Category Archives: Uhhhh…

When I forget to categorize something; sorry

Toby and I walking by ourselves


Stef has gone to Canada and will be back tomorrow evening. Sam and his two gigantic dogs arrived and we are keeping them back in the family room so Toby doesn’t get frantic and I don’t have to figure out how to break up a ruckuts, if there is one. For the moment, this feels safer for us all.

I took Toby for a walk by myself earlier today – first time I’ve done that since knee replacement – and my knee and my stamina held up okay. Bit by tiny bit, my new bionic knee is feeling more like it actually belongs to me, that it’s not something I have only rented for a long weekend, and it’s not as achy or sore today, for which I am grateful.

I am so impatient when it comes to healing, wanting to throw down my cane and run the 440 which, come to think of it, truly would be a Christmas miracle. I am not a runner, except when chased by something big and mean. Oh well. Bit by bit, on this slow-motion healing journey, I go. JS


The improper use of prescription drugs


For all the trouble you could get into for improper use of prescription drugs (I’m thinking fines, jail time, etc.,) it seems to me that prescription pain pills should really make you feel quite a bit better than they actually do. For all of the risks involved, the rewards seem rather limited.

I’m thinking they should make me feel REALLY good and what I feel is OH, OKAY, WELL, IT’S NOT HURTING AS BAD AS IT DID BEFORE. Beyond that, I feel the same. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe I’ve gotten the bottles mixed up or something and I’m taking the dog’s vitamins.

Weird. Just sayin’…JS

Toby in a flowered hat

Toby on Race Day


We did not have time to stitch together some racing silks for Toby to celebrate the running of The Kentucky Derby today, so he insisted that we create a hat. With flowers. We did. He looks charming, doesn’t he?

Our little dog is VERY excited about horse racing! He keeps telling me there’s a horse he wants to bet on called TOBY’S HAUNCHES, but I have yet to find it in the line-up. I’ll keep looking…JS


My suitcase just arrived


Suitcase just arrived. My stuff.

You know how crazy people often button their shirts up to the tippy-top so it doesn’t feel so much like they are about to fly apart? That’s sort of how I feel until all my stuff shows up in the same place. Now I feel better. I guess I can unbutton the top button on my shirt now. Phew.


Terrible SLAP YO MAMA influenza strain


Stef is really sick today. This may be the worst day yet. It’s hard to wait out the flu, but there seems to be no alternative. Cough meds make her puke. Theraflu almost made her jump out the window. Hacking and snorting sounds compete with the sounds of Saturday morning TV. Each room is a flurry of tissues, a littered battlefield of teacups, medicine jars, vitamin bottles, ripped open packets of flu symptom deterrent, and half-eaten pieces of toast. The miasma of illness hangs in the air like a wet diaper, heavy and boggy.

I am not sick and, yet, I feel droopy because of it. I have washed and rewashed my hands until they are red and raw little nubs; I don’t want to catch this flu, but there seems nothing else to do except, perhaps, swirl myself into a giant wad of Saran Wrap and hope for the best.

We both got a flu shot this year, just like every year, but, apparently, the CDC dropped the ball about which of the influenza bugs would be the most virulent. This one, the SLAP YO MAMA influenza strain, made it in under the radar and, so here we are, muddling through it. There is no escape from this, it seems. I could drive away in the car, but where would I go? And, what if she needed my help in the meantime? Patience and compassion, in greater depths than I usually have at any one moment, are called for at this time. I hope we don’t get QUARANTINED. I might go insane. JS


(Come on, Walmart, don’t be) Bastards


Today, I became my mother.  Again.  It seems to happen a lot as I age.  I don’t look like her, nor sound like her, nor share in any of her political or religious beliefs.  I have my own path to follow. Still, every so often, something she would say creeps out of me and I am shocked, then thrilled, secretly, that she still rides around in me, and grateful to realize that again and again.

