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Helen Reddy and the cabbie from hell

I am happy to see that Helen Reddy, who popularized the anthem for the women’s movement in the 70’s, is coming out of retirement to resume her singing career.

I had an interesting encounter with Ms. Reddy, a long-time idol of mine, in 1996. My husband and I headed a community concert series in the 90’s and we chose Helen Reddy as our very first act to introduce our series to the community. We wanted someone with a big name and reputation to let the community know we were a legitimate group. We got more than we bargained for when we booked Ms. Reddy. She had a big name and a big reputation, at least among entertainment producers. She had a reputation for being a diva and difficult to please.

Preparing for opening night

We began months in advance making all the preparations for opening night. We plastered the town with posters; we rented a Lincoln Town Car for the weekend to chauffeur Ms. Reddy; we had a large welcome basket in her room with snacks and an assortment of teas since she would be arriving late; and the stage was decorated with plants, twinkling lights, and borrowed props making it look like something to rival Vegas.

A welcoming committee, which consisted of my husband, myself, and Frank the driver (who was a member of the concert series board), met her at the airport. Before arriving at the airport we nervously reviewed the plans. (We desperately wanted to make a good impression and hoped we didn’t look like the neophytes which we were.) After greeting her we would then escort her to the baggage claim area and wait for Frank to bring the car around. All he had to do was meet us at the exit nearest the claims area. It isn’t hard to miss because everyone gathers there to catch their rides or a shuttle bus. This sounds simple enough, but beware of simple plans. Ms. Reddy traveled with a single carry-on bag and did not need to go the claims area. This added a few extra minutes to our wait time so we took advantage of the time to get to know each other.

Beware of simple plans

We waited and waited (and waited and waited) but Frank never showed up. When more than enough time had passed John said he would go out to the curb to look for Frank leaving me to entertain Ms. Reddy alone. What do you say to a recording star, movie star, and multiple-award winner? After we had exhausted the small talk I notice her expertly manicured nails are impatiently tapping the handle of her suitcase. Meanwhile, John is avoiding the gathering storm clouds by waiting on the curb looking for Frank. I go out and tell him that she is nearly at the end of her patience and we need to do something—quick!

We decide to hail a cab for Ms. Reddy and John will look for Frank and meet us at the hotel. I tell her the good news/bad news that we have given up on Frank and will take a taxi. We crawl into a cab with a driver who barely speaks English and tell him we want the hotel that is nearest the airport. At this he shouts something, jumps out of the cab, and runs down the middle of the street waving his hands in the air.

The cab driver from hell

Ms. Reddy and I look at each other and she says, “Is he coming back?” I see the scene developing out the back window and have a sinking feeling. “I don’t think so,” I reply. Now what do I do? I have a travel weary diva on one hand and a crazed cab driver on the other. At that moment I see a security officer and run to tell him what has happened. He looks at the driver running down the middle of the traffic flow and says he’ll be back.

The cab driver finally returns mumbling unintelligent sentences. He gives us a lecture all the way to the hotel telling us we should have taken the airport shuttle bus. I tell him, in no uncertain terms, we didn’t want the shuttle but he totally ignores me. This episode has taken quite a bit of time and I expect to see John pacing the lobby of the hotel when we arrive but instead they pull into the parking lot just ahead of us.

While I was dealing with the crabby cabbie, John searched the parking garage for Frank the chauffeur. John found him standing beside the parked car with the trunk lid open waiting for Ms. Reddy to haul her luggage to the car. John was surprised to see us arriving at the hotel so late and asked what happened. “You won’t believe it,” I said. “We had the cab driver from hell.”

You learn from experience

Everything seemed to be working against us that night. Both drivers must have gotten into the same batch of spiked juicy-juice which made them a little crazy.  Our patience were tested but Ms. Reddy saw we were trying hard to keep her happy and make a good impression. She couldn’t have been nicer. She gave us a splendid performance the next night and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

 After this difficult beginning all other shows were easy. As they say, “you learn from experience”.

