Bye Bye Birdie!

This is a tale of my almost birdie, the birdie that flew away. It was Sunday on the golf course with Ken. Hole # 4,  119 yards. With my new driver, I get on the green in one! But this is not my typical “on the green” with the ball usually 50 feet from the cup. I’m a foot away! Hoofing my way to the green, I could smell a birdie, my first ever.

P.S. I blew it, but parred the hole, another rarity for me. They say it takes five years to even consider calling yourself a “golfer.” This marks the beginning of my fifith season, so this could be what I’ve been working and waiting for. Or not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lefties I Have Loved

I realize my title is reminiscent of Rupert Brooke’s war poem, “The Great Lover,” which begins, “These I have loved…” He goes  on to enumerate the luxuries of the civilian life he left behind to fight The Great War. Until I saw an Associated Press photo of Norman Rockwell painting at the easel, I hadn’t known he was a southpaw. I love the way he holds a stick in his right hand to support his left arm as he is about to apply the brush to the canvas.  Hence, Rockwell appears to be among the talented ten-percenters, the southpaws in the arts and sports world that I so appreciate. I am among the “unknown lefties” who perk up at the mention of another one of “us.”  In tennis, everyone is wary of the challenges a left-handed player brings to the game. I have always admired Rod Laver, Guillermo Vilas, Jimmy Connors, Johnny McEnroe, but especially idolized Martina and now, Rafael Nadal. In golf, there’s Phil Mickelson and in music, McCartney, Hendrix, Clapton and Paul Simon, all left-handed axmen. Presidents Clinton and Obama happen to be left-handed, as were the art masters Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Being in such distinguished company just makes me feel proud (for what it’s worth.) As writer Raymond Chandler put it, “There are two types  of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart.”

Posted in art, daily life, golf, Tennis | Leave a comment

Miniature Glass Figures Fit Perfectly Into the Booth

Attention, anyone who ever took high school English: As a teacher I attempted to bring “The Glass Menagerie” to life in my classroom, but make no mistake about it – seeing it performed on Broadway gives it the helium it deserves. This Tennessee Williams classic is a tragedy in which nobody actually dies. Celia Keenan Bolger portrays the fragile Laura Wingfield so convincingly that it makes you wonder if she’s actually anemic. In contrast, Cherry Jones, the smothering, controlling and tragic Amanda, is the archetypal helicopter parent. Although she steamrolls across the stage in the first act, she manages to put on her best flirtatious sashaying for her daughter’s Gentlemen Caller, playfully acted by Brian J. Smith. Cherry Jones is the Meryl Streep of the theater; whatever role she takes on turns to gold. I love this play but had forgotten how truly sad it really is.
“The Glass Menagerie” is currently being performed at the Booth Theater in New York.
Posted in current event, education, teaching, Theater, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Season of the Bird

Nothing earth-shattering, yet a nice parallel.  On Thanksgiving Day, my sister Emily brought over a needlepoint of a bird perched on a rosebush. It’s in a gorgeous antique wood frame that once hung in our house in Kew Gardens. Once my Mom moved to an apartment, the needlepoint somehow landed in Emily’s possession. I guess it was time to return it to the rightful owner, the “artiste” herself (moi) who stitched it free-hand in 1963 for an assignment in Novelty shop class at Russell Sage Junior High School. (Yes, they still had an assortment of shop classes we were forced to take. Sewing was my least favorite.) However, I managed to produce this slightly pregnant-looking bird by copying a print that contained the miniscule boxes I used as my guide. I was thrilled that Emily brought it back, but I am now saddled with the feng-shui of where to hang it. This should be the least of anyone’s problems and I am exceedingly thankful for that.  

This needlepoint bird alights just as Donna Tartt’s novel, “The Goldfinch” is hitting the best-seller list and just as Carel Fabritius’s painting of the same name is being exhibited at the Frick Museum, along with Vermeer’s “The Girl With the Pearl Earring” and several other Dutch masters on loan from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. The new novel centers around a mother and her son who are at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, viewing “The Goldfinch” when a terrorist bomb explodes, killing the mother. And it goes on and on for about 700 pages. I just read that the artist also died in an explosion in his native city of Delft. I trust my needlepoint bird will be safe and sound once I find a place for it.

Posted in art, current event, daily life | 1 Comment

Kenny’s Guest Post on JFK’s Assassination

As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination approaches, many of us will be moved to remember, “Where was I when it happened?” My story is perhaps one of the more unusual ones.

 November 22, 1963 was on a Friday. I was sitting in Mr. Ed Schneider’s Social Studies class at JHS 80 in The Bronx. The time was somewhere around 11:30 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. My class had just finished a syllabus on the Presidents of the United States. There were about 10 minutes left to the period and not enough time for Mr. Schneider to start a new subject of study. That would have to wait until Monday.

