Thursday, August 29, 2013

Here's the new front door.

A week from tomorrow this becomes home. Or at least where we'll be living for the next year.

The new 'hood. 

The outer edge of Bushwick...described as:

All kinds of creative types have been filing into Bushwick and a considerable amount of trendiness is trickling in from its ultra-hip neighbor to the west, Williamsburg. New dive bars, bodegas, and gallery spaces continue to flourish, fueled by the intrepid movers and shakers that are pouring into Bushwick’s converted loft spaces. Although Bushwick is busy reinventing itself, a somewhat grungy heart still beats beneath its remodeled exterior.

How does a 60-something couple having spent 30+ years in suburban Connecticut move to  the above from the below? With two shar-pei. And why?

Well, there's this place to try.

and this.

A commute to Times Square that goes from 2 hours each way to 35 minutes. Two sons within 20 minutes. And the opportunity for re-engagement and reinvention. My theatre life.

Life's funny that way. If anyone had ever said to me when I was living happily at 21 W. 58th, NYC (former guest apartments for the Plaza Hotel with a kitchen that had been the luggage room), "let's get married and move to Stratford, CT," I would have said, "What are you out of  your mind."

Lordship, CT became and always will be the shared home for our family. Ken, Zeb, Eli and me.

As we leave, a good friend reminds me that "home is where your story begins." And can be where it is continued.

It's important to remember that you can have change without transition but you can't have transition without change.

But sometimes life's not linear or what we expect. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Home is Where the Pets Are - Part One

Dear Lassie, Penny 1, Penny 2, Passover Turtle who boiled to death on the radiator, ducklings Spider and Jimmy Webb, Martha, Grover, Daphne, Leonard, Santa Fe, Furry 1, 2, 3 and unnamed progeny, Licorice, Wilson, Gabby (briefly) and Keaton.

At every home I've had and in all of my memories, you are defining and primary players.

First pet I remember is my very own Lassie.

"Lassie."  When I watched the tv show, if it seemed that Lassie was in trouble, I had to leave the room - I was so upset about any possible calamity happening to her.  Did I care quite as much about Timmy or (esp) about Jeff (who was the only real master in my book)?  I don't think so.

I was so excited.  We drove out into the country and I brought her home in a cardboard box on my lap.

She was what my Mom called "a roamer."  Of course, why we didn't have a fenced in yard or keep her leashed is something that I wonder about now.  But, in my memory, back in the 1950's in Pottsville, PA, everyone just opened their back doors and let the dogs out.  We kids, though, loved that beauty.
Jamie, Janey Deacon, me & Lassie

After a few episodes of "losing" her and getting her back, my parents gave her to someone back out in the county.  God bless her, she found her way back.  "Lassie Come Home" indeed.  They told me that she was returned to that "good home" and I so very much hope that she was.

Next up, Penny #1.  One of my father's clients gave us this pup.  I haven't found an actual photograph but the one below is close in my memory.

Again, the laissez faire attitude of the day contributed to Penny's end.  She was hit by a car in front of our house.  Right before Thanksgiving, as I recall.  I was so upset that I was allowed to miss school, be swaddled in my parents' bed - pink flocked headboard - and served the traditional convalescent menu of Cream of Mushroom soup and crackers as I cried and cried.  And I remember my mother's arms and bosom as the only comfort this world had to offer.

I think my mother had a dog or two as a child. I know that she had a big, very realistic-looking stuffed dog named "I Wonder" who meant a lot to her.   What "I wonder" is the etymology of naming a dog "I Wonder" in the 1940's. There's a dog up the street here who look very much like that beloved toy;  I'm always happy to be dragged to the existing "I Wonder" by Wilson and Keaton.  They pull me to my mother.

Next up, Penny 2.  A Toy Manchester Terrier.
 She and Mom had a symbiotic relationship.  When Mom was frustrated or angry, it would've been wise for Penny to stay far from Mom's right foot.  Yet, at other times, Mom and Penny would seem to pose for the cover of Dog Fancy.

Penny hung around for a good while after I left and Mom eventually had her put down at a ripe old age.

The whole pet thing changed once I left home for college.  The next pets were mine and mine alone.

I adopted Martha in the Quad at Syracuse University in the early Spring on my freshman year.  We weren't supposed to have animals in the dorms but Martha made it through the semester and then went home with my roommate since cats were verboten at home in Pottsville.  Martha was a great chaperone, though.  She had excellent timing about jumping - claws extended - onto the face of any guy who was trying to jump my bones on my narrow single bed in the divided double in Boland Hall ("Here Comes the Sun" being played endlessly or at least up to the Kent State riots and the occupation of the Admin building that May).

Monday, May 16, 2011

May Daze

parts of an email to a friend:

Wondering if you're in Israel.  It's sad to hear about more violence there, although not unexpected.  If there, hope you're far from the madding crowd and have a little time to yourself to wander and observe. I like the term "Arab Spring" and all that it connotes.

