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.

MPL and the estate of Jerry Herman have graciously given me permission to use the lyrics to Jerry’s songs. This author is grateful and I hope the article is a source of joy for many.

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.

It Takes Courage To Change

It was in the late 4th century that a boy was kidnapped off the coast of what we now call England.  He was about 14 years old and he was kidnapped by Irishmen who took him to Ireland and sold him into slavery.  At the time this was common practice.  England was part of the Roman Empire and its citizens were Romans.  The boy was of noble birth and lived on a coastal estate.  His parents were staying in a nearby town at the time and not only the boy was taken, but also all the servants.

Rome was beginning to fall apart at this time and much of its military strength was brought back to Rome.  This left England ripe for the picking by the Irish Marauders that would cross the sea to capture what they could from England’s coast.

That boy would remain a slave in Ireland for six years.  During that time he was made a shepherd and tended the sheep of his captors.  For long periods he would remain alone his only company the animals he tended.  It was then that God spoke to this boy.  He told him it was time to escape and how to go about it.  The boy followed the instructions and escaped back home.  That boy’s name was Patrick.

Patrick returned home and became a priest.  He then did what not many men would do.  He returned to the land of his captors to minister to them and to bring the good news of The Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Irish people.

If there are heroes in this world Patrick ranks as one of the foremost of all time.  To go back to a land that enslaved you, that mistreated you, that abducted you from your home took more compassion and mercy than many of us ever show.  To embrace those who hated you with love is both courageous and heroic.

Everything that we know about Patrick’s life was left to us by him.  There are two letters.  The first, A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus and Confessions.  The first is a lettter to a slave-raidng king and his mercenaries and the second is a defense of his work that was made necessary because of accusations made by other churchmen.  It is believed that the churchmen were jealous of Patrick’s success in Ireland.  Remarkably, these documents are available online to read.  They dispel all the rumors and myths about Patrick and show him for the simple man he was.  Simple but full of courage.  Patrick’s courage took him to face his enemies and serve them in love.  He could have stayed safely at home but instead, changed a nation of heathen into believers in Jesus Christ.

It takes courage to make changes.  Patrick had to have a store of courage to believe that God had spoken to him and to initiate the plane God had given him to escape.  Once he was free it took tremendous courage to return to the land of his captors and serve them.  All change for the good of our lives or the good of others takes courage.

Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.”  Note that courage doesn’t mean that you are fearless.  That actually would make change easy.  Courage is when you find the strength to do something even though you may fear that something.  Most people dislike and fear change and that is why change takes courage.  Adapting to a new and healthier lifestyle takes courage.

It has been since December 6th that I began my life-changing adventure.  At the outset, I was frightened.  I didn’t believe I could do it and neither did I want to.  Along with the need to change came the knowledge that if I did not change I was going to die.  My weight was extremely high.  As I have said in the blog more than once there are no old fat people.  Overweight people inevitably die before their time.

I am now at the beginning of what many would call old age.  I am in my early sixties my birthday is Saint Patrick’s Day.  Being born on that day made me hungry for the knowledge of this great man and he has become one of my greatest heroes of the faith.  The others two being Saint Francis and Saint Nicholas.  Saint Francis though rich and entitled made himself poor in order to serve those around him.  Courage!  Saint Nicholas at the council of Nicea went up to a man who was preaching heresy and slapped him in the face.  Courage!  Saint Nick is a lot more complex than an old man who brings toys to children.

Courage is found in unlikely places but it can always be found if you want something badly enough.  I have had to find courage throughout my lifestyle change.  I continue to need courage because the old habits want to come back.  I still crave McDonald’s and Burger King.  I occasionally slip and have some pie or cake but I keep that to a minimum.  I still crave juices but those are very rare and I am finding real delight in cold water.  In fact, I find myself craving water which is new for me.

This courage had born results.  I saw the doctor last week and was weighed.  I lost 7 pounds during the month of February.  That makes a total of 32 pounds since starting this journey.  I am grateful to God for his grace, to my doctors for their help and to my friends and family for their support.  No one ever makes changes that will last be themselves.  It takes a community of people and the grace of the mighty God to make these occur.

God Bless you all and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

PostScript. It is a myth that Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. It is too cold in Ireland to have snakes. It is also a myth that Patrick used the three-leaf clover in order to explain the three in one trinity that is the Christian God. For those who are unchurched God consists of The Father, The Son (Jesus) and The Holy Spirit. These are myths but they are also delightful.

Loss

It was December 15, 1966.  I was 5 years old and my mother and I were in the kitchen.  It was there that she told me Walt Disney had died.  I remember wandering into our side yard and feeling like a light had gone out.  This man had visited our house every Sunday night for as long back as I could remember.  I didn’t understand death, I’m not sure I do yet, but I knew that life had changed and something wonderful had ended.

The next celebrity death that should have impacted me was Judy Garland.  It was June of 1969 and I was 8 years old.  My parents didn’t tell me of her death.  I think they decided I wouldn’t understand.  After all, I only knew Judy Garland as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  If they told me Dorothy had died I would have been devastated.  And it wouldn’t have made any sense.  She was still on the screen, every year.  How could Dorothy be dead?

