Mao and the Holy Ghost — Strange Bedfellows for a Pandemic

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The other day, as part of my routine of checking in on friends hither and yon, I sent a text to M who lives downstairs. I could have just pounded on the floor but we hadn’t worked up a code for bangs before the pandemic grounded us. M is one of the most diligent followers of social isolation among my friends. This is partly because from the early days of the pandemic, she has been receiving regular WARNINGS! and YOU-BETTER-DO-THIS! messages from her mom who got stuck in China where she was visiting her mom. A mother’s protective care for her chicks has no boundaries. I, too, have benefitted from Mom’s advice and M’s care for me.

Anyway, I miss her so much and our weekly binging of Crazy Ex Girlfriend episodes that I feel sad if I don’t at least get her texting words and occasional drawings — she is an amazing illustrator. So this week was no exception. The text exchange started out normal enough:

Me: How are things downstairs?

M: It’s good. Just working …

See, all normal, then M writes:

M: Writing about seeing Mao in the first grade.

Me:  The Mao?????

M:  Yeah, but he wasn’t alive.

Me:  This gets more interesting

M:  We saw him at the “Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall”

I had no idea that Mao had been embalmed and put in a cooler for M and her first grade class to visit. Sort of weird and scary for those little kids. I remember seeing one of my uncles in his coffin at his wake and was freaked out for months (maybe years? still?) afterwards. Actually, I can still remember trying to move my kneeing knees backwards out of his line of vision as we said a rosary for him. But, he wasn’t put in a cooler for later visits, thank goodness, because I know the Eyerman kids would have had to go visit him.

The conversation continued. Me, not wanting to be outdone by a Mao sighting, wrote:

Me:  Me and my whole first grade class once thought we saw The Holy Ghost in the form of a white pigeon. Felt Blessed.

M:  LOL. That’s great xD

Hmm. I didn’t LOL about Mao but didn’t bring that up because I was now deep into the memory of my Holy Ghost sighting.

Me:  I just remembered that day and even that I was wearing this cute, little plaid dress.

M:  Would you say it was more of a peaceful experience rather than crazy and weird.

Too bad I didn’t ask her that same questions about her Mao sighting.

Me:  Exciting.

And it was. We had been on the playground at St. James the Less Scool when the sighting happened. We told our nun teacher (Sr. Melita?) all about it and, she, God bless her soul, took us back outside so we could have another look , Then, just like on cue, The Holy Ghost came back for an encore fly-by so we would not be laughed at by grown ups. I mean, after all, it was these same grown ups who told us that those little foot prints on our little reading chairs were made by the book fairies and not some creepy animal that lived in the building — which was probably the real story.

I’m glad that Mao and the Holy Ghost — aka Holy Spirit — made a return visit to my life here in the age of isolation and fear. I needed those memories as I think M needed hers. And we both needed the laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

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One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way

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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

Day Two (Part One): Rock n’ Rollin in Ohio

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It was not a yellow brick road that was taking us to our “Oz” for day but only a two-lane service road along the highway. It didn’t matter, we were psyched. Sue was rocking’ fabulous in stretchy shorts topped with a bare-midriff halter covered by a whispy sleeveless jacket then finished off by her Pride tennis shoes (i.e., runners for you Canadians). I dressed for the other side of rock n’ roll — jeans, my “It’s All Good” t-shirt and a perky scarf holding back the hair. We topped our coolness off by matching hot pink masks complements of Chez Sarah. Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (R&RHOF) get ready because here we come.

I didn’t tell Sue beforehand, but I really knew very little about Rock n’ Roll. I was too young to join my older sibs listening to Dr. Bop. All I remember is him saying, “This is Dr. Bop on the scene with a stack of shellac and my record machine” — but I probably got that from my sibs. No my memories are of the likes of Purple People Eater and Lipstick on Your Collar. My first teenage swoon was for Paul Anka when he came on the TV singing “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” while I was babysitting and praying that the hamster would not escape the cage. To this day my stomach still gives a little flip when I hear it. But my early teens were spent going to the Catholic Youth Organization dances in the school basement. They did not play “dirty” songs. It was really an awful experience. My friends and I, the not-so-popular girls, would stand around waiting for boys to ask us to dance. Since that seldom happened, we’d mark off our own corner of the dance floor and do the Stroll whenever a slow dance was played. We were good, smooth. There was a time when I stepped on the wild side by going to a dance at Linden Park Community Centre with Anita. Here there were boys from the public school. We were stepping out on the wild side. The night ended when they played “Tequila” and we all shouted like crazy. It was a “blast.” Then my dad came to pick us up and that was that.

