Friday, March 27, 2009

March Madness?

A performance scheduled for tonight (advertised in the Syracuse New Times and most likely other places) for singer songwriter Mark Zane has been cancelled. (Please read older posts about this amazing performer.) The reasons for the cancellation? Well, possibly because it's Lent and folks don't come out to eat BBQ (the venue, a few miles outside of Syracuse cooks BBQ) during Lent supposedly. But it's really about SU playing basketball tonight.

I was raised in a family where the change of seasons was identified by what sport was being played. My brother is the Sports Editor of a newspaper. There's nothing I love more on a summer day than sitting in the bleachers and watching a baseball game. I can live without the hoop-la surrounding March Madness, however. If we are watching the news and catch the press interviewing SU players after a game, we fall into this game of counting the times the players say "you know" and wish they'd spent more time in English class.

Mark Zane is working hard to promote his first CD, and it's a CD that deserves to be heard. This cancellation seems a bit unfair. After all, there are folks who wish to escape the March Madness frenzy and go hear good live music. Not everyone is Catholic adhering to the customs of Lent. We would have loved having the option of eating some juicy BBQ and listening to Mark's music as entertainment tonight, even if we had to travel a few miles away from home.

Thankfully we live in a community that does offer options. We have to flip a coin to decide what to do tonight: a screening of The Divorcee at Friday Night Flics at Artrage OR going to Sugar Pearl Lounge to hear Miss E play. Still, it would have been nice to have added "go hear Mark Zane" to our list.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Even Rupert is Counting the Days

We were making weekend plans and said the word "camper". Rupert woke up out of a dead sleep, sat up and looked at us, ready to go. Indeed, it's been a long winter. I'm sure he's ready to swim in the lake again and retrieve his water toys. That's the only way we can get him in the lake....we have to throw a toy for him to fetch. He'd fetch all day if we had the energy to throw all day.
They turn the electricity on May 1st, but we'll be taking a trip down soon just to make sure everything has survived the winter winds. I'm ready to be there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rejection Letters

My writing group meets at Sparkytown again on Thursday. We've had a bit of a hiatus over the winter. We met for lunch a couple of weeks ago and it was so nice to get together again.

A couple of us in the group have been submitting our work in search of an agent and/or publication. It's a daunting task, to say the least. I compare it to blind dating, except you can do it in your pajamas without having to comb your hair.

Perhaps we're lucky to be doing so in an electronic age, also. Although we may miss out on a certain drama attached to waiting for a letter to arrive in our mailbox, slicing open an envelope and unfolding a form letter telling us our work had been found unworthy, rejection via e-mail comes quickly. The e-mail format allows the illusion that it's personal and not a "form letter" response. Somehow that lessens the blow, at least for me.

I don't paper my walls with my rejection letters, although I have one with a handwritten note pinned to the bulletin board near my writing desk. It brings me occasional inspiration. Others are in a folder. I consider them badges of courage. It's not necessarily an easy thing to send your work out into the world. I'll keep doing it though, and I'll encourage my writing group pals to keep doing it, too. Because somewhere out there is an agent and/or publisher who's going to pick up one of our novels or short stories or poetry collections from their reading piles, and they're going to like what they're reading. That's all it takes. Just like dating....that first look that you can't explain when you know you want more. It just happens.

Until then, I'm going to keep this Ray Bradbury quote in mind: "You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Apologies to Paul Simon

A few posts ago I expressed my outrage over a rude and insensitive comment made to a handicapped individual by a performer I refer to now as Paul Simon's back-up singer. I'm still talking about that concert. It still irks me.

It's not just because I worked for ARC for several years. Or because I ran my own business -- Incredible Journeys -- where we took adults with developmental disabilities on vacations. It's not that I have an acute understanding that music appreciation transcends disabilities.

It's not even that I consider myself a poet and Paul Simon's back-up singer may have been published by better publishers than I have been, but I don't believe that speaks to the quality of his writing necessarily.

There's no excuse for being mean. To anyone. And Paul Simon's back-up singer was just plain mean.

Some of you have seen photos here of our music room. There's always music playing in our house. I have decided to "retire" all of our Simon and Garfunkel LPs, reel to reel tapes, cassettes and CDs. RELUCTANTLY. Because I truly love the music. But I fear that every time I'd listen to one of these songs in the future, I'd no longer hear Paul Simon's magical lyrics; I'd only be reminded of Paul Simon's back-up singer's egotistical mean streak.

I will continue to play Paul Simon. I own every one of his solo CDs and love them all. His music has brought me great comfort over the years.

