Monkee-Walking

 

Happy New Year, y’all. Sorry to have missed saying that in a timely fashion. My attention has been elsewhere.

 

Like thinking about how this is a Leap Year. And how the last Leap Year sucked syphilitic donkey wieners. And how this one isn’t starting off too well, if you pay attention to the bastards trying to kill us all.

 

And there’s a creative collaboration I’m working on. It’s amazing and terrifying and outside the realms of anything I’ve ever done before. That realization could paralyze me into giving up.

 

And then there’s the book I’ve been writing. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve gotten stuck. I’ve workshopped it and gotten feedback from trusted sources.

 

All those things (and about a million-billion-godzillion others) are keeping me busy. Distracted. Scattered. And that’s good! Mostly. The thing is – I can handle it. I can tackle my own projects and work on my issues. I can shut out the assholes who choose to focus on hate and despair. I can create.

 

Yes – there’s a good chance the Fucktard-in-Chief will get me killed. But until that happens, I’m a vital, positive force in my little world. The bastards can’t do a damn thing to change that.

 

The collaboration I’m involved in is new and exciting and although it’s so much bigger than me or anything I’ve ever done, I’m game. I’m throwing multi-colored spaghetti at so many walls, there’s no telling what might stick or what might happen.

 

And the book? I had given myself until Christmas to finish the first draft. Two weeks before Christmas, I hit save and the first draft was finished. Printing it made it incredibly real…

 

First Draft of My Book

 

Rewrites await, as do editing sessions. For now, I’m starting to get more feedback and, well, I’ve already had a crying jag from that. I don’t mind telling you – the tears were happy and grateful.

 

The world may not know it, but this is our year. We can live it fully, with zeal and passion. We can grow beyond the confines of our skin. We can leap. My tribe and I are linking arms and Monkee-walking toward the future. Toward our brightest selves. Toward whatever we want to accomplish. You’re welcome to join in. Or get the hell out of our way. Your choice, your life.

Happy Christmas

 

WEXMAS 2015

 

For reals.

Once Upon a Time in a New York Elevator…

 

Mikki in the Nineties at an MIT Party

 

A couple of days ago I read that the lead singer of Roxette, Marie Fredriksson, had died. I wasn’t much of a Roxette fan, truth be told. But I knew of them. Reading about Fredriksson’s death didn’t tug at my heartstrings, but it did trigger a memory. And it’s a doozy…

 

About a jillion years ago – in the 90s – I was a flight attendant on a layover in New York. Our crew arrived at a Manhattan hotel late on a Saturday night. While checking in, I looked across the lobby and spotted another arriving flight crew. One of their flight attendants had gone through training with me and I was tickled pink to see her. Anne and I hadn’t seen one another for a few years and after our happy hugs and greetings, we agreed to get our asses to our rooms, change and meet in the lobby in a few minutes.

 

It was summer so the New York night was warm and electric. Anne and I walked to a bar and had a drink while catching up. Then we had another drink and caught up some more. Before we knew what was happening, the bar was closing. We weren’t yet ready to part, so when we encountered a hansom cab outside the bar we gave a listen to the driver’s pitch. He was really pushing for a sale and when he offered to drive us around for an hour for $25 and a stop for beer, we took him up on it.

 

His name was Eli and he was as amused by us as we were of him. Now would be a good time for me to tell you an important detail about that night. I was speaking in a Cockney accent. At least I think that’s what it sounded like. Why? I have no idea. From the moment we encountered Eli on the street outside the bar, my voice went Cockney and that was that. Once I’d gotten going with the ruse, I kind of felt like I had to keep at it. So for the entirety of that carriage ride, I was a Cockney. Go figure.

 

Eli was a man of his word, so he stopped right away for a couple of tall boys at a liquor store while Anne and I waited in the hansom cab. He dashed out and our tour commenced. He led us through Central Park and pointed out various sights along the way. The few times we passed other carriages, Eli addressed each driver by name. He was darling. At one point, we were passing a dark and busy street corner in the city. There were several ladies of the evening standing about and Eli pointed them out to us, saying they were “working girls.” In my most pitiful and astonished Cockney accent I asked, “Eli, do you mean to say they’re prostitutes?” He laughed and said, “Yeah. That’s right. Man! I just love that accent of yours!” Anne and I nearly cracked our ribs from laughter. The entire carriage ride was a hoot. It lasted two hours and at its end Eli dropped us off at our hotel. We thanked him for the awesome tour and fine company and went inside. It was pretty late in the night (or early in the morning, depending on your perspective), so Anne and I hugged and said our farewells before going to our respective rooms and crashing. Hard.

