Sunday, August 30, 2020


The U.S. political party 2020 Presidential nominating conventions have officially selected their candidates in a unique somewhat virtual manner due to safety precautions deadly Covid-19 has necessitated.   Take a deep breath and prepare for the unpredictable onslaught of campaign rhetoric.   We must watch out for “truthiness” and those “alternative facts”, and be sure to verify statements presented as factual. 

Let’s digress with a little upbeat dancin’    

A youtube commenter wrote the founder of this 70’s Grammy award winning group’s description of this funky tune’s origins.   Fifty years later seems apropos now as we enter September.   

   According to Maurice White, he got the idea for this song in an unlikely place: a hotel room in Washington DC while there was some kind of protest going on below. Said White, "There's all these cats screaming and throwing things and going crazy and this tune just evolved."  


SEPTEMBER by Earth, Wind and Fire     



Hey, hey, hey!

Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember?

Ba-dee-ya, dancin' in September

Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day 





This tale started some weeks ago with a simple idea of describing what a strange on-the-job training experience I had when I was hired in production for a live television talk show years ago that I described in this series first two blog posts.   Related memories incidental to the story’s point unexpectedly began emerging in my mind which I have kept adding here for better or worse.   I’ve also revealed recollections of our show’s host whose friendship was an interesting addition to my life for a number of years.


Writing in Part 3 about the previously described unglamorous meager comforts our TV station offered show guests triggered recollections of a few of those who graced our stage.   A favorite of mine was comedian, native Ohioan, Phyllis Diller at her performing and movie stardom’s height then who appeared each time she was in town.   She was performing at the area’s premiere night club, Danny Deeds Maramor, but always arrived for our TV show’s early morning hour by herself in a cab she asked to wait for her, then after her appearance she quietly and quickly left inconspicuously.   


Another significant guest then, was Gardner McKay, a sudden heart throb star in TV’s “Adventures in Paradise” series created by Pulitzer prize winner James Michener, author of Tales of the South Pacific, a quite admired book in those days.  The Broadway musical, then movie, “South Pacific”, also prompted by the book, were partially revered for a story line uniquely unheard of then with its frank treatment of racial prejudice -- still pertinent today.  


Here’s “A nostalgic look at Tahiti and the schooner TIKI ... built especially for the TV series.  Dorcas Cochran and Lionel Newman composed the beautiful theme music ... for a few episodes they collaborated with Henry Mancini.” 


Handsome 6 ft 5 inches tall McKay rejecting acting celebrity left show biz when his series ended, unwilling to renew his contract, turning down a role with Marilyn Monroe despite her personal pleas.  He chose to lead an unusual life you can read about in the McKay link above.   In contrast to Diller, McKay, though pleasant, came to our studio with a surprisingly large entourage which may have reflected a new star’s initial reaction to fame surrounding himself with supporters.  


The bigger the star, generally the nicer they seemed to be, the more likely to be alone or accompanied by only one other person. I recall then popular orchestra leader Vaughn Monroe, “Racing With The Moon”, who was exceptionally nice telling an aspiring young musician in our audience who unexpectedly approached him, to see him after the show when he then provided counseling as promised.    Internationally known blind jazz pianist George Shearing who did have an assistant for obvious reasons who cautioned me not to ask Shearing for his signature which I wouldn’t have.  


The Frank Sinatra impersonator whose name I now forget, but he could have fooled anybody and had our audience gasping when they first glimpsed him enter the studio, was another memorable guest; also entertaining trumpeter Wild Bill Davidson.  There was laughter for all with comedians such as Henny Youngman who came out of vaudeville, famous for his one liners like, “Take my wife .... please!”.   


Well remembered was good-looking popular singer Jack Jones who had women in the audience swooning; even the older ones who remembered his father actor, tenor Allan Jones.  On the night of son Jack’s birth this father recorded his hit “Donkey Serenade”.   Here are Jack Jones and Alan Jones on a “Love Boat” episode singing together many years later.

Jazz and pop song vocalist Nancy Wilson at her career’s peak was a local girl made good coming home to promote a friend opening a new club, The Sacred Mushroom,  near the Ohio State University campus.   Following world-renowned jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie’s appearance my husband and I enjoyed his night club performance though we were surprisingly part of only a very sparse audience in a small nondescript rough little place with unpainted wooden bleacher-type seating located in the city’s minority community.   

