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Me & My NStar Posse in The Hilton Lobby During the Storm of 2015

January 27, 2015. Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

NSTARIMG_2694 (Click to watch the video of my posse.)

I’m a smart girl. I live on Cape Cod mostly, and when a snowstorm comes in, I can pretty much count on no electricity … sometimes for days. I’m also a glass-half-full girl, but in this case, the water in the glass freezes fast and I’m stuck, so I hedge my bets. I found out that the NStar guys (those guys who go into the thick of the storm and fix electric wires) stay at the Hilton here, so I book a stay at the Hilton a few days before the storm arrives and I’m covered. If the electricity goes out, they fix it there first because it’s where they go to eat and sleep when they can.

This storm of 2015 is a big one. I’m here at the Hilton with my posse of NStar guys and the lights went out early this morning. My room got really cold, really fast, and I hightailed it to the lobby where there is a fire going. I was there with a hundred or so of my guys, and while sitting at the bar I got to overhear some of their conversations. I thought I’d share them with you here.

Two guys talking; one is the foreman and the other came down from Maine yesterday to help out. They’ve just met, but they share the brotherhood of a dangerous, manly job group, and there is an intimacy that comes from having a shared history of experience, even if not together.

“Well I can tell you this for sure. I don’t care who says they checked. It could be my mother. I check to make sure it’s turned off myself. And then I go in. No one gets to tell me it’s off but me.”

“I know. You know how many guys I know who aren’t here anymore because they believed somebody? I check myself, too. Yep. Every time.”

But I could tell by looking at him he didn’t check every time. He was scared. The other guy wasn’t.

Then another one joins them. He’s laughing.

“Robert just went out and he said he can’t see one foot in front of his face. He’s covered in ice. And he is pissed. I mean really pissed cuz he stuck his head out the window to see and lost his hat. Said it was his favorite hat.”

They all start laughing.

“Well, he’s our guinea pig. Send him out again in half an hour. Tell him I said he has to try again.”

“Yeah, you tell him. I’m not.” And the guy walked away.

A minute or so later the foreman’s phone rings.

“Hey. Yeah. Sure, if you want us to do that first, but we are at least an hour away from being able to get there. The winds won’t let us go yet. But tell him to put some blankets on her, but it won’t be for a few hours. Don’t tell him we will do it right away. I don’t want him up my ass. We can’t get out. But I’ll move it to the front of the line.”

He hangs up and turns to Mr. Maine.

“I know these things are great,” and he looks at his phone, “but I’m so sick and tired of having this thing go off on a Sunday night at 10:30 like I’m sitting here waiting for it. I am not available whenever you want me to be, and I liked it better when they couldn’t find us so easy.”

“I know what you mean, but I really like having it up with me on a pole. We work alone a lot in Maine, and it’s nice to know it’s my ticket out of trouble. Wouldn’t change it.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“How long did it take you guys to get here last night?”

“You can’t believe it. One hour to drive two miles and I wasn’t sure I was even on the road.”

“Yeah, worst I’ve ever seen out there. Not kidding. Ever.”

One guy pulls out his cell phone, looks at the incoming message and starts laughing.

“Hey, just got this picture in from a friend in Providence. Says they had a line down near an oil tank. They went in closer to look and saw a hundred propane tanks behind the open line. He says, ‘See us retreat.’ Great picture.”

Another guys walks round to his side of the bar and says, “Can I see?” He looks and says, “That’s a bad one.” And they all laugh.

They are wearing vests that glow a lot so idiots like me who shouldn’t be on the road but are anyway don’t run over them by mistake.

And they all have ruddy, lined faces, and they have mouths that naturally go up instead of down as if they laugh a lot.

And most them were wearing wedding rings.

And they were all — each one of them — itching to get out into the storm to get it done.

I had a swell time in the Hilton lobby this morning. I know they are rooting for the Patriots, who I think are cheaters (seriously, you are going to tell me Brady, who throws footballs all day, every day, didn’t know that ball didn’t have the right amount of air? Seriously?), and I know they probably hit R all the way down the voting ticket, and I know they surely don’t want my gender out there with them, and there wasn’t a man of color among them. I get that I don’t agree with them on much personally, politically, or religiously. I get that. But I also get that they will climb that pole so my lights come back on, and they will do it because they want to.

