Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things I learned from 54.5 hours in New York City

The skyline of lower Manhattan.
Taken from the "Top of the Rock."
Empire State Bldg., Freedom Tower and
a very tiny Statue of Liberty.
In a recent post, I mentioned that I would be taking the week after (Canadian) Thanksgiving off -- and hinted that part of the week's agenda would involve some travel. I also said I would tell you about it afterwards.

So now I'm telling you. : )

I went to New York City for a weekend.

With EIGHT other women -- my SIL & our husbands' female cousins & cousins' wives.

We had a blast. : )

We touched down at LaGuardia around noon last Friday, & left around suppertime on Sunday night - about 54.5 hours. (Of course we had to sleep for some of those...!)

New York has been both a source of fascination & fear for me over the years. As I recently wrote in a review of Patti Smith's memoir, Just Kids:
New York City back then was a dark, forbidding, foreign, seedy, dangerous place -- especially in the eyes of a sheltered teenaged girl from a small town on the Canadian Prairies. It was the city of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, and Saturday Night Fever.
Growing up at the time & place that I did, I didn't know too many people who had been to New York. Those who did invariably got (a) lost (b) mugged or (c) both. Eventually, the city cleaned up its streets & its act and by the 1990s, I was reading articles that raved about how safe New York had become.

Then along came September 11, 2001. It took awhile before I started thinking that I might like to visit New York again -- but eventually the travel itch returned. 

New York is close enough to Toronto that a lot of people go there for business, pleasure or both. SIL had been on a bus trip with some cousins a few years ago, mostly to shop. I'm the third or fourth person in my office to visit New York this fall (including one mother-daughter weekend & one pre-nuptial bachelorette weekend).

A couple of dh's cousins went a few years ago, and they got talking about it at the family get-together in August that we hosted in our backyard. Someone said, "why don't we...?" & then "are you in?" 

"Absolutely!" I said, not really sure that anything would come out of it.

But the next day, the e-mails starting flying. One of dh's cousins' husbands travels a lot for work, & was able to get us a great deal using his frequent flyer points. Round-trip flights and two nights in a four-star hotel near Times Square (three rooms with three people each in them) = $550 (Canadian) each. Not bad!! 

