June 2009 ARCHIVE
Ode to the Faithful…

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to me. I spent my most recent 48th birthday last week with two treasured friends, Jon and Page. Our friendship has included many birthday celebration lunches. We have spent them in a string of restaurants that stretch from Sardi’s in Manhattan to where we met last week, Soleil Restaurant on Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. We dined on tuna role and salad among Spanish archways and a galaxy hand-painted across yellow stucco walls.

We were more than 3,000 miles away from the old Kenilworth Cafe in Charlotte, where we held our first birthday celebrations. It was there, in 1982 or so, when we selected the name of our advertising agency, Haley, Garland & Lahr, which was a reference to the “Wizard of Oz” movie poster that hung over our booth. Another celebration.

The Kenilworth Cafe, like my youth and several last names, has passed into memory and recall. They have been taken to a place, a zone that cannot be measured by mere mileage. Friends such as Jon and Page are life markers of who we once were and who we still are and, still, when I dare to dream. They believe.

Unlike deciduous trees that blossom, but sleep through the hard winters, and the fading glory of youth, friends such as Jon and Page have been buoys along my journeys. Long ago, they discarded my semi-permanent last names and kept me. I hold them sheltered in my National Trust, in my mind’s eye, I hold you, here, in my Fort Knox of Friendships. Here, I hold you sacred in the attics of my mind. You are the courage and fortitude of my life, the mettle of my life. You are a weather-vane.

Birthdays pile upon each other like laundry to be sorted by categories. Those moments only known to me are visions that arrive on glimpses of a red-bird’s tail, a hand, a hand on mine, and linger like a river mist at sunrise. Some memories are best left forgotten, or misplaced.

But as the days of my life sweep by, as the days pile upon each other, I sort them by those who are to be delicately hand-washed, cold water wash, machine wash, and regular dry cleaners.

How do you say, “Thank you,” to friends for all the small acts of kindness that make me whole. There are others who restored the gratitude of my spirit. With the help of friends to catch my balance, I could see further.

When a friend turns to her family and says, “She knew me before I was a bitch,” I understand. These friends bore witness to youth and a time before life messed with you. You measure your age by the age of old friends. They stand as proof that I was once young. Their life journey measures your own and like family roots, run to the depths of my soul in my personal galaxy.

Some stand silently, others diminish and some slam across my sky like meteors, north stars and Southern Cross in my Pleiades where only I reside.
Page on my left and Jon on my right, Page’s hair is still sliver, but I see only my friend. I know this warm smile and green eyes, being around Page is like pulling a comforter over your shoulders on a cold winter’s morning. I know he was wearing a striped shirt with a button down collar with either four-pocket Bermuda shorts or kakis.

Jon wears dark colors; He has a sliding scale from light gray to black shirts in his closet, but he most often wears stylish black shirts. Jon has dimples and a crooked smile, he still twists his thumb while thinking. I know these things. He keeps my secrets, safe, and makes me laugh. As usual he is running against deadlines. Both have helped me locate my car keys, pocket book, and seeing-eye glasses, but who is counting? Jon and Page have stood resolute when hounded by others who were prone to question my sanity.

They have been my friends for so long and we all have moved about from coast to coast. There were many opportunities to misplace addresses and you both grew away from core friend contacts. We are here and we are together for another year, and I will cherish and hold safe our friendship for another year. That is the secret to aging…celebrating birthdays.

The Importance of Being Earnest, not Mark

Governor Sanford’s spiritual adviser, Warren “Cubby” Culbertson, was quoted on Monday, June 29, 2009 by the Charlotte Observer as saying, “Governor Sanford was gripped by the power of darkness.”

In an interview with The Associated Press this weekend at his Columbia office, just blocks from the State House, Culbertson said he believed his friend when he said that this was his only marital transgression. He thinks Sanford was simply caught off guard by “the power of darkness.” http://www.charlotteobserver.com/233/story/806871.html

There is no arguing with that. Sanford has been gripped by the power of darkness where he found it…in an email, in an embrace, in an Argentina hotel room…where he cried for himself and his mistress, not his wife and sons.

I am only paraphrasing here, but in his press conference, I believe I recall him saying, and acting in this way. I recall, Sanford saying, “I was crying in Argentina,” and he looked to where his spiritual advisors stood, then, he continued speaking, “so I could come back here and say, “I was crying in Argentina.”

