Under the Big Top

ringling-brosI never joined the circus. Actually, I’ve never even been much of a fan. Too many rings to watch at once. Too many nail biting high wire acts. Too many animals  tethered and tamed instead of wild and free. And the clowns, yikes, the clowns. Maybe I was just a weird kid, but the circus was never a big ‘must see’.

Still, I must say I felt a teeny bit sad when the 146 year old Barnum and Bailey Circus recently pulled up stakes for good. But, hey, even the biggest show on earth would have a hard time competing with the red, white and blue Big Top of — politics.

If, like me, watching more than one thing at a time makes you dizzy, refer to your program and buckle up. There’s enough action under the Big Top these days to make your head spin. Precarious high wire acts. Slights of hand. Tricks that can keep you stranded in the air with no safety net. From acrobats to animal trainers, no one seems to like each other very much but every one is worth watching.

High flying tricks emerge energetically from every spotlit ring. Some are intriguing’ others could turn catastrophic in a heartbeat. All the balls are in the air and where they land no one knows – yet. We watch every act with interest or fear, approval or upset. Performers go through flaming hoops or emerge from clown cars. And we’re left to wonder what (or who) is going to bounce off the trampoline. Welcome to life under the Big Top. Continue reading

The Day Cable Died

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Stuff happens every day. Some really big things can knock us off our feet in an instant. A mere cable meltdown should be a blip on the radar, right? While it might certainly be true most days, being snowbound in a blizzard without tv, phone and internet qualifies as solitary confinement.

Having no other sound in the house but yours is awkward enough most days but come on, no cable in a blizzard? Really? That pushes the envelope . . . off the table.

I was actually kind of looking forward to a nice, February snow day. I penciled in phone calls and emails I badly needed to return, as well as tv shows that begged a bit of binge watching. My lazy day schedule was taking shape nicely, thank you. That is of course until I realized, well before even one flake fell, that my internet disappeared. Probably just a brownout, I thought. No worries, I said to myself. I’ll just check to see if my neighbor’s cable was down as well but no sooner had I opened my door when I spied a cable truck already parked in our shared driveway. Huh? That was quick. Before I could process the speedy response, I saw said repairman already leaving my neighbor’s door. Hmm, I thought, fast fix! But no, things are NEVER that easy. Oh, he did repair my neighbor’s faulty phone alright, but he detonated my entire system in the process! Brilliant.

As I made my first call to the cable company, I was agitated, especially when they advised me that, yes, there was an outage in my neighborhood. Newsflash: Of course, there’s an outage – MINE! They assured me that they were repairing it on their end which was mystifying since the outage happened on MY end. “Ma’am” they said “we’ll be there first thing in the morning to get you up and running.” I reminded them, of course,  that 10″ of snow was expected ‘in the morning’. “We’ll be there”, they promised. Their 6am call the next morning advising me that we were having a snow storm (duh) and couldn’t make it, was no surprise. (By now, you are catching the ‘drift’ of this story, right?) They asked IF I would like to reschedule for the following day. (Seriously, they really asked that question) I mentally counted to ten and told them “Sure, it would be lovely if their trusty ‘cable guy’ in his bright colored truck could finally make an appearance”! (or something to that effect.) Continue reading

Across the GREAT Divide

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History is a funny thing. Depending on the glasses it’s viewed with, the past is either chock full of not so great things or colored with a romantically soft blur. Me? I think it’s a little of both. History is life, with all its ups and downs, no matter how we’d like to retouch it. Graphic designers like me are cool with that kind of artistic license but history needs no retouched brand marketing. It is what it is.

The words ‘great again’ in relation to America have now become part of our daily lexicon. They are heard nearly every day and are pretty much guaranteed to echo through the next few years. Pretty good words; bold yet nostalgic rallying cry. The only problem is that each time I hear the phrase I find myself scratching my head. I can’t seem to nail down the period in history when our American lives were perfect enough, great enough for an encore.

If a handy time machine could transport us to the past, where exactly would we land? What era would our GPS point to? Would we be whisked back to the time we helped our entitled selves to the land of the true Native Americans, elbowing them out of the way? Or when we bought, sold, traded slaves to build that new country? Maybe it was those scary days when we were kids and the Cold War sent us scurrying to hide beneath our desks. Those nostalgic days also included ‘colored’ drinking fountains, gays who were forced to remain in the closet – and women in the kitchen.

I’m in advertising. I know snappy taglines sell things but I’m just having a problem wrapping my head around a ‘great again’ marketing slogan. I can’t seem to pinpoint the glorious golden age when all, regardless of color or gender were peaceful and happy.  Is our country truly great? You bet. But in a country of more than 318 million people of every diversity, having ups and downs, even in a single day, is part of the deal. It doesn’t make us less great; it makes great more fluid.

I’m old enough (not ancient, mind you) to have lived through several wars, from Vietnam and the Gulf War to Iran and Iraq. Living in a different time and different skin, I never experienced the Jim Crow laws that brutalized a whole portion of our fellow Americans. They were the citizens sent to the back of the bus, and denied use of the same restrooms and drinking fountains as their white neighbors. As a woman, I was lucky enough not to have lived in a time when I couldn’t vote because of my ‘weaker’ sex. I was a young mom by the time Roe vs Wade signaled the end of back-alley abortions and same sex relations were taken off the list of criminal offenses. Our land of opportunity didn’t always gift those opportunities to everyone. For many — it still doesn’t. Continue reading

Four Funerals and a Wedding

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Nope, not the Hugh Grant comedy.  Jill Smolowe’s book, Four Funerals and a Wedding, is pretty much anything but comedic. Her book chronicles not only her personal grief journey but how she coped and grew along the way. In one chapter she mentions how her therapist suggested that her grief began on the first day of her husband’s diagnosis. That struck me as pretty profound.  Given that my husband’s diagnosis was levied 3 months before we were even married, I realized it would not be at all surprising that unconscious grief followed us through those years. Even as we lived and loved as fully as we possibly could, we grieved by inches.

How do you measure the knowledge, however much you stash it in the closet or ‘put on a happy face’, that many dreams just won’t come true? No, my mind never went in the direction of Charlie Brown’s Sally who said “She didn’t want to live and threw herself in front of a Zamboni”. It was just that gray leaden feeling, a sense that no matter what your plans, there would always be an expiration date that coexisted with the daily business of living. Where cancer lives, everything becomes more complicated and layered. All of life takes on a different hue. Continue reading