Lynn Ruth Miller

Commedienne - Not dead yet

Category: Blog (page 2 of 2)

I GOT TO PARIS!!!!

PARIS!!!!!
Paris is always a good idea.
Audrey Hepburn

I got the idea last March. I called Karen Bakos to tell her I was returning to Brighton to work on my show for the Brighton Fringe and Edinburgh. It seemed silly to go home mid-June only to return end of July. “I would really love to go to Paris while I am on that side of the pond,” I said. “Would you like to go?”

“I am going there in September,” she said and paused. “But I can always go there twice.”

And so we made the plan. Karen and Mitch (her husband) could only travel on weekends so we found a weekend when I wasn’t doing shows and they could get away. I had no idea how I would be able to pay for the trip, but I knew I had to go and this is why: I am very conscious of time these days. My eightieth birthday is this October and there are so many, many things I need to do before I leave this earth. My friends are popping off like champagne corks and I know that before I go bloopy, I need to experience a bit of the life I was too afraid to try when I was young and far more able, (financially and physically, that is.)

A word about the Bakos’s: I discovered Karen in Pacifica at A GRAPE IN THE FOG. She was born just outside of Cleveland and although she hates it when I say this, Ohio people share a common moral base and a common outlook on what is important in life, especially those who managed to escape that Midwestern mentality that is so smothering…so stifling…so not either of us.
Her husband Mitch is also from Ohio, many years younger than she and just as sensitive to humanity and alive to possibilities. I cannot explain the affinity we have developed but it is there and it is stronger than almost any friendship I have formed since I moved to California. We do not see one another that much, but when we do, we really LIKE each other.

When Mitch got a super job offer in Swindon, the two decided to move from Pacifica and experience another world: a British world. At the time they moved there, less than 2 years ago, I was accelerating my visits to the UK and we knew we would have many opportunities to continue the friendship we had begun. I have to say that since I have known Karen, it is she who takes care of ME although the truth is I am older than her mother. I really do not see what she and Mitch get out of the friendship, but I know that when I am with the two of them I feel very secure and very cared for.

I still recall when she came to my show at Actors Theater in San Francisco and took me to the best place ever for dinner afterwards. I remember her frustration, anger and hysteria when she packed up the house in Pacifica. Mitch was in Swindon, the cat got sick and almost died and her life was in shambles. It was probably the only time I was a help to HER. I came over to the house and helped her pack…and returned with wonderful blouses and odds and ends for the house. She and Mitch both have always given me those little extras I have never been able to afford…and I am sure they have no idea how much all this means to me.

The friendship blossomed with visits to Highworth, where the couple found a renovated schoolhouse, and the two of them coming to Edinburgh and Brighton and London for my shows. We are always in touch and we care a lot about one another. It is interesting because I am a bit of a philosopher and Karen very definitely is not. She doesn’t like to ponder on the deeper meaning of someone waving at me or winking. She is a realist and a pragmatist. Mitch will join me on my meandering through motives, impressions and deeper meanings. SO in reality it is not a conversational friendship (as most of mine are) and yet it is a very strong one. You figure that one out.

And now, the two of them made Paris possible for me. People think I have great courage, but the truth is I get lost and confused in any new situation. If I cannot speak the language, I am so fearful that I just stand in the middle of the road and wish I had a teddy bear. That is why Paris would not have been possible for me without the Bakos’s.

Once we latched on to the idea, our e-mails went back and forth. We selected June 21 -23 for the trip and decided I would return to Highworth for a couple days after the trip. I am comfortable there and it is a good place to recharge what batteries I have left. Karen made the reservations on the Eurostar and got a package deal at an amazingly, wonderful hotel: Hotel Paris Bastille, (although we didn’t know that until we got there) for £300 pounds each IF we shared a room. “Mitch is going too,” she said and I thought, “OMG all THREE of us in one room…Well, why not?”

The truth is that except for a wonderful, morally chaste weekend with Nick Leonard in LA, I have not slept with a man in the room since Rick left me back in 1969. I have no idea if I snore, talk and walk in my sleep or am otherwise offensive…and all I could think was, “Well, I’ll find out soon enough.”

AND I am ridiculously modest for a stripper. I shut the bathroom door when I am alone in my house and I have never really LOOKED at my body because it discourages me. I was not sure how I would handle slipping into my t-shirt and snuggie slipper socks with ANYONE in the room and this time I told myself “What the hell.”

Besides, although I didn’t know it when we made the plans, I needed a break from the tension and uncertainty of the last two months in Brighton. Working with Bill has been a frustrating and heady soup of hope, laughter and worry. He is promising a great deal that I would love to happen and not really DOING anything that will make it all real. He is talking about my touring the country, my having a weekly TV show, my creating a hit in Edinburgh…and yet there has been no mention of money. He has invested an immense amount of it however in my show and in creating two pilot TV shows. I believe in him with my heart but my head is very worried. I cannot finance all these trips abroad and I cannot give up Nader and San Francisco without a secure base. We still have not figured out how to cut out 15 minutes of the current show we have created to 45 minutes. We still haven’t talked about what to do to promote it and get people to come see it much less interest the press. Yet, in my heart, I believe Bill is right and we will somehow make this work.

That is why by the time the trip to Paris came around, I was ready for it. I needed to get away from all the worry that was souring the beautiful time I am having in Brighton…because that I am. I love the friends I have made, the people I meet, the comedy I am doing in London and Brighton…life is surprisingly exciting these days.

Everything about this trip seemed meant to be. The night before, I went out for dinner with Danny Horwood who is becoming my Jewish daddy. We had a divine and delicious meal at Morocco’s, an Italian place in Hove after we visited a couple whose daughter was turning 21. They were in the process of building their house and it was gorgeous inside but a shambles outside. They wanted Danny to create a tent on the patio for them to have their party. It turned out that the couple’s daughter worked on Britain’s Got Talent the year I was on it and she must have known me. I have yet to hear back from them but that was an amazing coincidence. We got home at a reasonable hour for a change and I got to bed before 2 in the morning. Danny assured me that if I write Bill and explain my concerns he will go with me to lock in the commitments I need to continue.

