Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The last time I spent New Years' Eve in Times Square was 1972. Some friends of mine used to rent a suite in a cheap hotel in Times Square (Times Square still had cheap hotels in 1972), buy a lot of food and liquor, and charge everyone they knew $3 to attend. It was great - you could either go down to be in the crowd (after leaving your watch and wallet upstairs) or look out the window, or keep partying and ignore the whole thing.
My New Years' Eves are a lot calmer now and I know that this year I will turn on the TV at ten minutes to midnight--if I make it to midnight--to see the place I passed by in my bus this morning packed wall to wall with people. May all of us--the stay at homes, the partygoers, the revelers in Times Square--look towards a 2009 with hope for a new era, a time for peace and abundance for all humanity.
Monday, December 29, 2008
The first errand was easy. I dropped my library book in the book return slot. And on its due date. Think of that.
Wow! Things were going really well. Now across the street to mail two small packages.
How was I to know that a local Brownie Scout Troupe was using the Post Office as a staging area for its field trip to City Hall. At least twenty-five screaming prepubescent girls and three or four way too early in the day to be at the ends of their wits scout leaders clearly at their wits' ends shouting in that please God don't let me kill them tone of voice all the time trying to sound patient and empathic and knowing they were failing miserably filled most of the small customer area. I was sixth in line from the service window. Three people in front of me in the line was an overly dressed for going to the post office woman. She had two small, out fitted dogs on separate leashes. The dogs wore matching sweaters and matching beaded collars. Totally embracing their gender identity issues, they took turns trying to mount each other. When they became too frustrated with that, they took turns trying to mount table legs and twice human legs. Just as they actually succeeded in one mounting the other, the woman was called to a service window. While trying and failing to discretely untangle her dogs and take them with her she dropped her packages. Those of us in line were only too happy to help her and get her and the dogs to the window away from us. Of course, in post office tradition, each of her packages was going to a different third world country and each package required insurance and proof of delivery. The dogs resumed their coitus and were not unnoticed by the Brownies who shrieked even louder and laughed those shrill laughs of the morally outraged and incredibly thrilled. Their field trip began prematurely as their now completely hysterical leaders rushed them out of the building.
Finally at a window, I paid for my mailings and was given a receipt. The postal clerk warned me to not lose the receipt until I was certain the packages were delivered.
I stumbled form the Post Office not daring to look back at the dogs. From the sounds they made, things were going pretty well.
At Saca's I ordered the shawerma I'd been visualizing all the time I'd been in the Post Office. When I opened my wallet to pay, my postal receipt fell into the tip container. Taking anything out of a tip container is like making change in the church collection plate. But the postal clerk had warned me to not lose that receipt. Hoping no one in the busy little restaurant would notice, I looked into the container. It was full of pieces of paper tossed in with bills and change. The only way to find my receipt was to look at every piece of paper. I took the container to a table and began riffling through it. People stared at me and gave me baleful looks. I fully expected that someone would call the police. Nevertheless, I continued my furtive search. The stares at Saca's seemed far easier to endure than the disapproval of the woman at the Post Office. She'd been through so much already.
I finally found my receipt and was returning the tip container to the counter when a woman cut in front of me and demanded ketchup for her lamb shawerma. Silence fell on Saca's. No one cared anymore about that sneaky woman pawing around in the tip container. They were too shocked by the request for ketchup.
Finally, the owner of Saca's tearfully gasped, "Wait," and disappeared. Several minutes later he returned holding an unopened bottle at arm's length.
I'm thinking he had gone to the nearest grocery story and bought it. Even after he gave her the ketchup, no one in Saca's spoke. All eyes were on her as she poured ketchup onto the pita.
The Post Office will recover from this morning's carrying on.
I'm not so sure the staff at Saca's will ever speak again.
At least the public library got its book back on time.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Southern California has experienced a stretch of cold weather. The temperature some nights has dropped into the low thirties. During some days it has not topped fifty-five. People here have been in shock. They stare at windshields and wonder what to do about the ice covering them.
They wear gloves and watch caps. They run to ski shops to purchase parkas. Such behavior is understandable if a person has never lived outside Los Angeles County. Those people have no knowledge or experience with winter.
However, I know a guy who moved here several years ago because he hated the weather in his home town.
"Brooklyn," he said, "was too cold."
Then he clapped his gloved hands together to reclaim blood flow into his fingers.
I stared at him in disbelief. The temperature was almost sixty degrees. He saw my expression and explained that since moving to Southern California his blood had become thin.
I think people here just like to wear nifty winter clothing and seize any opportunity to do so.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
No. I mean it. It's so cold here in Southern California my fingers are stuck to my keyboard.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
I'm not going to repeat that but I suggest you reread it right now. I'll wait for you.
Common sense is no longer common. This law proves it. Therefore, we need to enact and enforce thousands of other laws that would seem on paper to be as absurd as the law against texting while driving.
Here are a few laws that should be immediately approved for enforcement.