 

 

Why we need to keep arts in the schools

I recently attended my granddaughter’s spring orchestra concert and was amazed at the progress of the young middle school and high school students. The program featured the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, who each played three or four selection, in the first half and the high school students in the second half. By presenting the show in this manner we were able to see the gradual increased proficiency of each grade.

Even the sixth graders had progressed far beyond the basic Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which they performed at their first concert in February. One of their selections included the Can Can by Offenbach. The seventh grade performed Brandenburg Concerto #5 by Bach and the eighth grade did a complicated number titled Variations on a Sea Chanty by Richard Stephan. All selections were performed with precision and I didn’t hear a single squeak or squeal from the strings and all students played in unison under their teacher’s direction. The high school’s performance was flawless and I thought I was listening to a professional production.

The arts are delegated to a second class position

As I watched the performance I couldn’t help but think how sad it is that school districts now feel the need to delegate music and other art programs to a second class position. True, our students need to know the basics in math and science but the arts can add so much more depth to our lives. The students who performed that night thoroughly enjoyed their experience and the audience showed its appreciation by cheering loudly. The other classes showed the same enthusiasm for their fellow performers that you might find at an athletic event.

What music taught the students

I realized those students had learned more than just the basic notes and how to play their instruments. They learned team work by listening and blending their instrument with the others. They learned discipline by watching the director and reacting to her cues. They learned self-confidence by being able to walk onto a stage without passing out. They learned to appreciate other types of music. And, they learned that all types of moods and emotions can be expressed through music from light and lively Bees a Boppin or the Can Can, or the silliness of Adam’s Family Theme to darker moods of Dark Catacombs by O’Laughlin.

I must compliment their teacher, Linda Stieg, who has obviously spent many, many hours working with these young people to bring out the best in them. She told the audience how she has stressed with the students the need for dedication, hard work, and setting goals. These are also tools which will help them in the future.

Music speaks when words fail

I sat there pondering how best to express the thoughts and joy of the evening when I saw a young musician walk by with a bumper sticker attached to his cello case that said Music speaks…when words fail. That sums it up perfectly.

Thank a music teacher

With all these positive elements how can the school systems justify eliminating the arts? A young person needs to experience many different areas in order to grow into a well-rounded individual. Work in the basics is important but they also need to develop their bodies, mind and soul with activities in athletics and the arts added to the core subjects. The next time you sit down to listen to your favorite music be sure to thank a music teacher.

A funny thing happened on the way to the art show

Taken from an American Greetings card I received in the hospital.

My last two blog posts have been about my excitement and preparation for the art show this past weekend, but, instead of appearing at the Sunbear Gallery I was languishing at the luxurious St. Anne’s Hospital resort.

A bumpy detour

Continuing the road metaphor that I used in my last post I will say that the road suddenly became bumpy and detoured straight to the doors of the hospital. The past week was especially hectic as I completed my work and prepared displays for the show. During that time I wasn’t feeling up to par but pushed it to the back of my mind saying I didn’t have time to be sick. Everything had to be turned in to the gallery by Wednesday to give them time to prepare their displays. Throughout Thursday I continued to feel “ify” and began to think I wasn’t feeling well enough to stand for two days in the heat and talk with the people when all I wanted to do was be in bed. Friday I went to our local Urgent Care and asked the doc to patch me up for two days to give me time to get through the weekend. He examined me and then said, “I can patch you up but you will hate me later. You need to go to the ER right now.”

A popular term for the miniature White Castle hamburgers is “gut busters” or “gut bombs”—WELL—I felt like a couple of those bombs had gone off in my gut. Without going into graphic detail let’s just say the belly was bouncing. After a bad reaction to some meds things went from bad to worse. That is when I went into seclusion, had the phone disconnected, and saw few visitors.

