ME AND…Memorial Day

The list of those in our family and those among our friends who have served in The United States Armed Forces is long and begins with Dave’s grandfather, William Murdoch who served during WW I. Fortunately, for me, the list of those I knew who made the ultimate sacrifice is very short.

Captain Eric Zigler died in an airplane crash June 30, 2008. He served in Japan, Germany, and flew over 300 hours in Iraq, He was piloting an F-16C jet over the desert north of Nellis Air Force Base Nevada, where he was attached to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron. His mission was to put the jet through its paces in a simulated “dog fight.” Apparently he lost consciousness while engaged in a maneuver that caused him to experience 8-9Gs. He was married to Dave’s God daughter née Sarah Kotte. I did not know Captain Ziegler very well, but did know he was an outstanding officer and an excellent husband and a wonderful father to Anna.  I was deeply saddened upon hearing he had died.

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The last causality of the Vietnam War.  That is how I think of My-ca Le.

I met My-ca when he was five years old. I became acquainted with his father Daniel Le when I took a free lance writing job. Mr. Le and his family had fled Vietnam at the end of the war. He was writing a paper about the “boat people” and their experiences in refugee camps. I was engaged to check grammar and syntax. He would bring the work to my home and pick up the corrected pages a few days later. Before one of these visits, Mr. Le. called and asked if it would be okay to bring along his wife and their two sons. Of course it was.

Much to my surprise, I discovered that the older son, My-ca, was going to be in my kindergarten class that fall. In spite of the language barrier, My-ca and our son Aaron, who was about the same age, immediately became good playmates. From then on, My-ca was a regular visitor to our home. Dave and I were invited to social gatherings hosted by the Lees.

My-ca was a beautiful little boy. Quiet, of course, because of the language difference. He did participate in Show and Tell and became a quick learner. The boys in class liked him because he didn’t shy away from rough and tumble play ground games and he could run faster than any of the other boys. Even though most of them were bigger that he was. It made me smile to see his thick, dark hair flying as he darted here and there. After my work for Mr. Le was completed and I had taken a different job, I lost contact with the family.

On July 23, 1982, Dave woke me early in the morning and told me he’d heard on the news that My-ca had been killed in an accident. In the midst of our shock, we realized we had a problem. How to break the news to our son Aaron. Dave took on that sad task, behind the closed door to Aaron’s room.

The accident was that infamous and controversial helicopter crash that took place during the filming of TWILIGHT ZONE THE MOVIE.

In the scene being filmed, actor Vic Morrow was supposed to carry two children, played by Renee Shin Yi Chen, and My-ca Dinh Le, across a river with a helicopter bearing down on them. The movie footage of the scene suggested that John Landis had ordered excessive explosives for greater effect and the helicopter to fly lower than usual to increase the drama. The explosion ripped the tail rotor off the helicopter and sent it into a downward spiral. The wash from the larger blades whipped the air and water into a frenzy. Vic Morrow managed to hold onto Myca, but lost his grip on Renee. He was trying to rescue her from the swirling water when the helicopter fell into the river killing all three,

Dave and I attended My-ca’s funeral. At the front of the church, which was resplendent with flowers, the coffin looked so small. A sad reminder that we were there to bury a young, innocent child. A real boy who had survived the real war in Vietnam and made it to America. Only to die in a recreation of what he had escaped. The irony was too painful.

For many years, Dave and I visited My-ca’s grave on Memorial Day. In those moments I put aside everything about his death and thought of the quiet, little boy who could run faster than any of his classmates. His thick, dark hair flying,

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My condolences to the families and friends of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. And to those men and women who did so, my never ending  gratitude.

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ME AND…Swimming with the Sharks.

