re in the dark). But Paul – talented Paul – adorable floppy-haired Paul, the Paul of YesterdayA was all about him.

So much so that when A was put into hospice care her husband hired a guitarist to play Beatles music for her, with what I’m sure was a serious bent towards the Paul canon. By the second day A was not speaking at all so her cousin asked the musician to play something other than The Beatles, if only for a change of pace. To which A said, after 24 hours of silence: NO, JUST THE BEATLES!

Those were her final words.

I'll miss you dear friend

I’ll miss you dear friend

At her memorial service some time later, all five speakers talked about A’s love of The Beatles, and especially Paul McCartney. There was a deli around the corner from the funeral home that one member of our group, let’s call her J, ducked into with some other mourners afterwards to eat.   So imagine their surprise when, sometime between ordering the corned beef and chowing down on the pastrami on rye, who walks in for lunch but —

Paul McCartney. Yes, THAT Paul McCartney.

Does he even live in NYC? Who knew he liked NY deli? And you mean, he just sort of mosies around town ducking in and out of places that sell items like knishes, dill pickles and sable? Well, I guess so.

giphygiphy-1

This seemed like the right time to post this gem

This seemed like the right time to post this gem

J, who told me this story, which I’m sharing with you, decided she had to go over and thank Paul for the joy that he brought our friend. She shared it all – bits of her life, the moments before her death. She said he seemed very touch by the whole thing.

Maybe he’ll write a song about it. Or one of you will. Or perhaps it will inspire something else.

Now, this may all be a coincidence. I mean, why wouldn’t Paul McCartney be in NYC, right? And I mean, it’s not the 1960s, 70s or 80s – he could probably slip in and out of eateries all day without being too mobbed, right? But why that moment?

Well, a cynic like me could say why not? Except, in this moment I find myself to be – dare I say it – a believer. In exactly what, I’m not sure. But it’s the same leap of faith I make as a writer when I sit down to the blank page.   Or as a potential lover when I decide to expose (literally!) my entire self to an individual who for some reason I want to take a chance on. Or as a friend when I meet a new person, or group of people, I decide in that moment would be a good idea to invite into my life.

It’s all guesswork and chance, right?

No, it’s faith.

Which has NOTHING to do with RELIGION.

And everything to do with The Beatles. Or more precisely, Paul McCartney.

…..Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

 

Ya smell that?

Who is this imposter and what have you done with NPH?

Who is this imposter and what have you done with NPH?

Sunday night was smell-a-vision night here at the House of Chair.  Except that it felt like a combination of baby diapers, horse manure and the unwashed gym socks and muddy jock strap from a gym locker in 1982.  What other way was there to describe the highly anticipated Emmy Awards telecast hosted by the perennially charming Neil Patrick Harris?  Well, charm only gets you so far.  Remember – even Clooney once played an awful version of Batman, latex nipples and all.

As if this wasn’t enough we were treated to the HORRIBLE (no other word for it) series finale of Dexter – a program that was formerly one of the best television shows in recent memory and one which helped define the Showtime brand of over-the-top but compelling anti-heroes.  Michael C. Hall was still great but even he couldn’t save….well, you get the drill (but more on that below…)

Perhaps it was the mood in the House of Chair.  For the last three days I have been in full binge of the entire Breaking Bad  series– Season 3, Episode 8, bitches!!!!  – and probably didn’t want to be interrupted.  (Note:  For those who don’t watch – and you should – please know the aside in the middle of the last sentence is a relevant, rather than sexist, comment).

Look for the full Binging Bad experience next week with as few spoilers as possible.  In the meantime, what’s that I still smell —–

1. Network Stench

toot

  •  But when the best looking guy or gal in school who doesn’t use deodorant raises their arms in the air, it still stinks to high heaven.  Sunday night’s Emmy broadcast was an embarrassing hypefest for the CBS brand and all of its programming rather than a salute to the small tube in general.  Did you notice that a large group of the presenters were from current or upcoming CBS shows (I’m looking at you Mark Harmon & LL Cool J of NCIS, Anna Farris & Allison Janney of Mom)?  Not to mention the deadly backstage cut-ins hosted by Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds, much?)  Not to mention every other commercial interruption – and there were many – was for a newly premiering CBS show.  (Can’t wait for Hostages!!!)
  • I knew we were in a trouble when the program started and Emmy host NPH was being escorted into the theatre by a security guard being played by CBS president Les Moonves, a former actor.  Followed by a badly-conceived bit where NPH was stuck in a chair watching numerous five second TV series clips that turned out to be the only examples from current television series that we got to see all night.

It’s supposed to be a program honoring the best of television.  Not a kickoff to the new television season starring CBS actors and its top executives.

Rating:  Five Smelly Diapers.

2.  Music

What... is... this?

What… is… this?

  • I don’t know about you, but when I think of the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 I immediately think of country singer Carrie Underwood. And why not have her sing Yesterday, a Beatles song released in 1965?  Because we can.  And because Okie Carrie will be starring as Maria Von Trapp in a live television production of The Sound of Music in November.  Again, who better?
  • Elton John is a gay pianist and Liberace, the subject of the Emmy-winning (but early Sunday night just nominated) biopic Behind the Candelabra, was also a gay pianist – get it????  Elton John has a new CD/album/record out this week, so why not cross-promote?  And why not get BTC stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon to introduce him???  Well, because try as he might to make the connection, EJ’s new song Home Again didn’t feel like it had anything to do with Liberace – certainly it had nothing to do with television.  Which is the point of the entire show.  Or – is it????

Rating:  Twelve gym socks.  Though if we were on the telecast we’d certainly choose jock straps because we’d be making a dumb gay joke like Emmy winner Michael Douglas did when he picked up a statue for playing Liberace (Paraphrase Note: …I should be splitting the award with co-star Matt Damon  – do you want the top or the bottom??  Or – this is really a two-hander!).  Yuk….yuk…yuk.

Bonus eyeroll!

Bonus eyeroll!

3.  Specialty Items

  • In the middle of the program there was finally a Neil Patrick Harris song and dance number.  It was called The Number in the Middle of the Show.  For some reason it was thought by someone that it would be a funny idea to do an elongated song and dance number parodying a seventies dance number from the 1970s program Solid Gold.  NPH was helped along by Nathan Filion (Castle) and Sarah Silverman, followed by a gaggle of Solid Gold type dancers.  It was not a good idea.  It was quite painful.  Perhaps mostly for Nathan Filion, who is said to have a bad back that has caused him to miss several days of filming Castle in the last few weeks.  Was it worth the risk? Uh – no.
D. Hough in a suit.. silver lining?

D. Hough in a suit.. silver lining?

  • This is the first year the Emmys gave a choreography award on-air.  Consequently, it was thought necessary to do an elongated interpretive dance to the tune of Luck Be A Lady from the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.  Then, we were treated to interpretive dances meant to evoke such TV series as Mad Men, American Horror Story, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad… and Big Bang Theory?    This really happened.  Really.  It did.

Rating:  Six rancid dancer’s belts.  One for each of the TV show tributes.

4.  Comedy?

  • Neil Patrick Harris’ co-stars from the CBS show How I Met Your Mother came together to do a sort of filmed PSA comedy bit for something called Excessive Hosting Disorder.  Well, it was sickly and obsessive, as far as comedy goes.  HIMYM never would have survived nine seasons if they were only this funny.  So we can’t blame them.
OK forget Carrie.. what is THIS?

OK forget Carrie.. what is THIS?

  • Will Ferrell brought out his three kids – or someone’s three kids – to deliver the final awards for best TV series.  They wore pajamas and had a tablet they were playing with.  People laughed.  I’m not sure why.  There was some mention he was just pulled in to give the awards because Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren, who had been scheduled to do it, couldn’t make it.  Well….okay.  But the mere mention of Dame Maggie made one long for one of her Downton Abbey bon mots to save the show.  To wit:  What’s a Will Ferrell and why has he dragged those vagabond roustabouts onto my stage?  Yes, she would have said it better.  But she didn’t get the chance to.  But then again, neither did any other of the characters on TV that we really care about these days.

Note to the Emmy’s:  A few clips from the current golden age of television might be nice.

And now – back to Breaking Bad.

HOLLY’S CORNER: A EULOGY FOR DEXTER

Wrap it up.. it's over.

Wrap it up.. it’s over.

Crazy to think that a serial killer deserves better, but that, and more, can certainly be said about the uber-lame Dexter finale that aired opposite the Emmys last night. After eight seasons, a few football fields worth of plastic wrap, and countless bad Michael C Hall wigs, the show that came in with a ear piercing screech of freshness, went out like a sad shriek and a whiff of old garbage.

I started watching the series just as it aired, having piggybacked it with catching up on Hall’s fantastic turn as David Fisher in Six Feet Under. Dexter was superhero meets supervillian – and the writing was superb. I shared my love for this devilish leading man with The Chair and he too agreed that this show was breaking new ground, and slicing up some excellent week-to-week water cooler moments. I would promise to follow that Dark Passenger until the very end…

Yes, this meant getting through Miguel Prado, Lumen, Doomsday, and the Russian mafia … but for every misstep there was Doakes shouting “Surprise, Motherfucker!”, Jordan’s hypnotizing “Take It!”, Lila’s Parisian demise, and of course, fan-favorite (and rightfully so) Trinity. With so many bad things made right, I was sure the finale would supersede an otherwise lackluster season….

Instead, I, like our beloved “Slice of Life,” was set out to sea, destroyed by the wrath of the illogical, ridiculous Hurricane Dexter – and the most devoted fan was forced to admit with heavy regret: Goddamn, that sucked.

And so we go on, with Season 4 DVDs clutched tightly to our chest, cherishing the good times we had, forgetting that in the end we were left with a bearded, damp, Twin Peaks Dexter, and instead remembering Deb the badass, Masuka the freak, Quinn the over tanned, LaGuerta the over accessorized, Battista the loyal, Jamie the clueless, Rita the saint, Harry the guardian and of course Dexter, the darkly dreaming disaster we’d all come to love.

Farewell Miami Metro… at least we’ll always have breakfast.