Here are some of the things I learned in 54.5 fun-filled hours in New York City:
  • While the trip by train from Union Station to Grand Central Station is about 12 hours (!), by plane (once you're in the air), it's less than an hour & a half.
  • LaGuardia Airport is ancient. If any of you ever visited the "old" Terminal One in Toronto before it was torn down and replaced, it's like that, but probably even older.
  • There isn't much there in the way of shopping or restaurants, so eat before you leave!
  • It's also nail-bitingly close to water. "Are we going to land in the water??" SIL hissed at me as we swooped down over the waves and clutched the armrests.
  • Riding in a stretch limo for the first time was as fun as I thought it would be (particularly when the driver is a natural tour guide, pointing out all the landmarks along the way & regaling you with tales of all the people he's driven, including the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...!). 
  • The crystal ball that gets dropped in Times Square every year on New Years Eve stays there year round until the next Dec. 31st, until it gets hoisted & dropped again. Who knew?? (This was one of the things the limo driver pointed out to us as he drove us through Times Square.) 
  • A stretch limo is also not that terribly expensive when it's split 9 ways. ; )
  • Riding in a New York cab is also everything I thought it would be -- and feared. Thank goodness for seatbelts and grab bars in the back. I was hanging on for dear life and praying the door wouldn't pop open as we rounded a corner, because I was sure I was going to go flying.
  • I really can be a hick sometimes. Three of us shared a cab to LaGuardia for the flight home... our driver was a speed demon & we were hanging on for dear life... and yet I still let out an "ooohhh, look! It's the United Nations building!"  as we went flying by. The cousin I was with said she thought she was going to pee her pants.
  • On the positive side, cabs were plentiful -- although, trying to hail one on Broadway near Macy's, we did have to get over our Canadian politeness and fight to get into one before it got picked off by an aggressive New Yorker. 
  • Never assume there will be another opportunity to take the photo. I should have taken a picture of the limo as we were loading up at LaGuardia. I figured I could do so when we go to the hotel. What I didn't realize was that very few hotels in New York (that I saw, anyway) have official driveways or loading zones. Our driver basically stopped in the middle of the (one-way) street & let us off there as horns honked all around us. Welcome to New York!
  • Chicks weekends can be lots of fun. It's been waaaayyyyyy too long since I've had one.
  • You CAN visit too many shoe stores -- particularly if, like me, you have extra-wide feet that are extremely difficult to fit and can only look on while the others try on pair after pair.  (For the record, I lost track after about the fifth store.)
  • Clarks shoes may not be the height of fashion, but they're extremely comfortable, especially when you're doing as much walking as we were.
  • It's great to go to NYC for the first time with people who have been there before & know their way around.
  • You won't go far in New York without passing by a Starbucks.
  • One cousin in particular must have a Starbucks habit, because she was rarely seen during the trip without a cup in hand.
  • My SIL is seriously one of the nicest people in the world. :)
  • It's possible for nine women to get up early in the morning, shower, dress and do makeup, and get going without being too late.
  • "Kinky Boots," the play we went to see on Friday night, deserved all the Tonys it won. The number of theatres around Times Square  (sometimes two or three in the same block), featuring plays that you've heard about and read about but never dreamed of seeing, is mind-blowing.
  • It's also mindblowing that everywhere you turn, there is a historical or cultural or retail or architectural landmark -- sometimes side by side by side.
  • Rockefeller Center is right across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue, which is right across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral.  
  • St. Patrick's is under renovation at the moment, but even with the scaffolding, it was awe inspiring.
  • I'm not even Catholic, but I had tears in my eyes as I walked down the aisle. (I'm not sure if my jaw was hanging open, but I think it would have been understandable if it was.)
  • The lineup to buy tickets to go to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is much shorter if you use your credit card to buy at an automated kiosk.
  • It's $27 but the view is worth it. (See the photo at the top for proof.)
  • The skating rink at Rockefeller Center is already open!
  • The gold statue overlooking the rink is of Promethesus (sp?). (This factoid came from our bus tour guide.)
  • Many of the stores we were in -- Nine West across from Radio City Music Hall, Swarovski at the Rockefeller Center, Aritzia in SoHo -- had lounge areas where we could sit while others in our party shopped. I don't know if that's a New York thing, or just a tourist-area thing, but it was much appreciated!
  • It's possible to bargain down a $57 double-decker bus tour ticket to $50 if you (a) pay in cash and (b) have nine people in your party.
  • Do NOT stand up when you are sitting on the top level of an open-air double-decker tour bus. We passed directly below street signs and stop lights that were so close, I could have reached up & touched them, and we actually had to duck to avoid tree branches on some streets.
  • It pays to be a movie fan:  we were walking from our hotel to Macy's when I exclaimed, "Hey!  I know EXACTLY where we're going! 'Miracle on 34th Street'!!"  lol
  • Macy's on a Saturday afternoon in October is like the Bay on Queen Street in Toronto on the Saturday before Christmas, times about five. The crowds were unbelievable.  
  • It is extremely easy to meet or exceed the $800 duty-free shopping limit Canadians are allowed after spending 48 hours or more in the States.
  • Even though we have a Tiffany's store in Toronto, there is nothing like walking into the one on Fifth Avenue.
  • You simply CANNOT leave Tiffany's without one of those little blue bags in hand. (And I didn't, lol.)
  • The cheap stuff (i.e., "cheap" for Tiffany's...!)(= silver) is on the third floor. (You're welcome.)
  • The doorman at Tiffany's is very cute. He's also very nice and willing to take your photo. Or pose with you in a photo, if you prefer. ; ) 
  • Contrary to the popular opinion of New Yorkers as rude, we were impressed by how friendly and helpful all the store clerks and waiters we encountered were.
  • If you're looking for a great place to eat in SoHo, try the Spring Street Natural Restaurant. A store clerk recommended it to us and we had a lovely meal there.
  • The Plaza Hotel is simply stunning. (We had breakfast there on Sunday morning.) Even the bathrooms are opulent.
  • Even the doggy bags at the Plaza are elegant.
  • Do NOT stop to talk to the street vendors or people hawking CDs in exchange for "donations" in Times Square. One of the cousins found that out the hard way. Thankfully, she managed to extract herself without any harm to herself or her wallet.
  • You never know who you're going to see on the flight to or from New York. George Stromboulopoulos (and if you're Canadian, you'll know who I'm talking about -- although he did have a show on CNN this past summer) was sitting across the aisle and one row behind me, (I almost dropped my suitcase on his head while trying to load it into the overhead bin above his seat, erk!! -- not sure the CBC would have appreciated that!)  A couple of the cousins had their photos taken with him.  
  • 54.5 hours is most definitely nowhere NEAR enough time to see & do everything you'd like to do in New York. Like, not even REMOTELY close.  
  • But -- it's still enough time to have some fun.
  • And enough time to know you want to return someday. :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Liebster Award from Melissa

