A Word About A Brother Called Lance

You lived a life brother…
daring to push all the boundaries of modesty
with a Cheshire’s grin.

You push every door 
to see if it would open onto a magical adventure 
filled with any moment that you could seize.

That same life went from the joy maker to the lonely clown 
but we didn’t see those tears 
we just heard that laughter

Oh, that laughter…
a sound that reverberated from every corner of indecency 
that caught so many damsels off guard 
and caused an unfathomable blush… which you adored.

Your dreamscape was that of an artist often tortured 
but you never stopped searching for the beauty of what was next.
the music that lived in your soul
a picture that was yet to be taken
a meal not yet made or savored

You were family brother
family that you loved madly yet
held at an arm’s length           

A mama’s boy with a papa you could never please.
An older sister you loved madly and pushed until she was mad
A little brother who was equal parts oil and water
A sister you tortured… just because
A sister who you left always on a tightrope, for fun.
A couple of us who shared a secret bond while living our very different lives.

Your gay life was my tutor with all its colors and flair.
the follow the leader that showed me
how to lead with the heart.

The heart that could be so easily hurt…
but better to have loved hard and given generously 
even if the break would shatter you deep inside your soul.

You were my protector brother, my hero ever since my knee-high memories began.
a rock star, a renaissance man
a self-made adventurer who never…let me down.

A life lived is not a life lost, or so they say…
but it is a loss that leaves so many lost among the living 
for we continue to look for that life
long after it has entered each of our souls.

Lance Harold Jones (April 6, 1956 – June 11, 2020) was my eldest brother who passed away June of 2020. He was just 64 years old but had aged decades after the loss of his husband Barry Williams in 2009. Barry was the love of his life. Lance was a self-made man; he understood business, could fix cars, do construction, sell anything. He earned a successful career in the computer world without a formal education. He was a fierce advocate for liberal politics and made it his life’s mission to reverse the effects of Fox News from our mother, a lifelong democrat, who lost her way when dementia took hold in her early 80’s. I am happy to report that he completed that mission beautifully and Mom voted for President Biden in the last election. (Congratulations and thank you Lance) Lance loved music and played the guitar and sang, as long as I can remember. Our sister Deb was often his co-star they were our own James Taylor & Carol King. He loved art & photography. He always appreciated an adventure, especially with friends. He loved to cook and eat and took to the finest things in life like a duck to water but could throw down with pretty much anybody he came across. Lance was a proud member of the queer community and took any opportunity he had to let people know it and learn from him. He was a great friend to a lot of people and stuck by many through hard times. Lance loved to party and had the most devilish laugh. He was so crazy with absolutely no filter which often made him embarrassingly fun to be around. Lance loved family, whether it was a chosen family or those of us he was blood to. To say Lance was a devoted son to our mom would be an understatement. I will likely miss my brother every day for the rest of my life but, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”  Be in peace now Lance, and if there is such a place as life after death, go live it with Barry and try not to get kicked out!

I love you,

Julie xoxoxo

So many family pictures.

Year End… or a year beginning?

artwork by Jeff Jones

As I sit in the laundry room/office of our perfect house, which became very small during the pandemic, listening to our son Cooper participating in remote learning I could take this years wrap up in so many directions. But I will spare you my musings and stick to more facts (and if you believe that, you do not know me)

I decided to put this “holiday letter” on the computer for a few reasons. First off, not everyone wants to read about our families journey so why waste the paper & secondly I removed myself from all forms of social media last November (passively… I still have the accounts, I just NEVER check them) so this is a chance to have Doreen share my thoughts for Facebook friends we have in common.

Dear Friends,
A little shy of a year ago we closed ourselves into the safety of our own, but during that time life has, not surprisingly, gone on.
Doreen launched herself into her final year at the Graduate School of Social Work at Rutgers University. Between remote learning and screwy internship options she briefly considered postponing but this is a calling and she had to answer the call. Come May of 2021 the world of Social Work may never be the same once Doreen hits it!
School has been tricky for all the learners in the house, no surprise there. Cooper has been the only kid with mostly in person learning due to the school being able to maintain 3 students per classroom and strict Covid protocol.
Olivia got her first “real boyfriend” just in time to be Rapunzeled away by Covid-19, but he spends most hours after school with us via FaceTime. It’s a remarkable study in human behavior watching teenagers mating rituals over video chat. They completely ignore one another for hours on end and then you’ll here the odd “babe” or “sweetheart”. I’m not going to claim to understand. Olivia did occasionally go off to the park this summer to “meet up” with her beau, I don’t even want to know.
Ruby has been devoted to voluntary isolation in her bedroom. It seems to perfectly align with her disenchantment at being in quarantine with Cooper and Olivia. She did manage to enjoy a week in St. Louis this summer with cousins and a pool in Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary’s back yard. We maybe had to tell her that they all were tested prior to our arrival. Sorry if that was super spreader of us, but desperate times call for desperate measures to get Ruby out of her room. (please note: thankfully no cases of covid were born from our time with family this summer).
I started off the year going on the road Stage Managing for Mandy Patinkin and Producer/friend Staci Levine in January and early February after The Illusionist, Magic of The Holiday’s closed. It has been a minute since I have toured, but taking care of Mandy’s show was a real treat. I was in St Louis with my Mom and my brother Lance when lock down began. My siblings and I were at the early stages of trying to manage long term care for our mom who’s memory has been smashed and get our brother Lance settled as he was dealing with his own health issues. I returned to New Jersey for April & May and then things went from bad to worse in St. Louis. Our brother Lance; protector of lofty dreams, possessor generous spirit, a gay knight, a man of irreverent humor and mad devotion passed away the morning of June 11th. A few of us were with him for the final hours of his journey; playing music, telling stories, singing, laughing and of course crying. I miss him more and more by the day, but I know I was lucky to have him as my big brother and a huge influence on who I am today. With Lance’s passing I spent much of the summer helping my family clean out my mom’s house and be as close as possible to my mom, my St. Louis sibs and lots of Zoom with our brother Jeff in Phoenix.
We are all certainly looking forward to the new year. 2021 has a nice ring to it. I for one have spent the fall getting fat, out of shape & uninspired so I can have some heavy hitting resolutions come January 1st… I mean, I realize that’s not how you are supposed to set resolutions but what the hell. Doreen and I are very excited about the New year and the decency and inspiration coming to a certain famous house very soon.

Since I cannot be reached on the social platforms please feel free to be in touch via: jpjones314@mac.com or 917-797-2618. Doreen can be reached on FaceBook or at doreenchila@me.com or 917-747-9359.

Me and Coop this summer

Doreen with Norman the Cat & Stella our mini dog!
Olivia with Uncle Mike and Aunt Maria
Ruby in her natural habitat… her bed!

Good Night Sweet Peter and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

He knew us all as individuals when we ourselves struggled
to be a who, that had a why and sought a path to our where.
We were microscopic balls of id and ego
fighting for our place in and out of the spotlight
the spotlight he shone for us full of pink & blue.
He snatched us from our heroic young roles across the country
and had us feed together from the belly of comedy and tragedy.
The mission, a place in the pantheon of theatrical greatness
or maybe a chance to find our way without the rigor of a mold.
We were to be our own person, finding our who, what, where, when, yes and, why.

His direction, the slightest touch at the helm,
should not have made a difference in this great sea before us but it did.
Such a subtle shift in our art that you had no idea what was happening
never a lecture took place, not a lesson on a page, nor a chapter in a book.
He attached us to our greatness, knowing our weakness
but never letting us weaken ourselves.
We said we knew it all, that our situation was different, yes but,
every story was a repeat musical phrase to his ears.
Yet, he never dismissed us, he listened and watched us work it out.
He poked the bear of curiosity and made us find our own truth
be our own professor to build our own lectern.
Grow and not turn back…

One person is missing and I’m turned upside down
I can no longer connect the dots, my dots are missing
they are now millions of stars that fade in and out, too fast to identify.
One who I could rely on is missing from my greater landscape,
it’s now a fallow field missing the nutrients of my history and my present.