The Euro star is a train that goes under the English Channel and gets to Paris in 2 hours and 15 minutes non-stop. Our train left at 1:30 so Karen and I arranged that I would meet her and Mitch at 12:30. The train I needed to take to get to St. Pancras was at 11:07 so I decided to wake up at 9:30(OMG) intending to walk to the station.

I woke up without an alarm Friday morning, packed and there was a knock on the door. Clare had decided to take my bag down the three flights of stairs for me and drive me to the station!!! What a luxury! My routine when I travel is to take down the bag first and then my coat and purse since I don’t want to risk falling down the steps. This time: whoosh!!…..down the steps, in the car , at the station in less than 10 minutes.

I caught an earlier train (because I could. AND I still had time for coffee and a croissant). Roz, the train station customer service angel wasn’t there; but Ian, the guy she trained WAS!!! He took me to the train and got someone to meet me at St. Pancras so I wouldn’t wander around that gorgeous station all by myself trying to find Eurostar. The St. Pancras railway station is considered the finest station in the country. It is filled with interesting restaurants and shops, high-ceilinged, modern with FREE loos that flush automatically and flash a red light when they are occupied. You don’t get that at the older stations. The man who met me parked me at a posh coffee cafe and I waited for Karen and Mitch to arrive.

When they got there, Mitch took my bag, we went to a restaurant for a bit of food (I wanted a Mademoiselle…which is a toasted cheese sandwich with mushrooms and tomatoes, but all they I had was Monsieur which is a toasted cheese sandwich with ham and cheese. I decided now is as good a time as any to let go of all my eating hang ups and I gobbled it up.

From that moment on, all I had to do was follow Mitch and I got to wherever we meant to go. We got on the train, settled in and Mitch got us our first (of way too many) bottles of wine. We arrived in Paris at 4:45 Paris time, and thanks to Mitch who is very clever we got on the Metro arrived at our hotel and called Karel who told us to come over to his place as soon as we could….and we did.

The hotel was a glorious surprise. It was a three star hotel (which is two stars more than I am accustomed to) We were expecting the bare minimum accommodation and instead we were put in room 601 with a gorgeous view of the city. I had my own bed next to my own bathroom WITH A TUB and Karen and Mitch got the bigger bed (or course) with their own bathroom. We unpacked and got ready to find Karel Beer.

Will and Debby Durst had told me about Karel 4 years ago because he books really professional comedy in Paris. We spoke when he was in Edinburgh in 2008 and we could not meet because he was leaving the next day and I had two or three shows to do that night. Although I know now that he was up until 5 in the morning so I could have found him, that was the year of the non-stop rain and I was not masochistic enough to slosh anywhere after my third comedy gig at The Meadows that night. That was my year at The Argyle when I was running hither and thither and had no time to do so much as take a dump (something I rarely do in Edinburgh anyway). Karel put me on his mailing list and every now and again when I was crossing the pond I would answer one of his e-mails and hope he would consider letting me open for one of his shows.

He never answered.

However, this year Mikel Simic was going to spend a few days in Paris and I thought they would be a good match (they were not). I gave Mikel Karel’s contact information and lo and behold they did meet…liked each other but didn’t impress each other which is sad. Now that I know Karel, I know he would go mad for The Black Sea Gentlemen….but hearing Mikel out of context simply doesn’t convey how marvelous an entertainer he is. Very sad because I think a good thing missed happening. However, good things often do miss happening in this frantic world of ours. (and other good things DO happen…keep reading.)

Karel’s gallery is called The Sound Gallery at Quai de Jemmapes 104, Paris 10. It was across the canal and we had to take the Metro to get there but thanks to Mitch and Karen, we found it. I particularly loved the walk to his place from the metro. It has a lot of small interesting shops packed in narrow streets lined with motorcycles and bicycles, little children and dogs. One of the things I noticed about everywhere we went in Paris, is that there were tiny little food shops tucked in between the cafes, the bars and the shops you shop in with lovely produce. I know nothing about the value of the Euro compared to the dollar so I do not know how expensive the food was, but I do know that the drinks and food we bought were not that high. We found the gallery easily enough and I loved it. Thee was a big blue table that we sat at and we all began talking about comedy, stagecraft and about the idiosyncrasies of life …over one bottle then two bottles of wine. I loved one of the paintings in the gallery and the vinyl records Karel had on the wall that were actually paintings relating to their titles. But most of all I loved Karel.

He is another one of these creative men I stumble on that I love being near. He has that wonderfully funny way of taking a topic and expanding on it and making it all sound ridiculous. It is a Jewish sort of humor that is so funny you cannot believe he really said or even thought what he said. Anyway, one of the things I eat up is good conversation and we certainly had that. We also had bread, cheese and too much wine. I am not complaining.

We left the gallery and headed out to Le Danube on Faubourg du Temple where there was the most marvelous sax player Rob Armus who played old-fashioned jazz with his pals and the ladies of the night. As Karel said, “it was la fete de la musique…”

But it was so much more than that. Rob is from Canada; the other musicians were English speaking…or most of them were and the music was irresistible. Karen got up and started dancing and I don’t know whether it was the wine (I was on my 4th glass…but who is counting) or the music but I got up and danced as well. I have to say that night, I found heaven. I danced with young men and old ones and some told me I was wonderful and others just smiled and that was exhilarating. I danced with young girls and old and I know they knew what a bon-bon the evening was for me. I did twosomes and threesomes and best of the best, I danced with Karel in the old, traditional couple kind of way where you dipped and danced and ended with a flourish and a kiss. How long has it been since I had that?

I also sang one of my songs and Karel did a Leonard Cohen kind of riff to another. Evidently alcohol makes everyone a star.

And so the night ended. Ann Morrow Lindbergh says, “Why do we want a beautiful moment to last forever. It is after all, only a moment.”…but that one was my glimpse of something better than my dreams. Just a glimpse but after all, isn’t that enough?

