2011

January 2011

Happy New Year, Kids!

“Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,

Sermons and soda-water the day after.”

Lord Byron

(1788 – 1824)

Has this ever happened to you? You have a friend who is so talented it’s sick, and you believe in her like nobody’s business. Trouble is, she hasn’t caught on in a way big enough to move the financial needle, and the girl’s gotta make ends. Next thing you know, she’s talking about giving up on her art and becoming a file clerk.

I ask because I happen to know a brilliant stand-up comedian (who shall remain nameless) who’s out there, busting her butt around the country, trying to catch lightning in a bottle. I love her work. I admire her work. Seriously, she kills. When I see one of her shows, my jaw hurts from laughing.

Like you, like me, this clever, witty, beautiful babe is not immune to the economic realities of the world. And when I spoke with her this morning and she told me she’s doubting her path and considering giving it up for a J-O-B, well, my heart just sank. She asked me, “Did God really put me here on earth to make jokes?” (Actually, she was much more explicit, as her work is quite “blue” and I’m censoring here so as not to make you blush, dammit.) Here’s what I told her: Yes. God did put you here to make jokes and provide the world with some much-needed laughter.

Our conversation got me thinking about all the wonderfully talented people out there, struggling to support themselves (not to be rich, mind you, just to pay their bills). There are a lot of awesome folks who’ve hit the wall. And when they have to choose between their art and their dinner, who can blame them for choosing food? But do we all suffer from the lack of their gifts? Yes. Would the world hold richer experience for us if these creators were somehow allowed to shine? Absolutely.

So here’s one of the things I’m thinking about for the brand new year: I want to support the artists I love (no matter what the medium may be — music, dance, painting, food, etc.). I want to experience more art. I want to think about it, debate it, feel it. Basically, I want to live a creative existence, from within and without. I’m not one for resolutions, but I guess that’s about as close as I’m gonna get. Experience and support more art. I can do that.

And I encourage you to do the same. Maybe you yourself are feeling discouraged about shining your light for the world to see. Maybe you know someone who’s struggling to find their creative path. Okay. If we have to get that J-O-B to pay the bills while we work our art, so be it. That’s perfectly acceptable. Let’s just not give up completely, okay?

In the meantime, I do hope my funny friend sticks with it. And I pray she gets a break, too. She’s just too damn good at what she does. Personally, my world would be a little bit darker without her light.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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February 2011

Hello!

“Making a left turn in L.A. is one of the harder things you’ll learn in life.”

Mack as played by Kevin Kline in

“Grand Canyon” — 1991

I was living in Boston when I first saw “Grand Canyon.” I liked the film a lot, and it resonated with me. At the time, I never once imagined living in L.A. I had no idea just how hard it can be to make a left turn here.

I also didn’t know what it would feel like to sit in the sun in January and February. I didn’t know I’d forget it was winter. Just the other day, my Sweetie was watching the national news and I caught a story of yet another winter storm headed for the east coast of America. I had to stop and think, and then I asked if this was old news, recorded and just gotten to. No. It was current. There was indeed a massive snow storm about to blanket the lives of so many people we know and love. People who do not live in L.A.

This threw me for a bit of a loop. How am I so unaware of the fact that it’s still winter? Is it because it’s been reaching 80 degrees and I’ve been hiking in the Hollywood hills? Is it because we have trees and flowers in full-bloom, wreaking havoc with my allergies? Is it because I’ve gone through my mental rolodex, trying to think of a friend with a convertible, hoping to get a ride to the beach? Or is it something more, something bigger: have I become an L.A. Girl?

When I first moved here, I told myself it was only for a while. A few years passed and I was still touting that same party line. I really believed L.A. was a temporary stop on my map. I just couldn’t fathom staying here for life. Why would anyone do that? Just for the weather? I don’t think so.

And then something odd happened. I remember I was driving over the hill from Hollywood, and I looked out and saw the Valley before me. It was a remarkably clear day, and I could see for miles and miles. The mountains were creased and strong. The sky was cerulean blue, streaked with the slightest wisps of clouds. As I descended into that quagmire of life, I actually said to myself, out loud, “I like it here. I want to stay.”

If an earthquake had hit at that moment, I wouldn’t have been more shaken (maybe). This was a big deal for me, this realization. And I wasn’t sure how to process my feelings about it. I know it sounds crazy, but it was sort of like having told myself — for my entire life — that I didn’t like, oh, let’s say vanilla. And let’s say I tolerated vanilla, and even feigned acceptance. But deep down inside, vanilla wasn’t for me. And then one day, out of the blue, I realized I freakin’ love vanilla. So what was I telling myself all those years? Why was I denying myself that joy? That comfort?