My mother was very conservative – in almost every way you can imagine. The worst word I ever heard her say was “…Bastards…,” something she usually reserved for watching Meet the Press or some other show with liberal-minded people on it.  I said that word today, several times, actually, but I wasn’t watching the tube or surfing the net to see what conservative jackass might piss me off.  I was buying cat food.

Stef and I live in a small Oregon town.  Walmart has a huge store here and does an equally huge business.  I try not to shop there, not because I think the people who run it or work at it are bad people – they’re not.  I object to how Walmart runs their business of paying their employees the minimum that they can get away with; so little, in fact, that those people must be on food stamps and the rest of America has to subsidize that huge gap which is – big surprise – money those people then spend at Walmart.  Certainly, I can’t be the only one getting pretty sick of this. Plenty of American companies have realized that paying their employees a living wage creates a happier, healthier, and more dedicated work force.  Why can’t Walmart step up to the plate and realize that this is not only the right thing to do, but a good business decision, as well?

I don’t doubt that there is lots the Walmart folks have done with some of their money which is good for the rest of society. In a trickle-down sort of way, I once was the recipient of a tiny portion of that largesse when I was first getting my TV show, BACK PAGE, off the ground, and again when the cowgirl musical I wrote, BUNKIN’ WITH YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE, was being produced, something I greatly appreciated.  It was small potatoes in their world, I’m sure, but huge in mine. By the same token, I know people who have worked for Walmart for years. They have done well by the company and the company by them.  All of that is good.  But, jeepers, we are talking billions and billions of dollars that could be used to help keep people who are working full-time from having to be on the dole, you know?  Why, as a nation, do we put up with this?  I know we have all heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free,” but, really, the free market shouldn’t be entirely free, either, for companies making that kind of profit.

So, how does this relate to cat food?  I’ll tell you. There are a couple of stores here called Pet Mini-Mart, nice stores with just about anything you’d want for your pet.  I like shopping there.  The stores are clean, the people are friendly, the prices are competitive – plus, they give you this little punch card and when you spend enough that all of your little holes are punched out on that card, they scrape off a little gold circle and give you back, in cash, whatever it says on the card.  It’s not much, usually, and it takes a while, like a slow-motion lottery, but I always feel like I’ve won something huge whenever they do that. Makes me strut around all puffed out like I’ve just finished first in the decathlon or some giant, impressive thing like that.

Today, I walked into the Pet Mini-Mart and announced, loudly, “I decided I’d rather spend my money with you than Walmart!”  The staff all yelled, “Yay!” I grabbed some IAMs cat food for our mean cat, Bennie, and some pill pockets for Toby’s medicine.  I checked out.  The young lady punched my card.  I said, “I don’t like shopping at Walmart because I don’t like how little they pay their employees.”  Then, I muttered under my breath, “Bastards.”  I headed toward the door.  Suddenly, I remembered I needed cat litter for our mean cat, Bennie, so I went back and grabbed a jug of that stuff.  I checked out again. The young lady punched my card. “Not only that,” I said, “since most Walmart employees have to subsidize their income with food stamps, you and I wind up paying for it – did you know that?”  She said, “I did.”  I muttered under my breath, “Bastards.”  I headed toward the door when I remembered I needed some glucosamine chews for Toby’s knee, so I went back and grabbed a bottle of those.  I checked out once more.  The young lady punched my card. “Hey! she said, “Time to see what you’ve won!”  And she began scraping on my card. She punched the register open, came out with a dollar and slapped it on the counter in front of me.  “I bet Walmart won’t ever do that,” she said.  I agreed, saying, “No, I can’t imagine that they would.” Then, I heard her mutter under her breath, “Bastards.”



