Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Birthday Jackie

On this date in 1945, Jacqueline du Pré was born in Oxford, England.

Jacqueline du Pré was a remarkable cello player with a gift for interpreting the classics in a thrilling and unique way. In the 1960’s, her performances were considered extraordinary for their modernity and passion. She flung her long hair around as she used the bow wildly, producing an amazing sound and a new vision of familiar music. I was enthralled by this fresh version of a classical musician and admired her romantic elopement with Daniel Barenboim as only an adolescent could. I never imagined I would feel a connection to her beyond a love of her talented and magical performances.

It was when she was in her early 20’s that Jackie initially noticed the signs of MS, which would first silence her and then kill her.

In 1967 she played Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim conducting.

If that doesn’t break your heart, nothing will.

By the time she was 28, Jacqueline could no longer play. She was incapacitated soon after. Daniel Barenboim took up with another woman when Jackie got really sick. I am trying to think of what I would call him for this. Oh, I know. A rat bastard. He had two children with this other woman before Jacqueline died in 1987. Jeez Louise. He knew she was going to die, would it have killed him to keep his pants zipped for a few more years?

Who knows, maybe it would have.

In the movie Hilary and Jackie, Emily Watson chews up the scenery throughout the whole movie as Jackie. But she outdoes herself portraying the end, where Jacqueline dies bedridden, demented, alone and incontinent. Woo hoo, something else to look forward to.

As over the top as that seems, that is exactly what it feels like. That scene personifies those horrifying moments of clarity when you acknowledge what has been stolen from you.

MS steals from all of us in accumulated losses, such as that of Jacqueline du Pré.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inaugural Moments

Now the little things.

• How have I not realized what a hunk Obama is until now?!?

• How depressing is it that I am older than the President of the United States?

• Michelle Obama looked gorgeous. Green shoes and gloves. Gotta love it.

• The Obama girls are so cute. And they are going to be heartily sick of hearing that in about, oh, two more days, if they are not already.

• Thank goodness Joe Biden finally got a haircut. He was starting to look like a creepy lounge lizard.

• The John Williams piece was recorded days earlier so that we actually would hear music instead of indiscernible noise. And?!?! This is the biggest scandal the Press could come up with? They should shut up already.

I have always had crushes on both Yo-Yo AND Itzhak (two people I am not older than!). And actually on their instruments as well.

Get your mind out of the gutter!! I am talking about their cello and violin. Sheesh.

• The real scandal is that the Chief Justice of the United States flubbed the Oath of Office. Cut me a break. The words weren’t that hard.

• The crowd. Oh my God. I have been in Washington for the Million Mom March and numerous anti-war demonstrations (is anyone surprised?). Even having experienced shoulder-to-shoulder people in the Mall did not compare with what I saw on the television. It spoke volumes.

• Cheney in a wheelchair. The irony is priceless.

• I will always like Barbara Bush, even though she is defensive about W. I suppose someone has to love him, it might as well be his mother. I loved her brushing away any help as she was introduced. “I can do it, I can do it.” she snapped. And she did. My kind of girl.

• Hated Aretha Franklin. Sorry. Just can’t stand her anymore, she is like a caricature. And holy mackerel did I hate that hat. Yikes!! Scary!!!

• John McCain says he is ready to work with the new administration. Maybe he’s full of baloney, but I want to believe he is what he seems: a class act.

• More than anything I loved the fact that most people were excited. There were a few sore losers, I mean diehards. But even my parents, who can barely say the word ‘Democrat’ without hissing, were complimentary and optimistic.

That, my friends, is a miracle in itself.

If you have not seen it, here is Dick Cavett’s commentary from yesterday’s Times. He is so much funnier and smarter than I will ever be. But he takes the words right out of my mouth, point by point.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Starting Over After a 'Good Guy'

My heart actually skipped a beat when Barack Obama was introduced at the inauguration on Tuesday. His dignity is so palpable. His demeanor was so suited to the occasion. His words offer such hope for a renewal of international respect for the United States. I am simply worn down by the way we are despised, in spite of the fact that it has frequently been for very good reason, the way our government has demonstrated whole sale arrogance and brute force over the past eight years.

I found it interesting that the day before the inauguration Obama remarked he thought George Bush was a ‘good guy’. I don’t know that on the surface I would disagree with him. Do I think George Bush would kick a puppy or drown a kitten? No, I don’t. Is he nice to his wife? I suspect he is. Is he good to his mother? Take one look at Barbara Bush and tell me what you think.

But I believe under his jocular, yuk-it-up, cowboy persona, there is a core of ignorance and smugness that is, in essence, evil. I came to this conclusion in March of 2004. And I will tell you why.

Every year, there is a dinner held by the White House press corps. The President traditionally takes good natured jabs and offers some of his own. In the past few years, they have used technology to create videos and slide shows with frequently hilarious results.