And I am very proud to say that I own none of Paul Simon's back-up singer's attempts at singing songs other people have written. And I intend to keep it that way. Hope you will, too.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hanging Rack for Pots and Pans

I love being married to an engineer. This is what my kitchen looked like earlier this morning.

And this is an old window frame we rescued from the trash awhile ago. We've had several ideas about what to do with it...finally deciding on making a rack to hang pots and pans. Hubby bought a bunch of stuff at Lowe's this morning.

He hung the window frame up over the sink on some chains.

He added some hooks, rescued my pots and pans from the cupboards and....viola!

We have a rather unique pot and pan rack made from something someone else had tossed at the curb on garbage day. I'm so lucky to be married to someone so creative!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Muse Comes and Goes

I write every day. Maybe not always here. Maybe not always on paper. Often it's just stray thoughts rambling around in my head, but they begin the moment I realize I'm awake. I very often dream solutions to poems I'm working on, title changes, story endings. I am truly blessed that my only real obligation during the day is to take Rupert for a walk three times a day and to make sure hubby has lunch and dinner. The rest of the day is mine to play with words all I want.

And I've been quite busy lately. I wrote 60 new poems in the past two months.

Two envelopes -- filled with those poems -- now sit on my counter ready for a trip to the post office tomorrow. While I feel great joy in the completion of this project, there's also a sense of sadness that it's done. Those words kept me company through what seemed like an endless winter. I'm not sure what to do with myself now, what to write next.

OK, yeah, I could work on the novel draft that's finally done. My mother-in-law read it and actually liked it. But I didn't somehow. My disappointment lingers and I'm afraid I'll start shredding pages if I read it again.

The muse is a fickle friend indeed. Still, I'm thankful for the ride she gives me now and then.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Folks laughed at us in the waiting room prior to Chris's knee surgery a few weeks ago when we wrote "wrong knee" on his left knee. (Remember...I worked in health care administration for twenty years. I know all too well that folks make mistakes in all kinds of jobs.)

Hubby's surgery went well and his recovery was smooth. His post-op appointment was this week. He is anxious to have his other knee done now.

The medical assistant we've seen several times now ushered us into an exam room. She's very bubbly, asked all the right questions regarding hubby's level of pain, etc. She sat him down in the chair, spent a few seconds reviewing his chart and then looked him straight in the eye and said:

"Well, it seems that you're able to move your shoulder really well after your surgery."

Hubby played along, moving his shoulder briskly to show her how easy it was for him to rotate it in every direction while asking if she had the right chart. She said yes of course she had the right chart and then he had to tell her that his knee was doing pretty well, too. The assistant turned several shades of red and quickly left the room muttering, "I'm glad you're doing so well," or something like that.

You can be absolutely certain that when they schedule his surgery for his other knee, we'll be writing "wrong knee" on his good knee again. Just to be safe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Turning Stone Casino's Response

Dear Robin & Christopher,
Thank you for leaving your feedback. I am sending your response to Mr. Garfunkel's management. I apologize for your experience at the Art Garfunkel concert. I am as disappointed as you are. I appreciate you taking the time to write to me and will make sure that his management is aware of the feelings of Art Garfunkel's fans.
Thank you again, Terri Torrey Talent Manager

Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Letter to Turning Stone Casino

Dear Showroom Events Manager,

My husband and I, frequent guests at your Showroom and the Events Center, were extremely disappointed by Art Garfunkel's performance and arrogance on Thursday evening when he had the audacity to ask a handicapped individual in his audience to stop making "noise". We wish we had followed those guests out of the concert, and we are hoping that you graciously refunded them the price of their tickets for the performance they were made to feel too embarrassed to continue to sit through with their handicapped companion.

Your showroom is a delightful venue, has beautiful acoustics, and we have never seen an unworthy event there, until last Thursday evening. We urge you NEVER to invite Art Garfunkel to your stage again. Certainly your customers, especially your handicapped customers, deserve talent driven by more than ego.

Robin Butler and Christopher Jestin

Friday, March 13, 2009


He's not my favorite of the duo. I've always considered Paul Simon one of the genius poets/songwriters of my generation. I would run down South Salina Street buck naked for a chance to see Paul Simon in concert....well, maybe. When friends invited us to see Art Garfunkel in concert, we said, yeah, ok, why not? And it wasn't horrible. His voice was good most of the time. The songs were familiar and after awhile you got used to the lack of Simon harmony. He developed a rapport with the audience at first. The band was good. We settled in for a nice evening.

And then he read a prose poem from his new book, a clear reminder to me that he's still out there singing Simon and Garfunkel songs because he's NOT a writer after all. I wanted to say, "Just sing, Art. Sing another song."