Melissa at Stirrup Queens recently nominated me for a Liebster Award (thanks, Mel!). Here are the questions she asked me to answer.  Feel free to answer them yourself! (and let me know if you do!):

Longest you’ve ever gone without a shower.

I am a pretty consistent daily shower taker. The first thing that popped into my mind was when I had my wisdom teeth out about 20 years ago -- all four at once. My tummy did not take kindly to the Tylenol 3s with codeine that I was given as a pain killer. After throwing up every hour for almost a full day -- unable to keep anything down -- and calling the dental surgeon, I stopped taking the meds on his advice. My tummy finally settled down, but I was weak as a kitten for a few days, could barely get out of bed for a day or two, never mind shower. I had expected to be off work for two or three days & wound up missing an entire week.

Tell us about a recent disappointment.

Our favourite go-to restaurant of many years (a chain outlet, but even so...) has been going downhill lately. Our last several visits there have been less than satisfying -- lukewarm food, rock-hard baked potatos, slow service, etc. We are on the verge of abandoning the place completely. Sad. :(  And, yes, disappointing.

Tell us the person you’d most like in the car with you for a road trip.

Dh. :)  Lots of places we haven't yet explored.

Which do you like better: goats or sheep?

I have very little real-life experience with either. But I would probably have to go with sheep. I have several PJs with sleepy sheep motifs. Also, I had a sweater back in the '80s with a bunch of white sheep on it, and one black sheep facing the other way. Princess Diana had a similar sweater too. : )

Do you like to watch scary movies?


What do you call yourself when you’re talking to yourself inside your head?

I don't think I call myself anything? Maybe "idiot" when I'm mad at myself?

Name someone from your kindergarten class that you wonder about to this day.

I don't remember his name (Kenneth?)... but there was a little boy on the first day of kindergarten who wouldn't stop crying. His father came & took him away & we never saw him again (!).  Kindergarten was optional back then -- my mother paid for me to go, and it was in the basement of the Catholic church.  There were two schools in town that had Grade 1 classes;  presumably he went to the other school.

I do sometimes wonder about some of the kids I went to kindergarten with... I was in grades 1 & 2 with many of the same kids too. We moved away after that and I haven't managed to stay in touch with any of them. I have tried Googling a few of them, but no luck -- common names, probably married & changed their names, etc.  Also, I'm of an age where it's not uncommon to know people who just don't use the Internet much, or at least as much as I do. ; )

The last time we went back to that town, I was 14, starting Grade 9. My mom went for coffee with my one friend's mom, and my friend & I went downtown together looking for another friend, who was working at her aunt's shop. The first friend said, "Do you remember her?" I said, "It's been awhile!" and giggled, and she said, "That laugh! I'd know it anywhere! It's Lori!"  lol 

I also wonder about my "boyfriend" from those days, David. He was Ukrainian and had that kind of Nordic hair that was so blond it was almost white. I did Google him & picked up a business address but nothing much else.

What is the best song for picking up your mood?

Anything by the Beatles usually puts a smile on my face. : ) 

Two non-Beatles songs:  My Best Friend's Girl by The Cars and More Than A Feeling by Boston. (I had both albums when I was in high school & nearly wore the grooves out.)  Anytime those songs come on the radio, I have to crank up the volume & sing along. Instant mood brightener.