1. No longer is it legal to give yourself a manicure while driving a vehicle.
2. No longer is it legal to turn around to face the back seat and yell at your children while driving a vehicle.
3. No longer is it legal to shave while driving a vehicle.
4. No longer is it legal to read the morning paper while driving a vehicle.
5. No longer is it legal to google directions on your laptop while driving a vehicle.
Those proposed laws would be pretty funny if I hadn't seen all of these activities and more during my daily commutes.
Legislating and enforcing common sense is an expensive way to bring us to our senses.
On the other hand, something happens to our brains when we get behind the wheel of a car. Only there can we return to adolescence -- at least until we run out of gas.
Friday, December 26, 2008
There are, of course, possible side effects. The color of the eyelid can change and the color of the eye can change. Hmmm. Also, if the stuff applied directly to the edge of the eyelid where you want the lash to grow touches any other skin, hair is apt to grow there, too. So the warning urges people to use cotton or some such and dab the skin on their eyelid after they've applied the medication. Rubbing your eyes with your hands after application could be interesting. Rubbing your eyes with your hands and then shaking the hands of another person could be even more interesting.
I get it that people receiving chemotherapy and people who have suffered burns may be able to obtain enormous benefit from this drug. The way things generally go, though, it probably won't be available to anyone who could actually benefit from it. The main requirement for receiving it will be that you have first tattooed permanent mascara around your eyes.
I mean, there are so many medical crisis needing our attention and so much essential research that won't happen because of funding. But next year we can at least grow really long eyelashes.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Clement Clarke Moore was born in 1779 to a well-known Rev. Benjamin Moore who was President of Columbia University and participated in George Washington's first inauguration. He gave last rites to Alexander Hamilton after Hamilton was mortally wounded in 1804 after a duel with Adam Burr.
Some believe the poem was written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. since Moore called this poem "a mere trifle" and it wasn't a well known fact that he authored it.
Nonetheless, it has become known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and is known as a Christmas favorite.
These days, the poem carries a magical atmosphere for little ones to let their imaginations go wild and imagine Santa in his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer on their roof, bounding down the chimney with just the gift they wanted.
The legend of Santa Claus lives on through this poem.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Under the rule, which takes effect in January, anyone from the neurosurgeon to the pharmacy cashier can choose to not participate in the medical care of any individual because of a religious or moral objection.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt describes this rule as protecting the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience. That's the conscience of the health care provider, of course.
The Family Research Council, doubtless dancing in the street shouting yippee and slurping champagne, calls this ruling a gift to pro-lifers because health care providers now have a right to make professional judgments based on moral convictions. So much, apparently, for the Hippocratic Oath.
Abortion is the obvious moral issue here. According to this ruling, a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription for post abortion antibiotics if the reason for the antibiotics is known and the pharmacist objects to abortion.
I'm always willing to take things to the most far fetched scenario. So, what if someone suffering from AIDS seeks emergency room treatment for say, a broken leg. That treatment, despite EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) federal legislation can be denied if a nurse or doctor feels that people suffering from AIDS are sinners.
And what about people openly gay or lesbian? If the dentist feels homosexuality is wrong, screw the cavities.
Let's take this even further. Anyone believe that mental illness is a direct result of masturbation and that masturbation is a sin? How about body piercings? Those among us still bogged down in Leviticus might refuse medical treatment to anyone wearing an ear ring. Forget all of the other places we pierce.
You see where I'm going with this.
I know a thing or two about barn doors. They are rarely open just wide enough to accommodate field mice. Once opened a little bit, it doesn't take long for every horse on the ranch to gallop with wild abandon through the hills. If enough barn doors open, what we wind up with is a stampede.
Let's hope human nature has a door stop.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I went home the next Chanukah and was horrified to see my parents lighting an electric menorah. Oh, no, I thought, they gave me their menorah and now they don't have another. For their anniversary that year, I went to a Judaica shop in San Francisco and bought them a really nice menorah, one that cost a little more than I could afford. When I sent it, they oohed and aahed over how lovely it was, then stashed it in the china cabinet with all their pretty things, and kept lighting their electric menorah every Chanukah. I gave up.
This year, I realized that Sunday, the first night of Chanukah, would find me living in New Jersey while most of my possessions still reside in California, including the family menorah. I went to my parents house for dinner Friday night. I looked in the china cabinet and there it was, still as unused as the day it was bought. I took it home with me, and tonight, about twenty five years after it was purchased, I lit it for the first time. I said the shechechiyanu prayer over it, blessing God for sustaining me long enough to reach this moment.
Even during the darkest times we are obligated to rejoice and to never let our individual or our collective lights go out. Together our candles light up the entire universe.
Peace to you, to your families, and to the world.
Together we can make it happen.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Well, they do. And there are factions. My father and his pals will only eat at Sandwich King. He says that Dee's runs out of bagels by lunchtime which, if true, is pretty irresponsible for a place that bears the word "bagel" in its name. However, I lean to Dee's. I always used to go there with my Aunt Ruth and they recognize me when I come in. I don't care whether the calumny about the bagels is true because I always get my kosher salami sandwich (lettuce, tomato and mustard, pickle on the side) on a Kaiser roll (poppyseed). On the occasions when I bring a sandwich to my parents house, my father invariably says, "Where did you get that? Dee's? Why don't you go to Sandwich King? It's much better."
