Saturday, June 30, 2012


I've said it before and I'll say it again - along with millions of other women all over the world.

Being a mother is hard.

When babies are born, they depend on you for everything in their world.  EVERYTHING. This absolute control over another being is thrust upon us in the blink of an eye.  Or a cesarean, as it were.  And then, little by little, we have to give up that control over our children.  It's taken (or given) away sometimes in painful inches, until one day, they are real adult human beings, capable of living on their own.

I mean, that is the goal, right?

I know a lot of people - mothers - embrace the baby stage with an unequaled fervor.  Don't get me wrong, I loved that stage.  And the next.  And the next.  It's all good, but for the junior high years.  I'm sorry, but there is nothing pretty about anyone (myself included) between the ages of 11 and 14.  I would have been open to idea of skipping those years.  Walk down the hallway of a junior high school before you disagree with me.  The odor alone will knock you over.  Hormones gone wild must smell.

Skipping over life's most unfortunate time period, gets us to high school.  And college.  And beyond.

My son, my oldest, accepted his first 'real job' this week, as a reporter for the Daily Freeman Journal.  It's a little newspaper in the middle of the Iowa cornfields.  It doesn't pay much, but it's good.  It's part of a chain of newspapers, so who knows where it could lead.  It's real world experience, and he is on his own.

This.  THIS is what gets to me:  My job as a mother has been terminated.

Oh sure, I'll hang on as a figurehead.  Sort of like the retired guy that worked at a company for 20 years who shows up now and then, spewing talk of the old days and giving advice that falls on deaf ears.  Or the person who receives and honorary degree from a college and gives an hour long speech at graduation.  Yeah he is important, but you don't need him around and you certainly aren't going to listen to what he has to say.

It makes me sad that I'm no longer needed, but what makes me so happy - what thrills me more than when he was a baby - is that I like the man he has become.

He is what my daughter would call a "good guy" - an overall nice, intelligent, easy going guy, with no hidden agendas.  He is very witty with just the right amount of sarcasm (a little known gene that was passed to our kids from both sides of the family).  When he was a toddler, we thought he was a genius because he could name every dinosaur that ever walked the planet, and we pegged him for some sort of scientist.  But journalism is his calling.  I've read stuff he as written, and it's good.  Really good.  And I'm not just saying that because he's my kid.  It's true!  Stop rolling your eyes at me!

Sure he's got issues.  No mother is perfect and we still refer to our first born as the "grand experiment".  He will never let me forget that I got overly frustrated with him that he couldn't learn how to tie his shoes, and a friend had to teach him.  My response to this over the years went from "it takes a village" to "tell it to your therapist."

I don't think you really appreciate the stage in your life when you're just starting out - fresh out of college, your whole life ahead of you, when all things are new and shiny and possible.  You're too worried about finding a job and paying off student loans.

But a mother can sit back and know that everything will be OK.  My only job now is to watch him leave the nest and soar.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Who is Laura Nyro?

A few years ago, I was introduced to a woman named Laura Nyro.  If you are over the age of 40, you know her too.  She wrote incredible songs - songs you know well.  You just don't know she wrote them.

My husband told me about her and I was more than surprised that I had never heard of her before.  I feel stupid that I didn't know about her earlier because she's written part of the 'song track of my life', as it were.

She was born in 1947 and was still a teenager when she sold her first song to Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966 - And When I Die.  It was later recorded by Blood Sweat and Tears and became a huge hit.  David Geffen was her fist manager.  Just to name a few of her most familiar songs, The Fifth Dimension recorded Wedding Bell Blues, Three Dog Night sang Eli's Coming and Barbara Striesand recorded Stoney End.  She was a successful recording artist on her own, but I am not alone when I best remember her words through other musicians.

I won't go into her who biography - you can look that up on line as well as I can.  She was married for a time and even had a very brief relationship with Jackson Browne, but eventually lived the rest of her life with Maria Desiderio. I think a lot of the pain and strife in her songs matched the struggle it took to get to that partnership.  Laura died at the age of 49 of ovarian cancer - the same disease that took her mother, at exactly same age.

