Jimmy Tomorrow

Today marks a year since the death of my partner-in-life, our son’s father, accomplished actor, life-long Red Sox fan, and so many more qualifying roles he played during his 92 years on the planet. I’ve been warned by many loving friends of the unexpected tsunami of grief we who lost Jimmie may experience today. But throughout the relatively calm day, I’ve been reminded of the power of time as balm, the healing power of our life’s work and the loving remembrances of friends and family whose lives he also profoundly touched.

When I woke this morning, as every morning, I locked eyes with “Jimmy” in the distinctive black and white photo taken during The Iceman Cometh back in Washington, DC. at the Kennedy Center. It is a searing portrait by Joan Marcus, of Jimmie Greene as Jimmy Tomorrow, Eugene O’Neill’s Boer War veteran and denizen of Harry Hope’s Bar he played not just in 1985, but also back in 1967. Pipe dreams and all, Jimmy in the photo has a Rembrandt quality, his face emerging from the surrounding darkness; the photo is slightly water-damaged but still sits in the white matte frame it came in back in 1985.

The morose sorrow of Jimmy Tomorrow is palpable, the angle of the photographer’s lens, just below his eye line, allowing his eyes to follow me around the room. How does that work anyway? Of course when I looked it up, “how to make eyes follow you in a photo” – it’s straight forward – make the eyes or anything face straight out. The other 600,000 links were how-tos for wannabe social influencers. Of course.

Anyway, Jimmy Tomorrow is present, focused, stern and intently loving. I can’t tell you the number of times this year that he’s listened to me as I told him the terrible and wonderful things that have befallen me over this first year flying solo. He’s watched as I stripped our marital bed every two weeks to change the sheets, he’s watched as I sorted socks and underwear on the bedspread, back turned to the portrait, often regaling him with the benign details of trips to the gym, dates with friends, challenges at work and emotional setbacks. I’ve tried not to blame him in these “Jim Sessions.” He watched my back as I packed my suitcases for this summer’s European adventure, and again when I returned to unpack and sort them into laundry and dry cleaning, all the while as I gabbed about who and what I’d seen abroad. Was he glad I was home?

Sometimes before I turn the light off at night, I’ll try to achieve a Vulcan Mind Meld with Jimmy Tomorrow; the other night so successfully that when I turned out the light, I retained the negative image, face silhouette, frame and all in my mind’s eye for a good five minutes. During those intense stares, he almost seems to move, and his gaze responds to whatever cue I’m throwing his way. I know this is classic projection. I know I am alone and he is gone, but somehow it has been comforting to imagine his presence still in the room as he’s very much still in my mind and life.

Its been a busy year, with its share of exciting events and devastating ones. I’ve progressed through the phases of seemingly intractable grief to the promise of more mindfulness in my teaching and in my life. Whatever comes with Jimmy Tomorrow, here are just a handful of photos that remind me of Jimmie Past.

R.I.P. Susie

We lost a great human being this week, Susie Walsh, stage manager, friend, my reluctant widow pal. There have been so many heartfelt posts about what made Susie special. I’m late to the tablet. People have noted her great sense of humor, her biting but loving wit, her talents as a stage manager to anticipate and solve problems as they arose. The length and quality of her practice as a stage manager, the depth and breadth of her friendships and impact has wowed me. Susie was very private and would probably have hated the attention she’s getting, except not really, because it is so heartfelt, and irreverent, just like Susie was. Loving, subversive, disarmingly direct sometimes, she said what she meant and rarely sugar coated it unless needed to stay within professional boundaries.

I’ve known Susie for twenty-five years, but hold her dearest in my heart for her role as PSM for Endgame at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Spring of 2016. It was my hub’s last show. Having worked so many times with Susie over the years on shows, and seeing her shows, I took enormous comfort in knowing that she’d be monitoring the halls outside of the three 89+ year old actors dressing rooms. Just making sure they were behaving. Which they were, I think, for the most part.

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Susie having a laugh at the closing night party with Jimmie and Charlotte Rae.

She let me come to a rehearsal one time upstairs so I could see how Jimmie was navigating the work as his best 89-year-old self. I’d visit Jimmie on his two show days; In the bathroom across from his dressing room, Susie would be putting on her togs for a run or bike to the beach. A runner and a complete jock, Sueis loved sports and people who loved sports and some of us who just pretended to love sports to witness her love of them and us. I went to watch a football game at her house earlier last year and feigned interest, grazing instead on the snacks, and enjoying the company of her college friends who really were invested in the game as I would never be.

Susie and I shared a secret affection for our “old men.” She and I were about eight years apart in age, and both our partners were about 30 years older than us, give or take a few years, and after all, what’s a few years when you already have 30+ years difference? Though she and Ken never married, she was loyal to him like a spouse. We shared a pretty unique set of concerns for our old men. Our stage manager, old man Venn Diagram really was fairly rare. We added a widow circle on Dec. 1, 2018.

