Pages of my life…

A few fears ago, I decided to sell my sleek looking convertible.  The younger woman, who answered my ad, sounded pretty excited about taking the car for a spin.  We agreed on a time and place to meet, as I wanted her to test drive the vehicle to make sure it was a true fit for her needs.  Her dad came along for the ride, anticipating exchanging money for the car.  One glance told me, they were a very closely knit family.  He was from the old country.  And he clearly adored his adult daughter.

She climbed into the drivers seat like she was a princess on a velvet cushion.  Her eyes were filled with excitement as we made our way down the freeway.  As we drove along, we talked, as strangers often do when they have first met.  She had felt at one point, she would never marry, as the right guy simply did not come along.  Then, one day, when she least expected it, a handsome man became part of her life.  They married almost immediately.

The following year, a miracle happened.  She became pregnant with the child, who would change her whole life.  Her parents were deliriously happy and the newly married couple could hardly contain their excitement.  Somehow, deep within the heart of the soon to be mom, she had a feeling that she would have a Down’s Syndrome baby.  In her heart of hearts, she had always known this would be the case.  Sure enough, the baby was born.  And it was clear that their little bundle of happiness had fulfilled her mother’s expectations.  She was special, indeed,very special, in every way.

The grandparents were bursting at the seams, filled with love for their precious gift from heaven.  The infant’s mom and dad were every bit as exhilarated.  They named her Joy.  For this family, she represented the very best of all things we strive to maintain.  She was sweet and innocent, with a smile that would light up any room.  As she grew into a toddler, the family loved her more and more with each passing day.

As we pulled up to the insurance company to exchange paperwork for the car, I saw a delightful man, beaming ear to ear, wallet in hand.  He opened the wallet and could hardly wait to show me what was inside.  Photo after photo, of their beloved Joy.  He explained to me that after many years spent in prayer, they had been sent this wonderful gift from heaven.  She was the love of his life and their promise of a life of love and happiness.

I walked away that day with a renewed faith in the world.  Never have I seen a family so truly and completely engulfed in their love for a single soul.  And for the first time, I really understood what the word special was meant to look like from a distance.  Not different or lacking in any way, but completely and totally beloved by everyone who crossed their path.  And that is about as special of a gift as anyone could ever hope to receive.

Every man has one holiday they consider the most important of all.  For Ray, that day was Feb 14th.  He and Eleanor had spent their first Valentine’s day at home.  An oncoming snowmobile traveling too fast, had caused a collision.  His bride’s leg was broken in several places.  As their marriage was new and being thrifty was considered to be a good thing, they set in place a tradition for all holidays that would follow.

Each year Ray would choose from his small collection of cards.  Eleanor would do the same.  They would look for a card that expressed how they really felt about each other.  Rules like that sometimes inspire the best of behavior.  Year after year, they opened the same cards from each other, marking only the new date and perhaps a small note.  Decades came and went and they continued to really enjoy their little tradition.

Eleanor loves candy.  Not just any candy will do.  She really, really loves Sees candies.  It did not take long for Ray to figure out what made her eyes sparkle and shine.  Each year he lovingly chose her card and made his way to stand in line for the beloved box of Sees.  Life being what it is, Ray passed away at the end of June.  His 84th birthday would have been tomorrow.  Needless to say, today promised to be a very tough one.

At Christmas time, Eleanor decided to set aside half  her box of candy for Valentine’s Day.  She also knew she could not be trusted.  In an effort to save the candy from herself, she wrapped the box in enough sealing tape to look like Fort Knox.  She hid it away, out of sight and patiently waited.  Valentine’s Day could not come soon enough. !!!

I awoke this morning to my mother’s smiling face with a devilish grin that told me she had been up to mischief. As I walked into the living room, I noticed a large Valentine’s card standing in front of the framed picture of Ray that graces the living room table.   After a few moments my mom appeared and announced that she had gotten a Valentine from Ray !!!  She had also chosen one from her to him.  She was eagerly anticipating digging into the box of candy she would open after we returned from the movies.  Of all the movie choices she could have made, she picked “The Vow”. Our movie was a real tug on the heartstrings.  We returned home just in time in sneak a few pieces of candy before dinner.

