Monthly Archives: June 2011

grace is the messenger of love

it is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of an ex-wife is must be in want of another ex-wife.  my f2fb #164 carole smith is the first ex-wife of my ex-husband stephen and i am the second ex-wife. 

when i first married stephen i was pregnant with joseph.  i became an insta-stepmother to carole and stephen’s children david and elisabeth.  carole had started a relationship with ann, and ann’s son adrian was a new sibling for david and elisabeth.  with stephen and carole sharing custody of david and elisabeth, i spent a lot of time in the car waiting to drop someone off or pick someone up.  and there was a lot of conflict as the parties negotiated expenses, holidays, and the usual he said she said moments.  

so i never got to know carole until all the kids grew up.  now we sometimes share holidays together.  we have to a great degree been brought together by grace.  not the grace of the lord, although there is the usual amount of that.  but the grace who is elisabeth’s daughter has with her birth healed many scratches and bruises.

so i looked forward to seeing carole for lunch because we have so much in common and so much we share in our deep abiding ambition that our children–david, elisabeth, joseph, eastman and carole’s partner’s son adrian–will be close and supportive family to each other.  it is as if grace has become the messenger of love.  when elisabeth posts a video of grace on facebook, we all comment and hit like.

this is a tile in carole's collection that is painted with a bird delivering a love note--the messenger of love

carole collects tiles, most of them from the nineteenth century.  she is such an expert that she can tell the manufacturer and the year it was made by the feel of the back of the tile.  these tiles were used on fireplaces, bathrooms, kitchens.

i don't know about you, but my kitchen tiles aren't particularly interesting

carole’s collection is so immense that it is housed in boxes and cd shelves.  she has bid on ebay (she thinks of it as voting) and scoured markets and shops.  i don’t understand the compulsion to collect anything but i appreciate her expertise. 

a greek god tile -- most of her collection is from the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century

when we first met, we were in a tense relation to one another–at lunch, we toasted our good fortune that we are now friends.

someone else’s new years resolution

it is very easy to let email, facebook, linkedin, skype, myspace, and twitter do the friendship work for you.  you exchange news, seek advice, share gossip.  and then when you make plans to get together, you wonder “when was the last time. . . ?”  and it’s been five years.  this is friendship pattern is especially true for people in theater.  they can have really intense relationships while they’re working on a show and then things continue computerliciously until the next show. 

stephanie hurovitz, f2fb friend #163, is a professional stage manager.  she was the manager for eastman’s last play, oh, just about five years ago.  when i asked her what she was passionate about, what she’d like to share with me, i never expected this.  it’s her secret superpower and one day the world will be threatened by a meteor (or aliens or maniacal psychopaths or the collapse of the imf) and only stephanie can save us. . . .

stephanie was excited about my new years resolution but she confessed to a resolution that she had recently abandoned:  to have thirty one dates before her thirty first birthday which is in february.  she’s so busy juggling work commitments that seemed difficult.  i understand why she gave up on it.  but she had already gone on sixteen dates and it’s only just now reaching the halfway point on the year. 

what if she readjusted the resolution so that she had to finish it by new years?  that’s just fifteen dates!

by the way, i turned out to be sooooooooo great at tap.  in face, i tap dance so fast you can’t even see my feet move!

the instructor, debra giunta of designdance, said i should consider the possibility of further lessons because tap dance is the easier for an old person to pick up as opposed to, say, ballet.  as i leafed through a catalogue for wheelchairs and walkers, i watched debra and stephanie work through some steps.

for my new years resolution, i am astonished by the faith and encouragement i’ve been receiving, as well as “chaperone” and logistics help.  i really appreciate everybody who opens up their homes, their tap dance lessons, their lives to me.  so i want to do everything to help stephanie with her resolution.  if you have anybody who would be a good candidate for mr. 16, mr. 17, mr. 18, etc., email their stats to me! 

i’m off to see the first ex-wife of my first and only ex-husband.  there’s a story about how grace, not facebook, brought us together!

on this f2fb friend’s diet, you can eat a pint of ice cream a day and still lose weight!

when i first made the new years eve resolution to meet every facebook friend i had (and at the time i had roughly 324), there was snow on the ground, my christmas tree was still up, and i weighed six pounds lighter.  there’s been a lot of planes, trains and automobiles since january first.  i feel like a python who has just swallowed the rabbit.

f2fb friend #162 sandy kolkey and i are roughly the same age.  we first became friends because his son zak and my son eastman were in class together.  somehow, i have grown older (and wider) and sandy hasn’t.  his wife lisa once suggested to me that she hates him because he can eat a pint of ice cream every night while watching the evening news and he still doesn’t gain weight.

when he suggested that i drive out to the soccer fields to play, i figured i’d get some evercise and find out how he keeps it together.  he said there were usually about five guys who played on each team and that natural attrition would eventually result in an invitation for this girl to join in the fun.  but when i arrived, i was a bit surprised at the playing field.