How do you organize your socks?

In a drawer, grouped together by colour. (Although they are mostly black & navy, with some grey, brown & white for good measure.)

When no one is home, do you close the bathroom door?


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Liebster Award from Shlomit

Shlomit at Telling a Different Story nominated me for a Liebster award (quite) awhile back... and then Mel nominated me more recently. (Thanks to both of you!)  I figured I should answer Shlomit's questions first (I did have most of them answered already)... Mel's questions & answers to come shortly. : )

Here are the rules from Shlomit:
1) Tell 11 things about yourself.
2) Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
3) Post 11 questions for those who will be nominated by you.
4) Nominate 11 bloggers.
5) Get in contact with those bloggers to inform them that you nominated them
Rules are made to be broken. ;)  I am going to skip #1,3,4 & 5 -- if you read this, consider yourself nominated and feel free to answer the same questions posted here. 

And here are Shlomit's questions to me, with my answers:
1. What did you want to be when you grew (grow?) up?
I went through the usual stuff that a little girl growing up in the 60s & early 70s wanted to be: a nurse (!! -- THAT was pretty short-lived...!), a teacher. But from a fairly early age, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved books so much, and I loved to write my own stories. As I got older, I realized that not too many people got rich & famous, let alone made a decent living, from writing books -- so I decided I would become a journalist. I even knew which paper I would write for -- The Winnipeg Tribune. I even wrote a letter to the editor -- who was a woman, a rarity at the time -- when I was about 13, asking for her advice -- and she kindly responded. (I still have the letter -- recently retrieved it from a drawer at my parents' house. It's here in my house now.) 

Sadly, the Trib closed, along with several others owned by the same chain, in August 1980, just as I was going into my second year of university. My parents were moving from the town where I had spent my junior and senior high school years, and my mom, sister & I were packing up the house. I felt like my whole world -- past, present, future -- was crashing down around me.

I did go to journalism school a few years later, and I did work briefly as a reporter on a smalltown weekly newspaper before I got married and moved away. Back then, very few of my J-school classmates went to work in what's now known as corporate communications, but that's where I wound up and where I've been working for the past (gulp) 27 years.

2. What style of underwear are your favourite?

Cotton briefs or bikini undies. 100% cotton, or as close to it as you can get, and no (or minimal) lace trimming. Sounds simple, but I'm finding it harder and harder to find underwear that fits the bill these days. Once in awhile I will find something at La Vie en Rose (Canadian lingerie chain). Victoria's Secret finally arrived in Canada a few years ago and I tried and liked some of theirs, although the fabric seems a bit thin/flimsy. Still, I think I got 7 pairs for something like $27 -- you can't beat the price.

I desperately need to get some new bras. I won't tell you how old mine are... too embarrassing! What I really need is a fitting, because I have no idea what size I really am anymore (and I remember n Oprah show based on the premise that a huge percentage of women aren't wearing the right size bra anyway). I was a 34B forever, until I got pregnant. I went up to a 38C and then after I lost Katie, those were too big. I just started wearing the 36C bras I had bought during my pregnancy and I've worn that size ever since then, but I have no idea if that's really the right size for me or not. I am very picky about my bras as well -- I have never worn underwires, except in strapless & special bras I wear with dresses for special occasions -- and there seems to be a very limited range of styles without them. I used to buy all my bras in a certain style by Wonderbra -- which of course they don't make anymore. :p  Sigh.

3. What's the best thing about being an adult?

Having the (relative?) freedom (and the income) to go what I want & do what I want, when & where I want -- within reason, of course. Sure, I can stay up until 2 a.m. on a work night if I really want to... but I will pay for it later. ;)

4. What's the worst thing about being an adult?

Having to be the grown up... having to hold it together and deal with the hard stuff of life -- to do the adult & responsible thing -- even when you just want to curl up in a corner somewhere and have someone else take care of things and make the tough decisions. (I HATE making decisions.)