Mark Sanford looked at these people seeking forgiveness. He was most upset because he let his spiritual advisors down and he was acknowledging it to the political power brokers, not the State of South Carolina.

Did I hear correctly? Did I quote him correctly? If so, this sums up the whole messy sordid affair of Sanford’s heart and loyalty.

Mark Sanford had not received permission from his wife to see his mistress, so he ran off to Argentina to cry in her arms. How is this for a scenario in measuring a man’s character? He left everybody behind to cry in Argentina?

If savages attack, I do not want this man or any other man with Sanford’s ethics commanding the fort. He has shone me his character. He made his choices while under duress and chose the dark path, as his spiritual advisor, “Cubby” Culbertson has said.

It is always a choice. Mark Sanford is not a victim, he made his choice; with a credit card belonging to someone he purchased the ticket to Argentina and departed, rather than, staying behind to right his universe by taking care of care of business and family. He left behind his wife, his sons, his home, the state, and the country; he flew from the United States of America, to a hotel in Argentina.

Mark Sanford is not the man my father was nor does he have the good character of many Americans I know today. Those few left standing and my dear father, those who still value their good name and guard against taking the dark roads deserve a better man. Or am I recalling a time in America “when things were built just so and a handshake was as good as a contract.”


Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

A.A. Milne

A Disclaimer…

A Disclaimer…

The subjects and events I recall or capture in my writings occurred in the past or present or could shortly occur and happened exactly as told or bear only a faint resemblance to the truth and are as valid as promises flung towards the heavens in moments of dire fear and panic or fleeting gratitude. Characters and names in my writings resemble no one living or dead, the unborn, or the unknown. Every written word came out of the author’s strange and unmanageable brain.

Judy Rozzelle

Obama Did It

While eating a tuna roll, I sat in my astronaut chair and watched in dismay and delight as the honorable Governor Mark Sanford confessed to adultery. While I was watching the governor, I realized that I didn’t see what he saw. I saw a Momma’s boy caught with his hands in a red-hot pepper jar/pot. And he was crying for mother.

When a man enters the Appalachian Trail and ends up in Argentina, there is something going on.

Sir, it is shameful what you did and oh, how, amortized it, sold-short, and complicated this human drama. It is proper to cry, it is expected. But there is a point when crying like praying should be done in a closet … or with friends in a smoky bar. I will follow every move, but please stop crying. Governor Mark Sanford’s performance is as shameful as his acts.

This display of tears shames the weeping that ever poured forth from mythical Southern Belles. No one should carry on like this … look at Trump, Donald Trump; he wears his bankruptcy breast fetish with aplomb, glamour, and style. He is a celebrity, a wealthy man, but do we know?

Are you crying because you didn’t have time to begin a petition of adultery against another before you were caught? Is your wife ill? Were you saved in a tent in Argentina? Is a cartel or two after you? You certainly seem to have a problem with “unrequited love.” Why are you standing there? Why didn’t you mail in your resignation and move to South America or vice versa?

This display of emotions was ripped from a bad script for adulterers. It is thus when the society page and the “weeping sisters,” storm into the headlines pushing revolution and human suffering off the front page. Assume there will be weeping and repentance.”

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Coming to Los Angeles

At the age of sixty-three, I had survived two depressions, addiction, a strange suicide attempt involving Ambien, three divorces, the loss of loved ones, and thirteen years of celibacy.

At the age of sixty-three, I fell in love with my third cousin. We are not married and do not intend to have children. I followed him west to this sprawling, desert metropolis by the ocean. I moved to Los Angeles. After six years, I have decided to speak up about life in Tinsel Town.

I have kept a journal on my city life. It keeps me sane. Is it possible for me to live a contented life in a sprawling metropolis? Can I find happiness in this really big, busy city? I struggle with this on a daily basis. City living is stressful and it does, in my opinion, require a loss of humanity. It is not for everyone. Los Angeles and New York City will never change.

Here is my journal, my notes on life in Los Angeles. It is quite different from Shuffletown and I do not stick out in this city of land of illusions. But I do not fit in either. After six years of trying to make a home in LA, I have made tremendous strides and I have wonderful new friends, but, OHMYGAWD, Tinsel Town beats anything I have ever experienced or imagined.

