Monday, September 11, 2017

Post Irma Disorder

I wake up the day after the hurricane and tell my husband, "Better cancel your gym visit and I'll reschedule my nail appointment. He laughs. After what Irma left behind, today is a day for rakes and chainsaws, not treadmills and pedicures.

Morning light pierces the dark shuttered house as I open the door to survey the outside world. I wade through an obstacle course of poinciana branches and palm fronds. The trees took a whipping from this Category 1 storm. Irma actually landed as a Category 3 on the other side of the state. Here, 200 miles away from the eye, it was more like a  Cat 1. Still, it raked our neighborhood with a fury.


Neighbor's front yard


The shredded trees look like yesterday's nerves when we rode the Irma roller coaster. Cooped up inside, between whistling wind, distant eerie rumbling,  tornado warning buzzes that grated every fifteen minutes, and cranky family members (myself included), the nerves were snapped and dangling just like our ficus branches.


Morning moon the day after.

Yesterday.

With every tornado warning, the emergency recording commands to find shelter away from windows. I try to rally the family into the windowless bathroom, but they pay no attention. The 88 year-old mother-in-law can't hear. At one point, she finally understands the TV tornado alerts, so we both go into the bathroom with small chairs, cushions, tea, a Bible and a deck of cards.

"Tim, come give us a Bible study in the bathroom," Grandma hollers.
My husband ignores her. She leaves to go get something. I call out, "Are you coming?"
Annoyed, Tim answers, "No, I'm not coming!"
"I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to your mother. I know you're not coming."
(This is the kind of mis-communication madness that we sank to during the peak of the storm.) Perhaps devastation would have been better, I think more than once.

Mother-in-law comes back to the bathroom. I light a candle, so that in case the power goes out, we aren't in complete darkness.
"Why is that wick lit," she asks, eyebrows furrowed.  There's no explaining to her. She will either argue or not hear. I give up and I blow out the flame.

"Have a seat, " I say pointing to the chair.
"No, I want to sit on the floor," she insists, plopping down on a couch cushion. "We'll see if I can get up, later." My thoughts exactly, of course, kept to myself. She keeps calling for Tim to give us a Bible lesson.

I grab the cards and not the Bible.

"Do you remember how to play poker?" I ask her.
"I don't know," she says. "Let's just play and see."
I deal. We play two rounds. She beats the snot out of me. Her two Jacks beat my two Fours; she creams my flush with a Royal Flush, proving she remembers poker just fine.

Tornado warning is over, and after a great effort to lift herself off the floor, she trots happily off to the TV news. Yet another warning demands we take cover for 15 minutes more. I disregard it and grandma doesn't hear. This goes on for three miserable hours.


Irma over Cuba, the day before her Florida visit.


I vacillate from extreme mental irritation to impromptu dancing in the kitchen. One moment grandma is asking why I fixed the same dinner two nights in a row? Why didn't she get Tim's kale? Why did I serve her so much spaghetti? The next moment, Tim and she are arm wrestling and goofing off. Cabin Fever defined.

Throughout the day, I distract myself by sorting old photos, but am jolted by the reality that a fierce hurricane whirls outside. I better cook lunch before the lights goes out. We should eat dinner before the power fails. Wash each dish after you use it. Check the backyard trees. Did they fall on the neighbor's car? Oh God, not Keith's car! He's so careful about hurricane preparations. He boarded up a week ago--at night--and even removed his mail box off its stand so it wouldn't blow away. I would be mortified if so much as a twig landed on his property. Most of the time it's too windy to dare open a door, much less slosh into the yard to investigate tree conditions.


Florida landfall


Thankfully we never lose power. All that relational chaos in the a candle-lit cave would have been unbearable.

Later, when the howling wind softens, husband and I pour wine. A drink on the patio might end a tumultuous day quite nicely. I set out chairs and stemware, but the wind still whips. So I pull it all into the house. Instead, Tim and I sneak the White Zinfandel into the bedroom (mother-in-law would not approve), and relax. We do a little more than relax. I wonder if couples all over the county are "relaxing" the same way we are after the week's ordeal.

Today, we face several day's worth of clean up.Tim had trimmed trees in advance, but it was little  help. Time to reset our surroundings

and our psyches.

But, better the trees and not the roof. Better our nerves and not our lives. Better on so many levels. Seven days of harrowing preparation and tormenting thoughts of loss, have turned into a welcomed day of peace. Now when I think of my faithful God, his protection and severe mercies, gratitude comes from a deeper place inside, a place that wasn't there before the hurricane.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hamilton and Hurricane Irma



It's September 2017, and Africa spits them out with the regularity of a pinball machine. Foamy pinwheels ping off her gold coast into the steamy Atlantic, leering like swirling balls of destruction.