Bossin’ Me Around


Last week sometime was National Boss’s Day, which set me to thinking about some of the people for whom I’ve worked in the past. Most were actually quite wonderful people; a couple of them were pricks, but most, whether good or bad, are memorable. When I was quite young, I worked for an import/export firm, quietly tapping away on a 10-key adding machine back in my own little office, pretty sure the guy who owned the place didn’t even know my name (he didn’t – or, if he did, he could never remember it.) Besides, his secretary’s name was also Jody, so, whenever he blasted into the showroom yelling, “GODDAMN IT, JODY!!!” I would instantly jump up, bashing my legs against my desk and, thus, kept a permanent bruise across my fat little thighs right above my knees. He was never yelling at me, but you wouldn’t have known it by watching me react.

When I worked for a Johnson & Johnson company in the early 1970’s, my boss was a great guy with terrific dimples and his name was Max Odom. He was kind and thoughtful, slow to anger and easy to make laugh, a gentleman and a gentle man, and that made going to work each day a delightful thing.

After that, rock ‘n roll radio got into my blood and I worked for 5 years at KZEW-FM in Dallas, I had a number of great bosses there. John Dew was the Station Manager when I arrived, a good guy with the know-how to get things done, those “things” being the brain-child of The Zoo’s own creative genius, Ira “Eye” Lipson. If Eye was the driver of the Merry Prankster’s Bus, John figured out how to get the bus financed. I loved working at that station where creative juices got to flow down the hallways, where nothing really seemed too insane to try, where I could cha-cha around the studio when Jon Dillon played Carly Simon’s YOU BELONG TO ME, or Mark Christopher and I could lock ourselves in the production room and create promos or crazy commercials that made all of Dallas and Ft. Worth sit up and take notice.

After John Dew left, Ivan Braiker came on board as the new Station Manager. Ivan loved us and we loved him. He understood business, but he also understood creativity and never made us sacrifice one for the sake of the other. We played killer music all day long but, more than that, we were all bonded by a singular notion, which was to do some good in the world and cleverly disguise it as work. That’s what we did at The Zoo. What a time. For those of us who worked there during that era, the 1970’s, it was our Camelot. And, for that, I give thanks to Ira Lipson, Ivan Braiker, John Dew, Kenny Rundel, Mark Christopher, Mark Addy, Gary Shaw, Jon Dillon, Mike Taylor, John Baker, Michael Brown, John LaBella, Diana Marquis, Syd Meredith, Charley Jones, Sally Francis, Sharla Taylor, Beetle, Rick Ferguson, John Rody, Wally Campbell, Jim Stansell, Chuck Moshontz, Dave Lee Austin, Bill Harrison, Mike Ceferatti, The Amazing Beesley Sisters, and anyone I’ve left out. All of you were my bosses – and my teachers – in one way or another, and I thank you for that.

I hold that time and place so dear, and I suppose there are not many jobs I could have had in my life where I could have gotten to listen to great music all day, write and produce as much crazy stuff as I wanted to – actually get a paycheck for it – and, still, at the end of each day feel like I’d done some good in the world. I am lucky. And, I have some wonderful bosses to thank for that.

I worked at SEARS when I was in college, back shortly after the earth cooled, and I had a terrific boss named Jeanne Barnes. I’ll tell you why. I worked in Ladies Ready to Wear but, on this one day, Mrs. Barnes had asked me to fill in at the Children’s Clothing Dept., which was right next to ours. There was a sale going on and, without realizing what I’d done (because I was too busy talking) I over-charged a woman for some little kid’s underpants she’d bought for her daughter. I failed to ring up the ON SALE price and had charged her the regular price and didn’t see what I’d done until after the woman had already left the department. Well. The rule was: IF YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE DEPARTMENT, DO NOT LEAVE THE DEPARTMENT UNTIL YOU HAVE SOMEONE THERE TO COVER FOR YOU. But, what could I do?? I didn’t want that lady to think I was a crook – or – that SEARS was a crooked store. I grabbed five bucks out of my wallet, stashed my purse, locked the register, and took off running. I ran across the store, vaulted down the escalator, screeched through the rest of the store and out the front door where I just happened to catch that lady in her car before she turned onto Jefferson Blvd. “I charged you too much,” I gasped, “I’m really sorry. I think this will cover it.” And I tossed my five dollar bill into her car. Then I chugged back up to the Children’s Clothing Dept., found my boss, and, between wheezing gasps for air, explained to her what had happened. Mrs. Barnes pulled out her wallet and handed me a five dollar bill. “Walk with me,” she said, draping her arm over my shoulder. We walked to the escalator, over which was an enormous sign that read: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. It was our motto back then; I hope it still is. “See that sign?” she asked. I nodded, because, at that point, I still could not speak without sounding like a bagpipe. “That woman will never forget what you did,” Mrs. Barnes said, and she looked me right in the eye, touching my heart with her hand, “And, neither will you.” She was right. I don’t know about that customer but, as for me, clearly, I have never forgotten it.

