Monthly Archives: February 2016

Tax-Inspired Stream of Consciousness (and Another Top Ten List)

Went to my accountant to figure out my 2015 taxes today.  I’m in a monetary quandary:  I make too much money to qualify for things like subsidies for my health insurance or financial aid for my daughter’s college tuition, and yet I don’t make enough to cover all the expenses that I have to pay.  This means that I put myself in debt every month just to make ends meet, believing that somehow I will manage to come up with the shortfall and catch up with myself.  I’m sure my situation is not unique – in fact, I would venture to guess that it’s quite common for anyone who’s not in the magical “one percent”.  Don’t get me wrong:  I am extremely grateful for my employment arrangement (which, admittedly, is pretty darn cushy), because it enables me to earn a decent salary. But being dissatisfied with so many aspects of the work that I do (this is a broken-record complaint of mine; see “The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts about My Job”, 1/27/16, among others), I dream of the day when I can do something else for a living. Unfortunately, even if I could figure out what that “something else” might be, I’m quite certain that “something else” will not pay me nearly as much as I make now.  My annual meeting with my trusted family accountant (who has been my accountant for nearly 20 years, to whom I have sent everyone in my immediate family, and who affectionately told me, as we looked through my 6-inch-thick file, that I have a lot of “oddities” where my financial situation is concerned) at tax time always brings this troubling fiscal reality into focus.  But surprisingly, I don’t hate taxes as much as other people do because in recent years I’ve tended to get a refund, which turns out to be a nice windfall that is almost always earmarked well in advance of actually receiving it.

This year’s earmark will probably be my daughter’s summer internship.  It looks like she’s going to South Africa.  For a person who has believed, almost her entire life, that she wants to work with endangered African animals, a trip to Africa to actually work with endangered African animals seems to be in order, if for nothing else than to confirm that this is what she really wants to do and not some romantic notion.  But – surprise! – providing unpaid labor for a wildlife rehabilitation center on the other side of the world will actually cost Mommy Dearest upwards of $1,600, which covers room and board but does not include the hefty airfare.  And now she has the nerve to whine about the 15-hour flight!  (“You can always work with endangered African animals at the Bronx Zoo,” I helpfully suggested, the response to which was less than enthusiastic.)

It’s just as well that she’ll be gone for three weeks over the summer because, if all goes according to slow-moving plan, the menagerie and I will be moving to temporary digs for about six months beginning in April.  As of today, I am waiting to hear back from the realtor, the project manager and the general contractor, which doesn’t bode well for the progress of this project if I’m chasing them already and the gig hasn’t even started yet.  I am not optimistic, but I’ll just have to stay patient.  Raising my house has become a necessity, and a grant from New York State is paying for the bulk of it, so a half-year of inconvenience will be worth it in the end (I hope).  The value of my home will increase, potential flood damage from any future storms will be mitigated, and my long parking nightmare will finally be over!  I’ll be able to leave my house on weekends and go to places beyond “biking distance”.  I may even be able to invite people to visit!!  A year from now, my life will (theoretically) have improved exponentially.

But make no mistake:  There’s still a long, potentially frustrating period of my life to get through in the months ahead.  Who knows what they’ll find when they get my house up in the air?  My architect said, upon initial inspection from my crawl space, the floor beams of my house “look like spaghetti”, going in every which way.  What if there’s previously undetected termite damage or mold?  My biggest nightmare by far is that the entire house will simply collapse in on itself as they’re lifting it.  I wish I could just blink like “I Dream of Jeannie” and have it all be over, with my cute little bungalow eight feet up and a double carport underneath.

* * *

On that happy note, it’s time for another Nan’s Top Ten list, and this one is especially close to my heart:  My Top Ten Favorite Singers.  See, once upon a time, I used to be a singer myself.  I actually still have nearly perfect pitch, but I have no range whatsoever.  I basically am a one-octave singer, somewhere in the tenor/contralto spectrum.  And it’s been years since I actually read music so I don’t know if I would even be able to anymore – it’s kind of like losing a language.  But you can still hear me unabashedly belting out tunes in my car, and every once in awhile, if I have a little alcohol in me and a good song comes on, I might even sing in public!

