Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Bad

I've discovered an absolutely horrifying thing. Horrifying to the point of speechlessness (which is a biggie for me). If I spent as much time exercising, preparing my meals and planning my diet as I do blogging, checking emails, working on my Thursday Thirteen meme, and researching stuff for no reason on the internet, do you know I'd have NO WEIGHT ISSUES?

I realized this at 2am last night. I was working on a particularly visual TT for next week which required I do some serious internet hopping. I messed with it for like hours. Happy hours, mind you, but HOURS none-the-less.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of the doctors I work for. Seems he told a woman she needed a special test that insurance didn't pay for. It was $55.00. She balked. She hemmed and hawed. Said she would think about it. She wanted to discuss it with her husband and and and......

However, we decided that if he told that woman there was a special down the street -- manicure/pedicure for $55.00 -- she'd be gone so fast there would be dust in her wake.

I am currently at a deadend to explain this as I am just as guilty.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, actually, my birthday was earlier in the month, but that's not the point. The point is that my friend Anne gave me a book entitled, "Write Your Novel This Year".

Writing a novel has been on my brain since I was probably young enough to write. I have pages and pages and pages of PIECES of stories that go back to when Dinosaurs Ruled the World. I have read many books on writing, read many magazines, even threw my hat into the NaNoWriNo ring, but only have stacks of papers with words written on them. I really have nothing to show the world for all the work and energy I have put into it.

Now I'm not complaining. I wrote almost 10,000 words during the month of November for NaNo, and for a single working mom with precious time to spare, I was pretty pleased with myself. When I look at the parts of stories I have created over the years, I see interesting characters and nominally interesting plots. (I am, by far, a character driven story writer). I see stories that have been written mostly for my own pleasure. I have been to other countries, been a celebrity, married celebrities, saved lives and captained the Enterprise.

But now, I have this urge to throw my pen into the ring and see what happens. However, all the advise I have heard or read is spinning in my head. Here are a few:

1. Write everyday. No matter what and/or: don't force yourself to write. Write when you are inspired.
2. Write for yourself, not to make money and/or: write for your audience
3. Find a quiet place to devote to your writing and/or: you can write anywhere, anytime

Hmm. Push me, pull you.

This brings me to a Manilow-ism: "Ask any songwriter how he writes a song, and none of them will give you a logical, step by step answer. We have no idea how we do it." I paraphrase, but you get the idea.

So what do I need to do? Uh....don't know. But that's ok. I just figure it's a journey and maybe I'll get there and maybe I won't.

Be prepared. I'm dragging you along for the ride.

Happy 2008!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #19!

Because of the holidays and precious little time to devote to higher pursuits, I give you a simple, honest Thursday Thirteen. So run away if you must, but here, for the first time written down for all to view, are my favorite Barry Manilow songs, not in any particular order:

1. Mandy. He didn't write it, but he rearranged it from a rock song titled "Brandy" and sings it beautifully. Still a fave that has held up very well over the last 30+ years.

2. Could It Be Magic. Could it be that I love this song because it is based on a Chopin prelude? Or could it be because my mother discovered this song for that very reason and was one of her favorites? I don't know. I still love it though.

3. Do You Know Who's Livin' Next Door. Done about 2001, it was on "Here at the Mayflower", the first album Manilow created totally on his own. All his compositions, all his arrangements, all his production, all his voice, and he played every instrument (except for Dave Koz on sax) or created it on a computer. He had to jump ship from Arista to RCA to record it because it wasn't considered a profitable undertaking, but the whole of "Mayflower" is one of his very finest.

4. I'm Coming Back. On the Mayflower album. This song is the one I used to sing to myself during a panic attack to get my brain out of panic mode. The melody is easy, the beat consistent and the words are sweet and able to get your mind off the fact that you may have to call 911.

5. Leavin' in the Morning. Fairly autobiographical (IMO, of course) about his decision to leave his wife and start his musical career. Very sad and very telling, but once again, a strong lyric and wonderful arranging.

6. One Voice. A beautiful song, whether he sings it with musical accompaniment or a cappella -- about his belief in the power we have to join together to help one another.

7. Nice Boy Like Me. What a fave -- has been for years! About a "nice" boy like Barry cruisin' chicks in a "place that never closes" -- and "lookin' so sad" cuz he just can't get any (yes, I know -- NOT biographical...well, at least not since 1975). Funny, upbeat, with his usual self-depreciating lyrical style.

8. Sweetwater Jones. On his first album and while his voice is a bit NY twangy and unpolished, the melody is catchy and the lyrics tell a good story. I also feel that way down deep, this one is fairly autobiographical too.

9. It's a Miracle. Just a "true blue spectacle" of a song. And really, even if you don't like Manilow, I bet you know all the lyrics to this song!

10. Who's Been Sleepin' in My Bed. "Gettin' what I get, when I don't get it..." A strong song, great melody, painful lyrics, with a story behind it (reportedly about his breakup with a longtime girlfriend). And you can even dance to it.