Happy faces equal happy pills

Fortunately, I responded well to a heavy dosage of antibiotics and was able to come home on Sunday. But, the best medicine of all was a series of happy faces drawn by my niece’s four-year old son Aidan. Posted on the bathroom door was a dry erase chart where the nurses wrote their names for each shift and at the bottom was a series of emoticons to help the patient measure his pain. At the end of the series Aidan drew a sad face because Aunt Sheila had an “ouwee”, then he drew a happy face in the blank space meant for the patient to list a goal. At the very end of the chart he drew what can only be described as a blob which meant that Aidan didn’t have any “ouwees”. He then drew me a card full of various happy faces which looked to me like happy pills. All those happy faces must have worked because by the end of their visit I felt much better and even the nurses agreed my condition was much improved.

Take it from me, if you are ever feeling poorly the best medicine is the happy faces of a four-year old.

Who’d A Thought It?

Life’s journey is full of strange twists and turns.  One of the most unusual turns for me will occur next Saturday when some of my work will be on display at an art gallery. Me—who never had an art class in my life! I will have my work at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, May 19 and 20 in Alexandria, Ohio.

Some of my loyal followers of this blog may be thinking that I will have my photographs but, no, I will be featuring actual art work from my children’s books. I have three self-published children’s books titled The Sad Seedling, The Beautiful Bird from Birdburgville, and Robert Robin’s First Flight. When I wrote the books I had a very definite picture in mind and, although I worked with several artists to illustrate the books, they never captured the mood and personalities I wanted. Finally, in desperation I tried illustrating them myself and the final product wasn’t too bad. Art critics would probably find plenty to criticize but I drew my characters the way I saw them and what I liked as a child.

I need a “hook”

I took my books to a few book signings and craft shows but I felt I needed something more to draw attention to my product. Children being dragged to these events are bored beyond belief. I then decided I needed to make these characters come alive for them so I created soft sculptures of the main characters.

Making the critters

This was another challenge because not only am I not an artist but I have limited sewing experience. I found a pattern with basic bird shapes and then modified the patterns to look more like my characters. Here enters challenge number three—how to make the modifications work.

Once I had an object that closely resembled the characters in the books I then needed to make a few more adjustments so I could reproduce a number of them in as short amount of time as possible. Because the characters are so small, it is difficult scrunching all the material around the BIG sewing machine. It would have been much easier to make the characters larger but then they would be out of proportion to the ones in the books.

Finally, once the “critters” are complete then the hand work for the finishing touches comes into the picture. This involves sewing on the heads, closing the bottoms, adding buttons for eyes; and hot gluing “googly” eyes on the robins, beaks, wings, etc.

The big reveal

In March I talked with the owner of Sunbear Studios and Gallery about including my books in her shop and mentioned I was thinking of creating soft sculptures to go with them. She then told me about her art show coming up in May and to come back with them and she would decide. Today was the big reveal. I took my creations back to Meridith, the owner, and she loved them. In her words, “They are so cute.”

Art is fun May 19 & 20

So please come see me next Saturday, May 19 and 20 at Sunbear Studios and Gallery, 3 W. Main St., Alexandria, Ohio 43001—740/924-2656 (between Johnstown and Granville, Ohio on OH Rt. 37). They are planning a great art festival with live music, artist demos, door prizes, art auction of children’s art work, container gardens by Baker’s Acres, snacks, and LOTS OF FUN!

So, here I am, participating in an art show with no formal training—but that has allowed me to think outside the box. Maybe I’ll be an overnight sensation, the Grandma Moses of our time—who’d a thought it?!

NOTE—below is a copy of the flyer. I will add pictures of my “critters” later.

 

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Spring time at the pond:

Great literature must spring from an upheaval in the author’s soul. If that upheaval is not present then it must come from the works of any other author which happens to be handy and easily adapted. Robert Benchley 

April is national poetry month so in honor of that I will take a cue from the above quote and let the poets and my photographs paint a picture of spring.

Spring is when life’s alive in everything.

—Christina Rossetti

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Never yet was a springtime, when the buds forgot to bloom.

—Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Sit quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.—Zen saying

An optimist is the human personification of spring.

—Susan J. Bissonett

Spring—an experience in immortality.

—Henry D. Thoreau