Category Archives: Looking back

The Doppelgänger Time Traveler

I apparently have one of those faces that is common, because throughout my life I have had friends and coworkers say randomly to me. “Hey, were you in Somerville (Rockport, Copenhagen, Fiji Islands, etc. ) this weekend? I’m sure I saw you!”

Although I do have a reputation for getting around, I don’t get around quite to that extent. So the answer is always no. When a few people first told me they thought they had seen me, I felt good because the person clearly thought about me in a positive way. If they didn’t like me, they would have just ducked and prayed to their favorite deity that I never saw them.

But as it became a more common occurrence, I just felt bad. I admit to certain ambitions that I am a unique person. Sure, it may have started with a blue dyed rat tail accompanying a short, punky haircut in the 80s, but a girl likes to think she’s different. And I have tried to evolve past that tail and, you know, be substantially different (like say it with a French or British  accent!). I have a different point of view! I see the world differently than all you people who look and think the same!

Yeah, right, dream on, girlie. Apparently I’m on every corner and at every festival.

Fine.

It happened less frequently as I got older. Maybe my doppelgängers preferred to stay home, or I became less likable in general. Even money. But then last year my son went off to college in another state. And when he was home for winter break, he said, “Oh, mom, I saw a girl at school who looked like a younger version of you.”

I was like, son of a bitch, seriously? Not only am I not as different as I thought, now I’m not different across time, space and generations? Cripes.

So there it is, folks. I’m as common as common gets across the country and across generations. But you know what? I am, what I am, and I think I’m still pretty interesting anyway, with or without the blue rat tail.

Photo credit: Celeb dopplegangers.

PS. Kavanaugh, this is not over yet. Far, far from it.

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

In Praise of Things That Are Bad for You

It had been awhile since we’d been together. I had to give you up because, well, you’re just no good for me. But I got to missing you, and of course, the more I tried not to think about you, the more you popped in my mind, unbidden, at awkward times. Worse was when I realized how close you were to my work place. Part of what had helped me avoid you was that you had disappeared from your usual haunts, and that was good. I knew I couldn’t run into you unexpectedly. But there you were, so close. I managed to resist for a good 6 months, but then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I walked into that deli near work and ordered an American sandwich.

Actually, I first asked if they had bologna, an essential ingredient. The counter person had to go to the back room to check. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this food travesty, bologna has been slowly disappearing off of deli menus in the Boston area. Even the cafeteria at the hospital where I work stopped carrying it. I get it. It probably has the same amount of real ingredients as a Twinkie, but also like a Twinkie, it’s soooooooo yummy, in a terrible-for-you-don’t-ask-what’s-in-it-fat-and-salt-heaven kind of way.

He returned to confirm he did have bologna. So I asked for an American sandwich, which is not on the menu, but it’s a good Italian deli, so I know they’d make whatever I wanted. He looked a little puzzled, so I explained it’s an old-fashioned sandwich, the American version of an Italian. And then I felt weird emphasizing “American” to him — he had an Italian accent — and for a second, I thought, oh crap, I hope he doesn’t think I’m emphasizing the American thing because I’m against immigrants and their sandwiches. Really, sir, I just love crap food, this isn’t political at all. Thanks again Cheeto flea for seeping your nonsense into an innocent food transaction.

Don’t let anyone try to tell you it’s ham, turkey, and cheese. That is so wrong, wrong, wrong. Turkey is nothing but an interloper here. I explained it’s made of bologna, ham, and American cheese. Ugh, more emphasis on American! I flashed my most welcoming I-come-from-immigrants-too smile. He nodded and came out from behind the counter and walked into another part of the store, and I lost sight of him. I waited awkwardly, assuming he was doing something related to my sandwich, but when it seemed he’d been gone for several minutes, I worried I really had insulted him. Several people came and went with their sandwiches while I waited, impatient, nervous.

