JOY: THE LEGACY OF JERRY HERMAN

There’s just no tune,

As Exciting

As a show tune,

In 2/4.

Jerry Herman was born on June 10th, 1931.  At an early age, he fell in love with the musical theater.  Living near the NYC theater district his parents were frequent theater goers and when they came home they were filled with the music of the show they had seen.  Jerry’s parents were also amateur musicians and their home was filled with music of the theater.

When Jerry was old enough his parents brought him along on their theater excursions and much to their surprise on arriving home Jerry was able to play much of the score he had heard that night.  Jerry was born with Broadway in his blood.

The lyrics quoted above are a line from one of Jerry’s earliest songs.  In a way, it is the philosophy behind every song Jerry ever wrote.  To him, every song was about the character singing it.  And into each song, he infused joy and enthusiasm for life.  Even in his most grumpy characters such as Horace Vandergelder in Hello Dolly, you can’t help feeling that deep down he’s a cuddly bear when he sings “It Takes a Woman.

Jerry Herman began writing for Broadway at a time when Broadway was at its zenith.  The 50s and 60s brought show after show and each was memorable.  Many are still being revived on Broadway or are perennially used in community and regional theater.

This was the world of Rodger’s and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Meredith Wilson, Kander and Ebb.  A young Stephen Sondheim was just getting started and Ethel Merman and Mary Martin were both queens of Broadway.  This was the Broadway Jerry Herman entered.  Broadway would never be the same.

I came across Jerry Herman in an off-beat kind of way.  My mother loved musicals and would play records and sing at the top of her lungs every Saturday while cleaning.  These records were always musicals.  The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot, Funny Girl, and The Music Man were played almost every week but no Jerry Herman.  I was not fond of musicals at the time.  I was listening to The Archies and The Partridge Family.  The theater bug bit me in the 8th grade when I was cast as Harry Macafee in our school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie.  I heard applause for the first time, just for me, and it changed something deep inside me.

From then on my record money went to original cast recordings and Hollywood soundtracks.  Always looking for a bargain, I was a teenager on an allowance, I would delve into the bargain record bins at Jerry’s Records, a store in the Bazaar of All Nation in Clifton Heights PA.  One day I found a copy of the movie soundtrack for Mame in the bin.  I had never heard of it but it starred my favorite actress Lucille Ball and it was $1.99.  I bought it and ran home.  I played that record over and over.  Everyone was telling me that Lucy can’t sing but I only heard gold and though I knew nothing of the story I fell in love with the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman.

Mame was amazing.  I soon found a script for the Broadway show in our local library so I understood where the songs fit and knew the story.  Eventually, I was able to order the book the musical was based on Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis.  I had to special order it at Walden Books and I got it but nothing compared to the music and lyrics of Mame.

Mame is probably the most uplifting and life-affirming musical ever written.  Jerry had already had two successful shows on Broadway before Mame.  The first was Milk and Honey the musical, as I understand it was about a group of older American Jewish women looking for husbands in The Holy Land or Israel.  Two wonderful songs came out of that production, the title song Milk and Honey and a lovely ballad called Shalom.  All the songs can be listened to by following the Youtube links.

Shalom Shalom,

You’ll find Shalom,

The nicest greeting you know.

It means bonjour, salute and skoal,

And twice as much as hello.

It means a million lovely things,

Like peace be yours welcome home,

And even when you say goodbye,

You say goodbye with shalom.

After that Jerry was asked to turn  Thorton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker into a musical.  That musical graced the stage and won the Tony Award for best musical in 1964.  The show was Hello Dolly but more on that later.  Back to Mame.

Mame came to Broadway in 1966 and also won the Tony for best musical.  Mame was played by Angela Lansbury and is the story of Patrick Dennis an orphan who goes to live with his only living relative Mame Dennis in New York City.  The opening of Mame takes place in the streets of New York where Agnes Gooch, Patrick’s nanny, and Patrick are looking for Mame’s Beekman Place apartment.  They sing a prayer to St Bridget and arrive at Mame’s as she is throwing a lavish party.  Mame appears at the top of the stairs blows a bugle and sings It’s Today

Light the candles.

Get the ice out,

Roll the rug up,

It’s Today.

Though it may not be anyone’s birthday,

And though it’s far from the first of the year,

I know that this very minute,

Has history in it,

We’re here!

This song set the whole tone of the show and gives Mame’s philosophy of life.  In this song, she sings the spoken line that is in all of Mame’s stage and movie adaptations. “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  Mame raises Patrick for as long as she can using this state of mind.  It becomes more clear in the song Open a New Window.  This song is a joyous anthem about taking chances and never saying no to whatever life offers you.  It feels good, it’s upbeat, and when you listen you want to go with Mame to wherever she leads.

If you follow your Auntie Mame,

I’ll make this vow, my little love,

That on the last day of your life,

You’ll be smiling the same young smile,

You’re smiling now my little love,

If you wake up every morning,

And you pull aside the shutter,

Ans promise me that these will be,

The first words that you utter.

Open a new window,

Open a new door,

Travel a new highway,

That’s never been tried before.

I could go on all day about the wonderful songs in Mame.  My Best Girl, Bosom Buddies, We Need a Little Christmas, If He Walked into My Life and of course the title song Mame.  But this whole blog would end up being only about that one show.  This was my first introduction to Jerry’s music and what I didn’t know was there was more.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Lucille Ball’s portrayal of Mame.  Some felt her voice and her age worked against her playing the role.  I’m not sure that’s all true.  My biggest problem with the film is the stuff they cut out and the script.  After finally seeing the stage production and hearing the original Broadway cast album a lot of the story was left out and or changed and this was not necessary.  The song That’s How Young I Feel was cut and it was key to describing Mame’s feelings as an older woman as she sings it when Parick has grown up.  The script just didn’t work for me in parts.  One change that I did enjoy was Lucille doing her best to get out of a store where Mame has been fired from wearing one roller skate.  It was hilarious and true Lucy antics.

For a long time, Lucille’s portrayal as Mame was all I knew and I loved it.  When VHS tapes came out and you could buy movies to own them for the very first time.  My first purchase was Mame.  The movie will always be dear to my heart.

I have to admit I keep hoping every year that NBC will decide to do Mame Live as they have done with The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, Grease, The Wiz, Hairspray, and most recently Annie.  NBC usually airs these television events at Christmas and Mame would be perfect, especially with a Christmas song embedded in the show.  That is also my hope for the next Jerry Herman show we’ll discuss Hello Dolly.

Hello Dolly opened in 1964.  It is the story of Dolly Levi a widow who has decided to “rejoin the human race.”  She decides to accomplish this goal by marrying Horace Vandergelder the leading citizen of Yonkers New York.  The musical takes place in 24 hour time period it has a prelude in NYC continues in Yonkers, goes back to NYC, and ends in Yonkers.  Not bad for a day.

It took me a while to catch on to Hello Dolly.  I wasn’t interested at all at first.  All I knew of the show was the title song sung by Louis Armstrong and recorded in 1964.  I was three years old and didn’t care much for it.  My grandmother would be playing it while we visited her and it wasn’t a kid’s song.  It took me a long time to find out where that song came from.

For a moment I want to take some time and talk about Jerry Herman the human being.  Jerry’s songs were always joyful and filled with life.  He came from a family that gave him that but he didn’t change when it came to being successful.  Some folks when they make it big in their chosen professions don’t have time for others but Jerry was not like that as illustrated here by my good friend Richard Tyley Jordan.  Richard has written the definitive book on the Character of Mame Dennis and it was over this book that Richard and I met.  He is also the author of The Polly Pepper Mysteries which are great fun and have been called a cross between The Carol Burnett Show and Murder, She Wrote.  Here is Richard’s story of his first meeting with Jerry Herman.

When I began writing my nonfiction book But Darling, I’m Your Auntie Mame!, I sent a letter to Jerry Herman requesting an interview. I didn’t actually expect a response. Why would the legendary composer of Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Mack and Mable, and La Cage Aux Folles, among other Broadway hits, deign to offer an audience to me, an unaccomplished kid (I was actually in my 30s, but I felt completely inferior compared to the great man)? I was equally terrified that he’d grant my request and find that I was an interloper in his rarefied world. I just happened to be in New York doing research for my book when I got the call. Yes! Jerry Herman would see me on Friday afternoon at 2:00! My world was spinning! 

When I arrived at Jerry Herman’s brownstone, I was greeted by his amiable assistant, who guided me to the left and down two steps, and into Jerry’s wood-paneled office. A set decorator couldn’t have designed a more perfect room for showcasing career memorabilia of Tony Awards, Grammy Awards, framed gold records, and posters from Mr. Herman’s many Broadway triumphs. The assistant asked if I’d like a tea or coffee (“No, thank you.” I was too edgy as it was.) and said, “Mr. Herman will be with you shortly.” And then the moment arrived! Jerry Herman … in-person … appeared in the doorway, brandishing a friendly smile and a warm handshake. I was immediately instructed to drop the “Mr. Herman” formality and call him “Jerry.”

Jerry sat behind his desk (with a portrait painting of Carol Channing as Dolly Levi looking down from the wall behind him), and I sat nervously in a brown leather wingback chair. Neurotic me was trying very hard to appear intelligent and sophisticated so that he wouldn’t realize I was just a fan on a mission to chronicle the success of author Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame character. What I remember most about that afternoon is how gracious he was to me. For those two hours, we talked about how much he loved Mame and composing the songs for that show and how it was actually one of the easiest shows he’d ever worked on. But we also talked about how deeply and personally disappointed he was with Lucille Ball’s film version of his hit musical.

I guess I did something right that afternoon because when we concluded the interview, it was Jerry himself who offered to write the introduction to my book! This amazing man, whose songs I had admired my entire life, offered to personally contribute to my labor-of-love project! I’m still overwhelmed by his generosity. That’s the kind of man that Jerry Herman was. I’ve rarely known anyone more magnanimous. I will always be grateful to Jerry Herman, not only because he believed in my book and penned the introduction to it, but also because he gave me the soundtrack of my life:

I Am What I Am

If He Walked into My Life

It Only Takes a Moment

It’s Today

I Won’t Send Roses

Put On Your Sunday Clothes

Time Heals Everything

Although my book is long out of print (maybe I should release an e-book version), I am forever and deeply indebted to Jerry Herman, one of the finest men and talents I’ve ever known.

