‘In dreams begins responsibility.’

By Irene Meltzer Richard

At this moment in the ongoing flow of history, there is a great deal of work we have to undertake in order for liberal democracy to thrive in the United States… Assuredly, we are not the first people to recognize that the American Dream is just that — a dream. However, like any dream we have, we do not have to let it vanish or banish it from our waking life. 

Irish poet W. B. Yeats gave his 1914 volume of poems Responsibilities the epigraph “In dreams begins responsibility,” something that he attributed to an “Old play.” I’ve used Yeats’ epigraph as the title for this essay because I do believe that we, as so many others before us have done, can find in what has been called “The American Dream” the beginnings of our responsibility to participate in the ever evolving dance that is our constitutional inheritance.    

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During the summer of 2020, Jennifer Dean and I discussed collaborating on the creation of  pieces for a new event series she and her partner Eric Rice were going to produce under the auspices of Undiscovered Works. They were interested in programming works specifically made to be presented in virtual space that would mix together live and recorded elements. They called their new event series Mixology.  

Given the characteristics of Mixology, Jennifer and I came up with the idea of collaborating on a series of collage shorts that would focus on aspects of the entrenched mythology of America’s ‘greatness’ that form the zeitgeist of American exceptionalism. We decided to call our series “LET’S TALK ABOUT…” in order to encourage the Mixology audience and subsequent viewers to consider the pieces we would create as not only something to watch but also a jumping off point for conversation.  

For our inaugural short, I suggested that Robert Moses would be the perfect subject not only because his skill as a ‘master builder’ was equally matched by his skill at playing political hardball, but also because — although long dead — he was once again in the news. Media outlets, who were intently covering the public outcry to remove statues and memorials of people with histories of racism and prejudice, included the news that Long Island residents were signing a petition for the removal of a statue of him that in 2002 the Babylon Village Public Arts Commission, with funding from a Suffolk County grant, had placed in the middle of a grassy park on Main Street just next to the village’s Town Hall.

There was more than enough material available for us to use. Using clips of archival footage; sourced images, some of which got manipulated; and spoken word we put together a short collage documentary with the intent of sparking a discussion about Moses’s legacy and its continuing impact on our lives.

We presented “LET’S TALK ABOUT… Robert Moses” in the first Mixology event that took place in August and it did indeed spark a lively discussion amongst the event’s audience and participants. Buoyed by the success of the Moses short, we enthusiastically embarked on the research for the second short in the series which we intended to present in the November Mixology event. 

Everyday we were reading about how the wildfires in California were spreading —well like wildfire. There were thousands of acres going up in flames as a result of land mismanagement, climate change, and human folly. We had decided to make our next short about the disastrous intersection between what is a natural phenomenon and the machinations of human beings when our anxieties about the impending Presidential election became too intense to ignore. We felt compelled to contribute our voices to the burgeoning Get Out the Vote movement.           

Jennifer, inspired by listening to NPR’s podcast 27: The Most Perfect Album — a deep-dive into the history and resonance of the constitutional amendments filled with off-beat stories and  interviews as well as original songs for each of the Constitution’s 27 amendments — got the idea that we could use the Constitution’s Preamble as a place to jump off from into a paean for “We the People…” finding hope in the Myth of the Constitution that encourages us to exercise our rights as delineated in it as well as participating in the many struggles necessary to make our government an ever more liberal democracy.  

And that’s the idea we chose to pursue.

The ninth episode of the NPR podcast was about the 23rd and 27th Amendment. As both these amendments involve the status of  Washington D.C. (District of Columbia), the person profiled in the episode is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate, and how she approaches her unique role as a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives (D.C. At-Large), who may sit on committees, participate in debate, and introduce legislation, but cannot vote on the House floor since the district is not a state and therefore has no voting representation in Congress. 

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s  profile included an excerpt of her speaking on the panel Retreat from Equality at the Sag Harbor Initiative that took place October 11, 1987. During that year’s Columbus Day weekend, a group of well known writers, educators, ambassadors, businessmen and other luminaries, including William Pickens, Betty Friedan, E. L. Doctorow, and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, participated in a 3-day event with the stated mission to bring together “black and white thinkers and activists, women and men asking new questions about our eroding American values of equality, freedom and community that has aroused intense and new commitment.” In the Retreat from Equality session of the Sag Harbor Initiative, panelists discussed the issue of minority rights. 

In that panel, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton said: 

“It is very important that myths not be associated only with negative aspects of American life. No society continues to grow without its own powerful myths. One of the only remaining powerful myths in American society, with all of our diversity, is the myth of the Constitution. The myth that all of us somehow have bought in, whatever our religious or ethnic or political background, into that wonderful powerful myth. The fact that that myth has not always been real or true is quite beside the point. The myth of God is true for those who believe in God, even when there is war and famine and pestilence. It is the myth that makes people live through the pestilence so that they can indeed live full lives once again. The myth of the Constitution is in a very real sense the handiwork of black people who enjoyed it the least when there was nothing but racism — they believed those words. Because they believed them, they ultimately made them live. Black people therefore have to be at the forefront of those who celebrate the Constitution. Not because it is perfect, but because they have made it more perfect. One of the worst things we could do, in a time when so little brings us together, is to try to debunk or destroy the one powerful myth that continues to animate the society — the myth of the great American Constitution which has been copied all over the world and continues to drive us to a more perfect society.”

Those words that she had spoken thirty-three years ago became an essential component of the 2nd installment in our collage short series which we titled:  “LET’S TALK ABOUT… Revisiting The Myth of the Constitution.”   

Even though the November 3rd election is resolved, we don’t know what the next weeks, months, years will bring. The state of our country, our constitutional government, and our lives are in disarray and have been badly damaged. At this moment in the ongoing flow of history, there is a great deal of work we have to undertake in order for liberal democracy to thrive in the United States.

In the process of creating and working on our “LET’S TALK ABOUT… Revisiting The Myth of the Constitution” piece, Jennifer and I have been reminded time and again that the Constitution can be, as it has been, a powerful myth inspiring us to broaden and more fully realize the five basic principles set forth in its Preamble.

Whilst developing the piece, I’ve learned more about the Constitution than I ever did in school. It was like taking a ride in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine although a time machine made out of original sources — from George Washington…

“I do not conceive that we are more inspired—have more wisdem—or possess more virtue than those who will come after us. The power under the Constitution will always be with the people.” — Nov 9th 1787

to Thurgood Marshall…

“The government they [the Framers] devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today.”—May 6, 1987

with many stops in between and afterwards to our present situation which is, in so many ways, critical.

