Tag Archives: Beatles

James Taylor Showers the People of Pittsburgh With Love

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - 2

James Taylor in concert, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

Peace and love, baby. Peace and love.

That was the vibe on Saturday evening as singer-songwriter James Taylor brought his All-Star Band to Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. There, a mostly Baby Boomer and generally mellow crowd (except for the woman a few rows down who repeatedly hollered “I love you, James!”) sang along to the folksy hits of the ’70s while fumbling with the selfie and videocam settings on their smartphones.

“I’m in my sixties,” a concertgoer announced to nobody in particular as The Husband and I found our seats. “He’s a throwback from my generation.”

Maybe so. But part of James Taylor’s appeal is that his music can be enjoyed by all ages, whether or not those ages realize it. (Case in point: every night, either The Husband or I must sing “You Can Close Your Eyes” to our son. He’s a newly-minted teenager who still calls this “The Goodnight Song.”)

Last night marked the third time that The Husband and I – both 45 – had the good fortune to see the 66-year old James Taylor in concert.  We don’t get out much: this was our first concert since seeing JT’s ex-wife Carly Simon on November 25, 2005 at the Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ.

Whether once in a decade or once in a lifetime, a James Taylor concert is a treat. I had wondered how his intimate style would hold up in a stadium environment like Consol, which would be the first time we would see James Taylor indoors.

No worries. Opening with a reverential bow to the audience that almost seemed to be a reflective pause of gratitude, James Taylor greeted the crowd by wishing us a heartfelt “Happy Thanksgiving.”  He might as well have hand-delivered a personalized greeting card to every single one of us. Light the fire, friends, and pour another glass of merlot; the mood was set as if we were in the Taylors’ living room listening to a good friend playing guitar and us singing along and smiling at the backstories that introduced the songs we’d been listening to for our entire lives.

As he opened his first set with “Something in the Way She Moves,” James Taylor took us back to 1968 with his audition song for Apple Records – a performance that he did all those years ago for Paul McCartney and George Harrison. It was an especially fitting inclusion for the evening and would mark the first of several occasions when he would mention The Beatles during the concert.

Although the anniversary went unmentioned by James Taylor, I’m sure there were a few of us in the audience who, like The Husband and I, couldn’t help remembering that November 29, 2014 marked exactly 13 years since the death of George Harrison and who saw the bittersweet ironic connection of George Harrison’s “Something” and the selection of “Something in the Way She Moves” as the opening number on this date.

(Another Beatles connection onstage last night was in the form of All-Star Band drummer Steve Gadd, who performed on Paul McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” album.)

Especially noteworthy to play in Pittsburgh was “Millworker,” a song about a woman working in a Lowell, Massachusetts shoe mill and written for a musical based on Studs Terkel‘s Working. The lyrics could very well have been about life once upon a time in the Steel City.

“I can ride home in the evening, staring at my hands,
swearing by my sorrow that a young girl ought to stand a better chance.
So may I work the mills just as long as I am able
and never meet the man whose name is on the label.
It be me and my machine for the rest of the morning
and the rest of the afternoon, gone for the rest of my life.”

Mixed in with crowd-pleasing classics like “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” and “Country Road” were three new songs. The ballad “You and I Again” about midlife love is probably my favorite of the trio. “Today, Today, Today” hearkens back to 1968, James Taylor explained.  And what little I could hear of “Stretch of the Highway” I liked, no thanks to the cacophony of folks returning to their seats and continuing their banal chatter after the 20-minute intermission. I’m hoping that these new tunes in the James Taylor songbook will make an appearance on what I’ve read is a new JT album in the works. (The sooner the better, please?)

Speaking of making an appearance, I had secretly been hoping that offspring Ben or Sally would stop by to say hi to Dad onstage. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving weekend and the holiday season – anything is possible, right?  As it turned out, James was joined by Henry, one of his 13-year-old twin sons, who sang backup on “Shower the People.” Looking as dapper as his father, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear more from Henry in the future.

(While we’re on my secret hopes? I would have liked to have heard “You Can Close Your Eyes,” although we did hear him do that in concert in 2005, so I can’t complain.  And, speaking on behalf of all of us middle-aged concertgoers who have postponed our eye exams and need to upgrade our bi- and trifocal prescriptions, I personally could have used a larger Jumbotron.  I mean, you can’t possibly tell me I’m the only one in Consol whose vision is clearly not what it was in her salad days. I’m just sayin’. But these are minor, minor quibbles.)

