Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Ramirez the Dodger?


He stands in the on-deck circle and swings the bat ferociously. He adjusts his cap over his bountiful headful of dreads. He chews and spits, seemingly simultaneously, then swaggers to the plate. I watch with a mixture of awe and revulsion. It is Manny the powerful, Manny the feared, Manny the Dodger.

Manny the Dodger?

Today, in a three-way trade, the Dodgers got power hitter Manny Ramirez and gave up, quite honestly, not a lot. But how am I going to root for him?

When I am with my family of origin in New York, I am a Yankee fan. With my family of choice in Southern California, I have adopted their Dodgers as my own. The Dodgers need a power hitter, for sure. I should be thrilled about this trade. But Manny Ramirez? On my team?

Time was, when a baseball player was with a team, he was with them for a long time if not for his entire career. Nowadays, by the time you buy a guy's jersey, he's playing for someone else. It took me years after Jeff Kent came to the Dodgers from the Giants for me to stop sneering at him--in Kent's case, sneering back at him.

Well, this is a fast moving world, and I'd better move on with it. The Dodgers have been stuck one game behind Arizona for about an eon now. Andruw Jones seems to have left all his batting smarts in Atlanta and Nomar Garciaparra appears to be made out of soap bubbles and porcelain. Maybe when Manny starts smacking the ball halfway to Pasadena, I'll like him better. But don't count on it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Earthquake II: The Sequel



After I finished running in circles and trying to make calls on phones without dial tones, I thought to check on my next door neighbor's elderly dog. Using my key, I let myself into his house, calling for the dog. It had not occurred to me that my neighbor might have not gone to work that day but he hadn't, and was sitting in his living room reading a book. I apologized for not knocking first, but I thought he'd understand the urgency. He was politely amused by my distress and told me that in Japan, where he is from, moderate earthquakes happen every couple of weeks, and were nothing to get excited about. He made it clear that he thought Californians were earthquake wimps. Even his dog was composed, and I'm sure that dog has never been to Japan.

In retrospect, if I had been thinking, I would have known that this was a far more moderate quake than either Northridge or Loma Prieta. In both of those, I couldn't have run in circles without falling down.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake!



Gosh, I hate earthquakes. And I know earthquakes. I had the misfortune to be in the 1989 "World Series" quake in San Francisco, and the 1994 Northridge quake in Glendale. I didn't even live in California in 1994; I was visiting.

We had an earthquake here today. I didn't know it at the time, but the epicenter was only five miles from here. I was sitting at my desk and I ran in circles around the house looking for my dog and then pointlessly ran out the front door. Then, I ran in circles through the house to the backyard, where my dog was pointlessly running in circles in an eerie replica of my own behavior. I went inside and got his leash and then realized that my cell phone was still on my desk. The two of us went in together and got it. I might as well have stayed outside and found a rock the same size as my phone; I couldn't make a call on either of them. We stood in the yard for a while like a couple of idiots, then went to the front of the house where some of my neighbors had come outside and we all stood around looking at each other, asking "are you all right?", when it was quite apparent that we all were. When it seemed that there would be no more shaking I went inside and turned on the radio. KFWB, the all-news station, was interviewing people who had experienced the quake. "It was a rolling, then a hard shake." "It was like teetering on top of a point". "It lasted a long time, and the chandelier hasn't stopped shaking yet". "It sounded like a truck hitting the house". To tell you the truth, I am not a connoisseur of earthquakes. I don't have words to describe what they feel like or sound like. I just try to live through them. Wit's end, indeed. The earthquake was about 10 hours ago; my knees just stopped shaking.

It's Scary

We're living in scary times -- even our own government can't tell whether we're in a recession or not!
People are losing their homes. Medical costs have sky rocketed. Groceries keep rising. Banks are going belly-up. Auto prices have risen. The price of gas is astronomical. Insurance rates are way up. The poverty level is continuing to rise. Taxes are always going up. Paychecks have all but been frozen. The average person is struggling more and more to make ends meet -- in fact, some hold two jobs and that's still not enough. What will happen to the future of our children?
People are so busy making a living that they can't see what's happening in government. It's getting too big and is continuing to grow. It's encroaching on our personal lives as well. Who knows where it will end. Are we all going to be working for the government? Will we be handing over our paychecks? It seems as though that's where we're headed --And --- it's scary.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Will of the People

In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 1A. Eighty-four percent of us voted for it, 16% against. Prop 1A provided that local property and sales taxes revenues would stay in the community and fund local libraries, parks and public safety and health facilities, rather than going to Sacramento where it would disappear to wherever the rest of our state tax money goes.