i have never played soccer and i didn’t get to play on sandy’s team.  i coached boys’ soccer for nine years, first for my son joseph’s teams and then for eastman’s.  i thought i was being a good mom even though i don’t think i taught them any particular skill — i think the most important thing they learned is that every game must have orange slices for refreshment at the half time and a snack afterwards.  my skill base is so abysmal that i didn’t understand offsides until three years into my tenure–i can hardly imagine what the referees thought of my responses when they would call my players on that charge. 

in any event, sandy’s theory is that his passion for physical exercise is because of his father.  sandy is now three years older than the age his father was when he died of pancreatic cancer.  my biological father justin (f2fb friend #30) is still alive but my adoptive father donald patrick suffered two heart attacks while i was a child.  i was with him when both occured.  i have sometimes wondered if that has made me prone to thinking of my anxiety as a heart attack issue. 

sandy is a world traveler and he said i will love mumbai in particular.  he had this sage advice to offer me:

i told sandy i had a three hour drive in front of me and he said he envied me this year.  that he wants to do something like this resolution i’m doing.  i didn’t realize that i’d be having taking tap dancing next with a woman who is on her own personal new years eve resolution and i would talk her out of quitting. . . .

the front stoop moment

after f2fb friend #160 johnny bladez said goodnight, i prepared for bed and glanced out of the bedroom window to see that he sat on the front stoop, smoking a cigarette.  we had had some laughs and the two parties had been fun, but we had also talked a lot about the different challenges he was and is facing.  bad friends, bad relationships, bad choices, bad options.  i wondered if keeping him company would help and then realized, no, we all have to have the time to sit on a front stoop, smoke a cigarette and sort things out in our head.

i have made no secret of my early life.  being adopted when i was three.  a schizophrenic mother.  leaving home.  living on the streets (not very successfully).  foster placements.  juvie detention.  dropping out of high school.  bad friends, bad relationships, bad choices, bad options. 

but somewhere along the line i had the sitting down on the front stoop.  i’m not sure if i smoked a cigarette.  and i had said all that i had to say about that moment to johnny. 

a facebook friend joan asked me about that front stoop moment for me.  because i did turn things around.  i went to college.  then law school.  got married.  had kids–neither of whom has shown up on the police blotter, i’m happy to say.  it was no idle question for her.  joan works with native american children in north dakota who are at risk.

i sent her a three hundred page autobiography last night.  she read it last night.  while i puttered about the house.  while i looked outside the window again and knew that johnny was walking home.  while i slept and while i woke up to go bike riding with f2fb friend #161 lee padgitt. 

lee is in rotary with me.  we are both fifty years old and we’re realizing that we’ve made the choices, we’ve done what we can with our options.  we’re pretty settled that we’ve done pretty all right.  and we’re treating ourselves a little at the midcentury mark:  i’m meeting my friends and lee is spending a lot of time riding his bike.  he and his wife have three children who are still at home, but soon he will have long bike rides to take. . .

my friend joan read the book and sent me a note that read in part. . .” It was painful for me to read and yet I couldn’t stop reading it~It’s perfect and horrible and humbling.  I’m honored that you would allow me to share your pain and I urge you to get it published.  I beg you to have it published.” 

i would like to believe that my front stoop moment could help anybody else.  and i hope that my jumping out on this year long adventure will help anybody else.  but mostly me.

lee and i rode through the botanic gardens and then we had to high five on life and say goodbye!

lee often rides in the botanic gardens and showed me beautiful flowers, like these alliums.

johnny bladez takes me to a party!

the first thing i admired about johnny bladez is his tattoo.  last night, i learned that the second thing i admire is how much he endures. 

johnny used to work at the coffeeshop but a couple of years ago he left the job and we lost touch in the way that you do sometimes with facebook friends.  a few “you gotta look at this video” posts don’t communicate the big stuff.

like that he got shot.  and nearly killed in an alley outside his friend’s house.  the gun was aimed first at his head–the shooter was young and the gun misfired, hitting johnny in the knee.  johnny managed to run halfway down the block before falling and that’s when he took two more hits.  the shooter is doing twelve years in the big house.  johnny was told he would never walk again.  but johnny endures.

he seems much older than his twenty two years.  we played a game of pool, laughed about stuff and he told me the story of how he ended up with the tattoo while his mother, a reservist, was stationed in iraq.

after the game–i scratched the white ball while trying a trick shot on the eight–we walked over to f2fb friend #154 louise berner-holmberg’s house for a party to introduce people to her free health care clinic.  i like when this project brings people together.  after the party, louise (a.k.a. woo), johnny and i walked over to a second party.  it was a good night for johnny because he works two jobs–one at a park district, the other at a restaurant–and he was kicking back!

our hostess greeted us warmly and then i noticed that two times the flash on her camera (held at hip level) went off.  i thought there was some sort of malfunction.  but i was later told that this is a security measure.  if something later were reported stolen or missing, the hostess would have a visual record of everyone who had entered the home. 

