Waitin' on a sunny day

I recently realized I'm a glass-half-full person and a glass-half-empty person at the same time. I can never make my mind up or pick a side for very long; I'm too easily distracted by arguments that sound like sage advice or by anything that makes me laugh. Like a dog chasing a frisbee, my mind goes, sure! I'll follow! It's a good thing I'm immune to doomsday cults and religious crackpots, because in a lot of ways I'm a prime target for both.

As a rule then I would say the glass has some unspecified shit in it, so you should look before you drink. Also: things can always get worse. But I don't know what constant despair gets you, except more despair. Be better than that. Aim a little higher. Be both hopeful and terrified. Be confident and dubious. Be good and a little mean.

Since Bruce was a big part of my emotional year, I'll say adios to this one with him. May we all be rich and contented rock stars in 2017, with the people we love most by our sides.

On going home again

I took my parents out to dinner last week, to a dark and dingy small-town burger bar on a regular old Wednesday night, and halfway through the meal a group of 8–10 people entered, wearing ski clothes. They rearranged the tables so they could all sit together, then they ordered their food and drank their beer. They didn't look glamorous or particularly stylish, they weren't snobs to the waitress, and they didn't call attention to themselves apart from the seating kerfuffle. The minute they walked through the door, though, my mother and I both pulled in and up, like something tight and rigid had shot a wire straight up our spines. Instinctively we lowered our voices. My father didn't even turn around, he just glanced at my mother and said, "They're rich, aren't they?"

Of course. We knew without knowing. The air in the room had changed.

Just One God

Three years ago I posted a poem here, about regret, that cost me a friendship. I still have no idea why, thus I learned zero lessons and had no regrets. Which it turns out is called “life.” So Merry Christmas, my little gingersnaps! Here's looking at you in '17.

And so many of us.
How can we expect Him
to keep track of which voice
goes with what request.
Words work their way skyward.
Oh Lord, followed by petition —
for a cure, the safe landing.
For what is lost, missing —
a spouse, a job, the final game.
Complaint cloaked as need —
the faster car, porcelain teeth.
That so many entreaties
go unanswered
may say less about our lamentable
inability to be heard
than our inherent flawed condition.

Why else, at birth, the first sound
we make, that full-throttled cry?
Of want, want, want.
Of never enough. Desire
as embedded in us as the ancestral tug
in my unconscienced dog who takes
to the woods, nose to the ground, pulled far
from domesticated hearth, bowl of kibble.
Left behind, I go about my superior business,
my daily ritual I could call prayer.

But look, this morning, in my kitchen,
I’m not asking for more of anything.
My husband slices bread,
hums a tune from our past.
Eggs spatter in a skillet.
Wands of lilac I stuck in a glass
by the open window wobble
in a radiant and — dare I say it?—
merciful light.

– "Just One God," by Deborah Cummins

First snow

I woke up giddy as a schoolgirl! The paper had arrived early (and wet) and I went down the block to get a bagel. It was still dark out, and there were hardly any cars around and nobody was hollering or barking or honking, and the air was soft and the snow made that sound when it hit my coat, that brush brush brush sound, and the lady at the counter gave me a free coffee. This town, I tell ya. Small miracles abound.

We can’t return, we can only look

Did you watch "The Dick Van Dyke Show in color" double-header on CBS last night? It was deeply weird but lovely: weird as in—as with all things colorized—all things look like they're carved out of chalk. There's no luster, no surface; it's all matte and putty. Lovely as in: it's The Dick Van Dyke Show in primetime on CBS! Come on...

p.s.1: thoughts from Ken Levine that have nothing to do with color:

But the truth is, they knew how to tell stories, they knew how to set things up to payoff big, they knew how to find funny situations along the way, they knew how to surprise you, they knew to get laughs from universal situations, and they knew how to get laughs from attitudes not formula “jokes”. (The Matt LeBlanc promo featured a hemorrhoid ring joke. Ha ha.) The comedy celebrated humanity. It was uplifting, not mean, not snarky, not smarmy. 

p.s.2: Sundance has started playing classic TV shows on weekdays: M*A*S*H, All In The Family, The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Andy Griffith Show. I canceled my cable subscription right after the election (screw you, CNN!) but signed up for Playstation Vue after realizing I actually do like to watch TV. Sadly the package I selected includes CNN by default, but I pretend not to notice. I watch Hawkeye and Trapper and Hot Lips and Bob and Emily and Carol and Mary and Rhoda and Lou and Andy and Barney and Opie instead. Everybody feels like they're winning.

Doing the math

Let's suppose it's true that the next president of the United States has the power to reshape the Supreme Court for a generation

"How long is 'a generation'?" you ask. According to this ScienceBlogs website that I found by googling "What is a generation," the answer is 25 years. The hour is late, so I consulted no other sources. 25 years it is.