I don’t think much more can be said of the man.  He was not only talented but he had a spirit of generosity to both see and nurture talent in others.This can also be seen in Angela Lansbury’s autobiography where she tells of Jerry so wanting her to get the role of Mame in the original Broadway cast that he coached her on how to sing the songs he wrote before she auditioned.  This is the kind of man he was.  Because of this generous, beautiful spirit music poured out of him.

Hello Dolly is a show about second chances.  It’s a show about coming out of the fog and realizing you’re alive and life is worth living.  It’s a show that tells you in no uncertain terms that you can begin again at any time of life.  I of course saw Dolly first as a film starring Barbra Streisand.  It may not have been my best introduction to the show but it was fun nonetheless and had a deep impact on my life.  The music and lyrics are just as amazing as what Jerry would soon write for Mame but the theme was different.  Mame is about knowing life is wonderful and teaching that lesson to the upcoming generation.  Hello Dolly is about forgetting that life is wonderful and having to relearn the lesson.  This didn’t mean much to me as a young man but it means a whole lot now.

In 2018 I had the privilege of seeing Bernadette Peters in a revival of Hello Dolly in NYC at The Schubert Theater.  Watching Miss Peters was a revelation of what this show means.  It’s for and about older people starting again.  Anyone can start again, but there are plenty of movies and plays about young people starting again, not so many about our older generation.  Right now, my generation.  I came away from that show not only singing beloved songs but knowing I could start again.  It took awhile but this blog is part of that second chance for me.

The songs of Hello Dolly are full of joy.  I Put My Hand In, It Takes a Woman, Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Dancing, Before the Parade Passes By, Etiquette, It Only Takes a Moment and of course the title song Hello Dolly.

Carol Channing the original Dolly in the musical tells the story of recording the cast album.  In the recording studio the whole cast couldn’t contain themselves and they burst into the kicks while singing the title song.  It has been said that the cast recording of Dolly is one of the few that makes you feel like you’re in the theater.

In the show Jerry’s Girls, the title song gives a list of many of the actresses that played in Jerry’s shows.  One of those names is Lucie Arnaz.  I reached out to Miss Arnaz about how she feels about performing the music of Jerry Herman.  Miss Arnaz replied:

“Jerry writes about joy and, as a performer, it’s a vacation to sing his music.”

And that is about the best thing that could be said.  Singing Jerry’s music can be a balm for me when I’m down.  The songs from Hello Dolly are infectious.  You can’t help singing along and if you have them in your heart you can’t help singing them when life has kicked you in the gut.

One such song from Hello Dolly is a sort of anthem for second chances.  The song is Before The Parade Passes by

Before the parade passes by,

I’m going to go and taste Saturday’s high life.

Before the parade passes by,

I’m going to get some life back into my life.

I’m ready to move out in front,

I’ve had enough of just passing by life.

With the rest of them.

With the best of them.

I’m gonna hold my head up high.

I’ve got a goal again,

I’ve got a drive again.

I wanna feel my heart coming alive again.

Before the parade passes by.

Can you think of better words to say to the world that you still have something to offer, that you still count, and that you are part of the parade ready to do your bit and find a full life?  In this respect, the roles of Dolly and Mame are very much alike.  Both women are driven to find the best out of the life that they have and to have joy in that journey.

After his stellar success with Hello Dolly and Mame Jerry would write several more shows for the Broadway stage some successful and some not so successful.  Even the shows that weren’t so successful had memorable moments and great music.  One such show was Mack and Mabel.

Mack and Mabel opened in 1974 and told the love story of silent movie director Mack Sennett and silent movie star Mabel Norman.  It opened with two Broadway legends as the leads, Robert Preston and Bernadette Peters.  It had wonderful music.  Movies were Movies, I Wanna Make the World Laugh, Look What Happened to Mabel, I Won’t Send Roses, Wherever He Ain’t and the ballad Time Heals Everything.

This show only played 91 performances which had to be a big letdown for the entire team.  I have read that the show’s ending with Mabel’s death due to drug addiction was hard for the audience to watch. With all the upbeat music the show brings you down in the end.  I have also read that the ending was reworked and is now not as dark.  I have never seen a production of this show but I would love to.  It does continue to be performed in regional and community theater.  The cast album is great and I enjoy listening to it.  No matter the ending you can’t help feeling happy while listening to the music.

Jerry’s Next Hit would come in 1983 with his show La Cage Aux Faux.  La Cage is about two gay men who have raised a straight son who now wants to marry.  I have not seen this show but the son wants his dads to act a bit more middle of the road which is hard to do when you consider that the dads own a club that features men in drag and one of them is the star performer.

The title in English translates to The Cage of Fools and it was originally a French film, but not a musical.  After the musical opened an American version of the film was produced called The Birdcage and it starred Nathan Lane and Robin Williams. 

La Cage Aux Faux was a big risk for Jerry and Broadway.  There had been plays about gay men before but they weren’t lavish musicals and this would be a big production.  It also opened at the beginning of the AIDS crisis and gay men were again being attacked for who they were.  But despite all of that La Cage was a hit and won the Tony award that year.  To add to its honors the show was revived twice in 2005 and 2010 and won the Tony for best revival both times.

There are two stand-out songs in La Cage.  One is almost a campfire song and Jerry himself describes it as such.  The song has a great melody and is easy to learn.  The song is The Best of Times.

The Best of Times is now,

What’s left of summer but a faded rose,

The best of times is now

As For tomorrow, well who knows

Who knows,

Who knows.

So make the moment last,

And live and love as hard  as you know-how,

And make this moment last,

Because the best of times is now

Is now

Is now.

The other song is an anthem for gay men and for everyone else who feels misplaced in society.  It is a song for the marginalized, for people of color, for the odd kid at school that gets beat up because he’s different.  The song is I am What I Am.

I am what I am

I am my own special creation.

So come take a look,

Give me the hook or the ovation.

It’s my world that I want to take a little pride in,

My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in.

Life’s not worth a damn,

‘Til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am.”

I am what I am,

I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity.

I bang my own drum,

Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty.

And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle,

Why not try to see things from a diff’rent angle?

Your life is a sham ’til you can shout out loud

I am what I am!

In 1996 Jerry Wrote the words and music for a Christmas television musical called Mrs. Santa Claus.  It was aired only once as far as I know but it had a terrific cast and storyline and of course incredible music.  The leading lady was Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Claus.  She feels neglected sometime around 1900 and decides she knows a better route for Santa to deliver his toys.  She takes the sleigh in order to go around the world only to be stranded in NYC on Avenue A where she meets and is befriended by many locals.  In the few days she’s there she reunites a family, softens the heart of an evil toy manufacturer, and strikes a blow for women’s rights.  All to the sound of some terrific and clever music.

 My favorite song from the show is Almost Young a declaration of you’re as young as you feel and Angela proves it to a bunch of children who work in the toy factory

I’m holding back the hands of time
And though a fool might say I’ve passed my prime
My heart has always clung to staying almost young

A few grey hairs, A few gold teeth
Can never hide the kid that’s underneath
The kid whose hopes are hung
On staying almost young

My walk is swift and sporty
My disposition is evergreen
Why say I’m over forty, I’m over seventeen

I’ll still have all the speed it takes
When all the others have applied the brakes
And when my knell has run

I’ll still be struttin’ and kickin’
Like some little chicken
I’m almost young

Considering Miss Lansbury was 71 when she made this musical you can see she was still pretty spry if you follow the Youtube link.

I haven’t said much about Jerry’s Love songs and there were a good many.  It Only Takes A Moment from Hello Dolly, Time Heals Everything and I Won’t Send Roses from Mack and Mabel, Loving You from the film version of Mame.  My favorite is from Mrs.  Santa Claus and it’s sung by a young couple who Mrs. Claus helps bring together.  It’s called, We Don’t Go Together at All.

{Sadie}:
Look Marcello…
A girl with a drive and a fellow with a dream
Are like pickled herring with vanilla ice cream
So, as unromantic as my words may seem
We don’t go together at all

My big loud mouth and your quiet ways
Are like August evenings with December days
Are like corned beef and cabbage topped with mayonnaise
We don’t go together at all

We’re like chicken soup
And a slice of ham

{Marcello}:
We’re the big bad wolf
And the little lamb

{Sadiе}:
Like a picnic lunch
That’s ruined by a sudden squall

{Sadiе}:
We don’t
{Marcello}:
No we don’t

{Both}:
No we don’t go together at all

{Marcello}:
Like an overcoat
And a hot July

{Sadie}:
Like a bowl of borscht
And a pizza pie

{Marcello}:
Like if I asked you
To come to the policemen’s ball

{Sadie}:
We don’t

{Marcello}:
No we don’t

{Both}:
No we don’t go together at all
{Sadie}:
An onion roll at a Mayfair tea
Like a march by Sousa in a minor key

{Marcello}:
So forget all the magic that was meant to be
We don’t go together at all

{Marcello}:
A stable boy and a suffragette
Are about as peculiar as a pair can get

{Both}:
So it’s, oh, such a pity
That we even met

{Sadie}:
We don’t go together at all


I love the cleverness of the lyrics to this song.  It also has a catchy tune and it’s fun to sing either the girl part or the boy part or both.

This is truly the longest blog I have ever written.  I hope I captured the joy of Jerry’s music and the inspiration he has given to…well too many people to count.  If you are unfamiliar with Jerry’s work the CDs are still available to buy and Spotify has all of his original cast recordings and soundtracks as well as many many different artists that have covered his songs in one way or another.  If you can catch a performance of any of his musicals spend the time and money it is well worth it.  Mrs. Santa Claus is available on DVD and well worth adding to your holiday film collection. The film Mame is available on DVD and electronically on platforms such as Vudo.  Hello Dolly is available on DVD and electronically.  It is also available to stream on Disney+.

I’m leaving you with Jerry’s first hit.  It was used in the show and to advertise lunchmeat and as a presidential song for Lyndon Johnson.  I don’t know if it helped but he won the 1964 election.  For the election it became Hello Lyndon, For Oscar Mayer it was Hello Deli, for me it will always be Hello Dolly. 

Hello, Dolly,
Well, hello, Dolly
It’s so nice to have you back where you belong
You’re lookin’ swell, Dolly
I can tell, Dolly
You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’
You’re still goin’ strong
We feel the room swayin’
While the band’s playin’
One of your old favourite songs from way back when

Golly Gee, fellas
Find her an empty knee, fellas
Dolly’ll never go away again.

It is my Hope Jerry Herman will never go away too.

