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This was how it should be. Morning services, then breakfast at French Meadow Cafe, and it was so beautiful out that we joined the many customers who were sitting at sidewalk tables. Paula and I both had huevos rancheros, and we sat there for hours talking about our lives. I talked about eras of my past that she’d never known about and which I’d forgotten about. They seem no longer relevant, I suppose, in my current routine life, which, I am realizing, is not drawing enough upon my colorful past and its strengths and who I am and what I love. I talked about studying Spanish, about all the geology I took to fulfill my science requirement without having to either dissect or blow up anything. And I was a nature lover and it was Colorado, so perfect. Two college months tromping around Garden of the Gods, among other places in the foothills.

French Meadow

I didn’t even keep track of the time or look at the clock. But finally we realized we’d been there a long time. The idea popped into my head that we could go to tashlich, which was being held at Lake of the Isles, a short lay-led service. I’d never been, and for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s a Jewish new year custom of tossing breadcrumbs into a body of water to symbolize the casting away of one’s sins. We parked on the east side of the lake and found a park bench to sit on (we were early) while we waited to see when and where people would be gathering.

Finally we saw little clusters of people beginning to assemble on the bridge. We were a small group, maybe 10 at most. With our lay leader, we began the short tashlich service. Then a few more people arrived. “Why don’t we start from the beginning?” So we did. And then a few more trickled in, so we started a third time. We were an assorted crew, none of whom I’d ever seen before, some in shorts. We even had a dog. From the bridge we threw our breadcrumbs, symbolizing as the text said, “the parts of us we don’t like.”

But then came the truly amazing topper-off of the day. I had a few things in my car to return to the Linden Hills library. So after Paula and I  parted, that’s where I headed. One thing that was due, and I had used up all my renewals, was a young adult novel by Gary Snyder called “Okay for Now.” I love this book, and I had just one chapter left.

I was thirsty, so I decided I’d stop by the Dunn Bros. a block from the library and read the final chapter there before turning it in. Then I noticed there were people sitting at the outdoor tables, so I brought my iced tea (which was very refreshing — I needed that!) out there and read. I thought — How often do I just sit outside and read a book like this anymore? It was so pleasant. The weather and temp and the angle of the sun just felt perfect.There’s something about the angle of the sun on autumn afternoons that touches me emotionally. I felt so content, so grateful for the moment. The book ends in a beautiful way, with these two characters who have formed a bond, and one of them is in the hospital for cancer but they both know in their bones somehow that it is going to turn out OK. And sitting there, I felt that same hope — that things may be unsettled, but somehow this is going to be a good year.

Then I went into the library to return my things. They have a book bin you put your returns on it. I noticed the DVD that was on top of the pile of returns, and it’s title was “A Good Year.” Jaw-dropping.

This is my happy place:

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On summer afternoons and the particularly precious autumn afternoons like today, when you see the occasional tree like this:IMG_0194

(That is not a solar eclipse coming out you in the upper righthand corner. It is my finger.)

I go for a walk around “my” lake, and if the timing is right and the line isn’t too long, I’ll treat myself to a walleye or salmon taco and often a beer. This is my “happy meal”:

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Sitting on my perch, the lake gleaming like crazy with the late afternoon sun, I feel grateful and peaceful. And believe me, I’m usually a roiling bundle of angst. This is a peace I experience nowhere else. Gazing across the lake, I see the reddish apartment building that I moved into on June 2, 2005. I’d decided to make a new life in the Cities. I thought I’d move to St. Paul. I knew it better. It was closer to Eau Claire, where John was still attending high school.

I looked at a slew of apartments near Grand Avenue in St. Paul, and while charming on the outside, with a great location, the bathrooms and kitchens often seemed dreary, with peeling paint, outdated fixtures. Not that I was looking for anything sleek and contemporary, but I wanted it cheery and bright and, OK I’ll be honest… I really wanted a dishwasher.

After looking at lots of apartments, fretting that there’d be nothing suitable in my price range, I happened upon an ad in Craigslist. A young woman named Alison was looking for someone to take over her lease of a one-bedroom on the west side of Lake Calhoun. When I walked in, I knew: This was it.