 

The next morning, Sunday, I wasn’t able to sleep in as much as I would have liked after such a boisterous evening, as I had an appointment in the city. As it happened, my mother-in-law was also in Manhattan that weekend and she had invited me to join her and a friend for brunch. I was hungover and dragging, but I was also a poor flight attendant. So a free meal wasn’t going to be denied. (And come on – I didn’t get to see the MIL very often. Of course I was gonna go.) I put on the nicest clothes I had with me: short black boots, a black vest and a denim mini-skirt with a tattered hem. Oh – and sunglasses, because, you know, the night before. I went downstairs and asked a doorman how to get where I was going and I took off.

 

When I arrived at the friggin’ Waldorf Astoria, I walked into the dining room to meet the MIL and her buddy. The “captain” of the facilities came over to me right away and said, “We do not allow denim in the Waldorf dining area!” Before I could even blink, I looked across the way and saw my MIL. She was dressed to the nines, I tell ya. She looked fabulous. With a lowered, bedraggled voice, I said to the captain, “Actually – I’m here to meet these ladies” and I gestured in my MIL’s direction. The captain looked over, then said, “But of course.” I went over, greeted my MIL and sat with her and her friend at their table. They were drinking champagne and I would have liked to have joined them. But as I was due to work that day and not allowed to drink within 12 hours of reporting for duty, I abstained. Plus – the hangover and all. I mean, I never once took off my sunglasses.

 

After a few minutes of catching up at the table, the three of us got up and went to the buffet. Can I just tell you something? The Waldorf Astoria buffet was the most extraordinary I have ever seen. It was beautiful, decadent and delicious. Of all the free meals I’ve been privileged to consume, that one may be at the top of my list. But I digress… With my full plate in hand, I began walking back to our table. After only a few steps, the captain appeared at my side. He reached for my plate, took it from my hands and leaned close to me and whispered, “I am so sorry I did not recognize you earlier. Please forgive me.” I whispered back, “No problem.” He carried my plate to the table, asked if we needed anything else, and left us to our brunching. I never knew who I was thought to be.

 

The fantastic brunch ended, I thanked my MIL for the eats and said my goodbyes. As it was a nice day and I felt I needed to walk off some of the hang, I didn’t take the subway. I pushed myself to stay in the sun and took my time moseying back to the hotel. When I got there, I went straight to the elevator and entered a vacant lift. Just as the doors were about to slide closed, a woman and her daughter stepped in. The girl appeared to be about 10 or so. She looked up at me, with my very Mikki-attire, sunglasses and spiky blonde hair (Did I forget to tell you I had spiky platinum hair? I did.), and she nearly lost it. She was visibly excited and pulling on her mother’s hand. Her mom leaned down and I heard the little girl whisper “Roxette!” I fought back a smile. The elevator stopped at my floor, I stepped off, turned to look at the girl and flashed her a peace sign. She actually squealed with delight. The elevator doors closed and I went to my room to ready for my work shift. My hangover lingered, but I swear – it was lessened by the encounter with that little girl.

 

No – I wasn’t a Roxette fan, nor am I now. But on that day, in that elevator in New York, I was. It must have been love, but it’s over now. Godspeed Marie Fredriksson. Thank you for one of the fondest memories in my satchel.

Gutsy Women

 

A few nights ago I was privileged to attend a discussion about a new book. It was held at the 125-year-old Ebell Women’s Club, a place I’m pretty used to visiting. I was there with all kinds of chicks I love (another privilege), so I knew I’d have a good time. What I got was much more.

 

Maria Shriver

 

Maria Shriver led the conversation with the book’s authors. When she came out, she said she intended to steer the conversation in a positive direction, to stay away from ugliness and hate. She’s pretty damned sharp. She’s also a humanitarian. She would have been enough of a draw, but we got more.

 

Maria Shriver, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton in Conversation

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have written The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience and when they walked out on stage, it was amazing. The theatre roared and I was on my feet in an instant. There was so much positive energy. It was really beautiful.

 

Speaking about the book, the authors told of important women and the impacts they’ve had in our world. Unfortunately, history has often refused to acknowledge these women, history mostly recorded by men. My curiosity was piqued and I can hardly wait to read the book. I fully expect to learn a great deal and to be inspired. That was certainly my experience last night.

