May 25 2015

Memorial Day, and the Price of Killing

DSCN3363I hate pigeons. Most people who live in cities hate pigeons. The only thing we hate more than pigeons? People who feed pigeons.

I just ran over a pigeon. It was in the street, I assumed it would fly away as I got closer. And it tried, but it was already maimed. It lurched one direction, then the other. I wasn’t sure which way to swerve to avoid it, the damn thing couldn’t make up it’s mind, which way to go. I swerved a little to the left. With an oncoming car, I couldn’t go too crazy on the swerve — and that’s when the pigeon made it’s fatal, and final, lurch.In the same direction I swerved.

I felt sick. I felt horrible. Much as I hate pigeons, I felt guilty. I thought of the people who hunt, who deliberately kill magnificent creatures — cougars, gazelles, lions — that no one hates. Animals in their own habitat yet, not polluting ours with their droppings and their mere unsightly presence, spreading disease. These hunted animals are minding their own business, raising their young, on their own turf. And people come in and take pleasure in hunting them with state of the art equipment. Hardly a fair fight. They call it “sport,” though I always thought “sport” meant facing an evenly-matched competitor. But what the hell do I know? And then to mount that animals head in your home, because… it belongs there, not on it’s own body, in it’s natural habitat, protecting and feeding its offspring? I’ll never understand.

cheetah4It’s Memorial Day. My mind wanders to those young men and women we send to foreign lands, and whose job it now is to kill in the name of America. Of Freedom. Our Freedom. Sometimes they kill people who are about as much a threat to our freedom as that pigeon I ran over. Maybe that killing is as joyful and empowering to them as shooting the cougar is to the hunter. I hope not. But if killing another human being, a civilian, is even half as upsetting to them as running over that stupid pigeon was for me, then I truly fear for the mental state of our soldiers. More and more of them are coming home with serious psychological issues. I assume killing innocent people is only a part of what haunts them, what leads them down a black psychological abyss from which there’s rarely a full escape. Many don’t come home. That’s where life ended for them, somewhere in that abyss.

So soldiers — those who died fighting, who have fought,  or are still fighting —  thank you for what you do. I mean that, I truly do. And I’m sorry for what you’re asked to do. For America. For Freedom. Our Freedom. I wish you could all be free –we could all be free. But then, freedom is never what it appears. Ask those animals in the wild.

AFG_child_soldier_77


May 21 2015

All this #TBT, Endings, and Something for my Daughter

Girlhood

Girlhood

Ever since the season finale of Mad Men and the use of the Paul Anka (fun fact: Paul Anka sang his hit  song Diana to me, at my table in the Riviera Showroom in Las Vegas, when I was twelve!) song that I’ve not heard since I was a teenager, Times of Your Life, set to flashbacks from the show’s 7 seasons, that there’s been a slide show of flashbacks of my own life in my mind, each slide no longer than a nanosecond each.

Mad Men series finale trailer

On top of that, this was the last week of David Letterman. THE David Letterman, for whom I cut classes at SUNY Stony Brook  in the spring of 1983 to take the LIRR to see him tape an early episode of Late Night (just a few months before the most pivotal moment of my life (read on to learn what that was). Late Night with David Letterman my talk show, not my parent’s (Johnny Carson’s) talk show — and now, moments after Mad Men abandoned me,  it was retiring.  Time. It’s all going by suddenly so fast…

But back to me.

It all started with a diary. Like most young girls, I confided in one. All my secrets, desires, rants, what I really thought about __________. Next came the scrapbook. When I was old enough to start attending events that left me with ticket stubs in my back pocket; proof that I was there for that incredible concert/show/movie premiere. Then came the photo albums that were my own, not my parents, and the books and the music that showed me new worlds I couldn’t wait to discover for myself. And the magazine picture clippings of the guys who gave me my first hormonal surges, matchbooks from the bars I was able to sneak into and drink and smoke underage, secret classroom notes from friends, letters from boyfriends…

At some point, I needed a chest for all of this stuff.

(side note: would someone growing up today even have a diary/ticket stub/scrapbook/photo album/magazine clipping — or have we lost all of those things to the digital age and cloud-based storage?)

Then I went to college and forgot about collecting stuff. There was barely enough room in my SUNY Stony Brook door room for a 2nd towel, let alone keepsakes. Besides, I was too busy actually having new experiences and meeting exciting new people — not just reading about them in books or hearing about them in songs — to care about ticket stubs or a picture of Bucky Dent in Cosmopolitan.

 

And then my mother died, rather suddenly, when I was 19. I was just at that age where the relationship was segueing from mother-daughter to friends. She was beginning to tell me things about herself she couldn’t tell me when I was a child: that she had been married before my father (his Greek family thought it somewhat scandalous to marry a divorcee, so that never got talked about), and how she first went to Las Vegas to get her divorce (which no doubt had some influence on my parents decision to move there when we were young children).

 

The author, age 19.

The author, age 19.

We were just scratching the surface of her past when she died, and now there were so many unanswered questions. And I had no one to ask.

 

I knew I’d have a daughter one day. I didn’t have a strong desire for children, no biological clock ticking away, that’s just what you did, right? Had children? And I was going to have a daughter because that’s what my mother had, and that’s the relationship I wanted, what she and I had. Don’t question my logic, I was young I and I knew this was what was to be.

