Saturday, April 26, 2008


One of the things that often amazes a newcomer to the halls of Alcoholics Anonymous is the amount of laughter that is present. It is definitely true...we are not a glum lot.

We know we are fighting a deadly that will kill us if we are not diligent. However, laughter is our saving grace. It allows us to laugh at ourselves, to face our fears and our misdeeds and to put our lives and our past into perspective. A type of “gallows humor” I guess.

Anyway, I thought that you might enjoy some of the funny quips and jokes that abound in AA. Here’s a sampling:

I would rather go through life sober, believing I am an alcoholic, than go through life drunk…trying to convince myself that I am not.”

“The bluebird of happiness is not another swallow.”

Overheard at a funeral service: “Poor boy, he tried everything to stop drinking but he never could.” “Did he try AA?” “Oh, my, no,
…he never got that bad !”

“The 12 Steps are like 12 wrenches…they will fit any nut who walks through the door.”

“If you’re wrapped up in self you make a very small package.’”

The discussion topic was “half measures avail us nothing” and one member was listing all the reservations he had about the AA program and sobriety. An old-timer piped up and said, “with that many reservations you are bound to soon take a flight.”

“The slogans are the banisters to the 12 Steps.”

“The 12 Steps keep us from suicide. The 12 Traditions keep us from homicide !”

A warning to newcomers in AA: “If you’re looking for a relation-ship in AA odds are good you’ll find one. But beware…it often follows that the goods will be odd.”

“An alcoholic is an individual who takes the most simple program and works on it until he has eventually reduced it to its most complicated form.”

And one of my favorites: “We didn’t get to AA by singing too loud in church.”

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Washburn-Norlands Living History Center

In 2002 I spent a month traveling the back roads of Maine. One of the first places that I visited was The Norlands Living Health Center in Livermore. I was not disappointed.

I arrived before opening time and just soaked in the beautiful setting. The imposing Victorian farmhouse was connected to two smaller buildings and the huge barn. I almost expected Mrs. Washburn to welcome me in. I also spied a one room school house, a lovely white church and an imposing Gothic style building made of granite that I later learned was a library!

Although I was the only participant for the tour I saw other people and learned that they were the “live in” family of that week. The Center is a non-profit living museum dedicated to the preservation of 18th and 19th century rural Maine heritage. They host family groups who dress, toil, cook and live in the manner of that day.

As Callie (the docent) and I started our tour I spied a young girl hanging clothes out to dry. She must have been very hot in her long skirt and button-up shoes, but she waved happily to us.

The Washburn family boasts of seven sons who excelled in government as well as industry. Two were state governors and one was the founder of the Washburn-Crosby Gold Medal Flour Company. Their life style was frugal, as was typical of that period and of Maine, but there was a definite feeling of strength and dignity in every room.

All of the buildings were fascinating and quite different. The kitchen was housed in one of the extensions of the main house and the aroma of chicken and corn muffins was enticing. Here I met some more of the “live-in” family…cooking over a wood stove.
The men of the family we found in the barn grooming the animals and mucking out the stalls.

The last building on the tour was the 1828 Norlands Universalist Church. This is an addition to the property since the time of the Washburns. It is a simple, yet elegant, building, and is in sharp contrast to the interior. I was amazed to find a decorative painted ceiling and elaborate panels and arches that were actually a superb example of trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”)...illusions created with paint.

However, my eye was not fooled when I exited the church. This was no illusion. I was viewing the real thing...exactly as it must have been back in the 18th and 19th centuries. I felt refreshed and quite privileged to have paid that era a visit...if only in my imagination.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gregory Peck saves the day...1956

I am a North-easterner by birth and disposition but at one time I actually worked and played in Santa Barbara, California. It wasn’t for long...little more than a year; but, it was there that I had one of my all-time favorite memories.

I had graduated from College (Boston University) in 1954 and, after a short stint at an Advertising Agency I spent a little over a year at WWNY radio station in Watertown, NY, where I wrote advertising commercials...some even set to jingles.

Lots of fun but time to move on. I had a sister & family living in Ventura, California and I decided to head that way and try my luck at finding work. I was very lucky indeed since I was hired as head of the Publicity Dept. for KEYT...a small television station in Santa Barbara.