Finally he appeared with a small, beautiful pile of perfectly sliced bologna. He proceeded to make my sandwich with artistic flourish — clearly this man knew sandwiches: extra mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomato, and extra pickles — the heavenly little cubed ones.

I called him my sandwich hero and thanked him for making my day. I’d rather he think I was a sandwich weirdo than a MAGA weirdo.

Back at my desk, I unwrapped the deli paper carefully, gazed upon my long-lost love, and enjoyed every single phosphorus-infused bite.

Praise bologna!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’m still haunted by the 52% of white women who voted for Trump. I’m being lumped in with them, and I don’t like it, but guess what, buttercup? The Black folks are saying, “Welcome to my world of being held responsible for your race.” So, this buttercup is sucking it up.

I wrote the piece about it in the spring of 2017, and at that time, I couldn’t get the actual numbers of white women voters. The few websites that had data said the final numbers were still being calculated. So here it is, well over a year later, and you still cannot Google “How many white women voted for Trump” and get an actual number. News outlets give only repeat that depressing percentage.

This could be white guilt, or perimenopause anger talking, but I need to know the actual number.

Would you rather inherit 75% of someone’s bank account or $50,000? You’d need to know the number in the bank account, right? 75% sounds good until you learn there is $1,000 in the account. That’s why I’m obsessed with this white woman number. Yes, 52% blows me away, makes me angry, depresses the living heck out of me. How many whackadoodles are we dealing with? 1 million? 10 million? 100 million? How big is my problem?

Because no one seems to have the straight up number, Word Girl here had to do math, and that is never a good thing. And I needed the high school math I hated the most– an algebraic word problem.

If 138.8 million people voted in the election, and according to exit polls 37% of those were white women, and (according to every maddening news source) 52% of those women voted for Trump, how many white women pissed me off in 2016? According to my calculations…

trumpvotersblog

26.7 million women are not my friends. OK, so the numbers didn’t make me feel any better (and actually made me feel slightly worse) but defining how deep the hole we’re in is important.

If 22 million white women voted for Hillary, and 94% of Black women voted for her, how many Black women do I have more in common with than the Trump white whackadoodles?

9.1 million.

So, you 22 million white women, I invite you along as I try to educate myself about Black culture. If you went to France, you wouldn’t go knowing no French and asking (in English) for hot dogs and pizza, would you? Well, if you did, you would be known as the really bad stereotypical American tourist and ruin it for the rest of us. Black culture is the same. Black people have enough on their plate without having to teach whites about their culture. We need to do it ourselves. Showing up knowing a little is a sign of respect. Knowing a lot gives you more access. I’m not an expert, just going where my interest and curiosity takes me. Oh, and white men, you are welcome to come along, too, I just used all my math skills on the women, so I couldn’t quantify you. But by all means, hop on board.

Because it’s summer, and I am a big believer in the power of music to connect people, let’s talk about “Motown the Musical.” I saw it in Boston in June, at the end of its North American tour. You can now only see it in London, but it will be at the Shaftesbury Theatre through November 2019, and other parts of the UK, so you’d better get on that. That’s plenty of time to find bargain fares, and I know you want to see Princess Meghan or one of those royal babies anyway, so now you have more reasons to go.

It was on Broadway from March 2013 to January 2015 came back in July 2016, so shame on me for not knowing about it all this time. If you already know the story of Motown, then good for you — you can skip this lesson and post your favorite fact.

Motown gives you the back story to all the music you love/grew up with/heard in a meme/were embarrassed to hear your mother/child singing to. Young Berry Gordy  makes and produces music, but can’t get the white radio stations to play it. They say they don’t play Black music, but he argues that his music belongs to everyone. They won’t budge, so he borrows money to start his own label.

