October 2010


Scenes from a Statue

Call it an obsession. This business of the Statue of Liberty and us. We plead guilty.


Have we not written about it frequently on these virtual pages over the years? The Statue of Liberty to do a "360"? (APRIL, 2006 MUSE-LETTER) Up In The Crown No More (SEPTEMBER, 2006 MUSE-LETTER) …Up In The Crown No Once More (JUNE, 2009 MUSE-LETTER). Is Emma Lazarus’ famous poem not embedded in this very website? Therefore, it was a given, knowing we would be in Lower Manhattan at Ground Zero on September 11th of this year, that we would work in a visit to the newly reopened crown of the Statue. Our first in seventeen years.


We well recall that last visit, when we carried our son—then four years of age— up the entire 354 claustrophobic steps to the crown. The family joke was that one day we would return, and this time he would carry us up the whole way. And for sure there would be a next time. For one thing, he could hardly be expected to remember the first time around. For another, we believe, that the Statue of Liberty should be experienced by all, as it is arguably the most incredible monument ever created by humankind. We can think of no other that embodies genius on so many levels: aesthetics, engineering, magnitude, poetics, idealism, imagination. Perhaps our passion is due in no small part, to the fact that we grew up with it in our backyard, so to speak, and that our grandparents came through nearby Ellis Island— a fulfillment of the promise written upon the Statue’s base.


It was much different for us this time. No, our adult son did not reciprocate and carry us up those daunting steps—we were able to make it on our own steam. But being there with him at this point in time, did seem like some sort of rite of passage. Coupled with the fact, that a visit to the Statue which was once about those “huddled masses”— a fun touristy thing to do without much advanced preparation— has now become a somewhat somber “appointment experience” in a post 9/11 world.


Given the wariness of terrorism, which closed access to the crown originally, a stringent process has emerged for going up into the statue, as outlined in these steps:


1. Reservations must be made several months in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed up to the crown daily (we believe the number to be 240). And the demand is great.

2. When buying tickets, each visitor in the party must be identified by name.

3. One must stipulate whether one will be embarking for the island from the New York or New Jersey side.

4. Tickets are held at a “Will Call” booth, and will only be given to those with a valid identification that matches the name on the ticket.

5. Before entering the Statue, all items in one’s pockets (wallets included), must be put in lockers provided on the premises.

6. To open a locker, one must place an index finger on an electronic device which records the finger print. (Similarly, to reopen it later)

7. One is fitted with a colored wristband.

8. One must wait in a vestibule, along with about a dozen other people, until cleared by a guard to begin the ascent.

9. Halfway up the statue, the wristband is removed by another guard, to prevent a reentering of the statue.

10. The elevators from the base to the foot of the statue are not in use. It must be walked the whole way.

11. Upon reaching the crown there are no less than four guards within the limited space, and just a smattering of other people (Which is the one benefit as in the old days, the crown could be packed with many people, and therefore suffocating)

12. Following descent, articles are retrieved from the locker, and you leave through a one way turnstile in a gated area.

In this context, the visit this time around, almost seemed as if it were one in defiance. That as an American, we will not be cowered by terrorism. And upon reaching the summit, we felt as one might, emerging from the booth on election day. Though this time, it’s as if one has voted with one’s calf muscles and feet.




As an addendum, this experience was enhanced by our having dined two days prior, at the River Café; a wonderful restaurant on the Brooklyn waterfront nestled beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. From there, one has a view of Lower Manhattan, and can watch the lights of the skyscrapers across the river, come alive as dusk descends. And then in full darkness on this night of September 11th, we were able to see the twin light beams shooting skyward, in remembrance and honor of the World Trade Center that once stood at that spot.

We can only imagine the emotion that will be packed into these venues a year from now on the tenth anniversary of that infamous day. And we would not be surprised to find ourselves there again among the re-huddled masses.







Brooklyn Tech


The spindly legs begin to buckle
as if the first steps of a foal still wet,
then give in the impact of the news
in the hallway of that pre-war flat.


In response to a gasp as to How?
He was shot someone said.
This morning at eight
another voice from nowhere added.


And on this, the Lord-taketh-away of a day
they made a decision to keep it from him
until his classes that Thursday were done.
As if at that prestigious school


he was learning how to engineer
a new guardian angel on that very day.
One with wings of steel and a cast iron will
that could blacken the eye of any storm;


that could lift him beyond the very last cloud
to the rarified air of a new generation.
Instead this kid just hits the wall
and falls through the cracks in the floor.

