I remember when Christmas was not an “issue” that people haggled and hurt each other over, but a time of getting back to the basics of hospitality and humanity.
I remember when Christmas was a time of unity. A time when folks focused on that which we have in common—like being human—rather than on our differences.
I remember when Christmas was when we thought, “Okay, we’ve been at each other’s throats all year. Let’s take a break and enjoy a little forbearance. Let’s try to be good neighbors.”
Why have folks gotten so hateful? Why so stiff-necked and prideful? Why is there so little sense of live and let live? What are we teaching our children, and how will this time of year be treated after we’re gone?
Guess I’m just an old fart, but I miss the days when Christmastime was something to look forward to, and to savor for the short while that it lasted. Why can’t we love our enemies as we love ourselves for one single day?
When the world falls in love,
Every song you hear seems to say,
May your New Year dreams come true!
And this song of mine
In three-quarter time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing too.
Why are we not only allowing the Christmas spirit to die, but helping it to do so with harsh words and prideful hearts?
2. Eexecutive secretary
4. Assistant conductor.
Four movies you could watch over and over:
1. Monsoon Wedding
2. The Emperor’s Club
3. Office Space
4. What Dreams May Come
Four places you’ve lived:
1. Solvang, California
2. Ventura, California
3. Denver, Colorado
4. Brighton, England
Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. As Time Goes By (BBC)
2. The Actor’s Studio
3. Masterpiece Theatre
Four places you’ve been on vacation:
1. Redwoods National Forest, California
2. Yosemite, California
3. London, England
4. Vienna, Austria
Four of your favorite foods:
1. Hot and sour soup
3. Ice cream
Four places you’d rather be:
The chorus was outstanding and the soloists (selected members of the choir) were, for the most part, up to the task, although there were a couple of them who flatted out on a high note here and there. Nevertheless, they each executed their melismas excellently. The best soloists were tenor Kim Childs, alto Lynette Erwin. No, really, she was—I’m not playing favorites—and baritone Matt Thomas. The real problem was the string section, which at times didn’t seem to possess much in the way of intonation. Nor did they seem to be very familiar with the piece in general. Had they been better, and had Maestro Mark Lawlor been able to trust them with quicker tempi, the soloists would have had no problems at all...
It just doesn’t seem like the holiday season until I attend a performance of Messiah, or hear a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. From 1986 to 1992 I worked for Maestro Frank Salazar and the Ventura County Symphony, and over one weekend every December we produced four performances of the Nutcracker. I also sang tenor with the Ventura Community Chorale when we performed Messiah every year. As Frank’s assistant, I was kept pretty busy between all of the score preparation, rehearsals, and actual performances. Too, there were always musicians who hired me to compose arrangements of different holiday music that they were to perform at recitals, school concerts, and performances apart from the symphony...
Poor Nettl is so tired. The past weekend was huge for her. As soon as she came home last Friday, she had to pack, then go to Sand Springs for the speech tournament at which she was a judge. That meant working Friday night and all day Saturday. She didn’t get home until Saturday evening, when she had to help the girls get ready for their winter semi-formal dance. We took them, then did a little shopping. I picked the girls up because I demanded Nettl go to bed. On Sunday she was up early, helping Lauren prepare her French club’s Christmas semi-formal dinner party, which she hosted here in our home. Preparing and cooking for a dinner party of fifteen in no small feat.
Last night, when she came home from work, Nettl looked absolutely beat. She tiredly told me she had to take the kids to the bank to cash the Christmas checks they received from their grandfather, take Lauren to a band function, then take Heather and Nathan to Walmart (money burns holes in their pockets). She also want to deposit a Christmas check I received from my uncle yesterday. (Thank you! It was completely unexpected. Now I can do some Christmas shopping without dipping into our personal finances!) She also had “Messiah” rehearsal to go to, from 7:00 to 10:00.
I told her, “You don’t have to do all that. The kids can wait till tomorrow, it won’t kill them to wait a day to spend that money. Take a long nap.” She lay down on the bed and was asleep in no time at all. I then went out to the living room and told the kids their mother was tired to the point of being ill and asked them if they’d mind waiting. Heather looked disappointed as only Heather can when things don’t go the way she thinks they should (she’s a Leo), but they were good about it (they’re great kids). I made dinner and everything worked out just fine.
So I’m ticked off that I’m sleeping so late every day, and I feel really guilty, besides. I try to chalk it up to the fact that I’m ten years older than Nettl, but it doesn’t really work.
- January: Maybe it’s my sun in Libra, ascendant in Sagittarius and moon in Cancer.
- February: I should know better than to stop flipping through the channels when I come across one of those inbred talk shows like Jerry Springer or Maury Povich.
- March: I’m just going to get this crap out and then I’ll be done with it.
- April: It has been repeatedly expressed that due to the extraordinary circus/gypsy/vaudevillian life I’ve lived, I should one day write about it.
- May: You’re right.
- June: You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.
- July: Although technically it’s early Monday morning, I’m writing this as if it’s very late Sunday night because, well, to me, it is.
- August: Really, how can anyone be more fortunate than I am?
- September: After a restless and (for me) mostly sleepless night, we got up and met the crew in the hotel’s breakfast room before the day’s work began.
- October: It’s 8:00 on Saturday morning.
- November: After nearly a full week in bed with an especially bad cold, I’m happy to report that I’m on the mend.