This morning, though, I just wanted a newspaper to take home and read with my coffee. I figured that if they didn't carry the New York Times, I would read the Star-Ledger. True to form, both Dee's and Sandwich King were out of newspapers. I went across the road to WaWa, where I had my choice of all the New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia papers. Don't get a sandwich there, though; they're terrible.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Brown, the state's chief law enforcer, said in his filing this afternoon that the proposition "deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution."
“Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," he wrote in responses to challenges filed by gay-right supporters.
Apparently the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles have filed suits seeking to overturn the ban.
I have always admired Jerry Brown for his unflinching sense of social justice. I am thankful that he remains at the front of California political life.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This concert raised money for a cause new to me -- UCP Wheels for Humanity based in North Hollywood. The UCP stands for United Cerebral Palsy.
In this part of the world we sometimes forget that not every place has curb cuts for people for whom mobility is a challenge. We are used to guide dogs and electric wheel chairs and handicapped parking. We are so accustomed to these devices that sometimes we forget about the people who use them. And certainly I had developed a blissful unawareness of what it means to be immobile in a mobile world.
UCP Wheels for Humanity has, since 1996, offered increased mobility and dignity to people with disabilities -- providing wheelchairs and education in underdeveloped and emerging countries of the world including Mexico, Mongolia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, the Ukraine, and many other places where there is such a need.
Here's what the organization does. It takes junk -- old parts of old wheelchairs, discarded stuff, and all sorts of ambulatory aids, and refurbishes them. Once fixed up, the organization delivers them and individually fits them to economically disadvantaged children and adults in developing countries. They do this without regard to political affiliation, religious belief or ethnic identity.
Without a wheelchair or other ambulatory device, adults and children are often forced to crawl from place to place unless someone is willing to carry them. It is estimated that over one hundred million people worldwide need the assistance of this organization.
Each year UCP Wheels for Humanity recycles about 226,000 pounds of discarded wheelchairs and other ambulatory devices and turns them into mobility.
The Gaslight Anthem was wonderful and the nephew terrific.
The cause for which they played was bigger than any performer on the stage or any person in the audience.
UCP Wheels for Humanity
12750 Raymer Street, Unit 4
North Hollywood CA 91605
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
With all this (and more) in mind, I took and passed the written exam. Through all this, my testing reaffirmed that good drivers will remain good and bad drivers will never change.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
"This bill seems too high," I said to her.
"It sure does, doesn't it?" she responded.
"Is there anyway I can pay less a month for the same service?"
"Sure is," she enthusiastically replied. "How about we cut that bill in half?"
And so she did. It was that easy. I added nothing to my service and nothing was removed. The only change is that my bill will be half of what I've been paying for well over a year.
Now here's my question.
If I had been paying the fair price to begin with, why would it be so easy to lower the bill? The woman with whom I spoke seemed quite thrilled that I had finally come to my senses and asked for a lower monthly fee.
Mind you, I'm not going to argue but this strikes me as just a little odd.
While I ponder this, you might pick up the phone and ask your phone person for free service. You never know.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The epicenter of what may be the largest Ponzi scheme in history was the 17th floor of the Lipstick Building, an oval red-granite building rising 34 floors above Third Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
In this building, Bernard Madoff perpetrated a multi-billion dollar scam that fooled some very prominent and fabulously wealthy people. Many of them were major donors to charities. Some of those charities were Jewish philanthropies, whose budgets had already been shredded by the financial crisis. Madoff himself was treasurer of the board of Yeshiva University. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.
Some of these organizations will have to close their doors and others will be forced to make drastic cutbacks.
This morning when I passed the Lipstick Building, there was a sign on the sidewalk in front of it that said "Danger". It was making reference to the window washers up thirty stories or so, but it might well have been referring to the shenanigans taking place on the 17th floor. Danger, indeed.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Southern California needs the rain. Maybe not rain in the form of the biggest storm in recent years because with heavy rains will come the inevitable mud slides especially in the areas ravaged recently by fire. However, a good, slow rain would be great.
As of this moment, the rains have not arrived.
I know why.
It's my fault.
Friday morning I had new windshield wipers put on my Jeep. Before Friday morning I wiped my windshield with what for all intents and purposes was two metal rods which at one time held something made of rubber.
In a radical departure from my normal hap hazard approach to getting ready for things like major storms, I bought new windshield wipers and had a guy at a service station in Pomona even put them on my Jeep. I was all set.
Except that those badly needed rains didn't come.
Tomorrow morning during rush hour, it will rain. I know this because this evening I took the new windshield wipers off of my Jeep and replaced them with the old ones. You see, there is wisdom in not quickly throwing broken, useless stuff away.
To guarantee the rains, I washed my car.
Drought be gone. I'm ready for the rains.
But just in case, I parked my Jeep outside and left all the windows rolled down.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I parked in the lot of a large chain sort of health food organic type store. When I came out with my purchases, someone had let loose their shopping cart and it had run into the side of my Jeep. I wheeled the cart to the boldly signed cart place then returned to look at my Jeep. A few more scratches had been added to its door and its story.