As a child the TV and movie characters that you love are real.  The actors don’t exist.  Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were Batman and Robin.  Adam West and Burt Ward, the names at the beginning of the show were meaningless.  The need to believe is deeply entrenched in a child.  I never saw the line used to make Mary Martin fly in Peter Pan.  I never saw the cheesy special effects in Dark Shadows.  Peter Pan flew and Dark Shadows scared the crap out of me it wasn’t until I was older that I began to see the flaws.

Other examples are Sally Field and Patty Duke.   Sally Field was Gidget. In an episode of The Flying Nun, where Sally Field played Sister Bertrille, they showed footage from Gidget, where Gidget was surfing.  I didn’t see these as two separate shows, I figured Gidget had decided to become a nun that made total sense to me.  With Patty Duke, I had no clue that  Patty Duke played both Patty and Cathy Lane.  To me, they were two separate people and as real as my own family.

I must have been about ten when the fantasy in life gave way to reality.  That was the year I asked my dad if Santa Claus was real.  He didn’t give me an answer.  He said, “What do you think?”  I thought about it and realized that Santa couldn’t be real and in a very real way childhood came to an end.

Childhood’s end is probably the most significant loss any of us go through.  I don’t know that we see it as a loss at the time.  Most of us are in a hurry to grow up and find out what was in the mysterious bottles kept in the cabinet that only our parents drank from.  Or we can’t wait to drive or for school simply to be over forever.  It’s when we get older that we miss the magic of Santa Claus coming on Christmas Eve or, at night, staring out your bedroom window wishing on the first star you see or hoping this was the night Peter Pan would come and take you to Neverland where you wouldn’t have to grow up and no adult would be around to tell you what you should do.

I guess I’m lucky.  I still wonder about Santa on Christmas Eve and I think about leprechauns on Saint Patrick’s Day.  In my imagination, I can happily visit Middle Earth and Narnia and for a brief time suspend the horrors of this world.  I would rather face a dragon than continue to watch the mess the Republican Party and The Democratic Party continue to make of this country.  You can fight a dragon but you can’t fight city hall.

Since the death of Betty White on December 31st of last year I have been watching Hot In Cleveland.  This was the last show she starred in along with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendy Mallick.  It was a show about 3 women from LA who have to make an emergency stop in Cleveland on their way to Paris.  Because of the attention paid to them by the men in Cleveland they decide they could have a better life in the new city and decide to stay.  They rent a house with a caretaker who is played by Betty White and the show is set.

Hot in Cleveland ran for six seasons on TV land and was funny if a bit earthy at times.  The scripts were good and the supporting cast was excellent.  The show had many guest stars from the best of TV, Carol Burnett, Robert Wagner, Tim Daly, and many others.  One show had William Shatner, Shirley Jones, and Georgia Engel all sharing the stage with Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli.  Most of my childhood TV shows were represented on that one stage.

It was when Regis Philbin made his guest star appearance across several shows that I began to feel a sense of loss.  Regis died in 2020 but he was a big part of my daily life both at home and at work.  I was a dialysis technician back in the 80s and the TV sets were all set To Live with Regis and Kathy Lee every morning.  I became a big fan of both of these stars and loved the show.  On days I wasn’t working or went in for the later shift I made sure I saw it.  The legacy of the show lives on with two other co-hosts but no one could match the energy of Regis Philbin and that energy was still present in Hot in Cleveland.  But I realized he was gone.

Not long after that, all the women that starred in The Mary Tyler Moore show came on as guests.  These included Miss Moore, Chloris Leachman, and Valerie Harper.  Betty White was already on the show and Georgia Engel had become a recurring character.  At one point they were all sitting around a table trading very funny insults when I realized that all the women at that table were gone.  This saddened me as well.

Early in the New Year news reached all of us that Bob Saget died in his sleep in a hotel room in Florida after doing his one-man stand-up show.  Bob was 65 years old and it recently came out that it was due to some sort of head trauma that he died.  Bob Saget played Danny Tanner on the much-loved Situation Comedy Full House which ran for 8 seasons on ABC.  He then reprised the role of Danny Tanner in the show Fuller House.

Bob Saget was a well-loved man both on and off the screen.  His co-stars had nothing but good things to say about him and the girls, now women, who played his daughters looked at him as a second father.  Not long after his death, I started to watch Full House again on HBO MAX and found myself welling with tears at almost every episode.  The episodes made me laugh but they were filled with a genuine sentimentality and the show plays just as well today as it did when it first aired in 1987 to 1995.

Many other celebrities touched my heart at their death.  Ethel Merman was first. She passed in 1984 but she was a part of my life because I had fallen in love with Broadway. Ethel Merman was and still is the queen of Broadway. No one was like her and no one like her will ever come again. Lucille Ball in 1989 was next.  Lucy was and always will be my favorite.  I felt very sad the day she passed.  Something else wonderful had gone out of this world.  In 1990 Mary Martin passed away.  My Peter Pan was gone, and I remember it well, a little magic left my heart.

Why do celebrity deaths or better yet the death of stars bother me so much?  I think with some of them I’m watching the generation before me flicker out and die.  Soon all those who grew up in the 20s, 30s, and 40s will be gone and all that will be left is memories and photographs and these are not just the stars they are my father, mom is already gone, my aunt’s and uncles and all those I hold dear to me.

