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California Dates

WHY WE ARE SO ANGRY

FURY

Anger is never without a reason,
But seldom a good one.
Benjamin Franklin
Whenever I go back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I am immersed in non-stop road rage. Drivers swerve around you, hit the accelerator to get ahead of you, blast their horns to tell you to get out of their way and spew hate all over the highway. I find myself getting just as angry as the other drivers as I try to weave my way through 6 lanes of traffic to get to my destination. I come home exhausted, despising humanity and hating myself for succumbing to the hysteria that clogs our roads.
It is a glorious relief to come to peaceful Brighton where I walk everywhere, smile at everyone and love treading the streets. Humanity charms me when I am here and I find myself enjoying the kindly hustle and bustle on North Street.
I have always thought that road rage was so foreign to those who use public transportation in Britain, that they would sooner stage a massacre than be rude to another person. Besides, it is not in the British personality to be rude or overbearing. The people in this country are obsessed with being politically correct.
Or so I thought.
I just spent two weeks in London living in Stockwell and taking the tube to Leicester Square. That was when I was exposed to Tube Rage. If I dared to try to tap my oyster card on the entrance gate during rush hour, I risked black and blue marks, mangled hips and fractured elbows. When I approached the escalator, I was so terrified I shut my eyes and prayed to the almighty that my foot wasn’t crushed and I was not hurled down the moving staircase because I forgot to stand on the left.
It turns out that all this pushing, shoving, jostling and crushing is not due to rudeness at all. It is the result of poor ventilation. In fact the director of the British association of Anger Management warns that lack of oxygen is sure to cause uncontrolled acts of aggression.
What a relief!! I thought all those people shoving me around were ageist brutes who didn’t care that I am elderly and frail. How wrong I was! When the British push you out of their way, it is a silent cry for air.
Which brings us right back to Brighton where fresh air is always swirling about us, filling our lungs with new oxygen from France. I boarded a train at London Victoria and two people hit me in the shin in their rush to get to the coach first. One lady smashed her suitcase into my hip and another yanked my shoulder into a vertical position to reach the aisle seat. The minute we all got off the train in Brighton, everyone was smiling, inhaling the lovely oxygenated air and loving one another. A gentleman carried my case to the station, a lady held my arm lest I trip and two lovely young men with grandmother complexes bought me a coffee.
The oxygen cure would not work in America however. It isn’t the air that infuriates them; it is the government.

Knitting up the raveled sleeve of anything you like

KNIT ONE, PURL TWO AND YOU’RE FREE

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit,
and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.
Elizabeth Zimmerman

I was a nervous child. I was terrified of the horrible dangers that lurked around every corner. If I talked to strangers because they would abduct me; I must never argue with my mother or she would give me back to the Indians. I couldn’t cross a street without risking my life; if I dared to boil water, the steam would blind me. Touching the pan would cost a finger. Boys with nasty leers jumped out behind bushes at little girls like me, and teachers got angry for no reason at all.
Reality was too much for me to absorb. My nerves were jangled and my nails bitten to the quick. I jumped at an unexpected sound; I screamed when a light flashed; I hid under the couch when someone slammed the door.
My mother was a redhead with an attitude. She was afraid of nothing. Danger actually thrilled her and she met it head on with eyes flashing and acid repartee that quelled the bravest among us.
And it was she who made me quiver and shake at the thought of facing another day with all its pitfalls. It was she who reminded me that I might trip if I ran too fast; I might break that dish I was wiping; or jam the brush into my eye when I brushed my hair. She couldn’t stand the fidgeting, the nail biting, and the twitches. “This kid is driving me crazy,” she told my Aunt Hazel. “She is a nervous wreck.”
My Aunt Hazel was a pragmatist. When she didn’t get enough meat for dinner, she left home. When she couldn’t earn enough money to support herself she married a bootlegger. She was one of the first in that generation to think outside the box. “Teach her to knit,” she told my mother.
“Are you crazy?” said my mother. “She jiggles so much she’ll poke her eyes out with a knitting needled. “
“Well that’s one way to calm her down,” said Aunt Hazel.
So it was that my aunt took me with her to the Stitch In Time Knitting shop filled with yarn in every color and an oval table piled high with pattern books. Several ladies sat around that table drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes (this was 1943) chatting about the war effort and knitting scarves, mittens and caps for our servicemen. Their needles clicked and they smiled and laughed as they worked. As I watched these women moving those needles at the speed of light, I saw to my amazement that they were creating all kinds of garments: sweaters with lace sleeves, block patterns and colors, plaids and stripes and polka dots.
“I want to do that,” I told my aunt.
“I thought you would,” she said. “What would you like to make?”
My aunt took me home that afternoon and told my mother, ”She’s knitting a scarf. That will keep her in line.”
That was back in 1943, but my aunt’s wisdom holds truth even today. In fact, a maximum-security prison in Brazil came to the same conclusion. They have decided that if their inmates knit something for three days, it is worth one day off their sentence. They know what my aunt figured out so many years ago. Knitters don’t have time to get in trouble. They might drop a stitch.