Then there was talented international stage and movie actor Walter Slezak who strained my talents by asking me to sew a button on his raincoat.  This necessitated my racing all over the station trying to find a needle and thread ... of any color ... anywhere ... we didn’t have a costume department!


I can’t forget blustery broadcaster Arthur Godfrey “the old redhead”, who successfully transitioned from radio stardom to become top of the nation’s television viewer popularity heap for several years until he instantly fell out of favor on the network and with the viewing public for unexpectedly firing much-loved singer Julius LaRosa on the live show.  (Read this Awkward Moments link describing TV’s vagaries.) 

On our show’s air Godfrey had accepted our host’s unthinking offer of a cup of hot tea  causing me to have to scour the station to finally come up with one old tea bag not even in a protective cover, stuck in a crevice at the back of somebody’s desk drawer – heaven only knows how long it had been there, or what it would taste like.  Then I had to find some office with a pot brewing hot water.


I finally had the brew, returned to the studio, was then gestured to present the hot tea – probably less hot by now -- to Godfrey on camera.   I named the decades long-associated tea brand he promoted when I handed him the cup.   Wouldn’t you know, seems he’d had a falling out with them, but he rose to the occasion, elaborating on that fact to all, then quickly promoting his new tea brand without chastising me for such a faux pas.    


Then there was Canadian Lorne Greene of TV’s  western “Bonanza” fame who was serious and appropriately all business.   Unassumingly quiet shy sweet tiny little Sylvia Sidney who successfully transitioned from the silent film era into early talkies leading lady stardom guested.  She continued to act for decades more to have an over 70 year career.  


Ms Sidney had reportedly come to town to visit an old friend who worked for her beginning in her early Hollywood movie days.  Loyalty and even affection runs strong, whatever the hierarchal professional relationship, once trust is established for most of those performers in the entertainment business has been my impression and experience. 


Currently popular at the time was the Four Freshmen vocal group, also a favorite of mine I’d seen perform several times prior to working the TV show, once with the then notable  Stan Kenton orchestra.   Meeting Freshmen leader Ross Barbour delighted me though he was more than a little disappointed we didn’t have their latest album.   Upon his learning this I could hear the tension and irritation building in his voice as he spoke to me but checked himself before berating me.   Unlike radio stations that received free promotional records TV stations didn’t, so we didn’t have a library of recordings or any albums.   

Instead The Freshmen were stuck with lip syncing one of their older but most popular tunes, “It’s A Blue World” from one of my personal albums our show’s producer/director had requested I bring to the studio.   Interestingly to me was that Ken Albers, one of the group’s various replacement vocalists from their original foursome was a personal friend of our director -- perhaps the two of them should have addressed the record issue.


 (My husband’s vocal group sang arrangements harmonizing in this same style patterned after The Hi Lo’s, forerunners to the Four Freshmen.  I have only two recorded songs of my husband’s group since making records in those days was so expensive and not routine.   Years later the Beach Boys Brian Wilson readily admitted he dissected the Four Freshmen’s music harmonies to create his group’s sound.)


Here are the Hi Lo's singing A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square.



The TV show’s guest list continues with current at-the-time and older major stars of the day – but those are just a few personalities who immediately came to my mind, possibly not some of the major guests or individuals others would have vividly recalled.  Guests weren’t all professional entertainers, could be government officials, sports figures, politicians, persons of interest from any walk of life, including occasionally the musically talented trying to break into show business. 


We periodically promoted what might be considered public service interview segments for worthwhile groups such as one struggling to provide care for babies with spina bifida, for whom there was little treatment in those days, such babies were often expected to die, a neglected group.   Numerous artists, other interesting people were featured, both legitimate and otherwise, like Alan Abel who wanted to clothe animals because, he said, nude, they were immodest. Years later Abel finally revealed he was an international hoaxer but that’s another tale.   


Once the artist entered the live show studio they could at least monitor the on-air conversation and activity so when finally introduced they could enter into the show’s flow with dialogue having some continuity.  Unfortunately, the studio audience could see them off-camera, so most “star” guests had to be kept in the other barren studio and just go on the show “cold”, so to speak.


