Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mainlining Magic: Family Take on a Family TV Show

When I started watching the popular TV show Blue Bloods, I never imagined what a cherished family memory this show would eventually stir up for me.

In case you're not familiar with Blue Bloods, here's a snapshot.  The show's title comes from the fact that it depicts a New York Irish-Catholic family that is cops and law enforcement to its core.  Grandpa was police commissioner until he retired; Dad is the current NYC police commissioner; one son was a cop killed in the line of duty; a second son is a chip-on-his-shoulder-for-bad-guys, take-charge homicide detective (married, two pre-adolescent boys); the younger son (still single) is a fairly recent Harvard Law graduate who abandoned the legal profession to become a street cop; and the daughter (divorced, mom of a goody-two-shoes high-school student) is an assistant district attorney (or "ADA").  The program invariably ends over the family’s Sunday dinner, where words of wisdom gleaned from the episode are shared—seasoned with a bit of Catholic faith and tradition—synthesizing life, love, justice, and family.  The show is called Blue Bloods because cops are uniformed in blue, and, for this family, the blue is essentially running in their veins.

Fast-forward to a recent episode in which the ADA-daughter is caught in the line-of-fire in a courtroom drama and taken hostage by the criminal defendant in the case she is prosecuting.  After a lot of scary wrangling, the other unfortunates in the courtroom are set free; but the criminal knows he’s got a goldmine, and he holds the Commissioner’s daughter hostage.  Negotiations progress, with the detective-son taking charge.  As suspense builds, the police prepare to meet the demands of the criminal. A bag of money is collected, a chopper is brought to the courthouse environs, and the detective shows up to deliver the ransom and collect his sister; but he runs into a hitch:  the criminal doesn’t trust anybody and promises, instead, to deliver the sister in Cuba after the chopper lands.   

Detective-brother is not happy but tries to talk his way out of this seemingly unacceptable arrangement (sister is, of course, very attractive, and the criminal is given to leering looks). Nonetheless, brother soon realizes he's out of bargaining chips and negotiations are over. He drops to his knees, presses his hands together, and says, softly, “Dear God, please protect our family.” 

The viewer is touched by the poignancy of the moment but totally surprised when the scene quickly ends with  ADA-sister falling to the ground, detective-brother firing a fatal shot at the criminal, and the siblings running to each other like they were on either end of stretched rubber band suddenly released, embracing in a hug that won’t quit. Cut to the commercial.

Sighs of relief are audible in our livingroom as the commercial plays on our TV.  My husband says something to indicate that he knew things would come out OK, but I pose the question immediately:  How did the ADA know to duck?? Then the answer hits me like the proverbial ton of bricks, but you’ll have to bear with me for a bit longer, so I can give you my context. 

Rewind now to my childhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  My father was the inveterate entertainer.  His props consisted of a carefully acquired set of those Magic Store tricks that you could pick up for a song.  He used the tricks to regale his numerous children.  These were simple gadgets—like a set of two, three-inch rollers on a plastic stand into the front of which you'd feed a blank piece of paper (as you now feed a dollar bill into a cash machine at the grocery story) and, magically, out the back would rolls a real dollar bill that my dad, always with a straight face, would wave in the air to “dry the ink” before we could touch it and verify its authenticity. These tricks worked like charms, and my father was deft at fooling all of us at least once.  His applause was our amazement;and he beamed as he collected his due before bringing us in as accomplices on the 'magic'.

These gadget-based tricks were fun, but there was one trick that belonged to the entire family; we called it 'The Wizard.'  This was an ingenious card trick that can’t be performed anymore because our culture and technology have made that impossible. In those days, we had a corded telephone, someone was always home, and everyone was in on the trick.  It worked like this:  Imagine that I am the absent family member, I'm about 14 years old attending a pajama party with a gaggle of girlfriends.  I tell them that I know a Wizard who can guess any card they pick from a deck of cards. No one thinks I can do this, but everybody had a deck of playing cards in those days, and it doesn’t take long for someone to choose a random card. 

