Monthly Archives: June 2015

OK, POLITICS

I’m going to miss Jon Stewart so much in the year and a half ahead, as we witness the circus that is “Democalpyse 2016”. He and Bill Maher have a unique talent to make you laugh while at the same time making you angry. But last week was such a good one for Obama and other folks who lean a little bit to the left (but who are really just humans who care about other humans), even curmudgeonly Bill Maher said he might be running out of things to be outraged about! Affordable health care – still available!! Marriage equality – finally reality!! Obama being the kind of inspirational leader we always wanted him to be – check and mate!!

I like Barack Obama. I think he’s been the best president we’ve had in my lifetime. Of course he’s not perfect; he’s made mistakes and overstepped his boundaries at times. He’s a human being in a very powerful position, with the eyes of the world on him at all times. And he’s had to contend with two overarching obstacles, one of which was unprecedented (although the other is all too common): (1) the ridiculous do-nothing Congress that’s been in power during the two Obama terms, regardless of which party was in so-called “control”; and (2) the color of his skin, which shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference but of course it does to a large number of ignorant people in this country. Clinton made huge mistakes, too – Monica Lewinsky, anyone? – but he’s revered as a strong president and world leader and continues to be one, as does Jimmy Carter, the last “good guy” president (i.e., liberal-leaning centrist Democrat) before Clinton. (I definitely have a “type” of president I prefer, and it ain’t named “Bush”.)

I saw a photo on the Internet a few months ago where the Obamas had hosted a Passover Seder at the White House. A toddler was face-down on the carpet having a full-on meltdown. The president is standing there, arms outstretched toward the prone child, looking at the camera with a bemused expression as if to say, “See what we parents have to deal with?” The look on his face is priceless. That, to me, is a REAL moment with a man who is forced to very much compartmentalize his personal and professional lives (like my college roommate the D.C. teacher having parent-teacher conferences with Bill and Hill). And through it all he always maintains a certain grace and good humor that distinguishes him from those politicians who convey a more petty and combative and whiny approach (and there are many – dare I say “most”?).

Generally speaking (and I am admittedly painting with a broad brush here), I consider Republicans to be the party of selfish, greedy, inward-thinking, “me-first” people, while Democrats are other-directed, egalitarian, willing to share and sacrifice for the common good (at least in theory, if not always in practice). I definitely align with the latter and I’m proud to admit it. Although my ex-husband has moved considerably further left politically since I’ve known him (and I’d like to think I had SOME hand in that, just like we hope our words have SOME impact on our children even if you are convinced they haven’t heard a single word you’ve said), in our early years together the worst insult he could come up with for me was to say, “You’re such a liberal,” like it was a dirty word (imagine it being said with a sneer).

But something I hate equally for politicians in BOTH parties is this: Why the hell do they need to raise so many millions and even billions of dollars? For what? Gas for the campaign bus and/or charter plane to criss-cross the country stumping and glad-handing and kissing the babies? Billboards and TV and radio commercials to smear their opponents? How about debating on “free” TV? That shouldn’t cost the candidates more than the price of a nice suit. Congresspeople spend so much time fund-raising and campaigning to get re-elected that they don’t actually do their jobs on Capitol Hill. The voting public doesn’t have enough real choice among candidates, especially in the party primaries. With few exceptions, politicians all seem to say the things they think the audience they are addressing that day wants to hear. I’m sad to say that it’s all become a reeking load of crap. Why do people get into politics anyway? For power and control? Or to effect change in our world? I think the American public has become so disillusioned with the impotence and corruption of our political system that we are squandering the great gift of freedom that our forefathers fought for and that our current military men and women (as politicians are quick to point out) are defending throughout a world that doesn’t seem to like us very much.