Each satellite trail of orange and pink pools strikes terror in every Floridian's heart. Will it go out to sea? Will it gain strength? Will it make it's dreaded northwest voyage and unwelcome visit to the fearful eastern sea board?


We prepare. We despair. We wait. Mostly, we pray.

We pray that this strongest-ever category 5 monster named Irma will go more east or more west or for God's sake settle down to a normal cat 2 strength--one that we're somewhat accustomed to. 

But praying is a tricky thing. If God loves everyone equally and if we are all truly deserving of justice for our sins, why should He pass one over and not the other? We groan. The earth groans.

Mexico 8.3 earthquake. Hurricane Harvey flooding in Texas. Fires in LA. Refugees in Syria.

Why are we any more special than anyone else when we pray? A little suffering might do us lazy, complacent, hedonistic Americans some good. Our souls could use a good sifting.



Here's how Alexander Hamilton put it in his September 6, 1772 letter to his father about the hurricane in St Croix:

Where now, oh! vile worm, is all thy boasted fortitude and resolution? What is become of thine arrogance and self sufficiency? Why dost thou tremble and stand aghast? How humble, how helpless, how contemptible you now appear. And for why? The jarring of elements—the discord of clouds? Oh! impotent presumptuous fool! how durst thou offend that Omnipotence, whose nod alone were sufficient to quell the destruction that hovers over thee, or crush thee into atoms? See thy wretched helpless state, and learn to know thyself. Learn to know thy best support. Despise thyself, and adore thy God. 


It's no wonder that Hamilton's published letter in the Royal Danish American Gazette won him a college grant.  The work of this island adolescent makes my above descriptions look like a second grader's.

It began about dusk, at North, and raged very violently till ten o’clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile the wind was shifting round to the South West point, from whence it returned with redoubled fury and continued so ’till near three o’clock in the morning. Good God! what horror and destruction. Its impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of the falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels. A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are levelled to the ground, almost all the rest very much shattered; several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined; whole families running about the streets, unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keeness of water and air without a bed to lie upon, or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbours entirely bare. In a word, misery, in all its most hideous shapes, spread over the whole face of the country. 


Irma is a bully lunging westward, swinging her 185 mph fists ready to pummel anyone in her path.
We are mortal wimps powerless before this 400-mile wide thug.

Some flee the state. But who knows if cavalier Irma will flippantly change her mind? Today's northward traveler could end up in tomorrow's center of the cone. Despite our hurricane hunters and holographic newscasts,  her ways are never certain. She has a mind of her own.

And then there's Hurricane Katia and Jose not far behind...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Swig of Sweeney Todd

If musical thrillers are your cup of tea, Palm Beach Dramaworks' "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is served up hot, black and acidic. Stephen Sondheim's caustic wit and the killer cast stir up a libation that goes down—unlike Mr. Todd’s straight-edge—easy on the throat.



Photo credit - Palm Beach Daily News


Based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, the show plays through August 5th at the theater's 201 Clematis Street location. Palm Beach Dramaworks offers viewers under 40 the chance to "pay their age" for admission. So if they're 18, then tickets cost $18. No matter what the age, attendees will be disturbingly entertained  as they sip this brew of genius wordplay, gritty Dickensian setting and razor-sharp execution.

After serving an ill-deserved 15-year sentence in Australia, Mr. Todd is propelled on a path of revenge. When he is unable to "do in" the shady judge, Sweeney turns on the London commonfolk.

In the song, "The Barber and His Wife," he justifies his barber-ic shaving methods:


There's a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And the vermin of the world
Inhabit it
And its morals aren't worth 
What a pig could spit,
And it goes by the name of London.

Sondheim's quasi-dissonant, yet ever-hauntingly beautiful melodies are steeped with commentary on the human condition. Under the direction of Clive Cholerton—and with top-notch actors like Ruthie Stephens (Mrs. Lovett), Shane Tanner (Sweeney Todd) and Paul Louis Lessard (Anthony Hope)—“The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" delivers a strong blend of depravity and dark love.
 

Come take a hearty gulp of Sweeney Todd at Palm Beach Dramaworks. Like me, however, you might pass on the pie at intermission—or at least eye it suspiciously...

Photo Credit - Palm Beach Illustrated



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

When Speaking or Teaching...



...Always prepare, and always be prepared to adapt to the moment.

 

pexels.com

 

There's nothing worse than having had the opportunity to speak and then to have missed making the right point.