The second set (previewed to the audience by James holding up a list written on what he compared to roofing material and joking with the audience about the inclusion of the ever-popular “Steamroller”) was lighter on the storytelling and a bit more on the upbeat hits like the “big city song ‘Up on the Roof,'” “Only One,” and “Your Smiling Face.”

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014 - Up on the Roof

James Taylor performing “Up On the Roof” at Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA, 11/29/2014 ~ melissafirman.com

As we left the concert, it almost felt as if Pittsburgh’s late-November chill had actually turned somewhat … well, balmy.

Perhaps it was an aftershock of the backdrop images that accompanied “Carolina in My Mind” and the smiling faces of beachgoers hoisting margaritas to “Mexico” that made us feel toasty. We weren’t imagining it; turns out, according to our car thermometer, it really was about 15 degrees warmer.

It wouldn’t have mattered if it was twenty below zero. These have been some intensely stress-filled months for The Husband and me. For three hours, we were able to forget our worries and cares while enjoying an evening in the company of a longtime friend.

Perhaps that needs to happen a little more often. In the meantime, during these cold winter nights, I’ll be listening to a little more JT than usual.

James Taylor - Pittsburgh 11-29-2014


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seems like years

Daffodils - 3-8-2014

“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear…” 

“Here Comes the Sun” ~ The Beatles, written by George Harrison

Indeed, it has been a long, cold lonely winter and it does seem like years since it’s been clear enough to get up the driveway, much less spot these daffodil tips in the front yard this afternoon.

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he’s got a ticket to ride

I Can Shine Bike Camp

Adaptive bike used by riders at iCan Shine, Inc. bike camp
Monroeville, PA
photo credit: Melissa Firman, July 2013

There was no mistaking my son’s response.

It wasn’t so much what he said, but what he didn’t say.

During his well-visit check up last week, the good doctor (and he is, truly, a good doctor) was talking to him about exercising and trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. At 11 years old, we’re having some challenges on both fronts; as if he’d read my mind, the pediatrician seemed to know the perfect approach to talk to my boy on this issue.

And then, a question. One that he’s probably asked hundreds, thousands of kids.

“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”

My boy’s eyes went to the floor. There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.

His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.

His blue eyes said it all.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. 

My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing. 

What do you mean, a friend?

“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician. 

* * *

Once you’ve been through an autism evaluation, you don’t view doctor’s appointments the same way. Ever. At least I don’t. There’s always a feeling of needing to be “on,” of not letting down your guard, of wondering what the hell they are really typing into that computer, of wondering if you are on the same growth curve as all the other parents.

And I know that this shouldn’t matter, but the truth is, it does.

A lot.

Because as our first developmental pediatrician told us, you can’t help but compare kids to each other – and in this case, when you see other kids riding a bike, you can’t help but look at your kid and see another example in which you feel like you screwed up. 

Because we haven’t taught him.

Because we couldn’t.

Because we tried – and then stopped.

Because of The Husband’s herniated disc.

Because it was hot outside.

Because it looked like rain.

Because we’re just not an active, outdoorsy kind of family.

Because he has autism.

Because it was too hard.

Because his anxiety.

Because. Because. Because.

I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much Boo would benefit from a program like that.

I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.

I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.

This past Friday, I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.

And there it was. Starting today. Registration ended six weeks ago.

I emailed the camp director anyway.  Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …

There was one spot left.

* * *

Today was Day 1 of Bike Camp.

My boy was, as is his style when trying something new, kinda nonplussed. Somewhat uninterested, but semi-curious. My baby don’t care ….

iCan Shine relies on volunteers, as each rider is paired with at least one individual who walks or runs alongside him or her to help with spills and direction, give encouragement, catch smiles.

Boo’s volunteers are a family: a mom and her two sons who are helping out for the week.

Within minutes, he was on the bike and taking off around the indoor track.

He’s got this, I thought.

I’m not going to lie. It has been a good but very, very emotionally challenging summer.

We have fallen off so many proverbial bikes and learned how to get back on.

But for today? This one day?

We’re riding so high.

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in tandem (day 2 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

cycles (day 3 and 4 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

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Guest Post from The Husband: 30

New York City, as seen from atop Rockefeller Center
August 6, 2010 – not so great photo taken by me 

An encore post, written by The Husband on December 8, 2010. 

