Years are like visiting relatives. The kind that come whether invited or not, stay longer than they should and often wear really bad hats. You gussy up and make a spectacle of their arrival but by visits’s end your foot is tapping madly at the opened front door. They titillate with promises of adventures to come, fruitions they’ll facilitate, wonderful gifts to bestow, but all too often they disappoint for no rhyme or reason. Since they’re here for the duration you buck up to make the best of it, but after 12 months they’ve hit the limits of their welcome. Yet, as they bustle out the door on December 31st with hearty farewells and not one look back, you can’t help feel a twinge of melancholy, a moment of regret for what might have been. A belated appreciation for what was. In retrospect, they were often quite lovely and now they’re gone, never, ever, to return (apparently they’re visiting relatives from another planet). You sigh deeply, throw back an hors d’oeuvres, then gussy up, pull out the champagne, and get ready to welcome the next arriving party.
2010 was a brutal year for me, resulting in some loss of whimsy, faith and optimism. In street vernacular, it sucked. Typically I’d not be so expansively damning of an entire year but this one…well, let me set the stage by bullet-pointing the major “Cons” that crammed into these past 12 months:
- Year begins with husband in full-blown emotional/physical crisis related to MTBI (Mild Traumatic Brain Injury), compelling him to move out for the hope of healing and the sake of sanity. You can fill in any and all of the blanks related to the resultant miseries; his, mine and ours. He’s home now and doing much better, thank you, but the recovery continues. (Cowboy Strong, Poetry Sweet, Love in the Age of MTBI)
- My now 81-year old mother’s dementia progresses significantly. A search for the best possible facility ensues and an excellent one is found in my town. Very good for her. For me it’s complex: she moves closer than she’s been since I was 18 and fled home to avoid our complicated relationship. My brother and I take her on. Maybe not a “Con” as such (how cold could I be?!), but certainly a conundrum. (The Mother of My Reinvention)
- My amazing son graduates from high school (very good), gets into a fabulous college (great), and I am left to conduct my day-to-day life without him in it (very not good), which I discover is an unexpectedly emotional transition. (My Very Cool Roommate is Moving Out…)
- The accident which caused my husband’s brain injury was expected to settle by the statute date. Didn’t. A lawsuit becomes necessary (unfathomable) with a trial now set…July of 2011. (WTF?). The plethora of treatment reimbursements were, hence, not forthcoming and you can now mull what that has done to the health and welfare of our former nest egg.
- We were unexpectedly obligated to move during the month of our son’s college departure. Costly, inconvenient, really heavy sans teenage boy’s muscle. (But a Pro here also: we love the new house located in the secret that is Playa del Rey.)
- And last, but profoundly and painfully not least, one of my dearest, sweetest, long-time friends dies unexpectedly on October 25th, breaking my heart and those of many others in my circle. (Lisa Blount…As Is and Still Loved)
You understand. A bad year, that 2010.
So on New Year’s Eve night I stood with the front door opened wide, foot tapping, as 2010 gathered its things, fussed about with last minute tidying and much too long a good-bye, and as it left at 11:59 on a cold, crisp Friday night, I welcomed 2011 with a giddy, slightly hysterical, hope for a much, MUCH better visit.
THE PROS AND CONS OF 2010:
Since I enumerated the major Cons above, let me qualify that what follows is an eclectic list of trivia, cultural comment, and some gravitas for good measure. No particular order or category, Pros will be mixed with Cons; just a list of the good and bad, best, worst, and sorta that crossed my path during this tumultuous year.
Facebook: Before anyone starts screaming about how this phenom came about long before 2010, let me say, “I know, for God’s sake!” But Facebook nudged its way significantly into my life this year. Initially reluctant, having no need to list the endless minutia of my day for public consumption, I joined at the urging of my sister, Louise, and proceeded to discover a new way to connect. I now communicate more and know more about my many nieces, nephews and cousins than I ever have. I have lovely FB dialogue with old high school and college friends on a regular basis, something I did not have prior, and the ease of sharing images, songs, articles, blog pieces, and opinion is simply stellar. I’m a fan and believe that, like anything, it can be used for Good or for Evil; it is my experience that the people in my “friend” group use it delightfully for Good. (And the movie, Social Network, was smashing.)