Every once in a while you hear of a politician who wants to do things the “right” way – take Zephyr Teachout, Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic opponent in last year’s New York State gubernatorial primary. (If that isn’t an epic name for an elected official, I don’t know what is.)  A law professor from Fordham (whose running mate, Tim Wu, was also a law professor), she said all the things that I personally wanted to hear, things that would make sense to anyone who wants a government to work for them rather than against them – or rather than, worse yet, a government that ignores them completely, that seems to operate in a parallel universe that doesn’t really have anything to do with them except in vague ways like how much we have to pay in taxes and whether we can get an abortion. Although she captured a respectable 34% of the vote in the Democratic primary, having raised a mere $800,000 in a pure grassroots campaign, ultimately not enough people voted for Zephyr Teachout.  It’s hard for me to believe that right-thinking people weren’t ready to hear her message, so it must have been something else. Perhaps if she had spoken a little bit louder, or if her opponent had been just a little less popular (and a little less of a legacy), or a she had managed to have a little more money in her campaign coffers, that might have enabled her to advertise on every channel and get in the voters’ heads. But a couple of lines from her now-defunct campaign home page might give a little more insight as to why she wasn’t able to win: She spoke the truth that most people don’t want to hear. “The system is rigged,” she said, “and Andrew Cuomo is part of the broken system. . . . We are not Albany insiders, but we believe Governor Cuomo . . . must be challenged.” I found that message so inspiring – someone willing to take on the “old boy network”, the corruption and waste in Albany – but, more importantly, someone you could BELIEVE. Why, then, didn’t every New Yorker not in the upper 1 percent believe her enough to vote for her?

Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is my new favorite politician who speaks truth. And yet, unlike the cast of thousands of potential Republican candidates, she isn’t even running for president! Democrats will end up being stuck with Hillary Clinton as our candidate, who has raised over a billion (!) dollars for her campaign, who has name recognition and a stacked resume, but who I don’t trust nearly as much as I do Elizabeth Warren. Wouldn’t it be fantastic, though, if Hillary got the nomination and then she chose Elizabeth Warren as her vice president? Not only would we have our first female president, the two most powerful people in our country would both be women! That would be amazing. Dare to dream!

An Excess of Excess

I love watching the shows on HGTV, like the various varieties of the “House Hunters” franchise, and especially “House Hunters International”. It’s like taking an insider’s real estate tour of all these exotic and interesting locales, from Sweden to Vietnam to Fiji and everywhere in between. Nepal! Croatia! New Zealand! Ghana! How else would the average American know how much it costs to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Reykjavik? I admire all these expats, uprooting their lives (sometimes with children in tow) to move halfway around the world.  Their experiences also make me a little jealous, although I couldn’t imagine doing it myself. I envy their braveness most of all.

I also enjoy the design shows, like “Love It or List It” and “Property Brothers”. There used to be a great reality competition show on the network called “Design Star,” along the lines of “Project Runway” but featuring home styling rather than fashion, where the winners would get their own shows on HGTV. Most of the competitors ostensibly made a living decorating the homes of other people for actual money. I found it impressive that all these folks had enough confidence in their own creative aesthetic to turn doing what they love into an actual career, even if their “talent” was not always readily apparent while under the pressure of a competitive reality show. But what I really wondered about was, where does all the money come from? The designers themselves were certainly accustomed to having healthy budgets with which to purchase quirky antiques and pillows and doodads for others, but it’s really the customers who have so much disposable income that they could afford to pay someone else to buy all those quirky antiques and pillows and doodads on their behalf.

My friend Liz is a really talented designer. She’s particularly clever when it comes to creating place-settings and party favors for special occasions, but her decorating skills extend to her home, which is lovely and so distinctively her own.  (Needless to say, she’s a big fan of HGTV, too.)  But unfortunately Liz’s situation is considerably different from that of the “Design Star” competitors and decorators and craftspeople featured on the HGTV design shows because she hasn’t had the wherewithal to start her own design firm. The business of real life means that she needs a 9-to-5 gig and then a second job on weekends just to make ends meet. She can’t afford to do what she loves for a living, to be able to exercise her talents and create environments where people can feel comfortably themselves.  What would it take? A rich husband? A supportive (wealthy) family? Incredible luck? When I think about what I’d do if I won the lottery (which I often do), I always include Liz in my plans. Maybe I’d contribute some equity as a silent partner or perhaps just a “loan” so she could start a decorating and/or party-planning business of her own. (I would also give my ex-husband money for a house downpayment, cover my niece’s college tuition, fund “Kickstarter” campaigns that strike my fancy, and volunteer at multiple locations – God’s Love We Deliver and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few – as well as giving Post Pets Rescue basically a blank check to get whatever supplies they need whenever they need them. Believe me, I’ve got it all planned out! Now all that needs to happen is that I actually win. A minor inconvenience.)

