A brilliant, all-too-brief life...
Check this out for one of the great guitar solos of all times:
My father (film director Tay Garnett, best known for A Postman Always Rings Twice) was fascinated by clowns. He talked about them, painted them, wrote stories about them. In even his most tragic movies, there was always a "clown" - a fumbling, bumbling, amiable and almost certainly drunk leitmotif of humor, designed to keep a story from getting too heavy.
But what about the actors who played those roles? My Dad said that every clown he knew personally lived a tragic life. That's the part that fascinated him - how someone who devoted his life to making people laugh, could find so little to laugh about when he got home at night.
We could get philosophical about this, talking about the world of opposites, the balance of nature, the yin and yang. We could explore the connection between creativity and substance abuse, intelligence and depression, heightened sensitivity and chemical imbalance.
I think it's certainly a truth that with great gifts come great challenges and sometimes great suffering. Could we even say that the greater the talent, the greater the personal struggle? Probably.
And yet what would that change?
Like most people I know, I'm still reeling from the shock of Robin Williams' suicide on Monday of this week. Was there a funnier, brighter, more talented man out there? If so, I missed him.
To make matters worse, it turns out that this phenomenally talented individual also had an enormous heart. Robin Williams was extremely generous and an extraordinarily compassionate individual. I learned only yesterday that when his close friend Christopher Reeve had his life-altering accident, Williams redesigned his own home to make it wheelchair accessible, to accommodate his friend!
How is it possible that such a talented, funny and compassionate man could have known such intense suffering as to see self-destruction as his only option?
With all respect, could it be that he was capable of demonstrating compassion toward everyone but himself?
Or was he simply exhausted?
I'll never know and, honestly, it isn't any of my business.
Robin Williams gave me hour upon hour of lightness, laughter and joy over several decades. Now, with his death, he's teaching me an important lesson on the power of compassion...
Let me never again envy someone their life, because where is the compassion in that? What can I ever truly know about someone else's inner world?
Let me never again judge anyone or assume I know what they're going through or what their life is about. Let me treat everyone as the silent warrior they may well be, and in this way, let me walk with ever greater gentleness and respect on this earth.
And, as I demonstrate a new level of compassion to my traveling companions on this human journey, let me not forget to turn that same level of compassion toward myself, especially in those moments when I'm finding it hard to like myself even a little.
Speaking selfishly, I have received so much from Robin Williams that I would have preferred his life to go on forever. I see now how difficult it must have been for him to have given what he did and how tired he must have been at the end.
Rest in peace, Robin.
Maya Angelou died today.
I will miss her strong presence on the planet, this woman who was larger than life...
Who walked her talk
Who made us laugh and weep
Who inspired us constantly...
Dr. Maya Angelou was a role model and symbolic mother to countless motherless women, including myself.
Thank you, Maya, for the many gifts you gave us, not the least of which was the reminder to honor our potential.
"What is a fear of living? It's being preeminently afraid of dying. It's not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself - for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don't know what you're here to do, then just do some good."
We love you, Maya, now and forever...
A pigeon strolled just ahead of me,
In the supermarket,
Down the spice aisle.
Gotta love Paris...
To live in Paris is to fall in love daily - with sights, sounds, events and people.
Last Sunday, it was the Japanese woman of "a certain age" who was practicing pliés in the Luxembourg Gardens, using a park bench as her "barre."
A few nights ago it was the blue moon emerging dramatically from behind a tree as I neared "Le Dôme" in Montparnasse.
The other day, it was stepping off the bus into a stream of 700 roller-bladers ("Pari-Roller").
Or this sign on the front of the famous English language bookshop, Shakespeare & Company, which captures the essence of Paris to sublime perfection:
"PARIS WALL NEWSPAPER, 1999."
"Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about the little shops of the Latin Quarter with their shop windows filled with old books and etchings. Where nobody seemed to enter and the proprietor could be seen reading peacefully, indifferent to worldly success. Beside him lies a dog or perhaps a cat."
I lived in New Hampshire for four winters and every one was a struggle against the elements. Frost heaves would push up under my kitchen floor and the cupboards would hang on the diagonal until spring. One couldn't sit on the upstairs toilet without listing dangerously to starboard and if I left the house for a weekend, I would spend an hour shoveling my way INTO the driveway when I came back.
Within weeks of my arrival in the Granite State, I drove home from work one night during a snowstorm. There was black ice under freshly fallen snow and I turned the wheel of my Subaru to the right only to have the car fishtail to the left and slide off the road into a ravine. The car landed nearly perpendicular, the steering-wheel an inch from my chest. My nose was broken and I had a deep cut in my eyebrow. I survived, but the car did not.
It was fortunate that the accident happened a quarter of a mile from my house. I was able to climb out of the ravine and back onto the road. Apart from the fact that I was all banged up, it was an easy walk home. It was also fortunate that it was 3 o'clock in the morning because I was covered in blood but my two kids weren't awake to see it. My intuitive son heard me come in and appeared at the top of the stairs. "Mom?" he said in a worried voice.
"I had a car accident, but I'm fine," I told him from the shadows. "Go back to bed. I'm fine, really. I'll see you in the morning."
The next day I was battered and bruised, with two black eyes. I ached all over and looked like the Elephant Man. My son was so rattled by my appearance that he stayed home from school.
On another winter evening, my son called and asked me to pick him up from basketball because he'd missed the late bus. I wasn't happy about it because his school was a 30-minute drive away and it was brutally cold out. In fact, the roads were a solid sheet of black ice. My car shimmied and fishtailed the entire distance and I cried the whole way.
On the way back, the car got stuck going up a hill. We were in a line of cars, all of which were unable to make the incline. The hill was too steep and there was no traction on the ice. When my son got out to see what was going on, his feet flew up into the air and he landed flat on his back on the ice but, being a teenager, he was uninjured. An hour later, a sand truck arrived and one by one the cars were able to get up the hill. We followed that truck all the way home.
Another time, driving through the White Mountains on curving roads covered with icy slush, I slid off the road again. This time both of my kids were with me. No one was hurt, but it took six hours for the tow-truck to get us out.
For the four years that I lived in New Hampshire, I was terrified of driving in the winter. It didn't help knowing the state motto was, "Live Free or Die." I guess when you're born and raised in a state with 7 months of winter every year, you get used to it. Not me - I'm from Beverly Hills.
Snow-days are almost unheard of in New Hampshire. The school-bus would roll up to the house in the morning with chains on the tires, plowing up feet of snow. My daughter, dressed in her shocking-pink snowsuit, would push through hip or waist-high snow to climb onto the bus. Businesses stayed open. People went to work. Life went on. Locals told me that the winter before my arrival, the snow was banked up so high on both sides of the road that you couldn't see the houses. One of my neighbors said there were still patches of snow under the tree in her backyard on July 4th.
My first winter in New Hampshire was the winter of that ice-storm where all those people in Canada and Maine died. Remember? People in the North were without power for weeks. I could stand on my front porch and listen to trees cracking, splitting and falling over. A friend who was a forester moved to Europe because he couldn't stand watching the devastation of the forest he'd given his life to.
My house was without power for five days that winter. My children moved to the home of a neighbor who had a generator, while I slept under a down comforter with a Santa hat on my head; the temperature in my bedroom was a brisk 30 degrees.
New Hampshire-ites are a tough and fearless people. As for me, my idea of a weather challenge is finding the right umbrella to carry on Rodeo Drive.
New Hampshire in the summer is Paradise, but I never got used to being the lead car in a caravan on roads thick with snow. I would be driving a sane 40 miles per hour and car after car would shoot past me at 60 or 70, giving me the finger, shaking their fists, shouting rude remarks.
Moving to Connecticut was a relief and a revelation. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover an entire state as scared of bad weather as I am! But it would appear that I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other. I am no longer the lead car in winter caravans; I am now the one shaking my fist. Three snowflakes and school is canceled. Six and the library closes. The few cars still on the road drive no more than 30 miles an hour.
I do wish these Southern New England weather-people would learn to do their jobs. Is that asking too much? If so, then perhaps they could recycle themselves into professions where they might be of some actual use. And if these soothsayers are unwilling to relinquish the thrill of predicting the future, then they should at least invest in a turban and a crystal ball and do it right.