It was, of course, impossible that I would not write today about John Lennon. With Yoko’s much-welcomed focus on John’s 70th birthday – as opposed to today’s 30th anniversary of his murder – John has been in the news a great deal this fall, and that is good. I saw recently the incredibly well-done documentary by filmmaker Michael Epstein [no relation – despite the irony – to Beatles manager Brian Epstein]. Among the many fantastic things about LennoNYC is how Lennon’s murder is handled. While acknowledged – and how could it not be – there is no mention of Mark David Chapman, nor any mention of the shooting with the exception of Yoko’s incredibly poignant, “He was an artist. Why would you kill an artist?”

Still, the reality is that there is no way to consider John’s life in its entirety without recounting that night 30 years ago. Unfortunately, for a good number of those who have ever lived – particularly the famous – their lives are largely seen through the prism of their deaths. Just off the top of my head I can think of Elvis Presley, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Michael Jackson, Liberace, Rock Hudson, John Belushi….. When you think of their lives, invariably it is through the lens of how their lives ended moreso than how those lives they were lived. That is just the way it is.

So, on this 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination [and, let’s be clear, that’s what it was. Many mistakenly believe that ‘assassination’ is only the murder of political leaders. The Webster’s definition of ‘assassination’ is, “to kill suddenly or secretively; to murder premeditatedly and treacherously”], I’m compelled to write about December 8, 1980.

I’ve written before about the last day of John Lennon’s life. The last hour of his life, however, is the focus of today’s post.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was about to become a painful one for Alan Weiss. Weiss was working for WABC-TV in New York City and won two Emmys before his 30th birthday. After a long day at work, he jumped on his motorcycle and headed home.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was the end of a 30-hour shift for Dr. Stephan Lynn, head of the Roosevelt Hospital Emergency Room in New York City. He was exhausted and looking forward to sleep. He headed home for a quick hug of his wife and two young daughters and a nice warm bed.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was just beginning for New York City Police Officers Pete Cullen and Steve Spiro, who did the night shift on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Not necessarily a ‘cush’ job, but better than 99% of the other ones available to a New York City cop in 1980.

The night of December 8, 1980 was a typical one for Jay Hastings, working as a doorman at the Dakota. Earlier that night, a friend of one of his highest profile residents, John Lennon, had stopped by to drop something off for the former Beatle. Hastings had seen Bob Gruen with John Lennon just a few days ago, so he took the package and promised Gruen that he would give it to John when he returned that evening. Police would later open the package – as part of their investigation – to find it containing some tapes of the The Clash that John had asked Gruen to make for him [Gruen had told John that he would love The Clash and John “wanted to take a listen”], as well as some of the negatives from a photo session Gruen had done with John and Yoko two days earlier. All of that would be later, however. For now, though, all was quiet as Hastings watched Monday Night Football on a tiny black and white television propped up on the counter of the front desk.

The lives of these five men would converge unexpectedly and suddenly in a violent collision with the last night of John Lennon’s life.

The night of December 8, 1980 was the completion of a task Mark David Chapman had set out to accomplish a month earlier. He’d come to New York in November 1980 to kill John Lennon but got cold feet and returned home to Hawaii. He was back now and determined to finish what he’d set out to do. It was an unusually warm evening for early December in New York City. Despite that, Chapman stood patiently in the dark outside the Dakota wearing a winter’s coat – attire not suited for Hawaii but perfect for the conditions that he thought he’d find in December on the East Coast. Chapman carried a well-worn copy of The Catcher In the Rye, the J.D. Salinger tale of disaffected youth. In his pocket was a five-shot Charter Arms .38-caliber revolver – the ammunition provided by an unsuspecting old friend of Chapman’s from Alabama, whom the 25-year old Chapman had suddenly visited in October 1980.

The evening of December 8, 1980 was a pleasant and accomplished one for John Lennon. The day had been hectic – a photo session with photographer Annie Leibovitz, a three-hour interview with R.K.O. Radio, and a five-hour session at the Hit Factory Record Studios to tweak a song by Yoko called “Walking on Thin Ice”.

As John and Yoko’s rented limousine stopped on 72nd Street at the ornate gate of the Dakota [John had told the driver to stop there rather than inside the courtyard – and past Chapman – which was more the standard route on a cold December evening….which this was not], Lennon grabbed the reel-to-reel tapes of the evening’s sessions, placed them under his arm, and followed Yoko out of the car. It was 10:50 pm.