But the story starts before then. As a child, Berry experienced an amazing moment when his childhood hero boxer Joe Louis defeated the German boxing great Max Schmeling in 1938. It’s one of the most famous matches of all time. This occurred at a time when Black boxers were often denied championships, and the Nazi party issued statements that a Black man could not defeat Schmeling. After the fight, Berry recalled, “I saw my mother crying. I saw my father crying. Everyone was so crazy, just going mad.” Berry decided then that he wanted to do something that made people that happy.

And so he did. For the rest of the musical you get to see both the musical genius and just creative people doing their thing — arguing over creative differences, falling in love, falling out of love, working together towards a goal, feeling artistic jealousy, and making incredible music. Through it all is, for many of us, the soundtrack of our lives that wouldn’t exist without Black people. Where would you be without Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson?

Don’t take that soundtrack for granted. That music emerged from people constantly having to prove themselves. Dive a little deeper and learn more about where it came from. You love this music, you’ve danced to it, made out to it, laughed and cried to it.

Read some books about Motown, watch some movies.

Taking a deeper dive into the music of Motown is not going to solve racism. But if you are familiar with how the music flourished in spite of racism, how promoting the music in segregated towns was risky and even dangerous, maybe it provides an opportunity to connect or have a conversation. Just remember, no mansplaining, please. Black people still know way more than you do, but it’s a place to start.

I heard that through the grapevine.

Gratitude II

So a little more than a year ago, I wrote a blog post about gratitude to help me counteract all the Cheeto flea nonsense. After a couple of serious blog posts, I’m feeling the need again — we’re still in this mess, perhaps deeper in. So this time I want to declare gratitude for my siblings. It started with a tossed off invitation (when was the last time you were able to get any 5 people together spontaneously?). Then with a bit of luck, flexibility, coordination, and good humor, my 2 sibs, 1 sib-in-law, and I were able to drive up to Maine, stay at an adorable set of cottages on the Maine coast, and meet our brother to hang out and take a tour of his work of art and labor of love, the renovation of a beautiful old house. I won’t say how long the artist has been at it, but This Old House ain’t got nothin’ on him.

As you may recall, this is the brother who is also known as Sir Mark Beocat, the legend of feral cat spaying. You can read his amazing 3-part epic tale here. My sister Julie had an award made to commemorate the cat adventures, and we presented it to him at the end of our tour. Oscars eat your heart out.

We often comment on how different we all are. 4 states, country, city, suburban, and 4 lifestyles. But we generally like each other’s company, at least for several days at a time, can make each other laugh, shake our booty to the songs from the 70s and 80s, and we try hard to not get up into each other’s grill. I’m thankful for that.

It also turns out that we are really good at managing caring for our parents, with a shout out to sister Sharon and her hubby for doing a lot of the heavy lifting, to Julie as a close second, to Mark who fixes anything that needs fixing. I’m the back up, as I am managing the kid.

It’s in our family culture to be overly polite and accommodating, and then have maybe a side of dishing. But here’s the cool thing that happened on the way to middle age. We’ve all become a little more real to each other. Saying more what we really want and need, rather than just going along when it might have been better if we didn’t. And we work hard to hear each other and not judge.

That’s wicked cool. So thanks guys. Let’s keep laughing, grooving, and talking.

As a random aside, we went to the Black and Tan, an Irish Pub in Augusta, which has an extraordinary list of beers — yours truly sampled Hidden Cove Booty. How could I not? I have it on good authority from the men folk, that the photo below, also a form of gratitude,  was in the men’s room to help out those who may have had too much beer. As our brother-in-law said, it’s proof that you don’t buy beer, you only rent it. Cheers!

blackandtan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the his

Markle Sparkle

While I have always professed my love for those pasty Brits — tea time, little cakes, stiff upper lip, did I mention tea time? — I confess I have paid less attention lately. My main connection was the Queen Mum, godresthersoul, because we shared the same birthday. That and I also hope to have a daily gin and Dubonnet or something equally classy like she did when I’m 101.

