Sunday, September 18, 2011

Judy Blue Eyes

Saturday night Dave and I braved the rain and traveled from our home in Ilwaco to Astoria, Oregon’s Liberty Theater to see Judy Collins. I was excited. We hadn’t been inside the Liberty Theater since it was rehabbed, although I’d seen a little piece on the Turner Classic Movies channel about it. Mostly I was excited because I have loved Judy forever. She sings like an angel and her songs have been the sound track of my life in so many ways. Dave’s sister-in-law even sang “Since You Ask” at our wedding twenty-one years ago and her version of “Amazing Grace” gives me goose bumps.

Judy is still beautiful and still sings like an angel, but I was a little disappointed. First of all she fiddled with her ample white hair away too much, fluffing it like a teenage girl, and frankly, she didn’t sing as much as I would have liked. Okay, there was an opening act we hadn’t anticipated. Kenny White turned out to be a joyful find. He’s funny, a cross between a crooner and Randy Newman and can make a grand piano sing. He was on long enough for us to want more (we bought a CD), but not enough to feel it was going to cut into Judy Blue Eyes. Well, Judy managed to do that.

I like it when performers tell stories of their lives and are relevant to the songs they are performing. Arlo Guthrie is a master of telling stories of his father Woody and of his own musical history, explaining the genesis of various songs. As Judy talked and strummed and tuned her guitar I was interested in stories of her childhood. I didn’t know she was born in Seattle. How cool! She’d start to strum a song and I’d get set for a treat, then she’d stop and start telling another story. She’d sing a line, even encouraging the audience to sing along and then, boom, stop to tell another story. She has a book coming out next month which I would be delighted to read and may even go on my Yule wish list, but we spent $90 to hear her sing.

This went on for probably 15-20 minutes. Finally she did a very long piece she’d written for her mother that is on her new album and one other from it. One encore song and it was over. I was left let down. Yes, Judy Collins still is beautiful and sings like an angel…just not enough.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Everyone, regardless of where they were, has a story to tell of 9/11. Only what’s left of the Greatest Generation remembers the attack on Pearl Harbor and their Baby Boomer children remember the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK. Nine eleven took the horror of those days and magnified them. Tom Brokaw has said that if the turbulent ‘60s were the death of American innocence, 9/11 shattered our security as a nation.

Usually I have the radio on 24/7, but for some reason that day I hadn’t turned on the one in our bathroom when I got out of the shower. It wasn’t until I got into the car to drive to my job at Gig Harbor High School that I heard something about a plane or planes having flown into the World Trade Center in New York. When I reached the Special Education classroom I worked in the other staff members had the television on and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but my first thought was Osama Bin Laden. No other person or group was as malevolent as his. Many Americans were oblivious to Bin Laden, but he had instantly become a household name that made the Ayatollah Khomeini look benevolent.

My second thought was that there might be a reaction to Americans of Middle Eastern heritage similar to what happened to Japanese Americans following December 7th, 1941. I had a personal reason to fear that. My youngest, who was just beginning his senior year in high school, is the son of an Iranian-American. It wasn’t the first time I’d feared for his safety, but previously I’d feared his abduction to Iran as a small child. I had sought the help of the US government then. Now I was worried about what the government would do to Americans of Middle Eastern decent. What other Americans would do.  Osama Bin Laden was not Iranian, but there was plenty of prejudice against Iranian Americans (and even Hispanic Americans) during the hostage crisis.  Americans have difficulty differentiating between Arabs and Persians.

Recently, when he was home from college my husband and I asked Nadir if he felt that he’d ever been hassled while going through security during his twice yearly trips from California. He said that he hadn’t. I’m not altogether sure he’d tell us if he were. My boys tend to keep Mama Bear in the dark where any sort of insult is concerned. Nadir has complained of discrimination when looking for a job and I am sure TSA takes a really good look at his ID and American passport with his very Persian name.

Fortunately the government seems to have learned from their appalling error in systematically rounding up Japanese Americans and putting them in concentration camps. Had anything similar been attempted with Middle Eastern Americans, his father, my husband, and I were prepared to find a way to get Nadir into Canada.

As a child I had lived in complete belief that the grown-ups would destroy the world in a nuclear war. Even as an adult I believed that as long as there were nuclear weapons, someone, sometime would use one or more. The fall of the Soviet Union lulled me into a false sense of security. Not since the Civil War had a war been fought on American soil—other than the attack on Hawaii which was not yet a state—and I felt safe. We were far from the crazies. Turns out that they were already here.

The intervening years since 9/11 and the death of Osama Bin Laden (a Seal Team Six bumper sticker is on my car) has done little ease my fears. Now we know how vulnerable we care. Now I have grandchildren born into a very different America where we may not fear a nuclear missile strike, but a dirty bomb in a suitcase is a real cause for concern. Nine eleven did not make a hawk or a conservative of me. If we become paranoid, prejudiced and jingoist, the terrorists win. We cannot condemn people of any faith, creed or ethnicity.  We cannot let our fear erode the freedoms upon which this country was built.  Our diversity should be our strength.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Please Mr. Postman

Write a letter to your Aunt Fanny tomorrow.

