January 24, 2009

Laughs, courage, and Judy Tenuta!

Yes! That's Bev and me on either side of Judy Tenuta! JUDY TENUTA! I have watched Judy on TV specials and listened to her CDs for years and I have always totally adored her. And I saw her in PERSON! Aaaahhhhh.

Just a word first about the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club. Great place! An easy drive and just off a major freeway, light on the wallet, friendly staff, and great shows. Thanks to Randy Lubas, one of the owners, for getting us a good seat, giving a funny warm-up act, and asking us after the show if we had a good time. Check it out...http://www.venturaharborcomedyclub.com/index.html

So Judy is a comedian and is very funny, but not in a usual way. She's calls herself a Love Goddess, calls lesbians "lesbiterians." She'll invite a man to the stage, make total fun of him and tell him to get on his knees to worship him and he will! She'll say sometime totally unbelievable, like she was invited to the Presidential inauguration and then say "it could happen!!!" and we fall off our seats in hysteria. Without a pause, she'll say something R-rated, apologize to a section of the audience she deems "Christians," ask all the men in the audience to admit it's true that they always want to see two women together, then tell the crowd that it's also true that we women want to see two men together, "one to clean and one to cook" and everyone will roar in laughter. But it's not just the words. She dresses outrageously in feathers and an accordian, talks and yells in a high pitched squeal, says many of her words in a long giggly trill, calls herself saaaaasy and we never stop cracking up. I adore her, I really do.

As she was performing, when I wasn't totally screaming with laughter, I had a moment when I thought about what is it about Judy that makes me feel so drawn to her? I had a light-bulb moment when I realized that it's the irreverence, that she is so very far from the norm, from her voice to her appearance to her language and to her actions, that she has helped me to be more outrageous myself. I've always thought of myself as being somewhere outside the "norm," that I have never wanted to be part of the "in" crowd, that I have a rebellious and silly side of me that always wanted to forge its own path. And Judy, with her unconventional humor and appearance, has unknowingly given me permission to be myself, to make unpopular or scary choices with the confidence that the end result might be bad or unwanted, but the journey is worth it anyway. So, even though you never knew I existed until tonight and probably you'll never think of me again, you've really given me courage. And lots and lots and lots of belly laughs. Thanks, Judy!

January 20, 2009

Friends, horses, and dancing with the President!

Man, I just wanna dance with Obama. Geez, that guy is cool and he can move! OK, he seems like a guy who has the passion and energy to make the world a better place, but doesn't he look good? Yeah, yeah, so Michelle is beautiful, but a girl can dream!

Listen, it's been a cool week. I had dinner with one of my best friends ever and her parents, like I was just a member of their family and I loved it. I love being with people who just accept me and love me and think being with me is pretty cool, but don't we all? Thanks Susan, from the bottom of my heart.

And I went out with Bev, my recently broken-up with friend, who tends to make me laugh so hard it's tough to control my bodily functions. We went to check out some possible party sites and ended up at a nearby club and we danced!!! OK, so I walk in and it's dark and noisy and crowded and hot and there are people everywhere and I find a little empty place to stand and check it out and a cute guy comes up to me and says, "Do you live in Culver City and aren't you a client of mine?" and another guy says "Didn't I meet you in Beijing?" and I'm just stunned because I don't live in Culver City and I've NEVER been to China. And then, another guy comes up and says "Hi Bev, Hi Ellen" and Bev and I look at each other and realize that neither of us knows who he is and we just start laughing and I have to tell Bev to stop, just stop, because sometimes we just can't stop laughing once we get wound up and that's my experience at going clubbing for the first time in maybe seven months. Had a great time, thanks Bev!

And then I wasn't supposed to have my grandchildren on the weekend because they had family visiting but my daughter asked me to take them Sunday because the company was sick so we met my wonderful friend Kathy in the Chatsworth Hills and I almost have no words to describe how magical a time we had. We drove up to meet Kathy and found her talking to a lady on a horse who let the kids feed the horse carrots and then we walked a block south and visited two more horses who came to the fence and ate our carrots and then we hiked way up the hills to see over the 118 freeway and saw more horses on the way down who, again, let the kids feed them. See if this picture describes the magic, with Kathy walking with her pooch Onyx (who the children hug and say "I love you, Onyx" when they first arrive) and holding Talia's hand to help her up the hill:

And then Obama becomes President and I cry and feel hopeful and, for the first time in so long, I am proud to be an American. Maybe he'll end the war, feed the poor, mend fences all over the world, and stop global warming. I feel hopeful, I really do. Now, if he'd only dance with me!

January 10, 2009

Loss, grief, and angels.

I lost someone I loved today. I work for three generations of neurosurgeons, all excellent and devoted physicians who spend their lives saving lives. The older doctor died today, and I am very, very saddened by this loss.

He was Dr. Kenneth Richland and recently received the first Distinguished Physician Award from Northridge Hospital for his fifty years of practice. Nowadays, these brain and spine surgeons can often diagnose a patient's problem in a matter of seconds or minutes, just viewing an MRI or a CT scan. There were no scans when Dr. Richland started his practice, but he still treated ruptured brain aneurysms, subdural hematomas, head injuries, and spinal cord injuries with his wits and lots and lots of amazing efforts. There were no other neurosurgeons in the area in those days and he flew his plane as far as Bakersfield to treat trauma patients, spending many hours uncompensated for his life-saving work. During the last decade or so, as he worked less hours, he spent considerable time with his children and grandchildren, taking them on countless trips all over the world to try to compensate for not being there for them when they were growing up. And they loved him deeply.

As much as patients adored and respected him as a doctor, he was also the kindest and most gentle man. My office is often organized chaos, during which he would visit with his smile and kind words, always thanking us for our modest efforts on his behalf and bringing a ray of light and sunshine to our difficult days. He deeply enjoyed his work and never hesitated to see patients without insurance, saying he just wanted to be of help. Patients would often stop by my office to tell us that they knew him decades ago and never forgot his kindness and devoted care to them during their medical crisis. I've heard story after story of his giving money to nurses to help them with their school costs, never asking for reimbursement. He was loved and respected by so many people that it would be impossible to count them all.

I did see him last night in his nursing home bed. I'm not sure he knew I was there, but I stayed for a while, holding his hand and talking to him while he slept. I looked at his hands, thinking of the many people whose lives he had affected dramatically with his skills and judgment. Yet, when I told a VP at the hospital of his passing, she told me how he would light up at the sound of my name, how he loved the ladies in my office and that working with us brought him joy.

I was reminded this week by a therapist that much of my adult difficulties relate to a childhood being raised by parents who didn't love or appreciate me. Dr. Richland was like a tonic to that pain, always expressing how much he appreciated even my smallest efforts on his behalf. He was a great neurosurgeon and a wonderful man. Through my tears, I keep reminding myself that I am a better person for having known him. It is a reminder again to me that the riches in my life are the people I know and love, that it's not money that makes me wealthy but the people in my life who bless me with their love and kindness and allow me the privilege of being their friend. I am very grateful for my time with Dr. Richland and will miss him very much. If there is a heaven, he is surely there, bringing smiles to the angels.