Elvis

Adult Children of Elvis Fanatics

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. I know this, not because I have a great memory, because I don’t. Not because I’m good with dates, because I’m not. I know this because it was four days before my 13th birthday. As if turning 13 wasn’t traumatic enough.

My mother first heard of the news of Elvis’ death via a phone call. After she silently hung-up the phone, she looked at me with glazed over eyes and stated simply, Elvis died. She then proceeded to go into her bedroom and shut the door. She did not emerge for 3 days. After the 3rd day, my dad (who was an unusually patient man, especially when it came to my mother) opened the bedroom door, stuck his head in and said, Hon, it’s not like you knew the man. This one statement was enough to rally my mother for the next 24 hours in order to celebrate my birthday. Once the festivities ended she promptly returned to her room.

To say my mother is an Elvis fan would be like saying the movie Titanic made a few dollars at the box office. My mom currently lives in a lovely two-bedroom home. Actually, it’s a one-bedroom home and a one Elvis-shrine room home. Over the years she has collected everything Elvis; from t-shirts to calendars to movies, puzzles, busts and life-size cardboard cut-outs. Posters, prints and paintings- some black velvet, some not. Every song he’s ever recorded and thanks to her cunning ability to sneak tape-recorders into live concerts, some he has not. In my mother’s will it stipulates that I am to inherit her vast Elvis collection to the exclusion of my brothers because as my mom says, they’re boys, they don’t understand. Little does she know that my husband has already spent countless hours scouring e-bay to see what we might stand to gain after the sale of said items.

My mom does however, own one little slice of Elvis heaven. At the last concert Elvis performed at the Spectrum in Philadelphia before he died, she caught one of his scarves. Apparently at his concerts, Elvis had a guy who stood next to him handing out white autographed scarves – a job that ranks right up there with Vanna White turning letters on Wheel of Fortune. Just how does one get a gig like that? Do you go to your high-school guidance counselor  and ask What do I need to get on my SAT’s in order to be accepted into a good college so that upon graduation I can get a job handing scarves to Elvis? But I digress.

Elvis would take these doled out scarves and rub it around his face and neck a little thereby not only offering up his signature but his make-up and scent as well. I’ve always heard was a generous guy. These sweaty and stained scarves would then be thrown into the audience. My mom claims she wrestled a guy to the ground for hers, which we all believe because on the handy smuggled-in tape recorder you can hear the ensuing fisticuffs. I won’t repeat the ensuing words.

When my mom came home with hard fought scarf in hand, I don’t think I ever saw her stand more tall or proud., much like a cave man returning to his village with fresh buffalo kill to save the people from starvation. Yay, we’ll survive another winter, the clan shouts with joy. Yay, we have more Elvis chatchki, my father mutters with apathy.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard in my house growing up, Hey, where’s mom? She’s in the bedroom sniffing the Elvis scarf again, then I too could buy Cadillac’s for strangers.

Most moms take great pride and pleasure in teaching their children all they need to know to get by in life. Well, don’t ask me to do long division, conjugate a verb or follow directions on Mapquest. But if you want to know the name of Elvis’ twin brother, his mother’s name or the proper pronunciation of Graceland, then I’m your go-to-gal. (Jesse Garon, Gladys, GRACE-len, in case you were wondering.) Mom, you have taught me well.

2-Hour Block

 

A few short weeks into traversing what had turned out to be the most challenging trial of my life thus far, one of my most treasured friends, Joanie (although friend is not a strong enough appellation, she’s…my person. Meredith Grey/Christina Yang style) made the mistake of placing a morning phone call to me. It was 9:00 a.m. I was still in bed. Curled in a fetal position. Crying. I’m not sure I would have answered, had it been anyone else. But since it was my Joanie, I took the call. She then made another mistake by asking me how I was doing. Between sobs, in a barely audible voice I said, not good. I squelched my tears long enough to let her know that I can’t do this. I can’t get through this day. I can’t get through this week. This month. This year. This. Is too hard. She then asked if I could get through the next 2 hours, could I make it until 11:00 a.m.? Somehow, she heard my head nod a tentative, I’ll try.

