Garden party

Grandchild No. 1 spent the night with us last night, and even though he’s a very tall, big-footed 7, he’s not too cool to dig just hanging with Lolly and Pop. We had our own little garden party at The Bernice Garden last night and went to the low-key watermelon fest at the same place this morning – and he was as happy as could be with the low-key, old-school entertainment.

Ricky Nelson would be proud. The boy is true to himself, and I expect he’ll stay that way. He comes from slightly quirky stock.

His Lolly, for example, was bereft upon hearing first thing Saturday morning that J J Cale had died suddenly. No, I never met him. Never even saw him in concert that I can remember, yet he played a huge part in my life.

This morning it was back to the garden (I keep hearing “Woodstock” in my head) for the Watermelon Festival and to paint Wish Locks.

Wish Locks Arkansas did a booming business at the 2013 Watermelon Festival.

Wish Locks Arkansas did a booming business at the 2013 Watermelon Festival.

John has been in Farmboy Westley mode lately (“as you wish”) so he took it well when I told him I was having a musical emergency and really needed to dart in Best Buy to see if by some chance the store had a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s The River on CD.

My late-night dates with Bruce have left me in critical condition and I only have the double album on, well, album (in one of those boxes on the same shelf, I think) with no turntable. They didn’t have it, so Amazon Prime will deliver it soon.

Along with another book to add to my stack. I’m helpless. I’m an addict.

Thank the stars I married a farm boy.


Does anybody really know what time it is?

When Chicago posed their musical question in 1969, they referred to something much bigger, but at our house, when John or anyone else asks, “Does anybody really know what time it is,” it’s meant literally. A few years back (I couldn’t tell you when because time blends together), I started setting our clocks to be fast – and some of them fast by different amounts.

It's 2:43 or 2:45ish p.m. Or is it?

It’s 2:43 or 2:45ish p.m. Or is it?

It was the only thing I could think of to help with our chronic lateness, and it works, for the most part, partly because every time our power goes out, which is pretty frequently (our power sources in this old neighborhood must be historic, too), I reset the clocks a different number of minutes ahead. They usually range between 3 and 8 minutes fast.

That, of course, has its own inherent danger, if you think you have 7 more minutes but really have 4. So we’ve got to take it at face value. For real time, our Comcast box and sleeping iMac, John’s MacBook and our cell phones are the only sources in the house. Even my MacBook clock runs fast – without me setting it forward. Go figure.

My crazy system works pretty well, but today I’ve been a bit disoriented from falling back to sleep this morning and sleeping in until 8:25, something I haven’t done in eons. I needed it desperately, because zombies have been keeping me up late at night for a week now.

WWZAfter seeing the movie, I had to read Max Brooks’ World War Z. The movie’s good, but the book’s a whole different creature. I’ll be through soon. People are waiting in line to borrow it.

The book that kept me awake nights before WWZ is Second Sight by Judith Orloff. Some friends – whom I won’t name to protect their reputations, should they choose to remain anonymous – and I decided to read it for a loose book club. We met Thursday night for our first discussion and mainly got sidetracked by visiting and discussing dreams and other things. 2ndSight

The book is about that and more – developing intuition, interpreting dreams – things that are probably too “wacko” for many people but secretly intrigue many others.

We’ll try to stick to the book more next time.

One last thing for today: Alice Cooper, you need to chill out, dude. You’re the guy who sang “Eighteen” about the joys of being young, so why are you lambasting Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers? This isn’t 1971 and things change. That’s how life works. Some of us old folks love them – and you’re sounding like a cranky old “get off my damn lawn” guy.

Take some advice from your contemporaries in Pink Floyd and leave those kids alone.

The world needs all the joy it can get.

That’s all.

Not fade away

NE Chargers

We’re the best of all you see – we’re the class of ’73!

I’ve been mulling over how to write about or respond to our high school reunion Saturday night. In thinking about it, and after watching Not Fade Away Sunday evening, followed by the season finale of Mad Men, I’ve gotten sidetracked by a theory about baby boomers, at least the mid- to late-’50s-born ones.

We’re the generation raised on “Not Fade Away,” which makes us the generation that won’t fade away – a criticism we get from those who say baby boomers are self-centered ex-hippies who won’t grow up and won’t get out of the way for younger generations.

