THE GHOST AND PHILADELPHIA

Welcome to Birchrunville. And our beloved schoolhouse where we Bonaduces spent three of the greatest years of our lives. Birchrunville, as we knew it, was a tiny town of about 75 families – some of the people we knew were relatives of the families who built the original schoolhouse, over one hundred years previously. Unbelievably, just down the road from cosmopolitan Philadelphia, Birchrunville was a magical, beaucolic kind of hamlet. Once you found it you never wanted to let it go. So, while now, as Los Angeleans, we are about as removed as we can be from that quaint country town, there is no denying, we left large chunks of our hearts there.

When the invitation arrived from our very, very good friends, the Shoemakers, asking us to come back to Birchrunville to share in the joy of a wedding for their daughter, we (Celia and I), hopped on a plane – a journey of either a couple of thousand miles – and in its own way, an eternity.

Unknown.jpeg The Corner Store

Things have changed, of course.  After all, we’ve been gone for decades…but the corner store is still there, and the single pump gas station. And the wild collection of automobiles that help form a town where doctors and lawyers and farmers and teachers share equally in its beauty. There weren’t too many of our original friends left…after all, the old folks we knew got older and the youngsters got restless and left, looking for their own little piece of heaven. Pretty much the way the Bonaduce clan did all those many years ago. I iwsh we could let the restless spirits know that, whereever they found themselves, they’d be carrying this little piece of heaven with them. But the “welcome home” feeling was there.  Even though the schoolhouse is now an office building and the county store is a rather famous restaurant that enjoys an “it’s worth the trip” reputation.

We stayed in Center City Philadelphia at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, a very old fashioned, wonderful hotel where I spent some great evenings in rooms labeled The Barrymore Room or The Library.  The Library had the requisite red leather chairs and bookshelves and the Barrymore Room (does anyone remember The Barrymores, other than Drew) was as ornate as memory thought it was. The Library is now “the bar” and the Barrymore Room now goes by the non-majestic “19.” But it’s still beautifully ornate.

IMG_8851.jpg The chandelier at ’19’ – once the Barrymore Room

Now, a brief explanation about the “Ghost” in the title.

C’est moi!

I originally got the title when I visited my son, Anthony and his family in Oaxaco, Mexico  We were invited to a baptism and when I went to greet the three year old guest of honor, she screamed and ran to hide behind her mother. The embarrassed mother explained in a mix of Spanish and English, that the little one thought I was a ghost. She had never seen anyone so white.

Okay, not the best reaction, but cute.

Several years later, when I met my grand daughter, Celia, Jr. for the first time after I’d spent a number of years back in Philadelphia, she ask my daughter “How come Grammy looks like she sleeps in a coffin?”

Now come on, I may be pale, but I’m not ghostly.

Image-1 (1).jpgmy good friend Terry.

Image-1[1] (1).jpgyou know who is standing behind me, right?

Well, whadda you know?  Pictures never lie.  And I, I must admit, am one solid ghostly presence.

But here’s a really concrete picture of today’s Philadelphia. In my day, buildings were not allowed to be taller than Billy Penn’s hat atop City Hall. Now, skyscrapers stand guard around him like gigantic sentinals. The young business people in the towering buildings probably have no idea that not very many years ago (at least to me), their offices would have been an impossibility.

My daughter stopped traffic on Broad Street to get this, so admire it!

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ON GETTING MORE THAN YOU BARGAINED FOR

“Excuse me Ma’am…”

In a move rather reminiscent of the famous Abbott and Costello “Slowly I Turned” sketch, I turned toward the voice.

Surprise!

Not the smiling staff person one would expect at Macy’s.  Nope! Just four police officers – three male and one female, looking rather surprised to see me.

“Everyone else has left the store,” one of them explained.  Which didn’t explain much!.

Okay, I admit my timing was rather off, but I had just discovered a great Stefani blouse and I was reluctant to be disturbed

“Wait.  What? I tried to reach that blouse, but by now we were moving, slowly but inexorably away from my treasure. I looking around the store…empty by now except for me and the cops of course. Then I stopped walking

“Where’d everybody go?”

