m wood pen

freelance illustrator: have pen, will travel

2016-trash-m-wood“I was feeling insecure. You might not love me anymore. I was shivering inside.”

Jealous Guy, Roxy Music

 

Eschewing invitations to ring in the New Year with someone besides myself, my dog and cat, I sit expectantly, still in my pajamas with my strong french press coffee greeting my senses on this last day of December.

It’s my most magical month. My birthday. Thirty-one days to feel festive, make merry, listen to crooners, jingle bells and string twinkle lights all around my little universe. Then the Who’s down in Whoville come with their jangly jimbobs, hoohows, doodads and roast beast, gift wrap strewn around the place, and the silence descends. Minus the beep beep beep of the looming garbage truck backing up to haul away all of the disarray and discarded trimmings.

So it’s being thrust from this cocoon of specialness and coziness and mystical wonders – this is the month when magic comes to me, into the white fresh bright snowiness of the New Year that has my senses tuned to high alert, my heart opened wide to even more yes please give me more and more of what I long for, of what hasn’t happened yet, of the yearnings that are nudging themselves awake, laying dormant for parcels of the decades of waiting, watching other senses, moments, chaotics, musings, and captures leaping in line ahead of their turn.

The smooth gliding slide of this moment in time, our shared beliefs wrap me in a sense of our collective culture finally being cool: we’re all onboard, look at equality, lgbtq rights, women’s rights, respect for our diversity & fight to save the planet from global warming and nasty plastic: gather round everybody and love one another right now, I’m compelled to stand up and applaud us all for finally getting here. After being a kid watching Gloria Steinem strut her stuff, Jane Fonda march, AIDS rip through our cultural nucleus, activists gather, silently in peace and in protest, I thought I’d finally found the grown up spot in a world, well, a country, a mindset, a moment, a generation, that welcomed and held hands and sang in a circle like those crazy hippies in the “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” Coca-Cola Ad in the 1970s. At last.

And then November 8th happened, and nothing’s been the same ever since. The dark veil swept through, Voldemort is inexplicably set to stand where so many noble patriots have stood and vowed solidarity with the Red, White and Blue on the hallowed steps of our great Capitol of our dear country.

MSNBC, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell lullabies replaced Love Actually, The Holiday, The Family Stone, Christmas in Connecticut, Miracle on 34th Street, Young at Heart, Notting Hill and all of my prerequisite Christmas-prep movie line up. I was endlessly fearful, angry, despondent, livid, grief-filled and irreverent.

My Twitter feed lit up in a reassuringly like-minded posse of liberal troubadours and fighters, giving me 65+ million reasons to keep on keeping on. Although I refuse to watch the churlish fat orange looming disaster man, I can fight. Sign. Support. Speak. Resist. And not give up the power to be happy and hopeful as ever.
“If you need a friend, don’t look to a stranger,
You know in the end, I’ll always be there.
But when you’re in doubt, and when you’re in danger,
Take a look all around, and I’ll be there.
I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.
But if you’ll wait around awhile, I’ll make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you I will.
When your day is through, and so is your temper,
You know what to do, I’m gonna always be there.
Sometimes if I shout, it’s not what’s intended.
These words just come out, with no cross to bear.
I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.
But if you’ll wait around awhile, I’ll make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you
I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.
And if I had to walk the world, I’d make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you I will.
I gotta tell you, I gotta tell you, I need to tell you
I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.
But if you’ll wait around awhile, I’ll make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you…
I’m sorry, but I’m just thinking of the right words to say.
I know they don’t sound the way I planned them to be.
And if I had to walk the world, I’d make you fall for me,
I promise you, I promise you I will. I will. I will.”
The Promise.
-When In Rome.
Everybody seemed to die this year. The hilarious thread of my people on Twitter made me laugh through my tears as we all watched our mortality, in disbelief, OUR generation, vanish like vapor in the swift winds of time. It all just seemed like too much. It is too much. Now I laugh at my cavalier grief of living in a world without Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and scores of other classic greats that I grew up watching.

No, this hit, this year, was as rude and rushed as the conveyer belt of the grocery store check out line when the next person’s goods and canned corn and pickles and weird fruit and packaged pasta pushes your divider and little lovely food goods up past the checker in a haphazard bossy way.

Make room for us.

Well, I guess there is only so much room, right?

I felt the floor drop in the elevator, a lurch, every time the alerts of doom popped up silently on my iPhone, and as the year rounded to it’s final bow, this is the shit we had to put up with. David Bowie dead. Prince dead. Alan Rickman dead. Glenn Frey dead. John Berry dead. Maurice White dead. Gary Shandling dead. Patty Duke dead. Paul Kantner dead. Gene Wilder dead. Garry Marshall dead. Keith Emerson dead. Greg Lake dead. Literally the soundtrack of my life!

And as the year inched closer to the finish line, the one we all seemed to be breathlessly waiting for, the world spun manically like a slot machine dial as tick tick tick we wiped out just a few more iconic members of our human clan.

Arnold Palmer dead. Florence Henderson dead. Carrie Fisher dead. George Michael dead. Debbie Reynolds dead. And Elie Wiesel, who incomprehensibly, made me feel safe just by staying alive.

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same, but good God, shake me to see if I’m still okay from this time that has so jarred our collective comforts. The change is coming, it’s coming now and it’s coming strong and we all need to gather close to make sure we’re all still okay.