We can’t help it, at least those of us whose hearts beat in 4/4 time (with a strong back beat). buddyhollyIf you want to point fingers, blame Buddy Holly, who released his much-covered song before my 2nd birthday. 

Some of my first memories are of sitting on the floor in front of the television watching kids dance (the girls in saddle oxfords and long skirts) on American Bandstand. I especially remember them doing the stroll to Fats Domino’s “Walking to New Orleans” — of course that was a long time ago, and maybe they strolled to “Blueberry Hill,” but in my mind, it’s the former.

Dick Clark started many of us on the rock ’n’ roll, well, sidewalk, because it was pretty tame. But we hit the R‘n‘R highway in the 1960s and never looked back.

Dick Clark’s American Bandstand started many of us on the rock ’n’ roll, well, sidewalk, because it was pretty tame. But we hit the R‘n‘R highway in the 1960s and never looked back.

Then, as the movie Not Fade Away strongly points out, the British Invasion brought American blues and rock ’n’ roll home to roost in the 1960s, with fabulous covers of old songs most American kids had never heard.

A little about the movie is required here: We rented it partly to pay our respects to James Gandolfino (even though we never really watched The Sopranos on a regular basis. Side note, though: My kids’ friends in the navy did call me Carmela, Liz says, because we were both little, angular-featured, um, “feisty” blondes, I believe is how she put it. Might have been “bossy.”). But we rented it mainly because I’ve wanted to see it for months and after reading about it on the box, John did too.

The characters were several years older than I am and a few older than John, but could we ever relate. And the soundtrack is a great trip down memory lane. The movie is solidly enjoyable (at least if you’re a music nerd), though a bit ambitious in story lines – without giving anything away, I’ll just say some of them fizzled out without resolution or left us hanging.

But when the credits started rolling, to The Beatles “I’ve Got a Feeling,” my heart leaped with nostalgia – and pure love. When Bobby D.’s “She Belongs to Me” followed it, I almost cried.

It’s not age; music’s always done me that way.

Sally Draper on Mad Men is one or two years older than I would have been during the episodes, so it’s like watching my life, minus the extreme drinking on the part of the adults, and the cheating and the wealth. But you know what I mean. Like reliving my youth, watching that show is. Makes me philosophical like Yoda it seems.

Anyway, we came to Mad Men late, though my sister had told me for years we’d love it, and binge-watched to catch up season before last, I think. Maybe this season. Can’t remember. I don’t want to give anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, so just let me say that when the credits rolled to Judy Collins’ cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” yeah, yeah, you get it.

I played that one on the piano as a young teen. Sigh.

And that brings me back to the reunion, which I’ll bet you thought I’d forgotten. Nope.

It was fun. Though some of us looked different, none of us had changed much. We’re the kids who don’t grow up, the ones who grew up being told not to trust anyone over 30. We got past that (my kids are over 30!), but we’ve stayed pretty young, compared to previous generations.

Some of my closest friends didn’t come, but others did. Seeing my long-lost beloved Gina McDonald (now Wilkins) made me tear up for a sec – we visited most of the night and our hubs hit it off well. Seeing long-lost Al Martin tickled me so. Seeing Linda and Paula felt like coming home to Indian Hills and happy days.

And it’s always good to see the regular crew I keep in contact with. In fact, it was good to see everyone who was there. High school years for me were happy days.

But they can’t beat today.

One-two-thre-four …


Oh, here are a few more favorite “Not Fade Aways” for your listening pleasure.

The Rolling Stones

Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty

Every day is a winding road

We’ve reached the point in life that Sheryl Crow sang about years ago – every day is a winding road, and we can’t predict from day to day what reality will be.

I suppose it hits everyone at some point. If you live long enough, you’ll have elderly parents (if you’re lucky), elderly pets, achy joints, grandkids – things that can throw you curveballs when you’re expecting an easy catch.

All you can do is catch the curveballs the best you can and juggle all the balls that need juggling – and know that you’re bound to drop a few from time to time, because all we can do is our best. Perfection eludes me and I don’t even try for that anymore. (That’s a surefire recipe for  insanity.)