Yoko had wanted to stop for a bite to eat at The Stage Deli, but John wanted to go home. So, as they emerged from the limo, John strode ahead of Yoko as they entered the gate. He was eager to check in on his 5-year old son, Sean. While the boy would [hopefully] be asleep, John hadn’t seen him for a few days, as Sean had spent the weekend with his nanny’s family in Pennsylvania. After that, John would go into the kitchen to get a bite to eat – knowing that, as usual when the kitchen door opened, his three cats would come bounding forward to greet him.

There is some dispute as to whether Chapman really said, “Mr. Lennon?!” as he stepped out of the shadows about five strides after John had passed him unseen. For years that was the story; recently, though, Chapman has said he said nothing. It is possible, in fact, that he is right. John never stopped walking, nor did he turn around – headed instead in the direction of the door some 50 feet away. Had his name been called so loudly and unexpectedly in the dark of night, one would assume that the startled Lennon would have turned to face the sound.

What is indisputable is that Chapman now stood in a combat stance a few feet from Lennon and Ono with his handgun leveled at the back of John’s midsection. Very quickly, Chapman fired four bullets, three of which which pierced John from the back through the lungs, the chamber around his heart, and his shoulder. The fourth missed John and hit the glass window by the the front door of the complex.

Although at first in shock, John immediately knew what had happened and screamed, “I’m shot!” Despite a massive loss of blood – even in just the few seconds that had passed – John started to jog forward toward the door. He stumbled up the steps and fell face first onto the marble lobby floor in the foyer, breaking his glasses. Somehow, the reel-to-reel tapes he’d been carrying had stayed lodged under his arm. They now crashed to the floor beside his glasses.

Startled by the broken glass – initially he’d assumed the firing of the gun to be a car backfiring – doorman Hastings ran from behind the desk just as Lennon came stumbling through the door. Despite the blood and his own shock, Hastings knew immediately that the grievously wounded man at his feet was John Lennon, as Yoko quickly came to the door at a gallop screaming. Hastings rang the alarm that connected the Dakota to the police. He then went back to John and instinctively removed his jacket and placed it over John’s crumpled torso. Also instinctively, although he was unarmed, Hastings ran out the door to approach the shadowy figure 50 feet away who was still in a combat position. Although the gun was still in Chapman’s hands, he’d lowered his arm to his side with gun pointed toward the ground. Incredulous, Hastings approached Chapman and screamed, “Do you know what you just did?!”.

“I just shot John Lennon,” Chapman replied softly.

Within minutes after Chapman opened fire, Officers Cullen and Spiro were the first to answer the report of shots fired at the Dakota. As he got out of the patrol car, Cullen was struck by the lack of movement: the doorman, a Dakota handyman who had run out of his basement apartment at the sound of Lennon’s body hitting the floor above him, and the killer, all standing as if frozen.

“Somebody just shot John Lennon!” the doorman finally shouted, pointing at Chapman.

“Where’s Lennon?” Cullen asked. Hastings pointed to the nearby vestibule in which John – with blood pouring from his chest – lay dying. Cullen ran to Lennon’s side as Spiro threw Chapman against the stone wall and cuffed him.

Two other officers soon arrived to lift John up and take him to a waiting police car. As they did, one of the officers would recall his stomach sickening as he heard the unmistakable cracking of Lennon’s shoulder blade as they lifted him up, the bones shattered by a bullet. As they were carrying him to the waiting police car, Lennon vomited up blood and fleshy tissue.

With Lennon placed gingerly on the backseat of the patrol car, one of the officers jumped into the back to hold his head while the other two officers jumped in the front seats and sped downtown to Roosevelt Hospital, located exactly one mile away. In the midst of the chaos, Cullen spotted Yoko Ono. “Can I go, too?” she asked as her husband disappeared. A ride was quickly arranged.

Cradling Lennon’s head, the officer in the backseat of the speeding patrol car looked into John’s glassy eyes. Breathing heavily, with the gurgling of blood audible to all in the car, Lennon was fading. The officer tried to keep Lennon conscious, screaming at him. “Do you know who you are?!?! Are you John Lennon?!” John – who, with the other Beatles had popularized the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ phrase 16 years earlier – uttered what would be his last word: “Yeah….” He then lost consciousness and his breathing stopped.