Well-known guests and star artists would be recognized immediately, once the studio audience saw them, and could become a distraction.  They could unintentionally cause a  studio audience massive collective “g-a-a-a-s-p,” or loud “Oh-h-h!” which would go out over the air confusing viewers at home since it would have nothing to do with what was happening on-camera that viewers were seeing.  That interruption then generally required the host to offer a brief explanation which wasn’t always convenient depending on what they were in the midst of doing. Viewers weren’t as tech savvy about TV operations behind the camera to know what was happening then as we’ve all become during the ensuing years.


My host friend, Jack Denton, toiled in the entertainment business as so many do, without national fame, but enjoying his work.  He never achieved making an appearance on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show which had been one of his goals.  He had been on the original Dating Game years prior to the subsequent versions before hosting our TV show.   The years after he left our show I didn’t see him in most of his film or TV appearances as listed on the imdb site, many roles quite brief, some non-speaking.  He hadn’t mentioned them or asked that I view them.  


Jack’s best known role in several different productions, like “Annie”, was as FDR (click to see photo link).  He especially relished the part because he was a major admirer and fan of former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   I first recall unexpectedly seeing his FDR  image in a limited non-speaking appearance on PBS TV’s 1987 American Playhouse “Eleanor: In Her Own Words” starring Lee Remick’s one-woman show speaking Eleanor Roosevelt’s words.   He recreated his FDR roll when he toured in a road company of the Broadway show “Annie” which had precipitated his becoming so angry with me for not attending which I described in this blog post series Part 2.


As most actors do, I’m sure many roles he took were to gain experience and to pay the bills with the hope he would make some connections leading to more work and bigger parts.  Of course, he had only entered into the acting scene when he was older.   He may have had scenes or lines in some shows that ended up on the cutting room floor.   Some movies may have turned out to be quite different from what he thought they would be when he took the role.  Perhaps some vehicles and roles he may have preferred to forget.   I recall thinking that about one film when I heard his voice as I was surfing TV channels and stopped to watch that movie which would have been better left unviewed.  Fortunately, he later had some more appealing vehicles.


I really thought this would be the end of my tale, but I’ve recalled an unusual serendipitous incident, somewhat related, which you might find of interest.  What’s one more final week to start the new month before ending this epistle!

Sunday, August 23, 2020


I continue to be quite attuned to governmental, political, health issues; am no less concerned than I have been, though I’ve presently spared you by refraining from writing about those matters here.   With President and Vice President candidates in both of our major political parties being officially nominated these weeks the campaigning will soon become intense.    

* * *

Continuing tale of incidental experiences to my unusual job training week  .....


The previous two posts explain the point of the story I’ve been telling about my strange on-the-job training experience in production for a TV station’s talk show with which I became associated.   Memories triggered prompts me to follow up by adding some subsequent experiences.  Despite the unusual introduction to my new position, my working relationship with the show’s host and the rest of the staff was quite positive.   Years after the show ended and we had all long-since scattered across the country most of us lost contact with one another.   


The program’s host and I had become friends, so after he left the show, he wrote me from wherever he traveled round the country, always remembered my birthday, years later had dinner with my husband and I in our home when we ended up moving here to Southern California.  My friend had also moved to Los Angeles pursuing his entertainment business career, adding acting and movies to his repertoire.  


He even taught a class at a local college on how to survive in the entertainment business world, stressing to aspiring novitiates the importance of accumulating a financial reserve to survive unexpected termination of employment and occasions of other inevitable time periods when there would be no work at all. 


He advised keeping possessions to a minimum since belongings moving costs could be expensive, especially if you were going coast to coast for periods of time as he sometimes did.  For example, he bought only paperback books (more lightweight for shipping) in a day when hardbacks were usually the most prevalent.   Unfortunately, in those days a couple years could pass before new published books were released in paperback form hampering getting the latest best sellers right away. 


His correspondence to me was often signed with a name other than his own.   Instead he signed what he considered unusual sounding names he liked to collect or those of former guests who had appeared on the show such as local Trudy Rella, an inside bit of memorabilia few others could appreciate as I did.  She had been a nationally treasured folk singer in her European home country of Austria or Czechoslovakia but was generally unappreciated in the U.S.   A rare unusual name he liked to hear the sound of rolling off his tongue that I recall was Duard Farquhar a talented professional dancer/teacher in the area.   