This deep dive I took with Jennifer into the Constitution’s inception and subsequent development has shown me that our country always has been doing a three steps forward, two steps back dance with the Framer’s declaration that:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

By no means am I denying or even minimizing our country’s disgraceful and bloody history.  Without question, our country has been built from and is steeped in genocide and racism as well as the greed that seems to be an inherent part of a capitalist economy. Assuredly, we are not the first people to recognize that the American Dream is just that — a dream. 

However, like any dream we have, we do not have to let it vanish or banish it from our waking life. 

I hope that watching “LET’S TALK ABOUT… Revisiting The Myth of the Constitution” will give you a glimpse into the invigorating and revelatory time-traveling journey that Jennifer and I went on as we’ve explored what people have envisioned to be the meaning of that legal document which provides the framework for our federal republic’s government.  

As Eleanor Holmes Norton also has said “You can’t win what you don’t fight for.”

The Short, Resources, and Artist Bios:

From this year onward to 2087 — the 300th anniversary of the day a bunch of coastal elites signed a document that has come to embody more than they ever dreamed of…

COLLAGE SHORT

LET’S TALK ABOUT… Revisiting The Myth of the Constitution

Created by Jennifer Dean & Irene Meltzer Richard in collaboration with Eric Rice
2020 | USA | 4 min, 41 sec.
Special thanks to Keith Overton for contributing voiceover work.

ESSAY & FILM SOURCES:

The Bicentennial Speech —Remarks of Thurgood Marshall at the Annual Seminar of the San Francisco Patent And Trademark Law Association in Maui, Hawaii May 6, 1987:
http://thurgoodmarshall.com/the-bicentennial-speech/

The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription:
https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript

George Washington’s Farewell Address:
https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/Washingtons_Farewell_Address.pdf

The Most Perfect Album: Episode:
https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolabmoreperfect/episodes/most-perfect-album-episode-9

Private letter from George Washington to his nephew Bushrod, dated Nov 9th 1787:
https://csac.history.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/281/2017/07/washington_to_washington11.10.pdf

Retreat from Equality — Sag Harbor Initiative | October 11, 1987:
https://www.c-span.org/video/?528-1/retreat-equality

We’ve Got a Surprise For You, trailer for  27: The Most Perfect Album:
https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolabmoreperfect/episodes/mostperfectalbum-trailer

ARTIST BIOS:

When Irene Meltzer Richard is not making stuff and spouting off on social media, Irene is a freelance consultant in the areas of audience engagement, event management, and partnership development. She has collaborated on campaigns for film and multi-cultural projects at a wide-range of profit and non-profit companies. Irene was born in the Bronx and has always called NYC home even when she’s residing somewhere else. She believes in epistemological modesty and living by the 5W1H: “Who, what, and where, by what helpe, and by whose ~ Why, how, and when, doe many things disclose.” — Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique, 1560. Facebook: @irene.richard.77 – Instagram: @irene_ruthless – Twitter: @petitesoeur

Jennifer Dean currently works as an editor and has worked as an actor, director, and producer in theatre and film – and wrote a thesis on women making movies in America, interviewing a ton of incredible people (the2ndSexandthe7thArt.com). She is always happy telling stories in whatever way she can. jenniferdean.biz

Eric Rice NY credits include: Mother Night (dir. Brian Katz, 59E59); Incendiary Agents (dir. Peter Jensen, New Ohio Theatre); Sort of Like Julie… Only Worse (dir. Kelly Hutchinson, Abingdon Theatre); Orson’s Shadow (dir. Lauren Reinhard, Theatre Row); Riverside Symphony (dir. Hondo Weiss-Richmond, Robert Moss Theatre); Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (dir. Elyzabeth Gorman) and Henry V (dir. Melisa Annis) – RST/Prospect Park Alliance. Film: In-Between (dir. Kanchalee Wijakpaisarn); Stanley’s Thanksgiving (dir. Micah Paisner); To Live Forever and Fear of Heights (dir. Jennifer Dean); Just Love (dir. Charles Peirce); Peeling Apples on Your Own (dir. Nisan Dağ); Game Night (dir. David Ketterer). BA, Applied Arts & Sciences, Drama, Emphasis in Acting, SDSU (US Army GI Bill). AEA, SAG-AFTRA. Social: @riceunderwater. More info: www.riceunderwater.com.

Keith Overton is a New York-based 1st Assistant Editor currently works for Vice News Tonight. He specializes in non-scripted, short form and narrative post production work. Keith has edited a narrative feature length film, assisted on live to tape broadcast shows for MSNBC, Comedy Central, Youtube and Nickelodeon. In addition, he was an assistant editor for Global Citizen, Amnesty International Concert, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Keith’s credits include producer and editor for the Jean Grae’s sitcom “Life with Jeannie,” and Online Editor for Seasons 1 and 2 of TV One’s “Celebrity Crime Files.”

On pivoting…

By Gabbi Traub

I’m 31 and I’m not sure what to do with my life.  

I’m fully aware that this seems young to most people, and that I have an immense amount of time to figure it out.  However, up until this past year, I’ve known what I’ve wanted to do and who I wanted to be since I was five.  Now all of a sudden, I don’t.  How does one pivot, especially when the world seems like it’s about to end in a giant billowy fire (or hurricane) of destruction? 

Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but sitting here on month 9? 10? 1,000? Of covid related unemployment and social distancing, I’ve had a lot of time to think.  Most of it has been one huge Netflix filled online window shopping (because unemployment, remember?) distraction.  But one can only binge so much.  

Backing up a bit, hopefully without whiplash, I’ve always wanted to be a performer.  At age five I asked my parents for an agent.  They instead put me in kid’s choir and dance classes and that’s been my life ever since.  I did highschool theatre, ballet for 15 years, got a liberal arts degree in voice performance, then a master’s degree in opera at a conservatory in San Francisco (because, apparently, that’s what you do after a BM in the classical world, you go get a MM…) A year after finishing my degree I decided I didn’t want to be an opera singer anymore; I wanted to be a musical theatre performer (which, honestly, I wanted to do all along but I got a degree in opera because it sounded exciting and I was good at it). WHY couldn’t I have been good at/excited about finance or STEM? We’ll never know…

So I worked in CA for a while, by day (at my “survival job” as they call it) as an administrative assistant eventually promoted to an associate at a lovely non-profit in the city, and by night as a very underpaid (if paid at all) performer, auditioning for and performing in as many shows as I could make fit into my busy schedule.  That was the life I’d known since childhood- pack as much into a day as possible, and I loved it.  

Then I got burnt out. After six years in an amazing west coast city, 3000 miles away from family, learning how to be an adult, this east coast baby quit her decently paying day job, sold all her crap, moved back in with her parents, and did approximately nothing for nine months.  It was glorious.  Then I got antsy again. (And my parents, saints as they are, got a little tired of me sitting around in sweatpants all day asking what was for dinner).  I decided, at 28 no less, if I was gonna be a performer I’d better just jump in and embrace all the stereotypes at once.  Just shy of a year of living at home, I moved to NYC, using the last of my savings to pay the security deposit for a room in an apartment with two other girls in Queens.  I got a crappy job as a waitress working nights and weekends at a bar close to my apartment, and dove into auditioning.  

To all that know this life, man it is hard.  I was broke, waking up at 5am to drag myself out of bed and into insanely long lines outside of Ripley Grier and Pearl Studios in Midtown Manhattan with 300 of my closest non-equity friends who looked just like me but had better headshots and longer resumes to wait until 9am for someone to let us into a cramped rehearsal room to wait for 6-8 hours to see if we’d be seen for an audition that only allowed us to sing 30 seconds or less of a song and pay us less than minimum wage if somehow we booked.  Then I had to go to work, where I relied on tips to make money.  (PSA – when you go out to eat, tip well! 20% or more! We literally rely on what you give for our livelihood.  Also, fun fact, if you’re in basically any state that’s not NY, tipped staff usually make $2-4 an hour, which doesn’t even cover taxes, so if you don’t tip, it costs us money to serve you. When I worked in MA I made $2.13 an hour before taxes and didn’t even get a free meal.)

All things considered, I genuinely enjoyed it for a while.  I’d pack lunches to bring to auditions and saved money by getting an employee meal for dinner at work.  I took an audition class and dance classes in the city. I made friends through the long hours of sitting in a cramped room or a freezing line outside during auditions, and friends through work at the bar which opened my eyes to the incredible restaurant industry scene of NY.  Every bartender knows another bartender from a former job or from that bar you go to every night after work.  For a while, I got to live that fun NYC life of going out at midnight and coming home as the sun came up (on days where I wasn’t auditioning of course).  

I’m coming up on my 4th year of living here, though this past year has looked a lot different.  I moved from that crappy bar to an upscale restaurant in Manhattan, worked there for just under a year, then got furloughed.  During that year I kind of lost my drive to audition.  I wasn’t getting anywhere, I was tired of getting overlooked, and tired of not performing and only auditioning.  It’s been 3 years this past October since I closed my last show, and I miss it so much.  I’m so impressed with people continuing to do the work, virtually auditioning for shows they don’t know will even happen, taking classes and lessons through zoom.

I’ve come to the crossroads, somewhat later than some of my peers, and somewhat sooner than others, of “will I be happy doing something else?” “Can I give it up?” “Can I keep it up?” And honestly, it changes from day to day.  If this pandemic ever ends and live theatre can happen again, will I jump back in? Will I be happy trying out the community or unpaid theatre while pursuing a different career? Now in my 30s with changing priorities, do I have the drive to continue with the disappointment and insecurity of the performing arts on a professional level? I’ve had so many jobs, jobs I’ve liked, jobs I’ve hated, jobs that were supposed to be temporary that turned into years-long sub careers. But I never really thought of them as anything but “survival jobs” on my way to doing the thing I thought I wanted.  

What I do know is if you want to make a career out of being a performer in NYC, you have to give it your all.  You have to want to constantly be better, do better, get better.  Selfishly, I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to.  I’ve given it my all for 25 years already. (Which, woah. I feel crazy saying that.)  Now I have to decide, is that something I want anymore? Or are other things more important?  Is it time to pivot? 

Post-Election Sunday – in a Celebratory Mood

By Leah S. Abrams

This weekend, it feels like even the weather is celebrating. And why not? The country, though perhaps not by the mandate level margin one may have hoped for, has elected a new President, one who is interested in protecting the environment, who believes in science, and for that alone I breathe a sigh of relief. Along with this new President comes, finally, this country’s long overdue first woman Vice President – and a woman who represents this country’s diversity.

We have much work ahead of us. We must resist a return to apathy. We must return to true discourse – to listening, to reading (reputable reads). But first, let us do what the NYC sunshine is doing and celebrate. We did what Tony Kushner pleaded with us to do in his 2019 rewrite of “A Bright Room Called Day” – we got up out of our seats, stopped simply nodding and watching, and instead, took all kinds of action. On every side of the political spectrum, we became engaged citizens at a level we’ve not seen in my lifetime.

Four years ago, I was struggling with being away from home and from my girls (aka my cats) for so many weeks, when, in the middle of a dress rehearsal for a pretty timely political play, I learned that every pollster had been wrong while my gut and condemning opinions of humanity had been right. I embarked on a period of endless social media consumption and ranting, reading and rereading dystopian novels, and attending protest marches. I even made the questionable decision to see the stage adaptation of “1984” that had come to Broadway.

After a while, the worst of fears: normalization. You live in a constant state of underlying panic you so come to accept that you forget it’s there. And then a global pandemic smacks you, a law enforcement official spends over 8 ½ minutes killing an innocent man while being video recorded, and you can’t even get through a movie about relatively recent historical events without screaming at the screen. And it all feels, somehow, normal – the way it is going to be.

Yesterday, late morning, I was home, four years and four days after that fateful 2016 election when I learned in the most 2020 sort of way that the world is shifting, finally, out of “The Empire Strikes Back” toward “Return of The Jedi.” I was celebrating my nephew’s 7th birthday – on Zoom – it had been the longest my sister, brother-in-law, or I had gone without refreshing the news when I heard it – my neighborhood.

There came a slowly building crescendo I’ve not heard since our more mournful 7pm gratitude gatherings in the height of the pandemic here. “Ahm, I think we may have just won?! Hang on..” and ran to the other room: “Hit refresh! I think we won!” And then the confirmation, followed by the family celebration where we’ll always remember my nephew’s 7th birthday as the day our Democracy was saved, at least from this family’s perspective.

And then followed the music – our neighborhood DJ who’d played us through those long, dreadful months gave us a largely Motown and R&B celebration concert of my personal favorites.

I made my way out to the fire escape to discover it was 70-ish degrees – my neighbors had brought back the clanging pots and noisemakers we’d used to express our gratitude this past spring.