Ray loved daffodils more than any other flower.  In the fall, mom decided to plant hundreds of them in his honor.  She hoped when spring arrived, there would be a huge splash of bright yellow in front of the house.  It was all for her husband of three and a half decades, who loved the bright yellow rascals waving in the breeze. He had never managed to buy any for himself.  We planted and planted in hopeful anticipation.

Today, as I looked out the window, I saw that the bright promising crop has a leader.  One single flower is determined to win the blooming race.  Right next to it is a close contender, just like two old friends standing, admiring the sunshine together.  Of the hundreds waiting for more sun, only the two were determined to bloom in unison.

I fully expect to see Ray’s first daffodil reaching for the morning sun, blooming in full happy birthday splendor.  And, if I am not mistaken, by the time the sun sets tomorrow evening, it will be joined by its perennial partner.  Within a short time there will be a huge wave of bright yellow happiness for all to see and enjoy. And there is no doubt in my mind that Ray would be beaming ear to ear, knowing how much he was loved and how well and truly he is missed.  Happy birthday Ray…for all the wonderful things you did, for being such a family guy…and for being our mom’s forever valentine. ImageImage

At times life may surprise us…and take our breath away.  Someone we meet will touch us…in an unexpected way.  Suddenly we view life…in a light unseen before.  The chance meeting of a lifetime …is now knocking on our door.  Around the corner they both came…one single moment in time…the warmest of smiles… inquisitive eyes…his mirror reflection… simply perfection…an image indelibly fine.  The vision in her mind of this tender loving soul…inspired the very best in her…shedding shyness and self control.  Suddenly she found herself…flying high above the clouds… feeling free and unencumbered…doing things her heart had dreamed about.  Friendships…there are many…whose roots can now be traced…to a charming handsome man…and the sorrow he erased.  As time went on their friendship…took another turn…feelings deep within her soul… began to make her yearn.  In another place in time …her body would softly stir…with images dancing in the dark…touching every part of her.  Their bodies bare and wanting… appeared before her eyes…a hunger reached from deep within…the sound of audible sighs.  The hardness of his body…how sweet his lips might taste…fingers tracing every inch…the look upon his face… breathless passionate images…her mind could not erase.  Half a world away…smoldering thoughts of him… invisible touch…remain as such…buried deep inside her skin. 

 

