Random Musings of a Baby Boomer

So Long Sue

I knew the day would come.  It began early in 2011 with a feeling in my bones that change was in the air and the status was not going to stay quo.  The front page, above the fold, headline in The New York Times on March 8, 2012 said it all: “Station to Oust Anchor, Ending ‘Chuck and Sue’” 

And oust it did.  After 32 years with WNBC, the station had declined to renew Sue Simmons’s contract and sometime in June, the co-anchor of the News 4 New York 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts would be leaving, which meant the show would be Chuck sans Sue.  That sometime was Friday, June 15, 2012 and the accolades poured in for her last on-air appearance beside her longtime partner Chuck Scarborough whom she frequently called Charles.

Mayor Mike issued a proclamation declaring it “Sue Simmons Day” and sports figures from both baseball teams chimed in despite her die-hard Mets loyalty.  Blogs and Twitter feeds were ablaze with outrage and indignation.

Like most people who still watch the local news we tend to find a pairing that works for us and stick with it.  I have been watching Channel 4 for decades.  After the local news at 6 p.m., I stay tuned for Brian Williams, a Jersey boy who made good.  On days when I miss the early news, I catch it at 11.

Sue Simmons brought gravitas, elegance, style, and her personality into our homes.  In addition to being a consummate professional, she also had a great sense of humor.  Each Groundhog Day, she did her spot-on impression a groundhog.  She was a native New Yorker delivering New York news.  Of course, mention was made both in the Times piece and in the tributes of her famous flub, the inadvertent use of the “F” word while taping a promo that she didn’t realize was being aired live.  When it happened, I had one of the flavors of Law & Order playing in the background while reading the newspaper and even though I was alone I had to say out loud, did I just hear what I think I heard?

Confirmation was forthcoming when she opened the broadcast with an apology and after that, unlike the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, it was over.

There have been cries of ageism since Sue is 68-years-old, although she certainly didn’t look or act it.  Chuck Scarborough, also 68, with another three years to go on his contract, will likely be paired with one of the ubiquitous, interchangeable, indistinguishable blonds and brunettes who dot the local news landscape.  Was it mere coincidence that during the last broadcast one of commercial breaks featured career opportunities at the station?  Since Sue did not voluntarily retire, and mentioned that she was available for work, I can think of a few places where she would be a welcome addition.

She certainly should be invited to guest host Saturday Night Live and how about a recurring role on 30 Rock?  I’ll bet she could play a wickedly funny diva.

Lorne Michaels – are you listening?

Big Man Down

Clarence Clemons, the “Big Man” in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band died yesterday after suffering a stroke at age 69.  He was the Big Man to Springsteen’s Boss for nearly 40 years, and the two had an authentic musical chemistry and friendship that was as magical as it was rare.

From the release of “Greetings From Asbury Park N.J.” in 1973 it was clear that Springsteen was destined to be a superstar – but he didn’t do it alone.

I was at Springsteen’s first Madison Square Garden concert back in the ’70s.  The energy, electricity, and vibrancy of the music filled the arena with the best rock ’n’ roll since the Stones.  The originality of the music and lyrics along with the rocking good time had by the band, brought the crowd to its feet as we danced and sang along.

Clarence teamed up with another of my all-time favorites, Jackson Browne, in 1985 for “You’re a Friend of Mine” but no matter whom he played with, he was, and always will be, the Big Man with a unique saxophone sound that reverberates in our hearts.

Republican For a Day

While I think it may be premature to call it “The Wedding of the Century” since it is only 2011, I must admit that the wedding today of Kate Middleton and Prince William was absolutely perfect. 

There is something majestic about the monarchy, and I have a weakness for it due to the fact that my grandmother was a British citizen for the first nine years of her life.  My first trip to Europe was a month after Princess Diana’s tragic death (long-planned and for completely unrelated reasons) and while I was in London actually found the flat where my grandmother spent her early years.

On that side of the pond, I am proud to say that I am a Republican.  I believe in the monarchy with all its pomp and circumstance, rules and rituals and even though I grew up in an age of royals behaving badly, Queen Elizabeth has ruled her kingdom for over 50 years without any taint of personal scandal.  When she says she puts her country first, I believe her. 

I watched the wedding ceremony on TLC, which broadcast it without commentary or commercial interruption, and throughout it, I had tears in my eyes for two reasons.

