How Will It be In Heaven?

I believe. I always have. There are too many signs, synchronicities and miracles, not to. But there are questions too. Questions that no one can answer. At least not yet.

These include but are in no way limited to:

How’s the TV? Theater may be classier. Movies, more exciting. But without HBO, Showtime, MSNBC, and Public’s American Masters, I just couldn’t do it. Not at all. Not any of it.

And how’s the weather? Is there weather? If not, what takes it’s place? If there’s no weather, what do people talk about?

And the food. Do we get to eat? I was thinking about this yesterday when I bit into a roast beef sandwich with mustard-mayonnaise and grizzled onions. And what about soup? Especially in the winter. But if there’s no weather, there’s no winter, and then there’s no soup, right? And chocolate. There can’t possibly be heaven without chocolate. Not for me there can’t.

And then there’s the thing with people. Who’s in and who’s out? Does my obsessive, lawn mowing, nasty, North Fork neighbor get a pass? That would spoil everything. And what about my relatives and friends, the ones I like and love, will they be there to greet me? Will I finally meet my grandma Fanny? And will she recognize me, or will we need to be introduced? Will I be able to hug my parents, without zooming right through them? And will I get to do a life review, and to apologize for my selfishness, and forgive myself for the stuff I still can’t forgive myself for?

And what about the natural world? The mountains, rivers, valleys and oceans. The sunrise and sunset.The wonders of the earth in Gazillion Resolution 3D. Is it like the old Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come?”  A big, beautiful film that morphs from one gorgeous setting to another. Amazing, beyond my wildest dreams.

And music. And dancing. And finally being able to fly. I knew I could do it. Why not!

Whatever it is, it is. But I wont know till I get there, right?

As for those who resist knowing, or even considering that there’s “Something Else,” they get an F in imagination and a X in possibility. For who could ever have imagined This? So why not That?

In a 1935 movie called “Top Hat,” Fred Astaire sang about Heaven as he twirled Ginger Rogers around, up, over, left, right, and backward. The lyrics are old fashioned. The melody, airy and sweet. Fred didn’t need to sell it. It sold itself. It goes like this:

Heaven, I’m in heaven, And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak, And I seem to find the happiness I seek, When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

Heaven, I’m in heaven, And the cares that hung around me through the week, Seem to vanish like a gambler’s lucky streak, When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.

Oh I love to climb a mountain, And reach the highest peak, But it doesn’t thrill  me half as much As dancing cheek to cheek. Oh I love to go out fishing, In a river or a creek, But I don’t enjoy it half as much, As dancing cheek to cheek

Dance with me, I want my arms about you, Those charms about you, Will carry me through…

To heaven, I’m in heaven,And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak, And I seem to find the happiness I seek, When we’re out together dancing, out together dancing, Out together dancing cheek to cheek.

* * *

Reclaiming the Sound of Silence

They are drilling above me inside my building They are drilling below me, outside my building. Renovations. Excavations. Constructions. Destructions. The noise is endless. It overwhelms  my world, inside and out. Suddenly it stops, and I hear the silence. Not immediately. It takes a second or two. If I’m doing something that demands my attention, it may take more.

Then it flows through me like a river. A silent sea. A pale green mountain disappearing inside the mist. It’s a gift that’s given and received unconditionally. It’s as if I’ve been rejuvenated and reborn.

I live in a city that never sleeps.  In a world that never stops chattering. Too often I want to scream Shut Up!  Please! But instead of screaming, I mutter it to myself. Not out of good manners. Those are down in the rubble left outside my window. But because The risk has become too big. Too foolish. Too unnecessary. Better to exhale and imagine quiet places. Simpler times. More gracious behavior.

One summer I rented a house on the Great Peconic Bay, with a rolling lawn and a family of swans that floated by each morning to assist me in greeting the day. At first it seemed perfect. But there was trouble in Paradise. A next door neighbor, addicted to mowing his lawn. Especially the area right between his house and mine, which he went at full force, an hour at a time, several times a week. The poor grass screamed for mercy. I swear I heard it. Or was that me?

When I was a child we lived in an apartment with  thick plaster walls and quiet neighbors. We rolled up the rugs in summer (We faced west and I suppose it made it seem cooler — I can think of no other reason except that my Aunt, the interior designer, enjoyed changing “the setting” each season). I took advantage of the bare floors by roller skating around the living room. I knew how to turn tight corners. The neighbors knocked up with a broom handle and I stopped. We called this noise control and mostly it worked. People don’t seem to do this anymore, knock up I mean. Besides, how do you knock up when the noise comes from three floors above you. Or from the street below where the drilling never stops. As for skating in the living room, do kids still skate? Why bother, when by the time they are two they can scoot.