She left us in 2002, and I carried her torch for a good bit, but then life kind of got in the way of royal worship — small child, divorce, getting my life back. It’s all so time-consuming that I had begun to neglect my beloved royals.

There was a brief resurgence for me in 2011 when William and Kate got married, but I realized I like the old queens better. Queen Elizabeth just keeps hanging on — you really have to admire her. Yes, Kate and William are beautiful and charming, but they are young. They have miles to go before they have the gravitas of the Queen Mum or Queen Elizabeth. Charles, I just sort of feel sorry for. My dear old man, you are very likely never going to be king, but have fun with Camilla and your charity work. It’s good to keep busy.

The royal babies started coming, and I’m not much of a baby person, so my attention drifted once again.

Then the 2016 elections happened, and I’m pretty much in my news-free bunker most of the time, except to pop my head out now and again to see what’s what. But mostly I’m trying to get up to speed on social justice, and how I can counteract the Cheeto flea.

I heard bits and pieces about Meghan Markle — some sort of family brew ha ha once she and Harry were an item. Still, it was not as compelling for me as being 101 and drinking gin while wearing a perfectly poised hat. I have priorities.

Of course this past weekend you’d have to be a complete hermit to not know the wedding happened. But I still didn’t watch it or know much about Meghan. But people remember that I used to be such a fan and poked me enough that I looked her up. Very late to the party, I learned about her African-American heritage and how her culture was skillfully woven into a traditional ceremony. And let’s be clear, the Brits invented Western tradition, so even deviating a tiny bit is a huge accomplishment.

And that’s the other thing too. I can no longer call them pasty Brits. And that’s cool — I’m a bit pasty myself, so I always got a kick out of calling out people who are paler than I am. But of course they are just as diverse as we are in the states. Let’s hope they don’t get their knickers in a twist over it like we seem to be doing.

But you know what is even better than all that? Guess when Duchess Meghan was born? Yup, on the Queen Mum’s and my birthday. So guess who is going to be paying attention now. Yes, it’s all about me, so shut your tea and cake hole. And Duchess, pull up a chair. the Queen Mum and I got a nice gin drink waiting for you.

Photo credit: Hindustan Times

X-Files, Fin

I finally finished watching the new season of X-Files. I’ve written a couple of blogs about the X-Files because I am madly devoted to the show. The first was about how Scully and Mulder have the best lips on TV.  Then I grounded Christopher Carter for Season 10,  and most recently, with season 11, I wrote this blog saying that Chris Carter is the bad boyfriend I can’t quit..I had only seen about half of the episodes at the time, and I realized Chris Carter was messing with my head again, like with season 10. And let’s not mention several of the movies that should never have gotten the green light. But in season 11, he first confused me by not continuing the disastrous Season 10, but instead tossed in a few emotionally satisfying episodes. So like when you take back a bad boyfriend because he promises to change, I was hopeful, but cautious.

And this time out, I am happy to report that Chris got it right. I believe I’m supposed to give you a “spoiler alert” at this point, but good god, people! It started in January and took me months to watch 10 episodes, so if you haven’t finished it yet, you need to go to show-watching rehab. Be gone!

He combined the familiar X-Files mysteries with Scully and Mulder reflecting on their middle-age. Alien-infused, slightly paranoid commentary on the government and the standard X-Files weird bloody gore unfold side-by-side with the physical limitations of middle age and their regret of choices made and not made. While doing their thorough investigative Scully and Mulder thing in the presence of  2 younger, impatient FBI agents, Scully delivers some funny lines about presbyopia — that thing we middle-aged people do, moving around our heads and squinting into our glasses to see small print. She’s teasing Mulder who is fumbling for his reading glasses to look at his phone’s Google search on the name of the person who was recently murdered. She also mentions loudly toward the young agents that gout is another sign of aging, and Scully and Mulder have a private moment making fun of them.

I loved them in this moment — I love making fun of the young ones without their knowledge.