11. Baby, It's Cold Outside. With K.T. Oslin. Barry seducing K.T. with drink and god knows what else as the snow piles up outside. She fell for it---and so would alot of women I know! Was originally a song from the 40's sung by Ricardo Montelban and Esther Williams. Really.

12. When October Goes. Johnny Mercer's widow gave Manilow these lyrics after Mercer's death and asked Barry to put it to music. The result is a powerful, yet beautiful and delicate song -- and one that Mercer would be very proud of. It literally can bring you to tears.

13. You Could Show Me. A very short, sweet, simple song on the One Voice album and a demonstration of one of the secrets to Manilow's success -- telling the story of the lost, the lonely and the hopeful...a recurring theme in Manilow-land.

And because I simply couldn't leave it out:

14. Who Needs to Dream? ... "when there is you?" Probably one of the best love songs ever written and so very underappreciated. It's such a great love song that it practically yanks the tears out of your eyes. Story is that he wrote this for the tv movie "Copacabana" and when co-star Annette O'Toole heard it for the first time, she actually did cry.

So while I encourage you to pick up those cover albums (ah hem), Manilow's earlier stuff along with "Swing Street", "2AM Paradise Cafe" and "Here at the Mayflower" make up a pretty impressive body of work. Sure, he's the butt of alot of jokes, many of his own creation, but anyone who sells over 75,000,000 albums and is still around after 30 years has to have something going for him!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Music and Passion

I'm warning you ahead of time that we are marching into Manilow country, but stick with me here for a minute. You must be fairly well aware that along with Abe Lincoln, I am a Barry Man-i-low-o-phile (trying saying that fast a couple times...spelling it is worse) but as I sit here in Sandusky, Ohio, about a 6 hour Amtrak train ride from my home in Chicago, I find I must write about the weekend I had.

My friend Colleen and I planned a trip to Cleveland Ohio to attend a Barry Manilow concert on December 14th. She has family here in Sandusky, and we ingratiated ourselves into their lives for a couple of days. As we were traveling around Colleen's old country stomping grounds, we looked up in the air to see this "thing" flying around. We looked again and again. We stared some more. We wiped our eyes, thinking we were having the same hallucination. But there he was. Beautiful. Amazing. A magnificent sight I will never forget in my entire life. Colleen threw her camera at me and I took this picture out of the car window:

I swear it was some kind of preview of the wonderful weekend I was going to have. There were laughs and Colleen's wonderfully warm family....and music and food and even a couple of happy tears. There was sleeping in and being lazy and meeting the new puppy, who dragged Colleen's socks all over the house and chewed up the little wrapper I had for the computer screen. Then of course, there was this:

Me, Colleen and 15,000 of our closest friends piled into the Quicken Arena to see Barry in concert. And we all had a blast. Even with a venue that size, Barry managed to keep it intimate and personal. I even think it was better than his Vegas show. It was simpler and toned down -- he knew he was playing for his fans and not for the Electricians Union Annual Vegas Convention. Barry does not need a multi media laser show for the majority of his long time fan base. We'd be happy with him, a piano, and a spotlight for 90 minutes.

So it was a miraculous weekend from all perspectives. The healing power of friendship, laughter and music is truly amazing. The only problem? In my excited and distracted state post concert, I left my cell phone, program, and only set of matching gloves in Colleen's car --- which is headed back to her home in Cincinnati as I head for Chicago. I only hope they have a safe trip.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #18

My girlfriend Anne and I went to Springfield Illinois to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. It was wonderful and we had a great time. Of course, both of us have always been "Abe-o-philes", but it really is a wonderful experience even if you aren't.

Anyway, I started reading this book about the women in Abe's life and the strong influence they had on him. So here, on this lovely Thursday, are 13 of "Abe's Babes" and who they were to him.

1. Mom. Nancy Hanks Lincoln. And yes, Tom Hanks IS a decendent. Died when Mr. L was a young lad. Although she was uneducated herself, she did encourage Abe in his academic (such as they were) pursuits, although there wasn't much she could do about Abe's Pa. Dad saw things differently and whipped Abe's ass for readin' when he shouldda been workin'. In dad's defense, memorizing the 23rd Psalm wasn't going to get a roof over their heads or food in their stomachs.

2. Stepmom. Sarah Johnston Lincoln. After Nancy's death, Thomas Lincoln left his 2 small kids to fend for themselves for about 6 months while he searched for a new wife. Shockingly, DCFS was not contacted, although Sarah found Abe and his sister cold, hungry and filthy when she came back with Thomas. She cleaned them up and brought books for the future President to mull over by firelight. She was notably one of the first to treat him with love and kindness.

3. Sis. Sarah. Died in childbirth at the age of 20 which sent him into a depressive tailspin. He blamed Sarah's husband for not caring for her properly when she went into labor.

4. Ann Rutledge. Do I need to explain? Is she a legend just in Illinois or does everyone know about her? You tell me. You need me to explain, I will. But get your kleenex ---- Lincoln depressive nosedive #2. Ann's grave is marked with these words: "Where Lincoln Wept". Need I say more?