I was barely 23 and in on the ground floor of the burgeoning TV era, but I was a complete novice as to the workings of a publicity department. I couldn’t believe it when my boss told me that the MGM movie “Moby Dick” was going to premier in Santa Barbara and it was my job to act as liaison between the stars of the movie and the press.

The big day arrived and I went down to meet the train that would bring everyone to Santa Barbara. Of course the place was packed and it was all I could do to stay at the front of the line to welcome the cast and crew.

Then all of a sudden there he was, stepping off the train...Gregory Peck He seemed bigger than life to me and I felt my legs quake and I was afraid I was going to faint. I pulled myself together and managed to get his attention. In a very quivering voice I introduced myself and explained that I was brand new at KEYT and had no idea how to proceed.

I will never forget what happened next. He put his arm around me and started walking with me into the crowd of reporters. Of course they started to bombard him with questions but his only answer was, “Sorry, you’ll have to clear that through Virginia. We are guests of KEYT and she will arrange it all for you.” This was not technically true but it certainly worked like magic for me...and he was true to his word. I don’t know about the rest of the cast, but no one talked to “Captain Ahab” without clearing it first with me!

“Moby Dick” is a John Huston film classic that is often replayed today. Gregory Peck’s masterful portrayal of the crusty Captain Ahab is spellbinding, but nothing compared to the actual man. He truly was, and is, my only filmdom hero.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

“DAM FINE WINE” … found at Trader Joe’s

Now, what’s a nice girl like me, with almost 19 years of sobriety, doing in the wine section of the fabulous Trader Joe’s store in Raleigh, North Carolina…thrilled to be clutching a bottle of Coastal brand merlot? Well, let me explain:

Two years ago I spent 5 days with my sister Barbara in Templeton, California. She had just moved to her lovely new house. It is built on a section of land that her son Niels owns and is part of his large winery, Castoro Cellars.

Niels has fondly been known as Beaver since childhood and it’s why the Castoro Cellars logo proudly displays a beaver and the words “dam fine wine”. Judging by the success of his business I would guess that logo to be accurate.

While there I was treated to a complete walk-through of their operations and at one point we watched as workers attached labels to the bottles rotating past on a conveyor belt. These, Beaver explained, were the wines that were sold at the Trader Joe stores nationwide. Then he snatched one of the bottles from the belt, wrote “stolen from the bottling line” in large indelible silver letters and handed it to me as a gift.

Needless to say I have never opened it, although I still display it in my kitchen for fun…and often tell the tale of how I “stole” it.

Now it is two years later and I am checking out to see if his wine is still being sold under the Trader Joe label. It is and, as I’m reading the back of the bottle a man catches my attention. “You look like you know your wines”, he says, “That’s from the West Coast isn’t it a good buy?”

Hoping he can’t see the twinkle in my eye, I reply…”I can honestly say that it’s the best bargain I’ve ever found...on either coast.”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rockwell’s dilemma … What to paint?

I love this self-portrait by Norman Rockwell. It shows that even the most prolific of artists will hit a stone wall once in a while. It depicts him approaching a deadline with no idea in mind and it became the Oct., 1938 cover of The Saturday Evening Post !

The painting reminds me of the “writer’s block” that seems to plague me more and more as I continue to blog.

I have been blogging since July of 2006 and I love it. As a lot of you know, my initial idea was to document my life’s journey in a series of short vignettes. These I would compile into a book for my three children at Christmas time. I had the hopes that it would provide them with a clearer picture of their mother, warts and all.

I was anxious to get the book finished and bound so I blogged very heavily for the first 5 months. This has proved to be a mistake, since I only have so many memories and I posted almost 100 of them in that short time. However, the book was finished and was a great success, so I am thankful for that. And, I do continue to conjure up memories. After all, I have over 75 years of them! But it gets harder and harder as the weeks go by.

Now I am lucky if I have a new (and, hopefully, interesting) memory once a week. But I don’t want to give up the blogging life. I love the people from all over the world who have become part of my life and who comment faithfully...I’m sure you know who you are! And I love to read your blogs too.

So here I am…and the dilemma continues. I want to keep the format the same and I guess I will persevere as long as I can. At the very least keeping those memories green is a great mental exercise and I can certainly use that !