Monday, September 26, 2016


Was the Pope's visit really last summer? Yes, but it seems like a different city now, a different world.

Did my husband and I, in our kitchen, watch the ceremony of Catholic mass, find ourselves praying along with Catholics for the ideas the Pope mentioned, more than mentioned? Yes, the Pope told us and showed us what was important by what he said and did, and we knew it was really of major importance -- that people of all races and different beliefs connect with one another.

Yes, his way of seeing everyone, making all the people who lined the streets, waved, prayed, called out to him -- the way he saw individuals touched us. The way he touched, kissed, interacted with children touched us. The way Pope Francis never seemed tired even after long long days in the pope mobile, or at churches  conducting rituals, touched us.

Yes, seeing this man starting out early in he morning and then seeing him at the end of the long day turning down the street and heading to where he was staying -- we knew he had to be exhausted. We watched for signs of weariness. We never saw Pope Francis weary.

Love. It was in the air -- his love for the old, young-- very small or odd-looking, crippled or plain regular folks -- he gave love, got love, we loved him, the streets, the crowds. We loved our city's love for this man.

Yes, we followed him as he fulfilled this schedule. 

Thursday, September 24
5:00 p.m. Arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
6:30 p.m. Evening Prayer (Vespers) at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Friday, September 25
8:30 a.m. Visit to the United Nations and Address to the United Nations General Assembly.
11:30 a.m. Multi-religious service at 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center.
5:00 p.m. Pope Francis Central Park Procession.
6:00 p.m. Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, September 26
8:40 a.m. Departure John F. Kennedy International Airport for Philadelphia, and a full schedule of meetings on Saturday.

Sunday, September 27
9:15 a.m. meetings with Bishops.
11 a.m. visit to Curran-Correctional Facility.
4 p.m. Papal Mass for World Meeting of Families.
7 p.m. visit with organizers, volunteers, benefactors of the World Meeting of Families.
8 p.m. departure for return to Rome 
Tears filled my eyes, and maybe yours when he departed.

The world we are living in right now, needs his spirit, the love he gave us -- love for each other, love for anyone with whom you interact. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016


It takes a very special person to win at the Olympics, and Ryan Lochte won 12 Olympic medals -- six gold, three silver and three bronze -- he is the second most decorated male swimmer in Olympic history with seven individual Olympic medals. He has been awarded the World Swimmer of the Year Award, and the American Swimmer of the Year Award twice, been named the FINA (International Swimming  Federation) Swimmer of the Year three times. Spanning the Olympics, the World Aquatic Championships, Pan American, and Pan Pacific Championships, he has won a total of  90 medals in major international competition, 54 gold, 22 silver, and 14 bronze.

Wow!  Gathering this information I thought "wow." Re-reading this, and re-checking punctuation before publishing this, I think "wow!"    

He learned to swim at age five. Both parents were swim coaches. Though his father occasionally kicked him out of class for blowing bubbles or hiding at the other end of the pool, in the Junior Olympics Ryan placed second. In high school, handsome and popular, he let it be known that he preferred basketball, skateboarding, and socializing with other boys and girls. Nevertheless, after graduating, he attended the University of Florida, where he swam his way to victory countless times -- was named North Carolina Athletics Swimmer of the Year twice, became a 7-time North Carolina Athletics Champion, a 7-time Southeastern Conference Champion, and a 24-time All-American.

No doubt about it, his background, his physical talent destined him to be a winner. 

His good looks and charm landed him on the cover of Vogue; on People Magazine’s 2012 "Sexiest Man Alive" list. That same year, he appeared on "30 Rock," "Beverly Hills 90210," and starred on the E cable channel, in his own TV show, "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" With his million Twitter and Instagram followers and more than 658K Facebook Fans, Lochte has gained impressive pop culture status outside the pool.

The drive to "win," plus talent, and his seeking and enjoying  fame and glory, has certainly made him a successful celebrity.

Dying his hair blue-grey for the 2016 Olympic Games, Lochte told USA Today, "At the Olympics I've always done the "grills," (the protectors swimmers use for their teeth.) I had to do something different so why not the hair? It's different -- that's me, that's my personality. People say, 'Oh, you're hiding your gray hair now that you're 32,' which is true, so I went full gray."

Celebrating his success in Rio, Lochte inspired shock and lots of headlines by claiming that he and three other Olympic swimmers were robbed at gunpoint by men who were impersonating local police. However, the Brazilian Police, watching surveillance footage, concluded there was no robbery -- the four swimmers, intoxicated, apparently vandalized a gas station's restroom and got into an altercation with a security guard who'd drawn his gun and demanded the swimmers pay for the vandalism.

The story dominated news headlines for several days. Lochte apologized in a statement posted on Instagram and Twitter in which he said: "I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend -- for not being more careful and candid in how I described the events of that early morning and for my role in taking the focus away from the many athletes fulfilling their dreams of participating in the Olympics."

New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Fox news, and NBC News, reporting about this apology, suggested that Lochte is not really very upset, and has never given a full account of what really happened. Meanwhile, Lochte has already lost four major commercial sponsors

Can swimmer Ryan Lochte turn around the stupid, wrong thing he did, and continue on as a major sports hero?

Here's what I think. I feel the child in this guy needs to make whatever he does front and center in everyone else's minds. Maybe, because I have some of that in me, and have had to let go of some of my big dreams in order to keep working as an artist, I find the needy child in him a bit repulsive and sad.

