November 9th 2016

The context of what I want to share doesn’t matter. For all I remember it was probably a really bad haircut. But today is a really weird day. And everyone who reads her writing always says that my mom has a way with words, so here are some words from her to me that I found in a card she wrote me three years ago on this pretty stationery. That’s why the context doesn’t matter, because it really can apply to anything. Like today.

white_water_lilies_by_claude_monet_1899_pushkin_museum

“The only thing certain in life is that the sun will rise every morning and set every evening. Every day really is different — which does not necessarily ease the pain on days when the clouds are hanging low over your head but it helps to be reminded of it.” She also says that our sufferings and joys are all one and of course, when we need to laugh, there’s LD (my father, who reminds everyone of a very popular comedian with the same initials).

Those Darn Shoes

I’ve always had a thing for ruby red slippers. . . . I mean, doesn’t every woman who’s seen The Wizard of Oz at least once? It’s pretty much the ultimate pair of shoes to own.ruby red shoes red shoes

Last year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences put on a Hollywood Costume exhibit at LACMA in the months leading up to the 2015 Oscars. It was a greatly curated interactive collection that ended with “the shoes,” acquired by the Academy with the help of a group of “angel donors” headed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg. Actually four pairs were known to have existed, one of which mysteriously disappeared from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN; another pair went to the Smithsonian, and another to a group of collectors who keep it in a bank vault. The missing pair may never turn up, and if you’re curious about the full history, read The Ruby Red Slippers of Oz. As my mother likes to say, it’s never just about the shoes, though seeing these in person does have a certain magic. Someone may have put a two-million-dollar price tag on them, but they really are priceless.ruby_infographic_updated_2

The overriding symbol of these shoes in film and literature seems to be power: in The Wizard of Oz, they represent Dorothy’s power over the Wicked Witch and her key to getting home, and in the book, Wicked, they stand for Elphaba’s obsession, after her sister was killed by Dorothy’s house, to retrieve the token of her father’s love for her sister (his favored daughter).

Are they “power heels,” their sexiness and shininess giving us a sense of power over our lives in a society still a little too patriarchal? Is it the red or the sparkles or the combination of them that embodies fun/cute/sexy? Sure, I had my little costume ruby red slippers growing up, I convinced my parents to get a bright red car, and I did have a pair of sequined shoes for my senior prom. I may have outgrown the sequins, but in my adult life I seem to keep searching for the perfect Dorothy shoe.

Dorothy was herself just a girl. Maybe what we really relate to is that feeling of wanting to be an adult. But not really. Adulting is hard and scary and filled with bills and stuff. So we need that sparkle to remind us we’re still young.

Which is why when I saw a pair of SJP pumps recently at Nordstrom, I really thought these were ‘the ones.’ But I’m very particular about the fit, which wasn’t quite right. So one day, when Dorothy and Cinderella join forces to bring me the pretty red shoes with the perfect fit, I’ll be ready, and maybe even lucky enough to have Leo and Spielberg as benefactors.

dorothy shoes

SLP2

1 Car, 2 Cars, Red Car, New Car

little red wagonI don’t really remember the first, first car my family bought other than that apparently my parents listened to almost five-year-old me when I requested “fire engine red” and that we bought it from the same car dealer from whom we would buy two of our subsequent cars.

I do remember the excitement of buying my own first car, a used Jetta, when I moved to Los Angeles after college sara jetta and a few years later the overwhelming feeling of buying a brand-new car and getting its butt whipped by Mother Nature the first week I owned it.

Ironically it was Mother’s Day Weekend with my mom actually in town visiting me when Mother Nature kicked me in the ass with a sandstorm that wreaked havoc on my newborn car and eventually brought me to follow the mindset it’s “just a car” meant to get me from point A to point B and anything that Honda 2014happens in the middle is a nuisance, physically and financially.

Yet for some reason, as my parents watch our family car of nineteen years go down the driveway for the last time, I feel a sense of nostalgia. The many trips up to sleep-away camp, moving into college, moving other people into college, going to visit family and friends along the East Coast and Midwest, the rusty nobye bye 4Runnerw POS has been a lot of places… it was even on the receiving end of the first car I got in an accident with (sometimes going in reverse in your family’s fire engine red car on your last day of high school is hard, and the big family truck gets in the way, just sayin’).