Two hours later, at 11:00 a.m., Joanie called again. She repeated her mistake of asking me how I was doing. At that point I had stopped crying and, in a whisper, said, still not great. She asked if I could make it another 2 hours, could I make it to 1:00 p.m.? This time I quietly spoke the words, I think so. Two hours after that, Joanie called me again. She asked me the same question, can I make it another 2 hours, can I make it until 3:00 p.m.? This time I was able to answer with an audible, yes. At 5:00 p.m., my phone rang again. This time, I was confident when I told her that I would be fine for the next 2 hours and that, yes, I could make it until 7:00 p.m. Joanie called me 3 more times that day, until I was back in my bed, unfurled from my fetal position. Without tears in my eyes. When she called me at 11:00 p.m. she explained that, for now, my life was being lived in 2-hour blocks. And that it was o.k. It’s o.k. that I was in a season of life, where all I could do was manage to survive, 2 hours at a time. Because the answer to the question, can you make it through the next 2 hours? Is always, yes. She then shared with me the sage words her father once said to her while she was a young teenager and in the midst of navigating a particularly rough life-circumstance. He said, Joanie, this will never be o.k., but it will be better. In that moment, it was hard for me to believe her father’s words. But as it turned out, her dad’s words were true when he spoke them to her. They were true when she spoke them to me. And they are true now, as I speak them to you.

The next time I saw Joanie, she handed me a present and told me to open it. Inside was a small wooden block her son had lovingly hand-carved. On it she had written 2 hour. Get it? It was my very own 2 hour block! Joanie said this was my visual reminder of the season I was in and that it wouldn’t last forever. Because, as she would tell me again, this will never be o.k., but it will be better. As soon as I got home I put that special block on my kitchen window sill where I knew I would see it. Every day. For a long time, it served to remind me that I was living in a 2-hour block season of life. But now, when I see this treasured talisman, it serves to remind me that God not only brought me through that season, He delivered me. He delivered me into a new life that is exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond anything I could think or imagine. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Because, while I hate how I got here, I love that I am here. My excruciating, temporary trial has reaped boundless, continual rewards. Every slip of my foot has brought me to where God has me now. And that, makes everything, well with my soul. When I said, my foot is slipping, your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. (Psalm 94:18)

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lin-manuel miranda

Brilliance is Brilliance is Brilliance is Brilliance

Not to jump on the Lin-Manuel Miranda celebratory bandwagon, but bandwagons are bandwagons for a reason, so I’m-a-jumpin.’ I first became aware of the prolific, impassioned and accomplished Mr. Miranda from his much-too-short arc on the medical drama, House, in which he played Juan ‘Alvie’ Alvarez, the incessantly free-rapping institutionalized roommate of the ever annoyed by free-rapping institutionalized Dr. Gregory House, the titular character played by the inimitable Hugh Laurie.  At the time, I was unaware of Miranda’s 2008 Broadway musical, In the Heights, for which he won his first Tony Award. I was however, keenly aware of his role on a very different short-lived and widely panned medical drama, Do No Harm. If you’ve never heard of this blink-and-you-missed it 2013 mid-season canceled-before-you-knew-it-existed show, consider yourself among the majority. In it, Miranda plays chemist, Dr. Ruben Marcado, which is ironic since in real life he is married to the beautiful Vanessa Nadal, an MIT graduate with a degree in chemical engineering.

While most people don’t even know Do No Harm existed, I for one, shall never forget. Mainly because it is thanks to this debacle of a production that I got to spend an entire afternoon in the presence of the pre-Hamilton hysteria, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Since 2006 I have worked as an extra on over 30 movies and television shows, but it wasn’t until Do No Harm that I was offered my first recurring role, which I’m hoping had nothing to do with its swift cancellation. It might have been a soured show, but it was a pretty sweet gig. The weekly demands placed on me typically consisted of purposefully walking through hospital hallways in comfortable scrubs while clutching important medical files. As fate and high-rising production costs would have it, most of the props on Do No Harm were recycled and repurposed from the Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, the fictional medical center in which the intolerant diagnostician Dr. House resided. I even discovered a few discarded House scripts on set, some of which I may or may not have indefinitely borrowed.

But my most memorable day was spent in the presence of the genius that is Lin-Manuel Miranda. The scene takes place in a coffee-shop where Dr. Marcado is busy drowning his sorrows in a strong cup-a-joe, while I hover next to him pretending to partake in witty banter with the barista. For a few memorable hours, I basked in the closeness of Mr. Miranda’s presence. I observed the hyper-kinesthetic nature of Lin-Manuel’s brilliant mind, that never stops working and rarely shuts off. I listened to his hilarious off-the cuff remarks and stood witness to his kindness, graciousness and generosity to the actors, the crew, and me.

While I am certain this genuinely humble and sweet-spirited man has zero recollection of my existence, I will always remember and be grateful for the time spent in the presence of the one who not only brought Alexander Hamilton, and all that he entails, to the forefront of the contemporary American mind, but more importantly to the man who so selflessly exhorted a shocked and heartbroken nation to embrace love on a night, that by all rights, was his. He deftly shifts the tide from himself onto us, and serves to remind, through his Tony Award winning acceptance speech that love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. And to that I say, brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance is brilliance. Thank-you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for an unforgettable heart felt sonnet for our country and a memorable heart held day for me.

wizard of oz

There’s No Place Like Home, Especially if it’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

As my husband and I sat logging in a few more hours of mindless political punditry, I found myself distracted by the fact that Ted Cruz’ nose looks freakishly like that of the Tin Man, which of course, got me to thinking that this year’s race to the White House is a metaphorical Wizard of Oz.  Barring the physical resemblance Cruz has to the Tin Man, it is not a stretch to think of him standing alone in a field hoping someone will pass by, notice him and oil him. Then there’s Trump who, like the Scarecrow, is missing a brain. Perhaps Megyn Kelly could pose the same question that Dorothy asked, “How do you talk if you don’t have a brain?” To which I’m sure The Donald would echo the Scarecrow’s response, “Well, some people without brains do an awful lot of talking don’t they?” I also can’t help but compare Bernie Sanders to the Cowardly Lion since his constant floppy-wrist, finger wagging is evocative of the Lion raising his fists and snarling, “Put ‘em up, put ‘em up!” And of course we have Marco Rubio, nipping at our heels like Toto hoping we don’t forget him. After all, 2020 isn’t that far away! And last but not least, there’s Almira Gulch, I mean Hillary, traversing the countryside screeching, “Just try and stay out of my way. Just try.” Or maybe she is more like Elphaba, whose well-intentioned good deeds have simply been misconstrued her whole life. But this Almira/Elphaba mystery may never be solved, unless of course a spunky teenage girl accidentally throws a bucket of water on her (which I am not, repeat, NOT suggesting.) Guess we’ll just have to wait until November to find out who will stand behind the curtain. In the meantime, maybe the country will collectively wake-up and realize that this has all been a concussive induced nightmare. Until then, not only is there no place like home, there is also no place like America.

 

 

 

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Discover the Real John C. McGinley

It is with great sentimentality that I watch the current Halls Triple Action Cough Drops commercial featuring acclaimed actor John C. McGinley. Thanks in part to my friendship with a location scout, I had the distinct privilege of spending an afternoon with Mr. McGinley during the filming of the 2012 movie, The Discoverers. A few scenes happened to be shooting in the town where I live. My friend Amy was scouting locations and she thought my home church would be perfect for base-camp. I managed to convince the Sr. Pastor, who just so happened to be my husband, that this was a good idea. During the day’s shoot, in lieu of dressing rooms, each actor was given an office in which to hang-out. Since John was the principal actor of the day he was awarded the corner office, aka, my husband’s. I was an admirer of John’s work, most notably that of the acerbic Dr. Perry Cox on the hit medical comedy Scrubs. He played his character to such perfection that I assumed he must be just like him in real life. After a brief introduction, I ushered John to his ‘dressing room.’ As he settled in, I busied myself in the outer office. Within seconds I was summoned back with the shout of Hey church lady, what’s the password for the computer? As I told him the password he invited me to sit for a chat as there is notoriously long amounts of idle time on movie sets. We made fast and easy conversation. He complimented me on the pictures of my family that were strewn about the office. As he shared pictures of his family, I cooed over his sweet baby-girl, Billie and couldn’t help but comment on Nicole, his striking yoga-instructor wife by asking, how did you get someone so hot to marry you? In his signature deadpan style, he replied, I have a lot of money. But it wasn’t until he showed me a picture of his beautiful son Max that we were both quiet for the first time since meeting each other. It was evident that this lively, adored and fun-loving boy carries the label of Down Syndrome. I then asked John if he would like to see my favorite room in the building. As we walked into The Rainbow Room I explained that this room was used every Sunday morning for our children with special needs. It is staffed with loving care-givers, overflows with toys and tricks of the trade and oozes comfort and acceptance. He silently walked to the center of the room and did a slow 360. He looked at me while fighting back tears and in a barely audible whisper said, This. Is. Good. And as I fought back tears of my own, I realized I was right all along, John McGinley is just like Perry Cox. Because like his famed character, underneath his real-life razor sharp wit I discovered a heart of pure gold.