We left the bar while everyone else was talking and smoking outside and tried to find a cab. Evidently, cabs only stop at taxi stands and the cab drivers are in a hurry on their way to something more important than the tourist and waving on the corner. They say the first thing that strikes you in Paris is a taxi and I can see why. Mitch however was their match and he finally waved someone down who took us back to the hotel at 3 am. Karen and Mitch were exhausted; I was drunk and very happy.

Karen swears she cannot sleep and is up and awake by 6 am but on both mornings I woke up while both were asleep, crept into my bathroom to wash and dress and went downstairs to wait for them in the lobby. . On Saturday, we got started at something like noon. We walked over to the Café de Paris where Mitch and Karen ate breakfast and I had coffee and a croissant. Then we made our way across a big turnabout with The Opera House on one side, a tall impressive statue to Juliet and then a long promenade where artists display and sell their work. Karen found lots and lots to buy and I found even more to make me wonder at the creativity and breadth of the human spirit. I was moved by many of the paintings but the crafts were even more impressive…lovely, whimsical, original and very Parisian. There was an overzealous photographer Jean Manueline de Noronha who warped and modified photos only by moving the camera. He was very proud that he did not use any special lens to achieve his most unusual results. I asked him how long he had been doing this kind of work photography and he said, ”Only a year. I turned 50 and decided I wanted to do something different with my life. In France, as soon as you are 45, you are dead.”

Tell me about it.

“What did you do before?” I asked.

“I was a carpet salesman,” he said.

Karel says that when a buyer attempts to bargain with an art dealer, the seller says, “I am not a carpet salesman.” Well. This man was.

When we finished browsing through one line of tents we went to a lovely cafe across the street for wine and cheese. I ate, I drank; I went to find the Ladies Room. And, like everything on this delightful trip, it was an experience.

A word about English plumbing facilities: The toilets do not flush; the water is never hot, and they look like they are an afterthought tucked away up (or down) 10 flights of stairs around the corner from the broom closet. The hand dryers never do the job and they stink of disinfectant and God only knows what else.

In France, the toilets are conveniently located with modern two-option flush buttons, the water is hot, the dryers dry and there are towels just in case. AND they are attractive places to be.

I get the feeling that the French are very sensitive to beauty in every phase of life. They live graciously. They serve meals that are as tasteful to the eye as they are delicious to eat; the streets are clean and every room I entered looked decorated as opposed to haphazard furniture put anywhere. One feels that it is important to live in loveliness…and style is as important as function. It is an elegance that is so often lost in the hustle and bustle of American life. I can see why Americans and Canadians would want to live in a place where charm is its own excuse for being… where a pretty dress is an event and an embrace can light up an evening. In Paris, being human demands attention to details …those tiny little touches that make life a pleasant experience.

After we all were wined, fed, and relieved, we wandered down the second row of tents and then over to Victor Hugo’s residence. His home borders a park and the park is lined with galleries and here is where I was transported into an artistic miasma of color, light and shape. I was fascinated with the way the artists worked with figures emerging from a mist of color; the statues that mold a human figure into something that reflects the anguished soul within. My eyes literally drank in the use of paint and paper to record human angst…our need to be recognized as real; to be more than what we see on a TV screen…. We are all just flesh and blood…human beings filled with the very flaws that make us marvelous. I saw that in those galleries and I was transported. Mitch and Karen indulged me because they are the kind human beings they are and at last, we returned to the hotel after a stop for hot chocolate and coffee and a little Parisian people watching.

We called Karel and managed to reach him while we were having our coffees and chocolates. We invited him to dinner because (and this was MY big moment) I decided to use my 150 Euros I earned in Germany to buy everyone drinks and dinner. I was really careful not to buy any gifts or spend anything because I wanted to be certain I had enough money. I also wanted us to go to a restaurant that wasn’t the local tourist attraction; something not written up in guidebooks and sure enough Karel found us the perfect place. He took us to Chez Maurice a la Bourgogne on the Rue des Vinaigriers. It was a small intimate place with tables almost on top of one another and really good food. We met Karel at the gallery and finished off that last bottle of wine. He gave me one of his CD’s and I am thrilled. I will play it over and over and remember the night when someone held me in his arms as if I were twenty and we dahnced and dahnced and dahnced some more.

The Chez Maurice had been in the same family for over 100 years and the menu was full of pork and beef and believe it or not chicken gizzards!!!! That is what I ordered and the others had steak. We knocked off some quiche, soup, a couple bottles of wine and dessert and I PAID FOR IT ALL and still had 50 Euros left. I felt very good about myself at this point…and was beginning to get to that wonderful place where you don’t know you are drunk but life looks beautiful as a rainbow, you are seventeen and a very nice world beckons.

Off we went to The Chair de Poule for country music (!) that I just loved. (It must be the Ohio in me….it certainly isn’t the Jew) Karen insists I was so drunk I just sat and nodded and smiled. But I think I did that because the music was wonderful and the people lovely. I was dying to dance but I couldn’t get up there and be the only one…even all that alcohol didn’t give me that kind of courage. An Irish guy named Terry kept asking to buy me a drink but I knew my liver could handle no more. Everyone treated me like I was special and I was drunk enough to believe it. Karen, Karel and Mitch were outside most of the time smoking, talking and drinking and Karen insists that she spent my remaining 50 Euros on drinks for them. At 2 a.m. the music stopped and Steve, the owner of the bar asked if I wanted to sing. I was in a haze by that time and I said “Sure, if you can play my CD.”

I sang Granny’s Gone Wild, launched into Spandex is a Girls Best Friend (they did not know what spandex is!) and then the medley I haven’t sung in 4 years came on and I kept singing. However, I forgot the words somewhere near WHERE THE BOYS ARE and Karel saved the performance by doing his silly, clever riffing to the music. What with forgetting all the words and doing a smattering of comedy that bombed, I learned a lesson I must not forget: Never ever do your comedy when you are plastered. It does not give a good impression. Karel said I was very nice but he would not ever book me because it would be a disaster and judging by the mess I made that night, he is absolutely right. Steve said I must come back and do a show and that is my new goal. 2014: I will learn French; I will do a show at Steve’s bar and I will dahnce…not a bad star to chase.