This law was designed to go into effect in 2006, so we have only had two years of benefit from it, and now Governor Schwarzenegger is threatening to pull the plug. The proposition came with a proviso that these local funds could be "borrowed" by the state if the Governor declares a fiscal necessity and two-thirds of the Legislature concur. Sure, the state would have to pay the money back to the communities with interest within three years, but where is it going to come from three years from now? It's like your alcoholic pal asking for some money to buy booze, for which he swears he will pay you back. When he gets his tax return. Or his next paycheck. Yeah, right.
In the meantime, our local libraries and parks will suffer badly. Worse, wait till you need the County fire department or ambulance after their budget has been gutted.

Our state legislators want only one thing more than they want to balance California's budget. They want to keep their jobs. If you are unhappy with this plan let them know, and if more than 1/3 of them listen, it can't go through.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shared Abundance

The streets in this small national historic landmark neighborhood are wide and lined with trees. Children play on front lawns. Infants ride like royalty in strollers pushed by mothers or fathers and older by not too many months siblings pull wagons loaded with teddy bears and boxed juice behind them. Cats sun on walkways daring leashed dogs to lunge for them knowing that the humans holding the leashes won't let such an uncivilized thing happen.
Each evening this time of year the neighborhood becomes an informal and spontaneous free farmers' market where back yard produce is given away or exchanged for a different type of produce but whichever way it works out the abundance is shared. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Peaches. Apples. Nectarines. Zucchini. Eggplant.
Last year we bought a cookbook dedicated to the many ways a person can cook zucchini because we had more than we could manage. And we don't even grow the stuff in our back yard. It just kept coming in. Then we went throughout the neighborhood sharing our zucchini bread with neighbors still trying to share their zucchini from the back yard garden.
The apples ripen quicker than we can pick them.
"They're smaller this year but sweeter," a neighbor comments and gives us a bag of peaches in exchange.
The gossip in this neighborhood is not what marriage failed or whose child was busted for smoking pot. Here the hot topic is that new recipe for applesauce and that stuff Dix down the street put on the ground around his plum tree that has turned the fruit such an amazing deep delicious red.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Just Life-Long Friends

I've had a friend since grade school.
We ran around with the same crowd.
We even dated the same guy.
We worked together.
I've taken on her Scottish heritage as though it's my own.
We treat each other with dignity and respect.
We have lived parallel lives - she lives hers and I live mine.
Somewhere in the middle we meet to enjoy one another.
We put no pressure on each other.
We laugh and tell jokes.
We tell sad stories and joyful ones.
We trust each other explicitedly.
We reminise about times gone by and share our future plans.
After all these years (60 plus), we are still just friends - just life-long friends.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are Cell Phones Really Dangerous?

Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute warns us about a possible link between cell phone use and brain cancer. I've been looking at a lot of articles on this subject during the past twenty-four hours since I heard the first news report. I'd like to know more. How much cell phone usage? What about my corded ear plug thing I use when driving my car?
In one article we are invited to tell the authors or the publisher 'what you think about cell phones link to cancer'. Hopefully they are not encouraging us to call them -- on our cell phones.
The threat and the reality of cancer are terrifying. When we hear of a person's diagnosis, we often immediately compare that person's life decisions to ours hoping to find behaviors we lack which might have invited the invasion of the cancer cells into that other person. This is done not because we are malicious and want to blame but because that information might help us feel a little safer and hopefully exempt from cancer's seeming randomness.
Back to the cell phone thing. I just started reading a book by Stephen King called 'Cell' which, as only Stephen King can do, puts the entire thing into terrifying perspective.
If you read it, you may not ever have to worry about developing brain cancer from using your cell phone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's Okay, I Believe You