Earlier he had asked me to type copy (remember typewriters before computers?) for a book he wrote condemning the use of words with “wise” tacked on to the end – such as  “weather-wise”, “book-wise” that he would ridicule by saying “wise-wise....” -– for being grammatically incorrect.  He was determined to eliminate this “wise” usage but despite his efforts the idea never seemed to gain popular traction. In fact, “wise” being added to many words may have proliferated based on my listening to media folk and others talk today.  The book was never published as far as I know. 


That my host friend had begun acting was an interesting change in attitude since privately  he used to complain about the acting profession when name artists performed in our city.   When requests to appear were made to the actors they would plead they couldn’t get up that early to guest on our talk show which began at 9:30 a.m. despite the free promotion they and their show would receive.   


Our host’s rationale was that even internationally known musicians, playing sometimes until 2 a.m. or later in the morning at city night clubs, almost always would welcome appearing on the show, even singing at that early hour or performing a tune once they heard the high professional competence of our talented musicians playing.  


Actors performances ended hours before the musicians’ gigs, so our host didn’t view their plea of needing rest viable since they could go to bed earlier.   All the actors had to do was just come to the TV station the next morning and talk for a few minutes on the set to freely promote their play, themselves, or whatever, he would say.   He belittled them in private to staff, since how could they not want to be on his TV show?  


Our budget like most TV stations other than those at the major networks didn’t allow for a token fee to be paid artist guests or even pay for their transportation to the studio – no limousines here, just city cabs they had to hire for themselves.  

We had no Green or any other color Room where artists alone or with an entourage could wait in private.  There were no beverages, snacks, even water, hot coffee or tea, other than what some station departments brewed for themselves.  We had no budget for such luxury though in the early years a sales promotion contract allowed us to give away some expensive products like washing machines, refrigerators, dish washers and many other items to select studio and viewing audience members.


Instead, show guests had to wait in our other smaller studio with metal folding chairs, no TV monitor.   Staff periodically traipsed through that studio to the control room and other offices. I basically had to shepherd the guests with little or nothing to offer for their comfort.  I might add, all were very gracious considering, but they may have been used to such conditions.  So much for the glamour of TV.


We had no makeup and hair staff to enhance an artist’s appearance, either.  One of our setup boys (as these often Univ. college students were called) sometimes practiced his drama school makeup application skills on guests in some situations but he typically didn’t work during our show times.  Any other on-the-air talent had to apply their own makeup if they wanted or needed to use any.   As TV matured so has what is considered necessary staff and guest preparations for TV appearances.  


My friend usually had me or others apply different black substances he was trying for effectiveness to a bald circle on his hair-thinned scalp to prevent the glare that occurred on camera from the intense set lighting.   Artists were often secretive about such use in those days, but in more recent times most are open about hair loss issues, also wearing toupees, wigs.  Subsequent years such makeup has been refined for the ease of use and benefit of many males with a similar issue who appear on camera as other technical changes have also occurred.  Our current President seems to cope with his hair issue in a rather unique manner. 


I’ve managed to write on this topic much longer than I expected and still haven’t arrived at the end of my tale.   This is because I’ve triggered more memories, so contrary to what I expected I’ll be continuing this story for another week for any who may be brave enough to still be following this saga. 


Sunday, August 16, 2020


Appreciation of this story best occurs if you read the previous post which explains the existing contentious situation between the TV Host for whom I had been hired to work on his live talk show and the young woman I was replacing who was providing me a week of on-the-job training before she left.  Interestingly, I eventually learned the host had no say in my hiring, nor had he even met me to interview before I joined the crew, but that’s a different convoluted story. 


Among the TV show host's varied career entertainment experiences was having been a comedy writer at age 22 for legendary comic Milton Berle, often referred to then as “Mr. Television”, “Uncle Miltie”.    The host also sometimes performed as a stand-up comic at Playboy and night clubs.   


He liked having a live audience, but the TV show also had live music with a talented professional quintet playing jazz and all other music genres, plus a vocalist who had co-hostess-capabilities, along with a second banana announcer as an able conversationalist often participating in the show.  The host would not have had the responsibility of carrying the five days a week hour and a half show on his own lacking feedback even if he had no studio audience. 