Then there are the celebrities of my generation.  Bob Saget was 5 years older than me.  Mike Nesmith was a bit older but still part of my generation.  David Cassidy played a huge part in my life.  I went from Puff The Magic Dragon to I Think I Love You because of him and The Partridge Family.  I was saddened when he passed as well.

Seeing my generation begin to pass away made me realize that life is very short and your time could be up at any point.  The Bible says that “all the days of my life were written for me before I was born.”  This means that God knew when I would enter this world and the day is planned for when I will exit and that day is much closer now than it was when I was younger.

I don’t want to leave anything half done when it’s my time to go.  I don’t think I can make all of my dreams come true but I believe that some of them still can.  I’m writing this blog weekly for more than 6 months.  That’s the grace of God and me leaving something behind that may help others.  I’ve lost a total of 25 pounds so far.  I have quite a long way to go but I want to do it and make some of my other of my dreams happen.  It will be good to have a healthy body.

There are still wonderful adventures ahead.  I have no idea what most of them will be but opportunities will come and it’s up to me to say yes and find out what will happen.  Peter Pan says in the play written by JM Barrie that “Death will be an awfully big adventure.”  And it will be, “The journey doesn’t end here.  Death is just another path, one that we all must take.  The grey rain rain-curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass.  And then you see it.  White shores and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” – JRR Tolkien

The Academy Awards

Let’s start by saying I am not, nor have I ever been, a big fan of award shows.  I do like the spectacle and the sometimes-amazing musical numbers.  When it comes to The Tony Awards, I enjoy watching the scenes from different nominated shows because it is unlikely, I will see them on Broadway.  It’s a glimpse into a place I get to less than once a year.  Award shows in general just don’t seem quite right to me.  One person’s art is another’s garbage so how can an award show be objective?  Who’s to say what makes any art form great?

The Academy Awards are also known as The Oscars, a term I will use from now on, used to be at least fair in their award shows.  These days I don’t see it as fair at all especially with our new world of political correctness.  Political correctness seems to be something everyone hates and yet no one wants to do anything about.

I believe in equal rights for every person on this earth.  I believe that we should all be able to pursue those things that make us happy.  I believe that we should work in the field that we are gifted in.  I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect.  And I believe that everyone should be able to believe in what they choose to believe.  Every person has to grapple with their beliefs and then live with the outcome of that battle.

I don’t believe that we should forget or erase the past.  I don’t believe Columbus Day should be replaced by Indigenous People Day.  I believe there should be an Indigenous People day it just shouldn’t cancel out Christopher Columbus, who though a flawed man, like we all are, still did an amazing thing that I am reaping the benefits of today.  You see for me it’s not either-or but and.

This brings me back to The Oscars.  In 1958 Auntie Mame was nominated for best picture.  Auntie Mame is a comedy about a madcap aunt raising her orphaned nephew.  It’s a great film was a terrific cast and great performances.  The movie didn’t win.  It was a comedy and it was rare for comedies to win an Oscar but it was in the running now you never see a comedy in the Academy Awards.  Making people laugh seems unimportant to those who make these decisions.

In 1966 The Oscar for best picture went to The Sound of Music.  In 1965 both My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins were nominated for Best Picture.  My Fair Lady won but Julie Andrews took The Oscar home for best actress.  All three of these movies were family-friendly and were beautiful films.  Could you see any of them winning an Oscar today?  Of course not.  Not many films today that win Oscars are family-friendly.  Very few even get nominated and that is a tragedy.  We keep talking about needing diversity in our culture and that is absolutely true but diversity does not have to be serious or violent or sexy.  It can and should be fun exciting and humorous.  We need serious films with strong endings to teach us about life and the fact that it’s hard.  No one gets out without some bumps and bruises but life is also funny and joyful and warm and cuddly we need our films to express all these things and those that do this well should be given an Oscar, After all, it was Auntie Mame who said, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

This brings us to the nominees for this year’s Oscar for best picture.  This year’s nominations are not as bad as the last few years.  There really is diversity in tone and subject matter.  It was great to see West Side Story on the list and Dune, a Sci-Fi epic was a complete surprise to me.  The rest were films I am less impressed with but that is a matter of taste.  There is just one problem with this list.  One movie that checked every box that makes a movie great was snubbed by The Academy.

This movie was well written, filled with both action and suspense.  It has a great cast and had humor as well as tragedy.  The film was loved by almost everyone who saw it.  It got good reviews and ranked at 96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.  It has also won a Golden Tomato award.  It is still in theaters and is slowly overtaking the films that have grossed the most amount of money.  The film I am talking about is Spiderman No Way Home.

Spiderman No Way Home would have been up for best picture 60 years ago without a doubt.  It has everything a movie should have and then some.  Even surprises that no one was expecting but were wonderful to see as the story unfolded.  So what happened to us.  Why is this film not Oscar-worthy.  I’m not sure I know.  Still, I’ll take a shot at it.