But enough about me:  Without further ado, here are the ten singers whose vocal gifts I hold in highest esteem and, as a singer myself, can only envy:

  1. Andy Bell of Erasure – His voice, especially when multi-tracked, sounds like a choir of angels. I love every note that comes out of his mouth.  His latest project (in addition to Erasure’s 30th anniversary) is the second iteration of his one-man show featuring alter-ego Torsten, the polyamorous libertine.  I heard the first single from the project, “My Precious One”, the other day and it was, of course, delicious.

 

  1. Ali Campbell of UB40 – Not a classically beautiful instrument, but his fine raspy tenor is so appealing to my ears. I especially love his tone on “Kingston Town”.

 

  1. Bowie – Much has been said on this blog already about Bowie’s genius as a songwriter, performer and icon, but his voice may not get the credit it deserves. It is as chameleonic as his persona:  Anthony Newley-esque British cabaret singer, rock wailer, soulful crooner, anthemic belter, plaintive whiner (listen to “Running Gun Blues” on The Man Who Sold the World and you’ll know exactly what I mean) – the man could do it all.

 

  1. Iggy Pop – I love Iggy’s voice, so deep and rich and raw, even now. Post Pop Depression, his new project with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, is so tantalizing, especially after hearing the first single, “Gardenia”.

 

  1. Midge Ure – An under-appreciated Eighties chanteur, Ure was the soaring lead singer of Ultravox and Visage and co‑writer of the seasonally ubiquitous “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”.

 

  1. Ann Wilson – Half of the Heart sisters, she was my vocal idol when I was in college and imagined that I might possibly be worthy of singing in a band (I was wrong, of course, mostly due to my being a complete coward).

 

  1. Annie Lennox – Her voice in the ‘80s was magical, but now it’s even more nuanced and textured. Listen to what she does with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”.

 

  1. Glenn Tilbrook – Taken on its own, his distinctive voice touched something deep inside me from the moment I heard the opening notes of “If I Didn’t Love You” (from Squeeze’s breakthrough record, Argybargy) back in college, but if possible it was made even better when meshed with the depths of Chris Difford’s basso profundo.  My friend Sue treated me to an Acoustic Squeeze performance back in December, featuring a stripped down Glenn and Chris doing all their hits and some songs from their latest album, which I have not yet discovered but it’s certainly on my list.  They were in very good voice that night and they really seemed to enjoy themselves, as we in the audience did as well.

 

  1. Bryan Ferry – The man is panty-dampening smoothness personified. He could sing the phone book and make it sound sexy.

 

  1. Johnette Napolitano – The soul of Concrete Blonde, her range and tone (especially on the lowest notes) are epic. Where have you gone, Johnette Napolitano?  I miss your voice.

 

Honorable mention goes to three “newbies”, all of whom have supremely impressive and wholly singular instruments:  Pink, Adele and Adam Lambert.  Adam Lambert is pretty damn special, folks.  I wish he would find his niche because I want him to get the attention and fame he deserves.  He was actually able to follow in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury (a man with an incredible voice, but not one of my personal favorites – perhaps because his voice is almost too perfect?) as lead singer of Queen on a recent tour.

[Post-script on a prior top ten list:  My Top Ten Perfect Pop Songs list (“A Hodgepodge and My First Top Ten List”, 9/23/15) admittedly omitted quite a few excellent songs, some of which were pointed out by my friend Carol Constantine, including the fantastic “No Matter What” by Badfinger (OMG, I LOVE that song, and amazingly I do not own it!!)  But two that should have made my list (which I might have to expand to a Top 20 list) are “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”.]

