Lightning Strikes Three Times: Shirley Temple, Foreignor, then The Who!

Over the past few years, we’ve accumulated quite a collection of old LPs— 33 1/3 vinyl records. Some have come by way of tag sales, the swap shack at the transfer station, second-hand stores and record shops. Three so far, have come by what can only be labeled as freaky experiences where I’ve merely had to ask for them, and voila, there they were! The third time happened just five days ago, but let me replay the first two.

Lightning bolt #1: The first time it happened was back in March of 2012. Before I launched this blog, I had posted on Facebook the exciting and mystical story of my Shirley Temple album acquisition.

Some of you may remember this story. Others will simply shake your heads in curly top amazement. My niece, then 17-year-old Rachel and I were just talking about The Little Princess, Shirley Temple on a Friday as we walked in our neighborhood. I told her I was a huge Shirley fan when I was a kid and I had this pink album with her giant face on it. I remember telling her that I’d have to pay dearly to find this sacred album today if I searched on eBay, or the like. Rach is an extremely good sport with her crazy Auntie Tan and nodded politely (if not a little excitedly) when I said we should plan a Shirley Temple movie fest soon.

The very next day, Sean and I were on our way to Torrington to see Shirley MacLaine who was performing a monologue at the Webster Theater across the street. I told him my conversation with our niece and my quest to find THE Shirley Temple album of my childhood. Before the show, we strolled the 1950s style Main Street in Torrington. As fate would have it, or Shirley-shamanism, we took a side street for some “random” reason. At the top of the street was an old, dusty secondhand shop.

I had a weird feeling…so I went in. The store was so cluttered with stacks of LPs and stuff, that I had to walk sideways to find my way to the voice coming from back of the store. I couldn’t see the proprietor, but heard him greet me from under some mountain of rubble. “I am looking for something in particular,” I said to the pile. When the short, graying man stepped out from behind the stack, I relayed my quest for the pink Shirley Temple album.

I held my breath a moment expecting him to laugh. Instead, he turned to a nearby plastic bin filled with albums. “I just took it out of storage THIS morning and brought it to the shop.”
No way! My heart leapt as he extracted the Holy Grail of children’s LPs., but I remained poker-faced. If he saw how much I longed for this treasure, surely (pun intended) he would raise the price to several thousands of dollars. (OK, I exaggerate).

Then, in what felt like super slow mo, he handed the glowing square to me. Wah! Shirley was in perfect condition. The sticker said “$10.” I quickly rummaged through my wallet. Sean had come in by now and instinctively reached for his wallet. Oh, oh! We only had one five and four singles between us at that point. We were about to hit up an ATM when I impulsively entered the shop.

“Can you wait a minute and I’ll go to the ATM?” Sean, my knight said to the man.

“I’ll take nine,” he said. I thought I’d kiss him! I told him I was just saying yesterday how I wanted to find this album. We all laughed how some Shirley Temple-MacLane karma must be in the ether for this to have come to pass. I blessed the man and then bound out into the sidewalk where I cheered and almost did a cart-wheel!
Later I played the album at home—not a scratch or hiss—On the Good Ship Lollypop!

Lightning bolt #2: This past April I was at a huge flea market in south-central Florida with my great pal Bobbi (Can I get a witness to this story Bobbi?) We had browsed the hundreds of stalls of new and old trash and treasures. We washed down fried alligator with a beer at the food court. I told her I was on the look out for the self-titled Foreigner album, the one with the guys all wearing long coats on the jacket. The one I had from when I was a teenager was missing. We had combed through stacks of albums, a mishmash of genres, but so far no Foreigner. On our way out, we hit upon one last stall where an older man had a few stacks of vinyl. My unsinkable pal humored me as I rifled through the first stack of Englebert Humperdink-era artists. The second pile was 70s and 80s rock. “It’s in here,” I turned to Bobbi. “Yeah, right, girlfriend.”
I dug half way through the REO Speedwagons, the Kiss, the Cars. I already had these. Three quarters, through, The Go-Gos, AC/DC, nothing yet. “I can feel it!” I said with mock conviction. “No way,” Bobbi said. Then, the third or so from the bottom was Foreigner, Double Vision. The guys were wearing short coats, not long ones, but it was Foreigner none-the-less, and I didn’t have this one. Three bucks, the guys said. Sold!
The Third Lightning Strike— just five days ago. Let’s back track a bit. This summer Sean and I listened to Pete Townshend’s memoir Who I Am on cd as we road-tripped here and there. Sean is a huge Who fan and I am trying to study as many styles of memoirs as I can for writing purposes, so it was a great book for both of us to wrap our heads around.