—Ron Vazzano





Ode to James


We recently received an email from an old friend and reader of these Muse-Letters that read:

“I noticed the 40th anniversary of Hendrix' death, and I know you're a big fan of his. Me too.


In my hippie days, it seemed as though every other t-shirt bore his silhouette (or Che Guevara's). I think of him as the Patron Saint of Tie-Dye. As a lover of the old Southern Delta blues guitarists, I was stunned by the sound he added to those simple blues chords. Only Leslie West of Mountain and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (Hendrix' favorite guitar player) came close, and they were far more commercial.”

                                                                            Bob Rattner

How could we, ever so vigilant of anniversaries large and small (the retirement of the Burnt Umber Crayola last month for God’s sake), have forgotten Jimi? He died on September 18, 1970 to be exact.


Actually we did manage to pen this little ditty a few years ago, so James Marshall Hendrix has not been totally off our radar.

Ode To James


Jimi Hendrix kicks
his stallion guitar into gear


and it rears back its head
and whinnies and bucks


and gallops across
the eternal summer sky


going up in flames—
air hanging heavy


with the smoke of his time
the explosions in his mind.

—Ron Vazzano

And again, he was top of mind in the 40th anniversary piece we did last year on Woodstock, in reference to his out of body rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It seemed to re-enforce the general consensus that he is the best electric guitarist in the history of Rock music.


We also recall that we got to see him perform once at a Peace Concert at Madison Square Garden in which he shared the bill with a ton of Rock super stars. Although it has become a cliche to say that if you remember anything about the 60’s you weren’t there, we would swear to it that he sang two songs (including Foxy Lady) and then went to sit down on the stage over in a corner. He was done for the day.

About a year or so later, he was done with his life as well. Soon to be followed by Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, as Bob also reminded us in his email, and that would be the beginning of the end of the “Sixties” as we defined them.






“Friends, ‘Vroman’s,’ countrymen…lend me your ears.”


The Independent Writers of Southern California ( will have their bi-annual public reading this month— “IWOSC Reads Its Own” —hosted by yours truly at the historical independent bookstore, Vroman’s, in Pasadena. It will take place on Sunday October 3rd, from 2-4pm.


IWOSC is a group comprised of nearly 300 professional writers of every type, including an occasional “Muse-Letter” scribe. (We have been a member for about seven years.) The mission since 1982, has been: to hone the literary and business skills of its members, through continued educational programs and networking.


These reading events afford us the opportunity, along with 13 fellow writers of all genres and styles, to read a sampling of our work. We like to think of it as a “wine tasting of words.” And what makes this event particularly special for us this time around, is that we are switching it to a rather unique venue. We are going from the “Goliath” that is Barnes & Noble, to the “David” that is the independent known as Vroman’s Bookstore. And if we have mixed metaphors, then mixed they be!


As most of you must know, the independent bookstore is becoming a dying breed not unlike many other retail businesses that have fallen victim to what we call “The ‘Chaining’ of America.” We don’t have the stats as to how many “Indies” have gone under—including the shocking demise of Dutton’s in Brentwood a couple of years ago— but do we need numbers to prove this depressing trend? Yet Vroman’s, against all odds, continues to thrive. Which is especially heartwarming given its rich history.


For the uninformed, as we were prior to taking on this gig, here are a few bits of that history as taken from their website:


Vroman’s Bookstore was originally founded on November 14, 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman… Born in 1856, in La Salle, Illinois, Vroman moved to Pasadena, California in the late 1800s to improve his wife's health. When she died two years later, he started a partnership with J.S. Glasscock and opened a book and photographic supply store.

He was a bibliophile with an extensive collection of books which he sold to open the store. Once the store became profitable, Vroman returned to book collecting, donating his massive collection to Pasadena Public Library when he passed away.

Vroman’s Bookstore holds an important place in Southern California’s history…For many years it was the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi, and it continues to be the largest independent bookstore in Southern California.

During World War II, Vroman’s donated and delivered books to Japanese Americans interned at nearby camps, returning on several occasions despite being fired upon by camp guards.”

And what was your favorite bookstore doing during the internment of Japanese Americans?

To help remember the date, time and place of this event…cut along the dotted lines below. We hope to see you there. You are in for a rare treat.








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