I was tossing and turning last night because I kept rehearsing the speech I wish I would have made at a city council meeting last week. I was too attached to my pre-written talk. I was afraid to veer off the plan and be impromptu, but wished I had dumped my speech, and instead referenced all those who had so eloquently testified before my turn, and made kind of a closing argument.  That would have been effective!

Prepare?  Yes, absolutely do! But be prepared to switch gears and capitalize on the changes in the room.

That is the key to making a powerful verbal impact.

And the way to avoid spending sleepless nights re-rolling the tape on what you wish you had said.

Another time I prepared for a music camp session for elementary age kids.  What I didn't know was their temperment, age or abilities. I practically threw out the order of activities, but was very glad to have brought pre-planned tools, instruments and videos in for the class.

.kotaku.com.au
So I'll say it again,

When speaking and teaching, always prepare, and be prepared to adapt to the moment.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Tribute to Tribute Bands



 
     They’re popping up all over.  And music fans—especially mid-century-born enthusiasts—couldn’t be happier. They can experience their teenage music several times a month here in South Florida.  The music of Billy Joel, the Supremes, Temptations, and Bruce Springsteen are just a ticket and a short drive away.  In fact, in July alone the Wellington Amphitheatre will feature The Beach Boys and Johnny Cash, Jimmy Hendrix and The Beatles.
 
     Last Sunday I took in a Donna Summer tribute sung by her sister, Mary Gaines Bernard.  Because Mary was Donna’s sibling—and sang back-up for a good part of her career—Mary’s look and sound was spot-on to the Disco Queen’s. 

     Since I was new to the tribute band phenomena, I was struck by the audience’s raucous response. They were up and dancing and singing along for the entire concert. Afterward, I overheard some folks talking. “Yeah, wasn’t this great?  There’s a Rod Stewart band playing in a couple of weeks. We’ll come by and pick you up.” Following your favorite old band has become an area pastime.

     Tribute bands began to gain popularity in the mid-90s. Some say it was a response to rap music, and the market’s inability to embrace the new inner city genre. Tribute bands were a welcomed throw-back.  Others criticize tribute acts because they feel they’re not authentic. The musicians are likened to posers and wannabes who never made their own mark. But for many, the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s had an integral part of their youth, and the mere sound—even just a few bars of a song’s introduction—can jolt the listener back to the glory days of adolescence. It’s a trip to the past, transporting them to more carefree and footloose times.

     Today, like cover bands, dance bands, etc., tribute bands have been accepted as a legitimate genre.  Documentaries, TV shows and multiple articles have been devoted to the subject. 

     With more than 100 acts playing here in South Florida, audiences have cultivated detailed expectations from their favorite throw-backs. From ABBA to ZZTop, the Beatles to Bon Jovi, there are specific requirements that make up a top-notch tribute band. 


 
 


 
   
     First and foremost, they must look the part, which includes, hair length and color, hats, glasses (or none), facial hair or not, costumes and shoes.  Casting is as critical as talent.  Imagine Elton John without platform shoes and funky glasses; or Stevie Nicks without a black shawl and a fringed scarf flowing from her tambourine, or Elvis without a collared, bell-bottom suit and ankle boots. The visual personality must replicate the Real McCoy.  Reba McEntire is not Reba without red hair.

     Part of that ‘image’ is mannerisms and gestures.  Sound-alike artists study video upon video to learn how the celebrity comes across on stage.  Do they pace, jump, lean, or dance while performing, like Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson or Tina Turner?  Or do they sit calmly on a stool—acoustic guitar in hand—like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Simon and Garfunkel? Hand gestures and singing style are key features that a tribute artist works to imitate. 



   


 
      Obviously, the group is expected to play their songs as close to the recording as possible. Vocal timbre is huge.  It wouldn’t be Joe Cocker or Rod Stewart if they didn’t have a gritty voice. Without stacked harmonies, The Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac would not sound authentic. Garth Brooks imitators better have a twang, and Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond’s vocal range better live in the basement. Song arrangements stay tightly within the reins of their radio or CD likenesses. 


 


 
       Rather than replicate the music exactly, some groups have exercised creative liberty and added a twist to their show. In 2009, an all-girl band called Blonde Jovi remixed Bon Jovi’s music (and incidentally, caught a law-suit from the latter and changed their name for a brief life afterward).  Beatallica does a Metallica version of Beatles tunes. (They also got in trouble with Sony Music, but won). And the boys in Dread Zeppelin do Led Zeppelin in a reggae style. Many of these copy-cat groups have developed a following of their own.