But it wasn’t until hours later, in the midst of the NY Botanic Garden as bright a rainbow of trees as my nephew’s birthday outfit and decorations, that I noticed it – my shoulders – they had dropped to a place I’ve not felt them in four years. Yes, there is a great deal of effort ahead to continue forming a more perfect union, but for someone as suspicious of our species as I am, this is a good day – a day to celebrate that at least a small majority of one’s fellow humans have chosen to reject fear and divisiveness and try instead to embrace and lead with our better angels.

A Pre-Election Day Blog

By Leah S. Abrams

It is a grey, wet Sunday here in New York City, making yesterday’s crisp sunshine break in these now many days of steady rain feel like even more of a gift.

Central Park yesterday was full of small groups of children of every age in costumes ranging from traditional witch and princess, the latter being a strangely persistent fascination among hordes of youth, to a bunch of inflatable dinosaurs and cartoon characters. On the streets of every neighborhood, businesses still gave out candy and dogs were paraded about as pumpkins and pandas. Gourds and plastic skeletons and cotton spider webs adorned brownstones and storefronts alike. A sense of collective gratitude permeated our distanced silos.

Beneath, or perhaps fueling that grateful, joyful energy was the underlying tension that is the only topic of even passing small talk these days: Tuesday’s election.

Despite my vehement opposition to Ronald Reagan as President, as California Governor before that, and even as second-rate Hollywood actor before it all became “The Make America Great Show,” I was too young then to know what that election meant, to understand that the country was choosing to move from a direction of compassion and unity and more fairness to selling its soul to the devil, cloaked in an increasingly unrecognizable Republican Party from that which I’d respected and even agreed with on various points at times in history. So, for me, 2016 was what I imagine those who saw the beginning of the unraveling in 1980 likely experienced, that “we told you – it can happen here” moment.

What did give me pause as a child and still does today is the fact that not every eligible voter in the country casts a vote. This was unheard of in my family where politics and business and world affairs dominated the nightly dinner table conversation, where it was abundantly clear that our people – and here I mean Jews, not women – had been persecuted and denied our voice throughout history. You turned eighteen in my family and you registered to vote, and then you voted – not every four years, but every time an election is held where you’re living.

That is my lived experience. It is not necessary yours or your neighbor’s or your uncle’s. Surely, though, what we all share is so much more than the divergent details of our own unique particulars. I’ve never encountered a human who did not want to be heard, to feel that their opinion, their story mattered. In a democracy, we get to have that – it’s why so many people who came before us fought and died for the right to vote.

Here is a truth for everyone, myself included, who bemoans the electoral college system: if every single one of us with the right to vote exercised that right, the electoral college would always support the popular vote. It’s the most basic of math – even I can grasp it.

I think we all want more autumn days to praise the sun and the changing colors of the trees and the magic of smiling at strangers beneath the masks we happily sport in a communal health effort that the germaphobes among us hope will be a permanent, post-pandemic norm. Even in the miserable rain, the early voting lines have wrapped around the block. Despite all my disdain for human arrogance and, often, for the species at large, I do believe, buried somewhere deep in the recesses of my being, that there are fewer of us who support the trajectory of the last four years than those who say they want to make America great again while actually meaning they want to tear down the whole of society because it makes for more climactic reality television.

There is one way to communicate our shared desire for a better country: overwhelm the ballot box with 100% voter participation.

VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!

By Leah S. Abrams

“Wow. Most people don’t register on their birthday.”

That was the remark by the pleased city clerk who handled my voter registration when I turned eighteen. The primary had passed, but I’d be eligible to vote that fall in the Presidential election, for a candidate I’d early on written off as a yahoo who sounded like a TV evangelist. In my freshman dorm room, six months later, I wept joyously as that candidate – one Bill Clinton – claimed victory to a favorite Fleetwood Mac tune, replacing the first President Bush, whose election had inspired in me other kinds of tears and an all-black outfit (and I was not the cool Goth chick).

My university campus, back in 1992, set up voter registration tables throughout the early fall, though I can’t say they were pushy in the way I’m reassured they’re being this time out. Maybe, back then, it was already clear that I’m part of “Generation Apathetic” and so no one dared count on us for anything.

I remember the shock of learning that my roommate / oldest friend / best college bud had not registered prior to school starting, having quite forgotten that she’d have been in the midst of moving into our cramped dorm room right around her birthday and was thus away from our hometown’s city hall and just a wee bit preoccupied. Wanna-be-lawyer that I was back then, I suspect I made an unnecessary argument to her about the importance of playing our role in Democracy, about the fact that our gender had been “given” the vote after my grandfather and her grandmother were already born, about how it took until just a decade before we were born to get a voting rights act passed. We visited one of the tables, if only to shut me up.

Funny. That memory of my own and my dear friend’s registrations are so much more vivid somehow than of casting our first vote. I’ve not thought much about those early days in some time, especially because I’d eventually go on to fourteen years of San Francisco Bay Area voting where you need a college credit course at every cycle to make sense of the countless ballot initiatives, blotting out all other voting memories. I’ve been thinking back on those early days lately as a result of making various get-out-the-vote calls.

I recently spoke with a man, older than I am, who confessed to me that he had never voted, had never even registered. Until now. He didn’t require prompting to tell me that he felt it was pointless, that all politicians are alike – out for themselves and not about doing anything at all for the people they represent, that his vote doesn’t even seem to count. We talked about my own similar discouragement. So, why, he wondered, do I bother? And he wanted genuinely to hear this response because, after all, something had already inspired him to be a first-time registrant.

To his point that all politicians are the same, I was in a prime spot as I was calling on behalf of a senatorial candidate who spent over twenty years in the military and, later in life, became a minister. Here, I easily argued, was someone who represented everything he – the caller – and I are all about: community service. And, I noted, there are others, including so-called career politicians, who are of the same ilk, and that we just have to be willing to find and focus on them.

As to why, in my frustration with a system so unbearably broken, I bother at all? That’s an easy one as it has always been – it’s my voice. Countless people who came before me fought and died so that those of us who are not land-owning white men have that voice forced into being heard. If I don’t cast that vote, I am complacent.

The man on the phone was interested. He registered as a Republican because it’s what he’s always assumed he is, but he is fed up and can’t believe Trump is the President. Here, I saw an opening: “The Republican party is one I no longer recognize,” I offered.

