Sunday, March 11, 2012

Let's All Just Love One Another

What a week it's been. My mother marked her thirtieth day at Baptist Hospital with a ride to a nursing home where she'll spend another couple of weeks in intensive rehab. My dad and I spent the day on Thursday trying to find the right place for rehab, and despite being told that the one she wanted was full, she still managed to get into Wisteria Gardens, her first choice. And all is right with the world...
That done, I felt comfortable leaving town for a night. My neighbor/friend, Phyllis, invited me to go on an art-run to Fairhope, Alabama for her fabulous art gallery. I had been to Fairhope with her before, for the annual art show there, and fell in love with the town. I was ready to return! We stayed with her friend, Stephanie, and her two precious children. 
Friday night the three of us went to Faulkner College in Fairhope to see a documentary made about Pulitzer prize winning author Rick Bragg. 

According to Wikipedia, "Bragg worked at several newspapers before joining the New York Times in 1994. He covered murders and unrest in Haiti as a metro reporter, then wrote about the Oklahoma City bombing, the Jonesboro killings, the Susan Smith trial and more as a national correspondent based in Atlanta. He later became the paper's Miami bureau chief just in time for Elián González's arrival and the international controversy surrounding the Cuban boy. Bragg won the Pulitzer for his work.

Bragg has authored five books: All Over but the Shoutin, Ava's Man, The Prince of Frogtown, I Am a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, the authorized biography of American POWJessica Lynch, and The Most They Ever Had."

As is the case most of the time for me, when I meet an author and hear them speak about their work, I'm more motivated to read their books. The documentary was great, and I learned so much about Bragg's life and writings. We read "The Prince of Frogtown" in our book club, and I admit, it wasn't one of my favorites. But after seeing the documentary, and hearing Bragg speak, I'm ready to read "It's All Over But the Shoutin'," followed by "Ava's Man," and yes, "The Prince of Frogtown,"  again. The books are memoirs--true stories--centering on Bragg's life growing up in northeast Alabama. 

I got a little more background on Bragg from our hostess, Stephanie, who actually dated him several years ago. She hadn't seen him in ten years, but he knew who she was the moment he saw her. 

Here's Stephanie and Phyllis, hamming it up at the book signing:

Getting away, even if for one night, is a good thing. A change of scenery, new adventures, and quality time with a dear friend is all good for the soul. Our trip to Fairhope wasn't the only fun thing Phyllis recruited me to do. Earlier in the week, we made a visit to Beth Israel Temple, where we enjoyed their production of "Oyklahoma." No, I did not misspell it. 

You see, while most of my friends are observing Lent and preparing for Easter, my friend, Lisa Palmer, was celebrating the Jewish holiday of Purim. What is Purim, you ask? I had to look it up myself. Purim, which literally means “lots,” is the holiday in which Jews commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire. According to the Book of Esther in the Bible, the Jews of the city of Shushan were threatened by the villain Haman (BOOOOOO!), a prime minister who convinces the King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews (because the Jewish Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman). Haman casts lots (hence the name of the holiday) to determine the date he would carry out his plan: the 13th of Adar. In the end, the Jews are saved by the heroic Queen Esther, Mordecai’s (YAAAAY!) niece (and adopted daughter), who married Ahasuerus (after he banished his first, rebellious wife Vashti). When Ahasuerus discovers that his wife Esther is Jewish, he decides to reverse Haman’s decree, and instead of the Jews being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies are killed instead.
Each year, Beth Israel congregation presents a Purim spiel, or play, with a different theme, but it tells the story of Purim in a way people can understand. This year, the theme was a takeoff of the play "Oklahoma," starring my friend Lisa as Esther Laurie (kind of an Ado Annie character, if you are familiar with the original play). 

It was an audience-participatory production, and we were each given noise makers when we arrived. Here's mine:
Every time the narrator said Haman's name, we were all supposed to BOOO and fire up our noise makers. When she said Mordecai's name, we all cheered.
My favorite song was "The Persians and the Hebrews Should Be Friends." The takeaway from the play is that no matter our heritage or other differences, we are really the same. We are all just people, and worthy of each other's love and respect. Nice.

With Mama settled in at Wisteria Gardens, and Nicole back home (she spent a week in New Orleans as an extra in a couple of films and a television show), it's time to focus on work. Luckily, I've got lots of it right now. 

Blessings to all who read this!