Let the Dancing Begin!

Happy days are here again with the victory of Doug Jones over Roy Moore in Alabama.  And I’m not happy just because Doug Jones is a Democrat.

I’m happy because Doug Jones is the man who brought members of the KKK to trial for the deaths of black children back in 1963, four little girls at the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church all those years ago.

I’m happy because I see a glimmer of light in what has become a dark night in America, and I’m happy because neither Steve Bannon’s ugliness nor Donald Trump’s meanness prevailed.

I’m happy because Roy Moore won’t concede the election, which just goes to show what all the women accusing him of sexual misbehavior have been trying to tell us.  Moore is a man who has no class and doesn’t hear the word “No.”

I’m happy because what happened in Alabama signals the beginning of the end of what’s been going on in our country for the past long years of divisiveness and something just short of hate in the House and Senate.

We need a two-party system, but we need good men and women in those two parties who respect each other, who care about America and Americans at every income level, and who work out their differences on our behalf without stonewalling, insults, or tantrums.

So back to celebrating — Years ago I read this by Marshall Rosenthal in Rolling Stone:
“To celebrate without dancing is like eating Oreos without milk. The taste is sweet, but the wet exhilaration of a fundamental force washing the sweetness inward is missing.” 

Grab the Oreos. Grab the milk. Put on the music and dance!

 

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Christmas – It Was Ever Thus…

Hitting the holiday shopping trail always makes me a little disoriented.  I’ve been known to leave everything I was planning to buy on the counter and head out of a big store just to clear my head.  It goes back, I think, to 1958 when Stan Freberg graced the airwaves (some of them) with his take on the holiday madness that’s come to be known as Christmas.

I was young and impressionable and did this one ever make an impression.  I give you now Freberg’s “Green Christmas” which was, as you might imagine, banned on certain radio stations – a lot of them as a matter of fact – not because it was X-rated but because it was a jab at the commercial nature of Christmas.

And just think – this was long before online shopping or Amazon or Costco or Best Buy, and the rest of the money changers going for our dollars.

I play this every year.  If Christmas is not your holiday, that’s fine because I imagine whatever holiday you celebrate this time of the year has its own equivalent reasons to spend money.  And whatever you think about the holidays, Miss Fidditch doesn’t believe that any of them were about “stuff.”

As for the ending, wait for it…Ka-ching.

 

December 7: You Had to Be There

December 7, 1941.

I can’t say I remember clearly this date.  I was a very young child (and now you know how old Miss Fidditch really is).

But I remember some of what happened on this date and much of what followed.  I remember the grownups around me in a state of panic, glued to the big radio over which the increasingly dire broadcasts continued.  I remember the general sense of some combination of despair and anger which ensued.

I felt it again two days after 9/11 when I stood in a defiant crowd gathered for a concert in downtown Portland, Oregon, where we dared anyone to come between us and our place in that crowd.

The numbers of us with actual memories of World War II grow smaller every year.  Before long, we’ll all be gone and the memories with us.  No one will remember watching uncles or cousins or fathers or neighbors or brothers in uniform heading off to a war, some of them going to the Asian theatre and others to Europe.

My dear uncle ended up in France where he suffered severe and lasting injuries but came out of it years later to joke with me when I studied French and he remembered a few phrases he’d learned over there.

My father, like some others including two of my aunts, had a defense job working in the shipyards and was not drafted until near the end of the war.  But in addition to his job at the shipyard he was a neighborhood warden in case of attack.  The possibility of attack was very real on the west coast and our garage was filled with buckets of sand to use if fire broke out.

I have a photo of our dog, Silly, a little rat terrier wearing the gasmask my dad had put on him for the picture.  I remember my parents young.

I remember the patriotic savings stamps we bought at school and the books of stamps we turned in for war bonds.  I remember the bond rallies with famous entertainers urging us to buy more and to punch Tojo and Hitler in the face.  I remember the balloons with images of those two at the bond drive booth where I was lifted up to kick them because my small hands weren’t powerful enough yet to do the punching.

I remember the rationing and the limited choices we had about everything – food, gasoline, clothing and shoes.  A car was out of the question.

One friend told me that his family wore bowling shoes through the war because they were somehow exempted from the rationing.  I wore plain brown oxfords which apparently were exempted as well (and certainly ugly enough), and longed for a pair of Dutch wooden shoes which had replaced leather shoes, and I was delighted when I was finally allowed a pair.

I remember the exuberant music, including all the patriotic songs as well as the swingy tunes, and dances of the time because I came from a young family that was determined not to let the bad news of the day chill their young hearts completely.

I remember the christenings of the battleships my dad or aunts had worked on.  The speeches and then the champagne bottles smashed before the ships slid into the water. I remember feeling proud that something people in my family had built was going to help “the boys overseas.”