So, here’s to my posse of NStar men at the Hilton on this cold, cold, windy morning.

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Life Itself Movie Review

imgresI wasn’t a reader of Ebert’s reviews. Shame on me. How is that possible, I ask myself, now that I have seen Life Itself?

I’m not sure this film is for everyone. If you love film, you’ll watch every second, waiting for the tidbits that appear amid the footage of his illness and the last few months of his life. I think it was a mistake to devote so much of the film to those last months. The man could make or break a movie in a three minute review. He treated films thoughtfully, with a reverence for the way they shaped of our lives, and he was authentic in every way. Show me more of that! Show me more snippets of his reviews of some of the great films he discussed over the course of his fifty-odd-year career. Instead, the film maker spends way too much time in hospital rooms and focusing on the fabulous wife Charlie, who may be a terrific person, but let’s face it, she isn’t the story.

I don’t mean to trivialize the difficulty of his last years. I get that he was stoic in the face of great pain, and that his rock of a wife, Charlie, was amazingly dedicated to his daily quality of life. But that’s not the whole story; it’s only 10 percent of the story, and they made it the majority of the story. The real story is a career — a lifetime — of seeing us at the movies, and then walking us through each movie’s strengths and weaknesses in an intelligent way. When Scorsese talks about a bad review he got from Ebert during the documentary, and they show Ebert’s comments about part of that movie that Ebert thought was less than Scorsese amazing, you know that the man had the ability to influence the way directors and actors worked, and to affect the industry as a whole. Scorsese cared what Ebert thought — and let’s face it, he doesn’t have to care what anyone thinks. I wanted more of those moments, and fewer moments in the hospital walking through the destruction of Ebert’s jaw and ability to speak.

While I was watching Life Itself, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Continental Divide, a 1981 John Belushi movie about an old school Chicago reporter who makes enemies in organized crime and has to lay low for a few months, so he heads off to Colorado where he is a fish out of water so to speak. Belushi’s character resembled what Life Itself shows of the nightlife that Ebert lived during his early years in Chicago, and I wondered if he had reviewed Continental Divide. He did review it, and not surprisingly, he brought a light touch of a mirror into himself to his description of the reporter.

“One of Belushi’s special qualities was always an underlying innocence. Maybe he created his Blues Brothers persona in reaction to it. He’s an innocent in this movie, an idealist who’s a little kid at heart and who wins the love of Brown not by seducing her but by appealing to her protective qualities. That’s the secret of the character’s appeal. We’re cheering for the romance because Belushi makes us protective, too, and we want him to have a woman who’d be good for him.

What about the movie’s view of journalism? It’s really just a romanticized backdrop, “The Front Page” crossed with “Lou Grant” and modernized with a computerized newsroom. The newspaper scenes in the movie were shot on location in the Sun-Times features department, and one of the quietly amusing things about “Continental Divide’s” view of newspaper life is that in the movie it’s more sedate and disciplined than the real thing. In the “real” Sun-Times features department, there’s a lot of informality and chaos and good-natured confusion and people shouting at one another and eating lunch at their desks. In the movie, the extras (recruited from the Sun-Times staff) forget about real life and sit dutifully at their video display terminals, grinding out the news.”

Funny, this is what I would have written about Roger Ebert’s character as portrayed in Life Itself. There is an innocence about Ebert’s character as he charts his course through cinematic history, as though he doesn’t know his own power. Even as he rips a movie apart, he protects those who made it and leaves the door open for them to shine a bit brighter the next time around.

I wish I’d paid more attention to him in his prime. More important than seeing this movie is going back in time and reading some of his reviews. I’m doing one a day for awhile. See you at the movies, Roger.

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Humans and Other Species

rhino-5-460x345Sometimes I’m really funny. Not today.