The first was the sheer beauty of the ceremony, which seemed less about being a royal and more about the joyful union of two people obviously in love.  We all know the story of their meeting at college, dating, breaking up, and then getting back together.  The ceremony, even in the epic grandeur of the venue, Westminster Abbey, and the top-tier officiates, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, managed to maintain a simple elegance that somehow seemed attainable. 

Today also brought to mind my own wedding eleven years ago that I thought was going to last forever, but didn’t.  I remember my happiness that day, my smile, and how the small doubts that remained were instantly erased once I saw my tuxedo-clad prospective groom waiting for me under the huppa.  Throughout our ceremony, we held hands and smiled so broadly that by the end of the day our cheeks hurt. 

Watching Kate and William exchange their vows gave me hope and made me sad at the same time.  Hope because I think they will make their marriage work, despite odds and obstacles, and sad because I doubt I will ever make that leap again.

So though no glass was broken at the end of the ceremony, Mazol Tov to the happy couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and I truly wish you a long and happy life together.

The Mag Wags

Before we bid a fond adieu to last week’s issue of New York Magazine and relegate it to the recycling bin, there is one last thing I’d like to mention. 

Of all the photographs taken of Elizabeth Taylor in New York City surely the photo editors of the magazine could have found one where she didn’t look like – wait for it – a brunette Debbie Reynolds.

While a rapt adoring, unmistakable, Eddie Fisher looks on, a quick glance at the photo made me wonder when Ms. Reynolds was a brunette until I looked closer, much closer, and saw that it was in fact Ms. Taylor, Mrs. Fisher at the time.

It was snapped at Leone’s restaurant in 1959 but two questions remain – could they have found a less flattering photo of her or did the magazine’s wags notice the resemblance and publish it as a wink?

Page 80 of this week’s issue of New York Magazine paid homage to Elizabeth Taylor by publishing her 131 tweets.  The page was artfully created using type colors to portray Dame Elizabeth in her voluptuous glory years.  While I applaud New York Mag’s creativity, I guess no one pointed out that reading gold type on white (the color used for her skin) is unreadable.

While not on Twitter myself, I actually found myself interested in what Ms. Taylor had to tweet about since one of the few lines I could read referred to Michael Jackson’s upcoming London tour and we know what happened next.

The 131 tweets fill an entire page creating her likeness but only the ones posted in her hair (black) are legible. The surrounding light blue background is almost impossible to read. 

After failing to find a version online, where I could enhance the font size, I decided to forego giving myself a headache and took a pass. 

Rest in peace, Dame Elizabeth.  You’ve earned it.

March Madness

Each year around this time, I am struck by the same two questions.  The first one is when is Passover?  Sparked by the sudden prominence of matzoh-related products and “Kosher for Passover” foods appearing on store shelves it suddenly seems important to know the date least I miss out of one of my favorite holiday treats, Manischewitz chocolate macaroons.  The second question is actually sports related, and so far, no one has been able to give me an adequate explanation. 

I should mention that outside of rooting for the Yankees, the default position of many single New York women I suspect, I have no abiding interest in sports.  When invited to Super Bowl parties I generally root for the team that has good uniform colors.  Years ago, a boyfriend used to feed me lines so I could sound somewhat informed.  “When was the last time the A.F.C. (or was it the N.F.C.) won the Super Bowl with a safety?”

So each March, once I ascertain the dates for Passover, I am left with the remaining question during the N.C.A.A. tournaments.  How do the playoffs go from the “Sweet Sixteen” to the “Final Four?” 

A couple of years ago I asked a friend’s husband, a former college basketball star from SUNY Stony Brook why there was no catchy name for the eight teams that play between those two events.

He, despite remaining an avid sports fan, had no answer, so now that I know when Passover is this year (April 18-26) I am hoping that one of my readers can finally answer this perplexing question because unless I’m missing something simple math dictates that sixteen divided by two equals eight.  So in the absence of an official name, I would like to offer this suggestion – the Eager Eight.

My Endless Vacation

When it is over I will regret that I didn’t make better use of my time.  For the past seven weeks, I have been living in a hotel.  For a writer this should be a dream come true, no responsibilities, someone to clean every day, and all my meals paid for.  It could be seen as an urban writer’s retreat.

But what I am finding is that we are creatures of habit with certain routines and rituals some so ingrained that we don’t realize how deep they run until they’re gone.  Without preparation, I have to learn new ones that work for me.