I saw the slide show that George Bush played at the dinner on March 4, 2004. I did not find it hilarious. Or even mildly amusing. As a matter of fact, it made me choke up and sick to my stomach. Because, at a time when 600 Americans had already died in Iraq, George W. Bush made JOKES about not having been able to find weapons of mass destruction. Jokes. He joked that the reason he destroyed the Iraqi country, caused the death of countless Iraqi innocents and sent American soldiers into harm’s way never existed. He joked about it.

Here is a clip from the dinner so you can see for yourself. It has been brilliantly augmented by Jason Woliner, someone who obviously was stricken by the same heartache as I was.


This is what Hannah Arendt identified as the banality of evil. It looks so ordinary. There are no horns, forked tails or smells of sulpher.

But it is evil none the less.

As of this writing, 4, 229 U.S. Military have been killed in Iraq. That means more than eight thousand parents have lost their child. Thousands of spouses are now widowed. Children will never know their parent. Four thousand two hundred and twenty nine human beings are gone and we will never know what difference they would have made in this world.

Almost 100,000 Iraqis have died (although puts the figure at more than one million). Hundreds of troops from other countries have been lost. Because of advances in medical care on the battle field, more soldiers are saved than ever before. Which means more are coming home alive, but horribly maimed, missing limbs and blinded.

And while this is going on, George Bush was making jokes. No wonder we are hated.

Barack Obama has a monumental task in restoring our credibility and humanity to the world. God help him and God help us.

And I pray God has more mercy on George Bush’s soul than Bush has shown to our soldiers and the Iraqi people.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's Almost Over

I rarely watch television. The last time was the night of the election, to watch the returns. Before that, I can’t even remember, but I think it was when I was confined to the sun room with my broken shoulder, back in May.

But tonight I happened to see that the documentary A Year with the Queen was on. Embarrassingly enough, I love to watch or read anything about the Queen. I find her utterly fascinating.

She has lived through, and been at the center of, almost a century of history. Her every breath for that entire time has been scrutinized, criticized or analyzed. Yet, she appears to be a witty, gracious and stable person, where most of the rest of us would have been basket cases after a week, never mind more than 80 years.

Her stamina is amazing. Watching the documentary, I was green with envy as I observed her glide up and down stairs without turning a hair. I was captivated to witness her ease, even as people turned into blithering idiots in her presence. The program covered her trip to America in 2007, one that took place at a speed that wore me out just watching it.

Plus, at the age of 82, she is simply beautiful.

How could any of that not be fascinating?

But I digress. Because what stood out for me more than anything, as George Bush is interviewed and observed throughout the state visit, is how incredibly grateful I am that eight long years of international mortification are almost over.

I never snack at night, but listening to him babble made me crave a gallon of ice cream. With a bottle of vodka poured over it. Anything to make the pain go away.

Lest we ever forget, here are a few of the statements Mr. Bush has made during his presidency. They are a clear demonstration of the level of attention to detail, the gravitas and intelligence of our Commander-In-Chief:

"Never again in the halls of Washington, D.C., do I want to have to make explanations that I can't explain." Oct. 31, 2000, Portland, Oregon

"There's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail." Oct. 4, 2001, in Washington. Bush was remarking on a back-to-work plan after the terrorist attacks.

"There's an old saying in Tennessee …I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee… that says, fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me…you can't get fooled again." Sept. 17, 2002, in Nashville, Tenn.

“Thank you, Your Holiness. Awesome speech." April 16, 2008, at a ceremony welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the White House.

"Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." Sept. 6, 2004, at a rally in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

"Because he's hiding." Jan. 14, 2005, responding to a reporter who asked why Osama bin Laden had not been caught.

'Words' He Has Used:








Oh. My. Freaking. God.

Alright, you might say, this from a woman who thought the New Year’s Eve ball was just thrown willy-nilly off a building?

Well, I’m not the President, am I?

It’s almost over. Praise the Lord.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

For James Shepard

My grandson has a multiplicity of names.

Driving home from work one evening, this story popped into my head. When I got home, I wrote it down for him.

My father (his great-grandpa) did the illustrations and we are going to have it printed for him into a book. The way I have laid it out below, the asterisks mark each new page. In this story, I am the Other Nana.

I wanted to give it it’s world premier right here.

So here it is:


I am





But I am called
many other names too.

I will tell you about them.

It is a very good story.


My Mom is Kate.

She calls me her Baby Boy.
And her Sweet Little Man.

I like that better than Baby Boy.


I’m not a baby!!!!


My Dad is James.

He calls me Mister.
Mister Man.
Big Boy.

I like all of those.


Both my mom and my dad
call me Shep.

When they call me Shep,
My Other Nana rolls her eyes
and gives a big sigh.

She does not like ‘Shep’.


My dad says that is because
she is a big poop.

hee hee

He said poop.

He also said
“But don’t tell her I said that.”

