And In The End…

 

Earlier this month I wrote about saying goodbye to my old Volvo. I told of how the car’s radio, broken for years, had magically sparked to life as I took the old gal out for her last ride.  The song that was playing when the music came through the speakers? “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. The radio station? 100.3 The Sound.

 

100.3 The Sound

 

Yesterday the FCC made it possible for only a few piggies to have all the pie in the broadcast radio and TV markets of America. I’m simplifying, to be sure, but that’s the way a lot of folks see it, and I’m one of them there folks.

 

Yesterday was also the last day an L.A. radio station served our market. 100.3 The Sound has been around for 10 years and it’s been grand. The station played classic rock, but not like some of the nationally programmed crap we’re fed. The Sound used real-live DJs, and they were responsible for providing listeners with music not found anywhere else on the dial. The DJs had distinct personalities and tastes. That used to be common. I grew up with terrestrial radio like that. But today? Nope. Up and down the dial, it’s nowhere to be found, or it’s so rare as to require a wire hanger and acrobatic maneuvers in order to tune it in.

 

The Sound knew the end was nigh, as it had been sold to one of those aforementioned station-grabbing piggies. The DJs had been preparing us – the listeners – and themselves for the inevitable last song. Along the way, I paid attention to the DJs, to the station’s ads and to the music. One of the spots referenced the fact that a lot of the songs played there may never again be heard on radio. Think about that. Will I happen to hear “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads elsewhere? Sure. But will I hear “Fool to Cry” by The Rolling Stones? Probably not. And I damn sure won’t hear “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” by Traffic. Not gonna happen. Not in the Los Angeles market anyway. Not anymore.

 

So as 100.3 The Sound wrapped up their run yesterday, Andy Chanley (the first DJ at the station, a decade ago) said something about “…the last 11 words of this album side…” I immediately started crying. I knew what was coming: side 2 of “Abbey Road” in its entirety. For a few years in my youth, I fell asleep listening to that each and every night. On vinyl, just like they played it on The Sound. Yesterday, as I listened to the masterpiece in the middle of the day, I took care of some bid-ness and earned my keep. All the DJs and staff had gathered for the final farewell. They expressed their gratitude for each other, for the listeners, for the station, for the music. At the close of “Abbey Road,” the format immediately changed to christian pop, whatever the fuck that ungodly mess is. The now former DJs and staff are all likely searching for new jobs.

 

Speaking for the listeners, I can tell you that we are merely searching.

The End of An Era

 

 

Seventeen years ago I needed a car. I had an old beater, and it had served me well. Its hatchback had also fallen on my head a few times and jacked up my neck. There are a lot of things up with which I can put, but bodily harm ain’t one of ‘em. So the beater had to go.

 

 

I was out walking one day and I passed a couple of old ladies sitting on a bench. As I moved by them, I overheard one of the ladies saying she needed to sell her recently deceased friend’s car, as that was the last item to settle in the deceased’s estate. I stopped in my tracks and actually backed up. I looked at the ladies and said, “I need a car.” Conversation ensued and we set an appointment for me to test drive the vehicle.

 

 

When I  showed up, I knew I was in trouble, as I instantly fell in love with the car. After a very quick negotiation, we shook on the price and the deal was done. That’s how I became the caretaker of a 1966 Volvo 122 S.

 

 

I have loved that car more than you know. The adventures we’ve shared – some good, some not-so-good – are etched in my memory. I once drove her through a flooded intersection and the water was so high, it knocked out the engine. Momentum got me to the side of the road, where I had to wait for the old gal to dry out before she’d start again. I had to learn to use a choke with this car. When she was cold, I’d ride the choke like nobody’s business, until she warmed up a bit. I got real good at it, too. And I remember this one time, I was driving her in downtown L.A. Mister and his buddy Jack Daniels were in the back seat and my friend Gillian was in the front. As I took a hard left turn, at speed, Gillian’s passenger side door started to swing open. I reached across, real quick-like, and grabbed the door before she fell out. Also, whenever the front windshield fogged over, I used a throw pillow to wipe it clean so that I could see. I’ve kept a couple of leopard-printed throw pillows in there for the front passengers (myself included). The seat webbing has sagged and I can’t see over the dash without the boost of a pillow. These are just a few of the memories I’ve stored involving the old Volvo. Truth be told, there are too many to recount.

