Monday, March 24, 2008

A Couple of Smart Alecks Discuss 60s Rock Stars

Well, dear hearts,
It's the day after Easter. We made it through Holy Week. I took the coward's way out and didn't attend any of the Holy Week services. The week before I overdid and suffered a mini-relapse of the mono tiredness, so now I'm back to napping or at least lying down in the afternoon for a while, and trying to remember that if I don't take care of me, no one will.
The latest essay is about a new friend I have made via the internet, Susan Bardwell. She writes a column (among other things) for The Angleton Journal, an online publication...well, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
The Angleton Journal publishes on Mondays, and I just read Susan's column and found that we both told the story about how we became friends this time. I, being a coward, quoted her extensively in my column; she, being a Real Journalist, did not quote me, although I noticed my name is spelled wrong.
Oh well. Years of newspaper articles and funny checks have taught me to be tolerant of misspellings of the name. I always said I married Rick so that it would take less time to misspell my last name(Tuel), but then I ended up pretty much keeping my maiden name (Litchfield), so the opportunities for spelling errors abound. It's OK. Hear me, Susan? IT'S OK. Life improved so much after the "Richfield" gas stations went away that I don't care anymore. Up until then I spent a lot of time telling people, "Litchfield, with an 'L.'" As in la la la.
So, for a good time, check out Susan's column. Web link included in my essay. I don't know if it will post as a weblink - you might have to copy and paste the address. It's worth the effort. She's fun.
Sometimes I wonder why Texas looms so large in my life. My mother was born in Texas (Corsicana) and grew up there (El Paso). I've never been there myself, but I know I have relatives there whom I've never met, and I have friends there and friends from there. I'm going to have to go someday. The farthest south I've ever been is Albuquerque (yes, Peter and Trylla, I mean to go there again, too).
I've been singing this morning, playing guitar, working out chords to a song I wrote 24 years ago that changes from G to A flat in the last verse, and every time I play it I have to figure out the chords for the last verse anew. I only performed it once in public, on piano, and didn't change key. It's a good song. You'll hear it someday. Then I moved to the piano and sang a couple of airs from "The Messiah," alto pieces and one soprano piece to stretch the lazy vocal cords a bit.
Also took the dog for a short walk this morning, about halfway down the incredibly steep hill that comes up to our neighborhood and back up. He ate a lot of grass. I called him a lot of names because he kept getting tangled up in the leash and getting me tangled up in the leash.
And right now I'm going to go have lunch, a bean soup that was supposed to be chili but isn't.
Bean Soup that isn't Chili
Put 2 T. olive oil in a cast iron skillet, turn on low - medium.
Chop up an onion and saute it in the oil until it is transparent and limp.
Add one-two pounds of ground beef or turkey (mine was beef) and fry on medium, stirring the while, until meat is all crumbly and brown.
Season with one tablespoon of chili powder and two teaspoons of cumin, and mix.
Now you can do whatever you want with the meat/onion/spice mixture. The first night I made tacos. But to make the soup:
Put the leftover meat/onion/spice mixture into a soup pot. Add:
1 can of kidney or black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
2 small cans diced tomatoes (no flavoring)
1 can of water, or as much as needed to make it all liquid
Stir, heat, and eat. Gets better as the hours go by. I ate mine with Solenas tortilla chips and little chunks of avocado.
Life is so damn good.
My friend Alice is having surgery today; it's serious. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.
blessings & love & hugs & grace & peace

A Couple of Smart Alecks Discuss 60s Rock Stars

One of the great things about the internet, besides keeping in touch with friends and family far away, is making new friends whom you might not have met otherwise.
The last few months I’ve had a crackin’ good correspondence with a woman named Susan Bardwell, a writer who lives down in Angleton, Texas. She is a friend of Laurie Heath, who is the daughter of David and Jane Shepherd, who were my sons’ band and first grade teachers, respectively.
Dave and Jane thought that I might enjoy reading Susan’s stuff, so they gave me the link to her column in the Angleton Journal, an online publication that Susan and her husband Micheal put out down in Angleton, Texas. And yes, that is the way Micheal’s name is spelled, and yes, I do enjoy her stuff, and you will, too. Here’s the web page address:
Scroll down to Susan’s smilin’ face, next to which you’ll see her byline, S.K. Bardwell. Click, read, and enjoy.
Besides being smart aleck writers, we are close enough in age to compare and contrast cultural icons. I mentioned that I used to dance to Grace Slick’s original band, The Great Society, in San Francisco during the summer of 1966, and I didn’t think Grace Slick was that slick of a singer.
Susan wrote: “What I remember most vividly about Grace Slick was seeing her on a televised New Year's Eve concert many years ago…It was awful, I was embarrassed for her. Her voice was OK, but never struck me as being awesome, and evidently it didn't hold up well. Janis (Joplin), of course, is still big in Texas. Beaumont, which was evidently quite glad to see her leave when her career started, has a statue of her now. I never was mad about her, and I didn't care much for Jim Morrison, either. Loved Hendrix but when he died, I was just kind of put out - couldn't someone teach classes to these people on how to do your drugs without dying?
“The only star I ever wept for was John Lennon. “
Mary replied: “Grace Slick never was that great a singer, I thought, so I suppose it's not a surprise that she isn't one now. Janis Joplin: maybe you had to be there. Recordings never captured the power of her live performances. I've never seen anyone more electric. Jim Morrison: another electrifying performer (I saw The Doors at the Avalon just before their first single, “Break On Through to the Other Side” hit the charts), but as a person he was kind of an oaf, and I enjoyed the hits but never loved him like I loved Janis. I still don't get why so many people thought he was a great poet. I thought he was a legend in his own mind, and a lot of people bought it for some reason.
“Hendrix - a freakin' guitar genius. Saw him at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, when he returned from England and began his conquest of the states. The most delicious part of that came years later when I was watching the video Monterey Pop with my two sons, and Hendrix's performance came on, and when it got to the part where he put the guitar on the floor and set it on fire, I said, ‘I missed this part because everyone jumped up on the chairs and I didn't move fast enough, so I was stuck on the ground looking at everyone's back.’ My sons' two heads swiveled around and they stared at me goggle-eyed, and one of them said, ‘You were there?’ Well, yeah, I was.”
That was one of the sweeter moments of parenthood.
John Lennon – ah, what a loss. I could weep still. There is nothing I can say beyond that. So I’ll stop there.
If you want to know how Dave and Jane Shepherd are doing down in Hollywood as Jane pursues her acting career, check their blog:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Easter at Last