Shenanigans: I love this word. I know Juno lent it cultural buzz long before this year but I’d like to use it in most sentences if I could and that urge only started in 2010. If my last name was Madigan I’d want to get a sitcom going called “Madigan’s Shenanigans.” It would be Irishy and really funny.
Boardwalk Empire: People are carping about how this show hasn’t lived up to its pedigree, what with the Martin Scorsese/HBO imprint, but any show that successfully posits a sartorially splendid Steven Buscemi as the lovable (if malevolent) lady-killer is all right by me. He’s brilliant, as is the show. Don’t listen to anyone else on this one.
Tea Party/Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck/Rush/All that Mess: I’m all for fiscal responsibility, I believe in self-sustenance, I don’t want the Government messing in my private life, and I’m sure there’s political corruption all over the place on both sides of the aisle. But I don’t need any of these folks “takin’ back America” for me because my America never left. Government has its own pros and cons but it’s not some monolithic thing we need to be protected from; it’s made up of people, people we elected into office, and it behooves us to find ways to maximize its potential without destroying its effectiveness. Frankly, if the American public was as capable of running the show without the aid of government (however flawed) as these people would have you believe, our kids would be skinnier, our banks would be more solvent, the city of Bell wouldn’t have happened, more people would be employed, idiotic house loans wouldn’t have been made, illegal immigrants wouldn’t be getting hired by wealthy CEOs, and health insurance would be efficient and affordable for all. And tell me, if the mantra is “don’t tread on me?,” why is it acceptable for the government to get all up in it when it comes our personal lives, say, same-sex marriage or abortion rights? Why, when separation of church and state is a founding principal, is the movement so aggressively hard-right Christian with the obvious spin that this is required to be elected? If we don’t need government shoving their foot in our doors, which is a major plank of the platform, why does it matter what religion you espouse or what spouse you love? You can’t have it both ways, y’all.
Government is what it is because our Founding Fathers wisely surmised that any viable country needs effective leaders, sensible regulation, ethical oversight, separation of church and state and, certainly, limited reign over our personal lives. So how about we try to make our (that’d be all of us) government better and stop with all the incendiary rhetoric? As for Miz Palin, their sparkly gun-totin’ lightening rod, I’m not going to take this moment to cover my thoughts on her. But let me say this: she can belittle Michelle Obama’s health initiative all she wants, claiming that parents don’t need government to suggest what their children should eat, but 30% of American children are obese and they got there on their parents’ watch; helpful suggestions from an admired First Lady should be applauded rather than mocked. But partisanship trumps wisdom, snark replaces thoughtful debate, and a party moves forward with the premiere Mean Girl as their star. As for Glenn and Rush…naw, I’m not gonna give ’em any word count. I’d rather end on: let’s pull together and create some positive change. We’ll always be different people; emphasizing our differences has done nothing to improve the situation. Let’s see if reasonable solidarity might be more effective, yes? Kumbaya.
Pinkberry: Around for years now, I know. But this year I realized, after weeks without, that this swirly goodness is the essential dessert for slightly health conscious dessert eaters. That’d be me. Coconut with almonds and berries. Thank you.
People who don’t respond to email/email in general: In my line of work, more business is done by email than phone. People can complain all they want about how “we’ve lost our ability to connect face to face” but email provides a paper trail (often necessary), allows everything to be said exactly as needed (really necessary), and allows the recipient time to formulate a cogent response (with some people not possible otherwise). It’s a good thing. And when I email asking if you can submit a design proposal, arrange to fix a website, get that bank wire in today, choose a time for the photo session or join us for dinner next week, answer my email. The “I was busy” excuse doesn’t hold when anyone can take two minutes at any time of the day or night to pop out a reply without fear of being caught for hours on a phone. If you can text while you’re driving, eating In & Out, and talking to your girlfriend in the passenger’s seat, you can return my email.
And on that same note, please write me in full, English language sentences. We’re grown people here. There’s no call for emoticons winking and bobbling all over the place. And enough with the “text speak” (i.e. “Wer U B in 2-daze?”); I should not require translation from a 12 year old to get to your point. Profound and flagrant abuse or neglect of any form of punctuation, or the utter lack of paragraphs, are both deal-breakers. I will not read an email that is either in all-caps (STOP YELLING AT ME!!), or, conversely, employs not a one. Remember that earlier comment about Good or Evil? Our many new methods of communication offer great convenience (Good), but without the gift of grammar, punctuation and adult thinking, Evil wins. All the above applies to texting, as well. <3…(really, I do.)
