Happy Endings

JIMMY STEWART in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I grew up in a World of Happy Endings!
I remember watching Movies on television.
Television was relatively new.
And that did not seem at the time like something that would date me the way typing that sentence does now.
As the movie ended and LASSIE came home,
Or ANNA and the KING of SIAM Danced, and she stayed to take care of his Children,
Or ROCK HUDSON and DORIS DAY worked out their relationship,
Or JUDY GARLAND and MICKEY ROONEY got their show up and it was a Success…
I remember how MOM would sigh a sigh of greatest satisfaction and say something like, “All Right. See? Everything worked out all right!,”
Usually followed by “OK, time for bed now,”
as we were often allowed to stay up late to watch the end of the Movie.

Now, I go to sleep with news reports like the dropping of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast.
I do not sleep well anymore — like most Americans that I know.
I am longing to hear MOM’s satisfied sigh
“All Right. See? Everything worked out all right!,”
And I notice that Happy Endings are not so readily available.
LA LA LAND… Not for me.
And when people say, ‘Oh, but they did end up Happy. They each realized their dream and they held a special place in one another’s Lives,”
I say, “That is Ordinary!
That is what we are already Living .
What we aspire to — that is what the Arts are for!”
ASPIRE!
REACH HIGHER!
Let us be Inspired — that word, meaning literally, to Take in Air!
Take my Breath Away, that I might Breathe Again — filling my lungs with Fresh Clean Oxygen, given us by every Green Living Thing on this Planet!
Teach Us how it can be!
Even if we don’t reach it in our LifeTime, allow us for a few hours — even for a moment — to See, to Feel, what it Can Be!

Give me ARRIVAL — take a Risk and against all odds; Find a way to Peace!
Give me HIDDEN FIGURES and Help me to see the possibilities of Accomplishment in a time period in which such things seemed un-doable, and Happen Anyway!
Give me the Glorious ending of CINEMA PARADISIO!
Give me Triumph!
Give me True Love!
Give me what I am here to Learn!

Back when I saw HAIRSPRAY for the first time, years ago at its Broadway Premiere, I explained to my Office Colleagues why I Loved it So Much!
Redemption!
For me, a Musical, a Show, a Movie… a Story must have REDEMPTION!
That’s what I am going for!
That is why I am there!
Here is my Acid Test for a Play or Movie:
“I am giving you two hours of my Life! Change Me!”
And if you change me for the Better, I like it even More!

A few days later, a Colleague asked me, rather casually, “ARNIE, have you seen JUNO?”
“Not yet,” I replied.
“Well, I think you’re gonna’ like it!” he told me. “It’s got a lot of that Redemptive Shit in it that you like so much!”

The World is in a troubled place, at the moment.
So many of us have felt the tremors — to our Very Foundations!
But as Artists, we Reach Beyond,
Elevate,
Extend,
Dream Bigger,
Make Waves,
Invite New Possibilities,
And See More than just what’s in front of us!

My Heart Aches for this new Generation coming forward in a World As Is,
And mistakenly thinking that that is how it has to be.
The World is not a Factory Second.
The World is a Launching Pad for your Dreams!
The World is So Many People Beyond yourself who need precisely what it is that You have to Offer!
The World is a Pot of Boiling Eggs with Vinegar and You are the Color!
The World is a Blank Canvas and You are the Vision!
The World is a Pile of FireWorks on a Summer Night and You are the Flame that ignites it!
The World is a Piano and You are the Musician!
We have no need for you to create the World as it is! We know that already!
We need You to show us how Everything works out All Right!
We need you to help us Find a way to Peace!
We need You for the World as it Could Be!

Somehow, we have a plethora of Art right now reflecting back to us what we are.
This has Value.
And this has Merit.
But this is not what I’m in it for!

BARBARA STANWYCK in STELLA DALLAS

As RAFIKI says in THE LION KING, “Look Harder!”
Find within you what you have to Show Us…
What you have to Teach Us…
Help us to see what it is about you for which the World has waited Centuries!
Let us Celebrate your Arrival!
And in this brief time we have together,
Show Us what to do Next!

If a Happy Ending does not seem realistic enough to you right now,
Then you are not looking beyond what has already been handed to you!
Life is a Collaborative Process!
It is not for you to reflect back that which we already have.
It is yours to Create for us that which we most need!

Bring it!
It is what you came to do!

# # #

Fifteen Years

Spontaneous Memorials cropped up all over the city in the days following 9/11/2001

Spontaneous Memorials cropped up all over the city in the days following 9/11/2001

Can it be fifteen years since that one Morning?