FIGHT FOR THE FINISH

THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB
Life is uncertain;
Eat dessert first.
Ernestine Ulmer
Peter Svacha was halfway through eating his chocolate pudding, when the restaurant where he was eating told him it was closing time. He was furious. He left the place, got a chain saw, sliced a hole in the establishment’s door and crawled back to the table to finish his pudding.
I know exactly how he felt. I too would obliterate anything that kept me from finishing my dessert. I blame this determination on my mother.
My mother’s forte was creating yummy desserts. She had one number that she always served after spaghetti dinner that was amazingly beautiful and absolutely luscious. She would bake an angel food cake from scratch (my mother would have sooner danced nude on a fire hydrant than use a cake mix). The finished product was so light she needed to weight it down to stay on the plate. She whipped up a custard of eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar and pineapple juice and frosted her cake with it. She decorated the entire production with pineapple slices, maraschino cherries and strawberries and served it with a lots of whipped cream and a flourish.
BUT there was a catch. My mother never allowed us to touch dessert until we cleaned up everything she put on our dinner plates. Before we could tuck into her pineapple delight, we had to demolish spaghetti with meatballs, broccoli in a cheese sauce, a green salad and garlic bread. We suffered for that cake. Indeed we suffered. We endured tummy aches, stomach spasms and guilt…but we managed to down it and when we did, we finished it down to the last bit of pineapple.
My mother’s chocolate cake was the eighth wonder of the world. It was made with six eggs, a ton of butter and enough chocolate to keep a candy store supplied for ten years. She topped it with a mint chocolate frosting to die for and set it in the middle of the dining room table so we could see what we had to look forward to at the end of the meal.
But first, we had to finish dinner. Remember? She would serve us a huge slab of steak, potatoes with cheddar cheese, asparagus hollandaise, a tossed salad and wait until we cleaned our plates before we could touch that cake. I still feel the pain of forcing that cake into my packed middle but I know that even if my stomach burst, I would let absolutely nothing interfere with my demolishing that wonderfully melt in your mouth cake.
All I can say, is “go for it Peter Svacha. “ Finish that pudding and never count the cost. For what is dinner without a sweet finish?? It is nothing more than duty with no reward, a rose with no fragrance, sex without climax. Life is to be lived, of course, but if it is to be savored, we must have dessert.

PARENTS ARE IMPORTANT TOO

BE GOOD TO YOUR PARENTS….OR ELSE!
Appreciating your parents is the only hope for civilization.
The Chinese Government & Lynn Ruth

China has decided it is a punishable crime for adult children to neglect their parents and I think that is a very wise decision. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us all, if every nation followed suit?
It is about time someone took steps to stop the shameless way grown progeny are treating their parents these days. Elderly parents sit at home in their wheel chairs or on the sofa, counting the moments ‘til one of their offspring remembers that they are too weak and tired to get to Tesco’s; the hours tick by, their tummies gurgle, their heads ache and they stare at the door, praying it will open and the heir to their estate will appear bearing bubble and squeak and even a bit of pudding.
After all, parents have every right to expect their children to be there for them. Didn’t they clean up Junior when he got a bloody nose? Didn’t they give their little princess dancing lessons so she could express her inner feelings? They let her get that disgusting tattoo of Frankenstein chewing a bunny and they never said a word when she appeared at the breakfast table, her hair dyed purple and three rings in her nose.
And that was before they became teen-agers.
They looked the other way, when their little darlings sold pot to the neighborhood grade-school kids, and the countless times they threw up on the couch from an overdose or got too affectionate with one another. Remember that?
Didn’t they sacrifice that extra cruise, and the trip to see penguins copulate on an iceberg just so their son could go to university and their daughter could afford that abortion? Of course they did.
And that is why the Chinese Government decided to step up to the plate and remind us that we owe Mummy and Daddy big time. They were the ones who kept us alive through the bullying, the bike accidents, the shattered limbs and broken hearts. Now, it is the children’s turn to keep their parents comfy and warm ‘til they breathe their last. After all, there is always time to change the will, if they feel unloved.
Not that it will be easy if the law becomes universal. Take Mary Louise: There she is galloping though her day, getting the kids to school, packing their lunches, rushing off to the office, picking up her darlings, and taking them to tap dancing and soccer, driving home, giving the house a quick dust, fixing dinner, greeting the father of her gang with a drink, serving food, cleaning the kitchen and collapsing in front of the telly. At midnight, she and her hubby stagger up to bed, too exhausted to do what they used to do before they tied the knot. Suddenly, she sits bolt upright, snaps her fingers and says, “OH MY GOD!!! I forgot to visit Daddy. Now, we’ll never pay off this mortgage.”
And if her partner is a good sort, he says, “Don’t worry darling. I will visit you every Tuesday and bring chocolate.”

