Last night I settled in for a long winter’s nightcap of hot chocolate and a great movie.

The 1985 film classic, Witness, directed by Peter Weir, is a cinematic masterpiece with a compelling script written by William Kelley, along with Pamela and Earl W. Wallace. And an all star cast.

Samuel Identifies photo or murderer

Samuel identifies murderer

A young Amish boy, Samuel (Luke Haas) is the sole witness to a murder.  This innocent kid goes to a big city bathroom at the wrong place, wrong time.   When Policeman John Book (Harrison Ford) realizes the murder was done by one of his own, he flees with the boy and his Mom, Rachel (Kelly McGinnis) to their Amish world.

The Amish life is a haven and sharp contrast to the gritty city life. A safe retreat for both the Amish and one angry cop.  The film highlights the beauty of that serenity in a crazy world.

Thirty years later, the Amish have a reality show.  And we’re all running around with cell phones glued to our ears.

My how things have changed.

Every parent's nightmare

Every parent’s nightmare

As the film credits for Witness slipped down the screen,   I thought of  real life children and staff who witnessed 26 murders.

Twenty six murders. Twenty of them children.

There was no cinematic masterpiece with a spellbinding music score.  Only sheer horror.

A year ago, a school in Newtown lost its innocence as 26 people lost their lives.  We, as a country, bore witness with live coverage as the horrific tragedy unfolded.

And now a year later, our hearts still ache as Newtown families wait and wonder if their pain will ever go away.

This week, major news outlets will reflect one of, if not  the darkest day in our history.  We will have ‘dialogue’ with talking heads.  As there  should be.

But will there be hard core solutions to the bullying and murders in our schools? In our society?

As a culture, we know the cost of the latest cell phones, Tessla stock and film budgets.


Newtown children return to school

But what’s the cost of a life?

A teacher’s life?

A child’s life?

On a school playground?

In a classroom?


You had me at Merlot

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Cameron Crowe fan.  So when my friend Mary gave me a wine stopper that reads “You had me at Merlot”….well, I was beyond thrilled.

There’s just something about Mary.

And what about Cameron? Without him, that play on words wouldn’t exist.

Movies are a part of our vernacular.  Vernacular.  Trying saying that after a couple glasses of Merlot. I dare you. But it’s true.  The vernacular part.  And the other part…about the Merlot.

Now, where was I?

How To Cook A Turkey

In a world of instant everything, movies linger in our soul long after the scent of fresh movie popcorn has gone stale.

We can go on Facebook or Instagram and see thousands of pictures that tell a story.  But would you spend two hours of free time and buy expensive popcorn to see them?

Movies move us…literally.  To another place, time, relationship, trip, journey, crisis.  A good movie will exhaust you and exhilarate you.  All at the same time.

Kind of like sex.

Or music.

Or words.

I listen to film scores.  Often.  I can be doing taxes or writing a pivotal scene and yet, for that moment in time, I am transported to another  place and time.  I may have just figured out that I owe the IRS way too much money but hey, I’m having breakfast at Tiffany’s.  With Audrey, no less.

Lost in the moment.

Moving moments.

Until my husband or one of my sons walk in….

“Where’s the remote?”

“Have you seen my wetsuit?”

“What time is Thanksgiving dinner?”

“I wish Grandma Norma and Boompa were still with us.”

And at that moment, I’m thankful to be in the moment, enjoying the real characters in my life.  They don’t pay a whole lot but they enrich my lives in ways I never knew.

And frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.  Because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all the characters in your life….


Or imagined.








The Graduate

Mike Nichols directed one of my all-time favorites, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katharine Ross.  It was written by the incomparable Buck Henry who penned the one liner that advised Dustin’s character (Benjamin) to get into this new field:  “Plastics.”

And do I even have to mention the music by Simon and Garfunkel?  I didn’t think so.

Freshman at Alcatraz on Mom's Day

The Freshman at Acatraz on Mom’s Day

The graduate in my life this year is my youngest son, Stevie.  Ironically,  he graduated  from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies with aspirations to rid the world of plastics.   The entire family headed north to commemorate the monumental day.  Final score: four college graduates.   As the endless summer was starting, our tuition payments were ending.    And we have empty wallets to prove it.

My friend, Rose and I hit the road first.  I warned Rose,  aka Stevie’s Godmother, that I had watched Thelma and Louise the night before.  Another classic.   A Ridley Scott film based on Calli Khouri’s Oscar winning script  starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis; with a breakout role by some new guy named Brad.

Yes, a great film but a lousy choice  if you’re setting out on a seven hour drive through two of the busiest freeways in the world.  We had plenty of coffee so what could possibly go wrong?  Rose  let me drive her car which was a good idea as Rose was voted “Worst Mom Driver”  – by all three of her kids’ friends.   That’s almost an honor.  A Lifetime Achievement Award.  Isn’t it?   Think about it.   No carpool nominations.  No frantic calls from  neurotic Moms on overdrive to pick up their Einstein from their Physics for First Graders  course.    Brilliant, Rose.

