Sunday, April 25, 2010

Evening Out: Dinner and a Show

After our awful week, we wanted to get out and the Center for the Arts in Homer, NY, which I think I've mentioned before, was presenting Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. I got tickets online and we drove up I-81 through the picturesque farming country of upstate New York to the historic little town of Homer. People who love huge old houses, and 19th and early 20th century architecture should make it a point to go there. Cortland too. Most of the houses are kept up to show off that style beautifully.

We stopped in Cortland for dinner at an old restaurant we like. It's called Community Restaurant and you can tell it's been there a long time: creaking floors, bustling waitresses who have been there forever, and a mixed crowd of locals, many from SUNY-Cortland. The food is excellent. I had grilled salmon with homemade pesto and Dave had broiled scallops, both done just right.

I knew Dan Hicks was about my age and had been in the business for decades but had never heard him that I could recall. Well, he's some experience! Sure enough, he's a year younger than me, has a laconic way about him (the reviewer in Albany called him a "ham on wry kind of guy," and his current band is terrific. He also has two young women he calls the Lickettes who do percussion instruments to complete the group since there is no drummer, just violin, guitars, and bass. Dan is also a very funny guy but he never cracks a smile.

He writes and plays and sings a variety of music, some a little strange, and the lyrics gave the audience hysterics. I wasn't at all surprised to learn he started out in San Francisco in the 60s. In fact, one of the songs they did was about a guy who is stoned; we loved it. Not that we've ever experienced that state, you understand. :)

If you'd like a different kind of concert and Dan Hicks is performing in your area, he's worth listening to.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It Was a Very "Interesting" Week

I had though this week was going to be quiet, just one appointment for me and one for Dave, and a forecast for sunny warm days. Just shows how wrong you can be.

Tuesday morning Dave bent over to pick something up and his nose began to gush blood. He's on Coumadin and his protime was up, so the nosebleed refused to stop. Off to the ER we went early in the morning and we stayed there all day long. They finally had to pack his nose, and believe me, if you have never had that done - don't!

Then they decided to keep him overnight just in case since we live 25 miles from the hospital. The next morning I arrived early expecting to take him home. Ha! I should know hospitals better than that by now. We finally left there at 5:30 p.m. :( Meanwhile we spent the whole day in a tiny room meant for one patient, along with the other patient they had squeezed in and his wife. She and I spent the day climbing over furniture and trying to keep out of the way - that is until late afternoon when the staff realized that there was about to be an uprising in that room. She and I were pacing the floor getting angrier and angrier.

I decided to get the bulk of the mowing done Thursday and Friday while it was dry because it is supposed to rain from tonight through Tuesday morning. I was out all afternoon both days while the breeze blew and my COPD warned me I would pay for it.

Friday morning we went to the ENT to have the packing removed. Both of us were nervous; we just knew it would start bleeding again. But the news was great. No more bleeding and Dave feels fine. The relief washed over us and left us limp and exhausted. The sun is shining today but we're going out tonight and at mid-morning I haven't even dressed yet so I won't be accomplishing much today.

This coming week is supposed to be quiet. We're dropping off the truck to have the brakes fixed, I'm having a haircut, and I have to go to the dentist to have a minor washout fixed. Forecast after Tuesday warm and sunny. Oh please, let it be the quiet week we expect! Please!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review of a Memoir

This memoir, One More Theory About Happiness by Paul Guest, was one that I really wanted to read and yet dreaded reading. I knew he was wheelchair bound; the memoir might be difficult or it could be incredibly upbeat. Actually it is down to earth, factual, neither terribly sad nor too optimistic. Guest wrote his story as it has happened so far without mincing words or wanting pity.

He was a bright 12 year old in a gifted class when a ride on someone else's bicycle turned into a life changing event. He discovered as the bike picked up speed going downhill that it had no brakes. He hit a drainage ditch and was thrown across the road where he landed awkwardly. As he lay there aware that something awful had just happened, a couple men from the neighborhood insisted on picking him up. When his head flopped to the side, they realized that had been a big mistake. Guest will never know if that mistake did more damage, but he had known before they did it that he couldn't feel anything below his neck.

Since that day, Guest has been a quadriplegic, and will remain so. He writes of all the degrading humilitations he has to endure since he can't do anything for himself, and he describes those things almost clinically. After all, what else can he do? This is fact, it is his reality. He writes of his discomfort when people gush over him, of the time a man robbed him as he sat helplessly in his wheelchair in an elevator, of embarrassments, and of his longing for normal love and marriage with a girl.