Meanwhile, back at the Dakota, Officers Spiro and Cullen were trying hard to remain professional. Avid Beatles fans, both had often seen John, Yoko and Sean walking the neighborhood. Although they’d never spoken to John, both felt as though this was a family member or friend that Chapman had just shot. Trying to control the urge to hit Chapman, Spiro thought of the only thing he could think of: “Do you have a statement?!” Chapman pointed with his cuffed hands down to the ground nearby where his copy of Catcher in the Rye lay. Spiro opened the book and saw the inscription, “This is my statement.” Spiro fell into a brief shocked daze at the scrawl. He was startled back into reality when Chapman – answering a question that hadn’t been asked – said, “I acted alone.”

Cullen and Spiro then roughly loaded Chapman into their car for a trip to the 20th Precinct. “He was apologetic,” Cullen recalled in a 2005 interview – but not for shooting Lennon. “I remember that he was apologizing for giving us a hard time.”

Nearby, unnoticed and – for the next 12 hours, untouched – was the copy of Double Fantasy that Lennon had signed for Chapman 6 hours earlier. Chapman had placed it in a large potted plant at the side of the gate, where it would be inadvertently discovered by one of the scores of officers who would be called to the Dakota for crowd control as word of Lennon’s shooting spread.

Thirty minutes earlier, Dr. Stephan Lynn’s 30-hour shift had ended at 10:30 p.m. He had literally just walked through the door and sat down on the sofa when his phone rang. Picking it up, a nurse asked him if he could come back to the hospital to help out. A man with a gunshot to the chest was coming to Roosevelt.

Lynn walked back out the door and hailed a cab to the hospital.

Meanwhile, at Roosevelt Hospital at that moment, TV producer Weiss was lying on a gurney wondering how his night had turned so shitty so quickly. An hour earlier, Weiss’ Honda motorcycle had collided head on with a taxi. Somehow, Weiss seemed to have escaped with what he suspected to be cracked ribs. It was as he was lying on the gurney in an emergency room hallway contemplating his ruined evening and awaiting x-rays that Weiss was about to get the news scoop of a lifetime.

BOOM! The doors of the hallway where Weiss lie burst open with a gunshot victim on a stretcher carried by a half dozen police officers, who passed Weiss as they brought the victim into a room nearby. As doctors and nurses flew into action, two of the police officers paused alongside Weiss’ gurney. “Jesus, can you believe it?” one officer rhetorically asked the other. “John Lennon?!”

Weiss was incredulous. He immediately rose from the gurney and grabbed a nearby hospital worker. Realizing he couldn’t walk, Weiss shoved $20 into the man’s hands and told him to call the WABC-TV newsroom with a tip that John Lennon was shot. As it turned out, the money disappeared, and the call was never made.

Five minutes passed. Weiss was suddenly doubting the news instincts of the bribed hospital worker. As he was contemplating this, Weiss was started by what he later described as a strangled sound. “I twist around and there is Yoko Ono on the arm of a police officer, and she’s sobbing,” Weiss recalled in a 2005 interview.

With the sight of Yoko, Weiss decided he had to make the call to WABC-TV himself. He finally persuaded a police officer to help him up and walk him to a hospital phone, under the ruse that he had to call his wife to tell her he was in the hospital. Instead, out of earshot of the officer, Weiss reached the WABC-TV assignment editor with his tip around 11 p.m. Before hanging up the phone with Weiss, the editor on the other end of the phone was able to check and confirm a reported shooting at Lennon’s address.

All the while, Lynn and two other doctors were working on the victim. The man lying on the table had no pulse, no blood pressure, and no breathing. Lynn did not know that the man on the table in front of him was John Lennon. “We took his wallet out of his pocket,” Lynn recalled in 2005. “The nurse immediately chuckled and said, ‘This can’t be John Lennon’. Because it didn’t look anything like John Lennon.”

Whether or not it was Lennon, Lynn was not quite sure. What he did know, though, was that, “He was losing a tremendous amount of blood,” Lynn remembered. “And he had three wounds in his chest. We knew we had to act quickly. We started an IV, we transfused blood. We actually did an operation in the emergency department to try to open his chest to look for the source of the bleeding. We did cardiac massage – I literally held his heart in my hand and pumped his heart – but there was complete destruction of all the vessels leaving his heart.”