- December: It’s World AIDS Day, and I wanted to post a picture of my friend Cteev, who died from complications due to AIDS at the age of 32 in 2001.
I didn’t sleep at all well—I kept waking up as soon as I’d get into any semblance of real sleep—so I gave it up around 8:30 and got up tired. I think today I’ll nap from two to three so that I won’t ruin a good night’s sleep with an involuntary evening snooze. I’m really trying to adjust my night time schedule, but it’s hard. The need to sleep is a giant pain in the ass.
What is the most over-played Christmas Song?
My only plan is to put up the outside Christmas lights. With as cold as it is, that’s a major undertaking.
He’s been on my mind a lot this week. Sometimes I miss him more than at other times; this is one of those times. I miss his silly laugh and his unique sense of humor. I miss the way he used to help me with my garden and how he helped me drink my wine. I miss the wisdom that was hidden deep within the little boy he was and I miss getting to know the man he never had a chance to become. I miss you, Cteevenheimer.
For instance, let’s take the latter. Every once in a while they get a hair up their butt and have what’s called, “Cook With Your Kids Week.” Yeah, that’s what I always enjoy. A kitchen full of kids licking the Alfredo off of their fingers before sticking them back in for another taste. Or the one-gazillion dishes kids always use when they try to cook, or the flour bag that gets dumped onto the floor, and the exhaustion I feel after everything’s been eaten and I’m marooned in the kitchen to clean up the dishes, pots and pans, floor, counters and dining table whilst everyone else retreats sated and full to their computers, TVs, and My Little F*** Pony…
Cook with kids? I think I’ll pass. Sorry, Alton, but I’m tired of you celebrity chefs making me feel guilty during “Cook With Your Kids Week.” C’mon, be honest. Some of you really hate that week too, don’cha? I’ll bet the sound stage trash bins have more wine corks tossed in them during that week.
Famous last words by Paul, the mechanic at the Ford dealership. Nettl borrowed her boss’ car and we took ours to get the lighting problem fixed at 8:00 in the morning. When 3:30 rolled around, I called and was told that the car still wasn’t ready. Around 5:00 Nettl called and was told it was ready, so we went to get it. I got the keys and got in. I turned on the lights. What did they do, just park it in another spot, not bothering to even look at it? Still no tail or dash lights. Jebus Crast…
You know that Jif peanut butter commercial in which the dad is sitting on the couch minding his own business, making himself a peanut butter sammich? It goes something like this:
Daughter: What’re you doing, Dad?Hey. Maybe Dad needed a little peace and quiet, a little alone time with his obviously pleasant memories of his deceased father. This chit of a girl comes in and judges him, and with a bitchy attitude at that. If it’s so silly, then give Dad back the damn sammich and leave him alone. Talk about ungrateful.
Dad (patting the space beside him on the sofa): Sit down. There’s plenty of room.
Dad generously proceeds to make his daughter and himself a sammich using one slice of bread for each. As she begins to eat hers open-faced, Daughter looks at Dad to see that he’s folding his bread in half.
Daughter (looking smugly judgmental): Why did you fold yours like that?
Dad: Well, when I was a kid, this is how my dad did it, and I wanted to do everything just like he did.
Daughter: That’s silly. (She turns her back to him and folds her sammich)
Of course, the daughter folds her sammich in half as well, but like the bitchy little sneak she is, she turns her back so Dad can’t see. The unspoken message is sent out to little girls all over the country: It’s ok to judge your father. You’re better than he is anyway, and you obviously know more about how a sammich should be eaten. And whatever you do, don’t let him think for a moment that he has a good idea once in a while.
If it was just this one commercial I wouldn’t care that much, but I’ve seen this message over and over again.
“Mommy puts the glasses over here!”
“You’re not the the one that’s still growing, Dad!”
Ever notice that it’s never sons dissing their fathers or their mothers, or daughters dissing their mothers? Our television media is packed full of messages teaching our kids that all husbands and fathers are The Dumb White Guy. One commercial finally succeeded in emasculating the male entirely. A couple is in a home improvement store and Hubby can’t seem to hammer a nail (or something simple like that), so Wifey-Poo picks up a power tool and “does the job the right way,” gloating all the while. Now, that one really pissed me off. In commercial after commercial the male is portrayed as a hapless, helpless nincompoop. My question is, if he’s such an idiot, then why did you marry him? What’s up with you?
I’m not saying the Dumb White Guy doesn’t exist; I do live in Oklahoma after all (ducking), but if the tables were turned and it was a man showing a woman up in her little stereotyped scenario, or sons dissing their mothers, the fur would be flying.
Oh, pipe down. I’m an old feminist from the 70s and I’m well-aware of how women have been treated by the media. What I’m saying is, turn about is not fair play, it’s just more of the same old crap. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination and it needs to be canned if we’re ever going to teach our children how to do things better than we have done.
I’m not even going to get started on my opinions about what a lot of very visible young women these days are doing to set us all back fifty years. That’s an entirely different post for another time, which will probably be called, “What the Fuck Happened to the Women’s Movement?” But tonight, I’m standing up for the guys.