I’ve been thinking a lot about L.A. lately. Trying to make a go of it here and how it’s affecting not only myself, but loved ones as well. It’s one of those places to which people buy one-way tickets. Bus, plane, train, broken-down car, you name it. We get a new load of dreamers each and every day. And some of them are gonna stay. Not all, mind you. But some will figure it out and begin to flourish. For the others? Well, L.A. can break you in two, if you’re not careful. Every dream, every hope, every desire can be crushed. The worst cases are the souls who simply wither, not quite able to reverse course and thrive, but also not able to leave. As they lie there, desperate to get away, that blue sky can be the cruelest thing to ever hit their faces.

There must be a magic number. I haven’t quite nailed it down, but I think it’s in the 5 to 10 year range. I believe that if a person can get past that mark, and do it with some sort of integrity and their soul intact, they’ll never leave. They’ll be lifers here. I can’t explain the metamorphosis. I don’t understand the change. I only know that I’ve seen it happen time and time again. And for those souls, for us, that blue sky is the sweetest thing going. And when we do leave, for even a short while, we miss it.

Smog. Earthquakes. Fires. Landslides. Traffic. We’ve heard all the jokes. We take all the criticism from far-flung friends and relatives. We listen to the questions about how we manage to stand it. We respond politely, try to change the subject when we can. At our best, we don’t bring up your local weather, politics or economies. There’s no need. We’ll take what we’ve got. And for those who worry about us, don’t. We’re okay. Really.

I haven’t come up with that elusive friend with the convertible. But it’s fine. I’m going to drive myself to the beach, as any self-respecting L.A. Girl would. I’ll deal with the left turns as they come. Just like life.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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March 2011

Hey, y’all–

“Often I think of the beautiful town

That is seated by the sea;

Often in thought go up and down

The pleasant streets of that dear old town,

And my youth comes back to me.”

“My Lost Youth”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(1807 – 1882)

I have a confession to make: I long for a working, IBM Selectric typewriter. I can’t explain it, it’s just holdover affection from my youth. Back in the day, it was the sizzle. Now, of course, it’s archaic, as we all use computers and they come with more benefits than the old Selectric could ever muster. The memory storage alone! Those capabilities are beyond anything on the planet. Almost.

Have you ever had a random thought or experience that triggered a major search of your mental RAM, turning up a file stored so long ago, you’d forgotten the memory? This past week has found me in that space, and I can find neither rhyme nor reason for the recall…

When I was in the seventh grade, I had a teacher named Nancy Sims. She was probably around 5′ 7″, and a little doughy. I don’t remember telling anyone this, but she reminded me of a human “Miss Piggy.” Her strawberry-blonde hair was very much like the muppet’s, and her skin tone was eerily similar, too. She certainly didn’t have a snout, but her nose did turn up, ever so slightly. Anyway, one day in class, I wasn’t being very respectful. As she wrote on the blackboard, she said something to me and I openly sassed her. Without turning around, she asked me if I was being facetious. I told her I didn’t know. When she asked why I didn’t know, I said I didn’t know what that word meant, and therefore had no idea if I was being facetious or not. The woman wasn’t shaken. She continued to write on the board and said, “After you write a 2-page essay tonight on the meaning of the word facetious, you’ll be able to answer my question – tomorrow.” She carried on with the rest of the class, as if nothing had happened.

But something had happened. She had called me on my pony-scones and called me out for it. She had definitely one-upped me, but she hadn’t rubbed it in my face. She made her point, assigned the punishment and moved on. What was that all about?

I went home and looked up the word and wrote my 2 pages. It wasn’t hard. I don’t remember the bulk of my essay, but I do remember how I ended it. When Miss Sims had me read it aloud the next day, the ending rang out: “So to answer the question of whether or not I was being facetious in class, yes. I was being facetious.” Miss Sims took the essay from me to grade it, and class went on. She didn’t hold the incident against me and it wasn’t mentioned again. She asserted her authority without diminishing me. It was the first time I had a disagreement with an adult in a mature fashion. There was no grudge, no drama really. It was all so neat and tidy. I hadn’t known that was possible.

In high school, I started baby-sitting her son. She was a divorced woman (which was scandalous in our small southern town) and she set aside a regular night to go out. I thought that was cool, and I needed the money. I also did some light housework for her, and it was Nancy Sims who taught me to make a bed. I was 15 years old. Once again, she didn’t make me feel small for having never learned. She just taught me. To this day, I think of her once in a while when I make my own bed, which I do each and every morning.

