Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Here's to you, Mister Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman is eighty-years-old. 
Dustin - say it isn't so.

Baby Boomers around the globe worship your legacy - your brave, outrageous career where you stepped out - risked much - and led us into our maturity.

As Michael Dorsey in Tootsie - you exposed an artist brave enough to lampoon his feminine side.

As Ted Kramer, in Kramer vs. Kramer - you challenged other men to reexamine their ability to nurture, to settle for the glories of domesticity.

And no one else could have exposed the complexities  of Raymond Babbitt as did you in Rain Man.  

The world honors your excessive and grand talent - but if these allegations are true, none of that will matter.  History will forget your artistry and remember you as a dirty old man.

That's what I do not understand.  You're not a B list guy - - not a "made for TV" Hollywood guy.

You're Hoffman, for god's sake.  And I cannot fathom you jeopardizing your lionized legacy around someone's seventeen-year-old child?

Perhaps you did.  Perhaps the one role wherein you learned the least was  the one you played in The Graduate.  

Benjamin Braddock, the confused, undirected, privileged and bored son of privilege, graduates from college and finds himself seduced by the corrupt, cynical and alcoholic Missus Robinson.

Closing scene THE GRADUATE. Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman.
Film buffs called The Graduate the iconic film of the 1960's generation - an exquisite denial of materialism and remarkable affirmation of innocence and love.

Katherine Ross played the classy beauty to your delightful Benjamin; a boy who found himself trapped and lured by sophisticated evil and yet, redeemed himself.

The films closing scene has been called the moment that launched our generation.  Idealistic - hopeful - courageous enough to disrupt, Benjamin grew from a boy into a man of consequence.

You - anddarling Katherine, still in her wedding gown - board the bus to this question from the driver.

"Where to?" he asks.

"To the end," you answer.

I believed you then, and - even though I'm a feminist - I believe you now.

Prove me right, Dustin.  Show us we're not fools to love you.  Show us you learned something from the roles you assumed.

Take it to the end.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The end of all things

Only those of us who live in this place understand the insincerity of death.
Too much we love the wild, eager summer. 
Even so - Minnesotans are ever-ready for the next tornado, hail storm, blizzard.
We expect the worst and are seldom disappointed. 
No matter how lovely the moment, how elegant the day - the end of all things is always near and we know it. 
People who visit in spring are shocked to see us half-naked, tanning on half-frozen roof tops.   
We don’t care what you think.  Our summer sunshine is our liquid gold; rare, fleeting and precious. 
For six, eight brief weeks each year, we chase the light - wherever it leads.
Our lakes were carved by glaciers, but we don’t mind.  We flock to them like the geese and loons we love.  
Only wild birds do what we do for fun. 
If a decent lake is too far away, we lounge beside an underused, over-budget swimming pool owned by one of our municipalities, YMCAs or neighbors. 
For one brief, shining season we fish, we swim,  tear around on crazy water contraptions and imagine we live year-long in California.

We tear around on crazy water contraptions. 

But we are not deceived.  
Our frolic is frivolous, our grand and glorious fun is short lived - and we know it.
How could we not? As predictable as sunrise and rainfall, our feeble summers collapse under the harsh winds of October. Our good times die with a whimper and without apology. 
It matters not to us.  Minnesotans are simple, strong and we know the truth.  
Everything has a beginning and an end.  Everything, a span of time never to our liking.  The grass dies, the flower fades. 
Today I received a message from a Sugar Maple. 
Uninvited, with a touch of decay - the wretched piece of death landed on my cold, grey sidewalk.  
Uninvited, with a touch of early decay. 
I ignored the warning and picked a bouquet from my fading garden. 
It might be the last.  It might not. 
Beaten back by late summer storms, nourished by the harsh rains of July and the strong sunshine of August, my flowers are like the rest of us - ready for the comforting invitation of autumn. 
The sweet, inevitable winds of death. 
And the sure, certain return of summer. 
Until next year - - stay warm! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Fired from the MAYO CLINIC and what I learned

When I was a young, sassy, eager young woman, I was fired by the Mayo Clinic. 
I was devastated. I worked two years to get the job - interviewed for six months - celebrated when I was hired by buying a house in Rochester, Minnesota.
I was with them for eight months and loved the work, adored my colleagues. 
But I was flawed, and they knew it. 
I couldn’t get to my cubicle on time.  I couldn’t sit still during long, purposeless meetings.
I resented the dress code, the deportment code, the high-energy mandate for all staff. 
More than anything - I resented not being the most important person in the room. 

“The needs of the patient come first.” 

I was a mess.
Only eight months out of my nasty, long-term marriage, I needed more than Mayo could offer.
My little soul was battered - my frail self image smashed.  
I needed a place to work, of course - but even more, I needed a place to heal. 
Mayo Clinic was not about to deliver. 
Their motto is - “The needs of the patient come first.” So  much for my needs, huh? 
No staff member at Mayo can escape the clear, undiluted message.  Our call, as employees of the world-class medical center, was to put on our big girl pants and step into the fire.  
No matter what our role, our responsibility was clear.  We were there for others - not ourselves.  

 “Kristine Holmgren - move your car from patient parking ramp, or it will be towed!"

Six weeks new-staff training taught us to watch for people who needed our help; individuals who looked lost, confused or in pain.
Our first task was always to be alert - to approach people standing still, standing stiff, standing alone.
We learned to ask “May I help you?” and mean it. 
We learned the purpose of the Mayo name-tag was not to announce our grand titles but to assure patients they were in the presence of someone who could help.
Nowhere throughout the facility are staff, physicians, technicians more important than the patients at Mayo.
 Prime parking spots are set-aside for patients and their families, and if a staff member slides her little VW Beetle into one of those slots, she will hear her name called out over the institution-wide intercom system;
 “Kristine Holmgren - move your car from patient parking ramp, or it will be towed.” 