Anyway, Pete Townshend, a prolific musician and writer gave a lot of back story to his interesting life, messed up childhood, rock-stardom, great albums and rock operas The Who created, and Townsend’s own remarkable compositions. One of the lesser shining moments Townsend confessed however, was The Who Sell Out album made in 1967. This wacky record featured The Who singing actual jingles to real products interspersed with their latest songs. The jacket also featured each of the rockers posing with these actual products and real, but painfully corny ad copy that would have made Darin Stevens blush!

Pete modeled with a huge stick of “Odorno” deodorant under his skinny armpit. Roger Daltry bathed in gallons of Heintz Oven Baked Beans. Keith Moon squeezed an over-sized tube of Medac zit cream on a fake lipstick blemish. John Entwistle posed with a bikini model, both in leopard print, pushing Charles Atlas’s muscle inducing vitamins.
“Wow!” I said to Sean as we envisioned this treasure. After doing a quick mental inventory of the records we had in the trunk at home, we decided we needed to get this album! With our history of asking for albums and having them delivered, we half-jokingly “put it out there” that we needed to find The Who Sell Out, as soon as possible.

A month or so later, “Ding, dong…universe calling.”
We stopped in Mystic, CT on our way home last Wednesday after Sean’s work conference. After a quick lunch at Mystic Pizza, we window-shopped up and down Main Street. We turned down an alley toward a hip coffee shop when we noticed a record store right next door to it.

Sean and I were drawn like moths to a light. “Do you have The Who Sell Out?” I blurted to the guy behind the counter. He looked up dumbfounded. There, in his very hand was The Who Sell Out album! I kid you not. “I was just putting it on E-Bay!” he said. He showed us he had just listed it for $65.
Woh! or Who!
He showed us the unwrapped album with a sticker stating this was a “200 gram Super Vinyl Profile Quiex SV-P.” Huh? Sean translated that it was a special edition re-release between 2000-2005 when the tracks were laid down on this heavy-duty vinyl that weighed 200 grams. This meant it was very high quality and would have incredibly great sound.

“It’s Shirley Temple all over again!” I marveled. Sean quickly relayed our Shirley Temple experience to the record guy. “Wow, be careful what you ask for or you’ll go broke!” He laughed as he gave us his card with the date of a special record sale.

There really was no way the we were not going to purchase this album. He gave us a pretty good break from his E-bay price. It was a still a little more than the usual $1-$6 we are typically willing to pay for vinyl, but we easily justified it as an early birthday present for Sean.

How To Thank My Retiring Therapist?:Kenny Loggins’ Lyrics Beat Out The Best Greeting Cards

Hallmark (and other companies) create greeting cards for nearly every occasion. Births, sympathy, encouragement, graduations…but searching racks and racks of prose, I just couldn’t find one that aptly says Good-Bye and Thank You to my retiring psychologist!

The card I finally ended up giving my therapist, I had narrowed it down to four possible but mediocre choices, was a bit wordy. On the front it said, “Finally, a thank-you note that says how I really feel.” Relational enough to give to a therapist, but even after a ton of descriptive words such as “grateful, happy, supported, content, forever in your debt, acknowledged, peaceful…” it still didn’t quite nail it. The writer in me added “thankful” and a deeply personal message. Yet, mere words didn’t fully express the depths of gratitude I wanted to convey to my professional advocate and guiding light for helping to save my sanity, salvage relationships as well as extricate myself from toxic ones, and who knows, possibly extended my very life! Reflecting now, I think that the incredibly accurate, succinct and perfectly-timed lyrics I heard on my car radio as I drove away from my last session fully expresses what is in my heart and pays tribute. Enjoy the song at the end of this post.

I had my very last appointment on August 28th with one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever been blessed to know, clinical psychologist Dr. Ella G. Marks, PSYD. I began seeing Dr. Marks on a weekly basis over four years ago because at 45, all the stuff I tried to keep stuffed down, held back, or tried to hide just wouldn’t stay buried anymore.  Four and half decades as an adult child of an alcoholic family, a product of divorce, years of appearing to “fly right” but still over-indulging in risky behaviors, being lost, pressing my luck, and meandering off-track had blurred and scalded into a hot mess. It began oozing out in physical symptoms of panic attacks and heart palpitations. I couldn’t ignore it. It was time to really take care of me and do some very heavy, but very necessary lifting. Or else.

I prayed and researched and left voice messages.  There was something about Dr. Mark’s soft-spoken, lovely, Virginian- accented-voice message that gave me courage and lead me to her kind but firm care. When I still rather hesitantly made my way to her creamed-colored office with a bright white couch in the office park in Madison, CT,  I was comforted by her soft creased face, her sparkling blue eyes and billowy white hair.  I found out by peeking at the dates on her framed diplomas in her office that she had to be in her early 80s. I learned early on that she had studied at first to be a dancer, but then married an Episcopalian preacher, had four children, and then decided to go back to college.

