YEARNING FOR CAMELOT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love Justin Trudeau. I wish he was my President. I’m envious of Canadians because he is theirs. Why can’t we have an intelligent, reasonable, knowledgeable, worldly, likeable, competent person as our President again too? I liked being proud of our President, as I was for the eight years before Trump was elected.

I was eleven years old when John F. Kennedy was elected President and I was fourteen years old when he was killed. I vividly remember those idyllic years. It was then that I formed my idea of what a president is supposed to be. I remember most of the country being proud of our President.

He helped cement our position as leader of the free world. He gave inspiring speeches and I remember trusting him and believing what he said. He motivated us and made us feel that culturally and morally, as well as politically and economically, we were the envy of the rest of the world.

I’m not making a judgment about Kennedy’s policies or legislative accomplishments during his short-term in office. I’m just talking about how America saw itself and how the rest of the world saw us. I’m talking about how one young girl felt about her country and her President. The Kennedy family as a whole projected the image of wealth and prominence, political activism, philanthropy, and patronage of the arts. Something else we could collectively be proud of.

The Kennedy Clan

JFK epitomized the belief that America was morally righteous, strong and determined and that we could accomplish anything we put our minds to. Even going to the moon. He made us want to be the best we could be. We had ideals and by God we could live up to them all! I thought that that was what Presidents were supposed to do. Jackie added to the mystique. She was beautiful, fashionable, polished, and refined. She promoted the arts inside and outside of the White House.

Americans were proud of their the Kennedys were cultured and educated. We all embraced the ‘elitism’ of the gifted, the knowledgeable and the accomplished. As a country, we celebrated all forms of artistic expression.

I don’t know much about Justin Trudeau. I do know he is caring, articulate, shares my ‘liberal’ values, handles himself well in social and political situations and speaks clearly and truthfully. He supports programs that will improve the lives of his people, not just the wealthy, the corporations or one of his country’s political parties.

Canadians love their President. They are so lucky! In less than 100 days, I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to admire or even trust the person in the White House. In less than 100 days I’ve forgotten what it feels like not to be terrified or embarrassed by everything our President says or does. I don’t think I can survive another 100 days in this admiration  and trust vacuum!

Maybe I should start reading everything I can about Justin Trudeau. That way I can sustain the belief that good and smart leaders can happen to good people. Maybe if I spend the rest of Trump’s term immersed in Canadian politics, I’ll keep my sanity and emerge in time for the next election, refreshed and invigorated. Convinced that people like Justin Trudeau might even get elected President again here. Someday.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Since November 8, I’ve been fantasizing about the ways in which Trump could be removed from office. Resignation, Impeachment. 25th Amendment. Russian collusion. Emoluments Clause. Money laundering. Treason. Let me count the ways!

I really want Trump brought down in a humiliating ball of Karmic fire! But that’s as far as my fantasy goes.

I haven’t thought through what that would actually mean for America. So, let’s assume for the moment, Pence does not go down with Trump. We’re left with President Pence, for two or three years. How does that scenario look? Is it better or worse than the same time period under Trump? I believe Pence might be smarter and more effective pushing through his appalling far right agenda. He could do more actual legislative damage — domestically at least. That’s the negative. Remember — much of this damage is getting done, however inefficiently, under Trump too, so that would not be much of a change.

On the upside, Pence is sane. He has some fundamental understanding of government functioning, particularly foreign policy.

As a sane person, he would not be as volatile, erratic, vengeful, mindbogglingly ignorant or pathologically self-absorbed. There would be some level of competence and stability in government. That by itself would be a good thing. It might bring back some normalcy to our foreign relationships. It could help us regain our lost stature in the world. We would not be as feared — or mocked — as we are now, which would be a big plus. We might also shore up our bonds with allies and be better able to combat common enemies. We might at least have a better chance of stopping the nuclear arms production going on in dangerous parts of the world. I would sleep better at night not having to worry about setting off World War III.

Another good thing about Pence as President, is unlikely to be elected in 2020. I can’t imagine he would generate the kind of adulation Trump did. And he would get little support outside the Republican Party. Which is huge! If we can end this nightmare in four years, we can spend the next four undoing the damage done to our country. Then, move on.

I might miss the excitement of reading about some new tweet, gaffe, or scandal each day in the news, but in the end, I think our country and the world would be better off with less craziness at the top. Predictability is healthier for everyone when it comes to national and international relations.

So I can continue to dream about Trump and his cronies disappearing into the giant sinkhole they have created. I wouldn’t be happy with Pence in the White House, but I think the entire world would heave a giant, collective sigh of relief.

