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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



The Damage So Far (and the Tsunami of Tsuris to Come)

Everyone wants to talk about Donald Trump ... or NOT talk about Donald Trump.  When we were in Mexico, everyone wanted to talk to us Americans about Trump. He is an international laughingstock, but his actions are not funny in the least.

In our house, we sometimes have to declare a "Trump-free" zone, just to get some relief from the almost constant, self-inflicted barrage of NYT-LAT-WSJ-MSNBC-CNN-NPR-FOX-Huff Po-Daily Beast-Talking Points Memo-Real Clear Politics-Daily Kos-Sirius Left-Sirius POTUS-Politifact-and Drudge.

But sometimes one has to face reality. Here is a partial list of some things that have happened in the first 137 days of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Trump has:

• Withdrawn the USA from the Paris Climate Accords, joining Syria and Nicaraugua as the only three countries to oppose the world-wide pact
• Fired the head of the FBI who was investigating his campaign's ties to Russia, with no replacement in sight
• Leaked intelligence about the Manchester bomber, leading the UK to stop sharing intelligence with the US
• Tried to impose a ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, only to be struck down by the court system multiple times
• Offended traditional American allies such as NATO, the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and Australia
• Settled a fraud case for $25 million over "Trump University"
• Failed to staff nearly 2,000 vacant Executive branch positions, including the heads of FEMA and NOAA as hurricane season begins
• Permitted and/or encouraged his son-in-law Jared Kushner to attempt to set up a secret back channel with Russia, outside monitoring by US      security agencies.
• Did nothing for 18 days after he learned that his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was a possible blackmail target by the Russians
• Had his daughter Ivanka meet with the Chinese president the same day that her company won trademarks from the Chinese government.
• Named a climate denialist to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an enemy of public education to head the Department of Education, and an enemy of working people as Secretary of Labor
• Unveiled a tax-reform plan on the 96th day of his presidency that was less detailed than the blueprint he had campaigned on

• Declared the mainstream media the "enemy of the American people."

• Hiked mortgage premiums on homebuyers borrowing money from government
• Removed all Spanish content from the White House website
• Broke from decades of US foreign policy by abandoning a two-state solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict
• Skipped the release of the annual Human Rights Report
• Gave his daughter Ivanka an office in the White House and a security clearance — while keeping her immune from conflict-of-interest laws.
• Sought lobbying waivers for seventeen of his staff members – after vowing many times to "drain the swamp"
• Threatened to sabotage America's insurance markets as a means of coercing Democrats into voting for his plan to finance a large tax cut for the rich by throwing millions off Medicaid.
• Appointed a budget director who argued that cutting funding to Meals on Wheels is "probably one of the most compassionate things we can do."
• Held a nuclear strategy session in the public dining room of his Florida resort.
• Played golf twenty-three times

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