 

The whole crazy adventure began with a commercial on TV promoting a variety of events under the title L.A. Live at the Convention Center. Basically they were auditions to become contestants on non-scripted/game shows. The one that interested me was SHARK TANK. I’d been a fan of the show for years. In case you’ve never watched it, entrepreneurs seek investments in their businesses from billionaires, a.k.a. The Sharks. The billionaires are very smart people and can smell the weaknesses in a business like blood in the water. They are merciless in questioning the investment seekers.

I didn’t have a business. I didn’t have a product. I didn’t even have a prototype! And, of course, I didn’t have a patent. No proof of concept sales history. No data on margins or the cost of acquiring customers. All things The Sharks would ask me about. I’m at a loss to explain it now, but not of that phased me. I had an idea for a great product.

Dave was off playing golf so I thought, why not? I dressed and stopped at the drug store to buy the things I needed to make a prototype of my product idea. I was very excited while I made the long drive into the city. Upon arriving at the Convention Center, I immediately went to the auditorium where two of The Sharks would listen to and question people seeking investments. They were due to appear in about two hours. I sat on the floor beside the metal doors. First in line. I assembled my prototype and then practiced my pitch. When I felt I had that down pat, I played games on my iPad.

Quite a crowd had lined up behind me and, when the doors opened, there was a lot of pushing and shoving. Fortunately my first in line position put me half a step in front of all that. I dashed down the aisle and got the front row, center seat. That, along with my red blouse and white hair would make me hard to miss.

Daymond John and Mark Cuban took the stage along with Sam Rubin, who would call on people to make their presentations. Each time Sam Rubin looked for a new presenter, I practically came out of my seat waving my hand and saying Oooh and Ahhh! Finally he called on me.

I strode, as professionally as possible, up to the microphone and held up my product. I’d glued one of those travel tooth brushes onto the inside of the cap of a travel size bottle of mouth wash. The toothbrush dangled in the mouth wash liquid. But first I held up a regular travel toothbrush.

I said, Mr. Cuban or Mr. John, if you needed to clean your teeth before an important meeting, you wouldn’t want to use my toothbrush, would you?” They laughed and exchanged questioning looks.

I said, “It’s mine and I wouldn’t want to use it either because the last time I did, it was after I’d had tacos for lunch.” I threw the toothbrush on the floor. Both Sharks laughed. Then I held up my toothbrush and mouth wash combination. “But this toothbrush has been soaking in mouth wash since I the last time I used it. It’s clean and fresh. Ready to use.”

At this point, they could have excoriated me. But they didn’t. Mark Cuban asked me how long I’d been working on my product. I looked at my watch and said, “A couple of hours.” That got a laugh. I’d seen Shark Tank often enough to know they could turn on a dime and tear me to shreds. But they didn’t. Mr. John suggested I apply for a patent and then contact toothbrush manufacturers or mouth wash manufactures to find out if they’d be interested in adding my product to their line. They said the process of getting the patent is expensive, but they liked my idea well enough to suggest I give it a try.

That was it. No life changing deal. Not that I had expected one. But I knew what The Sharks must have known immediately. I was not a business woman. But I was sad that my career as an entrepreneur was over so quickly.

I would have enjoyed the social entree that goes along with being a successful business woman. I’ve known many successful business people and I love talking to them. Not about business. Business scares the heck out of me. But, whatever it is that makes people successful in business, also gives them a very unusual take on life in general. As the saying goes, “It’s fun to pick their brains.”

I said, “Thank you. For your time.” And went back to my seat.

I’d taken off on that morning on an impulse and without expectations. Yet I felt weirdly satisfied.  And elated.  I called all my friends during the drive home and told them about my adventure.

 

ME AND…a very posh party.

For an account leading up to this blog, see my post from two weeks ago, “How the Other Half Lives.”  May 6, 2016

At the appointed time, Dave and I, along with about a hundred other people, gathered in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan. My knee length dress, aubergine crepe, with sequin trim made me feel glamorous. Well worth the extra money I’d spent on it. Strappy, high heeled sandals and a petite, novelty handbag completed my outfit. Or should I say ensemble? I’d had my hair done in the hotel salon. Dave looked handsome in his suite. The lobby glittered with friends and family dressed to the nines.

