Monday, June 29, 2009

There is Nothing Like A Dad!

© 2009 Leighann Lord

We got sunlight on the sand
We got moonlight on the sea
We got mangoes and bananasYou can pick right off the tree
We got volleyball and ping-pong
And a lot of dandy games
What ain’t we got?
We ain’t got dames

Ever since I was a child I’ve heard my father sing the opening lines from "South Pacific’s" "There is Nothin’ Like A Dame." So when I saw the ad for a new production of it at Lincoln Center, I knew it would be the perfect gift for Fathers Day.

I’m not a big fan of musicals and had no idea what "South Pacific" was about. My Husband said it was sort of the World War II version of "Miss Saigon." That didn’t bode well. I hated "Miss Saigon." A man I dated many years ago who took me to see it on Broadway and it was akin to a root canal. I just couldn’t get past the politics. Instead of bravery and romance I saw cowardice and betrayal. I vented before, during and after to show. Suffice it to say, there weren’t many more dates after that.

I held out hope that "South Pacific" would be better than "Miss Saigon." Many years ago, since my Dad enjoys bag pipe music I surprised him with tickets to Madison Square Garden to see The Black Watch. My plan was to grin and bear it, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself.

This happened again when I took my then four-year-old niece, to see "The Little Mermaid on Ice" at Radio City Music Hall. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind. Instead, I was enthralled, and then distressed went my niece had to go to the bathroom in the middle of Act I. "Can’t you hold it?" I whined. Forget Ariel and Sebastian. I didn’t want to miss Ursula singing "Poor Unfortunate Souls." She appealed to my whimsical dark side.

Any who, as per family tradition, my Dad knew we were going out on Father’s Day, he just didn’t know where. As we rounded the corner and came within sight of the theater I pointed to the marquee and said, "Happy Father’s Day, Daddy! We’re seeing ‘South Pacific.’" As if on cue he began singing those familiar lyrics: "We’ve got sunlight on the sand. We’ve got moonlight on the sea . . . "

To allow for traffic, parking and dropping Rolie off at doggie day care (Lincoln Center wasn’t too keen on my suggestion for Take Your Pup to a Play Day) we’d gotten to the theater early. But so had everyone else. It seems older people aren’t into being fashionably late. Every senior citizen center within a 50-mile radius had come to Lincoln Center on Fathers Day. I’d never seen so many old people in all my life. Were there any left in Florida? My god, I think some of them were actual WWII vets.

As the house lights went down and the orchestra began I was surprised to hear how many songs were from "South Pacific:" "Some Enchanted Evening, Bali Hai, Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair." Honestly? I thought that was just a shampoo jingle.

I’ll admit that I was paying more attention to my Dad, than to the play. I was having fun watching him enjoy it. The parts I did catch didn’t make any sense. If there was a war going on, why were the nurses only wearing bathing suits and ball gowns? What’s with the grass skirts?

Did they have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell back then? Although the Seabees sang and danced well, they looked like they could have cared less that there were no accessible dames.

Did Emile de Becque – The Frenchman – just turn down a suicide mission because of some chic he met at an officer’s party a week ago and not because of his responsibilities as the father of two young children?

By the end of Act I a realization was dawning. "Hold up: Did the cockeyed optimist – Miss Nellie Forbush – just freak out and flee her beloved Frenchman because he not only had two kids, but two ‘colored’ kids?" My dear sweet Husband tried to remain as still as possible. Perhaps he thought if he didn’t look at me, I wouldn’t go off. "Baby," he whispered in my ear, in the tone of an ever patient hostage negotiator. "You have to remember things were different back then. It was 1942."

I rolled my eyes so fast my contact lenses almost fell out. I turned to my Mother and said, "Did you know what this play was about?" She said, "Don’t ask me. I wanted to go see ‘The Wiz.’"

I said, leaning past my Mom.

"I never said I liked the play," My Dad shrugged. "I like the music." And with that he began humming and strolled off to the mens room.

"Did I just spend goo gobs of money on a play nobody wanted to see?" I said. After a brief uncomfortable silence my Husband said, "I’m gonna go check on your Dad." My Mom got busy flipping through the "Playbill" perhaps looking to see when "The Wiz" would be playing.

My husband and father didn’t make it back to their seats until after the opening of ACT II. I assumed they were commiserating over their mutual me problem. My Husband reported however that the lines for then mens room were quite long. I was skeptical. It’s usually only women who have to do call-ahead seating to reserve a spot in the ladies room. But looking at the ages of the men in the audience — all those prostate problems under one roof – it’s a wonder any of them made it back before the final bow.

All’s well that ends well I suppose and by the end of "South Pacific" Miss Forbush miraculously got over her life long Little Rock, Arkansas-bred racism. Phew! For a minute there I thought I was gonna have to march, and I totally wore the wrong shoes. It’s hard to protest in pumps.

The lesson? I will have to be careful which songs I sing around my kids or for Mother’s Day they might drag me off to see "Iraq The Musical:"

We got sunlight on the sand
We got moonlight on the dunes
We got email and computersCool Ipods with hot Itunes
We got X-Box and Play Station
And a lot of bootleg games
What ain’t we got?
A good reason why we came

Future children, if you can hear me, "I'd rather see ‘The Wiz.’"

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

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Monday, June 22, 2009

AIG: Before the Big Bonus Debacle

© 2009 Leighann Lord

When you get fired or laid off from a job there’s a reason why Security escorts you to the door. They don’t want you making a scene or robbing them blind. Being professionally dumped can be devastating. Your first thought may not always be mature. Instead of "What can I learn from this?" or "There’s a bigger and better job waiting for me" you might really be thinking: "If it’s not nailed down, I’m taking it."

It doesn’t matter that you don’t have room in your house for a Kinkos-sized copy machine. So what if you’ll never use 17 boxes of roller ball pens. A fax machine may be almost as antiquated as an IBM Selectric but you’re taking it, because they owe you.

Some employers write this off as the cost of doing business. If your personal severance package includes a case of paper clips and sticky notes so be it; as long as it keeps you from coming back armed and disgruntled. But there’s a limit to what a company will tolerate and it’s safe to say that Maurice "Hank" Greenberg breached it.

Before AIG became the new Enron — the symbol of corporate greed run amok, and the focal point of our collective anger over bad management, bailouts and big bonuses — there was Hank. Hank is the former CEO of AIG who was forced out of the company back in 2005 during investigations into accounting irregularities.

Shortly after his ouster, he is accused of pilfering $4.3 billion from AIG’s retirement program. At the civil trial that began last week in New York, AIG’s attorney claimed Hank took the money out of anger. Hmmm... Pushed out of a company he worked at and built up for 35 years? Yeah, he might be a bit pissed.

Top corporate executives make more money, get more perks and are sparred the indignity of the claustrophobic cubicle. It makes sense that an acrimonious and involuntary parting of ways might make a high level guy seek high level pay back. But a former CEO isn’t going to be satisfied with mere office supplies. A golden parachute that size may need a little extra lining; $4.3 billion worth to be exact.

If there is a lesson to be learned here perhaps it’s that human nature – our sense of greed and entitlement – is universal. And perhaps I should have been an executive and held out for more than just the Selectric.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Healthcare: It’s Deja vu All Over Again

© 2009 Leighann Lord

My Dad will be 77 this year. He’s proud of his age and is probably the only person in history who called AARP before they called him. And while he looks forward to getting his Senior Citizen discount at fine dining establishments like the International House of Pancakes, he is regularly carded. "Sir, you have to be over 65 to get the discount." My Dad smirks, whips out his drivers’ license and waits for the look of disbelief and admiration. He seriously throws off the old people curve.

It helps that my Dad doesn’t look or act like an old fart. He’s rather cool with his Ipod, email and penchant for bootleg movies. That youth vivaciousness evaporates, however, when it comes to politics. He doesn’t get excited about it anymore. He’s seen elections, politicians, and issues come and go. "They all make promises. They all break promises. And things stay pretty much the same." Such a cynical thought from such a positive guy, but I’m starting to know how he feels.

My first major political heart break came when Hilary Clinton promised and then failed to deliver national healthcare. It seemed like a no brainer that all people should have access to affordable healthcare, but I was young, impressionable and completely naive to the bigger picture that included insurance companies, lobbyists, special interest groups, bureaucracy, doctors, lawyers, and a defacto class system that marginalizes the working poor. I didn’t know about all that then and had my high hopes for affordable national healthcare become akin to believing in Santa Claus.

It is with very cautious optimism that I watch the renewed healthcare debate. I am thrilled that President Obama seems committed to making it happen, but so was Clinton, Nixon and both Roosevelts. Now I’m a little older, a little wiser and I understand it’s no simple matter to make sure that everyone (or almost everyone) is covered. I too would like to know how we’re going to pay for it, how it will work and if it will truly help the ones without, without hurting the ones with.

And even in the face of prior disappointment and unanswered questions I want to believe the greatest country in the world can pull this off, that we can create a system that is the new gold standard and the envy of the world. I want to believe this is attainable in my lifetime. I want to believe I won’t get my heart broken again.

I want to believe I’ll be that hip, hot, happening 77-year-old who doesn’t get reticent at election time. I don’t want to explain the political birds and bees to my hopefully still hopeful kids.