A long time ago…I walked into a store to do a bit of shopping and walked out as a reluctant new employee.  The name on the building might as well have been written in letters that stretched to the sky…as even whispering the name Bill Graham within the confines of the bay area…instantly resulted in idol worship.  Bill’s grip on the entertainment industry in northern California was a equivalent to a fortress…big and strong.  Working for such an amazing gentleman was a dream of many… young and old.  He ruled his businesses with the tenacity of an alley cat …hungry for food …and the word "no" simply was not in his vocabulary.  The motley crew he gathered around him were a very talented bunch…with inspired roots from which many a mogul have grown.  The handful in attendance at our mandatory Winterland meetings felt as though we had torn a page from time.  When Bill spoke…it seriously stood still.  I was naive and young enough not to know how to be intimidated by the enormity of presence he commanded.  My hand and arm were raised with suggestions and reports on progress shared as though he were an old friend and not the ruling head of an empire.  Del and Dave Furano were an integral part of the management team…superior players whose level of expertise and business acumen would become the good fortune of the folks at Sony.  Last I knew…Del was the CEO of the Sony Signature line…and his brother Dave was in the upper eschalon of mega entertainment contracts as well.  Not long ago I encountered a brochure or legal agreement of sorts with names from the past.  To fully comprehend …you would require a massive amount of information about my past…which would explain my trepidation to partake again in any part of the rock and roll industry…and all that entails.  Bill had a store at 333 Columbus in San Francisco.  It was down the road from a great Tower record location and in a good spot for selling t-shirts …posters and displaying memorabilia.  The store was also a Bass ticket outlet…an ideal spot for the masses to gather in anticipation of any major concert announcement.  At some point in time it was decided that an additional outlet would be a good vantage from which to fill the Oakland Coliseum and venues across the east bay.  And so…a few days before I walked in to shop…a store was born.  Ray Ward was the general manager of the Oakland Coliseum at that time…a good family man with diversified investments of his own.  Ray and his family were a joy to know and work with over the years.  The store and all it meant to the area…should have been a serious win-win scenario.  Within a few days of my becoming employed…some personnel changes ensued… and in a blink of an eye…I found myself unofficially doing everything.  I created displays…sold merchandise…did the books… and the banking and put together the coolest Christmas window display I have ever seen… with a tree made out of rock logo t-shirts and a giant oil painting of Paul McCartney.  When the dust cleared…I became part of the infamous management team.  I owned several other businesses at the same time…one only a block away…so it was convenient…and I knew plenty about every aspect of life around the entertainment world.  When Paul McCartney and Wings tickets went on sale…I bought a thousand (ditto for the Rolling Stones)…to assist with radio station contests and help with promotional events.  I bought a block of forty tickets to see Elvis Presley and was given second row seats to the show at the Cow Palace…which I promptly gave away to a young fan with a new camera.  I had never been interested in seeing Elvis…knew he was incredibly talented…but was perhaps turned off by the masses of women acting like idiots everywhere he went.  As it turned out…I literally melted into my seat at his concert the next evening…mesmerized by a talent both rich and velvety smooth.  He died a few short months later…leaving me saddened by my own shortsightedness.   When you are part of a rock and roll giant’s organization…chances to enjoy incredible shows are many…and there is a certain expectation to make an appearance more often than not.  Keeping in mind that most people would have laid at Bill’s feet for a chance to work for him…I tried to balance appreciation for the opportunities and duties that called me elsewhere.  