I am a good worker, conscientious and thorough. But, I am a terrible boss, and I should know, because I’ve been my own boss for the past 35 years. I have difficulty delegating, compounded by the fact that, since I am in business by myself, for myself, there is actually nobody else to delegate TO. Oh well. The good part is that I don’t have to answer to anyone or explain just what I was doing in that part of town when the muffler fell off. The bad part is that it makes the Christmas parties almost achingly dull. And, giving myself a raise? That’s the hardest thing of all – like doing Gestalt Therapy.

I am easy to work for, I gotta say that, though, because nobody understands as well as my boss how it feels when there’s a story cranking in my head that needs to be told. She understands that sometimes the best thing to do is just sit down and write the thing. I’ll whimper and look pitiful like an old dog. She’ll roll her eyes, let out an almost-disgusted sigh and say, “Okay, okay, just take the day off.” And, so, I do. I love my boss.





Death has been a big part of my life, beginning with my own mother’s death in 1986, which was the first time I’d ever been with anyone at the moment of transition from this life to the next.  After that came my friend Lou who died in 1998, then my friend Shirley in 1999, and my friend CarolAnn whose very last heartbeat I felt against my palm in 2006.  Of course, there have been several other deaths – relatives and friends I’ve lost in the past few years – but these four are the ones where I got to be present and to help with their crossing in that holy moment when the door to the next life swings open and their soul departs for brighter days, shedding the shell we call our body and moving on to matters of Light.

Shirley Hudgens was like the big sister I never wanted, always bossing me around, telling me what to do, but her heart was huge and kind, which is probably why I never punched her in the nose.  She was from San Angelo, Texas, a self-made woman in the world of information technology, having begun so when computers were as big as Studebakers and you had to kick start ’em.  She made her way up in the hierarchy at Dallas Federal Savings and Loan, then started her own company handling on-line data processing services for smaller savings and loan organizations. She was successful, proud of all she had accomplished, and rightfully so, with only a high school diploma and strong intellect which took her far in her life.

Shirley drove a big, floaty Lincoln Town Car, wore custom-made Leddy Bros. cowboy boots, a full-length mink coat in the winter and a gold nugget Rolex watch as heavy as a box of rocks.  She was everything we think of when we picture successful Texas women – larger than life, almost obnoxiously proud of her Texas heritage, too flashy to be tasteful. Or ignored. I always expected to see a set of longhorns strapped to the hood of her Lincoln and hear the car horn blasting out THE EYES OF TEXAS when she came driving up.

In the 15 years since Shirley’s death, I have never written about it, how profound it was. It is finally time to do that now. I had finished a rolfing trip to Dallas and Tulsa, then spent  several days with Shirley at her place out at the lake, east of Dallas.  I was finishing up the editing of my first book, so we quickly fell into a routine.  We would drink coffee in the morning, then Shirley would work on her computer stuff while I slogged through yet another rewrite of my manuscript. At noon, we’d get in the car and go up to the Chinese buffet joint for lunch, come back and watch GOLDEN GIRL reruns for a couple of hours so we could laugh and laugh before Shirley fell asleep in her recliner.  She was quite ill at that point and on lots of pain meds, but still functional.  Besides, whenever her doctor said, “Shirley, I’m sorry, but you’ve only got 3 months,” Shirley would say, “Okay, I’ve got 9 months.”  And, usually, she was right, as she kept tacking on an extra 6 months to whatever amount of time her doctor had given her. Shirley always thought she could figure out a way to last longer and live better than everybody else because she always did. We called it TAKING THE LIBRARY BOOK BACK AND CHECKING IT OUT AGAIN.