Multi-Tasking: I’m all for it when it’s efficient, possible and NOT RUDE. Frankly, I’m pretty good at it myself (ironing while chatting with a phone headset on and cookies baking is one of my best!). But when I’m sitting having a meal with you, talking to you on the phone, or attempting a Skype exchange, I don’t want to see that damn IPhone light up as you text during our dinner conversation, hear computer keys tapping as you rotely mumble a reply to my phone question while you’re chatting via Facebook with your work buddy, or wait far too long for a Skype response because you’ve got 4 chats going at the same time. Focus, people! Really, it’ll all get done but can it not all get done on my time?
My 2010 Farewell Un-Tour: After a lifetime of singing, songwriting and recording, I got to 2010 and decided to officially pull the plug on my music career. Since it had essentially died years earlier, this was purely ceremonial. I stashed the microphone up in the attic, pulled my MySpace music page down, and stopped referring to myself as a singer. The cold-shower hit of this was shocking, but reality reigned and writer/photographer became my default “so what do you do?” response. I took the whole year to let it all sink in. But because enough people have asked, particularly those who only knew me as a singer and were not aware of this change of focus, let me offer an ever-so-brief explanation:
It’s hard enough to keep a band going when you’re young, cute and commercially viable; it’s a whole other thing when you’ve crept past that point, lost the backers years ago and your best shot at a guitar player is that old guy from Redondo who plays Beatles tunes and insists on doing your chart before he commits to the band. ‘Nuff said? My last band gig was a bona fide disaster (not enough rehearsal for not good enough players), my search for new musicians too often resembled those hilarious audition montages in most rock & roll movies, and without the carrot of a record deal or a paid tour (neither of which I could provide), it appears I wore out my own welcome. Since I never learned to play an instrument (a true regret) and was spoiled by my amazing good fortune of having played with some of the absolute best musicians in the world throughout my career, no matter how hard I tried to plunk out a tune on guitar to at least sing a bit, I came to the conclusion that I would never perform with someone who played as badly as me. When the last of the far-too-many auditioning guitarists showed up saying he loved my music, thought I was a great singer but didn’t want to play actual songs (“I just wanna jam, y’know?”), I wearily threw in the towel.
My remaining time here on this earth is too precious to waste working with a geezer who’ll be astro-charting every player I find or a weekend warrior who wants to jam to cover tunes. I don’t share the notion that rock & roll is only for the young but being older at the game certainly does limit the playing field…literally. The remnants remain, however: my record (written, arranged and produced with the truly gifted Rick M. Hirsch and something I remain deeply proud of) is still on ITunes (ITunes:somewhere on the way) and CDBaby (Somewhere On the Way)…please check if you’re interested, and my history as a singer/songwriter can still be found on my website (LDW Music Page). But it’s all history, nothing current. And though I held the final funeral this past year, mourned, and moved on, of late I find myself thinking about it again. Singing along to music more often. I plug in my headphones on long walks, listen loud and rowdy, and get energized visualizing myself up on stage again. I play Devil’s Advocate and wonder if I could be happy doing an acoustic gig or an easy band gig just for the fun of it, no ambition, not necessarily my tunes. If I could find the right players. If it could be the right balance of pain and pleasure. If it made sense. And lately I’ve decided it merits some exploration. So we’ll see what I can stir up in ’11. Have no ideas yet, it might be folly, but I’m open to suggestions…
Best Comedy/Modern Family: No matter how commonplace it is now to love this show (the type of hype that usually engenders a reverse psychology kind of hate response from me), I love this show. There are other hugely popular shows like “Two and a Half Men” that elude me entirely (Charlie Sheen…really???) but this hugely popular show deserves the hype because it not only promotes a positive message, it does so in a consistently hilarious way. I want Cameron and Gloria over for lunch. I’ll have Pinkberry.
Best Drama/Men of a Certain Age: This show rings so heartfelt and so true that sometimes I cannot believe it’s TV. Ray Romano has hit a indisputable hole-in-one (golf vernacular particular to the man and the show!) and I applaud him for moving from sit-comedy to something so authentically real. TNT, Monday at 10, with Scott Bakula, Andre Braugher, Lisa Gay Hamilton, all of whom are spectacular.