 

Chelsea Clinton

 

I have to tell you – I expected Mrs. Clinton’s speech and demeanor to be intelligent and confident. I didn’t know what to expect from Chelsea Clinton, however, and I could not have been happier. She was brilliant, personable, witty and assertive. Maria Shriver did an excellent job of keeping the conversation moving and she asked some pointed questions. The three women on that stage were amazing.

 

As I drove one of my friends home, she and I talked about the night. We both felt it had been a bit surreal, that we were amazed to have been there, to have witnessed the conversation. We were so impressed with what we saw and heard. And we were grateful.

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton

 

Before entering the theatre, attendees were given an opportunity to write questions for Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. I thought about it a bit, and realized the only question I had was this: Can you imagine how quiet our country’s political front would be had my fellow Americans done the right thing and voted for the betterment of our country, how much more safe the entire world would be, how fewer service members lives would have been lost, how much lower our national debt would be, how much better our reputation in the world would be, how much more respectable our supreme court would be without a seated sexual predator, how downright boring our day-to-day government functions could have been? I know – it was a lot. In the end, I decided I wouldn’t write my question, that I would just listen. I made the right call.

 

Shriver’s intention of a positive conversation had been achieved. There were gutsy women on the stage and in the theatre. It was a love-fest, and I got to see it. From the front row.

 

Hillary Rodham Clinton - a Gutsy Woman

Passion Follows

 

Big Bear Clouds, Too

 

I’m knee-deep in getting a show ready for the stage, but took a breather to attend a writers’ retreat this past weekend. It took place at Big Bear in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was cold, y’all (by Los Angeles standards) and there was an abundance of nature (again – by Los Angeles standards). I was pretty happy about all that.

 

The retreat was led by Pete Goldfinger who is, well, how do I describe him? We only just met and I am already singing the guy’s praises. He is a successful screenwriter, yes, but he is also a natural when it comes to teaching. I learned so much from him and came away with a hunger to learn more. To dig deeper into the process of creating. He touched on aspects of writing that I hadn’t ever considered. My mind felt like a kid discovering the 64-box of crayons after only knowing about the 8-box. So much color! I was overwhelmed, in the best way, and couldn’t wait to use what I was learning – to create, to envision, to dream.

 

Big Bear Clouds

 

And I can’t begin to describe the other attendees. Their projects are exciting, varied and creative times eleven-ty. Being around them was a privilege. Picking their brains was informative. And they were fun. I hope I see them again. I want to hear their stories. I want to be challenged by their ideas and intelligence. I want to hang out with them.

 

Once I got home, I watched an interview with Jeff Bridges and he spoke about a TEDx talk given by Terri Trespicio and how it inspired him. In the video, she gives her take on passion and how we are too often told to figure out what we’re passionate about and to follow that. She posits that this particular course can be limiting or worse. To butcher her words, she says we should get after life. Take care of business. Hustle. Make those ends. If we are busy with the business of living, we won’t have to follow our passion. Our passion will follow us. As someone who’s barely keeping her head above water while spinning various plates and juggling multiple commitments, I can tell you that Ms. Trespicio may be right. Yes – I’m overwhelmed with all that’s going on. But I’m still here. I’m still going for it. And if I look over my shoulder, I can see the shadow of passion just behind me. And I can’t stop smiling.

 

Mikki Writing at Big Bear - Photo by Yeni

Baby Power

 

I saw this headline while perusing the news on my phone:

 

Baby Power

 

And I thought, it’s about time. Babies have held too much power for far too long in this world. Thank goodness Johnson & Johnson is taking it back!

 

Then Mister pointed out the error, which sent me into a tizzy as those sorts of blatant errors are like fingernails on a chalkboard for me, and I rescinded my rant. Okay. Whatever. Babies. Am I right?

I Don’t Need a Boat.

 

When discussing something or other, I often say, “I don’t need a boat. I need a friend with a boat.” This is terribly true. I neither want the responsibility nor the burden of owning a boat, y’all. But if a friend has taken on all that accompanies possessing a water craft, then I am more than happy to appreciate that person’s kindness in allowing me to enjoy their boat. Of course this extends to all sorts of things. And I am grateful for the blessings of my friends’ lives, and for their generosity. So much of what I get to do in this world is due to various friends and their willingness to share their blessings with me. Yes – I am a lucky gal.

 

A couple of nights ago I was invited to a screening of “Judy” and while I thought it might be okay, I had no idea what I was in for. The film is just lovely and heartbreaking and informative and beautiful and powerful and… I could go on, but I won’t, except to add this: When every single person around you – female and male – is crying because of how good a film is, you have won. Period.