She completed her bachelors in her late forties, her masters in her 50s and fought to enroll in her doctorate program at the tender age 59. She served as a social worker, then earned and hung her shingle as a psychologist and bariatric medicine doctor at the age of 71.  How blessed was I to connect with her a decade later!

Quite a head case, I remember saying to her, ” I have lots of anger and confusion. Am I too much for you?” She smiled graciously and said, “No, you are not. You have a lot of mourning to do.”

I would discover over the next four years just how well-equipped this woman was for the likes of me. She guided me to some really tough and ugly places to repair years of damage, grief, and anger stemming from a tumultuous alcoholic environment as a first-born.  I worked honestly through confusion, hurt, betrayal, marital challenges, a serious motorcycle accident, extended family woes, and a recent exodus from a church I’d given my soul to for 46 years.  She praised me often that I was “what they call a worker,” and reminded me that therapy is a “partnership” whenever I thanked her for helping me. She gave me permission to give myself some credit for my healing, for good things I have done and am doing in my life.

I had written in my card to Dr. Marks that she will forever be a part of “my new psychological DNA.” I will from here on out have greater success with stopping a negative thought and replacing it with a better one. I will think of what she would advise and say in any given situation. A life-long dividend of the work we’ve done.

I know it was hard for Dr. Marks to retire from her beloved work. She who practices Pilates and walks every day is in excellent physical as well as mental shape and “presents herself” as someone at least a decade younger than her actual age.  She reluctantly wound down the over 20 years of her practice, extending her calendar for months since she’d first announced earlier this year she’d be retiring. “My family wants me to leave before they ask me to leave,” she’d smile, “but I am going on one more month.” That lead to another and another, until finally the end of August was really it.

I cherished her guidance and wisdom to the very last session. My throat tightened as I pulled into her parking lot. As I climbed the stairs for the last time, I took photos of the waiting room, her office, but out of privacy, I did not take any of her.

So surreal. She lead me in from the waiting room, the one last time. Into her office, one last time. “How are you?” She asked in her customary greeting. “Full of emotion,” I squeaked out. I noticed she was welling up a little, too. “This must be hard for you saying goodbye to everyone,” I said. “It is,” she confided.

Then we settled in across from each other. I gave her my card and photo of me hula-hooping that was taken at the recent Buzzi Reunion at my house. I joked that I wasn’t meaning to be a narcissist, but wanted to show her my happy spirit, celebrating our years of working together. She smiled, “You are a worker!”

As we sat, I said that I hoped we could see each other again, for coffee. Always the good doctor even up to the very last minute, she wanted to impart one last tool to help me hereafter to cope with stress and any mild depression. Meditation. She told me of a study where participants who meditated each morning and evening fared better than the group which took only medication and the other only talking therapy. I balked a bit saying I’ve tried meditating, but my mind wanders like a herd of cats even when I try focusing on a monosyllabic word or sound. Because she knows my faith walk, she said to me, “Just try to say, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”

I smiled because I was wearing that bracelet that very day for extra help knowing I’d be saying goodbye.

Half way through our last session, I had arranged for my husband Sean to come in and meet my Dr. Marks. I had shared so much between the two of them that it only seemed right they’d finally meet in person.  It was one of those spiritually-charged, crystallized moments in time as I made the introductions. Sean thanked her as he sat on her white couch next to me. They chatted casually, each feeling as though they’d known each other well—I guess after all this time, they sorta had!

Sean asked her what she had planned now that she was retiring. Without hesitating my heroine said she was going to travel to India where’d she’d gone many times on sabbatical, “but after the monsoon season in September,” and then she was going to join a hiking club!

God bless her!

When it was time to say goodbye, Dr. Marks and I hugged for a very long time. “We can get coffee now, can’t we?” I asked hopefully. “Oh, yes. We will no longer be bound by hippa.”

“We have each others phone numbers.”

As I began driving out of Dr. Mark’s office complex for the very last time, tears of every emotion streaked down my face. Sadness,closing a chapter, a sense of accomplishment, good health, new beginnings, joy!

All of a sudden Kenny Loggins’, “I’m Alright” began playing on my car radio. I kid you not. Sean, who was tuned in to the same station, called me from his car ahead of me. “Can you believe what is playing?” I blurted first. “You are alright,” he said.

I’m alright, Dr. Marks. Thank you, and thank you, God, for Dr. Marks! OK, and thank Heaven for the serendipitous Kenny Loggins’ lyrics as I was driving on!

"I'm Alright!"I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.
“I’m Alright!”I gave this photo to my therapist on her retirement as a celebration of our work together over that past four plus years.