Sure, other couples of similar ages have illness arise that they have to deal with and it is no less impactful than what we did, but ours was expected. We knew what we signed up for. It was dreaded and yet routine, and when we had lunch together after seeing her show at the Geffen about a year ago, we spent twenty minutes or so chatting about their bad knees, their home care workers. It was our dark bond, one that we shared easily like a special shared language.

When Jimmie passed away, Ken was in his home receiving carefully organized care that Susie had put together. She texted me some photos of her battle station at Ken’s.

Hey, who do I know who would appreciate my organization?

She was right, I did appreciate seeing it because the quality of her instructions was so personal, so tangible. Seeing them brought back my own diligence, and the urgency of caring for someone you love so much in decline. That was Nov. 24th, and Ken was gone by Dec. 1st, Jimmie’s birthday. We made plans in January, to go see David Sedaris on Nov. 6th this coming week at UC Irvine. It seemed so far off, and I knew we’d both need a laugh as we approached the anniversary of our shared loss. This was the perfect reflection of Susie’s sense of humor.

Susie was the fittest over-fifty person I knew, running races, inspiring us more sedentary types to exercise more. The photo above is from New Year’s eve in 2016. That morning, we took a hike in the rain and mist. At the end, I was tired, and sore for days, a fact I shared with Michele and Susie via our ongoing shared text message. We made plans for a few more hikes, each of us taking the role of organizer of the day. My go to spot was the Huntington Gardens, Michele organized a Christmas light walk in Pasadena. In each of these walks, we shared the easy comaraderie of long time colleagues and friends – the stories unfolded, with the trails. In March, 2019, it was Susie’s turn to call the walk and we’d agreed to do a hike in a spot I didn’t know about. Susie knew all the trails – we’d done several in Griffith Park and I’d seen more of Los Angeles than I dreamed existed. We followed her trustingly, sometimes discovering that the distance was more than we’d planned for, but always feeling accomplished at the end. This time, however, in the car on the way over, Susie said, casually, “I’ve got to tell you a story – I had to go to urgent care last night.” We leaned forward to listen expecting a typically light story about food poisoning, or something like that. We arrived at the spot, got out of the car and started across the parking lot. Susie was lagging a little, then she stopped and said, “Hey would it be okay if we didn’t walk? I’m having a lot of pain.” And so instead, we went to breakfast. And began to hear the ominous start of what became the beginning of her cancer odyssey. The way was unclear, and as the future unfolded, Susie met each bend in the very uneven road with her usual fierce integrity and grit and eventually resignation and grace.

In the recent weeks, when I was able to visit her, either in the hospital or the one time I was able to get away to visit her bedside, we rarely talked about death, though he was obviously in the room, shadowing the conversation, evident in the clear oxygen tubing that snaked around Susie’s ears and under her nostrils; the propulsive wheezing of the tank that spooked Maddox, her cat from sitting on the bed with her. In her living room, the room had been torqued 90 degrees from the way it liked to be, the alien hospital bed facing the door, the coffee table and couches hugging the walls, pushed aside as if to make room for the last dance of life. The photos of family, and young Ken faced her bed, her sister Katie sitting in the chair, back to the front door, her comrade in arms, as so many of Susie’s many brothers and family had done since late summer, when Susie began her chemo. I was hopelessly inept at saying what needed to be said in what turns out was the last time I saw my friend. I’m kicking myself about that and all the loss of recent weeks makes me want to rail against the gods or something. But for what?

Friday, my colleague brought me a little pink rose bush, and said how sorry he was for my loss. Thursday, the day we all lost Susie, my coach had given me an exercise to do called Roses and Thorns. As I lay in bed last night, just before I turned out the lights I documented the Good Things (Roses) vs. the Bad Things (Thorns) I marveled at the literalness of the day. Aside from literal roses, I thought about the happy reunion of Ken and Susie, Susie and her recently departed Mom, and the very happy actors, Jimmie Greene and Charlotte Rae, who now can begin rehearsals afresh with Susie monitoring the hallways of heaven.

Meet Susie, who now lives on my balcony overlooking downtown LA.

Ode to My Dad

Recently, my cousin Connie sent me an envelope stuffed with photographs, the one above included, as she had recently done a “big purge.” I so appreciated reviving the memories, with photos of my nuclear family at points along our development. It seemed appropriate to focus this week on my Dad, who remains the anchor to our diminishing nuclear family.