After 25 minutes, the three doctors gave up. The damage was too great. Lennon was dead. Lynn recalled that Chapman’s marksmanship was extraordinary. “He was anamazingly good shot,” Lynn recalled. “All three of those bullets in the chest were perfectly placed. They destroyed all of the major blood vessels that took the blood out of the heart to all of the rest of the body.” As a result, “there was no way circulation of blood could take place in this man and there was no way that anyone could fix him.”

Weiss continued watching in disbelief as the doctors frantically worked on Lennon. It took him a moment to realize the song that was playing on the hospital’s Muzak system – the Beatles’ “All My Loving.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Lynn made the long walk to the end of the emergency room hallway where Yoko was waiting in a room with record mogul David Geffen, who had rushed to the hospital after receiving a call that John had been shot. It was now Lynn’s job to deliver the word that John Lennon, Yoko’s soulmate and spouse, was dead.

“She refused to accept or believe that,” Lynn recalled. “For five minutes, she kept repeating, `It’s not true. I don’t believe you. You’re lying.”‘ Lynn listened quietly. “There was a time she was lying on the floor, literally pounding her head against the concrete, during which I was concerned I was going to have a second patient,” Lynn remembered. “Many, many times she said, ‘You’re lying, I don’t believe you, he’s not dead,’ ” he added. “[Geffen] was helpful in getting her to calm down and accept what had happened. She never asked to see the body, and I never offered. She needed to get home [to tell Sean], and she did.”

By the time Yoko left the hospital, Weiss’ tip had been confirmed and given to Howard Cosell, who told the nation of Lennon’s death during Monday Night Football…..which was still on the screen of the little black and white television on doorman Hastings’ front desk counter.

This brought a throng of reporters to Roosevelt Hospital, leaving Lynn to inform them that Lennon was gone. “John Lennon…,” Lynn began before pausing for a moment. He then went on, “….was brought to the emergency room of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital…He was dead on arrival.” With that, a collective groan emanated from the normally cynical assembled media.

After finishing with the media, Lynn returned to the emergency room. Thinking remarkably clearly – and with great foresight – Lynn arranged for the disposal of all medical supplies and equipment used on Lennon – a move to thwart ghoulish collectors. “I said, ‘Not a piece of linen with Mr. Lennon’s blood is to leave this department except in a special bag,’ ” Lynn recalled. “I had to tell the nursing staff that they could not sell their uniforms, which might have been stained with John Lennon’s blood.” He personally supervised the disposal of everything.

By the time Lynn was done, it was 3 am. He decided to walk home, heading up Columbia Avenue. “I was afraid that someone would run up to me and say, ‘You’re the doctor who didn’t save John Lennon and allowed him to die,’ ” Lynn said.

On the 25th anniversary of the murder, Lynn stated that he believed that – despite medical advances in the previous quarter century – John’s gunshot injuries would still be untreatable today. “There was no way of repairing that damage then and, to my knowledge, there’s no way to repair that amount of damage today,” Lynn said. “There was absolutely nothing we could do.”

For days afterward, up in Apartment 72 of the Dakota, whenever the kitchen door opened, three cats came bounding forward to greet a man who was no longer there…..

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Dear Editor: You Read the News Today, Oh Boy

sign at the Carnegie Science Center
photo taken by me, November 2011

Dear Editor,

Sometimes the biggest kindnesses come from the smallest gestures. And you’ve probably already forgotten, but I need to thank you for giving my son one of the biggest kindnesses of all.

You see, my boy always seems to have an idea, a story (or two or three) spinning ’round in his head.

It wasn’t always that way. It’s all too easy to remember when our son, now 10, struggled mightily to hold a pencil. While other parents spent Saturday mornings watching their kid on the baseball field, we spent ours watching a therapist, coaching us and our boy’s imagination into being.

As a child with autism, our boy’s imagination and communication was locked away inside of him. What he had instead were his own rigid  “play schemes,” (a phrase I would soon come to hate) based on his own scripts borrowed from favorite television shows. This, as is often the case for kids on the autism spectrum, proved to be a bit of a challenge socially. Eight years later, it still is.

