Tuesday, November 26, 2019

...what kind of memory we'll be...a Thanksgiving Blog


When I write songs, I frequently foreshadow things to come. Lyrics have not just become more potent over time, but it’s as if I write things I somehow know I’m going to need to hear later on. This phenomenon still surprises me, even though it’s been going on for eons now.

A few years ago, when I was writing songs for my upcoming record, I went to see Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, which was in previews at the time. By intermission, I looked at my friend, Anthony and said, “There hasn’t been a good song about friendship in a really long time. We should write one.” So Anthony and I started to write a song with my friend, Tanya, who was producing the album.

I thought I knew a lot about friendship with each of them and their spouses. Heck, my friendship with each pre-dated their spouses. I thought I understood, not just the good times, the dinners, the laughter, the happier moments, but the loss of parents, the items salvaged in the aftermath of floods, the holidays shared, the highs and lows of careers and personal choices. I thought I understood the depth of what friendship could be, at its best.

I really had no clue. The lyrics to “Friends Like Me and You” were a nice sentiment when we wrote them, until they became the truth, word for word.

Five weeks ago, I felt myself losing not only blood, but the battle for consciousness, too. It happened quickly. It was unexpected, and as with things that catch us off-guard, I didn’t realize the extent of the situation I was in, until it was critical.

There’s a lot I do not remember now or just plain wasn’t conscious for, but I do remember hearing, whether psychically or physically, Tanya’s husband, Arnie shouting, “Call 9-1-1!”

I did.

Anthony and Renato got to my house before the ambulance did.

Renato stayed with my 91 year old father, while Anthony rode with me in the ambulance. It was a bumpy ride I never imagined myself taking.

When we got to the emergency room, Tanya was there. I do not want to know how she got there in that short time. I’m sure there were guardian angels involved and a lack of proper law enforcement on the highways.

Tanya and Anthony stayed with me all day and into the night, through emergency surgery and blood transfusions. They updated my father, reached out to my brother in California and my closest circle of friends, whose prayers and help were both necessary and appreciated.

My friends did everything I needed, from laundry and meals in the days to come, to rides, groceries, doctor visits, keeping company, handholding, you name it.

Suddenly I understood the lyrics to my own song, “…when the chill took hold and my strength was gone, you carried me till I could carry on, cause that’s what true friends do, friends like me and you.”

All of us will become memories to others in days ahead. I look at my friends and they are forever etched in my memory as the people who showed up, whose compassion and love outweighed convenience and whatever else they could have been doing at the moment I needed them most.

My health is improving every day, and my gratitude has never been greater.

Traditionally, I write a Thanksgiving blog and end it with a laundry list, in no particular order, of whatever pops into my mind that I’m grateful for at the moment. So here are just some of the things that come to mind this Thanksgiving…

I am grateful for…

Life. Being right here, right now.

Hugs.

My family.

Dreams that have come true, and those that haven’t.

Musical theater, cause I believe life is best lived with outbursts of song and dance.

Nourishment for my body, mind, and soul.

Natural beauty, like sunsets, and autumn foliage in New England, and mountains no human could have conjured, let alone carved.

Books.

Puppies and babies.

Jokes that make me laugh till my sides hurt.

Unexpected opportunities.

Three-part harmony.

Clean drinking water.

Time spent with people I love.

Football. Okay, that one was just to see if you were still paying attention. I am not the slightest bit grateful for football.

Kindness, compassion, and mercy.

Gut instincts, flashes of inspiration, and knowing when to listen to both.

Friends like me and you, both the song and the actual friends…


Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, I hope you find yourself being a beautiful memory for those around you.

Thank you for stopping by and for sharing a few minutes of your life with me.

Peace and riches blessings to you,

Ilene

#friends, #friendslikemeandyou, #songwriters, #singersongwriters, #kennyloggins, #duet

Saturday, August 10, 2019

...what we hold onto

I’ve been cleaning out my house a la Marie Kondo for quite some time now, largely because I’ve been going in her order of things and haven’t gotten past books and papers. Being a writer and musician, books and papers comprise much of what I own. 