I think the Academy has become a group of politically correct snobs.  They don’t see that life can be fun and that Superheroes, who are part of our modern mythology have a long-standing and respected place in our society.  There are college courses on comic book heroes and though originally a form of entertainment for children is now a form of entertainment for adults.  The characters are complex and interesting and the fact some of them have been around for more than eighty years proves that they have something that our world needs.  I think that is hope.

Today’s world doesn’t seem to have much hope.  This is reflected in some of our TV shows, our books, and our films.  Superhero movies provide hope because good always triumphs in the end.  Disney films do the same thing.  As did the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, and three films that were done in The Chronicles of Narnia.  Only one of these won best picture and that was The Return of the King the third part of The Lord of the Rings the first two parts were never even nominated.  Movies need to give us hope again.

It all comes back to story.  We are all a story have I have stated before.  We are our own story but we are also part of a bigger story that God began to write when he created the earth and everything on it.  Our movies and our books and TV shows and comic books are all ways for us to find our place in our own stories.  Are we the heroes or are we the villain?  Are we the one who disaster strikes or are we the one who saves the day?  The answer to these questions is yes, we are all of these.

Let me give you an example of how stories have affected my life.  Back in 1972, a television show premiered on the CBS network.  That show was The Waltons.  I was 11 at the time but the show became a family favorite.  The lead character John-boy the eldest son became a hero to me.  He had to wear glasses to read and I had just been given my first pair, he was creative and he wrote, and it was watching that series that inspired me to become a writer as well.  I wrote all kinds of things and for a little while in 6th grade started the first and only school newspaper my elementary school ever had.  The Primos Press.  I did this with my best friend Charlie Meo but behind all of it was John-boy Walton.

Stories shape us.  They help guide us and help us make decisions.  The process may not be conscious but it’s there.  We are formed by our own story and by the stories of others both fictional and real.  This is why we watch movies and it’s why we need those movies that are honored with an Oscar to be films that show the things we need to know.

Remember that movies are subjective so what I love will not always be what other people love.  But when a vast majority of people enjoy a film, that film deserves an Oscar nomination.  Spiderman No Way Home is such a film.  And it is a sad reflection on our culture that it was ignored.

Suicide

It shocked me to learn, last week, of the suicide of Peter Robbins.  For those of you who don’t know who Peter Robbins is, he was the voice actor who gave life to Charlie Brown in the first Peanuts specials in the 1960s.  He also reprised his role as Charlie Brown in the first Peanuts movie, A Boy Named Charlie Brown.  Peter was 65 at the time he ended his life.  As a friend of mine put it, “I hope he found peace.”

I heard of another suicide last week as well.  This wasn’t a famous person in any way.  He was a 72-year-old he left a note that said, “He couldn’t find a path forward to happiness.”

I wish with all my heart that these men had talked to someone before they ended their lives.  Depression to the point of suicide is not rare but it should be.  No one should ever feel that alone.  No one should ever feel that taking his or her own life is the only answer.

I have been dealing with depression most of my adult life.  I believed I was unloved and useless and like the note left above, I could see no path to happiness or contentment.  Many times suicide crossed my mind.  It seemed reasonable to kill myself.  I remember plans I had for committing suicide as way back as my teenage years. I planned I would get in the shower and stab myself so there would be no mess to clean up.  I had other plans too.

I felt like a failure most of my adult life because I wasn’t living up to somebody else’s expectations of me.  I put their opinion higher than my own.  I put what they thought was right for me higher than what I thought, or even what God thought, was right for me.  This led to depression.  Low self-esteem to the point of self-hatred and then to suicidal thoughts.  This all came to a head in March of 1990.

I had been living on my own for the first time since the previous October in what was the greatest apartment in the world.  It was the top floor of a Victorian-style home with all kinds of gabled roofs and large ceilings.  There was a tiny spot with a window and a small arched ceiling that made a mini chapel.  There was another spot between two rooms with an arched ceiling with no windows that looked like a cave.  There was, also, a bathroom with an old-fashioned tub with feet.  I loved that apartment.  At the time I couldn’t drive and the apartment left me very isolated.  I rarely entertained and nobody ever called.  I felt more and more alone and those feelings turned into a deep depression.  The depression turned to suicidal thoughts.

I should have hidden my bad feelings at work, but I couldn’t, so those feelings turned to bouts of anger.  I would lash out at just about everyone.  One day I was walking to the trolley stop to go to work and I firmly decided that I would kill myself the next day if something didn’t happen in the next 24 hours.  It was a decision but it was also a prayer because it was a threat I was making to God Himself.   My boss came in and I said something nasty to her.  She got away from me as quickly as possible but soon came back and called me into her office.  She told me I was out of control and these fits of anger had to stop or I would be fired.  I asked for the rest of the day off and went home. 

I made it back to the apartment and didn’t know what to do.  So I called my friend Manny.  Manny and I had been friends for more than ten years. He was a pastor and he was the only one I could think of who might be able to help me.  And he did but it was radical.

After listening to me, praying with me, and bathing me in scripture, as he called it, he then advised me to quit my job and move in with him and his family in Syracuse NY so he could help me one on one.  And believe it or not, I did it.  I packed up and moved to Syracuse.