As much as I enjoy the subject matter and envy the people I see on HGTV, many of these shows also make me angry because they highlight something that makes me a little insane. So much excess! So much superfluousness ! (If that is even a word.) Who needs all this STUFF?  The natural beauty of the world is certainly worth the price of admission (as displayed in a show like “Island Hunters”, where people literally spend MILLIONS on undeveloped islands that they intend to “build to suit”), but do humans really need such opulence in our man-made structures? I find needless and extravagant ornamentation almost sickening. Royal residences I’ve visited as a tourist (Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, to name a few) have had that same effect on me. I walked around them open-mouthed and awestruck but then the stomach churning would begin. These buildings are the embodiment of the wealthy and privileged looking down from their bejeweled towers to lord it over the unwashed masses:  “We have everything, and you will never.”  History has always been this way. Look at the Vatican, for Christ’s sake! (Literally!!) Jesus Christ famously tore up a temple to toss the money men out and also said it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven, and yet the Vatican is, unapologetically (at least until Pope Francis came along), one of the wealthiest institutions on earth.

Income disparity is a hot-button topic these days. At the most basic of levels, as I understand it, this is the history of what has happened in our world in the past number of decades: After World War II, the developed world underwent an equalization previously unseen in modern history. The middle class was born: Not noble or wealthy by birth, but neither were they lowly or poor. Generations of Americans and Europeans got used to having their own little piece of the pie, to quote the theme song from the classic TV sitcom “The Jeffersons”. George and Weezie Jefferson were the epitome of the “movin’ on up” of the 1950’s, ‘60s and ‘70s that even crossed racial and ethnic lines. Suddenly there was a black and Hispanic middle class, too. Upward mobility was available to all. The GI Bill enabled education and home buying on an unprecedented scale.

But in recent years – since the recessions and regressions of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s and certainly continuing into the 21st century – the middle class is shrinking. A very small percentage moved “up” and became the ostentatiously (and perhaps unsustainably?) nouveau riche (dot-commers and i-bankers, primarily), but the greater percentage sank “down” – living beyond their means, getting barely cost-of-living raises, experiencing widespread layoffs and forced retirements (especially for folks over the age of 50) and an obscenely low minimum wage, with labor unions weakening and dying and no longer able to adequately protect the interests of all of their members. And to add insult to injury, the government asks what’s left of the middle class to bear a heavier tax burden than the wealthy who could more easily afford it. It’s no accident that rich people are where they are: They do everything in their power to keep all their money for themselves, and because they have the power (which they purchase from our politicians), they force the poor and middle class to foot the bills for the public services that only the poor and middle class require. It’s untenable. Something has to give.

In Long Beach (NY) now, there’s an infuriating dispute about wealthy real estate developers (we’re talking worth billions) converting a 6‑acre parcel of beachfront property (locally known as the “Superblock” because of its size and prime location) into a massive apartment complex. The developers are threatening to walk away if they don’t get millions in tax breaks. (John Bendo, Op-Ed: “Who are the politicians really representing?” Long Beach Herald, 6/16/15). Multimillionaires want to avoid paying taxes for over 20 years in a community where, even though residential taxes are among the highest in Nassau County, the City can’t even manage to meet its own budget year after year. Instead of the City of Long Beach dangling the Superblock as a carrot to developers who might be able to do something beneficial for all of the residents of Long Beach rather than just those who can afford the price tag for an apartment with pristine ocean views, it’s become a stick with which to beat the existing community. Not only will it block existing access and sight lines, increase traffic and energy consumption and burden to the breaking point an already-stressed water and sanitation system, but they also want to avoid having to pay their fair share for it? I am horrified. But what control do residents like me have? The deal has been done and no amount of protesting voices will be able to stop it. We feel powerless to prevent this debacle, just as American voters feel powerless to do anything about income inequality despite politicians blathering about it incessantly.

I don’t have any answers, just frustrations and questions. But I guess the more we engage in intelligent dialogue about it, the more we can try to shame the rich into paying their fair share. After all, a multi-millionaire who gives away even half of his or her money will STILL be a multimillionaire. How much do we really need for a little piece of the pie?