Micah is a man of great integrity, steely introspection, artistic creativity, staggering intelligence and profound spirituality. He is, in a word, a true mystic and searcher. I’m proud and blessed that he chose to come into my life at all. The only regret I have is that I’ve never gotten to spend enough time with him. This is my deepest loss, my life’s greatest sadness, and my greatest failure. We stay in close contact though, and the more I get to know him, the more I admire him. I’ve always adored him.
Pay his website a visit. Not only is he gifted in music, he is also a brilliant developer and graphic designer. Take a little time to look around his site, and give his music a listen.
Happy Birthday, beloved son. I sent you a card, but expect something else, already on its way.
Photo by Steve Garfield.
Remember when the Web was small and not every square inch of it was considered a billboard for kitschy, tawdry marketing? Remember when you could type in a search word or phrase and if you misspelled it you didn’t end up at a triple-X site that hi-jacked your computer and planted 215 spies on your hard drive? Remember when people on the web were friendly and helpful and didn’t take their personal angst and nastiness out on you? Remember when Yahoo! and AOL were brand new and didn’t think they owned the world? Remember when surfing, a link actually led you to someone’s site, not to a directory of directories that led you to even more directories?
I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to have that back again.
1) What is your favorite smell?
Freshly mown grass. It reminds me of when I was a very small child and my dad mowed the lawn. I think it’s the first smell I consciously remember.
2) Do you prefer stone, metal, wood or glass?
Stone, most definitely. I feel a very subtle energy running through stone; it vibrates against the palm of my hand. Most people think stone is dead, but it’s not. It’s living, being part of our living earth, which is an organism in and of itself. We have stone tile floors in our entry and bathrooms and I love their coolness under my bare feet.
3) Have you ever seen ghosts/spirits/fairies?
Yes to all three (and more). And none of them frighten me in the least.
“Well,” you begin, “I saw an ad on television last night that told me I should ask you about (insert name of new drug here).”
“Are you having any symptoms?” your doctor asks.
“Not that I know of. I feel wonderful.” you reply.
“(Insert name of new drug here) is for a collapsed rectum. Go home and quit wasting my time.”
Why do the pharmaceutical companies give us the lowdown on some new drug, all the benefits (10% of the commercial at a normal speaking speed), then all of the side effects (90% of the commercial at 78rpm), then never even tell us what the drug is for? I saw Dr. Andrew Weil on Larry King’s show last night. He’s predicting that the American health care system is quickly heading for a complete collapse and I agree, and the pharmaceutical companies are leading the way.
Most of us were raised to believe that when we need them, prescription drugs are useful, sometimes necessary aids in the healing of complaints and diseases. I’m not buying it anymore. Not when so-called “common” side effects include seizure, stroke, leukemia, and in the case of my own mother, thrombosis and death. Anymore, I resort to prescription drugs only in extreme situations. Our bodies build immunities to antibiotics. I’m walking proof of that. After having survived peritonitis twice (the first bout put me into a coma during which I had a near-death experience), I have to take massive doses of antibiotics just to whip a small cold. No thanks. I’d rather just ride the thing out with natural remedies. I’m not talking about major life-threatening conditions. I’m talking about the “inconveniences” we all experience from time-to-time.
I don’t like OTC cold remedies like Nyquil because I have a bad reaction to antihistamines. I figure, my runny nose, constant sneezing and coughing are just my body’s way of expelling the bug that’s lodged itself in my mucus membranes. If I dry everything up, he’s just going to stay there. Nope. When I get a cold I sleep it off, drink lots of orange juice and water, and get lots of electrolytes via chicken soup.
Sorry I’ve been out of it a bit the past few days. I’m just so damned fatigued. I get up in the morning and everything I have to do — be the list long or short — looks like a mountain to me. Just the famous “Libra Lazies,” I guess. I still have the “All The Rest” archive page to rebuild. Meh. No one really cares, especially me, if it’s not done at this very moment.
I became a Live365 preferred member today. That means that for $26 every six months I have my pick of some great net radio with no visual or audio ads, and no interruptions. Plus, I now have access to hundreds more stations. I’m slowly building my play list and am enjoying that. I’ve been listening to Live365 for about a year, I think, my favorite station being an all-Mozart. That one, being a professional station, has no commercials anyway, but I also like a Baroque station. And since we’ve moved into the new bedroom and left the small stereo up in what is now the family room, we wanted to use my computer as our private music system, so that’s why we joined up. Now I need some better speakers.
It’s always something.
Sure hope I feel more lively tomorrow. I don’t like this sluggish crap. That didn’t sound right…
~ Lynette introduced herself to the new neighbors across the street this morning. Seems they’re only here for three months whilst their house is being built. Too bad. She says they’re really nice. They sure have been spending a lot of time and energy decorating their front porch and yard for only a three-month stay. Guess I’d do the same thing.
~ I used to have really neat handwriting. Actually, I’ve always printed and had the hand of an architect or an engineer. Nowadays it’s just scribble. Damned internet.
~ What do you do with something you really like but has lost its usefulness? I have a beautiful forest green tassel that used to hang on the bedroom doorknob, but it lost the braided cord that I hung it up with. Now all it can do is lay on my desk, looking useless. Guess I could fix it. Wouldn’t be all that difficult.
~ There’s little scarier than looking down to see a huge sewing needle in the carpet, next to your foot.
~ I need another cup of coffee. Be right back.
~ I emptied the dishwasher while I was at it.
~ I didn’t even think of my Saturday crossword in the paper until this very moment. I must be coming down with something.