“There’s been a shooting,” the lady cop said.

“How are you with steps?” an officer asked and they all looked hopeful.

I considered.  “Not great. I really don’t do steps much.”

I paused then, but trying to lighten the moment I offered a happy thought.

“But this is Macy’s. They have escalators! I offered reassuringly.

“Turned off” said someone.  And we kept moving.

By this time we had reached the no longer escalating escalators. My leader handed me over gently to the first step.  She called something I didn’t understand and suddenly another group of smiling officers was staring down at me.  And from behind me one of my escorts yelled…”She might need help!”

But never one to quit in a crisis, I began the long climb.

About half way up I stopped.  And from above and below that triggered movement.

“Do you need help?” Someone called out, but I said no.

I told them I needed to stop to find my nitro. Silence.

“Nitro,” I repeated.  “It’s in my purse.”

Trying to find a very, very tiny bottle of medicine, in an unnecessarily large purse, while eight policemen wait, is – to say the VERY least – not an easy task. Especially when the idea of a shooting looms in the background. But find i, I did.  Of course then one must pause to give the miracle drug time to do its work.

Okay, either five minutes or an hour and a half later, the nitro kicked in and I climbed to the top. I would like to say there were cheers all around but that would be FAKE NEWS. Inevitably, we reached the great outdoors where a few hundred other folks had already gathered. My group scurried away to find a comfortable chair for me, and, even more surprising, they found a nice shaded spot in which to house me while we waited for…What ever.

Once settled, with my escorts free to do other things, I began to realize that this was a rather rare encounter of a scary kind. Guns. Officers, hundreds of people standing quietly, watching and waiting for their next clue . The big thing was, there was no panicking. Nobody tried to sneak out from behind the yellow police tape. I sat there, rather grandly I thought, in the comfy chair, which gave onlookers the incorrect idea that I was either a victim of something or a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON.

Then I noticed the news vans arriving.  Channel 5 was the first one I saw pull up.  I went back to fishing in my purse, this time for my brush and my lipstick just in case someone wanted to interview me!

No one did. Their loss.  I had a lot of amusing things I thought I could say.

So, okay.  I’m not going to be interviewed and I can’t call my family and scare them to death with exciting tales of being caught in a shootout.  And I can’t call LYFT because the street is close.

“I could die here in this parking lot, I thought. But even I knew I was being a Drama Queen.  Back to reality.  Keep calm and carry on!.

But damn all! I MISSED THE SHOOTOUT PART! But the rest of it was kind of fascinating. There was no screaming or crying or fear.  Not even a whole lot of impatience while a hundred or so people stood (mostly patiently,) while the officers did their work in quietly efficient and very polite fashion.

I had to admire a lady I later identified as Milly.  She was the Macy Store Manager, and it was obviously her assignment to keep everybody calm…which she managed to do in spite of some pretty scary circumstances. Milly saw to it that there was cold water available and gave out news bits as they became available. I noticed one woman working her way up to, but there was Milly, telling her calmly, but gently to get a grip, and the next time I looked, they were chatting.

Of course, one can’t be caught up in something like this without thinking FACEBOOK!  So decided I should take a selfie.  One problem.  I had never taken a selfie and had no clue as to how one got the camera to face the wrong way.  However, I hit something and it worked.  Not sure what or how, but that’s okay.

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Admittedly it isn’t a great picture of me but…oh well.  I’ll think of something exciting to explain the expression.

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POLICE CARS WAITING – TO DO CHASE.

As I tell and retell the story my part will undoubtedly grow. Stay tuned.

Music and Memories

Every so often, when I’m alone in my Tiny House, I will begin humming. It’s a kind of unconscious thing with me. Sometimes it takes a while for me to put words to the tune, but when the words show up, I’m no longer alone. The memories come flooding in.