I’m a pop music nut. In fact, it’s been one of the most important parts of my life, as far back as I can remember, back to Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers and novelty songs like “The Witch Doctor” and “Alley Oop,” which appealed to six-year-old me.

And I’ve never let being alone stop me from seeing one of my favorite musicians perform live when they come to town. I used to buy two tickets, thinking I’d wrangle a friend into going with me. But I didn’t want to ask them to pay for their ticket since it wasn’t their idea to go in the first place. And my budget is such that I couldn’t keep buying two tickets for every musician I wanted to see. And frankly, I don’t know anyone except my daughters who likes the music I do. (And I must say, my most memorable concerts were those I attended with them: most notably Wilco at Rock the Garden the summer of 2003 — it was Sarah’s first summer coming home from college, right after freshman year. She’d sent me the tickets as a Mother’s Day gift. I wondered who I’d go with, and Wayne reminded me that she would be home by then, so SHE would be going with me, making it doubly good — I was excited! Then Kate wanted to come, too, so we got her a ticket.) (You could do that back then. Now, Rock the Garden sells out in hours.)

Wilco was still a struggling band. Their label had dropped them, but they put out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, anyway. Besides being fantastic music, it seemed to eerily predict — or presage, might be the better word — the fall of the Twin Towers. (U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” was the same.) Saran & Kate are experts at squirming right to the front of the crowd, and I grabbed onto them and followed till we were very close to the stage. Bad Plus opened for them. They performed all of YHF, followed by a set of rockers from previous albums.

Other great concerts with the girls: Ben Folds and Aimee Mann in Central Park, the summer of…2000 or so. The summer the A/C went out in the Previa right past Chicago, but we pressed on, through Ontario, Niagara Falls, Seneca Falls, Cornell, and NYC. I’ve seen Wilco in Minneapolis at the State with Kate, and we saw Missy Higgins at First Ave.

BUT I DIGRESS! which I can so easily do, especially when it comes to music.

About 10 years ago, at a Wilco concert, looking at the empty seat beside me that I had paid for, but I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I decided enough was enough. I could start going to concerts alone. Because once you get there, it’s all about the music, anyway. And you can enjoy without worrying that the person you’re with hates the music or isn’t having fun, which has happened to me.

Here’s a rundown of some musicians I have seen while going to concerts alone: Aimee Mann, Nick Lowe, Wilco, of course, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Mavis Staples, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, The Swell Season, ah — the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ray Davies, Sondre Lerche, Amadou & Mariam, PRINCE — out at Paisley Park, Peter Asher, Bon Iver (being the hometown band from Eau Claire 🙂 ), Music on a Stick at the State Fair, which was Jeremy Messersmith, Dessa, the Jayhawks and Supersonic, and I’m sure there are more. There are also plays and musicals: at the Guthrie, the Orpheum, the Jewish Theater Company, the Ordway, the Lab Theater. Additional venues have been the State Theater, First Ave, the Cedar, the Varsity, the Fitzgerald, Midway Stadium, the Minnesota Zoo amphitheater, Temple Israel, and the Dakota. (Man, I’ve been to a lot of concerts and plays!)

There are a few performers who are like old friends, and I would happily see them whenever they come to town. Aimee Mann is one of those. I’ve seen her at Central Park in NYC, the Guthrie, the Minnesota Zoo, the Dakota and First Ave. Tonight, as I write, she is at the Fine Line Cafe with Ted Leo, playing as The Both. I really like them, and I so wanted to go. But this is starting to wear on me some. Going to clubs alone feels a little stressful, and this was a particularly late set: opening act at 9. And there’s the parking issue, being downtown. And the waiting around, trying to find a good spot and having to hold that spot, standing on your feet for hours. I wouldn’t have gotten out of there till close to midnight. And my night vision for driving has gotten really crappy. I have no depth of vision at night. Plus tomorrow night I’m going to Nickel Creek at the State. I couldn’t pass that up.

