Monday, June 16, 2014

solitude

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sunday, June 8, 2014

RIP Maya Angelou

When I worked in the airline industry, I would be embarrassed whenever we had to engage with a celebrity and a co-worker would begin gushing admiration.  I love John Lithgow’s work as much as anyone, but was mortified when my fellow gate agent started in on him.  This gate agent happened to be Barbara Eden's doppleganger (of course, this probably had no influence on Mr. Lithgow), and much to my relief, he was receptive.  When I saw that he was congenial – enthusiastic even, my embarrassment for my fellow gate agent waned, and I figured, hey, it’s done, slithering away solves nothing.  Why not stick around and watch the show?

I'm not sure which is worse, witnessing your co-worker accost a celebrity, or the uncomfortable moment when you’re standing in line at the car rental behind one.  Say, Katherine Heigl.  You figure she knows you know who she is, but, still, you don’t say anything.  You begin to wonder if she feels slighted that you don’t acknowledge her, and then you feel awkward.  Of course it doesn’t feel this way to her – I can’t imagine what it feels like to her, probably like walking around without any clothes on.  But to you, it feels as though you’ve run into a long-lost neighbor and are ignoring them.  It must be hell for them, but I wonder if they realize it’s weird for us, too?

Others, say, Heraldo Rivera, make it easier to not feel obliged when they continue to demand an electric cart to their next gate when you’ve just informed them their gate is a mere forty feet away.  Not to mention, they’re youngish and wearing sneakers.

Once, I went to visit my sister in the Tanglewood area of Massachussets, where she lived at the time, and she took me to visit (a euphemism for meet) Maureen Stapleton.  Although, they seemed well-enough acquainted, I wasn’t sure how familiar they were with one another, and felt awkward about being there.  We didn’t stay long, and I don’t recall the conversation, but remember wondering if she ever got tired of being “Jean Stapleton’s sister.”  I didn’t realize my mistake until I researched her for this essay.

During another encounter, all I recall is Christian Slater approaching me in the empty terminal, with a sheepish grin on his face.  I handed him the black leather jacket he’d left in the boarding area.  I don’t recall even exchanging words.

Another time, I was working a red-eye from Cincinnati to Las Vegas on or around Halloween, when a shy man boarded in first class.  I greeted him, and took his bag and put it in the closet.  In response, he held out his hand in a fist, palm side down.  I held my hand out, and he dropped a pair of red wax lips into my palm.  This made me extraordinarily happy.  He gave the whole crew wax lips.

I didn’t recognize him, so I took a look at the tag on his bag in the closet.  He was made up in the picture on the tag, allowing me to recognize it was David Copperfield.  At the time, he was dating Guess model Claudia Schiffer.  I was under the impression she lived in Cincinnati.  It didn’t seem likely, but, hey, Eric Clapton lived in Ohio.

Mr. Copperfield talked on his phone the whole trip.  When it came time to serve dinner, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I didn’t want to disturb him, but I didn’t want him to miss out on dinner, either.  So, I dropped the tray table of the seat next to him, and put his dinner there.  But he didn’t touch it.

Trying to stay awake, midway through the flight, I sat next to an older non-rev passenger (relative of an airline employee).

I said, “Do you know who that is?”

He said, “No, but he’s very rude.  He’s been on his phone the whole flight."

During another flight I served Linda Carter dinner while she read a script.  She was so soft-spoken, I felt like a moron when I had to ask her to repeat herself three times before I understood she wanted butter.  Later, after I’d begun to cultivate my own anxiety disorder, I’d read she’d suffered from agoraphobia.