The other day I heard myself humming a song from my long ago world. It was Sweet Little Alice Blue Gown. Never heard of it?  Not surprising…it was written in 1919…even I wasn’t born yet. But when I recognized the melody, my mind went back to my mother, Alice, who used to sing that song to me from infancy to teenaged impatience. My mother, as you probably gathered from frequent references, had a soft voice and a lovely way of singing me through a whole lot of troubles.

Everything seemed better. It wasn’t great music I suppose, but I loved it then, I love it still and I remember how we danced as she sang.

In my sweet little Alice blue gown,
When I first wandered down into town,
I was so proud inside,
As I felt every eye,
And in every shop window I primped, passing by.

My father wrote a few songs himself, but they were only used in little local shows – in which he also starred.  Not long ago I heard me humming a song I THINK he wrote, but I could be wrong. It was a sad song, and was never heard anywhere except a show I saw him do.

I lost my faith in you

I found you were untrue.

You promised dream castle in Spain dear.

But brought only heart ache and pain dear…

I cried then and I cry now as I recreate the scene. My father wore his beautiful tuxedo and sang to a beautiful girl in a pretty gown (she had to use one of her own gowns, there was no budget for costumes). They danced as he sang and at the very end, he spun her off stage. The curtain closed on Act One with him standing alone, staring at the hand-painted grey sky.

My father entered into another song memory, this one where he saved me from facing the cold fact that, as time approached for my Senior Prom, I DIDN’T HAVE A BOYFRIEND! Oh, I knew a couple of boys, but they were all brothers of my girl friends, so they didn’t count. Realizing that my life practically depended on it, Father found me a man. Not just any neighborhood guy, but a real live Marine! WOW! His name was Lucky and he showed up the night of the prom with the required wrist corsage and wearing formal marines blues.  He was BEAUTIFUL, and every girl there wanted to meet him –  almost as badly as I wanted them to. To father’s dismay, Lucky didn’t go away. We dated for a while and the song that brings him to mind is I’ll Walk Alone.  He had me promise to “walk alone” until he got back from World War 2. The song was to remind me of my promise not to have any other guy take his place.

 I’ll walk alone because, to tell you the truth, I’ll be lonely
I don’t mind being lonely
When my heart tells me you are lonely, too
I’ll walk alone, they’ll ask me why and I’ll tell them I’d rather
There are dreams I must gather
Dreams we fashioned the night you held me tight
I’ll always be near you wherever you are each night
In every prayer
If you call I’ll hear you, no matter how far
Just close your eyes and I’ll be there
Please walk alone and send your love and your kisses to guide me
Till you’re walking beside me, I’ll walk alone
I’ll always…

Yeah.  Sure. It was wartime. I was 17 and there was a city full of lonely soldiers, sailors and marines. And Lucky was far away, apparently safe from combat but not from boredom. We both grew tired of walking alone.

But the song is still lovely.

Songs aren’t relegated to yesterday’s memories. A little over three years ago, I moved into my Tiny House in Woodland Hills. Even with the love and support of my new extended family, leaving all that was familiar for the unknown made me feel a little bit like Lili from the musical Carnival. Lili sings about feeling alone after a life in her hometown, Mira, where “everybody knew her name.”

A room that’s strange is never cozy.
A place that’s strange is never sweet.
I want to have a chair that knows me,
and walk a street that knows my feet.
I’m very far from Mira now,
and there’s no turning back.

I have to find a place.
I’ve got to find a place,
where everything can be the same.
A street that I can know,
and places I can go,
where everybody knows by name.

With 300 square feet, it didn’t take long to learn every inch of my new home. But I now feel part of the fabric of my new neighborhood as well. Yesterday, my Lyft driver remembered me. My hairdresser, manicurist, dry cleaner, Milo’s vet, assorted waitresses and waiters, not to mention the sales people at Macy’s, Target and Ralph’s all know me.

To paraphrase the composer, Bob Merrill:

 Can you imagine that?

Can you Imagine that?

Everybody knows my name.

There’s another song title from Carnival that fits my life these days – it’s simply called Humming.

Alice Blue Gown

WHATEVER THE QUESTION,  HATE ISN’T THE ANSWER

 

Most of my Blogs are relatively light.  I am not inclined to concentrate on things that make me unhappy.  But the climate in this country today is just too sad to be endured silently.