 

 

But now, well, it’s the end of an era. The old gal has been sold to someone else. I imagine he’s gonna hot-rod the shit out of it and make it into something altogether different. That’s okay. She belongs to him now and he gets to do as he pleases. I don’t begrudge him that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to be. He’s gonna tweak and tinker and come up with something that makes his heart melt. Honestly, I kind of knew he was in trouble the first time he came to see her. It looked to me like he fell in love with her, instantly.

 

 

Nothing lasts forever, friends. The car’s original owner, Gertrude, had the old Volvo from 1966 (when it was brand-spanking-new) until her death in 2000. Sammie, the gal who sold the car to me, well, she passed away last year. And now the old Volvo is off to other parts of the world, and to new adventures with her new owner. If he’s lucky, she’s got another 100,000 miles in her. Volvos are weird that way. Only time will tell.

 

 

The day before I watched her drive away for the last time, I took her for a spin. I don’t know what possessed me, but I reached over to the old radio. It’s been broken for years, so I’ve always just driven around with my own thoughts providing the soundtrack for my travels. But there I was, reaching for that knob, as if it was something I’d done every day. And I swear, the radio came on. And so I listened to “The Sound,” a radio station that’s about to be gone forever, as its new owners plan to switch the format from Classic Rock to Christian Pop. (I would call that an oxymoron, but it’s simply moronic.) I started laughing and crying, and it wasn’t lost on me that the old gal was giving me the gift of a little goodbye music. That she was playing herself off the stage. That she was giving me one last memory.

 

 

And memories I have. Along with more photos than most people might find sensible. I don’t know what to tell you. I loved the old gal. She got me around. In style. She came along just when I needed her and she helped me be true to myself. That one’s too deep to go into, so you’ll just have to trust me.

 

 

I wish the new owner well. I hope he and the old Volvo have spectacular adventures and that they make memories he can file away for himself. Memories that bring a smile to his face someday, when he’s well into middle-age and remembering.

 

 

We should all be so lucky as to have fond memories. Of life, of love, of cars. I can almost hear the old gal humming, and she’s beautiful.

 

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

Last year, a few days before Halloween, I picked up a batch of Halloween Krispy Kreme doughnuts for a friend’s party. I live closer to the store, so I was happy to help out and save her the drive. That’s how you do for friends.

 

Anyhoo – while waiting for the order to be ready, the fine folks at Krispy Kreme were handing out hot-off-the-line samples. And I don’t know how, but I managed to get doughnut glaze on my glasses. I swear – I wasn’t tearing into that doughnut like a monkey or anything. I think it just must have been extra glaze-y. That’s the story I’m going with anyway.

 

Here’s to a Halloween of delicious, spooky treats. And to clean glasses.

 

A Good Day

 

 

Sometimes a good day happens. Maybe we know it’s coming. There may be an event on a calendar, some predicted fanfare. Maybe a celebration is due. On those occasions, the foreknowledge does nothing to lessen the day’s being special. Perhaps, instead, it amplifies the joy or appreciation. Those times are lovely. Just grand, really.

 

But we don’t always know a good day is coming. In fact, we may think anything but good is slated. Maybe we’ve got work commitments. Maybe family or friends need our time and attention. We may not look forward to a particular day, as foreknowledge of responsibilities can often be a drag. And if one’s expectations are for a bad time, it is entirely possible for a day to live down to one’s brain-hole’s lowly vision. That’s not just a mouthful of words; it’s a bummer.

 

The other day, I had a meeting to get to and while I had committed myself to the time and energy, when it rolled around on the calendar, I wanted to work on some paintings instead. But given my word, I had, and so I went. The meeting was just fine (which it was always bound to be, given the attendees), and my time there was well-spent. After the meeting, one of my very favorite people asked if I was open to going out for lunch. I was. Then she suggested we invite another fab-o person. We did, and she said yes. So off we went. We talked and laughed and got deep and agreed that, given enough time, the three of us could solve the world’s problems. Not once did we look at our phones. Not once did our attention leave what was going on at that table. It was honest-to-goodness human connection, and it was swell.