It is my understanding that under The Fair Use Law it is legal for me to use partial lyrics for songs.  That is what I have done here.  For the full song use the links provided above each set of lyrics.  There are some terrific performances there.

JUDY

Had Judy Garland lived she would have been 100 years old on Friday, June 10, 2022.  Tragically, she passed away in 1969 at the age of forty-seven.  Judy is a show business legend and while delving into that legend I found some disturbing things.  About Judy?  Yes. But more about how we in the 21st Century treat our legends.  When I Googled Judy here is what came up as to what people wanted to know.

What Illness Did Judy Garland Have?

Why did Judy Garland have no money?

What was Judy Garland’s net worth at death?

What was Judy Garland’s cause of death?

This is what Google thought most people wanted to know about.  I have read more than one biography of Judy Garland.  She has fascinated me since I was a teenager.  I know about most of the struggles in her life and yet when I read some of the articles online they reported other tragedies which her biographers did not report and I am sure Judy herself would have preferred they remain private.

What is it about us as a society now that we have to take our legends and our heroes and tear them down?  Why do we need to lay bare every sin of every person?  To quote Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey, “We all have chapters in our lives that we would rather not have published.”  And yet as soon as anyone in our current media culture gets an ugly fact they can’t wait to publish it.  This is what I will not do today.  Yes, Judy Garland had problems.  Big Problems.  The ones we all know about are enough.  A battle with drugs, several broken marriages, people who embezzled her money, and much more.  It is out of those problems that there emerged a performer who has been hailed as the greatest talent of the 20th century.  This talent, this woman, this gift is what I will write about today.

Judy was born Ethel Gumm on June 10, 1922.  She was the daughter of a vaudevillian couple Frank and Ethel Gumm who had given up life on the road to manage a movie house in Grand Rapids Minnesota.  In addition to showing movies the Gumms featured Vaudeville acts between shows frequently using their daughters, Francis had two older sisters, Mary Jane and Dorothy Virginia, as part of the entertainment.  Francis joined her sisters at the ripe old age of two singing “Jingle Bells’ with her sisters.  The Gumm Sisters were born.

In 1926 the family moved from Grand Rapids to Lancaster California.  Reportedly this move was precipitated because Francis’ or Judy’s father had homosexual inclinations and he had been found out.  In Lancaster, The Gumm sisters began to work the vaudeville circuit. Because their name, Gumm, seemed to attract laughter from audiences, and at one time they were billed as The Glum Sisters they were encouraged to change their last name.  The name Garland was chosen and Francis chose to change her first name to Judy.  This was late in 1934.  Francis now Judy was 12 years old.

In August of 1935, The Gumm Sisters disbanded when one of the sisters left to get married in Nevada.

Also in August of 1935, Louis B Mayer the head of MGM sent Burton Lane to the Orpheum Theater in LA to hear the remaining two sisters ‘ act.  Judy was brought to the MGM studio along with her father for an audition.  Judy sang “Zing Went The Strings of My Heart and an old Yiddish song called Eli Eli.  The studio immediately signed her to a contract with MGM and the magic began.

Unfortunately for Judy success wouldn’t come overnight.  She was 13 when she was signed to MGM and basically too old to play a child and too young to play an adult.  And though she wasn’t by any means unattractive she did not and never would have the glamour girl look of the 1930s.  MGM signed her but wasn’t sure what to do with her.

Judy’s big opportunity came when she sang You Made Me Love You to Clark Gable at his birthday party.  The studio was so impressed by her performance that they recreated it in the movie Broadway Melody of 1938.  In the film Garland sang to a photograph of Gable.  Here is the YouTube link: https://youtu.be/5OrCar5qFsQ

After the success of You Made Me Love You MGM made the historic decision to team Judy with Mickey Rooney.  The pair would make many films together including Love Find Andy Hardy, Babes on Broadway, Strike Uo The Band, Girl Crazy, and Babes in Arms.  Many of these films were dubbed Backyard musicals as in the story a bunch of kids always getting  together to put on a show.  Judy would star and also be featured in two other films Everybody Sing where she shared the bill with Fanny Brice (Funny Girl) and Billie Burke who would join Judy later in the film that would make her a star.  She starred in the very Irish film Little Nelle Kelly with songs written by George M Cohan.

Judy’s first triumph came in 1939 when MGM starred her in The Wizard Of Oz.  Judy would play Dorothy Gale a Kansas farm girl who gets knocked on the head during a tornado and dreams of an adventure in the Land of Oz.  In her dream, she must face her very real nemesis Elvira Gultch who, in the dream becomes the Wicked Witch of the West.  Judy was not MGM’s first choice for the role of Dorothy.  MGM wanted Shirley Temple for the part but 20th Century Fox would not release her to MGM.  The studio reluctantly went with Graland but they struck gold.

The funny thing about The Wizard of Oz, the film was based on the book by L Frank Baum.  In the book, the adventure is not a dream and there were a total of 15 Oz books written by Baum.  MGM could have gone on and made a small fortune if they had not made the film a dream by producing sequel after sequel much as they did with The Thin Man.  In the books, Dorothy, her Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry all go to Oz to live and there is a happily ever after for everyone.  Toto too.

The Wizard of Oz would give us the most famous of all performances by Miss Garland, the song Somewhere Over The Rainbow.  The song was written by Harold Arlan and Yip Harburg.  It comes in the story at a point where Dorothy is in trouble but her family and friends are too busy to help.  She’s told to go find a place where she won’t get into any trouble and walking with her dog she sings one of the most haunting songs of the movie musical.

Somewhere over the rainbow,

Way up high,

There’s a land that I heard of,

Once in a lullaby.

This song and the film is almost every child in the United States’ first memory of movies.  Though the film was a critical success in 1939 it wouldn’t be totally appreciated by the public until the 1960s when it would air yearly on television.  I was born in the early 60s and my earliest memories revolve around watching this wonderful story.  When I was very young I remember hiding behind my father when The Wicked Witch of the West appeared.  The Wizard of Oz was almost part of the rite of passage for being children.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow would be recorded by other artists over the years. It was in 1986 that Barbra Streisand even came close to capturing the same magic.  In 1986 Barbra Streisand lovingly and with amazing grace recorded the song in a concert filmed and recorded at her home called One Voice.  The concert was for 500 guests but it was a fundraiser for Streisand’s causes.  After that, many artists including Mandy Potimkim and Matthew Morrison recorded the beloved song.  None equaled Judy Garland.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow is haunting and hopeful.  It’s a song of yearning for a better place.  It speaks to the deep yearning in all of us for a world that’s different from the world we live in.  A world where dreams really do come true.CS Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”  This is a desire that seems universal to all people.  Somewhere Over The Rainbow gives words to that desire and if we are willing we each can find our way to that other world.

Garland’s movie career would explode after The Wizard of Oz.  No longer the teenaged misfit she would give a wonderful performance as Esther Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis and she would give The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas as gifts to the world.  Her other stand-out performances came in films that include, For Me and My Gal, The Harvey Girls, In The Good Old Summertime, Summer Stock, Easter Parade, and her acclaimed performance as Esther Blodgett in A Star is Born. 

In Summer Stock she co-starred with Gene Kelly and in a way, it was a return to the old days of the backyard musicals.  Judy plays Jane Falbury the owner of a farm that is struggling to make ends meet.  She reluctantly permits a group of Broadway performers to use her barn as a stage and Jane is drawn into the life of show business.  Judy’s break out performance is in the song Get Happy.  This is a revival-type song that reminds us to ‘get happy and ready for the judgment day.”  For me, it frames in music the joyous return of Jesus Christ where he will lead us across the river.

Garland would only be in two non-musical roles.  She starred in The Clock in 1945 with Robert Walker and as a featured character in Judgement at Nuremberg in 1961.

Judy was not idle when she was not making movies.  She did radio shows, went on publicity tours with her movies, and spent many hours in the recording studio.  There is a long list of musical soundtracks and albums that are to her credit.  When her film career ended due to her ill health, the star began concert tours that spanned Europe and the United States.  She played both The London Palladium and The Place Theater in NYC.  In the mid-sixties she desperately wanted to take over the role of Mame on Broadway when Angela Lansbury left but the producers, due to her ill health and her known erratic behavior on movie sets during her last years, could not trust her with the role.

Judy had a long history of drug abuse and mental health issues.  It was both of these that led to her death on June 22, 1969, just 12 days after her 47th birthday.  On that day, I believe, one of the stars in heaven went out.

Judy Garland worked for 45 years in the entertainment business.  She gave her heart and soul to her performances and she had a voice that was unlike any other.  She could belt like Ethel Merman but she could also sing very tenderly like Doris Day.  It’s been said that Judy only had to hear a song once to have it down.  In that way, she was a musical genius.

Many of us love Judy Garland and her many films.  We feel we know her and when we are old enough to understand how young she was when she died we feel a great sadness in ourselves over her passing.  I don’t know what would have happened if Judy lived.  I would have liked her to play Mame in the film version of that wonderful musical.  I think she would have recorded more and become very proud of her children Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joseph Luft.  In her elder days, she would have been a Great Dame of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  With many of us listening to her stories.  That wasn’t meant to be.

I could have said a lot more about the life of Judy Garland.  She never had it easy.  I believe that out of her pain came something beautiful and something that will be remembered for generations to come.  Though we lost her too soon, we will have her forever.

SUPERMAN

In June of 2022, we celebrate the 94th year of Superman being in publication.  In this week’s blog I’d like to take a look back at the first comic book superhero and discuss why he was important in 1938 and why he is still important today.

The word hero comes from the Greek word heros and it means protector.  From the very start that was the embodiment of what Superman is.  He protects those who cannot protect themselves.   In his first stories, he would be confronting wife beaters and crooked politicians.  He was a hero for every man and woman, and no one was beneath his notice.  Of course, times change, And Superman’s powers grew and changed, and his enemies became almost as powerful as he was himself and yet the hero would always make time for others even getting a cat out of a tree.

Superman remains popular after 94 years.  He has been in every form of entertainment that exists.  Comic books, movies, first animated and then live-action, 5 television series and that does not include animated series of which I believe there have been three, radio shows, movies, novels, and a Broadway Musical.  No other fictional character has ever covered all of that.  The only one that comes close is Charlie Brown but he was never featured in a radio show or a novel.

Superman has more web pages than I care to count and several pages on Facebook both private and public and some official DC pages and other unofficial pages.  He also has an encyclopedia in one volume, but it was published many years ago and a lot has changed in those years.  It’s still a treasure trove of information.