PARK AND FOLD
The way humans hunt for parking
And the way animals hunt for food
Are not as different as you might think.
Tom Vanderbilt
I thought when I learned how to manipulate a car in busy traffic without killing my passengers or myself, I had mastered the art of driving. Little did I know that the biggest challenge and the worst nightmare of the driving life is finding a place to park the car.
The problem is not just finding a space;it is getting the car into it. The first time I attempted to parallel park, I managed to smash 8 fenders in less than three minutes: All four on my car, two on the car in front and two on the car in back. It is not just that I have absolutely no spatial judgment; it is that there isn’t enough space on a city street for all the cars that want to park there.
The supply is so far below the demand that cities throughout the world are making a fortune on the fines they give for illegal parking not to mention the cost of parking legally. Whether you break the law or not, you are going to break the bank if you want to put your car anywhere near where you planned to go.
The good news is that a Korean company has managed to solve the problem for us all. They have invented a folding car they call the Armadillo –T. The vehicle is tiny to begin with and once stopped can be folded to one-third its size with a smart phone.
Think of it! You drive to the supermarket, tuck your car in a little corner and off you go to do your shopping. The car is so small that if you can bench-press 50 pounds you can fold it up and stow it in the garage when you get home, with plenty of room left over to keep spare furniture, appliances and naughty children.
The advantages of such a tiny little automobile boggle the mind. When it snows, you can lift the vehicle out of that snowdrift without bothering to hire a tow truck and if the roads are too icy, strap the car to your back and walk it home.
Packing passengers and parcels into a tiny car does present problem but if you have a basket on the roof and a few strategically placed bungee cords you can manage quite nicely.
There is a downside to all this. Cities will lose thousands of pounds in traffic tickets and meter fees if three cars can fit into one parking space. There go all the money used to pay meter maids and city workers. There go all the money our cities took from its drivers to pay for all their civic dinners.
The other challenge the tiny car presents is cramming a tall human being behind its wheel. The Armadillo-T is so small that anyone over 6 feet would be better served to pay a pound and rent a bicycle.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, isn’t it? Now that we have a folding car, what next? Perhaps a highway we can roll up and put in the boot if it gets too crowded or even more efficient, motorized boots so we can speed to our destination on our own two feet.