It was hard to leave Shirley that last time; I wasn’t sure I’d see her alive again. Even as she drove me all the way to DFW Airport, I kept glancing over at her, wondering how much longer she’d be able to stretch out this diminishing life of hers. She looked frail and drawn, a little jaundiced, but I thought that might have been the overdose of Chinese food.  Still, she seemed okay.  Two days after I arrived back in Portland, Randy Toups, a Dallas friend and hospice nurse, called and said, “You need to get back down here.  Shirley’s starting to crash.”  I said, “That can’t be.  I just talked to her yesterday and she was fine.”  Randy replied, “Well, she’s not fine today.  Get on a plane.”  So, I flew back to Dallas, borrowed a car and drove back out to the lake. Randy was right; Death was close, peeking at us through the blinds, waiting, just waiting, for us to turn our backs. Randy had gotten a hospital bed delivered and I called our friends Judith and Tina who arrived within an hour.

Departing the body is not an easy thing, like being born is not an easy thing, and that’s how I’ve come to view Death, as a birth into the next life. It’s often a painful and smelly and scary process, but the four of us were all determined not to run from it and to stay with it right up until the last horse bucked.  Due to the pain meds she was on, Shirley’s bowel had become impacted and it was quite uncomfortable for her so Randy, ever the hospice nurse, gloved up to remedy the situation.  It was late at night. We were all in our pajamas, standing around Shirley’s hospital bed in the middle of her living room. We gloved up, too, however, like comrades-in-arms, like we were all just gonna get right in there at the same time and get the job done.  We had all pulled our pajama tops up over our noses and I remember I was crying, just thinking about how humiliating this must be for the woman who ran her own company she had created from nothing more than an idea, her own steely determination, and some wickedly superior computer skills. When we got Shirley all cleaned up, she began acting agitated and I was certain she was going to die right then.  “Oh, Shirley, oh, Shirley,” I said, “Can you see the Light?  Can you see the Light?” Shirley opened her eyes and looked right up at the ceiling. “Uh-huh,” she said.  Well.  We exploded into laughter.  Tina said, “Maybe you should ask her if she can see the ceiling fan so we’ll know which light she’s talking about.”

The next day, Shirley slipped even further away, becoming non-verbal and mostly sleeping.  I had a ring I used to wear, a Hopi design, which represented the kiva, a place of prayer and meditation.  For some reason, I took it off and placed it on Shirley’s heart.  All day, friends arrived from all over Texas to say good-bye to her.  They would sit beside her bed, hold her hand, and tell her what a good friend she had been to them.  I watched in awe as each of these visitors would take off a ring and place it on Shirley’s heart, too. Nobody – NOT ONE PERSON – looked at that pile of jewelry resting on Shirley’s sternum and said, “What the hell??”  Nobody questioned it at all; they just chose to participate in whatever wonderful thing was happening. There were 8 rings at one point, all just sitting there, a sign of something magical and true. When the people left, they would each walk over, pick up their ring and put it back on, kiss Shirley’s forehead and then leave. I won’t ever forget how moved I was by that. Deep in my own chest, I felt my heart crack open and gratitude for the life my friend had lived spilled out, running like honey down a tree trunk, golden and pure.  Oh. It was so, so grand.