Superman stories in comic books can be broken down into 4 eras, The Golden Age, The Silver Age, The Bronze Age, and The Modern Age.

The Golden Age began with Superman in April of 1938.  From the very beginning, comic book magazines were dated three months after their release dates so Action Comics number one which featured Superman on the cover was dated June but appeared on the newsstands at the beginning of April giving the magazine almost 90 days of shelf life.  The Golden Age brought all of the now-classic heroes to life.  Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, The Flash, Robin, Captain Marvel, now known as Shazam, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, and many others all debuted during this era.  All of these except for Captain Marvel were published under National Periodical Publications which later became DC Comics.  Marvel started out at about the same time only they were called Timely.  Their superstars were Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, and The Human Torch.  The Golden Age would begin to fade at the end of WW2 and be completely gone in the early fifties.  Comic books would come under the scrutiny of the U.S. government and would be considered a contributor to juvenile delinquency.  The only three Titles to survive the 50s were Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman.

The Silver Age began with reintroducing The Flash.  This was not the old Flash from the 40s but a streamlined hero made for the beginning of The Atomic Age.  His costume, origin, and secret identity all changed and he was hit.  Soon others would follow being brought back to life were Green Lantern and The Atom.  New heroes were added such as The Martian Manhunter and old heroes were refreshed.  The Silver Age at Timely came to life when Stan Lee created The Fantastic Four and Spiderman and all the other members of what come to be known as The Avengers.

The Bronze Age of comics began in the 1970s when comic books began to become socially relevant.  Though in some ways mainly aimed at kids by 1970 the kids who were reading the Silver Age characters were now young adults and they wanted to keep reading so more mature storylines began to be introduced.  Peter Parker’s girl Friend Gwen Stacy is brutally murdered by The Green Goblin.  Roy Harper who was Green Arrows sidekick is hooked on heroin,  The Joker is reintroduced as a ruthless murderer and Batman goes very dark.  Superman changes too.  No longer a newspaper reporter he is now employed by WGBS as a news anchorman which causes all kinds of new problems for The Man of Steel but he did not lose his Innosense.

The Bronze Age Continues until 1985.  1985 is a landmark year for DC Comics.  They are celebrating their 50th anniversary and what an anniversary it was.  DC set out a year-long story called Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Over the years DC bought many properties from comic book companies that folded.  They had introduced these characters into the DC universe by each of them having their own Earth.  The explanation was that the Earth vibrates and all these other Earths vibrated differently but occupied the same space.  Some of these Earth”s histories aligned with our own but different heroes were there.  Captain Marvel’s family resided on Earth X.  Our current hero roster resided on Earth One.  Earth-Two housed the original DC comic book characters from the 30s and forties.  These included the original Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  For several years the heroes of Earths One and Two would find a way to cross the vibrational barrier and have amazing adventures together.  Over time all of these Earths became hard to keep straight and so in 1985 DC destroyed all of the other Earths and everyone was streamlined into one Earth and all of the DC Comics heroes were rebooted.

1986 marked the year of The Modern Age of Comics and the first book to spring out of that was a six-issue mini-series called The Man of Steel.  In these six issues, Superman’s origin was retold.  His relationships with his parents, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, and Batman were reworked.  There was a love connection between Superman and Lois that would eventually end in marriage.  Jon and Martha Kent were allowed to live and see their adoptive son grow up and become Superman.  Batman became an uneasy ally with Superman but you wouldn’t call them friends anymore.  Batman was the dark to Superman’s light.  He even began calling Superman, “the boy scout” in a less than friendly way.

Superman’s origin n the real world began with two teenage boys in Cleveland Ohio.  Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster created Superman first as a villain and published a prose story in their science fiction fan magazine.  Soon they came back to Superman and reworked him into a newspaper strip.  Jerry and Joe were very much more in the likeness of Clark Kent than Superman.  They spent their formative years in the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Neither was a great student or athlete.  Neither was the one to get the girl.  But they both loved Science Fiction, the popular pulp magazines of the time and they were both Jewish.

Being Jewish is important to the Superman story.  If you look closely at the character’s origin you can see the similarities between Superman and Moses.  Moses’s life was in danger as a baby and he is put in a basket and floated on The Nile River until he is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter.  Superman’s planet is about to be destroyed and he is p[laced into a rocket to Earth to be rescued by the Kents.  Both men, one real and the other fictional become heroes to their people as they become adults.  I do not believe there is much coincidence here.

Jerry and Joe try their hardest to sell their Superman strip to newspaper after newspaper only to be rejected time and time again.  Eventually, they hear that National wants a new hero for its new comic book Action Comics.  They redo the Superman daily strip into a single story and present it to National who bought the character and the rights for 130 dollars.  National hires Jerry and Joe as writers and artists but they have no legal right to their character anymore.

Copywrite is the bain of all artists.  If you don’t own it you don’t make money from it even if you created the property.  Seigel and Shuster were reduced to living at the poverty level until the 1970s when the comic book artists and writers went to bat for them and helped them gain a piece of the very large Superman pie.  By that time DC Comics was part of Warner Communications and the first Superman Movie starring Christopher Reeves was about to be released.  Warner Brothers didn’t want the bad publicity so they made a generous settlement to the two men which included health insurance for the rest of their lives.

As an aside Maria Von Trapp did the same thing with her film rights to The Story of The Trapp Family Singers.  She sold the rights to a German filmmaking company for three hundred dollars.  The Germans made a film but then sold the rights to Rodgers and Hammerstein who turned half of the book into The Sound of Music.  Maria made no money off of the broadway production but Fox studios offered her a small percentage of the profits on the film.  You can glimpse The Baroness in the movie if you look quickly during the I Have Confidence sequence.

Superman has endured in popularity, in my own opinion, because he is a symbol of hope.  In the later years years it has been revealed that that the S on his chest is the Kryptanian symbol for hope.  Recently Superman’s slogan “Truth Juustice and The American Way” has be aletered to “Truth Justice and a Better Tomorrow.”  With the United States History coming under attack The American Way seems distasteful to some people and so the slogan was changed.  For many years The American Way was the hope to millions of people who immigrated to this country, including my grandparents.  Millions of people still want to come to this country because of the hope that still exists.  For those living outside of the USA, the American way ensures a better tomorrow.

Superman is American in every sense of the word.  He is a first-generation immigrant that makes good in his new world and in his new country.  He lives out the American dream.  As Clark Kent, he is a successful journalist and as Superman, he is what all heroes strive to be.  He is in actuality the embodiment of America and its promise.

Superman is something else too.  He is something that every good person strives for.  He is passionate about justice.  He believes in mercy and no one is beneath his desire to help.  We can all identify with Clark Kent.  An average guy looking to make a living and a difference in his world.  But can we identify with Superman?  The answer to that question is a resounding YES!

We identify with Superman by using the best of who we are to benefit and help others.  We don’t have to have super strength, the ability to fly, or x-ray vision to make a difference in this world.  Anyone can make a difference.  I read recently about The Peter Pan Children’s Fund.  This is an organization that was started by a young girl after seeing a production of the stage version of this wonderful story, she then toured The Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children in London and found compassion for the sick children there.  Instead of birthday presents that year she had money donated to the hospital and began a campaign to have other children do the same.  The organization does not exist just for the hospital in London but for every children’s hospital.  And by the efforts of one young girl.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference in this world.  Just a desire for mercy and justice.  A desire to love others as we love ourselves.  A desire to give the best of who we are to the world and let God in heaven who made us all determine the outcome.  Edmond Burke said, “Evil thrives when good men do nothing.”  If you want to be like Superman be a good person and do something.

The Blog That Almost Wasn’t

Churning out a weekly blog is not very easy.  First, you have to have an idea and then you have to already have the needed information at your fingertips or you have to be able to do the research.  Stumbling on the first can almost be a disaster as something might never get written.  Take last week for example.  I had no clue what to write about and heeding the advice of a good friend I decided it was better to say nothing than to write something that I don’t feel passionate about.

Make no mistake.  I have yet to write a blog that I didn’t feel was important if only to me.  I write because I was made to write and eventually I have to sit in front of a computer and start putting words on the screen.  Before that, when I was young, it was pen to paper.  Pen to paper has a nostalgic feel to it today.  My penmanship is truly horrible and it only can be deciphered by me, but something is inspiring to write the way Charles Dickens, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Mark Twain had to write.  I was inspired to write by watching The Waltons and seeing John-Boy sitting at his desk keeping notebook after notebook filled with his journaling.  Watching him made me want to do the same and I did.

The second difficult part is research.  Now research today is much easier than when I was growing up.  We had no internet.  Very few people had an encyclopedia which was a set of books that tried to comprehensively cover every possible subject in the world.  Doing research for a school project meant doing hours in the library both at your school and the public library.  We didn’t have an encyclopedia at home but my next-door neighbor did and I would go there when I need to look something up.

Let me tell you about my next-door neighbors.  Their names were John and Mary Rainier.  But to me and only me, they were Aunt Mary and Uncle John.  Aunt Mary was a lovely lady that was a hairdresser at one time.  She would give my mom permanents whenever she needed one.  My Uncle John I really don’t know what he did for a living but he was kind to me and always had a smile and occasionally some good advice.  Aunt Mary was special.

Aunt Mary didn’t mind my friends playing in her backyard which was joined to my side yard.  She gave us taffies regularly always reminding us not to run with them in our mouths.  Advice which most of us failed to heed but luckily we never got hurt.  To me, she was a kindly aunt.  Who took me out to lunch occasionally, bought me treats, and gave me the best Christmas and birthday gifts.  I think she was giver at heart and showed her love in that way.  On my mom’s birthday, every year, she made an incredible lemon chiffon pie.  I have no idea how it was made but it was one of the most delicious desserts I have ever had and miss it even now.

I remember going to her house to use the encyclopedia.  That set of books was something precious in that house. I don’t remember ever being told to be careful with anything while visiting her, which I did often, but those books were to be handled with care and respect.  My parents even warned me before leaving my own home to be careful while using those books.  And I was.  I think my respect for all books comes from being respectful of that set of encyclopedias.  If you looked at my shelves now you would find that many of the books I own are in the same condition I bought them in.  That does not include the second-hand books I own, just the ones I bought new.  If I order a book from Amazon and it arrives damaged in any way it goes back.  I make it a point to complain because Amazon used to treat books with respect, now they just throw them loosely in a box or a puffy envelope with nothing to ensure no damage is done.  I have Amazon on speed dial because of this.

