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THE WHITE COUCH

It was like love at first sight when we entered the pearly gates of the furniture store. In retrospect, we were blind-sided by the white couch. It sat there, almost mocking us, in its snowy purity. “Oh my God,” I gasped upon seeing it. “It’s so chic …so, so WHITE. This is the dreamiest sofa I have ever seen in my life!”

My husband Bruce didn’t seem too concerned at first, knowing how frugal I am, but then he plopped himself down on the billowy cushions and suddenly he had an ethereal glow about him. I plopped myself down next to him on the cloud and let it consume every fiber of my being. I, too, felt seraphic and knew we’d succumb.

“Whada ya think?” I asked. “This will be great in our great room, dontcha think?”
“Let’s go home and sleep on it,” he responded, as we glanced back at the couch, and exited. That night I tossed and turned. I had a nightmare that the couch was alive, like a ghost haunting me.

Next morning we discussed the over-sized sectional and I got out the tape measure. It would be a perfect fit in the great room. I bit my bottom lip. “Should we order it?” Bruce raised his shoulders. “Umm, and what about the puppy we just ordered?”

“Oh, yeah. Bad timing, isn’t it? Let’s ask if the store can put the couch on hold while we quickly house-train our dog. After all, our doodle is part poodle, so he’s smart and will learn fast.” I didn’t let Bruce know I was even more worried about house-training the humans. You know, the grandkids running around with sharp objects and sticky fingers and extra-large magic markers. And worse than the children, what about the larger-size humans – the red-wine-drinking adults? There goes our social life. Maybe I can compose a questionnaire and send it out to all our acquaintances, to find out who drinks red and who drinks white. A process of elimination, if you will.

My head was spinning. If there is a spill, is there a service that sends a marked vehicle with a siren and flashing lights for emergencies, kinda like 911 for white couches? Of course, they’ll have to show up fast, as the stain cannot set in. I will have to research their Spot & Blot techniques. Do they use chemicals or baking soda-based cleansers? If those products fail, I will resort to dabbing with vodka, which has a dual purpose.

After I hand out Tide sticks at the front door, what food shall I serve with the Sauvignon Blanc? Sushi seems pretty harmless. Ahh, to think the whole idea of the white couch was turning into the white elephant in the room. The premise of getting the most comfortable lounge in the entire world to recline on was fading fast.

Then came the big test when our daughter and son-in-law wanted to give themselves an impromptu birthday party on our rooftop on July 4th weekend with 70 houseguests. I schlepped furniture up to the top of our four-level home, half-heartedly agreeing, because I figured the roof is far away enough from the big couch. Besides, it was also a celebration of my husband’s opening of a record store in August on John Street, downtown – an UN-retirement party, if you will.

After a long dry spell, I had prepared myself for inclement weather and the party being moved to the great room. At the last minute, I covered the beauty of the stupid couch with three king size white quilts. We schlepped the furniture back down the staircases. Our first guests arrived about the same time as the heavy rain did. I visualized 140 muddy feet propped up on the nearly extinct giant mammoth. I was convinced something bad would happen to the sofa. A candle? A cigar? A bear? Oh, My! For peace of mind, we finally moved the sofa to one side of the room, so people wouldn’t bump into it and barricaded it behind a heavy stone table that takes four strong men to budge. No one would get near that thing if I could help it!

The party was a success. The elephant survived. And of course, our fluffy, soft dog is happy once again to have it all to himself, perched eloquently, on our new décor like a shag throw rug. I stare at his innocent little face, and I wonder when all his baby teeth will fall out.

publications

BIRDBRAINS

Thanks to the Indian, I mean Native American summer, we’ve enjoyed until this recent freeze, my husband and I, both nature lovers, and our two neighbors, Debbie and Lon, decided to partake in our last attempt at a water sport on the East End of Long Island.

First, let me tell you a little about this middle-aged kayaking crew: Debbie, of a soft-spoken and fastidious nature, has told us numerous times of her experience when she was a little girl going down the fire escape at school during a fire drill, and a bird flew by and got stuck in her long hair. Ever since that traumatic experience, she’s been phobic about birds. Understandable.

Her husband, Lon, 6’2,” of superior intelligence, and a very successful businessman of his own financial service company, challenges himself yearly to running marathons and scaling mountains like Kilimanjaro. But, on this one lovely Sunday afternoon, the end of Autumn, Lon did not come to the table — unless of course he had been served bird under sauce and a sprig of parsley. Yep, this was a first — the overachiever exposed his shortcoming.

