DAD STORIES – ELLIN CURLEY

I have two wonderful stories about my father that I’d like to share with you. One happened before I was born and the other is a fond memory from my adolescence.

DAD AND THE FBI

My dad, Abram Kardiner, was a well-known anthropologist and psychoanalyst from the 1930’s to his death in 1981. He was friends and colleagues with another prominent anthropologist of the 1940’s, Ruth Benedict. Benedict was being considered for a government job so she needed to get FBI security clearance. In the ‘40’s, it was de rigueur to be morally upright (and uptight) as well as anti-communist. The FBI asked to interview my Dad as a character witness for Ruth Benedict.

As it happens, Benedict had borrowed my father’s summer house on occasion and used it to have loud, wild parties. She was a lesbian, so no men were involved. But homosexuality was an automatic deal breaker in those days. My Dad was worried about how to handle the ‘morals’ question that was sure to come up in his FBI interview. He didn’t want to ‘out’ Benedict but he wasn’t happy about lying to the FBI either.

Luckily, the FBI agent framed his question very narrowly. He established that Benedict was not married. Then he asked my father, “Does she go out with a lot of different men? Does she party with single men a lot?”

Honestly and with great relief, my Father answered, “Oh, no! She’s not that kind of girl!” The FBI agent diligently wrote down that answer. He went away happy and Benedict got the job. Dad’s cleverness helped both him and Benedict dodge a bullet that day!

DAD AND HIS TEMPER

As I said, my Dad was a well-known psychoanalyst. But he was also a very anxious man with very little self-control. If he was upset, he yelled. He wasn’t mean or demeaning or hostile. He just ranted at top volume a lot. He had no filter and no off button. This drove me crazy.

One day, when I was about 15, Dad went off into one of his hysterical fits. I think he couldn’t find something and he thought that someone had moved it off of his desk (no one was allowed to touch anything in his office). I just snapped. I started yelling back at him, saying things like, “ How can you be a therapist if you can’t control yourself?! How can you tell other people how to live their lives if you can’t get a grip on your own?!”

He stopped dead in his tracks and thought for a few seconds. Then he uttered this classic line: “My dear. I SELL it. I don’t USE it!”

We both burst out laughing and the incident was totally diffused. I always felt that his comment showed some humility about his personal failings. It was one of the few times in his life that he admitted any of his faults to me. After that day, I was a little more tolerant of his outbursts. I’d like to say that they were less frequents but I’d be lying. I just saw them in a different light.

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn just wrote a blog about National Towel Day. It’s the day fans celebrate the works of the late great Douglas Adams.

I’m not a fan, I’m a zealot. I’ve read all his books. Listened to all the BBC radio series. And watched both movies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”  The first one done in the 80’s with the original BBC radio cast, was actually a TV series. It was done on a budget of … maybe 25 bucks, but it was great.

The Disney movie was okay. Mostly, because Douglas Adams was the producer. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was worth watching just for the opening musical number “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”.

While Hitchhiker is my favorite Adams work, I also loved the Dirk Gently series.

One of the things in the book always stuck with me. Whenever Dirk was lost he would simply follow someone who looked like they knew where they were going. He found that he never got to where he was going but he always ended up where he needed to be.

I used that concept once. I was driving home from work one night and I was on the local road that leads to my house. I came upon a police barricade. The road was closed.

There were no detour signs. I only knew that one road. So, I did what Dirk did. I saw a car in front of me turn off the road. He/she seemed to know where he/she was going. So I followed him/her. For the next 20 minutes to a half hour we wound our way through twisty back roads in the bowels of Southern Connecticut. I had no idea where I was.

Suddenly, the car in front of me turns on to the main road again. Past the barricade. I couldn’t believe it! It actually worked! But here’s where it got weird. The car in front of me turned off the main road and on to the road I live on. OK, I thought. Makes sense. There are a lot of houses on my street. This person was obviously going home too. But then the car turned into my driveway! That’s when I realized it was my daughter. I should have recognized the car, but I didn’t put two and two together.

The really funny part was that my daughter had just spent the last 20 minutes or so completely freaking out because this mysterious black car had been following her, turn for turn and then followed her to her house! True story.