I never write about my Dad, though Jimmie says I should, because he is such an interesting man. I don’t know anyone like him, with his memory for details about people’s lives and fortunes and misfortunes. At 87 he only occasionally grasps for the tendrils of a story, (far less often than I do thirty years his junior), but tells them with such conviction that I believe them whether they are true or not. I suspect they are largely true. They are always colorful and a bit dangerous, like the one below which he shared with my brothers and me via email. I hope he will forgive my sharing here.

August 31, 1999

A Short History of Brass Knuckles, by Donald A. Collins
This “pair” of brass knuckles (why is this single, ominous looking instrument of cast brass referred to as a “pair”?) belonged to Alexander Tichnor Collins, born Louisville, KY in 1873, son of Jeremiah “Jerry” Collins, a minor politician and local water company employee and Sarah Collins, who died when young Alex was under 10. Alex was a latch key kid at 12 (e.g. pretty much on his own, coming and going with his own key to the home of his father and the father’s new wife, the latter being someone with whom he did not get along). He went to work for the Louisville Street Railway Co at 16 and became their paymaster by 18, known because of his young age, Kid Collins. Jerry’s brother, Hubbie Collins, was then a star infielder for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, soon renamed Brooklyn Dodgers, and Alex, partly emulating his uncle Hubbie, became an outstanding semi pro player in Louisville.

The knuckles were part of his paymaster equipment, as Saturday paydays could be occasions for trouble. The story most told by my father about Alex, my grandfather, whom I called “Buddy” was about a payday when a robber came into the street railway car used as a payroll car, with windows blocked out and the payor, Alex, sitting at one end, with his bodyguard. The man threatened Alex with a weapon, either gun or knife, but when he got to the desk, the guard took out his Bowie knife, stepped close into the robber and slit the intruder from stomach through breast bone. The guard left town quickly and no charges were pursued in the incident. Justice was a bit quicker in those days.

I was given two of Hubbie’s bats and leather bat case inscribed with his name by my grandfather. In the early days of baseball, the bats were shaped like bottles, not the slim handled beauties of today. Reason: The balls then had less bounce and a solid hit was needed to get the ball going. Hubbie was known for his solid line drives and his base stealing. His club record for runs scored in a single season for the Dodgers in 1991 (148) I believe still stands. Unfortunately, his bats and case were lost in a fire that swept my room and almost burned down our house after a lightening strike on June 1, 1950 in Greensburg.

Hubbie’s lifetime batting average was in the 280s. His team won 2 pennants while he lived. He died of scarlet fever at 26 in 1893 after only 8 professional seasons. His stats are in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When Buddy married Irene Shupe of Mt. Pleasant, PA, the daughter of one of the town’s leading citizens, after a whirlwind 10 day courtship, the newly weds went to her home town where Alex became manager of the Oliver P. Shupe Flour Mill, owned by his father in law. Shortly, two sons arrived, my dad, Oliver Shupe Collins (1901), and Alexander T. Collins, Jr. (1909). IMG_0498

Alex, a handsome, personable man with a good sense of humor and an ability to speak in public, was twice elected Burgess (e.g. Mayor) of Mt. Pleasant, then a booming mining town and coking center, where 99 open, polluting coke ovens burned constantly, making huge illuminations against the night sky. Having 100 ovens together incurred a special tax, something their clever owner, the famous H.C. Frick, avoided.

There as in Louisville the Saturday night miners could get a bit drunk and Alex often carried a small “blue” steel pistol for protection as his life was threatened several times by the celebrants who ended in jails overnight. Alex sold the mill in 1942 during WWII, having earlier moved his family to Greensburg, the county seat of Westmoreland County, as he was elected County Treasurer twice, beginning in 1936. He retired just as WWII began, hastened perhaps by the premature death in 1941 of his beloved wife of uterine cancer mis-diagnosed by a local quack.

During WWII, my Buddy and I got very close; he was bored and we would go to the movies often and sit in the front row. Or play gin rummy for hours in my house or that of his other son where he had an apartment. Often in the Summer, he would drive me to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play at Forbes Field, some 30 miles distant. I became an avid baseball fan, despite the fact that the team in those years had weak ownership and players were even worse than most of those sad wartime teams. After WWII, I went off to college and he continued to live with his younger son, AT Collins and his wife Sarah Steel Collins until shortly before his death in 1958. However, the brass knuckles, which I now use as a paper weight on my desk, and those bottle bats, though long gone, remind me of my Buddy often.

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DAC and Jimmie, April 2018

The occasion above was my Dad’s 87th birthday and his most recent trip to Los Angeles to visit with us. He’s always been good about journeying to see us, even from the days of Jimmie’s and my early marriage, when we were ensconced in the Magic Castle Hotel during the run of The Iceman Cometh at the Huntington Theatre in Hollywood in 1985.  Initially quite skeptical of our relationship and the difference in our ages, he has come to appreciate my husband as “the older brother I’ve never had.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a more generous man than my father, both financially and with sharing his opinions, which he does on almost a daily basis through essay writing. Generally, he and I don’t see eye to eye on many of the topics about which he writes, but he continues to write and enjoys it.