"I'm so lucky," I thought, "to have a car years and miles beyond its first scratch."
A car with over two hundred thousand miles to its credit is a wonder to behold and to own.
My outing continued to a popular area of town where none of the stores in which I had previously shopped existed. They were gone -- replaced by stores in whose inventories I had no interest.
"What a fine opportunity to avoid unnecessary purchases," I thought and felt good about the money I had saved.
In a bookstore, I noticed a calendar. It was an amazing calendar. You may recall my this time of year fixation with calendars. I was about to buy it when I looked at it more closely. It was for the year 2008. I put it back on the shelf and thought how incredibly lucky that I took the time to check out the year of that almost perfect calendar. Really, I've already got enough 2009 calendars and yet I was so close to buying another.
My errands run, only what I needed purchased, I returned home and again ran over the newspaper still in my driveway. Before I closed the garage door, I picked up the newspaper.
In the plastic bag with the paper was a sample box of granola. Of course, because I had twice run over it, the sample was in no shape to eat.
Again, I considered myself lucky. You see, several years ago I read a book in which a plague was spread by food samples delivered either in newspapers or through the mail. Since reading that book I have avoided all such samples. However, today as I drove into my garage I was thinking how great a bowl of granola would taste right about then.
Because I had twice run over the newspaper and its free sample thus rendering it inedible, I doubtless avoided becoming both a victim and a carrier of perhaps the deadliest plague ever.
Today was not only my lucky day, it was yours, too.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Imagine my relief, then, when I arrived at the Newark Airport thinking I was then free of that particular brand of New Jersey humor.
I got suckered.
All of the postings told me that my 4:30 PM flight left from a gate at the far end of the Continental terminal. I believed them. I got to the gate with enough time to begin reading the novel I'd been lugging around with me for two weeks. Even the display above the gate assured me that I was where I needed to be.
And then it happened. Twenty minutes before my flight was to begin boarding, the display above my gate -- my promised gate, my guaranteed gate -- changed. No longer was the flight leaving from that gate going to Los Angeles. It was going to Argentina. Curious though I am, I did not want to go to Argentina on that particular evening.
I ran to a video display and was slapped in the face by the fact that my flight was going to board and depart from a gate at the opposite end of the Continental Airlines Terminal.
If I ran on the moving walkways and knocked down the elderly, I just might make the flight. And so I did. Walkers and three pronged canes flew in my wake. Children screamed in terror. Each time I passed a video arrival and departure display I checked my gate just to make sure I did not become the brunt of yet another bit of New Jersey humor.
When I arrived at the gate out of breath and drenched in sweat I couldn't help but wonder how all of the other passengers knew to be at that gate all along.
That's New Jersey humor for you.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I calculated my first morning perfectly, performing my morning tasks and leaving the house on time. Then, halfway during the five-minute walk to the bus, I realized that I had changed outerwear and left my Metrocard and building pass in the pocket of yesterday's coat. I ran back and retrieved it, and was running hell-for-leather down the main street of this quiet retirement community when a car pulled over. Two women, obviously mother and adult daughter, sat in the front seat and a baby, the grandson, occupied a carseat in the rear. "Are you going to the commuter bus?" asked the woman in the passenger seat, "Get in." She directed her daughter down the block and around the corner to the bus shelter, and I was there in plenty of time. In response to my profuse thanks, the mother replied, "God gives us blessings all the time. This is one of them". "Well, then, you are God's messengers today" I said, as I got out of their car. I smiled all the way to Manhattan.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
In one million years we will have added a full minute to our day. This is because the earth is slowing in its orbit. Not a whole lot, apparently, but enough to pick up that minute every million or so years.
It doesn't seem like this would be a big problem but apparently it is. The computers and other sensitive electronic stuff are no longer as accurate as one would think. The situation must be addressed.
At some point, and I have to confess I didn't catch the exact point at which this will happen, we will make time stand still to allow our clocks and stuff to again match the earth's rotation. This point not caught by me is not thousands of years off. It's around the bend. The date and the moment, I think the guy said, have already been set. On that day at that moment time will stand still. Either that or the earth will stand still.
I think I saw that movie.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
There was no early morning fog in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, to sit out with other travelers. I have no idea if that curve in the road somewhere in Texas got itself straightened out. Today I crossed the Mississippi River and never knew it and so gave the genius of Mark Twain no thought at all. I suppose those two tired women running that little store in Carlisle, Arkansas, are still keeping Moon Pies in stock but I couldn't check their inventory today. The Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway have gotten along without me for centuries but it was good to feel a part of them for awhile -- to breathe in the icy air and glory at the beauty. They were somewhere under the 737 today but I didn't notice.
I think everyone should drive across this country at least once. It's really big and it's really beautiful. Every state is different in personality and landscape. The interstate highway system is astonishing in its design. Getting lost is pretty hard to do, even though, of course, we did at least a couple of times.
I miss the road. Of course, tomorrow morning I'll be back on a familiar set of roads, the Los Angeles freeways. They're pretty amazing, too.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Their heavy, bulky winter coats seemed to immobilize their arms. Hats pulled low over their eyes both shielded them from the bitter cold air and, unfortunately, blinded them. Hands encased in heavy gloves made gripping their clubs unlikely.