 To fill the remaining time before the bell rang, he shared with the class a piece of historical trivia, which is also explained by Robert Caro in his most recent installment of Lyndon Johnson’s biography, “The Passage of Power”:

“During the last hundred years before 1960, five presidents had died in office, approximately 20 years apart from the time they were elected – Abraham Lincoln in 1865, James Garfield in 1881, William McKinley in 1901, Warren Harding in 1923 and FDR in 1945.”

As the bell rang to end the period, Mr. Schneider finished with the statement “Who knows what will happen to JFK? Will he be able to serve out his presidency or will something happen to him?” 

 With the bell, we all ran out of the room and on to the next period. At 12:30 p.m. Central Time (1:30 Eastern), JFK’s life is cut short by the assassin’s bullet.

 At around 2:00 Eastern, an announcement goes out over the P.A. for everyone to return to their homeroom classrooms. At this point the death of JFK begins to percolate throughout the school. We were kept in our classrooms for about 30 minutes, where we were informed that the President had been shot. Another announcement came over the P.A. “There will be a rapid dismissal and all students are to leave the building immediately and go home – except Mr. Schneider’s Social Studies class! You are to report to his classroom immediately!!!”

 We all entered his classroom from various parts of the school building. The silence in the room was scary, as we were generally a noisy group. We were all seated and beginning to speculate what we did wrong. How come we couldn’t go home like everyone else? Waiting for us was Mr. Schneider, his student teacher, the Social Studies Assistant Principal and the school’s principal. Ed walked up to the front of the class; all the grownups stood at the back of the room. Their faces were very somber and looking a wee bit frightened. 

 Ed, clearly shaken, looks at us all for a few heartbeats and then begins to tell us that he had nothing to do with the shooting, that it was all very coincidental, and that he had been telling us a rare piece of history trivia. As a side note, if President Reagan died from his shooting in 1981, this historical anomaly would have continued. He asked that we please not tell anyone that he predicted what would happen to JFK.

 

Several years ago, I was able to track down Mr. Schneider. I was watching a PBS show about The Bronx Historical Society in which he was interviewed on another topic. I called the museum and asked to give him my contact information. I gave as the message, “I was in your class on November 22, 1963.”

 

A couple of hours later, he called! He said, “Finally, I have someone who can prove my story.” He explained that for many years he would repeat this story, but no one would believe him. Now he had corroboration!!

 I just tried calling him to review the events of 50 years ago in his classroom, but all I got was his voicemail. Hopefully he’ll be able to call me back.

Posted in current event, education, JFK assassination, Nostalgia, teaching | Leave a comment

C’est Un Artiste!

So, what did I learn in school today? I never realized that the great Surrealist Rene Magritte ( 1898-1967) was Belgian and not French. He was born in Brussels and later moved to Paris for three years to be closer to the Surrealist movement.  The current exhibit of his paintings at MOMA, “The Mystery of the Ordinary” is quite extraordinary. The works at this show were all done between approximately 1927 and 1937,  obviously a very prolific decade for Magritte. Because so much of his art is preoccupied with bodily fragmentation and displacement, it’s fun to ponder. “Les Muscles Celestes”  (Muscles  of the Sky-1927) is a scene I’d like to see: Clouds melting from the sky and landing on wooden decking. “Black Magic” depicts a nude (possibly Madame Magritte who often modeled for the artist) with a white dove on her shoulder. But the sky blue intermingled with the flesh tones on the body makes this painting unusually beautiful. The show included the renowned and as well as lesser known paintings. A group of schoolchildren was sitting in front of “Ceci n’est pas une pipe,” as a docent conducted a discussion.  I love Magritte’s own explanation of this work: “It is symbolic of a pipe, but you can’t smoke it, so, ceci n’est pas une pipe.”

His combinations of incongruous images are mind-boggling to me and I was absolutely mesmerized by his giant masterpiece, “On the Threshold  of Liberty” (1937.) It is so three-dimensional that it’s as if you are being drawn into a huge, adjoining room.  I had to laugh at “The False Mirror,” the famous painting of the eye filled with clouds because it reminded me of my own eye before the cataract surgery. The exhibit is really fun for fans of fine art and Surrealism. You can catch it until January 12, 2014.