I believe that my troubles begin when people discover that I am from the South. They assume that I am not educated and my former living conditions were impoverished. There have been days, nights, and weeks that have been wonderful because I live in LA. I like sharing place with movie stars. But I cannot fit in…and I am still surprised when life in the city becomes a slap in the face. It is a conundrum.

I came to the metropolis of Los Angeles late. I thought I would fit in and not even be noticed in this metropolis of illusions. I was naïve. After all, I stuck out like a sore thumb in Shuffletown. I was born irreverent, adventurous, and stubborn. This created problems. My dear family spent decades trying to lure me onto another path. If they had concentrated on inventing perpetual motion, it would be a reality. But you cannot blame them. I took many paths. Well, maybe there were instances, but, bless their hearts, this sweet meddlesome family meant well. It was just their reaction to me.

Today, we live 3,000 miles apart. After a false start, they supported my first book, “Shuffletown USA.” And they are my greatest resources on my new book of historical fiction. I bless their love and hold them deep within my heart.

It is as my sister says, “I did the best I could.” You cannot fault anyone for their perception. All of life is perception. There are no truths; it is how you view everything. It is our perception and no one else’s.

I provided fodder. I am guilty of a lot of things; but not everything. I have led a life of fireworks and it has been quite a grand ride. I wouldn’t change a thing, not breast cancer, not my three marriages and divorces. I had a long wonderful relationship with a wild-ass Scotsman. I have led an irreverent life and I have experienced many opportunities to recall my antics. Sometimes, it is very embarrassing.

For example, I’ve been fired from jobs more than most. Sounds bad, but it was never for incompetence. I lost a job in the early 1970s because I would not sleep with my boss. The excuse he used was that my latch-key children called the office too often. Also, I used the following words in a press release: “Razzle, dazzle, and bee’s knees.” He could not find the words in Webster’s Dictionary.

I am fortunate to live long enough to see changes for working mothers, and I have lived long enough to re-discover my beloved Shuffletown. As I wrote in “Shuffletown USA”:

May God bless this village of odd and regular folks, saints, and bigots. They are all to be honored…and remembered. They abided in the years of yesterday and taught us how to shoulder today.”

But they didn’t prepare me for Los Angeles.

Cancer Saved My Life…

At the time I wrote the words below, I was recovering from breast cancer and depression. Now I read them with joy and gratitude.

It is good, I believe, to pause to look back at the road to see how far we have traveled. Today, I share this with you because I had a mammogram last week…and I am entering my fourteenth year as a cancer survivor. Enjoy.

Cancer saved my life. Life began anew, in May 1996, when I woke from a single, simple mastectomy. The option of dying was handily available. For the past six years, in a fog of depression, I had stood at the edge of hell, and even, now, lying on a hospital bed, I could still hear them calling my name, but I finally turned away. The madness stopped on this day. Odd, but true, I did not consciously know I had made this decision. As it turned out, death was not my choice.

I bent the page here, marked the place; wrote the day in stone. In the evening of May 31, 1996, I began to chart the road home. As it turned out, death was not my choice. I did not consciously know I had made this decision.

I have often looked back to this day to wonder what core I tapped into, what it is inside me that caused me to decide to live, to recover, to begin the long stumbling walk back. What spark, ember, leapt to life strengthening me to reach for the light and to face the embarrassment, the mess of being me and to bravely claim it.

I did not decide to live because times were good. Or even, because I had just run out of drugs. I had cancer. I had lost a boob. I did not, even, have health insurance. I was, fortunately, surrounded by sympathetic nurses and morphine was being dripped into my veins. For a drug addict, things were going pretty good. For a person in recovery…it was subterranean bottom. A place to begin.

I recovered alone. Looking back, I see that it was by choice. No one was holding my hand, or promising to care for me. No one was offering rewards.

The last friend had pulled out long time ago. Family had turned away, but in leaving my daughter’s eyes told me of the legacy of me that would be left to tell among future generations and the present. To die of addiction, or suicide, could give an excuse to dear ones to follow my trail.

Truths lie within a child’s eyes. In that moment, my journey home and beyond began, but for others it could be something else, a stranger’s kindness, God, love, hope.

Recovery is customer made to fit our soul. Like faith, it is a flame that burns untended, until it is discovered. Recovery is a script we write in unison with spirit. I am so grateful.