(Correspondence about Patti Smith's "Just Kids" and Robert Mapplethorpe as a cult figure.)
Funny thing about "charismatic" or "iconic" figures.  Often they first see themselves that way and then find others to perpetuate their"vision."  From what I've read and know, Mapplethorpe had a personal aura that transcended his talent which eventually got confused with it.  (I've met those people; it's intoxicating and leaves a hangover of epic proportion.)

Sort of like Jonathan Larsen of RENT fame.  Of whom Sam Shepard said to me when we were doing BURIED CHILD, "Maybe if I off myself, this will be a big hit."  btw, Sam is pretty charismatic himself although observing his penchant for young blonds of any kind was definitely a legend-breaker for me.
Sam, assistant director Michael Unger and director Gary Sinise from our Broadway production

I don't know if I ever told you one of my favorite moments in that show (to which all of the "in-crowd came, JFK Jr on roller blades, Brad & Gwenyth, Bruce & Demi in a cloud of marijuana smoke stepping out the limo).  But Gary Sinise was doing the film "Ransom" with Mel Gibson at the time
and Mel came.  At the very serious moment at show's end when Terry Kinney was carrying the disinterred muddy corpse of the eponymous baby across the stage, there were a serious of loud guffaws from the otherwise deadly silent orchestra.  Mel.  It was just Mel.

Got some more flowers and herbs and dug a patch for a tomato garden with early girls,
roma, grapes and some heirlooms - German and yellow striped and red.  Enjoyed our lilacs in full bloom (putting me in mind of Whitman's "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed."
my lilacs

So, back to my small cave and small and big traumas tomorrow.  Didn't read enough - finished the MacDougal (worth a skim since you're such a runner) and some mags.  Musically, give Robbie Robertson's a listen.  I also caught up on the first three episodes of Season Two of Treme.
Such a fine takes real attention and commitment.  And, oh, the music.  You would find it worth your time, I think, although it's valuable to get through Season One for the rewards of Season Two.

No nibbles on selling the house; that's why I'm doing the gardening stuff.  Even if it sold tomorrow (and it won't), we'll have the summer here.

Fab that Book of Mormon is a really big, fat hit...virtually sold out til April 2012, but they have Ken there Tues - Sun from 10am - 1pm (commute included).  So, I'm hoping we can find someone to help with the spring clean-up, mulching, etc.  I simply don't have enough time.

Simple eating.  A sausage and savoy cabbage pasta.  In the slow cooker, some pork tenderloin with rhubarb, shallots, herbs, white be served with polenta.  And planning on that great raw kale salad with avocado and grape tomatoes (first rate virgin olive oil and balsamic
are key). Tonight perfected scallops provencal.  This after a return to Clinic.  Clients imprisoned, hospitalized and overall either needy, resistant or just clueless.

Food motivates, enhances, sustains.  So do music, flowers, words and friends.  And dogs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

I'm planning to get the photo album of my childhood home from my brother and share some of those here.  It was an amazing house.

In the meantime, how about these two pictures of my maternal line?  The first is my grandmother Julia Moshinsky Grabowski, taken in Poland in 1914 when she was 16 years old.

Julia was always on the go.  Sewing.  Cooking.  Making pierogis at the Polish Catholic Church.  She lived with my aunt Esther and helped raise my cousins Paula and Pam. Her apple butter pancakes live in a Proustian dimension.  In her 60's, she went back to Poland, rode on horse-drawn wagons and saw her remaining relatives.  She brought me a beautifully embroidered peasant blouse that was one of my treasured wardrobe items in the late 60's, early 70's and even beyond.  She remembered every single child's, grandchild's and great-grandchild's birthday with a card and some cash carefully tucked in.  I wear the diamond stud earrings that she left me with love and pride.

And then there's my mom, Valerie Cecilia Grabowksi Lightstone.  The middle daughter of three.  A woman of beauty, style, humor and high aspirations for both of her children.  I always was sure of her love, sometimes a little too much.  She gave me the vision to look beyond even while wanting me close.  But, so much of what I am today I owe to her.  (Even in some of the choices I've made in direct opposition to hers!)

Both of these women were with me today as I went about my Sunday and celebrated Mother's Day.
From the Lobster Eggs Benedict I chose for lunch, to the hard work weeding and planting in the garden, to having a good and loving conversation and a couple cheap laughs with Eli, to the phone call with Zeb; and his cards, one that complemented my style (a paisley shirt he reclaimed) and the other laced with ironic humor and love, to the asparagus and mushroom risotto whipped up for dinner, to the nice dry vodka martini that's next on my agenda....they live in me as I did in them.

This one's for you, Mom.

 Anything Goes

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Que sera sera

btw, my French tutor had never heard this expression.

Cleaned out closets, drawers, medicine cabinets on Saturday and early Sunday.

But the weather was so grand that I dashed to my favorite garden store/nursery
and bought my herbs, a vivid red hibiscus and rustic pot, a basket of charming Johnny
Jump Ups.

A neighbor gave me baby spinach plants and I'll go back for tender lettuces and the window box hanging petunias that define and enhance our little cape.

Even if the house sells, we'll have most of the summer here so let's make the most of

In my spare time, couldn't resist buying this.