Friend Zone

Between the end of the hockey season (congrats, Blackhawks) and obsessing over the finale of “Game of Thrones”, this week has had a feeling of finality, of the end of things. That was one of the things I liked so much about school– there were finite beginnings and ends of time frames. The school year ends, then there’s a respite (in some respects very welcome, in others sometimes not) and then it all begins afresh in a few months’ time. I see it with my daughter now being home from college, and there’s even more anticipation this summer given that she is transferring to a different university and so will be starting over in an unfamiliar location.

[An aside: As much as I enjoy that aspect of the scholastic cycle, it’s completely different with my work (and a probable contributing factor to my dislike of it). It’s true that individual deals begin and then end with a closing—sometimes in fire-drill fashion, sometimes dragging on for months – although it’s also true that some deals NEVER end, and there is usually some ongoing and highly annoying maintenance and administration that needs to be done post-closing, so you can never entirely wash your hands of a deal as much as you might want to.]

But the thing I like best about the endings of things is the looking forward to the new beginnings. I anxiously await September for hockey (particularly in light of this season’s disappointing outcome) and next April for Season 6 of GOT (especially given all the cliffhangers!). Now I just have to find a way to entertain myself during the break!

One of my summertime diversions is socializing with friends. In fact, this weekend I am expecting actual visitors (!), which means (a) massive overdue house cleaning and (b) food and beverage preparations, neither of which is a particular strength of mine. Because I live at the beach, entertainment is never an issue – we can go to the beach! There are many lovely bars and restaurants! There is even a fair on the Boardwalk this weekend that we can ride our bikes to! – but there’s still the matter of having enough of a selection of beverages and noshes at the house to comply with my hosting duties. Bah! Piddling concerns, in light of the fact that I’M FINALLY GETTING SOME COMPANY!!

Long Beach is so fine in the summer, although the population literally triples, especially on the weekends. I like riding my bike and walking the dogs around the West End. So many good-looking young folks! And I can observe with impunity because I’m essentially invisible. Occasionally someone will comment on my Rangers hat but otherwise I am too old and ugly to register with most people. But that’s OK. I’ve lately become very much an observer rather than a participant in life. I can’t recall the last time I was a member of some kind of “friend group”. It was probably the East Village/Park Slope years back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (which period is rich fodder for future blog posts). By the time my ex-husband and I left for North Carolina in 1995 – in my mid-30s, newly married with a baby – I had been forced to cut ties with the old familiar “fun me”.

Of course I’ve had – and continue to have, thank goodness! –very dear and cherished friends. But due to recent life circumstances, I no longer have a “group” – people with whom you have outings and get-togethers, for events both traditional and random. I especially feel it in the summer because it’s a much more social time of year. (Of course you want to be out of the house, in the sunshine and balmy breezes!) I spent three years in law school amongst mostly 20-somethings instead of making friends with the moms of my daughter’s school friends during the time when we lived with my mother in my old home town of Seaford, NY after our return from the failed experiment that was North Carolina. When I moved to Long Beach in 2002, other than a college friend who had actually grown up in Long Beach, I didn’t know anyone here and I couldn’t really meet anyone (other than my fantastic landlord, of whom I was – and still am! – very fond; we don’t see each other as often as I’d like, even though we only live a few blocks apart) because I was always working and never home. And because I commuted an hour-plus between NYC and Long Beach for work each way every weekday, I wasn’t engaged enough with my work colleagues because all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there at the end of the day (however late that might have been), back to my kid and my house at the beach, so I never developed a drinks-after-work crowd either (not to mention that they were all considerably younger than I was).  Actually, the best work friends that I did make are currently scattered to three of the four corners of the globe: Dubai, Sweden and Ghana.

Add to that my peculiar and infuriating situation of living in Long Beach without a driveway, and it aIl combines to leave me feeling a bit isolated. I don’t like to go anywhere on weekends that I have to drive to because I’ll lose the spot in front of my house and I have to park miles away when I get back to Long Beach. I also can’t drink if I have to drive anywhere. (In fact, that’s a real problem with everyone on Long Island – too much drinking and then driving – because unfortunately there aren’t a lot of easily accessible alternatives as there would be in the city).