I have to shake my head in utter disbelief. Nathan came home from football practice last night and told us that there’s a play the team uses called, “Smear the Queer.” He doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t use it, but we’re wondering what we should do about it. If we make a fuss the guys on the team will make his life a living hell. It gets really difficult when you have to balance changing the world with protecting your kid. What the hell are they teaching at that school anyway? I’m increasingly growing discontented with this place. But on to other things…
The evil Wal-Mart wasn’t at all bad yesterday. The trick, you see, is to go in the morning before the college kids get out of bed. It was actually like shopping yesterday, not like braving the L.A. freeway system. As much as I hate dragging my insomniac ass out of bed to take Lynette to work (we have only one car and six people, three of them teenagers), it’s worth it if only to ensure an enjoyable shopping experience for myself, not to mention the freshly stocked shelves and associates who haven’t yet grown grumpy from the dumbasses who flock there. When is this town going to give us a selection of super markets? Sheesh! We have a population of over 40,000 (without the OUS student body, I believe and the populations of tiny bergs like Perkins, Hennessey and Pawnee). Who does one have to sleep with to get another store? We have an Albertson’s (too expensive), an IGA (too small, not enough selection — a neighborhood grocer, actually) and the evil Wal-Mart. C’mon! There’s talk of another Wal-Mart going in here on the west side of town. While I’d rather have a Super Target, at least another Wal-Mart would cut the traffic in the ice cream aisle down by one half, and shopping for the week’s groceries wouldn’t take two full hours due to congestion at the checkout. I know what’ll happen though. By the time they start getting more selection in everything here (we have no really good places to go out to dinner either — everything is fast food and sit-down fast food, being geared toward the student population), we’ll be leaving for Vienna.
Speaking of Vienna:
Lynette and I have been discussing what of our belongings we’re going to have crated to take with us. Turns out, not much! Some things we’re going to sell and some things we’re going to give either to our friends or to the kids once they’re in their own apartments. I thought this would be a sad process, but we’re so looking forward to getting a fresh start and leaving the things behind that came from our past marriages (the dining set and hutch are from her marriage and the coffee table, stereo, and miscellaneous tables are from mine. The one piece of furniture I’m taking is my wingback chair, and that we’re going to have reupholstered once we’re there. Meantime, I’m clipping pictures from magazines and catalogs and putting them in a binder so that when the time comes, we can go out and find the kind of things we want for our Vienna apartment.
On the computer:
I got rid of the InsomniaCam until I get all the archive pages restored. I can’t even begin to think of trying to figure that crap out.
A word to the wise:
Never drink milk when eating broccoli at dinner.
The hilarity began the minute we walked in the door. We pour drinks, then tucked into a great dinner of bratwurst, sauerkraut and baked beans (yeah, I know…). Nettl had never played before, so she sat out and observed a while. When she finally felt brave enough to be dealt in, she (pretend) pouted for a while, saying things like, “I’m going to lose. I don’t understand” and so forth. On her first hand she cleaned house with a straight flush. We weren’t buying that anymore and showed no mercy. She finally just wiped us out and we had to reclaim everyone’s chips and start over. As usual, I lost. I did score a straight, but mostly I sucked.
Lynette is gently waking me, telling me my coffee is already made. She then gives me the bad news: “Don’t forget we’re going to the Plasma Center today with Ville, Liebchen.”
We’ve never donated plasma before, but with two short paychecks we need money if our family of six wants to eat this weekend. Plus, rent is due. My stomach aching, I stumble out of bed and take a shower. Then the Cheetos hit me.
Note to Self: Never, ever, under any circumstance, eat those again. Especially with boxed wine...
A little before 1:00 this afternoon, as I sat here working, Nettl called and said she’d be by to pick me up and take us to Taco Bell for lunch. We discussed the issue some more while munching our tacos. Here’s my take on it: I’ve been a parent since I was 18. That’s 35 years, folks. By the time Nathan (our youngest) goes to college I will have been parenting for 40 years. Forty. Freakin’. Years. And I’m not talking about just being a parent, I’m talking about kids living at home. I’m talking about cooking, cleaning, settling disputes, drying tears, catching the blame for a myriad of woes, etc. Hell, I’m talking about 40 years of not getting to go out to dinner, or buying new socks when I need them. When we move to Vienna in 2010 I will be 59 years old. I think I’ve done my time. I used to say, because I became a parent at 18, I was young enough that when the kids were grown I’d still be young enough to enjoy my life as a reasonably young person. That was when I thought I’d be going through Empty Nest Syndrome at the age of 36. Well, life didn’t turn out that way with a special needs child, and later when the kids came to live with us. That’s all good. I have no regrets. But when we go to Vienna, that’s for us. That’s my retirement, kids. Come and visit for the summer. Come for Christmas. Come whenever you want, but move in with us? No damned way.
Anyway, the reason I say that you just have to laugh is that, as I sat down and turned on my webcam, it took a really bad, but hilarious, picture of me as I adjusted the focus. Suddenly, for some reason, all the anger and frustration melted off of me and I busted up. Life is great that way.
I have no pride.
When I moved to Denver in 1992, I watched as a funnel cloud sat spinning directly over my house (or so it seemed to me), willing it to spin the other direction and go away. It did, but I went through about 15 minutes of fear. But that was nothing like the terror I go through every spring and autumn now that I live in “Tornado Alley.”