The photos that Connie sent tell the story of our happy childhood, much of the summer days spent in the pool behind my mom’s parents’ house in northeastern PA.

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July 4, 1967

This photo captures us frozen in time, me age 7, Larry to my right, age 9, and Don to my left, age 11. Dad would have been a young father of three at 34. He and my mom had just finished building their home in southwestern Pennsylvania, at the base of the hill where my dad’s parents lived. The young plants around the door are just a fraction of the massive planting spree we did over the next five years or so, on our 1/2 acre plot.

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June 25,1967

When we were home, we had his parents hosting Sunday suppers on the screened in porch up on the hill, and probably about every month or so, we’d head to Wilkes-Barre to visit mom’s parents and her sister’s family who lived nearby.

I’ve learned so many things from my father. That hard work and building relationships are critical to one’s success. He taught us about the value of money and the relationship of money to work, paying us a penny per fly for swatting flies in the summer, and a dollar for every A we brought home on our report cards. You might now call that bribery, but it was motivating, at least until they bought a bug zapper for the back porch. He was a fierce disciplinarian. I won’t soon forget the moment when he discovered a pack of cigarettes under my bed when I was about 14. Or when I lied about pulling and breaking the light cord in the basement during a squeal-inducing game of tag with the Latchaw children. I also won’t ever forget how he and my mother shaped my future by giving me the educational opportunities that I had.

As an adult, he has taught me about getting my affairs in order, living with integrity, how to pick up the check at dinner, and how to speak truth to power. I can’t imagine feeling more appreciated as a daughter. Though he lives across the country, we have a standing date every Saturday or Sunday morning to chat via FaceTime. I wish we could see each other more often in person, but this works really well as a substitute.

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Dad with Terry, my sister-in-law, May 2018

Recently he underwent a knee replacement which is no small feat at 87. We were all relieved it went so well. I’ve seen way too much of the progress of healing (I tend toward queasiness whenever blood or stitches is involved). But I hope he’ll soon be able to get back to the golf course and do his 9 holes daily. This, too, he’s schooled us on: the value of daily exercise and good eating.

So, on the occasion of Father’s Day, thank you, Dad, for all you’ve done to make our lives so rich. Here’s to many more!

Writing with my Best Friend – Day 2

The tragedy of the massacre at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando had unfolded before I awoke on Sunday. My CNN app had already scrolled three or four unfathomable messages across my phone when I picked it up at 7:00AM. The fact that there is so much hatred in the world is hard to reconcile with the quality of my family’s life. After sweating out some anxiety at the gym, and doing some work on the couch with the TV muted, I became aware of Jimmie’s activity at the dining room table. He sat, poring over the manuscript and making notes for the writing he will do.

One of the things I have always admired about Jimmie is that he has kept a diary for years. It’s a simple system, a green metallic file card box with 3″ x 5″ index cards. Every day, or every few days, he would pull out the box, and write a sentence or two about his appointments, who he talked with on the phone, for business and personal life. Over the past few days, we discussed what seemed to be a five year gap between the National tour playing Juror #8 in Twelve Angry Men, and his work as Councilman Milton on Parks and Recreation. Tonight at dinner, Jimmie bemoaned the fact that he had given up his diary several years back, and so had no resource to go to. Fortunately, I went looking for the last years of the diary and found 2006, 2009 and 2010 in a drawer. This was about 15″ of cards. Several years ago when we downsized to our current apartment, I made him slough off about 20 years of the cards. Now I feel horrible about that. I think at the time we agreed that he would get rid of those cards up through the end of his memoir. Good compromise.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep some sort of record of what you are doing in your life. A would-be writer needs to find a consistent means of documenting the stuff that happens on a day to day basis. Blogging is great, but you need to get down what you are thinking about things, and specifics surrounding the important events in your life. You need to be able to capture those quirky associations that you make that may be a kernel for a paragraph or two. Reading through a “year in the life” to Jimmie tonight was fun. I’ll spare you most of the details. But the impressive thing is that he recorded every movie, play, dinner out, visitor, dinner in, hockey game (including scores; 2006 was not a good year for the Wolves….) He spent his second summer in a row in Whitefish, Montana, with our friends Betsi and Luke, performing in Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the Alpine Theatre Project. He had about an audition a month and booked a couple of TV gigs that year. He broke his wrist – the writing for the beginning of the year was completely illegible, with every other day populated by “Physical Therapy” until you could see his handwriting return to normalcy. He and our seventeen-year-old son had a nightmarish trip to Aston, PA for a hockey tournament, where planes were missed, additional hotel nights were needed. I had gone to Yosemite at the same time for a family reunion, and then joined them in Pennsylvania. I didn’t remember that I had joined them there. We might not have remembered that without the magic green box.