He writes of the sacrifices his parents have made for him and their acceptance of that need as well as their loving care. And then finally of his discovery that he had talent for writing. He began with poetry and at this point has written five books.

I haven't read his other books, but the tone and style of this memoir are right on. He definitely has talent. Having said that, I feel he has erased almost all emotion from this work for fear that people will pity him. Well, I can't help feeling badly for him, no matter whether he shows emotion or not. He has been dealt a bum hand and I don't know if I would have the strength to face it like he does, but I don't pity him, mainly because he is determined to live as good a life as he can.

There is no everything-works-out happy ending for Paul Guest, but he is engaged and madly in love. He still lives with pain and the difficulty of living everyday life, but he has found love. I'm glad I read his book.

I received this book from Ecco, a HarperCollins imprint, through GoodReads.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April is Parkinson's Awareness Month

If you follow my blog, you know my husband Dave has Parkinson's. He's had it for more than five years now and does fairly well because he refuses to just sit down and wait for it to get worse. Since there is no cure, though, the symptoms do get gradually more disabling as time goes by.

This disease has greatly changed not only Dave's life but mine as well. We have stopped doing many things we used to enjoy because either he can't manage it or I can't because of my COPD. I write checks, etc. for him now because his writing has become illegible. I help him with a few other things he can't manage well too. If I thought about this very long, it would really get to me, so I try not to think about how things used to be.

When we went to a Parkinson's seminar last fall, I was amazed at how upbeat many of the PD people were despite having more disability than Dave. I guess for some it's a concious choice to get the most they can out of life because otherwise you waste what's left of your life in misery, and of course make those who love you miserable. I think only about 2% of PD people have dementia as part of the disease, although most have memory problems.

If you have the resources to donate to an excellent cause, I would hope you would remember The Parkinson's Foundation or The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Both are accomplishing much in the way of treatment. There is no cure now, but maybe someday . . . You might also take part in a walk for Parkinson's taking place in your city this month. What better excuse to take a nice spring walk? Those of us who have a loved one with this disease would be very grateful.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BORDERLINE by Nevada Barr

Borderline (An Anna Pigeon Novel)I just spent the weekend with Nevada Barr through her book Borderline. I've been a fan of her Anna Pigeon series for years. Anna, a National Park Service ranger, appeals to me because she's brave, gutsy, loves the outdoors, is curious, and when the occasion calls for it she's decisive in the face of danger. Along the way through the series she has changed quite a bit as she's gotten older, but the biggest change happened when she married Paul, a Mississippi sheriff who is also a minister. He seems to be perfect for her, and she has learned to rely on him somewhat instead of only depending upon herself.

That love and trust has never been so evident as in Borderline. Anna had been forced to kill a man in her last posting. No question it was self-defense and warranted, but she is sent to a shrink and ends up having a breakdown. Sent home to recover, she finally feels better and she and Paul go on a rafting trip down the Rio Grande through Big Bend National Park.

There are four teenagers along plus a young woman who is their guide. Anna still struggles to rid herself of the effects of her breakdown but the trip seems to be helping. Then they see a cow named Easter halfway up a cliff. Easter has been there barely surviving for quite a while and will surely die. They decide to rescue her and that's when the trip turns into a tragic adventure.

Many characters in this story are troubled, others genuinely wonderful human beings and as usual Barr fleshes them out and brings them to life. Anna learns things about herself that she never expected and in the process she heals. I think this is possibly the best Nevada Barr ever. I certainly recommend it.

Borderline is available from I am an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

HARDBALL by Sara Paretsky

I think I mentioned that friends brought me a couple boxes of books, and then they brought a third box. With friends like that I'm a lucky lady. I'm reading an 800+ page American history of the first half of the 19th century at the moment, so occasionally I take a break from it to read something like a mystery. I had just the thing in mind this time, a new-to-me Sara Paretsky novel in the V. I. Warshawski series was in one of those boxes.

I love Paretsky's books, this series in particular. V. I. is a Chicago private eye, born in Back of the Yards (the neighborhood by the stockyards) and brought up on the south side near the old White Sox stadium. Since I dearly love Chicago and know my way around enough to picture some of the scenes, I feel right at home. She includes my Chicago Cubs as well as the Sox, the lake, the parks, Univ. of Chicago, everything I can easily visualize.

V. I. Warshawski introduced me to female private eyes back when I first started reading mystery novels. I've mentioned previously that I had a book review column in the suburbs of Chicago at the time and I was always on the lookout for a local connection. When I read my first Warshawski book, I was hooked. She isn't super brilliant or anything else super; she seems like a real human being. Her father was a cop, a good cop that everyone admired, and the case in HARDBALL is a difficult one for her because it involves her father and something dirty he may have been privy to.