 

After leaving my friends, I went to a new seafood shop and got some fish for supper. The place is super-cool and the guy who helped me was not only nice, but also knowledgeable. (I kind of want that from a monger, as I don’t know squat about the world of fish.) When he asked what I was making, I told him: ceviche. He told me a little about his recipe, and as he listed ingredients, I realized I had completely forgotten to add a hint of sugar to my own mental recipe. I thanked him kindly and headed home.

 

Once there, I set about making the ceviche and put it in the fridge to “cook.” Mister had been working from home that day, and when he gave me the signal that he was knocking off for the day, I mixed us a couple of drinks and we toasted. What did we toast? Nothing really. Everything. We were happy we got to spend the evening together and that we had some good food to share. I brought out the ceviche and some tortilla chips and we dug in. Best I’ve ever made.

 

Then we watched a movie, Maudie. I loved it so much and was so glad I saw it. I was so glad Mister had selected it. It reminded me of my great-grandmother and an old “Soap Sally” mask she had sewn – a superb piece of folk art. I told Mister that if I could have anything from Granny Vera, it would be that mask. As I only have memories, I cried a little, then wondered if I was crying for Granny or Maudie. I decided it didn’t really matter. We got ready for bed and turned out the lights.

 

As I was falling asleep, my slightly drunk mind looked back over the day. It had come without fanfare. Without celebration. There had been some work and some fun. Some socializing and some responsibility. I hadn’t foreseen its value, but it was indeed worthy. It had been a good day, and I knew it. I drifted off, thinking of how lovely life can be. Truly.

The Freaking Queen

 

 

I’ve started watching “The Crown” on Netflix and I’m smitten.

 

When I first saw “Brideshead Revisited” in the 1980s, I realized I was an Anglophile. Still am. I’ve tried to escape it, but we are what we are, friends. I fell hard for that series then and I’m now falling for “The Crown.”

 

None of it’s perfect. Flaws abound. There is truth and there is fiction. There is laughter and there are tears. There is hope and there is abandonment. As long as there is entertainment, I will watch.

 

On this date in 1940, the future Queen Elizabeth II gave her very first address to Britain on the BBC’s Children’s Hour radio program. She was 14 years old. As good a reason as any to think of that fabulous gal.

 

And for the interwebz police, I give you this. The painting shown above is indeed based on a photo. It is based on a photo I staged myself, of myself, and not on anything else. Put that in your fucking e-hat and smoke it. Clearly – the interwebz police and I have a history. Word.

Never Gonna Get It

 

 

Most people who didn’t just meet me know I have a big heart. They also know I am sometimes cynical and speak the truth as I see it, more often than not. Many friends know when to ask me a question and when to beg off, as I’m gonna lay it all on the line. I aim for kindness, but sometimes my aged vision doesn’t allow me to hit my mark. I don’t know how all those aspects of myself manage to coexist, but they do. And sometimes one part of me dominates the others. Go figure.

 

Right now, it’s my heart that’s garnering my attention. It’s breaking, and I don’t have a clue how to mend it. Nature has struck in Puerto Rico (as well as all over the globe, really), and our fuck-tard of a president is too stupid to understand that as a U.S. Territory, care for the area falls to us. I guess since they’re the epitome of taxation without representation, and therefore can’t vote for the idiot, he doesn’t see any reason to give a damn.

 

And then there’s the craziness of Las Vegas. Smarter minds have certainly spoken to this (Eugene Robinson’s latest, and Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue), and even if I wanted to contribute a thought, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I’m never gonna get this. Never.

 

On Monday I saw Jackie Goldberg speak and she was amazing. She briefly addressed the Las Vegas tragedy and pointed out a few things. First – she defined a mass shooting as having occurred when 4 or more people are shot during a single incident. Second – she pointed out that we’ve had over 270 mass shootings in the United States this year alone. The day of the Las Vegas carnage was the 274th day of the year. She noted that we’re looking at around one mass shooting per day. Ms. Goldberg then pointed out that if hunters used semi-automatic and automatic weapons in the wild, there would be no meat left on the carcasses. She was right, of course, and we all knew it, regardless of politics.