I spent three life-changing years in Syracuse and met some friends who will always be a part of my life.  The problem is, though I learned a lot, I was not changed when it came to depression.  This was between the years 1990 and 1993.  I came home, worked a few different jobs, and ended up back in the job that I had left.

It wasn’t long before depression took a strong grip on me again.  This time I had to mask it.  I couldn’t lose this job.  So I hid my ugly thoughts.  I had seen a video on the way The Disney Company expected their cast members (all Disney employees are cast members) to act.  While working they were to consider themselves on stage and to their customers and fellow cast members they were to be positive smiling people.  This became my work ethic.  I was working in dialysis and while on the floor with my patients I was smiling helpful and encouraging.  When I got home I fell apart and despaired.

This went on for about 4 years until I finally talked to a nurse I had been working with for years.  She told me I should see the new associate pastor at her church.  He had counseling experience and might be able to help me.  I honestly didn’t want to do it.  I agreed, but only if she made the appointment.  I figured she would forget and I would be in the clear.  She didn’t forget and, my healing journey began.

It took years.  That first counselor turned into another counselor and a psychiatrist.  I had to take medication and that had to be dosed just right.  Over the years because of changes in insurance and people moving away I have had 5 counselors and 4 psychiatrists.  My current psychiatrist handles both the talk therapy and my medications.  I was blessed by each of these people in their own way.

Thoughts of suicide still cross my mind but they are fleeting.  More like a fly I can brush away pretty quickly.  My self-esteem has gone up and I can see value in who and what I am.  I know now that I don’t have to change for anyone.  I’m OK being me.  I have family and friends who I know love me.  I may not see them as often as I would like but I know for sure they are there in times of trouble.  Just go back read my blog titled Moving Day to find out how both my family and my friends pulled together to help me.

I’m not free from depression.  I’m not sure I ever will be.  But everyone gets depressed once in a while.  I have to be aware of when my depression is justified, caused by some real and possibly fixable situation in my life, and when my depression is chemical.  The chemical depressions are the hard days.  Sometimes you just have to see them through.  Sometimes you have to talk to a friend, a family member or a professional.  Sometimes these require hospitalizations.  I have been in the hospital twice with depression.  I don’t want to go a third time.  There is no shame in needing help during these times.  Anyone who tells you there is doesn’t know what they are talking about.

I can’t stress enough that everyone begins to listen for signs of depression and possible suicide attempts.  The first part is to listen.  We all need to be heard and sometimes our own need to be heard can drown out another’s need. Listen to your friends and your family.  Don’t blow anyone off who is feeling down for whatever reason and don’t brush off their pain as something they should just “get over.”  If you don’t know what to say, acknowledge that you’ve heard them and ask what you can do to help.  If you’ve listened without interrupting you may have helped enough.

If you are having thoughts of suicide talk to somebody.  There is always someone that wants to help.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.  I used to have this on speed dial at one time.  I don’t anymore.  I am proof that things do get better.

Musicologists have found that listening to the soft rock sounds of the 1970s helps with depression.  The Carpenters, The Partridge Family, Bread, Barry Manilow and so on can help stabilize your mood.  Singing along helps even more.  I have found singing Broadway songs helps me.  Especially the music of Rodger’s Hammerstein.  My Favorite Things is my go-to song as it depicts lovely things that if you can see them as you listen or sing they cannot help but make you smile.  “Raindrops on roses, and Whiskers on Kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things.  You can’t help but see these things in your mind as you sing the words and as you do, your mood will lift, maybe only little at a time, but it will lift.

To both both those who suffer from depression and to those who know someone and want to help I want to leave you with this quote from Charles Dickens from his book Doctor Margold, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.”  For you who are hurting think of times, you have helped anyone.  You’re not useless.  If you can’t think of anyone go out and help somebody get out of your head and meet another’s need and you will feel better about yourself.  For those of you who are helping someone who is hurting emotionally, you have tremendous value and it is my hope that God blesses you for your kindness.

Moving Day

This weekend began and ended the short journey from Secane where I’ve lived most of my life to Swarthmore.  To be upfront I know moving is hard but it should have never been like this.

It started badly from the very beginning.  My friend Bill arrived on time to help me at 8 a.m. the same time the movers were to arrive.  The movers did not show up until 10:30 they were two and a half hours late.  But wait let’s backtrack.

The trouble started with the initial phone call.  I  was hiring this moving company, one I had used before, both to move me and pack for me.  The main area of packing was to be my books.  I told the person doing the intake what I had to move and I specifically stated that I had seven bookshelves filled with books.  When the packers arrived they had nowhere near the number of boxes they needed for my books.  They called for more but it took about forty-five minutes for those boxes to arrive.  In the meantime, they put my books in boxes too large for them.  More on that later.

Bill, who was devoting his day to me, only had until 4 p.m. to help me.  It was generous of him to give me eight hours.  With the movers being two and a half hours late that made the time that really needed him on the sight of my new home that much shorter.  The loading of the ruck was uneventful it was the unloading that there were major issues.

My feet and my legs are very weak.  And quickly became painful when I am standing or sitting up.  Right now, my left foot which was injured in April is throbbing as I write.  This meant I knew I had to be very specific with the boxes as they were packed so that they would end up in the room they were destined for.  So every box was labeled accordingly.  I planned to sit near the door have the movers read me what was on the boxes and then let them be placed in the right rooms.  I even labeled the books as to which shelf they were to go.  This should have been easy and clean cut.  It became chaos.