And this year, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I don't know why, but she is a particularly tragic figure for me.  There are plenty of musicians who could be described as "tragic", but for whatever reason, her story really gets to me.  Maybe because there is such strife in all of her songs.  Maybe because she died so young. The words of her songs are so deep and full of emotion - even though they might be set to upbeat music.  Just listen to the words of Stoney End, and I challenge you NOT to feel something for the woman who wrote it, despite it's upbeat tempo.

I'm so glad she's considered one of music's best and is finally in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She deserves it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

God of Carnage

John and I celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary yesterday.  Twenty. Eight. Years.  Holy moly.  

You're going to find this very mushy, but it's true:  I love John now more than I did on our wedding day.  Seriously.  I think about it every year, that some people were taking bets at our wedding, that we wouldn't last.  We knew each other less than a year when we got married, so if I attended our wedding, I might have added to the betting pool myself.  But following a gut feeling has its advantages. I knew in my heart of hearts that John was The One, and apparently he thought the same of me.  

Score one for us.

So to celebrate our anniversary, we didn't exchange gifts (as usual).  We got each other cards and did what we like to do best.  Eat and drink.  

We grilled beautiful filet mignon steaks and steamed two huge lobster tails.  (It may just be me, but nothing says "I love you" more than surf and turf.)  We split a sweet potato and sauteed vegetables on hand - including a HUGE zucchini just harvested from our garden.  We had Chianti with dinner and champagne after, while we watched a movie on DVD.

We spent 5 days in New York City for our 25th anniversary, one of the best trips ever.  On the night of our 25th, we saw the play, God of Carnage.  I can't even explain how incredible that play was.  A stellar cast of only 4 people - Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, James Gandolfini, and Hope Davis.  Two couples meet to discuss their sons, one of which hit the other with a stick and knocked out his front teeth.  It was lighthearted, engaging, and hysterically funny!  If you care, (and I have no idea who these people are, I just found them on youtube) here is a review of the New York play:

And here is a bunch of stars gushing over the play when it arrived in Los Angles:

The play won a Tony for best play and everyone who has ever seen it loved it.  So they made a movie of it and called it Carnage.  The original awesome actors were replaced with other awesome actors:  Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet.  And it was co-written for the screen and directed by Roman Polanski.  It had to be equally if not more incredible, right?  

It sucked.

I mean, it sucked BIG TIME.  

I don't see many plays and I certainly don't see many plays that are remade into films - but I have never seen anything EVER botched as badly as this film was.  They literally sucked the humor and life out of this play.  It was painful to watch.  How could these talented people do such a disservice to such good material?!  I almost think Polanski did it intentionally.  

We still had a lovely anniversary.  (We played a few games of You Don't Know Jack - John won every game.  I think there is an issue with my controller.)  

But If there were ever an example of how "experts" are supposed to do their job, the movie Carnage it NOT it.

Ironic, don't you think?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Additional thoughts on The Wall - or - why I need an editor

I was asked a few questions about my last post, so I thought I would clear things up a bit.

Where did Leroy leave his car??  Inquiring minds have to know!
He persuaded a fireman to let him go around one truck and into a public parking garage.  $40 for an overnight stay, opposed to $0 just down the street.  After a very expensive evening, that was just icing on a rather large cake.

There was something else about the cab getting to the concert.  What was it?
We ran to the corner of Wabash and Van Buren to catch a cab.  We were all getting into Pano Johnson’s cab when Kathy realized we “stole” it from a mother and her two little girls who were there before us.  Despite all the justification (and teasing) from the rest of us, she still felt bad.  Oh Kathy.  What a good heart you have.  I'm sure that mother and her kids are still waiting for a cab at that corner.  (Snicker, snicker)

You said you didn’t agree with all of Roger Waters’ views.  Explain.
When The Wall was originally released, it was personal.  It was about wrestling with his own demons.  Now it’s much broader and political.  He’s obviously very anti war, and hates big government and oppression.   He’s outraged at people blindly following who and what they deem worthy without thinking of the repercussions.  All good stuff.  But he’s an atheist too.  At one point in the concert, there were images shown on the wall of planes dropping “bombs” of symbols – Mercedes, Apple, Toyota and Christian crosses among them.  To him, Christianity is just another way to control people.  I can understand how someone like him would think that.  The atrocities carried out in the name of God seem never ending.  But as a Christian, finding peace, comfort and love where he finds death and destruction saddens me.  That’s all.