The Talented Mr. Ginsberg

A very famous actor once told me that although he did study, acting was something he could always do.  It came natural.  Almost easy.  That is not to say it didn’t take effort.  And an emotional toll at times.  But it bears repeating,  from a very early age he knew it was something he could do.

My path as a writer was similar.  It’s not as if I thought as a kid I could make my living putting words together.  When I was young there were three professions being offered a. doctor b. lawyer 3. accountant.  Well, we can scratch a. and 3 right off the bat.  I skipped high school chemistry and I was not a numbers man.  That left me and my mouth – so lawyer would seem like a perfect fit.  You’d think.

But one business law class (yes, it was at 8am every Tuesday and Thursday but still…) changed all that.  I always thought there were at least 2 or 3 right answers under the law because isn’t life all about shades of gray and spinning a tale to prove your point?  Uh, no.  Being a lawyer was more than arguing.  It was also about memorizing.  Well, screw that.

Thankfully that left me with only this thing I could always do – write.  But geeez – how do you get paid for this?  Uh, if anyone still knows the answer to this question please email me back?  PLEASE?

I’m only half-kidding for dramatic effect about the paying part (sort of).  If you have talent and really want to, you can find a way to get paid for it in some form.  It might not be in the arena you prefer (at least not yet) or you might not be using it in the exact form you had in mind, but what you learn as time progresses is that no matter how screwed up things or people are, no one can take away your innate ability at what you can, almost instinctively, do well.  (Note: This is not to say that you don’t need to practice or that you even have to pursue payment for your talent – talent is just the raw material.  But both of these are subjects of another discussion).

Guess the famous "raw" talent?

Insecurities, comparisons and the infernal American system of rating who is the “best of” in any category of life (from the Oscars to nursery school certificates) convince many people to believe that they have no real talent.  In a word – WRONG.

My belief in my soul of souls is that everyone has a talent, especially those who are convinced they don’t.  It might not be your preferred one, or perhaps it is but you don’t know it because you don’t think of it as a talent.  Well, why would you if it’s something you could always do?  That’s not talent, if it comes so naturally is it?  Uh, yeah, it is.

I truly marvel at anyone who is mechanical and can put together something without it immediately collapsing or eventually falling apart. ( I used to think this was a nerdy, Woody Allen-ish Jewish thing until I became friends with a Jewish best friend in college who proved this theory very and quite wrong).  I also don’t understand how someone invents something, anything.  And how does a television work?  Yeah, I’ve read how countless times.   But sound waves?  What about electricity?  I just don’t get it.  I can wire a sound system if the wires are color-coded but that’s about it.   How about fixing stuff?  Plumbing?  A car?  Or why would anyone take the chance of surgically opening something or someone up, even after 10 years of schooling?  What if you’re having a bad day?  And — how about raising a child?  Uh, no thank you.  I don’t have the patience and would surely screw them up worse than myself.  Thankfully, there are others who want to do all of that.  Yet I teach.  And I’m good at that.   And then they even say, those who can do, and those who can’t teach – as if it takes no talent to teach?  Oh please, give me a break.  Try going through a time machine and sitting through my 9th grade social studies class and see if you don’t agree with me and disagree with that.  But I digress.

The other funny thing about talent is how easily it can be misused.  As Glinda asks Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?” and it too bears repeating.  For example, I’ve always been wary if my actor friend is being real with me in conversation, if he’s that good at pretend.    As for me, I can write my way out of anything I don’t want to know.  Why acknowledge it’s real if I can make it into my own story and change it (or at least fix the ending?).  It took me a very long time to recognize this because, truly, in my heart this wasn’t an ability but simply a way of being.  And anyway, this wasn’t a talent.   If I were talented it would be something else.  Because the talent I really wanted was to sing.  Like, really sing.  Broadway, movies, Carnegie Hall.  I’m not kidding.

Yet at some point it becomes apparent that there is both talent and destiny and that John Lennon was right – “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”  If you’re lucky enough, at some point you begin to not give up learning new stuff but also begin to embrace all that you can do really well.  At first it might feel like you’re settling for the next best thing, especially when you want to star in Hugh Jackman’s one-man show.  But I can acknowledge what is real if I can make it into my own story and change (or at least fix) the ending.

But when it becomes apparent what your personal destiny is calling you to, you slowly (or for some, quickly) begin to recognize, enjoy, hone and appreciate it.  It takes work but in my case I’m grateful that I can, well, do something.   And though it took me awhile, I finally got the point to where I wouldn’t trade it because, well, then I wouldn’t be me.   Besides, how happy can Hugh Jackman be anyway — singing and dancing on Broadway in a one man show with his name over the title.  Or, actually, as the title.

I hate him... I love him... I want to be him!

Thanksgiving is a time where you’re supposed to appreciate/look at what you have and give thanks.  But this is difficult when you don’t appreciate it or don’t honor it.  I think we’re taught not to value something that is natural and that achievement is only about when something is (or seems) impossible.  It’s kind of backwards, if you think about it.  Give thanks for the talent.  Own it.  Love it.  And appreciate what you have.  And then – try to make it better.

Unless you can sing – then all bets are off.