Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rita Lakin, mystery writer

I discovered Lakin's books at a book fair, and was intrigued by their fictional detective and location. Gladdy Gold is a 79-year-old retiree in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she lives in the Lanai Gardens senior apartments. She is so full of Yiddish sass that Lakin includes a glossary for those unfamiliar with the bits of that language that remain in some spoken vocabularies. Her crew of sleuths include her sister Evvie Markowitz and Ida Franz. These are not soft-spoken elderly ladies, which can be a problem when they encounter nearby residents like Hy Binder, "man of a thousand jokes, all of them tasteless" or his thought-deprived wife. The population also includes care takers, Holocaust survivors, leches, and Cubans in various roles. The humor is often Borscht belt as the ladies deal with finding killers. At the same time there is the underlying reality, the bittersweet reminders of daily troubles the elderly either triumph over or submit to in less satisfactory ways.

What is this series doing in this blog? Lakin is a longtime Californian who still resides here. She had a successful television career, both as a writer and eventually as a producer. She wrote many movies of the week, and has won a variety of awards, including the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award for mystery writers.

So you have a mother retired in Florida? Here's what to send as a mitzvah to give her a dose of the best medicine, lots of laughs. Ok, she may kvetch back, but just roll your eyes and keep quiet. Of course, read the book first for your own pleasure.

Rita Lakin also has a blog, and a new book about to come out, Growing Old is Tres Dangereux.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Barbara Rosenblum

A much-beloved woman in my music world is dying. We sang under her direction recently and she had difficulty completing the concert due to pain. Watching her these past weeks has brought in mind Barbara Rosenblum. She was the kind of friend I expected to grow old with. I imagined us, gray-haired, bad knees, laughing about the night she gave me some really bad-trip weed. Or how she would put on a Fats Waller record and we would dance around her Bush Street living room, the propeller on her beanie a-spin.

We met as novice sociologists at a woman's group. She had managed an unfortunately short-lived job at Stanford and lived in SF. Coming from the east, as I did, we were sympatico from the start. I was a single mom, and she lived with a sweet Japanese photographer, David, who taught me to surf fish. We both shared a fascination with photographs in sociology, and Barbara's first book was on professional photographers. Her home was a welcoming respite during some hard times for me, both for her intense intellectualism and her wild sense of fun.

We were less in touch when our personal lives shifted. She shifted into a gay life style, and I was unhappy with one of her choices for a partner. We had some fights, good ones, that we eventually got over. Then I remarried and she found Sandy, the kind of opposite that works so well in building a solid relationship. In her forties, Barbara was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. She remarked that she guessed she would have to teach the rest of us about dying, which she did with abandon. She travelled, she continued her intellectual and teaching life. The last time I saw her, I took a portable microscope and tiny flowers for her to study. She was honest to the end, and kept all of her friends informed of her condition. I still miss her, over 25 years later, and regret we can't wonder over the latest political morass.

She and Sandy co-wrote one of the best books ever on intimates dealing with a fatal disease, Cancer in Two Voices. It won some awards, but I don't think it remains in print. Find a copy if you can.