Aug 112010

June Gloom 2010

It’s 9PM.  I am sipping wine, in my newly and finally cleaned and organized backyard, trying to shake off weariness, depression, sadness.

It is June 2010.  The Gulf of Mexico has been ecologically raped. The oil is gushing.  The American people have been screwed again.  Big time. Natalie Holloway’s suspected killer is finally behind bars and a second grader in Oregon has gone missing from INSIDE of his school.   My lovely seventeen year old daughter has just returned from a full school day called EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES where the school stages a car crash caused by drunken drivers and enacts all that goes along with the events.  Students play themselves in the real situation, replete with blood and screams.  The whole community participates.  I am talkin’ fire and police departments – Jaws of Life – it’s intense.  Tomorrow they will stage a memorial using the real parents of the real kids who have “died” and bring in real parents of real kids who HAVE died from drunken driving.  It is SO effective and she is SO affected and so grateful for her life, her choices – me. I knew she’d be freaked out so I made her guacamole (her favorite) and let her watch TV.   I picked her up with her thirteen-year-old sister who got to see the crumpled crashed car prominently displayed on the school’s front lawn.  I was dropping off my thirteen year old at temple for her last religious school class of the year.  I even baked cupcakes for the year-end party.  There was a holocaust film being shown and the parents were invited but I couldn’t face it.

The thirteen year old’s best friend came to our house after school until the party.  I drive them there on Tuesdays and her parents’ bring them home – a good carpool.  The friend had no homework and was playing computer games on her phone, inadvertently distracting my child who HAD homework AND chores (which she never wanted to do).  When I had to bring this focus issue to my child’s attention, my child became a bit rude and disrespectful towards me, so I brought the friend home suddenly (she lives around the corner).  She said no one was home but she was fine for the ninety minutes until I picked her up for the class party so I did some food shopping and when I returned home there was an email from the mom saying her daughter was locked out and I left before she got in and she would never leave MY daughter before seeing her in.  I am so embarrassed. (Her dad came home and let her in) I’d never done that before.  I never took off before seeing the child get in the house.  Never.  I am losing it.   I have turned into one of those single, totally overwhelmed harried moms I used to feel sorry for when I was married and my only jobs, which I struggled with but excelled at, were raising my girls and running the house.  And I still felt overwhelmed,  But. I didn’t have to provide, and do everything like I do now.

I think about how overwhelmed can feel different as I sip my wine while the oil gushes into the Gulf and the search party continues for the lost Oregon boy.

I thought again of the mom who chastised me – and rightly so – for leaving her child before she got in.  There are two of you, I always think, and only one of her.  She – the mom who chastised me, is seemingly happily married and they appear to have the kind of partnership necessary for successful parenting and family life.  The kind of partnership I always assumed I would have.

There is one of her and two of you.  There are two of them and one of me.

It has been six years since my husband announced he was leaving and I discovered his secret life, gambling addiction and financial rape of our family.

Five years since the divorce was final.

Four years since he got fired.

Two years since he OD’d and tried to kill himself.

A year and a half since he moved to another country.

Seven months since my mother died.

And the oil keeps gushing.

He – who has more issues than the Mid East – is far away and although he tortures me regularly with emails and demands and refuses to acknowledge his responsibilities, it is still better that he is away.

I should be happy.  My girls are thriving, healthy, kind, smart, beautiful, talented, traumatized yes by what happened but I have managed to kept them in our house and in their school and I do take pretty good care of them.

Someday they will get it.

I am fifty-three years old and have stopped trying to get a job after four years of trying in this terrible economy.  Yes, I have stopped trying to get a job, despite an insanely out of touch (female) judge ordering me to “go to Macy’s and get a job”.  Yeah, sure – that fast track to the cycle of poverty – yeah – that’s the ticket for me!  I don’t need a job.  I need a career.  Between age discrimination, maternal profiling and my previous careers (not in retail Judge if you would look at your papers!) as an actress and years in the now decimated record business first as an administrative assistant – working for Presidents mind you – and then as a promotion and marketing manager with my OWN assistant, turns out I am not hirable, I am not marketable.  Sure my three-page resume is very impressive but still.  Granted, even I was shocked at how hard it was.  After four years of sending out hundreds of resumes – with personalized cover letters – I got approximately THREE interviews; one for a sales/marketing position as part of a cattle call – and TWO with Temp Agencies.  Can only imagine how I did on the “skills” tests.  Never heard from any of ‘em.   I could handle the humiliation if I could get hired.  The only jobs I got – and there were several – I got through networking or my own initiative, and were part-time, low paying – no benefits – led nowhere and were SO exploitive!  So.  I have created my own career.   As a Cultural Herstorian.  An Herstorical Entertainer.  Yes.  Let it sink in.  It’s good isn’t it?  And, when I am not absolutely terrified, I am absolutely thrilled and passionate and so excited and encouraged and mentored and supported  – people love it – in this endeavor.  I’m doing really well, I tell myself, for now, taking care of my girls, my home, working so diligently and so hard on my career, our security, my future.  I intend to be in control of my own financial destiny – never ending up as a drain on society.  Divorced mothers and women make up the largest poverty segment in society.  Always have.  And always will with Judges like I had.  I think of Tina Fey and how smart she is and what I heard on the last episode of her hit TV show 30 Rock – a line tossed off by Kenneth, the NBC Page who said, “I feel about as useless as a Mom’s College Degree”.  She nailed it.  So true, so pathetic. So shameful.