As I was printing up directions, Rose called with big news.  She downloaded  “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James; and she would  read it aloud during our drive.

I thought to myself…”Then what?”

That night, I  mentioned it to my husband during pillow talk but he was clueless.  I explained that it is the latest, greatest,  naughtiest  S&M erotica book for women.  Once they start reading it, they can’t put it down; along with that glass of wine on their nightstand.

My husband perked up.  “Then what?”  No problem.  “It’s a trilogy!”

The next morning, I warned Rose that I watched the chic  flick of all time.  From here on out, she was Thelma and I was Louise.  She laughed lightly to which I replied rather abruptly ala Louise.   “I mean it!   No Grey matter ’til we hit the open highways, north of LA.”   As it was, my hair turned one ugly shade of gray as we crawled through the worst LA traffic I’ve seen in a decade.  So I  suggested my Thelma start reading  after our first pit stop.

My husband called as we passed by Magic Mountain:   “So, what page you on?”

“The ‘we need more coffee, it took two hours to get through LA and Louise isn’t in the mood right now’ page.”

One quick pit stop and two coffee refills later, we were armed and dangerous.  We  whipped by  the Madonna Inn, San Luis wineries and Stanford without even a mention of the book.  Instead, we swapped horror stories and cherished moments about parenting, sibling rivalry, report cards, team Moms and overbearing Dads; while juggling our respective careers.  This Thelma and Louise had survived.  We were still in the game of this thing called life.   One day we  would have time to take long, lazy vacations to read the entire Grey Trilogy in one week.

For now,  though, we had to navigate the Bay Bridge in  the thickest fog I’ve ever seen in San Francisco.  Good thing I packed that retro purple leather bomber jacket.

The rest of the family arrived the next morning.  For the next four days, we celebrated with the graduate. We dropped into Stevie’s  job at Doc Martens on Haight Street. We visited a winery in Napa Valley. We even rode across the Golden Gate Bridge on the open roof top seats of a 3-story bus; and my shades of gray never looked better – like a Brazillian blow out.   Later, this Thelma and Louise loaded up on every kind of  Trader Joe’s gourmet goody to go with our six bottle value pack of Chardonnay as the newest members of the Sterling Wine Club.  But we learned that we could have got the exclusive wine from TJ’s a whole lot cheaper.  Later on Uncle Paul would join us for the celebratory feast on Saturday night to toast our losses and our gains.

But first:  the big day.  By Saturday, the fog had lifted and the sun made a special appearance on the foggiest point in San Francisco.   Hence, we spent four hours on the field of SFSU on  the hottest day that I can ever remember in San Francisco.  Ever.    The purple leather bomber jacket stayed back at the condo.

Twenty-three years flashed before my eyes as I sweat in those bleachers.Stevie Pirate!

 Then, suddenly, it was all over.  Stevie was now Steven.

Was it worth it?

Preschool jitters; little league, middle school angst; high school pranks?

Homework wars, SAT scores?

Drivers license, prom night,  broken hearts?

College tuition, housing, Top Ramen, cheap coffee.

Blood, sweat and tears.

And more tears?

Worth every last shade of gray.











Heart and Soul

Friday is always a good day, even if it starts out lousy.  No need to set my alarm clock -ever –  because I wake up to the smell of morning coffee.  But, I forget to set the coffee pot last night.  Damn.  Oh well, it’s Friday.

Besides, I was up and out the door for an early appointment. So I didn’t have time to savor that first morning cup while I write a new scene, check emails, blog or twitter.  Or get gas for my empty tank.  I didn’t care. Somehow, I made it to the appointment, with five minutes to spare.   The buzz of the office was cheery.  Almost too cheery for that ungodly hour of the day. So  I wrestled a cup of coffee from the grip of the Receptionist but she just smiled back at me.  Yes, it’s definitely a Friday today.

Now as I blog, I think, do I have time?  I need to polish the last scene of the last act of that great script.  Hey, it will be great when it’s done.   So I will blog because my site stats tell me that I have lots of readers.  Really?   I didn’t know I had that many relatives.

I have a boatload of work to do today but I’m not stressing.  It’s Friday and the rains are coming.  I can hole up and work through the weekend.  After two weeks of summer-like conditions and postcard sunsets, I’m ready.   In Southern California, we crave a rainy day weekend in January so we can stash away the last of the holiday decorations or worse, peek at our tax papers.

I miss those days when Friday night plans were my biggest worry all week long.

One son is on his way up to LA to record another CD this weekend.  Another son is enroute to the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. to play tonight.  And my youngest son will play up in San Francisco tonight at the stadium of his alma mater.  He hasn’t graduated yet but I just love saying that.  “His alma mater.”

I have never played music in my life or written a lyric.  I can barely sing.  So I know it’s not genetics.

I don’t care if any of my sons become rock stars overnight, after struggling for 10 years.  Or a Tuesday night lounge act at a local dive. I just want them to write from their hearts and sing with their souls.

Kind of like Etta James.

Etta James passed away today.  At last, she is out of pain and singing with the angels, forever.   We are all blessed on this Friday to have such talent pass through our lives.  Forever.


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