The People You Meet

Lion of Judah – by artfulexpectations. (Bashert w/Yoda)

There are people sent into your life for a purpose, not always is this purpose clear beyond gaining a new friend (or enemy), but there is a purpose. Take my friend Betty.

Betty is an eternal optimist. Like Annie, she knows that even though the sky may be covered in bruise coloured clouds, there is a sun shining fiercely behind it just waiting to break through. Don’t get me wrong though, Betty is no Pollyanna (for those of you not born of an age, go look her up). She doesn’t spout cloyingly sweet phrases or sing to the birds – at least I don’t think she sings to the birds, I’ve never witnessed it anyway. Betty is just, well, happy.

Betty has seen her share of things that would rock anyone’s world. I’ll not relate them here as they are her private affairs and hers to hold on to. Let it suffice to say that these things could bring a lesser person to their knees. Betty rose to meet all comers and came out the victor.

She is the woman, who under any other circumstance would rub you completely wrong, with her: “Hello! Monday, what good have you got for me to start the week?” But Betty in her determined sunny-side of life, makes you inquire what wonders Monday might actually hold.

Her laugh is incredibly contagious. One of my fondest, BEST memories of my college years (the last ones, not these) is of a rainy afternoon down in the sculpture lab with Bashert, Thriver, myself and Betty. We laughed so hard that my face hurt and I couldn’t catch my breath. I will never look at another bamboo paintbrush or container of Preparation H in the same light after that day.

She co-hosted our baby shower for Yoda (her co-host was the friend we lost a year ago – see “Just Keep Singing”) – a marvelous affair with friends, family and lots of yummy food mixed with that laughter. If there is a woman who loves babies, there’s Betty (just ask her granddaughters).

She spends many of her days working with pregnant women. She’s not an obstetrician,  no Betty is an artist – a sculptor. She creates wonderful memories to, as her website puts it, “preserve and celebrate” a child’s first home. No wonder she’s a happy camper.

Betty is a free spirit, who has paid her dues to be so. She takes little for granted and beams her gratitude out with rays of joy. Even in her darkest hours, at least those I have been privileged to witness, she finds a spark, a reason to look for the light to come.

I’ve been in a funk lately. The triad of my life; home, school and work have been a little at odds. It’s kind of like the uneven three-legged stool. You keep cutting a little bit off each leg, but it never seems to quite even out.

Whether she knows it or not, Betty has been quietly encouraging me. She’s going through her own struggle right now, but even when she has a set back of some kind, she finds something good in it even it means that she must take a step back. Her fortitude lets me know that there is light to come and that sometimes you have to make your own torch to brighten the way because some tunnels are longer than others.

I may not be able to rise to her level of zen just yet, but she gives me hope that I might get there someday. What an awesome purpose. Thank you Betty.

Secret Self

Matt Singer Secret Id Kit

Last night, while avoiding homework by watching t.v. with the family, I stumbled into an episode of William Shatner’s interview show, Raw Nerve. It came on right after a 16 year old tribute to the Star Trek franchise. Odd juxtaposition.

The show had been taped in 2009 and his guest on the show was his long time co-actor and friend Leonard Nimoy.  Mr. Nimoy was discussing one of his first ‘ordinary people’ shoots, “Secret Selves”.

The project began in 2008 when Mr. Nimoy invited some of the denizens of Northampton, Massachusetts, where he shows his work in the R Michelson Galleries, to be photographed as “who you think you are”.  He wanted to create portraits of people’s inner alternate identities.

All the participants of the shoot were video taped being interviewed and photographed by Mr. Nimoy.  You can watch some of them at this site: <>.

The premise got me thinking and imagining who or what I might want revealed as my secret self.

I drew a blank.

Presently my days are spent as partner, mom, student, friend, corporate supervisor, sometime fine artist, survivor.  In previous incarnations I was a stay-at-home mom, bookkeeper, library technician, graphic artist, cake decorator, crazy person, victim.

Still drawing a blank.

I have an ex-sister-in-law, who was once married to the AH’s brother, Bucket.  She’s a bit of a changeling, a chameleon.

When I knew her back in the dark ages, she was the “perfect”, church going, small town, country wife and mother.   She had a great sense of humor and an understated intellect that was much deeper than any of the AH’s family could ever appreciate.

We lost track of each other after my expulsion from the Hatfield’s wagon circle.  The ubiquitous FaceBook allowed us to reconnect.  Turns out, she, too left the oh, so warm environs of the opprobrious Hatfield’s.

The sense of humor is the same but, the Chameleon has changed.  Aside from an ever evolving hairstyle, Chameleon has reinvented herself or rather become, who she was supposed to be – a writer, a photographer, actor, explorer of life and genuinely happy person.

Beautiful changing colours

What has this to do with my inner alter ego?  I found myself a tad bit jealous that Chameleon had the courage to find, and work toward, being her secret self, while I can’t even pull up an idea of whom I would choose to be for a photo session.

I guess I can placate myself by thinking that she has another inner self to yet reveal – exotic dancer perhaps? 🙂

Still drawing a blank.

Splat is a friend I’ve know for over 30 years.  He’s a special effects make-up artist. Really, he is – for the movies and television (The Patriot, Zombieland, & soon to be released The Three Stooges, among many others).  I remember him back in high school, experimenting with self-made, latex masks and pulling his eyebrows out by accident (always lubricate them first before applying casting materials).


He’s improved since then.

Splat has been living his dream.  I admire him greatly for sticking to it.  He’s told me that sometimes its hard, but oh, so worth it all.  He gets to live out alter egos quite a bit, maybe not quite his true secret self, but characters that he creates. That makes me smile.

Maybe a glimmer here.

I have yet another friend LC, who once had a lucrative career as a director of a lab.  She felt unappreciated and undervalued in that position and chose to leave it for what seemed a more self fulfilling adventure.

It was not to be.

But through a series of sometime severe growing pains, LC found herself as a teacher.  She nows enlightens college students to higher learning and understanding of the human psyche.  She’s found a different self to be and seems to be happier for it.

I do think she would rather be a globe-trotting, secret agent though, but that’s just my humble opinion.

It’s becoming clearer to me now.

As I think about my friends and Mr. Nimoy’s subjects, I have begun to realize I’m thinking too hard.

One’s inner or secret self is not about thought.  Its about feeling.  Its about those nebulous, moveable, visceral emotions that keep one going.

Still standing after being beaten up by life?  You’re a fighter, a super hero, a vigilante for the good guys, a dragon, a freedom fighter, a symbol of hope, heck you could be a piece of delicious warm bread – rising after being beaten down and coming back to give comfort and nourishment.

So who or what is my secret self?

A flamenco dancer? Mind scientist? World explorer? Jedi Warrior? Naughty Nanny? A Lion? Dragon or dragon slayer? Vampire? Brick Layer?

Oh, hell I don’t know.

Perhaps that is my secret self – I am a Janus, a Zaphod, Lon Chaney, Sr.  I wear many hats, looking forward and back, juggling the possibilities of what will be, what is, what was and remolding everyday never quite settling on any one thing.

Cop out? Maybe.

Would you be able to accept Mr. Nimoy’s invitation?  Could you settle on one representation caught in time?

Let me know.  Who or what is your secret self?

Splat’s website

He smelled so good…

It is said that people can identify about 10,000 different smells.

Maine smelled of memories.

His cologne filled the air with a sweetness of romance and comfort.

When he walked by, men who opened car doors and gave up their seats appeared.  Bear hugs surrounded you and lifted your spirit.  A blanket of warm cookies enveloped your soul.

Direct, gruff and kindhearted.  Smooth and full bodied – large of life his essence permeated the lives of all he touched whether blood, community or coworkers.

