Monday, December 31, 2012

They must be NUTS

Put some clothes on!

With temperatures in the single digits, Frank and I witnessed a bunch of half naked people dressed in tights, wearing no shoes at Fergus High School.

This shocking spectacle was the 7th annual Nutcracker. 
Staged by our local dance troupe - The Dance Syndicate.

Janet Luciano Teaching Dance
Janet Luciano has been a dancer all of her life.
After growing up in Lewistown, she left our tiny hamlet as quickly as her twinkle toes could take her. I don't know Janet personally. But rumor has it that she danced on Broadway (Manhattan not Lewistown). And at some point married a gentleman with a rather famous Italian moniker. Beyond that I'm told she did some amazing things while away from home.

Fortunately, 15 years ago she decided to return to Lewistown.

Chris Morucci and Cameryn Vaughn - Courtesy Lewistown News Argus
Since then she has been teaching local kids how to DANCE!
The Dance Syndicate
is truly a local treasure.
While probably not as glamorous as her fabled past, Janet focuses her passion on exposing local children to the beauty, freedom, and joy of this rather physical (and oft unappreciated) art.

Saturday evening almost 100 kids performed on the high school stage.
While slightly more than a dance recital, this event never fails to charm it's audience. Viewing munchkin missteps is well worth the $17 admission.
But... in my opinion the inspiration was priceless.

That's because Janet uses her annual forum to expose our tiny town
to things normally seen only in the big city. Four talented guest artists
took the art of dance leaps and bounds beyond our expectations.

Patric Palkens 
is a renowned ballet dancer currently with the Cincinatti Ballet. Prior to that he danced with companies in Orlando, Seattle, Chicago, and Santiago, Chile. Patric is a local boy (and Janet's son).  He started his training at The Dance Syndicate in Lewistown.
Proof that artistic talent can be nurtured and developed anywhere.

Janessa Touchet 
has been a member of the Cincinatti Ballet since 2001. A native of New Orleans, she has danced with the
Giacobbe Academy, Hartford Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Hopefully our warm reception made up for the frigid night.
Courtesy of The Bozeman Chronicle

Eric Sterkel
is a hip hop dancer from Bozeman. He teaches this modern art from his Breaking Pointe Studio. 
Known to push the boundaries, he staged a "flash mob" in downtown Bozeman in 2011.

Courtesy Rab Cummings Photography
Hilary Luciano
is not only beautiful - she is a graceful and accomplished dancer. Currently based in Bozeman, Hilary is another of Janet's talented offspring. Saturday evening she proved to be a formidable partner to Eric's spins, jumps, and stick swinging. Further proof that home grown talent can amaze!

Talent inspires.
Frankly Montana can be a tough place to live. Ranch life is filled with brief moments of beautiful vistas and long hours of brutally hard work. Making ends meet in a town with a very limited economy is just as challenging.

Magic can happen anywhere.
Saturday evening a large group of Lewistown children 
saw two powerful men and two beautiful women 
leap into the air and seem to float across the stage.
Such an experience is bound to inspire 
at least one of those kids 
to be something they never knew they could ever be.

All it takes is a dream.
Plus the passion and commitment to make it happen!

Patric Palkens performing Giselle with the Orlando Ballet Company - Courtesy Orlando Sentinal

Sunday, December 30, 2012

7th Day Surprise - FLY AWAY

In faraway places - 
Buddhist monks release lanterns into the night sky
to celebrate special times and spread good wishes.

In Montana - 
The winter sky blazes with stars that are even more magical.

Michel Chilcoat * Starry Night in Big Sky Country

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How quickly they forget

I have to admit that at times it can be frustrating living in a rural community.
As denizens of a big city we were surrounded by subtle touches of elegance.

Hand-polished door hardware.
Shop windows washed every morning.
Perfectly planted window boxes.
Doormen in full regalia.
Sidewalks and streets swept daily.
A silver bowl of cashews at the bar.
Post wine drop apologies (and new linen).
Roses in silver bud vases.
The politely genteel rest room attendant.
A re-folded napkin awaiting your return.
Post entree strokes of a crumb knife.
Groceries delivered to your door.