But I am so weary.  And enraged.  Yes I am weary AND enraged.  That’s what a great multi-tasker I am.  So weary of the news.  Of the BPs and B of A’s and the scandalous amounts of money spent on voter campaigns. So beaten down from mothering and fathering and negotiating and nurturing and worrying and dealing.   With details, and dinner, chore charts and consequences, camp forms and college apps, doctor’s appointments and education funds, bat-mitzvahs and driving lessons.   It is exhausting, keeping us healthy and insured, and just being available for the constant comfort and reassurance they so desperately and ferociously need.  “Can I have a hug”?  My lovely seventeen year old daughter, struggling and succeeding through high school – asks me that every day – sometimes every hour and I feel so guilty because sometimes I rush right through it and she feels my impatience to get on with it.  It.  Survival.  Yes surviving in a house where I spend so much time dodging hormones.   And of course, I – like most mothers, am on the receiving end of their confusion and rage and resentment and fear.  “I hate you Mom!  I hate it here!  Why can’t I have texting and a Facebook account, and my own email like all my friends” screams my blossoming and brilliant and hurting and typical thirteen year old.

Natalie Holloway’s mother would love to have my problems I tell myself and I immediately feel ashamed of my private whining and want to hug and hold my precious children tight tight tight.

I think of the gals I research and write about from the past few centuries  – with their thirteen kids and complete and total lack of rights – they didn’t even legally own their bodies –  bodies that were forced into organ crushing and breath-taking (literally) whale bone corsets.  I even resent having to wear a bra.

I look around and sip my wine as I sit in my beautiful backyard so weary and enraged but happy to have a few moments to myself – not responding or listening to anyone or anything, ignoring the girl’s who I hear inside shouting at each other, thinking about the garden I want to plant with food so I can live off the land, planning, scheming as I have been for years, how to hold on to the house, and keep them healthy and in their school.  Faith.  My necklace pendant says it.  When I have it, I can imagine and do anything, and everything I plan seems possible.  When I don’t – and this night I don’t – oh.

I probably just need a hug.

Amy Simon

Mar 262010

Amy is brought in by Pacifica Radio Archives (  to comment, contextualize and make relevant these three recently unearthed Women’s History Radio Dramas recorded in 1959.

So I’m in The Dance Store, with my about to be bat-mitzvahed daughter, setting up her mitzvah project (mitzvah is a good deed).  Her project is gathering used dance items for the less fortunate (HER idea).  So my cell phone rings.  It’s Donna, my producer and friend and from KPFK Pacifica Radio where I host Motherhood Unplugged, a radio show I do sometimes.  She says “Amy, I have a few questions for you and if you answer them correctly, there’s a prize”.  “OK”, I say, feeling proud of my daughter and up for a challenge.  She continues; “I’m here with Mark Torres from the station’s archives (Pacifica Radio has an incredible archive) and he wants to know if you know who Lucretia Mott it?”  “Are you kidding?  And I go off on a cool Quaker, ordained minister, huge influence on Elizabeth Cady Stanton Lucretia Mott rant.  “How about Angelina Grimke?”  “Of course!” I respond.  I LOVE Angelina Grimke – and go off on another rant about how she and her sister Sarah were these ballsy Southern Women who stood up to slavery, were turned out of their hometown and on and on until she interrupts me with “how about Margaret Fuller?” Margaret Fuller, Woman In The Nineteenth Century is the seminal feminist – she cuts me off and the next thing I know I am asked to come in and work on this project called American Woman, Fact And Fiction, a fourteen part radio theater series written and performed in 1959.  They needed someone – an expert – to put it all into context and make it relevant.  Hello!!!!  This baby’s got my name all over it!  In I go, cds I get, listen I do and wow!!!  Check it out.  REAL theater on the radio, profiling LOTSA my gals!!  I got six, thirty-minute programs, coupled to make three shows.  They are labeled:  Anne Hutchinson Colonial Women the first show, Lucretia Mott and Feminist In Early 1800s is the second show and Margaret Fuller (written as Feller) and Suffrage is the third show all airing on Pacifica Radio Archives.   (In Los Angeles it airs weekly on Thursday nights at 11PM)  I had a blast (and spent A LOT OF TIME) working on this.  Written by a woman – Virginia Maynard in 1959, narration by a man and so very 1950s in tone and presentation, the plays within – and there are all sorts of re-enactments with lots of really good voice actors  – are really something!  It IS theater on the radio and I LOVED IT.