MY BODY, MYSELF

AM I WHAT I SEE IN THE MIRROR?
When did creating a flawless façade become
A more vital goal than learning to love
The person who lives inside our skin?
Ellen Hopkins
Let me take you back to the mid-thirties when I was old enough to realize that my mother was imprisoned by her appearance and her weight. I saw her cook lavish meals and watch hungrily as we devoured her beautiful creations. I grew up hearing how important it was to dress correctly and to look “good.” “A man can be uglier than the devil,” my mother told me. “But a woman must be beautiful. And YOU…You simply do not know how to wear clothes.”
And so it was that I grew up believing that to succeed in life (by my mother’s definition) was to buy beautiful clothes and have the body to show them off. My mother spoke constantly of my big feet, my funny walk, my stringy hair, my disgusting posture and I bought into her opinions because …well, because she was my mother and mothers in those days were always right.
When I didn’t get invited to a party, when I didn’t make the team, when I wasn’t asked to anyone’s home for lunch and, as I got older, when I didn’t get invited to the prom, or the boy I loved didn’t notice me, I knew it was because my clothes hung on me and I was awkward.
It didn’t take long before I began to believe that this was also the reason why I didn’t get a good grade on a test, why I never had anything to say to the other girls in my class and why I wasn’t as popular as I wanted to be. As I grew older, I grew more convinced that my appearance was the reason that I failed at anything at all even my inability to ride a two wheeled bicycle, swim or drive a car. It was all because I was a physical mess.
It was in high school that I realized that I could punish my mother by not eating her food. My mother created huge meals for us that she served promptly at 6 (NOT 6:01) and since my father had ulcers, my mother was on a diet (always) and my sister was obese, I was the only one who could eat her food without guilt or pain.
It was also in high school that my body didn’t function the way other girls’ did. I menstruated when I was 13 for eleven days and never again had a period unless it was artificially induced. I believed I was not a normal girl.
My mother and I did not get along. She made it very plain that I did not live up to her expectations of what a good person, a good daughter or a successful woman should be. I was a failure and I was a mess not because of my brain or my intentions. I was a disaster because of the way I looked and the way I wore clothes. I have to say I never really got what she meant by that. If you put on a dress, button the buttons and don’t let your slip show, why aren’t you wearing it properly? My mother would expand on my inability to put on a garment the way it should be worn by pointing to my sister, who was always at least 20 pounds overweight, and say, “Now, Marsha Dee has style. She can put on a rag and make it look like a Dior creation.”
When I got to college, I began to use food as a reward when things went well and a consolation when I failed a test, didn’t get a date, had a fight with a sorority sister. Now food stopped being a means to satisfy hunger. It was a weapon I could use to punish my mother; it was a reward and a consolation; it was the one thing that I could love and not have to worry about it loving me back.
My sophomore year in college, my roommate was a girl named Ginger Livingston from Ashtabula, Ohio. She was an exquisite redhead, with a sophisticated sense of style, a healthy ego and limited intelligence. It was she who took my wardrobe in hand and taught me essentials like color combinations, proper skirt length and what size sweater showed off just enough of my figure to be an incentive instead of a turn off. I became very conscious of my body and I realized that my body was not passing muster. My mother hated it; my roommate objected to the slump, the bulging belly and the big feet; men were not particularly excited by it. That was when the dieting began.
At first, I was just careful. If I demolished an entire chocolate cake because I was sad on Monday, I wouldn’t eat dessert or bread for the rest of the week. BUT as the years went on and the conflicts and challenges of college life became more intense, I started skipping meals or going for a period of time eating very small bits of food. By this time I had no idea of whether I was hungry or not. My intake was governed by my mind and my fears. My weight fluctuated between 97-103 when I weighted myself, which was only occasionally because there was no scale in the sorority house and I was home only for vacations. I took pride in being able to eat rich desserts and still stay thin. My mother and my sister couldn’t do that…it was the one ability I had that they didn’t.
When I was nineteen my mother and her doctor decided to do something about my not menstruating and I underwent a surgery called a Stein Leventhal Resection. I began having periods then for the remainder of my college life and felt very feminine. I even had cramps and could complain with the other girls.
I graduated college without any hope of marriage (and in those days, most women went to college to find a guy) and went to teach in Cleveland. At that point, my eating became even more erratic. It was exacerbated when I met Jerry, a gorgeous guy who owned a candy shop and a standard poodle…I couldn’t decide which of the three things about him I loved best: his looks, his fudge bars or his dog. I indulged in all three.
And then came my epiphany. I want out to buy a dress and could no longer fit into a size 7, or 9 or even an 11. I finally crammed my bulging belly and flabby hips into a size 12, bought the dress, went home, weighed myself and realized that I no longer weighed 97 pounds…I tipped the scale at 127 and I was horrified.
I would have to diet like my mother! Worse I would be fat like my sister! No! No! No! It MUST not happen to me.
I stopped eating. I dieted; I limited myself to an apple, a single lettuce leaf, and I was so tired I could come home from my job and sleep the rest of the day away. After two or three weeks of semi starvation, I would suddenly eat everything in the refrigerator, on the shelf and in the freezer. Overwhelmed with guilt and feat, I would then starve myself for another two weeks. I also stopped menstruating and a doctor put me on estrogen. This did nothing to help the menstruation but it did make me retain water. This water retention is a battle I still fight to this day and still limit sodium and sodium foods to keep my ankles down to a reasonable size so I can wear shoes.
It was this water retention that kept me from losing weight no matter how much I restricted food…but I did not know it then. I was convinced that I was not like other human beings. I gained weight on air.
While this ritual was accelerating, I managed to trap a young man into proposing to me on his way home from Korea to New York in April. We planned a wedding for September. During that time, my mother was in heaven. She took me shopping for my trousseau, my wedding dress and the things I would need to set a beautiful table and run a household.
Now it was really vital that I become beautiful or I would lose my chance to marry. I dieted a bit more, I binged a bit more and I managed to hide all this from my family and from my bridegroom until after the wedding. It was then that my eating disorder bloomed. I knew something was wrong but had no idea what it was. No one in 1957 knew what an eating disorder was. I thought I was crazy…No. I KNEW I was crazy.
The years went on. I dieted, I binged, I divorced , I dieted, I binged and then when I was 36 my body stopped functioning. I stopped digesting food and had continual diarrhea. At first, I was thrilled. I would lose weight!!! But then I realized I was actually dying.
In 1969 I was admitted to The National Institutes of Health because I had severe osteoporosis. No one discussed my eating habits which were erratic and very controlled. I was in and out of that hospital for the next year and then I realized that if I ever wanted to live any kind of life at all, I needed to stop obsessing about my body and about food. I needed to make a happy life.
This process took me well over ten years and gradually my eating though still controlled was enough to keep my weight stable and I was able to find a job that took me away from Toledo, Ohio where I was born, first to Oklahoma, then to California. I still had body image problems and still had binges if I did not control my eating. At first ,I only ate one meal a day because I simply could not face the agony and conflict of dealing with food more than once a day. I ate huge quantities of non-fattening food and swore I was not dieting. I now eat two meals a day and I understand that no matter what I weigh I will think I am fat. I eat a wide variety of food and I have not binged in a very long time…BUT I hate my body and constantly battle the impulse to stop eating or to over-exercise.
I know that I am an addict I know that only I can control that addiction. Only I can make a happy life. I have done that. I did it without therapy and without any support from my family or my friends. I did it because I wanted to enjoy my life. After all it is the only one I have.