The scent of amiable sarcasm and dry wit followed in his wake.  An easy calm that could tease and chastise at once.

Honorable husband and father of three princesses, who danced on the cloud of Maine’s fragrant love, he showered them all with devotion singly and as a bouquet.

Family and friends gather tomorrow to send you on your way to whatever is next in your journey.  Savoring together, the memories of your life and inhaling that bond of love and friendship for one last time.

Pungent and delectable, your spirit will remain in our hearts and halls. Goodbye, Maine.

Illegal Leopard

I was in a business meeting last week and was surprised and delighted to find OwL there.  OwL was once a producer on the albums of that band of legendary – nay, mythic status – Illegal Leopard, for which, I have the privilege of designing album covers.

OwL was involved with the band through Predator or Prey.  (For those few of you who don’t know the sequence of albums, this was the one just before Genius, Money Maker’s Farewell).  OwL’s decision to leave had as much to do with MM’s retirement as it did with the opportunity to take the TMS job when Juan’s sentence in China came to an unexpected, early end.

It was tough to see the tight knit group lose such valuable members at the same time, but MM was tired of the touring and the guys at that time weren’t ready to become an exclusive studio band.  Of course that changed later when Silk had to do that stint on the road gang in Mozambique.  He said he didn’t want to see another road for a long, long time.

Anyway, it was old home time at that meeting.  I forgot the original reason we all ended up there.  Ese and Homes were beside themselves with joy.  I mean its been over a year since we were all together, with the exception of Money Maker, who is still basking on the beaches of the Recherche Archipelago.  Dynamite couldn’t blast her off!

Can you imagine the energy with Ese, Homes, Silk, OwL, t’s Girl, Just Yule and Crooks in the same room? Wow.

We were having such a great time that we rolled over to OH’s grill so that we could all have a couple of drinks, (the soft kind for Crooks, please – didn’t want a repeat of the Mosquito Strut fiasco) and relax.

Oh, how I wish I had some recording equipment in there!  The impromptu unplugged stuff was magic.  Silk brought out his harmonica and they were off.

Home’s a cappella version of “My Cup is Gone” brought back such memories of the Bangladesh Uh-Oh Tour.  I caught Crooks wiping a tear from his eye.  “Gets me every time.”, he said.

They did a shortened version of “don’t listen, miss diane” with new vigor.  It was just plain awesome. It was if the South African ban had never been there.

Memories of Ese’s Cali City, 34 minutes of bone chilling guitar solo on “that stanks nasty” came flooding back.  The cops had to stop the stage stampede on that one.  Good times.

The guys said they are still involved in the litigation that’s tying up album sales.  R Costa is just not letting up, but they’re not too worried – they never are.  They are hard at work on the new tribute album.  Ese gave a quick few bars of the first cut, “Ted, Where You At?”  Poetry.

Ese said they talked Just Yule into sitting in on a couple of sessions. He had a short set recorded on his MP3 and let me listen. You could hear the trombone singing in the background, bringing out such depth to “out on love” and “Cara Muche”.  Man, JY can make that thing come to life!

I think the biggest single, however is going to be “¡JAMm”.  This cut is the culmination of all the years these guys have been together.  You can feel the mixing of their voices and the way the instruments play off each other so easily.  It’s a combination only those who know each other so deeply can reach.  The live version they performed for us that afternoon was simply amazing.

I think if they can get out from under that ball and chain created by the riots in Botswana after Homes, well, had his little public issue, this album is going to soar past the fabled stratosphere of the tour compilation disc, Change of Spots.

It was really hard to break away that afternoon, which by that time had become early evening.  But OwL had an early morning meeting with her new group, Bedroom Slippers.  Crooks had to get back to the Centennial operations.  They guys and I hung out a little while longer until Silk reminded Homes that he was his ride to his enforced training session that night.