So there I was last night, grabbing a stack of folders I had diligently organized a long time ago and had never looked at again since. 

Most of the folders contained contracts and old royalty statements, so I really wasn’t emotionally caught up in the cleaning out. I was just trying to determine if there was something I would ever need to refer to again. And I was being rather blasé about the whole thing.

Next up was a folder of letters. Letters I had sent with accompanying cassette tapes in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Letters sent on my behalf with accompanying cassette tapes or later, CD’s. Letters asking for meetings or telling me to try contacting so and so. Letters in reply to all those efforts, signaling a hard pass, which is putting it mildly. People who are interested usually call, so the paper trail I was left with was proof positive of, well, my failures. 

I suppose I could take solace in the knowledge that most of these people are dead now, but even that provided little comfort, just momentary amusement.

I’m someone who doesn’t much believe in coincidences or happenstance. I’m more of a meant to be in this time and place kind of gal. 

So what did it say about me that I kept 30 year old rejection letters? And why was I finding them now

I was simultaneously reminded of a person and a time from which I felt far removed, while having a knee-jerk reaction of the disappointment I felt when I initially received each one of those letters. 

No matter how far we’ve come in life, I think there are moments that catch us off-guard and grant us the opportunity both to grieve and to acknowledge. 

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this wasn’t 1988 or I’d still be a size 6, in my twenties, with zero sense of self-worth and no idea that I looked that hot. 

I took a moment to think about what I wanted to tell younger version of myself. 

First, I thanked her for having the strength and fortitude to stay with it when there seemed to be no earthly reason to do so. The kind of perseverance it took to do that for the decades it took to finally have a freakin’ hit song is the stuff of Olympic capability. 

I believe things play out the way they are supposed to. I wish I could have known what I brought to the table sooner, chased less, enjoyed more. I wish I could have had more fun and taken myself and the music business a whole lot less seriously. I couldn’t. 

It took me a long time to laugh. It took forever for me to understand that I could write hooky mindless dribble that made money and still write what my soul was put on earth to do. Things can coexist. I wish I knew that then. 

I can’t remember why I held on to all those rejection letters, if it was to say, “Fuck you, I did it!” when I finally did, or maybe just to torture myself with some self-doubt for a lot of years until I’d had enough. Either way, last night, I decided it was time to officially let it go. 

These days, I don’t remind myself of what saddened or hurt me, but rather what I’ve accomplished and what there is to celebrate. I don’t have to wonder if I will ever…fill in the blank. I already did a lot of those things, and truth be told, many weren’t what they were cracked up to be, which was also part of the lesson. 

These days, my fulfillment is in the moments shared person to person, soul to soul, song to song. 

And I would tell my younger self, “Be mindful of what you choose to hold onto. Let it be what was triumphant, joy-filled, and magnificent about the journey.”

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

10th Anniversary Top Blog Countdown: The Kenny Loggins Blog


Things seldom happen for the reasons we initially think. There is usually a deeper meaning, a greater purpose, and if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from it, a lesson.

Such was the case with this blog, which began as a true, funny, and kind of sad story I told my friends one night. That was the night before I decided to tell the rest of the world.

“The Kenny Loggins Blog” remains the record holder for the most hits in my ten years of blogging, because, well, it turns out that rock stars are popular. 

I hope you enjoy it, and that it encourages you to be brave and know you are enough.

Thanks for taking the time to read it!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…The Kenny Loggins Blog 

The Kenny Loggins Blog

Originally published…Saturday, September 29, 2012

I recently paid a psychic sixty dollars to tell me in a phone session that (wait for it)…I’m a writer! While that should come as no big surprise to, say, you, or the people who read The Huffington Post, or anyone who came to my book signing, why quibble about it? The guy was good. And I must have needed the validation because we writers are fraught with self-doubt.