A ripple of excitement ran through the crowd as the concierge announced that our cars had arrived. Thirty-nine limousines! Parked three by three under the hotel canopy and down the street as far as I could see. He, and other hotel employees, guided us through an orderly departure. As Dave and I waited for our turn, I heard a ruckus. One of the guests, the president of another country, complained loudly that his car couldn’t get through to pick him up and, no, he would not walk to where it hovered at the end of the line of our cars. I noticed the singer/song writer Neal Sedaka pacing back and forth near the doors. I assumed he was waiting for a car as well. Getting our people into the limos took some time. Mr.Sedaka continued to pace and look at his watch. The president continued to raise a fuss. I feared an international incident. Finally, Mr. Sedaka informed the concierge that he didn’t want to risk being late for his show and that he was going to walk to his car. The concierge apologized profusely. Mr. Sedaka gave him a no-problem shrug and went on his way. Class act in more than one way!

Lovett Hall stands on the grounds of Greenfield Village, a nineteenth century, small town created by Henry Ford from antique buildings and houses. Although a newer building, it’s design fit perfectly into the surroundings. I particularly liked its pillars and windows on the outside and the wooden floors, beautiful, curved stairway, and the many tiered chandeliers inside. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served in the reception area while all of the limos dropped of guests. Our host and hostess and the guests of honor greeted us.

After about an hour, we were invited to go upstairs and into the main ballroom and dinning area. It was stunning. Wide plank, wooden floor. Tall windows framed by elegant draperies. An abundance of flowers and candles for center pieces. We took our places at the tables. A small army of servers brought out trays laden with covered plates. The aroma of the food made me hungry. I became aware of a server behind me. I heard the clatter of a plate slipping of the tray. Then I felt a warm ooze sliding down my back. In an instant, a supervisor appeared offering frantic apologies. Two uniformed women mopped my back with cloth napkins.

I grabbed his hand, squeezed it, and said, “Listen to me! I do not want a scene. Understand?” He nodded. I released his hand. “Thank you. When these ladies have done their best, I’m going to the lady’s room. I need someone to walk very closely behind me.” He nodded and issued orders. I looked at the women, “Is the worst of it gone?” They fussed for another moment. Finally I said, “Let’s go.” I managed to walk all the way across the ballroom, in front of hundreds of people, without anyone noticing my predicament.

Once in the restroom, I took off my dress to survey the damage. The women with me offered to use slightly dampened hand towels to further clean the back of my dress. Once that was done, they carefully held my dress under a hot air hand drier. Except for a few odd looks I received from women surprised to find me sitting half naked on a lovely, wing back chair upholstered in a floral print, no was aware that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Not even Dave, who, upon my return, asked where I had been and pointed out that I’d missed dinner. The supervisor came to me and said Lovett Hall would pay to have my dress dry cleaned and asked if I’d like to have dinner. I declined, complimented the women who had helped me, and thanked him for not making a scene. Then I requested a dessert.

The entertainment for the evening included a family history film written, produced, and directed in Hollywood. Can you say special effects? Very clever and funny. An orchestra took the stage and Michael Buble put on a great show. He invited our host and hostess and the guests of honor onto the dance floor. And then he invited everyone else to dance while he performed old fashioned love songs. It was very romantic. So was going out onto the balcony for a breath of fresh air and to see the view of the village. Antique building lighted up from the inside. Flickering gas street lamps. Beautiful!

Late in the evening, we called for a car and made our way to the hotel. I wasn’t ready to sleep. I went up to the top floor lounge, asked for a soda, and settle at a table with a view of the Downriver, the gritty location of massive factories and the families of skilled laborers.  I’d grown up there never thinking I’d have a chance at putin’ on the Ritz – even for one night.  Great fun while it had lasted, but, in the morning, I’d be on a plane back to reality.  No regrets because, as Dorothy famously said, “There’s no place like home.”