Yesterday Cathy and I were pretty worried significantly about Mother. Her blood count is way down again, which is part of the equation, and the events of the day were the rest of it. We took her to the 65th wedding anniversary reception for Bill’s buddy Burl and his wife Bernice. It was very nice and we were pleased to be there, but of course it took a toll on Mother.

Mother does her best Vanna White pose to show her new TV. Even on a bad day, she looks good.

Mother does her best Vanna White pose to show her new TV. Even on a bad day, she looks good.

She was pretty jittery and as we left we felt awful bad about her being 20 minutes away.

But this morning Mother called at 7:30 to tell me that she’d be hard to get a hold of today because she had lots of plans and places to go, but she didn’t want me to worry if I couldn’t reach her. She’ll be home after 8 tonight.

For today, the mother who raised us is back.

(A week and a half ago, John and I took her shopping for new TVs (and a new red cabinet for  the 50-incher) and she was definitely her confident self. We just never know what each day will bring.)

Mine's bigger!

Mother has the biggest TV in the family now, but the remote is giving her heck.

On a sadness S curve, Cathy and Paul finally put down their ancient Lucy, the blind and deaf white dachshund who used to be the best little red girl. She was a few months younger than our Toby, who would’ve been 17 in January, so that means Lucy would’ve been 17 next month.

Then Kitty texted me this afternoon to tell me that sweet Milo, their 12-year-old happy boy died this morning. He seems to have had a stroke and died in his own bed with his favorite toy and loved ones holding him, which is about as good as it can get, but we’ll all miss him.

Milo was a good boy. He's much younger in this photo, but he never looked much different. Just a little stouter and a little slower.

Milo was a good boy. He’s much younger in this photo, but he never looked much different. Just a little stouter and a little slower.

Pets teach us how to love and their shorter lifespans help prepare us for losses in life.

We know where the winding road is going to lead one of these days, and we anticipate those phone calls. We’ve had two heart-stopping ones since December (and a few heart flutterers) – but Silas’s close call has given me a new outlook on everything. Nothing really matters as long as my grandkids are ok.

(Sounds a little like a line Freddy Mercury might have sung.)

But my girl Sheryl is right: “These are the days when anything goes.”

And I try to be prepared for anything. But my heart still drops when my phone goes off early in the morning or late at night.

Day tripper

Though I said I wouldn’t write more about it, people keep asking for details of the Paul McCartney show in Memphis, and since I’ve been a day tripper a couple of times lately, well, what the heck. I’ll write a bit about both trips.

And by now, you can find oodles and gobs of YouTube uploads of the concert, if you want to see more than what I’ve linked above. (Just put in Paul McCartney Memphis or Paul McCartney FedEx Forum.) They’re not bad, but they don’t do the eternal manboy justice. He was a 70-year-old doll and ball of fire.

Balls of fire were literally part of the show on “Live and Let Die.” Cathy and I were in the nosebleed section over the stage (actually good seats, just very high up), and we could feel the heat of the fire jets that shot up at the front and back of the stage several times. And who but Paul McCartney would be allowed to set off indoor fireworks, in addition to the flames?

But I get ahead of myself. Let me back up.

This little guy was sitting on my bed at the Econolodge four blocks down the street from the forum.

This little guy was sitting on my bed at the Econolodge.

Cathy and I checked in our slightly nappy Econolodge with a view of the Forum from our window, after being greeted by the sweetest hotel crew ever, then hoofed it over to Beale Street, where we quickly said “no, thanks.” Memphis, and especially Beale Street are not particularly vegetarian-friendly.

We backtracked a couple of blocks when I spotted Automatic Slim’s, which thrilled me to pieces. (For you non-nerds out there, Automatic Slim is a character in Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” a marvelous blues song, though I prefer Howlin’ Wolf’s version.)

We sat at the bar and had a quick libation (vodka martini, me; Pinot Grigio, Cathy) and arugula, pear, blue cheese and walnut salads, with a big old platter of hot, fresh-made potato chips covered in blue-cheese fondue – and enjoyed our feisty bartender’s showmanship. She should have a reality show. Didn’t get her name, but you’ll know her by her long black hair and talent.

Then we hit the Forum.

