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Jerry Shulak’s love of golf reached amazing heights, including 1st class with Arnold Palmer

A SNAPSHOT TO REMEMBER! That’s Jerry Shulak at left and his friend and mentor Irwin Fruchtman at right. Between them is the legendary sportsman Frank Stranahan.

Success comes in different forms.  Through talent, hard work and personal charm, Jerry Shulak scored victories as an amateur golfer and encounters with some of the greatest golfers in history.  His parents, too, lived an American success story.

Jerry’s dad Harry immigrated to Detroit from Russia as a child.  Harry arrived “penniless”, Jerry says, in the early 1930s.  Starting at age 6, Harry sold newspapers until he quit school in the 9th grade to help support his family.  Harry recalled hunger pangs from the scent of horn of plenty pastries from a nearby bakery.  Resisting temptation, he brought every penny home.   Harry met wife Becky, also from Russia, in 1934.  Becky had spent several years In a Russian orphanage as her other was too ill to care for her and her siblings.   Becky remembered the terror of Russian pogroms and hiding from soldiers on horseback.

In Detroit, Harry worked as a salesman in a fur salon.  Hoping to open a salon of his own, Harry moved with Becky and 2 year old Jerry to Toledo in 1938.  He approached the Toledo Trust Bank for a loan.  Rejected.  Harry insisted on seeing the president, waited for hours.   His persistence paid off.  “You have no collateral but you seem like a smart man,” the president said.  $10,000 loan granted.  In time, Harry ran four fur salons in Toledo, gave both his brothers partnerships and put one of them through med school.  Brother Irving Shulak became a well-known Detroit psychiatrist.

Jerry inherited his father’s determination.  At 5, Jerry was fascinated by golf.  He loved watching golfers hit practice balls at Glengarry CC where his dad belonged.   Jerry approached a member  on the range, asked to borrow a club.  Bill March, the club pro, noticed him.  “You’ve got a natural swing,” he said.  March cut down an iron from his stock and gave it to Jerry.   Jerry practiced for hours and read every book he could find on golf.

At 11, Jerry walked some 15 miles from his house to Inverness CC to spectate at tournaments.  Sometimes he got a ride home.  At about 14, Jerry asked his dad to buy him a used set of golf clubs for $130.  Harry balked, saying, “Let’s see what happens next year.”

When Jerry managed to acquire clubs, Harry came upon him cleaning them, preparing for a junior tournament the next day.  “Golf is for rich people,” Harry railed.  “You’re lazy.  You need to go to work.”

Tears in his eyes, Jerry walked slowly to his car, placed his clubs in the trunk, and drove to Highland Meadows CC the day before the 4-day Toledo District Junior Golf Tournament.  He slept that night in the locker room.   Against golfers who were older and better trained, Jerry won the tournament.

Jerry also won three Glengarry Junior Club Championships, beating a guy who was “older and a better golfer.”

Jerry says, “I never drank or did drugs.  Sports were my whole life.”  He also played varsity football and basketball in high school and captained his basketball team.

Jerry became friends with body builder, amateur and pro golfer and “icon,” Frank Stranahan, from a wealthy Toledo family that developed the spark plug.  Jerry and Frank were the only two to ever win both the Toledo District Amateur and the Toledo Junior Amateur tournaments.  Jerry deems Stranahan “the second best golf amateur ever.”  The first?  “Bobby Jones.”

At the U. of Miami, Jerry made the varsity golf team and lettered for four years.  He had to learn to hit on thicker Florida grass. He played second or third on the team.  In Florida, he met pro golfer Doug Sanders who was dating the same girl.  They became good friends.  Sanders realized Jerry was a student of the game.  At one point, having some trouble with his swing, Sanders invited Jerry to fly to Greensboro to help advise him.  For the next week’s Tournament of Champions, Sanders invited Jerry to accompany him to Las Vegas.  Jerry joined Sanders, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus—all on the same flight, in first class.