But somewhere and somehow along the way, the two – an ability to hold a pencil (thank you, occupational therapy) and a fruitful imagination (thank you, floortime) – connected inside our boy’s brain and a little writer was born. The prolific results burst all over our house in the form of stories and drawings. Pretty soon, our little guy got it into his mind that he could write his friends into his comics. Making people laugh soon became his way of connecting with his confusing world.

He arrived home from summer camp one day last week, brimming with an idea. I’m starting a camp newspaper, my little publishing mogul declared. Before I knew it, I was kicked off my laptop and the first issue was being written with the speed of a copyboy on deadline. I heard the whirr of my printer downstairs, seven copies of the first issue streaming off the press in full color.

This has been going on for the past week. He’s been writing about the various games the campers play; their field trips to the movies and to miniature golf, combined with opinion pieces on whether the campers should be allowed to purchase snacks during such outings. There was an article about a friend’s last day and a review of the accompanying celebratory cake (“it was scrumptious!”). There’s an investigative piece of journalism about a cereal spiller on the loose in the camp.

He’s been distributing this (“selling it”, in his words) to the parents at camp. Every day. For the past week, I’ve drawn in my breath upon picking up the kids, for there are few parent-to-parent phrases that make one tense up faster than “Can I talk to you about [insert your child’s name here]?”.  In the case of parents with special needs kids, we’re all too familiar with the questions, the raised eyebrows, the not-so-pleasant encounters in parking lots with other parents who didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t get your quirky kid. It’s a visceral, automatic gut reaction and you assume you know what’s coming.

At least I did when the other mom motioned to me when we both arrived to pick up our kids from camp.

“About the newspaper ….” the other mother began.

“Yes?” I said, feeling my entire body go into protective Mama Bear mode, the hard drive of my mind searching the most recent issue for anything controversial.

“I absolutely love it,” she said.

“Oh,” I exhaled, relieved. “Really?”

“I even showed it to my boss,” she continued. “I work for The Eagle. My boss is the editor.”

I stopped.  Looked over at my boy, and then I saw it. His smile.

His smile. 

She had already told him, I realized. Told him that the editor of the paper read his words, and the pride on his face was unmistakable. My boy knows what an editor does, that such a person crafts the words, is in charge of the paper.

This is one of those moments, I realized. One of those moments when you realize that this is what all the Saturday therapy sessions and all the IEP meetings and all the dead-end appointments with one specialist after another are for. This is why we do all of that. It leads to this … and why, and how?

Because of a small gesture leading to a big kindness. Because the other mom brought the newspaper into work, showed it to you, and you took two minutes out of a day filled with all the pressures of running a newspaper in this god-awful economy to read the funny and somewhat nonsensical words of a funny 10 year old boy with autism. Maybe you sensed there was something different or something quirky about him, I don’t know. But whatever it was, you made a difference in the day – no, in the very life – of this kid and neither he (nor his mom) will soon forget it. We could all use a little more of that kind of kindness in our world, I think.

You read the news today.

And on behalf of my boy, I thank you so very much.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, by Nora Ephron (audiobook)

I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections
by Nora Ephron 
Random House Audio
3 hours, 8 minutes

I Remember Nothing is narrated by Nora Ephron herself – so given her recent passing, hearing her distinctive voice is kind of bittersweet at first. 

Jarring, even.

But the humor more than makes up for it, of course, and listening to this three CD recording is like listening to an old friend (or a new one who feels like an old friend). In this audiobook, Ephron peppers her personal essays with phrases such as “I have to tell you,” and “I am not proud of this.”

I Remember Nothing almost has the feeling of being two books in one. The first part is Nora recounting all the everyday as well as significant and historical happenings in her life that she can’t remember or may only remember trivial details of.

And we’re talking MAJOR events. Things like meeting Eleanor Roosevelt, being outside the White House on the evening Nixon resigned, and covering the Beatles as they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

“On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can?” she says.

These recollections (or, what Ephron can recall about them) are among the best part of I Remember Nothing. The rest is more along the lines of reflections and musings on various topics such as divorce, email (a section that feels a little dated), thinning hair, and other vestiges of growing older. The essay about having a meatloaf named after her in a restaurant is especially well-done, and there’s a poignant story about her plans for a potential inheritance from an uncle that will resonate with every writer. (Ephron was struggling with a screenplay at the time and the windfall from the uncle would have made that go away. We would have also not have had one of our most classic movies.)