I know Douglas Adams was smiling.

SURVIVING: OBSERVING NATIONAL TOWEL DAY!

Today is Towel Day. A day of joy for the author of my favorite books, a day of mourning for his far too early loss.

If you read the books of Douglas Adams, and in particular, the five-part trilogy beginning with “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” you get it.

Observed annually by fans of Douglas Adams, Towel Day commemorates the work of the author most known for his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This is not the day he was born because while almost no one famous was born on my birthday, Douglas Adams was, indeed, born on March 11, 1952 … five years after me.

Douglas Adams

He died for no observable reason — no doubt called “heart failure” because no matter what else is going on with your body, if your heart stops, that’s a signal that all other activity is going to very shortly stop too.

I loved his books. I still love his books. I still have all of them on my bookshelf and in my audiobook library too. It started as a radio show, then became a series of TV shows, an occasional (unfortunate) attempt at movies, and most recently, the favoritest of my favorites, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” and its brilliant sequel, “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul” were made into a BBC series. As far as I know, it was a disaster. I had been slightly optimistic about it this time because they were using real actors and scripts and even had a budget, so I thought maybe, just maybe, they’d get it right.

They didn’t.

It was very briefly on the air (I forget the channel, it may have been Acorn), then was pulled right back off. So I’m still waiting for someone to do a really good version of any of his books. Where they more or less follow the original story and don’t decide to go and do their own thing.

Why do production companies do that? They buy a best-loved property, then ignore it and produce something else just using the original name. A few of us go to see it, are hideously disappointed, and go home grumpy and dispirited.

But today is a day for joy and celebration. Whip out your favorite towel and show the world how you can conquer it and all the reaches of the universe using only your towel. Don’t stop with merely drying off. There are galaxies to vanquish wrapped in that Turkish baby!

And finally, there is only one last thing to say:

CHOOSING YOUR FAMILY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a saying, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”. I have been lucky enough to be able to actually choose some of my family. I was married to Larry for 25 years. I like to joke that when we got divorced, I got custody of my in-laws.

But let’s go back to the beginning. When I was 24, I first met the family of my fiancée, Larry. Larry’s parents had just separated. So when I was being introduced to the family, so was my father-in-law, Bert’s, new girlfriend, Joy. They married and were together until his death over 40-years later.

At the time, I was in law school in Washington D.C. with Larry but my parents had a summer-house in Easton, CT. Larry and I spent time there when we could. Coincidentally, Joy lived 15 minutes from my house in Easton in an adjoining town. Larry and I moved back to New York City after law school and ended up spending more and more time in Easton, CT.

So, over the years, we spent a lot of time with Bert and Joy, particularly after we had our two children. When I was 40 and my kids were five and ten, we moved full-time to Connecticut. Bert and Joy became an even bigger part of our lives.

To be honest, Larry never got along that well with anyone in his family, particularly his Dad. So when we separated, it was only natural that I maintained my relationship with Bert and Joy. It became a bit more odd when I met Tom and we became a couple. But Bert and Joy just adopted him into the family too.

Around the time of the separation, Bert and Joy moved to Florida. They wanted to spend part of every summer in Connecticut so they could see their old friends and family. Guess who Bert and Joy stayed with for six weeks a year for the next decade or so? Me, and then me and Tom after we got married. Bert and Joy would spend maybe two nights with his daughter and one or two with Larry. The rest of the time it was me and Tom all the way (along with whichever child was home for the summer).

Bert and Joy loved Tom and Tom loved them. People thought it was strange that Tom was okay living with his wife’s ex-husband’s father and step mother. We got along famously and enjoyed our time together. It was sometimes difficult for Tom to explain how he was ‘related’ to Bert, but other than that, things went smoothly.

This was considered peculiar for the rest of the family. Other family members had ‘issues’ with Bert and Joy. They were known in the family as difficult, arrogant, critical, and opinionated. Tom and I just did our own thing and ignored these negative traits that drove their biological family crazy.