Westward. Ho.

Well, I see Molly — a red-squirrel I’ve had my eye on — is dining in my birdfeeder. Like diamonds lure cat burglars, birdfeeders are catnip to squirrels. Red squirrels belong in forests and woodlands. Grey squirrels occupy cities. Grey squirrels have short tails and are neurotic.

For a couple of years, I have watched from the window by my computer, Molly, the red squirrel, and a male gray squirrel live their lives. I watched Molly slap the gray squirrel. He had surprised her and forgot foreplay. I kid you not. She slapped him and he left. Within fifteen minutes, he returned and slowly approached Molly. When he got close enough the gray squirrel began to nudge her neck. This pleased her. She let him chase her across the telephone lines.

I have watched them coo like doves and twitter in conversation like couples whispering to each other. They fight like catbirds. Like the like birdsat each other as if they were birds. Like trapeze artists, they frolic about above the earth on lines suspended from pole to pole. I share space with Molly and Mr. Gray Squirrel. We share a neighborhood. The suspended commerce lines stretch among a canopy of trees outside our home.

Molly is an adventurous little creature, tenacious, and stubborn. Molly is out of place, like me. She should reside among trees, a stand of pine, or a wood filled with oak and Hawthorne.

It is my opinion that somehow she followed Mr. Gray Squirrel west. After all that is how the American west got settled…women following men over the next bluff, the next hill, the next mountain, the next desert. But I digress.

This spring, Molly has caught my eye. I have not seen the grey squirrel recently; he is probably away on business. Molly is an adventurous little creature, tenacious, and stubborn; very probably, she is a single female in a strange town. Her originally intended home is far away. She could be a divorced single-mother.

Nature intended her species; her family would dwell in the woods and forests, a stand of pine, or a wood filled with oak and Hawthorne. What is she doing in this desert? And she seems quite content with city life.

It was a given that she would dine in my birdfeeder. She planned her assault well, and took her time. Her first visit was Sunday for brunch. However, she was immediately spotted by Sassy. My ten-pound, guardian Pomeranian keeps vigil on her world from her perch which is conveniently located on the back of a brocade-chair. On sight, some primal-dormant gene kicked in, Sassy thrust her short snout towards heaven, and howled like a feral hound. With the swiftness of a swooping Kingfisher, Molly disappeared.

Today, as Sassy slept, Molly returned. It took a moment, but I noticed a vacuum in the city, something was missing. Birdsong, the birds were silent. I looked and there Molly sat dining. I watched her for a while. Then, I half-heartedly made an attempt to encourage Molly to leave the bird feeder, but, when I stepped on the patio, she didn’t run away. She looked at me, studied me, plain, with her tiny, brown-almond eyes, then she scurried along the patio’s ledge towards where I was standing. She was pleading her case. I bought it.

I went to the pantry and retrieved the only nuts we had in the house, salted almonds and returned to the patio. She continued to eat with an eye on me. Not wanting to scare Molly silly, I did not move. Molly continued to eat.

I held out an almond to Molly. She allowed me to lay the almonds at her feet in the birdfeeder. She picked it up and did not mind the salt coating. She held the brown almond with both hands and began to daintily nibble it while standing at attention.

When she finished the almonds, she seemed to sense that the feast had ended. She studied my smile before I said, “shoo.” She dropped from sight, but quickly a paw appeared on the other side of the ledge. She pulled her fat little body up to the ledge and gave me one last chance to change my mind. “Yes, it is time to leave,” I said.

She dropped out of sight. When I looked over the ledge, Molly was sitting on a water spout that ran beneath the patio floor, I smiled down at her. She gave me a glance and blithely jumped for a limb of an overhanging tree limb.

Molly will be back. Like a wild kitten, she will return to where she was fed. She will return as long as my neighbor does not have his trees trimmed. Then, she will have to reconfigure her path.

In the meantime, I need a plan. Squirrels present problems in patio paradise. I have a squirrelly past. My fondness of squirrels once innocently set off Aunt Nancy’s rapid Fool Alarm and created a memory I shall never forget. .