- Toilet lids: I hate when people leave the toilet lids up. I mean, I don’t like when the whole seat is up, so why shouldn’t the lid being up bother me? Who wants to walk by and look down into a receptacle that holds bodily waste?
- Redecorating: “That candle doesn’t look at its best there. Let’s try putting it here…”
- Fingernails: Bite, grow, bite, grow. I bite them from nervousness and grow them from guilt feelings for having bitten them.
- Body noises: And I’m proud of them.
- Morning crossword: Gotta have it or my whole day is thrown off.
On the other hand, I also like the clean look of early morning light. The eating area of our kitchen is in a set of bay windows that face north. The view from these tall, paned windows is of verdant, green grass, blue sky, and the cul-de-sac’s end, where not much goes on in the morning, outside of the neighbors pulling out of their garages to leave for work or school. The light that comes in is not direct, so it brightens the entire kitchen and living room area without being blinding. My only beef is that the windows don’t open like the ones in our old house. I love open windows on summer mornings. Must be all those years I lived on the Pacific coast, with the sea air softly billowing the sheers.
But I’m in danger now of waxing poetic at 8:30 in the morning, and that’s a scary thing. I’m not sure if my going to bed earlier this week is going to help with jet lag, however.
While on the phone with Deni last night, she mentioned that since I’m concerned about puffy eyes after the flight (we are going to be filmed at the airport as we arrive), I might try using Preparation H on them. Why does that sound wrong? I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? Have you ever tried it?
(*To the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”)
How long has it been? Doesn’t really matter, because Deni and I are the kind of friends who might go 5 or 10 years without seeing each other, but when we get together we pick up where we left off. If you’re not familiar with our legacy, click HERE and scroll down to “J.P. Deni.”
The good news is, Deni’s coming to visit me during the first week of August. The bad news is, there is no bad news. Last time we saw each other was, I think, in 1994. It has been far too long. I also spoke with Karma on the phone on Saturday. She and I met in 1985 when we were music students at Ventura College. She’s a very talented singer for whom I have composed a number of pieces. She has lived in London for about five years I think. Anyway, on the phone the other day she said that she might be able to fly to Vienna when we’re there, and spend an afternoon with us. Imagine! I’ll be in Vienna with two beautiful opera singers!
This is turning out to be a very exciting summer.
One of the pluses of being a musician (in my case a composer) is living in a constant environment of music. It’s everywhere, even when the stereo is turned off. In fact, I don’t play CDs as often as some people think, and that’s because music is in my head 24/7.
Throughout the day I’m constantly turning musical phrases over this way and that in my mind, even when I don’t mean to, playing with harmonies and contrapuntal lines, as well as the voices, or “colors,” of the individual instruments, or human voices. I think it could drive some people mad, but as a composer I’d go mad if my daily life wasn’t full of this. However, everything changes when Nettl begins working on a piece at the piano.
Then the buzz in my head fades and both my conscious and subconscious attention is drawn to what she’s doing. I don’t think even she knows what a respite this creates for me. As she works on the Mozart K.505, my mind creates the entire piece for me — the orchestration, the piano obbligato — the entire score. It’s like living in a concert hall. What a delightful accompaniment to my Saturday blogging!
Tonight we’re going to Ville and Beau’s house to play board games. Meantime, I have some work for Rhombus to get done and emailed.
A few years ago the kids started celebrating my role in their life on Fathers Day because (due to my gender androgyny) Mothers Day didn’t quite fit our situation. Of course, qualifying for what the Native Americans call Two Spirited, Fathers Day didn’t exactly fit either. Their solution? It’s Weirds Day! I love that. When you’re a person like me you have to have a healthy sense of humor. Anyway, the kids are in Wichita with their dad, so Nettl got up early this morning and got me a Weirds Day present from her and the kids: a fully-fitted aquarium and some fish.
This fish thing went exactly as I predicted last month when I bought a regular gold fish (Abercrombie), a calico gold fish (Fitch) and an Algae-Eater — a Plecosaurus, or something like that — (Algernon) for the patio fountain. We were happy with those three, but then I went out and got four Neon Tetras. Bad idea. Fitch, who we now call Caligula, had a feeding frenzy after we went to bed that night, leaving only one (not really a Neon at all, but an Albino Tetra) the only living survivor. I moved him indoors into a fishbowl and named him Claudius. It was at that time that I told Nettl, “I know what’s going to happen. We’ll have an aquarium within the month. Wait and see. I’ve done this before.” Sure enough, Claudius looked really lonely, so I bought three more Neons and kept them all in bowl on top of the piano.
Fishbowls are a lot of work. You have to change the water every day. I moved Algernon to the bowl, but it didn’t really help. Thus, this morning we have an aquarium, another Pleco who we named Hoover, and five more Neons. We now have a total of 13 fish. Now I want some Ghost Shrimp and a couple of water snails. Nettl wants to get two Black Moors. This is exactly how it works.
- Wow, are you getting old! I was probably smoking pot on the very day you were born. That’s how old you are! Think about that.
- I remember when we first met and I came to your 20th birthday party. In fact, I remember it like it was only a couple of years ago. Actually, I’m kidding about you getting old, because no matter how old you get I’ll always be 16 years older than you. And I have a birthday coming up in September.