Well, kids,
The name of the latest essay is "Easter at Last," but it isn't Easter yet. In fact, tomorrow (as I type this) is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, the great annual trek through Christ's return to Jerusalem, his betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection. It's a roller coaster ride, and the focus for most of the week is on his betrayal and death. By the time you get to Easter, if you do it all, every service of the week, you're pretty exhausted, quite frankly, or so it has been for me as a choir member.
This winter has been a long lesson in not doing anything, and I'm not "doing" Holy Week this year - not all of it, anyway. Although as I say that I realize that each day I'm liable to think, "Well, I'll go to tonight's service." And maybe I will. I'm just not going to feel obligated to drag my sorry butt to church regardless of all circumstances.
My friends Becky and Tara wanted to take me to England this May to celebrate my sixtieth birthday, but at this point I feel sure I'm not going. I don't have the stamina to do all the walking, shopping, and "doing" that would require, and I see no sense in spending a lot of money to go to England and then be too tired to leave the B&B. What's the point?
And Rick and I were talking today, and I remembered that I've always thought I'd go to Europe with him, to visit Kaiserslautern in Germany and Salzburg in Austria and Rome in Italy, all places where he lived or visited when his dad was in the Army 40 and 50 years ago. Rick says he'd like to sail across the Atlantic one more time (standard travel arrangements for military dependents back in the day). So I'm going to look up what sort of steamers might take passengers to Europe and how much that costs. And I will tell Rick he can't break into the lifeboats and eat the emergency rations, like he did when he was a kid. A lot of that stuff, he says, dated from World War II, and had lost some of its zing, but he and his buddies were kids and ate it anyway.
I'm not terribly proud of this essay - it was past deadline and I needed to write something, to be honest, and this is it. Sorry. But for what it's worth, here it is. All the usual blessings & love to you.

Easter at Last

In the Christian Church, Lent is a time of preparation for the resurrection of Christ. The celebration of that resurrection is called Easter, which was named after Eostre, or Eastre, the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe, according to The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE) a Christian scholar, in his book De Ratione Temporum. “Eastre” was also the ancient word for spring.
We observe Easter in the spring, when all of nature is beginning to throw her annual bash of blooming, pollinating, fruiting, mating, birthing, and bringing the young to maturity. There will be time enough to sleep in the fall. Right now it’s all life, all the time, thrusting and grunting like characters in a romance novel.
It is a time of year (at least in the northern hemisphere, so apologies to my readers in Oz where autumn is closing in fast) when you can’t miss the metaphor of life reborn out of death. Everything that is dull and brown and looks dead becomes lively and green and in some cases downright aggressive.
I’ve been out in the garden a bit the last few weeks, whacking back the brown stalks left over from last year’s abundance. I’m in a new house which I know has a delightful garden, and we moved in after last summer’s blooms had gone so this year is a time of discovery and surprise.
The heather and primroses by the sidewalk welcome us when we come home. Today I saw three daffodils and one grape hyacinth in bloom, and the big hyacinths are coloring up fast. I’m finding roses I didn’t know were there.
I thank Reva Sparkes, the owner of the house, for planting this wonderful garden, and her gardener, Shirley Burton, for tending it. There are bulbs coming up, and wallflowers, bugleweed, rose of Sharon, columbine, daisies, rhodies, lavender, and a lot of plants of which I do not know the names. Shrubs and trees are covered with buds that are about to burst. It’s going to be a riot around here in a few weeks. Reva says that when the lilies in the pots on the back deck bloom, I’m not going to believe the beauty.
I’m not much of a gardener myself, though not from lack of loving gardens. I’ve always enjoyed gardening in the abstract: reading about it, thinking about it, buying seeds, and dreaming of displays that look like the photos. But gardening, like housework, is something I do in a sporadic fashion. Usually my mind is on something other than the inside or outside chores. I was one of those kids in school of whom teachers wrote on the report card, “Daydreams a lot.”
I’m grateful to still be here.
I’m grateful for all the good in people’s hearts that shows up when you most need it.
I’m grateful that the stone that sealed the tomb was rolled aside, showing us that our perception that death is permanent is an illusion: look, here is life again.
I’m grateful for this beautiful garden to which I’ve come.
I’m grateful for my own returning health after a long winter of not being able to do much (mononucleosis; thanks for asking. And no, I did not have any fun getting it).
I’m grateful for my good heart, and for your good heart. This beautiful world can be mean and cruel, but we are here to walk through it together.
It’s Spring. Here is life again, my friends, here is Easter at last. Now let’s get out there and live.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Your Cheatin' Heart Will Tell on You