 

I didn’t lose a loved one in this latest horrific, terror attack. My heart is still broken. And though I’m frightened to say it, at the rate we’re going, it seems like we’ll all know someone who does lose a loved one in a mass shooting, and that’s tragic. Truly. And if you dare to tie the 2nd Amendment or hunting rights to the insanity that is our bullshit, nearly invisible gun regulations, well, this one’s on you. Just like the last one. And the one before that. And the one that’s coming. I would say all those who continue to kiss the ass of the NRA should be ashamed, but that’s not enough. Their shame is killing us. Literally.

Get Down on The Ground

 

 

We’re watching the 3rd season of “Narcos” on Netflix and we’re taking our time with it. The bit of history that’s thrown in with the dramatization is quite interesting. I’m sharing this so that you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I tell you that I’ve got cocaine on the brain.

 

Now – I was never a coke-head. I just wasn’t. Might have been financial limitations. Might have been something I wasn’t into. I did try it – exactly one time – and that isolated incident was enough to convince me I didn’t need to try it again. I’ve talked to people who’ve said they loved cocaine. Some folks have said they’d do it all the time if they could. I try to understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t get it. It’s beyond me.

 

Every now and then I come across someone who asks if I want a bump. I’m not kidding. And it’s just plain weird. I mean – what decade is this? And when I do see someone doing it, it’s ugly. Medicinal marijuana has been around these parts for some time, so I see that quite a bit. It doesn’t move the needle. But cocaine? That one is bizarre. I don’t know how else to describe it.

 

Back in the day (also known as my childhood), my illicit drug of choice was marijuana. I also drank, but that led to black-outs more often than not, so I stopped – for the sake of remembering. I dabbled in a few other things, too, but none of it stuck. I never lost track of what I’d experienced because of pot, and I never got into trouble that I couldn’t handle. I do remember being underage, hanging with folks who were of legal age, and being told that if the fuzz showed up I’d be expected to “carry” the weed as I would “only go to juvie,” whereas my companions would go to jail. It was ridiculous and funny and wrong, all at the same time. Fortunately, I survived. I did not go to jail (or to juvie) and I didn’t die. Those years didn’t lead to anything heavier, either. More than a few people I knew back then didn’t make it, however. And that’s a real shame. These days, I know folks who are hooked on all kinds of things. Some of them are self-aware and know their struggles. Others, well, let’s just say there are a lot of monkeys on a lot of backs. And not everyone knows they’re carrying that extra weight. That’s a shame, too.

 

Now when I watch “Narcos,” I’m fascinated by what I never knew. And by how screwed up America’s actions were. Our country’s behaviors have been less than noble, y’all. Better to acknowledge that than to pretend otherwise. I love learning about it, but it’s also terribly disappointing. A lot of our history is like that. The truth hurts sometimes.

 

No – I was never a coke-head. Never will be. I’m real good with that. If you are someone who’s excited by the mere idea of cocaine, maybe you should watch the first episode of season 1 of “Narcos.” The ugliness that goes into producing cocaine comes out pretty quickly. And if that doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, I don’t know what will.

Frustrated

 

 

I’m frustrated.

 

Mister and I live in a nice-enough house. We love it. It’s our home. But as nice-enough as it is, as lovely as our neighbors are, we’re still susceptible to suburban woes. Maybe incidents is the right word. For example, we’ve had some things go missing from our yard. That’s annoying and as much as I hated it, there was really nothing to be done about it. Our neighborhood watch is always telling us to report any and all crimes, no matter how small, in the hopes that our neighborhood will be patrolled on a more regular basis. But when I called the non-emergency number to report the aforementioned theft, the officer on the phone actually seemed bothered by my call. Frustrating.

 

Just a few days ago, I called to report a bit of vandalism. Someone had sprayed some paint in our yard, which I cleaned and tidied. This time the officer on the phone actually lectured me about reporting something so petty. Again, I had called the non-emergency line and told him I was advised by our neighborhood watch and senior lead police officer to make the report, but it didn’t matter.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m mighty grateful I don’t have anything major to report to police and I’m aware that the crap I deal with is minor. But my neighbor’s theft of a big check from his car in his driveway wasn’t minor. And the other car break-ins around the ‘hood haven’t necessarily been minor, either. Some of that stuff leads to insurance claims and higher premiums. Hell – when I called to report a strange dude in my yard with an ax, the cops showed up, talked to him for about a minute and a half then drove away. The dude was still standing there, with the ax! See something, say something, my ass.

