Saturday, June 16, 2012


Em counts on John Cullum -- no matter what happens -- to handle emergencies.

Sometimes, when the Cullums go down the road for a spur of the moment vacation, and travel on dirt roads into deserted terrain, even when they're seriously lost, or stuck, and don't know what to do, John finds a way home.

They recall the night firemen on a cherry picker had to get them out of the 5th floor of their building.

The entrance was on fire. John calmly handled everything, even saved their dog.

The Cullums enjoy remembering, even though there was real danger.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


If you grab onto a dream, it will change your life.

In the picture, these girls look like a crocheted doily, suspended in blue space. What they're doing is the fulfillment of a dream they've been dreaming for many, many years.

"Synchro" -- that's what synchronized swimming is called. I've been reading about various teams preparing for the tests and tryouts -- their goal -- a spot, a scheduled performance in the London Olympics.

While swimmer Michael Phelps, runner Usain Bolt, and other well-sponsored athletes, are training tirelessly, Synchro gets very little funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). The Synchro teams have to raise the money themselves to get there.

If this water sport is your dream, what's involved is years of training every day, eight hours a days seven days a week.

It's a story I know.

Throughout the world, little girls, age ten or even younger, fall in love with water sports -- inspired, perhaps, by something they saw in a movie, or in a photo. Maybe they saw one of the Esther Williams films, and got hooked.

It's marvelous -- to find something, love something, passionately, and want to learn everything there is to learn about it. (I was five when I decided I was going to be a ballerina.)

A synchro swimmer has to learn and perfect"sculls" (hand movements used to propel the body); "eggbeater kick"-- (treading water), "lifts" and being the "flyer," (the one who's lifted), " back & front layout," "sailboat/bent knee, ballet Leg" -- and more. There's a long list of advanced water skills, requiring endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry, precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control. And of course, the swimmer has to know about diet, mental preparation, and stretching. (I used to read, sitting on the floor in a front split -- split-stretching is PAINFUL.)

Money is involved -- money for classes, training, coaching, outfits, transportation to the pool, etc. With the cost of using the facilities, coaching and equipment, it can cost upwards of $300 a week or more.

Most swimmers work part-time -- baby sitting, sales clerking, waitressing, house cleaning, hostessing, (menial jobs because they've been so busy learning all there is to know about swimming), and quite often, they do swim shows, fitting all these activities around grade school and high school.

In April, Team USA, passed the qualification tests in London. In a few weeks we'll be watching them during the London Olympics. Having looked at quite a few videos, aside from applauding their precision, I realize now that every single move these swimmers make -- arms, legs, feet, fingers, head -- everything they do, is fantastically perfect.

Here they are practicing before they get into the swimming pool.

Here are Syncro swimmers performing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The frequent photos and articles about Princess Kate evoke memories Di. One can't help but compare the smiling, confident, gracious Kate with Di.

Diana's death was shocking, and the reaction of the world to her being gone still continues.

I was channel surfing, restlessly -- I clicked on a pleasant voice talking about Diana, and saw a clip of her talking at a conference about anorexia and bulimia.

Instantly, I was riveted. She was so truthful, believable, poised, gracious and focused on the audience after she was introduced, focused on the children -- it was a clip about Diana raising funds for various charities -- we saw her focused on whomever she was helping, with her presence -- helping to raise funds.

Truthful -- in every shot an unadorned truthfulness -- nothing that was artificial, exaggerated -- simple truthfulness.

The tribute continued and went into a photo history of Diana before she and Charles were officially engaged, then her wedding, her honeymoon days, and official visits the Princess made with her husband -- Charles, invariably remote -- Diana always reacting to what was being said or displayed, relating to the other people and the situation.

The power of truthfulness -- the power of a person -- girl, boy, man, woman, old or young -- a person just being what he/she is. She was civil, gracious, and understanding, remarkably sensitive and intelligent.

Kate Middleton, Britain's new Princess, is civil, gracious, graceful, very much there, on the moment at the moment. Still, I squint a bit, I study her, I don't quite believe her. Maybe because that's all I've seen -- poise -- and I sense that she is very aware of the camera, the eyes of the world on her, and she is behaving impeccably well -- the way a perfect princess ought to behave.

Kate hasn't been in our lives for many, many years. We haven't seen her age, or change very much -- she was just a bit thinner for a while, which made us wonder if she was dieting. With Prince William, she behaves perfectly, looks quite perfect, smiles, waves, acknowledges everyone around her, always perfectly, and yet -- I don't think we've ever, not yet, met the real woman.

I like her. the world likes Kate -- and yes, I sense that she knows that, and that's an element too, that makes me study her perhaps a little too critically. My Lord, what she took on -- a family, a husband, a whole lifetime of royal behavior and tradition. She's working at it wonderfully well. She is lovely and graceful and bringing popularity, perhaps, back to the royal family.

But ...
I think we miss Diana because wasn't always perfect. She was what she was.


Sunday, June 10, 2012


It's a major problem in New York City, a big deal for Em--cars passing with giant, multiple speakers blasting, neighbors in the buildings on either side of our building.

One neighbor especially. He plays loud rock and roll when he's playing with his various bed-mates.

The fact is, the reason why the Cullums own the building they live in, is NOISE.

Em had difficulty rehearsing in her dance studio when neighbors were playing music. When John visited the landlord to discuss the rent, which the landlord had been raising every year, he asked what would it cost to buy the building.

And bought it.