Her support comes from an elderly neighbor, her two dogs which they pretty much share, a reporter she respects, and a woman who is a doctor and loves her like a daughter. All of those characters, even the dogs, ring true.

The case involves Chicago politics (always a somewhat iffy situation), a campaign for office (ditto), baseball, activist nuns, a gang whose leader she visits in Stateville (hard core prison in Joliet whose warden decades ago was a distant relative of mine), the 1966 visit to Chicago by Martin Luther King - obviously it's very complicated. I have spent the past day and a half trying without success to put the book down and do something constructive.

This is a 446 page book but it really had me enthralled. Some years ago a movie, or TV movie - can't remember which - was made of a V.I. mystery and I thought it was awful. If that's your only memory of her, please ignore it and try one of the books. I sound like a cereal commercial, "Try it, you'll like it," but really if you like human characters and a P.I. who actually gets frightened when she's in danger, this is for you.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy to be a Nobody

I've always been thankful that neither my parents nor I have ever been famous, not even for 15 minutes, but never more so than now. What brings this up is the news that someone has been sending death threats to Dan Patrick which are aimed at Erin Andrews.

Good grief, hasn't this poor woman been through enough in the past year? First someone alters the peephole in her hotel room door so he can take nude pictures of her, finally he is arrested, and then the trial. For a while there, she thought she might have to stop sportscasting. Now death threats which of course Patrick turned over to the police. She is enduring 24 hour FBI security at this point. I did hear the FBI may have identified the man who did this but meanwhile . . .

All Andrews has done is be born beautiful and bright, and developed into an excellent sports reporter. Since when is that a crime? Since when is that a reason to single her out for such frightening events? I really feel badly for her. I enjoy watching her on television and certainly hope these two crimes against her don't force her to quit her job.

I can name many other reasons I'm thankful to be a nobody: Tiger and Elin Woods, Sandra Bullock and Jessie James, Brangelina, and all the way back to Ingrid Bergman, among countless others. I suppose most of them went into sports or entertainment thinking they could retain some semblance of a private life. Wrong! The media hounds them 24/7. I'm certainly not going to watch Tiger's press conference this afternoon when the media will probably concentrate on his personal life rather than his golf, but I'm just as sure that I'll see it ad nauseum on the news for the next week. What he did was wrong and he has plenty of reason to be ashamed of himself, but it is none of our darned business.

Dave and I are anonymous. We can live our life free of media harrassment. We can travel or dine out without people staring at us (unless they stare because of Dave's tremor). I can write this blog and post on my facebook page without worrying that something will appear on the cover of one of the gossip rags at the grocery store. Life is good.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tea Party, Coffee Party

I read a lot of history (it was my major in college) and I've followed politics closely since I was a kid (back in the middle ages). As a result, I know Washington, D.C. is not for the timid and politics is one of the rougher sports. Politicians do well to assume an armadillo hide. However, this seems to me a unique time in U.S. politics, when Republicans are proud to walk in "lockstep" to defeat any administration proposals, and Democrats can't seem to get their act together.

Many people believe this has come about because our president is mixed race but I don't agree. I'm not naive, of course, about the large number of bigots in this country who are against his every move simply because he's black and because he is the product of an interracial marriage.

Not to pick on former President Bush long after he's left office, but I believe this harsh division between parties began during his administration and I blame that partly on his attitude that you were either with him or agin' him. I fondly remember voting for President Clinton because he was a man who could compromise and bring people together. Naturally, he was praised for that ability as a candidate, then condemned for it as president. Go figure.

Now we have the phenomenon of tea parties versus coffee parties. I have very reasonable friends who participated in a tea party demonstration when those small demonstrations began, but since then the wackos seem to have taken over the movement. I read recently that at one tea party not one person believed President Obama was born in the U.S.A., all believed he was a socialist/marxist, and most believed he was a racist who hated white people. Unbelievable!

More encouraging to me are the coffee party gatherings where everyone is encouraged to discuss issues calmly and reasonably. They aren't strictly one-party parties, and everyone hopefully learns something. Best of all, they are talking, not shouting. They are learning, not denying knowledge. They aren't there out of hate, but out of interest.

When I hear Sarah Palin talking about reloading, and I see my own respected congressman is in the crosshairs on her map, I am appalled at the increasing violent references and attitudes in this country. When I hear about some of the strange misinformation being bandied about, I am greatly worried about the dumbing down of this country. We all need to just calm down and talk things out. Otherwise I fear for what will happen.