Advertisements

The Pursuit of Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is an “unalienable right” of all Americans, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.  But what is happiness, really?  Vocabulary.com [https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/happiness] says:  “Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness.  Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. When people are successful, or safe, or lucky, they feel happiness. The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for different reasons. Whenever doing something causes happiness, people usually want to do more of it. No one ever complained about feeling too much happiness.”

In my high school yearbook (where I have been forever memorialized with an extra “a” as “Nanacy Lucas”), my life’s ambition was, quite simply, “To always be happy.”  Needless to say, I have not lived up to this ambition, if such a thing is even possible.

I can honestly say that I’ve been consistently happy on a day-to-day basis during, at best, maybe four periods of my life:

  1. Until I hit puberty, I was a reasonably happy child. I had parents who were seemingly content together.  My father was a disgruntled banker but an unapologetic practical joker and party animal, my mother was a suburban housewife, and my younger sister and I had everything we could possibly want.  I had dreams of being a famous author and I did actually write things, with confidence and not an ounce of self-doubt (see “An Aspiring Young Author”, 3/15/15).  I unabashedly performed musical theater in my living room, with a booming alto voice that was also on display in the church choir.  I wasn’t the prettiest child and tended toward chubbiness, and there were the inevitable catty disputes with the gaggle of neighborhood girls who hung around Azalea Court, but until the arrival of the upper-lip mustache and an inexplicable vendetta against me in 7th grade by girls I didn’t even know for some imagined affront, I knew true happiness as a youngster. Quite clearly that was where my “pursuit of happiness” took root, because I’ve wanted to recapture that idyllic time ever since.
  2. True happiness returned at Trinity College, when I had the aplomb to offer my services as the manager and/or statistician of the men’s football, hockey and lacrosse teams, as well as the co-sports editor of the campus newspaper, the Trinity Tripod. I was living the sporting life I had always imagined:  If I couldn’t actually PLAY the sports due to the unfortunate reality of my gender, I wanted to be as embedded in that world as I could possibly be, and I was.  There were pretty boys for the taking nearly every weekend at frat parties and the campus pub, and while I might have publicly bemoaned my lack of a boyfriend (because sex was only acceptable if it was with an exclusive boyfriend; otherwise, it was frowned upon, even in the permissive late ‘70s), if truth be told in retrospect, I couldn’t have possibly stuck with just one for very long.  The Trinity College campus itself was a source of peace and beauty, I took some fascinating classes, including ones involving poetry and fiction writing (to advance my prospective future career as a writer), and I had friends from every sphere of my college life.  There was never a dull moment, never a weekend (or even weeknight, for that matter – there was a party every night of the week, if you knew where to look) that didn’t offer the promise of a rollicking good time.   Although there were admittedly many sad moments (especially senior year, when I would occasionally fall victim to my fears of what was going to happen to me once I was forced out of my comfortable college cocoon), when I recall that time now, my overriding  emotion is contentment.  I had everything I could possibly want and, best of all, utter FREEDOM.
  3. In the late 1980s, until about 1992, I lived in the East Village of New York City. It was my bohemian dream life come true:  I had a basement studio apartment on East First Street between First and Second Avenues crammed full of furniture and creatures, including of the human variety.  I bartended across the street at a local watering hole called Downtown Beirut II that featured live music, which made me a minor celebrity in the neighborhood, recognized by patrons and performers on the street – no greater thrill, I can tell you!  I was surrounded by artists and wanna-be future stars (of which I counted myself) and I was going to write the great American novel (or series of short stories) based on my life in that time, in that place.  I was a joyful soul.  I even met my future husband, a handsome punk seven years my junior who was a source of pride for me and envy among others.  Even when we moved out of the Village to Park Slope, Brooklyn, my new neighborhood was leafy green and gorgeous, I was still surrounded by good friends and soon baby Darian entered our lives.  I could not have been happier.
  4. The last time I was truly happy was at Hofstra School of Law, when I was grateful to return, in my early 40s, to an environment of such intellectual energy. I was friends with the kids and comfortable with the professors, straddling the divide between the two.  Being a lover of school in all its forms, I thrived, looking forward to my arrival on campus every day.  (I also had an innocent little crush on a cute classmate, offering yet another thing to look forward to on a daily basis.)  Working on the Hofstra Law Review just added to my enjoyment.  When I graduated in 2002 with honors, having won a few awards (including a “Distinguished Service to the School” award), with a six-figure law firm job in my back pocket, seeing the pride on both my mother’s and my daughter’s faces, it was the epitome of my life.