So don’t, ‘kay?

'Cause we love her anyway.


I have two Nanas and one Poppa.

Both my Nanas are called Marie.
Isn't that funny?

I call one Nana Ree and the other
My Other Nana.


Nana Ree is tall
and has long hair
and is funny.

She lives with Poppa.

He’s funny too.


My Other Nana
is short and has curly hair.

My dad says when he was little
he said it was Outer Space Hair.

My dad is funny too.


My Other Nana lives by herself.
She is funny too.

They all make me laugh.

They call me James
and James Shepard
and Handsome
and My Sweet Boy.

I have a middle name.

It is Danger.

My dad picked it so I could say
“Danger is my middle name.”

This makes My Other Nana roll her eyes
and say “Oh, brother.”

But I like it.


Remember, she is a
big poop.

hee hee

I said poop.

But don’t tell her I said so, ‘kay?

'Cause I love her anyway.


My dad has a brother and sisters.

My mom has a brother and sisters.

So I have a lot of aunts and uncles.



They call me

Little Man,
and James Shepard.

And C’mere You
when they are going to tickle me.


I have many cousins.


Some of them can’t talk yet,
cause they’re babies.

The babies call me


My other cousins call me
and James Shepard.

And sometimes Bad
when I take away their toys.

Big babies.


I have three Great-Grandma’s

and one Great-Grandpa.

They call me Sweetie
and Adorable
and The Spitting Image of Your Father.

They kiss me a lot too.

Kisses. Yuck.

But they are nice and I love them.


I have friends in school
and they call me Shep.

And sometimes Bad
when I take away their toys.

Big babies.


My teachers call me Shep
and My Boy
and My Little Man
and My Guy.

And sometimes Honey.
(But I think that is really a girl’s name.)

They are all really nice.


I am James Shepard Cooper.

I am called by many names.

But here is what I am called that is the best thing of all…


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday Memories

Despite the overwhelming frenzy and greed of the season, I really do love the holidays.

I love Christmas songs, the sparkly cold weather (and snow, if we’re lucky!), the scent of pine from the tree in the living room, candles, treasured ornaments and, more than anything, the idea of making memories for my children.

I grew up in New York City. My earliest Christmas recollections are of being dressed and bundled and going downtown to my father’s office on Fifth Avenue. I always wore a dress and the skirt, with its full, scratchy crinoline, would be stuffed into my woolen leggings. Ugh, I always hated that! I would be topped off with a matching coat, a matching hat that tied under my chin and, usually, a furry white muff that hung around my neck. Then we would walk a few blocks south, past the statue of Atlas that always fascinated me, until the tree in Rockefeller Center popped out like magic.

One Christmas I got a record player. My father put a single of White Christmas on it so it was playing when we came out to our hoard under the tree. I never hear that song without remembering that moment. It is especially poignant for me to consider that if I was seven, my father was only 28 years old.

I adored my grandparent’s Christmas tree, covered as it was by bubble lights. I feel sad that, even though I know we were there every Christmas (my grandmothers lived across the same Manhattan street from each other) I cannot pull up a memory of my other grandma’s Christmas tree. I know she had one, as I have some of her ornaments. It is just not in my head. Bubble lights trump.

Of all my Christmas’, the memories that are the most precious to me are the ones that involve my children. Providing that longed for treasure, surprising them with something they hadn’t asked for, the pure and innocent joy they took in the preparation for Christmas day. What bliss!

New Year was not a big tradition in my family. We did not stay up until midnight when I was young, I wasn’t even aware of such a thing until I heard schoolmates talking about it. We certainly did NOT ever go to Times Square. My grandfather was a police lieutenant in that precinct and forbade us to even consider it. I never even watched the count down on TV.

I had only been married for a few months in 1976 when the New Year rolled around. Dennis and I were sitting in bed the night before, watching the news. He was reading the paper. The news was doing a report on the Times Square New Year’s ball. And I said idly, “Boy, it is a miracle no one has ever been hurt by the ball dropping.”

A few minutes went by and the newspaper was slowly lowered. Dennis looked at me. “What did you say?”

Ok, I am no rocket scientist, but even I knew this did not bode well. I knew immediately that what I had just said was…um…stupid.

So I cleverly replied “Nothing, I didn’t say anything.”

By now Dennis was really laughing. “No,” he said, “Please tell me you don’t think that the ball is just heaved off the roof and it just happens to take 60 seconds to hit the ground.”

Well, when he put it that way it did sound preposterous.

I feebly tried to defend myself. “Well, they always say ‘drop’ the ball, they ‘drop’ the ball so…” By this time Dennis was laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall out of bed. I decided the least said the better.

Hey, I had a severe New Year’s Eve knowledge deficit, what could I say?

He never got tired of telling that story, practically weeping with laughter every time. Hardy har har.

What are your favorite holiday memories? I would love to hear them.

Have the happiest of New Years!!