"It’s gonna happen this time, Mom! President Sasha Obama says she’s gonna follow through on her Dad’s promise of national healthcare."

"Okay, Baby. But just in case it doesn’t you might want to take your Grandpa’s advice and stock up on Epsom salts, Tylenol, and band-Aids."

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Short List of Supreme Court Nominees

Originally appeared's Team Washington

© 2009 Leighann Lord

When President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, it was a proud moment for me as a woman, a New Yorker and a lover of Spanish food. (That’s right. You’ll have to pry the chorizo from my cold dead hand.) But part of me was a little wistful for the candidates who weren’t nominated. My short list included:

Judge Judith Sheindlin
("Judge Judy") - Thoroughly elitist and condescending, I love her for her ability to cut to chase and bring cases to resolution in less than 30 minutes. You have to admire a judge who’s faster than Dominoes.

Vince McMahon (Chairman of the WWE) - If you’d like to see Supreme Court cases decided in classic Smack Down style, McMahon’s your man.

Rod Blagojevich (Former Governor of Illinois) - He’d have the best hair on the bench and would inspire a new reality show: "I’m a Supreme Court Justice, Get Me Out of Here."

Nancy Pelosi (D - Speaker of the House) - Amazing choice if only to rile Republicans and see how many of them spontaneously combust upon hearing the news.

Sarah Palin (Governor of Alaska) - Even better choice to disturb Democrats and see how many of them protest through self immolation.

Al Franken (D - Senator from Minnesota?) - He could put in a long career as a Supreme while waiting to take his seat as a Senator. Bonus: His case could go to the Supreme Court, while he’s on it.

Michelle Obama - Just because. She’d be stunning in a Vera Wang robe.

Anderson Cooper (CNN Anchor) - Nothing wrong with a little judicial eye candy.

Jennifer Love Hewitt (Actress, "Party of Five," "Ghost Whisperer") - She fits nicely into the three name paradigm we’ve come to expect for female Supremes: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Lindsey Lohan - Although she only has two names her intimate familiarity with the legal system makes her a decent choice.

Naturally the selection of a new Supreme Court judge is very exciting, but when the hoopla dies down the members of the court will most likely go back to laboring in relative obscurity. Studies show that it’s easier for the average American to name the seven dwarfs then the nine justices. I mean who are you without a presence on YouTube, FaceBook and Twitter? Maybe a Supreme Court Reality Show isn’t a bad idea after all. "The Amazing Case" anybody?

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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Funny Feeling

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I heard a noise today in my kitchen and walked in to find that a friend’s magnetic framed wedding photo had fallen off my refrigerator and onto the floor. For most people, a fallen frame would simply mean it was time to go to Bed Bath & Beyond and buy a new one, but I am of Carribean descent. Something like this is "A Sign."

I have a multitasking refrigerator. Its main purpose may be food storage, but the outside serves as a 3D bulletin board. On the freezer door are magnets of all the states I’ve traveled to. So far I’m only missing Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Kentucky. The magnets are state shaped and generally proportional, except for Delaware. For whatever reason, the Delaware magnet looms larger than New Jersey, New York and Maryland, perhaps letting its First State status go to its head.

My refrigerator is also a repository of favorite photos: my oldest niece as a toddler; my husband as a bow tie clad fourth grader, my parents on the day of their 50th wedding anniversary. I’ve also got a gallery of friends’ wedding photos, surrounded by baby pictures of their kids, and their annual family photo Christmas cards. It’s cluttered but I love it.

When I saw my friend’s wedding picture on the floor, I was surprised how quickly and easily I turned into my mother and grandmother seeing this as "A Sign"; truly wondering if my friend and her husband were okay. My Mom’s family is from Jamaica; my Dad’s family is from Barbados & Trinidad, but I’m second generation American. With no known family left in the Islands my occasional visits have been solely as a tourist.

I may not speak with an accent or know how to cook with curry, but clearly other less tangible values have seeped in. Along with an absurdly strong work ethic, Carribean culture knows the value of intuition. When you get "a funny feeling ‘bout sumtin’" you need to trust it.

Logic said, "The magnet’s just losing it’s grip."

Intuition said, "Something’s wrong. Call your friend."

Logic said, "This was a random event. Any picture could have fallen off the fridge."

But Intuition said, "Why ‘that’ picture? Why right now? There are no coincidences. Call her."

I settled on sending an email. I felt incredibly foolish while typing it and like a complete loon for sending it. But I figured she of all people would understand since her family is Carribean too. She did. I was surprised how quickly she emailed me back. Although slightly weirded out her response was neither derisive nor mocking.