So I regretfully, regretfully decided not to go to the Fine Line tonight. Phooey. And it’s a small place with a low stage, I read, so you can feel really close to the performers. But I just can’t go to everything. And this place is unfamiliar, so I would have had to stake out parking, which stresses me because I want to park somewhere I can feel safe walking back to late at night. So I gave myself permission to just be an old fogey tonight and stay in.

But there are videos of The Both on YouTube. Plus a Tiny Desk Concert. A virtual concert in the comfort of my home. So I’m going to mix up a blueberry fizz and go watch these:

Having little time tonight, I’ll start slowly.

This weekend I watched the movie Frances Ha.
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I loved the French New Wave feel of it, the lightness, breeziness even in the midst of angst-ridden situations. Because this is youth, this is joy and the exuberance of 20-something life in New York City. I loved the French New Wave feel of it. It took me back to my own 20-something years in Manhattan. I was studying at NYU, took French in Paris for six weeks in the summer of 1979 — one of my best times ever. On my wall I had a photo from Breathless, actually a poster from a European film festival at the Regency. Something about that photo made me happy and symbolized something about the life I wanted:

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I remember sitting on a blustery day at the counter at the Chock Full o’ Nuts on the NE corner of Washington Square Park. This was before the days of coffeehouses — well, except for the real ones, the original ones in the heart of Greenwich Village: McDougall St., Bleecker St., etc. I saw one of the TAs for my Beginning French class, a class I loved. Normally, I don’t care for cold gray weather. But on that day, as a new returning student at NYU, grateful to be back to college life and in New York City at age 23 in the fall of 1977, it was part of the energy, and I was very happy.

More about NYC in future posts.

Happy 2014!

Hello AGAIN, world, and Happy New Year. Small attainable goals. That’s what they say to do. So today, in keeping with my vow to start this blog *for real* on January 1, even though it’s late, I will announce my Hello as this baby boomer rides the crest of our generation wave trying to make sense of it all… and also rhapsodizing 🙂

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When I think of myself as a girl, in fifth grade,living on Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, I can hear two sounds in my mind’s ear. One is the periodic roar of B-52s taking off from the flight line just down the road. We got used to pausing in our lesson, everyone quiet until the plane was high in the sky, where we could no longer hear it.

The other sound, which I liked much better, was that of the Air Force band across the quad, practicing “Rhapsody in Blue.” I didn’t know what it was called then, just knew I loved the swoon, the sweetness and melancholy of that tune. Here’s a poem I wrote once for a beginning poetry class at the Loft:

March 17, 2009

Rhapsody

In fifth grade in Puerto Rico
we learned to pause
when planes lifted off the flight line down the street,
carrying my classmates’ dads in pilot jumpsuits
for a mysterious two weeks “on alert.”

And wafting through our classroom window
late mornings, passionate music
from the boxy building across the lawn,
the Air Force band rehearsing.

Amateur musicians in uniform
with trumpets and trombones,
taking a break from desk jobs and airplanes, to practice
a daily melody I learned to love but couldn’t name,
under summer skies all school-year long

that return to me on a cold spring night in Minnesota
when I hear Gershwin
on the radio.

I remember those days when my sunny dad
whistled off to work in officer’s khaki,
and me at the pool in November with friends
and the school where we studied
in shirtwaist dresses and madras.

And I miss my father tonight,
how he played jazz piano
easily, naturally, in every key.

And that’s what I wish to do here: rhapsodize in every key, without gatekeepers and without fear. Without perfection, without self-censorship. To have writing be *fun* again. If there is a theme, it’s a loose one. Baby boomer mom tells of the life and times in which she grew up, the children she raised, her passions (those children being among the greatest of those), who she was as a girl and who she is now — which is that very same girl with a lot more wisdom.

When I was a girl, Anne Frank and her diary were among my first inspirations to write and to keep my own diary. A place for far-ranging thoughts. So this will be, in part, my figurative red-checkered cloth diary AND my rhapsody, from one who has always thought she was probably meant to be a musician more than anything else. As I didn’t learn the piano very well, these, on the laptop, are my keys.