Facebook tells stories of animals almost like they were people with Facebook accounts. I read one this morning about a baby Rhino who couldn’t sleep alone after watching its mother killed by poachers. There was a sweet picture of baby Rhino cuddled against a person’s knees. We even named him Gertje. So far, more than 750,000 people ‘liked’ the story and many forwarded it as well. I wonder if Gertje’s people would have liked the post. I looked at Gertje’s picture for a long time and wondered that he would snuggle up to the species that murdered his mother. Animals other than us are so forgiving.

But praise be to the humans. The article says his life is ‘looking up,’ that he spends his days with a surrogate mom, a sheep, and wanders the place they are keeping him rolling in the mud and grazing. The life of Reilly for sure. Oh wait, he’s without his own. I’m not sure that is looking up. Wish I could ask him.

One Rhino is killed every ten hours for its tusks. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my, are kept in cages smaller than our bathrooms to be paraded out in front of we smart mammals to entertain us in some odd way that I don’t find entertaining at all in a thing called a circus. We race dogs and then leave them to starve. We push horses to run past their prime and then put them on the streets of New York City where the pavement hurts their hooves and we sit atop carriages while they trot us around the park. I could go on and on.

All of this made me start thinking about the Facebook Rescue accounts set up to help the animals that need rescuing. From us. They need rescuing from our abuse, and our poaching of their lives and their lands. So we all bound in like eager participants in the latest do-gooder forum and offer our paltry dollars and forwarding to friend capabilities and we ‘like’ those pages that make us feel as if we have done something about something that is our fault to begin with.

I’m not sure we should get to speak for other species’ happiness the way we do. I’m not sure they are quite as thrilled with our answers for moving on with their lives after we have taken away their families and their habitats, but if you read it from our point of view, we offer great options for the aftermath. We are very giving in the end after all.

Look, we have to stop these thing from happening in the first place. Give your money to change the laws. Let’s put these people away forever. Let’s get the lawmakers off their asses and have them do something to ensure people will think long and hard before abusing anything other than themselves. Let’s be a group larger than the NRA and make change for something good.

I’m sort of tired or I would start it myself. I had a hip replacement just over a week ago, and I think it has sent me to the dark side. But I’m embracing it a bit. Sitting it in a bit. Looking past the smokes and mirrors of my feel good life and asking myself the difficult questions. I’m not ‘liking’ those posts anymore. I’m going to find a lobby group and give them my money, or what’s left of it after the hip replacement payments I have to make above and beyond what my insurance isn’t paying for. Let’s not go there today.

I’ll be funny again tomorrow. Promise.

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Fear of Flying: Deciphering Plane Crashes

I have written about my fear of flying before, so it won’t surprise you that I’m consumed with this most recent plane crash.

I spent a number of hours trying to determine what happened to Malaysia Air flight #370. Since I have no understanding of how planes stay in the air (and to be honest, I had to look up Vietnam’s geographical relationship to China to determine how far out over the water the plane might have been), I can understand why you might shake your head and wonder why I, who clearly know nothing about why planes disappear, spent so much of my valuable time thinking about this — and now blogging about it. I can understand your point of view.

I hate flying. Hate it. Fear it. So when one of these things happens, I need to solve it. Fix it. Ensure that it won’t happen to me when I’m up in the air. Or worse, to look for the warning signs to add to the other warning signs I already pay attention to when I leave the ground. And since this particular flight clearly went down when they were at cruising altitude — which is the only time FOFP (Fear of Flying People) are the least bit calm —it’s all the more important that I figure it out. And frankly, my angst won’t wait for the experts to figure it out. It took months — months, I tell you — for them to find the Air France flight that went down in the Atlantic a few years ago.

So I called my sister, who is just as afraid of flying as I am. We FOFP stick together. She flies a lot; more than I do, for sure. She was flying back from Japan once, and the pilot got on the loudspeaker an hour or so out of New York and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we might have some bad weather flying into Kennedy, and since we are going to be low on fuel, I will decide shortly whether to divert to Philly or not.” She was in the first row of first class. She took her seatbelt off (a foolish thing to do in bad weather), stood up, turned around, and said to the passengers behind her, “All in favor of going to Philadelphia instead of risking Kennedy, raise your hand.” She raised her hand fast and furious, as did the other passengers. She turned to the attendant and said, “Please tell the pilot the ayes have it, and we look forward to visiting the Liberty Bell.” She is one of the funniest people I know, by the way, but she was not kidding this time. The pilot got on a few minutes later and said, “Despite the ayes in first class, we will be landing at Kennedy Airport shortly.”