 

But now I had to prepare: What if I had a daughter, and then I too, died suddenly? I didn’t want to leave my daughter with unanswered questions about me, who I was before I started wearing the labels of wife and mother, as my mother had left me. I wanted her to know me at her age, whatever age she started having such thoughts. What were my dreams, my goals, my favorite songs and books; who were my crushes? So I started saving things again. The magazines that covered important events of my time (Curt Cobain’s death), the ticket stubs (U2), the matchbooks and trinkets from my travels. I would leave her with no unanswered questions.

 

But she never came, my daughter. For various reasons, I never had children.  And now, I have this trunk of me. My youth and young adulthood. And I don’t know what to do with all this stuff. I used to think that if I got famous or did something remotely noteworthy, my biographer might harvest this trove of insight into my life, my heart. But I’m beginning to suspect there may be no biographer. True, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. But let’s be realistic.

 

So what to do with all of it? Every ten or fifteen years or so I pop it open and pop out maybe one or two things, a photo or my sash of Girl Scout badges (some still yet to be sewn on); but I have never –and have no desire to – spend time with it and really explore all that’s there. Honestly, I don’t even know what I’ll find, beside what’s in plain sight on top. I already spend more time thinking about the past that I care to; better to think about the future and live in the present.

 

But the past, the contents of this trunk– it’s what makes me who I am now. I feel like I’m looking at a young me, when I glance in there: pre-setbacks, divorce, doubt, death, disappoint, rejection, disappoint, doubt, etc. I want to be her again. Me, before The Fight (aka Life). When it never dawned on me that there was anything I could not do.

 

I’m realizing as I write this that I need to keep that trunk for now. Because I am her. And The Fight, I need to reevaluate that – because it didn’t kill me, did it? And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, doesn’t it?


May 10 2015

Mother’s Day: Always changing and every change fabulous.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Just moments after our first encounter.

Ah, to be a mother.

I don’t have children, never had that strong drive, that ticking timebomb in my uterus. That said, I always assumed I’d have a daughter, and a second child (one of them would be a girl, because… well, just because). Two because being an only child seemed so lonely. And because so much life-learning comes about simply by virtue of being a sibling: sharing, choosing your battles, compromise, conspiracy, etc.

But it didn’t happen. I had my chance, was married to a wonderful man in the prime of my child-bearing years. But we were traveling, and being struggling artists, so the time was never right. We didn’t try for one, but we weren’t hell bent against it either. It didn’t happen and eventually we divorced and so it all worked out for the best, right? Right?

Then I got Picard. How he came into my life is a whole ‘nother story you can read about Here.

And, I got it. Motherhood… I got it.

This love, this – for lack of a better term, maternal (parental works too, but I’m sticking with maternal, as it is Mother’s Day) love that runs deeper and stronger than any love I’ve ever known. I’ve had crushes and gaga love that feels this intense – but the excitement wears off, the hormones wane, you look back and go, “What was that?” But this Maternal Love, this is hardcore. This is the Real Deal.

Queue the naysayers, with “Loving your dog is not the same as if it were a child.” You’re right, it’s not the same. Because my dog is pure, as a child is in its early, pre-verbal years. But children, being human, grow up, and learn to manipulate and say cruel things and test us and break our hearts. They learn to hate and they learn to hurt. Hopefully they outgrow that sort of behavior in their teenage years, but I know far too many adult assholes to know that not to be the case.

There are no asshole dogs.  They manipulate and test us and break our hearts – but never for that purpose alone. It’s always, only to get something they want or need from us, that they know we alone can give them. And they’re not a dick about it if we say, “No.”4th

Their love is pure, so our love for them is pure. They remind us of our own innocence. They have the power to reinstate our innocence. Their love is perfect.

My heart swells with this love for Picard every second I look at him: when he’s there staring sleepily as I wake up, when he’s waiting not-so-patiently for me to feed him, when he plays with his bunny (which makes this inane musical noise when he plays with it) because he KNOWS when he successfully makes that sound happen, I will drop everything, whatever I am doing, to DO THE BUNNY DANCE!!!

IMG_4619

So yes, I am a mother, and this Mothers Day is for me. Mother’s Day used to be very sad for me, as I lost my own at 19 – you can read about that Here and Here. I could not be more proud of, more in love with my “child” if he came out of my uterus. I cherish every second with him more so than if he had come out of my uterus, because unlike a human child, I will outlive him.

Aye, there’s the rub. There’s the one thing that makes my love for him all the more intense and all the more painful: it has a short shelf life. His puppy years are over. He’s five. How the hell did he get to be five already? But he’s small and curious and extremely healthy and active (his well being is the most important thing in my life), so he still seems like a young dog. And I swear, all the love I have for him, he feels the exact same way about me. He lets me know. He’s the one thing in this world, the one decision I made, that I got 100% right.

But for now, we celebrate Mother’s Day. Our 5th together. And I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all the others out there who didn’t get the conventional Mother-Child relationship they thought was a guarantee: To the pet guardians, the single dads, the foster parents, and all the teachers/leaders/mentors/neighbors/friends/siblings who step up and give the world “That Mother Thing.” Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!