And that is true. When, in 2018, Carl Bernstein spoke at Symphony Space, he dashed any of my remaining hope that the rest of the Republican party would come to their senses, explaining to us that things had been very different with Watergate because it was Nixon’s own party members who helped bring things down and that it is now too polarized, too much of a cult – my word, not his.

When, after a long chat about retiring to rural living, neighbors taking care of each other, mandatory civil service work for all citizens, and the like, it was time for me to end our call, the man on the other end thanked me and told me that he was going to visit the senatorial candidate’s web site to read more about his policies and background. Finally, and this made every hang-up and agitator worth the call-making, he said that, while he’d registered Republican, if he does end up voting – which was now more likely – he may well end up voting the Democratic ticket.

I did not actually tell the man to vote for a particular party. In fact, I’ve sincerely told people who shout at me that they’re not voting for my candidate that I’m just glad they’re voting at all. And that is the truth. If you want to voice your complaints with our mess of a government, go right on and do it, but only if you go to the polls, only if you take that simplest action of weighing in, no matter which way you lean politically.

Do I wonder where your head is at if you support the current administration? Absolutely. But this isn’t a blog about whether Americans or the human species at large deserve to continue existing if this is the behavior they endorse; it’s a single message blog to tell you to, please, get out and vote!

Small Is the New Big (How a Wedding Caterer Survives Corona)

By Rossi, AKA Chef Rossi

All my life, I’ve yearned for the big things. When I was a kid, adults were always asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Especially teachers. That seemed to be the chosen greeting for grammar school teachers, “and what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer for many years was the same, “I want to be president of the United States!” Back then, I believed, as many of us did, that president of the United States was a job for which you needed qualifications and experience. I figured I’d start with local politics and work my way up. I’d go for mayor of our little New Jersey town first.  

When I was a tween, I’d watch the Academy Awards with my family and dream that it was me winning the Oscar for my brilliant acting. I’d acted a teeny bit in community theater. I was anything but brilliant, but that didn’t keep me from dreaming big. A few years later, after the writing bug bit, I dreamed of winning an Oscar as a writer for best original screen play. When I started writing my memoir, I dreamed it would be a New York Times bestseller, adapted for the screen and then win the Oscar for best picture. 

When I decided to cook for a living, I did time for a year in culinary jail, working low-paying, supremely crappy internship jobs while I learned. As the lowest on the rung in a big commercial kitchen, I got to do delightful things like skewering 3,000 shish-kabobs and forming 3,000 crab cakes. I dreamed of snagging the job of the head chef, who mostly seemed to sit with his feet on his desk, drinking whiskey and looking over order forms. I managed to skip over many years of low-paying servitude and lied my way into a chef job at a small catering company. I spent three years as head chef hiring sous chefs to work under me who actually knew how to cook and then learning from them. I would look at the petite, bouncy woman who owned the company and seemed to be perpetually out having cocktails with friends. Yes. I could be the owner, not the employee, of a catering company. 

When I opened my own very small catering company, I shared commercial kitchens with other companies. I cooked this way for well over than a decade while my small business grew. I dreamed of having my own super swank kitchen with all the perks the shared kitchens did not have. Air conditioning was on the top of the list. 

Sixteen years ago, when I came upon a supremely dilapidated out-of-business pizza joint that had been vacant for years, I heard the Oscar Goldman voiceover from The Six Million Dollar Man in my head. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.” It took a year of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars, but at long last, my beautiful Shangri-La kitchen was ready to fly. 

From the moment I signed that lease, the first 25 weddings I catered a year were just to pay the overhead. Luckily, business was booming. We struggled to get through the 2008 economic dive and Hurricane Sandy. Unlike corporate caterers whose budgets can rely on the stock market, weddings continue in down economies. The budgets were lower, but the weddings marched on. 

Over the years, as I’ve adjusted to how expensive it was to bring in kitchen staff and pay for food and fuel, I realized that just to open my gate, I had to establish a food minimum. Gone were the days I’d travel to Jersey to cater dinner parties for four people. We were catering elaborate affairs for 200. When it came to catering, my mantra was “Bigger is better.” 

In March 2020, after Corona swept over life as we knew it, the CDC made the announcement barring gatherings larger than 50. I knew we were sunk. Our 2020 wedding season evaporated overnight. We didn’t have a single event booked that was smaller than 100 guests. That’s when the unsolicited advice started pouring in. “Why don’t you do deliveries like the restaurants are doing?” Factoring in my food and labor cost, I’d have to charge about $50 for an order of pasta. Taking on an entire new profession as a take-out joint was not an option. There was no way for us to compete with the thousands of eateries willing to make pasta for a whole lot less than the 50 bucks it would cost me. 

The only way forward was to keep with who I am, and simply think small. Thinking small goes against my DNA. I’m an Oscar-winning, former president of the United States, for crying out loud! But to push through and keep my company alive, I’d have to see small as the new big. I’d have to come up with a name for my mini catering venture. My company is called The Raging Skillet. I decided to call our new tiny dining experience “Mini Skillet.”

First step was a gorgeous e-blast to all my favorite friends, clients and followers. Almost immediately, two gay male couples whose weddings I catered years ago wrote back. One of my grooms asked if I could cater their anniversary dinner for just the two of them.” Another of my grooms asked, “Could I cater a special birthday dinner with 8 guests?” Lordy. I love my gay boys. When the going gets tough, they are still up for a fabulous dinner. Then came an email from a fantastic party planner who I’ve worked with for years. Could I cater her birthday party in her Brooklyn apartment? Hell yes! Tiny dinners mean tiny budgets. There would be no waiter, no dishwasher and no prep cooks. I couldn’t bring anyone to help me except my sous chef Glory. Trust me, Glory lives up to her name. 

We prepared a beautiful six-course tasting supper of mini plates: Moroccan tomato soup with zaatar croutons, heirloom tomato, burrata and basil salad, black cod ceviche in blood orange, jalapeno and lime with pearl onions, “Pasta Rustico” with oven dried grape tomatoes, Korean barbecue beef with cucumber mint salad, a palate cleanser of grilled peaches with balsamic glaze and the finale, sea salt and caramel ice cream with pretzel garnish. I don’t think I ever put so much love into a meal. Just beautiful. My birthday boys wanted to have an amazing meal outside in a park, so I prepared a picnic menu. Grilled Santa Fe chicken, black bean and barbecued corn salad, rustic pasta with oven dried tomato and fresh basil, churrasco Portobello steak with chimichurri rojo, Rice Krispy tahini treats and yummy chocolate chip cookies, plus a large gourmet cheese display of triple-cream, savory and farm-house cheeses. I threw in a trashy favorite, peanut butter and bacon tea sandwiches.