He was snatched away leaving our hearts struggling.
We thousands have no claim, do we?
He was a man who staked a claim,
yet he made no claim to our greatness.
His greatness was in the great amount of joy
he found as we all satisfied our curiosity.
A curiosity he understood long before we examined it.

Peter Sargent was a man who helped define me as a theatrical professional. He continued to be the man that I wanted to make proud. I wanted to give back to him, with my career, what he gave to me as a constant in my professional journey. He is gone now, unbelievably taken by death so quickly it still seems unreal.  I feel the loss more every day, there are no texts or e-mails or phone calls. No sitting side by side during Webster’s yearly pilgrimage to NYC where he deftly tells me about most of the seniors no matter their discipline. No more annual dinners where I could laugh with him, share my life with him on and off stage. I suppose if I were more evolved I could continue to make his “memory” proud as I continue my career, but honestly, I selfishly want to make him proud in person. He is not a memory to me, he is a man alive and well who help shaped me into who I am today and I miss him dearly.

http://news.webster.edu/employee/2019/peter_sargent_remembered.html

 

The journey of a train enthusiast on the spectrum of reality seperate-titus

IMG_0810Cooper is my 13-year-old son who Lindy Hops on the Autism Spectrum. I have written about him as a child and his rabid fascination with NJ Transit, not trains but Transit trains specifically. The one thing that you should know about Cooper’s different-ability is it is wildly specific. It’s not spaghetti its spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce from Daniella Trattoria in NYC (not an ad, but could be an ad, if you are willing to pony up a few plates of pricey pasta for him). Okay, I could spend an entire story catching you up on Cooper but instead I am going to jump to the recent iteration of what we refer to as “Life With Cooper”.

Cooper’s joy the last several months is “working” the trains whenever possible. He spent time thinking he could be satisfied traveling various train lines, some of which include but are not limited to: Trenton, Montclair State University, North Jersey Coast in New Jersey. Oyster Bay & Long Beach on Long Island and countless requests for Amtrak, although to date I think he realizes that this without tickets is prohibitive. Word has it he was permitted a ride on Amtrak from Newark Penn to New York Penn one day, but I think travel outside the tri-state area will have to wait. Now if you are thinking, what irresponsible parenting letting her son ride Transit without supervision, please stop reading and return to your perfect parenting, because mine is an imperfect household filled with the perfect understanding of our shortcomings. So, Cooper “works” for Transit.

Friday night lights, filled with horns and bells
The movement beneath his solid stance feels easy.
4632 to Bay Head making stops at…

Saturday runs to and fro starting with Les and ending with Randy
The rhythm of the tracks the only steady in his brain
7695 to New York City making stops at…

Sunday is reserved for morris/essex maybe multis or commons
The traps and the doors every task he will sharpen his skills
7920 to Dover making stops at…

Cooper and I were on our own a few weeks ago while Doreen and the girls were in South Carolina. We were in a nice routine together and he took time away from his busy work schedules to be with me at the theatre or at home, so the only time he “worked” was when we were riding back and forth on the train to my work. Wednesday night we were on our way home after the show; typically Cooper isn’t on Wednesday night trains because of therapies or school, but this week was special. The rules are always the same when Cooper is with me at theatre in the evenings, he leaves the Palace early so he can find out what track our train will be on and secure the first four-seater at the front of the train, on the top left hand side specifically, for me to sit in with his skateboard and back pack while he works. He loads his pockets with schedules and maps in homage to his heroes, the conductors. A few of these conductors are super friendly to Cooper, they give him old zone maps and let him help with the traps at the train doors, they are okay with him trailing behind as they check tickets or letting him announce the stops throughout the lead train car. Cooper carries my work flashlight at night so he can wave down the platforms to the ticket takers signaling the all clear at station stops, when instructed of course. The night before, Cooper sat with one young conductor having a pretty incredible conversation about engines, equipment, schedules and the recent cancelations. It was a really friendly conversation that made my heart full and proud. I guess you might say it was a parental high to hear your son, who doesn’t always know how to conduct himself in conversation, really engaged. On this particular Wednesday night I was in my seat early so I got to hear his exchanges with familiar people (and some not familiar) as they boarded the train. These were far more typical of Cooper’s interactions; some of the guys would ask, “how many stops to Orange?” and Cooper would quickly rattle off a response which includes what zone that stop is. Somebody got on asking if the train stopped in Newark Penn to which Cooper replied, “No, you need to get off this train and go to track 7 I believe that is where the train to Trenton is. This train doesn’t go there.” A lady across the aisle smiles at me as she hears men board the train with greetings of, “hi ya Coop?”, “how’s it going tonight Cooper?” Cooper will assume a voice of a conductor he spends a lot of time with, “how’s it going? Very good, very good.” Pretty typical stuff. This Wednesday  was a pretty crowded train so I was sharing my four seater suite with a few commoners that didn’t realize that I was train royalty because of my association to Cooper.

We were about 15 minutes into our journey, having just left Secaucus Junction, when I hear the actual conductor talking, he is one of the grumpier fellas, but I cannot make out what he is saying. A few minutes later Cooper appears in front of me, his brow furrowed in distress. “Can you come with me please?” He says in a low sweet voice. Knowing that this is serious I grab all my wares and Cooper’s skateboard and backpack and as I head back to the rear of the car after Cooper I continue to hear the conductor talking to someone. I punch through the door into the train’s vestibule where Cooper is standing on a trap looking out the window with his head low. I said softly, “did you get in trouble buster?” and he turned to me crying, lowered his head on my shoulder and said, “he took my maps, he said they were Transit property and I wasn’t allowed to have them.” I said, “Did you explain that you had been given them Buster?” The tears were coming harder when he said, “I want them back.” I was in a parenting pickle, I wanted to march up to the conductor and give him an ear full, but frankly the way Cooper processes information I didn’t want him seeing me barking at a conductor as a solution. I continued to comfort him and said, “Buster, obviously he doesn’t think you should have them and that they are Transit’s property. Do you want to go ride in the back of the train?” “No, I want to get off at Broad Street and Lyft home.” I hugged him harder and said that wasn’t going to happen, but we could sit in a different car. Suddenly the door opened behind me and it was the conductor he sees me and hands me the maps saying, “I didn’t realize you were on the train,” he recognized me, “here I’m giving these back to you.” He says handing me the maps, “but he shouldn’t have them, so he should put them away.” He went on to say, “I had my bag stolen so I saw those maps and you know it set me off.” I calmly said, “he was given those maps sir, he didn’t steal them.” “Oh, I know” he responds quickly, “it’s just there is another kid who walks around on these trains and he’s really crazy.” Referring to another kid that I see Cooper with who is also clearly on the spectrum. He then says, “come on now, stop crying, big men don’t cry. Stop.” Now I actually want to punch him, not only has he referred to a kid as crazy but he is now shaming my son for being upset. I can tell Cooper is trying to stop, wiping his eyes and nose on my shoulder so instead of letting loose on the conductor I say to Cooper, “Did you hear that Buster, he had his bag stolen and so he got mad when he saw your maps thinking they might have been his.” That ended the exchange and Cooper and I went to sit at the end of the car on benches until we got home. As we left the train a fellow theatre commuter, a musician, asks if Cooper is okay and said to me he tried to reason with the conductor about what a good kid Cooper is and how he loves the trains, but he wouldn’t listen. Cooper was quiet when we got home, he just wanted a bath and an ice pack and went to bed. His spirit was broken. I had no idea if I had done the right thing as a parent, I mean should I have said to the conductor; you know what, fuck you and your big man bull shit, he’s my son and he can cry if he wants to because you were a dick and took away his maps. Furthermore, if you had an aware bone in your fuckin’ body you would know that he is autistic and not “crazy” you douche bag… But I didn’t say any of that, I just didn’t want Cooper to think anger is the way to deal with problems.