Late that night, everyone was exhausted.  Randy was in the front bedroom, snoring; Tina was on the couch, snoring; Judith was in the recliner, snoring. And, Shirley’s breathing had sliced into that death rattle phase, so, the sound was like 6 percolators going all at once.  I was sitting at Shirley’s desk with her cat in my lap, writing letters to my cousins who had just lost their mother when I got this feeling that something big was about to happen, like the feeling you get just before a big storm blows in. The air changed in the room and I felt my heart shake off the exhaustion and stand up straight, ready to look Death in the eyeballs.  I took Shirley’s cat over to her hospital bed and placed him beside her, then I held up her hand so he could rub his head against it one last time. I went around and woke everyone up.  “I think this is it,” was all I said.

Still sleepy, but determined, we gathered around Shirley’s bed and thanked her for being our friend, for intertwining her life with ours.  We lit white candles; we said prayers.  We paved the path as carefully and with as much love as we could, laying warm stones for our friend to follow. I felt like we should be singing a hymn, but I couldn’t think of a hymn all four of us knew the words to all at once, so, slowly – very slowly, I began singing THE EYES OF TEXAS and the others joined in.  We turned it into a hymn, as sweet and as solemn as we could.  Then Shirley lifted her upper body off the bed, arching her back, and took 3 short gasps of breath before falling back, totally depleted. She was gone. Her soul had found its boots and she was moving on.  And I remember thinking, “That’s not a bad way for a Texas girl to make her exit.”

In the 15 years since her death, I have told this story many times, but have never written it, which seems to be something I do to let go. Finally. Let. Go. This is the hardest thing of all, finally letting go, especially since I’ve been dragging her around with me for so long, and my tears, which flow so easily, don’t disappoint me as I write this, streaming down my cheeks in great rivers, dripping off my jaw and gathering in puddles above my collar bones. It is sad. But, it is cleansing, and I am grateful for the tears I still shed for Shirley. They are my touchstone, the mark of a true friendship.

I miss my friend Shirley, the big sister I never wanted. I’ve no doubt she’s bossing the others around wherever she is now, keeping them in line, showing them the ropes, being a good friend.  That’s who she was in this life and I can’t imagine she’d be any different in the next one. She taught me how to tell, at the end of your life, if a good friend is what you’ve been to others. It’s easier than you might think, rather like guessing the age of a tree. I learned this about Shirley’s life by witnessing her death: Just have somebody count the rings around your heart.




I love Billy Crystal.  Almost everything he does or says makes me laugh, but now I know that some of the things he says and does can make me cry, too, which is a good, good thing.  Plus, despite the fact that he grew up in New York and I grew up in Texas, it appears that we have about three things in common, something I could never say about myself and, oh, say, Lindsay Lohan, for example.  So, today I sent a package to Billy Crystal, along with a letter that said this:

Dear Billy:

Last night, I had the accidental delight of tuning in and watching 700 SUNDAYS on HBO or some channel – I never really know since the cable guy was here and screwed with everything.  Still, whatever channel it was, the whole thing made me happy.  Thank you for being as open and honest about your life as you were so more and more people can understand that we all have more in common than not.

You grew up in New York; I grew up in Texas.  Our lives didn’t parallel in any way that I can see, other than the fact that we are both Baby Boomers.  And this:  My grandmother farted in the morning in very much the same way your grandfather did.  The first thing she did each morning was open the fridge and pour a small glass of cold water, then place that tiny glass back into the fridge next to her water bottle. It made a very specific clinking sound on that half-circle, aluminum shelf.  Then, she would pad across the kitchen to turn on the light and, in that short trip, let out these tremendously long (what we called) “growler farts,” as if she were stepping on a duck or a bagpipe under water for a really long time.  They weren’t smelly farts, not really, as farts can go, just loud.  And long.  And horrifyingly, uniquely her own.  Now, since she’s gone, our grandmother’s farts belong to us, her grandchildren, to include in funny family stories about her, and I’m sure she is laughing about them as loudly as everyone else, although not as loudly, I am certain, as were her farts.