I had just opened my own Business in New York — moved into the Office the Week Before.
A friend was coming down from Westchester to help me set up my Computer Systems, and I was to meet her at Grand Central at 9:45am.
My Partner saw me to the door, as I was heading off.
Our downstairs neighbor was heading slowly up the steps toward us — which was unusual all by itself — and looking somewhat eerily stunned.
“Have you guys heard the news this morning?” she asked.
We had not.
“A plane hit the World Trade Center!
They don’t know if it’s an accident or terrorism or what.
I am just heading up to the roof to have a look.”
We joined her. (more…)

Day of Atonement

IMG_5719A Jewish Colleague and Friend asked me last week, “Can I ask you a question? Where did you learn your Yiddisha? You speak it better than anyone I know. You spell it better than anyone I know…”

I had signed an Email “L’Shonah Tova Tikatevu!” (i.e.: “HAPPY NEW YEAR! May You be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a Good year…”)

I told her that I grew up in New York Theater, and the Fabulous BARBARA COLTON was my Mentor in such things!
I also have spent the Jewish Holidays every year with my Best Friend’s Family (And after more than 35 years, Very Much My Own Family Too!)

 

I’ve Always Enjoyed So Many Aspects of Judaism.

I Love that each Day Begins with a Beautiful Sunset.

(more…)

The Sweetness of Now

IMG_4880Growing up,
We lived upstairs in Apartment 4A.
My Aunt lived downstairs with her family in Apartment 1A.

My Mother and her Sister talked every day
Several times a day.
When prime time television ended each night at 11pm, My Aunt would bang on the Radiator Pipe to let us know she was coming up.
My Mother would grab a wooden spoon and bang back to let her know it was OK.
I never understood the point of this, as they came every night at the same time
and it was always OK.
My Aunt and Uncle would sit with my Mother and Father,
and they would have a cup of coffee together before bedtime.

My Mother and her Sister shared all kinds of things. (more…)

Why I Teach

As another semester draws to a close, and the Students continue to change from year to year, it seems like a good moment to pause and look at Why I Teach…

Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters

Perez Hilton

Perez Hilton

Because I grew up with BARBARA WALTERS
And you grew up with PEREZ HILTON.

Because I grew up in the EISENHOWER/KENNEDY Era
And you grew up in the REAGAN/BUSH Era.

Because I grew up learning Table Manners
And you grew up learning Apps.

Because when I grew up, we made it,
And when you grew up, you bought it.

Because when I grew up, Discipline and Respect and Good Sportsmanship were Values taught to us,
And when you grew up, Everyone got a Trophy.

(more…)

NewSpeak: 30 Years Later

1984-signet19811Remember Seeing that Book, 1984, as a Kid?
Remember thinking, “WOW! I’ll be in my twenties when that year comes!
We will Live to See This!”
Remember then thinking, “I will Live to See the Year 2000?”
Or with somewhat less confidence, “Maybe I’ll Live to see portable video phones — like Dick Tracy’s wristwatch!” (more…)

Growing Up Rich

Did you grow up Rich?
I did.

Ocean Beach Ferry

I see the throngs headed toward Penn Station
from their Manhattan Dwellings every Friday…
Struggling with bags and juggling train schedules,
Paying Fares on the LIRR or NEW JERSEY TRANSIT,
and on taxis and ferries
Just to get out to some tiny house they own
so that they can enjoy a sliver of sunshine.

When I was a Kid, My Father gave us the Ocean
And the Sky.

(more…)

How I Spent My Twenties

rainbowflagIn this Season of Pride, I Offer the Following…

Coming of Age
Ten Years after StoneWall
How the Older Men looked at me with such envy
I was oblivious to what their struggle had bought me.
I took my Freedom to Love quite for granted.
I looked at them just as Old Men who understood nothing
of what I and the other Young Men were capable.
I saw no connection between what they had been through
And my Freedom to Love whomever I chose. (more…)

Cookies

 Chocolate Covered Cherry CookiesDo You Like to Bake?

I do.
I was doing my Christmas Baking this week (The Season Continues… We are still celebrating around here…), and as I was mixing the dough with my electric handmixer, I thought back to recipes that read, “Beat for 300 strokes.”

It isn’t that long ago cookie dough was mixed with a fork.
Hershey’s was the only cocoa.
And Nestle’s were the only chocolate chips.

And I began to think about the other Miracles in my Kitchen… (more…)

ReCommencement: A Tribute to the CSHS Class of ’78, on the Occasion of our 35th ReUnion

Back in October, Members of the Cardinal Spellman High School Class of ’78 enjoyed our 35th High School Reunion.
Reconnecting with all of these Wonderful People inspired me to write the following piece. (more…)