GET IT IN WRITING

When I was young and naïve, still trying to get established in my chosen profession, I happily accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than it is now.

marilyn office desk computer

You called or wrote a letter. Included your résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.

bouquet home sunlight

I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

Back then, it was over-crowded. Hot in summer, cold in winter. Expensive, particularly for a kid earning a minimal salary at an entry-level position.

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I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. No one had heard of me, or the job. I had nothing in writing. No job. I wasn’t sure I would even be eligible for unemployment. I eventually qualified, but I had learned the most critical life lesson of all.

GET IT IN WRITING.

Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s as good as the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.

SNOW DAYS

Growing up in New York, snow days were a special treat. Of course, it snowed every winter, but snows deep enough to close school weren’t common. Once per winter, maybe.

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I would sit, nose pressed against the picture window, watching the snow pile up and hoping it wouldn’t stop. “Keep snowing, keep snowing,” I’d whisper. I wanted to wake up to a white world. To that hushed, near-silence of a morning following a heavy snow.

Finally, no school! We would put on all our winter clothing — at the same time. Back then, kids didn’t have as much clothing as they do now … and it wasn’t nearly as warm. When we were finally all bundled up, we’d clomp to the garage to get the sleds. Drag them to the hill at the end of the street.

And now, back to our snowstorm, about 14 hours in progress with another 12 to go.

And now, back to our snowstorm, about 14 hours in progress with another 12 to go.

It was quite a hill. Steep. Icy. You could go really fast if you were in the right position. If you got it perfect, you could almost fly. If you hit a rock or a ridge of ice, you might really fly. We didn’t think anything of it, no matter how many times we limped home, dragging our shattered Flexible Flyer behind us.

My feet always froze. They hadn’t invented insulated footwear or Uggs. Our coats were just cloth. Even wearing all the sweaters we owned, we were never entirely warm. I was usually the first kid to give up for the day. My feet would go from cold, to numb, to painful icy lumps. Hands, too. Galoshes leaked and my socks would freeze.

Worse, rubber boots had no tread. It was a thrill going downhill, but going back up would be increasingly difficult as the day wore on. Ice would glaze. Eventually, there was nowhere to walk where you could get any traction, not even along the curb.

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Sometimes I could get my big brother to haul my sled and me up the hill, but pretty quickly, he’d lose interest and go off with the big boys to do big boy stuff, whatever that was.

I was the smallest of the girls. Scrawny and short. I remember going home, and defrosting my feet in cool water. Wow, that hurt. I think I was minutes from actual frostbite. I don’t know how anyone lasted all day, but some kids did.

deck and snowy woods

That was almost 60 years ago. Hard to believe so much time has passed. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. A frozen memory. Especially on a day like this, the big picture window framing the snow as it falls. It’s falling fast and hard and has been for hours. Garry keeps going out to dig a path for the dogs. More than four feet of snow in just over a week.

It’s winter in New England. I live about 250 miles north of where I grew up. Snow days are a regular feature. When we have a particularly hard winter, kids have to go to school extra days at the end of the year to make lost time.

It’s snowing hard. I wonder how many inches this time?

WHAT IS YOUR SONG?

The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall

You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger.  That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist at. What is the soundtrack of your life?

After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. They could be high school dances and proms. They could be college dances and parties. They probably include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, and/or CD collections. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in some cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.

It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from earlier years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends. This is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In the two past years I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson. These stars continue to fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see them.

Of course, I go to see current acts. I have also seen One Republic, Maroon 5, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars and a few others with more current hits. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond.  When I saw The Monkees, minus the then recently departed Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville as the AARP set were reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd.  These songs were not on their soundtrack, but they were ours.

While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest selling song of 1967.

One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does.

The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course I had to also:

Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A rerelease in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound so I have this piece of nostalgia:

THE DAILY POST:  Playlist of the Week

SHARING MY WORLD – WEEK #4

Share Your World – 2015 Week #4

Where did you live at age five? Is it the same place or town you live now?

I lived in a very old house in Queens, New York, when I was five. It was, as it this house, surrounded by oak trees. It had, as does this house (after remodeling) a big picture window in the front. Maybe I have — in some sense — gone home again.

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I lived there until I left for college. I never went back, except to visit. The house in which I now live, reminds me very much of the house in which I grew up, but it is in New England … quite far from my original home. I don’t even know anyone who lives in New York city any more. We have all moved somewhere else.

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you never met. Would you attend this party if you were to go by yourself?

These days, I don’t feel safe going places alone. I’m a bit fragile and I get fearful when I have no one to call for help. So the answer is these day, no. But I would have gone by myself in the past — without a second thought.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

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I grew up in New York city, but the neighborhood was very much like a small town. The city had grown around it, leaving it’s semi rural nature intact.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. I wanted to be a writer when I was studying to be a musician. There was never really a choice for me. I was born to be a writer.

KINDERGARTEN – THAT FIRST DAY

September 1951.

1952 with my brother

1951 with my brother

I am probably the youngest kid in the class. I’m only four, but somehow, here I am. I’m certainly the smallest. Everyone seems so big. I don’t know it yet, but I will always be either the shortest or next to the shortest kid in every class for the next six years. The school looks huge. Monstrous. Many years later, when I come back to visit, it will be tiny, a miniature school. Even the steps are half the height of normal.

But I don’t know about stairs yet because kindergarten is on the ground floor. They don’t want the little kids getting run down by bigger ones.

The windows go all the way to the ceiling, which is very high. To open or close them, Mrs. O’Rourke has to use an enormous hook-on-a-pole. I wonder why they don’t have normal windows like we have at home. Our windows open by turning a crank; anyone, even I, can open them.