My freshman year in college, my English Comp. professor called me into her office for a meeting. I was a music major and I wanted to perform on large stages for huge audiences. (I’m a Leo – self-explanatory.) My professor valiantly tried to persuade me that I should switch majors to writing, but I wanted no part of it. It didn’t even dawn on me that while I was busy crafting pop songs in the practice rooms at Northwestern, instead of actually, say, practicing, I was already writing. When you’re 18, no one can tell you anything. So here I sit, years later, certain of very little in life other than the fact that, regardless of what form it takes, evidently, I’m a writer.

Here’s the thing about that, though – I had no idea that my life would become the fodder from which I would cull entertaining tales. And I definitely could not have foreseen that those tales would almost always stem from my most embarrassing exploits, complete with the requisite blow by blow of what was running through my mind the entire time.

I’m not talking about spinach in your teeth embarrassing, either. No, I mean the stuff which, in solitary moments, might and possibly has made me feel incredibly foolish or even made me cry – and on many occasions, both. That kind of sharing requires a particular brand of insanity…or genius, as the case may be, though the psychic on the phone said nothing to me about being a genius.

And that brings us to Kenny Loggins…almost.

If you’re new to this blog, well, first, thanks for stopping by and please tell your friends. And second, you should know that the blog began as a means of gaining a following for my book: In Search of George Stephanopoulos – a True Story of Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Short Greek Guy.

The genesis for the book was a series of bad blind dates I was going on that coincided with (the then single) George Stephanopoulos being on every “most eligible bachelor” list.

On paper, I had more in common with George Stephanopoulos than any of the men I was dating…which begged the question, if only in my mind, why not George? (I promise this will all tie in later to Kenny Loggins, so keep reading.)

And thus began the tale of how a struggling songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee set out to meet the former White House aide turned anchor of Good Morning America, while still managing to simultaneously pursue a music career.

If there is a theme to take away from the book, I hope it is that boldly following your heart and your dreams will reward you in unimaginable ways…and also that the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game is no joke. I put it to the test and it worked. (Not with Kevin Bacon, obviously, but with George Stephanopoulos.)

And now we’re finally up to the part about Kenny Loggins…

It all started a few months ago, when, after having moved back to New York to look after my father, I was missing Nashville and the unique songwriting community that exists there and only there.

I’m not exactly sure where online it was brought to my attention, but I read that two of my favorite Nashville singer/songwriters, Georgia Middleman and Gary Burr, had formed a new band – with Kenny Loggins. And as a way of introducing the new band to an audience they might appeal to, they would be opening for Kenny’s solo shows. Splendid. I looked up the tour dates and sure enough, they were heading to New York in July. Now I just needed to decide if I was able and willing to shell out the price of admission to a Kenny Loggins concert. (I type this now from my really nice couch that my own #1 song got me, but as for oodles of disposable income for things like concert tickets, not so much, I’m afraid.)

So I did the next logical thing, which was refer to my CD collection. Did I even own any Kenny Loggins music? Of course, I did. How could any self-respecting songwriter not own something of his? So I gave the greatest hits CD a listen. Jesus, he’s good looking, I thought, glancing at the cover of the Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow CD.

I listened. I had forgotten how much I loved these songs. I had forgotten that there was a time when songs as meaningful as “Conviction of the Heart” and “The Real Thing” could top the pop charts. I began to remember why I wanted to be a songwriter in the first place. Screw it, I bought the concert ticket.

On the designated evening, I got in my trusty Subaru and headed for Peekskill. The opening act was just what I’d hoped it would be – that marriage of great songwriting craft and emotional oomph. (Is “oomph” even a real word?)

Anyway, I said hi to my Nashville acquaintances in the lobby during intermission and then went back to my seat for the Kenny Loggins solo portion of the show. I looked around at the audience, which was mostly older than me. But what they may have lacked in youth, they did not lack in enthusiasm.