The movers were bringing four boxes in at a time.  They barely read the boxes and when they did only the box that was on top.  Some boxes that were clearly marked, they asked “where does this box marked bathroom go?”  I told them which bathroom to put it in but it ended up in the far corner of the office.

At one point I noticed a gouge in a triangular shape outside the apartment door, in the wall that had just been freshly painted.  I asked the mover if he did that and he admitted it to me.  I then asked if he was going to report it and he said he would when they checked out at the end.  I was there when they called the supervisor and the damage was not reported.  I knew I was going to have to report it myself

Bill was doing all he could to help me.  But he ended up helping them by running up and down five flights of stairs with some of the lighter things.  It was during this time that he notices something strange.  One of the movers kept disappearing.  I thought the guy was unloading the truck but it seems that was not the case.  More on this later.

Between the bedroom and office furniture as well as the boxes I became more and more confused.  The one thing I did get out was where to place my bed and dresser.  I was in the room when the dresser was placed, I was not there when the bed was placed.  I had shown the mover where the bed was to go and it was made doubly clear by where the nightstand and lamp were placed.  When I finally got the chance to look in the bedroom the bed was in the wrong spot.  Not at all being able to move the bed I had to move the nightstand and find a way to power the lamp as there are no outlets on that wall.

I felt things were moving awfully slow.  I blamed it on the elevator.  It took less than two hours to pack the truck and four and half hours to unpack it.  Bill, as I said earlier, had to leave at four but he felt bad going.  I started to tear up.  Towards five o’clock I heard an argument between the two movers taking place outside the apartment in the hallway.  The one was telling the other that he had to stop and pray.  The other one said that he shouldn’t stop now as there was still a lot to do.  The first one said that it was past dusk and he had to stop.  The other guy came into my apartment and I asked what was going and he said, “that the guy had gone to pray and it had been happening throughout the day.  That explained the disappearances.

Eventually, it ended and I was left alone.  I first went and looked in the office and almost every box was packed in the office.  I couldn’t move any of them.  Then I looked in the bedroom and saw the bed in the wrong place.  Then I looked at the box in the bathroom, which I thought was the bathroom box it turned out to be a box of linen.  It was then that I lost it.  I called my sister and was talking to my brother in law, I started to cry uncontrollably because I couldn’t do a thing by myself to straighten the mess out.  My sister and brother-in-law live in Tennessee and he couldn’t help me.  In my mind, there was no one to help me.  I couldn’t begin to figure a way out of this mess.  I sobbed hard tears and cried out to God to send someone to help.  Then as God does on occasion I heard a still small voice say, “call Rob.”

Now Rob had been my wingman on packing day making sure the boxes got labeled correctly in one room while I was in another.  Rob is the leader of the Christian men’s fellowship that I was an active member of before Covid.  I hadn’t been back to the group but Rob and I stayed in touch.

It was a short call.  Rob said he would round up a couple of guys from the group and they would be over the next night.  Then the still small voice came again and said, “Call John.”  My cousin John had given me the past three Tuesday mornings to help me move in.  He was great to me and had told me if I need him again to just call.  So I did.  John promised he would come over on Monday morning.

From then on I just did what I could.  Which wasn’t much.  When I woke up the next morning I was determined to go to church but realized the bathroom supplies were in no box that I could even see.  So I had no soap or shampoo or toothpaste.  Somehow my little men’s traveling shaving kit was where I could get to it.  I had my razer, a toothbrush, and a travel-size bottle of Pert, so I made do.  I shaved, brushed my teeth with no toothpaste, and washed my hair and my body with Pert Shampoo and Conditioner, in the long run, soap of any kind is still soap.

I went to church, unpacked some small boxes that I could handle, and at 5:00 Jerry, one of the first men to come from the men’s fellowship, arrived.  He quickly got to work by tackling the wardrobe boxes.  These were four huge boxes filled with my clothes and coats.  They had been placed in front of my closet so I thought I could empty them myself but they were all placed backward with the side that you open the box on facing my windows.  These boxes have a rack inside of them.  Had they been facing the right direction, I would have opened a panel on the box and taken the clothes, still on their hangers, and placed them in the closet.  It should have been easy but I couldn’t swing the box around.  I tried opening one box on the opposite side and the whole rack collapsed.  I couldn’t pick the clothes up at all.  Jerry, moving like the wind, had all four boxes unpacked and all the clothes in the right closets in half an hour.

At 5:30 Rob and Travis, my other volunteer arrived.  Quickly the three of them had all the boxes in the right rooms.  It was at the ned that I found my bathroom box in the far corner of the room sitting all alone.  I thought that was going to be it.  I was wrong.  Though Jerry had to leave, Travis and Rob stayed and they unpacked and filled 5 of the seven bookcases.  I struggled not to cry at the ned.  These men gave me their time and their energy.  They were good company too talking while they worked and I directed.  They were happy to help.  It was a blessing given to me by them through the grace of God.