Since then (and as was the case in between each of those time periods), happiness has been much harder to come by.  I don’t find it in my chosen career (see “The Blizzard of 2016 and Some Thoughts About My Job”, 1/27/16), and I sometimes feel a little lonely (even though, given my druthers, I am quite content to spend time doing whatever I choose in the pleasure of my own company).  But lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to work at being more happy in my life.  This blog is a major source of satisfaction, for one.  Also, as previously noted, I’ve been trying to find small joys in each day and preserve them in my “joybook” every night before going to sleep.

But the majority of my smiles these days comes mostly from the animals, both here at home and at the shelter.  Last Sunday, I was sitting on a chair in the big cat room at the shelter, with the gorgeous but temperamental Gracie on my lap, my beloved Winnie (who I am going to end up adopting, I am quite certain) to my right on the cat tree, and then big Blackjack came over.  All the cats were basking in my affection and being surprisingly sweet to each other, until Gracie, as is her wont, decided she was done with me and jumped down.  But for those ten minutes or so, I felt nothing but bliss.

I guess, ultimately, it’s unrealistic to think I could be happy every minute of every day, especially when things like death and injustice are so pervasive.  So, despite my high school ambition to “always be happy”, and my unalienable right as an American to pursue it, I’ll settle for being happy more often than I’m not.  If I can find that balance, I would consider my life a success.

What Is Love (Part I)

In my Bowie tribute blog (“Bowie is Dead – Long Live Bowie”, 1/13/16), I neglected to mention Graham Nash in my list of grizzled oldsters who are still putting out new music – in this instance, his new album This Path Tonight.  I’ve always admired him, loved his voice, his politics and his aesthetic.  I read an interesting article about him recently that noted how “Nash has been motivated by the desire to ‘make the world a better place for me and my friends and my family and my children and for everybody else’s children.’”  (Jon Wiederhorn, “Graham Nash Opens Up about Trump, Divorce, and Neil Young,” re-blogged on Yahoo! Music, 1/19/16, http://jwiederhorn.tumblr.com/post/137637249043/graham-nash-opens-up-about-trump-divorce-and).

There was something else in that article that struck me, however.  Nash said, “On my next birthday, I’ll be 74 years old, and I need to be happy with whatever life I have left.’”  In a move some might have considered selfish at face value, he had recently left his wife of 38 years after he “fell in love with this wonderful person in New York City” and it changed his life.

I often wonder about this “falling in love” concept.  Without sounding maudlin or woe-is-me, I’ve frankly never experienced that reciprocal depth of feeling with anyone in my entire 56 years of life.  It bothers me sometimes, but only in the sense that I won’t be able to give comfort to my daughter that there’s someone out there for her when she bemoans that she’s doesn’t have a significant other.  I can’t tell her with confidence that she WILL find love someday, because I know for a fact that it’s quite possible that she WON’T.  For better or worse (pun intended), it appears that my anxiety over that question is premature because, as far as I know, she is not actively looking for love at the moment, nor has this been a concern of hers during her teen years (unlike certain of her friends, who are NEVER without a boyfriend, no matter what a loser or dead weight he might be; in their minds – and in a lot of women’s minds, sad to say – a BAD boyfriend/husband is better than NO boyfriend/husband, which is another blog post for another day).  What is that “young love” thing about, anyway?  I honestly don’t know.  I never had it.