I remember the buzz of a plane overhead and the automatic response of looking up to be sure it was one of ours.  Old habits die hard and I still look up when I hear that buzzing sound overhead.

I remember the blackouts when every light in the house was turned off and the black shades drawn over all the windows and we sat with perhaps one flashlight for the duration.

I remember being afraid.

I remember learning  and using the word “bastard” because I’d heard someone read aloud a letter from a cousin overseas who had used it to describe the bad guys he was fighting.  I remember the stunned look on my grandmother’s face when I used the word about a neighbor kid who was a bully.

I remember the news that the war was over and the impromptu parade the neighbor kids, including the bully, and I put together with our trikes and bikes decorated with flowers.  The fathers and brothers and sons and uncles came home and there was talk of better days, but the feelings of despair and anger never quite dissipated for the children of the war.

We don’t talk about it much, but we remember.

When I hear the breast-beating and warmongering talk coming out of Washington, DC these days by a man who was not even born before World War II ended, my heart sinks.

No one who has not been through the days of war should have a voice or a vote about starting one or encouraging one anywhere in the world.  No one.

The children will remember.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Fidditch Speaks of Vacation Photos – Then and Now

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Slide #238, Spring Vacation, Arizona (click)

Miss Fidditch is going to do one of her death-defying tricks today, way out at the end of a limb that could break and fall at any moment.  And she’ll do it without a net.  Let’s have the drum roll please!

Miss Fidditch is going to talk about selfies and photos of any kind on any smart or moderately intelligent device and the urge, nay passion, to share these with people other than the grandparents of those in the photo.

Is anyone here old enough to remember vacation slide shows?  If not, here’s how they generally worked.

Your neighbors or friends came home from their two-week trip to some place in middle America, or maybe even someplace more scenic with mountains or an ocean or monuments of one kind or another and promptly invited you to a little dinner party.  Now, the timing of the dinner party was usually a giveaway, but we were more gullible back in the day and believed a dinner party was just a social event.

After a nice dinner with five or six or more friends, the host – it was always the host – would disappear while the hostess invited everyone to retire to the living room for coffee and possibly dessert where we would find that the host had been busy setting up a slide projector and hanging a sheet on one wall.  If they were better prepared, he might have figured out how to pull up a real screen for the much-dreaded surprise showing.

Our host greeted us and cheerily announced that he and Doris (why was it so often Doris?) had “some” slides from their vacation.  “Some” was another word for four full racks of slides stacked on the coffee table next to him.

If any of us were lucky and had our wits about us, we’d make an excuse about how sorry we were that we couldn’t stay but that we’d promised the babysitter we’d be home by eight, and make a hasty departure.  The first couple to make their excuse was allowed to leave. The rest of us were held captive through the droning monologue and the endless slides of “Doris next to the waterfall,” “Doris eating lunch at the historic diner,” “Doris, Doris, Doris,” along with bears or local children or the room at the Howard Johnson inn.

I write this with all affection for friends who traveled.  But I also write it with memories of actually falling asleep during a few of these monologues in the dark with perhaps the most boring photos of all time.

Fast forward to 2017 and the world of selfies and smart phones ready to take a picture any old time. Smart phones that don’t require a projector or a dinner party or any preparation at all except to whip them out of the pocket or the purse ready to show the unwitting companion all the slides from the vacation or the cute pictures of the kids or the bears or what the owner had for dinner the night before.

BUT, the problem is that nine times out of ten, the holder of that phone is not quite as ready as the phone itself, so instead of the droning monologue and the click of the projector, we captives are now subjected to a different monologue and the side swipes of the frustrated photographer.  The monologue goes something like this, “I know it’s here, where is it?, oh, here it is, no, wait, that’s not it, (downward scrolling), I know it’s here, I just saw it, (upward scrolling), just a minute and I’ll find it.”

When the photo is finally located, we are treated to a mini screen with the desired (by the owner) picture, which can, of course (this is 2017) be enlarged by the notorious finger spread, to get a good close-up of the artisanal meatloaf at Mac’s Truck Stop on Route 66 or the waterfall or the sign announcing that this was, indeed, North Dakota.

Because these personal photo “shows” almost always take place now in broad daylight anywhere and everywhere, there’s not even an excuse or possibility of falling asleep to avoid them.  So we’ve learned to nod politely and smile and repeat, “Oh, that’s interesting,” or “So cute” or any other words that don’t include, “Please stop.”  Our only other hope is that our own phones will ring and we’ll be called away to an emergency – like buying the window cleaning service from the guy on the other end of the line.

I’d like to note that when it comes to my immediate family and very, very close friends, I do like seeing your pictures.  Just not all of them and not being ambushed over lunch or dinner with no place to hide.