OK.  What was your issue with the pig?
If you watch the video, you’ll see the pig floating around above the audience – a Pink Floyd thing from way back in the Animals days.  But this pig was all tatted up with graffiti, and clearly a symbol of all that is bad with the world.  When the pig floated low enough for the audience to grab onto, I PANICKED.  I thought that was a HUGE concert snafu!!!  I thought audiences after Chicago were not going to have the pleasure of experiencing the pig!!  And it was a very disturbing image - seeing the pig torn apart.  I guess it was good that a "bad pig" was destroyed, but seeing people doing it with fervor was unnerving.  

What did you do after the concert?
Getting out of the concert was pretty unnerving as well.  The crowd was so thick, it was claustrophobic. Kathy admitted that she said a Hail Mary in the thick of it.  We made it out and flagged down our second awesome cabbie that night.  Sadly, I don't remember his name.  He didn't have to drive like a madman to get us back to the condo, but he was good at getting us out of Wrigleyville - not an easy thing.  We went to Tavern on the Park (just down the street from the condo) and had martinis and Manhattans.  Then the boys needed pizza.  They went to Paesano's and Kathy and I went to the condo.  She went to bed, I stayed up with the wine and potato chips and stared at the beautiful Chicago skyline until the boys returned.  

Like I said - the concert of a lifetime.  Next concert on the docket: Train at the Peabody in St. Louis.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Wall - or - Our version of Trains, Planes and Automobiles

Many moons ago, John came to me and said, "Roger Waters is doing The Wall at Wrigley Field.  We have to go."


Then I saw the price tag and nearly fell over.  We not only paid more for these concert tickets than anything else this summer, but we had to pay to board the dogs and drive 12 hours minimum to get there and back.

This. Better. Be. Good.

John convinced our friends Kathy and Leroy to join us.  We bought the tickets and waited for 6 months.

So last Friday morning, John dropped the dogs off at 8:00 and we were on the road shortly after. We arrived in Bloomington, Illinois around 12:45 and enjoyed lovely Italian Beef sandwiches a la Leroy and Kathy.

Leroy had to take their dog to his mother's house in the Chicago burbs, and hit the road before the rest of us. John, Kathy and I left around 1:30, potato chips and wine in in hand.  We were staying the night at Kathy's parent's condo.  It's a gorgeous family retreat, wonderfully placed near Millennium Park, and I absolutely LOVE going there.  With enough potato chips and wine, I could sit there forever and just stare out of the windows at the beautiful Chicago skyline.

Anyway.  We ran into traffic.  Like, a lot of it.  An accident here, construction there.  We didn't worry  too much about it until we hit the Chicago city limits.  Holy moly.  Driving anywhere in Chicago on a Friday afternoon  is NOT A PRETTY THING. After about a 4 hour trip that should have only taken 2 hours, we finally arrive at the condo around 5:30 and waited for Leroy.  He was stuck in worse traffic than we were.

Bumper to bumper on Lake Shore Drive.

But as we were relaxing, sipping our wine and eating our chips, we kept hearing fire alarms from the neighboring fire station.  The alarms weren't fading off into the distance like they usually did.  John got up to investigate, and reported, "I think we may have a problem."

Sure enough, the fire trucks were pulling up to our building.  We counted a total of 7 fire trucks, 4 SUV type vehicles and 2 unmarked cars.  An announcement came over the hallway intercom, instructing everyone to stay in their apartments.  They weren't letting anyone in either.  See the guy standing next to his red SUV parked on the far side of the street?  Yes, that's Leroy.