Back to the story. I called my sister because FOFP call each other for support, and because my other friends hang up or don’t take my call when there has been a crash, knowing that the conversation will be about the crash and nothing else. My options become limited during the days following a crash.

“Oh my God, can you believe it?”

“No, I think it might have been mechanical.”

“I was thinking maybe North Vietnam shot it down? Or maybe Korea? How far was Korea?”

“No, I don’t think that was it, but there was no radar following it, and the pilot didn’t turn on the distress beacon, so there wasn’t much time.”

“What do you mean they were not on radar? Are you f—ing kidding me?”

“No, sometimes you are not in radar contact, and they weren’t. They were supposed to call in.”

“When I’m in the air on a plane, I want to be on radar every single minute. Who should I write? The FAA?!”

And so it went for a number of minutes. I pointed out to her that while each of us has our strengths and weaknesses, neither of us have any expertise in this area, and we are wasting our time on this.

“You’re right. ‘Bye,” she said, and hung up.

A few minutes later, the following text arrived.

i have a new theory – two people on the plane were on it with stolen passports – I now believe it was a terrorist attack. I am surprised cnn has not called either one of us for an interview. good news is that they just discounted turbulence as a possible source of the crash.

This has gone on for most of the morning, but now I’m going to stop. I’m going to try for the next few days not to make this my mission. I’m going to hope for the sake of every soul on board that it was swift and painless, and I will take a moment by the sea to say a prayer for them all. I will focus on the people lost, not the crash itself.

In all seriousness, Godspeed to them all.

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Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review

saving-mr-banks-tom-hanks-emma-thompsonI was eleven when Mary Poppins premiered. We were living in Cleveland, Ohio, the eighth of fifteen places we’d live by the time I graduated high school. My dad was on the fast track in corporate America, traveling all week and showing up now and then to live larger than life at the dinner table or to ask about homework. We didn’t all go on many family outings together. We were an American family in the sixties. Our trip to see Mary Poppins is the only outing I remember that was centered on us, three girls between the ages of thirteen and seven. Movies back then were shown in large theaters, and we drove into Cleveland proper to see it, all of us in the car. On the way home we sang what we could remember of the songs, and we were so excited about the fabulous day we’d had. Now, fifty years later, three months to the day since my dad died, I sat in the theater sobbing through Saving Mr. Banks realizing that we all have untold stories, two faces of ourselves, and a point of view that differs from those of others sitting next to us in the very same row of a dark movie theater. I would give a lot to ask my dad what he was thinking when he watched Mary Poppins oh so long ago, and what he thought of the character of Mr. Banks, whom he must have seen as a mirror of the opposite of his own self. But my dad wasn’t someone who dwelled on negatives, and that is a lesson I can clearly see as his greatest gift to me now that he is gone. It’s so much harder to see those things in the light of day with the living shadow in front of us, and the histories we all share blocking the bigger picture. So we go to movies like Saving Mr. Banks and insert our own stories into the movie’s plot; and we learn, we mourn, and we celebrate. I did all three while watching this movie.

Saving Mr. Banks is a Buddhist lesson in forgiveness, in seeing glasses half full, and in recognizing that we all have things we need to let go, and that it will serve us well to do just that. Let the past go and focus on the good that it brings your future. It’s laid out in a wonderful story, with actors who are recognized as the best in their field, all of whom left their egos at the door and played these parts simply; and the details set before us make the lesson they are teaching easy to understand.