5. Mary Owens. The New Salem storekeeper "proposed" to this Mary before she went away on a family trip to Kentucky. When she returned, she apparently had been eatin' pretty good and had beefed up to frightening proportions. He might have been worried that she could do some damage to his underweight frame in a moment of unbridled passion -- and ended it the way men have ended relationships for centuries. He manipulated the data so she had no other option but to end it herself.

6. Local Springfield working girl. (Oh, c'mon! -- really!) Story is he visited her after being told of her "services" by a mutual friend, Joshua Speed. The higher class "working girls" only accepted referrals from other clients, and Abe's friend gave him a note of introduction. The woman gave him the thumbs up, and she told him as he was unbuttoning his pants that the charge was $5.00 (quite a hefty sum considering the average person yanked in $2000 a year). He told her he only had $3.00. She laughed and said she knew who he was...a Springfield lawyer...and would trust him for the other 2 dollars. The story goes that Lincoln told her no, that he could not promise when he could pay her the other 2 dollars, so he buttoned up his trousers and started to leave. He tried to leave her the $3.00 for the time she spent with him, but she would not take it.

7. Mary Todd. I think she drove him crazy, but he seemed to remain crazy about her until the day he died. Anyway, they were introduced, then engaged, then sort of not engaged (depressive dive #3), then story says she used her wiles on him one dark and stormy night and they married within days. Robert Todd Lincoln was born 3 days short of their 9 month anniversary. Sure. She got pregnant on the honeymoon they didn't take. Happens ALL the time...but my guess is ol' Abe was smart enough to realize that once you "did it" before marriage with a society girl like Mary (not that I'm suggesting they DID, mind you...altho he did say Robert was "full of mischief that is the offspring of much animal spirits"), your ass better be at the justice of the peace ASAP before a piece of you was gunned down by her pa.

8. Matilda Edwards. During his "split" with Mary, he was introduced to her cousin, Matilda Edwards and fell in love with the 18 year old (as many 30 year old men do). Mary Todd's cousin was a beauty...she was young, pretty, quick witted and thin...and gave rise to his thinking that he did not really love Mary Todd. However, the future Mrs. Lincoln had other ideas...and I bet there was some tension over the family dinner table once Abe started courtin' Matilda. Mary managed to reem Abe a new one every time she saw him, knowing which buttons to push by telling him he was "honor bound" to marry her. He mulled this over for about 15 months until that one dark and stormy night.....and after Matilda turned down his marriage proposal.

9. Kate Chase. Mary hated her because she was like Matilda -- young, pretty, politically saavy and thin. Kate's dad was Salmon Chase, a presidential hopeful and part of the Lincoln administration. Abe admired her intelligence, her poise. His eyes adored her, but he never laid a hand on her. And if he had, Mary would have killed both of them.

10. Anna Ella Carroll. She wrote pamphlets that supported Lincoln's policies and singlehandedly helped to keep Maryland in the union. "I am writing to aid my country," she said. She was good at it and Lincoln knew it. While she did ask to be paid for her work and was refused, Lincoln did compliment her works to his cabinet members and acknowledged her talents to many.

11. Miss Grace Bedell, 11 years old. She wrote him a letter that changed how the world saw Mr. Abraham Lincoln, Springfield Lawyer, Presidential Elect, from that point forward. "Dear Mr. Lincoln", she wrote, "you ought to grow a beard. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you." He apparently listened.

12. Eliza Gurney. An amazing woman, they exchanged numerous letters over the course of his Presidency. She also visited him at the White house. She was the Quaker widow of a British banker who strengthened Lincoln's faith during the difficult years of war and personal loss. Some say she was one of the most important women in Lincoln's life and the topics they wrote and conversed about were imported into Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address.

13. Vinnie Ream. Mary hated her. She was young, beautiful and a talented sculptress. At 17, she eventually gained Lincoln's trust and started work on a bust of him, which continued throughout the winter of 1864-5. They became good friends and the finished bust was a hit with Lincoln, who was a noted supporter of woman suffrage. After Lincoln's assassination, Ream coveted the $10,000 commission to do a life-sized statue for the Capitol, although she met with alot of resistance, some from Mary. Vinnie eventually became the first woman, and at 19, the youngest artist, to ever get a federal commission for a work of art.

There were so many others: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sojourner Truth, Lizzie Keckley, Dorothea Dix and finally, actress Laura Keene, who was in "Our American Cousin" at the Ford Theater and rushed to the presidential box after the shooting to cradle Lincoln's head in her lap.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

So Where Have You Been?

I don't know. Going crazy. Since Thanksgiving, I guess I've been overwhelmed. I could beat myself up good and proper now, but that would only add to my list of things to do.

My house is a wreck. I still have Halloween decorations up. I do believe Christmas is around the corner and is blipping on my radar.

Oh well. It'll get done. Somehow. Usually does.

Aren't you glad you stopped by????