TMZ: This thing I hate. Harvey Levin has surely secured a place in whatever passes itself off as Hell these days for creating this hateful, petty, really LOW form of human discourse. Chasing after celebrities and snapping candids of young actresses butts so you can circle them in red and write “CELLULITE” in big letters deserves whatever form of punishment is reserved for the Devil’s spawn.
The Pros and Cons of Neighbors – Verbiage borrowed for today’s blog, this is the name of the novel I completed this year (title courtesy of my son, Dillon, who came up with it). The first draft was done in ‘09 but tweaked into final form this year so it makes the list. I’d always wanted to write a novel but after a lifetime of songwriting and more of screenplays, I ultimately never felt I had a story rich enough to merit the medium. Until this one. It’s about a young woman who, on the night of his funeral, finds her father’s journals with their depiction of her as a failure, a discovery that devastates her and incites a journey of tumultuous reinvention. It was an idea piqued by a family story but developed into a fictional rendering that allowed me to create a cast of characters and a story arc that was fully imagined. Writing it was one of the most profound and satisfying creative experiences I’ve ever had, the responses from private readers and freelance editors has been amazing, and I’m hopeful someday it will be available for reading! If you’d like to hear an interview I did about the book with Family Therapist Nancy Locke Capers, you can click her name here and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Of course, now that the book’s done the fun’s over and I’m left to figure out what the hell to do with it. I know, self-publishing, e-books, Kindle, yes. But as a long-held personal goal, I’m starting with the traditional route, attempting to snag a literary agent who’ll hopefully snag a publisher. Horrible time in the industry to attempt this daring feat but it’s a new year and I’m determined to recapture some of my former boldness. If you hear me blathering at a later date about my newly published e-book, you’ll know where that journey led…stay tuned.
Creepy reality shows: I used to watch “American Idol” so I can’t trash the entire genre. But that premise at least required talent, offered creative entertainment, and resulted in pop stars who generally make great records (Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Kelly Clark). What the hell does Snooki or any one of the various, vapid Housewives have to offer?? It was bad enough that Jerry Springer unleashed American Trash into our living rooms on a nightly basis but he was one of few at the time and we had much else to choose from. Now the relentless TV schedule is just chock full of degraded, embarrassing, truly pathetic shows that depict people of every race, creed and color making stomach-churning idiots of themselves. Where is the pride, I ask? Apparently there is none. Getting on TV and being on a reality show trumps dignity, discretion, privacy, and integrity. And the public is lapping it up. Stop it, seriously! If we don’t it’s like the terrorists win.
Open Sesame – I’m no Irene Virbila (which apparently is a good thing when it comes to getting seated in new restaurants!) and I don’t know if Open Sesame is part of a chain or not, but this little restaurant in the Manhattan Village in Manhattan Beach, CA consistently serves some of the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had. Seriously. It’s economical, undemanding and isn’t baba ganosh just one of the most amazing tastes in the world? SO good.
Grace – My lovely stepdaughter, Jennie, gave birth to her first child in December of ’09, late enough in that year to make Grace’s first year a significant part of ’10. Raising my son was the singlemost profound and amazing experience of my life and to be able to be part of this child’s world in my role as “Grandma Rain” (yes, the g-word being attached to me is a startling concept!) is awe-inspiring. She is a glorious human being who loves my necklaces and dances when I sing the Bee Gee’s “You Should Be Dancin’” so I think we’ve made a phenomenal start.
Temple Grandin – Due to the aforementioned Cons of earlier, I haven’t gotten out to as many movies as I’d’ve liked so the list is a bit feeble. However, this HBO drama took the prize as far as an emotionally rich, beautifully told story brilliantly acted by everyone involved, most notably Claire Danes. Her performance in the title role is stunning and her interpretation of this complex and accomplished woman made me want to rush out and explore feedlots. Find it on HBO’s On Demand.
Speaking of Movies…my favorites this year: Inception (most clever, inventive script…maybe ever) and the aforementioned Social Network. Honorable Mentions are The King’s Speech and Secretariat (oddly good). Looking forward to: The Fighter, Black Swan, Love and Other Drugs and True Grit (God, I don’t get out enough!).
