Saturday, February 17, 2018

Oh my", and if those word don't date me, nothing will ...!

But nothing short of "cool" can describe the turn life has taken over past week, but "Cool" is a near miss, even when I capitalize the first letter.

On Monday it was an evening of book-signings (my first) at St. Marys College in Moraga hosted by Sharon Sobotta, executive director of the Women's Center there.  On Tuesday Bob and I drove to KPFA-Pacifica FM station in Berkeley for a taping with Cat Brooks (wonderful interviewer!) of an hour-long talk for UpFront programming.  On Wednesday it was Paul Chambers of local Channel 2 (our FoxNews) who came to my apartment with his cameraman/editor to film a piece for their Black History Month programming. Thursday's assignment was a telephone interview with a delightful young woman for the Audubon Society.  Then came Friday that was jam-packed with interviews -- first NPR's Forum with Mina Kim followed by televising a piece for KQED's Newsroom with Thuy Vu (even more beautiful in person) after a meeting in the mirrored makeup room where I fully expected the first step would be sand-blasting, but that proved useless so we settled for the usual applications of potions and dips into exotic tiny pots of various creams of tints and colors applied with brushes of all sizes and shapes by the ultimate professional (who turned out to be from Richmond) -- a fascinating process.

There's something about that ritual that is a reminder of the child, Betty, playing dress-up in my mother's closet and dressing-table; interesting throw-back to a time of innocence ... .

Following the Newsroom taping was a Facebook session with Thuy that was unexpected but manageable since I'm so far beyond being taken aback by almost anything that I've begun to appear non-plussed (always loved that word but never needed it before).

Being a D-List celebrity is beginning to hold fewer surprises now than before, and that's good.  Having a chronic dry mouth takes some getting used to but having rushes of saliva that threatens to ooze from the sides of your mouth when you're being filmed in Hi-Def TV tends to make one plussed!

When the filming was over and we found our way to the elevator for the descent into our normal reality for the drive home in the usual rush-hour traffic it all began to feel surreal.  The drive was relatively uneventful except for the stop at home to pick up my forgotten wallet, then to the supermarket to re-stock foodstuff.  I was surely overdressed for the checkout line but being in civvies, I actually attracted less attention than when in uniform.

After a day like that one would think that I'd surely be waiting to see the public appearances, wouldn't one?  Not so.  Came home and changed into my pajamas (in the middle of the day!), propped myself upon pillows -- turned on the idiot box to watch the Olympics, the goings-on in Washington, and today's antics with our Leader of the Free World, eventually dozed off for hours and missed Newsroom.  Dorian telephoned to say that she'd seen me on the TeeVee -- that's when I remembered ... .

I then dug my I-Pad out from under the blankets where it had been stashed, located NPR's Forum in the archives, listened closely, and was pleased.  Later I may watch Newsroom, but I really much prefer to just do the pieces then move on.  Watching myself is something I prefer not to do, and I haven't the vaguest notion just why that is.  Listening to myself hasn't the same effect.  Crazy, right?

But in the listening, I believe that I done good!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Is Makers a game changer ... ?

Bob, my son and manager, has been warning me to be prepared for my life to become more complex than ever with the publication of Sign my name, but despite his attempts at preparing me for this, the effects are almost overwhelming ... .

The moment my on-stage interview ended and I was backstage being detached from my microphone, Dyllan McGhee, founder of Makers rushed back into the hubbub of behind-the-scenes calling out excitedly as she entered, " she's trending equal to Hillary!"  I had no idea what this meant, except that it was surely something special in this world since I was aware that Hillary Clinton had been last year's honoree and at a time when she was a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.  But what on earth did "trending" mean?  This was a familiar term from the world of social media, but it was not something that I'd ever had to concern myself with before now,  so now that it mattered, I realized that I had no idea what it meant -- yet here it was being applied to me.

It was clear that this was BIG!  Hollywood BIG!  Maybe even national BIG.

After being de-miked I left backstage and took my seat back in the audience to a very different atmosphere.  Something new was in the air.  I must have hit it over-the-fence, whatever "it" was, and suddenly everything was lighter as if the room had been filled with helium.

I suddenly became aware from looking at a monitor just below and beside the stage upon which the text of everything in that space was being streamed throughout the nation, that it wasn't just the 400 attendees that I'd just appeared before, but also an unseen audience of countless others who'd been witness to what was occurring in this room.  The full implications of this reality hit me with the force of such ferocity that I took my seat in silence while all of this settled in to fulfill Bob's warning.

Things would now be different than before.

This was the future that I'd grown into, that had grown out of the work that I've been doing over the past decade.  This was where it was all leading to.  But why at such a late hour, and at what cost?

Is this what it's like to be discovered by the World?

... but it would certainly be great to have my old hair back ... maybe I need to buy me some.  Nah.  There are just so many follicles to a lifetime, and I've apparently used mine up.  Wish I'd paid them the proper respect while cleaning my brush.  To think that I just scraped them out with my comb and flushed those precious strands without a second thought.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Yup!  Here I am at the Universal Studios in Hollywood ... .

Upon arrival after the long drive from LAX we arrived at the studio -- drove past vaguely familiar buildings of various historic periods -- easily recognizable as stage sets from movies seen long ago, to a series of trailer villages where the Hallmark shows are shot.  It all has a temporary feel to it, as much of Los Angeles has had for me over visits over time.

There I was ushered into my green room, comfortably furnished with two sofas, a TV monitor, hanging space for change of clothing.  After a time guided to the make-up trailer where several specialists were waiting to transform and "youth-ify" those of us in need of such, and -- in time -- onto the set for the taping of my segment of the Hallmark Home & Family Show.

All the while, my chauffeur had been waiting, and promptly at three he magically materialized for the trip to Hollywood and the Makers Conference.

