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Happy Unhappy Fourth of July

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This is one tough Fourth of July for the USA, considering who is occupying the Oval Office. It's still like a nightmare, or a hallucination. So many bad things already: the firing of James Comey ... the Gorsuch appointment ... the travel ban ... the destruction/undermining of the EPA and the State Department ... withdrawal from the Paris Accords ... the unfilled ambassadorships ... the everyday degradation of the office ... Jared and Ivanka ... Michael Flynn and Roger Stone ... Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller ... Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer.

And it's going to get so much worse. He's been in office for barely six months.

RESISTANCE is the most patriotic way I can think of celebrate this Fourth of July.

RESISTANCE AND MEMORY. Let's use this Fourth of July to remember the great things about the USA.

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights ... baseball ... Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson ... rock and roll ... the Grand Canyon ... Hollywood movies ... the civil rights movement ... Broadway musicals ... the suffragette movement ... Central Park and all the works of Frederick Law Olmsted ... soul music ... the Yosemite Valley ... basketball ... jazz ... Ellis Island ... the blues ... the American Civil Liberties Union ... the interstate highway system ... the underground railroad ... Cape Cod ... putting a man on the moon ... state fairs ... the Wright Brothers and Thomas Edison ... the gay rights movement ... the Ivy League ... New Orleans food ... Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech ... Big Sur ... the Great American Songbook ... the Statue of Liberty (merci, France) ... the New York City skyline ... the Brooklyn Bridge ... the Everglades ... New England clam chowder ... Title IX ... the polio vaccine ... the public school system ... the Triple Crown ... NPR ... the EPA ...Niagara Falls ... Social Security ... the coast of Maine ... pecan pie ... the Pacific Coast Highway ... Key West ... family farms ... the labor movement ... the skies of New Mexico ... county fairs ... Times Square at night.


A few of these Republican senators might be all that stand between the American people and the willful destruction of the medical safety net for millions.

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Heavy Metal Woman

While I'm racing to finish WHEN I GOT OUT and get this long-promised ms. to my publisher Lou Aronica of The Story Plant, I want to take this blog to celebrate the work of my friend, the sculptor MARSHA PELS.

Marsha is a renowned sculptor whose work has been shown in galleries, museums, and collections all over the world, from New York to Dublin to Australia. She was awarded the Prix de Rome for Sculpture from the American Academy in Rome and a Fulbright to Germany to work on a site-specific Holocaust Memorial. Many years ago, I was lucky enough to I get Marsha to make two site-specific works for our house: a sculpture that wraps around a back corner of our house, mounted to the wall, and a trellis (actually, two trellises) for a planter on the outside of our guest house.

Both these works are of an organic, natural design, are made of bronze, using the ancient lost-wax process, and are very beautiful. Marsha's installations are valued throughout the world, and we have two.

The "tree" that wraps around the corner of my house casts the most interesting shadows on the stucco at sunset. And the trellises against the guest house explode with roses (white and red) twice a year to complement Marsha's bronze roses. I love how Marsha's works have merged with nature, changing with the seasons and the light.

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Father's Day

I had a wonderful Father's Day. My son, daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandson Calder joined the TG and me for brunch at a local restaurant, a long visit at our house (including several swims), and take-in Thai food for dinner.

It couldn't have been nicer. The weather was beautiful, the food was great, and we all get along so well. I got to spend lots of time with Calder, doing his/our favorite things: gardening, reading, playing the piano, rolling pool balls on the pool table, singing, playing with toys, looking at my collection of pop-up books, eating, and just hanging out.

Calder is the big bonus in my life. He's my new Best Friend and my beacon of hope in these times of Trump. He's just turned two-and-a-half and is as smart and verbal as he is handsome and sweet-natured.  He's already a philosopher: "Mommy's the conductor, Daddy's the train, and I'm the whistle."

I couldn't help but think about my father Lester Robinson who never enjoyed the pleasures of grandparenting. He would have been a fantastic grandpa. My son Jesse was a real, active boy and would have loved his playful grandfather. My Dad died before Jesse was even born. He missed something wonderful, one of the capstone satisfactions of life.

Being a father has been one of the most satisfying parts of my life, and not just because I have a great son and a great daughter. The practice of Being a Father (and Grandfather) completes a man's destiny. It's part of Passing On What You Know and Leaving the World a Better Place, which is part of every person's role in life on Earth ... or should be.

I even got some nice presents: a shirt, a DVD of a Royal Shakespeare Company gala, and a book on John Constable's oil sketches, the ones I loved at the V&A last year.

Here are some words of wisdom on fathers:

"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." – Sigmund Freud

"One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters." -- George Herbert

"I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom." – Umberto Eco

"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." -- Anne Sexton

"It is a wise father that knows his own child." – William Shakespeare (Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice)

"My mother protected me from the world and my father threatened me with it." -- Quentin Crisp

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years." -- Mark Twain

"The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature." – Antoine Francois Prevost

"Why do men like me want sons?" he wondered. "It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new men, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at a table of luck after your fortune is gone." – John Steinbeck

"Fatherhood is great because you can ruin someone from scratch." -- Jon Stewart


Here a couple of good "father" songs:

"Soliloquy" from CAROUSEL – by John Raitt – live and classic – "My boy Bill!"

"Soliloquy" from CAROUSEL – the movie version with Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones (song starts at 1:30)

"Daddy's Home" – Shep and the Limelites

"Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days) – The Judds – a lovely live version from "The Tonight Show"

Merle Haggard – "Daddy Frank" – live from 1972

RIGOLETTO – the great Act I Duet between Rigoletto and Gilda, one of Verdi's great father-daughter duets – with Diana Damrau and Zelko Lucic, from a Met dress rehearsal

"Di provenza il mar, il suol" from LA TRAVIATA – by Renato Brunson as Giorgio Germont (from LA Opera in 2007, with a bit of a wobble from the old lion)

"Di provenza il mar, il suol" – by Ettore Bastianini, the Voice of Bronze and Velvet, probably my favorite baritone of all time

And just because it's Father's Day and I want fast access to them – a magnificent live Bastianini "Eri Tu" from UN BALLO IN MASCHERA from 1957

and a live Bastianini "Il Balen" from IL TROVATORE – Verdi gave the sweetest song to the villain