This incident had me a little shaken the next day, I further advised Cooper to keep his maps low unless he knew the conductor was a friend. I also reminded him that the conductor from last night wasn’t bad he was just upset about his bag. I considered having Coop take a train break but that’s like suggesting a bull dozer go easy. So Friday that week off Cooper went on a journey while I was at work. Within a few hours he was calling me to report that his conductor buddy Randy had given him an up to date zone map for the Morris Essex line and he was thinking maybe he should give it to the conductor from the other night who had his bag stolen so he could replace his missing maps…

I think that’s my son displaying empathy or ready to show that conductor who was the real “big man”. Maybe, just maybe it was a parenting win after all.

An incomplete thought

I am my mother’s daughter
I am my fathers DNA
they both are fading quickly as I grow stronger
still becoming who I want to be.

I am distracted by the dream that my father could one day be proud
of the seed he planted, but lessons were the nutrients and my repellent.
I don’t know who he is, maybe I never did
he has not been punished as I though would be.
I danced with the belief that his actions would see him pay
in the lonely well of spirit lost but he has been saved by a fog of past lost
He will never reflect on the pain he caused
He will never wonder why I didn’t come around
I guess the joke is on me all these years later as I stare into the eyes
of a man who does not know that he created me.
Tortured me with false attachments.
I will never be you Dad. I will never strive for tidy solutions
problems that just disappear.

I am messy, I am my Mother’s Daughter.
I feel too much, I complicate my own decisions.
My problems help define my days as I try to find solutions that may not exist.
I dream in leagues so deep no ocean can contain.
I love so hard that hurt is inevitable and yet I will love again and again.

I found this draft today, one week after my Dad’s death, one week before his birthday. I am not sure why I didn’t revisit it until today and it is too late to work it into a coherent piece of writing, but for me its perfectly unresolved. My mom, while thankfully still alive and healthy, will never be the person she was, the years of stress have taken their toll. She has been stripped of her short term memory and with that comes no new long term memories. So she will never know what my kids are becoming, what I dream for their future. So it looks like its up to me to flip this narrative, to strike out on my own. I need to no longer look for parental approval, but know instead that I have the heart and soul that my parents gave me, for better or worse, and use it to make sure my children never need to feel regret over opportunity lost on my watch.  Its a pretty big goal… here goes nothing.

 