Actually swinging their clubs was indeed a precarious undertaking. Should one of them fall the chances were slim that they would be able to stand again without help because of the sheer bulk of their clothing.
Like elderly, crazed warriors -- their armor glistening with freshly fallen snow -- they gathered for another daily round.
As long as they can see the ball, it seems, they will continue these early morning gatherings always the same time tomorrow.
Friday, December 5, 2008
So tonight, on our final hotel stay, we again called ahead and again were told that dogs were accepted and again snuck The Family Dog in the back entrance just in case.
So intent were we on the 'sneak in' that we didn't notice the van parked at the far end of the lot. Had we been a little less absorbed in subterfuge, we might have wondered about the Rhodesian Ridgeback pictures decorating the outside of the van.
Tonight the Holiday Inn at Somerset, New Jersey, is hosting participants in the North Branch Park Lure Coursing. Lure coursing is a bunch of dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit across a field. According to Wikipedia, lure coursing is usually limited to purebred dogs of sight hound breeds. The Family Dog is not even close to being a purebred, but the breed he most closely resembles, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, is a sight hound. Never mind that The Family Dog usually can't even find a crumb that's dropped off the table, he's feeling pretty happy about the whole thing.
"It's just a great feeling," he says, 'to for once not have to worry about being caught or being too big for the room." Or at least that's what we think he's saying.
Who knows. Once he's more comfortable, he may take up Lure Coursing himself. I think I saw him make a note of it in his Paw Pilot.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I was asked by someone just walking through the room why the the world's most dangerous criminal was being transported on a commercial airline. I was stunned that such a question would even be considered much less verbalized.
"Because," I answered, "if the most dangerous criminal in the world was shackled and strapped into a plane designed only for the transporting of the world's most dangerous criminals nothing would happen and no one would watch the movie."
I was thinking of that movie today and considering bumps in the roads we travel. Journeys with bumps in the road are called adventures. Without the bumps those journeys are just called going from one place to another.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"Please leash your dog," I said to the woman who was talking on her cell phone while her really big, grey pit bull, drool pooling on the ground behind his paws, raced toward the family dog.
The woman continued to chat as her beast drew nearer, steam rising from his nostrils.
"Put your dog on a leash!" I shouted.
She looked at me as though I spoke an ancient language unknown to most of the civilized world and continued her conversation.
"There will be a terrible fight here in a couple of seconds," I said through clinched jaws, "And it won't be between these two dogs."
"I'll get back to you," said she to her celled companion and flipped closed her phone.
As three sets of teeth bared, mine being the third, she leashed her dog and began the arduous task of dragging him away from the family dog, whose lip was still curled ready for the melee. As she left the pet area, the pit bull human glanced over her shoulder perhaps to make certain that she had really been asked to obey the fifty or so signs posted in the pet area not requesting but demanding that dogs be kept on leashes.
Escaping from that potential disaster, I started to lead the family dog out of the pet area when the gate opened and three more dogs were let off of their leashes.
We found another exit and left before teeth were bared and before fur flew.
Apparently it really is a dog eat dog world.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Jersey City has never gotten the best of me. I always wander around until I stumble into my destination.
Lately, though, I've been thinking a lot about my Great Aunt Vera's advice and the value of landmarks.
They not only help us find our way. They help us to remember who we are.
I'm going to be thinking a lot about my soul's landmarks and about the wisdom of a Texas pioneer who throughout her life never lost track of who she was.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Sometimes I wonder that myself about other life events. On this trip we knew we were moving along.
That's one advantage of road trips over everyday living.
On road trips we have maps to guide us and warn us of hazards or delights along the way.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I'll be heading back to Los Angeles in a week. I've decided to let Continental Airlines do the flying. I'll just fasten my seat belt and enjoy the ride.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Today was to be our shortest day in miles and wound up being one of our longest days in time. Blame it on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Blame it on that clearing at the foot of Peak of Otter. Blame it on the closed for the season visitors' center where we sat watching a white tailed deer leap out of the trees and into the clearing. Blame it on the half frozen pond or on the snow along the road. Blame it on the trees and the biting cold air. Blame it on the mountains of leaves crunching under our feet as we walked along a path.
We threw away the schedule today. Instead of driving near the mountains we drove in them. Instead of looking at pictures of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we took our own. Instead of arriving at today's destination well before twilight, we got here well after dark.
No one noticed that we were late. And if we noticed, we didn't care.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Nevertheless, he's always ready for a romp at the Visitor's Center at the home of the Tennessee Smokey baseball team or a sniff around a rest stop that for all the world looks like a park.
And here he is in the heart of Civil War country. We passed the Shiloh memorial and he didn't even blink. Chances are he is not up on human history, especially the less attractive chapters.
Tomorrow we will travel a few miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We'll roll the windows down so all of us can breathe in the air and the memory of one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
This morning I remembered the Boris gift box untouched in the trunk and decided to check the car's oil. Several minutes of dip stick study convinced me that we were at least a quart low. No problem. Just unscrew the oil cap and put in one of the Boris quarts. Except that neither one of us could get the cap off.