That history, I knew, would not get me very far in the R&RHOF And that is why, I recommend that if you, like me, are stuck in the 60s and well some of the 70s or even the 50s, you should take your own “Sue” with you.

Arriving at The Shrine

WooHoo what a lobby.

I had absolutely no idea what the place looked like. I figured it wasn’t brick and mortar, R&R needs something more dramatic than that. Then here it was in front of us — we were at the end of our yellow brick road. How can you beat a day of sunshine with great glass pyramids sitting on the shore of Lake Erie. Very cool indeed. I had been fretting on the way over that I couldn’t find the confirmation of our tickets in my phone. Sue was super cool — the outfit helped — saying not to worry they’ll have it. Inside were the friendliest, down home, Midwestern welcoming folks. I was home. (And they wore masks which raised them in my estimation.) And sure enough there I was on their computer.

This was going to be fun for sure. Sue was already gleefully clicking her phone taking pics. The cars were props from the” historic U2 Zoo-TV” tour Sue knew that I didn’t but now I do.

One of the most wonderful things about this place, was that wherever you were there was always rock ‘n roll music playing. We — and just about everyone else — were singing and dancing our way through. I felt like we had skipped school for this adventure. The crowd was dominantly people who looked more like me than Sue but it was a Tuesday and who’s free in the middle of the day to go reminiscing their teenage years?

We started at Level O where the roots of rock ‘n roll were planted. The rhythm and blues inching our way to the 60s where I was almost heartbroken when I didn’t see anything of the Everly Brothers. This can’t be? How could they not be in here. It took Sue’s eagle eyes to find their minuscule display a guitar and maybe a suit I can’t remember I would have given them a whole case but I’m a big fan ever since the teenage girl next door, played all their 45s for me. I had a big crush on them — not her.

There was a big tribute to The Beatles which we skipped because how much more time do we want to give to the Beatles — didn’t I silently scream enough in ’64 when they were on Ed Sullivan?? Except, this time, Sue filled me in on the background of the film we were watching and that it was the last time they played together. Took on a different light. She just knows this stuff.

As we moved up floors, we were in Sue Land. I wish I had taken notes and more pictures (sorry, Sue, this one does not do you nor Bill Joel credit). Sue took one of her closest friends to New York to see Billy Joel in Madison Square Garden. Sue is too cool for words. Another friend told me that Sue was into music of the 90s. I thought that meant Disco, but, evidently there was a lot of other music at that time. Although I could see her dancing under the disco ball.

Our favourite place among so many was on Level 3 where Sue introduced me to a new rock n’ roll. We loaded head phones on. First, I had to go to Anka and the Everly Brothers to honour my teenage years. Now I think I should have taken a picture of Sue while she was taking this pic of me since we were both singing and dancing and just having fun.

But enough of that teenage fluff, Sue was here to give me the thrill of listening to other types of rock n’ roll. It was important to get a broad sampling of the music, eh? This included Green Day (never heard of them) singing American Idiot which I liked a lot. She moved on to another jukebox and pulled up — are you ready — Metallica. I told someone I listened to Everly Brothers and Metallica in the same afternoon. They applauded my eclectic taste. Next, another unknown to me — Depeche Mode singing “Just Can’t Get Enough. It was an excellent continuing lesson to add to the monthly CDs that Sue would lend me to broaden my perspective and taste on music.

The bonus pleasure of this wonderful day was that we got to vote for the next inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So cool. Of course, from the list of candidates I didn’t know that many so chose someone whose name I at least recognized. After I voted we told each other out choices. Whoops I had though I had voted for one person whose music I like a lot — but, alas, it was someone all together different who Sue informed me had done some dastardly stuff.

So that’s the best I can do for our truly wonderful first trip to the shrine. I hope I’ll get back again. I know Sue will with her partner who was a tad jealous of her going without him. But Cleveland isn’t that far away so I’m sure they’ll toodle down that back road one day. I would have liked to play the guitars and check out the garage bands but you have to leave something for next time.

There was only thing to do and that was buy something to take back to cat sitter and partner. And, most important, eat. It’s another thing I love about Sue she needs to eat when she needs to eat and that’s it. Luckily, I’m the same so we made good road trip partners

So that’s all folks — for the moment. I have to get outside while there’s still sun.

Day Two (Part Two) Coming Soon — I promise

Psst a little note thanking Ann[e] for teaching this blockhead not to be afraid of blocks. I will get better.