We will start with a general description of my approach – as honestly as I can describe it.

I am a Democrat and have been for practically ever. Ideally, for me, that means I think everyone has a right to think whatever they feel is best – NO MATTER HOW WRONG THEY ARE!

Okay.  So I’m not a Mother Theresa or a Gandhi. But what I am, I believe, is a person who is able to see how it is possible for really wonderful people to disagree with me.  What I am finding, even among some of my closest friends, is a lack of that particular talent – yes – talent.  It takes real discipline to look at someone and understand how they can have the same facts available as I have, and still disagree.

Obviously, it is possible!  And THAT, is what makes a Democracy a Democracy.  You have a right to be wrong!  And no one has a right to try to stop you.  But the level of hate that is being spewed around our country these days is beyond belief. It is one of the few emotions that is being sent out urgently by both sides of the arguments that separate us.

I do NOT think Donald Trump is good for this country.  I don’t know for sure who is.  But I know without a doubt that posting a sign that says “Republican lives don’t matter” will not make anything better.

Yes, I actually did see that!

Not only do Republican lives matter, but “Black Lives Matter.”  And White Lives Matter and Mexican Lives Matter as do all the other versions of humanity.  Some of us have never met a Buddhist or a Hindu but if they vote against what we believe, we are willing to write them off.

This can’t be good for anyone.

I will now ponder the possible reaction to this piece.  Possibly I will loose my nerve and never publish it.  Unless I can kill anger with a funny line, I don’t know what to do.  I fear hate, whether personal or wide spread.

I don’t expect love from the world, or admiration.  None of that good stuff.  But please, before hate becomes the acceptable answer, let us think about loving our neighbor…no matter what kind of a nut case he/she may be.

Peace out.

 

I Remember That!

“All women wearing pants will be escorted from the front of the church and be relocated to the back…(pause here for effect)…BEHIND the pews.”

Father O’Shea, the pastor and arbitrator of all things right and proper, stood at the foot of the altar. He was, as I remember – shaking with righteous indignation.

A sudden, nervous silence raced around the over crowded church. Children laughed…imagining Mother in church without pants! They stopped almost instantly as the nuns raced up and down the aisles to silence them.

Women, even those who had made the decision to defy all kinds of sanity and wear SLACKS to church, looked around nervously as the hapless ushers (all men of course,) moved through the rows to tap the designated offenders to their new positions of disgrace. The year? Approximate, but I’m thinking 1950-ish.

I don’t remember what the occasion was, but I do know it WAS an OCCASION.  The church was more than usually crowded and folks were dressed up a bit more.  I think I remember it was graduation for the elementary school students –And, to give credit where it was due, Father O’Shea had chosen wisely for getting the most bang for his buck…or audience for his drama.

NO WOMAN WHO CHOSE TO WEAR MEN’S ATTIRE WOULD BE WELCOMED IN HIS CHURCH.

It wasn’t dogma. It wasn’t taken from the bible as we thought we knew it. After all, if we went by that, we’d all be wearing  – well – nothing.  Like Adam and Eve.

However, Father O’Shea did have an effect.  Local thrift stores were inundated with almost-new pants suits.

Many years later, when my son, John, was being graduated from, high school, I went to HIS graduation wearing a pants suit of my choosing.  Now, I wasn’t quite brave enough to do this alone.  No, I conned a friend, the mother of one of John’s friends, into buying a matching suit.

I felt downright brave. Inspired and inspiring to others. Okay, really kind of silly taking a stand for Women’s right to choose their own clothes.  I also thought I looked quite striking.  Pants suits hid a lot of truths

If I am being totally honest – I was probably reveling in the attention.  But poor Anne Marie, my fellow rebel, was just going along for the ride.  Literally. I had a car for the day and she didn’t. Anyway…we arrived at the graduation and A.M. whispered, nervously.

“I don’t see any other women wearing pants, do you?”