If I knew then what I know now - 

The decades help a sassy woman settle down. 
Thank the great gods in heaven for the unfolding of the human mind - the ability to self-critique, forgive, and grow. 
Today, I write for the theatre, tend my gardens and enjoy the wild opinions of my thirty-something daughters and their successful husbands. 
My neighborhood in St. Paul is peppered with young girls who drop by for advice, and single mothers who rely upon my strategies for survival. 
And the lessons of the clinic frame my dotage. 
Sometimes, often times, most of the time, the needs of others come first. 
To focus on the momentary hurt, the immediate disappointment, the fleeting fear and anxiety of today leads the sassy and the superficial to bleak, desolate places. 
The clinic taught, and I retained the lesson; look around.  See those who need direction.  See those who have less than we have.  
Reach out and ask, “May I help you?” 
Mean it. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

If Hillary were as bad as Trump

My mother once told me a girl's reputation is worth her weight in lipstick and I believed her.
Not so much for boys, I guess.
A girl's reputation is worth her weight in lipstick. 
Many of the men seeking to  lead us as the next President of the United States have dropped their former guise of morality, righteousness and dignity and chosen instead to market their homophobia, racism and sexism as our new, national norm. 
Donald Trump is an excellent example.  His candidacy, marketed by every media outlet in the nation, proves that today, the naughtiest of little boys can be president. 
As long as he has deep pockets, a string of blond wives and a healthy hunk of mean-spirited larceny in his heart, we're tuned in to his leadership.
Does that same ethic apply to little girls?  I think not.
Truth be told - Mr. Trump comes to the race hauling more trash than the Manhattan creates in ten years. What if Hillary were to match his scandalous history?
A few highlights from Mr. Trump's past:

Three spouses. Yup. Lest we forget, Mr. Trump has been married three times. So far. Hillary - of course - is still married to You Know Who. There's something decent about that, in spite of - - - well, You Know What.
Wives one and two. 
Four bankruptcies. Mr. Trump has, thus far, dragged his corporations through Chapter 11 four times. In so doing, Mr. Trump harmed thousands of American families employee while he secured his own personal power and wealth. Hillary's entire career has been dedicated to the law and national service.
Racist, sexist, slanderous rhetoric. Some of us were not surprised by Mr. Trump's recent screed against our immigrant population. Remember the irrational call for proof of Mr. Obama's citizenship? His college transcript? Remember his attack on Obama's presidency during the Baltimore riots? Mr. Trump's ridiculous insistence was circulated throughout the world, created an international embarrassment.
Recent wife.  Stay tuned. 
Here's a howdy do.  Ted Cruz was born in Canada.  Only American-born citizens can run for the Presidency.  Even so - can you imagine Hillary clamoring for Cruz's  birth certificate?
Of course not.  Hillary is too busy focusing on the critical issues threatening to destroy our national interests. 
And here's the real tragedy; our failure to capitalize on this pivotal national moment.
Little girls (and women) all over America watch her campaign and ask questions with awkward, ugly answers.

Why does the media continue to ignore her? Why don't we hear more about Hillary's policies, opinions? Why can't we learn more of this sensible, thoughtful, fearless woman making history?

Hillary is the first woman to run -- seriously run -- for President of the United States. Who cares about the many aging, balding lotharios seeking power over the rest of us?
Who wants to listen to stories of impotent business men who spit on the institution of marriage and exploit national suffering to build wealth?
Not I.
But then, I still have a reputation to uphold.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Christ is risen - how about you?

Except for a haphazard egg hunt and the occasional brunch at W.A. Frost, no one in my family celebrates Easter. 

My grown daughters are self-confessed atheists.  My ex-husband spends  Sunday at Caribou with the New York Times.  My brothers and most of my cousins believe this life -  this  insignificant flirtation with eternity - this is it.  
And I have a hard time talking anyone into anything anymore.

Church people don’t make my work easier.   Congregations are populated with adorable couples chatting  about gluten-free recipes, the best Door County bed and breakfast or their last siting of Garrison and his darling wife.  Remind me - her name?
I kid you not. This is what Presbyterians do for fun.
A gluten-free ham dinner anyone? 
So, here am I, facing the Big One again.  On my own.

The Resurrection. The Sunday for which all other Sundays were made.
Christ is risen  ( the Anglicans tell us he is risen “indeed.” I always giggle when I hear it)  and those of us who still believe in the power of  faith and the strength of the eternal metaphor want to be in the front row.

The empty tomb.  Christ has risen!  Indeed. 
This year, were I less cynical, I might find the task easier.

In June the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. agreed to acknowledge the legitimacy of gay marriage by permitting clergy to perform weddings where allowed by the state.

I snorted when I heard the news.   Leave it to my church to be the last of the "main line" Protestants to join the 21st Century.

We're a denomination of followers.  Presbyterians discovered pacifism after the fall of Saigon.  We were the last to open our denominational seminaries to large populations of women.  We discovered "world hunger" in 1979 and formed a task force to chat about it. 
Even so - God help me - when the Presbyterians serve up the sunrise alleluia on Easter Sunday,  if they let me in,  I'll be there.

My faith in all of us brings me through the door.   My hope for some of us keeps me in my seat. 

If you see me on Sunday, do me a favor.  Please - come sit beside me.  I'll be the one wearing a bonnet with all the frills upon it -  and a smile. 

Because I am glad he is risen  - because I believe I might yet live to see the church rise as well.