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DEAR OLD GAL

DEAR OLD GAL

The timing couldn’t be better for my new obsession. Yes, I have another one. In the early part of my years, when I was in my teens, no joke, it was vintage canister sets. Chrome, red, yellow, turquoise and pink — flour, sugar, coffee, tea, (two of the four basic food groups back in the fifties, the good old days). I had them everywhere and I am surprised that my former husband even wanted to marry me with the amount of sets that was part of the package called my life. After this, because let’s face it, how many canister sets does one person need let alone be able to house, it was tacky salt and pepper shakers. You know the ones, like strippers from Las Vegas where the salt and pepper were each of their boobs and they sat in the upper half of her body, hips emblazoned with the words Viva Las Vegas. Really, I had these. Perhaps these in particular were a little foreshadowing of my own upper half as the left one actually broke in transit. Weird.

Those got out of hand with the final ones being Ayatollah Khomeini, former Supreme Leader, (it is hard not to laugh writing that one) of Iran after my Iranian friend and colleague brought them back from Tehran after visiting his father. I wish I still had these; they were one of my favorites, but like many collections, the dump likely has them now or some other collector scored them after many yard sales later. I have collected old cookbooks from the depression era because it is a window into the lives of housewives pre processed food, pre frozen dinners, pre disposable income. These are the real moment in time history books in my humble opinion. We are so often intrigued by what is happening in the worlds outside our homes, when there are lots of more interesting stories inside them.

I have a love for turquoise and pink vintage kitchen anything and when I streamlined my canister collection, I decided to just go turquoise. Telephone, mixer, Pyrex bowls, spice racks, serving pieces. Because I have a neat little pantry off of my kitchen that looks like a mini store, they all take up beautiful residence on the white shelves in the sunny light filled no larger than four by four square foot space. Any woman who comes into my kitchen pauses when she gets to the glass door and peers in taking a trip down her own memory lane. This gives me great joy and makes me happy I have hung on to the collection especially after my recent and apparently short lived minimize phase.

After all of this collecting and cleaning out the basement, one would think I would be swearing off collecting anything with any size component as its personality. I thought so too until I walked in to one of my favorite stores in Bristol, RI, Second Helpings, and found my new love. A Royal Typewriter, circa 1947ish weighing in at least thirty five pounds, a virtual beast or rather beauty of a machine that needed an extra set of hands to help me up the stairs. Portable nothing and I quickly created a space for it in my kitchen in the office the previous owners had designed. This area, as convenient as its intent was had really become more of a junk collecting space over the past five years and I had been thinking about taking the whole built in desk ensemble out of there. That is until this Royal typewriter I now call, Dear Old Gal, and I made our acquaintance. Dear Old Gal is part of my soul now and I will refer to her as my first love because like anything I get into my addictive traited soul, one is simply not enough. I must have more so I can come outside like I do almost daily with my laptop and instead pound away at real keys that have no delete button, no distracting apps that take me away from pure beautiful composing.

I didn’t realize how distracted I get when I am writing until I started my relationship with Dear Old Gal. When I type on my laptop, I check the spelling of a word on the convenience of the online dictionary, or a synonym on the thesaurus so readily available at the click of a button. Often this leads me to the brief shift to check my email for the fifth time or a review of a Yelp review that popped up in the right hand corner of my screen. Next thing you know I am off and running replying and reading reviews and forwarding and deleting emails taking me away from the slow creative ritual that has become my morning wake up. Typing on Dear Old Gal slows everything down for me.

First off, actual typing and thinking tempers my high speed moving brain down to a snail’s pace. Words have to be considered, letters because of the absence of that way too easy delete button have to be thought about before tapping my short nailed fingers on the small circular glass keys. The realization of what a bad typer I am is blatant as my head bobs up and down from looking at the keys to the winding paper and back again. Frankly it matters not because the evidence of errors is all too obvious since I don’t have any whiteout, white strips or any of the inventions created to correct this very problem. I just chug along, making mistakes, feeling clever when I figure out how to just cross out the mess with a nice happy strike-through (to the right of the zero just like on your keyboard, no shift required).