I felt like a tone of weight was off my shoulders.  Because the boxes were in the right places I stayed up until two a.m. emptying boxes and putting stuff away.  6 a.m. I was shocked when my alarm went off but I knew John was coming and I shook off the cobwebs.  At 8:30 John and much to my surprise and delight, his brother Nick showed up.  They made quick work of the rest of the books and helped me with some other stuff.  Again another blessing.  When John and Nick left I had a home.  There were still boxes to unpack and stuff to put away and pictures to be hung but that could be done over time.

I got a call that day from the moving company asking for an evaluation of how things went.  I held back nothing. The information I relayed was sent up the chain and I got a call today from an administrative person.  He listened to the whole story and told me that he would get in touch with the building about the wall repair and I would hear back from him later today about what they would do for me.  So far I have heard nothing and the workday is winding down.  I fear I will be disappointed again.

I have been told that moving is one of the most stressful things anyone ever does.  I never felt that way before but that turned out to be true this time.  However, every black cloud has a silver lining and my silver lining is all the people who reached out to help me, the people who took time to listen to me and to support me emotionally.  These people are the stars of this show.  It is my prayer that God blesses all of those who helped me and it is also my prayer that each of you, when you hit any snag in life, that there will be good people around to help you. Jesus said, “What you did for the least of these you did for me.”

Change

I have, mostly been writing about things and people that are dear to my heart.  This time around I’m going to make a turn and write about something most people are uncomfortable with and that is change.

Before we begin, I want to be perfectly clear that every change has the opportunity to be good.  If it’s an unwanted change we can learn from it if it’s a positive change we can delight in it but we all will react to change in one form or another.  Now to be frank I don’t like change.  Almost every change in my life had come with some sort of negative aspect that I wasn’t anticipating and so I get thrown or depressed.  This has been a life long struggle but it is one I eventually conquer.

Change has been happening to my body over the last twelve or thirteen years.  It began with my legs.  I realized I had no feeling from my knees to my toes and was diagnosed with neuropathy a condition mostly found in diabetics of which I was not one.  Then both of my feet became full of arthritis and my knees followed with the same thing.  To date walking is very difficult and standing for long periods of time impossible.  It became clear that I could not work and had to drop out of the work force.

I miss working.  Working gave me purpose and a sense of meaning to my life.  Since I worked in the health field, I also felt a sense of accomplishment as I helped others become well or deal with their illnesses.  For a brief period of time, I worked in a nursing home as an assistant activities director and that job gave me great joy as I could see the good, I was doing and could use the skills I had as an actor and director. 

We are all given a number of gifts when we come into this world.  I can picture God in heaven designing each and every one of us and pouring into us from his vast store house of gifts the things we will love and the things we will be passionate about.  For me he decided on English and music, writing, and acting, directing and creating.  He gave me the heart of an artist and the temperament of one too.

I remember my experience of directing different shows but most especially the ones I did for the church.  I could literally feel God’s pleasure in me as I did my best with what he gave me for him.  Those weren’t only good times they were amazing times.

Of course, it didn’t last, a monkey wrench got thrown into the works and everything came apart.  That was the best time of my life and it seems to be over now, but I also feel like there is more in store hopefully sooner than later.

Change

Our whole lives from the moment we are born until the day we die is about change.  You can resist it all you want but it’s going to happen.  In fact, it’s safe to say that if you are not actively changing you may well be actively dying.  Because change is life.  It challenges us, it makes us learn, it forces us to find courage, it builds bridges between people and sometimes it takes down bridges and pulls people apart.  This can be good or bad.  Some people need to leave our lives.  It’s best for them and for us.  Sometimes it’s hard to let go when a dear friend needs to leave to follow his or her passion or dream but it’s exciting too, knowing that the friend is going somewhere to be the best they can be.

Sometimes people leave us and it is not in our will or good.  A dear friend and you have words and the link that has been between you is suddenly gone and you mourn that person as though they were dead, but they’re not.  They have left your life and sometimes you don’t understand at all what has happened.

Then there is the hardest leaving of all death.  I have been present at the death of many people.  Most of them because of my job.  Some of my family.  Those were hard times.  My mother’s death was the worst.  You only have one mother and when she dies it feels like all the love in the world has gone with her.  No one loves you like your mom.  No one can love you like your mom.  Eve may have been taken out of Adam but everyone else since has been taken out of Eve or out of woman.  Every birth is a miracle and every woman who has given birth knows this.

I lived with my folks for a long time.  When I got really sick I became crotchety and obnoxious. I made it a point to stay out of the way of everyone so as not do or say the wrong thing.  My mother would boldly walk in where no one else would come.  She’d feel my head and make sure I had what I needed.  My mood would not interrupt her mission.  Not long after she died, I got very sick and our dog, Lucky, came into my room jumped up on my bed and put his nose to my forehead.  He then went down and snuggled at my feet.  I felt mom was there telling me she hadn’t really left me and when I was in trouble, she would still be with me. 

Change

About two and a half months ago I knew I had to do something to make my life have some sort of purpose.  I had toyed on and off with blogs, but it never seemed to be able to stick.  This time I was bound to make it work. 