Let’s now suppose that my girlfriend chose the nine of diamonds.  As the girls circle around, I call home; and, when the phone is answered, I politely ask to speak to The Wizard.  This is the cue to the family member who answers and then slowly runs through the names of the card suits “”  As soon as the chosen suit is named, I interrupt with “OK, yes, I’ll hold.”  Then the family member starts naming the numbers on the cards “ace, deuce, three, four...” until I hear the ‘nine’ and interrupt with “One moment, please.” Now, I ceremoniously hand the phone to the person who chose the card, who then hears an eerie voice repeat  “niiiine of diamondsssss, niiiine of diamondsssss...”  until the phone is hung up in amazement and to the amazement of my girlfriends who strain to hear through the receiver.  It worked every time.

Fast-forward, once more, to the episode-ending family dinner on the TV show Blue Bloods.  A family member reveals that the line “Dear God, please protect our family” is the signal to hit the ground in an emergency; and the children learn the secret family code along with na├»ve viewers like my husband.  

But I knew how it worked because, in my family, we’ve got magic running in our veins.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Boulder Flood Story

We are in the epicenter of the Boulder Flood of 2013.  We feel very lucky, indeed, as the storm seems to be subsiding (again) at last. There is no basement under our home, which eliminated the primary source for water damage in our area.  We do, however, have a crawlspace in which our furnace sits, so we were not totally free of risk.  So we were somewhat complacentwhen our first scare came on Thursday afternoon.  I noticed water pooling up next to the foundation aside our electric meter on the north side of the house.  There must have been six inches standing there--maybe more, I am not certain.  My ability to estimate was surely hampered by the crisis milieu in which we found ourselves.

We put on our raingear and dashed out.  First, we attempted some futile shoveling and sweeping to remove the water.  Failing at that, we then pulled paving stones from hardscape around the yard and set them where the water was pooling up.  We don't have gutters on that side of the house, which was probably causing this pond to form in a place that was threatening the house.  After setting up our makeshift stonework, we placed two of our 3.5 foot trash bins under the eaves to catch some of the water.  The bins had to be emptied every 20 minutes, if you can believe that.

Feeling a bit more comfortable about the north side of the house, we went back inside to watch the every-increasing river flowing down both sides of the street and up our driveway on the south side of our house. My husband decided that his car--parked on the street right in front of the house--was diverting the water up toward the house.  He wanted to move the car into the driveway.  He went outside to do that but returned five minutes later, saying he could not walk across the 'river' that was spilling onto our property.  It was about 5-feet wide at the gutter, covered the sidewalk, and was now inching its way up the driveway.   Point of reference:  We are less than a block from  overflowing Bear Creek shown here:
Still concerned that we were making matters worse by having his car parked on the street, he asked me to drive him.  From the driveway to the front of our house.  And that's what I did.  And it was frightening.

My husband moved his car past the river and into the driveway and we sandbagged the driveway (with a few bags of compost that I had, left over from gardening during the spring/summer months).  It seemed to help but we weren't positive.

Point of reference #2:  - neighbor carried two blocks by floodwaters coursing down city street.

We felt safer and went back inside, adding another set of wet clothes to the growing piles.

Friday, April 5, 2013



May, 2005

Driving by that first vernal forsythia,
I know I should be on foot for the full rush of this much gold.
Blazing like the fiery peak of love’s first impression,
It shines saffron against a western periwinkle springtime sky.

I regret having none of my own, and vow to set one in before the planting season ends in summer’s inferno blast.

But on the way out and back I am busy, and I remember, too, the quiet green that takes over in two weeks’ time, sooner if we get those winds ―warm Chinook or frigid Sirocco,
Or a hold-over winter storm prematurely tumbles these luscious petals that cannot bear the wet weight of inhospitable snow.

I recall, as well, the comfortable quiet unremarkable verdure that lasts all summer
And into autumn,
Like love worn dull with the passage of too much time and too many quarrels.
And I decide, once again, to pass them up and wait instead for awesome clusters of the purest yellow to surprise me with their intense glory as I ride past my neighbor’s homestead, come next April.