- All kidding aside, I love you, Ville. It’s funny how we relate to each other as if you’re my older sister and I’m your little weird. We have a real history behind us. Unfortunately, we’ve kept journals so our antecedents will find out exactly what that history is! At least we won’t be here to live that down—or up.
- I know we’re celebrating your birthday on Saturday, but I just wanted to let Blogsville know how much I love you and how happy I am that we met. The gift you gave me? You taught me that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.
And now, for my readers, a classic Ville quote (in other words, you would have had to be there to understand it):
My day today went something like this:
8:30 (or there about): Awoke—I haven’t experienced an upon-waking panic attack in over three weeks. I went downstairs and turned the on coffeemaker. As usual, Nettl had already gotten it ready for me and, because yesterday was the kids’ last day of school and Lauren was enjoying a well deserved lie-in, Nettl had brought my paper in and put it on the counter by the coffeemaker, the rubber band removed. Beside the paper sat my coffee cup with just the right amount of sugar measured into it. While the coffee brewed I went onto the veranda to check on the fish we got for our fountain earlier in the week. I then came in and went to the music closet in the den to turn on NPR, which I leave on throughout the day and evening because the sound is wired through the house and we all love classical music. It sets a good mood throughout the day.
8:45: Brought my coffee and paper upstairs, and got back into bed, turning on the Travel Channel. I usually go into the den in the mornings, but Nathan had fallen asleep on the day bed last night and we didn’t want to wake him up. I looked through the paper and worked all the puzzles, half-paying attention to the telly.
9:30: Got up and ambled to my computer to check my email, etc. The phone rang. It was Debra (Ville) asking if she could come over and use our dryer and I said sure. I got dressed and ready for the day.
11:00: Ville came over and had an anniversary present for us, which I opened immediately. It’s a frosted glass dish with five candles of varying heights and wine scents, with wine glass charms attached to them. There also was a bag of little gold nuggets to scatter around the candles. It’s beautiful and in our colors. Thanks Ville and Beau! We went downstairs and got some coffee, and sat in the living room talking as laughing as usual.
12:30: I began making lunch for us, knowing Nettl would be home a little after one. Nathan went to the skate park with his friend Matt.
1:15: Nettl came in and the three of us sat down for lunch. Much joviality. Nettl loved the gift too.
2:00: On her way back to work, Nettl dropped the girls off at the movie theater. Ville and I sat out on the veranda until she left a little before three.
3:45: Nettl came home and took a nap while I played some Yahoo! Games.
4:45: Lauren called, saying they were ready to come home, so I went to pick them up and returned to my computer.
It’s now 5:30 and I’m about to start dinner. Matt’s spending the night tonight, and I’m planning on passing the evening on the veranda, watching the birds that crowd our feeder.
On Monday Nathan and Heather are going to Wichita to spend the summer with their dad, while, on Tuesday, Lauren leaves for her 10-day tip to Paris. When she comes home she’ll spend a week here to rest up, then she’ll go on up to her dad’s as well. Nathan and Heather will be home for the week of June 26 for Nettl’s birthday, while Lauren goes to Ohio with her dad. Then they’ll all be back in Wichita until the week before school commences.
As much as I’m looking forward to my first real summer vacation in 10 years, I’m going to sorely miss our kids. It’ll be awfully quiet here; I’ve forgotten what it was like before they came to live with us. It’s a bittersweet emotion I’m feeling. I’m not sure what to make of it
It’s hard to explain what we’re like when we’re together. It’s a cross between Wolfgang & Nannerl Mozart, Groucho & Chico Marx, Eds & Pats (AbFab), and John Lennon & Paul McCartney. We’ve been friends for so long now, we know everything about each other. We’ve often said we have to remain friends because we know too damn much. We walked around “the Lobby” for a good hour, having to run to the loo only once. Sheesh, even a simple outing becomes a “wet ‘em” experience. I bought some candles for the patio and she got some tea lights. Everything was 50% off.
After that we went back to her house to wait on the electrician who was set to come find out why her dryer had no power. He fixed the problem and I suggested we go to Leo’s for the lunch buffet. You remember Leo’s. It’s the Chinese place near the university campus. After lunch we went to Wall’s, which is nothing more than an over-priced outlet store, unless you know to pick through the junk to find the great sales treasures. She found a wall plaque for her guest bedroom and I left empty-handed. All I found was some art, but I didn’t like it enough to actually buy it. She dropped me off at home then, and Nettl and I went to get our passports renewed. Of course, that never goes as planned.
I spent the entire evening on the patio listening to the fountain and music, and putting up little gold lights. I even played my guitar a little, but it hurt my hand, so I gave up. With the threat of below 50° weather over, I moved many of my house plants outdoors. It’s wonderful out there! Today it was in the 90’s, and I didn’t feel well. I think I mentioned that I tore the Thenar muscle in my left hand. Thenar… The NAR. LOL! Anyway, I strained it again last night when moving some boxes in the garage, and today I was in a lot of pain, so I just lay around watching telly. Sometimes there’s nothing better than HGTV and the Food Network.