The Reluctant Vegan

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Here I am 50 years old and finally committing to a Vegan diet. For those who have known me over the years you known I have made the dance with food for years. At the age of twenty-one I stopped eating meat, I had made a trip to KFC that put me under. Sadly never lost the 10 pounds that comes with being a vegetarian because I balanced my diet out with Cheetos & Budweiser. In my late 20’s I added seafood into my diet, sort of. My girlfriend Lisa, who was also a “lacto-ovo” vegetarian  loved seafood (I’m certain that has yet another name to tag onto the ovo) so I did my best to include it in my diet, even making Lisa a celebratory fresh lobster dinner for one of her birthdays. It took a lot to kill those little suckers but I did it. But as with most things I could take seafood, especially fish, or leave it. The beer and Cheetos persisted, my mainstay. Fast forward to another girlfriend (can you see a pattern developing)… who was a foodie. I managed to go to restaurant after restaurant and stick to my multi-named vegetarian ways… although I did jam down a piece of turkey, one Thanksgiving, with plenty of sides to mask the meat. My friend Matt was a witness to this & a fellow turkey choker at that particular Thanksgiving of ’97. When I went through my “I’m single again” rennisance in my late 20’s I finally lost that 10 pounds, plus another 15 for good measure, but it was a brief victory as my bad habits still persisted. Fast forward to my early 30’s and my current girlfriend… now wife Doreen, who is a real bonafide meat eater, and was pregnant. I decided to try to embrace some meat as long as I either made it at home or masked it in toppings, refer back to the Turkey choke of 97, for details. I mean I didn’t want to be a vegetarian while everyone else in my family was eating meat. This started the next phase of my relationship to food which was all about weight loss. No matter how much I justified my way around it I was always diving into new habits to slim down. I did weight watchers with such investment I could have been a group leader, I did challenge after challenge, whole 30 this, no-carb that, the list went on and on and on for the next 13 years. A vegan diet danced into my adult conscience while doing Motown, The Musical when finding out that the big boss, Mr Gordy, was a late in life Vegan inspired me. I of course knew plenty of vegans (I am a lesbian after all) but there seemed to be a vegan renaissance at Motown that wasn’t co-op and Birkenstock based. Many members of the Gordy camp, as well as our director, were self proclaimed vegans. Since it seemed so prominent I started pulling away from meat again and making the odd vegan meal here and there. No matter how many food dance parties I attended I always ended up sleeping with my old friend Budweiser and Cheetos (I’m being metaphorical here, I mixed it up and would have blue moon and salt and vinegar chips as well…). Between my bright orange lover and my justifying “oh, this left over food from the kids is already here” my diet was on a rapid decline, except for my manic bursts of cooking in between junk food. Last summer while I was out of town in Chicago doing the magical show, The SpongeBob Musical, I started experiencing intense foot pain. I kept popping ibuprofen and moving forward. I went to see a podiatrist well after I returned from Chicago, which proved useless, I stood bare foot in her office, was given a hands off exam, and was told, “plantar fasciitis & flat feet giving you some tendonitis in your ankle”, “Ice, stretch & pain killers.”  More western medicine bullshit, if you don’t need surgery you don’t really rate. I grabbed a Physical Therapy appointment at An American In Paris (the company provided PT for the cast) and those wonderful PT’s definitely felt something else was going on but since they are trained to refer everything to doctors first they just gave me some other stretches. Finally, after over a year of hobbling around, I started doing my own research and soul searching and everything pointed to inflammation and that inflammation pointed to diet… not the kind of “loose 20 pounds” diet I came to know so well but a different diet, a life choice diet; a Forks Over Knives realization diet. A plant based, whole food diet. So here I am, proclaiming that after years of having “an odd relationship with meat/food” I am going to follow a Vegan diet. I am going to take control of my own destiny. Ironically as soon as I threw this fact down & Doreen watched Forks Over Knives she decided to join me in my pursuits to feel better, although the ovo draw might be a little to powerful for her to avoid ultimately. I’m not expecting a magic bullet with my foot but the changes are starting to come and I couldn’t be more excited about the next 50 years of my food life.

PLEASE NOTE: If I do live to be 102 years old… I will then go down with Budweiser and Cheetos! Make no mistake this midwestern girl is not going to end it with a Kombucha & kale chips!

Oh Jesuit, my Jesuit! (a Sunday night story)