RELATIONSHIP INSURANCE

Sugar Grannies?
Older women are like French bread.
The crust is tough, but soft in the middle.
Lynn Ruth
Teaching is such a poorly paid profession that many young educators have joined a dating website called Sugar Babies. This is a service that pairs young women with older men for “companionship.” They charge an average of £2000 a visit. Personally, having gone out with several very old men myself, I think they are giving themselves away. Do they realize what they are getting into? Once they discover that chronic erectile dysfunction, loss of memory and incontinence are but the tip of the iceberg, they will realize that the current fee is cheap at the price.
It seems to me that there is a neglected market here. Why can’t older women do the same in reverse? I am all for creating a website for Sugar Grannies to offer their services to younger men. The benefits are so obvious. There isn’t a young man in the world who can figure out how to romance a partner properly on his own. The only person who can teach him these days is his father….and you know how unlikely it is that a daddy has any technique. The older a man is, the more his strategy was get ‘em drunk, give ‘em a roofie or pay for a quickie. By the time he is settled and locked into a relationship, he thinks the best way to get laid is to remember to take out the trash.
The truth is that every young Lothario needs an impartial coach, and what safer, better teacher than a woman of a certain age? Think of the advantages: no worries about becoming an unexpected father; no inconvenient time of the month; no problem if she gets possessive…she’ll kick off in a year or two anyway.
Every woman knows that young men in their twenties make marvelous raw material for women like me. Think of it! A dowager can teach him patience; she can show him what foreplay really means; she can encourage him when he is done before she has begun. Sadly by the time men hit thirty, they are no longer good candidates. They get locked into nasty habits like never bathing, smoking too much pot and wanking in the shower)
I believe a service like this could well become a necessary prerequisite for a relationship of any kind. Every woman should insist that her partner-to-be enroll in a 6-month training period with an older woman to learn the ropes of a romantic communication and mutual satisfaction. A course like this is far more important than a prenuptial agreement. The truth is, if you get a young man trained soon enough, you won’t need a pre-nupt agreement. He will be properly housebroken and ready to love. In short, with proper discipline and good reinforcement, an older woman can transform any little devil into a keeper.
And let’s not forget the advantages to the national economy. Women over 70 will no longer need government assistance. After all, £2000 a night can buy a lot of porridge and they still ride the bus for free.

OMG I became the main course

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, LIKE IT OR NOT
Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.
― Sophia Loren
First, it was horsemeat. We thought we were eating succulent bits of beef but to our horror, we discovered we were shoving Dobbin into our lasagna. Worse, we have been devouring him topped with cheese, tomato and soupçon of lettuce in our burgers. We were horrified. Tesco, a major seller of deceptive equine products ran full page ads apologizing for misleading their customers, insisting they had no idea that they were mislabeling their products.
The rest of the world scoffs at English fastidiousness. “So what?” they say in at least 358 different languages. The French adore horsemeat…in fact they hint that is why they are so romantic in bed, in contrast to the British who apologize before they even mange to get started. The Irish add a wine sauce to anything and once tasted don’t give a damn.
But horsemeat in our dinners is not the worst of it. Oh, no.
Now that we have managed to come to terms with the brutal fact that the glorious winner of Epsom Downs faces a future in our goulash, we have another gastronomic hurdle to cross. Sixty percent of the tuna we buy to fill our children’s lunch boxes and add flavor to our casseroles is not tuna at all. It is escolar, an oily fish that causes diarrhea. That is why so many of us have that irresistible urge to relieve ourselves after indulging in those cute canapés topped with a pimento. And you thought it was the conversation.
The fact is that most restaurants serve escolar and tell us it is albacore tuna. No wonder we cannot figure out why that delicious Salad Niçoise sent us to the loo within moments of savoring it flavor. It wasn’t that drink you had to wash it down. It was tacky escolar putting on airs.
Everyone knows that we are what we eat. It is now apparent that when we feed our children stew, they could easily be neighing for their supper in a matter of weeks. What is far more frightening, that tuna fish sandwich that every child cannot resist could very well send him swimming in the Atlantic never to return. It has already happened in my family.
My Aunt Gert swears that the reason her daughter Penny became an Olympic swimmer was that she ate nothing but tuna fish for SEVEN years. She stopped eating it that unforgettable day when she cramped up just as she was approaching the finish line in Rome in 1960. She blamed her loss on nerves, but we know better. It wasn’t the pasta either.
My mother’s staple casserole was tuna fish mixed with cream of mushroom soup topped with crumbled crisps. She served it at every party. We never understood why everyone who ate it got the “flu” the next day. We thought it was Ohio weather.
The moral of this shocking tale is that if you want to win the big fight, eat a bull and if you think you are gay, eat fruit.