I took a detour here but research is very important to me.  I never want to present to you anything that is a fact that I haven’t checked.  My mind holds a lot of wonderful things but the details are always sketchy.  I have an Amazon Echo device that sits next to me at my desk.  The device can usually help me with dates and spelling and sometimes information that I’m missing. Using the Echo device gives me the feeling of being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and just asking the computer for information. Science Fiction has become science fact.  The Echo can’t give me quotes or other longer facts those I have to do a general internet search for.  I am truly grateful to Google for that.  You can find almost anything on the web.  Maybe I should try to find a recipe for lemon chiffon pie?

I feel like at least a part of all my blogs are research papers and out of respect to you dear reader, I want my facts to be accurate.  Especially when talking about my health or any other branch of science.  To give inaccurate information about anything is just wrong and if I ever do that and you catch it please contact me immediately.

This is the blog that almost wasn’t because again I don’t have a topic this week.  I have topics for future weeks that I am working on now or at least thinking about now.  We celebrate Superman’s birthday in June and the character turns 94 this year.  I hope I am around for his 100th birthday.  Judy Garland would have been 100 years old this year in June if she hadn’t died tragically in the 1960s.  Those are two of my upcoming topics.  I don’t know what else there will be.  But, there is always something exciting on the horizon or at least I believe so.

I rambled a bit today but it was good for me to remember Aunt Mary and Uncle John.  In the future, I will introduce to you various other people from my past.  My cousin Joanne, my first best friend Charlie, and my next best friend Joe.  And maybe you’ll meet my cousins and aunts and uncles all of who played and still play a big part in my life.  One day too, I would introduce you to my family, my parents, Pat and Vince Roberto,  my sisters Patty and Susan, and my brother Vince and tell you about my childhood all so long ago.

How Can I Help; The Philosophy of New Amsterdam

For the last four years, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the television show New Amsterdam.  New Amsterdam is a fictional hospital in NYC but it is based on the very real hospital Bellvue also in NYC. The show’s stories are interesting and compelling.  The scripts are well written and the cast of characters well defined.

In the first season and for the last four years the show centers around Dr. Max Goodwin. In the first episode, Max takes over as what I believe is now called The Chief Medical Officer in a hospital.  In other words, Max was running the show.  In the first three and half seasons, Max stays in this position until he marries Helen the head of the oncology department and they both move to London Helen’s original home.  Max is back now trying to get the hospital back from the evil woman who the board elected to take his place.  The culmination of that will take place tonight, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. 

In his first season, Max is constantly asking the same question whenever a problem arises.  That question is, “How can I help?”  That attitude begins to take over the whole hospital as you begin to see the main characters more and more, some subtly some overtly begin to take on the characteristic of caring for each other and the patients of the hospital.

Now you would think patient care would always be the top priority of all medical facilities.  Having worked in medicine for 30 years as a dialysis technician and a medical assistant.  I have seen the level of care for patients being eroded by government rules and paperwork.  Hands-on care by nurses is now relegated more and more to technicians who sometimes do not have the experience or the education to take on that care.  Mandatory 12 and 13-hour days made people exhausted by the end of their shift, and basically useless on their days off in between shifts because of sheer exhaustion.  Let me tell you no one asked, “How can I help?” We were all too tired just trying to keep up with our own work.  I know this because I left dialysis while working under these conditions.  But that is not the point of this blog.

What is the point?  The point is how better the world would be if, when we are told about another person’s problem our first response would be, how can I help?

We live in a world where the rugged individualist has become something to aspire to.  “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” or “Do you have to have someone hold your hand?” are both cliches that tell us we are all to be self-sufficient.  That we shouldn’t need anyone else and to quote Dolly Levi from The Matchmaker that we should “Thank God that no one else’s life is tangled up with ours.”  In The matchmaker, which became the musical Hello Dolly, Dolly learns that living that way is ultimately unhappy and the play and musical is her attempt, “to rejoin the human race.”

I think it’s time for us all to rejoin the human race.

People were never meant to live life on their own.  It’s a Bible fact that says two are better than one and that’s not about marriage it’s about life.  No one should have to or ever feel like they have to go it alone.  And yet many people do.  If this weren’t the case songs like Elinor Rigby or Alone Again Naturally, or Dust in the Wind, would never have become popular.  Let’s be honest those are basically songs to commit suicide to, and I’m willing to bet that some people have.

Suicide is another problem which I believe stems from the idea that everyone has to make it on their own.  Now, that is not the only reason.  There are many other reasons people commit suicide.  If you grow up being taught that this is the ideal way to live, making it on your own, then the minute you realize you cannot live this way you have to consider yourself a failure or feel less because you have to ask for help.  Can you imagine with me a world that instead of chiding you for not making it on your own, asks, “How can I help?”

It would be a friendlier world.  People would no longer be looking only at their own interests but also at the interests of all the other people in their lives.  Dickens makes this perfectly clear through the character of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.  Marley was dead and in chains, eternally remorseful for all the times he “minded his own business,” and did not reach out a hand to those who suffer or are in need.  I call this part of Marley’s discussion with Scrooge, “Marley’s Lament.”

“Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,” cried the phantom, “not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!”

“Life’s opportunities misused.”  Marley is not talking about opportunities to advance his career or to make more money.  He took advantage of all those opportunities and it led him to eternal torment.  Marley is referring to all the times he saw someone in need and walked away believing it was none of his business instead of asking, “How can I help?”

We are all, in many ways, self-centered these days.  First, it’s ourselves we look to and then our families.  After that, we may find time to help out a friend, but many of us don’t.  I’m thinking of myself as much as anyone else.

Today, for instance, I was just coming in from the doctor’s office, and a lady who I know just a little was coming in thru the other door.  I let her in so she wouldn’t have to scramble for her keys.  We said hello and I headed for the elevator.  While I was waiting she said a package had arrived that was supposed to help her with her TV reception.  She said she hoped she could figure out how to hook it up.  I responded that those devices are usually very easy to hook up and it should be no problem.  The elevator door was closing when I realized that she may have been actually asking for help.  I stopped the elevator door and said if you need any help come on up and get me.  I couldn’t just volunteer to come with her and set it up as I had to get out of the shoes I was wearing.  They help my feet but I can only wear them a little while each day.  I don’t have her phone number or apartment number so I can’t reach out and see if she needs help. I feel a bit bad for not saying outright, “how can I help?”

Most TV shows are entertaining very few are inspiring.  New Amsterdam is a show that I find both entertaining and inspiring.  It’s a rare breed of television show and I hope you all take some time to catch up with it.  It runs on Peacock and Hulu as well as NBC.  I don’t know where you can stream the whole series, although it may all be on Peacock.  I really encourage all of my readers to watch.

HEALTH UPDATE

I went to my Primary Care Doctor today and though he was pleased with me in general, the bottom line is I gained two pounds in the last month and lost none.  I wanted to avoid telling you this but when I began this journey I made a promise to keep you informed win or lose.

For me, I didn’t really lose this month.  Yes, I gained two pounds, but I gained those pounds while actively dealing with another health problem.  The stress of that problem influenced me to eat more than I was.  Previously I was never hungry at lunchtime, all of the sudden I was always hungry at lunchtime and I had only bad choices to eat.  And I ate them.  That health issue is now under control and I am back on the path I had been on.

That’s it for now.  Here’s my parting thought, if someone relates to you a problem they are going through, instead of offering advice first ask, How can I help?

The picture is the central cast of New Amesterdam from top left Dr. Iggy Frome (Tyler Labine) Head of Psychiatry, Dr. Helen Sharpe (Freema Agyeman) head of oncology, the big photo Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) Bottom left Dr. Lauren Bloom (Janet Montgomery) Head of The Emergency Room, and last Dr. Floyd Ryenolds (Jocko Sims) Head of Cardiac Surgery.

I Am A Christian

I am a Christian.  I want to get this out of the way because there seems to be some confusion about what a Christian is and what a Christian isn’t.  This blog is my unschooled attempt to explain that.  I hope you read it and share it because I believe what I have to say is important.

First what a Christian is.  A Christian is someone who has come to believe in their heart that Jesus, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth in what we now call Israel, died for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised from the dead so that we too could share eternal life with him.

That’s it.  That is all of it.  It’s pretty easy and it is offered to every man woman and child on the planet.

Now let’s deal with some basics.  First Jesus was real.  The Bible which tells his story and many others has been proven time and time again to be historically accurate.  Several years ago a man named Lee Strobel was totally ticked off that his wife became a Christian.  He was an investigative reporter for The Chicago Tribune and had won awards for his work.  He was also a die-hard atheist. He decided to prove to his wife that Christianity was false and launched an all out investigation to prove his thoughts and to get those Crazy Christians out of his life.  Bottom line, he couldn’t do it.  He only found the historical accuracy of Jesus to be beyond dispute. He also found that Jesus was indeed one with God.  Ultimately he became a believer and wrote a book about his experience called The Case For Christ.  Read the book.  I am not here to do all the work for you.

Now you could tell me sure, “I know Jesus existed.  He was a great teacher and we should follow all that he said but he wasn’t one with God.”  This my dear friend is a faulty argument.  Here’s why.  I am going to quote a man named CS Lewis.  He was a Christian writer in the 1940s and 1950s.  He too was an atheist.  It was his friend JRR Tolkien who was a devout Catholic who presented to him an argument that he could not disprove.  After his conversion, he became one of the most prolific Christian writers of the 20th century.  You may be aware of his fantasy stories which are called The Chronicles of Nania.  He also has a  sci-fi series and a few other novels but his greatest works were the explanation of faith the greatest of these is Mere Christianity.  You can watch a great film on his conversion titled, The Most Reluctant Convert.  Did I telll you Lewis was also an Oxford professor?  This man was seriously smart.   Here is the quote it is from the book Mere Christianity.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

–C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

I can’t put it better.  Either Jesus was who he said he was or he wasn’t.  If he wasn’t, ignore the Bible completely because it is just words on paper.  If he was I suggest you read every line.  So far I have shown you that Jesus can be proven historically real and that you have a choice to make about what to do with him.