I enjoyed my brief friendship with Susan from the Winterland office before she left to join Journey on tour…if I remember correctly.  It is with fond memories of the bay area…that I look back on faces…like a young Phil Collins (one of the sweetest people you could have ever had the pleasure to meet)  Boz Scaggs (a Stanford concert during the "bump" craze…landing me in someone’s lap)…Elvin Bishop (a Keystone Berkeley show where my car got parked in by dozens of bikes…and the Hell’s Angels were kind enough to block off the street and move the bikes so I could leave)…Tom Hanks (think of a little cottage style home with a view on top of a rounded hill…an idyllic and dreamy life before Hollywood)…and countless other memories of now superstars…remembering when they first started out.   The Day on the Green concerts were wonderful…with many backstage amenities …Frampton’s drink fountain…and with every venue…more special requests to fulfill.  I never worked any of the concerts…with the exception of one.  A few of us were hand picked to help with our Thanksgiving dinner …which was turned into a black tie affair.  If the image of formal wear…tuxes… opera gloves and elegance with every turn of the head is not enough…one need only consider the entertainment roster that read like a who’s who in the industry.  The creamy full length gloves I adored were a perfect compliment to the jeweled gold brocade dress whose presence in my closet for many years was a reminder of this tasteful and decadent evening.  A movie set was brought in and the concert with subsequent dancing was captured on film and made into a movie.  It was billed as The Last Waltz…but in reality it was a waltz to remember for all times.  My young daughter fell asleep after midnight…not wanting to join the rock star kids in the incredible back stage setting that had been provided for them.  She suddenly rose from her chair…sound asleep until Bob Dylan took the stage…when she began clapping and swaying to the music.  Everyone around us laughed.   You never quite knew what to expect next with such a fun and loving bunch of people to work with and enjoy.  The sight of Bill’s Rolls Royce sent people scrambling…but he had a sad and funny side too.  He was orphaned in the worst possible European scenario at a place in time that had to have been sheer terror.  He was eventually was rescued by a relief agency and ended up washing dishes in New York City.  His is one of many personal stories I have heard firsthand…documenting the often unknown struggle from poverty to privilege.  Our Christmas party was held at Bimbo’s 66 that year.  For every table of six people…a waiter stood by to anticipate your every desire… filling the wine and keeping the spirits flowing.  Dinner was beyond any measure of my imagination…and for those wishing to indulge a bit of  spirit…Santa Claus was at the door with a basket of tiny envelopes containing freshly rolled holiday cheer.   Bill was adamantly opposed to any form of drug use…and provided ample medical resources at each concert.  But Santa…well…he obviously was in a mischievous mood that year.  Santana and Tower of Power played for our little Christmas party…perhaps as much as twenty feet from our tables.  I got dragged into going to Winterland with a co-worker to see a Heart concert.  True to her daredevil personality…she insisted we climb to the sky and beyond on tiny metal ladders whose ascent could have readily meant a fall to our death.  Once we reached the little box in the lighting area in which to seat…I envisioned myself staying there until the fire department came to rescue me.  That was the first of many days when I realized that at the ripe old age of twenty six…I was a youngster no more.   I could share countless stories of artists whose meager beginnings involved selling a few tickets here and there…or asking if we could hand out their bumper stickers for free (hey Tom Petty…I think that worked out pretty well).  I could share pictures of memorabilia that would make a toughened adult drool… but I will save those for another place in time.  Bill died in a helicopter crash some years ago…and my Mom was kind enough to save the newspaper coverage of the event for me…as I was out of the country at the time.  His courage shown in the tiresome climb… rising from poverty and obscurity to the top link of the rock and roll chain…served as an inspiration to us all.   