We packed up everything to go. After years of cooking for hundreds of people, I simply do not know how to cook for 8. I sent them off with enough food to feed Pittsburgh. They were thrilled, of course. Everyone enjoyed the picnic and then took home lots and lots of leftovers. The food and love for our first week of Mini Skillet was overflowing, but alas not the money. When I added up my expenses, my profit was less than I would have paid my dishwasher if I’d hired her. But at least there was a profit. It was a beginning. 

In 32 years, I don’t think I’ve ever prepared better food. Even with budgets 100 times higher. In the last two decades I’d been so busy selling and running my business, I had to delegate a lot of the cooking to my chefs. Now, I have the time and the mental clarity to truly throw myself into it; a little more toasted coriander to the tomato soup; a bit more garlic in the Korean beef marinade, sprinkled with apple smoked sea salt and imagination. 

So what’s the moral of this story? Oy vey. Who has times for morals in this day and age? We’re too busy trying to stay alive and relatively sane. (I said relatively.) Losing a year of business has been painful, scary and surreal. It’s also been humbling. But I find a layer of myself has peeled away. Leaving something fresh and alive underneath. I’ve been thinking a lot about the first few years I was cooking. I was giddy with excitement every time I learned how to make something new. I was open to the all the possibilities of food; where it came from, how to prepare it, how to cook it, how to serve it. I felt like a wide-eyed kid entering the first grade. My eyes are wide again. Not sure how long I’ve been sleeping. But I am awake now. And for the record, pretzels are fabulous with sea salt and caramel ice cream.

Celebrating Launches & Openings!

The Jean Moye Dark Fund kicks of its campaign for a magical space, “A Strange Loop” cast album is released, and a Chelsea space safely brings back live entertainment!

Today, we share some exciting news from three of our arts organizations: the Jean Moye Dark Fund for Black Women / Femmes + TGNC Artists, Playwrights Horizons, and the cell. In the midst of ongoing uncertainty for our ravaged communities, our artists continue to imagine and create and shine warm light on those of us fortunate to be open to receiving.

If you’ve been to any of Undiscovered Works’ virtual events these last six months, you’ve heard me talk about the Jean Moye Dark Fund and, in the spring, we were fortunate enough to host a presentation from Nia Witherspoon who created the fund, named for her great grandma who was discovered to have been a writer only after her death. Now, on Tuesdays, you can hear Nia read from Jean’s work!

There have been many wise folks encouraging Nia to dream forth the reality of her extraordinary vision for a different, sustainable future. The result, I am thrilled to share, is the launch of phase 1 of a capital campaign fundraiser to develop a space that nourishes the human spirit – a collectively-imagined residency space that centers Black Women (Cis and Trans), Non-Binary Folks, and other Transfolks to be artists, world-makers, healers, and visionaries.

When Nia talks, I see a Brook Farm for the future: a balanced community- based approach to not just sustainable, but thriving existence, in balance with the land we humans seem determined to destroy; a space for Black Women/Femme + TGNC Artists  to safely, boldly dream and pursue that dream. I urge you to please check out the fundraiserwatch the video to learn exactly why Nia inspires us all so much. If you’re in a position to contribute, please consider a tax-deductible donation.

Before NYC theatre went dark, something extraordinary unfolded at Playwrights’ Horizons, one of my personal favorite theatres in town because of their devotion to bringing to life work that challenges more traditional theatre-going audiences. In their 2019/20 season, they premiered a ground-breaking musical called A Strange Loop, by Michael R. Jackson.

My friend and U.W. frequent contributor Rona Siddiqui was the music director on this Pulitzer Prize winning ensemble-driven journey that featured some of my very favorite local actors. Together, the cast and creative team won an Obie Award in the midst of the pandemic for their masterful work. We are giddy to learn that the cast album we’ve been eagerly awaiting has been released! You can support some of NYC’s hardest working theatre makers by getting your copy today!

Finally, for this week’s community celebratory news, if like me, you are desperately craving live entertainment in a safe environment, may I recommend the cell in Chelsea. This gallery space that presents and produces art installations / shows, plays, concerts, and more, is open again! They’re now offering backyard musical and visual arts presentations as well as appointment-based installation visits in addition to their ongoing virtual programming.

For me, it is fitting that my first official show (beyond Harlem Late Night Jazz up the street on Sugar Hill that’s been entertaining me all summer) will be at the cell – the first place in the city to provide me and what would eventually become Undiscovered Works and the monthly storytelling series with an artistic home.

So, please, go forth – visit the cell, listen to A Strange Loop, and support the Jean Moye Dark Fund. And, PLEASE… VOTE!!!

Gay and Jewish

By Rossi, AKA Chef Rossi

When we were toddlers, my mother taught my sister, brother and me a prayer to say every night before we went to sleep. It was modeled after the Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Torah and to the Jewish people. I promise to live a nice Jewish life and to marry a nice Jewish boy.”  My brother’s prayer ended with “girl.” Seriously, that was the prayer.

It was so ingrained in me that I said it every night without thinking about the words. It became part of my DNA, brush my teeth, recite my bedtime mantra. At age 6, I had yet to meet a Jewish boy I could fathom marrying, nice or not. I rather liked the idea of marrying my first grade teacher, Mrs. Mahon, but my mother said that was silly. 

The shul (synagogue) we went to was Orthodox, so the men and women sat separately. The rabbis and everyone else going to the podium were men. It was never a woman. I didn’t mind. It was easier to sneak out as a girl, because so little was expected of you. I’d say I had to go the bathroom and run around the back yard looking for trouble to get into. I always found some. 

When I was 7, my father was honored by being called to the bema to read a few lines from the Torah. I sat next to my mother, who was kvelling, so proud she could feel it in her kishkas. I leaned over and whispered to my mom, “Why can’t you be up there? You read Hebrew, too!” 

“Slovah. The men are in charge in shul. The women are in charge at home.” 

It wasn’t flying with me. “I want to go to a shul that lets the women get up there, too.” 

“Shhhh. I’m pretending I didn’t hear that.” 

As I got older, my budding feminism was usurped by practicality. I was 14 and realized that while my brother was held captive at shul, I was free to hide behind the bushes and smoke cigarettes. The other teen girls caught on and joined me. “They’ve got prayer. We’ve got Marlboro!” I kissed my first girl when I was 15. I’d kissed loads of boys by then. Some had been relatively pleasant experiences, some about as enjoyable as a root canal, but none had elicited the passion of my first gay kiss. I was smitten. 