Let’s talk about sin.  The word sin is an archery term.  It simply means missing the mark.  Or not hitting the bullseye if you will.  As we come to know God we learn that He is perfect and nothing imperfect can stand in his presence.  God created us to be perfect too and we would have been if not for the fall of man by his being disobedient to God.  In order to restore us to perfection God first set up moral laws for us to follow.  This is what Christians call The Old Testament.  Those laws can be found in the first five books of the Old Testament.  He also set up ways to atone for all the times man didn’t meet those laws.  Those were the animal sacrifices of The Old Testament.  But all through the Old Testament God makes promises that one would come that would change everything.  Those promises are called prophecies and those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  You can read this for yourself by reading Psalm 22 in the Old Testament and then read the last few chapters of The Gospels which are titled, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament.  The comparison should amaze you considering those words were written about 2000 years apart.  Psalms first and Gospels afterward, just to be clear.

Now let’s get back to sin.  No one on this Earth except for Jesus has ever been perfect we all sin, or we all don’t hit the bullseye on a regular basis.  Committing murder is a sin.  But most of us haven’t done that.  Telling a lie is a sin and all of us have done that.  Jesus came to make us perfect in the eyes of God.  He came to take away the sins of the world.  Those sins are all forgiven, past present, and future when we accept in our hearts what Jesus did for us.  This takes faith first and foremost.  No one can pay for salvation.  It is one hundred percent free.  It’s a gift from a God who loves each and every one of us because he created and formed each and every one of us.  All artists understand this anyone who has any creative juice in them at all understands this.  When we create something, a mom who makes a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner is pleased with what she did.  A Mechanic who fixes tunes up, and details a car can probably say he loves the work that he did, what we create, what we work on we feel good about it when it comes out right.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  God made each of us and none of us is a mistake.  All of us at birth are beautiful in His sight.  But then God did something radical.  He wanted His creation to love Him and love cannot be forced on someone.  Love is a choice.  God gave us all free will to choose to love Him or to go our own way.  When we choose to seek God and love Him we will find Jesus Christ.  God is love.  If we go to the New Testament and look up the famous love definition in the Bible in First Corinthians chapter 13 we can change the word love to God and get a full picture of how much He loves us.

This is what Christianity is all about.  It’s about a God who loves us, a God who loves you my dear reader, who did all he could and gave all he had to bring his creation back to himself.  Now it’s up to us to choose.

Now here is what a Christian is not.  No Christain is to stand in judgment on any other human being.  Are there Christians that do that?  Yes!!! And they are far from God.  Many people say they do things in God’s name.  Evil things, things that make me extemely angry.  People who call themselves Christians and approve of the bombing of abortion clinics.  That’s not love.  People who go to the funerals of gay men and women to tell the family that their loved one is burning in hell.  That’s not love and that’s not the God of Christianity.  The God of Christianity tells us to do everything in love as outlined in First Corinthians 13.  I was going to make you look that up, but no.  Here is the what love is and what God is.

First Corinthians 13

 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Charles Dickens wrote the best explanation of the people who do evil things in the name of God or Jesus in his book A Christmas Carol.  This is The Ghost of Christmas Present speaking but in some ways, he is, to me, The Christ figure in the book.

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”

You can change the words “us” and “our” to “God” and “God’s” and you’ll see what I mean.

Here let me do it for you.

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know God, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in God’s name, who are as strange to God and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not God.”

Christians are truly a mixed bag of people.  We come in all colors.  We all are different.  Some of us smoke and drink.  Some us are straight and some of us are gay.  Some of us can cuss up a storm and some of us dance and sing and play cards.  Some of us are overweight, and yes I’m working on that and some of us are recovering addicts. Some of us are addicts, caught in a web we are looking to break free from.  We are all as different as different can be.  We are all flawed. We simply have this in common.  We found a God who loves us, we believed in Jesus who saved us and we want nothing more for those we know to come to know that same love.

Being a true Christian is all about love.

TV SHOWS THAT TIME FORGOT

I grew up in the era of reruns.  It all started with the genius of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who instead of using a kinescope to film I Love Lucy, which was standard in the day, they used film and movie cameras.  Kinescope programs were not well filmed and those that are left today are hard to watch.  These were the early days of television and much that was, is now lost.  An example of this would be the great character actress Mary Wickes who played Mary Poppins for television audiences in 1949.

When I was old enough to watch television, as I have told earlier, my mother sat me down in front of our black and white set to watch I Love Lucy and The Jack Benny program.  Most people still know who Lucy was but many have forgotten Jack Benny and he was around for many years.  His career as a comic began in Vaudville but he really made a name for himself on the Radio with a recurring cast of characters in his weekly show.  His gravel-voiced butler Rochester, his girlfriend Mary Livingston, who was also his wife in real life, his friend, the golden-toned Dennis Day who sang regularly on the program, they all made the stories of the tight-fisted, violin playing comic very funny.

I was born in the early 60s and so the reruns of the shows from the 1950s and those first aired in the early 60s were brand new to me.  I think the first on the list is Superman.

Superman aired from 1952 until 1958.  The beginning seasons were filmed in black and white but the remaining seasons were filmed in color.  This was well before color TV sets were readily available.  Superman even made an appearance on I Love Lucy in the classic episode Lucy meets Superman.  The episode was not Lucy Meets George Reeves the actor who portrayed Superman but Lucy Meets Superman.  In the episode, Superman does not break character at all.  I dearly loved television cross-overs which would set me up for comic book cross-overs years later.  But I digress.

Superman was a half-hour adventure series that wrapped most stories up in one show,  Superman was played by George Reeves, Lois Lane by Phyllis Coates at first but then Noelle Neal, Jimmy Olson by Jack Larson, and Perry White by John Hamilton.  It was a perfectly crafted and well-written show.  In my opinion, most of the stories still stand up pretty well today.  They jammed a lot of adventure and action in a half-hour show.  Well written and so well-acted that when George Reeves made a personal appearance as Superman a little boy showed up with a gun to see if he was really bulletproof.  George talked him out of it and no one was hurt.

From 1963 to 1966 Patty Duke starred in her own self titled show.  I was too young for the original run but not for the re-runs.  I don’t know this for sure but my feeling is ABC got the idea from the Haley Mills classic movie The Parent Trap which debuted in 1961.  In the Parent-Trap Mills played both Susan and Sharon who were twin sisters, who had been separated at birth. One went to California to live with dad and the other to Boston to live with mom.  In the film the twins meet at summer camp.  At first there is mutual dislike until they discover they are sisters and then they scheme to bring their parents back together and of course, all ends happily.  The Patty Duke Show was a bit different.  Patty Duke played both Patty and Cathy Lane.  Not sisters but identical cousins.  Cathy’s father is either a foreign correspondent or a diplomat.  My guess is correspondent as Patty’s father was a newspaperman.  Cathy has been brought up in England and has a cultured British accent.  After the death of her mother Cathy goes to live with her Uncle Martin, Aunt Natalie, and her cousins Patty and Ross.  When Cathy arrives it is much to both girl’s delight to find that they are exactly alike and the fun begins.  This show was very much a Lucy and Ethel relationship.  Patty had the schemes and innocent Cathy found herself dragged into them as often willing as not.  It was a fun show.  It portrayed a loving family with a wise father and a caring mom.  If you haven’t seen this gem it is worth seeking out.

Next on my list is Gidget.  Lets’ get this straight from the first Gidget is a nickname.  Given to Frances Lawrence.  It stands for girl midget, Gidget.  The name was given to Francis as she showed off her surfing skills to the boys on the California beach.  Gidget was played by Sally Field on television but the role was originated on the big screen by Sandra Dee.  There would be a few Gidget movies made but the series only ran for one season in 1965.

There’s a story behind that too.  Gidget ran its first season throughout the Fall and Winter.  No one wanted to see a show based on the fun at the beach during those months.  However in the summer when the show ran as reruns the ratings went through the roof.  Unfortunately, the show had already been canceled and they could not bring everyone back again.  The show is available on DVD and is fun to watch.  Don Porter was cast perfectly as Gidget’s father a widower who cherishes his daughter despite her tomboy-like tendencies.

Sally Field didn’t keep still in 1967 she would make her next TV splash as Sister Bertrille The Flying Nun.  The Flying Nun would run for three seasons until 1970.  The show centered around sister Betrille who because of the shape of her wimple and her small size and light weight when the wind was right she became airborne.  The show was a big hit, especially with catholic families.  It was a comedy most of which centered around Sister Betrille getting in and out of trouble while airborne.  It didn’t help that a long-suffering Reverend Mother did her best to keep Sister Bertrille’s feet on the ground.  I loved this show and still do.  I believe Sally Field has mixed feelings about it but considering all that she would eventually do these two series were a good foundation to start from.

One I never want to forget is Hazel.  Hazel ran from 1961 to 1966 and starred Shirley Booth as the outspoken maid to the Baxter family.  Hazel is funny and endearing.  Watching the show is like curling up with a warm cup of cocoa on snowy night.  Though Hazel is outspoken and her mouth gets her into more trouble than it ought to, she also really loves the family she works for and goes to all lengths possible to help and protect them.  If Shirley Booth had lived she would have played an Angel in Touched by Angel because that’s what Hazel was an earth-bound Angel.

Petticoat Junction ran from 1963 to 1970.  In some ways, it was a spin-off of The Beverly Hillbillies and a forerunner for Green Acres.  Paul Henning produced all three shows and from time to time the characters would cross over making those episodes extra special.  I don’t quite know the reason why but The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction cannot all be seen in reruns.  The early shows are intact but for some reason the later seasons seem to have disappeared.  I hope one day that all of the episodes of both shows will be made available.

Petticoat Junction centered around the life of Kate Bradley and her three daughters Billie Jo, Bobby-Jo, and Betty-Jo.  They lived in a hotel called The Shady Rest along with the girl’s Uncle Joe Carson.  The hotel was the only one on the railroad line that was dominated by The Cannonball Express.  Actually, The Cannonball was the only train on the line and is in constant danger of being taken out of commission in the early episodes of the show.  The engineer and conductor were show regulars, along with Sam Drucker who ran the general store.  Sam would be the major link between Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.  This show too was both funny and heartwarming. We see the girls grow into women and we see their mother played by Bea Benadarret pass away as the actress died of cancer during the run of the show.  The mother was not replaced but a lady doctor played by June Lockhart who had recently come off playing the mother in Lost in Space as well as Timmy’s mother in the Lassie TV series.  She brought just the right touch of gentle wisdom to the show to keep it going.