I loved my husband, and was grateful for his love of me, and we united to create an amazing human being so it was clearly a good thing that we were together, at least for that purpose.  But I confess that I was never IN love with him (whatever that actually MEANS).

There have been a number of people in my life who I believed I was in love with, but the feeling was so far from mutual that I’ve had to conclude that what I was experiencing didn’t qualify as love at all but was something else entirely – lust, animal attraction, obsession, delusion (or, in my case, perhaps all of the above).

Lifelong (or presumed lifelong) companionship is a wholly different notion.  That actually EXISTS, and I’ve known quite a few couples for whom that has been the reality of their lives together.  There’s a compatibility in those relationships and a depth of feeling, respect and trust, almost universally a friendship that sometimes (but not always) involves touching each other’s private bits.  But this fiery, passionate, never-tear-us-apart love, with one’s soulmate (I think the social media world calls it an “OTP” – one true pairing), the love that songs and poems are written about and people are killed over (a crime of passion would obviously not exist if there was not this crazy-making “love” thing) – I’ve come to the conclusion that this “love” is an artifice, a creation of our collective, historical imaginations.  Romantic love is just something humans made up long ago to keep themselves entertained while they went about the business of procreating, and it can only lead to drama and, ultimately, tragedy.

I remember taking a course at Trinity College with an interesting professor, so blonde and pale she was almost translucent, where we had to read Ovid’s The Art of Love and Shakespeare’s love sonnets, among other things.  Sadly, even though the subject matter interested me and was a frequent topic of rumination in my journals at the time, as I recall, it was an early-morning class, which of course meant that I didn’t attend regularly and I slacked on the reading so the subject matter never sunk in the way it should have, and so I can’t call upon it now when I’m trying to explore the concept of romantic love on a more intellectual level.  (I’ll have to track down my journal entries from that period to see if I can rekindle the discourse and gain a better understanding with decades of a loveless existence to inform my youthful thought processes.  I am confident this will not be my last blog post on love because it’s something I think about often.)

People are rendered stupid and insane by this so-called love. They get taken advantage of, they make dumb and costly decisions.  They MURDER.  When I started writing the notes for this piece in my journal a few weeks ago, there was a tragic story in the news about a murder-suicide in the SUNY Geneseo community.  The guy doing the killing had been in love with the girl and was distraught over their break-up; her current boyfriend was an innocent victim of the madness of the murderer’s failed “love”.  [Tobias Salinger, “Murder-suicide leaves upstate New York village and SUNY Geneseo heartbroken as classes resume ahead of memorial events,” New York Daily News, January 19, 2016, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/murder-suicide-leaves-suny-geneseo-heartbroken-article-1.2502085%5D

What about all those idiots on the Springer and Maury shows, who exacerbate their idiocy by thinking that they’re acting out of some form of demented “love”?  This is dangerous love and, if we’re being honest here, it’s not actually love by any definition.  It’s mental illness.  Possessiveness and jealousy, abuse (and the taking of abuse) – this is not what I would consider LOVE, and yet it’s been perverted in that way throughout human history.  (Antony and Cleopatra, anyone?)  Unlike my romantic love 300-level college course, there should probably be some kind of required class in high school or college that actually teaches young people what “love” is supposed to look like, because if we’re basing our understanding on TV and movies and music, we’ve all been sold a bill of goods.

What are affairs about?  Like Graham Nash, people “fall in love” with someone who isn’t their spouse and often destroy a true companionship/co-parenting relationship.  The way I see it is, if you fall in love with a cheater, s/he will inevitably cheat on YOU.  S/he is clearly a love junkie and can’t control the addiction, no matter what’s at stake.  But what’s at the root of a life-changing circumstance like an affair is probably not “love”, even though that’s what it’s often called.