My friend Liz posted something on Facebook the other day that resonated with me (and I’ve seen similar sentiments elsewhere): “They say true friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship.” I feel that way about many of my friends, especially in the last decade or so during this hermit phase. So recently I’ve been trying to come up with ways to spend more time with more friends more often. There’s Facebook, of course, which has been a great way to keep up with folks I haven’t seen in ages and who are frequently on my mind. But sometimes you just want face-to-face time.

A couple of years ago I was able to piggyback some friend visits on my daughter’s college trips: Igor and Kim (and their growing family) and my cousins George and Bill in the “DMV” (which I understand is shorthand for the DC/Maryland/Virginia region) when we went to the University of Delaware; Wendy and Claude in the beautiful seaside village of Southport, North Carolina (which, as Claude recently posted on Facebook, is one of the nicest towns in the U.S.) when we went to North Carolina State University; Nick Noble and his son Jonathan when we did our tour of the New England “U” schools.

For the past couple of years, Sue Walsh Ober (who lives in the wilds of New Jersey – so close and yet so far!) and I try to do something together for our birthdays, which occur a couple of months apart in July and September. This year we’re planning a day on Governor’s Island. We actually used to spend a bit of time with Wendy and Claude on Governor’s Island when Claude was in the Coast Guard and we all lived in NYC, so even though G.I. is considerably different from when it was a Coast Guard base, the singular NYC skyline views will bring back many happy memories.

Last summer my daughter and I had a fantastic time in the company of my college roommate Erika and her husband Curtiss (also a close college friend) in Santorini and Naxos, Greece. The year before I had used some JetBlue credits and enjoyed an overnighter with them in D.C. Now they’ve moved to Baltimore and I’m dying for an excuse to go down for a couple of days to check out their new place.

The problem now with short-term trips, though, is getting my menagerie looked after, especially when my daughter is at school. And the difficulty with inviting people to visit is the aforementioned parking situation and my lack of hostessing skills. (Fortunately, Long Beach is easy to get to by train, so my city friends – like my friend Matt from work and his girlfriend who are visiting this weekend – can come pretty easily, although I’m slightly embarrassed that I can’t even pick them up from the train station.) But these are minor obstacles when it comes to reconnecting with people I care about. Hopefully I can manage to bring an end to my hermitage and will have plenty of good times with good friends to look forward to this summer!

Tattoo Me

In the summer between my junior and senior years of college, back in 1980, my friend Liz Azzaro (nee See) and I went to get tattoos at Peter Tat2, a shop on in West Hempstead on Long Island. Tattooing was still illegal in New York at the time (it only became legal in 1997 and has since exploded, with multiple shops in practically every town), but Peter Tat2 made no secret of its purpose, with bright colorful signage and a large storefront window showing framed flash on the walls. Liz got a seagull on her hip; I got a blue heart crying two tears on my left ankle, which I considered the iconographical depiction of my love life. (Little did I realize at the time that my first tattoo would represent not only a lament about my present but also a prediction for my future.)

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When I got back to Trinity for two-a-day football practices in August, a couple of weeks before the rest of the undergrads returned, it was still warm enough in New England to wear shorts on a daily basis, so I was able to show off my ink. I like to think that the guys were impressed; back in those days, girls other than biker chicks did not get tattoos, and only the coolest of the cool of the preppie and Connecticut public school boys got one, usually on a dare.

Nowadays, I see at least as many girls as guys with tattoos, and not just a tiny heart on the ankle or a butterfly on the nape of the neck, only to be glimpsed when their hair is up in a ponytail. It’s not as rare as it used to be to even see full arm and leg sleeves (is it actually called a “leg sleeve”?) on a lady. A Harris poll in 2012 concluded that 1 in 5 Americans have at least one tattoo and, for the first time since they’d started inquiring, women were slightly more likely than men to have one.

There are also more female tattoo artists. One of my favorite art-based reality competition shows is “Ink Master” on SPIKE TV (my other favorite is “Project Runway”, but I also like “America’s Next Top Model”, primarily because I enjoy watching the photography process and then seeing the finished product). “Ink Master” is hosted by heavily tatted rock guitarist Dave Navarro (ex of Jane’s Addiction and Carmen Electra), and every week the competitors tattoo a “human canvas” in accordance with an assigned theme. Every season there are at least a few female contestants, and while none of the females has yet been named “Ink Master”, I believe it’s only a matter of time.