Saving Mr. Banks could save us all. Every character in the movie has two polarizing selves, as do we all. And the nuance with which Director John Lee Hancock points them out is genius. Walt, played by the over-exposed Tom Hanks (Seriously, how can the same person save Mr. Banks and Private Ryan?), is the consummate business tycoon, but he had a soul that enabled him to see something other than author Pamela Travers’ objections to doing her Mary Poppins stories as a movie at all. When he pulls out pre-signed pictures of himself to give out to autograph seekers, you get that he has an ego the size of Missouri. And when he stands at the entrance to Disneyland and holds out his hands to welcome Mary Poppins’ creator, you know he cares so very, very much. Mrs. Travers puts up barriers the size of the Great Wall of China for Walt to break down, but in the moment when she’s at the bar and tries to start a conversation with the bartender, only to find that he has already left her for another patron down the counter, you see her vulnerability, her loneliness, and her ineptitude at simple conversation. And when her driver, humbly played by the Paul Giamatti (who clearly took it on the chin by accepting this role), holds up her book and says he’s reading it but he’s a slow reader, you want to tell him it’s okay to be a slow reader; that what really matters is to keep reading. Oh my, need I go on?

My dad played baseball; he pitched for Harvard University and in the minors. He was offered a contract for the Boston Braves and turned it down to finish college. I asked him a few months before he died if his dad had taught him to pitch.

“No. And my dad never saw me pitch.”

“Why Dad? You all lived in Boston. Didn’t he come to Harvard to see you play?”

“No, he never did.”

“Did that hurt your feelings?”

“Not at all. My dad and I had lots of time to talk when I drove him to Canada. I never felt he wasn’t there for me. He just never came to see me pitch.”

And I realized in that moment that my dad had learned the lesson of Mary Poppins, Mr. Banks, and Walt Disney very early in his life. We have a choice in life. We can look at what those we love brought to our lives, or what they have taken away due to their own issues. It’s a choice. My dad made his choice very young. It served him well, and I am glad to have found that out, however late in my own life. Take your children to this movie and talk about the choices we all make in judging others. I intend to watch Mary Poppins again and see if I can find anything else in it—although I agree with Mrs. Travers, who said that Dick Van Dyke is no Olivier or Burton.

So here’s to making up words like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Here’s to smelling pears. Here’s to riding a merry-go-round. And here’s to saving ourselves in the spirit of Mr. Banks. And, here’s to a movie for my generation to go down Memory Lane. Nothing wrong with memories. It’s how you play them.

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New Year’s Eve: Clean Slates

imgresDear Friends, Family, Not Friends, Business Associates, and Anyone Else …

I love New Year’s because it’s like a do-over moment. We get to start again with a clean slate. It’s like after a colonoscopy, when you feel as if you will maybe only put fabulous things in your mouth from now on, and your entire system will be reborn. At least that is the way it felt for me after my colonoscopy … for the few moments before I went and had two fried eggs, whole-wheat toast with butter and fake blueberry jelly, bacon, and a Diet Coke. But there was that moment when I had the chance.

Anyway, back to New Year’s Eve. I clear my chest. I take deep breaths, forgive and ask forgiveness, and start the New Year. So here we go.

I forgive all of you who were mean to me in 2013, particularly the guy at church who came over to me after Obama’s inauguration and told me I only had myself to blame for putting him in office.

I’m sorry, William Sonoma, for not picking up the three gingerbread houses I asked you to set aside for me. The weather got bad and I had to hightail it off the Cape before I had time to get them. I do feel badly about it.

I forgive Cape Cod Cooperative Bank, whose banking practices have sent me over the edge a number of times.

I hope the guy in the Volvo I almost killed when I changed lanes without looking over my shoulder on Route 6 reads this and accepts my heartfelt apology. I know. You are right, and yes, I was on the phone when I did it. I did learn my lesson, I promise.

I do not forgive the President of Abercrombie for his outrageous statements about who can wear his clothing. Nope, sorry. No Abercrombie for me, my family, or my friends this year.

I ask my eyes to forgive me for not going to the eye doctor this year when things started getting blurry. Appointment is made.

I forgive Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus for taking up space on Huffington Post and wasting my precious time.

I forgive my friend Heidi, who turned me on to the Whirly Words APP that has wasted countless hours of my time over the past four months. I deleted it last night, and one of my resolutions is not to add it back in for the fourth time in as many months. I am not a Whirly addict any longer.