After my family moved across the country when I was 16, I didn’t give much thought to Miss Sims. I liked her, but we weren’t pen-pals or anything. When I heard she had murdered her ex-husband, I was shocked. There had been rumors that her marriage had been volatile and her divorce explosive. She hadn’t talked about him in front of me, so I had no facts. Still, I couldn’t help thinking he must have pushed her just so far, in some terrible way. Maybe it had something to do with their son. I didn’t know then. I don’t know now. She went to prison, and after a few years, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. (It has been documented that this diagnosis was very slow in coming. The prison doctor refused to consider the massive lump in her breast as anything to “worry about.” By the time an actual diagnosis was given, it was too late.) Despite a letter-writing campaign from respected community members, she was not allowed to go home and pass away in peace. Her exemplary conduct and behavior made no difference. Nancy Sims died alone – in prison.

I heard about all of this from afar. I was still young, and it made no sense to me. I could say it makes no sense now, but I guess I don’t really look at it that way. It was just a lot of dark, dark life. All the way around. And honestly, can we ever make sense of that?

I’m hoping that writing about her now will clear her roaming through my mind. I don’t want to forget her. That isn’t the point. I’d just like her to settle back into mental storage. The memories of her are valuable to me. She laid the first stones in the foundation of my love of language. She showed me I could disagree with someone and still have mutual respect with that person. She taught me to make a damn bed.

I’ll never understand the bed she made, the bed she chose to lie in. I’m just trying to choose well for myself. I think Miss Sims would be proud. Actually, I think she is proud. And I sometimes hear her telling me, “When you put the top sheet on, make sure the pattern is face-down. That way, when you turn the sheets down at night, the pretty side will be facing you.”

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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April 2011

Howdy!

“Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures;

none show more passionate tenderness to their young

when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed

to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.”

Thomas De Quincey

(1785–1859)

I don’t usually watch television during the day. Even if I’m home, the best I seem to find is “I Love Lucy” re-runs. And though those are hard to beat, I’ve seen them all. So when I turned on the tube a few weeks ago and found an old episode of “The Waltons,” I surprised myself by eating lunch while watching the full hour.

When I was a kid, I was blessed to have great-grandparents raising me a lot of the time. But they weren’t there all the time, or rather, we weren’t living at their house all the time. When we were on our own, I didn’t necessarily get what I needed to be raised up right. I don’t know how I knew, but I sought out every example I could of responsible adults. I watched and tried to learn from my best friend’s parents. I did the same with random teachers and other kids’ parents. But mostly, I found inspiration on television, which was my babysitter while growing up.

“The Waltons” served as a rich resource of role models. Because of my great-grandparents, I related to the oldest characters on the show. I loved the way that fake family interacted. The way they respected one another. The way they treated each other as friends. The way they loved one another.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I watched this classic episode of the show and it was all about a new calf coming into the family’s lives. And for some reason, my mind drifted back to an interaction with an old bull.

When I was about 13 or so, my father decided he wanted to be a cowboy. (I’m not kidding.) Never mind a wife and 3 daughters to feed, dress and shelter. He just up and quit whatever job he had at the time and sold the house we lived in at the time, along with all our furniture and belongings of the time. He told us we would be moving to Wyoming. (I seem to remember him choosing Wyoming because he’d heard that’s where cowboys lived.) He packed his truck and drove out west to find our new home. The plan was for us to join him later. It was early spring. After a few days, we got a call from him saying he’d gotten there, but it was just too cold. He said he was coming home.

Home? What home? We’d sold it. We didn’t have any furniture. There was nothing. We’d said our goodbyes to kith and kin. I’d broken up with my boyfriend. It was all very painful and confusing. But I digress…

My father came home and altered his cowboy plans slightly. He went to work for the University of GA Experiment Station, where he did something or other with the cows being studied there. As he hadn’t quite given up the cowboy dream, he’d take us kids to various livestock auctions and shows. (He even took us to see cows being killed for slaughter. I’m still not kidding.)

One day, after roaming around a livestock show for hours on end, my younger sisters and I were just beat. We didn’t know where our father was and we were tired and hungry. I led them into a barn full of the exhibited animals. Those cattle, goats, pigs and lambs must have been tired, too, as most of them were lying down and taking it easy. We spotted a big, old, half-asleep bull and decided he looked pretty comfortable. My sisters and I sat down beside him and leaned against his belly. We talked to him a little bit and soon drifted off. The bull must not have minded because he went back to la-la land, too.

I don’t know how long we slept, but we woke to find our father calling to us from several feet away. He was behind a fence and wouldn’t come anywhere near us. He told us to hurry up and get away from that bull before it could hurt us. We were a little slow to stand, and we all gave the bull a final pet or two before we groggily lumbered over to our father. He let us have it for being so stupid as to have gone to sleep against a bull. He didn’t let up all the way home.

The smart-ass kid in me figured out pretty quickly that my father — the would-be cowboy — was afraid of cows (not just bulls). Several months later, after he spent money we didn’t have on a horse named “Rooster,” we learned that my father was also afraid of horses. For all I know, he still harbors cowboy dreams. Too bad his fears will forever keep him from the fantasy.