I was listening to my “The Best of Lesley Gore” CD [20th Century Masters:  The Millennium Collection, 2000] the other day.  What a HORRIBLE series of messages to send to girls in any era of history, especially when you contrast the prudish side of the early ‘60s (in the liner notes by Tony Sachs, he says that early Lesley is “always acting like a good, subservient, Eisenhower-era young lady”), when most of her hits were popular, with the later “free love” of the “Swingin’ ‘60s” and Woodstock.  There’s girls fighting over the inconstant bad boy – first, in “It’s My Party” [“and I’ll cry if I want to”], Johnny hooks up with Lesley’s rival Judy (at her own birthday party, no less!) and then, of course, it was “Judy’s Turn to Cry” when Johnny inevitably goes back to Lesley.  Good heavens!!  There’s the “I’ll do whatever you want” attitude [in “I Don’t Want to Be a Loser” (!), Lesley sings, “Tell me, what can I do to keep from losin’ you/’Cause I could never live without your love”, which of course could only mean “putting out”]; there’s even a hint of physical abuse in one of her songs [in ”That’s the Way Boys Are”, she lists, among a litany of inexcusable behavior she clearly excuses the boy for, “When he treats me rough and he acts as though he doesn’t really care/Well, I never tell him that he is so unfair!/Plus, he loves me and I know it/But he’s just afraid to show it!/’Cause that’s the way boys are!”].  My favorite song in the Leslie Gore canon, “You Don’t Own Me”, which is perhaps her only pop anthem coming from a position of female strength and self-confidence (a precursor perhaps of the “girl power” movement that came years later), still arises from an environment of possessiveness, where guys take a girl and “put [her] on display”.  Some of this atrocious (and yet catchy!) songwriting can be attributed to the old white guys who wrote the lyrics, believing they were capturing the truth of young people at the time (although the vengeful “Judy’s Turn to Cry” was significantly written by two women), but unfortunately, things haven’t changed that much in the five decades since.  Girls still fight amongst themselves for boys and allow themselves to be abused and disrespected, calling into question the whole concept of “love”.  This kind of “love” is a destructive, misunderstood force that frankly makes people act like idiots.

Look at a show like “The Bachelor”, which assumes that it is even possible that a single one among a gaggle of competing women can “win” the love of the anointed husband-to-be.  How does “love” even factor in?  It seems highly unlikely that such a forced and artificial environment can result in anything that’s real.  Gloria Steinem was on “Real Time with Bill Maher” last week and I thought to myself that she must think shows like “The Bachelor” are an abomination that has set the cause of feminism back decades.  For those who say, “Well, they do it with a bachelorette, too – equal time!”, please:  I remember how horribly the public ripped apart that last bachelorette woman – Chris Harrison reading those horrendous tweets to her face on national television was just nasty and cruel – because she DARED to get intimate with more than one of the men who were wooing her.  As a sentient, reasonably intelligent human being, I find the whole franchise embarrassing.

And yet – romantic love has been the catalyst for some of the world’s most beautiful and significant art, music and literature.  This kind of love even has magical salvation properties – how many country songs have been sung about being saved by the love of a “good woman”?  According to B.B. King and Bono, “I did what I did [bad] before love came to town [good].”  There’s Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”, there’s the “All You Need Is Love” that the Beatles sang about (although I don’t think that’s romantic love per se, but really, where is the dividing line?), love for our children, and love for our friends – that’s the GOOD kind of love.  As far as I’m concerned, THAT love that is the only thing that will allow us to survive as a species.  But “romantic love” – or at least the perversion of it – is more often than not a highly destructive force that will drive humankind to its demise.

So even though Haddaway sings, “What is love?  Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more,” and Nazareth quite clearly says that it does (“Love hurts/Love scars/Love wounds and marks”), that’s not the love I’m talking about.  Even though admittedly I’ve never felt a “love” like that, I instinctively know it shouldn’t hurt.

