“Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, e-lim-in-nate the negative, latch on to the a-firmative – Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” -- Johnny Mercer
I’m going to blog about Good Things this week. With all that’s going on – and all that is awaiting us in the future -- we have celebrate and hang onto what’s good in our micro-lives today.
I had a terrific Father’s Day. Just about the most fun I have these days is playing with my grandson Calder. He’s four-and-a-half and as smart and charming as anyone has the right to be. I would have loved any grandson, but Calder is objectively loveable. As the TG says, “A key light follows Calder wherever he goes.” And it’s not just his perfectly handsome face: it’s who he is. No media, no screens, no devices: just books, music, and real life. He’s being raised “Amish,” but it’s working. His vocabulary and range of knowledge are remarkable – “I think she’s a paleontologist.” … “Is that Bob Dylan?”
Some of my best moments of the day were spent floating on pool noodles with my son and Calder: three generations of Robinson men, hanging weightlessly in the water. It all ended with a concert at our local park – Woody & the Longboards, in a tribute to the “California sound.” A family picnic scene, right out of Mayberry RFD.
But even though it was Father’s Day, I did my share of work. I did the cooking (my choice), whipping up one of my “crepe-taculars” (a “gag” nickname that stuck). And even if it’s a holiday in your honor, a father still has to clean up the dog poop in the backyard before anyone comes over. It’s “constants” like that that make life worth living.
I’m heavily into work for the publication of WHEN I GOT OUT on September 17th. There is so much to do. It’s been five years since WHAT IT WAS LIKE was published. I was hoping to have WHEN I GOT OUT published five years to the day after the first one, but that didn’t work out. (Conflict with Labor Day and 9/11, etc.) But it’s almost five years to the day. Almost perfect is close enough.
I took my last shot at the manuscript, dropping in some goodies and cutting some baddies. It never ends. (“A work of art is never finished; only abandoned.” – parapharased from Paul Valery) As I’m reading a little bit more about the prison system, preparing for interviews (should they occur), I’m still finding chunks of good material that I could’ve worked into the book. But no crying over unwritten words.
I’m working at redoing my website, which is a whole other world. (Wordpress, anyone.) But it’s what I signed up for, and I want people to read WHEN I GOT OUT. I’m quite proud of it.
LIVING AND LEARNING
It’s never too late to learn new things. Close friends of ours are in the UK on a nice, long vacation. They visited the FINDHORN ECO-VILLAGE, the fascinating New Age community in northern Scotland. Founded in 1962, Findhorn is a remarkable place.
Digging into the subject of Findhorn, I found this wonderful exchange from Louis Malle’s 1981 movie MY DINNER WITH ANDRE where director/writer/actor Andre Gregory talks with Wallace Shawn about his experience at Findhorn.
“So I was... I was spending, uh, the summer on Long Island with my family...and I heard about this community in Scotland called Findhorn......where people sang and talked and meditated with plants. And it was founded by several rather middle-class English and Scottish eccentrics. Some of them intellectuals, and some of them not. And I'd heard that they'd grown things in soil...that supposedly nothing can grow in, 'cause it's almost beach soil...and that they'd built... Not built... they'd grown the largest cauliflowers in the world... and there are all sorts of cabbages. And they've grown trees that can't grow in the British Isles. So I went there. I mean, it is an amazing place, Wally. I mean, if there are insects bothering the plants...they will talk with the insects and, you know, make an agreement...by which they'll set aside a special patch of vegetables just for the insects... and then the insects will leave the main part alone.”
“Things like that. And everything they do they do beautifully. I mean, the buildings just shine. And I mean, for instance, the icebox, the stove, the car... They all have names. And since you wouldn't treat Helen, the icebox...with any less respect than you would Margaret, your wife...you know, you make sure that Helen is as clean as Margaret, or treated with equal respect. And when I was there, Wally, I remember being in the woods...and I would look at a leaf, and I would acutally see that thing...that is alive in that leaf. And then I remember just running through the woods as fast as I could...with this incredible laugh coming out of me...and really being in that state, you know, where laughter and tears seem to merge. I mean, it absolutely blasted me open. When I came out of Findhorn, I was hallucinating nonstop. I was seeing clouds as creatures. The people on the airplane all had animals' faces. I mean, I was on a trip. It was like being in a William Blake world suddenly. Things were exploding. So immediately I went to Belgrade, 'cause I wanted to talk to Grotowski. Grotowski and I got together at midnight in my hotel room... ...and we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream...and we talked from midnight until 11:00 the next morning.”
“God. What did he say?”
Sounds like a place worth visiting. I wonder if my friends are hallucinating right now.
The Dodgers might save me. I’ve never watched so much baseball in my life, but it’s all to the good. More than ever, I appreciate the soap-opera, the everyday drama of following a team. And every game is slightly different because changing starting pitchers changes the entire defensive posture of the team. Batting orders are jiggled. Every game a slightly different team takes the field. No game has more variations -- more “moving parts” – than baseball.
This Dodger team is a powerhouse, ten games in the lead in our division. We’re a certainty for the post-season. But can the Dodgers win the World Series after failing in the last two seasons?
I was born a New Yorker and I’ll die that way, but I love my adopted city of Los Angeles. Oh sure, we have problems, some of them quite serious like the recent upsurge of homelessness* -- but I love driving around LA. As long as it’s not rush hour.
I love sitting in my backyard, which I don’t do enough. (I’m in front of this keyboard all day long.) But sometimes I’ll just sit outside and experience the beauty of nature, grateful for all I’ve got.
*“It takes a lot of money to be poor these days.” – from WHEN I GOT OUT
So the Lakers get Anthony Davis for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, this year’s draft pick (#4 overall), and the next three first round draft picks (which they can defer if the draft choices don’t please them.) Sounds like a great deal for the Pelicans. The Brow was intent on leaving, and they have Zion Williamson coming in to fill the role of Charismatic, Super-Talented Big Man.
And the Lakers? We didn’t give up Kuzma, but we still need a backcourt. But we have someone for LeBron to play with.
Maybe we’ll make the playoffs next year.
I’ve been watching MARIA BY CALLAS, a 2017 documentary by Tom Volf, about the legendary singer. Told in her own words (from interviews and diary entires), the movie covers the great singer’s life with great sympathy and understanding.
It sent me back to my Callas collection and deep into the recesses of my streaming service and YouTube.
I have only one photo of a woman other than family member in my office, and it’s a signed photo of Callas. (A Christmas gift from the TG long ago. It’s a shot from Callas’ 1958 LA TRAVIATA from Covent Garden.)
Here is why she is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century:
Callas sings CASTA DIVA from NORMA (concert performance 1958)
Callas sings VISSI D’ARTE from TOSCA (Covent Garden 1964)
Callas sings the Mad Scene from LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (an excerpt from the famous 1955 Berlin production conducted by Herbert von Karajan)
Callas sings O MIO BABBINO CARO (from GIANNI SCHICCHI) – her last encore