The show kicked off at about 8:34 with “Eight Days a Week,” and we were instantly little girls again. (I know the time because I called Liz and held my phone up in hopes she could hear.) I called Ben at 9:23 when “We Can Work It Out” started, and “Hey, Jude” started just before 10:35, which I know because I recorded part of it for Jude. I don’t have the time of the pyrotechnics, but I filmed some of it before “HJ,” so it was around 10.

Oh, let’s see, what do I tell? “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which Paul mentioned writing for Linda, was the only old solo song Cathy and I remember. Earlier in the evening he did his solo “My Valentine,” which he wrote for his wife, Nancy. He rocked. He rolled. He played the hell out of the piano, either ebony grand or psychedelic-painted spinet, several guitars (including Les Pauls in assorted colors), and his familiar violin-style bass.

The man is immensely talented. If you ever wrote him off as “the cute Beatle” who rode on John Lennon’s coattails (yeah, I’ve heard you my whole life), you are ever, ever so wrong. Each one of The Beatles was an immense talent and together they were perfection.

Old Paul still is, even though his voice has aged and he sings in a lower key. He’s a testament to vegetarianism, I suppose, because he looks and moves years younger than he is (yes, he dyes his hair and eyebrows, but you can’t dye a body or that stamina).

He wore Beatle boots and made me feel old, young, nostalgic, happy, sad, tearful. Cathy and I laughed with glee and reminisced. And evidently sang along a lot, since I had laryngitis for two days after the show.

(I saw George Harrison almost 30 years ago in Memphis, and though he was quite divine himself and I was terribly moved by him, too, this show blew that show away.)

You can find set lists online – this one seems the most accurate to me, since some of the others don’t mention the instrumental “Foxy Lady” tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Paul played a cherry red Les Paul decorated with children with arms up-reached and told a charming tale about when Jimi Hendrix played “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” while the Fab Four and Eric Clapton were in attendance.

He discussed how influential Memphis was to The Beatles, added that without Memphis music, The Beatles might not have happened. The man is quite chatty and can work a crowd. People of all ages were putty in his hands.

I didn’t scream. But I’m screaming in my head right now as I relive it. I SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY!


OK, on to the other day trip. You may know that Arkansas is home to the divine Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. If you don’t, it’s a museum of such quality that visitors come from all over the country. Anyone who knows me is bound to know I’m no fan of Walmart, but I am a huge fan of art and appreciate the donation of such a fine, fine museum – with free admission, no less. So thank you, thank you, Alice and family for that.

We’ve wanted to go for ages but since John’s sister, Kitty, was coming this spring, we decided to wait and take her to the crown jewel of Northwest Arkansas, which we did shortly before the scare with Silas. We took the new Cruze up the Pig Trail and stayed with my step-sister Lisa and brother-in-law Steve at their home overlooking Beaver Lake. Lisa, Mother, John, Kitty and I went to the museum the next day.

If you haven’t been, you must go, even if you think you don’t like American art. Even if you really don’t like the early, primitive stuff (which doesn’t hold a candle to the European masters), c’mon, they’ve got Andy Warhol’s Dolly Parton 1985. We saw Mark Rothko’s No. 210/No. 211 (Orange). (Forgot my camera, so forgive the fuzzy iPhone pics.)


And this Maxfield Parrish. He’s one of my favorite artists in the world, so it was a superthrill. This one is called Lanterns.

ParrishOf course, you can see better versions at the website. And you should, if you don’t go.

What really tickled me, since I recently read The Devil in the White City (which I highly recommend), about the Chicago World’s Fair (and a serial murderer to boot), of which almost no photos exist, was finding Theodore Robinson’s World’s Columbian Exposition (1894). I might have to buy a print of it someday.

colombian exposition

Again, do yourself a favor and look it up.

Parts of the museum are interactive and the grounds are fabulous. We’ll go back – I hope to see the “Angels & Tomboys” exhibit, in fact, though we passed on the Norman Rockwell exhibit since we were short on time. We did see Rosie the Riveter, though.

Kitty’s trip was cut short a day by her getting stuck in Dallas the first night and coincided with Silas’s hospitalization, but we did have time to take her to some of our favorite restaurants around town. We had lunch at Trio’s and Loca Luna, dinner at Creegen’s and dinner on the deck at Brave New Restaurant, where her sweet brother proposed to moi in 2003. John and Kitty went to Bosco’s and Vino’s – and of course Community Bakery got a couple of visits for sweet necessities.