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As a kid I played at the feet of Jesuits. Not in some creepy “show me on the doll where he touched you” sort of way, I literally played at their feet under our dining room table; tying together shoe laces, tapping on their legs and hiding as they peered under the table pretending not to know what just tapped them. I guess these fellas, along with my two queer brothers and one slightly napoleonic brother, were my male role models growing up. Oh brother, I can here the jokes on the rolling in. I grew up in middle class suburban America without a single right to. I was the youngest of seven children being raised by a single, very freakin’ hard working, mom. The early 70’s, this was no joke; we are talking bra burning feminism, parents without partners mixers, Divine’s Pink Flamingos,  Vatican II had given permission for winners like The Flying Nun and Change Of Habit, Tricky Dick was the president (for a minute) and here I was doing Sunday night hangs with the Jesuits from St. Louis University. Okay, in all fairness I wasn’t hanging with the good fathers, I was more an observer. That was really the 70’s for me in general…, but that’s not the story I am telling right now. Right now I am talking about a group of righteous cats that could bend the opinion of even the biggest Roman Catholic skeptic; these were good dudes. I might be a practicing catholic to this day if I still had these guys in my life… mmmm, yep, I’ll leave it there. I am not going to pretend to be able to give you some enlightened description of the history of Jesuits but I think its important to note that this particular order of religious live in community and took the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and they are heavily focused in education. I know, “duh, they are priest of course they take vows.” Not so my friends, there are other boys out there that just make “promises” to do these things not vows, these guys are diocesan priests. These are the guys that are at most of your parishes and they can own shit, make some coin here and there, maybe a vacation, maybe keep company with a little someone special because its a promise, not a vow. Now, I could go a little deeper to say that this is why this current Pope, Mr Francis is so different and seems to really be about people and love, and not just church rhetoric, because he is a Jesuit and the first freakin Jesuit to ever be the pope out of 266 of those bad boys who have worn the papal ring. Yes, the major bullshit still exists… the church is NOT like, “come our dyke sister with your lover and your children and feel God’s unbiased love.” but I kinda feel like old Francis would say that on the  QT and really mean it. Trying to be really accepting and non judgmental in the Catholic church hierarchy must be like trying to be a black president in the USA. Pretty lonely!

Whew, did I get off topic or what… So, my mom would send my brother Lance or Mike down to the Jesuit housing at St. Louis University Sunday late afternoon and he would bring back a car load of these men in black to break bread with my mom, my sibs that were around and me. There was usually a big pot of spaghetti sauce which is sort of my families version of the fishes and the loaves… a little ground meat went a long way when mixed with cans of tomato sauce and paste. Wine and laughter were typically a part of the meal. After dinner there was a lot of conversation & pipe smoke. Father Jim, who was our Sunday regular, loved a pipe. I mentioned before that my mom was a single mother. My old man did not die, my parents were divorced, yep the big evil D-word. Not a popular thing in the late 60’s and even less favored by the catholic church without an annulment. Which I am never clear why my mom didn’t get an annulment cause its not like she was all boss and said, “you know what Hal go find yourself a waitress at a diner in Perryville MO and take up with her and leave me and your seven damn kids to fend for ourselves.” Granted, I was only 6-months old so I don’t remember anything but I’m pretty fucking sure that is not how it went down. So my non-annulled mother who could no longer receive communion when she went to church EVERY Sunday and holy day of obligation would make special Sunday night’s for a bunch of priests. Maybe it was because the leader of the pack, Father Jim Burke, was a tremendously bright light who would speak intelligently and lovingly in our home. He was respectful of the job my mom was doing, along with the help of my older siblings, in keeping our family together. Now, I don’t think Father Jim or any of his brothers of the cloth that visited were naive, nope not at all. I have two queer brothers (at the time I was merely an adorable tomboy), one, my brother Lance, very outspoken and warm the other, Jeff, who is an artist was probably just out smoking pot and avoiding any conflict possible particularly involving his sexuality, my eldest sister, Deb, who was cut out of the bloom of the love that permeated the late 60’s early 70’s. Another brother, Mike, who played the obedient boy to the letter but was in fact the biggest & funniest con-artist on the pot smoking planet. A sister, Judy,who was plagued by her off color family and I’m convinced to this day has memory loss in order to not suffer the embarrassment of our eccentricities and last but not least my sister Tracy, the stunning looking athletic girl who would make sure things went how she had them planned. So with this wonderful and oversized family all in one house, Father Jim and company would come to our home to  laugh, listen and discuss life, art, science, philosophy or whatever for hours on end before saying goodnight and tumbling back into our Dodge Dart Swinger to be deposited back at their housing. Our own little 27 rue de Fleurus right there at 7920 Colonel Dent Drive.