Grown men, some in jackets and ties were hootin’ and hollerin’ like they were seventeen, while their wives, some of whom were gray-haired and some of whom had the good sense to color, left them behind at their seats to rush to the foot of the stage and get closer to Kenny. I kid you not. It was a beautiful, if not slightly bizarre, spectacle to behold.

For my part, I didn’t rush any stages with the other women, though I did love the concert and if I’m to be completely honest, the “Jesus, he’s good looking” refrain did run through my head a couple more times.

When the show ended, I drove home, thinking about what a great night’s music it was. And I thought about the new band, Blue Sky Riders, and what the prospects were for their success and the ramifications on the music industry if they could manage to pull it off.

Like I mentioned earlier, I write pieces in The Huffington Post, and though I started out as strictly a political blogger, I branched out to other things – like music and pop culture. So one afternoon, about a week after I saw Blue Sky Riders, I wrote a piece about them and submitted it. I didn’t give it a second thought. (Click here to read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ilene-angel/blue-sky-riders-music_b_1717511.html)

When they published it, I did what I always do, posted it on Facebook, Twitter, and sent it to anyone who might be mentioned in it or an interested party. So I posted it on the band’s Facebook page and then on Kenny Loggins’ Facebook page. There, done.

A short time later, I saw that the band reposted it on their page, but Kenny not only “liked” it and reposted it on his page, but also said, “Thanks, Ilene,” complete with an accompanying smiley face after my name. (Insert audible, gushing sigh here.)

Now here was my assumption: I figured it was actually Kenny Loggins himself doing this. It very well may not have been…or it might have been. I’ll likely never know for certain, but at the time, I had every belief that I had somehow miraculously and sort of unconsciously made my way onto Kenny Loggins’ radar.

With my sudden good fortune of now possibly, maybe, conceivably, perhaps being on Kenny Loggins’ radar, I took the opportunity to consult my good friend Google, because frankly, I knew nothing about the man other than what his song lyrics imparted to me, which was plenty, actually – that he had kids, had been through divorce, is a reflective, articulate, and sensitive dreamer, and both believes in and longs for the kind of love and passion that truly lasts forever. See, I pay attention when I listen to songs. And for those qualities alone, who wouldn’t find him appealing? But it turns out there was an added bonus – he was single.

Oh no. Hadn’t I been down this road before? The melody was a familiar one. Yes, this time there actually were far more things I had in common in earnest with Kenny Loggins than with George Stephanopoulos, and I was starting out (I think) already being on his radar. So that alone was different. But the notion of trying to meet, let alone possibly date an actual rock star was more preposterous than anything I had heretofore ever conceived of or concocted in my little imaginative head. Nope. Absolutely not.

So off I went, back to work writing songs, playing them out, riffing about guns and politics in HuffPo, and doing my darndest to eliminate any lingering thoughts of the slightest possibility that I might one day meet Kenny Loggins.

It was a noble, if not futile effort, because the new band was beginning to headline shows in the fall, and coming right to New York City for five nights, Kenny Loggins and all. Short of actually knocking on my door, the proximity was irresistible.

I corralled a willing friend to join me. She didn’t know the band, but trusted my judgment and enthusiasm. Besides, she was under the odd and misguided impression that my life was always interesting, so how much fun would this be! At the last minute, her boyfriend, whom I had never met before that night, decided to join us. (*I’m going to truly beg their forgiveness right now, though I will always protect their anonymity.)

I wrote to the two band members I knew a week ahead of time and told them I was coming and brining a friend. No response. Oh well, whatever. Then, the day before the concert we were attending, I got a private message on Facebook. It was a lovely note thanking me for talking them up, coming to see them and bringing a friend. It closed with “Looking forward to seeing you,” and it was signed “Kenny, Georgia, and Gary” in that order.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I write a note or sign a card from more than one person, I always put my name first if I’m the one actually writing it. So after confirming that that is indeed the norm, I made another assumption – that Kenny wrote the note because his name was signed first.