This morning my clock radio greeted me with its usual litany of disasters and portents of same. The highlight of this broadcast appeared to be the hurricane threatening to slam into or that had already slammed into the Gulf Coast of Texas. I believe either the name of the impending hurricane or the name of the reporter was Dolly.
Anyway the local news anchor person was interviewing a woman journalist, who just for now we'll call Dolly, who was outside in the high winds of the approaching hurricane. She was shouting to be heard and her shouts did not accomplish much along the lines of my being able to hear or understand her. Mainly what came across was stuff resembling, "...blowing (whosh, wham) category (crash) I don't know (whissssh)" and then hopefully only the connection was lost.
So here's my question.
Why must reporters for television and radio broadcast from within that about which they speak? I get it that they are describing winds or fires or floods. Must they be dressed for the disaster and out in it?
While the satire of the recent New Yorker cover escaped me, I think I can understand that if someone says trees are toppling they are probably toppling. I don't need to see the tree take the reporter with it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Out-of-Season Ice Cream Truck

Ah, summer in Pomona. The day was hot, but now, in early evening, a nice breeze has sprung up. What a lovely evening for sitting on my porch in an Adirondack chair and listening to the ice cream truck play, "Silent Night".

Other ice cream trucks tinkle out, "Turkey in the Straw", "Little Brown Jug" or the theme from "The Sting". But Goga Ice Cream of somewhere in Ontario, according to the sign on the side of the truck, plays a series of Christmas songs, so out of keeping with the season that every time I hear it, it sends me into a reverie of wondering.

Is its driver such a great fan of Christmas that he wants to be reminded of it every day? Is he from a different culture, and did some wise guy give him this tape and assure him that it was just what he needed to sell ice cream in July? Or is he smarter than all of us, and knows that when we hear, "Jingle Bells" in 101 degree weather, it attracts our attention and lets us know that a cool treat is right down the block?

This past Easter Sunday, I was walking my dog--the handsome pooch pictured in the entry below--and the out-of-season ice cream truck went by happily cranking out, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". I couldn't take it. "It isn't Christmas!", I yelled after him, "It's Easter!" But he didn't care. In fact he didn't even seem to care if I was yelling because I wanted ice cream. He just went on his way, playing his Christmas songs. One of life's mysteries, I guess.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Trouble With Immortality

In my mind I am a frequent world traveler. My Passport bears the stamps of every exotic place on the planet. My leather duffel is worn and soft with age. It has never been checked. So great is my expertise that I am able to pack for a month and put it all in that satchel envied by the likes of Indiana Jones and Bond, James Bond.
Not only do I travel extensively, in my mind I am sufficiently daring to pack all of my possessions into a larger bag which is likely checked and move to, say, Jerusalem or London or Paris or San Francisco or, perhaps, Brooklyn. In my mind these things happen.
In real life -- the life that awakens me each Monday through Friday morning at six and pushes me breakfast-less into my car and onto the freeway to join the thousands of other not quite conscious commuters with uninspired destinations rewarded by insufficient pay checks -- I do think about packing it up and hitting the road to live someplace more exciting or prettier or cooler or warmer or at least different.
But then I look at that stack of free address labels on my desk and I'm immediately torn. Shouldn't my liberation wait until I use them up?
I mean, these labels represent important causes: Doctors Without Borders. The Anti Defamation League. The Nature Conservancy. The Alumni Association of Arizona State University. Amnesty International. Project Angel Food. The Salvation Army. The International Campaign for Tibet. Working Assets. The March of Dimes. UNICEF.
And without my asking, more labels arrive on a weekly basis from equally essential organizations.
If I don't support those worthwhile causes financially, it seems that the least I can do is use up their labels.
So I guess I'll put my Passport back in the drawer and sell the leather bag on e-bay.
After all, we do live forever, don't we?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Driving While Inattentive

As of July 1st, almost three weeks ago, California drivers will be slapped with stiff fines if they are caught driving with a cell phone in their hand. Hands free devices are permitted for drivers over the age of 18; drivers aged 18 and under are not permitted to use cell phones at all.

If the CHP and police cruisers are driving the same routes I am and keeping their eyes open, we ought to make enough money to make the state's budget deficit go away by September. It looks to me as if no one has put down their cell phone long enough to miss a single word. Jay Leno put a camera up at an intersection the first week of the ban and showed the results on the Tonight Show. The camera caught at least one of every three drivers talking on cell phones held in their hands. Last week I was waiting in a left-turn-only lane to enter a freeway when a flatbed truck bearing a 40 foot shipping container made a left out of the freeway exit to my right at about 50 mph. Despite the fact that he was driving a huge vehicle and making a tight turn too fast under an overpass , I saw the driver holding his cell phone and chatting away as he whipped by. Had his truck only had an invitation to comment on "how's my driving?", I would have been happy to do that. That is, after I pulled to the curb and parked the car before picking up my cell phone.