The fact there might be no live audience for the show that wintry icy snowy day would not be a disaster.  The guys in the Quintet, floor crew and a few others present would laugh aloud as warranted though, granted, the sound wouldn’t seem like a crowd.  All show cast members were adept at spontaneously coping with the unexpected, had previously done so in various ways as could occur with a live, not videotaped, show.


The talented quintet led by a former piano player with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra could easily have filled the whole program with music they hadn’t rehearsed from their catalog of most known songs, improvising as needed, without even requiring written music charts, if necessary.


When I was hired, unbeknownst to me the situation between the two of them, show host and assistant, had devolved to the point they would not speak directly to each other.  What this meant was, when the three of us were at my desk he would look specifically at me with what I think was a twinkle in his eyes and say, “Tell (her name), .........” then spoke whatever his message was.   She would then look at me stiffly and angrily saying, “Tell (his name), .........” then speak her very formal terse response.


The conversation would continue like this for varying lengths of time several occasions each day.    This went on for my whole training week!   I couldn’t believe it, but just went with the flow.  Usually, I was spared having to repeat what each said as they didn’t wait for me to do so before responding with messages for each other, but always looking and talking directly to me.  


We were all physically close together within touching distance huddled at my desk.  It’s just that each always prefaced what they said, saying my name, and then instructing me to tell the other whatever their message was.


It wasn’t any skin off my nose, as the saying goes, so I just went along with it, curious to see what could possibly happen next.  My whole training week went like that as they never resolved this alleged insubordination matter.  She left at the end of the work week and we never heard from her again.   I wasn’t particularly in a state of flux from this situation, but it was very strange – quite unlike anything I’d ever experienced before or have since.


I tended to conclude creative talent might be a bit eccentric so wondered if this was just natural for what I might expect in the future.  I knew where I’d draw my lines in the sand, but in the following years I never had an experience on the job with him even remotely close to causing me to need to do that.


Years after the show was in our distant past there was an occasion when I gained a new perspective.   Our last phone contact not long before his sudden death, precipitated behavior from him that reduced me to tears -- that had never happened before.   I knew he was egocentric and could become intensely emotional but never had been confronted with the likes of his storm.    


Maybe insecurities from excessive instances of rejection many people in show business routinely receive results in some explosive reactions in the talent’s process of trying to survive with ego intact, but I had never before had such an outburst unleashed on me.  I had merely phoned him to inquire about the success of his performance as FDR on tour with a Broadway musical road company of “Annie” now concluded -- a production that I had been unable to attend when the show came to the Disneyland area near my city. 


I volunteered regretting missing seeing him, explaining in broad brief terms my life had been unusually distressed without going into detail about just how difficult for me it had really been at that time.  I was totally unprepared for his reaction as he instantly went verbally ballistic, not crude but very emotional loud hurtful words strongly emphasizing that there could be nothing that should have prevented my attendance.  


I was already in a fragile emotional state at the time for reasons that had nothing to do with him, or that I was going to explain further.  There was no adequate excuse in his mind anyway, so our last conversation ended on a very sour note.  I had never experienced this sort of volatile interaction with friends or even family so was just unprepared to cope in that moment.   


I began to understand what might have motivated the TV station management those years ago when the powers-that-be had waited until the end of his weekday show one Friday to inform him he wouldn’t be returning on the air to host the show further.   I hadn’t been alerted in advance either, only learning of a show host change after I returned to the office.


Perhaps they were concerned his behavior on air might be unpredictable in ways they might not like once he was told he was being removed from the show.  I speculate that the decision-makers were reluctant to give him the opportunity to say good-bye to his viewing audience, including to those who had booked seats months in advance to attend the live weekday show, for fear of what he might say or do.  


They replaced him with a host, Dean Miller, whose name was known nationally then and had been a popular character in a recently ended family comedy television series, December Bride.  His presence proved to be not that much of an attraction to appreciably increase viewership to a level administration desired in the following months.  


I soon left the show with increased salary to direct my energies toward other areas in programming, then engineering before leaving the station completely to relocate in another city, later moving across the country to the Southwest due to my husband’s career change.  I was going to leave anyway for a position at Ohio State University’s public television station that I had to relinquish before even starting due to my husband’s move. 