“The Waltons” was a beloved teacher in my childhood. And though I didn’t have that sort of family at that time, I like to think I’ve done a decent job of putting it together in my life now. I’m thankful for “The Waltons.” I’m thankful for cows. And I will be eternally grateful for a kind, old bull who was relaxed enough to let 3 little girls sleep against him one dusty afternoon. I wasn’t afraid of him then. I’m not afraid of him now.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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May 2011

Wassup?

“When the dog bites,

When the bee stings,

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my favorite things,

And then I don’t feel so bad.”

“My Favorite Things”

written by Rodgers & Hammerstein

1959

I am in awe of the fact that we are now 1/3 through this year. And while it’s been crazy here, I’m still thinking 2011 is high-five-able. Because it is. (If I declare something — with gusto — does it make it so?)

I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been in a particularly perky mood lately. I think that’s due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which is my effort to be happy. My efforts can be mighty powerful. Even so, I’m aware of quite a few other things I’m smiling about lately…

 

• Tax Day. (Don’t laugh. And don’t judge.) There’s something about taking care of my taxes that makes me feel, well, patriotic.

• Easter Sunday. I love holidays with any sort of food-focus. (Again, don’t judge.) And I only make ham once a year. On Easter. In a paper sack. Lots of brown sugar. You don’t know what you’re missing.

• Cod – A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. This book is just rocking my big, blue marble. (No laughing, remember?) It’s by the same author who wrote Salt – A World History, and that is one of my favorite books ever.

• My friend, Winfield. I could go on and on about that girl. She’s just this amazing, beautiful, inspiring woman I’ve known for a couple of decades. I don’t see her often as she doesn’t live anywhere near me, and we sometimes go a few years without talking. And then BAM! We check in and it’s as if we just spoke yesterday. And she always hips me to something I really need to know about, at just the right time. That gal’s a gift.

• Summer Veggies. They’re just now making it to my farmer’s market, and they’re also peeking out of my garden. I feel about ready to cross over wholly from the warm, heavy foods of winter (and spring) to the lighter, healthier foods of summer. My poor, old grill is about to take a beating.

• Stinky Cheese. I love stinky cheese, and even like to reference an Italian who once said of stinky cheese: “It smells like zee feet of zee angels.” Nicely put. (I do not love buying stinky cheese and forgetting it’s in my fridge, then re-discovering it after I’m certain something has crawled in there and died, forcing me to take every single thing out and ready the yard for a burial. Can you tell this just happened to me? Yes, I have strong feelings here.)

• Cuzzins. One of my Georgia cousins lives here and I just love that kid so much. (I call him a kid, but he’s a grown man. Since I’ve got an egg carton of years on him, he’ll always be a kid to me.) Now he’s engaged to an adorable gal, so I get another fab cousin. And when his parents visit, the love-fest just explodes! It’s all comforting and grounding. I am blessed to share DNA with these people.

• ”The Pioneer Woman.” My friends in Sweet Talk Radio hipped me to the PW website and now I’m hooked. Seriously. I check it each morning and I just love, love, love this chick’s blog/photo journal/recipes. If I were younger, I’d want to be her friend. Because I’m at precisely the just-right age, I know that admiring her from e-far is enough.

• Sweet Talk Radio. Since I brought them up, I should mention how much I adore this musical duo. If you’re familiar with their work, you’re nodding right now, agreeing with me, wholeheartedly. If you’re just now hearing about them, do yourself a favor and Check. Them. Out.

• My old car. And cheap, cheap rentals, for those times when my old car isn’t up to the task of functioning in a car-like manner. Yes, the Volvinator is having a “spell” right now and needs some spa time. (Actually, she just needs to sit tight while spare parts are en route.) Since my car is older than I, perhaps a rest is in order. Still, I’ll be glad to have her back. Soon.

So these are a few of my favorite things. I’ll stop now, before I really embarrass myself (and bore you to tears). It’s funny, but if you asked me next month, my list might be the exact same. Then again, it could be completely different. And you know what? It would be cool either way. That’s what particularly perky will do for you. I should know.

P.P. out–

Mikki Brisk

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June 2011

Hey–

“As down in the sunless retreats of the ocean

Sweet flowers are springing no mortal can see,

So deep in my soul the still prayer of devotion,

Unheard by the world, rises silent to Thee.”

Thomas Moore

(1779 – 1852)

I pray. A lot. Sometimes my praying looks stereotypical: I’m on my knees, asking for Grace. Most of the time, however, my praying goes unnoticed. That’s because I offer up one-sided conversations in my mind (or right out loud), in my heart, in my car, when I walk. You name practically any time or place and I’m probably communing with my belief system. My methods bring me comfort. And I’ll take all the comfort I can get.