So we waited.  And waited.  The firemen coming and going didn't look too terribly concerned.  That was comforting.  But the clock was ticking.  From what it said on our concert tickets, the show started "promptly" at 8:30, and we still had Friday night Chicago traffic to overcome.  

We finally decided they couldn't do anything to us but tell us to go back into a burning building if we went down the stairs.  They let us out but there was still the question of where Leroy was going to park his car.  If we waited for the trucks to leave so that he could get into the underground condo parking, we would miss the start of the concert.  If he left it were it was, it would get towed.  

Kathy and I still managed to, well, I really don't know what the heck we're doing here...

But then thought we should say a little prayer about the whole situation.  After seeing the video below, you'll find it ironic that I have my iphone between my hands.


We learned that some bonehead had thrown a cigarette butt down the trash chute and it started to smoke.  Boneheads should not be allowed to live in high rise buildings.

Leroy finally joined us and we flagged down a cab.  Luckily, we climbed into Pano Johnson's taxi.  He was our hero.  I think if he could have driven up onto sidewalks to get us to Wrigley Field faster, he would have.  His high speed traffic weaving was a thing of beauty.  And we discovered there is a code of conduct among Chicago cabbies.  Something like, "If I'm driving like a lunatic, I have good reason to, and you need to back off and let me do my thing."

We made it.  We stopped at concessions and got hot dogs and Old Styles - not the nice dinner Chicago is perfectly capable of providing, but it would do.  We got to our seats with 15 minutes to spare.  And then Roger Waters lied to us.  "Promptly at 8:30" turned into after 9:00.  So we had plenty of time to sit and wonder who would be the obnoxious concert viewers around us.  (Clueless teenagers to the back of us, big, bald drunk guy in the front who didn't know when to sit down. Why do they show up at every concert I've ever been to?)

Here is the stage, with the partially built wall.

Ironically, the best photo I got all night was when I was mistakenly taking video.  Here is a 10 second clip of what it looked like early in the show.

This is toward the end, after the wall was fully built.

And if you're interested, the Chicago Tribune wrote an awesome review of the concert.

All in all, through "Trains, Planes and Automobile" like experiences and boneheads all around, it was the concert experience of a lifetime.  I don't agree with all of Roger Waters' views, but I appreciate the way he puts his out there.  

Because the way he puts it out there is pretty incredible.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I kraine, Ukraine...

I've been given yet another opportunity to add to Joanie's plethora of blog entries and a trip to the Agrarian land cultural region of the world, provided adequate fodder for another "Bob" posting. I fear if I keep this up- it’s going to be like the holiday slide show people make everybody watch of their trip to the grand canyon. The trip also rekindled a favorite saying that will work its way back I to my verbal arsenal "It's like giving a monkey a hand grenade- eventually nothing good comes of the mix". I laugh just thinking about that....

Where do I start....Let's look at each " unique experience"

The background......

As usual, this trip came together with just over 1 week of notice, so there was a bit more apprehension given the complexities of all the stops and very vague details. To generalize, a colleague and I were flying to Kiev Ukraine, and after a day of meetings there, fly to Simferopol or Crimea, then drive around to Odessa and then 2 days of meetings along the way while we drive back to Kiev for a last day of meetings. A fun filled week of work.

The "Vodka Experience"

Surprisingly, the flights out went smooth- and after our first day of meetings we were treated to the vodka tradition. Now this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy. Over the course of a 3- hour meal a group of 5 consumed 2 liters of high proof vodka. Each person is given a small shot glass and every time somebody tells a good joke or compliments somebody- we toast. We did a lot of toasting and complimenting during the trip. The jokes did get funnier as the evening went on- correlation to alcohol consumption?- there was some joke about a guy who got married because his friends told him he needed somebody to bring him water when he was in his old age- but then realized on his death bed he was always hungry and not thirsty. Still find that funny - though not funny enough to grant it the double toast I gave it that night. During the drinking stretches we were given pork fat on rye bread and told to suck the juices out of a tomato after taking the vodka shot to create a culinary sensory overload. Looking back it had the feeling of a Jim Morrison scene in the Doors. A kaleidoscope of visions and old US music playing in the background with mind or stomach-altering theories being thrown at us. Regardless of alcohol toxicity poison - it was a better option than the water. See picture of water quality- I phone didn't capture the true "murkiness" of it, but it was baaad.