A FACE-TIME FUNERAL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On February 2, 2017, I wrote a blog about my husband, Tom’s, Aunt Helen. We went out to Rochester, Minnesota to celebrate her 100th birthday with her incredible and devoted extended family. Aunt Helen luxuriated in three generations of love and support from her two daughters and son-in-law, her four grandchildren and in-laws and her seven great-grandchildren.

Everyone loved Aunt Helen. Feisty and full of life at every age. A Red Hat party girl to the end. But after the big 100th Birthday Bash, she seemed to lose steam. One of her grandchildren many years ago told her that she had to live to 100. She made that her goal in life and achieved it. But having achieved that landmark goal, she stopped eating, lost contact and started to deteriorate. On April 12, she died.

Our Favorite Aunt

Of course Tom and I planned to go to the funeral. We knew in January that the next time we saw the Minnesota gang would be on this sad occasion. We bought airline tickets that got us in the night before the Saturday 11 AM funeral service.

Thursday night I woke up with a sore throat. By Friday, the day we were scheduled to leave, I was coughing non-stop, despite generous doses of cough medicines. I knew I couldn’t make the trip. So I drove Tom to the nearest airport and went home and got into bed.

A short time later, the phone rang. It was Tom. They were on the plane but there had been a delay. Some baggage apparently dented the outside of the plane and they had to wait for approval to take off. He was worried that the delay would cause him to miss his connecting flight in Chicago.

A half hour later the phone rang again. The flight had been canceled! Tom was now on a long line of irate passengers, all waiting to be rebooked on another flight to their destinations. Okay. Bad situation but probably not fatal.

The next phone call, at around 6:00 PM, had the really bad news. There was no other flight, direct or connecting, that could get tom to the funeral in time for the service the next morning at 11 AM. Not on any airline, from any airport in the tri-state area. Now neither of us was going to be with the family to officially say good-bye to Aunt Helen! Tom was dejected.

I picked him up at the airport and we drove home. A few hours later, the phone rang. It was one of Aunt Helen’s daughters, Tom’s cousin Barb. She had a brilliant idea. Barb’s daughter, Lisa, a pastor, had recently been able to watch her son’s basketball game in Minnesota, while she was on a mission in Africa, by using Face-time! We could watch the funeral by Face-time! The glories of modern technology! What a great idea!

So Tom in Connecticut and the pastor in Rochester coördinated their computers. Tom hooked his iPad up to the television in the bedroom so I could watch from my sick-bed. It was awesome! We saw the family and heard the beautiful eulogy that two of the granddaughters, Lisa and her sister Jennifer, presented together.

To top it off, they quoted my February blog about Aunt Helen in the eulogy! I was so touched! I had referred to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. After watching Aunt Helen’s family in action, I had realized that it also took a village to get someone to the age of 100. They agreed.

Another grandchild sang a hymn in the magnificent voice we had heard about but never heard. It was wonderful to be able to be part of the service, long distance. Later in the day, Lisa texted photos of the family out celebrating Helen with a beer. Her favorite drink.

I’m not very tech savvy. But I’m in awe of what can be done today to connect people through their personal devices. Maybe it’s the strength of this particular family that makes connecting so much easier. It is fantastic to be a part of this warm, welcoming and wonderful family, through sickness and in health, in person and by Face-Time.

MY HARD TO DESCRIBE HOBBY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m frustrated. I have a hobby that people don’t understand. I try to explain it to them in different ways until I see the glimmer of recognition in their eyes.

I’m part of an audio theater company. We call ourselves “Voicescapes Audio Theater”. We write and produce short audio plays, both comedy and drama. We post them online and also perform 60-90 minute live shows, whenever we can.

Audio theater is theater that is primarily, audio. Like old time radio dramas, but updated.  We try not to use the phrase ‘radio drama’ because it conjures images of old-fashioned melodrama, kitsch, overacting, and schmaltz. We write modern, sophisticated material attuned to today’s sensibilities and styles. Nothing like the old days.

For generations, radio was a primary form of entertainment around the world. Radio had all the shows TV now does – dramas, mysteries, serial or standalone, sit-coms and other kinds of comedy. Talk shows, game shows, news, documentaries, and of course, music.

In the ‘50’s, television became the entertainment of choice. But in England, radio, in all its original forms, retained its place in the lives of Brits along with television. England continues to have a thriving radio culture. It’s professional, well-financed and popular. The quality is on par with what is available on TV and in movies.

In America, television completely eclipsed radio, and radio almost died out as an art form. On a professional level, radio continues to play music. There are many talk shows and of course, news, but not much else. The other forms of original ‘radio drama’ have been pretty much relegated to the amateur world. The quality is generally not on the same level as its professional, paid counterparts on TV. It also has a fraction of the audience it had in it’s heyday.