My last two tattoos were done by a talented woman artist named Liana Joy in a shop in Oceanside, NY called Empire State Studio. Empire State is owned by one of the finalists in the very first season of “Ink Master”, Tommy Helm, who in addition to Empire State now runs a shop on the left coast as one of a trio of tattoo geniuses who specialize in difficult cover-ups on a weekly show called “Tattoo Nightmares” (which comes on after “Ink Master”).

I went to Empire State one day a few months after Superstorm Sandy actually hoping to see Tommy Helm. The shop was not far from where I was staying, and I had been wanting to get another tattoo, as a way to sort of cheer myself up after all the loss and destruction and homelessness. When I walked into the shop, I was almost shocked to see the man himself, leaning up against a wall. He was much smaller than he had looked on TV but as adorable in person as he had been on the show. (My daughter, her step-mom and I all had a little crush on him and we were convinced he should have won. I told him the latter but kept the former to myself.) Of course, he is too famous now to be doing the minor tattoos of walk-ins like me, but he suggested I consider one of his protégés. Liana Joy is a talented young artist with a creative eye and a steady hand for fine work, but I worry that she might have to give up tattooing as a career because the traditional tools of her trade are causing her to have a sort of specialized carpal tunnel syndrome. I’ve seen some new-fangled tattoo equipment, though, that seems to be lighter and less noisy than the incessant “BZZZZ” of the customary inkers of old, so hopefully she’ll be able to find a machine that is easier on her wrist and arm and she can continue her brilliant work.

Tattoos tell stories, and not always good ones, as Tommy, Big Gus and the exceptionally gifted Jasmine from “Tattoo Nightmares” can attest. Their whole show consists of re-enacting the horror stories of how the folks getting cover-ups originally got their terrible tattoos. All of my tattoos also have their little histories and significance, but thankfully none quite so horrific as the ones on “Tattoo Nightmares”.

I got my second tattoo on the Lowest East Side circa 1990. A friend of mine had come into the bar where I was tending with a delicate little bracelet of bones tattooed around her birdlike wrist. I wanted something just that tiny and fine – a laurel wreath encircling a yin and yang sign on the meat of my upper arm – so I asked her who had done it. “Mike Fineline!” she told me. Despite having a bloviating, self-proclaimed “tattooist to the stars” named Jonathan Shaw literally living in the basement apartment next door to mine at 43 East 1st Street, I ended up going to see Mike. He was called “Mike FINELINE”!! Of course he would be the perfect choice for the kind of delicate work I was seeking! Unfortunately, Mike might have had a bit too much to drink that day, and he freehanded my design instead of creating a stencil, and it turned out to be twice as large as I had originally envisioned. The black outline was heavy and the skin often gets raised. If I had a really great idea and a really great artist, I might want to cover that one up somehow, and I have a lot of upper arm around it to work with. But other than that, I think I’m done with tattoos. Soon my skin will turn saggy and thin and spotted – my legs, blessedly free of varicose veins for all these years, are starting to show some telltale capillary blooms, even near my most recent tattoo, done by Liana Joy, of a kitty yin and yang – and the thinner the skin, the more painful it is. And believe me, tattoos do not tickle.

My father had a few tattoos, which he had gotten when he was in the Navy in the early ‘50s. Maybe because he became a banker, he covered them up in long-sleeved shirts and suit jackets. By the time I was aware of them – a skull with a “Mother” ribbon and a bluebird on his arm and a hula girl on his calf – a decade or more after he had gotten them, they were blown out and blue, but I still loved them. I swore I would get my own when I was old enough and when I figured out what it was I wanted to preserve on my body for the rest of my life.