We got home at 4 a.m. and since we were leaving at 4:49 p.m. the next day on the Euro star, we decided to get up and out by 11 to go to see the Monet Water Lilies and the exhibit of the Italian Impressionists at the Musée de l’Orangerie. We stopped for a quick breakfast and then stood in line at the museum. Mitch as always, paid our admission and it was a lovely, lovely afternoon. We got the metro back to the hotel, picked up our bags and went to the train station for lunch. I told Karen I would pay for the lunch with my remaining money and she said, ”NO. I used your 50 Euros for our drinks last night.“

I said “No, you didn’t. There are still 50 Euros in the envelope.”

I was right and she still is miffed. “I KNOW that envelope was empty last night,” she said.

I am willing to bet someone put another 50 in there, but no matter. I had money, paid for the lunch and all was well. What I remember most about that meal is that I got a Caesar salad with bacon and a hard boiled egg on it!!!

The train left at 4:49 and we finally got to Highworth at about 8. We went over to the local bar for dinner but they had stopped serving food so we chatted and I had THE best hot chocolate ever with Baileys and marshmallows and we ate Chinese take away.

The next day, I got caught up with my e-mails and started this blog. Mitch helped me reorganize the computer and promised to show me how to get coffee Break French on the computer and start a video blog. He also gave me back 150 pounds because he said he and Karen knew how tight money is for me. (that means I can pay my way in Dublin!!!) That is next on the list….and what along long list it is. So much to do…so many places to see.

Wednesday I got the train to Paddington, met Karen Rosie, my funny woman angel to talk about Edinburgh and then met Kerry Norman my first real gay love for a divine dinner at Il Posto. Home on the train by 11 and in my little room in Clare’s loft snug and cozy and still glowing.

Paris!!! It is indeed a magnificent feast for the senses, the psyche and the heart.

THE HOME OF MY DREAMS

BEST DIGS EVER
If you want total security, go to prison…..
Dwight D. Eisenhower
I have always wanted to be daring and do something absolutely outrageous…but the truth is I fear the punishment. I have read horror stories of what happens in prisons: brutality, rape, lousy plumbing…and I want none of it. However, I am in the unenviable position of losing my house because it is under water and I am looking around for affordable housing for my declining years. Unfortunately, the only shelter that is “affordable” for me on my pension is a used Yurt in the Andes or an abandoned cave in New Mexico.
Imagine my delight when I discovered the Maconochie Center, a prison in Canberra, Australia specifically designed to pamper lawbreakers with so much smother love that they realize the only way to have little fun is to obey the law and get out on parole. The philosophy at Maconochie is that if you give love, you will receive it. I think that is a wonderful attitude. It didn’t work for me with my two husbands, but it has been overwhelmingly successful with my dog.
The “guards” at the prison (called service providers) refer to the inmates as customers and do their best to give the darlings in their care whatever will make them feel wanted and secure. If one of their customers is feeling a bit depressed, why not cheer him up with a couple gin and tonics, a shot of heroin and a little sniff of cocaine. Whatever works as they say in the trade.
The residents at Maconochie Center live together in five bedroom cottages. There is never a problem if a rapist cannot get along with the guy who strangled his baby. Maconochie Center has mediators on call to help the boys (you KNOW they are boys) settle their differences. Perhaps one of them needs a long walk in the country…where there are willing sheep? Perhaps the other needs apple pie a la mode? Who knows? The staff at the center are there to help.
It sounds like a very fun place to live for me. All I would have to do is grow a bit of cannabis in my yard before my foreclosure and sell it in a schoolyard. If I wanted to be certain I could stay at this lovely place for the rest of my life (and after all, I am 80 years old. How long can that be?) I would have to toss someone around screaming “I am going to kill you!” My mother said that to me often enough. I know I can be convincing. The good news is that I don’t actually have to plunge the knife into anyone’s heart…all I need to do in Australia is make the judge believe I really meant to do the deed.
The weather in Canberra is perfect for me. You get four seasons, none too hot or too cold and at Maconochie there are endless opportunities to explore the outdoors. I can use my computer at all hours and if I have a severe pain, I can get a prescription strong enough to use for recreation after the pain has disappeared. But the best news of all is that there has been a rash of pregnancies at the center since it opened. Why, I could finally have that baby I always wanted and not have to worry about dealing with the little sweetheart when it becomes a teenager. By that time I will be long gone and the Maconochie service providers can take over.

Where are Men, Men?

E-mail from America…..

MEN AREN’T MEN ANYMORE

By Lynn Ruth Miller

What I look forward to is continued immaturity followed by death.
Dave Barry

What has happened to the All-American Man? You know: the tough, hard-hitting, straight-shooting hero, the family breadwinner?  He protected his Little Woman, fought the enemy, drank hard liquor and never cried.   Remember him?

 

He was tall with bulging pectoral muscles and a mighty attitude.  When he went out into the business world he dressed in a gray flannel suit, a starched white shirt with a proper four-in-hand tie and a clean handkerchief in the lapel pocket.  He wore garters to hold up his socks and his shoes were polished every morning. He shaved with a straight-edge and never cut his chin (much).

 

During the week, he went bowling with his buddies and when the weather was nice, he grabbed his rifle took the dog into the woods and shot things (just like the English).  He gutted his kill himself (man’s work) his wife fricasseed it (women’s work) and the taxidermist stuffed what was left and hung it above the fireplace.

 

If a real man worked outside, he wore heavy trousers, a flannel shirt and boots to keep his feet dry and a cap with ear flaps.  When he relaxed he wore a soft collar sport shirt, slacks and loafers.  Once a guy reached maturity NO ONE saw his chest or his knees in public.  Sometimes when he forgot to turn off the light, his wife got a glimpse of a hairy thigh or a furry nipple, but she was far too worried about the perfume she was wearing and the provocative qualities of the nightie she hoped he would tear to pieces to notice her significant other’s nether parts.

