Friday, February 13, 2009

Thanks Jennie — and Betty — for 35 Years of Friendship

I have a pen pal. Her name is Jennie and she lives in Tootgarook, Australia. And right now, I’m sounding a little bit like a second-grade kid standing in front of the classroom holding a piece of paper and explaining their homework assignment out loud. But that’s okay with me.

I was trying to write “25 random things” for Facebook and I thought, ooh, not too many people know I have a pen pal. I could write about that! And then I realized, ooh, I’ve never written about her in my blog, so I could blog about how I got a pen pal and all about our relationship. So I stopped the random things to work on this post.

The story goes like this: When I was 13, I went to a birthday party for a girlfriend from my 8th grade class named Betty Gostomski. But as my mom was driving me to the party, a really huge thunderstorm developed and because of the storm, only two girls, me being one of them, showed up at the party. So rather than do “big party” type stuff, we decided to just hang out in her room. I was laying across her bed flipping through a magazine — Seventeen, or Ingenue or something — and at the back of the magazine was this ad for The Friendship Club. For $1, I could send away for a pen pal and I got to choose the type of friend I wanted.

I asked for an English-speaking girl about my age. Within about a month, they sent me the name and address of Jennie Prosser from Lakes Entrance, Victoria, Australia. I wrote her right away and she immediately wrote back to me. I felt bad because she said that it took her years to hear from the Club, but I hoped that it was fate and our friendship was meant to be. It was.

Jennie was 16 and I was 14 by the time we started conversing. We have spent our whole lives together. She got married. I got married. She had three kids. I didn’t. Her husband died and I got divorced at the same time. She remarried, I remarried. She divorced. I divorced. I remarried. I’m now one ahead of her. : )

All this time — during the ’70s and ’80s — she didn’t have a phone, so snail mail was the only way we conversed. In the mid-’90s, when all the telephone companies started putting the phone books on the Internet, I found someone with a similar name in Australia and decided to pick up the phone and call. It turned out not to be her, but a few years later we started emailing back and forth. We completely dropped snail mail from our communication channels and began emailing quite regularly.

Then, about a year ago, I thought again about talking by phone and decided to ask her for her phone number. She emailed it to me, and I picked up the phone and called her. After more than 35 years, we finally got to hear each other’s voice on the phone, and all I could think of was, why did we wait so long?

While we were on the phone, we both got on our respective computers and went to Google Earth, and were able to see each other’s streets. That was incredible! From nothing but snail mail to a photo of the street she lives on while at the same time talking to each other on the phone! It’s like I was there.

A couple of days ago, my mother asked me if I had heard about all the wild fires in Australia and if Jennie was okay. I hadn’t heard about the wild fires so I immediately looked them up on the Internet. Then I went to Mapquest to see how close they were to her. Well on a microscopic map, they looked like they were right on top of her, so I emailed her to see if she and her kids were okay. An hour later I still hadn’t heard, so I picked up the phone and called. It was only 6 a.m. which is why she hadn’t gotten my email, but I just loved the idea that I could pick up the phone and talk to her any time I want to! And with the great long distance package I have, it only cost $3.72!

We still haven’t met yet. We’re hoping to be able to make that dream come true some day soon. But it’s amazing how technology has helped us grow our friendship. I’m very appreciative of that.

I haven’t seen Betty Gostomski since 8th grade, but I probably should look her up and thank her for 35 years of friendship, all because she invited me to her 13th birthday party. Friends like that — and like Jennie — you don’t forget. May God bless us with 35 more.

Now back to my 25 random things...

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Let’s Sign Into Congress a Paparazzi Law

I don’t believe in the ways of the paparazzi. I think there should be a paparazzi law which states that they have to stay 50 feet from any door or entranceway, such as a retail shop or a bar, or from a famous person’s driveway.

I think it’s disgusting how famous people can’t even get out a doorway or into their car and they have to fight their way through the streets.

If you want to take pictures, take pictures, but I think that blocking someone’s path should be illegal. I think it should be against the law to get within a certain number of feet of a specific establishment.

Now, if you happen to catch someone on a public street, in a park or on a beach, that’s a different story. If you’re in a pub and you can take a picture of them without a flash — notice I said without a flash — from a distance — notice I said from a distance — and you’re not disturbing them, then go for it.

But I can’t believe we don’t have laws about this already. I think it’s not only pathetic but it puts famous people in danger and that’s a violation of their rights.

Some would say it comes with the territory. But I believe there are ethical limits, and right now, no one is abiding by those limits.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Integration of the GRAMMYs

I was very impressed and touched by the GRAMMYs program this year -- in particular, the way they integrated various genres of music together throughout the entire night. It was as if they were trying to send a message that we are all one in the universe -- all brothers and sisters -- all equal in the eyes of God.

Keith Urban playing with B.B. King, Stevie Wonder with the Jonas Brothers, Jay Z with Coldplay, Sugarland with Adele. The message was loud and clear and yet so subtle.

Also on the subject of integration, I especially like the speech by Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy. He not only announced that Barack Obama was a past two-time Grammy winner for his audio books, which I didn't know, but he incorporated "yes we can" over and over again into his speech, and it was tasteful, not cheesy. He said:

- When it comes to pledging ourselves to the proposition that every young person deserves an opportunity to experience music and the arts in public school, our GRAMMY Foundation says, "Yes we can..."

- When it comes to providing a safety net for music people in need — any time…any place — our MusiCares Foundation says, "Yes we can..."

- When it comes to protecting a musician's intellectual property and the right to earn a living, The Academy says, "Yes, we can!"

I find it very touching how people have taken President Obama's slogan and made it their own.

It was, in my opinion, the best planned GRAMMY awards show I've ever seen.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

A word about A Rod

I’m glad that Alex Rodgriguez told the truth. I’m not happy that he took steroids five years ago.

Yet while everyone is responsible for their own actions, I feel the real blame lies on the baseball organizations that are willing to pay out these multi-million dollar contracts.

If I was paid millions of dollars over the course of a few years, I would feel pressured to perform too. And I might do anything I had to not to fail.

People like A Rod and Jose Conseco ruin the dream of baseball for everyone. I think the Major League Baseball Association needs to get tougher on steroids with a strict policy that anyone who tests positive is eliminated for the entire season. And I think random drug testing should be improved and the frequency increased. Perhaps, instead of urine tests, take a strand of a player’s hair, since drugs can be traced through the hair going back three full months, or through saliva swabs, like they do on Law & Order SVU.

The contracts issue will never change. The bar has been set and nobody’s going to lower contract fees for star players. But perhaps they should be structured differently so athletes are rewarded for doing their best and not for attempting to achieve goals at any cost.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.