5. What does spirituality mean to you?

It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with organized religion (although it can). It means paying attention to that small, still voice within you -- and also taking time to appreciate the wonder of the world around you. It's recognizing that you are not at the centre of the universe, that there is something bigger and more important out there than your own life and concerns.

6. What's your favourite food?

If you mean food type (as in Chinese, Thai, etc.), it would have to be Italian. Which is good, since I am married to an Italian. ; ) Unfortunately, I've developed a tomato allergy in recent years (!!), which has interfered with ability to enjoy Italian cuisine somewhat. Thank goodness for pesto sauce, pasta alla olio, and pasta alfredo. ; )

I also love me a good steak now & then. Medium well with a baked potato, butter & sour cream on the side, please & thank you.

And of course, CHOCOLATE. ; )

7. If you had to be another person for a day, who would you be?

This was a tough one. Anne of Green Gables (the musical) springs to mind: "Gee I'm glad I'm no one else but me...." lol. I normally wouldn't want to be a politician or world leader, but since it's just for one day, I'd love to do that and spend the day making decisions that would help others -- instead of screwing things up as so often seems to be the case. :p

8. What do you first notice when you meet somebody new?

 Their smile (if they smile).  9. What's your favourite season and why?

I don't have a clear favourite season. There are things I appreciate about each one -- even winter has its charms, at least to a certain point (which usually comes somewhere shortly after Christmas &/or my birthday, lol). And there are things I dislike about each season as well. Dh clams fall is his favourite season. I do love the beautiful colours, & the weather is often still nice enough to enjoy -- and there's (Canadian) Thanksgiving turkey to enjoy.

But there are several reasons that keep me from saying fall is my favourite. For one thing (and this goes for spring as well), I find that in this period when it's too warm to have the furnace running but too cold to keep the air conditioner running, the bath towels never dry out and get all musty, and I have to change (& wash) them more often. :p  It's year end at work, which I always wind up surviving, but have come to dread more and more each year. :p  And fall is inevitably associated with death and endings and loss in my mind -- not just the reminder that winter is on its way, with the plunging temperatures, falling leaves and increasingly barren trees. In October 1998, I returned to work after several weeks off after the stillbirth of our daughter. A few days later, I had to bow out of work again when my beloved grandfather passed away. My grandmother died almost a year to the day later, and then my uncle (my father's sister's husband) died a few days after her funeral. His funeral was held the day my mother went into the hospital for a planned hysterectomy.

So it's sort of a melancholy time of year for me. I'm hoping that once I retire and work is no longer an issue, I'll have more time to enjoy the beauty of the season and that will help to chase away some of the lingering melancholy.

That didn't really answer the question, did it?? ; )

10. What happens after we die?

I don't know. I LIKE to think there is some kind of an afterlife and that I will see my daughter & my grandparents & other people I love. I hope so, but I really don't know. And I'm sure that if there is something afterward, it's probably very different from what we think it might be.

I've always said that if there is a God & a heaven & I eventually get there, He & I are going to have a VERY long talk...!!

11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? In a small town near a big city somewhere in Canada, close to family (but not TOO close, lol). And preferably on a waterfront. I love a lakefront view.

Coming soon:  Mel's questions!

Silly Halloween blog meme

From Melissa at Stirrup Queens. : )

This is how it works.  Take the categories below.  Open your blog.  Look at the first comment on each of your last 10 posts.  Fill in one name per category (keeping the order of most recent post to 10 posts ago) and link their name to their blog.  Then hit publish.  If you have a post without a comment, skip to the next one.  And then chide your readers for screwing up your meme: obviously, they need to step it up and leave more comments.

So, in honour of every horror movie made in the 80s:

1. Decides the creepy house is safe. (Melissa/Lollipop Goldstein -- this does NOT sound like you, lol!)
2. Screams like a Banshee. (Another Dreamer)
3. Scares you as a joke. (Mali)
4. Goes into the woods and gets killed. (Illanare -- sorry!)
5. First to go insane. (Wolfers)
6. Murdered saving someone. (Brooke -- how heroic!)
7. Has your back no matter what jumps out. (Areyoukidding me -- thanks!)
8. Has a solid survivor plan no one listens. (Mali)(strangely enough, the same person in Mel's meme for #8 also had the #3 slot...!)
9. Runs off screaming never to be seen again. (Amel)
10. Is the real killer. ( Mali! -- so you were just joking, huh?? ;)  )

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Great expectations

Is managing our expectations the key to happiness? That was the tagline to an article from the British newspaper The Guardian, shared on Facebook by Gateway Women.