They will be tearing down the building across the way any day now. In its place they will build a seventeen story condo that will block the light and the views from the surrounding apartments. But this is New York, and most people won’t notice until the banging begins, the dust rises, and the light disappears. This used to be a quiet street. Perhaps, it will be again. Though I doubt it.

True noise control starts from the inside out. From that place deep within, the one I visit mostly in my dreams. But I haven’t been dreaming much lately so I’ve decided to move. The place I’m moving to seems quiet, neutral, removed from all this. It’s a rental building in a close-in suburb of D.C.  I’lll be near the center of things, but my apartment will face a courtyard. There will be no interior renovations. No drilling. No trucks idling under my window delivering who knows what. I will not roller skate around my living room. It’s way too small and my cornering isn’t that good anymore. Will it be perfect? Not a bit..But hope runs high. Having returned to my renter’s roots, I can move again, any time.  Ah, who am I kidding? This is it. At least for now. Or It better be.

To create inner silence, the true source of personal peace, here’s some imagery to keep the mental chatter at a minimum and the outside turmoil at bay.

Silence is Golden 

Close your eyes and exhale one time.See and feel how words and stories, sounds and events, cover you up and weigh you down. See and sense how by separating from this chatter your troubles disappear. Feel how it is to live your life in the silence that goes beyond all words. Be in the center of this silence and know that it is golden. Breathe this golden silence into every cell of your body, Listen to its still small voice. Hear what it says to you.Then breathe out and open your eyes.


Weather Or Not: An Obsession/ Digression On Weather

Have you noticed how obsessed with weather we are? I’m not talking Climate Change here. Just plain old weather. The kind that people cant stop talking about. I get on the elevator. Someone else gets on with me.  Its a hot/ cold/ rainy/windy/ ugly, or beautiful day, and weather talk  immediately takes over. I get off the elevator and there’s the doorman. What’s he talking about?  The weather. He likes it. The elevator person did not. And so it goes throughout the day.

Weather obsession runs in my genes. My father read every newspaper forecast about the weather: New York in those days was a place where “anyone with a serious newspaper habit, for sports, hard news, gossip,  even weather, lived in a state of perpetual bliss. Seven dailies appeared in rolling editions around the clock.” the Daily Mirror, the Daily News, The Journal American, the Herald Tribune, the World Telegram and Sun, the New York Post, the New York Times. * Indeed, we complained then as we do now. But we also read, studied and considered the serious nature of weather.

On a Sunday, when I was a kid,  I went outside to play, and returned to my apartment for a snack. On my way back out, I tried to pass my father who stood blocking my way to the door. “Where do you think you’re going” he said. I’m going outside,” I said. “No. You are not. It’s raining outside,” he said. “I was just outside and it was sunny,” I said. “Maybe it was sunny where you were playing, ” he said, “but on the side of the building where I was standing, it was raining. And that’s that,” he said. And it was. He was the grown-up weather expert. I was not. But his fiery  interest in weather wasn’t wasted on me. Though newspapers are no longer part of my daily fare,  I check Channel One , religiously, throughout the day, as though it can change my life for better or worse.

In truth, most of us have little to complain about. Easy access to air conditioning and heat, are not quite everywhere, but almost. Still, we can’t seem to stop. This past week we had a snow storm in the North East. We knew it was coming. The media went berserk predicting the awful possibilities. And some of them came to pass. One was that JFK Airport would shut down. My daughter, persisted in keeping a promise to her in laws to show up for a birthday bash and  flew with her husband, from Seattle to Long Island, starting out at 10pm, her time. Good thing she brought along snacks.

I watched TV until 2:30am, to see how things were going. It wasn’t good.. When they announced JFK had closed shop, I gave it up and went to sleep.  When I awoke at 8, it was still a no go. There are not too many things I choose to worry about but I decided that at this point it was okay to start.

Then I noticed how cold I felt. Everything was freezing: hands, feet, toes, nose. I turned on the radiator in my bedroom which I normally keep turned off. Nothing. I touched the radiator in the living room. Also nothing. I  wrapped a blanket around the air conditioner where cold air steadily  leaks in, but I rarely notice,  and secured it with a box of aluminum foil. I  pulled a turtleneck on over my t shirt,  zipped up my hooded sweatshirt, slipped on my white slipper socks, added a protective pair of quilted slippers, and voila I had gone from living in a “luxury apartment” to life in a tenement.

A friend who lives several blocks away offered me shelter. Just when I was about to accept I felt the first bit  of warmth waft into  the room.

Aha! “The heat is on” I said.