 

Renee Zellweger

 

The friend who invited me out for the screening is a member of the SAG Nominating Committee. The Screen Actors Guild is responsible for the SAG Awards, which will be in January of 2020. The Nominating Committee, as I understand it, will, well, nominate individuals and groups of actors for the SAG Awards. Because this was an industry thing, Renee Zellweger, who stars in “Judy,” was on-hand for a Q&A after the film. And she was pretty cool. Down-to-earth, honest – she made quite the impression on me and I find myself with a newfound respect for her as an actor.

 

I got to enjoy that night out because a friend shared her privilege with me. I don’t need a boat. I’ve got friends. So yeah – I really am a lucky gal.

A Reader

 

Mikki at a New Orleans Book Store - 2012

 

More than one friend has told me about reading a really good book, and parsing out the last few chapters, to make the read last. And each time I’ve heard this, I’ve marveled. Whenever I’m reading a great book, I want nothing more than to zip right through it. It’s all I can do to function properly within the parameters of the rest of my life when I’m in the middle of a page-turner.

 

But now, I don’t know, things have changed. These days, when I read a book I’m super-into I get a dark feeling as I near its end. And when the last page has been read and the book is closed, I actually experience a bit of mourning.

 

I’m going through that right now, as I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls. I had gotten comfortable with “Vivian” and her New York City life. I liked my time with her. I liked her. And now that I’m done with the book, I miss her. I miss her wit and her insight. I miss her unique-to-her skills and sense of adventure. I miss that book’s world.

 

For some time I’ve been aware of the fact that I will never live long enough to read all the books I’d like. That’s heavy enough. Couple that with the aching that accompanies the finishing of a lovely tome and I find it’s a bit much.

 

But I am a reader. No denying it. And that’s why Graham Swift’s Waterland is at my side, ready to introduce me to a new world, to new characters. I have no idea what’s coming, as this book is on loan from my friend Lorinda. No matter – I’m ready.

Nope.

 

The Container Yard Tour_Hell No

 

I stopped in the grocery store yesterday and nearly tripped over the Thanksgiving displays by the entrance. Nope.

 

I ran into a department store, looking for something or other, and an entire section had been taken over by Christmas decorations. Nope.

 

And don’t even get me started on the repugnant, amoral, racist pig in the White House. Double nope.

 

Y’all – can’t we just have the here and now? Can’t we just find our own moral compasses and follow the damned things? Can’t we just do better? Be better?

 

These are the days when I wish I had a cave to hide in.

One Crazy Summer

 

Do Something Every Day

 

Usually when I close my eyes at the end of a day I can think back on my waking hours and come up with a few things I accomplished, things that help me to feel like I didn’t waste my time. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I do. And honestly, it’s rare that I lie there feeling like a complete schlub who didn’t do a damn thing worth noting. Big things, small things – I count them. And that nightly ritual really helps me to like myself. It might not be how you roll, and that’s okay. But I am definitely habituated to this behavior and it generally serves me well.

 

When I come to the start of a new season, like today, I find myself trying to figure out what I did for the closing period. How did  I spend it? Did my choices make a difference for me or for others? Was it enough? Was I enough?

 

It isn’t always a kind process. Sometimes I’m really down on myself, or grasping for anything to count as time well spent. Those times are hard, and usually point to a period of self-doubt or low self-esteem. Sometimes I’m elated to recount three months of accomplishments and experiences. Most of the time, however, I hover somewhere in the middle. I recall a few fun things, a few moments of service, a few standout happenings. Middle of the road ain’t too shabby, y’all.

 

This summer? Well, it was odd. There was a lot of uncertainty in my little world. A big move seemed possible and because of that, I spent more time than you can imagine in Atlanta, Georgia. Because I’m a goer, I made the best of it. (It wasn’t difficult.)

 

Lorinda and Mikki in 1980-something

 

Mister and I spent a weekend in Athens, GA, with my sister from another mister, Lorinda. I have loved this gal since I was 13 years old. She’s even more fabulous than ever and I still love her.

 

Creature Comforts - Athens, GA

 

I drank beer – gasp! At Creature Comforts in Athens, they know what they’re doing, y’all. For reals. While there, I took a photo with these two gals. I have no idea who they are. But I liked that they were willing to snap a pic with a complete stranger. And they smiled! Yeah – I dig that.

 

HIGH Museum of Art

 

I went to the HIGH Museum of Art. I’m a museum junkie, so this was really a no-brainer.

 

I got to spend time with cousins. People I not only love, but actually like.