After a hectic workweek, we started to unwind, as we paddled along the river, not making a sound, until eagle-eyed Lon spotted something far away in the water, and asked in a flat tone, “What’s that duck got in its mouth?” None of us could tell from the distance, so I paddled over at top speed, and saw the large bird was in distress. When I got closer, I yelled back to the others. “This is no duck!”

“What is it?” they shouted back.

“It’s a cormorant.”

A cormorant is a big long-necked black bird, larger than a seagull, smaller than a goose, with an extensive bill. This bird has a wing span of 52 inches, and is known for diving totally under the water to retrieve fish. In fact, back in the old days, fisherman used to tie a leash around its neck, throw it off the boat, pull it back up and yank that darn fish right out of the cormorant’s mouth for themselves.

I tried not to think about its history, as I got close enough to see the distress the poor animal was in. I started to cry for help. “Somebody, help! The bird’s drowning!”

My husband, Bruce, somewhat apprehensive, is used to my animal rescue stories, and knew I was getting extremely upset and slowly started rowing over to me. “Calm down. Calm down.”

The bird was on its side, swimming in circles, trying to get away from me, and I couldn’t keep up. I got close enough to see a nest of fishing line tangled over him, stuck in his mouth, wrapped around his entire body, and under his wings and legs. The others caught up to where I was, well not quite where I was . . . in case it turned out to be the Loch Ness Monster, I suppose. Debbie and Bruce asked me too many questions as I was trying to close in on the cormorant. Lon, Mr. CEO, looked quite relaxed in his kayak, leaning back, arms crossed behind his neck, observing the birdbrains. I looked at him and contemplated the length of my oar.

The cormorant was getting more frightened by the minute, and dived completely under the dark water. I became hysterical, “This is it! He’s drowned! Oh my God!”

Finally, Debbie and Bruce paddled up next to me. Sure, now that they thought the bird was gone. Surprised the heck out of all of us when the bird indiscriminately Popped up out of the water. We rowed over to it again, not the most proficient kayakers in the East, I might add, and surrounded the powerless fowl. (Speaking of fowl, I had a few choice words for Lon, who had lit up a cigar, musing, probably about mutual funds. He may has well have been sitting in his Brooke’s Brother’s suit with suspenders.)

The rest of us worked like a team, moving our fine-feathered friend with our oars, like a hockey puck, as it intermittently went under and popped up like a jack-in-the-box, surprising us each time until we got near the shore, our goal. We had no control over our direction, and submitted to doing the limbo under a broken dock. I had to do something fast or we’d lose him, and would have to start all over again. I was not a happy lark at this point, but I went for it — tugged on the fishing line stuck in the bird’s mouth, lifted the bird up into the air, swung it over toward me, and plopped it onto my lap in the tipsy kayak.

The bird honked and I screamed. Short-winded, I yelled at Bruce to go to the closest house where we had pulled the boat onto shore in someone’s backyard. I told him to return with two things: Scissors and gloves. We watched him knocking at the back sliding glass door, but no one was home. He yelled over to us, “I’ll keep going from house to house until I get help.” He ran, barefoot; the disheveled Swamp Jew, we called him.

Time was going by slowly, and he wasn’t returning. The heavy wet bird, still on my lap, was breathing fast until he stopped long enough to turn his long neck to look at me, and attack. It was at this point that I took note of his unusually pointy beak, you know the ones you see in National Geographic used to spear fish. The bird pecked my legs, relentlessly, and commercials of restless leg syndrome came to mind. I started fighting with him, “I’m trying to help you, you stupid Cuckoo!”

Debbie clumsily got out of her kayak, and ran over to a backyard barn. She disappeared into the splintery door frame. She quickly reappeared, and in her hand, she held something up to us, glinting in the sun. A pair of scissors. She looked angelic, holding the greatest invention of mankind. I was overcome with emotion.

Lon commented, “Look at that, Bruce has been gone for 20 minutes on a scavenger hunt, and Debbie finds scissors in two seconds.” His laugh is deep.

“Shut up, Lon,” I said, holding the cormorant’s beak together with my hand, so he’ll stop jabbing at me. The bird and I are both crying again. My friend rises to the occasion, faces her nightmare head on, and reaches under the bird’s body, while I’m holding it in mid-air. We were relieved not to find it stuck with a fish hook. Debbie tediously cut the tangled wire, bit by bit, forgetting her phobia under great pressure. “Eeew, I can feel its skin,” she shrieked.