I ran into my sister Yaya’s bedroom and announced, “I think I might be gay!” 

“Why do you think that?” she asked taping magazine cut outs of the “Bay City Rollers” on her wall. 

“I have no interest in having sex with guys. I only want them to take me out and pay for everything.” 

Yaya laughed, “You’re not gay! You’re a Jewish American princess like me!” 

The paying-for-things waned pretty fast, especially when Moishe Silverman asked for a “golden shower.” “A what?!”

My parents sensed something was different about me. My sister obsessed about cute boys in teen magazines. I obsessed about “The Bionic Woman.” 

“Would it kill you? To find a nice Jewish boy?” my mother screamed.  

“The last Jewish boy you pushed on me was Moishe Silverman!? Is that the kind of Jewish gold you want for me?” 

“Gold shmold! You need a doctor, lawyer or accountant!” 

The more my parents pushed, the more pink I put in my hair and the more safety pins went into my leather jacket. They wanted a mensch. They got a mosh pit. Being a bisexual rocker chick suited my image, but still, there were all those pesky penises to contend with. At first I thought, “Maybe I just don’t like nice Jewish boys.”Then I thought, “Maybe I just don’t like any kind of nice boys.” While that part is true, the not-nice bikers and rockers I dated still left me feeling like the only one locked out of the candy store. Where was my Almond Joy? 

I didn’t come out as gay until I was 18. I needed a few more years of horrible dates with men and fantastic dates with women to set myself straight, or rather gay. But I did come out with a vengeance, hooting and hollering everywhere from Fire Island to New York City’s gay pride parade. 

One night when I was 19, I crawled in next to my gorgeous Dominican girlfriend Carlita (got my Almond Joy at long last) and started to whisper my nighttime mantra. When I got to “and I promise to marry a nice Jewish boy,” I stopped. “What am I doing?” I said a bit too loudly, waking Carlita. “What’s wrong honey?” she asked. “I’m gay and Jewish! That’s what’s wrong!” “Go back to sleep. You know you can’t eat spicy food.” “Exactly!” 

It wasn’t enough to date women, I wanted to get as far away from nice Jewish boys as I could get. Carlita and I lasted two years. My Grenadian girlfriend Ally and I lasted three. Then I met a six-foot-two German Amazon named Heidi. Heidi ate steak tartar for breakfast and went to dinner dressed like a dominatrix. She seemed to be as far from a nice Jewish boy as I could get. But one morning while I sipped my coffee watching her devour a bowl of raw beef, I thought, I want white fish salad on a bagel! Who am I hurting here? The day Heidi asked for Russian dressing on her pastrami sandwich was the day, I knew our days were numbered. Pastrami and mustard are the law. I’m pretty sure it’s written in the Bible somewhere. 

I met Shoshanna while she was on line at a Jewish deli. “Chopped liver on rye with mustard and sliced red onion, two half sour pickles on the side, please.” I was overcome with nostalgia. All the Almond Joys and steak tartars in the world couldn’t measure up to one perfect chopped liver sandwich. Shoshanna and I stayed together for almost five years wrapped in the comfort of matzo balls and gefilte fish. We parted friends. She still brings the gefilte fish and horseradish on Passover. People come together for a reason. My reason was probably to find out that working so hard to fight against my mother’s mantra was forcing me to miss what we all want … home. 

I’ve been with Lydia for ten years now. She’s an Italian Catholic (non-practicing). She loves matzo balls, haggling with fruit vendors and going to our shul, which has a female rabbi, for the high holidays. Nobody since my mother has kvelled for me like Lydia.  She’s not a nice Jewish boy, but she is nice. I don’t have a nighttime mantra anymore. I always fall asleep while Lydia watches Steven Colbert. But if I did, it might go like this. “I pledge allegiance to being true to who I am. I promise to live my life that just so happens to be Jewish and to marry whomever I want, so long as she doesn’t put Russian dressing on her pastrami.”  

L’Shanah Tovah Everyone! A sweet, healthy, happy, peaceful New Year. Corona, you are not invited to the new year!

Think NYC is Dead? You Don’t Know This City’s Lifeblood

By Leah S. Abrams

She is anything but dead, this glorious city of ours. If you think life here is all about the hustle-bustle of tourists cluttering up Times Square with their toddlers of all things and selfie-sticks, the all-night bars and clubs, the overpriced Broadway ticket, you’re missing what is at the core of all of that. The energy doesn’t come from that; all that is fueled by the pulse that is the city and its true inhabitants themselves. If your soul belongs here, there are gifts to be found in this time of shutdown.

We are an enclave for musicians who have never stopped giving us live concerts – from rooftops, distanced and masked throughout every park, pumped out of speakers propped in apartment windows, even from their living rooms and broadcast via this crazy technology that lets you view while sunning on your fire escape. The musicians are my essential workers – these artists who, more than any other group of people, drew me to this place my grandmother said her father never could stop feeling was home even long after he’d settled our family in Boston.

Theatres may be on six months closed, but storytelling has exploded on multiple platforms. For folks like me, the recent outpouring of podcasts (which are, let’s face it, just the modernized version of the radio shows my dad grew up on and handed down to me via cassettes released in my youth) is like a little piece of heaven. There are nights when I’ve listened to three or four short plays over dinner.

From my couch, I’ve seen Madhuri Shakar’s “In Love and Warcraft” cleverly adapted for Zoom, a new Deb Margolin piece that played as though we were right there in her living room, and a reading of Amina Henry’s “Burn” that I both could not believe was featuring actors all in their own homes and was one of the most complex and powerful stories I’ve seen this year.

One arts medium is returning indoors as art museums and galleries open to limited, masked crowds, patiently waiting in socially distanced lines for entry and happily succumbing to temperature checks and contract tracing lists upon entry.

A city of artists and service workers does not so easily succumb, no matter how hard and long you beat at her.

My caterer-writer-performer friend who has weathered her business through the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 financial crisis? She’s reinvented again, of course and, throughout these many months when there were no events at all, managed to feed her community of employees and neighbors. My corner caterers, theater people in their previous lives? They shifted gears to partner with a local non-profit to instead make and serve that delicious food for our neighbors in need. We are a plucky, adaptive bunch, we artists.