“Golf was hard for me,” Jerry admits.  “I practiced and practiced.”  He’d hit 300 to 400 balls a day.   In all he won 14 club championships.  “I loved the idea that my name would be on a club plaque, and that after I got older and passed away, members would remember me.  But the club burned down in a fire and the plaques went with it.”

At 17, Jerry happened to be paired with Jack Nicklaus in the Ohio Junior Tournament.  “Jack was 14 and already great.  Long and straight off the tee, a marvelous putter and friendly.  He couldn’t wait to finish because he had a basketball game to play that night.  His father galleried all 36 holes.”  Many years later, Jerry took a friend to a PGA tournament at Inverness.  Jack Nicklaus was playing.  Jerry was standing with his friend near a tee when Nicklaus walked up to him and said, “Jerry, how ya doin?”   Jerry’s stunned star-struck friend asked, “Did I just hear the greatest golfer in the world say hi to you?”

Jerry and Sandi

Jerry went on to sell steel for his good friend and mentor, Detroit steel magnate Irwin Fruchtman.  He also opened a clothing store and ran four restaurants.  He became a dear  friend of Burton’s and mine when he married our friend Sandi Alpert.  They have two children.  In 1977, Jerry and son Brad won the Toledo father/son city championship.

In later years, a cousin invited the Shulaks to visit in Phoenix, AZ.  “I saw water glistening in the pool as the sun came up over a mountain,” Jerry says.  “That was it.”  He and Sandy packed up and moved.  Jerry no longer plays golf.  At 84, he has spinal stenosis.  He works as a trader and financial adviser.  And like Doug Sanders, Burton and I realize he gives good advice.

“A golfer can have the greatest swing, but it’s what in his gut that matters,” Jerry says.  “Golf is a very hard game to play at a high level.”  (Personal aside from a frustrated hacker: it’s a hard game to play at ANY level.)

Jerry says, “Golf has taught me most of what I know about life.  It’s taught me perseverance and patience.  It taught me not to dwell on the past.  I can’t change what happened yesterday; I can only go forward.”

Was it worth it?

“I had a tough father.  But I became a champion anyway and was looked up to for the first time in my life.  Golf got me in to see heads of companies I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  It let me fly on private planes.  It gave me respect and self-respect.

“So yes, it was worth it.”

 

Wonderment and Hope: Writing a weekly column about inspiring people taps into joy. 

Suzy Farbman, third from left, enjoying friends from Detroit’s vibrant arts community.

Writing a weekly column about inspiring people taps into joy.

When I first thought about doing a column, I met with old chum David Crumm.  (“Colleague” would be the more accurate term, but I can’t resist the rhyme.)  David ran an online website, Read the Spirit, focused on matters involving spirituality and health care.  With my interest in both, David encouraged me to publish with him.   I’ve been doing so for five years now.  Happily.

Only once has David turned down a column I wrote.  It was political in nature, he said, and if he ran my point of view, he’d have to run the opposing view.  Other than that, David gives me the freedom to write what I want, when and how I want.   His few edits are (mostly!) appreciated. Writers may come off as confident, but down deep we’re as insecure as anyone else.  When I turn in a column, David, a writer himself, always has something nice to say.

I seek out people and stories that inspire me.  When my heart beats a little faster, I know I’m on to something.  I’ll wait patiently in a conversation for that nugget, that angle that stirs me.  The stories are out there.  It’s my job to find them.

I’m reading a memoir by Alan Zweibel, an original writer for Saturday Night Live, a BFF of Gilda Radner, humorist author and playwright.  (He collaborated with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award-winning play 700 Sundays.)

In Laugh Lines, Zweibel recalls working with Eric Clapton (“Layla,” etc.) to score a movie Zweibel co-wrote.  In the recording studio, Clapton sat watching a scene play and replay, each time plucking a few more notes on his guitar.  After several repetitions,  Clapton’s song was complete.

“WTF was that?” Zweibel asked Clapton.

“Was what?” he said, laughing.

“You just wrote a song right in front of me.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“But I saw you…”

“Those songs are out there,” he said, gesturing skyward.  “The tunes, the melodies.  All I do is channel them.” 

That’s how I feel about the columns I write.  I just need to tune in.  The stories are out there.

Having finished my pandemic project, writing a book about the Detroit’s first avant garde art movement,  I was happy to  be back with my first column in about a year, on classic race car driver David Porter.  I got a special kick out of David Crumm’s welcome back message.

Several years ago, Burton and I attended a Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada.  Before Burton’s recent health challenge, he was a fine photographer.  In Elko, we attended a workshop with a renowned Western photographer.  A young man in the audience raised his hand.  He was starting out as a professional photographer, he said, and wanted some advice.

The response was profound.  The well-known photographer said, “You have to fall in love with your subject.”

Sometime later, I realized that advice applies to me.  I fall a little bit in love with every subject about whom I write.  My capacity for love is as boundless as my curiosity.

So I was delighted with David Crumm’s Welcome Back message in which he described my columns as “stories of wonderment and hope.”  David observes I’ve published 273 stories for 1,000s of readers and says, “An All-time Favorite Returns.”

Stories of wonderment and hope.  I never thought to describe my columns that way.  But that’s just what I seek to convey.

With bad news dominating the media these days, Read the Spirit consistently offers a more optimistic, humane, connected point of view.  I’m honored to be part of that, to share a weekly jolt of joy.  Thanks, David and Co. at RTS.  And thanks to my subjects and readers for the opportunity.

Driver David Porter’s joy revs up racing classic cars

If you’re born in Detroit, you’re born with a reverence for cars.  As the grandniece of Albert Kahn, who designed all the factories for all the car companies in the early 20th C., I have extra reverence.  But I’ve had zero exposure to the world of car racing.

Until now.

Race car driver David Porter is a new neighbor, fresh from winning classic car races out of more than 250 cars at Daytona and Sebring.  Of course I had to meet him.

David was born in 1955 in Berwick on Tweed, a town that’s been part of Scotland and England over time.  When he was 6, his dad and dad’s friend took him to Charterhall, a racing track on the Scottish border (formerly a Royal Air Force airfield, significant in WWI and II).

“That day I saw my first Formula 3 car,” David says.  “In my mind, I still see it.  It made an indelible impression.”

As David grew older, he and his mom fought over his future.  She was “determined” he’d become a teacher.  David wanted to be a banker like his dad.  Instead of going to college, he joined the British Linen Bank.  In those days, he says, Scottish banks wouldn’t take college grads because they weren’t willing to do the grunt work.  David was.  He served as a clerk and a teller and enjoyed dealing with customers.  But in that pre-computer era, every transaction had to be posted manually in a ledger.  “Staggeringly tedious,” he says.

His boss moved to the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1976.  His boss was “a clean desk guy who managed to be so with people like me doing the work.”  One of the bank’s biggest customers was Glencore, founded by Marc Rich.

Sound familiar?  Marc Rich was an international commodities trader indicted for tax evasion and making deals with Iran during the hostage crisis.  Rich fled to Switzerland and was pardoned by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2001 on Clinton’s last day in office.

A month after his boss left to join Glencore, with papers piling up on his desk, David’s ex-boss  called.  ‘Three days later, David was working for Glencore as an expert on letters of credit.  In 1989 the company moved to the US.  David and his then wife came, too.  The company grew from a staff of about 20 to 250 in two years.  David rose to become head of finance.  He retired in 2012.

As for racing, in his late 20s David “took the plunge.”  His Lotus road car was stolen.  The insurance company gave him “a very nice check.”  He asked himself, “If not now, when?”

A week later, David bought a Formula Ford.  (A single seat, open wheel race car like the one featured in Rush, the biographical sports film about the Hunt-Lauda rivalry between two Formula One drivers.)  Two weeks later, David entered his first race.  He finished 21st out of 104.   He entered three more races that season, finishing 8th in one of them.  “I realized if I worked at it, I could have some success.”

That would prove an understatement.

During the next few years, while married with two kids and a demanding job, David also did his own work on his cars.  Looking back, he says, “I’m not sure when I slept.”  At 19, he’d built his own car from scratch.  To teach himself, he dismantled and cleaned another car and put it back together.  Racing cars at that level are simpler than road cars, he says.  Among other things, there are no heaters, lights or indicators.

In 1983, David scored his first win at Brands Hatch, a beloved British track in Kent, UK, where the British Grand Prix used to be held.  “I still have a vivid memory of crossing the finish line a few tenths ahead of the pack and the great satisfaction I felt.”

Once he’d tasted victory, David racked up many more wins.  In 1987, he won a national championship in the BRSCC (British Racing and Sports Car Club).  The organization holds events for cars built before 1974.

In 1987, there was a “season long fight” of 18 races between 4 drivers.  Heading into the last race, David’s main opponent was Paul Wallace whose brother had won the Le Mans in France, who had “lots of help,” and who was “slightly quicker than me.”  In the last race, David was two points behind.  To prevail he had to not only win the race but also score the fastest lap.  The twosome passed and repassed each other.  On the last corner, David overtook Wallace.  He won by 1/10th of a second and set a class record that lasted about 20 years.

“I’ll never forget that moment,” he says.  The trophy was filled with beer and passed around among drivers and spectators, all of whom took a sip.  (Ah, for the carefree pre-COVID days of sharing and slurping.)  In the process, the trophy received a dent.  David still has that dented trophy and prizes it.

That success spurred a 1988 call from a London oil broker who was starting a team of Formula 3 drivers. Formula 3 cars have about 50% more horsepower, better grip and brakes, plus wings and slick tires.   All expenses would be paid.  “It was a logical next step,” David says.  But Fate intervened.  The oil market dropped.  The team owner pulled out.

The Porter family moved to Stamford, CN, though he admits, “There was a notion in England that American drivers were wussies.”  David soon learned otherwise.  Accustomed to qualifying first or second in a race, he qualified ninth.  But he “got to know” American tracks and won often in ‘90-‘93.

With two kids in college and a divorce in the works, David had neither time nor money to devote to racing.  He quit for 11 years.  About 2005, then married to Patricia, who’d also worked at Glencore, “The bug started to bite again.”  He and Patricia spectated at a historic car race at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec.

After, he made a deal with Patricia.  He’d sell his motorcycle and buy a historic racing car.  Since then, he’s won hundreds of times.  “I’ve lost count,” he admits. “It’s tremendous fun.”   Historic car races don’t allow sponsorships.  “It’s supposed to be about gentlemen having fun with friends.”  In 2012, he bought a Le Mans prototype and started racing on tracks around the eastern US.  A five-man crew now works on his cars.

David bought a Pescarolo, named for French racing driver Henri Pescarolo.  The car has “always been my passion.”  He raced it, 2012-2018, setting an outright lap record at Watkins Glen.  (The fastest lap by anyone, ever, in any type of car, at that track.)  He came in first in a classic twelve-hour race at Sebring in 2017 and in a 24-hour race at Daytona in 2018.

Say what? I asked.  You drove around and around for 24 hours?  No, he explained.  He drove for an hour, four times in 24 hours.

How does David overcome fear of driving at dangerous speeds?  “My desire to race is so strong that I essentially compartmentalize fear.  Steve McQueen said, ‘Racing is life; everything else is just waiting.’  Not sure I’d go that far, but through racing you experience the highs of elation when things go right and the depths of disappointment when they don’t.”

In 2018, David bought his current car, a Peugeot 908 with a V-12 turbodiesel engine and 885 ft. pounds of torque.  (Don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about!)  “The car is a piece of history, what kids  would call the Killer App.”  With it, he’s won at Daytona and Sebring.

Congratulations, David.  Thanks for sharing the memories.  Laurel Oak abounds with interesting people.  We welcome our new track star.

Having finished my new art book on Detroit’s Cass Corridor, I’m returning to my GodSigns column

It’s good to be writing to you again—even if these times haven’t been good for so many. For my husband Burton and me—as past readers of this column will remember—the tough times started well before COVID.

We’d had a rough 2019. Burton’s brain surgery in late 2018 caused a stroke that shut down his left (dominant) side.  He was hospitalized for many weeks, then home in a hospital bed.  His middle initial is D for David.  D also stands for Determination.  Though physically and mentally challenged, Burt simply says, “You do the best you can with what you’ve got.”  He’s worked his way to an electric wheelchair, outdoor rides, visits from friends, a recliner, a dedicated PT practice.

It’s far from the retirement Burton envisioned, burning up the golf course.  But he’s still able to hear about Andy’s latest paddle ball triumph or David’s progress with his health care company.  Still able to field nightly phone calls from granddaughter Lindsay.  Still able to join me for a 5 o’clock cocktail or hold my hand watching TV.  But still, a rough year.

So I’d looked forward to 2020.  Numerical symmetry.  Perfect vision.  A new decade.  Matters had to improve.  Then this creepy spiked red ball started flashing on TV and a fellow named Fauci commandeered our screens.  Soon Burton and I weren’t the only ones confined to quarters; the whole world was, too.  So much for numerical symmetry.

But Life has taught me to look for silver linings.  Good friends are sterling silver.  In 2018, the year before the excrement hit the fan, I’d joined three BFFs—Brenda Rosenberg, Peggy Daitch and Sandy Seligman—on a birthday trip to Paris.  We’d visited the Louvre and shopped on the Left Bank.  We’d dined on the Champs-Élysées, sipped champagne and nibbled foie gras.

A year later, joie had turned to blah.  On a Zoom call, my BFFs—aka my personal angels—sensed my downhearted condition.  They conferred.  The next morning, Brenda (who also publishes via ReadTheSpirit) called.  “I dreamt you wrote a coffee table book about your art collecting and your focus on Detroit’s Cass Corridor,” she said.  “I want that book.  I have a place for it on my coffee table.  Frame it as your gift to the Detroit art world.”

Detroit’s Cass Corridor near Wayne State U. was the setting for Detroit’s first avant-garde art movement.  Nearly two dozen talented artists worked in the area in the 1970s and 80s.  I’d collected the work of this scrappy band of creatives.  They were represented by two top notch gallerists, Jackie Feigenson and later Mary Preston.  In 1980, the DIA mounted a show of their work, “Kick Out the Jams: Detroit’s Cass Corridor 1963-1977.”  Burton and I had loaned pieces we owned by Brenda Goodman and Ellen Phelan.

Click this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page. Suzy’s book also is available from Barnes & Noble, Walmart and other online bookstores including the Front Edge Publishing store..

My girlfriends know writing is my lifeline.  I’d crafted memoirs about our earlier marriage problems and my later cancer crisis. That latter book is called GodSigns, which also became the title of this online column.  Both books proved therapy for me and support for thousands of readers.  Writing about what I’d been through helped give meaning to the suffering.

Brenda was right, I thought.  I had a happier story to tell.  With no end to the pandemic in sight, I had time to tell it.  If Brenda had a place for such a book, and Peggy and Sandy were vying for the book launch party, who was I to deny them?

I hung up the phone and turned on my laptop.  My latest book, Detroit’s Cass Corridor and Beyond; Adventures of an Art Collector is the result.  It features photos of art I collected and displayed in a home we built in Franklin, MI.  Our home was photographed by another personal angel, renowned architecture and design photographer Beth Singer.  Beth and I were partners in the 1990s, finding, styling and shooting beautiful homes for Better Homes & Gardens and several Special Interest Publications.  Burton’s and my home was among those we featured.  Beth shot the professional photos included in my new book.  And tech challenged as I am, Farbman Group’s capable marketing director, Lauren Holder, was my tech angel.

Bottom line: to paraphrase Joe Cocker, I get by with a lot of help from my friends.

How can you get a copy of the new Cass book? Keep watching this column in ReadTheSpirit.com magazine. We’ll have news soon about its availability. When it finally is released for sale, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and learning more about some fascinating and talented Detroiters.

With my Cass Corridor story ready for prime time, I’m glad to be back in the weekly issues of ReadTheSpirit magazine.  I’m blessed to know and introduce you to people who inspire me.

Classic race car driver David Porter is one of them.  His story follows…

Pandemic got you down? Famous sages (and a song & dance duo) offer tips (and taps)

“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  Nelson Mandela

Of the nearly 300 profiles I’ve written, most are stories of survival.  I started with my own.  If reading about what I survived could help someone else, my struggles had benefit beyond the misery they caused me and the insight I gained.   They had meaning.

After writing books about my marriage and cancer ordeals, I had a talk with God, my editor-in-chief.  Dear God, I prayed, you gave me the gift of words.  Could I take a break from writing about my own suffering?

Sensing a heavenly thumbs up, I was guided to write about other peoples’ survival.  I’ve been gratified and overwhelmed by the stories I’ve heard.  I featured Destry Ramey, a nurse who died recently but lived with spunk and determination for many years despite 7 different battles with cancer.

I wrote about Soon Hagerty, a Vietnamese boat person who came to America, became an entrepreneur and started a restaurant that gives 10%  of every meal to charity.

And Elana Ackerman whose childhood struggles with leukemia inspired her to become a doctor.

About Derek Black, a white nationalist who publicly recanted his biased beliefs.

And Rabbi Danny Syme, whose brother’s suicide caused him to dedicate his life to suicide prevention.  And.  And.  And.

I’ve been honored to share these stories and many more.  Someday eons from now, this colossal wet blanket, Covid-19, will be a footnote in history.  Someone’s great, great grandchild might be curious enough about their heritage to look online and gain inspiration from my words about their ancestors.

The stories I tell are mostly about resilience.  Getting knocked down happens to the best, the brightest, the richest and poorest of us. It’s about getting up again.  A process perfectly captured in that irresistible tune by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields from the 1936 movie “Swing Time.” The lyrics are as relevant more than 80 years later as they were when written, in the middle of the Great Depression.

“…Don’t lose your confidence
If you slip
Be grateful for a pleasant trip.
And pick yourself up
Dust yourself off
And start all over again.”  

There’s another relevant wisdom that relates to resilience.  A phrase we’ve all quoted dozens of times lately: “This, too, shall pass.”

Thinking the expression came from the Bible, I looked it up to quote chapter and verse.  In fact, it’s not found in the Bible.  It originated in the writings of medieval Persian Sufi poets like Rumi.

In 1859, Abraham Lincoln referenced it in recounting a story…

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence… which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations.  They presented him the words, ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’  How much it expresses!  How chastening in the hour of pride!  How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

If Covid-19 has shown us anything, it’s how interdependent we are.  We sink or swim together.  The more careless we are about not wearing masks, breaking social distancing rules, touching our faces, the more of us will be jeopardized and lost.

Be consoled in these depths of affliction.  This, too, shall pass.  Please be vigilant.  Let’s not pass with it.

Want to hear it from Astaire and Rogers?

Want to see the whole musical? Amazon rents it for $3.99. Netflix offers it for DVD subscribers, but not for streaming. For the moment, though, we’ve got 2 minutes of the hit song right here …

Meditation, vocab and other productive ways to spend time during a pandemic

WHO CONVINCED ME NOT TO GIVE UP ON MEDITATION? Kenny Loggins.

I’ve seen reenactments of paintings, concerts from living rooms, funny memes and other clever ways  to stay sane and connected in a pandemic.  I’ve found another benefit of these long, lonely days at home.

A practice many discovered sooner, but that’s eluded me ’til now.  Current circumstances render it a lifesaver.

Over the years, I’ve tried to meditate.  I attended Debbie Ford’s program and remained “in silence” for a weekend.  I read Pema Chodron.  I listened to Dan Harris’ podcast on “10% Happier”.  Meditators claim the process makes them calmer, more attentive.  I’ve tried  it sitting in a chair and sitting cross legged on the floor.  I’ve tried it with a bolster pillow and without.  (This sounds like a version of “Green Eggs & Ham.”)

Nada.  I was too fidgety and impatient.

My sister Anne visited us in Sarasota about 10 years ago.  Singer Kenny Loggins, whom she knows from Santa Barbara, was performing that night at the Van Wezel.  We hung out with him in the afternoon and took him to the Ringling Museum.  He was pleasant but reserved.  He spent considerable time admiring and photographing blossoms in the Ringling rose garden.  He insisted on returning to his hotel before the performance for 2 hours of meditation; said he did so before every performance.  That night Loggins blasted onto the stage and rocked it with so much energy I couldn’t believe it was the same person. 

There had to be something to this meditation thing even though it didn’t work for me.

When I was in treatment for cancer, agonizing over my fate, friend and meditation coach Donna Rockwell visited.  She advised regarding thoughts as waves, letting them come and go, observing  how they arise and subside.  The wave image proved helpful over the years as I felt anger or anxiety and told myself: relax; it will pass.  But actually devoting time to meditation on a regular basis?  It was not happening.

One recent morning, I tried it again.  With no tee time, meeting or social reason to get up, I laid on my back and stayed in bed.  I focused on my breathing and let thoughts come and go and kept returning to my breath.  My mind felt like a playground, jumping from the swing to the slide to the monkey bars and back again.  Since it was morning (and my sleeping pill had worked), I was rested.  I managed to meditate for 20 minutes.  When I arose, I felt a little more light hearted.  The next morning, I tried it again.  My thoughts felt heavier, less playful.  The third morning, more peaceful.  Having now meditated for a week, I’ve learned a range of experiences is normal.

Appreciate what arises; don’t judge it.

(What makes this morning indulgence possible is the presence of Fayez, our good natured, strong and capable aide.  Because a side effect of Burton’s brain surgery was to shut down his left side, he needs help getting out of bed.   God bless Fayez—our angel, morning, noon and night.)

Whether or not my prone method is the proscribed approach, I’ll keep trying.  Rather than meditate the way that was recommended, the way I should, I’ll go with what works for me.  I seldom do well with shoulds.  One of the thoughts that came and went this past week was a memory of my prep school days and the note my parents received from head mistress, Miss Goodale.  “Susan would be a good student if she didn’t talk so much in study hall.”  Sounds like a should to me.

During this quarantine, I’ve also started learning new words.  Among them: escarpment: a long, steep slope separating areas of land at different heights.  And arrogate:  to take or claim to oneself something not justified (as in: I was once a champion golfer).

One more activity proved great fun.  Fayez (whom we affectionately call Faisal J) celebrated a birthday on Easter.  He had planned to go home to Detroit for the weekend.  Thanks to C-19, he stayed put.  I surprised him with a parody to the tune “We Ain’t Got Dames.”  I enlisted cousin Judie Koploy (in Detroit) and sister Anne Towbes (in Santa Barbara), both Faisal J fans, as part of my trio.  (Sister Anne can actually sing.)  We engaged in several hilarious  rehearsals.  Sarasota friend Phyllis Keyser, once an elementary school teacher, loaned me a kingly costume for Fayez and video’d the performance.  Fayez’s good friend Monica Wheelock (in Atlanta) facilitated our participation on Zoom.  Our performance was a hit with its audience of one.