Oh well. We needed gas, anyway. So through the heavy fog we drove the ninety yards or so to the Exxon station. Proximity to expertise did not remove the oil cap. The man at the pump next to us seemed friendly. I asked for his opinion regarding this recalcitrant cap. He didn't even smirk as he just lifted it off.
"It's just a half turn, then lift. These things are tricky." Because of his kind manner, I didn't feel at all foolish.
After we poured the new quart in and replaced the cap, our new friend came over and made sure one quart was sufficient. It was.
While all this was going on, a man limped his way to the car at the pump in back of ours.
"Can you get by me?" I asked him.
He smiled and assured me that he had all the room in the world. It was his knees that were the problem.
His wife joined him and they explained that they were driving from Memphis to Dallas for Thanksgiving with family.
"We're headed to Memphis," I added feeling not quite prepared for this type of by the road visiting but beginning to enjoy it.
By the time his knees were working and he had painfully climbed into the car, I had pulled our car into a parking place so we could buy a quart of oil to replace the gift oil.
The man and woman waved and shouted, "Happy Thanksgiving!"
Within minutes we six -- the man at the other pump, the man and woman from Memphis, and the three of us -- had driven in different directions into the fog.
Sometimes even the briefest encounters can leave lasting and fond memories.
That's the way it was in the heavy fog of Mt. Pleasant, Texas.
When the fog lifted, the landscape of East Texas and Arkansas was green fields, rolling hills and trees, trees and trees in a variety of autumn colors. The dog was awestruck. So were we.
I somehow believed that we had to have a traditional turkey dinner, and we tracked one down at Cracker Barrel in East Memphis, Arkansas, just before crossing the Mississippi River into Tennessee. Driving to Nashville in darkness, we could only imagine the beauty of the roadside scenery. Tomorrow, on to the Blue Ridge Mountains into Virginia.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The empty, boarded stores tell the story of so many towns in West Texas where the economy is as bleak as the landscape.
When West Texas ends, though, the mood and the reality also change. The change is dramatic.
Abilene, Texas, is another world from Pecos and Odessa. In Abilene the streets are lined with flower boxes containing not the plastic flowers of Pecos but colorful vegetables -- cabbage and cauliflower and broccoli and chard.
The streets are clean, the stores are busy, and energy seems to seep out of the city's every cell.
Take, for example, Harold's World Famous Pit Bar B Q.
When in Texas, we were told, you must have Texas Bar B Q. Where better to have that than Abilene, we thought.
And so it was that we wound up at Harold's World Famous Pit Bar B Q. Harold's would be off the beaten path except that, in Abilene, most of the paths lead right there. The dirt parking lot was full. The line wound through the restaurant and outside. Harold's is open Tuesday through Saturday from eleven in the morning until two thirty in the afternoon or until the food is gone. The line begins to form at around ten. We waited in line for over an hour. Harold himself was behind the counter cutting the brisket and pouring the sauce.
Harold's family worked with him serving beans and hot water jalapeno corn bread and Cole slaw and emptying trash and generally keeping people happy while they waited and waited and waited. The man behind us, who comes to Harold's as often as he can which is apparently about every other day, said that at Harold's a person learned patience.
In Abilene people are willing to wait in line and visit with old friends and eat a great meal in a hole in the wall cafe that just happens to be world famous.
Abilene isn't that far from Pecos in miles but those miles put it in a different world.
Interstates mean deliberate exits to visit places like Odessa. There's no such thing anymore as just pulling over into a parking space and looking around.
Odessa seems like a lot of borrowed stuff. In 1881 Russian railroad workers named this wide, flat prairie bend in the road Odessa after the city in their homeland. Apparently the plains of Russia and the plains of Texas look alike.
Odessa also boasts of a replica of Shakespeare's original playhouse.
We exited for Odessa but not because we wanted to see if the place really looked like Russia or because we wanted to see the playhouse replica.
We got off the Interstate and went to Odessa to see the 8 foot tall Odessa Jackrabbit statue. We had some trouble finding it. Odessa is full of rabbit statues. None of the ones we saw, though, seemed tall enough to fit the bill. So we pulled into a convenience store to ask for directions to the real, the 8 foot tall, Jackrabbit statue.
The woman behind the counter of the 7/11 had few teeth. When I asked her about the statue of the 8 foot tall Jackrabbit, her smile was as broad and as barren as the Texas plain on which she had spent her entire life.
Folks in Odessa are pretty proud of that rabbit.
For the third annual Odessa rodeo the event's organizers thought it would be a good idea to have an event called 'Jackrabbit Roping'. The citizens of Odessa thought the idea was terrible.
So, instead of Jackrabbits being roped at rodeos in Odessa, the town is full of statues of Jackrabbits.
This particular statue really is eight feet tall.
We spent over an hour in Odessa looking for and admiring the statue.
As this road trip winds down in Brooklyn in a few days we might consider the notion that the barrenness of West Texas compels people to do some pretty interesting things. Sometimes folks even get off the Interstate, spend a hour of precious travel time looking for an 8 foot tall rabbit statue, and feel pretty good when they find it.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Whether that particular story is true, the towns of Southern New Mexico and Western Texas tell the tales of dangers and massacres and growths and declines.