My first ever trip to Albuquerque could have been construed to be ill fated at best.  I marched off to the airport like a girl scout on a mission to save someone.  My heart fluttered with excitement in anticipation of a "first" meeting many years after a "first" and only date.  Someone needed help…and this was clearly a job I could handle.  During the course of my shuttle ride to the hotel…I poured out heart and soul to the only other passenger in the shuttle van.  I told him I was meeting someone who was very special in every way.  My normal cool and calm exterior felt like a swarm of butterflies were landing on me from every direction.  I found being unnerved quite funny for the fearless and tough old girl I have always been.  I explained I had not dated in many, many years…no dinners shared…not even a single kiss.  The gentleman in the shuttle was excited for me.  He had been so very much in love with his beautiful bride with whom he shared more than three decades before sadly losing her to illness.  The wistful look upon his face spoke volumes of the intensity and depth of his love for her.  We arrived at our destination… wished each other well…and went our seperate ways.   My next day consisted of spending hours and hours sitting patiently in the lobby for a ride that would never come.  At the risk of sounding vain…I was truly beautiful.  A radiant smile graced my face in anticipation of the new chapter I was about to begin.  My below waist length hair lay in soft curls cascading down my shoulders… accenting the curves of my dress.  I applied a very tiny amount of makeup…an unusual move on my part.  I was in fact pretty as a picture…a fact many people during the day had commented on as I sat patiently waiting.  After all the flight options for the day had come and gone and trains had departed for the last run of the evening…it became clear to me that an additional night’s stay was imminent.  I shook my head in disbelief…booked an additional night at the hotel and flights to return home the following day.  My evenly paced phone calls had met with undesirable results…dead air.   As I prepared to gather my suitcase and carry bags…the gentleman from the previous day’s shuttle spotted me from across the lobby.  He approached in a most curious manner as he knew I should have been long gone.  He asked how my meeting had turned out  and was anxious to hear how exciting the day had been.  His expression quickly fell to resemble one that mirrored my own disbelief.   We talked while I checked in…and he carried my suitcase…as any gentleman would.  We went back over the day’s events…covering conversations…guessing at possibilities… unable to have an inkling between us as to what went wrong.  I thanked him for wheeling my suitcase along and he left.  A phone call I received shortly afterward offered not an explanation…but at least the relief that my friend was not in fact dead on the floor or something equally horrific.  He insisted that I get something to eat as I had not done so all day…afraid to leave my post in the lobby lest we might miss each other somehow.  I went to the restaurant and bar area where some food was still being served.  The place was filled to capacity with only one seat vacant…next to my shuttle bus friend.  The burgers we devoured were washed down gently with cold drinks…and we continued our discussion about my situation… equally perplexed.  My friend called to say we would meet very early in the morning and I stepped outside to have a chance to talk privately.  I returned to finish what I could eat of my meal…and asked for the bill.  The waitress gave the gentleman his bill and reached to set mine down in front of me.  He swooped in and took my bill for food and drinks faster than you could blink an eye.  As I thanked him for his kindness…he said there was one more thing.  He wanted to make sure the trip was not a total waste…as I had accomplished nothing.  He stood up…and kissed me on the lips in front of a bevy of strangers  looking on in admiration.  And then he kissed me again.  He said I could no longer say I had not been kissed for a very, very long time.   If I were the kind of girl to kiss and tell…it would be a story of soft velvety lips meeting in a most unexpected manner.  As I look back over the few photos taken and my one little momento of my ill fated journey to Albuquerque…I hope in my heart that the memory I will take away is not the one of humiliation and despair…but of the kindness shown by a stranger whose admiration was duly noted.   Sentiments expressed would clearly have been excellent candidates for the mutual admiration society.  So…if you ever find yourself a little blue…feeling stranded and disappointed…know in your heart that while the cowboy boot you were trying on for size may not be the perfect fit after all…there may be a soft smooth pair of suede pumps that do.   As I crept into bed last night in the comfort of my own bed…it was this very thought I pondered as I drifted off to sleep…dreaming in the buff. 
After a delightful (seriously) ten hour flight on United Airlines from London to San Francisco and a pleasant flight from California to Washington…I touched down on American soil and have been going nonstop since the plane landed.  I have been surrounded by loved ones of every age and have not yet unpacked a thing.  It may take me a bit longer than I expected to get caught up with my postings…as it seems many people, places and things were waiting patiently for my return.  The jet lag and eight hour time difference are nothing compared to the tasks that lay stretched out in front of me.  Thank you for your understanding.  
 There are some incredible photos and wonderful stories from London waiting to be shared.  Captured images include stunning architectural dream buildings and gardens filled with handsomely placed flower beds…parks decorated in true spring form with families and friends…lovers holding hands and every possible combination of humanity enjoying the natural feast with wide eyed wonder.  Beautiful statues and heritage buildings well known to tourists are also part of my collective effort to capture historic London while appreciating modern renditions on this perfect spring day.  I hope you will visit each of the new London photo albums once they are set in place.  An earnest attempt was made to honor both old and new…representing each in the best possible light.  If by chance you find yourself in London some day…I would encourage you to mix and mingle with the many smiling faces at your disposal.  Do not be too shy to ask if there is a great  place is for enjoying a picnic…or which building they find the most interesting.  Don’t be surprised if they share knowledge of the Beatles store on Baker street or recall stories from their childhood where legendary characters were larger than life.  Exploring is only half the fun without knowing the secrets every person and beautiful place will share…if only you are willing to listen.  I wrongly assumed that a few days in England would provide extra time for organization.  Ha !!!  Between the amazing pools to swim in…lovely old pubs to treasure…and new haunts waiting to be explored…I neither slept nor slowed down a bit.  I sincerely apologize for the delay in postings…but the look on my face says it all.  I am loving every moment of every day…and have some incredible photos and stories to share of my journey and the many wonderful people I have come to know along the way.  The colorful cast of collective heroes and wonderful people I have come to know along the way will be forthcoming soon.

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  • justmebethb: Thank you for your interest in my little blog page. I know very little about the format options. I was in writing mode a few years ago and combined
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  • justmebethb: Thanks Lori...I could not agree more. And, of course, the first daffodil ever planted at this house, bloomed yesterday...on Ray's birthday. Makes se
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