Tag Archives: music

True love lasts a lifetime

True love lasts a lifetime, Emma Thompson declares in Love Actually, (my second favorite movie) referring to her love of Joni Mitchell, a love I share.

My favorite movie, though, is Dirty Dancing, and I have loved it since it was first released in 1987. Dancing-in-the-basement was part of my teen years in my working-class neighborhood in Detroit, and, well, Patrick Swayze as a dancing, working-class hero hooked me.

Soon after the movie was released, a woman I knew through work wanted me to apply for a job in Atlanta, where she lived. Atlanta didn’t particularly attract me, but this woman had grown up in Houston, near Patrick Swayze, and had taken dance classes with Patrick’s mother. She actually knew Patrick Swayze!

I said that if she could arrange lunch with Patrick I would move to Atlanta (my decision-making criteria was fairly superficial). She could not pull that off, but a few months later, this picture arrived in the mail.

travel-Italy-Patrick Swayze
The inscription is faded; it reads “To Madeline, Best wishes, Patrick Swayze.”

I was in heaven. A signed photo from Patrick Swayze. I have carried this picture with me through all my moves and placed it on my desk at every job. True love does last a lifetime.

All of this came back to me when I was in Lucca, Italy, buying a scarf at Zazzi Dalamano. Vladimir is one of the company’s owners, and he was in the store the day I bought my scarf. When Vladimir discovered I was from Michigan, he gasped and said his favorite singer is from Michigan.

“Who is that?” I asked.

“Madonna,” he said, with a sigh that reminded me of how I say Patrick Swayze’s name—somewhat dreamy and wistful.

The person I was travelling with, also from Michigan, actually lived near Madonna and went to the same high school although not at the same time. This information brought another gasp from Vladimir—his connection to Madonna had just gotten closer.

He then told us the story of how he has loved Madonna since he was eleven years old and how he took the train to Rome (about three hours away) to see Madonna in concert when he was eleven. He didn’t say he used his First Communion money, but where else would an eleven-year-old get money to buy a train ticket and a concert ticket?

Anyway, he told his mother he was going to Rome to see Madonna, and she didn’t believe him. I can imagine her rolling her eyes and saying, “Of course you are going to take the train to Rome to see Madonna,” her voice dripping with skepticism.

But he did it, and he has not missed a Madonna concert since then.

I offered to try to connect with Madonna and have her visit his store the next time she is in Italy.

“Oh, no, don’t do that,” he said. “I would have a heart attack and die if Madonna walked into my store.”

Okay, then, I will try to get a signed picture.

True love does last a lifetime.

Telling stories

Recently, a friend and I had breakfast with a man I had worked with in the 1970’s. His wife was also with us, and she told my friend the story of how I had left that job.

When she finished, I said, “That’s a good story. It’s not what happened, but it’s a good story.” Then I added, “Never let a few facts get in the way of a good story.”  

I love stories and storytelling. The Moth Radio Hour is my favorite story-telling venue, and I love their disclaimer: Moth stories are true, as remembered by the storyteller.

If memory is a muscle, mine is the most underdeveloped muscle in my body. I grew up in a home where we worked to forget, where we denied unpleasant experiences and just got on with life. Don’t remember was the takeaway for me.


In my twenties, I used to joke that when I got old, no one could say old age was the reason my memory was so bad, because it was bad even then.

Culture Shift, a public radio show about the local music scene, recently did a shout-out for stories about meeting famous musicians. I don’t remember ever calling in to a radio show before, but I called in that day to share a story.

The story, as I remember it, is that in 1977, I was living in Allentown, PA, and working downtown. The hotel across the street had a pool, and that summer, I went for a daily swim during my lunch hour. Usually, I had the pool to myself, but one day several guys were there I did not recognize. I was twenty-five at the time, and they were around my age.

One of the guys came over, introduced himself and asked what there was to do in Allentown. I said I had only recently moved there, so I didn’t know.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Detroit,” I told him.

“Bob is from Detroit,” he said and then he called Bob over and introduced us.

We had the usual where did you go to school chat and talked about our favorite places in Detroit. Then I went back to work.

The next morning, my local newspaper featured a front-page photo of the guys from the pool. Their band had headlined the music festival the previous night. I had no idea who they were—even after reading the article.

I shared on Culture Shift that I live under a pop-culture rock and always have. I would not have known Bob Seger from Bob Dylan. I wondered if the Bob I met was shocked that I had no idea who he was or if he thought I was playing it cool by not fawning over him.

The Culture Shift host asked if there was any musician I would have recognized. “Paul McCartney,” I said without hesitation.

I hope someday to get up the courage to pitch a story to The Moth. Until then, this is my stage.

Silver linings

Joy is a sign of a generous personality, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Since the pandemic began a year and a half ago, I have been on the look-out for “silver linings,” those unanticipated good news moments. (It must be my tendency toward optimism!)

Anyway, due to some odd things that happened in my old church during the pandemic, I started thinking about looking for a new church. I have been going to my old church for seven years, and I tend to feel a sense of loyalty to my parish, but last weekend, I visited a new church.

There I sat in this new church, surrounded by strangers, observing how things are done here.

The first thing I noticed was the music. There were several people leading the singing and in addition to the pianist and guitarist, there was also a flautist and a violinist. The sound was rich, and it pulled me into a sense of community worship.

At the beginning of Mass, the priest called the children up front for children’s liturgy, and about a dozen children happily approached. He said a few words to them and then began singing, “If you’re happy and you know it….” The kids and the congregation joined in, singing and clapping their hands. The priest added a silly bit, and everyone laughed.

And then I realized I was feeling something I hadn’t felt in church for a while—I was feeling joy.

As Mass went on, the sense of joy continued. Two children were baptized during Mass, and I found myself smiling, happy for these two young families and their extended families.

The priest included the congregation in his sermon by asking questions, and he called people by name. His sermon was relatable—he talked about spiritual healing and physical healing, and days later, I am still thinking about the message.

Perhaps none of this seems extraordinary to you, but all of this indicated to me that I have probably stayed at my old church too long. Church is one of those places that can get comfortable, and the habit can make it easier to stay than to go. The pandemic shook that up for me—I only attended Mass once in-person, and I found my church too casual about Covid guidelines for me to be comfortable.

This has been a year of many changes for me, with my mother’s death and leaving my job, and I feel I have been living in a liminal space. Here, where routines have been tossed aside and everything is new and different, it seems a good time to explore.

What silver linings have you noticed because of the pandemic?


Interpretative dancing

I did not know what to call it,

the way my body moved to the music,

first swaying smoothly and then shaking like a rag doll,

speeding up and slowing down,

depending on the song

and the day

and even the time of day,

feet gliding across the polished hardwood floors,

arms raised in protest and

then fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird

faster and faster

my own version of a whirligig.

Interpretative angst dancing someone suggested.

Yes, that’s it.