Singing My Loudest — Why I Love My Car

I went to the movies last week and saw Baby Driver,  a movie so full of amazing action, romance, sweetness, fast cars, evil, and the most fantastic sound track, it has me thinking about cars and music, and how sometimes the combination can be life-changing.

I also now understand why people get so attached to their cars.

My car is not flashy. It’s a 2006 dark gray/blue Honda Pilot. I didn’t like that color, my ex picked it, but since I’d made all the payments on the car, I got it in the divorce and it’s grown on me. It’s only broken down on me a couple of times in over 150,000 miles, which is a pretty decent record. My Pilot drove me out of California with a couple of El Sauz burritos, two horchatas, Brandon, my step-son-co-pilot,  and two dogs in the back — after a divorce that shredded romance for me and left my soul gasping for air.

Pilot, driver's seat.JPG

The driver’s seat of my Pilot

I took turns with Brandon driving across the country, almost 2500 miles. I wish I’d taken photos of our journey — but I have none. It was a great trip for me, and the most time alone I’d ever spent with Brandon.  He’d originally agreed, thinking the kids would be along too. When he found out it was just me, he could have backed out, but he didn’t. I’m still so grateful he went.

We walked the dogs, talked a lot, practiced Italian, went to Prairie Dog Town — a place that claimed to have the world’s largest Prairie Dog, got a ticket in Kansas (I was driving) and arrived at my brother’s home in Ohio after four days.

Kids with Bernie and dogs

I never noticed how worried Bernie looked in this photo until now. I think I know why.

Brandon got a flight back to New York — he had to be back for work — and I finally landed on my dad’s doorstep. I knocked on the door of the house where I grew up, and when my father opened the door, I broke down in tears.  We hugged for a long time, just standing in the doorway and finally made our way, up the three steps into the kitchen.

I felt like a pathetic loser. How lucky I was to have a dad who loved us enough to take me, my two kids and even the two pooping dogs in.  I stayed there for two years,  unable to buy a house because of stricter loan requirements. I worked on re-inventing myself, helping my dad while he helped us, and trying to stay sane.

Having my family there was wonderful, but getting divorced, losing my job two weeks later, then having to sell the home we painstakingly remodeled for 13 years, and losing with my entire way of life and lots of friends, was a challenge. In the wide scope of things, and compared to serious life and death situations some people endure, I know it was definitely a first world problem. But being career-less and moving my family into my childhood home, with my 95 year-old father with worsening dementia, was not what I imagined I’d be doing at 55.

My escape road

My escape route

So, at night, after I tucked him into bed, sometimes I’d run an errand, just for a ride alone in my Pilot. I’d drive down the roads I used to drive on when I was a teenager looking for fun, only now I was driving to escape.

I’d put one of the CD’s in the car that my daughter painstakingly made for me, roll down all the windows, even in the dead of winter, and sing at the top of my lungs. A couple of favorites were “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine, Diego Garcia’s, “You Were Never There,” Bon Iver’s, “Holocene,” and a song by Cults called “Bad Things,” that had this line in it: “I’m gonna run, run away, run, run, away…” you get the idea.

I’m quite certain, I looked like a lunatic, but it kept me sane.  Screaming those lyrics was pretty cathartic, but I couldn’t run away. I had my dad to think of, kids and dogs and a career to resurrect. I had to stay and figure out what the hell I was going to do.

But those moments, when it was just me, my car, my sadness and frustration, loud music and country roads in front of me, made that Pilot more than just a car. It was a friend, who carried me away and let me sing at the top of my lungs when I needed it.

Two years later, I drove back across the country so my daughter could finish high school in the same town she started kindergarten, get a better education, get to know the cute boy she’d met on summer vacation, and I could figure out how to start over in California, the place I had contacts and a track record. It took a few  starts, but at least I’m on a path now and have more of a plan than I ever did before. I’ve heard the saying, God laughs at plans, but you have to start somewhere.

I still have my Honda Pilot. I can’t imagine ever getting rid of the car that carried me out of California and brought me back in, a stronger, more whole person still singing at the top of her lungs.

I Can’t Shut Up Anymore!

I know, most of you are saying, “Wait, when have you ever shut up?” But I do sometimes edit what I say here for fear of offending some readers, but I just can’t worry about it anymore!  I just watched “Chasing Coral,” a multi-award winning documentary on Netflix and was so affected witnessing the devastation of our coral reefs, I whipped into action. I am not a diver and I’m a barely capable swimmer, but this isn’t about saving coral reefs just because they’re beautiful to look at, the death of coral reefs is a very serious threat to our planet and it’s been going on for decades.