 

When I was a little girl, I never ever saw my father dressed in anything that exposed any part of his body but his face and hands.  He was the man of the house and he covered up the hairy bits.  That was The American Way.

 

These days, I cannot walk out of my house without being accosted by uncut hair, misshapen calves and bulging ankles. (Socks are out.)   American men like being a boy.  “I am sick to death of looking at men’s hairy shins,” says Glenn Havlan a father who likes being an adult.  “I see men pick up their kids from school who look more like children than their children.  They think cargo shorts and a baseball cap is cool.”

Columnist, George Will agrees. ”We live in a culture of immaturity where many young men are reluctant to grow up,” he observed.  He quotes Gary Cross, a Penn State University historian, who wonders, “Where have all the men gone?” Cross argues that “the culture of the boy-men today is less a life stage than a lifestyle.”

Havlan blames TV shows like Everyone Loves Raymond that perpetuate the image of the helpless male and the bitchy wife who clucks her tongue and rolls her eyes at her guy’s infantile behavior.  “All those guys think of is golf and their dick,” said Havlan.  “Programs like that make the American male think he is exempt from adult concerns.”

Cross blames the huge increase of women in the modern work force.  He says men don’t know how they are supposed to act anymore, especially if they are the ones who stay at home and watch the kids.   Fathers think they should be their children’s buddies instead of respected authority figures. Indeed, our new cultural imperatives have locked men into a perpetual refuge from adulthood.

Perhaps feminism reduced men to children, but wives and partners are doing their part, too.  American women love to mother their guys. We say we are liberated, but we still do the grocery shopping on our way home from the office, vacuum the floor and do the dishes.  The truth is that these days, men cannot even dress themselves.  The website Style Pilot reports that the wives of two thirds of the men they surveyed select their guy’s clothes and more than half actually help them button up and get zipped. Of course, men are still very good at undressing their gals. Getting yourself back together and hiding the evidence is definitely a girl thing.

What is worse, when men try to do housework, they are so inept that their overworked female partners have to do the job all over again.  No wonder we think they are stupid. Author Kay Hymowitz says that these days young men shun former masculine responsibilities and prefer to stay home with their parents.  They while away the hours watching TV, dressing like school boys with goatees and expanding their middles on Mother’s apple pie (it is an American thing).  “With women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles – fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity – are obsolete, even a little embarrassing,” writes Hymowitz.

Her conclusion? American men just don’t know what they are supposed to be anymore.

And that is why I love Brighton.  Everyone there knows exactly what they are supposed to be.  The men who hanker after women, open doors for them, pay for their drinks and bed them as often as possible. (Women like that, by the way)  The men who prefer men, dress in colorful shirts and stock up on free condoms and pick up guys in gay bars because that’s where they are, and the men who want to be women wear designer gowns and sing Karaoke. Any male who wants to be a boy is sent off to public school where he eventually figures out that the only way to feel human is to get the hell out of there and grow up.   No doubt about it. In Brighton, you can tell what’s what and who’s who.  In America, it’s a crapshoot.

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.

Dave Barry (again)

Dying in a Good Way

A PROPER DEATH

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life.
Bertolt Brecht

Death is as much a part of life as getting up in the morning or going to sleep.  It is the end of an amazing cycle we began at birth.  If we deny our death, we are running away from life itself.  The exciting thing about understanding that death is our inevitable future is that we can then prepare for it and greet it with open arms when our time has come.

 

We all are on a journey to become ourselves.  That is what life is about.  Doesn’t it make sense then to fill the moments we have with challenges that excite us?  Every morning, we wake up to a new day and another chance to move closer to achieving our dreams.  The older we are, the more control we have over how we live our lives.  When I was a child, I woke up knowing I had to go to school and let someone else orchestrate the ways I would spend my time. The only hours I owned were during my nap or at night when I could confide secrets to my Teddy Bear.

 

In my twenties, I awoke thinking, “How will I ever finish all the tasks my boss, my husband and the world have given me?”  I spent my days figuring out the proper dress to wear, the right car to drive and the best place to buy groceries. In those years, I was trying to build the kind of person the rules defined for me.  That is how we live in our twenties and thirties.  We are told the “right“ thing to do and what we should become.  We are still in the college of life.

 

BUT in that wonderful third part of our lives, we have graduated. We alone can decide how to use our time to the best advantage so that we leave no loose ends or unrealized hopes when we leave the earth.

 

Think of it!!! You walk into an ice cream parlor and your first thought is, “I better not have that ice cream sundae because it will make me fat.”

 

And then you realize that you are what you are.  Fat or thin has nothing to do with this lovely opportunity you have NOW to indulge your sweet tooth and savor hot fudge, cool, milky vanilla ice cream and the tang of salty peanuts.  You have given yourself the moment you want.  And why not?   Had you said to yourself, “I will not eat anything the rest of the day and return tomorrow for that sundae, you would have been burdened with an incomplete action that could very well never happen.  All we know we have is now. If you are going to be ready to exit your life, doesn’t it make sense to make that now a gorgeous, interesting and memorable experience?

 

IF we are preparing for death every day, then it is our job to leave no unfinished business at nightfall.  Suppose you and your partner have just had a fight.  He didn’t do the dishes and you had a busy day going to meetings and shopping for his office supplies.  He was grappling with his arthritis all day and could not bear standing at the sink scrubbing pots.  He didn’t want to disturb you by complaining so he did the best he could and hoped you wouldn’t notice.

 

But you did.

 

If we are going to be ready for our ending, we need to talk out those differences before we go to bed.  We need to have the courage to voice our anger and the wisdom to listen to the other person’s reaction.  We need to keep the lines of communication open so that at the end of our day, we have cleared the decks for the next day’s events.