I will admit going from a 2002 model car to a 2014 model car does feel a little like going from the Millennium Falcon to a First Order Space Ship. There are many new bells and whistles evident with the obvious technology changes over twelve years. So you can imagine what fun it is for me to watch my mom stepping into the future when she was surprised with a new car for her birthday this year. Imagine not having to turn on your car ten minutes before you have to leave to defrost the windows in the fall and winter. It’s cute to watch, although she does clutch the steering wheel like she’s 66 minus 50 and learning to drive again. I teasingly offer to give it its first scratch, since I’m a pro at that, so that she can get over the fact that it’s nothing more than “just a car”—something she reminded me of last Mother’s Day.

I don’t know who first said it, but I often hear the expression, ‘it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.’ Okay maybe it came from Homer and The Odyssey, or at least it sounds like something Odysseus probably felt when he finally returned home. Despite these toys just being cars, we spend SO much time in them. My friend and I will forever laugh about our journey getting from LA to NY in an orange Fiat—a car I’m glad my dad never sat in until after our road trip was complete. It’s hard not to associate these journeys with the (hopefully) reliable things that get us along on them. I mean, I’m sure that it was sad for pioneers on the Oregon Trail when their wagons tipped while trying to float across a river, or an ox died due to hunger or disease. It’s the same thing, right? Unless you owned a modern day Jetta, in which case, peace out, bitch.

Deborah gets a Lexus

Birthday Surprise Video

The holy or the broken

It’s taken me a long time but I think I’ve figured it out: my mom’s affinity for musicians who are good songwriters and poets but TERRIBLE singers has something to do with her being a writer. Let’s be real for a second … when you think of a “good” singer you think of someone like Etta James or Justin Timberlake, not Leonard Cohen or Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan.

If you read our blog (reasonably) regularly, you’ve also probably been able to tell that I grew up in a very musical household. You can only imagine what it must have been like hearing these very jarring voices (okay really just talking about Leonard Cohen here) that could be considered the stuff of nightmares to some children. I think because I grew up in a creative household, I was sometimes able to see past it and see the poetry behind it all BUT to say that I always tried and often succeeded in dominating the car stereo on drives is a huge understatement.

After stumbling upon an excerpt in an old Rolling Stone Magazine, I picked up a copy of The Holy or the Broken by Alan Light. You have one guess as to what it’s about. More than one friend seriously made fun of me for reading a book about the cultural significance of one song, but after reading it, I can say that it was one of the most compelling journalistic books I’ve ever read (and one of the more interesting books I’ve recently read during a summer in which I somehow survived The Casual Vacancy and Wicked). I’ve always known the song to be culturally significant, but reading about how it actually came to fruition and publication and then decades later, popularity, got me thinking about my own experience with the song. What’s so unique about it is that it’s almost like a Shakespearean play – beautiful poetry that can be performed and interpreted in so many ways. There have even been different recordings that include or don’t include different verses, giving the song new meaning each time.

Obviously as I read, I had to listen to as many recordings as possible (I’m glad that it’s a common understanding by Bono and those of us unfortunate enough to hear his cover that he blasphemized the song with “trip hop”), only to realize that I can’t honestly remember ever hearing Leonard Cohen’s version.

I’m sure I did, right Mom? The truth is that it’s so underplayed and has taken on such different shape since it’s original recording that each reinvention really feels like an entirely new song. Apparently it became widely popularized because of the movie Shrek (fun fact: John Cale’s version appears in the movie, but the soundtrack has Rufus Wainwright’s recording). If I’m being honest, though, it’s Jeff Buckley’s version from the Season 1 finale of The O.C. that sticks out most in my mind in pop culture (and subsequently at the end of Season 3, Imogen Heap’s chilling cover when Marissa dies). It’s become SO synonymous with TV and film as well as in tributes to disasters (natural and humanly inflicted). There’s no denying that it’s never not effective, but what’s so fascinating is that, like any poem or piece of art, we all find something different in it.

Famous ukulele player Jake Shimabakuru does a beautiful cover that doesn’t convey any sort of sadness, almost just a spiritual reflection.

 

In one of my favorite “versions,” Adam Sandler wrote a parody to the tune of “Hallelujah” for the 12.12.12 concert with the refrain “Hallelujah / Sandy Screw ya’/ we’ll get through ya,’/ ‘cause we’re New Yorkers.”

What I think is so cool about the song is that you rarely hear of anyone hating it. Maybe people get sick of the song being overplayed in pop culture, but there are enough covers of it that almost anyone can identify with it in a way. There are countless lists that rank the different versions and there are very, very few songs that could be covered in so many different ways and beloved in so many different ways. While I may have desperately tried to change my mom’s cassettes back in the day to Spice Girls or Green Day, there were times where I was forced to listen to the harsh sounds of Leonard Cohen.

Did I know that she was trying to inject me with a spirituality other than what’s learned via religion? Of course not. I wanted Green Day. But if you think about, isn’t music 100 percent spiritual, in a way? We listen to it to the point where we know it by heart. The only thing missing from the movie Inside Out is the part of our brains that is somehow eternally filled with lyrics to songs we don’t need to remember. We sing them back to our favorite musicians at their concerts, where we just want to be one with them in that moment. We silently reflect on music in our cars, or in our living rooms, or while making dinner. We develop our own connotations with different melodies and lyrics. These songs that might not be liked across the board, or sometimes, with a song like “Hallelujah” that might be unanimously appreciated — we find a connection to them by being in a certain space at the time at which they come to us.

. . . And that’s how I felt when I first heard “Dammit” by Blink-182. My poor, poor parents.

*Photograph © Abe Frajndlich

#Throwback Thursday: A celebration of summer camp

It’s 1 o’clock on a Saturday in Maine and my friend and I are frantically running around a local grocery store. We’ve been tasked with the real struggle of food shopping for the weekend for twelve women we are renting a house with. We brainstorm to accommodate the different food restrictions and diets in our house: we’ve got vegetarians, celiac sufferers, low FODMAP followers, people on diets, people not on diets (to say that we once came from a simpler time would be an understatement). But I’d say that managing a 99% success rate in pleasing our friends with our food choices is something to be proud of (I mean gluten-free graham crackers for s’mores, HELLO!).

Reunion 1Let me backtrack. I spent the best six summers of my life at an all-girls’ sleep-away camp in Maine — probably the greatest place on Earth you didn’t know you were missing out on (if you didn’t feel that way, I’m sorry — it was probably Julie Horowitz who put pine needles in your bed). Every five years, the camp celebrates its anniversary and invites former campers to come back for a three-day reunion. I missed 2010’s because I thought my job was more important than taking a few days off at the time and have regretted it every day since, so I was not going to miss 2015, which also happened to be the 100th anniversary year. Of the twenty-one girls who made it through to our last summer as campers, twelve of us were able to make it to Reunion. I’d say that’s a pretty neat turnout. And we got to mingle with campers from as far back as the ’40s, with every decade between then and now in full representation.

Reunion 2Aside from catching up with old friends I haven’t seen in 10-15 years, it was very cool to talk with campers from before my time and discover that we may all have our own stories, but our experiences were so much the same. Traditions from as far back as 1916 still exist, like the Honor System the camp was founded on and the deep trust we all have for each other because of it. Songs written by campers in the ‘60s are still sung (and campers from different generations still complain that they’re not being sung “right” or in the correct tune). Current campers tell us how much they loved our theme uniforms and looked up to as a “cool” bunk and then proceed to tell us that they were born the year we were in our final bunk, Bunk 12.

For all that has stayed the same, some things have changed: sure, there’s been the expected updating of facilities but other things—like a warning on our welcome packet that camp is now “nut-free” — reflect changing times and an increased sensitivity to individual needs. Much like my food shopping excursion, I think it stems from a good place, a desire to make sure that everyone can enjoy an experience equally (as a vegetarian camper 15 years ago, I would really have appreciated all the vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free options now available; one can only eat so many veggie burgers and so much vegetable lasagna). I’m sure the underground food exchange has changed, too. While we weren’t allowed to have candy in our bunks because of obvious rodent and bug concerns, we hid it anyway. You can bet I’d be hiding peanut butter and almond butter in this day and age!

I think that it’s fair to say that camp has just had to change with the world. (Helicopter moms, please chill out and back off, your daughters will be fine; I mean my mom seemed to cope perfectly well with a letter written home about being in a van accident on a trip when I was 11 and getting lost on a mountain when I was 15!) All of which makes me feel very lucky to have been a camper in simpler times — my last summer was the first summer that parents were allowed to send emails (they were printed out of course, since we didn’t have or need Internet access back then). Do parents even send snail mail anymore aside from filling requests for packages of things that their daughters forgot or “need” or more accurately, want?