And here's quite an easy and tasty dinner recipe.  Just add some truffle oil.  And if you spill the French grey sea salt all over the kitchen floor, it's not at all being like in Cape Ferret (not that I've been there...but I'm guessing).

Oh yes.. Ken and I had our weekly 3 hours of being home at the same time not late at night or early in the morning and agreed that we won't sell short.  At least not yet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


"catch the sun"
jamie cullum

Not much been happening on the house front.  A few showings; tomorrow a realtor open house with a general open house sometime to follow.  

There are many houses on the market but I see that a few repped by our agent are "sale pending."
This whole notion makes everything just a little poignant.  Zeb and Eli made the effort to get home for the day on Easter.  Will it have been the last holiday in their childhood home?  How will the dogs understand it?  After all, their lives are so calm.

I've been in the garden picking flowers and checking on the tender green shoots of perennials I've planted over the years.  They are other things that I've planted and nurtured.  And, although I don't think I'll miss all the work they take, I will miss them.  Assorted images below.

And, of course, every dawn over Long Island Sound is now like I've never see dawn before.

Even in the bunker that is our basement, I find relics of young artists in the making.  Lost to their biographers and archives but for a mother with a camera. (It's a door, sideways).
Two mallard ducks returned for several springs.  Called Abdul Quakbar and Mrs. Quakbar.  They'd waddle up to the front door, quack a bit and wait for their bread and water.  We also have had a spider (or two) who return every year and grace us with their nightly efforts which leave me humbled and wondering about my own routine efforts and how they might otherwise be seen.
Tonight's finale.  Our wedding and honeymoon were scheduled around the opening night of CATS on Broadway, Ken being Production Carpenter.  I should have known what stage that set.  I spent opening night wondering why so many light bulbs were already burnt out but enjoyed the party at the Waldorf. And Eli had the best childhood Sundays ever going into the theater with Dad.  In fact, after the HOME ALONE movies, when asked what he would do if lost in NYC, he replied, "I'd tell someone to take me to CATS."

Writing this blog helps address some of this.  Maybe.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Hometown - Part One

I began this post a few nights ago; and while going back and forth between sites, closed this one and lost everything.  But not really, the words and photos were lost but not the memories or the idea.

And isn't that what this particular selling and moving thing, as well as the general idea of change and transition in life is all about.

btw, let me share a little counseling axiom:  You can have change without transition, but you can't have transition without change.  The easy explanation of this is that you can make an external and superficial change without the internal, life-altering ones but not vice versa.

If I want to take you on a deeper detour down the line, we'll explore The Stages of Change as developed by Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.  Useful for all sorts of things.  Trust me.

Back on topic.  Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  An anthracite coal mining town in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Full of high society WASPs but plenty of immigrant Poles, Irish, Germans, even Jews.  How the hell did they get there?

Best known for the now celebrated Yuengling Brewey, the oldest family brewery in the US, or so they say.  I grew up with the smell of hops wafting down the hill to Garfield Elementary School (now a parking lot, I'm told) and we had field trips into the plant.  Yuengling's also had a ice creamery across from the brewery on Mahantongo St.  A logical use of shared resources and the kinds of ice creams for which otherwise objective adults who now buy lavender, green tea, lemongrass, bittersweet artisinal chocolates continue to yearn.

Pottsville's other claims to fame include author John O'Hara ("Pal Joey," "Butterfield 8") whose early novels include"Appointment in Samarra" (about Pottsville and Schuylkill County society) and the Pottsville Maroons who may have been one of the first NFL championship teams until they were charged with a violation (fledgling reporter John O'Hara covered the team).

Our first house, to which I was brought home as a preemie (my mother recounted that I looked like a "plucked chicken") was on Norwegian St.  I have a horizontal memory of being carried into a room with a lamp over a chair and my paternal grandmother in the room.  This is apparently accurate although there is no photographic confirmation.

At some point, we moved to a big old house on Mahantongo St.  Just down the street from the Yuengling mansion.  Except that we had tenants.  One in the former maid's quarters.  Another family in the former billiard room/trunk storage on the third floor.
Yuengling Mansion

Mostly, I remember Pottsville as a time of true innocence.  Unaware of the history or the class discrepancies.  In my memory, it was all like this:

and like this:

But there's another story here.  My parents'.  Two immigrant families.  A Polish Catholic girl, born in the USA to two Polish immigrants who found her way briefly to NYC as a hairdresser (and a night or two at the Stork Club - my brother has the ashtray) and a Jewish immigrant young man who arrived in 1920 at age 12 from a long lost Polish/German/Russian village and who, speaking no English, graduated from high school, went to Penn State and was valedictorian of his class and got a scholarship to Harvard Law, serving up creamed chipped beef (or shit on a shingle) to the creme de la creme.

They were, both back in Pottsville, set up on a blind date by their opthamalogist, and eventually eloped to Atlantic City, giving my cousin a note and a quarter to deliver it to my mother's mother.  Just recently got that note when my Aunt Esther died and my cousin provided it.  Family tumult immediately ensued; the end result of anti-Semitism and tragedy two decades away.

A time of reflection and process.  Excuse the commercial.