 

So much of our actions are governed by fear and that very fear will leave us with an unfinished life.  If we are wise, we will face our doubts and look at them under the cold clear light of logic.  We can say to ourselves, this is MY life and it is important to me.  If I want to climb a mountain or learn to ski before I die, now is the time to get it done.

 

My friend Andrea was hit by a car the day she graduated from college.  Her leg had to be amputated and she thought her dreams of becoming a lawyer were over. She resisted her therapies and never left her hospital bed.  She was twenty one years old and waiting to die.  She refused to eat and she slept most of the day.  One day, her nurse asked her what kind of food she missed most.  “I’m not hungry anymore,” she said.

 

“But if you could choose anything in the world to eat, what would it be?” asked the nurse.

 

Andrea’s eyes filled with tears. ”I miss my mama’s fried chicken,” she said and turned her face into the pillow so the nurse would leave her alone.

 

The next evening, the nurse brought her a plate of fried chicken with creamy mashed potatoes coved with white gravy and hot, buttered corn on the cob.  Andrea sat up in bed and her face glowed.  ”That smells so good!” she said and for the first time in weeks she ate everything on that plate…even the apple pie a la mode that nurse had brought her for dessert.

 

Andrea smiled at the nurse.  “Thank you,” she said.  “That was so delicious; I forgot I’m a cripple.”

 

The nurse took her hand and said, “Andrea, being a cripple did not keep you from enjoying that meal, did it?  Of course not.  And it need not prevent you from enjoying your life.  All of us have challenges, some bigger than others.  But it is overcoming those challenges that make a life.  Not having a leg has nothing to do with whether you can become a lawyer.  If you have the brains and the fortitude you can do it.  That missing leg isn’t going prevent you from passing the bar.  You are the one who will do that.  You are the only person who can live your life and you aren’t doing that now.  You are just waiting for it to end.”

 

It was that meal turned the tide for Andrea.  It took years of effort, but she learned to walk on a new prosthetic leg, she earned a scholarship to law school, graduated with honors and now she is a lawyer for the inmates on death row.  She is showing them that every day they are alive, they are preparing for a satisfying death by giving their every effort to making the life they have a good one.  She brings them art supplies and encourages t hem to paint, write and get in touch with who they are.  By giving these doomed men and women tools to make their life better, she has readied them for their ending.

 

What is so frightening about dying, after all?  The only thing we know for certain is that the pain we feel will be gone.  No one has ever been able to tell us what will happen after we die.  Every one has seen people who fight death and leave the world to take care of their unfinished business, the angers they never resolved, the lessons they never bothered to learn.  That is not a healthy way to die.  The trick is to live each moment, each hour, each day.  Fill it with love, excitement and adventure.  Listen to the dream you have now and make it happen.  You may never get there, but the journey will be well worth your effort.  And when your time comes to extinguish the light, you can close your eyes peacefully knowing you lived completely.

I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.
Willa Cather

 

 

 

WHAT IS YOUR EMOTIONAL STYLE

WHAT IS YOUR EMOTIONAL STYLE?

I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself.

 Pietro Aretino

 

Each of us react to the challenges of life in different ways and often those reactions cripple us and prevent us from solving our problems sensibly.  A person’s pattern of response to the glitches in his day is called his emotional style.   Most of us believe that that style is inherent in who we are.  All too often we excuse an inappropriate remark or an ill- advised outburst by saying, “Well, that’s just me.” The good news is that we can actually change our gut reactions to stress and conflict, once we understand the root causes of those responses.  Indeed, no one needs to be trapped by his emotional style.  If your responses are getting you into trouble and are not solving the very conflicts you are trying to erase, you can teach yourself to react in more positive ways.

 

Richard J. Davidson, in his book THE EMOTIONAL LIFE OF YOUR BRAIN outlines the key elements of emotional style.  The first element is resilience.  How easily do you let go of disappointments and get on with your life?  His second element is your general outlook on life.  Do you see the half full or half empty glass?  Do you believe that things will eventually work out no matter how daunting they look at the moment? The third element of your emotional style is how clearly you see yourself. Robert Burns once said, “O would some Power the gift to give us; to see ourselves as others see us!” It is far more difficult than we imagine to know who we really are.  All of us think of ourselves as well-meaning, righteous and kind.  We justify our opinions and our actions because we believe they are perfectly reasonable to anyone with any sense.   The truth is that we are all too often biased, misguided and never clearly right or wrong.  The ability to see both our negative and positive attributes for what they are that is another hallmark of our emotional style.

 

Everyone has come home from a party thinking they miscommunicated with someone or made a mess of an encounter.  They beat themselves up by telling themselves how lousy their social skills are.  Yet, with thought and understanding, it is possible to refine your social intuition and adjust your reaction to the other person’s so that your experience is satisfying to both of you.  The secret is to pay attention to what you say and how you react.  Then you will be in control of your emotional style instead of letting it be in charge of you.

 

Davidson says the best tool for controlling your emotion style is “mindfulness meditation.”  “Mindfulness meditation cultivates greater resilience and faster recovery from setbacks by weakening the chain of associations that keep us obsessing about and even wallowing in a setback,” he says.

 

The first step in any interpersonal situation is to become aware of our reactions.  If we can control of our responses, we have a better chance at solving our conflicts.  That said, no matter how we react at any given time is ingrained in us and we much learn to forgive ourselves when our response to a situation seems counterproductive.

 

Our personal emotional style developed in an attempt to forestall perceived rejection.  The key is to get to the root of our fear of what the other person will think or say.  What is making us suppress our disapproval until it suddenly erupts in inappropriate ways?  For example, if your room mate does not clean up after himself, what is the best response to elicit positive change?  If you stew inside every time you walk into the kitchen and see his plate filled with drying leftovers and dirty utensils but say nothing, your anger will only fester and affect your opinion of him.  Instead, you need to find the courage to confront him and discuss the division of labor in the house.  Instead of thinking, “he’s so lazy” or “he is a total slob”, think “I wonder if we both understand what our responsibilities to each other are when we are sharing the same space?”