Take today's "snowstorm," for example. Last night at midnight, the weather reports on the radio, on television and on the internet were the same: "A Nor'easter she's a-comin'!! Batten down the hatches!! Lash yourselves to the mainmast!! Make sure you have plenty of rum and whale-blubber aboard!! Prepare for the worst!!"
Twenty-four hours later, as I look out the French doors of my dining-room into the winter twilight, there is perhaps a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground. And yet, I can hear the weatherman on the television in the other room. His tone is dramatic. This is a MASSIVE storm, he's saying. "Batten down the hatches!! It's bad out there!!"
I'll tell you - it's enough to make a person miss New Hampshire.
Well, if it's January 16th, 2013 then we have survived the end of the world, which was supposed to be December 21st, 2012.
Some say that the end of the world has been re-scheduled for some time in February. Whatever.
In the timeless words of Mark Twain, "If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there 10 years later."
Is it me, or has it been a rough year? I woke up this morning recovering from yet another traumatic experience and, before getting out of bed took a casual, mental inventory of my life in 2012...
JANUARY: Car totaled due to water damage, the result of negligence on the part of my insurance company.
FEBRUARY - APRIL: Eliminated shithead friend from my life. Waged battle against my insurance company.
APRIL: Lost the battle.
MAY - JULY: Waged battle against the State Insurance Commission.
JULY: Lost the battle. Furnace crapped out. Stress of a personal nature.
JULY - OCTOBER: Eliminated second shithead friend from my life. Poured body and soul into a stressful, high-risk project.
OCTOBER: Project failed. House insurance canceled due to a crumbling chimney. Repaired chimney with money owed to furnace guy. Ran out of money.
NOVEMBER: A busy month. Book rejected by two agents. Book rejected by publisher. Water heater burst and flooded basement. No money to replace water heater. Got stopped on highway and learned my registration and plates had been canceled - in August and October, respectively. More stress of a personal nature. Eliminated yet another shithead friend from my life. Got stopped a second time. Speeding ticket. And a partridge in a pear tree.
DECEMBER: Another ongoing battle and it doesn't look good. More stress of a personal nature. Still water in the basement, still no money, book still not sold. Out of friends. And it's only the 5th. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la...
Benny and Joon took the family to Darien to visit the cousins for Thanksgiving. As always, things got off to a rough start...
First of all, the house was full of strangers and distant family they hardly knew. Nerves and tempers were running high.
Some family members were downright rude. Here's cousin Hackmatack telling Benny and Joon to get the hell out of his house!
In response, the dogs' first order of business was to redecorate by doing some business in the front hallway. It's little touches, they say, that give a house that "lived in" look.
At one point during the festivities, Ben dove under the antique sideboard in the living room and emerged, chomping on something large and brown. With equal dexterity, I tackled him and pursued the brown lump down his throat with two, bony fingers, to pry it out of his esophagus before it could reach his stomach. Upon examination, the lump turned out to be a turkey heart apparently hidden by cousin Samantha for future digestion.
Here's cousin Samantha, bloated with turkey and depressed because she lost the morsel she was saving for her midnight snack.
Benny and Joon always pack plenty of extra poop when they go visiting. They need some for their evening walk and enough to leave outside my bedroom so I can have a special surprise when I get up to go to the bathroom during the night. They don't sign their work, but I recognize it.
Here they are, posing for the camera like angels so you'll think I'm lying.
Tiela Aldon Garnett...
...was born some time ago in Los Angeles, California...
Her father was a famous Motion Picture and Television director and her mother was an actress. There was a 31-year difference in their ages (her father was older) and she was their only child. If you want to know more about her early life and family, you'll have to read the book, but it's not out yet.
She has two children, Taylor and Chloe. Her children think she's "special." Taylor was born in Paris, France and Chloe was born in Brooklyn, New York. They're grown up now. Mostly. Both of her children are artists.
If you want to see what the author's family looks like, there are pictures under the "Photo Album" tab!
Tiela discovered her passion somewhat late in life, and that's okay. She's appreciating every minute of the journey, and isn't that the goal? She is happily committed to the process of her evolution, and has come to accept her humanness. She will joyously assist you in your process, too, because she's an International Life Coach!
She has stories, recipes, photographs, and occasionally wisdom to share.
Please enjoy her blogs about Paris, her Paris journal, and her stories, all under the "My Writing" tab, as well as her Paris Recipes!