We have so many important and pivotal events in our lives, and days roll by with such speed and flurry that we neglect to record them; happy are those who do, and can reconstitute the parched memories with a few specific words.

Watched the Red Sox game with Jason W.

Brother Jack arrives for four days. Had dinner with Els and Chris and Jack at Le Petit Bistro.

Our visit with Jack is instantly evoked. Our trip to the Huntington Library, and watching him take in the Japanese garden as he sketched from a bench.

Even though Jimmie and Jason were friends for over 60 years, every time he wrote an entry, he wrote Jason’s full name out. During the baseball season, they spent 2-3 days a week watching the games together, or having lunch. We might not have remembered the frequency of their friendship.

So now I’m looking for my own “green-metal-file-box-equivalent.” I’d love to hear from other writers about how you record your ideas and inspirations!

 

I have been missing Chatham

 

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After a two year hiatus, we are resuming our annual trek to Cape Cod, to the beautiful town of Chatham, where we have rented a home to spend a week reading, going to the beach, eating fried clams, and visiting with our friends and family who either live there or have journeyed there to visit with us.

We made the decision after the trip in 2013 that we wouldn’t  go the next year to the Cape. It was a combination of things that brought us to this decision, but we were both comfortable with having made it and nevertheless sad with the finality of it.

The rhythms of that year were disrupted by our decision. The Thanksgiving weekend, when I usually began the rental process, writing to the realtor to secure a lovely little house we had had for the past three years, came and went without the frisson of anticipation of being flat out on the beach with the languorous sun lapping at my legs.

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Then in April, when usually it was time to send the second half of the deposit, and book the plane tickets, the rental car and alert our family and friends, there was instead, just the familiar cascade of shows at work, but no summer vacation on the horizon. That time went by without the flurry of  details coming together with a satisfying sense of organizing a pleasurable and familiar trek.

During the intervening two years, as our usual dates would approach, I would get blue about missing seeing our sister Kate, and missing our annual whale watching trip from Provincetown. Ice cream at the Schoolhouse ice cream Shop, with it’s quirky decorations.  Sweaty long bike rides along the bike path which ran just off the road behind our house. Walking down to the beach and getting caught in the rain on the way back.

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Creamy Clam Chowdah from the Chatham Squire restaurant, and breakfast at the Hanger B restaurant overlooking the one runway of the Chatham airport, usually more trafficked by geese than by airplanes. AAA Baseball games in the late summer sun with the sound of children playing in the playground behind the bleachers, oblivious to the game. Years ago, when most of my family visited at the same time, we went to the go cart track and raced with the kids. thumb_IMG_2236_1024

But thanks to our dear friend Susan’s visit, and the few days off I took while she was here, we began to think about a return to Chatham this summer. We’ll just go for a week this time. Happily it coincides with a visit by our son and daughter in law and our grand baby. We just couldn’t refuse the opportunity to make another trip to the home of our Boston Red Sox.

This year we will be there for a shorter time; later planning resulted in a different  and smaller rental house. There probably won’t be time for a whale watching trip, but hopefully enough time to linger a bit with friends and family. We’ll celebrate Father’s Day with the newest father in the group, our son.

ChrisandSkylarHockeyshot There will be time to drag my freshly painted toes in the sand-the polish I picked last week was labeled “feel the bern.” There will be the pleasure of introducing our newest tribe member to the summer Cape experience. What could be better than a teething baby with sand in her diaper. Ahhh. Life is so good.

 

 

May the Force Be With You – In Life and Death

Star Wars fans all over the US are reveling in today’s opening of the latest Star Wars feature, Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens. This week’s news in Los Angeles, in addition to an unprecedented closure of LAUSD schools, featured a block long tent in front of Mann’s Chinese Theatre where A-Listers partied after the premiere.

You know what? I could care less.

I’ve got much bigger things on my mind this week. Matters of life and death. Our granddaughter is coming along this week; she will be here momentarily. Boba Fett, The Bounty Hunter, or more accurately, the voice of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, actor Jason Wingreen, now 95, discharged from the hospital this week, has returned home to live the remainder of his days. Life and Death. As one precious life begins, another nears its close.

Jason_WingreenMy husband has known Jason since the 1950s, back in New York, when they were neighbors in their Cornelia Street apartment building, just across the street from Caffe Cino, a coffee house/gathering place for the burgeoning off-off Broadway scene. In addition to a mutual interest in theatre (Jason was a founding producer for Circle In the Square, where he and Jimmie also acted in many productions), they shared a wife. Well, more accurately, Scotty, married to Jimmie for three years, until their marriage was annulled, later married Jason. Jason and Scotty lived below Jimmie and his second wife, actress Betty Miller in the Cornelia Street apartment, in an arrangement evocative of a Preston Sturges film.

