Happy 2019 to all. 2018 was a rough one for me, so I feel kind of shell shocked as I face a new year. Sometimes all you can do is put one foot in front of the other, and that’s what I will do for now.
To cheer myself up, I’ll tell you about seeing one of my favorite celebrities a couple of months ago. Hint: “You don’t have to take my word for it.”
Yes, LeVar Burton, for those of you who did not watch Reading Rainbow religiously. My father and I also watched him religiously in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
When I learned he was coming to Boston, I bought a ticket to his show even though I had no idea what he would be talking about or doing. I didn’t know about his popular podcast until I asked Google what the show would be about.
So what he does in his live shows is pick a local author and read the author’s short story, with musical accompaniment. Then he invites the author on stage and they do a Q & A and take questions from the audience.
For the Boston show, he read a short story by Ken Liu. It was a sci-fi/fantasy story, so at first I was unenthused because I don’t read that genre of literature. But, of course, it did not take long for me to fall under LeVar’s spell.
The Q & A was great because both LeVar and Ken were charming and witty as hell. If you are a fan of LeVar Burton or a fan of literature, I highly recommend his live show and podcast. Seeing him in person was one of the highlights of my year!
I decided that I should read some of Gloria Steinem‘s work after seeing her speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in December. I virtually knew nothing about her except for the fact that she is a feminist and an amazing human being, so I really enjoyed reading My Life on the Road. The book title called to me because sometimes I wish that more of my life was spent “on the road.”
Reading this soon after my dad died, I was startled to find that the first chapter is about her father and her odd childhood. Her father was such a nomad that Gloria did not attend school as a child. On page 17, she explains that he was in a car accident and she didn’t make it to the hospital before he died. It brought me comfort to know that I was not the only person on the Earth who was not with my father as he drew his last breath. I ached for her and myself as I read, “I will never stop wishing I had been with him.”
It was fascinating to read about her experiences as a freelance journalist and organizer. She talks about how her life changed because of her participation in the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston—an event I had never heard of. She talks about speaking on campuses and in churches and at conferences. One experience she has is more eye-opening than the other.
She ends the book by talking about how she finally found a balance in life after decades of being on the road. She writes, “I can go on the road—because I can come home. I come home—because I’m free to leave.” A beautiful way to live.
I attended a unique concert that paired Bill Murray orating and singing American classics with three musicians performing classical and musical theater hits. I was intrigued and slightly skeptical going in and satisfied and elated going out.
The crew is touring for an album they released called New Worlds. Bill Murray reads and sometimes acts out excerpts of the writing of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Billy Collins. In between his orations, Jan Vogler, Mira Wang, and Vanessa Perez perform excerpts of works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Schubert, and Maurice Ravel. I was impressed by the power of Bill’s singing voice. The man has pipes.
Bill was himself…comedic and goofy one minute, deadpan and apathetic the next. The musicians were superb and treated their instruments like living, breathing things. They got the audience involved by inviting us to sing along to such disparate songs as “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess and “Loch Lomond,” a traditional Scottish song.
On paper, it’s weird, but in reality, it works. If it comes to your town, go!
I saw two 20th-century icons speak recently: Gloria Steinem and Dan Rather.
Gloria was a keynote speaker at the opening night of the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I hadn’t attended the conference before, so the opening night was a good overview of the event. The exhibit hall was impressive: areas for career resources, nonprofits, female business owners selling their products, and multiple authors available for book signings. There were other keynote speakers that evening as well, but my friend and I only tuned in for Gloria.
I wish I could pass on some nuggets of her wisdom, but since my dad’s sudden death, most of my day-to-day thoughts and memories are crowded out by my thoughts and memories of him. I do recall that she was fierce, real, and optimistic.
Dan is touring with his recently published book with Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us. Again, I don’t remember a word he said, but he was also fierce, real, and optimistic. I saw him speak on the one-month anniversary of my dad’s passing, and I fell asleep that night wishing that I could tell my dad all about it, since he was a fan of 60 Minutes.
I’m trying to get back in the saddle regarding the birthday list, but I’m taking it slow and will give myself an extra month or two to complete it. Bear with me, dear readers.
I walked into the Armenian Museum of America not knowing a thing about Armenia, except that its people suffered a genocide (but I had no idea when). At first glance, it looked like a small museum…but I spent almost two hours there.
There were many beautiful artifacts and artworks:
I was thrilled to see a Yousuf Karsh exhibit. Born in Armenia, he was a famous photographer who took stunning portraits.
The term “genocide” was first coined by a lawyer who was studying the events that led to the extermination of 800,000+ Armenians between 1915 and 1917 by the Ottoman Empire (later known as Turkey). What can I say about this…no words suffice. I’m glad to be informed about this horrific time in world history, but I struggle to comprehend such evil.
The Armenian Museum is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighborhood of Watertown, Massachusetts.