Recently I opted for a new-to-me style of prayer. I decided to declare — to the Universe — all the wonderful things I could think of about a sweet friend. I thought that, in listing the reasons she matters to me, I might convey the love and positive energy I feel for her. And maybe, just maybe, it might be reflected back to her very core. As this was an unfamiliar technique, I wasn’t sure how it would feel. But what the hell. A girl’s gotta try, right? This is how it went…

I love so many things about my friend, Would-Be-Sue. I love her voice. I love the way it has the slightest rasp to it, as if touched by bourbon. And since she’s not a big drinker (and therefore the voice is natural), I love it even more. I think I’ve seen Drunk-Would-Be-Sue only once. I have photos to prove it. She knows this, and it’s all cool.

Her image often leads me to thoughts of a rose variety called “Mr. Lincoln.” Why? She’s the one who introduced me to that fragrant bloom.

I love the way she dances. She’s tall and incredibly fit. When she moves, it’s with an athlete’s body. And she’s having fun. The few times I can recall watching her dance, have been fun for me.

I love that she’s smart, without flaunting it. She can engage in intelligent conversation just as easily as she can laugh at a bawdy story. And the girl can tell a good, blue yarn as well.

She’s well-traveled, and I adore that about her.

Though she’s primarily a vegetarian, the gal appreciates a nice piece of steak. When I first learned this, I nearly kissed her. Really.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie is her favorite. I don’t know how I know this, I just do.

She’s frugal. If this seems an odd thing to admire, please know that I love this about her because of my own frugality. When we share knowledge of amazing deals, it’s a rush. For both of us.

She’s a great mom. I watch and admire her. And I think of how blessed her kids are to have her in their corner. She doesn’t take any shit from them, and she encourages them to be their own unique selves. That parenting combination is producing two of my very favorite humans. I can’t wait to see who/how they choose to become.

The dame has great hair. Am I jealous? Yes. Her dark, curly locks have been short, and they’ve been long. Either way, that is one gorgeous head of hair.

I love her laugh. It’s deep and true. It’s the sort of laugh that, when you hear it, joy is triggered inside you.

Really, I love that she is joy. She is positive light. She’s someone whose company I never regret. Is she perfect? No. If she were, she’d float right off the ground. But she’s planted here, with us. And I’d like her to stay that way, for all the reasons listed and so many more. She’s my friend. And I love her. I look forward to finding my joy, in her presence, for years to come.

Please.

Thank you.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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July 2011

Hey–

“Who am I? Why am I here?”

Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale

(1923 – 2005)

1992 U.S. Vice-Presidential Debates

My dear friend Gwendlyn recently took her soon-to-be-freshman son to college orientation. I dropped them off at the airport, and as they headed inside to catch their New York-bound flight, I could hear her telling the lad how worried she was about the next day. He would be taking placement tests! He would be meeting a roommate! He would be making the first impression!

This 18-year-old kid, whom I adore, took her worries in stride. After all, he had prepared himself by doing his best “Travis Bickle” impersonation — and a damned good one at that, replete with freshly coiffed mohawk — and packing the smallest backpack I’ve ever seen. (Honestly, I maybe could have gotten my oral hygiene gear in that bag, but hey, I’m a big flosser.) Anyway, he responded to her concerns by telling her he would be at that school for 4 years; he had plenty of time to make an impression.

Remember 18? It was something, wasn’t it? I mean, that age is about setting the world ablaze with brilliant possibility. 18 is mule-stubborn, to be sure, but it’s also sure-footed. Fears? Absolutely. But so what? 18 does it anyway. Tomorrow is for consequences, not today. 18 knows this. 18 doesn’t see the darkened horizon because the sun is only just now coming up on the fresh side of life. There’s no hurry. Any questions — and there are plenty, even at 18 — can wait. There’s time. And besides, a lot of questions will be answered at orientation anyway.

Watching my friend’s exchange with her son made me realize I’ve been a little self-absorbed with my own life questions lately. The questions themselves aren’t new, as I’ve carried them with me since before-18. But maybe my approach is changing. Maybe I’m starting to look in the direction of answers with softer eyes. Because my vision is blurring a bit these days, I have to face the fact that I may never clearly see the answers I’ve so desperately sought. My last breath may find me with less knowledge about this life than I arrived with at my beginning. Acceptance is a bitch, friends. I’m working on it.

And today I may have learned something from 18. Maybe 18 is just the youth we have right now. Maybe, when looking back, 5 years ago will look like 18 in the rearview. Maybe that perspective continues right up until the last, sweet exhalation. If so, I don’t think I’d mind that so much.