 

Perhaps the solution lies in a different division of labor.  Maybe he loves cooking and hates cleaning while you love cleaning up (and eating) but hate the cooking part of a meal.  Then you can divide the tasks so that you both are doing the things you love best to do.

 

What about road rage?  Everyone has felt that uncontrollable fury when a driver cuts you off or flashes his Brights in your rear view mirror.  It is even harder to control when we are late for an appointment. The truth, infuriating as it is, is that your frustration is only momentary. Nothing you do to offend the other driver is going to change his behavior or take away your sense of insult.  The solution is to keep your perspective.  When your reaction will not effect change, you need force yourself to ignore the insult and get on with your driving.

 

Your emotional style in the workplace is a tricky challenge.  You must evaluate how much you love (or need) your job against the personal insult you think you have suffered.  How much of it was your fault?  It is important for your own self respect to stand up for yourself, but you must also take responsibility for your actions.    After all, you spend a great deal of your day in your workplace and if you feel intimidated you will not be doing a service to either yourself or your employer.

 

Your dating emotional style has developed over the years and is very hard to modify.   If you have allowed your various partners to control you, it will be very difficult to change your pattern of response.  The secret here is learning to accurately evaluate your reactions.  Know your own emotional patterns and how well they have served you. Perhaps your quick temper has kept you from forming a lasting relationship even though you have believed you were perfectly justified in everything you did and said.  Always ask yourself, “If I tell her what is making me angry, what is the worst thing that can happen?”

 

When we have one of “those” days where everything explodes, goes wrong and backfires, it is very hard to control your hysteria.  The group decided that the first thing we all must do is pause and assess the situation.  We need to learn how to prepare the groundwork for success instead of failure.  That first impulse is a knee jerk reaction that reflects past injuries.  Take time to think before you respond so that you have a better chance of solving the present conflict in a reasonable manner.

 

The truth is that we each react to every situation in our unique way because of our past challenges and conflicts.  We need to be aware of why we deal with situations the way we do and be open to a realistic evaluation of how effective we are.  In reality, there are very few situations where we are deliberately and intentionally victimized.  More often, it is the way we allow ourselves to react to a situation that makes us the victim instead of an equal participant.

 

The only thing you can control is yourself.   It is our anticipation of the problem that colors our reactions.  If we can look clearly at each situation and analyze why it is making us sad, angry, withdrawn or depressed, we have a better chance of taking the road that will serve us best; one that will not compromise our integrity and will not attack or threaten the other people involved.

 

 

Confidence comes not from always being right

But from not fearing to be wrong.

 Peter T. Mcintyre

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM IS FADING FAST

 

People are so busy dreaming the American dream,

fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be,

that they’re all asleep at the switch.

Florence King

 

Back in the dark ages when I was a child, I wanted to be a fairy princess.  I wanted to sprinkle everyone I met with fairy dust and create golden paradise.  As I grew older, I wanted to become a beautiful dancer, a talented artist, a spirited cheerleader that encourages everyone to root for their team.  I wanted to be a brilliant student, a fascinating conversationalist, a sugar plum.

 

Little boys had fiercer dreams.  They wanted to be cowboys and bare-chested Indians with feathers trailing down their backs.  They wanted to shoot guns, kick puppies and punch each other because that was what little boys were supposed to do.

 

Those were the days when we all believed our streets were paved with gold and hard work could earn you a rainbow. We believed love and marriage was a right.  Every future needed lots of babies, a cute puppy and two cars in every garage.   That was the American way.

 

Attitudes have certainly changed, haven’t they?  Newsweek magazine just did a study of what Americans want to be these days and I feel like I have unintentionally moved into a foreign country.  Little girls want to be witches, vampires and black swans; little boys pirates and hungry pigs. No one believes in miracles or magic.  We want power, money and lots of bling.

 

Demonstrations, senseless wars and corruption have tarnished us. These days, every American girl realizes that to sprinkle everyone with fairy dust reduces you to a sex object.    Little boys know that muscles only get you admiration at the gym.  Healthy bank accounts, gas guzzling cars and the ability to hold your liquor are in.  After all,   Galahads can’t pay the mortgage; and maidens don’t want to be saved.  It demeans them.

 

When you visit America, what do you see?  You see overweight human beings guzzling MacDonald’s hamburgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken while they listen to music on their I-pods, texting on their cell phones. You see huge shopping centers, clogged streets and no children playing on the streets. It is too dangerous here.  We put our children on school buses and worry that they will be kidnapped if they walk home from school. And no wonder.  2,185 children disappear every day in this country.

 

We think that the world has homogenized and we are all alike, but I know that is not so.  In Britain, someone will help a stranger.  Dogs are allowed on buses.  People who cannot eat are fed.  Those are not priorities here.  Life moves too fast to worry about someone else.  People awake before dawn to drive on packed freeways for hours to a job that pays too little and demands too much.  They battle traffic jams to get home too late to say good night to their children, turn on TV with a beer in one hand and a remote in the other. There is no time to admire the daisy that bloomed in the garden or the pink dragon their child made in school.  I see women dropping off their children at day care so they can go to an office, work until five, pick up the children, do the grocery shopping, clean the house and make dinner with no time to enjoy the money they have earned or get to know the children they have created. I see families buying gadgets they don’t need, wearing clothes that turn them into carbon copies of everyone else and I wonder if they know what they are missing.

 

There is a lot of good in the American way, of course.  I love that women have choices and men do the dishes. I love that, in California at least, you can be gay or straight, black, white or yellow and still have a shot at grabbing the gold ring.  I love that little girls play football and little boys are allowed to cry. We pride ourselves on our modern appliances, our streamlined life styles and or democracy.  We are so absorbed in what we call progress that we have enjoying each other.

 

Not long ago, I was visiting a family in Edinburgh and when I opened the front door, their little girl was sitting in the hall singing to her dolls.  The first thing that occurred to me as I watched that child so wrapped up in her fantasy she didn’t know anyone else existed, was ”This could never happen in America.”