"How can happiness be influenced by things we don't have, were never going to have, and wouldn't have missed, if the thought hadn't occurred?" asks the writer Oliver Burkeman. 

His conclusion is that "happiness equals reality minus expectations. Raise expectations beyond reality's capacity to meet them, and misery follows."

Burkeman connects his theory to the millennial generation, trying to reconcile the inflated expectations they grew up with (thanks to their baby boomer parents, for whom things turned out pretty well, overall) with the current economic reality. And as I read (of course), I couldn't help but think about the subject of inflated expectations and the ALI world -- particularly in the context of my own niche in the community -- those of us living childless/free after infertility &/or loss, whose hopes & expectations were raised by ARTs but ultimately dashed.

I've written about expectations before, although perhaps not in so many words. Infertility might be a little different in terms of Burkeman's "things we wouldn't have missed, if the thought hadn't occurred." I mean, even among people who ultimately decide that they really don't want children -- how can the thought of having children NOT at least occur to us, given societal expectations and the current worship of all things pregnancy, baby and mommy-related in magazines, ads, TV shows, movies, etc. etc.? 

For those of us who have difficulty fulfilling those expectations of having a family, the proliferation of ARTs, the continuing advancements, combined with the headlines about women giving birth in their late 40s & 50s (whether with their own eggs, the articles often don't say, but that's another matter...), have served to inflate our expectations of what's possible through science-- not just our own expectations, but (perhaps even more so) those of the people around us, who so badly want to see us happy -- want us to have what they have so easily -- but don't really know or understand on a visceral level exactly what we are going through to try to make those dreams come true. 

We might SAY that we're not going to get our hopes up -- but really, how can we help it if we inevitably do?  Low success rates might be staring at us in the face, but it's really, really hard not to imagine ourselves on the right side of the odds, especially when it's something that we want so very, very much.

"The chicken was fine," Burkeman concludes, referring to his disappointment that the promise of pasta for dinner on an airline flight wasn't fulfilled. And while it might seem a little ridiculous to compare chicken to children -- the childless/free life can be pretty good too, once you manage to look beyond the disappointment that children aren't going to be on the menu of your life.

Read the article and tell me, what do you think of Burkeman's theory?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Recent movies, books & upcoming holidays

  • Dh & I went to see "Gravity" this afternoon, in 3D. It was a better 3D experience than my first one earlier this year, "The Great Gatsby," which left me with a headache. (Although it WAS Voldemort Day.) This is the kind of movie where 3D really adds something to the experience. (Besides, who can argue with George Clooney in 3D??)  
  • SPOILER ALERT:  I already knew, from reading reviews, that Sandra Bullock's astronaut character was the mother of a little girl who had died. That didn't make it any easier when she started talking about her and what happened. Bring Kleenex!
  • I recently finished reading books #2 & #3 in the Hunger Games trilogy, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay" (which were books #21 & #22 of the 23 books I've read so far this year). I've been trying to start a full review, but I'm finding it hard to say anything about the books that I didn't already say about "The Hunger Games."  (More spoiler alerts!)  Overall, I enjoyed all three books, although they didn't quite grab me the way the original did. I didn't like the idea of an "all-star" Hunger Games at first -- and then I realized, hey, Survivor does it, so why not? ; )  The whole idea of having a camera crew following Katniss around in her "Mockingjay" role was brilliant -- I have read that Collins worked in television, and it shows. The books do have a sort of cinematic, media-savvy quality.  And there's a great deal of cynicism about governments & leaders that seems tailor made for our own cynical age.  
  • One more week of work, and then I'm off for a week. : ) I'm not sure my superiors are very happy about me taking time off right now... aside from the fact that it's year end & always a busy time, there are a few other issues in the mix this year that are making it a particularly challenging time right now.  I don't think my new boss realized just how busy things could get when she approved these dates, in the early days after she took on this role. But I asked for the time off a long time ago, even before dh lost his job, I think, and certainly long before these other issues came up. And I have taken time off at this time of year before, and the roof didn't cave in. If I've learned anything over the past (gulp) 27 years working in this department, it's that there is never a "good time" to take a vacation, so you might as well take the time that's owed to you and enjoy it. And I still plan to do just that. ; )
  • For once, we will not be at loose ends for (Canadian) Thanksgiving this year. We've already been invited to BIL's. : )  It's not often these days that we get to spend time with our nephews (who are now -- eeekk -- 21 & almost 25, both with girlfriends), let alone both together, so we are looking forward to it.
  • I do have at least one (other) very special thing planned for my time off. : ) It involves some travel.  And I will tell you about it -- afterwards. ; )