I certainly did not. And, here’s that honesty thing again, I was probably very glad no one else showed up in slacks.  After all, you can only be a rebel if you are in the minority, and a minority of three dulls the edge.

“I bet they’re all feeling sorry for us,  having chosen to dress like men,” A.M. said miserably.

“And WE,” I said grandly, “can feel sorry for them in turn for their inability to recognize a fashion opportunity like this one to be leaders in …” I have to admit I paused here. I couldn’t quite figure out what we were leading…

“The fashions of the future!”

The sentiment was right but the voice was wrong.  I hadn’t said it.  Anne Marie did!

Damn all.  I went to all this trouble to drag her into the new fashion world and she had the best line!

But I did get bragging rights.

“Oh yes, I remember it well.” I say casually. “I was one of the early fashion dare devils. Practically had to drag my friends kicking and screaming into the new world of fashions…why I remember…” but about here, interest has moved on.

My drama is a bit lost in a civilization where we are now choosing our SEX rather than our clothes.

I’m not there yet, and I realize that, at my age, I’d better hurry.

women in pants.jpg

AS TIME GOES BY

I was just working around my Tiny House the other day and I began humming a song I didn’t recognize. I do that a lot of late. They are remnants of tunes that I grew up with…

I was humming along when the words just started to present themselves…except not all of them.  So I went right to Safari and typed in:  “You’d be Surprised” .  And there they were…almost as I remembered them.

The “cheat sheet” presented me with a line I knew to be incorrect…

 “At a party or at a ball

I’ve got to admit

He’s nothing at all.

But in a modest chair

You’d be surprised.”

 Wait. What?  A modest chair?

No.  NO!  NO!!!

It’s “…In a MORRIS chair.”  Doesn’t everybody know that?

Apparently not.

I know it because the Morris chair was a big, big part of my childhood. Grandmom McTague (my mother’s mother} lived with us when I was very young, She’d had a stroke that left her with a bad limp and a left hand that did nothing. My memory of her is seeing her everyday, in her room, embroidering.  And she sat there, regally working away with the help of an embroidery hoop my Uncle Harry had attached to the left arm of her “cozy Morris chair.”  It gave her the ability to achieve some really detailed work with her “cozy” chair providing her with a steady grip on the creation.

I stopped short of crying, just thinking about it. But all that work on her part led to each family member having his/her own embroidered pillow case…lovely to look at but impossible to sleep on because the design required very lumpy stitching and no one had the heart to ask her to stop.

But the thought triggered another memory… of words in almost-forgotten songs that no longer make any sense to the world at large.

Take this one from “Among My Souvenirs”.

“Some letters tied with blue…

a photograph or two.

I find a rose from you

Among my souvenirs.”

Romantic to someone of a certain age, but for today’s audience, it falls into the “Who sends letters?”

Ah romance….

There’s one song, “When Francis Dances with Me” that I still sing, just because it amuses me and because it was written in 1921…meaning it is another living thing older than I am that is still hanging in there. And I get to use my idea of a Bronx accent while singing about going dancing in the Bowery…a place of such ill repute, that no gentleman would even speak its name in mixed company.  And no nice girl would even admit to knowing of its existence. While the whole song is dated, one line particularly smacks of another era:

…”I fit in his arms like a motorman’s glove.”

I even stumped my computer with this one, but when I was a kid, everyone (well almost everyone) rode the trolley and the guy in charge of the trolley was the motorman and all motormen wore a particular kind of glove.  Ergo…the saying.

Easter bonnets are quaint all on their own, but “The Easter Parade”, a song from 1933 refers to looking so lovely, you’ll find yourself in a rotogravure. Probably not ringing any bells, right?  A rotogravure was technically a printing process, but was also what we called the color magazine of a Sunday newspaper. Now, in most cities, you’d be hard pressed to find a fat Sunday paper, let along a magazine insert.

I knew there were many, many more examples if I could just call them to mind.  And then I remembered listening to my then early teenaged granddaughter, Celia, Jr., attack ”Lullaby of Broadway” in high school.