And this.  When you went to see your mother after her stroke and she could do nothing but stare.  Mentioning the Yankees brought her back to the surface.  I can relate to this.  My mother loved baseball; specifically, the Brooklyn Dodgers.  When the Dodgers left Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles sometime in the 1950’s, Mother never forgave them.  Thirty years later, as my mother lay dying from emphysema, on a ventilator, in the ICU @ Methodist Hospital in Dallas, I went in to see her.  She was sitting up in bed, with her glasses on, watching a baseball game on TV.  I kept thinking, WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???  Her lungs were shot; the machine was breathing for her. She couldn’t speak with that tube down her throat.  But, still, she could watch a ball game.  My sister Peggy came in and we were standing on opposite sides of our mother’s hospital bed, both of us making random remarks about the baseball game to keep from talking about any of the things so obvious and difficult.  Speaking of the World Series, I said, “I was kind of glad to see Kansas City win it last year.” Peggy said, “Yeah, I was, too, but I can’t remember who they played.”  I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head; I couldn’t remember, either. Mother took her pad of paper and her pen and wrote, with a shaky hand:  R E D S.

So, thanks, Billy, for this latest gift of yours to all of us.  And, thanks for the wonderful memories.  I am enclosing a gift for you, too, my newest book called DEAD IN A DITCH – Growing Up In Texas & Other Near-Death Experiences.  It’s a collection of essays about all the ways Mother thought we, her five children, would die.  It’s also like looking at someone else’s picture album and, in doing that, if you pay attention, you can begin to see the story of the family emerging.  I’m not doing this to ask anything of you.  It’s a gift.  Read it, if you would like, or pass it along, if you don’t.

I guess my biggest wad of thanks should go to the cable guy.  If he hadn’t come out the other day to screw with the cable box, drag wires everywhere, and chastise us for being so out-of-date with our equipment, I might never even have seen your show, 700 SUNDAYS last night.  I might never have known that your Mom loved baseball like mine did, or realized that you and I both grew up in a similar miasma, in the crop-dusted fog of our grandparents’ farts.  We have more in common than I thought.  Lucky us.


Jody Seay

Blogger’s note:  Please do whatever you can to see Billy Crystal’s new one-man play, 700 SUNDAYS, another touching and funny sparkle of brilliance from a funny, sparkly and brilliant man. It might be on HBO, but I’m not sure now, thanks to the cable guy.






I miss writing letters.  I hardly ever do it anymore.  I send an e-mail, or a Facebook message, or make a quick phone call.  Maybe I’ll scrawl my name inside a card and drop it in the mail, but not much more than that. I don’t send a text message, only because I never learned how to do that and don’t really care to learn.  And I’m pretty sick of seeing everyone all around me hunkered over and staring into a tiny screen where someone has just sent them an almost meaningless missive and substituted u r for you’re somewhere within the text. I suppose this is how we communicate with each other now, which is a little heart-breaking, really, given how much letters have meant to us for so long.

I’ve written some of my best thoughts in letters.  I courted the one I love by writing a letter every day for two weeks – some of the best writing I’ve ever done.  She saved them all in a notebook.  Fifteen years later, they are still there, inside the notebook which gathers dust on the bottom shelf of my desk. And the desk belonged to my great-grandmother; it’s where she sat to write letters to her relatives as her family grew.  There are still ink stains forever in the wood, stains for which I am grateful.  Sometimes I think I’d like to write to my great-grandmother and tell her how much it means to me to sit where she sat, running my hands across the smooth oak on a desk I know her hands had touched,too.  Since she died in 1957, it would be hard to know where to send such a letter.  And, figuring out the postage might be tricky, too.

I wrote a letter to President Obama a couple of  years ago and he wrote back, surprisingly enough, I’d just seen that Academy Award-winning documentary about the financial crisis, how it began, etc., and I told the President I wouldn’t be voting for him if Timothy Geithner stayed on as Sec. of the Treasury, as well as a bunch of other guys I saw as foxes guarding the hen house. I just couldn’t do it, not in good conscience.  The President’s letter was a very nice one, full of assurances about all of the safe-guards that had been put into place to make sure such a financial crisis never struck us again.  And, even though he never said, “No sweat, Jody.  Tim’s practically out the door,” or anything approaching that, pretty soon Tim actually was out the door, and so I felt better, which was what I wanted. Maybe I’ll write and thank him.