The years following, the show underwent more host changes, finally settling on a local radio personality whose show was much less appealing for my tastes from what was described to me before finally being cancelled.   By then much live programming was concluding except for the news, sports and weather.  The corporation also began dissolving the broadcast division by selling each of the TV stations separately except for the mother station.   


This tale seems to be not yet quite ended as a serendipitous coincidental incident occurring before my host friend’s death has come to mind, so I’ve decided to add that bit extending the conclusion another week.    

Sunday, August 09, 2020


Years ago I was hired by a television production department to work with a live audience participation talk show that a broadcast corporation was programming at each of their three-state area stations.  They had a couple of then unknowns at their other stations, Phil Donahue, later David Lettermen. 

Years later after I left, our station briefly had as the show’s host Nick Clooney (father of George, a young boy at the time who a friend reported to me had strongly told her he was going to be a star).  His father, Nick's talents included his having been a big band vocalist, who also sang on the corporation’s mother TV station’s popular long-standing Ruth Lyons daytime talk/entertainment show.   


Our TV station’s original show’s host (now long deceased) with whom I worked was abruptly deposed after a few years while I was still there in what I have referred to as “the original here today and gone tomorrow business” as I watched turnover among what is called talent (on air personalities) in the television world.


I was delighted to take this position in the fifties at what seemed to be the beginning of a popular programming concept of talk shows no longer limited to late night but proliferating during the daytime as well.  Our show’s host said he was sought after by another prominent station in a major city but that he had declined for this production.  That station then hired a guy by the name of Mike Douglas whose show was produced by the since infamous Roger Ailes. 


Ailes came to be known in recent years for his less than credible approach to accurate news delivery as he developed Fox News for Rupert Murdoch’s agenda as documented in the book (The Loudest Voice In The Room).  Ailes finally left his high level administrative Fox position when a number of sexual misconduct accusations surfaced.  Interestingly, soon after the 2016 U.S. election of our current President, Murdoch was shown by the news media meeting with our President in Scotland for whatever their purposes which we are left to surmise.


When I was hired at our station, my training begun, little did I know I would become a critical conduit of conversation.   My on-the-job training experience for a week with the young woman I was replacing proved to be a most unusual one to which I adapted with a mix of awe, stifled-laughter at times, and with an incredulous reaction to what soon seemed to practically become normal. 


Reminds me that the experience could be thought of as a mild form of what we’ve been subjected to the past four years from our White House leader.  He persists in doing and saying so many truly bizarre things that they have almost begun to seem normal, but then that’s the desensitization process autocrats use.   In neither instance should we ever permanently accept such behavior as normal. 


The young woman I was replacing was leaving to wed.  Eventually, I learned from others she had earlier dated the host for whom we were working, but I don’t know how that relationship had ended and she was marrying someone else.  In any event an issue had arisen he, our “boss”, had chosen to interpret as her being insubordinate by failing to follow his directive and he said as much.


As I understood later from others, she was to go to the restaurant across the road from the station and bring patrons from there to the studio to be the audience for that day’s show.  He clearly preferred having the studio filled with a live audience on that icy cold snowy wintry day when the fifty plus people who had reserved all the seating had been unable to travel from another city to our studio in their chartered bus.


In the recounting of this story from others, and as I came to know him, though we never talked about that matter, I think I know what happened.  I think he had hastily mentioned where we might get an audience but had not given it serious consideration.  She had likely quickly and adamantly stated she had no intention of soliciting an audience in that manner.  Though he may not have been entirely serious about having her perform this duty, he apparently chose to exercise his employer/employee prerogative with the whole matter going out of control between the two of them, never to be resolved. 


This tale has become a bit long, so I’ll continue it next week and you’ll understand then why I consider my week long on the job training experience to have been unusual, strange and even a bit bizarre.


Sunday, August 02, 2020


Life isn’t much different for me right now than it would usually be this time of year when I would typically be staying indoors during the day due to the heat.  Temperatures have suddenly moved into the three-digit Fahrenheit numbers from this summer’s unusually less-warm July days.  Now, humidity is very low with winds whipping around to combine with these high temperatures creating a climate of high fire danger.

So, as I write this, three fires rage in our Southern California surrounding area with at least one having zero containment, requiring some families to vacate their homes with only one such structure reported lost so far.   Thousands of acres are burning with the possibility arson may be a cause in some situations.  How firefighters weighted down with protective clothing and equipment manage to combat these flames in such threatening conditions boggles my mind.  I’m thankful to not be in danger where I live.

