Monthly Archives: April 2014



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