When Jason and Scotty moved out to Los Angeles, late in the 50s, Jimmie and Betty remained in touch. After Jimmie and Betty divorced and I came along as wife #3, I remember meeting Jason and Scotty for the first time after one of Jimmie’s performances. The Wingreens lived in California then, Jason working on “Archie’s Place.”  I was so nervous, but shouldn’t have been, because Jason was a warmly welcoming raconteur and Scotty was always sensible with a wry wit and direct candor. I took to them both immediately, and felt at ease.

Cut to the mid 1980s, when we moved to LA, and began to see Jason and Scotty socially. Scotty was a wonderful cook, and we had frequent dinners in their beautiful home. An example of Scotty’s wit was after I had learned how to make crème brûlée, and had made it two times in one week, she said,

Els, are you trying to kill him?

We shared the ups and downs in our lives, his loss of Scotty to cancer in 1996, the loss of my Mom in 1997.

Jimmie and Jason shared a passion for the Boston Red Sox, and together, we surfed the cycle of suffering as the team routinely failed to break the curse of the Bambino. In 2004, when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 game loss to the New York Yankees to win the 2004 ALCS and go on to play in the World Series for the first time since 1986, both Jimmie and Jason were like kids on Christmas morning. We all gathered to watch the games in the our family room. Both Jason and Jimmie have sons, which they worked to indoctrinate as Red Sox fans, Jimmie perhaps more successfully than Jason.

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Jimmie, Chris and Jason celebrate the happy victory!

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Jimmie on the phone with stepson, Frank, in the moments after the Red Sox clinched the World Series in 2004.

Jason has always been a generous man. After Scotty passed away, he frequently invited friends to dine at the Atheneum, the Cal Tech Faculty club,  an alumnus perk of their son, Ned’s four years as a Physics student.

Last week, we had a call from Jim, Jason’s business manager. He told me that Jason wanted to get a card to our son Chris. We worked out how I would pick up the card. Then Jason ended up in the hospital;IMG_5531 however, he kept insistently prodding Jim about  the card. At a moment when most people would have ceased to worry about others in light of their own health issues, Jason was dogged about Chris getting this card.

Last Saturday, I drove to Jason’s house and picked up the card. Today, when I spoke with Chris, I opened it and snapped some pictures of the card texting them so that he could see the card before our trip this weekend.

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His now wobbly signature has graced so many generous cards and head shots.

We talked about how special and yet typical it was of Jason to remember Chris.  Chris laughed about all the Red Sox games that he had watched with Jason and Jimmie in straight backed cane chairs, facing Jason’s tiny television.

About ten years ago, one of Jason’s great nephews outed him as being the voice of Boba Fett, the Bounty Hunter. Since then, he has received thousands of letters from adoring fans from all over the world, and requests to autograph photos. Jason has been far more accommodating of these intrusions than many actors might be, but he has also taken a lot of pleasure from the personal letters, reading us his favorites when we saw him. And when each of  us had a birthday, Jason would sing “Happy Birthday” on the phone machine, as Boba Fett, ending his messages with a somber, grumbling voice:

This is Boba Fett calling to wish you a happy birthday!

So now, as we await the imminent birth of our grand baby, her mama and papa-to-be counting the hours, and as Jimmie and Chris and I think fondly of Jason’s healthier days, suddenly the Star Wars movie seems more pertinent. To both the inevitable coming of life and coming of death, I entreat:

May the force be with you.

Tender Tinder

The ladies who lunch in my building have recently amused themselves with a post prandial game of what I will call Tinder-round-robin. After we eat our various luncheon options,  mine likely leftover Quinoa and black bean salad with a lime and cumin vinaigrette, the others’ burgers from The Habit, or healthy-by-the-pound food from Lemonade, they begin to pass a phone around the table taking turns swiping and discarding human beings at a rate of about 15 per minute.

I’ve heard of speed dating, but 4 seconds to eliminate someone from your sphere on the basis of what–their hair style? The color of their T-shirt? The fact that they are wearing a T-shirt rather than a suit? Their pork pie hat? Their dog’s pork pie hat? That seems insane.

I don’t need to explain how the Tinder app works for most of you millennials, but for those of you who are either old and married, or old and single and more inclined to the speed of speed dating, or are less familiar with the bells and whistles on the mini computer you carry  in your pockets, here’s how I understand it works. (Hyper-speed daters, please feel  free to correct me if I have got it wrong.)