 

 

Rest in Peace Ziggy Stardust

Like most everyone who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia my summers were spent vacationing down at the Jersey Shore. All except for the summer I turned 10, because that was the summer my parents surprised my brothers and me with a trip to Disney World. Since my dad had an irrational fear of flying we were relegated to taking Amtrak. After hearing the disappointment in our voices over the fact that we wouldn’t be taking a plane to Florida, my parents managed to convince us that taking the 24-hour train would be a magical adventure, which it was. Until the air-conditioning in our filled-to-capacity car decided to stop working…at midnight…in August. Clearly, this was no way to begin a magical trip to the Magic Kingdom. By 2:00 a.m. we were so sweat-drenched that my dad made the suggestion we hightail it to the air-conditioned dining car to see if a kind-hearted waiter would take pity on us and serve our little family of 5 some ice-cream. Turns out the kind-hearted server already had his hands full. Apparently David Bowie shared the same fear of flying as my dad and often hopped a train for his gigs, replete with entourage. This happened to be at the height of his Ziggy Stardust persona days. There he sat, in our little dining car in full Ziggy regalia surrounded by his musicians and roadies, enjoying the air-conditioning and eating, you guessed it, ice-cream. They graciously shared the dining car with us as well as the ice-cream. While the world will remember David Bowie as an amazing, iconic musician/actor/artist, I will remember him as the really cool guy in the funny outfit who I ate ice-cream with in the middle-of-the-night while on my way to the Magic Kingdom. Rest in Peace David Bowie and thank-you for a truly magical memory.

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Santa has left the building

 

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 I’ve heard it said that holidays are better when there are children to share them with. I couldn’t agree more. But since our youngest is rapidly approaching 16, our days of parenting little ones are behind us. So it is that I treasure Christmas Eve, when our house bursts at the seams with extended family, food, laughter, love and little ones. There is one particular little face that melts my heart. Her name is as unique as she is. Arden has Laura Ingalls’ freckles, cheeks that were built to be pinched and so much twinkle in her Newman-esque eyes that she can get away with just about anything, and she knows it.  The kind of kid who opts to wear a bright pink Japanese kimono on Christmas Eve. She’s also the kind of kid who is not easily fazed, even by Santa himself. My husband is one of 8 children which means I am never in short-supply of brothers-in-law, one of whom could make a career as a photo-double for a Robinson son on Duck Dynasty. He is the definition of the strong, silent type. He’s also not much for crowds and at times will leave a party before it is over. A few short Christmas Eve’s ago he did just that. On that night as the evening was wrapping up for the rest of us, Arden made it clear that she was not yet ready to go home. After much pleading and cajoling her exasperated parents issued the ultimate threat, if we don’t leave now, Santa won’t come to our house. Arden looked at her mom and dad as if they were crazy and informed them that Santa just left. Yup, holidays are most definitely better when shared with children…and Santa.