Even under normal circumstances, there’s just never enough time for visits from family.

And speaking of time, I’m out of it. John Lennon is singing on the iPod dock. Seems a good time to sign off.

Cathy, Paul, John, Kitty and me on the deck at Brave New Restaurant.

Cathy, Paul, John, Kitty and me on the deck at Brave New Restaurant.

Helter skelter

If you’ve read many posts this year, you know 2013 has been helter skelter. But the past few days it’s been helter skelter in the normal, crazy Lolly/Laura’s life way. And that’s a very good thing.

Silas is better, Mother is better, our upstairs is walled and painted, and ob la di.

Silas and John/Pop at Mother's for the family party.

Silas and John/Pop at Mother’s for the family party.

Grammy is in heaven with lovable Luke (and a mimosa) in hand. She's decided those great-grandkids are plenty to live for.

Grammy is in heaven with lovable Luke (and a mimosa) in hand. She’s decided those great-grandkids are plenty to live for.

I’d sing that for you, but I’m in day 2 of laryngitis following the Paul McCartney concert Sunday in Memphis. I promise I didn’t scream as I would have had it been The Beatles in Memphis in 1966, but evidently I did sing along a lot – and yelling was required to communicate with my sister (we were right over the stage in the nosebleed section).

The Cartwright girls had our first concert road trip alone together in 30 years. (The last time was Jackson Browne in Memphis when our kids were toddlers.)

(Sir Paul of course played Jude’s song, and as a dutiful Lolly, I recorded some of it for him on my iPhone.)

Saturday night we made it to Market Street Cinema to see The Company You Keep. (Nicely done with a few major flaws but stellar cast.) You probably had to live through the era to really appreciate the complexities, and all but one couple in the audience was at least John’s age or older. (That put me in the youngest three there, now that I think about it!)

Friday night we rented John Dies at the End (spoiler alert: not really), which we really liked, and I cooked like I haven’t in months. Normalcy.

I could do an entire post about the concert. Super fabulous. Realization of a dream and all that. I could do another about how it felt to know that for two-thirds of the people there, those songs have always existed – and that they have no clue how earth-shattering they were to those of us whose lives were changed at the first note of “I Saw Her Standing There.”


Mercy. So this is 57. Or in my method of measuring, this is nine years older than Daddy ever got to be.

So I’m happy to be 57. Doesn’t feel that different from 17 or 47 in my mind. My body might beg to differ on certain days, but I’ll take it.

Friday was the big day, but my birthday has been of the extended variety this year. John had to leave Tuesday to help with his mom, so he started giving me gifts a week early. His absence was definitely noted, but family and friends took up the celebratory slack.

Thursday Liz, Jude and Sylvie brought me cupcakes, cards and the new Avett Brothers CD. I may be an oldie, but my musical tastes run wide, and those darling boys put out a  The Carpenter just in time for my birthday. 

(Dave Matthews Band obliged my 57th with Away From the World, and Ben picked it up, along with a bonus copy of the Avett Brothers.

On Friday, the real day, Mother, Julia, Anita, Rhonda and I went to the Clinton School (the gift that keeps on giving, lecturewise) to see Fran Drescher, who was engaging, informative and entertaining as she talked about her fight with uterine cancer – as well as with the medical community that kept misdiagnosing her – and her organization, Cancer Schmancer ( – you owe it to yourself to check it out). 

Then we all went to a lovely late lunch. That evening, baby sister (Cathy, who will always be 3 years and 4 months younger than me, no matter how old we get), Julia and I went to Market Street to see Robot & Frank, which is interesting, quirky, slightly funny and slightly sad.

For the record, I almost titled this post “Ants Marching,” which is still one of my favorite DMB songs, because time marches on for all us ants and I love the lyrics. (This acoustic version should let you understand them, plus it’s pretty cool.)

But “Mercy” seems to address it all – the surprise at being this old, the happiness that is my life most days, and the feeling of luck at getting here at all.

So, this is what 57 looks like, only backward, of course, courtesy of my trusty MacBook. I normally dodge photos, but what the heck. I’m a golden oldie.