Well, that about put me over the moon, because, to recap for a minute, I was now not only on Kenny Loggins’ radar, but he was “looking forward to seeing me.” And very unlike events with George Stephanopoulos, this came rapidly, with ease, and the only real effort being me writing one article and a note.

The big night arrives. I have given up carbs completely by now, been doing Pilates, running miles on the treadmill every day, fully aware that a rock star can have pretty much any woman he wants, especially one that can garner the “Jesus, he’s good looking” response when he’s sixty-four. My hair has been done. My makeup took me an hour. I’m in heels I’m praying not to topple over in. I’m ready.

I meet my friend and the boyfriend. We have a drink in the bar next door to the club, chatting amicably. I’m careful to just sip the glass of wine, given the heels I’m wearing that I can barely stand in sober and the fact that I’ve been taking prescription migraine medication for three days running.

We walk into the venue and they seat us – at a table that is, I’m not exaggerating, flush against the stage where, in a short while, Kenny Loggins will be standing. My friend is one hundred percent convinced that we were given the best table in the house because I knew the band. No amount of me trying will convince her otherwise. I must be very important. The heck with it, I’ll play along.

We continue chatting before the show. I order a salad. The table next to us orders pizza. I want to kill them, but I stick with my lettuce. The lights go down. The announcer announces, and the band takes the stage. We’re so close I can read their playlist upside down. We’re so close I could touch Kenny’s boots. Really nice boots, by the way.

And that’s when it happens. The boyfriend, who’s sitting in the middle between me and my friend, becomes That Guy. You know the one I’m talking about. There’s one at every concert, and if you’re a performer, at every gig you’ve ever played. He’s the guy that carries on a conversation with the band throughout the entire show. And he’s loud. Doesn’t matter if he’s drunk or sober. He’s yelling out requests, singing along, being part of the show. He’s Kenny’s new best friend.

I think I was unconsciously sliding my chair further and further away. I wanted to crawl underneath the table. And I really don’t mean to hurt any feelings here, but for the love of God, how was I gonna get a date with Kenny Loggins sitting next to this guy?!

Here’s the other thing, hard as it is to imagine reading this, I am shy. Painfully shy. Put me on a stage or with a pen in my hand and I’m outgoing, uninhibited even. But stick me in any kind of social setting with a large room full of people I don’t know and I am not inclined to speak unless spoken to. I’ve tried over a lifetime to change that, with only a small modicum of success. One on one, great. Room full of people, not so much. And yes, this will come into play in a minute.

So the show ends and Kenny and Gary disappear through the kitchen to I don’t know where. Georgia is far enough behind them for me to catch her and say hi. She hugs me and I don’t know why I think to say this, but I ask her, “Who wrote the note?” And that’s when she says, “I did.”

Well, never mind that Kenny has completely vacated the room. Now this calls into question whether he ever knew who I was to being with, ever read the note, or the Huffington piece, ever posted the smiley face on his wall. I could spend all day thinking about what an idiot I’d been, but the truth is, my assumptions were the ones I think anyone would have made under the circumstances, and I couldn’t fathom in my naiveté that Kenny Loggins had a gatekeeper or that I would actually know her.

So we left the room. And you would think the story ends there, but oh no, my friends. It’s just beginning.

There’s a merchandise table outside the doors of the club. I think they sold two items – a t-shirt and an EP with two live versions of songs on it. But if you bought the EP, you got to go backstage to get it signed by them.

And that’s when That Guy became my new favorite person, because before I knew it, he went walking, CD in hand, back into the club, through the kitchen, and straight to the green room, with us trailing right behind.

So next thing I know, I’m in a crowded room full of people I don’t know, including the band members, my friend, and her boyfriend. My optimum situation. There is no time for any kind of internal pep talk. So I find myself back speaking with the only person in the band I know, Georgia. And the more we talk, the more similar we both realize we are. But she’s got a room full of people to meet and greet, so we part ways.