Don’t get me wrong — I’d love to have answers to the big questions in life. I really would. But if that particular enlightenment doesn’t shine on me, maybe the universe will provide a few more orientations to nudge me in the right direction. Because no matter how many years are left on my meter, it’s surely enough time to make an impression. Right?

As I watched my friend and her son disappear into the airport’s anxious shade, I wanted to tell her that even though this is her first time dealing with an 18-year-old kid, the college is well-versed. They’ve seen it all, and everything will be okay. Everything is okay. But I didn’t say anything. I let them have that time together. I got in the car and headed home, ready for my next blazing, brilliant possibility.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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August 2011

Hello, Mates–

“All was well.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

written by J.K. Rowling

page 759

I’m a bit of a geek (duh). As a teenager, I fell in love with “Dr. Who,” attending conferences and dorking out for the characters and actors portraying them. And my love of sci-fi continues. Admittedly, I don’t go as deep in my geekdom as most basement-dwellers — a term used with full affection — but I do respect the various genres over which so many obsess.

Generally, my wading in the pools of sci-fi and fantasy consists of reading books. I love to read, and when the Harry Potter craze hit the world’s youth, I reluctantly decided to read the first book before seeing the film. I expected it to be a children’s book. I expected it to be light fun. I did not expect to be so heavily affected by the story of a child in need of love. I did not expect to succumb to the theme of extraordinary courage found in ordinary people (or wizards). I never expected to fall so deeply in love with the characters, the writing. And yet that is precisely what happened. After reading the last of the 7 books, I wasn’t quite prepared to say goodbye to that world. I wondered if I would ever be able to close that door. Would I even want to?

So a few weeks ago, I had my pre-purchased tickets for the midnight, very first showings of the final Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.” Because I wanted to experience the film fully, I had chosen to see it at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The Chinese Theatre, for those unaware, is the sight of the world-famous celebrity cement handprints and footprints. People come from around the globe just to stand in Marilyn Monroe’s footprints. Some come to stand in the imprints of R2-D2. Personally, I’ve taken time to see them all. They’re beautiful. They’re historic. I love them and the theatre itself. Really, if you’re ever in Hollywood, stop by. You don’t have to see a film there (though it’s an awesome place to see a movie), but do try to at least take the tour. Trust me on this one.

Anyway, my original plan was to arrive around 5:30 in the evening and join the queue for the midnight show. I knew there would be a few hundred people in line before me. But the Chinese holds 1100 people, so I figured I’d still be able to get pretty good seats. It was a reasonable plan. Really.

I was about to pursue my incredibly reasonable plan when I realized the Chinese would be showing “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1″ at 7 pm. In a heartbeat, I switched to Plan B. I bought a ticket for the 7 o’clock show and joined the various movie-goers waiting in line.

Wow! People were fully-costumed, sort-of-costumed and not-at-all-costumed (I fell into that group, thank-you-very-much). We represented all ages, genders and ethnicities. Some super-fans had been there since 5 am (I’m not kidding) and some were only just arriving. As I took my place in line, I began meeting and talking with those around me.

The group directly in front of me turned out to be quite famous in the geek world. Known as “The 6 Weekers,” they all met in line at The Chinese Theatre when they queued up 6 weeks before the first showing of “Star Wars Episode ll: Attack of the Clones” in 2002. (Yes, you read that correctly — 6 weeks.) They got to know each other during that experience and they are friends to this day. Being Harry Potter fans, they all met up to be amongst the first to see the final installment of the film series. Being lovely people, they welcomed me into their warm and excited group. We hung out together, admired the various costumed fans, talked about expectations and fandom and generally had a good time.

At the appointed moment, the 7 pm-ers were ushered into the theatre and we settled in for the screening of Part 1. It was awesome to see it again, and at the film’s end, I felt ready for Part 2. We had thought we might have to leave the theatre and hit the back of the line, but management decided to let us keep our seats, as long as we didn’t leave the theatre for any reason whatsoever. No problem! I stayed inside with my little group and we kept our amazing seats for viewing the very final film. We were a dedicated group, and you could have heard a pin drop during the quieter scenes. We cheered. We cried. We loved it. Was it the same as the book? Somehow it never is. But that’s okay.

So in the end, I got to see so many creative expressions in costumes and make-up. I got to meet hard-core fans who also happen to be fabulous human beings. I got to go with the flow in the moment and not fight Plan B (which turned out great). I got to see a beautiful movie and I got closure where I wasn’t sure I would: Harry Potter is now complete for me.

And you know what? All is well.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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September 2011

Hey, y’all–

“I wouldn’t trade my future for anyone’s I know.”