With so many places to post photos these days on the Internet, we should all do that and then send a link so viewers can choose the time and place to view them, fortify themselves with a box of chocolates or a stiff drink and take breaks whenever needed (the older we are, the more frequently they’re needed) and skip over the ones of Doris in front of anything at all.

I hear the limb beginning to crack, so I’m climbing down now.  I hope nobody’s taking a picture of this!

Despite the Madness in D.C., We Ain’t Down Yet

Several years ago when I did a lot of cross-country traveling for my business, I was on a plane leaving Jackson, Mississippi, one November afternoon and seated across the aisle from a distinguished-looking elderly gentleman in a beautifully tailored white suit.  He could have been Col. Sanders’ older and slimmer brother for all I knew.

We chatted pleasantly across the aisle about the weather, the day, the usual things, when he noted that it was election day and asked if I’d be home in time to vote.  I said I would and appreciated his question.  Then, without a pause, without a moment’s hesitation, the next words out of this nice old southern gentleman’s mouth were:  “We never should have given those n—–s the vote.”

I was stunned, and scrambled in my mind for a response.  I’d worked hard in Civil Rights and knew how wrong he was, but then a light dawned as I realized it wouldn’t matter what I said, because a man like this almost certainly resented having given “those women” the vote, too.  If he was hoping for either agreement or a stinging response from me, he was disappointed.  I had no words for him.  Instead I picked up a magazine, turned away and we didn’t speak for the rest of the flight.

Maybe he thought he had put me in my place.  Maybe he’d tell the story that way later to his cronies.  Or maybe he worried that his lovely wife would find out he’d been chatting up a woman on the plane.  Or maybe he didn’t think about it at all.  Maybe he just accepted his Divine Right to trash anyone not a member of his Good Old Boys club.

I’ve been thinking about that old man the last few days as I watch and listen to Donald Trump behave about as badly as any man has ever behaved, though the others have not been the President of the United States.

I’m as heartsick now as I was on that plane.  The Ugly American is not on the road.  He’s right here in America showing his ugly self to the citizens of his own country.  He’s Cronus eating his own children.

I could go on, and I have over the past months, but today it’s just the heartsick feeling that none of it matters.  No one in a position of authority or capable of doing anything about him is stepping up.  The endless conversations and hand-wringing with people who feel as I do has accomplished nothing that I can see.  I sometimes get the feeling that people in both parties are enjoying the fights and the drama and that nobody really cares about the American people.

This is not my first political rodeo by a long shot, but it’s the first time that I’ve felt heartsick about it.  The first time I’ve felt like a passenger on the Ship of Fools and that my life, personally, could be in serious jeopardy given the decisions of the rampaging crew who are not fighting over deck chairs but over who gets the most press and the biggest tax breaks as the American Ship of State goes down.

When that happens, it will not be “women and children first,” believe me.  It will be “millionaires and Donald Trump bootlickers first.”  The rest of us – poets, artists, teachers, shopkeepers, the homeless and tired and poor, the list is long – will simply be swept along by decisions in which we have no say.

Someone once asked me, “Do you ever feel like there’s a committee meeting to decide your life and you were not invited?”

These days I do often feel like that committee is meeting.  But I’m not one who gives up easily.  I’m also not one to wrestle with pigs (you both get dirty and the pig likes it).  And I’m no longer one willing to tilt at the crazed windmills spinning out of control in Washington, DC.

I can’t do a damn thing about North Korea or the vote on taxes or who Donald Trump hires or fires or tweets.  I can’t do a damn thing about the fallout from his terrible behavior.  I have no clout with world leaders or even much clout with my local politicians.

But what I can do is help my neighbors when needed, be kind to the homeless around my city, speak up when I personally witness meanness or hurtful behavior, challenge friends who think it’s okay for women to be hit on and that they’re “asking for it.”  I can wait patiently in the line at the grocery market and flirt with babies, chat with strangers also waiting in that line, behave myself and thank the frazzled checkout clerks.  I can return my library books on time and water my little garden and feel real joy when the orchids bloom a second or third time around.  I can love my kids and grandkids and my extended family and encourage them to do the same.

Small pleasures.

And I can paint and write and take delight in the writing of the students who come to my workshops.  I can share the camaraderie of writers and artists that I meet and feel deeply my gratitude toward people who can do bigger things financially and don’t hesitate to do them.

The committee can go on meeting to decide my life and no, I haven’t been invited.  I’ve got my own meeting going in a room down the hall where the news is turned off and our bright lights are turned on.  Welcome, friends. Welcome, strangers.  The people in Washington have their lives and we have ours.

I’m not known as the Unsinkable Miss Fidditch for nothing.  And I ain’t down yet.  Heartsick sometimes, yes, but definitely not down.