I forgive my client, Downtown Cookie Company, for adding chocolate-covered caramels to their menu. Bastards.

I forgive Franklin Covey for discontinuing the annual calendar design for my planner that I have used for the past TWENTY YEARS. Really? Is there no loyalty? I do forgive you, but I’m still not pleased about it.

I forgive the writers at Homeland for not getting Season Three right. I sort of forgive you for not letting Carrie just be fabulous and brilliant without being a crazy girl at the same time. I do not forgive Saul for approving the mission that shouldn’t have happened. I do not forgive you for making Carrie pregnant. Seriously? And, if I really get started, Season Two was a disappointment too.

All in all, I start 2014 with an open heart, a hopeful plan for business, and a grateful sense that all things are as they are supposed to be. What more could I ask?

Happy New Year Freesia Lane Followers!

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The Hinckley Crest

The Hinckley Crest
The Hinckley Crest

I was so excited when my cousin Cliff found our Hinckley Family Crest. Over the past ten years or so, my interest in my mother’s family history has grown. I am so proud of where my ancestors have been, what they accomplished, and what it means for my potential. Don’t get me wrong, I get that it wasn’t me who came over in the 1600s and paved the way for future generations of privilege, but I can still take pride in it right?

So imagine my excitement when he called and said he’d emailed me the crest.

“That’s so cool! Why don’t you sound excited? You have been searching for it forever. Great job!”

“Well, there is one little problem.”

I stopped short. I became wary. My family is plagued by little problems.

“What’s the problem?”

“Well, it’s the motto,” he said. That’s the problem.”

“What the hell is the motto?”

“Well it’s in French, which we know isn’t my first language, but best I can tell it means, ‘I can change only when I die.'”

Well, there is a show stopper.

“I’m on it,” I said. “Will get back to you.”

I was married to a Frenchman, and the one thing I know for sure about the French language is that it’s always got some underlying meaning or double entendre. My mother-in-law, who was a great mentor to me, once told me when she was trying to teach me the language and the confusion over what is feminine versus masculine, said to me, “Think of it this way, Christine. If it’s something you would want or need, like a fork, it’s masculine. If it’s something that is of little worth, like a spoon, it’s feminine.” She never sugar-coated the truth.

So, I emailed my ex the motto in French, confident that there would be some other interpretation we could use.

His reply was swift and brief. It means, “I change only on my deathbed.”  Looks like he was a man of firm convictions. Or a short lifespan.

My ex always did have a great sense of humor; that was never our problem. I called my cousin confident in my solution.

“Look, it took you years to find it. We can change it. We can have my graphic designer re-work it. Honor, Courage. Duty. Or how about Strength. Grace. Truth?” I have always wanted to add Grace to my life, but it has eluded me. Perfect chance to slip it in.

He yelled at me. I mean yelled at me. “We can’t change a motto that is hundreds of years old,” he yelled. “You are an idiot!”

I was not detered in the least. “We can change it, and by changing it, we can show that he was wrong. We Hinckley people can change before our deathbeds. Now listen up, Cliff. We owe it to future generations. We owe it to past generations. We owe it to the hours you put in finding it.”

“We are not changing it,” he said. And then he hung up.

Did I mention that in addition to being innundated with small problems, my family members don’t understand about conversational transitions? “Talk to you later,” is a good one he might have considered. Or, perhaps, “I really appreciate you trying to make this right, but I think we need to leave it. Love you. Talk to you tomorrow.”

So here I sit in the winter of my life, passing down a family crest to my beloved Sarah, with a motto that is blotto. A second cousin whom I saw over the holidays suggested that perhaps it is out of context in our time, that it sounded better in the time in which it was written. She said that perhaps it means that we are steadfast in our loyalty and commitment to things. While she may be right, I would have preferred in that case that he had made it “Steadfast. Loyal. True.”

The lesson is still the same. You can’t change certain things about your family, including its motto, but you can decide which family traits will become your personal traits. As for me, I will embrace the crest, and I will continue to work toward “Grace. Honor. Intelligence.” I will worry about my deathbed changes when I get there.