Most urbanites take these everyday luxuries for granted.
Sadly, they just don't exist in Lewistown. But years ago they did.
The question is where did they go and why?

We all know that Americans have lowered their standards dramatically.

Visit any airport and watch the parade of degradation pass by. In my younger days one dressed to the nines when traveling. What you wore defined who you were. Yesterday after a visit to her local
mega mall, a shocked friend called to say
"How can they wear 
 that out in public"?

The fact is that this problem is pervasive in every city across America. Beyond specific Manhattan zip codes, Frank and I often lament the loss of finesse. Ultimately I've concluded that our collective challenge is
21st century casualization.

I don't think the problem is laziness.
Rather I am convinced that our collective challenge is ignorance. 
Without education and inspiration - 
how would one know that what one was doing is incorrect? 
The fact is it's just as easy to do things correctly. 
And... it makes it easier for others.

Part of our holiday was a celebratory family dinner in a private room at a local fine dining establishment. Upon sitting down everyone was confused. The cause was simply due to the forks being set to the right versus left. 

Whose fault was that?
Blame cannot be placed on our delightful waitress.
She had gone above and beyond to plan our menu and wine options.
Sadly, nobody had ever taught her how to set a table. 
And just as sadly, 
I did not take the time to pull her aside and give her some friendly advice.

Obviously we are confused.
Somewhere along the way we forgot the purpose of manners and standards.
Most people connote them as symbols of snobbery and exclusivity.
The fact is their true purpose is to provide structure and context.
When everybody plays by the rules - everybody wins!
I'm not suggesting that we return to the world of Lady Grantham. 

However I do strongly suggest that 
we be kind and courteous to each other.
And that requires a little extra effort.
Why not try it?  Your guests will enjoy being pampered. 
And... they might learn something they can pass along.
The next time 
you serve coffee... 
put the CREAM 
(not skim) 

Not only is it pretty.

It enables one 
to push the "use by" date 
to the extreme!

The next time you serve cocktails...
provide your guests 
with a proper cocktail napkin.

Not only will all table surfaces thank you.
After the fourth Martini, 
chances are your guests may need to dab their lips.

The next time your waiter errs...
give them some friendly advice.

You see they really care.
And they want to do their best.

So why not give them 
more than just cash?

A helpful "tip" can mean the difference 
between slinging hash in a slop house 
or serving caviar at Le Bernadin.

"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
 Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
 Just walk beside me and be my friend."
                                                     Albert Camus

Friday, December 28, 2012


Deja View
When I was about 10 years old - 
my buddy and I climbed onto
the roof of Mrs. Metzle's garage.

From that vantage point
we could see for blocks.
While only 8 houses away
from my home, it seemed like
we were a million miles away.

Suddenly the male urge
to mark our turf hit us both. So...
we peed off the edge of Mrs. Metzle's roof.

That evening at dinner Ethel turned to me and said -
"What were you doing on top of Myrna Metzle's garage?"
To this day I can still feel the shock and shame of being busted.

How could she have known?
I was certain that nobody had seen two young boys 
peeing off the edge of a roof in a densely populated urban setting.
With steely grace Mother looked me straight in the eye and said
"I know EVERYTHING you are going to do
 BEFORE you even think about doing it."

Now... if that doesn't put the fear of God in you I don't know what will!
The strange thing is that Ethel's statement was actually quite comforting.
Every child needs and secretly wants a parent who is in control.

My father was a chronic worrier.
Looking back that makes sense given he lost a beloved daughter at age 14.
But try to explain that to a young boy.
No matter where I was going, or what I was doing,
Howard had a million cautions and warnings.

"Be careful crossing
 the street because
 some drunk could 
 slip on a banana peel
 in the gutter
 and a truck could
 swerve to avoid him 
 and hit you instead."

I can't tell you how much Howard's angst left me feeling stifled and controlled -
yet strangely secure, protected, and beloved.