Johnny Cash

(1932 – 2003)

A friend is in New York right now, working as a line judge at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Lovely soul that she is, she sends grand slam updates as often as she can and I excitedly await each and every missive. Over the last week, as hurricane Irene brutally travelled up the North American coast, the fate of the event was in doubt. Before learning that everything was okay for that particular area, I thought it was such bad luck for her. (And I can’t even go into the heart-breaking devastation suffered by so many along the storm’s path).

When I realized I was thinking about luck, and bad luck in particular, I found it kind of funny. I don’t usually think about “luck” at all. Not one way or another. This started me wondering about luck in general. (Note: Wondering is a curse, friends. I wonder about every. Freaking. Thing. All. The freaking. Time.)

Here’s what I settled on: I don’t see a need to try and qualify the luck of others. I’m not in their shoes and can’t possibly know the ins and outs of their lives. As to my own life and its ups and downs, well, I just don’t think luck has anything to do with it. Are there things I’d have changed? Yes. But I wouldn’t want to miss out on me. Me. You see, my wondering reminded me that I’ve already won the lottery: I get to be Mikki Brisk, warts and all. And what a blessing that is. I’ll tell you something else — You’ve won the lottery, too. You get to be YOU. You get to go through this life in your skin. You get to see the world through your lens. There is only one of you. Only one. What a gift!

You don’t have to agree, and you can see life any old way you want. Me, I’m just grateful I get to walk this earth with my sturdy feet. And I’m mighty glad you’re here, too. Being you. Aren’t we lucky?

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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October 2011

Fall Greetings–

“You grow up the day you have your first real laugh – at yourself.”

Ethel Barrymore

(1879 – 1959)

I was out riding my bike a couple of days ago, enjoying the cooler temperatures and getting some cardio. We’ve had a relatively mild summer here in L.A., but a southern gal still wants to feel a change of season once in a while. That particular day was providing just that.

After pedaling away (and sweating) for about an hour, I realized how happy I was. My body was tired, sure, but it didn’t matter. It felt like I was in tune with my surroundings. I called out to a woman on a horse, “Passing on the left!” and she thanked me for the heads-up and shot me the smiliest grin ever. I swear, I think the horse even winked. I stopped in the post office and — I’m not making this up — people in line were actually nice to one another. And the clerks were all cheerful, too. At the Armenian market, patrons stepped aside to share aisle space and even made jokes about how busy the store was. As I rode past a construction site, the workers all whistled something that sounded like a children’s song (and not something lewd or lascivious).

Is it possible my adopted city is in a good mood? Could it be we are all grateful for fall? Are we, as human beings, opening up to the benefits of showing kindness to one another?

Maybe. Then again, it might only have been my wack-job, pink helmet, leading everyone in my path to chuckle at my “special” appearance. After all, I have been known to inspire a giggle or two.

I’m okay with that.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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November 2011

Fall Greetings–

“Even a blind man can tell when he’s walkin’ in the sun.”

Walkin’ in The Sun

Jeff Barry

( b. 1938 )

Several days ago I had the privilege of attending “Songwriter Legends in the Round” at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. I went because Mr. Bill Withers was one of the featured songwriters. And I love Bill Withers. Let me be clear here: I loooooooooooooooooooooove Bill Withers. Seriously. He doesn’t know it, but I’ve adopted him as my honorary grandfather. (The paperwork is pending.) I’ve seen him speak several times and I’ve always been entertained and awed. He is a force to be reckoned with, inasmuch as a kindly, old grandpa can be.

So while I had reasonable expectations on the Withers front, I didn’t know about the other 3 panelists. I am sometimes (often) a complete dullard when it comes to songwriter knowledge. Though I fiendishly read liner notes, I just don’t know all the names and resumés of music’s greatest creators, writers and co-writers. Anyway, allow me to go down the list…

Mr. Albert Hammond. What struck me first was how fit he looked. He came out, totally rocking the skinny jeans and sporting the biggest smile. Never heard of him? Oh, yes you have. Maybe you remember a little song called “The Air That I Breathe,” a hit for The Hollies. No? How about “When I Need You,” a big single for Leo Sayer? Or “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before,” which was huge for Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson. And “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” a Starship success. Mr. Hammond told a story about being in London in the very early ’70′s. It was dismal, rainy and gray. He and his writing partner (the late Mike Hazelwood) just wanted to get out of there and go some place, well, nice. They made some arrangements and booked a flight to L.A. In their excitement to come to CA for the first time, they wrote a song about their expectations. To this day, whenever it rains here, our local radio stations play that song. The title? “It Never Rains in Southern California.”