Lon laughs even harder at us. As I slipped the bird back into the water, I flipped Lon, the bird, so to speak. In the distance we hear chatter growing louder, and see Bruce returning with a garden glove on one hand, and a scissor in the other. His white shirt and shorts, dirty and wet. He was limping, his feet bleeding, and a middle-aged woman was on his tail. They asked eagerly, “How’s the bird?” The woman told us that she was sitting on her rocker on her front porch relaxing in the sunshine, when this strange man (Bruce, of course) ran right past her, up to her front door, and started banging. “I was frightened of him,” she told us. (Very understandable.) “He looked like he’d just been through hell. He was out of breath, asking me for scissors and a glove. I thought he was a crazy person. He was yelling something like, ‘The duck, the duck,’ (he forgot it was called a “cormorant.”) ‘We’ve gotta help the big duck!'”

As the woman was telling us the story, we all turned to the commotion coming from the water. Lon had capsized. Justice served. And in the background, we saw Mr. Cormorant clapping his beautiful wings in utter joy.

On to the next season . . . and heaven and nature sing.

publications

Linda Ronstadt – Singer/Songwriter

An interview with the energetic, Linda Ronstadt, also known as the Queen of Rock, and unprecedented as a singer, songwriter, musician, record producer and actress can leave you breathless. Born in 1946, and mother of a grown daughter and son, Ronstadt has triumphed as one of the top-selling female vocalists of the late 1970s, with numerous smash hits expanding over four decades.

Raised on a ranch outside Tucson, Arizona, with two brothers and one sister, Linda spoke of how music kept the family together. Her father strummed his guitar to his traditional Mexican roots, while her mother played the piano and exposed them to a variety of music.

“I think I was only two when I made up my first song,” she mused. “I remember we all used to sing on car trips, songs like “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” one of the regional farm songs my Mom knew from Michigan. All my cousins sang, too, in fact, my grandfather was the band leader of a brass oompah band. You couldn’t go very far without hearing some kind of Ronstadt.

“In first grade, we were made to sing hymns, and I would really sing while everyone else was sort of mumbling.” She laughed. “I attended a strict Catholic school, and when the nuns floated by, I didn’t realize they had bodies; they were so terrifying. Today they would be in jail for child abuse.

“I was an early reader and wanted everyone to just leave me alone, sitting quietly in the corner with my head down. I was so glad to get out of there, but by then, the damage was done. It made me more rebellious.”

“Aside from my family, some of my early influences were country star, Hank Williams, and Lola Beltran, who was revered in Mexico. I based my style rhythmically on what she did, so it was hard for me to understand some American rhythms at first.”

“Tucson had been an unusually musical community, particularly when there wasn’t much radio and television, so we had to make our own music, and then when we moved out of the 50s into the 60s, dad would take us to see someone perform, but it wasn’t exactly the “hottest” act. At the age of 17, the pop and folk music I really admired was going on in either Newport Folk Festival or Berkeley – you know, the really cool stuff – and the first person I saw was Ry Cooder with Taj Mahal at the Ashgrove in a band called The Rising Sun, and I went, ‘oooh, they’ve got some hot players over here in California,’ so I wanted to stay.

“All of American culture was focused through the lens of Los Angeles at that point, which was sometimes distorted, but you had to come to LA to make your bones, musically.”

While a student at Arizona State University, Ronstadt met a local musician, Bob Kimmel, and left home for LA with a few dollars tucked inside the pocket of her blue jeans, along with dreams of a musical career. There, the two met up with guitarist/songwriter, Kenny Edwards, and called themselves the Stone Poneys, and produced their self-titled debut folk album in 1967, and released two more albums, including top 20 hit “Different Drum,” written by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees.

After turning out three albums, the trio split, and Ronstadt began her solo career in 1968, a blend of Country and Rock, with her first solo album, “Hand Sown Home Grown,” helping to define the LA music scene in the early 70s with mellow-rock California sounds, and also collaborated with other musicians and songwriters, such as The Eagles, and Neil Young.

“The Eagles were assembled by my manager, John Boylan because he knew Randy Meisner, the original bass player, and I knew Bernie Leaden and Glenn Frey, and together we discovered Don Henley at the Troubadour, and we put all these people together to form a band for me when we were on the road, and then Glenn and Don started writing together and they got the chance to play their own stuff on stage, so it was mutually beneficial.”

“I opened for Neil Young and toured with him for a long time, and watched every single show (I don’t know that I’ve ever done that since), but he was so amazing and mesmerizing, and still one of my favorite musicians, and has one of the most unusual singing voices.”