While my Father gently pleaded for caution, Ethel used terror to keep me in line.
Whenever we passed a dead squirrel squashed on the street, Mother would stop, point at the corpse and say
"See? He didn't hold his Mommy's hand."

As a young child rainy days were terrifying.  While walking to school all I could think about was Ethel's warning -
"Don't step into any
 puddles. They're hot
 and could burn you."

While both of my parent's actions seem to be fodder for the therapist's couch...
their admonitions actually worked. That's because I knew that they cared about where I was, and what I was doing, all of the time.
And that meant I was truly loved.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't I know you

Connect the dots?

When you live
in a small burg
like Lewistown
six degrees 
of separation 
is an 
everyday occurrence.

Montana did not become a state until 1889.
Only 123 years young it's denizen's roots run deep and... tangled.
Chances are where ever you go, what ever you do, there is a connection.

Everything is relative in Lewistown.
Your cousin could be your cashier at Albertsons.
Another might be the President of the Friends of the Library.
And yet another the guy who delivers your favorite beer.
"X" went to high school with "Y".
"A" used to be married to "B".
And someone's ex sister-in-law works at the Courthouse.

It's a small world!

I first heard that phrase at the Pepsi Walt Disney Pavillion at the 1964 Worlds Fair at Flushing Meadows NY. I was fascinated by that ride...

The fact is no matter where you are
you may meet someone you know.

Let's use my dear grandmother
as a case in point.
In 1919 Margretta divorced
my bigamist grandfather
(another time, another blog).

Throughout the 1920's she struggled to support my father.
Ultimately meeting a kind gentleman who truly loved her company
but preferred to remain a bachelor.

For this story we will call him Mr. "Jones".

A very generous guy
he provided my grandmother with a lovely home on Riverside Drive.
It was there that he "visited" her on a regular basis for over 20 years.

Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home - New York, N.Y.
Sadly all good things
must come to an end.
Mr. "Jones" died.
Dutifully my grandmother
attended his funeral.
She found herself
standing next to
another quite attractive
lady at his casket.

This woman whispered -
"Mr. Jones was such a kind 
and generous gentleman".
Margretta nodded
as her co-mourner continued -
"He visited me every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday".
After a short pause...
My grandmother responded -
"Really? He visited me 
every Monday, Wednesday, 
and Friday".

Obviously Sunday was Mr. Jones' day of rest.

As the two ladies 
continued to chat,
they discovered 
that their "friend"
was a very organized
and ultimately
very fair man.
Both were of
comparable age, 
stature, coloring, 
and demeanor.

Each resided
eleven blocks apart
on a northern corner
of Riverside Drive.
Situated in an elegant
coop on the
same floor,
with the
same number,
with a very similar
if not exactly the
same floor plan.

Each were generously
provided for in his will.
Exactly the same amount of
A comparable allocation of
And similar additional

All of the above proves that whether you're in Lewistown or Manhattan -
You never know who you're connected to.

My advice is treat everybody kindly and with great respect.
Ultimately the golden rule is the safest way to survive our "intimate" world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Are you as tired as I am?

Macy's, Herald Square - 1948 - Post Christmas Cleanup
Presents opened.
Phone calls made.
Cemetery visited.
Goose cooked (and eaten).
China and crystal put away.
Empty bottles in recycle.
Fridge filled with left overs.
Crumpled wrap in dumpster.
Bits of glitter everywhere.
Thank you notes written.
House guests gone.

So what's next?
Absolutely nothing.

Courtesy B. T. Walker Photography
Maybe we'll go catch a flick at the Judith.
The Hobbit
and Parental Guidance are playing.

We can always hit the
After Christmas Sales downtown.
Don's has a deal on
all Ice Fishing Equipment.
True Value always marks down all toys.
And Diane will be clearing out
The Connection in preparation
for new spring fashion deliveries.