I am 46 years old. I will be 47 years old when the next president of the United States takes office.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my neck at an unforgiving angle, either in the mirror or in a photo, and I want to close my eyes—just for a second! for half a second!—and weep.

Let's be generous and assume I will make it to age 90. (Way to go, Hot Dog!) This means I would live 43 additional years following the inauguration of the next president of the United States. Those 43 years will be seven years shy of two full generations, which means I'm likely to die under the auspices of many decisions made by the next president's appointed generation of Supreme Court justices. ("Justici"? Start that rumor.)

Noted left-wing hotbed internet paper of record Salon posits that the next president of the United States could appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. FOUR. That's nearly half the deck.

This is probably bad news for a wide-eyed, thin-skinned, east coast elitist liberal feminist like me, who believes in abortion rights and voting rights and LGBTQ rights and public-sector unions and gun control and the separation of church and state.

Here's what Nora Ephron had to say about necks: "You can put makeup on your face and concealer under your eyes and dye on your hair, you can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there's not a damn thing you can do about a neck. The neck is a dead giveaway. Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth."

Remember that episode of The West Wing, called "The Short List," where President Bartlet nominates Admiral Adama ("Roberto Mendoza") for an opening on the Supreme Court after rejecting The White Shadow? At one point, while Jed is still on the fence, Sam Seaborn tells him this: "It's not just about abortion, it's about the next 20 years. The '20s and '30s it was the role of government, the '50s and '60s it was civil rights, the next two decades are going to be privacy. I'm talking about the internet. I'm talking about cell phones. I'm talking about health records and who's gay and who's not. Moreover, in a country born on the will to be free, what could be more fundamental than this?"

This is from a post at Recode, right after the election: "Donald Trump doesn’t like encryption. He threatened to call for a boycott of Apple products because they wouldn’t undermine the encryption on the iPhone. Trump also loves surveillance. When he was a candidate, he said he wanted to place mosques under U.S. surveillance and create a national database to track Muslims. He is also in favor of NSA mass surveillance. And on the topic of hacking his enemies, Trump said, “I wish I had that power. Man, that would be power.” As president, he will have that power."

Nora Ephron again: "Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever's writing it says it's great to be old. It's great to be wise and sage and mellow; it's great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can't stand people who say things like this. What can they be thinking? Don't they have necks?"

Last weekend I listened to the Recode Media podcast interview with Bob Lefsetz, a music industry writer who is a bit of a crank and/or hothead, in both written and podcast form. He's a smart guy, though, and he calls ’em like he sees ’em, and at one point, when they discuss the election, he says something like "the Supreme Court for the rest of my lifetime is fucked." At first I swept right by that—thinking it was hyperbole, as most things are—but it isn't. This is a man in his sixties. It's the truth, likely for him and likely for me.

But the world doesn't end with his lifetime, or with mine.

It's possible the universe has 10 times more galaxies than we thought...and over a trillion trillion stars.

Nothing Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with exactly the same kisses.

One day, perhaps, some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

— Wisława Szymborska (translated from the Polish by Stanisław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Some old dreams: watching “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened”

Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince... Who else could have been in that room? Christ and Moses?!
— Jason Alexander

The terribly titled but profoundly rewarding Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened is a study of anticipation and disappointment, youth and aging, triumph and loss. A documentary detailing the original Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along, a notoriously troubled—and now much beloved—musical written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth and directed by Hal Prince, it moves from conception to casting to rehearsals to previews to opening night and then closing night...after only 16 performances. In the course of months, lives were changed. Careers were shaken and thrown off track just as they were starting. Hopes died, partnerships ended. ET CETERA. That’s show business.

Director Lonny Price (who won the role of Charley Kringas at the ripe old age of 22) laces the film with behind-the-scenes footage and recent interviews with many of the principals (Furth died in 2008). We see the actors 35 years ago as children, some of them, on Broadway for the first time, and now in middle age, still touched by the luck of the lightning that struck them and then, in most cases, moved on—the primary exception being, obviously, Jason Alexander. They gather at the end on the same stage where the show ran (now the Neil Simon, then the Alvin), and wonder what might have been.

We see the show’s creators, veritable theater gods at the height of their power and fame, who had a long way to fall before rising again. (It's okay: there was Sunday in the Park with George for one and POTO for the other, and many more, although they never collaborated together again.)

And ultimately what we see is that everybody dreams and everybody fails—even our heroes, as one actress remarks of Sondheim and Prince. We reach and we stumble and then we stand up once more. What else is there to do? There are no perfect endings, even in art, but the joy born here lives on and on.