 

After getting nowhere on the phone with the police officer the other day, I looked online at the Los Angeles 3-1-1 site. It advises residents to report any and all crimes to law enforcement. Of course, it doesn’t give any advice as to how to proceed when law enforcement simply refuse to listen.

 

My frustration continues…

And So I Begin. Again.

 

 

Yesterday I painted. Those who didn’t just meet me know this is kind of a thing. I’ve tried to pick up my brushes, but the hurt from losing my mentor’s guidance has been bigger than I anticipated. And that hurt is still there. Along with confusion, doubt and a host of other feelings and emotions that don’t do a damned thing to serve me.

 

So what changed? Well, I was talking with my love-bug of a cousin and she told me about some folk art made by another family member. And then she sent photos of the pieces and I just about flipped. Those little gewgaws are so cool. And I never even knew they existed. I guess I was inspired, not only by the folk art, but also by my dear cousin.

 

I won’t lie. When I placed myself before that canvas, I felt stuck. I didn’t know what to do and I drew a blank for a few minutes. And then I thought about something Mister told me the other night. He said that if I had gone through some sort of degree program in art, I would have graduated already and (probably) declared myself an artist. Then he told me that I don’t need to keep studying with someone, that I’m already an artist and I already know how to paint. Y’all – if my mentor called tomorrow and said he was back in business, I’d be his first customer. I will always value guidance and instruction. And I will always benefit from those things. But in the meantime, Mister may be right. I am an artist. I know how to paint. With that in mind, I put paint to canvas and did my best.

 

Today is the first day of Autumn. A new season. A new beginning. I hope I’m starting anew, again. I hope it sticks. I hope that I, like this new season, am reborn. I hope. And then I hope some more.

 

When this painting is finished, it will be my first without my mentor’s approval. That’s a big deal, for a lot of reasons. It’s bittersweet, to be sure. And it’s good. Like I told my painting buddy Nicole – we’re creators. It’s what we do. With or without a gentle, guiding voice over our shoulders.

Michael

 

 

When we lived in Boston, Mister regularly gave money to a sweetheart of a guy who “worked” The Common. His name was Michael. Mister made sure he always kept a roll of coins on hand, so that he could give a quarter to Michael each time their paths crossed. Whenever I saw Michael, I stopped to chat with him. If I was coming from work, I was wearing my flight attendant uniform. Michael always asked where I’d been and what that place was like. It was during one of those conversations that I learned Michael stayed at a local shelter. He also told me how it wasn’t consistent, and that it was all too easy to lose one’s spot. When winter rolled around, we found a blanket and warm clothing to give to Michael. And we weren’t the only ones. Many folks appreciated Michael’s presence in the park and gave him what they could. He was friendly, kind and like I said – he was a sweetheart.

 

After we moved away, we sort of forgot about Michael. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. Five years later, we were visiting and walking through The Common. Before we knew it, Michael was standing before us and said, “Hey, Buddy! Where you been? It’s been a long time!” This was all directed at Mister and we spent a few minutes catching up. Mister told Michael we’d moved to L.A. and Michael immediately asked if we’d brought him a postcard. (We had not.) He told us to bring one the next time we were in town and we said we would.

 

Cut to this past summer. Mister and I made sure we brought a postcard with us when we visited Boston. But somehow, we never once found ourselves walking around The Common. And we never saw Michael. The postcard came home with us, back to L.A.

 

Yesterday I was tidying up and came across the postcard, in a pile on a table. I did a quick search online to see if I could find anything about Michael and I did! I found an old piece, from a few years after we moved from Boston. And I found a German piece, too (with a photo), from a mere couple of years ago. Both pieces made me happy. But there was nothing more recent.

 

So I’m hoping someone out there has some news. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to Boston, so I must rely on others for an update on Michael. If you’re in that area, even for a visit, please head over to The Boston Common and take a gander. I don’t know why this is so important to me right now, but it is. I thank you in advance.

 

For now, I’m gonna just send the postcard we got during the summer. No – I don’t have an address. But sometimes you’ve got to follow an impulse. I think this is one of those times.