Thank God if we had to put up with a pandemic, it happened in an era of Zoom.  (The wine I sipped with some of my Detroit besties last week on Zoom helped, too.)

Hope you’re managing to have fun, stay connected and make the most of this vital shut-in.  If you’ve come up with productive or creative ways to spend time, please share them.  And if you aren’t already doing so, do yourself a favor.

Try meditating.

Thanks.  Be safe.

Namaste.

Will Covid-19 change the way we think, feel and behave?

In times of crisis, prayer is my number one go to.  Number two: booze. These days the order is debatable.  Some clever posts have shown up on social media lately.  One begins: As a result of this crisis, 50% of us will become better cooks. 50% will become alcoholics.

In a recent column, Peggy Noonan wrote about the fact that with so many businesses closed, liquor stores remain open.  “…there isn’t a politician in the country stupid enough to prohibit alcohol in a national crisis.  They may know on some level that no nation in the history of the world has closed both its churches and its liquor stores simultaneously and survived.  Russia after the revolution closed the churches but did its best to keep vodka available because they wanted everyone drunk, which is the only way to get through communism.”

Amen to that.

ONE OF MANY IMAGES OF HOPE! From Left—Granddaughters Lindsay, Camryn and Alexis Farbman visit our lanai to wish us Happy Anniversary at a safe distance. social distance

Friends have been posting gorgeous photos of meals they’ve been making.  I look at them with awe.  Wishing I were at their table.  And I turn back to my crossword puzzle.  Or to whatever I’m reading.

I’m currently reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile –perfect for the moment as it deals with another of the worst periods in modern history.  In that case a visible enemy.  It examines 1940-41, years in which France capitulated, Britain suffered constant bombings and Churchill rallied his country (and eventually ours) to face down the Nazis.   After evacuating more than 330,000 Allied soldiers from Dunkirk on whatever vessels could be had, the P.M. used his epic oratory skills to uplift his nation.  .

“…Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.  If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward onto broad, sunlit uplands.

“But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.  Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and to bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Even before this pandemic I teared up upon hearing that speech.  As we stay home day after day, witnessing the toll this disease takes, it feels as though we’ve fallen into another abyss.  Hopefully we’ll be saved by an inspired and uplifting science.  By remarkably selfless and brave medical professionals.  And by the fight in which we’re all engaged—staying home, saying prayers, sewing masks, delivering food, donating money.

I wonder about the long-term effects of this pandemic.  What will it do to our values?  Our social consciousness?  To my favorite city in the world: Manhattan?  I read about a stunning new high- rise residential tower in New York.  Deposits were put down months ago on multi-million dollar condos.  A clause lets buyers walk away if the building isn’t finished by a certain date.  That date fast approaches.  Will more and more such buildings stand empty?

Shopping with girlfriends has been one of my favorite sports.  I worry about retail stores and malls, already challenged by Amazon.  Will in-person shopping decline?

Will the current ethos of stay home/stay safe/save money carry over?  Will it change our thinking and spending decisions?  And will that be bad or good?  Will religion and/or spirituality play a bigger role in our lives?   Will we become more altruistic and less self-centered?  Or revert to spending excess and monetary displays?

The free world roared back from the brink after WWII.  But I’m guessing we’ll emerge from this pandemic somehow changed.  More sober.  Less demonstrative—physically and financially.  Less flashy.  I’m a hugger.  My sister, Anne’s, an even bigger hugger.  She hugs strangers on first meeting them.  I hate to think of a hug free world, but casual embraces may be gestures of the past.   Even shaking hands is up for question.

I’d love to hear your thinking.  Will you go on a spending spree post-pandemic or will you rein in?  Will your behavior change?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog.  Thanks.

Meanwhile, stay safe.  And may we once more move forward unto broad, sunlit uplands.