To this day on my mom’s kitchen window sill you can still see a photograph of Father Jim that accompanies his obituary, that twinkle in his eyes that gave everyone permission to be happy around him. Father Jim was a Jesuit so he went were his order sent him which was Spokane Washington for the later part of his life. My mom did get to see him in Spokane and indeed he spread no less of his love and teaching there than he bestowed upon our band of merry misfits at 7920. My mom was once told she led a “charmed life” by a boss of hers. Now to know my Mom’s story that statement is debatable at various times but there was something charmed that brought all of those thinkers into our home and share so much love on those Sunday nights. Perhaps, if I care to let myself indulge in that love, this is why are family stayed so bonded in our differences and healthy through some tricky times.

Dear Cooper. I love you. Please read this letter. Mommy

Dear Cooper,

You are growing into a young man and I am proudly terrified. Please listen to me. You are a young black man and you are a target. A target for so much hatred and violence in this country. The people who loved you as a cute little boy don’t love you any less than they did but the people who never met you, the police that don’t know your good natured ways are going to look at you as a threat. Crazy right? You a threat, that’s impossible! Not my buster who loves watching videos and sitting in a hot bath (several a day), you’re definitely not a threat to anything but my water bill. My sweet Mommy’s boy that cuddles up with me in the mornings before it’s time to start our day, my train loving guy who wants nothing more than a trip with me on a NJ Transit train being pulled by an F40PH3C engine, my baby that I sit and watch sleep late at night and you will occasionally appear as your sucking a pacifier ten years after the “paci” is an option. These are not the threatening qualities that you will be judged by. Strangers will judge my big twelve year old boy with dark skin who demonstrates behavior that can be taken the wrong way by someone who doesn’t understand you have autism. A young black man riding his bike or his skateboard at dusk in the park is frightening to a racist. When some lady yells at you because while you’re walking through a parking lot and you look in a car that looks just like ours don’t talk back in your big loud voice because you don’t know why your being yelled at, “you didn’t do anything wrong.” That lady may  call the police who don’t know you and won’t know you have a 3DS, a few Pokémon cards and maybe some candy in your back pack and when you can’t make eye contact because you have a neurological difference called autism they may mistake that for guilt and then you say something that they don’t like because your brain actually cannot keep up with the situation and then they can say they thought that bey blade and it’s launcher in your backpack was a gun so they had to shoot you.

I will keep fighting for this obscene violence to stop. I will keep questioning shoot to kill, stop and frisk, excessive use of force; but in the meantime I pray that you will safe when I am not there to be your “white” sheild in this still sadly racist world where black people are often guilty until proven innocent… if given time to prove that innocents.

I love you buster and I wish I could just keep you trapped inside or by my side but you have the spirit of an explorer and that is so awesome. Know that Mama and I will never give up on you learning right from wrong so you stay safe in this world which still, with all the great progress that has been made, is far from created equal.

Mommy xo

 

Are your 2017 resolutions stressing you out??

new-year_s-wishes

“How in the hell am I going to eat all these cookies before midnight when I give up sugar?”
“Damnit, I don’t have new clothes to go to the gym and I am supposed to start working out tomorrow!”
“Oh, how am I going to stick to this diet when I have reservations at that amazing restaurant next month.”
“I am so stressed about when on earth I am going to have time to meditate and do yoga five times a week.”
“I just opened this case of cigarettes…”
“Maybe I’ll just write every other day… every day might be too ambitious!”
“I will be more at peace & show love toward my fellow man even if our soon-to-be-president is a nightmare asshole!”

I don’t know about you but I know I have been a mess just trying to figure out how to enact my resolutions. I lack resolve and the New Year hasn’t even hit yet. So I may not actually start at the stroke of midnight on 1st of January 2017. I might ease into them this year so I can establish a solid base. In fact maybe my resolutions might just be creating a solid base so I can support others in their time of stress and self-improvement. I guess what I am saying is the whole notion of improving oneself based on a calendar date is too overwhelming for this girl. I need to do in my life what I do in my work; try to be a stable base for those who count on me be it my children, spouse, mother, siblings, friends… I may never be a super hero who looses those extra pounds but I can certainly be superman’s phone booth, Batman’s pole, Wonder Woman’s vortex or even a Wonder Twin’s ring.

Happy New Year!