The good thing was I had completely forgotten about my daughter’s predicament in favor of my own, which I do not see as a motherly betrayal since worry sends out terrible vibes so what’s the point?  Do I protest too much? Perhaps.  But the discomfort i felt, plus the fear it might continue provided worry-relief. Now when people utter the annoying phrase “It’s all good!” I see what they mean. This pain took my mind off that pain and everything else.

The daughter and son in law arrived at JFK at 1pm, after several hours of fly time circling Pennsylvania, and a diversion to Rochester, a place I once visited when I was eight. We had distant cousins there and we went to see what life was like upstate, in the north-country. Beyond finding a pair of pink satin toe shoes in the attic, with which I entertained myself for hours, I decided Rochester wasn’t that interesting and was happy to return home.  When I asked my daughter how she liked it during her hour and a half stopover, she made  no comment

It was an 11  hour flight. From Seattle, plus the four hours it took JetBlue to decide to take off. She could have flown to Tokyo and part-way back in the time it took her to get to New York. I warned her about the insanity of traveling in this weather. Did she listen? Of course not. I’m her mother, thus canceling out any sense  I might make, as well as my expertise in the weather department.

Anyway. thank God for the heat-loss distraction. Do you remember the song “The Heat is On” that Rita Hayworth sang in Miss Sadie Thompson? Probably not.  Here’s to Rita. And here’s the link in case you don’t, or in case you do, and want to hear, and or see it again.




New Year Musings: 2014

New Years eve was never one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s those memories of dates and days past when I expected so much and wound up with so little. The right place, but the wrong boy. The right boy but a lousy kisser. Worse even. A blind date.  A beautiful dress worn to a terrible party where some dolt spilled his drink on the dress, ne’er to be worn again ─  where it was too close for comfort, too disappointing to do anything but ignore then forget, as I stood in the freezing cold, waiting for a cab that refused to show up, or even worse, passed me by.

But there was one New Years eve that I gave a party and it all came together. When everyone showed up in formal dress. When everything clicked. When the snow started falling before midnight and we all went out to play and allowed it to anoint us with a moment of magic. When romance was in the air and in my heart and anything seemed possible. I tried to create a repeat performance the following year but it fell flat, as my neighbor’s husband decided to hit on me, the guests left their fun genes back home, and the snow refused to snow on cue.

New Years eve gets so much hype that it’s hard to live up to the foreplay. The peak moment comes and goes; there’s lots of noise and hoopla; the rockets rock; the bubbly bubbles; the kissers kiss; and the ball comes down in Times Square while the people from Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, stand there in the freezing cold and insist they’re having a fabulous time. Then poof, its over and done with. Everyone goes home. And the old year is out and the New Year is in. And we make our resolutions and get set to do it again in one form or another the following year. So what‘s it all about Alfie?

On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being the best,1 the worst) 2013 was a 2. Not quite a 1, which I reserve for events like September 11th. It earns this dubious honor via government shutdowns and mass shootings. Petty, self interested law-makers who refuse to tame gun rights or renew unemployment benefits. And right wing rants by Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, and the Palin woman, insisting that the poor give up more, and the rich give up nothing. That ObamaCare, is destroying American civilization and must be stopped at all costs. That Obama is a Kenyan who’s destroying American civilization. That Obama’s birth certificate is destroying American civilization. And that American civilization is exceptional and must be saved by getting rid of Obama and all things that bear his name, likeness and subversive socialist soul in any shape or form. Also, that Pope Francis, who may be way too cool a dude for a pope, is really a communist who threatens the pillars of Christianity, which they consistently fail to recognize is based on those awful “socialist” concepts about being thy brother’s keeper, especially if thy brother is poorer than thee and less powerful.

It feels good to leave this past year behind, although the Toronto mayor proved good for some laughs, and Chris Christy managed to show his true colors by closing down the access lanes to the GW Bridge as punishment for the  mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey who refused to support his reelection campaign for governor. Speak of ego gone wilder than usual. Even for a politician.

Despite this sad history I look forward to a better and different 2014. Yet we’d best stay vigilant. As actor, producer, writer, and general all around bigger than life talent Harvey Fierstein says: “You can’t just ignore evil.”

The author Thomas Cahill, spoke with Bill Moyers on Moyer’s show this past week and set my priorities straight.

“There are only two things in this world,” Cahill said. “There’s cruelty and there’s kindness.” For the year just beginning, as yet unblemished by anything cruel or dark, I pray we choose kindness. Each of us. One by one. It may just be enough to put a protective circle of light, a blessed imprint of “good” on our lives and on our world.

Thomas Cahill is the author of “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” “Pope John XXIII, ” “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter,” and most recently “Heroes and Heretics.”