     Tribute bands offer music-lovers the chance to relive that unique moment a hit was first heard on the radio or in concert. And audiences are not comprised of just aging rockers who grew up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  Plenty of today’s young adults can be found moving and grooving to Elton John, the Doors, James Taylor or Rush.

     Younger concert goers can also hear shows that feature existing artists, like Lady Gaga, Michael Buble, and Dave Matthews.  Rather than bring back the past, some tribute acts are simply riding the wave of current pop successes, and peddling acts such as Adele, One Direction, and Beyonce.
But, whatever your musical taste is, somebody’s playing it at a venue or amphitheatre near you. Take advantage of the Tribute Band trend and go hear yesterday’s favorite Top 40 tunes, today. 



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Color Therapy Courtesy of Maureen Fulgenzi



US Bank’s Palm Beach branch, with its neutral walls and modern furnishings, provides the perfect backdrop to exhibit Maureen Fulgenzi’s wonderland of art.   Customers may not get much banking done due to her happy distraction. 

A few moments in the presence of Ms. Fulgenzi‘s paintings leaves one feeling as if he or she has just had a sumptuous meal.  If the viewer happens to be a little on the melancholy side, their mood is quickly changed to nothing less than joyful.  




A look into Maureen’s background and creative process explains the response to her arresting style.  Maureen began her career and education in New York City. She spent several successful years in the fabric design business working with names like Mary McFadden and Diane Furstenberg, where she produced a well-received line of dresses.  She partnered with an artist/designer to make hand-painted fabrics, and ran two businesses—Horito/Fulgenzi Designs and Gossamer Wind in Soho.  

In the 90s, she decided to follow her “smoldering desire” (as she puts it) to pursue painting. And paint she did.  Venturing into the realist genre, her sophisticated style has moved into the abstract. Maureen dominates a variety of genres. She calls herself the “Sybil of Art” because she loves all styles.  You could call it artistic schizophrenia--in a good way.  

Maureen employs a mixed media technique, and utilizes interesting objects such as shells, fabric scraps, sea glass and even dried paint chips. The delightful discovery of these items in her paintings—usually found in obscure places—feels like finding hidden treasure. Her subjects include horses, birds, flowers and landscapes, and portraits. She has the ability to turn everyday sights into uncommon masterpieces.  Her texture variation and boldness of color incite a truly emotional experience.  And it’s no wonder, because when painting, Maureen throws her entire self into the process. 

“I like the arm sweep of a large work,” says Maureen. “But sometimes I start small when adopting a new technique.  It shows me where I’m going.  Doing a smaller piece helps me identify the subject and concepts.  Then I can expand the each motif and work up to a grander scale. I’m not always sure where I’m going. I keep painting, and it comes alive.” 

Maureen enthusiastically explains her piece called “Reposing.”   “To me this shows pure energy. I have to go really fast when I’m feeling it. The crux of it was done in one hour.  But when people ask me how long it took me, I tell them it took me my whole life.  I couldn’t do this in one hour unless I’d had the prior years of experience.”

After a look at another head-turning piece called “Sunset Ponies,” I asked Maureen how she arrived at her color choices. “I like to look at things in a different way.  If something looks too normal, I always add something to make it look a little off.”  


Apparently, “Sunset Ponies,” had been completed, and she was off to another project, when she found herself with an excess of Cadmium Orange on her brush. “What am I going to do with all this paint?” She’d thought.  She looked at “Sunset Ponies,” and decided to add the orange to the horses, which ended up being the crowning glory of the work.  The pop of unexpected color provided just the thing to make it a little “off.” Orange ponies!  Obviously, she titled the painting after she added the leftover paint, which is her typical process. Most works get named after the fact.  “Abstracts,” she says,” are a little harder to title.”
Commissioning for IPC (International Polo) Opening

Other beauties at the exhibit are: “Rest on Water,” “Quiet Breeze,” “Caged Three,” and “The Sail,” which has sea glass, seashells as well as seaweed incorporated in it. “Pax” has the word, “peace” painted in several different languages.  Even without the text, the work evokes serenity.  
All her works overflow with emotion, and say something to the admirer. While not necessarily as overtly as in “Pax,” they subconsciously effect a visceral and psychological transformation.  


Don’t miss the picture-perfect exhibit at US Bank—which has been extended indefinitely, and is open to the public. Then, starting in May, you can also view Ms. Fulgenzi’s flower-themed collection called, “Brings May Flowers,” at the newly renovated Derma Nu offices at 901 North Flagler Road, Suite 5, West Palm Beach, Florida, 33401. Her website is www.maureenfulgenzi.com, and artwork is available for purchase.





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