Those residents needing to seek safety and shelter due to fire must also contend with the dangers associated with contracting Covid-19.   This virus complicates life for even unthreatened-by-fire ordinary people, especially those without air conditioning who need to seek cooling centers, a few of which have opened.   People seeking safety from the fires or respite from the heat, or both, are required to wear masks, observe social distancing which limits the number of people facilities can accommodate as well as the activities with which people can engage while there.    

This extremely contagious virus continues to spread excessively with a segment of the population refusing to follow recommended safety precautions.   I continue to find it disappointingly incredible that some of my fellow Americans care so little about their own well-being and not at all for that of others despite the obvious potential life and death health issues.

Life for humans and all of Earth’s other creatures continues to be fascinating to me.   I resumed participation in a book club with which I’d been involved for a few years.  Members have changed considerably since my last presence as death has taken its toll on these primarily seniors, but new readers have joined the group.  This was our first virtual meeting as a few gathered in a local retirement community where they lived, with the rest of us Zooming in from our residences.   

The book we discussed was a unique one which I thoroughly enjoyed reading:   Award winning Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.    The wonder of consciousness is explored with exceptional writing moving this story along with fascinating facts I had not known.  The author’s educated observations were colored with emotional elements I had never imagined could occur between an octopus and human beings.   Descriptions of interactions with several octopuses – yes, that’s the plural not octopi – clearly evidence they each had distinct personalities.  I could never have imagined these short-lived sea creatures could be so interesting. 

I have since pondered the lives of all creatures, including those many varieties in our oceans.  I consider what is known of dolphins, whales, sharks, fish, along with lesser-known-to-me sea life as well as sea urchins, crabs, lobsters we thrust live into boiling water to then devour their meat.  We humans pride ourselves in our superior intelligence, even our humanity, but what about these creatures? 

I found myself wondering if we do discover life on other planets, or should life forms even eventually find us to visit our planet, what might they be like physically, with what moral and ethical values, if any?  Might habitual lying as a means to an end be acceptable behavior as even some humans exhibit?  What might they be like if in possession of emotions?   What might be the implications for we humans?

Remember the original Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” episode entitled “To Serve Man”? Here’s an abridged version:

Thinking about life and death as occurs in all life forms, I’m reminded of recently discovering on the internet an obituary of a friend who died several months earlier, finally confirming what I had been concerned was likely to have occurred.  She had held the 2006 celebration of life in her home in conjunction with many of my husband’s and our old friends after his death.  My children and I with others had travelled there from our respective homes to share that loving experience with one another. 

She was my last connection with any living friend or family member where I also lived many years of my life having key experiences –- where I met my husband, had earlier become politically active, served my first jury duty, effectively diluted with like-minded friends a covert racial discrimination situation, and shared many still treasured memories with then a large family and an abundance of friends on numerous occasions.        

My friend and I had abruptly ended our last phone conversation when she heard some of her family arriving just as she had begun to discuss some concerning personal family matters, expecting we would resume our conversation later.   We never had contact after that.  My letters, while never returned, or phone messages with the number’s recorded message soon changed to be more formal, elicited no response when I periodically called.  Efforts to reach a couple of her adult children I had never met were unsuccessful.   A rumor had been shared with me a few years earlier that she might have Alzheimer’s but was not verified -- I still don’t know. 

The number of living loved ones I have left have dwindled beyond any total I could ever have imagined.  Seems strange to think of myself as the elder in my family and now even among my few remaining living friends.  Just as many have shared here, one of the more difficult aspects of aging is the loss of friends and family which never gets easier.  We treasure the memories and we get on with life as those who care for us want us to do.  

I expect some of you are reading some interesting books, too, some of which may stimulate your thinking to go in many directions.   Maybe you’re engaged in crafts, or any one of a multitude of other activities attractive to you during these challenging times.  Likely your thoughts may occasionally take you on flights of fancy and speculation as mine sometimes do. 

Do continue to stay safe and as healthy as you can be.  Treasure whatever contact you may have with family and friends.   Take comfort in knowing that in time this situation in which we live shall pass.  My only question is, “will that be before or after I do?” she asked quizzically with a chuckle!