Reunion 5Reunion 3

The long weekend culminated with a campfire at “Peace Circle” — a place not only named for its serenity on the lake, but as I learned this weekend it also marked the end of World War II. On August 14, 1945, the former owner of our camp, who was a truly amazing woman to anyone lucky enough to have known her, apparently interrupted dinner when it was announced on the radio that the war had ended and took everyone down to this spot by the lake for a true moment of peace. We sang songs in reflection of what our camp experience means to us and sent out candles on the water for those of us who couldn’t make it or were no longer with us. With no dry eye in sight, we said our goodbyes and promised to return in five years. You can sure as hell bet that I will.

Summer of Love

I’m now at that age where it seems like everyone is starting to get married. My fridge is full of invitations and save the dates. My desktop is full of links to registries. And it’s just beginning . . .

All of which has me thinking about all the time, money, and effort that go into planning a wedding. Aside from the weddings I don’t remember going to as a kid, one of my first real experiences in the factory of wedding making was as a PA on what I prefer to refer to as an unnamed wedding show. I think we filmed at four or five weddings in a span of five or six weeks (it’s been awhile) — one of which I missed out on to attend a wedding as an actual guest. It was nice to be able to enjoy the wedding for what it was and get dressed up and feel pretty and eat and drink my face off — as opposed to standing on my feet for countless hours, tired, making little money and being totally turned off by the consumerist aspect of a wedding going on around me. I won’t deny that it made me a hater for a while; it also definitely put things into perspective with regard to my own priorities when I think about getting married one day (a day far in the future, if my father has anything to say about it, and since he’ll probably be paying for, maybe he gets a tiny bit of input). I’ll wedding shoeswear the blue Carrie Bradshaw Manolos and eat a cake made by my talented friend. And this will all take place in Bora Bora, so please send money if you can’t make it!

At just about every wedding I’ve been to, one parent in a toast, makes a joke about the money spent on the wedding. And at every wedding, you can tell where the money went — what the couple’s main focus was, be it food, or venue, or band vs. DJ. You marvel a bit at the spectacle. You let your bride or groom friends complain about different planning aspects — do we include a tissue paper separating the inserts in the invitation? Is it tacky to include a meal choice with the RSVP? How many bites do we have at cocktail hour? You listen and try to give an opinion but whether you’re informed or not, it’s not your day and you can’t read your friends’ minds about what they actually want.

As a guest you worry about what to wear, what to give as a present and in some cases, how to get to the wedding and whether or not it’s something you can afford to do. You make all these big travel plans months in advance and then the weekend arrives. You worry about over-packing, but what if you can’t decide what shoes to bring? You obviously need two choices “just in case.” What about what to wear? If you decide last minute that what you packed isn’t right, you justify a need to go shopping for something new (as long as your wedding destination is in an area where you can do that).

Then you attend the event. An event that your friend or family member has spent months and months planning as close to perfection as possible (no one ever wants rain, but you roll with the punches knowing that it’s going to be an amazing occasion no matter what). They do whatever it is they do before the ceremony, primping, taking pictures, probably freaking out a little. In this day and age, the ceremony is the shortest part of the wedding, but in actuality the most important. It’s why you’re there. For a half hour to an hour or so (depending on the religion or non-religion of the ceremony), you’re reminded of what you’re actually celebrating — a lifetime of love and companionship. Your friend or family member has deemed you important enough to be celebrating arguably one of the most important days of their lives with them. For that short amount of time, you’re reminded why you’re there. It’s not about the lamb chops at cocktail hour or the open bar or busting your moves on the dance floor. It’s about love. And in a blink of an eye the ceremony is over. In another blink, the party is over. All the planning that went into the wedding on both sides of it is finished. You take as many photos and videos as you can to remember it, maybe even a flower centerpiece or two, no one’s looking!

As this year goes by, with the weddings I attend as a guest and as a bridesmaid, I’m embracing the celebration of love. I’m truly honored that my friends have chosen to include me in their special days as a guest or a member of the wedding party. I know the stresses they feel when they get caught up in the planning and the money aspects of their weddings, and I have my moments, too, in my own travel planning and all the money that goes into it on the guest side. But I look back on the weddings that I missed out on for those exact reasons — the planning around jobs, the money I would have spent — and it’s something that I truly regret, missing out and not being there. I remind myself that it’s all worth it in the name of love. That one day or night that I witness my friends commit to a life with the man or woman that he or she loves and then subsequently celebrate, really, truly is priceless and a reason to party on.