She was actually touched that I would be so concerned and thanked me for reaching out – no matter the motivation. "West Indian Culture runes deep and is powerful," she said. She assured me that she and her hubby (also from the Carribean) were fine. They had, however, hit a bit of an economic rough patch. Understandable with a kid in college, a mortgage and car notes in the midst of a recession. No Carribean flavored psychic ability required there.

I was grateful that she understood, and relieved that she and her family were okay. Superstition satisfied, intuition itch scratched, I’m off to Bed Bath & Beyond for new frig frames. I have a funny feeling they might be on sale.

Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Roving Eyes Will Be Penalized

© 2009 Leighann Lord

In a recent alumni email I learned that my freshman year high school science teacher, Mr. Doshna, passed away and I was surprised when I got a little misty. I hated that man.

Although I was enthralled with Prep from the first open house, although it was my first choice of high school and although I can still sing the school song, the first half of my Freshman year was difficult. It was a huge adjustment. I went from a small school – graduating class of 28 – to a big school with a freshman class of 735. I went from a predominantly African American student body (there was only one White girl in my class, and we all subconsciously assumed she was only there because her family had fallen on hard times) to a predominantly White school where the students drove better cars than the teachers. There were only two Black students in my home room class counting me, and going by strict alphabetical order we didn’t even get to sit together. I went from being valedictorian to being in a school full of scholars.

They say be careful what you wish for and going to Prep was at the top of my list. Academically, it was one of the best Catholic high schools in the country. It was difficult to get in, accepting only the best and the brightest. It was co-ed; and although the dress code was strict the students didn’t wear uniforms. They had me at "Hello."

Going to Prep meant a lot of firsts for me: first time I took the bus to school, the first time I was around so many kids who were smarter than me, and it was the first time I needed help academically. My rude awakening: Earth Science taught by Mr. Thomas Doshna, Satan’s BFF.

A slim, blond-haired man, Mr. Doshna’s his most striking feature was his penetrating, all seeing ice blue eyes. I felt like he could see straight through me, right into my brain and tell I just wasn’t getting what he was teaching.

I studied hard for the first exam and managed to pull a 65, which would have been great if passing at Prep wasn’t 75. I remember staring anxiously at my test paper thinking, "When the hell did he teach this?" He sat in the front of the room, his attention fixed on the entire class. Every few minutes he’d discourage potential cheaters by intoning, "Roving eyes will be penalized."

Failing a test was devastating. I wasn’t an athletic kid, unless you count jacks and hopscotch. I wasn’t cute or crafty. I was a good student. That’s who I was, at least until Mr. Doshna's Earth Science class.

In tears, I showed the test to my parents and apologized. I told them I was sorry for being a failure, sorry I was wasting their money – Prep wasn’t cheap – and if they wanted to cut their losses and pack me off to public school I’d understand. Quite the melodramatic, elitist wasn’t I?

Naturally Mr. Doshna was the first stop for my Mom and Dad on parent teacher night. I knew they would get to the bottom of this academic debacle. They would see that this man was ruining my GPA and, by extension, my life. But when my parents left the meeting smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Doshna I felt betrayed.

"What a nice man," my Dad said in the car on the way home.

"Nice? Are you kidding me?" I cried.

my Dad said, "I like Mr. Doshna very much. We agreed that with all the trouble you’ve been having, it might help if you got a tutor."

"A WHAT?!?

My scholastic demise was complete. Just a few short months ago I was the pride of my grammar school, a straight A student, the valedictorian. And now I needed a tutor. I could tell from my Dad’s tone, and my continued abysmal showing in Earth Science, that this was not optional.

I walked into student services lost and humble. "Can I help you?" the perky junior at the desk asked. And like a classic sitcom scene I said, "I need a t... I need a tu... I need a..."

"Tutor?" the intuitive junior said.

"Yes," I said thankful not to have the say the word myself out loud. I don’t remember anything about this tutor, not even if they were male or female. I guess it helped since I eventually passed Earth Science and out of Mr. Doshna’s purview. I went on to suffer through Biology and Chemistry, although those teachers were not nearly as memorable as Mr. Doshna. Every test I’ve taken since I can hear him saying, "Roving eyes will be penalized."

I can’t say I ever developed a love for science, unless you count sci-fi. I still have a hard time asking for help but I know that the world won’t come to a catastrophic end if I do. I’ve forgiven my parents for their momentary lack of loyalty. Maybe Mr. Doshna wasn’t out to get me and no I didn’t really hate him, but I’d gotten really comfortable with blaming him for everything. Teenage acne? Mr. Doshna. Global Warming? Mr. Doshna. Sadness at the passing of a good and tough teacher? Mr. Doshna. I trust that teary eyes won’t be penalized.
Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

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