 

Just last month, I lost my way on a Brighton street and a woman I did not know walked me several blocks to my destination.  If you are lost in my town, it is your bad luck.  Do not bother to ask a policeman.  He is too busy giving tickets and arresting people for possession to help.  People here have deadlines.  They do not have time for compassion.

 

I love progress and I know that dreams change with the times.  I just wonder if California dreaming is fun anymore.  Sure, there’s lots of notoriety and plenty of action.  We make headlines every day. You can’t beat us for glitter, but something awful has happened to the gold.

 

We must stop talking about the American dream

And start listening to the dreams of Americans.

Max Beerbohm

 

 

WHO I HAVE BECOME

Old age takes away from us what we have inherited

And gives us what we have earned. – Gerald Brenan

I have always had a need to communicate my thoughts to others.  I began when I was ten years old, composing essays and poems sending them to magazines and newspapers.  That writing eventually expanded into several published books.  I have two degrees in education because I am compelled to teach others what I think I know.  It is my way of sending my ideas out into other minds and testing their validity in the area of public discussion.  That way, I can alter and adjust my own thinking and avoid getting stuck in one channel.  These two needs dovetailed when I took to the stage to do comedy at the age of 71.  The comedy soon branched out into storytelling and then cabaret.  Sadly, my stories, which are a direct result of my writing and the truest observations I share, are my least attended shows.  The comedy and the cabaret are sufficiently different to attract a fan base. My goals have changed as I have aged, but now that I am 77 years old, my goal is to produce compelling shows that break down the preconceptions that age is inept and incapable of creating quality entertainment that appeals to everyone of every era.  Creativity is not unique to one person.  It is in us all and doesn’t stop until we do. Its appeal is universal and enduring.   Mine has grown, changed and expanded over the years because I have never let life happen.  I have lived it.

This year, I am putting up two shows at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

GRANNY’S GONE WILD is stand up comedy about being an old lady, laughing at the things people think that aging is and loving what I am right now.  People often ask,”Why should I listen to jokes about being old?” and I say “Because I am your future….if you are lucky.  And isn’t it better to no longer fear the process…because I revel in every wrinkle, every new thing I learn and new way I live.  You will too when you get to where I am.” GRANNY’S GONE WILD is comedy at its worst with a touch of song guaranteed to destroy to your digestion.  I have the dubious title of THE WORLD’S OLDEST COUGAR and I am on the prowl.  I rap about age; I sing about it and I tell jokes about what it has done to me.   My show is horrifying proof that even though your body parts drop to your ankles, they still can move with enough zest raise an eyebrow….but nothing else.

My late night show is a revival of AGING IS AMAZING, the show that made the headlines in the London Times in 2008 and won STAR OF THE BRIGHTON FESTIVAL in 2009.  It was so well received in Edinburgh in 2008 that I decided to give people who have not seen it a chance to experience an old lady doing a strip tease that excites no one but my chiropractor.  I am hoping people will want to indulge their funny bones with my silly songs and parodies. I want to make everyone in the audience need to grow old along with the bouncy, outrageous and delectable me, in a rollicking hour of nonsense.

I will be taking my shows to Dublin after Edinburgh and hope to get them “down under” as soon as I can afford airfare.  In the fall I will also present them in the San Francisco Bay Area and try to get them before the rest of the United States before I am too old to romp around like a teen-ager showing off a body that should be kept under wraps.

I still believe in miracles, especially the ones I create myself.

The thing I am most proud of is that  I have managed to write, stage and produce my several shows and bring them from San Francisco to Fresno and Marin, across the ocean to Edinburgh and then to London, Brighton and Rome while living on a tiny pension, without any help from anyone.  My work has been appreciated and even praised, with four and five star reviews and audiences that return every year to see what else I am up to.  I have proven that you don’t need a lot of money to get noticed on a stage and you don’t need a whole team to make you a star.  All you need is a dream and the determination to make that dream happen.

I like to be asked why I am doing this when other people my age are playing bingo and sitting in front of a television set, afraid to drive at night, bored by the limitations they think their body has given them and afraid to try something new.  My answer is so simple: “Because I can.  And because I can, I will.”

My ultimate goal is that my shows become recognized for what they are:  a new definition of what aging can be for us all.  I so hope that the glass walls I meet wherever I go because I am old and a woman (and believe me both are in operation far more than we believe) will dissolve and everyone my age or older would get out of his chair, put on his tap shoes or his motorcycle helmet  his tutu or his body suit, whatever he fancies and dare to fly to the moon, reach for the stars and be more tomorrow than he is today.

Like a morning dream, life becomes more and more bright

The longer we live, and the reason of everything

Appears more clear.  – Jean Paul Richter

Cougar Comedy Coming Up April 2

Come meet me, the newly appointed  world’s oldest cougar!
I will have you in stitches as I reveal why Cougars & Cubs are the ideal combination!
Debbie Campo of LaughYourWaytoLove will also perform!
Dance Party follows, featuring DJ Mike playing your favorite hits
in a large, beautiful ballroom, with high ceilings and extravagant chandeliers.
COST: $15/advance (by April 1) or $20/door.
OVERNIGHT ROOMS, with full breakfast, available for only $79 (does not include admission to comedy/dance).
LOCATION: Clarion Hotel SFO, 401 E Millbrae Avenue, Millbrae CA 94030.
TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS:
1. By BART: Hotel is 2 long blocks from  Millbrae Station.
2. By Free hotel shuttle available from SFO Airport.
3. By car: From Hwy 101 take Millbrae exit east.
Parking is $1 per hour at the Clarion (If hotel lot is full, parking at the Westin Hotel next door is also $1 per hour.
Parking also available at Marriott Hotel for additional charge.
Free street parking may be available on Rollins Road and side streets across from BART station and on side streets off Bayshore Hwy.
Many of the businesses on the side streets are closed on the weekend, which may allow for free street parking.

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