As on may imagine where this story is headed, a second typewriter would be next on the list, a Hermes 3000, bought on Ebay for a ridiculous sum becasue I lost my mind. “The best portable ever made,” to quote my new best friend, Ray who owns a typewriter repair shop in Pawtucket, RI. called Marr Office Equipment. His tagline is actually office equipment and repair, but when I did my handy and all to available search on Google, “typewriter repair shop, RI,” Marr came right up with pictures and everything. Of course in true lunatic aka alayne fashion, off I went the very next day to bring Old Gal, who I have now named Old Bess, for a visit and a mini ribbon threading lesson. When I got back home as luck would have it, my newest addition had arrived in the case and it even came with its original manual to which I immediately dove in.

Two typewriters in two weeks, and with my fresh new Ebay account happy to have me, more on the way because I am basically addicted to the ease, the happy way it helps me write and most of all, zero distractions. Though I have become perfectly addicted to writing on Dear Old Bess, and have been typing at least two pages a day, no small feat for this amateur, I needed a portable and lightweight. Hence the Hermes which despite the exorbitant amount I paid for it, it is basically like new and I have no regrets. It will easily make its way to my front porch sooner than later.

My overall plan for all of this wackiness is to sit outside with my new portable and offer free short stories to anyone walking by who cares to throw me a word or two, connecting, gathering, talking and looking up and at. I like shaking up the new normal with my own version of it. I also like the challenge of having to create on the spot for a stranger. Apparently unbeknownst to me, there is a bit of a typewriter movement going on. Like the words journey and gift when it comes to cancer, I am starting to feel the same way about the word movement so I prefer Renaissance. If I start my own typewriter Renaissance then I have done my part with the, unbeknownst to me at the time, nudging I needed from an Old Gal waiting for me at the consignment store to walk in be reminded of my Grandmother and take her home.




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A BIRDS EYE VIEW

A BIRDS EYE VIEW

Sitting at Siesta Key Beach yesterday, for the past week and actually for the past thirty five years frankly is a birds eye view on humanity. Or at least the privileged view of humanity. I mean I am not talking of Aleppo, the plight of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar or the humanity of people helping others after disaster. I am talking about watching the tribal interaction of families going to the beach. I have been an observer of this since I have been writing which has probably been since I have been going to the beach.

Watching family dynamics on a beach during holiday is like eavesdropping on the most intimate of life. Family dynamics, husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, sisters and sisters and brothers and grandmothers having their full circle of conversations revealed in front of total strangers knowing likely that all will be forgotten as quickly as it has been revealed. These conversations will not know they will end in a story written upon reflection as I fly home after a full week of witnessing them. My words have become my version of photographs of their day at the beach.

I relish the self appointed honor because the sounds of their voices, their intonations, the rise and fall of their pitch are all clues to their seeming highs and lows as they make their way through the maze of life we call relationship. The way a woman talks to her husband as she navigates her womanhood as a new mom with one on the way, barking orders like she is talking to a dolt. I want to get up and point out how belittling it is as her husband, patiently for now anyway, doesn’t take notice. He almost seems ambivalent to her patronizing tone. Is he already tired of it and ready to accept that this is simply his cross to bear as a husband and a new dad? She is likely unaware of this communication style as she is probably just regurgitating what her mother did as she carries on full conversations about “put more sunscreen on her,” “take her for a walk,” “your turn,” and the constant desire to get more food and water into the little girl. Smoothiiiieeeeee? More fruuuuuiiittttt? Cheeeeeeesse? Every word has an upturn that is slightly irritating especially knowing that she thinks she is being the best mom by feeding her little girl this seemingly healthy collection disguised as sugar. They seem like a happy young family, but I can almost forecast the problems that will be arising in the forms of resentments because they lack the skill set in how to talk to each other. These skill sets come way after and more often then not it is usually too late.

Then there are the young lovers, snuggling close on a towel as their sexuality is ripe and strong I can almost smell it. Watching sexual tension is an opportunity to reflect back to my earlier moments in my own young romantic phase of the beginning of relationship. The parts we women yearn for as time goes on and the acceptance phase kicks in as we try to hang on to that original feeling. The gracing of a hand over another, the draping of a leg over a waist, a connection of two sets of eyes lying face to face on a blanket wordless in voice, but screaming out what is to come later. The longing a woman feels when she watches this and then simultaneously shifting to the comfort of her own relationship’s present day comfort. Knowing that the sexuality is only the start and is not the definition and learning to accept this without feeling it as a loss.