When Bert and Joy had to move into assisted living, and after that, a nursing home, I flew to Florida with my sister-in-law to help them move and adjust. (Larry died suddenly in 2005 at the age of 58). I was there for Bert until the end. When Bert did estate planning and gave gifts to his children and grandchildren, I was included in his generosity. He always supported me in every way.

I lost my Dad in 1981 when I was 31 and he was 90. From my thirties into my sixties, Bert was my only ‘Dad’. It was a wonderful, mutually beneficial relationship. In fact, Bert was my ‘Dad’ longer than my real Dad was. So I got to ‘choose’ a surrogate father. My life, as well as Tom’s, was much richer because of that choice.

A PEN THIEF CONFESSES – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I could run for elective office if I so chose. Even in retirement, after more than 40 years as a TV and radio news reporter I’m sufficiently recognizable that I could put my name up for election. I don’t have a lot of skeletons in my closet. Certainly none scandalous enough to draw attention. Maybe, given the way times have changed, I don’t have enough skeletons, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Nonetheless, I felt it was time to come clean about the addiction I have not been able to shed. I steal pens. I am a pen thief.

My reputation precedes me into the offices of public officials, religious leaders, doctors, lawyers, business, and law enforcement. I am welcome with smiles and handshakes — but the pens are locked away.

My pen thievery is the stuff of legend, admired by icons like “Tip” O’Neill, the late Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Tip” and I once swapped anecdotes about the quality of watches and pens on “The Hill”. He actually once double dared me.

Having swiped pens from Scotland Yard, the Vatican, Buckingham Palace, state houses, city halls, and other high-profile venues, I set my sites on the biggest of all: The Oval Office.

I’d already established a rapport with then-President Clinton. He knew and liked me. I had it planned. A one-on-one interview with no one else in the big room. I diverted the President’s attention and reached for one of his elegant pens — only to find him staring at me. Smiling.

“We know all about you, Garry”, President Clinton smiled cheerily.

Turns out the good pens had been stashed and replaced by cheap, discount ones that dried up after a few uses. I later found out some of my best political contacts — on both sides of the aisle in DC — had joined in a bi-partisan move to warn the President about the notorious pen thief from Boston.

Being a legend isn’t as easy as it looks.

KNOTS, PRETZELS, AND THE PRESS – BY TOM CURLEY

It’s been fun since the election watching the right-wing press, mostly lead by Fox News, bend themselves into evermore twisty and convoluted pretzels as they try to explain the latest gaffe/scandal/complete act of idiocy coming out of the White House.

The Dunderhead-In-Chief keeps admitting he does things, like, I don’t know. Like, give up code word “intel” to the Russians. In the Oval Office. Admitting that he fired an FBI Director because he was being investigated by the FBI over his connections to Russia … to the same Russians!  You know, stuff like that.

Hey guys, the CIA just told me some really cool stuff. Wanna hear it?

His defenses all boil down to: “He can do that if he wants to, so there” and “It’s Obama’s fault!”

This is nothing new. If we’ve learned anything in the last four months it’s that no matter how crazy we think things will be, they’ll be even crazier. We also know that the SCROTUS M.O. is to distract today’s scandal with a worse scandal tomorrow.

So, the question becomes, where does he have left to go? What scandal could be worse than today’s? Wait, I got it. He actually shoots somebody on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to prove he wouldn’t lose any of his supporters.

SEAN HANNITY: Breaking news. President Trump just shot a man on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Secret service agents immediately pounced on the man and wrestled him to the ground.

SEAN HANNITY: Here to discuss this breaking story we have Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Kellyanne, let’s start with you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well first off I think it’s very unfair the way the fake news media have been saying the President shot a man on Fifth Avenue.

BERNIE SANDERS: But he did! He shot a guy! On Fifth Avenue! On live TV!

What the hell?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: That’s one way of looking at it. I didn’t see the President shoot a man on Fifth Avenue. I saw the President save a man on Fifth Avenue.

BERNIE SANDERS: Save him?? From what?!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Radical Islāmic Terrorism.

BERNIE SANDERS: WHAT???!!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: And besides, the President was elected in the largest landslide in the history of the world. So, he has the right to shoot anybody he wants.