I love to receive personal mail. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing from friends and family via email, but it’s nothing to having a letter to hold in your hands, knowing that someone special held it, to rereading over and over and maybe even packing around in a pocket or purse. Just ask a Vietnam Vet.

When I was a child my father spent extended periods of time in the South Pacific for Boeing and the United States Atomic Testing. Fifty-five years later I still have nearly all of the letters he wrote to me. Recently I purchased an archival box to keep them in. I have most of the letters my grandmother wrote to me when I was a young adult and young mother. She was the lynch pin in our family, loved getting mail, and was good to write to everyone in the family and share family news. I hope that someday my grandchildren will enjoy reading those letters. Are they going to get to read my old emails? Not likely, but to be honest, I did print off a lot of what I got from my father before he died. Most of us just hit delete and unless you are very, very, techy or on the Homeland Security’s radar, they are gone.

I am not alone. The mother of my friend Sue kept the letters Sue wrote to her when her own daughter was tiny. Now Sue can reread them and relive her own history. And hey, this stuff can turn up interesting family history. In my grandfather’s Spanish War trunk I found a packet of love letters from a girl who wasn’t my grandmother. My grandmother was considerably younger than my grandfather and a small child when these letters were written. I’ve always wondered about this lady and what happened to her.

Now the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble due to the economy (advertizing is down—yes, that stuff you hate and throw in the recycle) and email communication. The result is that post offices all over the country are going to be closed and service seriously cut. This will be especially hard on small towns and villages that don’t have home delivery and rely on popping down to the PO to get their mail. It will also be a loss of identity for some of those little villages. If they are unincorporated and have no post office they will become an unincorporated part of some county.

Allowing the Postal Service to deteriorate is a slippery slope. We are relying that technology will always work with no interruptions of power or service. There are all kinds of disasters, manmade and natural, that could leave us with no means of communication other than the Postal Service. That was exactly the point of Kevin Costner’s The Postman. I know it got panned, but I loved it and believe that the danger of losing means of communication that do not rely on technology. My grandchildren love to receive mail and I try to oblige them, especially the ones who don’t live with me. I worry about their children and grandchildren. Will they know what “snail mail” is?

So I guess this is a call to action. Write a letter to your Aunt Fanny tomorrow. You’ll make her happy and make a memory for yourself or grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Egypt and the Road Less Traveled

I get to pass roads and waterways with names like Cranberry Creek, Preacher’s Slough, and Muddler Road.

Together and separately Dave and I make a lot of trips from our home in Gig Harbor to our home near the sea in Ilwaco. To keep things interesting and because we like exploring a bit on the byways we have come up a number of alternate routes to get to and from, none of which involve hectic I-5.

Forever and a day I had bombed down I-5 from the Puget Sound Area to Olympia where I took the Ocean Beaches exit toward the coast. I began driving that route when I was 16 and rode it with my parents for the sixteen years before that. When Dave and I moved to Gig Harbor Dave convinced me to try going through Shelton and avoiding I-5. He tried it and said it only took fifteen minutes longer than driving on the freeway and was so much more scenic and less stressful. I tried it and LOVED the lack of the freeway.

Once past Shelton we’ve developed several combinations of routes and we each have our favorite. Mine is to take the Cloquallum Road between Shelton and Elma, then the Montesano-Brady Road before catching the highway at Montesano. Dave likes to take 101 to the McClearly exit and then the Elma-Hicklin Road to Elma where he catches the highway to Montesano. We both like to occasionally take the road from Shelton to Matlock and Matlock to Brady before either catching the highway to Montesano or staying on the old highway that parallels it.

One of the things I like about taking the by-ways is that I get to pass roads and waterways with names like Cranberry Creek, Preacher’s Slough, and Muddler Road. On Labor Day I decided to indulge my long time curiosity about a road I’ve driven by numerous times coming from Shelton—W. Little Egypt. Where would W. Little Egypt take me? For once I was not in so much of a hurry that I couldn’t see where the road went so I turned my Screaming Yellow Zonker to the right.

Although I did discover Pyramid Ct. after I turned right onto Little Egypt, I didn’t find anything to explain how it got its name, but I did discover four miles of lovely country road where the shoulders are grass, the speed limit is 25 and it winds around through farms and trees until it hooks up with Highland Drive and takes you back out to the highway a few miles back from whence you came.

My little adventure probably cost me a half hour in travel time, but it was relaxing and entertaining time and I will continue to take the roads less traveled. Maybe in two weeks I will check out W. Dayton Airport Rd.