I forgot to say that on Sunday, while Joel swept and vacuumed the storm cellar, I pulled up all the sod that was against one section of the back fence, made a flower bed, and planted Delphinium, Hollyhocks, Salvia and Sweet Peas. The Morning Glories I planted last week (which I sprouted indoors last month), have already grown about a foot up the strings I gave them. Our tomatoes are doing well, as well as all my kitchen herbs, which are now strong enough to live outside (Basil, Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Chives & Rosemary). The only problem I’ve had is that none of the Lavender seeds did anything. Must have been a bad batch. It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow, so if I feel up to it, I really need to weed the flower beds in the front and side yards. Of course, it’s not easy with just one hand, but I love working outdoors.
Growing up as a natural redhead isn’t easy. At least it wasn’t back in the Stone Age when I was a kid. Called every name in the book—and for most of us, looking pretty nerdy—I grew up being painfully shy. Growing up in southern California during the Beach Boys era didn’t help either. I didn’t hang out at the beach, didn’t tan at all, and certainly didn’t fit the stereotype of a Californian. It was a blessing in disguise, however...
- She is extremely talented.
- She has class, style and elegance. Rare qualities these days.
- She has a musical laugh.
- She is compassionate.
- She always sides with the underdog.
- She has a sexy mouth.
- She can be blunt.
- She is very intelligent.
- She has great tenacity.
- She makes me laugh.
- She understands me, and that’s not always easy.
- She loves me anyway.
- She has a singing voice like chocolate velvet.
- She claps her hands when she laughs.
- She gets more beautiful with age.
- She is a natural blond.
- She is strong.
- She is vulnerable and can be naïve.
- She has charisma.
- She looks like a child when she sleeps.
- She is a hard worker.
- She detests any kind of bigotry.
- She is pure sunshine when she’s happy.
- She is a deep, dark river when she’s not.
- She is a fabulous actor.
- She is an amazing opera singer.
- She is a ham.
- She is shy.
- She is a pirate.
- She is determined.
- Her presence in my life makes me a better person.
- She saved me from certain madness.
- She is nurturing.
- She is generous.
- She looks striking in black.
- She is sexy.
- Seen at certain angles, she looks like Marilyn Monroe.
- She is kind to me.
- She is deeply spiritual.
- She is an avid historian.
- She always wanted to be a blues mama.
- She doesn’t have the hard edge that takes.
- She is a wonderful mother.
- She is a terrific friend.
- She likes to talk about herself.
- She likes to listen to others talk about themselves.
- She is the walking embodiment of my perfect mate.
- She believes we have spent many lives together.
- She wants to spend all the rest with me as well.
- She will.
A few weeks later, on the first day of school as I stood outside Russian class waiting for the teacher to open the door, Deni rushed up to me, all smiles and exuberance, asking if I remembered her. I did, and as we talked we discovered we’d both signed up to study Russian. What are the chances? But more similarities would reveal themselves. We were both newly transplanted from smaller towns in California, and we knew no one. Our family background was similar and the houses we lived in were the same floor plan. In fact, we lived in the same neighborhood, only a block away from each other. We are both Libras, I a September Libra and she an October Libra. She had the Lennon edge I wanted, and I had the Donovan gentleness. We were inseparable. As a believer in reincarnation, it’s easy for me to see that we’d somewhere planned to meet in this fashion. As far as I’m concerned it was meant to be. End of story.
To tell the truth, I didn’t really want to make friends with anyone. I was very happy to be out of the Santa Ynez Valley (yeah, I grew up where Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is now located), even if it meant I was alone in a high school that was literally ten times larger than the one I was used to. I was ready to enjoy my senior year as a solitary, mysterious folksinger/songwriter, free of the the complications of friendship, so when this tall, lanky, charismatic, intensely brilliant blond “accosted” me outside of Russian class, talking my ear off, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue any kind of relationship with her. The next thing I knew, Deni was coming to my door in bell bottom dungarees and poncho and beads, guitar in hand. It didn’t take her long to win me over. She knew songs by Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and better, she compared my personality to Arlo Guthrie’s. Flattery will get you everywhere.
How many evenings did we sit in our bedrooms together, posters on the walls, incense burning, sipping Constant Comment tea and playing songs both together and for each other. I was writing a lot of songs at that time and Deni believed in me. She was even with me when I bought my first 12-string guitar.
When she went to Moorpark College after graduation I tagged along in my suede fringe and paisley and we marched in the national Vietnam Moratorium together. I brought my guitar and we sang many choruses of “I Shall Be Released” and “Come Together". Not long after that I hitch-hiked to Haight-Ashbury, and it was Deni who dropped me off at the 101 freeway entrance. As I got out of her navy blue VW bug she asked me, “Are you sure you want to do this?” God! How many times have I wondered how my life would have turned out had I said, “No, let’s go back to your house for a cuppa.” That was a major turning point in my young life and I can’t say I made the correct decision, but what the hell? What’s done is done.
Since then we have been through a whole lot of life both as friends and individuals, and we each have surmounted some of life’s cruelest attacks, but man, we’re still here! Ours is one of those friendships that no matter how many years there are between our visits, we always pick up right where we left off. On Monday she called me and we were on the phone for over three hours — no mean feat considering my intense loathing for the telephone. Hopefully, we’ll be getting together soon. I hope we’ll each have our guitars. I want to jam!
The only problem between us might be the arguing, as well as that unibrow of hers. I’d have to get her really drunk, then shave it after she was good and passed out. Something tells me she’d be throwing pottery at me in the morning. As far as the other two ladies are concerned, Ms. Borgia sounded way too dangerous and Mata Hari turned me down flat. I guess the unibrow wins.