I can’t believe we actually pulled off a Merry Christmas. I had to peel the layers of grief and disbelief and the risk of emotional numbness from me, painstakingly like a nasty old bandaid or cheap price tag, because I love this month. And as Santa, with three amazing elves, I had to shovel the mess out of the way to create the scenario tableau table-scape vignette of a White Christmas here at home, for our hopes, our hearts, our check marks, our traditions, our survival.

On Christmas day, we were assigned the role of cooking a beef tenderloin.

I am not a roast kind of gal, but since my son works at Alinea, a three Michelin star restaurant, my daughter worked at The Aviary, the high end gastronomic mixology cocktail bar, and my youngest daughter worked as an event planner for galas & donor events at The Guthrie Theatre, I figured we could swing it.

After the sticker shock at the butcher shop, famous in our family lore as it’s where I stood 18 months ago feeling the twinkly weird feelings which thrust me home and eventually to an ambulance, brain tumor removal surgery, and a plethora of brain cancer treatments, (yes, THAT butcher), we set about googling, “How to cook two 4-pound beef tenderloins”.

Never one to freak out at the impossible (Doris Day, Maria Von Trapp, Jean Arthur and other gutsy broads in my Hollywood catalogue of ‘can-do’ models), I asked my brother John to be the kitchen guide and co-conspirator in the cooking of this massive roast.

As the Christmas party migrated one by one to our side of the country family compound (sounds like the Kennedy’s but trust me, it’s not), the orchestral hilarity of cooking this damn thing became an enormous family production.

My ex-husband Brian arrived with the urgency of an E.M.T., armed w/a plate of warmed mushroom button appetizers and the crucial iron roasting pan that would actually fit the two hunks of beef; Corey was charged with pulling spices out of her ears at one point by my funny but dictatorial brother, “PAPRIKA. GARLIC. LEMON THYME. ROSEMARY. GREEK SEASONING. PEPPER. SALT!”; Hallie sensed the crash of kitchen tension and popped open a lovely bottle of Spanish Cavé, offering fortitude to our dwelling chefs. Unable to hold their own coupe-glasses due to red-schmeered hands covered with beef juices, above-mentioned spices and more olive oil than Italy produced last year), our chefs schlepped the bubbly elixir from vintage stemware held by others; nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, cousins, all, clustered around our enormous kitchen island in a merry weird kookie cooking production.

Orchestral and fragrant.

I love Hollywood, I’m an artist, obsessively creative and very visual. My anecdotes and analogies all center around movies, actors, scenes, memorable movie quotes, and I have no means of changing that part of my brain at this point in my life, nor would I ever want to.

So watching this zany scene, I of course thought of how terrific it would be inserted in some family comedy because – WHAT A SCRIPT – beautiful, haphazard and funny. (By the way, the tenderloins were cooked to perfection, not a piece leftover, a real crowd pleaser!) I had just finished sending a silent prayer for Carrie Fisher’s recovery, as I’d lugged a sense of doom along with me since reading about the rushed plane landing and subsequent hospital vigil in Los Angeles, when I reached into my buzzing Frye boot (where my iPhone is cleverly tucked anytime I wear tights and a skirt), to read BREAKING NEWS alert, “George Michael dead at 53”.

Come on, MAKE IT STOP.

But it didn’t stop, did it?

The pagans got us hooked on looking at the stars, the moon, the celestial path and origins of what’s what and who’s who and when’s when way back before shoes even existed. We always come back to our calendar, feast days, and aligned horoscopes once we’re finished clearing out the malls and online deals. The future sits impatiently tapping it’s talons. Come on, get on!

Well, the holidays are dimming to a murmur and my soul is simmering to catch a falling star right now, today, by tonight, something to keep my hope going, something to re-ignite my spirit, to kick my plucky self into leaping into the New Year with all of the spirit, love, playfulness and extraordinary muscle as I always have.

This is the now were I sit listening to my “80s The Second British Invasion Apple iTunes Playlist” that I made on December 1st. Here’s my happy place. One toe tapping tune at a time. When I was in my twenties, when I was fearless, when I roamed the streets of the city with a posse of feisty, hilarious, champagne-swilling goof nuts, before I knew that endings were real, cruelty could knife through you in a second, and that troubles lurked behind the flashing billboards pointing ahead.

Crank this music, crank my heart, and let’s fly together into the next unknown with style, grace, wit and irreverence. Ready?

“Moving forward using all my breath
Making love to you was never second best
I saw the world thrashing all around your face
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
Dream of better lives the kind which never hate
(You should see why)
Dropped in the state of imaginary grace
(You should know better)
I made a pilgrimage to save this humans race
(You should see why)
Never comprehending the race that long gone bye
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (I’ll stop the world)
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time (let’s stop the world)
There’s nothing you and I won’t do (let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
The future’s open wide
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (I’ll stop the world)
I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time (let’s stop the world)
There’s nothing you and I won’t do (let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
The future’s open wide
Hmmm hmmm hmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmm hmmm
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (let’s stop the world)
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time (let’s stop the world)
There’s nothing you and I won’t do (let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (let’s stop the world)
I’ll stop the world and melt with you (let’s stop the world)”
I Melt With You
-Modern English

miw
12.31.16

 

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