Then there are the brief encounters; in the 80”s, a friend and I watched Rick Ocasek and his model girlfriend wander around the Galleria in Baltimore, but only for a few minutes; backstage at an Alice Cooper show with a friend who was a stage-hand, “Hey Alice.”  “Hey,” he responded; working first class when Wilford Brimley, who had a reputation amongst flight attendants for being crabby (I gave him the benefit of the doubt and blamed it on the diabetes), would occasionally travel from his home in Utah, where I was based at the time; literally bumping into Morgan Freeman near the escalators at the Atlanta airport, both of us with our Mothers in tow; James Brown boarding 1st Class in all his finery; in the 90’s, competing with Marie Osmond and her entourage for first-class seats out of Salt Lake every week when I lived there, was based in Boston and commuting, during the time when “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” was playing there.  There’s something strangely incongruous about seeing a celebrity doing “normal” things like sleeping on a plane.  Not to mention drooling.

There are three other, longer, encounters that you might argue constitute my own civilian-fawning-admiration-for celebrities, but I beg to differ.

The shortest of the three was when Neil Sedaka boarded my flight with his boy toy.  I was working the first-class cabin where they were seated.  My childhood best friend was getting married at the time, and I happened to have the wedding card I was giving her with me.  Mr. Sedaka’s “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” was one of the songs that would forever take us back to the year in junior high school when her mother was dying of cancer.

There was a gorgeous, young janitor who worked at our school with whom she established a relationship through their daily after-school conversations.  As is the nature of unrequited love, she grieved the end almost from the beginning.  “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” was “their” song.

I told Mr. Sedaka the story and he graciously signed her wedding card.

Another time, on a beautiful summer morning, I woke up missing my daughter who was in Minnesota visiting her father.  So desperate was my desire to see her, I drove to the airport without even showering.  In the boarding area, I watched as a guy with long frizzy hair courteously sweated the gate agent – patiently standing nearby the podium, for what, I wasn’t sure, but I could guess.

I boarded and after a bit the guy with the frizzy hair sat next to me.  I knew he was someone, I just couldn’t be sure whether he was Ian Anderson from “Jethro Tull,” or Robbie Steinhardt from “Kansas.”  Although, I’d seen both in concert, Robbie was the only one I’d seen up close.  And that had been twenty years prior at the old Terrace Ballroom in Salt Lake, through the lens of an altered mind.

I said, “So, what brings you to Salt Lake?”

He said, “My band just finished playing a gig in Wyoming.”

“Hmmm, what band might that be?”

“Kansas.”

“I knew it!” I lied.

He was so polite, he refused the first-class breakfast being served.  I’m sure I had a mimosa or two, and maybe a Baileys and coffee, so I was very chatty.  Unfortunately, for him I wasn’t very mindful back then, and shared everything from the current drama that was my life at the time, to how when we were juvenile delinquents, we listened to “Kansas” as our “landing music” when we were coming off acid.  He seemed quite surprised to hear this.  I was quite surprised to learn he wasn’t an ex-drug addict, but rather a classically-educated musician.  And he thought his upgrade was free.

One of the mates he was traveling with came up to first class to chat with him for a minute.  Shortly he left, and returned with a backstage pass for me.  Robbie said they were playing a gig at the fair there in Minneapolis, and invited me to come watch the show.  The flight attendant overheard the conversation and asked if she could have one, too.  Then, all the flight attendants wanted one.  I was mortified.  He was gracious and gave them all backstage passes.

Of course, I was there to see my daughter, so I didn’t use the pass to see the concert in Minneapolis.  But, the pass was good for the whole tour, and throughout that year I would think about going to see him wherever they were playing.  But, I never did.  The pass hung on my pin board for several years.

At one point, I got up to use the bathroom and when I returned my seat was taken by some other non-rev who’d overheard our conversation!  The nerve!  I didn’t want to make a scene, so I just took her seat until she was finished.  When she was finished, she gave me my seat back.

Robbie signed my copy of Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” which was the book I was reading at the time.


Desert SolitaireRobbie Steinhardt

The only other time I engaged a famous person was when Dr. Beck Weathers boarded the flight I was working from Salt Lake to Dallas.  I knew it was him, immediately, when he took his prosthetic arm off and put it in the first-class overhead bin above his seat.  I had just finished reading, “Into Thin Air.”  I grabbed the manifest and searched for his name. There it was.