I wrote to Vice-President Joe Biden in 2012, right after his debate with Congressman Paul Ryan during which Joe spanked little Paul pretty hard.  I wrote to Joe to congratulate him on what appeared to me as a clear win, but also to invite him over for a barbecue.  He might be gaffe-prone but so am I, and I figured Joe Biden would be fun to hang out with.  I never heard back, which was a little disappointing, but I did write to him in November and I do live in Oregon which, as we all know, is prone to rain and rain and more rain during that time of year.  Maybe Joe just couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea of a barbecue during a downpour.  Maybe I’ll write and ask him about that.

Apparently, Donald Rumsfeld writes a letter to the Internal Revenue Service each tax day where he complains that he doesn’t really know if his tax return is right because the tax code is so confusing and he must hire a tax accountant to figure it out.  Mr. Rumsfeld is a very wealthy man, so I’m assuming he has no trouble hiring a tax person to figure out his tax return; I’m not wealthy at all and I must hire one, too.  I look at a tax form and it might as well be written in Farsi.  But somehow, you know, as confusing as it is, I bet Mr. Rumsfeld gets a better break on the percentage of tax that he pays than I do. Just a feeling I have. But, still, he writes his letter each year.  I used to do that, too, during the 1980’s.  I always enclosed a letter to President Reagan with my tax return.  “Dear Mr. President,” I wrote, “Please do not use my tax money to build a bomb.  Thanks so much.  Sincerely, Jody Seay.”  He never wrote back which, in truth, was a little disappointing.  I would have felt better knowing my tax money was being used to help fund the Head Start Program or something more important to me than firearms and things that go boom.  In fact, I have often thought we should have a pie chart on the back of our tax returns where we could mark what percentage of our taxes we would like to be spent on national defense, social services, arts and education, national parks, etc.  I think the percentages we write down would be far different, and surprisingly so, than the arbitrary number the government comes up with to spend our money. Maybe most people don’t really want 30% of their tax money to go for weapons and such. Maybe most people are like me and would rather have, oh, maybe, only five percent of their tax money go for national defense, freeing up a whole wad of tax money to spend on things that might make this country a better place in which to live. Just a thought. Maybe I’ll write to the I.R.S. about that.

The thing about letters is that they take some effort.  You have to write it on paper, sign it with just the right flourish (“…your sworn enemy, Jody Seay”; “…your faithful cohort in crime, Jody Seay”; “…yours for a better America, Jody Seay.”) Then you must properly address the envelope, put a recent stamp on there – or several outdated ones, just as long as it adds up to the proper amount – which nobody knows anymore without going to the Post Office to ask.  FOREVER stamps , by the way, seem to be costing more all the time, which leads me to believe that FOREVER isn’t as long as it used to be. Then, you must actually put the thing in the mail. And, because of all that, you expect a reply.  Really.  You do. It used to be that getting a reply was almost a sure thing. Now, not so much. Still, hope springs eternal, I suppose, which is how I manage to keep my peak physical conditioning by sprinting to the mailbox each day to check. MAYBE VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS FINALLY WRITTEN BACK TO ME, THAT LITTLE FERRET-FACED TYRANT! That’s what I’m thinking as I race toward the street.

So, no, I don’t write as many letters as I used to but, then, I don’t get as many letters, either, unless you count politicians and Political Action Committees asking for donations as real letters, which I don’t.  But that’s okay.  I miss it, that whole process of sending and receiving letters, but now I have this blog and I can write to you anytime I want.  There’s even a place for you to write back.  It’s quick.  It’s immediate, even.  And, neither of us has to spend FOREVER looking for stamps. JS