He didn't. "What are those noises?" he asked, glaring over the top of his reading glasses into the audience. I wasn't sure if it was a part of the disjointed prose poem he was reading or not at first, until I heard the noises, too. He continued with the reading. Then he stopped and made another comment. "Is everything alright over there?" A couple more comments like that came from him before someone in the front row told him where the "noises" were coming from.

Art Garfunkel stood at the microphone, holding his book up, peering over his glasses and said, "I try to be kind to the handicapped, but I'm trying to put on a show here." Now, if you'll imagine the sound of a dozen Catholic nuns cracking wooden rulers down on desks, you'll get the tone of his voice as he delivered this message to his audience just about right.

He continued reading his insipid verse from his little book while the "noise maker" was wheeled out of the audience, the clanging of the door echoing in the room behind them, changing the mood for the remainder of the show, completely ruining the version of Mary Chapin-Carpenter's "Dreamland" that he sang next. (You owe MCC an apology, too, Artie.) And every song that followed the departure of the "noise makers" rang false; Art sang the wrong lyrics to "Mrs. Robinson" and "Sounds of Silence", although I doubted that he was feeling the least bit guilty for his bad behavior. He was simply rushing through the songs to get off the stage.

I hope the Turning Stone Casino refunded that customer's money. I hope that "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" wasn't the only song that once put that child to sleep and the family hadn't saved pennies to be able to hear the song sung live just once. I hope the Turning Stone Casino never invites Art Garfunkel back to perform. I hope you never buy his book or CD.

The arrogance, the ego.

My husband put it best......we saw Paul Simon's back up singer last night.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Evan!

Today is my youngest nephew's birthday, my brother's son. Evan's mom is from a large, close-knit family. He barely remembers that I am his aunt except on those very rare occasions when we show up at a funeral or wedding at the same time. But Evan is my favorite nephew, although I doubt he knows that. I think he's about twenty today. I'm feel somewhat guilty that I don't know how old he is, but my brother would be hard put to name my children's ages either. It's sad that we've drifted apart that way, but that's the reality of our lives.

I have one very fond memory of a morning spent with my nephew that makes him my favorite. I'd recently left my husband...and as a result, my children. They were teenagers and had been given the choice of staying in the town they'd grown up in with their dad or relocating with me; of course they chose friends over mom. I'd been missing being "mom" more than being "wife" and had been struggling to start over. My brother was a sports writer for the local newspaper at that time and my sister-in-law worked for the probation department. My older nephew, Rory, was in elementary school. Some kind of construction work was being completed on the house my brother owned at the time and Evan had the chicken pox. It was chaos for them, they were going in ten different directions at once and they asked me if there was any way I could take some time off work and watch Evan.

I remember that I had dwindling sick time left at work.....I'd just moved out of my house, found my own apartment, spent hours in my attorney's office drawing up separation agreements and custody agreements, etc. I was just about tapped out. But I said yes and took a morning off to spend at my brother's house while they took Rory to school and they went off to work. I welcomed the contractor into the house to finish up whatever work was being done. And I spent an enchanting morning on the couch cuddling Evan. He had a head full of unruly black curls back then. I remember that he was more than content to just cuddle. In fact, that's all he wanted to do. And I was in dire need of someone wanting just to cuddle. The morning passed, Evan's fever went down, the contractor finished connecting all his doo dads, and I found a purpose that morning, if only for a few hours. It helped me get on with my new start.

Happy birthday, Evan. You will never know the part you played in my life that morning you had the chicken pox and climbed up in my lap in your Scooby Do PJ's all warm and sleepy-eyed and needing to nestle on the couch. But I'll never forget it. Thanks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


It's all around me. Surgery scars are becoming less vivid. Muscles remember old habits and have lost some of the screech of misery. Every day tasks have retained some of the ease expected. Sidewalks have lost the crust of ice that has made walking Rupert a treacherous journey. The taste of fear that we'll end up adding injury to injury is leaving our mouths....slowly but certainly as that's a crocus peeking up beneath the bushes by the porch. And as I type this my first robin of the season is perched on the tree outside my window.

Now....if only hearts would begin to heal. Two of those I hold most dear have had heart breaking ordeals over the winter, struggling with doing the right thing and following the tug of the heart strings. Head vs. heart. An eternal battle. A necessary battle.

Had I not been through such trials myself, I would never have been able to understand what Chris brought to my life....after 47 years of searching. We never have to "work" at our relationship. It is what it is. It works all on it own. We care for one another, we take care of one another. And it's more or less effortless. We heal one another.