I was so excited, I told the young A-Line (flight-attendant-in-charge) Dr. Beck Weathers from “Into Thin Air” was on our flight.  The A-Line told me he also had a prosthetic – a leg, he’d lost in a motorcycle accident.  I was amazed, I’d have never known. 

On the ground, I served Dr. Weathers a Jack & Seven, as I recall, and told him I’d just finished reading the book.  Once we got to cruising altitude and the seat-belt signs were turned off, I served him another drink and asked him if he’d like to come up to the galley and chat with the flight attendants.  I had so many questions.

He was happy to oblige.  I served him drinks while he told of his arrogance, how he’d accomplished so much at such a young age that the expedition was a challenge he seemed destined to take on, how he’d missed his daughter’s prom night to be on that expedition, how he was alive only because his well-connected wife kept insisting the helicopter return each time it came off the mountain without him, how more than anything he missed the sense of touch.

He held his liquor well, and ignored the A-Line when he mentioned that he too had a prosthetic limb.

I don’t really count my accosting Mr. Steinhardt or Dr. Weathers in the way I usually think of celebrities being accosted by “civilians.”  I guess because they weren’t especially recognizable – I don’t think I’d have recognized Dr. Weathers had I not just finished the book.  Also, maybe since our conversations weren’t based on simple recognition, but in Dr. Weather’s case on his experience on Mt. Everest, and in Robbie’s case mostly on my life experiences, they seemed more intimate, less intrusive, somehow.

And I don’t count Mr. Sedaka, because that wasn’t self-interest, but a “mission” for a friend.  Besides, I figure he appreciated the recognition, as it had been years since the height of his popularity.

That said, I will admit to having accosted a celebrity in that embarrassing, civilian-fawning-admiration way, once.  Maya Angelou.

It was in the late 90’s.  I was greeting passengers as they boarded the 757 out of Boston, where I was based at the time.  I don’t know what came over me, I just saw her and exclaimed, “Maya Angelou!  I love your work!” and leaned in for the hug.  She must’ve been thinking, “Who is this crazy white woman?!  Get her off me!”  Afterwards, I felt awkward.  Of course, Ms. Angelou was gracious.

This is a clipping of Ms. Angelou’s poem “Prayer,” I’ve had posted in the medicine cabinet of my bathroom for many years, through many moves:


There’s probably a name for this phenomenon where regular people have this overwhelming sense of relationship with celebrity because either they’ve seen their image several times in their home on a screen, or because they’ve read and identified with their words in a book.  I think it's "delusional."

For the sake of celebrities everywhere, not to mention my own pride, if I ever again see a celebrity or author I feel particular kinship with, I’ll try and use restraint.  Unless it’s Miranda July.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

brilliant . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4UWxlVvT1A#t=600

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dad always said . . .

a visit to the VA hospital was your second chance to give your life for your country.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

decent human being

me:
If I never met a ***** I liked, does that make me a bigot, or does just saying it make me one?

my remarkable daughter:
If the knowledge that your experiences thus far have been bad ones, influences your future experiences with respect to mindset, prior to them happening, you are prejudiced.  If it affects your behavior, it's discrimination.  If you acknowledge that your experiences have been negative but simply due to individual interactions, you're neither.

It's natural to want to recognize patterns, especially concerning behavior and outcomes because it may have been evolutionarily useful in survival.  However, it can also be detrimental, especially in modern, diverse societies as well as completely false more often than not.  Awareness is normal, it's just important to be consciously challenging your logic.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

edwin georgi

Love this guy's work:

See more here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/leifpeng/sets/1661731/

Saturday, November 16, 2013

montaigne on experience

God shows mercy to those from whom he takes away life a little at a time: that is the sole advantage of growing old; the last death which you die will be all the less total and painful: it will only be killing off half a man, or a quarter…Everywhere death intermingles and merges with our life: our decline anticipates its hour and even forces itself upon our very progress.