So take a listen.  It’s cool.

From the Vault: The American Woman, Part 1

From the Vault: The American Woman, Part 2

From the Vault:  The American Woman, Part 3

Mar 242010

Gloria Steinem & Amy Simon

Oh Gloria!  Gorgeous, glorious warrior Gloria.

She is….SO lovely, SO gracious, SO cool and SO warm, petite and strong.  Oh Gloria.

Yes.  I met Gloria Steinem.

I went to a fundraiser in Beverly Hills for WRRAP – Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Program, a really wonderful, really important organization – www.WRRAP.ORG – an organization Gloria has worked with for years.

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So there we were in a beautiful, spacious and oh so tastefully decorated Beverly Hills home, donated for the evening for this fabulous and worthy cause.  There was wine, there was shrimp, there was the news truck – and there was Gloria. I only had eyes for Gloria.  I had a physical reaction to being that close to such an icon.  My heart started racing, I lost my appetite entirely, and I did what I always do when I get really nervous or excited.  I made bad jokes.  Luckily, my memory was affected because I don’t remember what I said.  I only remember what I heard, which was Judith, who works with WRRAP and is a friend of mine say “go and meet Gloria”.  My face flushed and I literally started to tremble.  I was there with my friend Wendy, Wendy Hammers (formerly Wendy Kamenoff), fabulous female and stand up comic who also works with WRRAP and has hosted many of their fundraisers.  So off we go, we get in line to meet Gloria who was being courted if you will be everyone.  We patiently waited for our turn  and when we were introduced Gloria looked me right in the eye and put her hand on my arm, seemingly really pleased to meet ME!  Then Wendy told her about a fundraiser years and years ago in New York City at Caroline’s Comedy Club that she had hosted with Gloria and Gloria totally remembered the evening saying “oh yes, that was for The Revolution Party” or something to do with revolution.  I only heard Revolution and immediately thought of the newspaper Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony ran for years back in the eighteen hundreds so I interject with “oh was that named after the newspaper Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony started”?  She just looked at me confused, and said, “what do you mean”.  And as the words left my mouth I realized I was subconsciously or unconsciously showing off my knowledge of women’s history and I stumbled around a bit explaining myself until finally she saved me saying “yes well we just needed a revolution” and I of course mumbled something stupid about how we still do.  Then I shut up and stepped back to let others bask in her Gloriasness and had a big glass of wine.  But I remained – and remain – absolutely high from the meeting.

It was so wonderful being in a space with so many dedicated and socially conscious people.  After a while, Joyce Schorr, WRRAP’s President and the other Board Member made a few speeches, reminding us all why we were there, extolling Gloria’s many virtues and relating some stories and recent statistics of the seriousness of the situation of women’s reproductive rights.  A story was told (and forgive me the details might be a bit off) about how long ago Gloria ended up on a panel or commission of some sort when Roe V. Wade was passed and it was a bunch of men, a bunch of nuns, and Gloria.

Finally, Gloria spoke (see and hear her glorious speech here) starting out with the fact that she was celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday and had just returned from San Francisco where she was asked if she was ready to pass the torch.  So Gloria says, “that is a very patriarchal view.  There is not one torch.  WE ALL have a torch and we all can light our own way.”

Oh My God.

She went on telling stories about African and Indian Women, reproductive rights, choice, choice, choice, Feminist architecture, and saying more and more brilliant things such as “feminism is memory” and charming and inspiring the hell out of everyone.  There was a Q&A after and I put my two cents in about how I am raising two daughters who would never consider being female as a drawback of any kind, mentioned Victoria Woodhull and then asked her about the ERA.  Not looking so good according to Gloria.  And after she spoke, we all lined up to pay homage to her and she is so accessible and gracious and present.  Women had books they brought for her to sign (Darn!  I didn’t think to bring mine) but WRRAP had loads of the January Issue of MS. Magazine on hand so she signed mine.  When it was my turn, I told her about She’s History! And the play I am writing about Frances Wright (“you and I are probably the only two in the room who know who she is” I say and she nods), Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Victoria Woodhull.  She says “All of them in one play”?  I nod.  Then she told me there were two Broadway musicals about Victoria Woodhull that never got off the ground.  I am stunned.   I had no idea.   I have since researched and of course she was right.  There were actually loads of scripts about her that never happened.  One of them had Madonna attached and apparently Tom Cruise bought the rights of another for his then wife Nicole Kidman.  That was a nice gesture on Tom’s part. So back to Gloria with whom I “chat” a bit more about Victoria Woodhull and like everyone else, I end up gushing about what an influence she has been on me and blah blah blah.  She continues smiling graciously, and once again, I step back and allow the rest of her fans to enjoy her Gloriasness.

So.  That’s my fabulous Gloria story.  I have a picture, a signed magazine cover and the memory of an evening I will never ever forget.  And I hold in my heart the knowledge that I touched greatness and greatness touched me.  And I hold a torch.  Gloria’s torch that I intend to use to light my way.