 

 

#EndOfAnEra

In the Season One finale of Mad Men, back when the agency was just Sterling Cooper, Don Draper made an advertising pitch to Kodak for the new slide projector carousel (ironically something that my dad still owns and rarely uses). His pitch (which you can see in this video) drew on the premise of creating a nostalgic bond between a consumer and a product.

Ironically, isn’t this what we feel when a TV show like Mad Men ends? When we grow attached to a TV family or group of people, it’s hard to say goodbye. It’s the reason why some TV shows end up lasting way longer than they should. The end often draws more on nostalgia than anything else—just watch the AMC campaign for the second half of the final season of Mad Men:  and you’ll know what I mean.

Like a piece of music taking you back to a specific space and time, we sometimes have the same bond with TV. Dawson’s Creek was a show I watched with my dad every week. It was a big deal on weeks when we wouldn’t watch together because we were in a small tiff. For my thirteenth birthday he took me to Wilmington, North Carolina, where they filmed the show (and where he also conveniently had a client he could visit). We even got to go to set on location and meet Joshua Jackson, one of the leads. This is a moment that will live only in memory due to a broken light meter on my dad’s camera that ruined the literally very dark moment. I’m sure he still feels bad about this.

DAwson's creekWe really do get caught up in the lives of TV characters, don’t we? I remember having to call my best friend at the end of Dawson’s Creek to make sure I wasn’t imagining that Joey chose Pacey. I remember when same-sex sexual content wasn’t as common on network TV and the excited cheers of all the men on my freshmen year dorm floor when Marissa kissed Alex on The OC — a show that they would never be caught dead watching any other night.

As sad as we might be when something ends, we always find a way of moving on. We find something new and different, maybe not better, to watch and we grow attached to new characters and new families. We can even re-watch the things we love on DVD or streaming services. The thing we learn as we move past a TV show or movie or any piece of art we grow attached to, is that they represent a time in our lives or a time in history. We look back at them with fondness or nostalgia for a time we once cherished.

As Don said in his pitch to Kodak: “My first job I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro of a copywriter, a Greek, named Teddy. Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is ‘new.’ It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of Calamine lotion. He also talked about a deeper bond with a product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.”

dawsons-creek-header_0

A Super Bad Hair Day

There is nothing quite like a bad hair day.  You never want to HAVE to wear your hair up, right? I mean it’s one thing when your hair looks bad because of weather or how it dried or a new product that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s way worse when the culprit is your hairdresser.

We’ve all had those bad haircuts.  I remember when I was living in Boston and I had found the greatest hair stylist my freshman year of college (didn’t make sense to maintain my hair on every visit home).  Well unfortunately, this wonderful hair stylist left the salon I had been seeing him at and was only available for appointments every other Saturday. Being lazy at the time and not wanting to book a haircut months in advance, I decided I trusted his old salon to put me with someone who would be similar to him.

Witches - polka dots copyLady Gaga leaving her hotel in ManchesterYou know that feeling when you get a haircut you’re unsure of and at first you think, “Well maybe it’s just how it was blown out and styled, maybe when I style it myself it will be okay.”  And then you go to pay, and learn that the haircut is $20 more than you expected, which seemed pretty steep to me as a college student.  Not only did this horrible salon not pair me with someone who cut like my old stylist, they also paired me with someone who cost a lot more money than I was used to paying.  As any normal teenage girl would do, I called my mom, crying.  She comforted me with a terrible haircut story she once went through in New York City where she paid much more than I did and ended up miserable as well.

As my dad would say, “It’s just hair, it grows back.” It’s true, but it also SUCKS having to walk around feeling ugly for two months until your next haircut.

Then there’s the breaking up with a stylist.  When someone burns you once, you might not go back if it was that bad (like I did in Boston and my mom did in NY).  When someone you’ve been going to for years does something terrible, you think, “Okay, I’ll give it one more try, maybe it just wasn’t the right style for her or him to try.”  So you go back, and it happens again.

Forgiveness only gets you so far. You know you can’t possibly go back to someone who has made you feel physically deformed for months at a time, twice.  The search begins, for someone new to trust, which feels impossible after being betrayed. Do I start with a stylist, then see if she/he is good with color too? Do I let the stylist cut my hair and find a separate colorist?

I don’t think of myself as ‘flawless,’ trust me. But even if all my friends swear my hair looks good, I’m the one who has to be happy with the way I look.

sara chairMask