You sign up. You create a profile saying what it is you are looking for in a date. You start playing. Presumably it sorts your audience into the opposite gender, and by age and race. Hmmm. I wonder if there is an LGBT Tinder app? Nope. I just looked. You can thank me later for the idea. You can call it Glinder. That might be particularly challenging – the sorting function, I mean.

Tinder App

Anyway. Ready to play? You begin to see the faces of your potential dates on the screen, and according to the direction you swipe their pictures, to the left for no, to the right for yes,  you determine if they have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting to talk to you or date you or…not.

This is extremely entertaining to those of us with our single colleague’s best interests in mind, and discussion ensues about the cuter guys who flit across the screen. It is actually much more entertaining for me  to watch their faces as they swipe. Unified wide eyes and open mouths gasping or chortling as an arrogant-looking man’s face pops up on the screen. There is a lot of  armchair quarterbacking going on here. These women know what they want in a man for their friend. 95% of the swipes are to the negative side. Those people are lost in the tinder abyss, never to resurface again. Even the ones you inadvertently swipe the wrong direction. Oh no! There went Mr. Right!

The 5% of possibles are debated. The phone is quickly passed across the table to the phone’s owner, who looks at the pictures (one is allowed to include several) and tersely adjudicates yes or no.The sorting continues. One fellow merited the phone pass and a yes, with permission given to swipe yes. About five minutes later, the player holding phone suddenly yelped and said “you got a match” whereupon, the owner of the phone authorized a chat with this fellow.

Wow did I feel  sympathy for this guy; he didn’t know what was coming with 8 women, the median age being about 45 (yes, I skewed the age up) assembling tinder texts by committee.

Cut to last night, when our son arrived home for his birthday weekend with his girlfriend, Whitney.

After a lovely steak dinner, we gathered in the living room to watch the Red Sox get trounced again by Seattle, where our guest was from. I tried to be gracious about that, but it was hard.

“So, how did you two meet?” I wanted the meet cute story directly from the two of them.

Chris laughed nervously and said,  “I’ve been waiting for that. Uh, we met through a dating app.”

“You met through Tinder?????!!!!!!” I practically shouted. I got so excited. Here was an anthropology experiment in progress and I could observe the after-effects of this dangerous dating app.

“Tell me everything,” I said, trying not to look too eager.

Chris is not the most linear story teller, but the gist of it goes something like this:

The two of them met on Tinder, and after chatting a bit by text message, Chris sharing a bunchabullshit with her about being a dolphin trainer (no, not a Miami Dolphin trainer, an actual porpoise professor), and, in spite of that, she suggested that they meet for a coffee.

He lives on a boat at Fisherman’s wharf, she in a studio apartment on Nob Hill, and so they chose to meet at Cafe Divine, in North Beach.

7849301 cafe_divine_exterior_2

http://www.cafedivinesf.com

Chris arrived first, walked into the cafe, looking around for the cute girl he had met on Tinder. He spotted her, the first girl he saw, but, wait….she was about 15 and sitting with her parents. What?????!!!

When Chris told this part of the story, he looked physically ill, his eyes widened, and he gulped incredulously at this un-intended match up. He shook his head, continuing to scan the place, not seeing anyone else who resembled his match.

“I need a beer,” he thought, and in his confusion, marched over to the counter and ordered a beer.

Whitney picked up the story now.

“After we had talked a while on Tinder,” she said, her face lit with the same kind of affectionate forgiveness that I frequently sport, ” we decided to meet for a coffee. I walked in for the coffee, and Chris was there with a beer in his hand. I decided to have a beer instead, and we ended up talking until the place closed.”

“Did you tell her what happened when you walked into the restaurant? That you thought the 15-year-old was her?”

“Of course,”  he laughed, laying his hand  on Whitney’s knee. She laughed. We all turned back to the game.

Here they were sitting in our living room, happy as clams, having found each other through a 4 second encounter on their smart phones. Dang it, if that isn’t enough to make me a convert to technology, I don’t know what is.

Powerful friends

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My friend Susan came to town last Friday and spent about 4 days with us. A testament to her power is the list of things we got done while she was here:

1) Two hikes at Lake Hollywood Reservoir

2) Four baseball games watched on TV – we laughed, we cried

3) Talked with our good college friend Bob and his family via Skype, confirming that my camera in my computer isn’t working and its been way too long since we saw them.

4) Took the computer in to be repaired.

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5) Repaired the broken vertical blinds in my guest bedroom which had been broken for months.

6) Talked about important life issues while looking at the butterflies in the butterfly pavilion at the Natural History Museum

7) Made a steak dinner.

8) Made a pesto pasta dinner.

9) Went out to Faith and Flower and had a delicious dinner.

10) Went to the gym.

11) Researched and purchased the camera we will take with us on our cruise and got it in time to take some pictures of Susan with it.

Isn’t it nice to have such good friends who can empower you to do great things?