Gary is off against the wall, surrounded by people he’s holding court with, so there’s not much opportunity to say hi, though he played so prominent a role as a songwriter to me in Nashville, that our interaction became two chapters in my book and they are, sorry to say for George, my favorite chapters in the book to this day.

So that left Kenny. And the boyfriend was already way ahead of me, talking to him. I don’t know what he was saying. I don’t know what my friend said either, really. I don’t remember, or didn’t hear, or blocked it out because I was going to have to say something by way of introducing myself to Kenny Loggins, and I had only moments earlier discovered that there was the very real possibility that he would have no idea who I was whatsoever.

I extended my hand and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Ilene Angel. I wrote a Huffington piece about you guys a few months ago.”

“Oh, I was wondering who that was.”

“It was me,” I think I said.

Then he talked about how challenging it was to keep coming up with new ideas for the posts. (The band has their own column in HuffPo, and they rotate who writes them each week.)

“How do you come up with ideas?” he asks me.

And I say – NOTHING!!!

He continues, telling me he edits himself a lot, or maybe he said, “too much.” I don’t know, because the ability to form thoughts or anything resembling a coherent sentence has completely left me.

I have the best opportunity of my life to talk about WRITING – with Kenny Loggins – who is asking ME how I come up with new ideas and stop editing myself long enough to get published, and I’ve got NOTHING??? Seriously??!!!!!!

I would like to tell you that, at just that moment, a flash of brilliance fought its way through. I was witty, charming even, found my voice, saved the day. But I’m not delusional. It didn’t happen.

What did happen was this picture with him, and to be honest, I’m drawing a total blank on how it manifested, who snapped it – my friend or the boyfriend, and if I even said, “Goodbye,” or, “Nice to meet you,” or, “Thank you,” which would have been the least I could say, but as it turned out, the least I could say was NOTHING!!!!

Now I could spend the rest of my life chastising myself for blowing that particular opportunity, but the truth is it provided me with a teachable moment, which, I’m not gonna lie, sucked royally and hurt badly – not because Kenny Loggins didn’t like me, but because he didn’t even get the chance to meet me. He didn’t catch a glimpse of the person you’ve seen here so far in this blog.

Tomorrow I’ll be playing a gig in a room full of people I don’t know. I will talk to the audience, maybe joke with them, play and sing my songs and meet and greet them afterward. It will be fine, because that’s my job and I’m pretty good at it after all these years.

How I will reconcile that experience with the one from a few nights ago, I don’t know yet. But here’s what I do know – that if Kenny Loggins were to read this, I’d want him to know, in response to the conversation he was trying to have with me, that there are never a shortage of ideas. It’s always about the questions you ask yourself. Hell, I could give him his next twenty column topics without blinking an eye because I’m the inquisitive type, so here are some questions I’d be curious to know the answers to on the off chance you’re reading this, Kenny:

What has being in this new band taught you about yourself that you didn’t know before?
If it ended tomorrow, what new insights would you take away?
If you were writing a book about this new band experience, what would it be titled and why?
Tell me something I couldn’t read about you in Wikipedia, something that impacted you profoundly.
Tell me the funniest thing that’s happened to you guys on the road so far.
Do you have a nickname, and if so, what is it and how did it originate?
Where do you see yourself and the band five years from now?

I really could give you twenty. I just had to stop myself!

And as for too much self-editing, we all do it. We all fret over what we’re putting out there, wonder if it will resonate with people, and worry that maybe we could have said it better somehow.

But at some point, we have to know that we are enough, that our best efforts will impact exactly the people they are supposed to in exactly the right way, and that when we show up fully as ourselves, we empower others to do the same and we are all forever changed for the better because of it.

That’s what I’d tell Kenny Loggins, if I could. That’s what I learned from my time spent as a mute that night. And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a second chance one day for a first conversation.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this.
- Ilene


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

...10th Anniversary Top Blog Countdown: A bear, two guys with guns, Tony Danza, and me

Greetings, blog readers! In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of this blog, I am re-sharing the top 5 blog posts of the past 10 years and having you vote on your all-time favorite for a prize. 