Hang in there, my two "D"'s. To everything there is a season.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mr. DeMille, We're Ready for Our Close Ups!

Chris had his right knee operated on today and is all bandaged up. My left arm in still in a sling. We're both enjoying the healing effects of Vicodin.

A friend suggested we'd be perfect as cameos of the walking wounded for a Civil War if they're filming one in your neck of the woods, let us know. We're ready.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Songwriters' Circle at Sparky's Last Night

We missed last month and it was so nice to be back. There were Syracuse University students attending this session; they behaved and even seemed duly impressed when their professor blew the room away with his tune. They were right to be impressed.

The group is getting tighter, more trusting of one another, quicker to find the laughter, less awkward. I'm enjoying the discussions about the process that are popping up: does one write for the audience or the songwriter; does the melody drive the words or vice versa; abstract concepts versus the virtual; show versus tell. These are issues my writing group wrestles with all the time. I sometimes wish more time could be spent on exploring those themes in this arena, although only because it furthers my goals.

The critique can be intense. I wish people would listen, take a deep breath, remember the reason they are there. If they want warm and fuzzy, "that's wonderful".....this probably isn't the group for them. As a former human resources director, I often had to be the one to pass on information to people who thought they were doing a great job when they weren't. It was often tough. Someone once told me, "I take constructive criticism very well the second day." I wish some of these songwriters would think about that......and think about some of the things that are suggested to them at the songwriters circle...on the second day....when it's sunk in.....when it might make some sense. Because, Dana is sometimes right on the money, folks.

Lots of surprises were to be found last evening:
... A timid song by a newcomer that held greatness in its core: It didn't necessarily need the Simon and Garfunkel references to make it strong, though they were lovely.
... A contribution by one of the students: I didn't get the lyrics so I can't do it justice here this afternoon. What I remember is that a word he used -- microcosmic, I think -- immediately brought me out of the song and made me think about it so I lost the rest of the song. That was too bad. I hate when that happens.
...The professor's "Stop, Drop and Roll" song that caused WAY too much conversation about what was happening or going to happen. I felt it was pretty clear, had a rousing guitar melody and it might only be made better by being a little shorter of a song. It was romping and clever and just plain fun to listen to. I'm still humming it today.
...A "cute" song about what pops up at a 7-11: It's on its way to telling a story. I hope the writer keeps working at it. I agreed with the suggestion of working on the internal rhymes, knowing all too well how much work that is....but the song concept seems worth it.
...A rambling tune about an abandoned pond with so much promise you can see those old waters sparkling. I truly hope this songwriter pulls away the weeds here to let the real story shine through.
...An amazing song written just that morning in a kitchen about the battle between the sexes that said a bunch and can say even more once she figures out who the enemy is....harder said than done, but I'm sure she'll get there.
...A delightful, luring melody (I'm getting used to that from this gal) about kisses in a lifetime, with thoughtful lyrics that just need a little more polish. I'm struggling with the concept of a full heart "shining"...I think she could find a better word, although it fills her rhyme.

And then my favorites. I had three "wows" last night. I simply couldn't pin it down to only one.

"Wonder"......After hearing some of the comments, I felt as though I might have been one of the only ones who got it. The writer had revised it from last month and I was sorry to have missed the first version, but this song spoke to my poet's ear and my woman's heart, loud and clear, "I've been there."

"Unknown Waters"....A man, his guitar, nature and the calling of the muse, all blended with a haunting melody. Just a word here or there I might have tweaked.....the word "glimpse" kept taking me off track.....the rest, soothing yet unsettling at the same time, exactly how the creative process is for so many of us.

And, last, but certainly not least, "Let Me Go". I spent ten years working for ARC in Cortland County and ran my own business, Incredible Journeys, taking adults with developmental disabilities on vacations. So I would be the very FIRST person to jump up and down if I felt it was politically incorrect in any way to start off a song about someone with Downs Syndrome with the lyric "Why am I slow?" This song is lean, crisp, to the point, and poignant. Of course, I may be somewhat biased towards this writer's work (it's Mark Zane....check back on past posts, I've reviewed a couple of his shows) but he has an uncanny way of cutting to the chase and showing you what's what. I've said it before: he nails it

Thanks, Sparky, for your hospitality. Thanks, Dana, and all the songwriters for allowing Chris and I to observe. It's always so difficult for us to get to sleep after watching such talent and creativity. See you next month!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Quote of the Day

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes. I am out of control, and at times, hard to handle, but if you can't handle me at my worse, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." Marilyn Monroe.