The teacher is kind of old. She’s got frizzy grey hair. She talks loud and slow. Does she think I’m stupid? Everyone in my family talks loud, but no one talks slow.

Now it’s nap time. We are supposed to put our blankets on the floor and go to sleep, but I don’t nap. I haven’t taken a nap ever, or at least not that I can remember. And anyway, I don’t have a blanket because my mother didn’t know I was supposed to bring one. I also don’t have a shoe box for my crayons. All the other kids have them. I wish I had one because I feel weird being the only one without a blanket and a shoe box.

Worse yet, I don’t have crayons. I wish I had some. The ones everyone can use are broken and colors no one likes. My mother didn’t know what I was supposed to bring. She’s busy. I just got a new sister who cries all the time and mommy didn’t have time to come to school and find out about all this stuff.

So I sit in a chair and wait, being very quiet, while every one is napping. I don’t think they are really asleep, but everyone goes and lays down on the floor on a blanket and pretends. It give Mrs. O’Rourke time to write things in her book.

It’s a long day. I have almost a mile to walk home. Mommy doesn’t drive and anyway, she doesn’t worry about me. She knows I’ll find my way. It’s only that it’s all uphill. I’m tired. Why do I have to do this stuff?

By the time I know the answer, it won’t matter any more. School has become the ordinary stuff of life and why no longer applies.


First! – Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Note this is a rerun — a double rerun having been first a weekly writing challenge, then a daily prompt. This is my original response to the Weekly Writing Challenge. I don’t see why I can’t rerun the answers if WordPress is going to keep rerunning the questions. Besides, I like this piece. And I love the picture. Little me with the fuzzy hair and my big brother.

WRITTEN IN ELVISH

Just when you think you know everything there is to know about yourself, you get something like this in email:


… I still have your letter of congratulations on my first marriage … written in Elvish.

     d

To be fair, I remember studying Elvish. J.R.R. Tolkien had the most amazing appendices, including alphabets and guides that would let weirdos like me learn Elvish. Or Dwarvish. I quit after Elvish because I had, you know, to work. Stuff like that.

I admit I don’t remember writing that specific note. I remember writing the “Fall of Sauron Day” (in English) service. The first one plus 5 or 6 revisions. We held the annual celebration as near as scheduling allowed to the Vernal Equinox — March 21st or thereabouts. It was like a miniature Seder, but with more wine being drunk a lot faster. Drunk being the operative word.

all that is gold

The entire service lasted just short of an hour. Including about six glasses of wine. I’m sure I have a copy of the service in a huge box of writing from my halcyon days, in the back of the basement, behind the oil tank. If it hasn’t rotted or turned to dust by now.

On a year when “the boys” (our lively groups of crazed engineers) had available time, we had visual and sound effects. We came in costume, or some semblance thereof. When life was too busy to make costumes, we did the best we could with whatever came to hand, dressing in some version of Middle Earth-wear.

Then we celebrated. Drank to excess. Which wasn’t hard since I basically didn’t drink. We laughed, ate mushrooms (the favorite food of Hobbits). Some of us me passed out and/or got sick me again.

Those were crazy busy years. Babies. Work.  Establishing a profession. Partying hearty almost every night, then getting up and doing it again. Those parties could last a week or more. We took breaks for work. I’d come back from the office and my house would be full of the friends with whom I had been partying the day and night and day before. Everyone had gone home briefly to shower and change, but they were back. I cooked a lot. I cleaned continuously. I worked full-time and then some. I raised a baby. Busy.

All of this took place in my twenties. As I rounded the corner to 30, I wanted out. There is such thing as too much fun. Those years formed a cautionary tale of excess.

I was exhausted. I no longer wanted to live in the party house or be the perpetual hostess. I wanted out of that marriage, out of a crazy life which had gone off the rails and out of control. I took my son and moved to Israel. By the time I came back, the party was over. Everyone had moved on.

I lived nine years in Israel, but never properly learned Hebrew. Maybe if I had given Hebrew the same energy I had put into Elvish …

There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m just not sure what it is.

LACRIMOSE ME

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy – We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?


Tears of joy? Yes, there are such things.

Because when all was lost, we had no water and I thought, finally, our bad luck demons had taken the field and we were beaten, I heard the distant bugles of the cavalry. They came — friends from far and wide — from cyberspace and land, they sent us funds so we could repair our well. And keep our home.

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In its own way, our well crisis was more terrifying than having my heart remodeled or losing both breasts to cancer. In those cases, I only had to fend off the Big Guy with the Scythe. I could put myself in the hands of doctors and hope I’d chosen them well and they would take me through the dark tunnel.

But with the well — there was no doctor. No facility to depend on. I had to find a way through when I could see no path, no road, no light. And then, not to put too fine a point on it, there was light. Like the line of Pilgrims in Disney’s Fantasia, they appeared, down from a dark mountain bearing torches. And checks. We survived and I cried. Garry cried. I still cry when I think about it because I never imagined anyone really cared what happened to us.

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I have to admit I’ve cried more sad tears than happy ones. The past 15 years have been one thing after another. I’ve been in and out of hospitals, had more surgery than I can remember, which may be a good thing.

Not remembering, that is. Not the actual surgeries except that they kept me alive so maybe they were good, in their own way. Just not a whole lot of fun.

A period riddled with crises. Financial, medical, personal. I don’t remember the sequence of a particular day, not even yesterday. Or this morning. It’s after two in the afternoon. I’m still answering email and trying to get this post written.

See? I’m tearing up right now?

Don’t worry about me. I cry over reruns of Lassie and keep a box of tissues handy. I seem to have a bottomless well of tears waiting to be shed.