There is a passage about her being on her deathbed, which is just downright eerie now. And the ending of I Remember Nothing, two lists of “What I Won’t Miss” and “What I Will Miss” (after she has gone) are bittersweet and prompt a bit of reflection on what one will miss (and not miss) of one’s own life.

Still, at the risk of seeming to speaking ill of the dead, I Remember Nothing feels a little … disjointed. If you’re familiar with Ephron’s movies and her writing, you won’t find much new ground here. What you will find is Ephron’s trademark snark and sardonic wit, some good entertainment and laughs if you’re in a bit of a funk and need a quick hit of humor to relieve you … and an ironic, bittersweet reminder that despite her feeling of growing old, Ephron really wasn’t as old as she thought she was.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Stepping Into It

The weight of uncertainty seems particularly heavy tonight.

I don’t know whether it’s because of uncertainties of global events like the ones today’s news cycle brought, or the uncertainty of this Great Depression II that seems permanent, or the personal economic uncertainties in this house.  Or some combination of all the above, which is most likely.

(Before our mothers call and text us, we’re generally fine. There’s nothing new that you aren’t already aware of, just more writing on the proverbial wall, this time in a Sharpie marker by Ebenezers who have no concept of how their words and ideas affect others, how what was thrilling for one adventurous child will be a living fucking hell for one living in the structure of Aspergers, and how their actions can reopen childhood scars.)

* * * *

Wonder Woman boots at the Hip Hip class tonight.

We got pedometers at work yesterday, courtesy of our benefits company. I love it, and I’ve become a little obsessed with checking my steps and calories burned.  I’m way too sedentary; working at home will do that to you quickly, and I’ve thought about trying to walk a little more in the mornings, while the autumn weather is still conducive to doing so. 

There was a situation this week that makes you question someone’s humanity and if they ever had any.  The kind that makes you question everything, really.  I’m probably not the only one wondering what is going to happen. 
We are not superheroes.

The company with the duck commercials came into our conference room and did their job well by making me worried about short-term disability, long-term disability, accidents, cancer, and every disease listed on the exclusions page that I don’t think I have but that – who the hell knows? – could be lurking.  If I mention sciatica on the blog, does it mean that it is pre-existing?

Hip Hop class.

* * * *
Betty is in a play this fall at the same theater company where Boo was in two productions.  She’s passionate about performing, has no qualms about being on the stage, is kind of a natural ham.
It’s Haunted Family Night Out at the theater tonight, and her cast is performing a number or two from their show.  A preview of sorts, a dry run for the real thing in a couple weeks. 
I sit in the audience and I watch her dance as one of the Seven Dwarves (she’s Happy) and I worry about next semester’s tuition for her lessons that she loves, if it is something that will still be able to remain in the already-tight budget, if we will be here. I cannot stay in the moment, cannot embrace it as much as I want to and that makes me even sadder.  I don’t know how to do that.  I always have one foot in tomorrow.
We watch a sampling from an improv class, and I’m in awe of these incredible kids (it’s a teenage improv comedy troupe) and their sheer, raw talent in this small theater. I’m in awe of their passion for their art, for their ability to allow it to sweep them away from their own uncertainties.  I want some of that.  I’ll have what she’s having, thank you. 
After the performance, there are mini-lessons to sample.  Betty tries Beatles Rock Band, then a drum lesson to be more like Ringo.  A singing lesson with a young man whose voice is Grobanesque.  A few bars on the piano, a few strings on guitar from a guy who looked like the ghost of George (as in Harrison).
And then the dancing.  Betty samples a hip hop class.  Moms are invited to try a mini-Zumba lesson.  I surprise myself by stepping out of the hallway where I’ve been peeking in and stepping into the room. The mirror doesn’t lie; I am uncertain and uncoordinated, my daughter woefully embarrassed.  I’m not sure this is for me. Yet there is something about it where I can see how people might like it, how it might help relieve some of the uncertainty and stress.  Not to mention cholesterol and pounds.

The pedometer on my hip silently moves upward, forward, counting out stepstepstepstepstep as I zumba through 10 minutes of what is for me some of the most intense movement in many a recent year.  Betty goes back for another hip hop class, this time standing next to a girl whose moves are liquid confidence.  I am watching someone who will be someone, I think. Someone who likely already is and I don’t know it. 


“She’s so good,” I remark to the mother standing next to me, videocam in hand.
“She never stops,” she replies.  “She is always moving. Always.”

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.
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