Celia has a lovely voice and I’ve always enjoyed listening, but there was a lack of… conviction…this time. This was noteworthy because, if you know my granddaughter, she could very rarely be accused of lacking conviction. And then it occurred to me: the words weren’t making sense to her.

Not surprising.

Take a look and imagine trying to translate these lyrics into her world.

“The hi de hi and hoo di hoo,

The Lullaby of Broadway.

The rumble of a subway train,

The rattle of a taxi.

The daffodils who entertain,

At Angelo’s and Maxie’s.”

Who were these “daffodils”? Some say it was a reference to “choir girls”, but it was also whispered that “daffodil” was slang for a gay man. In 1935, writing about homosexuality, even covertly, was scandalous. I would not have know what “gay” meant…let alone “daffodil” when I was in high school. My granddaughter, meanwhile, came of age where she would of course know all about the concept, but not the quaint slang of a bygone era. While I certainly would never want to go back to that mind-set, I think “daffodils” is a perfect, evocative term – beautiful, colorful, ready to enliven any room or party, singularly or in a group.

Times change, music changes, sensibilities change. I used to feel out of time growing up. I was a little bit of a non-conformist in a straight-laced world. I’m happy to see a world…at least the world I inhabit…trying to evolve into a place ready to accept differences in people.

But, oh, to fit in someone’s arms like a motorman’s glove once more would be lovely.

Version 2

 

 #OCEANS2

I gave the title of this piece a lot of thought. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I was using #tag correctly. Looking at it and knowing what I want it to mean, I’m still not sure….but it is kind of eye catching isn’t it?

And that IS what I was looking for. Something familiar, yet different.

So –

What it’s all about is this:

I have a cause.

Pause here for you all to take a deep breath because today’s world is just too damn full of people with causes. But stay with me here ’cause this cause is just too big to let go.

About a week or so ago I saw a picture of  one of nature’s miracles. A huge whale. A magnificent mammal…and before you rush to judgment, I looked it up and I quote:

“Mammals all are warm-blooded animals, they breathe air, have hair and moms feed their babies milk from mammary glands. Whales actually do all these things”

Sadly this particular whale was no longer magnificent. He would never again rise majestically out of the waters and slam down with a great crash, while boat loads of enthralled tourists stare in disbelief at his size and his agility and – well –magnificence.

This whale was dead. Beached. Brought down by one of mankind’s great achievements.

PLASTIC.

Yep. This whale had swallowed about 1000 pieces of plastic which we thoughtlessly tossed into the waters off our shores. And then he died.

Oh, I am well aware of suffering people. I read, and cringe everyday about injustices done to humans, animals and to our abused world in general. And I would never suggest that Whales replace anyone’s dedication to any of these causes.

What I do suggest is that we do LESS.

Start small. You probably don’t really need to drop those avocados you’re buying into a separate plastic bag. If you buy fancy plastic plates for a next party, wash them and use them for a future occasion.

Currently my big effort is cutting down the number of big plastic trash bags I use everyday.  I normally used one a day. That meant seven very large bags every week, and that is for me, living alone. Families must use many more. Millions of people – billions of bags – all going in to our oceans where they do incalculable harm, including killing all kinds of under water living things. Both plants and beings.

We have now reached the explanation for the title. I have managed to bring my contribution down to two bags a week. I carry the trash out, dump it into the bin and then take the empty bag back into the house, where I wash it and reuse it. I found that the bags were inclined to collapse when I tried to stretch that. The result? I only need two bags a week. Get it?  #Oceans2.

I know. It’s a very small thing. But it is SOMETHING. And if we all do it, it will help. Meantime, there are the shopping bags to reuse and the straws we can do without and, well, just look around you.

There is plastic everywhere.

I’m not sure how many inventive things we can do to cut down on the harm we are doing everyday.  But this is the only world we have (so far) to call our own. Let’s try not to drown it in more plastic.

If you have some practical suggestions of your own for saving our planet, please share them…Let’s work at getting to #Oceans0.

 

Late idea:  I went shopping today and bought those extra heavy duty black bags. It’s my guess that I may be able to get away with using just one each week. 

YAY ME.