Posted in art, current event | 2 Comments

Tour de Hudson 2013

Sunday, September 23 was a picture perfect day for the 3rd annual Tour de Hudson bike ride. Organized by our old New Paltz buddy Rick, ten riders left from his house just outside of New Paltz and rode about a mile to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail at Tony Williams Park. We rode the full length of the Trail and across the Walkway Over the Hudson. Niiiice! Via a brief tour of Poughkeepsie streets and through an Italian-American street fair, we returned over the Mid-Hudson Bridge (challengingly narrow in spots) and back up (and I mean “up”) to the Rail Trail and back to his house for a great barbecue! The entire route was just over 15 miles, but if you’ve got a bike with a decent gear system, you’re in business. The crowd was interesting and friendly and Rick and Sharon are terrific hosts.
For pictures, please visit Rick’s Tour de Hudson website: http://www.graphicspectrums.com/tdh/

Posted in biking | Leave a comment

Carol: From Brooklyn to Bayville

            For as many years as I’ve been going to my local Rite Aid, there has been a friendly and helpful clerk with the name tag “Carol” affixed to her blouse. Carol was the expert in the photo department who used to help me when I needed a rush job for the school newspaper. (I had been the faculty advisor at Richmond Hill H.S.) She is now a cashier at the store.

            Last summer (2012) I walked in and as soon as Carol spotted me, she greeted me excitedly, “You finally came in! I’ve been reading about you and your book in all of the newspapers!”(the local ones, that is.) Wow, I thought, the book is getting good publicity. Then she added, “I went to Maxwell!” OMG! I should note that Carol is now in her late 70s, way too old for me to have been her teacher. But it’s an exciting connection anyway.

            She told me that Maxwell prepared her for a high-paying job in business administration and in her younger days she worked in the city. However, she’s now working part time at Rite Aid, closer to home, which I found out is on the water in Bayville, Long Island. (You may have an idea where this is leading.) I just happened to have had a copy of my book in the trunk of my car that day and I autographed it for her: “Dear Carol, Best wishes to a Maxwellite.”

            Fast forward to November 7, 2012. The Nor’easter slammed the region again, forcing the residents of Bayville to evacuate. I stopped into Rite Aid today and there at the counter was Carol, her usual cheery self. I was anxious to find out how she fared in the storms, but the first thing she said was, “Your book is gone!” Her home was flooded. “I picked it up when I was cleaning up and it was already moldy. I had to get rid of it.”

            “I’ll be right back.” I ran out to my car and in a flash, I returned to the store with a fresh copy of Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum. I presented it to her with a new inscription: “Dear Carol, Keep these Maxwell memories in a safe and dry place.” She was absolutely delighted to receive another book – my good deed for the day.

Posted in Book promotion, current event, Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum | Leave a comment

A Soggy Saga at the US Open

What better way to spend Labor Day than to be at the US Open watching a few matches in the round of 16 ? With threatening skies and scattered drizzles we ventured out anyway, hoping to catch at least one or two good matches. Upon arrival, the parking lot had ample “good” spots, meaning we didn’t have to hike too far to the boardwalk overpass that takes you into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. We had read that the security lines at the entrances were ridiculously long all week (post-Boston Marathon backpack checks.) Not so on this gray Labor Day. We arrived at about 10:30, a full half hour before the matches were officially scheduled to start, so we strolled, first into the American Express pavilion where we watched some little kids hitting balls with instructors on a regulation tennis court. One out of fifty showed promise and he was an adorable 7 year old, clad in full tennis attire. He was a real standout. In order to gain entrance to this “Fan Experience,” we had to show an AMEX card in exchange for a blue wristband for each of us. We left them on all day, although we had no intention of returning to the area. We couldn’t get near the practice courts in which the Williams sisters and Roger Federer were practicing, but I did catch a glimpse of Roger’s neon orange sneakers and Venus’s pretty-in-hot pink getup, but that was about it. We decided it was time to watch the first match of the day in Arthur Ashe Stadium so we climbed up to our seats – only we stopped short of climbing to the top tier. The stadium was 1/3 full so we were able to sit down in a lower section, mid-court and just above the corporate suites. Very good seats. We watched wild card Allison Riske, a beautiful hitter from Pittsburgh who was up agianst Daniela Hantuchova, a great player who’s been having a nice run at this tournament. They traded shot for shot and it was one set all. Riske was on fire in the second set and into the first game of the the third. And then the skies opened and the rains came. It was heavy enough to stop play immediately, sending the fans into the protected outer rim of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Where’s that new roof when we needed it?  I kept thinking that once the proposed roof is in place, this type of inconvenience will be ancient history.

After about an hour and a half of dodging fans who were scrambling for a dry place to stand or sit, the skies brightened a bit and the rain let up just enough to roll out the Zambonis. The court was dried in a jiffy and play was set to resume. Just then the skies opened again and deja vu for the disappointed fans, not to mention the impact these interruptions have on the players. Two other matches also came to a halt on the other courts. Kenny and I ate our lunch standing up and after another hour or so, the rain stopped. The eternal optimists that we are, we stuck it out. Sure enough, a repeat performance starring the Zambonis and again, it rained.