BERNIE SANDERS: NO HE DOESN’T!!!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he can order drone strikes. He can send troops into war. He can launch missiles. In every case, he’s killing somebody. So why can’t he just take out a gun and shoot a man?

SEAN HANNITY: Hmmm. That makes sense. Executive privilege.

BERNIE SANDERS: NO IT DOESN’T!! Well, actually, it makes a little sense … No! What am I saying??! This is still crazy! He shot a guy to prove that none of his supporters would leave him!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: That’s ridiculous. He was saving a man from Radical Islam. Every White House aide agrees with me.

SEAN HANNITY: This just in: President Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News that he shot the man to prove none of his supporters would leave him.

BERNIE SANDERS: SEE???

SEAN HANNITY: This also just in. A recent CBS/NY Times Poll says that President Trump has not lost any of his supporters. 85 percent said, “The guy had it coming.” The other 15 percent said “The guy probably had it coming.”

And so it would go. Full confession. This idea is not new. Google “George Bush ate a baby” and “George Bush Saves a baby”.

Everything old is new again. Just dumber.

MEMORIAL HALLWAYS

Every night, I fill up my cup, grab my bag o’ medications, pet the puppies, and hike the hallway to the bedroom at the other end of the house.

After arriving, I put the bag where it belongs. Adjust the bed to its TV viewing angle. Turn on the television for Garry. He watches with headphones while I read or listen to an audiobook. I fire up my blue-tooth speaker. I put my medications into a cup which is actually the lid from a medicine bottle. Convenient and keeps little round pills from rolling off the table.

I never remember everything. Typically, I forget to turn off the fans in the living room. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to remember what I should have done but didn’t.

“Ah,” I think. “Fans.” I go back to the living room. Turn off the fans. Pet the dogs. Assure them they are not getting another biscuit no matter how cute they are.

Back down the hall. Brush teeth. Sit on the edge of the bed. Oh, right. Need to refill antihistamine bottle. It’s empty. Back to the kitchen where the big bottle is stored. Fending off the dogs, I amble back to the bedroom. And get the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something else.

Ah, that’s right. I didn’t close the kitchen door. It’s a dutch door and we leave the top open during the day to catch the breeze. Tonight, it’s supposed to rain so I should close it. Up the hall to the kitchen. Close door. Pet dogs. Back to bedroom. Garry shows up, having done whatever it is he does for however long he does it in the bathroom. He settles into watching highlights of the Sox game, followed by a movie or three. I turn on my audiobook.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve got a headache. I’m not sleepy. Everything hurts. Why are my medications not working? There’s nothing more I can take. Panic sets in.

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Which is when I realize all the pills are in the cup. What with all the walking up and down the hallway, I never quite got around to taking them. Which probably explains why they aren’t working.

I laugh. Continue laughing. Garry takes off his headphones long enough for me to explain why. I got to the punchline, he looks at me and says: “You hadn’t taken them?” He smiled. Nodded. Put the headphones back.

As our memory — collectively and individually — gets less dependable, we have substituted routines and calendars. If we do everything the same way at the same time every day, we’re less likely to forget. Or not remember if we did it today, or yesterday.

The other evening, we were watching a show that included a dog. Garry assumes I know every dog breed at a glance. He’s right, usually. I know the breeds, but these days, I may not remember its name. I will usually remember the group — guarding, herding, hunting, hound, terrier, non-sporting (“other”), toy. If I remember that, I can go to the AKC site, find the group, scroll the list and find the dog. But they’ve changed the AKC website, so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I wish they’d stop fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

I knew the dog that Garry was asking about was the same as the dog Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) had on his show. The dog’s name was Eddy. I remembered that. No problem. The breed name was on the edge of my brain, but not coming into focus. I gave up and Googled it.

Search for: “Breed of dog on Frasier TV show.”

Except I couldn’t remember the name of the TV show, either. So I first had to find the name of the show.

Search for: “long-running comedy on TV about psychiatrist.”

Up popped Frasier. Phew. I could have also found it by looking up that other long-running comedy, “Cheers,” in which Frasier first appeared, but I couldn’t remember its name, either. One of these days, I’m going to have to Google my own name. I hope I find it.