Summer Days

I know it is summer because when I get dressed in the morning, I reach for  the linen pants and the striped shirts, accessorizing with turquoise and glass beads. My sandals are getting worn out from over use, and I’ve stumbled into a regular routine of mani/pedis at Nails on Ninth, the downtown nail salon at Ninth and Broadway. It is still light out when I get home, and I am greeted by the sounds of baseball on the TV when I open the door to the apartment. Tonight I was able to fill the feeders for the hummingbirds before Jimmie and I sat down to dinner. Hey, just the fact that I’m home for dinner 5 nights a week is really the news.

But I guess it won’t really feel like summer until that morning when after going to spin, I come home and put on my bathing suit and head down to the pool to kick back. Right now, the mornings are a flurry of manic energy.  45 minutes of spinning like a fiend, followed by 30 minutes quick into the shower, breakfast and then bolting out the door with my lunch in my hand and Jimmie’s in the fridge waiting for him.

There seems to be so much to get done in these weeks to prepare for the fall semester. A dozen plays to read, rehearsal room schedules and production meeting schedules to devise, assignments to make. And it feels good to have some time to do some big picture thinking, instead of merely knocking out tasks.

We have some summer fun coming soon – friends visiting, and a week-long cruise to Alaska with my Dad and his wife, my brother Larry and his wife, too and my dear husband. We are extremely excited about that.

Alaska Cruisedest_alaska_faqs10

 

So, for now, I will just try to put my nose to the proverbial grindstone, and knock out the work so that in the next few weeks, I can play and enjoy what this summer will become.  You can be sure that I will take you along on our Alaska adventure!

 

Happy Days Are Here Again

I was in the kitchen filling my water bottle this morning after a particularly arduous spin class when I heard something that lightened my heart and lifted my spirits.  The TV in the living room played  the light-hearted jocularity of two sportscasters schmoozing over a relatively quiet and velvet green diamond of a field full of anticipation. The gentle thwack of bat against ball followed by a slight build in the crowd’s expectancy,  and the quickening of the sportscaster’s voice as he called the play, burst into a crescendo as the ball was caught and the crowd clapped and cheered. Spring training in Fort Myers, Florida, has begun.

The other night, leaving campus after rehearsal, I used the Uber app to get a ride home.  Jeff picked me up in his white BMW SUV. (Nicest uber ride I’ve had, by the way.) As we chatted on the 5-10 minute ride home, I inquired what he did when he wasn’t Ubering. I’m a Baseball sports agent, he said. He said he represented a few players, a Cardinal, and a few others. As we neared my block, I confessed my Red Sox-by-marriage-affiliation, and learned, not surprisingly, that Jeff was also a Red Sox fan. We shared our enthusiasm about the spring training game that day, the Red Sox’s first win of the season, and he told me he was heading down to Florida next week to see some spring training games. And then, as quick as a chat on FB, Jeff was gone, and I was home.

When we lived on the upper west side of Manhattan in the early 80s, my least favorite time of the year was February, where the streets met the icy curbs via a dirty slushy river of indeterminate depth,  one always deeper than the height of the shoes I was wearing. The gray days reflected my moods for about 6 weeks, and only now, with twenty plus years of California  living behind me, I know that I had S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

We have something akin to S.A.D. in our house from about November 1st until March 15th. Let’s call it B.A.D., or Baseball Absence Disorder. Things are just a little less cheery,  even after clinching the pennant and the World Series (three times in the last ten years, so take that Babe Ruth!) when “our heroes” aren’t at work. That’s what we call them in our house – “our heroes.”

“How did our heroes do today?” is my daily question to Jimmie when I get home after work. We subscribe to the massively expensive MLB plan through Time Warner Cable (Comwarner?) so that we can not only watch our heroes, but also the anti-heroes, the Yankees.

Years ago, Jimmie shared a dressing room with an actor who was a Yankee fan; they were discussing a recent game where a fight had broken out in the dugout and the Yankee pitcher had broken his thumb. Cupping his mouth with his hand to hide his grin,  Jimmie said to this actor, “What a shame about that injury – he’s such a good pitcher.” The gesture of course didn’t cover the merriment in his eyes, and a rich tradition of vaguely disguised baseball schadenfreude was born.  Jimmie still periodically gives me the DL report about the Yankees – cupping his mouth to hide his grin. Our son, Chris, carries on the tradition even now.  We spent a lot of time talking behind our hands about Yankees players A-Rod and Mark Teixeira.

So, it was with a quickening pulse that I heard the sounds of the early days of baseball. I know when we have 130 games behind us sometime in July or August, I will feel less glad,  but like daylight savings and spring cleaning,  the arrival of baseball season is a harbinger of happy days ahead.

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” —Rogers Hornsby from the Boston Red Sox Spring Training website