But the episodes are also about regretting choices made or not made. Wondering if you could have done better, and forgiving yourself if you decide you couldn’t have. I am about their ages on the show, and I think that’s why it resonated so much.

I was curious about what others thought, and I was surprised to read a synopsis of the season that was the exact opposite of my take. I quote Zack Handlen from the AV Club website:

“…and it’s bad. Not the worst the show has ever been, and better than the mess that ended season 10 [Sandy comment: I totally agree!], but still: bad. As in not good, as in not worth it, as in kind of brutally depressing to watch everyone go through the motions for this nonsense.”

Ah, gotta stop you there, young one. From your picture I found online, I ain’t see no gray hair or hair coloring that seems a tad out of sync with your skin’s elasticity. So, I’m going to guess you are in your 30s. Look, I get it. I was “brutally depressed” watching On Golden Pond as a teenager. It freaked me out. Old people shaking and doddering around and yelling and being deaf. I wanted none of it, and wanted no reminder of getting old. It was a horrible movie to me; yet, people have told me it’s one of their favorites. It took me years to realize I was just too young, and it took several more years to think I should watch it again. Of course, now that I’m older, my biggest obstacle is remembering to add it to my Netflix list, which I just did, so there’s hope. And I think that just proves I’m old enough to appreciate it now.

Where was I? Oh, yes, young one, Zack, I get it. When you are younger, it is kind of brutally depressing to watch your heroes age. I know you want the endless conspiracy tangles, the far out weirdness found exclusively in small towns in the middle of nowhere, the witty repartee of their age-old argument of science versus belief. All that was there, darling; it just took a backseat to very real character development. These characters are now in their 40s and 50s, and they been around the block of life, with each other, with the FBI, with their careers, and with themselves. At this stage of their lives, they need closure on their son’s fate and what they did or didn’t do about it more than the continued shenanigans of the Cigarette Smoking Man conspiracy. But in true X-Files fashion, the two are inextricably linked.

At your age, watching Scully and Mulder talk softly in a church must seem like a lot of nonsense. But here’s what I saw: an amazing scene where Scully, who previously found an enormous amount of solace in the church and her religious beliefs, questions everything. Reviewing her life, she feels more like a failure, that she has no miracles left to ask for, that she has let down herself and those around her, and she has utterly failed to protect her son from Cigarette Smoking man and his minions.

Boy, do I get that. OK, maybe not the Cigarette Smoking Man minions after my son thing, but everything else, yes. And the best part for me? Mulder, the agnostic, shows up next to her in the church, lighting a candle because it’s meaningful for her (and her own candle wouldn’t light). He wishes he had never gotten her mixed up in the X-files, but tells her, “I am standing right here, and I am listening.” They have been workaholic coworkers, lovers, estranged, reunited, and have reached a place of being lifelong friends. His speech is that rare kind of moment, of truly knowing a person and accepting them. They have history, a lot of it is difficult, but they are both still alive and present to each other.

Zack, I gotta tell you, if this ever happens to you, get down on your knees and be thankful because this is what life is all about. All the great stuff about previous seasons? You can always bring your best to your work; and the alien evidence will always be moved to the next government facility and be out of reach. But this personal connection they have to each other? That’s rare and good baby, and is the thing even Cigarette Smoking Man can’t take away from them.

So do me a favor, Zack. Review this episode again at whatever X-files anniversary is being held about 15 years from now or whenever you are 45. Then we’ll talk about what is going on in this season. Of course, they may be On Golden Pond age by then, and if they do a show, we’ll alienate a whole group of new people. But I maybe able to help them get through it. I just have to watch the movie again and not freak out.

Also, I hope Chris Carter is done. You did good, Chris. We know that our beloved characters will be OK going forward; and praise the universe Cigarette Smoking Man was shot dead (we hope). What else do you need? Not a darn thing. Let’s do what the French do at the end of their films, because it’s cultured and classy. Fin.