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Simple Dreams" by Linda Ronstadt

Growing up in the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was THE female voice on the airwaves.  (And what a voice!) I had quite a few of her albums. When I was in university, I got my own stereo for my dorm room, and I would often put on an side of "Mad Love" or "Get Closer," turn out the lights, slip under the covers, and drift off to sleep to the soothing sounds of Linda singing "Talk to Me of Mendicino" or the spine-tingling harmonies of her voice entwined with Dolly Parton's & Emmylou Harris's singing "My Blue Tears."

Country, rock & roll, opera & operetta/Broadway, pop standards, Mexican folk music (in Spanish) -- Ronstadt could do it all (and did, much to the record company's dismay)(until they saw the sales figures). She introduced me (and, I'm sure, many others) to an amazing spectrum of great music.  In many cases, I heard her renditions of songs by Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, the Rolling Stones, Warren Zevon & Elvis Costello before I ever heard the originals. Through her, I went on to discover these and other songs & musicians that broadened my musical horizons. I had long scoffed at my mother's Frank Sinatra records -- but when Ronstadt put on a 50s-style prom dress and started singing some of the same sort of songs with Sinatra's arranger, Nelson Riddle, I listened -- and then started listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney and, yes, Frankie. ; )

So I was thrilled to hear that Ronstadt had joined the growing ranks of rock stars to pen a memoir,  Simple Dreams -- apparently without the help of a ghostwriter. It is not a long book (about 200 well-spaced pages) but it is well written. I am glad I didn't wait for the paperback. :) 

The subtitle of the book is "A Musical Memoir" and the focus is definitely on the musical side of Ronstadt's life (which is, of course, quite substantial and interesting). If you are looking for lurid details of her personal life, this is probably not the book for you -- although she does include a few good stories, including one about trying to ditch a very drunk and belligerent Jim Morrison. (Another good, albeit non-romantic story concerns a girl she & Nicolette Larson befriended while roller skating -- who turns out to be a member of the Manson Family!!) She actually uses the phrase "keeping company" to describe her relationship with Jerry Brown (then & now the Governor of California). (!!)

(I had an album by Nicolette Larson in my college days too. I loved her song "Rhumba Girl" & used to put it on and dance to it while I was getting ready for parties in my dorm room.)(That, and the album "Rio" by Duran Duran, lol.)  : )

Despite her many well-publicized romances, Ronstadt has never married. In her 40s, she adopted two children, a boy & a girl. There is a picture of her with her daughter as toddler, and she mentions them in passing, primarily in terms of their musical inclinations. You won't find any insights into adoption or single motherhood here.

It's hard to believe the Queen of 70s Rock is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (!) -- even though she's been eligible for more than 20 (!) years. Ronstadt claims she doesn't care. In the book, she brushes aside the "Queen of Rock" title: "[it] made me uneasy, as my musical devotions often lay elsewhere." Her personal pick for "the first fully realized female rocker" is Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders.)

The book ends before Ronstadt's recent discovery -- & public revelation -- that she has Parkinson's disease -- and can no longer sing. I find it incredibly sad, knowing that amazing voice has been silenced.  But what a legacy she has left us!

A couple of my favourite Ronstadt songs (so hard to pick just one...!): 

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This was book #23 that I've read so far this year -- I'll write about books #21 & 22 in a future post.