A Very Comfy Christmas

 

Ever since our girls were little they have been allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. And every year it’s the same thing, matching pajamas, or jammies as we call them. Since our oldest turned 27 last April suffice to say, that’s a lot of flannel. But while some may look at the whole ‘matching jammies’ as a fun and frivolous tradition I have come to the sentimental realization that it means so much more than just dressing alike one day out of the year. Christmas day is a laid back event in our home since the night before is spent hosting over 30 family members. We relish every minute of the noise and chaos. But by the next day, when it’s just us, we are happy to simply open presents, indulge in a hearty breakfast, play games, watch movies and finish up last night’s leftovers. All the while never bothering to change out of our newly acquired sleepwear. Unlike the night before, we relish every minute of the peace and calm, because my husband and I know that as our girls get older it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gather all of us to the same place at the same time. Like everyone, our days are consumed by work, school, obligations and the general minutia of daily life. But on Christmas day, as I take mental snapshots of those I love the most I am reminded that no matter how disparate the majority of our time may be spent we are a family, cut from the same cloth. As we begin 2016, I wish you and your family a year of ‘matching jammies’ moments.

3 girls and a son-in-law ~~ 3 girls and a son-in-law ~~

Somewhere in Your Heart

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My father-in-law’s headshot for Impala Records

For all you die-hard Frank Sinatra fans you may be aware that among the many songs ole-blue-eyes recorded was one entitled Somewhere in Your Heart. What you may not be aware of is that it was originally recorded by my father-in-law, William O’Keefe McCloskey, aka Bill Martel; Impala Recording Artist. While still in high school and before embarking on a singing career, Bill contracted the polio virus which left him with a noticeable limp. He would sometimes tell people that it was an old war injury, other times he would say he was doing his best Walter Pidgeon impersonation.

In the early 1950’s Bill met and married Barbara Meiris, the beautiful young woman who would become the mother of their 8 children, one of whom I had the good fortune to marry. My father-in-law had a great line in which he used to say, “You know, with a name like McCloskey and eight kids people assume we’re strict Catholics. The truth is, we’re just careless Protestants.”

It was during Bill’s heyday with Impala Records that he was being touted as the next Eddie Fisher. Accolades aside, he realized how difficult it was to actually make a living in the music industry and put his singing career on hold in order to support his ever-growing family. He ended up in the car business, a vocation at which he excelled.

The year my in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, we threw a surprise party in which 100 of their closest friends and family were in attendance. The day after the party my father-in-law was waxing nostalgic when he said to me, “You know Rob, I was supposed to be the next Eddie Fisher. But after looking around that room yesterday I wouldn’t trade all the fame and fortune in the world for what I have”.

One month before his 82nd birthday, Bill passed away. I know those of us surrounding his hospital bed that morning had the same collective thought; thank-you dad, for finding a place somewhere in your heart for all of us.

Elvis and Marilyn

My parents met and fell in love in the late 1950’s. They married young, as their generation tended to do and statistically speaking shouldn’t have lasted more than a year. My dad was 20, my mom 19. He was a practicing Protestant, she was a lapsed Catholic. He was from an intact family, she was a product of divorce. But she thought he looked like Elvis Presley and he thought she looked like Marilyn Monroe, so really, what else did they need? Over the years they somehow managed to remain that rare breed of married couples who not only loved each other, they adored each other. They looked at each other the way Priscilla looked at Elvis, Joe looked at Marilyn, Nancy looked at Ron and Ron looked at Nancy. My dad embraced all my mom’s eccentricities. He knew that Elvis was his competition but he also knew that if push came to shove, Elvis didn’t hold a candle to him in my mom’s eyes. Besides, what were the chances of her ever meeting Elvis, as he used to say? On March 9, 2001 the day before my mom’s 61st birthday, my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack. About a week later, I was checking in on my mom and I asked her how she was doing. This was her heartbreaking response, “A few weeks ago your father and I were talking about how we probably had twenty good years left. We both looked at each other and said, that’s just not enough time. And now, twenty years seems like an eternity.” My mom and dad didn’t have a perfect marriage or a perfect life but they did have a perfect love. All in all, I guess you could say he was her Elvis and she was his Marilyn.

~~ A picture of my mom and dpost2ad found in my dad’s wallet the day he died, hence the fold marks. My mom never knew he carried it with him throughout their 41 year marriage.