Some Random Thoughts in Early February

Of course I’ve failed at my resolutions for the new year. Making wholesale changes in your life is very, very difficult, even when you know how much better things will be if you can manage to make those changes.

One of those resolutions was, of course, to improve my diet but, to the contrary, I’ve been eating a ridiculous amount of food lately.  I don’t think it’s a “winter hibernation” thing, because after the blizzard of a few weekends ago, the weather has been unseasonably mild.  It’s been well into the 50s both days in February so far, and it’s supposed to go up to a rainy 60 degrees tomorrow (although they’re saying a chill will follow).  [An aside:  I remember when we lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, there would be a tease of spring in February (although a final cold snap would inevitably sneak through in March, chilling all the budding trees and early spring flowers), and I would actually start to feel less SAD (not “sad”, although that’s sometimes how I feel, but SAD – that is, seasonal affective disorder, some of the symptoms of which are feeling logy, lethargic, lazy, sleepy and just generally unenthused about life).]

The other day I ate so much – and so much CRAP – that I literally felt sick to my stomach, like a little kid who’d eaten too much Halloween candy in a single sitting.  I definitely need to get back on nutritional track:  adding protein, cutting carbs.  And I also need to start a walking regime.  With the weather so temperate, I have no excuses (even though I COULD use some better footwear . . .).  Although I must say, the other day I created something scrumptious:  a Thomas’ Maple French Toast English Muffin topped with crunchy peanut butter and a sliced banana and drizzled with honey.  Oh, man, that was good!  But what happened as soon as I was done?  I found myself in the fridge, looking for MORE FOOD.  It wasn’t that I was hungry; I just wanted the TASTE to continue.  Someone needs to channel Willy Wonka and create a gum or mint that mimics delicious food so that you don’t actually have to EAT it to experience the taste (without turning purple like Violet Beauregarde).

# # # # #

Any time I want to avoid work or some other unpleasantness, my worst procrastination tendency involves getting up from my desk and walking into the kitchen on a mission to find something to eat. Maybe, instead of eating, every time I get up I should pet and play with the “kids”:  fewer calories, more comfort and joy.  One or another of the beasts is looking for attention at any given moment, so it’ll be a win-win situation for everyone.

Which reminds me, one thing I HAVE been able to do in the new year is to keep a daily “joybook” in which, before I go to sleep, I write at least one thing that gave me joy that day.  I also say a quick prayer every night to the non-denominational Higher Power to give thanks for all those things I am grateful for in my life: my comfy bed, the roof over our heads, enough money in the bank to pay the bills, my companion creatures, my daughter safe and sound away at school, and my reasonably good health are usually what comprise my nightly litany of gratitude, but I’ll occasionally add something specific from the day just passed:  a pleasant visit with a friend, a successful blog post, a good Ranger game.  I see it as a way to project positive thoughts and feelings out into the universe before heading off to dreamland.  It certainly doesn’t hurt.

# # # # #

Hockey returns tonight after a brief mid-winter break to accommodate the 2016 All-Star Game festivities, held this season in Nashville, Tennessee (a “non-traditional hockey market” that turned out to be a fantastic forum for the event).  What had become a boring, trite advertiser showcase was actually a lot of fun this year, in no small part due to the fan-vote campaign to get John Scott – behemoth, pugilist and “great in the room” fourth-liner who was at the time a member of the Arizona Coyotes but was then traded to Montreal and sent down to the minors (some say as the result of a shady league conspiracy) – into the game.  The greatest thing about “The John Scott Incident” was that the guy had a smile on his face THE WHOLE WEEKEND.  He clearly had the time of his life, and so did his wife (hugely pregnant with twins), and his two adorable little girls (in their ‘Yotes jerseys and pink tutus and tights), and his buddies (of which there were many, and even more now after they got to know him better in Nashville).  Despite his goonish reputation, I still consider John Scott an elite athlete, a professional who gets paid well to play a game for a living.  But in a way, he is more like US, and his experience at the ASG was more like if Herman Q. Beer League went to the All-Star Game and was allowed to play with the “big boys,” sort of akin to how excited my chiropractor gets when he plays pick-up hockey with a journeyman NHL-er like Arron Asham (who had the distinction of playing for every team in the erstwhile Atlantic Division before it was morphed into the Metropolitan Division following the league’s realignment in 2012).  There wasn’t a single camera shot of the guy where he didn’t have a huge grin on his face, and we were all able to experience his enjoyment vicariously.