DUBLIN IS ALWAYS A JOY TO VISIT

DUBLIN
July 2-9, 2013
This is one race of people for whom
Psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.
Sigmund Freud
I have been coming to Ireland, usually to visit Paul and Marie Woods for five years now not counting the time in the late sixties when I painted in Ireland and the visit I made for Columba Corbett’s art exhibit with Annie Kelley. When I stay with the Woods, I am at home. I know my room, I know the block and I know Percy, their 13 year old Corgi who lost his tail. The only thing I do NOT know is how to use public transportation.
I have done comedy every time I come here and am actually a bit of a regular at Anseo, Aidan Killian’s lovely little room on Camden Street and The Bad Ass Café in Temple Bar which folded this year, very sad to say. I have done Tony Ferns’ room three times and he always welcomes me as well. Marie and Paul know me and know my idiosyncrasies. We all get along.
Marie started photography the year I met her and now she is an accomplished photographer who exhibits regularly and wins prizes for her work. She is the kind of woman who masters every project she undertakes. A year ago she started painting and now she is working in pastels and does really amazingly good likenesses of her grandchildren. Paul is the humorist, the singer, her very special other half. They get on so well together and have for 50 years. Their relationship convinces me that marriage CAN work…but I still believe I escaped. I do not have a co-operative personality. My plan is to return to Dublin for their golden anniversary November 9 and stay the week if I can to do a bit of comedy.
I did not stay with the Woods in January when I was here because THEY were in Naples, Florida that month. This time, Marie and I saw each other in Brighton two weeks before I was to fly to Dublin. The two of them were visiting their Brighton friends Jo and John (?). Jo is not doing well. She has heart problems as does Paul, but hers are slowing her down and depressing her. Marie and Paul go with them to their property in Italy once a year to clean it up and get it in shape. This year, the Woods were in Lake Coma for a week or so in the north of Italy and then they went south to Jo’s property and did some really rigorous work cleaning the place up. They returned the afternoon of the evening that I arrived from Brighton.
That day was a wild one for me as well. Bill had put off our viewing my cabaret show that I am taking to Edinburgh and finally decided he would view the film that morning. He told me he would pick me up at 11:45 and I rushed to pack, finish up the e-mails, do laundry and be downstairs for him. He was a half hour late. We had to stop to pick up Val because the video was on her laptop. It turned out that she did not have the film William took of the performance at The Latest with audience reaction (which is so important when you are evaluating the quality of what you are doing). Instead, Val only had a copy of the TV filming which was disjointed and very hard to follow. It was done at 11 in the morning with no audience and is absolutely no indication of the quality or flow of the production.
We all sat in the downstairs sitting room at Bill’s house and while I watched, the two of them chattered away about this and that and the other thing. Whenever I gave an opinion about the filming, they ignored it. Bill did call Karen Rosie however and the two of them actually had a decent conversation about what to do to shorten the production to 45 minutes.
Bill drove me to the station and when I got there, he told me that he was not willing to pay my expenses because it was too much money. He said he never wanted to go to Edinburgh in the first place and was doing it for me. Furthermore, he thought paying a pianist was too expensive as was paying a technician. He said that he simply could not do this project if he was going lose money. I had been telling him since last February when he contracted with C venues to do the show that it was a risky proposition and he always said, ”It’s too early to worry about this now.” I kept reminding him that C Venues has lots of charges and unexpected demands that he would have to deal with but he either ignored me or said, ”I will call_____ tomorrow (pianist, technician, Hartley at C, Richard).
There we were at the Brighton Train Station. I had to buy my ticket and get some lunch. He suddenly was arguing me about all the issues he had said he would handle. The conversation escalated and then, he said, ”Maybe we should just cancel,” and I said ”That is fine with me but I will NOT go to Edinburgh, do YOUR show and not have my expenses covered.”
He said, “It is YOUR show and I did this for you,” and I said, “No. It is the show YOU put together. If I were going to Edinburgh on my own, I would have done a different show, gotten a venue to give me a split and not risked losing £3000 of anyone’s money.”
He said “I will talk to Angi (as if she had the last word…Bill is the owner of the entire enterprise) when you get back.”
Then he told me that I get back on the 9th, he leaves with Val and Angi on the 10 and 11 and we would meet on the weekend. I am going to Kate’s wedding on the 13 and hoped to go to London on the 12. The 14 I am in London all day.