For those of you keeping score, this is the second of the top 5. Here's the link for the first one I posted, if you'd like to catch up! Redemption and Resurrection

Originally published...


Friday, February 17, 2014

In Search of...a bear, two guys with guns, Tony Danza, and me

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’ve been doing this blog for five years now and can’t remember if I ever told this story. Sure, I could go looking back through five years’ worth of archives….or I could just assume that if I can’t remember, neither can you. Yeah, that’s the one I’m going with. And I tell this story in honor of my good friend Loralee’s birthday today. So happy birthday, Lor. This one’s for you.

When I first moved to Nashville from New York, one of the many jobs I had was working nights at the performing arts center downtown, which had me driving home on dark country roads well after midnight.

On one such night, as I was making my way back to my apartment, I saw something on the side of the road moving. Based on size and obvious appearance when it stood up, I shrieked in, well, utter terror as I realized it was a bear. Not Yogi. No, this was the real thing. I kept driving down the dark road to my apartment, envisioning the bear trotting behind me, licking his lips in anticipation of a late night snack named Ilene.

When I was safely inside my apartment, I nervously paced around, wondering if I should call someone to report it. The police? Animal control? Who does one call at 1am to report a bear sighting? And really, if some lady called the police saying she just saw a bear, would their first reaction be “I’ll get right on that,” or “maybe you should cut down on the crack, lady?”

I opted not to make the call. However, I did tell all my friends, who were slightly skeptical – that is until the news report a few days later about an unprecedented number of bear sightings in the area.

Talk of the bear was especially of interest to my New York friends, because, hey, how often does that happen?

Fast forward a few months to a visit home to New York. My friends, Loralee, Michele and I got tickets to a late night performance of Tony Danza at Rainbow and Stars, a cabaret venue located at the top of Rockefeller Center.

Now before you get all “Why Tony Danza?” on me, let me just say this about that – he taps dances and does a Louis Prima medley in his show. Need I say more? So unless you’re ready to do your rendition of “Zooma, Zooma” for me, quit your snickering.

Loralee and I drove into the city and met up with Michele for the show. After it was over, I drove Michele home to her apartment, which was located downtown, on a one-way street, lined with cars on both sides.

Michele got safely into her apartment, and Loralee and I were behind a taxicab waiting at a red light.

That’s when two guys with guns drawn walked up on either side of the taxi. But they didn’t go to the driver of the cab. They went for the passenger in the back seat.

These are the kinds of moments in life when time seems suspended. The obvious thought was that it was a robbery. But then, why didn’t they go for the driver who’d have the cash?

The next obvious thought was that, if this was a robbery, then we’d be next. So first reaction was Loralee saying, “Back up! Back up!” I turned to look behind me, and there was a long line of cars, single file. There was nowhere to go.

Do we duck? Would they shoot? Do you slither out of your car and make a run for it? These are decisions that must be contemplated and made in a matter of seconds.

The two guys with guns yanked the man out of the back seat of the cab and onto the street.

Were they undercover police? They flashed no badges and didn’t announce themselves as such. And I'd seen enough Law & Order episodes to know that that kind of stuff will get thrown out of court immediately.

Nope, they just yanked the guy out of the back seat of the cab. Then they hauled him across the street and tossed him into the back of an unmarked white van. Police? I'm thinking no.

The light finally turned green. It felt like an eternity. The cab pulled over to the side of the road. I think the poor driver might have been having a heart attack at this point.

I turned the corner and headed over toward the West Side Highway. I did not slow down. I did not stop. There was absolute silence in the car. Neither Loralee nor I said a word. My body started shaking involuntarily as I drove – a delayed reaction, no doubt, from the trauma.

We were safely zipping home on the highway when Loralee looked at me and said, “Beats the hell out of the bear, doesn’t it?!!”

Thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And happy, happy birthday, Lor!!!