There is the witnessing of an argument between a over tattooed masculine energied thirty something woman with her mother who has that resigned disposition of yet another disagreement between two generations who seldom understand each other. Watching this reminds me of my early days at the beach with my own mother and the less tumultuous times between us. But unlike us, they plod along realizing that they only have one of each other and they keep trying. Donning their swimsuits and their beach chairs for another round, forever hopeful that this day could match the fantasy they have played out in their minds for this very day.

There are the tender gestures of watching an aged couple who have spent the day in the sun turning their chairs away from its heat, noticing her husband has fallen asleep and knowing that his left ear is taking a direct hit from the strong Sarasota sun. She gingerly lifts the towel up from his shoulder to protect his ear trying so hard to not disturb that wondrous beach nap that rests a soul like no other. I am almost sure they are European as I can see the man’s bathing suit is one of those tight Speedo type black shorts, almost Jack Lalanne like and she is very easily sporting a bikini. They both seem so comfortable in their own skin, like Europeans do and I am so sure of this that when I walk to the water for my third dip in the glorious Gulf, I peak my ear to confirm. Yes, they are speaking a different language. I could just tell and I am reminded of my expertise at human observations.

These delicious moments give me pause knowing that I won’t have that aging marriage and those fleeting points in time at the beach on a beautiful day with a husband of fifty years. There is a sadness in it, but also a feeling of relief knowing that I freed both of us from a relationship that had passed its time. I watched them thinking that though I may not have the time invested, I am in the right place with the right partner now. Watching them reminds me of how important it is to be with the right companion because watching the ease between these two lovely people is also my ease.

Birds eye view on all of the phases of relationship, the ones barely starting, the ones in their infancy state, the ones hanging out. There are the ones who sit there alone cherishing the silence within themselves. There are the couples reading books, there are the people who can’t put their phones down even on the brightest and most gorgeous of days continuing to look down instead of looking up and out. There are the ones who have grown gracefully with the acceptance that is part of a successful relationship and there are the ones hanging on for dear life. There are the ones that don’t even know the tsunami is on its way and they sit together in their vulnerability and silence not knowing.

As I sat there making my observations I of course imagined what I was seeing. After all I don’t know anything about any of these people. I don’t know which ones have just suffered deep loss, which ones are celebrating the joys that are part of the natural ebb and flow of life. I just add to the stories by my birds eye view as I sat there for eight hours looking at their outsides with my insides. And I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.





moments at the beach in Siesta Key over the years in my travels.
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VIVA LA BEACH

VIVA LA BEACH

We walk past each other in our hats, skirts, shorts, dresses, and tanned skin, waves crashing at our feet, white quartz sand beneath them, cool to touch. We are running, jogging, walking, biking, hand holding, traipsing, kids in tow, to find the perfect spot where we can stake out our territory for the day.

We carry with us on this day our baggage or back packs of memories that bring us together to relive them, recreate them, and reconnect with them. We get here early to make sure we get a coveted parking spot, our coolers packed with all of the accouterments that experience has defined for us as worthy for the day before us breaking our hard fast food rules we usually follow when we are not here in the white sands. Potato chips and tuna sandwiches are a definite staple in our ice packed coolers, fruit-always, thousands of us with hundreds of thousands of dollars of beach gear to have the perfect day either alone, with our lovers, friends, or our families. The seasoned beach goers are usually set up pre 10 am. The seagulls are on high alert looking for rookies who are easily tempted in creating a “nature” experience by feeding them their fritos and French fries they bought at the snack stand.

Bikini clad, young girls with their glorious booties in thongs, their firm breasts and young cleavage at a time in their lives where no scars from surgeries have left their mark. The only care in their world seemingly how much time they have on this day before they head back to work, or school or back to their grandparents house to get ready for dinner and synagogue to be paraded in front of their grandparents’ friends.