This blog is beginning to run long and there are so many other shows I want to reminisce about with you but they will have to wait.  Shows like Room 222, Nanny and the Professor, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Magician, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, That Girl, The Lucy Show, and Here’s Lucy will have to wait for another time.

In the meantime keep tuning in to this blog.  Until next time same bat time and same bat channel.

Spider-Man

It was to my great delight to find out last week that Spider-Man No Way Home won the Kid’s Choice Award for best live-action movie.  As I wrote several weeks back the latest Spider-Man film should have received an Oscar nod for best picture.  But Hollywood, as we saw at the Academy Awards Ceremony, is not only full of snobs but a bad indicator of a good movie.  Kid’s on the other hand see the truth, sometimes to the dismay of adults as in The Emperor’s New Clothes.  They live more” in the moment” than most adults do and therefore can see more than most adults can see.  If a kid says something is good or bad, it’s best to pay attention.

Stan Lee got his start in comics while still a teenager.  He went to work for Timely Comics as a writer somewhere in the late thirties or very early 40s.  Lee worked for Timely for 20 years until that fateful day when his boss asked him to come up with a Superhero team comic book to go head to head with DC’s Justice League of America.  Lee teamed up with Jack Kirby and The Fantastic Four was born.  The Marvel Legends began.

What many people don’t realize is that Lee was ready to give up working in comics just before that fateful day.  He had enough writing thinly veiled comics that copied whatever was popular at the time.  In other words, if Zorro was popular, Lee would write a Zorro-type character and sell it.  Anything for the company to make a quick buck.  Really The Fantastic Four was a to be a copy of The Justice League, except for the fact that The Fantastic Four acted like a team only when they had to, they were no Justice League.  The League had honor and high moral standards.  Heck, they were indeed super friends.  The Fantastic Four could just barely tolerate each other.  They brought true human problems and emotions, including resentment and despair,  into comic books and the industry was changed.

But I digress.  As stated Lee was ready to quit comics.  He had begun to talk with his wife about leaving the industry and beginning work on what he hoped would be the great American novel.  His wife convinced him to give comics one last chance and in that last chance, The Fantastic Four was born.  Lee took every bit of the creative talent he had in writing the story of the Fantastic Four.  Maybe he figured this was his last shot so he’d go out in a blaze of artistic glory.  Instead of going out Lee began to soar to heights of popularity and stayed there until the day he passed away.

After The Fantastic Four Stan and Jack created the Incredible Hulk which, believe it or not, did not sell well at the beginning.  The Hulk, also, wasn’t green when he first made his debut, he was grey.  But things did turn around.  Grey turned to green and we have the Hulk that we all know and love today.

Lee came into his third inning.  He was up to bat.  Would he strike out or would he hit a home run?  OK, enough with the sports metaphors.  Amazing Adult Fantasy had reached its fourteenth issue and it was not doing well.  Adult: would mean that a bit of sleaze was probably in this magazine but Stan Lee himself tells us that the comice book was a collection of fantasy monster stories usually about five pages long.  The stories were written by him and illustrated by Steve Ditko.  The magazine was about to be canceled after the publication of its fifteenth issue and Lee decided to experiment. 

Stan Lee was a big reader of the Pulp Magazines that were published in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.  Many germs of comic book characters that would come later can be found in these ten-cent novels in a magazine.  The pulps’ main characters included The Shadow, Doc Savage, and one that Lee particularly liked The Spider.  The Spider was just an ordinary guy who was an expert marksman.  He disguised himself with fangs and a hunched back.  His true Identity was Richard Wentworth the last in the line of a wealthy family.  He began his career after saving a college friend from criminals.  Lee liked the name The Spider but he had other ideas than a man who was good with a gun.  Lee was about to break more comic book rules.

Teenagers were not the main character in almost any comic book.  There are a few notable exceptions.  Superboy, stories of Superman when he was a boy and then a teenager.  Captain Marvel Jr and Mary Marvel were both teenagers when they got their powers but unlike Billy Batson when he became Captain Marvel by shouting SHAZAM turned into an adult Mary and Junior stayed teenagers.  The last is Kid Eternity a teenager who was murdered but is granted the ability to come back and fight crime by being able to call up all the heroes from the past.  Aside from these most teenagers were sidekicks to other Superheroes.  Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl all fall into this category.  Even Johnny Storm, The Human Torch of the Fantastic Four was not on his own though eventually, he would gain his own solo stories.

Lee decided to take a chance and make his next superhero a teenager with all the problems that come with being a teenage boy.  He kept the name Spider but dropped the marksman and gave the young man the abilities of a Spider.  With those thoughts in mind, Spider-Man was born.

Lee didn’t have much hope for his new character.  He didn’t start him off in his own magazine as he did with The Fantastic Four and The Hulk.  He starred him in the last issue of Amazing Adult Fantasy only now the word adult was dropped from the title and Spider-Man made his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy number 15 in August of 1962. Lee’s first two creations were illustrated by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko was the artist for Amazing Fantasy and Lee stuck with him for his new creation.

Not many people need to be told the origin story of Spider-Man.  A teenager, Peter Parker, who is a bookworm and a student of science is shunned by his peers.  On attending a demonstration of radioactivity, a spider who has absorbed some of the radiation during the experiment, bites Peter giving him the abilities and proportionate strength of a spider.  Peter, after learning of his new abilities decides to cash in on them and make himself rich with his new talents.  He hopes to be able to help his elderly Aunt May and Uncle Ben who had raised him.  He designs a costume for himself to conceal his identity, web-shooters to gain another spider ability and begins to make TV appearances.  He also becomes arrogant and a bit self-centered.  When a thief runs by him in the hallway of the TV studio Peter lets him go and tells the police that it is their job to catch crooks, not his.  On his way home that night there are police cars at his home.  His Uncle Ben has been killed by a thief he found in the house.  The police tell Peter that they have the killer trapped in an old warehouse.  Peter immediately dons his costume and goes after the killer himself.  Peter does nab the guy but on catching him realizes it is the same crook he let run by him in the studio.  His guilt overwhelms him as he feels responsible for his Uncles death.  He remembers something his Uncle Ben once told him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

Stan Lee says in the book, The Origins of Marvel Comics, with the publication of Amazing Fantasy number 15 and the story of Spider-Man out of his system, Lee went back to working on his new superstars.  Lee essentially forgot all about Spider-Man.  It would be months before it was realized that Amazing Fantasy #15 was a best seller and the reason had to be Spider-Man.  There was a swift meeting held and The Amazing Spider-Man comic magazine number 1 made its debut in an issue dated March of 1963.

Spider-Man has entertained us now for 60 years.  He has starred in several different Marvel Magazine titles and is probably one of the most iconic heroes of all time.  Spider-Man is to Marvel what Superman is to DC, their most recognized character and almost a symbol of the company itself.  Spider-Man like Superman has appeared in almost every form of entertainment.  In television shows, both live-action and animated, and movies also both live-action and animated, novels based on the character, a newspaper strip, and a Broadway musical, the only thing Spider-Man did not get is a radio show.  Spider-Man was born a bit too late for that.

Spider-Man broke down all kinds of barriers in his 60 years and continues to do so.  The comic book character took on many of the social issues of the 60s and 70s and made an impact.  I well remember being affected by Peter’s best friend Harry Osborne having a drug addiction.  It helped keep me on the straight and narrow.  There were also gut-wrenching stories like the death of Peter’s first true love Gwen Stacy at the hands of The Green Goblin.  There were also some joyful tales including Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson an event that took place in the comic book, the newspaper strip, and at a live ball game in NYC.

Spider-Man continues to entertain us today.  His movie adventures are now reaching millions of people and his comic books are still enjoyed.  As I stated at the beginning of this blog, it did my heart good to see Spider-Man No Way Home win The Kid’s Choice Award for the best live-action movie.  I hope that the film will pick up more honors in the months ahead.  It’s also my hope that The Academy of Motion Pictures begins to see that movies based on comic books or children’s literature or animated films all have artistic value and should be placed in the best films category.  To me leaving these movies out, movies that the people love is a disgrace.  A movie does not have to be filled with sex, over-the-top violence, and foul language to be a good film.  It has to have a solid story well-formed characters and great acting.  The Marvel movies have all of that.  DC we are waiting for you to catch up.

Holy Week and Health

I have written extensively on Holy Week elsewhere.  I have, however, never taken the time to introduce the life-changing possibilities that are given to us because of this week.

Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday.  I wrote a little about Palm Sunday in my article on Lent.  Palm Sunday is the remembrance of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he is praised and palm branches are spread on the road before him and waived in the air around him.  This is a King’s entrance into a city even if that king is riding on the back of a donkey.

We know from scripture that many things occur during this week.  Jesus cleanses the temple from money changers and teaches openly in the temple.  We know that the Jewish leaders form their plot against Jesus and we know that Judas Iscariot agrees to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. With that background, we come to Holy Thursday.

Holy Thursday has two significant events.  Or maybe three, the last supper, Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, and then his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.

The Last Supper is the time that Jesus is the most intimate with his disciples and gives them his last instructions.  Hel also gives instructions for those who would believe in him because of the disciple’s word.  He wants his church to be one.

The Church being one is something Christians have struggled with since the reformation 500 years ago.  The Church is not one.  It is splintered into denominations and sub denominations all believing that they have the correct view of the teachings of Jesus and the writers of The New Testament.  This is much to our shame.  We all live in the same house but we divide ourselves into separate rooms rarely venturing into the other rooms.  It will be a great day when Jesus comes back and reunites us all again.

Holy Communion is established during The Last Supper.  Jesus took bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take and eat this is my body,”  He then took a cup of wine and blessed it and sent it around to his disciples and said, “this is my blood.”  This was to begin to make the disciples understand what was about to happen.  Jesus’ betrayal, an unjust trial, a whipping or a scrouging, and his death on the cross.  Holy Communion is a reminder of all those things to all Christians no matter their denomination.

After the supper is over Jesus takes his disciples to a garden on  the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem it is there that he prays to God that the events that are about to unfold could be passed on but he ends with “Thy will not mine be done.”  Judas then arrives with other men to arrest Jesus.  He betrays Jesus with a kiss and Jesus is led away.  Hid disciples scatter.

The illegal trial l being held in the dead of night is slow going.  No witnesses can agree.  Caiphas, The High Priest, eventually asks Jesus if He, Jesus, is the son of God, Jesus responds “I am.” This is all the disbelieving religious rulers of Jersusalem need to hear.  Caiphas proclaims blasphemy and hopes for Jesus’ death but that decision is not his to make.  Israel is held by the Roman Empire and only the Roman Governor can sentence anyone to death.  So Jesus now Jesus is brought to the Roman Quarters to find his fate which would be decided by Pontius Pilate.

