Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Over the hill... and mid-year passages

So whom will Barack Obama pick for his vice-presidential running mate?
According to my inside sources, who are very close to Obama, it will not, I repeat, will not be Hillary. That may be a disappointment for many Clinton fans but I was told to take a look at Governor Schweitzer of Montana (a pro-choice cowboy endorsed by the NRA), as well as Kansas’s guv Kathleen Sebelius who has, apparently, “been mentioned.” Time will tell.

Ojai Music Fest Marks 62nd Year
This past weekend, I went, as usual, to the Ojai Music Festival for some life affirming music under the oaks in Libby Park.
It was a weekend of musical events — and even a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” with full orchestral accompaniment — but one historic performance sealed the deal, as they say, just as last year’s performance of Charles Ives’ Piano Sonata No. 2 “Concord” had done for this listener. It seemed more appropriate to bow in prayer rather than clap and cheer with the crowd after the stirring performance of composer Steven Reich’s “Daniel Variations,” a most memorable piece based on the life and death of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.
Bravo and thanks for this musical bonbon.
I did not attend all the concerts as planned. I was distracted by quiet contemplation as well as friendship. I spent the weekend as the houseguest of my dear friends — the brilliant author and lyricist Gene Lees and his generous, gracious, and equally smart wife Janet (who also can cook up a storm) — listening to Hillary Clinton’s historic speech together, chatting late into the night about many of the couple’s famous and infamous friends, watching Frank Sinatra on KCET, arguing about politics, and agreeing about most everything. At the age of 80, Gene Lees, who seems to have met and/or written about everybody in the jazz world, is finishing his 20th book, a biography of Artie Shaw.

June Musings
The year 2008 approaches the halfway mark, and in a way, the month provides a midway checkpoint. Traditionally, June is a time for weddings and graduations, new beginnings and rites of passage. It harkens the end of spring and the beginning of the lazy days of summer, which will end much too soon.
Today, I will celebrate the “How did that happen so fast?” high school graduation of my elegant young friend, Gabriela “Super Model” Rosales and her classmates from Laguna Blanca School. I look forward to congratulating the little girl who grew up so quickly on her transition from high school senior to freshman at Vassar.
I will also be proud of the graduation this weekend of my dependable, talented and bright UCSB intern, Ashlee Flores, another beautiful young lady who should easily flower into her new role of adulthood and working life. I will miss our weekly Thursday afternoon lessons, which also passed too quickly.
I will be joyous about June weddings, especially that of soft-spoken Nathanial Kunes, a computer whiz at Citrix, and his bubbly fiancé, Natalie Lopez, a wonderful 4-C nurse at Cottage Hospital. Their nuptials will be just one of the many happy unions of two people in love this June, both straight and gay, who move into another chapter of their lives as married couples.
Yet sadly, during the first half of this year, I have marked the deaths of many dear friends, including that of my pal of three decades, John Varner, whose graveside funeral last Friday drew hundreds of friends to say a last good-bye to J.V., as he was known, and to support his strong and loving family.
Montecito’s Pied Piper lured many to join his cheerfully led life before fighting, and eventually losing, his valiant fight against cancer. John will be remembered for his unbridled enthusiasm and memorable laugh, and for never forgetting to remind us of the transitory nature of life, which grabbed him all too soon from its clutches.
Unbelievably and surrealistically, three of John’s close buddies, Charlie, Eddie and Tim, also passed just before him, leaving his wounded tribe mourning more deeply than imaginable.
But these and others, as well as the rest of us, must make way for the new ones, including the latest addition to our family, who entered the world last week: my third cousin Olivia Lorraine Lloyd. Welcome, beautiful baby girl!
With death comes life; winter turns to spring, spring shifts to summer.
Turn, turn, turn.
I’m watching another dear friend valiantly fight cancer, just as we have all supported so many soldiering against this terrible, insidious disease. I pray for his comfort and for the comfort of so many others. Yet, in this friend’s struggle, I witnessed and felt the most palpable presence of pure love between him and his mate, a wonderful woman he has shared his life with for more than a decade. This rare experience occurred over dinner preparations in their kitchen, of all holy places.
In darkness, there is light.
I have a best-laid plan until it is my time to pass.
I will gratefully and happily watch the children of my neighborhood run loose as school lets out at Summerland School for summer, and join in with their infectious laughter. When the skateboard wheels whiz past my house, I will shout, as usual, from my upstairs window to the newest lot: “Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” I will continue to be amazed that the kids next door, and down the street and up the block, have miraculously grown another few inches taller like the weeds in my garden.
I will be grateful for every day, every friend, and every good bite of food and sip of good wine.
I promise to cherish each day of good health and every second I am afforded on this planet, to enjoy this experience we call life, even if the price of gas has skyrocketed.
As my friend Janet Lees said to me, “I’m not going to let the price of gas get me down.”
I will heed the crickets’ song each night. A happy, brief song, that ends at dawn. And that, my friends, is life this June: comings and goings, births and passages, good-byes and hellos, between the joy and June gloom.
Carpe diem and here’s to a happy summer.

Leslie Westbrook can be reached at

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