The first couple of weeks were hard.  I couldn’t concentrate.  I didn’t know how long I would be here and while grateful for a place to stay, I just wanted to go home.  Each visit to my apartment reminded me that it would be a while.  I busied myself with shopping.  I bought a new printer and added the hotel to my Staples and Amazon “ship to” addresses.  I put New York Magazine and Time Warner Cable on vacation holds.  I bought new books, shoes, and a pair of sneakers despite the fact that it was no longer sneaker weather.  I even bought a pair of Uggs.  One day I went on a mission to buy a new bag. There was an urgency attached to it that made it seem as if finding the right one would restore a sense of normalcy to my life.  Buying a new bag is a big decision and usually the bag finds me.  I browse around until one practically shouts, “I’m your next bag.”  Not this time, though I did find one that I liked reasonably enough to buy.

In my room, I kept misplacing things; I would put something down and promptly forget where it was: my favorite pen, my morning notebook, and the pad where I kept ambitious lists of things to do.  Frantically I would search the suite to see where they were.  I hadn’t been here long enough to find a proper place for anything. 

At home my notebook and pens living on the end table next to a leather recliner where I sit for my morning coffee.  The commute to my desk sometimes feels long, but I make it, and when the words don’t come, I stare out of the windows at the trees in the gardens below.

The first round of my clothes came back from the various cleaners and I had to decide where to put them.  The only easy decision was socks and underwear.  I designated the smaller of the two bedroom closets for coats.

The living room portion of the suite is about a quarter of the size of mine and has a desk in one corner, a loveseat, coffee table, end table, and straight-backed armchair.  By the wall outside the small kitchen is a round table with two chairs.

By the end of the third week with no work having been done in my apartment I had to, in the words of a friend, “adapt or die.”

My routine had to change.  Mornings are hard.  I wake up in a bed that is not my bed. When I sit in the living room I am not looking at my pictures on the walls or at my books filling bookshelves, and even though I grab some music CDs during each apartment visit when I pick up the mail and check the progress, they are never the ones I want to listen to.  Don’t get me wrong, the room is not without charm and does come with a fabulous view but it is not mine.

Little by little, a new rhythm developed.  I have found places for the new books I bought, the binders that hold my work, and the new printer is sits on top of its packing box.  There is no DSL here only painfully slow Wi-Fi that I have adjusted to.

I have adapted to the daily maid service and try to be considerate by letting them makeup my room before noon.  Once I hear the rustling of the plastic bag that holds the clean towels, I take down the Do Not Disturb sign.  At home I don’t see anyone during the day, and I seldom leave my apartment until four in the afternoon when I take the day’s work out for edits and sit at a local bar with good light where they make a fresh pot of coffee for me and keep my cup refilled without additional charge knowing I will tip well.

Here when words don’t come there is the temptation to go out.  The desk is considerably smaller than my own.  If I sit on the loveseat, I see the kitchenette where the four-cup coffee maker beckons, but I am getting tired of the single flavor, pre-filled filters.  Since I can’t find coffee filters that fit the machine, I drink pot after pot of French Roast.

Even though the refrigerator is small, dorm size, I like to keep it full, the supply of Diet Coke, cheese and fruit is comforting.

I miss my things.  When I order food in and sit at the round table, I use paper towels as a placemat.  The hotel-provided silverware is thin and has a tinny taste.  I miss my dishes, my glasses, and the silverware I chose more with more care than my potential mate.

Each evening I wash the dishes before going to bed and prep the coffee for the morning, but unlike home, it will not start until I flip the switch. 

Both rooms have large flat-screen televisions mounted to the wall.  A size I would never buy as its very presence demands turning on. There is basic cable and HBO, but not BBCA or the guide channel, the handy grid to see what’s on.  Consequently, I miss most of the starting times for anything I might want to watch. 

Some days I feel on the verge of tears but the enormous emotional release I know will come will not happen here.  It will wait until I am safely back at home, and then I will cry.  For like my laptop and my Blackberry my emotions are not always in sync with my intellect.

What I can’t seem to shake is my feeling that I am living in limbo.  There is no check-out date, and each visit back to the apartment reminds me of the work still to be done.

I have picked out new carpeting for my bedroom, colors for the walls, and bought a new bed.

Like my apartment, the bedroom is colder than the living room.  But here in the hotel what I have discovered, as I start my eighth week, is I still don’t have a side of the bed.

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