So we’re left searching for the right analogy to get across to people what we do. We use the phrase ‘enhanced play reading’. The problem is, “play reading” sounds dry and not ready for prime time. Our pieces are polished productions, complete with sound effects, live and recorded, as well as music. We provide a fully-realized theatrical experience for your ears.

People love our performances. Not to brag, but we’ve been told our writing is clever, brilliant, and thought-provoking. Our actors are experienced, talented professionals. One member of our company, Barbara Rosenblat, is an Audie-award winning audio book narrator, with over 500 audio books to her credit. She has appeared on Broadway and off-Broadway, as well as on television, including on the Netflix series, ‘Orange Is The New Black’. Another member of our company, Robin Miles, has also won Audies and other awards for her audio book narration.

Our one honest-to-God review said that our performance was “A night to remember. Excellent writing and performances. A unique type of humor that audiences will carry with them when they leave.” (Cynthia Allen, Outer Critics Circle and Modern Theater Online).

So, we’re excited about what we do. Everyone who sees or hears us is excited about our product. Once you experience our unique form of entertainment, you ‘get it’ and you’re hooked. The problem is explaining what we do to get people interested in checking us out online or in person.

You can help by going to our website, listening to some or our pieces and spreading the word to your friends. I know that geographically, you can’t all come to our live shows in New York and Connecticut. But we have a whole other life online. We post all our material so anyone and everyone can listen for free.

Here is our website, VOICESCAPES AUDIO THEATER. There is also a link on the sidebar, so you can click any time and see what we do. Enjoy a comedy about driving through the countryside of France with two warring GPS machines. Or a comedy describing the joys of trying to cancel a cable account with customer service. Try one in which a husband and wife argue about whether farts are really funny. There is also a Twilight Zone style drama about the year 2014, when one woman wakes up to a very different and puzzling world. There is even one children’s piece if you have young children or grandchildren.

There should be something for everyone. Please give us a try and let me know what you think!

ARROGANCE AND IGNORANCE: A BAD COMBINATION – ELLIN CURLEY

I am outraged at the amount of both arrogance and ignorance that are oozing out of every pore of the Trump Administration. A crew of individuals with near god-like arrogance are responsible for running the agencies of the U.S. federal government. One of the reasons they think they are qualified to handle their new jobs is they are clueless about what those jobs entail. Either they’re not smart enough to know what they don’t know, or they are so corrupt, they don’t care.

Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, admitted that he didn’t know what the Energy Department did before he agreed to RUN IT! Ben Carson was a brain surgeon and a political candidate before he became the head of the Housing and Urban Development Department. His only connection to housing is that he probably has lived in a house.

Do rich, successful people believe their success in one field automatically translates to every other field? No actual, relevant experience required? Apparently they do.

I don’t. Nor do I believe “business experience” inherently prepares you for government work. Why would it?

Those assigned to head up major government agencies are supposed to be specialists in that agency’s area of expertise. Now, more than ever, we need intelligent, caring, efficient professionals to help us deal with the incredibly complex problems facing our country. Instead, we’ve got science haters. Climate deniers. Ideologues. Industry shills. People holding obvious financial conflicts of interest with the American people … and others who are overtly hostile to their agency’s mission.

Where we need knowledge and authority, we have instead a toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance allowing these appointees to fail. Upwards. The Peter Principle on steroids as each of them has gone way beyond their level of incompetence. We pay the price.

I have neither an antidote nor words of encouragement. I’m so pissed. The arrogance and ignorance of these people is beyond belief. To find them sitting in the highest positions in government, defies the understanding of ordinary mortals.

COUNTRY VERSUS CITY LIFE – ELLIN CURLEY

I lived in an apartment in Manhattan for over 40 years. I’ve lived in the woods in Connecticut now for over 25 years. I think I’m something of an expert on both life styles. It’s a common misconception that getting around is easier in a city than in the country or suburbs. I disagree. Having lived with both transportation options, I’ll take my car and the country any time.

In the city there are often many things that are within walking distance. A small supermarket, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, some restaurants and stores, etc. For those destinations, it couldn’t be more convenient (unless you count having to be outside in inclement weather as more than mildly inconvenient). But you can’t live your entire life within a ten block radius of your apartment or house. You always need to go downtown or outside your residential area. That’s where you get into trouble.

You have to walk to bus stops or subway stops, in all kinds of weather. Then wait for the next bus or train, when it decides to come for you. Delays are inevitable. After you get off the bus or train, you’ll have to walk some more to get to your final destination. Add kids, strollers — and the logistics become mind-boggling. Remember, you have to do it again going back.

You could grab a taxi. On television, snap your fingers and there’s a cab. In real life, you have to find one. And then sit in traffic. There’s always traffic in New York. The taxi may be easier but it can actually be slower. It’s also less predictable and definitely more expensive.

You can never be sure, in a city like New York, how long it will take you to get somewhere. You’re constantly at the mercy of traffic, trains, buses, — all factors outside your control. My ex and I would have endless discussions about the best way to get to the theater or to a downtown restaurant on time. Going anywhere in the city was stressful. I dreaded having to take my kids anywhere. I dreaded going out when it was very hot, very cold, or very wet. Weather is a big thing for me. I was ALWAYS rushing and always worried I’d be late.

In the country or suburbs, you get in your car and go! Mine is in my garage so I don’t even have to go outside. You always know how long it will take to get where you’re going. If you don’t, you can always look it up on Map Quest. There’s rarely traffic and normally plenty of parking everywhere. You don’t have to battle the elements for more than a few yards. You may technically be farther away from the necessities of life, but from where I live — in the middle of nowhere — I can get to anything I might need or want. Movies, dinner, theater, 15-20 minutes door-to-door. You can’t go anywhere on public transportation in a city in less time than that!

When I drive, I’m in control of my schedule. I’m traveling in style and comfort. I’m in my car, listening to my Broadway Channel on Sirius Radio and singing along at the top of my lungs. I’m looking out the window at trees and grass and maybe a reservoir. The view makes me happy no matter the season. Snow is beautiful if you don’t have to shovel it. There’s nothing like watching the leaves come out on the trees in spring, or seeing them turn red, orange and yellow in the fall. Or watching my dogs running around and playing at any time of year.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Me in my car, singing and watching the beautiful scenery? That’s the winner. No stress, no worries, no environmental issues. I’ll take that scenario over a crowded subway any day. Even if it means I can’t walk to the local market, restaurant, or store. I can walk down my tree-lined road to commune with nature or get some exercise.

I always thought I was a city girl at heart. I grew up as an ethnocentric, arrogant New Yorker. Now, I’ve seen the light – and the trees. Especially the trees!

NO MORE TRUMP BLUES – ELLIN CURLEY

If you follow the news these days, you may not be the happiest of campers. In fact, many informed people are reporting increased levels of anxiety and depression. A sense of impending doom coupled with abject helplessness. Unspecified dread and existential angst.

The usual suggestion for combating these negative feelings, is to avoid the news. Entirely. That doesn’t work for me. Staying informed gives me a small sense of control. Besides, my anxiety would conjure scenarios in Washington far worse than what’s actually happening.

I think a better approach is to find things in your daily life that give you pleasure. Small doses of unmitigated joy can counter a shitload of negativity. Your body relaxes. Your face breaks into a smile. You are flooded with endorphins. Your mind registers happiness and relaxation, even for a short while. For me, those moments recharge me and give me perspective. Not everything in the world is bleak and scary.

There are many things I do to give myself that rush of positive energy. For example, last night my husband and I watched one of our favorite movies – “Galaxy Quest,” with Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver. It’s a humorous take-off on the Star trek TV series. We know it so well, we can recite some of the dialogue along with the actors. That in itself is a hoot! We smiled and laughed all the way through the movie for the 99th time.

Another sure-fire feel good movie for us is “When Harry Met Sally.” Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. I beam from ear to ear when I watch that one, which I do at least once a year. Everyone has movies like that. Find yours and enjoy them to the fullest.

Another reliable happiness fix for me is watching my dogs play. The unbridled joy of two dogs wrestling and chasing each other is truly healing. If you don’t have a dog, go to a dog park or look up ‘dogs playing’ on YouTube. Kittens playing should create the same effect if you’re more of a cat person.

Here’s something everyone can do. I have filled my house, like many people have, with art and decorative objects. I get joy from walking around and looking at my favorite things. Some give me pleasure because they are so beautiful or are special because of the memories they evoke – often when or where I acquired them. Many have an emotional connection because they belonged to, or were a gift from, a loved family member or friend. Others evoke memories of another time in my life, sometimes as far back as childhood.

Take the time to enjoy and appreciate the special artifacts in your life too.

None of these are any kind of permanent solution to the ennui we are feeling, but taking control of your emotions — even for a short — time is empowering. And it does put the goings-on in Washington in perspective.

Presumably our daily lives will not be affected today or tomorrow by whatever the Trump administration or Congress is doing at the moment. There will be more than enough time to panic if we are personally screwed by the government’s actions.

In the meantime, take a few deep breaths and enjoy what you can, when you can, as often as you can.

For Tom’s answer to the same question, see his piece on THIS link!