woo is going for the "french waiter carrying key lime pie in complete seriousness" but johnny can't quite hide his smile!

 johnny bladez (f2fb #160) walked woo and i home.  i want so much for him to succeed in life and i think he’s endured quite enough trouble so far. 


facebook is sometimes a little incestuous and so is this post

yesterday, i went to a concert performed by f2fb #158 david yonan, who is a protege of elizabeth stein.  it was wonderful, he’s really talented, and i learned a lot afterwards about violins, their construction, and music.  i hadn’t realized that sometime during the concert the two hundred thousand dollar violin david borrowed for the concert occasionally had gone out of key. i just thought it was modern classical stuff.  you know, like mahler goes wild.

then i went out with f2fb friend #159 richard gordon.  he’s the sort that if the impossibly handsome and debonair louis jourdan was not available, mr. gordon could step in. 

louis jourdan or richard gordon, you pick!

how do i know richard?  well, he’s the ex-husband of elizabeth stein.  david yonan’s mentor.  i was supposed to have lunch with elizabeth (AND get a violin lesson because she’s a stradivarius dealer) but she cancelled.  how do i know elizabeth?  uh, actually, she went out with my ex-husband stephen.  may still be going out with him.  and i’m sure i don’t know the half of it.  and really, it’s none of my business.  except to say that she has three men i know who are in love with her:  my ex, david, and richard.

i met richard at the union league club in chicago.  i was very late because most of the traffic lights on the way were down because of a storm.  but he was forgiving. 

richard was once a member of the university club too.  but the courtship of stephen and elizabeth largely took place in the university club and i think richard feels the desire to put some distance to that.

chicago has a lot of private clubs.  like every other big town.  but after one drink at the union league club (sorry, no pics or film, they would have tackled me), he proposed a different sort of club. 

a smoke-easy.

during prohibition there were speakeasies in which one could purchase illicit alcohol.  this club allowed for illicit smoking. 

i can't hold a beer and blow smoke rings at the same time

the joint was managed by a dude in a tom ford suit, white polyester shirt, and velvet ralph lauren evening slippers.  he picked out a smooth, sweet davidoff cigar for me.   no socks.  of course.  i chatted with a young man who is taking divinity classes at yale and wants to be a priest but has a predilection for smoking and johnny walker black.  i asked him about women but he says he doesn’t like women of his generation because they don’t concentrate on the important things in life.  i don’t either, so i would suggest to him the carthusian monasteries.  they at least have great food and wine.  and no women.  i then asked him about the vow of poverty.  not into it.  and not every priest is.

richard, a.k.a. louis jourdan, was a witty bon vivant.  i really had to tear myself away–but he folded me into a cab and told me i was welcome to see him anytime.  i appreciate that.  this morning, i have as a souvenir of our time together a box of matches advertising the Iwan Ries Lounge and a hacker’s cough. 

the place has been around for five generations but i understand the recent heir does not want to continue the business!

#158 david yonan and the failure rebound

the stench of failure still hung over me when i woke up in ohio yesterday morning at seven.  i couldn’t stop replaying the conversation in my head:  my friend saying “you had to have known you were going to fail.  you just aren’t going to be able to meet every facebook friend you have.” 

that’s sort of true.  i figured somebody would go to jail or flee the country or maybe take part in a space expedition.  but i wasn’t expecting my friend’s analysis of WHY i would fail. 

“not everybody is willing to see you.  in particular, i happen to know three people who are dead set against it.”

“not at all?”  i asked.

“not at all.”

“then how are they my friends?”

which was sort of what i asked myself.  in order to get back to chicago to see f2fb friend #158 david yonan’s concert at the music institute of chicago at three o’clock i would need to leave oberlin, ohio by seven.  much as i adore the partita in d-minor by j.s. bach (uh, actually i had never heard of it) and ilya levinson’s elegy–crossing the bridge (ditto), the drive was daunting.  particularly if there was no point to it. 

still, i was intrigued.  i had never actually met david.  he was JUST a facebook friend, but he had invited me to his concert.  so i dragged my ass out of bed, made for starbucks, drove one hour in a circle around oberlin because i screwed up the directions for how to get on the turnpike, and then set sail for the music institute of chicago, nichols hall in evanston.  i made it with fifteen minutes to spare.  i might have smelled pretty bad.  and, yes, that was ketchup on my dress because i can’t eat and drive more than ninety miles per hour.

afterwards, david was so nice as to invite me to lunch.  at four o’clock.  what can i say?  he’s a cosmopolitan guy. 

i told him about some of my concerns about failure, about this project.  i told him also about my f2fb friend #157 todd stiles who perserveres in his quest to become a doctor even when he–as i–gets a case of the heebie jeebies.  david took a long term approach to it all.  he told me that nothing is impossible if you break it down into little bits.  and nothing worth doing does not at first seem impossible.  

then i had to ask him–how does he make it sound like there’s fifteen violins going on all at once?

you can learn more about the day’s events and david’s participation at