Ese was off to an audition for a new triangle player, although we all knew there would never be another like Money Maker. Those leopard go-go boots would always be too sexy to fill.

It was such a great time.  I’m really looking forward to designing the cover for this new album, whether it gets to full distribution or not.  It’s going to have to be one sweet design because the magic these guys conjure just cannot be captured by reality.

I’ll make sure that OwL (and MM) get signed copies and hope that soon the rest of the world will once again be able to immerse themselves in the alchemy of Illegal Leopard.

(*Fingers crossed that the extradition committee is through debating by release date and the verdict goes in our favor!)

Gay? Marriage

An old acquaintance approached me at the Pride parade today.  She was proudly wearing her I ♥ New York t-shirt.

She had come to the parade to show her support of her cousin still living in NYC and possibly her son, but we didn’t go there.

When we worked together we never discussed politics or sexual orientation.  I was semi-closeted at the time because it was a government job and knew the opinions of my superiors at the time.  I know, I know., but let’s get real – I needed the job.

Tiger, as she was called must have known something was up because she made the comment to me once, “I really like watching Queer as Folk”.  I replied, “That’s nice, don’t watch it myself, but okay.”  My partner will tell you, I’m not the quickest to catch on to things.

It was a quiet outreach, a sort of underground communique that let me know that I had an ally and I did appreciate it despite my inelegant response.

But today at our home town parade, Tiger came up to me and reintroduced herself and we were able to speak openly and with matter of fact about how proud she was of New York of passing the legalization of gay marriage bill. Time and age had given us both confidence.

Another friend posted a great photograph of a statement that also hit home with the theme of this weekend.  It reminded me that Pride is not only about having the confidence about being oneself and the camaraderie of having all those people of like around you, but to me its also about showing to the rest of the world that we are no different just because of who we love.

I go to work everyday to support my family.  We pay taxes and worry about our children’s education and future.  We have pets and have memberships to the YMCA.  We have cranky days and days full of wonderment. We teach, we learn, we are good citizens and bad ones, too.  The full gamut of the rainbow of humanity.

We are just people.

 It’s not gay marriage; it’s just marriage, as simple and as complicated as everyone else’s.

It’s taken 42 years since Stonewall to get six states to agree.  I hope that my blog name will not be fullcnote before the rest of the country follows suite.










Just keep singing

I attended a funeral today.  A friend lost her valiant, last battle against breast cancer.

Jewish funerals are usually pretty cut and dry. The rabbi may say a few words, but for the most part, they follow a certain rhythm of traditional prayers and solemnity.  Family members rarely speak.

Today was different.

Her son sang a psalm to honor his mother that I shall not soon forget.

Alberta was a woman with a voice.  The kind of voice that brings to mind Ethel Merman. It was unmistakable.

Alex recalled his mother’s love of singing with that voice.  But unlike her grandfather, a professional opera singer, Alberta was not bestowed with so much melodic talent.  Nor was she the best at remembering the words to what she sang, be it prayers in service or popular music to her children.

She sang for the joy it brought to her soul. If she could not recall the words, she filled in with la-la’s.  She just kept singing.

Alex said he tried to find the perfect song that would summarize his mother.  And like with many things, inspiration and revelation come from unexpected sources.  Alex found his mother’s song playing in his car by random shuffle.

From Wicked – Defying Gravity:

So if you care to find me

Look to the western sky!

As someone told me lately:

“Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”

And if I’m flying solo

At least I’m flying free

To those who’d ground me

Take a message back from me

Tell them how I am

Defying gravity

I’m flying high

Defying gravity

And soon I’ll match them in renown

And nobody in all of Oz

No Wizard that there is or was

Is ever gonna bring me down!

For all the struggles Alberta faced in her life, this truly was her anthem.  She was a woman who loved her family, community, friends and life. And she kept on singing.

It would do us all good if we just kept singing.

Keep belting them out Alberta. Nothing can bring you down now. Fly free.