Pilate can find nothing legally wrong with Jesus.  Not by Roman law.  Hoping to appease the Jews Pilate has him scrouged.  This is a whipping but the whip is made up of several leather cords.  Each cord has bits of metal and bone tied into it.  With every lash pieces of Jesus’ back start to rip off slowly exposing the muscles as his skin is shredded.  There is a belief that Jesus received only 49 lashes as Jewish law permitted fifty and the Jews stopped at 49 to not break the law.  This beating, however, was done by Romans who had no reason to obey Jewish law.  The number of lashes could have been less or more.

Jesus then appears before Pilate again and Pilate offers to set Jesus free but the Jews would have none of it shouting at the governor to crucify Jesus.  Usually a scrouging was enough.  But these people wanted blood.  When the Jews brought Caesar’s name into it saying that if Pilate did not have Jesus crucified he would be no friend to Ceasar.  Pilate had no choice it was between this man and being reported to the emperor.  Pilate washed his hands to show he had no desire to kill Jesus.  He then sent him to be crucified.

Crucifixion was a horrible way to die.  First Jesus was forced to carry the crossbeam to the place of crucifixion.  He was too weak to do this by himself due to the loss of blood and Simon was forced to help him.  When they got to the destination the beam was flung to the ground.  Jesus was roughly pushed to the ground as well and his hands were stretched out across the wooden beam and then his wrists were attached to the cross with large nails.  The beam with Jesus attached was then raised to fit into the vertical beam of the cross.  This had to be excruciating.  At this point one nail was driven through both of Jsus’ feet, which were placed one on top of the other, securing them to the cross.  The knees were left bent a little.

This happened at about the noon hour.  For three hours Jesus would hang from that cross.  In the position that he was in he couldn’t breathe and to get air into his lungs, he had to push up against the nail in his feet which hurt tremendously.  He would grab a breath and speak.  These were the seven times he spoke.  His last words were, “It is finished, Fathe into your hands I commit my spirit.”  And Jesus died.  This is Good Friday.

The Roman soldiers pierced Jesus’ side to prove he was dead and water and blood came out.  This indicated that Jesus died of a heart attack brought on by suffocation.  His body was released to Joseph of Arimathea and was placed in Joseph’s tomb in a garden not far away.  The tomb was then sealed with a huge stone and a Roman guard was posted to guard it.  Many would think this is the end of the story but it isn’t.  Jesus, on the third day in the tomb, rose from the dead.  The stone was rolled away and Jesus left the tomb and death behind him.  This is Easter Sunday.

Jesus’ death and resurrection were God’s plan to reunite the world to himself after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  All men sin and “fall short of the glory of God.”  God required a sacrifice to take on all of the wrath of God against sinful people.  He chose his son to make that sacrifice and in so doing set us free.  “Whoever believes in the son of God have the right to claim themselves to be children of God.”.

What to do with this.  First, you can’t dismiss it once you know it.  Jesus is either the risen son of God or a total fraud.  You can’t say he was a great teacher because of the many things he taught the central fact was he claimed to be the son of God.  He predicted he would be killed and that he would rise again.  Jesus fulfilled more than 300 prophesies from the Old Testament.  Bearing that in mind Jesus is either who he claims or he is insane but you can’t say he was a great teacher.

So the next thing to do is to decide what you will do with Jesus.  If you believe him a whole new life awaits you.  If you dismiss him you may find yourself in a place you do not want to be for all of eternity.

What does all of this have to with health and weight loss?  Quite a bit.  You see Jesus wants me to live my best life possible.  And part of that is living a healthy life. I have fallen into many bad habits that destroyed my health in many ways.  But Jesus not only saved us from our sins but he offers the inner strength to do the impossible because ‘Nothing is impossible with God.”  And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead for me to be the best me.  He allowed himself to die so that I could live a good and happy life.  That life includes good health and a servant’s attitude.  Being healthy and also being able to say, whenever the opportunity arises, “How can I help?” to anyone who may need help.

My health journey continues.  I have been in physical therapy for the last six weeks at Advanced Physical Therapy and Aquatics.  I am being well taken care of by Josh and Steve and the rest of the staff.  They have developed a program for me to follow that has helped me gain strength and stability in my body.  I was evaluated on the first day I was there and reevaluated yesterday.  The reevaluation showed marked improvement from where I started.  I thank God for leading me to this place and for the expert guidance of the staff.  If you live in or around the Springfield Delaware County area of Pennsylvania and you need P.T. this is the place to go.

I went to see my primary care physician today and found that I have lost two more pounds.  At first, I was disappointed, but the nurse and the doctor pointed out that it was better than nothing which is another way of saying I took two steps forward and no steps back.

Easter is a time to rejoice and there are so many things to rejoice about.  You know God in one way or another tells over 800 times in The Bible to rejoice, to be glad to be happy.  In the book of Proverbs, it says that “A merry heart is good like a medicine and a downcast spirit dries up the bones.  I think this idea has been distilled down to “Laughter is the best medicine.”  And it is!  We all go through rough times.  Times that we think we will never laugh again, that joy is impossible.  But those times don’t have to last.  You can find joy again by turning to God and turning to others.  I have found this to be the truest thing in life.  Happy Easter and may God bless us, every one.  (This applies even more at Easter than Christmas)

Setbacks

Life is full of twists and turns.  It has surprises-both good and bad and can take you on roads you never meant to travel.  Hans Christian Anderson said Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by the finger of God.”  GK Chesterton wrote, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.  Children already know that dragons exist.  Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”  I think as adults we forget about the lessons of fairy tales.  Not the sanitized versions of fairy tales that Disney has given us.  (I do love those but they aren’t accurate)  The true fairy tales that were collected by the Brothers Grimm in Germany or the romantic French fairy tales or the stories written by Hans Christian Anderson and the ancient fables of Aesop are long forgotten as we enter adulthood and yet we need those lessons even more at this time in life.  CS Lewis said, “One day you will be old enough to read fairy tales again.”  For me, that time has come.

The last two weeks have been a heavy time for me.  Emotionally I fell into a deep depression that made me unable to write this blog.  My heart was so heavy with sorrow that I wasn’t sure I would ever write again.  When I disclosed this depression to my friend Richard he told me to write when I was ready and not before.  I took that advice and I stayed away from my keyboard secretly wondering if I would ever write again.  While in this depressed state I woke up one morning and got out of bed and when my feet hit the floor something happened to my left foot.  I could just barely walk.  There was a stabbing pain every time I took a step.  This was a Sunday morning and I dreaded going to the emergency room of any of our local hospitals so I stayed in bed and waited until the next day to call my foot doctor.

I felt very alone and abandoned during this time.  The depression hadn’t gone away and my injury of, whatever this was, just made things go darker.  Because of all of this and being afraid of falling I canceled a trip to NYC to see Hugh Jackman in The Music Man.  I had the tickets for three years.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience but I had to let it go.  Doing this, though correct, made things much worse.

I went to the foot doctor the following day and he did X-rays right there in the office.  My foot got a whole round of pictures taken.  I think to this day there are more pictures of my feet than my head.  The X-rays showed that there were no broken bones but a swelling of the bone occurred.  It was a flair-up of arthritis in my foot which is severe in both feet, but the left foot seems to take the brunt of everything.

I was told to go home and stay off of it as much as possible.  To ice it and cancel my physical therapy until the next week.  I was told it would take anywhere from 3 days to 21 days to heal.  So I stopped at the market loaded up on provisions and went home.

I was severely depressed, I was confined to my home, I had to cancel a trip that I had waited three years for, and I felt I had no hope.  What do you do when you feel you’ve lost everything that matters.  First, you eat.

I, without a doubt, have a comfort food addiction and I allowed that addiction to have full control.  I bought vanilla icing and spread it on Pop-Tarts.  I was eating ice cream and chocolate syrup.  I went to McDonald’s for the first time in 4 months.  I was binging eating and it was to make the pain I felt go away.  It didn’t do that.  It just made me feel worse.

This behavior only lasted a couple of days.  One morning I woke up and was reading my daily devotionals.  I receive, every morning, in my email, a paragraph or two by Henri Nouwen.  That morning’s writing was talking about entering the gate thru the narrow road.  And as we get to know Jesus through that narrow gate it can be painful.  But the pain is good because it helps purify us and changes us into the men and women God created us to be.  In other words, it molds us like a sculptor shapes a piece of stone into something beautiful.  In other words, God is like Michelangelo as he carved out David.

The email also talked about the Eucharist.  How we need communion for strength to get through the journey of our lives.  I thought about that.  I don’t believe, as the Catholics do, that The Eucharist is the actual blood and body of Jesus.  I do believe that something very important takes place when you receive communion.  I think God blesses you and his face shines on you and a divine something happens in that moment and a spark of who Jesus is, enters you.

With those thoughts, a peace that I have not felt in a very long time came down on me.  The peace that the Bible describes as being beyond our understanding.  I felt that everything was going to be alright and though both the road and the gate were narrow I could make it through despite the pain.  I began to follow my new diet regime again.  I threw out what was left of the Pop-Tarts and frosting.  I don’t think there was much more to get rid of.  My soul and my house had been cleansed.  I felt better.

I am back in physical therapy as of yesterday.  The pain in my foot remains but is not as severe.  I’m making good food choices and I feel emotionally well.  I am glad that I gave in but I didn’t give up.

I read a quote recently that I hope inspires you as much as it inspires me.  Life is full of hurdles that seem to be too high to jump and chasms that seem too wide and deep to cross, but we were made for these challenges. We were created to be in this world and to become our best selves despite adversity.  The quote comes from a book my friend Beaj recommended to me.  The book is called The Gap and the Gain and the quote is “The rule is simple: the person who fails the most will win.  If I fail more than you do, I will win.  Because in order to keep failing you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing.”  The Gap and the Gain is by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy.

I began this blog by talking about fairy tales and dragons. I am on a fairy tale adventure right now. The stories of Hansel and Gretel, Price Phillip slaying the dragon in Sleeping Beauty, and Frodo taking the ring to Mount Doom will inspire me to travel on the road I’m on and to stay with it. I will destroy the dragon of depression and will kill the witch of being overweight. That is my quest and my destiny.

Next week my new weigh-in results and Holy Week.