I like to write.  I started keeping a journal at a very young age because of the TV show The Waltons.  I idolized John-Boy and saw in him the person I wanted to be so I began to write.  First a journal, occasionally short stories and eventually one full length play that was performed.  Writing can be the most difficult thing to start but once you get going who knows where you’ll end up.  JRR Tolkien started by giving us a children’s book in The Hobbit but ended leaving us with a fantasy masterpiece in The Lord of the Rings.  The Lord of the Rings was crowned the most important book of the 20th century by two different polls. 

This blog has become my work.  A goal set weekly to keep me from doing nothing.  It exercises my mind and my imagination, and it is my hope that it entertains and maybe educates my readers.  It may not be deep but is real and it is honest.

Change

As the last few years have gone by I have gotten weaker in my legs.  Walking has become harder, and I am now using a cane and may have to go to a walker.  Things that used to be a joy to do are now chores because they all involve pain.

For instance, I used to love to go grocery shopping.  I loved finding the sales and looking for the best of the meat.  Finding the fresh produce was fun and when the seasonal stuff came out just the smell of a grocery store would excite me.  In April several of the metatarsal bones at the top of my foot fractured.  It took twelve weeks for them to heal but because of the arthritis the pain and the swelling won’t go away.  I am in pain with almost every step and walking around a supermarket can be agony.  Yes I can get groceries delivered but that’s not as much fun and you don’t know what you’re getting.  You must hope that the person choosing for you thinks like you do.  It doesn’t always work out that way.

Change

My weight is now out of control and I understand mentally that I must change my ways.  Back in my twenties and thirties my weight was easy to control.  I didn’t drive and public transportation, though close to where I lived, wasn’t exactly near, so I walked about a mile or so a day.  More so if SEPTA went on strike, and they did like clockwork.  After I began to drive, in my thirties, weight started to add up on me.  I would lose it and then gain more.  This has become an unhealthy pattern, and something must be done and only I can do it.  No one can lose weight for you.

I have investigated bariatric surgery where they sew up your stomach.  I know people that have done this, and it has worked well for them.  But there are a lot of things that can go wrong after surgery.  I went through the initial interviews where everything was explained out and I got terrified.  I’m going to have to lose weight the old-fashioned way taking it off pound by pound until it’s gone.  My mother, God rest her soul, did it that way and there is no reason thst I can’t.  And I really want to do it, after all, you don’t see any fat old people and I’d like to live at least a few more years.

Change

This weekend DC comics announced that my favorite character, Superman, would have a new motto.  After 80 years of “Truth, Justice, and The American Way,” It would now be “Truth, Justice and a Better Tomorrow.”  I didn’t want to hear that.  I liked the old motto; it was a comfort to me.  It held dear the things that I held dear.  Why change it?  As a Christian I would have preferred a change that said, “Truth Justice and Mercy,” because that seems to me to be the message that the God of the Old and New Testaments is all about.  It would have reflected the core of my own beliefs.  I thought the new motto sounded very Disney.  After all you can’t go into a Disney Park and not be made very aware of what the world should be like and as much as Walt was an entertainer, he was also a futurist hoping to design and be part of all the latest in technology.  The song It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow rings throughout Magic Kingdom.  But where does Superman fit into tomorrow.  I think Superman is a bringer of light to a dark world.  He brings hope.  He makes every kid who feels like he’s Clark Kent know that there is something special about him.  That underneath he can be Superman.  I think Superman brings hope in hope can come a better tomorrow.

Change

Recently I found out that I would have to move.  The reasons don’t matter but moving is a monumental task and even more so now.

Five years ago, when I last moved, I could do so much more for myself than I can now.  I could gather boxes and load up and drive car loads full of them to where I was going.  I may be remembering wrong, but I think I moved all of my books and the shelves that come apart all by myself leaving not a lot for the movers to do.   Now I can’t even get the boxes.  Having to use a cane makes carrying stuff difficult, even empty boxes and I don’t do well on my feet because of the issues with my legs.  I’m going to need a lot of help with just the move.

Looking for an apartment has been no joy either.  Because I am disabled finding a building I can get into has been almost impossible.  Every place seems to have steps.  I did see one place where it looked really easy to get into, but the building was run down and dirty, it didn’t look like a very nice place to live so I passed on that.  There are a lot of second floor apartments with beautiful space but nothing with an elevator, so it won’t work.  They say moving in one of the top stressors of life and I believe it is, but it’s compounded by so little choice of where I can live.

Change

Change, we all go through it and ultimately it is good for us.  Change stretches our minds and our bodies.  We find we can learn, and we can adapt if we allow change to have its way.  We bend but we don’t break.  Change can even be fun.  Moving is tough and there is a lot I am not looking forward to, but I enjoy sorting through my belongings and thinning things out.  I like to organize and pack.  When the mover do come they will find me more than ready and the day will go smoothly.  Even losing weight can be fun as I find new foods to enjoy as I give up the stuff that does me no good.

I stated earlier in this missive that change is a part of life and if we aren’t actively changing we are actively dying.  And what is death if not change.  It is the change we have no control over and it is the change most people fear more than any other.  To end this I quote from from the Broadway musical Mame “LIVE LIVE LIVE, Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  Or is it  CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE, Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.  To live is to change.