Mr. Jeff Barry. This guy was funny. Real funny. And again, fit. (Maybe love of one’s job is healthy!?!) Jeff only wrote/co-wrote such ditties as “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Chapel of Love,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Leader of the Pack” and “River Deep, Mountain High.” If those aren’t ringing any bells, how about “Sugar, Sugar,” or “I Honestly Love You,” a huge hit for Olivia Newton John? No? When “The Jeffersons” comes on, do you start singing “Moving on up, to the East Side” with the theme song? You can thank Mr. Barry for that. By the way, he told a story about being a child in Brooklyn, walking with his blind father in the city. He said it was a chilly day, and his father asked if it was sunny on the other side of the street. It was, and so they crossed over, for a little warmth. He then sang “Walkin’ In The Sun.” It was the only time I cried during the show.

Mr. Charles Fox. Yet another fit, suave dude. He’s another songwriter who’s probably crept into your life. Maybe you remember the theme songs from “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Love American Style,” “Wonder Woman” or “The Love Boat.” Yep. Mr. Fox is to thank for all of them. And then there’s the Barry Manilow hit “Ready to Take a Chance Again” and the Jim Croce version of “I Got a Name.” He told a story about a newcomer who recorded one of his songs in the early ’70′s. The label didn’t do much promotion, but they did get it on American Airlines’ in-flight music channel. Since this was before personal Mp3 players, everyone listened to the plane’s entertainment system. On a long flight from New York to L.A., Ms. Roberta Flack heard that song and decided she wanted to cut the track herself. Kismet? Maybe. I’m just glad the world has her version of “Killing Me Softly.” Thank you, Mr. Fox.

And then there’s my honorary grandfather, Mr. Bill Withers. I’m not sure why, but Bill doesn’t perform anymore. He brought his beautiful (and talented) daughter along to do the singing of his songs. He still told all the stories though, and he’s quite the raconteur. Now, if you’re in doubt as to Mr. Withers’ portfolio, let me remind you: “Ain’t No Sunshine (When She’s Gone).” “Lovely Day.” “Just the Two of Us.” “Grandma’s Hands.” Still not ringing any bells? Mr. Withers told a story about how, growing up in the South, neighbors (and everyone, really) helped each other out. He said his family had a phone, and the folks across the street had an icebox. They just shared each with the other. It was a way of life. That was his lead-in to “Lean on Me.” And if you don’t know that one, I am seriously worried about you.

The night was fabulous. It was inspiring. And it was all too brief. With such deep catalogs, the song circle could have gone for several more hours. And I don’t believe a single person in attendance would have minded.

So as we enter this month of celebrated gratitude, let me say just how grateful I am for all the creators in this world. When you look at all the art in life (as well as the art of living itself), you can’t help but think what lucky ducks we are. And we are.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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December 2011

Hello, Friends!

“In a drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity.”

John Keats

(1795 – 1821)

Wow! December! While I’m at a loss as to how the year has passed so quickly, I’m also a little glad. Have you looked around? Rough times out there.

But I don’t want to focus on tough times. Instead, I’d like to look back at this year and marvel at the awesome shows I experienced. One of my goals this past year was to go to as many concerts (and art shows) as I could. When you’re strolling through it all day-by-day, it doesn’t seem so impressive. But when you look back over your shoulder at the year as a whole, it’s awesome…

This year I saw Glen Campbell, Sweet Talk Radio, Sara Bareilles, Linda Perry, B-52s, Aimee Mann, Ingenue, Sharon Jones, The Fixx, Cassandra Wilson, an Edward Walton Wilcox exhibit, Herbie Hancock, Lucinda Williams, Grace Potter, Neko Case, Kurt Elling, Dave Koz, Charles Bradley, Mia Doi Todd, the Soul Seekers, Glen Hansard, Pigeon John, Raining Jane, Stevie Wonder, Ellis, Sheila E, Tim Laughlin & Connie Jones, Chaka Khan, the Rock Camp for Girls L.A. showcase, Wayne Shorter, the Tim Burton Exhibit at LACMA, Spyro Gyra, Janelle Monae, Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, and I’m fairly certain I’m forgetting more than a few others (which is due only to my insufficient memory). That’s a pretty good year for me. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m not finished. This month I plan on seeing Florence & the Machine, Foster the People, Chris Standring & Kathrin Shorr, Mumford & Sons, Death Cab for Cutie, Black Keys and Jane’s Addiction. (I’ll see a few others, too, but I can’t fail to remember what hasn’t yet happened … and yet somehow, I can.)

If this list’s length seems mind-boggling, please know that I’m a mere light-weight. There are others who see a jillion more shows than I. And that’s cool. I’m just happy I achieved one of this year’s goals. Can you tell I’m smiling right now?

The last month of the entire year. I’m glad. But I don’t want to gloss over the beauty that has been this year. I have my health and my humor. And I’ve had fun. I’m not sure why, but I think the coming year will be even more fun.

Here’s to music and art. Here’s to winter. Here’s to the coming year.

And here’s to you.

Best–

Mikki Brisk