We pass each other occasionally making eye contact sizing each other’s outfits as women do, checking out body sizes, shapes, the way things fit and we do it in a nanosecond sizing each other up affirming how we look in our own skin as we compare and contrast. Thankfully the comparing and contrasting has shifted immensely as there is simply no comparing a 52 year old shape to a 20 year young one no matter how many beach boot camps, hill runs and burpees I do.

I consider myself a beach expert. I load up my sunscreen head to toe in the confines of my grandparent’s bathroom, naked, before I head out so I don’t miss a spot. I pack my cooler to the brim with my favorite foods, always too much. I usually bring three towels, one for my head, when I move from the chair to the ground for my afternoon nap, one for my hands, and one to lie on. I have been coming to the beach and loving the beach since I was born. I learned to swim in the lake at our family home in Maine, I took junior lifeguard lessons in the cold New England Atlantic in the early season and I passed swim tests at Camp Tikvah in the summers, treading water for a certain amount of time to prove our sea worthiness. I was “dragged” to the beach in the early morning at our other house on the Cape with my other grandmother and my mother arriving way before the masses. In those days it was instant “Diet” Lipton Tea (made with saccharin because my grandmother and my mother were always dieting and sugar free options was saccharin or nothing) in one of those plastic red coolers way before BPA was in our vocabulary. The beach back then also involved lots of smoking as my grandmother and my mother would place a towel over their heads like they were getting ready to steam their faces over a bowl trying to light cigarettes on the windy shore.

When we moved to Jamestown, RI, the beach no longer became a pilgrimage, as our new home was a small three by nine island. We learned to sail, to row, to dive off of the pilings, to go to the beach alone with our transistor radios. We developed rituals of getting in our first swim by May 1st to prove our New England hardiness. I still keep with this ritual almost forty years later.

I love the beach. I live for the beach. It is ironic because I am in the skin profession, but I don’t care about sun damage for myself. Vitamin D is my ally. I love to sit in the sun all day alone or with people. I love to get a tan. I read, eat, write, swim, sometimes walk and always people watch. The beach is my therapy. The added benefit of having a healthy 99 year old grandfather is that he still lives on the west coast of Florida so the beach is a glorious winter break destination as it has been since I was 13.

Of all the memories I have of my beach experiences, none include my brother, Michael, which is so weird as he was only 5 years younger than me and I can’t imagine he wasn’t with us. I can’t ask Ann (aka my mother) because even if she was speaking to me, her revisionist histories of our childhood is skewed and sugar coated with the fantasies of our childhood. I am sure her memories would lack truth and accuracy in their glossy chardonnay coating.

I can’t ask my father because he died of cancer 6 years ago and I can’t ask my brother because he died of cancer 21 years ago.

As much as I love getting a tan, I have definitely covered myself more as I now see the ramifications of my sun worship. (grandma, you were right) I wear a hat, I use 50 sunscreen on my face and hold on, I broke down and bought one of those spf 50 tent umbrellas. After the breast cancer surgery two years ago, I learned that I had a genetic mutation called BRCH 2 that besides making me susceptible to all types of scary shit, melanoma is one of the other cancers that I am supposed to watch carefully for. Is there no justice?

So now I must sit at the beach covered with my new Athleta top that preserves my décolleté so it doesn’t get sun torched because my beloved breast surgeon, (yes I have one of those) told me that it is important to preserve the skin before she operates. This time the operation is to remove my breasts and put shiny new ones on so, hopefully, I can be done with all of these cancer scares.

My partner, my friends and my colleagues roll their eyes at me when I speak of my operation in terms of summer beach going timing. “If I have the operation in early April, then six weeks of recovery, plenty of time before beach season.” I actually say this aloud to my doctors like it is a priority over living. Obviously I know it is not, but the beach has such psychological impact on me that sometimes I wonder. As I contemplate my upcoming surgery only two years after my last one, I can’t help but consider quality of life as I move into my fifties. All of these decisions I have to make as a responsible woman, mother, friend, employer seem automatic as obviously living trumps the inconvenience of missing a beach season. I know this. The beach now becomes my motivating force to recover, to heal, always my friend, getting me back to the life I choose to live fully and happily.