In 1974 when Heart Like A Wheel sold over two million copies with the hit “You’re No Good and “When Will I Be Loved, “reached number one and sold over two million copies, Ronstadt was officially crowned a “Superstar.” Dubbed with that title, and simultaneously suffering from acute stage fright, she went on the road in an effort to connect to her fans.

When asked about her timid reputation, she said, “It’s against animal nature to have other animals staring at you.” She paused. “Because in the animal world, when they stare at you for a long long time, they want to EAT you!”

Many of Ronstadt’s hit records have been covers of other hits, including Buddy Holly’s, “That’ll Be The Day,” Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou,” raggae Jimmy Cliff’s, “Many Rivers To Cross,” The Rolling Stone’s, “Tumbling Dice,” and Warren Zevon’s, “Poor, Poor Pitiful me.”

Courageously, the ever-changing, yet consistent crystal clear voice of Linda Ronstadt has crossed all genres, including Country, Rock, Latin American, R & B, Big Band, Jazz, Contemporary Pop, Children’s Music, Opera, Cajun…and has received multi-platinum albums, an Emmy Award, a Tony-Award Nomination, and has recorded over 30 studio albums and sold a million records of six consecutive rock albums in the mid 70s.

During the interview, I pondered the real Linda Ronstadt, what’s behind those dark eyes – “So, you’ve always been so, ummm, diverse. Is that your persona, too – WHO are you?”

“Oh, my eclecticism,” she giggled, as she looked around her small flat in San Franciso — “Well, on the floor is a Navajo rug, and over there is an English needlepoint, and well, in design, when I like something, I have to have it, and in terms of music, too, especially when it’s footed in some kind of tradition.”

When Ronstadt had met manager, Peter Asher (formerly of the British pop duo, Peter and Gordon) her popularity soared. Yet, with her modest demeanor, perhaps attributed to her upbringing in the Southwest, the popular artist has left the media somewhat curious, especially while romantically involved with diverse men, from actors and athletes to musicians and politicians; she was once displayed on the cover of Time when she kept company of companion California governor, Jerry Brown.

Ultimately, once coined as a rocker chick and sex symbol, she has managed to keep her private life, private, but claims she was political in the turbulent 60s and again now. “We have to get rid of this government and replace it with an intelligent one before it destroys the United States,” she said.

In the 80s, the singer took an extremely sharp turn, as she ventured acting on Broadway, playing the role of Mabel in the opera The Pirates of Penzance (and later the film), and La Boheme which appealed to a different audience and led to working with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra who conducted her 1983 collection of pop standards, “What’s New,” “Lush Life” (1984), Sentimental Reasons (1986).

“The morning I woke up and knew Nelson Riddle was coming over to work with me and I was going to record songs I had been passionate about, was probably the most exciting day of my musical career.

“Those are the songs I’ll be doing in concert in Westhampton during the first half of the show, and the hits I’ve had during the 70s, 80s, and 90’s, for the second half, like a review of 20th century pop music.”

At the end of 1986, she returned to the contemporary sound, and recorded “Somewhere Out There” with artist James Ingram, and in 1987 returned to her country roots when she recorded the platinum Trio album with Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris (still a close friend), a ten year project in the making; and of course, Cry Like A Rainstorm, which includes the four duets with the silky voice of New Orleans’ Aaron Neville.

In the 90s, Ronstadt returned to traditional Mexican and Spanish music, including a tribute album to her father, Mas Canciones; back to pop with 1994’s “Winter Light,” a Holiday album, another collection of standards, “Hummin’ To Myself” in 2004, and Adieu False Heart, a collaboration with Ann Savoy (Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band) in 2006. Ronstadt consistently topped the charts as a leading female vocalist of the rock era, and a favorite to many baby boomers (including myself.) In fact, after all these years I’ve kept an image of this iconic artist with stick legs wearing hot pants and roller skates. I wondered if it was only in my imagination. I had to ask:

“OH, she wailed, “Yes, it is an album cover. The reason for that is my friend, Nicolette Larson, another singer and close friend of mine, who used to skate with me in Venice, got bored during photo sessions while they changed film or whatever, so since we wanted to learn how to turn around on our skates and stuff like that, a photographer snatched a shot of me skating down the hallway under the florescent lights, and that ended up on the cover.”

After the interview, I went up into my attic, and rooted through old cardboard boxes, until I found the 30-year old album, “Living in the USA.” And there she was, all right – free skating down a long hall, holding herself up by the walls. And lucky for us, she’ll be rollin’ right into the Hamptons on the 17th of August… Can’t wait to see her – “She’s so good, she’s so good, baby she’s sooo good!”