The "People Experience"

It does surprise me a bit as to how the people seemed to match and almost embrace the typical stereotypes. Yes- the women are absolutely gorgeous. They carry such a grace and pride that it only emphasizes their pure beauty even more. Yes- the businessmen are an aggressive and smart group. But very honest. The language has a harsher tone than needed, but never is it rude or condescending. On one cab ride- the cabbie either realizing we were from the US or just that he liked US music switched the radio station to American music. Elton John's Lion King song came up- and they must really like Elton John, because he cranked the music. So here is a cabbie, cracked windshield, weaving in and out of traffic, chain smoking and wearing an old cut up t-shirt pumping up the soft pop music. Another great enthusiasm the people have- was dancing. We went to some very rural areas- and every establishment had a dance floor- most with live DJ's as well. Now I know there are some of my friends out there (one who reads this blog and her sister) who think Latin America might have the corner on dance moves- but check out this discrete video I snapped at a small fish restaurant in rural Crimea. He danced like that most of the time we were eating. Talk about Enthusiasm!!!

The "Road Experience"

We were warned. I just didn't believe it could be that bad. My colleague and I could best explain it this way-invite 3 of your largest friends on an August vacation to say Arizona. Rent a 10-year old Prius- stick shift if you can find it and drive around for 6 hours with stop and go braking through a rocky field. All the while, the two people in the front seat are speaking Klingon and keep turning the vent (no AC) away from you. There were some queasy moments. This video I tried to capture doesn't give true justice to the stop and go. We managed to travel 300 kilometers in 6 hours- so we didn't even avg 35 mph... Granted this included a dozen smoke breaks from the locals.

See uploaded you-tube video for a quick example of the drive. The video doesn’t do justice to the extreme stop and go. For the record this was with the camera sitting on the seat- so it wasn’t just be moving the camera up and down.

The "Hotel Experience"

First of all, most outside of Kiev or Odessa are still of post-communist design. Fairly clean but no mattresses and there isn't an elevator to be found. I hauled luggage up 5 flights of stairs at 3 of the hotels. There was usually a TV, with 1 or2 English stations though it was usually CNN playing old news reports. Here is a snap shot outside one of my hotel rooms.... Does it look familiar?

Maybe this will help ring a bell?  "Redrum!  Redrum!!"

The "Work Experience"

Great experience working with the groups and made some great friendships. Won't bore you with the specifics, but in some very rural areas of Crimea it was really warming to see these stoic individuals with such a proud past look at you with true admiration. Now- giving a presentation through a translator was a new experience for me. With press and government officials in the audience I kind of felt like Rocky in Rocky IV... Or maybe that was like Rocky II after climbing 7 flights of stairs to get to this wide open and echo infused meeting room.

The "The Travel Experience"

While a great flight there- the return was brutal. We arrived at the Kiev airport around 4:30 AM for a 6:30 flight and it looks like Chechnya has just fallen. Never sure of the specifics, but it appeared they had stopped all in-bounds flights for several hours that AM for some reason. We are told to stand in a line that doesn't move for 1/2 hour. Girl in front of us breaks down in tears and I hear her say "I just want to go home". We finally make some progress and make our own contacts and tack on 12 hours to our journey home, but it was worth it. Only 26 hours later and we arrived home.

That about sums up this lengthy travel blog. I have probably never been on a trip that offered such great consistent food. It wasn't fancy- but the preparation and freshness took me back to homemade dinners. It was absolutely great. I'm hanging up the passport for a while, so if Joanie invites me back for a blog submission- it will likely revert to the fond recollections of a poor child growing up in the really remote areas do South Dakota. Or should I close with.... “do pobachennya”?