Courtesy of John Valach & Son
Courtesy of John Valach & Son
Or we can ski up to the cabin.
It's always glorious up there in the snow.
Perfectly quiet. Peaceful.
But... given quite a few Mountain Lion tracks
have been seen up there -
I think I'll stay home until we can drive right up to the door.

Instead we'll just stay home and enjoy each other.
Or... maybe we'll buy a house.
You never know what might happen in Lewistown!
Bill Stockton - Village - 1993 - Courtesy Yellowstone Art Museum

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas!

Whether you call it a Hanukkah Bush or a Christmas Tree
we all need a little sparkle in our lives.
Enjoy the day.  Feel the love. 
And don't eat too much!

Monday, December 24, 2012

For unto us a child is born

It took me more than half of my life
to figure out who I really was.
Growing up in a VERY conservative world -
I had no idea why I liked boys better than girls.
But something told me it wasn't an option.
So put those feelings in a box and
locked it down in the depths of my soul.

And so my life went on.
It was easier to be friends with girls than boys.
We liked the same things so I had many girlfriends.
They spent more time me more than other boys.

Sometimes that got me in trouble.

In 7th grade, a group of bullies beat me up every day after school.
To avoid a bloody nose... I hid until after dark in the public library.
Those days in that sanctuary nurtured my love of books, and learning.

Good often comes out of bad.

For over 30 years
I did exactly what was expected of me.
It wasn't like I lived a lie all of those years.
No struggles with being or not being gay.
I just focused on school, my career,
and achieving accoutrements of success.

I fell in love and got married.
We had four wonderful, precious, treasured children.
I built a successful career.
We lived in lovely homes with lovely things.
Everyone said we were the "perfect family".

Then it all fell apart.

The fact was that it just didn't work and nobody was truly happy.
A period of intense grief led to a time of amazing self revelation
I finally figured out who I was and accepted everything that went with it.
With joy came the terror of possibly losing everyone I loved.
Could my children accept a gay Dad?
Would my new "lifestyle" negatively impact their lives?
Could Ethel and Howard accept that their treasured "boy" liked boys?

Christmas Eve 1995

108 Mt. Tabor Road - Baroda Michigan - Springtime
That year the kids and I
spent the holidays
at our second home
in Baroda, Michigan.
My parents arrived
and we all tried to act like
nothing had really changed.
The tree was up.
Presents were wrapped.
Large toys fully assembled.

Late Christmas Eve as I lay in bed I heard a soft knock at my door.
Ethel came in and sat on the edge of the bed next to me.
Quietly she looked at me and then said -

"You are the happiest you've been since you were a little boy".
"And I think I know why."
"Either you're in love with Candace (my lawyer's wife)".
"Or your friend Larry".

Beyond shocked (and frankly a bit mortified) I responded
"I doubt either of those options would make YOU happy Mother".
With tears in her eyes Ethel said -

"Whatever makes you happy is OK with me".
And with one short statement
my Mother erased a lifetime of fear and confusion.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

7th Day Surprise - "Colorful"

I'm not sure what My mother would say except

And with that single, carefully selected word
her assessment would be short but deadly.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'll call you in the morning.

For over 30 years
Mother called Aunt Blanche
every morning at 7:45 a.m.
after their "hubbies" had left
for the office.

I wonder 
what they talked about...

Uncle Henry was a bit of a rogue and was known to like his beverages. I'm fairly certain that many a call was spent whispering about his activities the night prior.

Maybe Volvos? Blanche was a
fan long before any yuppie. To
prove their "sturdiness" she'd
slam a door and state "They
don't make them like that in the
U.S."! Naturally chic, she was
an auburn Audrey Hepburn. We
all wanted to look just like her!

Speaking of Audrey...
that takes me forward many years to another series of morning calls.

My friend "G" is the walking epitome of all things Audrey.
An elegant gamine who looks 20 years younger than she really is.
Years ago we worked together a small agency for a guy who was CRAZY.
One day he suggested that if I didn't like the way things were I should leave.

So... I got up and left.
I still get a sense supreme satisfaction thinking of his shocked reaction.
About a week later he suggested something similar to "G" (who ran the place).