Other than the aforementioned laurel wreath, I am quite content with my current state of ink. They all look good and they all mean something. They even reveal me to be a little bit of a rebel, even though so many people have tattoos these days, unlike in my father’s generation. In most circles, tattoos no longer carry the stigma they once did, when they were only sported by bikers, sailors and ex-cons, but they’re still not very common in New York City law firms (or at least they’re not OBVIOUS). I’m a corporate lawyer who doesn’t hide her tattoos. They’re in full view on my lower arms because I want to be able to see them as well! My cat yin and yang, which is on my upper thigh and not on display except in the summertime, reads from upside down (to me) and right-side up (to onlookers).

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I have an owl-and-stars wristlet in honor of my mother, although she hated my tattoos. I hid them from her for years but when she finally saw the one on my upper arm, she expressed her disappointment. “You’ve defaced yourself”, she said with an exasperated sigh. I gather she never liked my father’s tattoos, and she would tell me that he regretted having them, but I didn’t read him that way. I liked his tattoos. They made me want to have tattoos, too. The Eye of Horus (designed and inked by Liana Joy) on my right inner forearm, which I treated myself to after Superstorm Sandy, is in honor of my father.

My daughter has one. She actually got her first without my knowledge, an “831” on her chest to commemorate the date of her grandmother’s death. For her 18th birthday I paid for a beautiful owl (my mother’s spirit animal) with a full red moon-and-pine background, done by a local kid.

My ex-husband never wanted one (big chicken!), even though he clearly didn’t mind them on his wives, since his second wife has even more tattoos than I do, including one massive piece of three horse silhouettes on her side that must have absolutely killed. But even he broke down and got one, a massively detailed Roman gladiator on his arm, which coincided with his being in the best shape of his life in his forties and enjoying showing off his guns.

I think everyone should have at least one tattoo, an entirely permanent and personal piece of art with deep significance. We all have our stories to tell.

Great Expectations

Even a week later, I’m still a little too numb to do a thoughtful post-mortem of the Rangers’ season but please permit me a few words: It’s times like these when I say to myself, “I think I’m done with hockey. I don’t ENJOY it.” I mean, sometimes I enjoy it very much, but the times I don’t tend to outweigh the times I do, year after year.

Perhaps the end of the Rangers’ quest for the Stanley Cup this year is more disappointing because (a) we had such high expectations and (b) we felt that this was their last best chance at the championship, that the window of excellence was closing. It’s a fact of life that the greater the expectations, the greater the disappointment when they’re not met.

This was a fantastic year – a season where they did pretty much everything right and had everything exactly the way they wanted it, even down to that last game. And yet – in keeping with a season-long tendency, especially where scoring goals was concerned – they blew it. They blew the glorious opportunity that their own hard work and dedication had earned for them.

How? Why? We will never know, because no one on the team will ever make excuses and the analysts and pundits don’t really know – they’re just speculating with the rest of us. Tampa played the game they needed to play; the Rangers did not. Tampa earned the right to win; the Rangers did not. But with that failed performance – geez, it was down to 20 freakin’ minutes! – went the entire charmed season. It’s an absolute mystery to me. After all they went through this season, they somehow didn’t seem to want it enough when it really counted. Where were all the big game players? Aside from Henrik – who admittedly looked shaky on the first Tampa goal but certainly couldn’t be blamed for the loss as he was by far the best Ranger on the ice – the rest of the team was tentative, a step slow, and looked like they were playing scared, frankly, instead of like men possessed of a will to win at all costs. As annoying as I find Pierre Maguire, he may have had a point when he said the Rangers were “on their heels” (which is ironic given that their captain Ryan McDonagh had been playing on a broken foot).

Sometimes I wish I could change history. Oh, well. Nothing to do but load up again for next year.

With the end of hockey season comes summer (in some years earlier than others), which is when I finally emerge from my house (my hermitlike tendencies have been hinted at in prior blog posts but further exploration of this issue will need to wait for another day) and enjoy the weather and my present location at the beach. And that is the absolute best time to discover and assemble as much new music as I possibly can.