So, even though I was looking forward to the resumption of the regular season for nearly a week, it didn’t take long (one game) for me to have my hopes dashed for a Rangers return to form post-All-Star break.  All season long they have had a maddening tendency to squander their opportunities.  Chance after chance – BLOWN.  For starters, their special teams have been uniformly awful.  The key to success in a game like hockey, especially as they move into the post-season where there’s less and less separating the teams, is to take advantage of the other team’s mistakes, so special teams play and making opponents pay for their defensive errors become vital.  But I can’t tell you how many times in a typical Ranger game they fail to capitalize not only on their man-advantage opportunities but also two-on-ones, breakaways and wide open nets.  Tonight’s game against the Devils was a case in point.  Captain Ryan McDonagh made a great steal at the blue line and had a short-handed breakaway, which he somehow missed (I guess you could give the Devils’ goalie some credit), and then his teammates give up a power play goal with 5 seconds left in the penalty they were trying to kill – the second power play goal they let up in the game, as compared to an 0-for-4 performance on their own power play.  When will they develop the necessary sense of urgency, that killer instinct?  When they’re completely out of a playoff spot?  That situation is alarmingly close at hand.  I do not enjoy watching hockey when it’s this frustrating.  And yet I’ll be there in front of the TV again on Thursday, full of hopeful anticipation:  Will tonight be the night they finally get their shit together?

# # # # #

January ended much the way it began – with the death of a dear friend, this one I actually knew (unlike my “friend” David Bowie). She was way too young (i.e., my age) and succumbed after a valiant battle with a recurrent, insidious cancer.  The world lost a special person, a loving mother, wife, nurse and friend.  Although I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked due to time and distance, I will miss her beautiful, always-smiling face.  Rest in peace, Rhonda Caputo Speranza.

The death of someone your age brings it home more intensely that you have to live every day with a purpose.  I often think about why we’re here on this planet, why we’ve been given these lives to live.  It can’t be just to perpetuate the species biologically; it must involve, somehow, our intellectual and spiritual evolution as a civilization as well (although I’m DEFINITELY not talking about organized religion, but that’s another post for another day).  I mean, look at everything we’ve done in the past few thousand years, let’s say from the time of the Romans (who were remarkably advanced in their day) until today.  Our technological breakthroughs have been exponential.  We are able to do and create things that people who lived thousands of years ago could not have even imagined (except for maybe Leonardo da Vinci).  But we continue to pollute with no consideration of our limited resources or our fellow humans, quite as badly as (if not even worse than) our ancestors, who didn’t know any better what consequences their waste and pillage of the earth would have.  And of course we still make war with regularity and otherwise find ways to steal from and kill each other.  That’s something that doesn’t seem to change about human nature.  But while that kind of thinking just makes me feel impotent and insignificant, I often wonder what I role I could possibly have in furthering mankind’s development.  I brought a child into the world, so there’s my basic biological imperative satisfied; but on a deeper level, what can I, Nancy Lucas – I and only I – do to make the world a better place?  What gifts have I been given that I must use to fulfill my purpose in life?  A friend recently posted something (without attribution, I’m afraid) on Facebook that I liked.  It said:  “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”  But why is my heart keeping that desire such a well-hidden secret?  After 56 years, you would have thought my heart would have spoken by now (or, if it’s been speaking all along, that I’d finally be able to hear it).