Dear Hearts and Gentle People,
It’s getting to be spring, and my next entry will talk about that, but right now we’re having rain, wind, and sun, in no particular order, but changing very swiftly from one to the other, and if that ain’t spring I don’t know what is.
The good news is that my latest angiogram showed very little heart disease. My meds have been adjusted, and so far the chest pains have been in abeyance, maybe even because the angiogram looked so good. I had the procedure a week ago yesterday, and I’m hoping the bruise will go away someday. You haven’t lived until your whole thigh has turned purple.
It seems like a lot of my friends (and I) are dealing with the attrition of advancing age. Damn it.
But before we discuss mortality much more, here’s another Lenten meditation based on a hard story from the Book of Acts. The most pleasing feedback I’ve had on this piece is, “I’d read the Bible more if you had written it.” Fortunately the canon has been closed since the 4th century or so, and I will be spared for other endeavors, like essays, letters, emails, and maybe even a romance novel. We’ll see.
Read on.

Your Cheatin’ Heart Will Tell On You*

Continuing a Lenten study: The Fifth Chapter of Acts.
After Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and taken up to heaven, the Jewish sect of his followers was growing fast. Some people were selling pieces of land and giving the money to the disciples. Apparently discipleship didn’t pay any better then than it does now.
Well, Ananias (not the Ananias who laid hands on Saul/Paul. Another Ananias) and his wife Sapphira sold some land, but they decided to keep part of the proceeds for themselves, and give the rest to the disciples.
When Ananias brought the money to Peter, Peter said, “Ananias, you low life, double dealing, shekel sucking scum – why did you listen to Satan and lie to God?”
Ananias, upon hearing this, fell down and died. A few young guy disciples carried him out and buried him. This is told so matter-of-factly, you wonder if it didn’t happen all the time. “Oh, look. Someone else died. Better take him out and bury him.”
Sapphira, waiting at home, was wondering where Ananias was, and went around to Peter’s house to make inquiries.
Peter asked Sapphira a trick question: “Did you sell your land for such and such a price?” “Why, yes,” answered Sapphira, for that was what she and her husband had agreed to tell Peter. This was the wrong answer.
“Sapphira,” said Peter, “How dare you? You and your husband are a couple of scheming liars. Look, here come the guys who buried Ananias, and they’ll bury you, too.” And Sapphira fell down dead, and the boys carried her away and buried her, too.
Moral: Lying to God = Death. Being honest with God = Life.
I would like to see this done as a CSI episode. The bodies of Ananias and Sapphira are discovered by a passing pita vendor who spots a foot sticking out of a hastily dug shallow grave. The authorities are called in, in this case a top notch team of Roman forensic specialists who study the bodies for clues as to the manner of their demise. They find no wounds, no signs of illness or poisoning, but they look around and find a trail of fresh dirt that leads to Peter’s house.
They question Peter, who tells them that Ananias and Sapphira lied to God, and as a consequence were struck dead. The Romans are flummoxed. They have no evidence to pin the killings on anyone, and have to come in with a verdict of “death by God.” Not being Jews and having no knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, they are unaware of God’s long history as a serial smiter, but they can’t come up with any other answer. They close the case, shaking their heads, and go back to other more earthly investigations, except one who takes early retirement and moves to an island out in the Mediterranean, where he strolls the shore every day, occasionally picking up an empty sea shell and asking, “And you? What killed you? Was it God? Ha ha ha.”
Seriously, folks, the story of Ananias and Sapphira packs a heck of a punch, whether you take it as a literal story of what happened to two people who thought they could look righteous while making a tidy profit, or as a metaphor for what happens when you don’t turn your life over completely to God (your higher power, truth, reality, or, insert your label here: ___).
People get away with stuff all the time in this physical world, and have no regrets or remorse until and unless they get caught. When it comes to the accounting of your own soul, you can’t cook the books and get away with it. In the bigger reality, there are no secrets, and you can’t get away with lying. Pretty scary, huh? Yeah. That’s why God wins so few popularity contests.
*Your Cheating Heart, by Hank Williams. © 1952 by Fred Rose Music, Inc.