Unlike hockey, music – my OTHER obsession – NEVER disappoints me or brings me anything less than joy, although for years I was frustrated at the paucity of new musical offerings. I’m sure new artists were always out there — I just didn’t know where or how to find them.  After the ground-breaking Long Island radio station WLIR went away in the 1990s, there was never another terrestrial radio station that consistently played the type and variety of music I preferred – i.e., NEW STUFF that wasn’t Billboard Top 40 or hip-hop, mixed with just a soupcon of oldies-but-goodies when the moment called for it. Within the last year or so, I discovered public radio station WFUV.  I believe this corresponded with a strengthening of their signal and a shifting of their format to more widely popular music rather than specialty “public radio” shows, but WFUV has become my car and home radio station of choice. I enjoy the mix of old and new music, even though, in my opinion they play way too much Bruce Springsteen and not nearly enough artists from the U.K. and the rest of Europe (although WFUV has introduced me to some amazing international artists, such as Icelandic singer-songwriter Aésgir and Irish crooner Hozier). I also suspect Paul Simon might be a “strings-attached” sustaining member of the station, because they play at least one Paul Simon song a day and Paul Simon hasn’t been relevant since the 1980s! He must be paying someone!

When I am on the computer, I listen almost exclusively to a station from the “other” Long Beach – in Orange County, California – called Indie 103.1 [www.indie1031.com]. According to its Wikipedia page, “The first two songs to play were The Ramones ‘We Want The Airwaves’ and The Clash’s ‘This Is Radio Clash’ followed by a list of new songs that had never seen commercial airplay before, setting the tone for what would become a musically adventurous and rebellious radio station.” A format after my own heart!

I used to be more obsessed with Indie 103.1 when I first discovered it circa 2005. They had shows by Steve Jones (“Jonesy’s Jukebox”, which featured the inimitable ramblings and eclectic spin selections by the erstwhile Sex Pistols guitarist) and Henry Rollins (“Harmony in My Head,” which title he took from a Buzzcocks’ song and which, unsurprisingly, highlighted punk music of all ilks but also threw in some poetry and rare musical nuggets, as Mr. Rollins is wont to do). Now the station is Internet-only, and there are really only two weekly shows I catch on a regular basis: “The Lopsided World of L”, which features old-timey rock DJ Jonathan L. (and his sexy-voiced German wife Gaby) broadcasting modern-day pirate radio from Berlin, Germany, my only source for on-air prog rock and a weekly dose of Joan Jett; and (other than my friend Carl from Sweden) my absolute favorite source of all emerging and independent pop and alternative music from literally all over the world, “Passport Approved”.  I am always recommending it to friends, so I’d like to use my blog to give it a more public plug.

“Passport Approved” is created, produced and hosted by Sat Bisla, who started his career as an A&R guy and who still spends his life unearthing new talent – except now he shares it directly with the hungry listening public rather than waiting until what’s left of the recording industry finds and signs the up-and-coming artists in more traditional ways. In any given week, his musical choices range geographically from Canada to South Africa, from New Zealand to Scandinavia. He was one of the first people to play artists like Adele, and Arctic Monkeys, and Lily Allen, and that’s just the A’s!!

Even if I miss the 12-2 p.m. slot (NY time) on Indie 103.1 on Saturdays, there’s the “Passport Approved” website  [www.passportapproved.com], where you can stream playlists from the current and past few weeks any time you want.  I always expect to hear at least 2 to 3 absolutely fantastic songs per show that I’ve never heard before and I am never let down. This week I enjoyed quite a few first-time songs, including Huntar (U.K.), “Love I Know”; Broken Back (France), “Happiest Man on Earth”; and Miamigo (U.K.), “Hard to Love”. Miamigo has another song called “Opinions” that I first – and only – heard on “Passport Approved”. Unfortunately, Miamigo remains unsigned at the moment (which I cannot understand because they are excellent), so their music is evidently not available for purchase in this country.

Here’s where I’m Internet-stupid and uninitiated as to alternate ways to access (and ultimately purchase) new music. There is probably a way I can download an artist’s music from their Facebook page or something – I’m certain they’re seeking to promote their music, especially to listeners in the U.S. – but in the past when I’ve tried to do that, I get error messages that say, “This song is not available for download in your region” or some such cockblock language. I frequently have the same issue with songs my aforementioned friend Carl sends me through Spotify. Why does this happen? Why can’t all music be internationally available? I thought the Internet was intended to obliterate borders to bring the world closer!

So while I wait for a worldwide music delivery system, my go-to source for the best and newest pop music from all over the planet will always be “Passport Approved”.  Unlike certain other things in my life, it never disappoints!