 

Bugs - Kindred Spirits

 

I found a kindred spirit in my cousin Kathy. She collects and displays beautiful dead things. I like that. A lot.

 

Brunswick Stew

 

I made a quest to find delicious Brunswick Stew. People outside the South may not be familiar with this BBQ joint staple, but I’m not only familiar with it, but also obsessed. There are rules, y’all. When a bowl of Brunswick Stew is placed before me and I spy with my little eye a lima bean in the mix… Oh, lordy. That ain’t right. And that happened to me at a very popular place run by some Texans. Nope. I searched and searched and probably ate more little bowls of stew than most people consume in a year. On my last day of tooling around town, nearly defeated, I spotted this joint…

 

Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt - Atlanta, GA

 

Daddy D’z. I went in, took a seat and a chance. When the food was placed before me, I appreciated the beauty, but I’d fallen for that before. I slowly took a bite… And then I started crying sweet tears of joy. That stew was mighty close to what I loved as a child. And I was grateful.

 

Carter Presidential Library - Atlanta, GA

 

I went to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Not only is the facility beautiful, it is fabulously inspiring.

 

Jimmy Carter Quote at Carter Presidential Library - Atlanta, GA

 

I thought I knew about President Carter, but I knew nothing. He is a beautiful human being and was a fabulous President. Not only that, but he’s done more for the citizens of this country – in his post-Presidency years – than most living Presidents combined. I took my time going through the Carter Library. I shed a lot of tears there. I loved it so much. I would happily go again.

 

Maurine - Oakland Cemetery - Atlanta, GA

 

Because I love cemeteries, I tooled around Oakland Cemetery one afternoon. When I stopped in the visitors center, the gentleman there couldn’t have been nicer. He was also a bit misinformed, as he said that he’d been told Oakland Cemetery was more loved and better than the cemeteries of Europe. Had he gone to any of those, I asked. No. I told him that at first glance, Oakland looked to be a fine cemetery, but he might want to visit a few more before making such statements.

 

Margaret Mitchell Headstone

 

But it is a fine cemetery. Margaret Mitchell is buried there, if you’re into that.

 

Mayor Maynard Jackson Headstone

 

So is Mayor Maynard Jackson. His marker is beautiful. And here’s an interesting note about Mayor Jackson’s grave. In the South, the dead are buried with their headstones facing East, because that’s the direction from which Jesus will rise again, don’t you know. But Mayor Jackson’s marker is askew. It faces downtown Atlanta’s skyline, which can be seen from his burial site. He loved that city.

 

Sometimes I Drink Water to Surprise My Liver

 

I rode MARTA all over the danged place and walked more miles than a sane person should have during the heat of a Georgia summer. I also drank a ton of local brews and talked with people from all walks of life.

 

Georgia Green

 

It was lovely to be there. Folks were great. The city was green and beautiful. I soaked up about as much of Atlanta as I could.

 

Malibu

 

Closer to home, I spent a few days with friends in Malibu, which feels like another world. The booming ocean provided a beautiful backdrop for time with these adored souls.

 

M*A*S*H Filming Location

 

While in the ‘Bu, we hiked to the old M*A*S*H filming site in the Santa Monica Mountains. The hike itself wasn’t difficult, but the heat just about took me out. I will again do this hike, but will definitely bring more water. Dag.

 

Back at the homestead, I swam and swam and swam. Because we don’t have a pool heater, I try to get in the water as much as I can before the night temperatures drop so much as to cool the water beyond comfort for swimming. We made it until 14 September. That was the last day I could bear it. Once the water drops into the 70s, I get freaking cold. It bums me out once that privilege is done for the year. But that’s the way it goes.

 

And now, the light is changing. The daytime temps are still h-a-w-t, but the nights are quite comfortable. I’ve started studying different recipes, in anticipation of cooler weather. I’m ready to switch out my clothes for pieces not worn since winter. Social gatherings are increasing, as friends are back in town after their summer travels. Work on various projects has kicked into high gear. Autumn is here.

 

It isn’t lost on me that as I age I become more aware of the seasons. More appreciative, too. As odd as this Summer was, I found joy in its days. I rode out the unknowns and the difficulties and came out on the other side. And I loved it.

 

Pool Shark

 

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to remember the way it felt to tread water for an hour, the water lifting my body and bettering my health, but I remember now. Maybe tonight, when I close my eyes at the close of this first day of Fall, I’ll list the moments that occupied my time, checking off what served me well. And then, if I’m lucky, I’ll remember what it feels like to float. To trust the water. To be in the world and of the world. In my own skin.

 

Love