Pecos, Texas, is the largest town in Reeves County. It's on the west bank of the Pecos River. The 2000 census lists its population as a little over nine thousand. At that time it was a regional commercial center for ranching, oil and gas production and for agriculture. Pecos claims to have been the first city in this country to host a rodeo -- July 4, 1883.
Today the main street of Pecos is lined with empty buildings. Broken glass makes the emptiness seem sad and forever. By eight in the evening the streets are empty.
Rooms at the Knights Inn, however, reflect not a depressed town but its finest hospitality. The wireless Internet is free. Artificial trees and flowers fill the rooms which are huge and clean.
Pecos may have empty stores and broken windows. It's spirit, however, at least at the Knights Inn is one of generous attention to detail.
Monday, November 24, 2008
We've driven to Tucson many times before, we three travelers. Each mile has a memory and its own joy or, in the case of the Courtesy Coffee Shops's closing minutes before our arrival, its own disappointment. Such is the story of roads previously traveled.
Tomorrow begins on this road trip a long stretch of road new to all of us. There are no memories attached except the ones we make for ourselves for this first time journey.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The road was hit at four. That's afternoon not morning. First stop was Blythe, California.
Blythe is the brunt of a lot of jokes and none of them flattering to Blythe. Blythe in the middle of the summer is nothing to joke about. Blythe in the middle of summer is just a place to fill up the tank if you're desperate and leave as quickly as possible.
Blythe in November is quite lovely. Well, that may be hyperbole but Blythe in November isn't half bad.
The Courtesy Coffee Shop closes at eight on Sunday evenings. We didn't know that. Last year we had both dinner and breakfast at the Courtesy Coffee Shop. It was for sale then. On our return trip, so impressed were we with the Courtesy Coffee Shop, we stopped for lunch there. The Courtesy Coffee Shop almost one year later is still for sale. Still run by the original owners, the staff was hoping it wouldn't sell so they could keep things just the same. Of course, things can never be kept just the same. Those original owners are tired of the long hours and endless responsibility.
But it closed at eight and we walked to the front door at a few minutes after eight. Maybe tomorrow morning we'll catch up on the sale status over breakfast. Maybe not. Life in Blythe can be pretty unpredictable.
The Sizzler up the street stays open until nine. The Sizzler, then, it was. We closed the place down.
People in Blythe are across the board friendly. Maybe they have to try harder to convince people that summer nights in the high one hundred twenties isn't all Blythe has to offer.
In my former life in California, I was laden with keys. I had keys to my house, keys to my partner's house, keys to my car and keys to my workplace. Now I live in New York. My office building has 24 hour security and no one needs a key. My housemates keep the back door unlocked all day until all of us are home at night. I do have a house key, but I don't carry it. My California house is rented out and my car has been in California, mostly in the repair shop, since I've been gone. It occurred to me after I'd been there about two weeks. No keys. No car to park, no dog to walk, no responsibility. I wake up and someone's already made coffee. I come home from work and someone's made dinner.
Well that's all over, now. I have flown home and we are now going to drive back to New York to bring the dog and set up the new apartment. No more keyless life. My keys are on my belt, as they have been for most of the last thirty years. It was a nice break, but now it's back to responsibility.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Another road trip. I love them.
Earlier today I boldly stated that I had never seen Ohio in daylight. Then I immediately retracted the statement because I have flown into Ohio and spent at least a long weekend there. You know. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all.
That's doesn't count, though, in the world of the road trip. I won't be seeing Ohio at night this go around because we're taking the Southern route. How often, really, do you get to take a large dog to Graceland? That's not a rhetorical question.
Halfway through the AAA Trip Tik the creator of said tool reversed the page directions. I had us going back and forth between El Paso and Pecos at least a dozen times before I suspected something was off.
Let's hope I'm not the full time navigator.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Doesen't this seem familiar - like some of the rhetoric from the politicians we've been subjected to recently? Maybe they're all a bunch of turkeys too, verbally slaughtering one another!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Five women gathered in our kitchen and mixed, kneaded, braided, prayed and baked. Two other women baked in solidarity with us in California. As far as we know, Shelley's friend is still hanging in there, and Shelley was very much comforted by the act. We're still eating the challah. What a good custom. I'm glad I heard of it.
That's okay. I went to their website. Luckily for me I have not 'bundled' otherwise I'd probably be unable to access the Internet, too. On the AT&T website I easily located the 'got problems' tab. After giving essential information and tabbing along through cyberspace for several minutes I came to an absolutely astonishing page. AT&T was telling me how to go to their box (located near my electrical meter, or in my basement, or down the street somewhere), open their box, unplug stuff, plug in stuff, and do all sorts of things in order to determine the nature of my problem. AT&T was telling me how to do its job.
If my cell phone doesn't work, I go to Verizon and get another. I do not receive instructions on cell phone repair.
If I can ever contact AT&T, I'm going to cancel my land line.
Of course, such a cancellation will doubtless require my taking special classes in order to learn the correct way to dump AT&T.
In the meantime, don't bother to call me.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
People are hungry. Adults and children in this country don't have enough to eat.
