Dark Shadows

Roses with notes
The flowers may die, but the music lives on. -www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Inexplicable sadness swept over me when I read last week about the deaths of Kate Spade and of Anthony Bourdain. Both high profile and talented, they influenced millions of us: Spade with her handbags and fashion sense; Bourdain with his perspective on food that brings people together. Both left young daughters behind when they need their parents most on the threshold of adolescence. Perhaps Spade and Bourdain’s pain was so immense that they did not see their suicides as abandonment, rather as a means of silencing the torture in their own minds. Their demons must have chased them down a black hole from which their strength to resist had been depleted. And therein lies another tragedy: Those who are dead are dead; it is the living who must find the ways and means of coping, continuing to live long after the deceased have gone.

Suicide is an equal opportunity means of ending life. It cuts across socio-economic groups and ethnicities. Yet it is a peculiar means of leaving that is on the rise in the United States. Benedict Carey wrote in his article, How Suicide Quietly Morphed Into a Public Health Crisis, in The New York Timeson June 8, 2018:

“The rise of suicide turns a dark mirror on modern American society: its racing, fractured culture; its flimsy mental health system; and the desperation of so many individual souls, hidden behind the waves of smiling social media photos and cute emoticons.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/health/suicide-spade-bordain-cdc.html?&hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

One of the key phrases in Carey’s article is American society…its flimsy mental health system. I recall when I worked in the 1980’s full time at a Texas university that my healthcare coverage included only so many visits to a therapist, should I need one. I was offended then, and I am even more offended now that mental health care is still grossly underfunded in the U.S. The government and insurance companies seem to believe mental health care coverage should be limited when the opposite is true.

For some years now, my daughter and her cousin have liked Kate Spade designs; they even have several of her handbags and jewelry. Kate Spade designs exude a happy-go-lucky aesthete coupled with practicality. Several years ago, I bought my daughter a Kate Spade pencil case. The design was so clever that I could not resist a pencil case with a lined penmanship motif. Bright colors, cheerful scripts, and overall originality apparently belied the dark musings that lurked behind Kate Spade’s whimsical designs. She brought us so much joy with her designs over the years that I wish it could have empowered her to banish her depression. Alas, neither her fans, nor her family or friends could save her from herself.

Anthony Bourdain’s brash, no-holds-barred approach to food breathed fresh air into previously snobbish attitudes towards food truck street food. His landmark book Kitchen Confidentialblew the lid off food and restaurant respectability. His CNN show Anthony Bourdain:Parts Unknown mesmerized me. I particularly liked the episode “Quebec” where he traveled with two Quebecoise chefs who introduced him to beaver meat topped with shaved black truffles. The exotic Tangiers, Morocco episode made me wish my own town included a Moroccan eatery. Bourdain even took us to Libya where the people cook, eat, and continue to celebrate their freedom after years of an oppressive regime. I always feel like I am there with Anthony Bourdain as he and his crew roam the narrow streets and back alleys of a town with a local or two leading them to a fabulous meal behind a scruffy building façade. His talent for bringing us along for his street food ride has been pure pleasure. We feel like we have gotten to know the people with whom he talks as he eats with them. Sadly, we could not save him either.

Those of us, who did not personally know Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, only saw them through the prism of social media, from the magazine stands, and from television. Moments captured on red carpets are what we saw; we did not share in their private lives. Hopefully, they are now at peace, watching over their loved ones who hold them in their hearts.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-

800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

Type, Inc.

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How I wish I had my mother’s typewriter, like the one in the photograph.-tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Today would have been my mother’s birthday, if she were still alive. She died suddenly in 2002. It was downright lousy losing my mother in every way. Not only was hers a brilliant mind that sparkled, but her heart was full of love for her children and husband. My mother excelled at Bridge; she was a competitive card player. A voracious reader, she instilled in us a love of books from birth on. The woman was also a culinary goddess. She could make the best food, mostly Italian, but she also appreciated and tried cooking other cuisines.  A woman of eclectic tastes and interests, she dressed classy. She always told me when it came to make up and to jewelry that less was more.

Another area in which my mother excelled was that of typing. A trained bookkeeper, my mother worked for years at Remington Rand. One of her most prized possessions was her typewriter. It was in a large sturdy case all its own. I can still see the dark green typewriter keys in contrast with its gray body. Since my father owned his own business, Mama was the bookkeeper. She helped him compose business letters, send out correspondence of various kinds, and keep the shoe shop’s books. An avid collector of recipes from her sisters, outstanding cooks in their own right, both of them, the three of them mailed typewritten recipes back and forth for years. When I had to give a speech or a presentation in class, which was often because my Catholic parochial school had us stand up often to orate. Mama often typed up my handwritten work, for I had not yet learned how to type. She hovered over me whenever I hauled it out and attempted to type, for fear I might harm her typewriter.

In my first year of Catholic high school, my mother was adamant that I take a typing class.

“No way! I’m in the College Prep track and typing isn’t included. Typing is in the General Education track!” I protested.

“Don’t be such a snob. By learning a practical skill, you will be the one in college typing other students’ papers and charging them for the service. You will be able to type your own papers and never have to rely on anyone to do it for you,” she informed me.

Her order paid off for me, literally. I made money by typing papers for my fellow college students, slogging through their wretched handwriting to make sense of what they attempted to convey.

Whenever I watch the Nora Ephron movie, “You’ve Got Mail”, I think of my mother.  In that movie the character of Frank, played by Greg Kinnear, is a journalist who passionately collects typewriters.  My mother understood that character, although she herself never wanted an electric typewriter.

Over the years, my brother offered to buy Mama a computer. She thanked him kindly, but refused his offer. Her trusty typewriter suited her well enough, she told him. After our father’s death four years later, we had to dismantle our family home. The typewriter stood in the closet where she had left it. I kept staring at it, thinking I should take it. But I was heartbroken over the deaths of my parents. The typewriter stood in mute testament to all I had lost, making me cry all over again.

Now, 14 years down the road, I wish I had that typewriter of hers. I would give it a place of honor in my house, a shrine of sorts to my darling mother, a wise and loving woman who had won a State Typing contest that landed her a job in Washington, D.C. with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That, however, is another story to be told.

Ciao for now.