Some Fine Seasons
There is something cathartic in viewing all these old photos, and I'm not sure why. Is it because we lived through all of those holidays? As a childless adult, do I miss all that falderal? I guess I'll never know. For some reason the commercial nature of the holiday hasn’t gotten to me yet. I keep waiting for that one fragrance ad on TV that will send me screaming from the room, that one in which a Lexus is wrapped with a red bow as if it were a mere box of chocolates, that ad with a nonexistent family gathered round a huge nonexistent table eating food that’s probably not edible because it’s been treated to keep it colorful and fresh looking. Arrrggghhh.
Ken and I will be in Vegas again, third Xmas in a row. Can’t wait. Vegas keeps the holiday real: people from all over the world who do not celebrate Christmas hit the city this time of year. There are people of all ages who will, and some by choice, be all alone on the holiday so revered for bringing families together. Merry Xmas one and all. Double arrrggghhh.
For the third time in little over a year, Ken and I witnessed a fox in our neighborhood. You can see previous photos by clicking on January 2012 under Archives above. I don’t believe it’s the same one, but it could be from the same family, eh? Our neighbor thinks this one could be denning under his shed, but the creatures are so cunning about their whereabouts that we probably will never know. Better that way, Sweet Face.
My Book World
Happy Birthday: Adjusting to Life’s Changes as Birthdays Keep on Coming by Alice French
Alice French is a friend who once lived in Lubbock, Texas. For years she worked as an on-air personality for KCBD-11, the NBC affiliate in town, including a talk show for women. She later developed the student-run cable TV station for the Lubbock Independent School District, as well as ran her own media firm. Her late husband, Rich Weaver, was head of the theater department at Texas Tech University for many years. For the first three years of their retirement, they toured the U.S. in an RV, and Alice has many interesting tales to tell about their experiences. She now lives in Holiday Island, Arkansas—and has a beautiful view of the famed hills from her living room window.
Alice wrote her book, Happy Birthday, primarily for women over sixty. She did so as an outgrowth of several related activities. First, she solicited women in her study to answer various questions she posed by way of her blog. Second, she put together a number of groups from these women and asked them to meet her in her home for further discussion. Utilizing these two rich sources of information, as well as drawing from her own life history, Alice offers alternatives to women over sixty, who may feel that their lives are at a dead end. Faced with the reality that she and her friends could live another twenty or thirty years, Alice wishes to touch a broader community of women: women who may have had children who now are busy with their own lives and not have much time for Grandma; women like Alice who had full and satisfying careers but now find themselves widowed and living alone; women who are still healthy and strong and itching to learn new things, itching to be a part of a vibrant world that doesn't always warm to older people. She hates it when a young salesperson asks if she knows how to "work the Internet." Please, I once ran a cable station! I have an iPad! Alice and members of her group offer much valuable information, and the positive tone she maintains throughout is always tempered with a healthy dose of no-nonsense reality. I’ve purchased a number of copies for my female friends over sixty, and here I’ve set up a link to Amazon.com where you can purchase copies if you wish. I hope you will.
Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld
I shouldn’t watch C-SPAN’s Book-TV quite as much as I do. There are so many great books presented by the authors themselves. What is more inviting (in most cases) than that? Sometimes I get enough information just by watching the reading. Other times, as with this book, I can’t resist buying my own copy.
Rosenfeld researched this book for over thirty years, not because he wanted to, but because he was forced to sue the FBI repeatedly to induce the agency to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act. As the author states in his preface, “Many pages were disclosed for the first time, including those concerning the surveillance of law-abiding citizens and efforts to disrupt political organizations. Many others were reprocessed to release additional information, such as the names of people Ronald Reagan informed on” (loc 64). Almost fifty percent of the book consists of appendices, FBI files, notes, selected bibliography, documents, interviews, other sources, acknowledgments, and a subject index.
While Rosenfeld was speaking on C-SPAN, I became reacquainted with this era of unrest, the early and middle 1960s, and after I finished the book I became more and more satisfied with the fact that I’d never mustered much respect for the gipper (or is it gypper?). Rosenfeld produces evidence that Reagan began buying favors from J. Edgar Hoover by turning in certain Hollywood celebs who were suspected of being communists. In exchange, he would later ask Hoover to tail his eighteen-year-old daughter, Maureen, in the Washington, D.C. area to see if she was truly living with a man much older than she. Why would a leader who hated excessive government exploit said government for private reasons instead of hiring his own private investigator? Was he just cheap? Why would Reagan use his power as California governor to remove a liberal chancellor at UC Berkeley by seating himself as one of the regents? All throughout his life as a politician of “less government,” he used more government to further his own political standing. Our upstanding Reagan, according to Rosenfeld’s information, was quite promiscuous by way of starlets as much as fifteen years his junior during the period following his divorce from Jane Wyman and before he met Nancy Davis. He neither cared much for nor spent much time with his “Wyman" children, and, well, we know through Patty Davis how great a father he was to the “Davis" kids. What an all-around wonderful human being he seems to have been—having justified all his actions on behalf of his brilliant career. If you can stand getting angry all over again, as I did, you might enjoy reading how Rosenfeld documents everything that seemed to be true about Reagan and his horrible misuse of power but which one couldn’t prove. By the end of the book, you realize that Rosenfeld’s title, Subversives, is true not only (according to the media and popular culture) of the UC students who rioted for reform but also of Reagan, who used his power to subvert democracy, the very ideal he purported to be protecting.
Next month: My second annual New Yorker Project in which I read and comment on all New Yorker short stories published in 2012 . See a sample here.
Richard Jespers is a writer living in Lubbock, Texas, USA.
See my profile at Author Central: