90210MG! Or, everything I needed to know about life, I learned from Kelly Taylor

“I was always taught that if it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck!”
~Brenda Walsh, Beverly Hills 90210

I don’t know about you, but of late, my evenings consist of a lot of TV.  And by TV, I do not mean the news, or anything news related.  It’s not that I am apathetic, or prefer to remain uninformed.

It’s that I would like to be actually informed.  Instead, I feel like I’m watching a Saturday Night Live skit…..

Lasers?

Clorox and Mean Green on the rocks with a Tide Pod chaser?

Armed hillbillies protesting lock down restrictions….while wearing masks and gloves?

The Lt. Governor of Texas every time he opens his mouth….“There are more important things than living.”  

Did I see something about UFO’s yesterday?

Kim Jong Un is….??

A dog and a tiger have tested positive for COVID-19?

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WT Actual F*%k is happening?  I cannot even…and so I won’t.  Fortunately, I’m good at finding silver linings, so if this had to happen, at least it happened in the age of streaming services and DVR and On-Demand.

Can you imagine if this were the 80’s?  I can.  At my house, we would have been fist-fighting over the last can of Chef-Boyardee….on lockdown day two.  And even if there had  been anything to binge-watch on TV back then, it wouldn’t have been happening at my house.  My  mother would have for sure put her foot, or someone’s head, through our TV over a math word problem while screaming, “Fuck it!  You can just redo the third grade next year!”   

So, in the spirit of counting your blessings, I say again, if it had to happen, I’m glad it happened now, when my entertainment choices are many and my risk of losing a tooth in a domestic dispute is zero.

At this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched Downton Abbey and Victoria and all of the nature programs available through Disney+….when I’m in the mood for something that feels a bit more refined and educational.

The Office is a go-to favorite when I need something light that never fails to make me laugh.  And BTW….I blame Dwight Schrute….

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Also, to satisfy the beast that craves trashtacular TV, I’ve been watching the first few seasons of the various Real Housewives franchise.  Which, honestly, in its humbler beginnings….when the women weren’t obsessed with their D-list celebrity status and constantly screaming at each other during booze-fueled excursions….was actually a pretty interesting experiment that offered a glimpse into the lives of women living, working and managing families, in some of the countries wealthiest zip codes.

But there is one the program, above all others, that I hold most near and dear to my heart, the one I return to time and again.  The one that makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in the coziest blanket, nestled into the squashiest of cow-hide chairs….the OG….Beverly Hills, 90210.  

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The original show premiered in 1990, two days before my 11th birthday.  From the very first episode, I was hooked.

At various points in time, I wanted to be Kelly Taylor, Brenda Walsh and even Andrea Zuckerman.  But I only wanted to be Andrea in the earliest days of the show.

By the time the gang was in college, Andrea looked like she’d jumped from a just barely plausible teenager, to middle aged overnight.  I was like 13 by then, and so completely incapable/unwilling to be generous, or sympathetic, to the fact that she was a working actress fighting nature.

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And I never wanted to be Donna Martin.  Because honestly, WTF was up with her hair? I was no fashionista myself….I used to wear shorts with tan pantyhose and white scrunchy socks with glossy black shoes that had ribbons for laces….but hell, even I knew that whomever was managing hair and wardrobe for Donna, clearly hated her.

Anyway, over the years, whenever anyone from my past said something like, “You turned out all right….all things considered,” I joked that it was thanks to my parents; Television and Books.

But in fact, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

When I was lost in the world of Beverly Cleary, Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal, Judy Bloom and Harper Lee, I was learning valuable lessons about life and family and relationships and the real beauty of being a kid.  Lessons that weren’t always available to me at home.

The same was true of television.  The Tanners, Seavers, Mr. Belvedere, Alf and the Walsh family especially, helped me navigate through my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

I often emulated the characters I saw on TV.  I used their lines and facial expressions and mannerisms and I adopted some of their goals and achievements and hardships.

It wasn’t unusual for me to borrow scenes, or whole story lines I would attempt to pass off as real and belonging to me.  Like the time I told kids at school that I had 8 brothers and sisters named Marie, Cindy, Wendy, Connie, Sherry, Melissa, JR and Harvey and that my dad was a gym teacher named Graham.  (Just the Ten of Us)

And I was forever trying to replicate the stylish students of West Beverly High School.

In the early days of 90210, I bought a pair of round eyeglasses at a dollar store that looked like the pair Andrea Zuckerman wore.  I insisted they were prescription lenses and that I lived in an apartment with my grandmother, because my parents lived out of district.

Eventually, I stopped lying so blatantly, but I never gave up the fantasy that I could somehow morph into Kelly Taylor, but also be a Walsh.

On my first day of junior high, I wore a pair of red, plaid shorts that came with a matching blazer and enormous shoulder pads.  I paired the short suit combo with a black, sleeveless, turtleneck, and shiny black pumps I found at a thrift store.

I looked like a pee-wee football linebacker in high heels, but I thought the outfit looked like something either Kelly or Brenda would have definitely sported on a night out….and OK, I may have insinuated that the outfit came from Rodeo Drive and not the seven dollar clothing store.  But whatever, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As I got older, I knew that from a fashion perspective, I would never come up to snuff with the likes of my idols. I lacked the acumen of a designer and the finances of someone who could afford a designer.  But, I could forever remain a mega-fan who, once a week, lived vicariously through the impossibly hip inhabitants of the Walsh House and the Beach Apartment.

For ten years, I was there for every romance and broken heart.  I watched as the cast morphed from high school students, to college students, to adults building careers.  I rooted for them through the hard times and I celebrated their successes.

I grew up right behind them and I watched closely as they dealt with topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders and complicated relationships with parents, friends and significant others.

And through it’s various storylines that tackled all those really relevant subjects related to adolescence and young adulthood, I learned to make my way through my own; I honestly did….however theatrically and dramatically.

In case you aren’t, like me, a rabid, would totally dominate a 90210 themed Jeopardy episode with questions related to the most random factoids like:

Answer:  Karen Brown Mulligan.  Loving wife of David.

Question:  What was Steve Sanders biological mom’s name and what was written on her tombstone?

You might not know that 90210 got a reboot last year and briefly returned to television.  It was a moment I had been anxiously and excitedly, (overly and unnaturally), waiting for since the announcement the cast was “in talks,” began circulating many months before the official announcement.

Before the premier of the reboot, I rewatched the final episode of the original show, specifically for one of my all time favorite scenes; the very last one.  Many of the original cast members are dancing in a circle to Kool & The Gang’s Celebration at the wedding of Donna and David.

As the camera begins to pan back, Luke Perry raises his arms, with a huge smile on his face, and then pulls in Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering for a hug.  Then the entire cast joins in the embrace.  It’s been nearly twenty years and the scene still makes me tear up.

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So, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had my heart set on a reboot that picked up where the original left off, just twenty years down the road.  But alas, the show went in an entirely different direction.

Instead of finding out what happened in the lives of Donna, David, Kelly, Dylan, Brandon, Brenda, Andrea and Steve since we’d last seen them, the new concept was designed to be a show within the show, as the cast played exaggerated versions of their real life selves.

I wanted to love it, I really did.  But, I didn’t.  I get what they were trying to pull off, but for me, the approach lacked the nostalgic escapism my adolescent heart was hoping for.

I wanted to see the beach apartment again and the Walsh house and the Peach Pitt.  I wanted the show to take me back to a time that felt simple and sweet.  Back to a world before smart phones and social media and reality television and faux celebrity.

Fortunately though, thanks to syndication and streaming services, the show lives on in its natural state and right now, I need reliables.

I don’t know anymore what tomorrow is likely to bring, but I know that with 100% certainty that tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that, (at least so long as the shit doesn’t really hit the fan Walking Dead style) that there will be BBQ’s and parade float building at the Walsh house.  Someone will definitely order the Mega-Burger at the Peach Pitt and it’s just a matter of how long I can stay up before it’s time to celebrate another summer at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.

And you know what else?  It might have taken a global pandemic and twenty-years since the original show went off the air, but I think I might have become a 90210’er after all….

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Silver linings….

 

 

 

 

The Old Church Pew….

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
~Psalm 119:14

Directly across the street from Ground Zero in New York City is St. Paul’s church.  An Episcopal church that was built in 1764 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan.

On September 11, 2001, as the towers fell, the church stood its ground.  Not a single pane of glass in the sanctuary was broken.  Not a single headstone in the cemetery was damaged.  Only one tree fell; a giant sycamore almost a century old.

In the days and then months that followed, St. Paul’s served as a relief site for emergency workers.  It stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight months, providing food and rest and a sanctuary for moments of silence and prayer for hundreds of firefighters, police officers, volunteers and other rescue workers.

In 2006, I visited New York City with a group of girlfriends.  We hadn’t specifically planned to visit the site where the Twin Towers had once stood.  It had been less than five years since the attack.  The New York City Medical Examiners office had only recently ceased their efforts to identify remains.  And we didn’t want to be tourists there.

But one afternoon, as we were walking around the city near Battery Park, we ended up close to the site.  Though, it really couldn’t be missed.  The size of the devastation was staggering.

Then, we saw St. Paul’s church, perfectly intact, stoic like, defiant, amidst so much destruction.

It was clear the church was open and so my friends and I made our way toward it.  We walked around the grounds for a while and then we entered the chapel.  Inside were dozens of displays and memorials honoring those lost in the attacks.

After walking the perimeter of the church, we took a seat in one of the pews and a woman approached.

“See all these markings?” she asked, pointing to the large scrapes that rang the length of each pew.  “Those were caused by the boots and belts worn by emergency personnel who came in to rest.”

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I ran my hand along the markings and was overwhelmed by the weight of what those pews had held.  They had served as a place for so many tired bodies to rest and refuel….and for tired souls to pray and hope and cry and rage.

Sitting in St. Paul’s that day, I thought about the hundreds of people from New York and all over the country and all over the world, even, who had come into the chapel in the wake of September 11.  Many religions and faiths were represented in that church, as well as non-believers.   And they sat alongside one another, united in grief and fear and disbelief and anger and hope and love.

It always seems that in the immediate wake of a tragedy, we see the best of humankind.  Strangers helping one another, consoling one another, praying together, making sacrifices for each other and so on and so on.  And we do it regardless of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.

I think that when it matters most, when we are called, really called to be good humans, we answer the call.  We rush towards those places and people who need us to help in whatever way we can.  Some rush directly to the front lines to offer their skills, others rush to places of worship, or into groups/organizations that are lending their support from afar.  We rush to family and friends.  We organize and we pray together and we just be together and we embrace one another, strangers and family and friends alike.

I was in college on September 11,2001 and later that afternoon, as we students wandered through the day in a dazed fog, I remember being in the dining hall that was unusually quiet as we picked at our food, going through the motions.  Then, another student whose name I didn’t know and still don’t know, stood up and said,“Would anyone like to pray with me?  

And we did.  The dining hall full of students, believers and non, stood and we held hands in a large circle.  He led a very short prayer, followed by silence, in which we prayed across our own denominations and faiths and beliefs.  I wasn’t sure if I felt God in that circle, but I certainly felt a steadying and comforting energy as I shared that intimate moment with people who were otherwise just passerby’s in my life.

A year or so ago, I purchased an old church pew from a large, beautiful church in a small rural town in Maine.  The church had been sold and was being renovated into a mixed use space for the community.  I wandered the aisles of the church inspecting the pews, all of which were still affixed to the sanctuary floor, until I found the one that spoke to me.  Then, I brought it home.

The story about those pews in St. Paul’s church had stayed with me and I loved the idea of bringing something into my home that I think represents a part of what makes us great; the coming together for a shared purpose or passion.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been again watching as New York City, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US, suffers.  This time though, we’ve been watching from our own communities that are also under siege and we can’t rush anywhere.  Not to one another, or to the places that feel familiar and safe.  We can’t congregate to hold one another up and together.

The comforting energy created when we are able to be together, that urge to connect with touch (a hug, a pat on the back, a handshake, a handhold) is palpable.  Our impulse to rush is as innate as breathing and in our most desperate moments we are, for each other, like those pews in St. Paul’s chapel; holding one another up, offering one another a place to rest.  Together, we help carry the weight of our collective grief and anger and we share our hope and joy.

This experience has left many, myself included, feeling disconnected and alone, even in homes where we aren’t technically alone.  I’m fortunate to be isolated with my husband and our son, for which, I am incredibly grateful.  But still, I miss the casual connections that tether us to community and the broader experience of being a human.  Right now, it feels as though my small family and I are an island of our own.  It feels tenuous, fragile.

In what was normal life, I am as introverted as a person can possibly be, but I have come to realize, in all this, how deeply connected to people I actually am.  How simple, natural, day to day interactions with strangers and friends and acquaintances and neighbors…. interactions I was never even fully cognizant were happening….have always been tiny little strings connecting me to an enormous community.  I’ve come to understand that although I have often said, I enjoy being alone, I need alone time….I have rarely been truly alone.

Of course, true to our nature, we are finding new and beautiful ways in all this to rush to one another, to hold one another up and together.  However, I don’t think anything can replace what happens when we are able to literally close the distance between us.

I hope that when this is over, we have a greater appreciation for one another in every way.  I hope we are softer and gentler and more patient.  I hope the slowing down of life gives us a fresh perspective about what it means to be alive and a part of something far greater than just ourselves.

I think it would be a shame if we simply fell right back into the exact same lives we lived before we were given this opportunity to stop and reflect.  Yes, opportunity.

Because I do think there is room, in all this madness, to consider that it includes a gift or two….

Is it just me, or is it starting to feel a little Hunger Games/Children of the Corn Out There?

Dr. Burt Stanton: I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with C.
Vicky Baxter: Corn.
~Children of the Corn

Not too long ago, like, last week, but I can’t be certain because time has ceased to be a tangible thing in my household….I was confusedly reading headlines that declared Trump wanted the country reopened and “raring to go” by Easter.

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I smell collusion….

Anyway, he seemed fixated on getting people back to work and church pews packed for Easter Sunday services, virus be damned, as he compared the Coronavirus to the seasonal flu and car accidents; “We lose thousands and thousands of people to the flu.”  He said.  “We don’t turn the country off.  We lose much more than that to automobile accidents.”

Of course, later, came the damage control.  “The President knew it was more wishful thinking than a realistic goal.”

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But the fact of the matter is that his words sends too confusing a message as we all struggle to make sense of what’s happening, what it all means for our families, our finances, our economy and how long it will last and even, how serious it is.

I’ll admit, we get tiny moments of what feels like real leadership from the man, but those moments are quickly followed by immature Tweets applauding his television ratings as though Covid-19, 2020 is the hot new show.

Would anyone like to bet that when this is over, he either Tweets, or says at a press conference: “Coronavirus.  You’re fired!”

Meanwhile, almost everyone else….medical experts, my state government, many other state governments and the leaders of other countries….are simultaneously directing people to PLEASE continue to stay home for the foreseeable future.  They are announcing extended school and non-essential business closures and stricter shelter in place/keep your ass at home, or so help me God, orders, etc.

Most everyone, that is, except for Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who more or less said that grandparents, himself included, would totally be willing to die to save the economy.

Specifically, he was quoted as saying:  “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in. My message is that let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living.  Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70+, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”

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I asked my in-laws who are self- quarantined in Florida who, pre-Coronavirus, were loving life as retirees after having worked and scrimped and saved their entire adult lives in order to be able to comfortably enjoy their golden years, if they were ready to be rounded up and dropped into a volcano or something….so that I can go back to experiencing Target the way God intended and not this, curbside pick-up, but only essentials, (none of which are fun) crap….to which they replied, more or less, “Fuck that.”  (I’m paraphrasing….they never say the F-word).

Personally, while I appreciate Dan Patrick’s willingness to take one for the team….I really do….I feel like he’s perhaps not thought this sacrifice all the way through.  By “take care of our ourselves” is he suggesting that all those who are elderly are planning to just go ahead and, like, die at home should they become ill?  Maybe, slink off like cats to die somewhere discreet and out of the way?

Because, I’m not sure it helps anyone for our elderly to take up that shitty death march if they are also going to want medical treatment as they go about the process of dying.  I mean, isn’t that one of the key points of social distancing at the moment?  To try and control/slow the spread of this disease so as not to completely topple our already overwhelmed healthcare system?  They need time to better understand this new disease, to create treatment protocols and, hopefully, a vaccine.

But as it stands, there isn’t enough PPE to go around, physicians and nurses and support staff are getting sick, some are also dying….and that’s with current social distancing guidelines in place and sort of being adhered to.  Imagine the crisis if we all just said, “Eh, I’m over this now.  Let’s go back to work!” 

And what about the millions who are not 70+, but who are undergoing cancer treatments, or people with underlying medical conditions, like my 8yo niece who has cystic fibrosis?  Are we saying, let’s go ahead and let nature takes its course?

I’m no economist, but a survival of the fittest, Hunger Games style approach to moving on doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to instill confidence among consumers.  Especially since it potentially means eliminating millions of them. Unless, our economy will now focus entirely on the production of Hazmat suits and face masks and THAT will be our new normal.

Instead of Lilly Pullitzer for Target shift dresses this summer, it’ll be Lily Pulitzer for Target full body bio suits and for the rich, Louis Vuitton face masks.

I feel like Kanye West already has a leg up on that idea with his Yeezy line, no?  Maybe he is some sort of profit after all?

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Fortunately though, it appears that our fearless, orange leader has walked back his Easter goal. His most recent statements and his recommendations regarding the extension of social distancing guidelines suggest he’s no longer got the date of the Biblical resurrection in mind for America’s economic resurrection.

I’ve read it’s because his advisors told him his statements weren’t doing him any favors toward re-election, but I bet it was really because someone thought about it for a second and said, “Oh shit Mr. President, you do realize that the majority of our political leaders, THE PATRIARCHY, are all old, white guys, right?  If we start to go, all that remains are surviving minorities and women and those damn, ambitious millennials.”

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 (Yes, millennials, all this rhetoric about them being the one’s hosting Coronavirus parties and drinking from communal beer bongs on Spring Break is misplaced….it’s Gen Z you want).

Maybe it’s not such a bad way to drain the swamp, actually….do a little reset?  Seems that Gen Z would be all in.

While the Boomers are busy yelling at the Millennials to stay home….and the Millennials are like, “Shut it Boomer, I’ve got four kids and a mountain of student loan debt and I’m always at home because I have no money and it’s all your fault,”….and the Gen-Xers, like myself, the OG latch-key kids, are currently reliving our childhoods; home, bored and forgotten….Gen Z are like the Children of the Corn, or maybe, Quarn….

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A large percentage don’t seem to give a crap about the rest of us, as they flaunt their possibly super-powered immune systems at Coronavirus themed parties with DJ’s and bartenders, while the rest of us are opening our mail with tweezers and sanitizing our groceries with black market Purell and trying to figure out how to build decontamination chambers in our garages.

They just shrug and say, “I’m not giving up a $10.50 flight to Toledo….gotta Spring Break somewhere!” 

It seems no matter how we implore them to please, for the sake of nana, STAY HOME.  They seem to be saying, “Screw nana, what’s she done for me, except destroy the planet?”  

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I’m afraid that if we don’t figure this out soon, our first female president may end up being Kylie Jenner and most of us won’t get to vote, because we don’t know how to use Snapchat.

I’m sure the parents of these little Isaacs and Malachis are doing their best. Quite frankly, it’s unfair that these “kids” are too old to ground, but not old enough to be kicked off parental provided health insurance, but I don’t know what the answer is.

However, I did read an article yesterday, an April Fools’ Day prank, but still….that suggested a possible solution.

The gist of the joke was that in Greece, the PM had turned over the power of enforcing quarantines and issuing permits for approved outings to the women of Greece….in response to the announcement, a “Petros Kakavas” from Peristeri, Athens was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if I will ever see the light of day.”

Because, ladies like this, mean business….

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I have a friend who is Italian.  His nonna is about the closest I’ve ever come to knowing a mob boss.  She isn’t literally a mob boss, but she seems to instill the same amount of fear.  One DOES NOT disobey nonna.

Perhaps this is what we need?  All those culturally stereotypically mean moms and grandma’s out there, slapping these little bastards around.  It could work…something has to give, right?

Stay sane and stay home, folks….or, at least, stay home.