Love,

I

Thursday, May 16, 2019

...How to Change the World



Everywhere I look on social media, people are doing “challenges.” Hot yoga for 30 days, go gluten-free, detox a miscellaneous organ, master the universe. The choices are endless.

As for me, the only kind of challenge I’ve actually participated in with any consistency or success at all is Vicki Abelson’s Women Who Write 30 Day Writing Challenge, and frankly, that’s because a) I love to write, and b) I can do it from my couch in my pajamas, which seems to be an ever-increasing prerequisite for things I do in my life. 

To be fair, I don’t just sit on my couch, I ponder, I ruminate, I perseverate. I also look up words like “ruminate” and “perseverate,” just to make sure I’m using them properly.

Last night I re-prioritized the order of my reading list so that How Not to Die now comes before The Success Habits of Millionaires. This seemed like a good strategic move to me.

But before I plow ahead into my reading list and soak up all the self-improvement I can, I want to go back to this whole idea of challenges.

I’ve got nothing against the six-week exercise boot camp, or drinking a gallon of water a day for 75 days. Truly, I don’t. However, it occurred to me that these things are not going to change the world from its current state of, well, utter demise. And I’ve been kind of freaking out about the demise thing, lately.

This got me wanting to start my own challenge. Could I create a challenge that would change the quality of my life for the better while, also, changing the world for the better?

Is this Gandhi stuff about “being the change” true, or is it just something I keep telling myself to ease the soul-crushing feeling I’ve been having for the past couple of years?

Here’s what I’ve decided: screw the soul-crushing. The world can’t afford it. This feeling of powerlessness is just a feeling, albeit one that is reinforced daily by news of diminishing human rights, the crumbling of our democratic infrastructure, catastrophic climate change, and blatant disregard for basic decency. It makes me want to rock back and forth in the fetal position, gently weeping. So I completely understand if you’re feeling that way, too. But it’s time to change it and I’m inviting anyone who is game, to do this with me.

Here’s the challenge, and I’ll use the vernacular that motivational speakers use, even though it makes me roll my eyes and want to gag – I’m gonna “level up” – kindness, compassion, empathy, and love, both for myself and the world, and here’s how:

1)   Every day, I’m going to say something nice to at least one person, could be a person I know, or better yet, a stranger. It could be anything from “I love your nail polish” to “you brighten my life, thank you for being in it.” One person, every day, something nice.

2)   I’m going to engage in at least one meaningful conversation with someone every day in which I listen, really listen to the other person. Again, could be someone I know or someone I don’t, could be on the phone or in person. But I’m going to listen, because listening is a way I show that I give a damn. And I think giving a damn is a valuable gift to give anyone.

3)   Plant a tree, metaphorically speaking…or a real one, if you’re so inclined, though that’s not what I’m actually talking about here.

There’s a Greek proverb that I love and it goes like this: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

So every day I’m taking one action for a cause, whether it’s calling senators, working for a charity I’m passionate about, campaigning for someone I believe in - one thing every day that is an action toward the world I’d like to live in. Can you imagine what would happen if we all would take just one action every day for a cause?

4)   Meditate, whether it’s for five minutes or twenty. Surely, I can start my day off with at least five minutes of focused peace. I waste way more time than that on Facebook.

5)   Lastly, I’m going to say “I love you” to at least one person every day. Again, could be anyone.

I once watched a video of different people’s reactions when they were told they were beautiful. They were utterly transformed. And I can’t help but think that this is something I could do – say something nice, listen, take one contributing action, get quiet, and let someone know they are loved.

I invite you to join me in this challenge. I’m not limiting the number of days of it, because I’d like it to become a way of life and grow exponentially, if only to prove Gandhi and me right. And the best part is – and I’m not suggesting you do it this way – but technically, I could do it from my couch. You gotta give me points for transforming the world while still dressed in my pajamas.

I hope you’ll join me, from wherever you are and let me know what you discover as you take the challenge with me.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends. 

#bethechange #Gandhi #changetheworld #challenge