He's fascinating, but I can't say that I like him. 

Anyhow, I think we'll hear and see more of him. It's been officially announced that he'll be dancing in Season 23 of "Dancing With the Stars." Win or lose, Ryan Lochte will be appearing on television and even in films as the former Olympic Super Star, who can dance, sing, as well as be very cleverly charming. He's already hired Justin Bieber's former crisis agent to handle him.

Will he, as he matures, focus on things other than what he's been focusing on, most of his life?  I hope  so.  Right now, I don't see that happening to a guy who at 28, is still so focused on himself.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Emily Frankel asks John Cullum, her husband, what he wants people to think, when he walks into a room.

Does he want to look elegant, like a confident star, or relaxed, like a regular guy?

The Cullums picture and playact the various possibilities.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Today is the day I celebrate my mother's birthday. There's a green light glowing in her  brass candle holder. It's electrified, and sits on a shelf above my desk. The nurse, who tended Mom, during the last weeks of her life, sent it to me. I keep it lit night and day.

Throughout my life, Mom was always there for me -- it didn't take much conversation -- just "Mom, I've got a problem," or "Mom, I'm not sure what to do," or just "Hi Mom."  (I've blogged about her in "Night Light" -- 4/13, and in " Marching" --  4/17.)

After a head-on collision on the highway near Indianapolis, I was rushed to a hospital -- cut out of my clothes, temporarily repaired -- my small intestine had been severed by the seat belt, my facial injuries were extensive. Because I had a fever, surgeons postponed the major surgery that was needed on my back.

For the next three weeks, I was strapped to a Stryker table. The nurses turned it and me like a flap-jack, every 45 minutes. I couldn't sit up, or raise my head, or move any part of my torso, though I could move  my arms and hands. I lay on my bandaged stomach wounds, facing the floor, then lay face up with my injured back (at the waist), positioned over the padded hole in the center of the table.

My husband, John Cullum, and Mom arrived while I was still unconscious. He was in "1776" on Broadway singing "Molasses to Rum," playing the Senator from South Carolina. While I was being treated with antibiotics for the fever, the producer let him miss performances and fly to Indianapolis twice a week. The shows he missed weren't deducted from his salary. The cast members had a "kitty" -- money they collected to help cover the cost of the airfare.

Mom, who was recovering from a mastectomy she had a few months earlier, was with me every day. She got me large-size knitting needles, white yarn, and cast on thirty stitches, so that upside-down or right-side up, I could knit. With her encouraging me, I managed to make the first four inches of a scarf that JC, even now, occasionally wears.

The Doctors came in routinely, and tested my legs, arms, face as well as my private parts with a feather, asking, "Do you feel that?" Though I didn't feel anything, I always said, "I can march."

It seemed to cheer everyone when I said that. An orderly had told me I was temporarily paralyzed. Someone had murmured "partial paraplegia." I didn't have a dictionary, but if I had one, I wouldn't have looked up paraplegia or fracture. No one said "your back is broken" -- they just said that the lumbar vertebrae at my waist were "fractured."

It took all my energy to concentrate on minutes passing between pills and the hospital routines that had to do with food, toilet, bathing, combing my hair. I didn't ask for a mirror -- I didn't want to see what I looked like. Watching the clock ...  what a torture it was, staring at the second hand, watching the minute hand, waiting for the hour hand to move. Only after three-and-a-half hours had past, could I start asking for the pills that let me disappear for a while.

It was a orderly who noticed a reddish, swollen area on my arm. A sliver of glass, probably from the shattered windshield of the car, was removed and treated. By the next day, the fever was gone.

JC was onstage in New York when the two surgeons examined me head-to-toe with a needle, instead of feather. Frowning, one of them said, "Well, we can operate in the morning. The  other surgeon smiled, and joked -- "I'm the best bone fixer around town -- this is the hospital where we fix the racers from the Indy 500.  My friend here is a neurological specialist -- best in the country, figuring out nerve endings."

I tried to say something about marching. The way they were talking -- one frowning, the other smiling -- frightened me. They said ... maybe a year ... two years ... maybe five ... hope for best ... "Wheelchair" was mentioned twice.

After they left, Mom pulled her chair in. Squeezing my hand, she said, "Recovering from surgery is easier than waiting like you've been waiting. What you need to do is get a good night's sleep, and wake up strong, looking forward to the operation."

"Is that what you did, Mom?" She'd hadn't mentioned her mastectomy. I was thinking ... five years ... wheelchair ...  hope for the best ...  I wanted to say I don't want to live if I'm going to be in a wheelchair.

Mom spoke softly. "Don't think about what you fear. Try to give yourself to the doctors, dear, like you'd give yourself to a lover." She kissed me, and said it again, louder and very clearly. "The doctors need you to trust them, dear.  It will help them, if you give yourself to them like you'd give yourself to a lover."

I had never talked about lovers or my love life with my mother. How did my mother, married to my father -- for so many years the hard-working, faithful, adoring, good wife -- find the knowledge, the words, the wisdom to say what she did? And help me -- give me the command, and then, the power to look forward to tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Mom -- you gave me health, a body, resilience, a healing capacity, a powerful life force that's in my bones, my muscles, my blood, my skin, my pores, and you were always, always, always there when I needed you.''