ME AND…Mother’s Day

1952. Lincoln Park, Michigan. People from all over the country and from all over the world lived there. The fathers, drawn by the opportunity to work in the automobile factories or the huge plants that supplied them with steel and thousands of car parts, worked hard through their various shifts. The mothers generally stayed at home to cook, clean, and raise kids. The men and women worked hard during the week, partied on Friday and Saturday nights, and took their kids to church Sunday morning.

One Sunday in May, Mother’s Day to be exact, my sister Sheila came home from spending the night with her friend Jane and announced she was going to go to church with her and her family. I begged to tag along. Sheila said, “Okay. Hurry up and get dressed.”

A huge crowd filled the sanctuary. We had to sit in the balcony, but we were lucky enough to get seats in the front row. This was back in the day when businesses, that could afford it, advertised they had air conditioning. Signs on their doors proclaimed, “It’s Kool Inside!” The church had no such sign on its gothic revival door. The heat from all those bodies crammed inside and from the many lighted candles rose to the rafters, carrying with it the scent from the dozens of floral bouquets that decorated the altar. It was hot in the balcony. My hat and gloves made me even hotter, but taking them off was unthinkable. I wished we would go, but that was unthinkable, too.

I folded my arms on the railing and rested my head on them. I looked at the congregation, noticing how many “old” ladies were present. The preacher mentioned them and said a special bus from a retirement home brought them to this service. He asked the women to stand. Everyone gave them a nice round of applause. Then he launched into his sermon, which was about Mary and mothers and their sometimes painful sacrifices. I struggled not to fall asleep.

The next thing I knew, Jane tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Do you want to go?”

I thought, Thank God and followed her and my sister toward the aisle. No easy matter since we had to climb over feet and dodge around knees. No one else got up to leave. I thought, that was odd. The three of us didn’t go out the door. Instead, we walked right up the center aisle of the church. When we reached the altar, Jane turned around to face the congregation. Sheila and I did the same. I had no idea what was going on.

The preacher asked if there were any mothers or grandmothers in the congregation who didn’t have a son or daughter who would be coming to visit them that day to give them a special Mother’s Day hug. The women with their hands up, were invited to come forward. They were paired with one of the kids. My memory of my “mother” includes white hair and a blue suit. As instructed, I wished her a happy Mother’s Day and gave her a big hug. The preacher then asked the kids to promise the’d remember to wish our “mother” a happy Mother’s Day every year hence forth and to mentally send her a hug. The “mothers” promised to remember every Mother’s Day that there was a child sending a special hug to them.

I was nothing if not an obedient child. So much so, that I kept my promise for years I often wondered if my “mother” remembered to remember. I could only hope so. I’m also a bit slow on the uptake. It wasn’t until I was a mother myself and my children were about ten years old, three decades after my experience in the church, that I woke up and wished my “mother” a happy Mother’s Day, sent her a mental hug, and then realized there was a good chance, that she had died. I sat up and blinked furiously to keep back tears. All told, the white haired woman dressed in her blue suit probably occupied about a half an hour of my conscious time – out of three decades! Yet I mourned her. And I was going to miss my little private ritual.

Then I thought why? Why not continue to wish her a happy Mother’s Day and send her a hug? Where ever she might be. And why limit myself just to one mother who didn’t have a child close by to give her a hug? Why not send out Mother’s Day greetings and mental hugs to all mothers? You can laugh if you like, but it was a cosmic moment for me. I was happy I could continue my little private, if somewhat altered, ritual.

So, another thirty years has gone by. I told you I was slow on the uptake. I figure it’s pointless to keep my ritual private. So, here’s to all you mothers who don’t have a child near by to give you a Mother’s Day hug. And here’s to my own mother, who is beyond my physical reach now.

To each and every one of you, I say “HAPPY MOTHER!S DAY!”