What happened is this…I visited Aunt Nancy most often at even-tide. She kept two plastic chairs inside the carport for my visits. When I arrived, as I was parking my car, she would bring out the chairs. In the next half-hour or so, we would speak of assorted subjects as we watched the colors of purple and gold dance about in the western sky. One fall, I noticed a squirrel that came each evening to look for spilled bounty beneath the bird feeder/fountain.

One afternoon, I brought her a gift. It was a squirrel survival kit. It was fall. The gift-box contained a squirrel feeder. I bought it at Lowe’s, and I included a bag of corn cobs. She was incensed, mad enough to spit; she was enraged that I would bring food for rodents.

This comment came from a woman who once ate Brunswick stew. Maybe, that was why she reacted in such a way? She never liked Brunswick stew? I didn’t linger. When Aunt Nancy’s Rapid Fool Alarm is set off; it is best to clear out. I picked up my pride, my corn cobs, and handy-dandy squirrel feeder and bowed out. I never brought up the subject, again. Aunt Nancy scared me.

Sometimes, I notice a streak of Aunt Nancy in him, just a slight one, but enough to keep me in line. I will not mention Molly, just yet.

Some LA Moments Make Me Long for the Comfort of the Catawba’s Rolling Waters

So what have I done currently or in some past life to be the center of chaos? I tried to be honest. I have decided that if your doctor is extremely busy following the fifteen minute rule. He would not be a good choice to mention any previous problems with drugs other than to make sure always confirm at each meeting that you are allergic to penicillin.

Other than that, when you are dealing with an extremely large renowned medical institution that is staffed with over-worked professionals who occupy the top of the triangle of their specialty, it is best to stay under the radar. To them, it seems, patients are objects and should perform accordingly.

Get whatever is wrong with you fixed; stay focused on that and that only, with the exception of drug allergies. Remain faceless. I think that we are all so unaware of faces, which in cases such as these do not confuse them. They are too busy to listen and when they do they become confused and they place a mask on you.

They will fix your spine, but they do not want to know who you are. If you broke this holy rule; they paint a mask upon your name. It is like the warnings on drug advertisements … to become the top of a pyramid could it be possible that the best of the best react by becoming misanthropic.

I broke the rule and let me tell you, there is a difference. I have the scars. It begins when I open my mouth. Today, I got slapped in the face…speaking email wise. I know why I fed Molly, she is as out of place as I am. I think of how fond Mark Twain was of San Francisco when these events occur. Like the red-squirrel Molly. I am very far from home.

When one of these days occurs in Los Angeles, you have to question your intelligence. And this type of stuff happens out here. You have to at any moment be prepared to “roll, roll,” as if you have to escape a fire. Trust me, Angelinos are different. But compared the New Yorkers I have met, Angelinos are angels. Out here, if a professional is renowned and most of them are speak as if you are meeting with the Pope. They do not expect to know your first names… unless you are in trouble which I usually am. I swear it starts because I talk funny. They hear each day at least forty-six languages, but they will recall a southern accent. You have been warned.

I am learning how to roll with the punches. I am getting citified. I now know to immediately take an offensive stand and to focus.

Oh, good, God, I hope they don’t hurt me. But I will not scare.

In these LA moments, I think of my great-great-great-great-great grandmother who refused to leave the banks of the Catawba River and would not go one step further west.

On these days when I miss water and good sense, I think of home. I think of the comfort of the Catawba’s rolling waters. I tell myself river stories.

Sunday Morning…

I have just returned from walking the dogs and now I sit before the computer in an aching slump. My hair is dirty. Ball caps are a wonderful invention. My clothes are the same as yesterday. I hurt from my shoulders to my butt with an awful sawing pain.
Yesterday, I walked a little farther than is my habit. All day, we focused on strengthening my upper torso…today my upper torso aches like it is bound by tight ropes. Still, I walked the dogs as far as yesterday.
Lee is sleeping late because he is exhausted. I sleep late on Saturday and he sleeps late Sunday. He has a half hour to sleep before I turn on the shower and that will wake him. Between me and the economy, he has suffered constant emotional strain. I believe all Americans feel worse today than they did before the great fall of 2009 and the final term of George W. Bush.
I mean, how good can I feel? The first headline I read today announced that North Korea warns of nuke war and half of Israeli citizens want to bomb Iran. There is a lot of aching going round. America is exhausted. The world is suffering and everybody is aching for a fight. In the scheme of things, I just think I will go take a shower and get out in the sunshine.