We now decided this was it: we’re leaving and we had better get a refund or ticket exchange for next year. Four and a half hours had elapsed from the time the matches were halted. If not a single match is completed during a session , the USTA cancels play, which is what happened. Heading towards the gate and about to exit, Kenny looked skyward and guardedly said, “The sun is definitely coming out.” The skies were turning bluer and it stopped raining. The following anouncement was broadcast throughout the Tennis Center: “The match between Hantuchova and Riske will resume in Arthur Ashe. The Federer-Robredo match, originally scheduled to follow in Ashe, has been moved to Louis Armstong (the smaller stadium) so that the Nadal match can begin at 7 p.m. in Ashe” (the Night Session.) We returned to Ashe Stadium to watch the conclusion of our women’s match, but half of the audience scrambled over to Armstrong to secure seats for Federer. We decided to watch the women’s match which we had been enjoying five hours earlier, and then go over to Armstrong. We knew it’d be crowded, but we figured, how many people are still left here? It’s been a miserable day and they won’t let the evening session ticketholders in till 7. Oops. Were we wrong! The line to see Federer snaked around the Tennis Center for over a mile. There was no way we would get in because another announcement told us the stadium is filled to capacity. And yet the fans stood on the line. We stopped to check the score on the large TV monitor as we were leaving. Just then a young woman who was with American Express approached us and began asking us questions about our day. She then asked which American Express card we hold. (She had spotted our blue wristbands.) Kenny told her and she said, “Please step over here.” A few feet away she introduced us to another AMEX rep who asked us if we wanted to sit courtside for the Federer match. He handed us two free passes and directed us to the VIP entrance. OMG! Once we recovered from the initial shock, we realized we should get something to eat quickly because this could be a long night. We grabbed a couple of turkey sandwiches, wolfed them down and wound up sitting in the 5th row courtside in back of the baseline. We were on TV every time one of the players served from our side but unfortunately, we witnessed the undoing of Roger Federer and his  exit from this year’s US Open. Thanks to the ticket exchange, we know what we’re doing next Labor Day.

Posted in Tennis | Leave a comment

MELEVISION

What do George W. Bush and I have in common? Not much except that we both had surgery on the same day; however, I elected to have mine. My distance vision has been failing for a while now, so cataract surgery was in the stars. Yesterday I had cataracts removed from the left eye with an implantation of an intraocular lens as a bonus.  Can’t wait to see the results! I’m on no meds but the colorful hallucinations through the bandages are gorgeous. It’s like having a built-in kaleidoscope. In the meantime, I’ve been forced to sit still – a Herculean task for me. So what have I been doing? All my favorite sedentary activities: reading and writing and even watching a little television (which is really not a favorite thing – except for tennis matches or golf tourneys.) But I watched “Morning Joe” all the way up to 9 o’clock when it goes off. I’m usually out by that hour. I then watched a DVR recording of last night’s delightful Jay Leno interview with the POTUS and I’m looking forward to a film that was sold out at the Tribeca Filmfest a couple of years ago: Julie Delpy’s ” Two Days in New York,” which we also taped last night. All this inactivity – how long will I be able to take it? I should know later today when the bandages and stitches are removed.

                                        The Operation

Caveat: Rated PG and not gory. I was fully conscious and awake throughout, so I offer this eye-lesswitness account:

Prior to going into the OR, I met the anaesthesiologist, a bit of a kibbitzer (but not in the OR. No, it was strictly business and that included the four OR nurses and of course, my opthalmological surgeon.) Dr. K., the anaesthesiologist, asked me the routine questions and capped it with, “What type of music do you like?” I told him, “Classic rock, but not Led Zeppelin. And I love Van Morrison.” He high-fived me and left.

A few minutes, and 15 eye drops later, this hazel-eyed girl was wheeled into the OR to the sound of “Brown-Eyed Girl” and an hour and fifteen minutes later, it was a fait accompli. The doctor, an old pro, is to be commended. It’s a rare person that can get me to stop talking. I must’ve been a little giddy (surely nervous energy) upon arrival because he said, “Melinda, please stop talking.” Dr. K. had told me earlier that the music would be in the background and not cranked up because it might tempt me to move. “The slightest movement is like an earthquake to us.” An interesting way of making his point.

In the recovery room, my doctor and I had a discussion about drinking alcohol and how my social drinking affected my clotting factor. I hadn’t been warned not to imbibe prior to the surgery. There’s no problem now, but why tempt fate? I decided on the spot to become a very casual weekend drinker. So please don’t invite me out for a drink during the week. I’ll be home reading, writing and watching television.

Posted in daily life, Film, music, Tennis | 4 Comments