As I negotiated my way through buying a ticket, getting a lunch and getting on the train all I could think of was how I would manage to stay in London until my departure September 5 or how I could stay in Edinburgh and do my show without Bill. I was close to tears of frustration when I saw my train station angel, Ros helping another poor soul get on the train. Sure enough, she got me sorted and I managed to eat my lunch calm down and get to Gatwick in one highly emotional piece. As soon as I settled in the waiting room, I called Karen Rosie and left a message and then I called Richard. Richard said “No worries. We will handle this. If Bill won’t pay for Alison (the pianist), I will stay in the room at Margaret’s that was supposed to be Alison’s. I can sort out the technical stuff myself and get you launched. I will drive you up to Edinburgh in my car.”
Great!!! BUT no one can get Bill to call back or respond…so at this point (three days and several e mails later) nothing is resolved.
The minute I got to Dublin, my little black cloud lifted. Paul came to the airport to pick me up and we joked and chatted all the way to the house. We tried to arrange a ride to the Wicked Wolf comedy club. Maxine Jones had contacted me and wanted me to do a set for her that night. However, it turned out that she didn’t get enough people to pay for a cab to get me home so that gig never happened. Instead, I had a good dinner and marvelous discussion with Marie, Paul and their eldest son Caoimhin. Caoimhin started an eco-village 14 years ago that, while not flourishing, is coming along and is solidly entrenched in Tipperary. It is a group of people on land purchased from the government but each family had to contribute their own money to pay for their property. Caoimhin has built his own home and designed it. The organization is considered a charity and has a non-profit status. The families there govern their commune; have classes there, a farm and a forest. The children go to government schools. The problem is that the established community are suddenly afraid of diversity and do not want to allow anyone to participate that has not bought property in the village. Caoimhin objects because he believes diversity will strengthen the community. The four of us talked a great deal about the future of the world and the danger that in 50 years there will not be enough water, food or resources for the ever- burgeoning population.
The next day, Marie and I drove into the country to Daindean in County Offlly to pick up Percy. He was boarded with a Tom Ivers, who had lost a brother, and whose wife divorced him. He is lonely and unhappy and Percy has become his best friend. We picked up the dog, checked Marie and Paul’s country home in that little village and had a lovely lunch at the golf course. And home we went.
On the way we saw a new-born foal and his mother and it was truly delightful. Also fields of peat bundled to be sold. Ireland is in a severe depression now and peat is good for heating homes when you cannot afford more eco-friendly food.
Than night Aidan Kllian picked me up at 7 to take me to dinner at a lovely restaurant Green Nineteen next door to Anseo where I would perform that night. I ended the first half and as usual at Anseo the comedians were so-so, the audience not great and the laughter out of proportion to the quality. I did very well but I suspect it was more that I had jokes and the others did not.
Aidan is compiling his crank letters into a book and read some of them to the audience in between comedians which killed the room each time. Aidan is evidently from a very wealthy family. His family owned Lafayette Photography and Marie’s grandparents used that company for their wedding picture and for a visit to Dublin. When Aidan saw the picture on the library wall he said, ”That was taken by my grandfather!” Small World.
He came to get me in his motorcycle and I actually rode behind him to the comedy club. I am still in a state of amazement that I did not fall off the cycle and that I got there in one piece. Jonathan was there and he was as delighted to see me as I was to see him. He is truly a lovely man. One of the comedians was a boy named Brian who just began doing comedy and is dreadful. BUT he had a very interesting story to tell: His wife had nerve damage when she had their son 7 years ago and is in a wheelchair still. The two have been trying to adopt another baby to no avail and Brian says that no one can adopt in Ireland anymore because of the restrictions that limit local and international adoptions. Hard to believe, but he says it is true. He says there is only one organization that processed Irish adoptions and they only approve 11 adoptions a year. He says that the children have to be at least 2½ years old so they all need extensive psychological services available.
When the evening ended, I climbed on the motorcycle with the help of another comedian pulling my leg up and over. Helmet on, and off we went to Marie and Paul’s house on Healthfield Road. To say I was rigid with fear is an understatement. I can honestly say I have never been as quiet as I was on the back of that motorcycle. I was determined to arrive in one piece.