“Expect lots of drinking, smoking, and arguing. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you can hold your liquor and hold forth with strong opinions about art. There are some areas that interest Ms. Kahlo more than others, so you might want to brush up on your knowledge of socialism, indigenous Mexican cultures, and the various schools of 20th century painting before meeting up with her.”
Five-plus years ago I used to portray Mozart on a website I designed to provide an educational service for students. It got very popular and ran for about three years. My idea was that young people could learn about Mozart, not only via the material I provided (bio, pictures, all that), but also by conversing with him through email and a personal message board. It was very rewarding and I received tons of letters from students all over the world, asking Mozart sometimes funny, sometimes difficult questions. Some of the writers were young prodigies who simply needed a little emotional support from the ultimate child prodigy. Naturally, I kept my true identity hidden, not because I had anything to hide, but for the sake of those young people’s fantasy of actually communicating with the composer. Of course, they knew it wasn’t Mozart; it was a Santa Claus kind of thing. Everyone had a lot of fun.
Not long after I set up the message board it was visited by a group of women who at first pretended they didn’t know each other. One of them (I’ll refer to her as Sister Agnes of God) was the author of a new book on Mozart’s wife and she wasted no time in using my forum to promote herself. I didn’t have a problem with that, and we began what I thought was a growing online acquaintance. We even wrote to each other privately and she sent me a copy of her book in the mail.
It was about that time that one of the other women (one who pretended with her to be strangers meeting for the first time on my board when they’d actually known each other for a while) asked if she could read my manuscript, and I said sure. (I’ll refer to her as Sister Innocenza.) We’d been writing to each other for a while and were pretty good online friends. Remember that all this time I kept my true identity a secret, but I did use a male pen name with the adults with whom I’d developed a correspondence and who wanted to know who was behind the Mozart mask. I wasn’t ready to let them completely into my private life. Most people on the Web don’t. I was also trying to get my book published; my decision to use a male nom de plume was because in the Mozart world there is a great deal of misogynistic snobbery, and how could I possibly write Mozart’s memoirs? What could I know about Mozart as a man?
It turned out that this little clique had a different idea about the Mozart marriage than I did. So what? I didn’t care, but they obviously did. A lot. When Sister Innocenza read my book, she took it so personally that she told Sister Agnes of God about it, who in turn sent her copy back to me unopened and unread. I didn’t understand. These women then did everything in their power to discredit me, not only by bad-mouthing me privately to some of the young people who frequented my forum, but in other Mozart forums as well. And why? Because my opinion of Constanze Mozart was different than theirs.
Privately, I began to call this hen house “The Sisters of St. Constanze” because their vehemence about such a small matter bordered on fanaticism, and their devotion to Frau Mozart was worthy of a cult. Some of the things that were said about, and to, me were downright malicious. In an email to a mutual “friend” Sister Agnes of God called me, a “monster” and a “perverter of innocent youth.” WHAT? Why? Because of the conclusions I came to after years of research? It’s not like I wrote that Mozart and his wife ran a brothel, or an opium den, or were pedophiles, or into child slavery, or anything like that. All I wrote was that, as a man of his times, Mozart enjoyed a few extra-martial romps. For crap sake, his own wife said so in interviews after his death. Besides that, what’s it to these people? The man’s been dead for over two-hundred years.
This little cult very quickly ran the educators and their students off of my site. Some of the students were befriended by these women so that they could turn them against me by filling their ears with all kinds of nasty lies. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It broke my heart, to be truthful, and I closed the site down. And who really paid the price? Those kids who were having a good time.
The Scheisse really hit the fan, however, when I decided to drop the male pen name and pursue the publishing of my book using my own name. Now I really was a perv in their estimation. “Oh my god! Steph and Lynette are… are…” The Sisters of St. Constanze never forgave me for that. I mean, what does it mean when you find out you’ve had a crush on someone of the same gender and you couldn’t tell? Especially if you’re a conservative Christian, which they both are. It means I was a bloody good actor and that my Mozart was flawless, thank you!
Fast-forward. About a month ago Lynette joined a discussion forum where “The Sisters” dominate the members with the same old crap. If anyone disagrees with them about St. Constanze, they lash out with nostrils flaring and spittle flying. I don’t go there. I never want to see those crazy women ever again. They brought me too many nightmares that recalled the movie, “Misery.” I’d actually forgotten about them and figured they’d tired themselves out, but I was wrong. Now, it seems, they see me hiding behind every poster who disagrees with them. I’m being accused of posting under assumed names right and left. I mean, who the hell am I? Get over me! When Nettl told me about this, adding that Sister Agnes of God is throwing out passive-aggressive remarks like, “Who are you now, Stephan, or Steph, or Mozart…” So, what’s your point, sister? Do you think you know something about me no one else does and that you have some kind of power over me by holding my identity over my head?
This catty shit pisses me off. Who gives a rat’s ass about the Mozart marriage? I went into the forum tonight and read the posts for myself, then I wrote a simple clarification for the members, stating that I never post there and never will, especially hiding under an assumed user name.
Makes me kind of worry about what they might do once the Rhombus film is out, though. That film’s going to surprise a lot of people who think they know me, and some of those who do.
“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind
and won’t change the subject.”
“There is no place in a fanatic’s head
where reason can enter.”