Snark – I cannot tell you how truly weary I am of this social phenomenon. I don’t mean the kind of snark that pokes fun with a sly wink and a bit of a dig but is ultimately hilarious (think Joel McHale or Jon Stewart), I’m talking about the endless bitchiness that purports to be humor but is really just passive aggressive Mean Girl/Bully Guy babble (think Chelsea Handler or Perez Hilton). It’s crept into too much of the cultural discourse, which has given franchise to the anonymous idiots who post sub-Neanderthal comments below every article on the Internet. Let’s raise the bar, people, PLEASE. Stewart, McHale (and even Spade) have the corner on this market, so shut up and find another way to be funny. Or perhaps sincere and authentic. Maybe even intelligent. That would be refreshing.
Photography – I’ve been taking pictures all my life but this year I was able to take my shooting, processing, and design skills to a new level, much of it courtesy of my job with legendary brandmaker/photographer, Mike Salisbury. The photo above, shot by Tomasz Rossa for Franco Dragone (Cirque de Soleil creator) for the marketing campaign of his new water show extravaganza in Macau (The House of Dancing Waters), was one I worked on with Mike for a teaser billboard…amazing campaign and great fun to be part of it. But it’s the taking of pictures and seeing them come to life onscreen and in print where I find the magic. There is just something so exhilarating about visually framing a moment in time. If you’re interested (and until I get that damn photo website up), you can go to the LA Times “SoCal Moments” feature page (or its gallery at “SoCal Moments“) and scroll through; 20+ of my favorite LA shots are posted.
Friends – When you have a year like my 2010, you are never more aware of the value and life-saving necessity of good friends…and that includes friends who are family members. This past year, like no other, has made piercingly clear to me how precious and perfect so many of the people in my life are; in their ability to show compassion and empathy, to be there in ways both physical and emotional, to offer their time, their solace, their support and their shoulders. I am very lucky – blessed – to have such dear, resilient, extraordinarily dependable friends upon whom I rely. They got me through 2010 and I will never, ever forget.
This Blog – I really have no idea how many people are reading this thing. It could be the few that take the time to comment meaningfully, the many who comment generically (most likely for the purpose of leaving their link), or it could be significantly more…I don’t know – if I were more savvy about Google Analytics I’m sure I could find out (and maybe I’ll get crackin’ on that in 2011)! I’m often surprised when someone who’s never said a word to me about it suddenly comes into view and remarks, “I read your blog all the time and I love it!” I’m thrilled to hear this, as one always hopes what they’re putting out into the world is finding an audience and just maybe having some impact. I’ve spent a career trying to achieve that goal to greater and lesser degrees of success, a goal that sustains with this endeavor. And I’m now learning that there are all sorts of rules and expectations about how a blog should be conducted (someone told me yesterday that you’re supposed to post something new every day…gasp!). There are methods of marketing, search engine optimization, pings and trackbacks to consider and so on (I got tired just writing that), and I am less than clear about how many of these mandates I’m following. What I do know is this: I have found this forum to be a profound and deeply important outlet for me, a place where I can express myself, tell my stories, talk about the people and things I chose, and have a really good time. Writing is salvation for me and if it offers some entertainment, piques a response, gets you to a gig, brings an empathetic tear, or makes you laugh, I am so pleased. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your comments. I hope you’ll continue. I will.
As for 2011: I thought about my departed friend, Lisa Blount, who, despite intractable pain and her daily struggle to deal with it, managed, in the last year of her life, to triumph. She said to several people in the months before she died that it was time for her to once again “Say yes to life” and so she did. She was inducted into the Arkansas Hall of Fame, landed a leading role in a new series and was invited to Nashville to record that CD she always wanted to get done. That her re-emergence was cut short is personally devastating but that’s not the story; her push against her physical pain and her enthusiasm to re-embrace life despite it…that’s the inspiration. And so in honor of Lisa, I, too, will once again say “yes” to life. I’ll hold on to my hat, shake off the remnants of the departed year and invite 2011 in with authentic optimism. I’m sure it won’t be a perfect guest, but may it delight us all by being thoughtful and easy, filled with generosity and cooperation, maybe even leaving the winning lottery ticket on the bed stand on its way out next December…a girl can dream!
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.