The next day was the 4th of July. We all went to see the exhibit put on my Marie’s photography club at the library where she had her own exhibit. It was spectacular. Hard to believe these photographers were amateur. That night Caoimhin drove me to The Black Sheep for Gary Lynch’s Ha-Ha Black Sheep show and after that we went to Tony Ferns’ Battle of the Ax . I did really well in both places but what I was proudest of was that I did different material each time. That night Andy and Eire came to film me for her documentary that she is doing on what makes happy people It was great to know that such a successful set was actually captured on film.
Friday was quiet. We all went to the Royal Art Academy exhibit and it was immense with a lot of photography and portraits. I was not that impressed with most of the paintings there except for two large landscapes that were spectacular. That night Maria Halpin met us at 7 and we all walked to a lovely Indian Restaurant in Terinure. The Woods brought the wine and this one was my treat.
Saturday, Declan, Marie and Paul’s son came over along with Tony the bachelor Marie always has over on Saturdays and her friend Francis who is an artist and has a disabled son and an alcoholic daughter. Tony also has a daughter with M.E. that Marie thinks is 90% psychological. I think she is trying to get something going with the two of them but they do not seem to connect. Declan ahs two delightful children, Maya about 4 and Ethan barely two years old. The day was sunny and hot and the children played in the yard with Percy the dog…very idyllic while we drank wine…very Irish. Tony is one of the sourest, most unhappy men I have ever met. On the other hand Francis who has the worst kind of life you an imagine since she is a full time caregiver for the son and has to deal with the daughter AFTER she spent years nursing the husband who died of some kind of cancer., is the most positive delightful lady. Go figure.
Marie and I left Paul to finish off the evening with wine, coffee and chocolate while we went to The International. I did really well there and met a delightful comedian David Doherty whom I intend to find in Edinburgh and review. His comedy was charming and very funny.
The next day was Sunday and Maria came by at 10 and off we went to Glendalough. I need to say this was a highlight of the Dublin trip. We hiked around two lakes, I got bitten alive by the midges, we had a delightful talk and a lovely lunch at the hotel there. Maria is a primary schoolteacher who discovered me at the workshop I did with Tracey in January. She followed up and we have become really good friends. She is delightful, interesting, has a daughter Rose, a collie Holly and an adventuresome spirit. She has traveled around the world 3 times and the last time she took her then 11-year-old daughter Rose with her.
We got home in time to eat dinner (and Marie always makes the most marvelous meals) meet Caoimhin and Aine and go to the International. That night 7 people Came to see me!!! Maria and her friend, Tim O’Connell, Mary Dunne who is especially lovely, Caoimhin and Aine of course and Pauline Curtin who has been supportive and so very kind…and we were practically the entire audience. The comedians were so, so terrible and I was sad that I could not offer the people who paid to see me a better show But so goes life. The hope is that next time I come to Dublin, I can get into the International again and get paid.
Monday morning Maria met me at 11 and I walked into town. It is about 3 miles and a lovely walk. I went to the Doorway Gallery on South Frederick Street. It was featuring Padraig McCaul and his exquisite landscapes Denise Donnelly was there. She manages the gallery She has a 3-year- old child and is becoming a real friend. Maria and I wandered through the gallery…every painting there is superb and McCaul runs painting workshops that I just might try to find him.
Maria took me to Peaches for lunch and then left to do her own chores and I met Danielle, a yoga instructor who chatted with me for a while. Then back to the to her galleries on Frederick Street and the Duke Street Gallery where I saw the spectacular works of Tom Byrne and Clare Hartiganå. All this art makes me want to rush home and start painting again. Met Tim O’Connell for a drink and while I was there and lovely, lovely girl was wearing a head scarf that I thought was adorable and she gave it to me and bought me a drink as well!! She was having several drinks with her ex-mother-in-law and the two were delightful. Tim was his usual scattered self but he did get me back to Marie’s and Pauls where I spent the evening with them and Caoimhin and Aine. As we talked it was decided that when I come back in November I will spend some time at his eco village and come back to Dublin with them for the anniversary gala. Pauline has said I could stay with her for that next week and I can also stay with Maria so I might make it a good two seek trip and do more comedy here as well as a workshop. Life opens up so many opportunities!!!
The next morning, we treated the midge bites, Marie took me to the airport and off I flew to Gatwick and the Bill problem. I stopped at Ella’s for lunch and a beautiful women came into the shop recognized me and made a huge fuss which I ate up of course.
When I got back to Clare’s, I showered, did the laundry and went over to Emma Gill’s for a yummy dinner. I met Anouchka first who is fast becoming a very dear friend. It will be very sad to leave all the contacts I have made here and if the Bill thing comes to nothing that is what will have to happen.