So... she got up and left.
But not before she told him he was "f'ing nuts"!

Over the the next months "G" and I talked on the phone
every morning after our "hubbies" left to work!

Imagine two hard-boiled, agency drone workaholics
being suddenly transformed into DOMESTIC DEVOTEES!
Via the wire we planned menus, clipped coupons, and swopped recipes!
We also played therapist and helped each other through this transition.
However, it wasn't always pretty.

WARNING: The following may
not be suitable for young children.

One morning "G" shared the most amazing revelation. For the first time in many years she was having regular bowel movements. To her this was symbolic of how work had ruled her life in all ways. That morning she declared...

"I will never again 
give up my shit for anybody"!

Speaking of toilets -
I recently left my leadership role in a major corporation.  Like many others caught up in the frenzy of "transformation" it was time to move on.

My friend "A" left the company about two weeks prior to my departure.
Since then "A"  has been my phone, text, and e-mail buddy.
Once again, two workaholics are helping each other 
to discover how to live like normal human beings.

Well... maybe not totally normal. You see we both adore everything to do with our homes - especially CHINA!  So we are constantly sending each other pictures of our latest tables - or latest pattern. Right now we are both consumed with turquoise. To the left is "A's" most recent conquest - Wedgwood Florentine! Our shared mantra is never enough dishes - NEVER!

Friendship is the most amazing gift. And I am fortunate to have a little black book (actually a caramel toned Smythson) full of dear and trusted friends. One thing I am certain of - that I can call any of you, at any time, and you will be there for me.  Over the years your collective laughter, advice, tears, and insights have helped me weather all of life's joys and sorrows.
Dionne (pre Celebrity Apprentice) said it best...

"That's what friends are for"

The last thing my dear friends need are cyber stalkers.  Therefore I've decided to not detail names of the living. Of course if any of you actually do want to be stalked... write your own blog!

Friday, December 21, 2012


At least according to the Mayans.
So let's assume that today is really the end of the world.
Will anybody notice in Lewistown?
I have a theory that no matter what happens...
the residents of Fergus Country are so isolated that we will survive intact!

Maybe it's just my Mad Max fantasy!  Honestly... let's all confess that everyone loves watching a hot, YOUNG Mel Gibson woo the coolest ever Tina Turner!  Listen to "We Don't Need Another Hero".

I also have reason to believe that even if there is a nuclear holocaust -
Lewistown will probably dodge that bullet.
You see... we are surrounded by warhead missiles.

Central Montana Missile Site Map - Courtesy

That's right - as the map above indicates there are at least a hundred of them! As you drive around Montana you will see oddly fenced areas out in the middle of nowhere. YOU'VE FOUND A MISSILE!  All built by our government years ago as the cold war heated up.

Those fenced pens are deceiving.
Beneath cow patties lay massive,
multi-story missile facilities. As
Washington claims most are now
empty, some must still be full.
So what happens if some honcho
decides to hit a big red button?

Will the "big one" ever hit Lewistown?

Our missiles are pointed at
Moscow NOT Siberia. So it
makes sense that the enemy
targets are anywhere but here.
Should they opt to destroy
missiles mid air - it will be
over a major urban center!

Will they waste germ warfare on a county with few people?

Again, highly improbable. The
enemy would aim at populated
areas where a plague will spread
quickly. As long as we stay near
and shop locally we should be
OK. By the way this also works
during flu season... try it!

A world without end?

As of now most of Lewistown
is focused on the holidays and
hunting.  That means that as
long as UPS delivers before
Christmas and the jerky is all
cured - everyone will be happy.

What if the rest of the world is destroyed today?

Locals will return to their roots.
We'll reopen the mines, milk the
cows, gather eggs, stew the old
rooster and hunt all that doesn't
glow in the dark. Plus anything
that threatens us will be killed -
wolves, zombies, coyotes, and
city folk with bad coughs.

As usual things
will pretty much stay the same.