Most of us New Yorkers are walkers by nature. Exploring more neighborhoods on foot, rather than always swishing by underground en route to some destination or other, is a sensory overload. For those of us who swoon over the architecture of old, every stroll brings a new find. We live in the NYC not of my childhood, but of the era where parks and paths and green space and trees were prioritized; we should be taking this time, more than ever, to revel in that, to every day be actively grateful it exists and determined to preserve and expand it, especially for those communities still lacking vital access to the physical and mental health benefits it bestows.

If you thought NYC was your town and you’ve fled, proclaiming our island now devoid of all the things that made it so special, good riddance to you. For the song-makers, writers, actors, dancers, grocery clerks, pharmacists, laundresses, nurses, and so many more who remain, thank you for ensuring our great story relentlessly persists: you are this city’s life and I feel our heart pounding, our blood thick and flowing like the rivers that frame us.

There’s no place like home

By Jennifer Dean

I was seven and a half years old when my parents separated.  Separated, not divorced, because of course divorce is the legal end but inevitably there first comes a separation, and in my parents’ case, it was the separation of an ocean.  My mother moved me back to her parent’s house in Bromley Kent, England – several thousand miles away from my father who was left in a cheap stucco house in the suburbs of Northern California.  I remember the evening before we left – sitting in the living room in front of our small television watching “The Wizard of Oz” with my father.  Nothing was said.  My mother told me we were going to visit her family for a bit.  Once we arrived in their very English home with my grandfather, Poppy and my Uncle Ken, she told me I was going to go to school for a bit since the summers in England are shorter than the summers in the States.  I remember thinking, “why do I have to go back to school just because everyone here is still going to school?”  I soon figured out that we weren’t going home.  We were there to stay.  I don’t ever recall my mother telling me – I just deduced it as would most seven year old detectives once they were stuck in a class and their mother was heading out for job interviews and such.  It would be several months before my ruby red slippers would bring me home again … because … “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

I start mid-term at Burnt Ash Elementary school to study.  I have Hello Kitty stuff which makes me extremely popular on the playground – for a short time anyway – until I open my mouth and my funny accent makes them not want to talk to me.  I’ve got to get rid of that quick.  I can sound like they sound no big deal.  Unfortunately they still don’t want to be my friend.  My teacher reminds me of the Wicked Witch of the East.  She looks like Maggie Smith in the “Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” with flaming red hair and the cold features of an English schoolmarm.  I am nervous and awkward in my new surroundings, feeling completely like a fish out of water.  We are told in no uncertain terms not to use an eraser – EVER!  We are being taught penmanship and, even though we are to use pencils, our mistakes should remain evident.  I make one.  I look around me.  I have to fix this.  I can’t be seen as the inadequate American.  I use my own saliva to get rid of the lead and rewrite the letter.  Mrs. Smith sees me out of the corner of her eye and asks me to the front of the class.  I’m trembling.  I feel the blood rushing to my face….. she knows.  “Listen class,” she tweets with her proper upper crust English accent “our new student has been vulgar enough to use bodily secretions to mask her mistakes.  You shall not do the same.”  I want to crawl into a hole and stay there.  Unfortunately it is not yet time for me to go home to America so I simply have to continue down the yellow brick road.

Poppy takes me to school in the morning in his car that smells of petrol (he runs a trucking company), only he starts driving before I am fully in the seat.  “Poppy wait!”  The next two characters I come upon are a pair of twin girls in the changing room for gym class.  There is ice on the ground outside but we must still change into our shorts.  The girls corner me.  They are HUGE!  They come from the secondary school.  I don’t know how they ended up in the locker room at the same time as me.  I don’t know why I am there alone.  But they did and I am – and I can only hope that I get to run away when the bell rings.  Somehow I manage to escape the monster twins and head outside to run laps.  What a relief!

Coming from California I have never seen a storm before.  It sounds like the sky is very angry.  It is booming and throwing electrical currents through dark grey clouds.  My Mummy is out at her new job and I turn to Poppy to ask if she is coming home or if she will get taken away by the storm.  After all, that is what happened to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  Poppy assures me she will be home soon enough. I don’t know that I believe him because Dorothy had to go through a lot before she got home.  Uncle Ken and Poppy start teasing me about the English runner who has won some race.  According to them he is the best runner in the world – proving of course that no one can run faster than the English – certainly not the Yanks.  Of course I point out how do you know he is the fastest runner in the world?  He hasn’t raced everyone.  He hasn’t raced my Dad.  Maybe my Dad is faster than him.  That doesn’t stop Uncle Ken and Poppy from bringing it up.  It makes them laugh that I get so riled up.

My Mum made it home – without the ruby slippers – maybe I will too.  I am going there for a visit to see my Dad.  I always wondered if Dorothy went back to Oz after she got back to Kansas.  I mean it would be sad if she just left and never got to go back.  At the airport the woman who works for the airplane assures my Mum that I will be just fine on the plane by myself. I feel quite grown up.  My Mum keeps telling me I have to eat something on the plane but she knows I won’t.  She gives me a bag of grapes for the trip.  They are the only things I can eat because the smell of the airline food makes me nauseous and I end up throwing it up anyway, so what’s the point?  I try to be asleep whenever they serve food so I don’t have to smell it and they don’t ask me if I want any.  Of course, they end up waking me up anyway.  

When we land I have to go pick up my luggage.  It’s really warm in the airport but I don’t want to take off my English winter coat because then I have to carry it and will probably lose it.  So I just leave it on.  The luggage is going round and round on the conveyer belt.  I’m looking at it and don’t quite know what to do because it’s as big as I am so I can’t really get it off.  I guess I’m not that much of a grown up.  It has wheels so as long as I get it to the ground I’ll be fine… I’m just not quite sure how to do that.  Luckily there’s a nice couple from the plane who were sitting near me and ask me if that’s my bag and would I like help getting it off the continually circling metal contraption.  I quickly respond “oh yes please”.  I must have had quite a perplexed and distraught look on my face so they knew I needed help.  Once it is on the ground I am able to wheel it to the customs area.  I see my Dad looking down on me through the glass windows from the flight above – just outside of customs.  I wave.  He waves back.  

A few months after that trip my Mom moved us back to California.  I didn’t need a Wizard – just a brave Mother.  Of course, when I got back I had a funny English accent which all the kids teased me about.  The one slight I recall is “you sound like a frog”.  I’m not quite sure why but I quickly adapted back to my original way of speaking.  Hello Kitty wasn’t going to make me any friends in California.  It is true that there’s no place like home.  I am sure I would eventually have made England my home, but without my Dad it wouldn’t have been the same.