“Chasing Coral,” is all about the impact global warming is having on our coral reefs. They’re dying because the temperature of the ocean is rising. Some sources say the earth has lost half of it’s coral reefs in the last 30 years. The documentary was created and researched with the help of some outstanding scientists and marine biologists and they all agree, coral is a fundamental part of a huge ecosystem.

If there’s one thing science teaches us it’s that all life is connected. If you get rid of one thing “you” might not consider important, it affects everything else.  I’ll pick something annoying like mosquitoes. Everyone hates them. Let’s say we eradicated all mosquitoes — then what would creatures like birds and bats eat? Pretty soon all sorts of species would die, just because of stupid annoying mosquitoes. That’s the way it is with coral reefs, which are neither stupid,nor annoying. They are gorgeous and they’re home to an amazing number of fish and sea animals. If you think their death isn’t going to affect sea life, and you, you are badly mistaken. Continue reading

Who Will ALS Take Next?

So far, my friend, Bob Deyan has been taken by ALS. My brother lost two of his best friends and fraternity brothers — John Conti and John Delserone to this disease. An old boyfriend’s mom passed away due to ALS. She was a sweet, smart woman named Toots. I’m sure you know people too. It seems like the worst diseases take only the nicest people.

If there was a serial killer out there torturing innocent people horribly then murdering them, we’d be up in arms, but ALS is doing that to people every day and we haven’t done enough to stop it yet. We have to stop it.
Continue reading

Bobby Kennedy – Some Inspiration for These Times

I’ve never been more concerned about our country. There’s such anger and division, it’s as if we’ve forgotten the U.S. is supposed to be the ideal. We’re supposed to be the example the world looks to, where everyone lives together and gets along — The Starship Enterprise of countries. The place where justice prevails.

My nephew, Patrick and I were talking this week about how we want inspirational leadership for our country. We want a great leader — someone who makes people strive to be their best. Someone who inspires by example. He mentioned the remarkable speech that Robert Kennedy made when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

I was 13-years-old at that time. I remember the horror and hopelessness I felt when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, but I didn’t recall this speech, so I went online to find it. It brought me to tears. Continue reading

Be the Best Example You Can Be

It’s great to have a friend who’s an investigative reporter. He can do things like find out where old flames live and what their marital status is. But that’s not the only reason I’m friends with Don Ray.
Don’s a genuinely good person with a passion for both, a great story, and history. Plus, years ago, he traveled 2, 000 miles to be at my wedding for one day and I barely had time to even talk to him! I still feel guilty about it.

A while ago, Don invited me to participate in a reading with him, as part of the Endangered History Project.   The story he wanted me to help him tell was particularly appropriate in today’s political climate. (Please click on the link and check it out, it’s a non-profit organization well worth supporting!) Continue reading

Something about Good Friday…

I am not what you would call religious. I was raised Catholic and am certain I’m a better person because of it.  But somewhere along the line, I fell away from the church. Occasionally I find my way back – and when I do it’s usually on a Good Friday. Continue reading

The Triumph of Evil

I should never watch movies because I can’t watch one without it affecting me one way or another. Well, I blew it tonight, I watched Spotlight. Of course it made me think about right and wrong, not just because I’m a lapsed Catholic, but because I’m a human.

The big thing I took away from it is that when you see something happening, and you know it’s wrong, you have to speak up. Sadly, the one time I saw something, very wrong, I did not speak up and it’s far too late now. Continue reading

Letting Go

My son told me this morning how helpless he feels. His father (my ex) has to have have triple bypass surgery. My son is worried and I wish I could tell him something that would make him feel better.  But I can’t, except that most people come through the surgery with no problem. I even know a few.

I felt the same way when my mom had her first heart attack at 76. She was a woman who unrepentantly ate salami, cheese, bacon and eggs for years. Continue reading

Is Discrimination There Because We Notice It?

My first tiny inkling of discrimination came when a friend’s dad said to me, “You know, your dad is the only Italian I ever liked.” I was a teenager and it left me confused. On one hand I was proud that he liked my dad, on the other, I felt bad that he felt that way. That was the first time I wondered, Was it bad to be Italian? Continue reading