But first there was check-in at the London Hotel(!), and I have never nor will I ever again know such luxury!  My suite (most of my Richmond condo might well have fit into it) consisted of the most luxurious bathroom on the planet, the king-sized bed area, then a sitting room looking out over whatever part of Hollywood we were in -- had reached the London Hotel somewhere along the legendary Sunset Boulevard.

My limo lined up behind the others waiting to gather in their temporary clients (me being one such), and the thought ran across my mind that I'd never seen this many luxurious chariots in one place before, and that this hotel must be filled with many more of the 1% than the likes of me.

Took the elevator to my suite on the 5th floor and gasped as I entered into my designated space for the next 72 hours!  WOW written in italics and followed by 50 exclamations point is the understatement of the year!  And here I was without my cellphone to record it for later savoring back in my ordinariness. It was here that we met Luciano, our limousine chauffeur for the entire time of the Conference.  He would pick us up (granddaughter Alyana and me) each morning promptly at 7:30, deliver us to the proper venue where we would spend whatever time in "Neverland", would wait for us, wait at each site until time to deliver us back to the London after events had ended in the evening.  Can you imagine?

I'd invited Alyana, who is attending UC Irvine on a 4-year scholarship and in her senior year, to share the Makers experience.  We had a great time in our borrowed celebrity status that would be fleeting for me, but that might be a great beginning for a neophyte communications major where she would be exposed to the highest level of "makers," women who were the leaders in their fields.  Her heroes were here to inspire, and who knows where this glitzy adventure might lead?

For a young student of color who is studying in the field of media -- to be in the presence of the celebrated screen director, Ava DuVernay, was a gift to be envied, and something this grandmother hadn't dreamed was even a possibility, yet here was that gift in this world where dreams are finally attainable.  What a magical thing ... .

But by far the most meaningful time for us both proved to be in the later hours -- after the noise had died down -- after a day of ogling and nudging one another constantly as we encountered more celebrities than we'd ever seen gathered in one place -- and we were in our fancy hotel suite in the very first deep grandmother/granddaughter conversations we've ever had.  In Nana's words,  "we got past the "how's school/how's work" stuck place and into the deep grownup stuff like "what if I told you that I might not ever want to marry," and "have you ever had a lover, Grandma?" (of course!).  It was a bridge crossed from which we'll never retreat ... and how memorable it was for us both.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

What a time ... .!

After an uncomfortable and tentative live interview on FoxNews, and a less than satisfying experience on the Hallmark Home & Family show (through no fault of my gracious hosts) I arrived at the Noya Center in Hollywood for the Makers Conference, "Raise your Voice!" and it all came together magnificently.

Prior to the announcement that I'd been chosen as this year's honoree by this hugely successful women's organization, Makers was unknown to me.  I'd suppose I might blame that on my having gradually but definitely begun to drop away from all those causes and issues that are outside the parameters of the National Park System.  My work with the NPS has truly become all-consuming, and as that aspect of my life rose to dominance, all else except my immediate family has begun to fade into the background.

You'll want to know that past recipients of this great honor has been such illustrious women as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, and last year's presidential candidate and former First Lady Hillary Clinton.   One might well ask (as I did) "why me?" which remains a mystery to this day, but these days I question not.  I just show up to watch what happens!

 On Monday morning, February 5, I arrived at LAX and promptly lost my cellphone.  I made my way to Baggage where I was to be met by "ground transportation" (that I assumed would be Uber or Lyft) identifiable by someone standing there holding a Soskin sign.  Got to the lower level thoroughly confused and feeling old and irrelevant (despite all) and looked for my phone and discovered it missing.  Went to Lost and Found to report it having been left on the plane so that it could be retrieved before the next departure ... nothing.  No driver holding a "Soskin" sign.  No idea what to do or whom to call since all of that information was stored (of course) in my phone.  The driver could not reach me because he only had that number.  Decided to stand out at the curb in that impossibly busy terminal and just wait for someone to claim me.  What else does one do under such circumstances?

In my active imagination, I must have wandered between known worlds for perhaps 15 perilous minutes -- which seemed like hours -- until unknown forces took over and the Universe righted itself.  It was great to learn that this even happens in Hollywood.

After gradually subsiding waves of panic, a stately uniformed limousine chauffeur rose magically at my elbow, rather tentatively,  holding out a cardboard sign with Soskin printed prominently on it before a thoroughly addled old woman sitting on her luggage with a vacant stare.  I was completely outclassed by this setting, and felt it,  and by his courtly manner, it was clear that he knew but was willing to play the game.

Temporarily (as one does in such cases) I cast eyes heavenward and praised the God that I tend to believe in only under such circumstances, otherwise I'm agnostic, of course.

We crossed into the garage -- where such elegant machines are parked for brief periods -- and my driver  whom by now I realized spoke with an exotic foreign accent ushered me into the luxurious back seat with the darkened windows to protect anonymity for those needing it, and we were soon on the infamous L.A. freeways en route to the Universal Studios in Burbank to tape the Hallmark show from twelve 'til three.

I sat in that posh limo feeling completely out of place, out of character, and wondering (embarrassingly) just how I would get through the rest of this day, this conference, this City without any idea what, who, why, etc., with no itinerary, agenda, no cell phone to guide me?

How on earth could this organization of brilliant young women have wasted their "honorations"  (and, yes, I know that isn't really a word) on someone so stupid and careless as this year's honoree?  Besides that, these brown age spots were really going to show through the makeup, and would they notice that my eyebrows (having disappeared along with the rest of the time-limited hair follicles) were non-existent, and I wasn't always certain that I'd applied the pencil where it should have been drawn ...).

But those insecurities only lasted a few hours before the world got back on its axis and JOY! (yes, joy in italics) began to reign!

More later ...