Few people these days have discretionary income sufficient for large, charitable contributions. It's amazing, though, how much help a little can provide. A package of dried beans, a can of tuna, a box of powdered milk a week given to a food bank adds up when enough of us contribute.
Indications are that the terrible fire in Santa Barbara County was started by a single ember from a campfire not quite extinguished and that the fire in Yorba Linda was started by one spark from an automobile. One ember and one spark destroyed so much. So much devastation contained in those ones.
One box of macaroni and cheese or one can of soup have power of their own. Given one at a time, those ones add up and have the power to feed if not an entire country then at least thirty or so million people.
Here's something to think about. Hasn't the reported profits of some oil companies been the greatest in years? That makes me believe the oil companies need to step in here and bailout the Big 3. After all, it would be in their best interest. If we don't have cars, then there won't be such a big demand for gas.
It's time for someone to take control and teach the Big 3 how to run their businesses. We need to stop the CEO's and their staffs from filling their pockets at the expense of American citizens. Haven't they learned from Toyota and Honda, to name a few?
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I anticipate that there will be more gatherings pushing to have this horrible discriminatory proposition (Yes On 8) overturned by the state or federal supreme court as unconstitutional. It is not okay to deprive our inalienable rights to a part of the population. The history of the world and this country has shown this sort of discrimination over and over. I'd like to think we've learned that when we discriminate against one group, we discriminate against everyone. Who's next?
I hope you will find ways to support the ongoing efforts to get the proposition (the Yes on 8) overturned. And please try to find a way to join me for the next rally.
Power and love to the people.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
This is Southern California when the weather is hot and the humidity low and those Santa Ana winds arrive like evil spirits.
Part of my childhood was spent in the shadow of Diamond Butte. We could sit on our front porch, look across Spring Creek, and peep like toms into the big butte's other world.
One hot summer afternoon we watched as thunderheads gathered in that across the creek other world. We hoped they would save their rain until they got to our side of the creek.
Sipping sun tea, we saw the other world's sky turn black. Angry lightning bolts shot from the heavens toward the butte until one finally made contact. It hit a tree. Probably a juniper or a pinon. Instantly the tree became a torch. The flames spread up and down and across Diamond Butte's southern face.
I was too young to worry that the fire might travel down the butte and toward us. Those things couldn't happen.
Our parents, though, seemed to shift uneasily in their chairs. Our father set his glass of tea on the floor and stood as though added height would provide greater safety.
We were transfixed by the spreading flames. Soon even I began to suspect that this was no ordinary event. I was the last to stand.
The thunderheads suddenly opened to release their cargo. Summer rain slammed into the side of Diamond Butte. In seconds steam rose to welcome the rain. The fires were out.
Our father sat back down and picked up his tea. We did the same.
In less that five minutes we had seen lightning strike a tree, the tree burst into flames, the fire spread, and the rains extinguish the blaze.
Sometimes we don't have to leave home to witness a miracle.
This morning I came across quite a startling oxymoron. In the checkout line of some store or other, I reached into the cooler case to impulsively buy a bottle of water lest dehydration claim me as its own before I got home. Instead of the water bottle, I grabbed the bottle next to it. I had been distracted by a variety of headlines on the magazine rack above the cooler. Apparently Brad is at his wit's end. Michelle Obama is angry at Oprah. Angelina is not a favorite person of Jen's. So engrossed was I by the intensity of the tabloid drama I didn't even notice that I was not buying water until the bottle was in the hand of the check out person and about to be scanned.
I shrieked, "Oh, no!" and grabbed the bottle away from the startled clerk.
Completely transfixed, I held the bottle in front of me, appalled and intrigued by my almost purchase.
Diet Coke Plus.
Plus what besides chemicals sufficient to instantly eat corrosion off of an automobile battery? I held up the check out line to more closely peruse the label. It claimed that, in addition to corrosive chemicals, the drink contained vitamins and minerals. I wanted to know more. The people behind me in the check out line had begun to clear their throats and shuffle their feet. A baby had begun to scream. Even though I doubted the baby screamed at me, I did the polite thing. I bought the Coke.
I'm glad I bought it because I now have time to share the ingredients directly from the label: carbonated water, magnesium sulfate, caramel color, phosphoric acid, potassium sorbate and potassium benzoate (to protect taste), aspartame, natural flavors, acesulfame potassium, caffeine, zinc gluconate, niacinamide (vitamin B3), pyridoxine hydrochloriide (vitamin B6), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) and phenylketonurics.
Aside from possibly the carbonated water, none of that stuff sounds good. If it were on the menu of even an awful restaurant, I wouldn't order it.
It does appear that the product contains, as claimed, vitamins and possibly even some minerals. Doubtless so does dirt.
I've had a grease spot on my garage floor for some time. Just for fun, I poured my drink on that spot. The result was even more astonishing that the drink's indirect claim to be healthy. What scrubbing and cat litter and wire brushes couldn't do, my Coke could. The grease spot is gone apparently vaporized by the harmless chemicals in the drink.
My only remaining question is, "What keeps the stuff from eating through its plastic bottle?"