Wheelchair Brigade

I was watching a documentary on disabilities. The program took the viewer through a few days of life in a wheelchair -- actual cameras were installed. I can't believe what the cameras captured with all our technoligical advancements --why haven't we advanced more towards helping the disabled?
One woman used transportation through a paratransit company to take her to and from a doctor's appointment. Due to the company's policies, the driver was not allowed to get out of the van to make sure the woman was safe inside her home. In fact, she had to wait all day and well into the night before her neighbor discovered her plight. The poor woman cried and was quite emotional throughout her ordeal until her neighbor was kind enough to rescue her. This same woman's husband divorced her since he didn't know how to deal with her disabilities. What an emotional roller coaster for anyone to go through! The documentary went on to show how rude and disrespectful the public is towards people with disabilities. It further showed how much still needs to be done to accommodate these people.
Doors should be required to open automatically. Public restrooms need revamping. Hotel rooms need to be restructured by someone who knows the needs of the disabled. Sidewalks, benches and street lights should be placed so as to allow wheelchair access.
The documentary showed the disrespect of people who sell/repair equipment - equipent so necessary to carry on mere daily activities. These "salesmen/repairmen" have shown to be extremely rude with a "care less" attitude. They were shown to treat the disabled as though they are "retarded".
It's hard enough for a person struggling with a disabling disease/condition to live normally, but to be mistreated by fellow human beings is down right disgusting, cruel and mean.
Our wheelchair brigade must endure extreme trials and tribulations, most of which goes unnoticed by society. Our disabled deserve better! Shame on society!
The law governing handicap requirements was obviously not written by first hand knowledge -- if it was, there would be much higher standards -- that is, total accommodation.
California for Disabilities Act is now before the Legislature endorsed by our wheelchair brigade. Let's hope our legislatures finally listen!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No Time On My Hands -- Or On My Wrists

My alarm clock broke. Not my clock radio which blasts the days' horrors into my ears before my mind can even grasp the reality of a new day much less the world's current dilemma. My old wind up put me to sleep with its ticking alarm clock whose clattering in my head ring I almost always avoided by waking up in time to shut it off before it actually went off.
We humans have an interesting relationship with time. We kill it. We waste it. And then as we run out of it we try to buy it.
Years before my most recent time piece demise, my wristwatch stopped working. Must have been the battery since it had no capacity for winding. I decided then and there to stop marking the passage of time by strapping it to my wrist. At first this decision seemed radical. The people in my life who care passionately about my well being expressed concern. I braved forward and became immediately amazed at how seldom we are out of eyesight of a timepiece. And if all else fails, I have learned to uncharacteristically simply ask someone, whether or not I know the person, for the correct time. No one to date has failed to provide me with the time of day. The response is an automatic glance at the wrist and a quick, as though time were flying which of course it is, update as to the time of day.
I have not once missed wearing a wristwatch.
On the other hand, I miss my alarm clock with its uncanny ability to lose five minutes out of every twenty-four hours and its need for daily setting and winding. Alarm clocks can be very comforting except when they give that 'click' warning that they are about to shatter sleep.
Even then, the sound of a wind up alarm is never catastrophic news of the collapse of a bank or of a belief or of the world. It's just the same old predictable and irritating noise for which come tomorrow morning I shall yearn.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out To The Ballgame


I love baseball. I watch games on TV, I listen on the radio, I go to baseball games. I am from a family that loves baseball. There is a tragic split - my father's descendants are Yankees fans, and my Aunt Ruth's descendants are Mets fans - but that's a topic for another post.

However, baseball has always been a microcosm of America and at this time in history that is for worse, not for better. New ballparks are being constructed for wealthy season-ticket holders and corporate groups. Skyboxes, luxury suites and gourmet buffets are the order of the day. At the end of this season, Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built, will be vacated for one of these high-tech, high-priced, high-end monstrosities.

If you want to break away from that trend, though, go to a minor league game. I live in Pomona, California, just a few miles away from the Epicenter; home of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. The Quakes are the Angels' single A club, the lowest rung in professional baseball. As soon as anyone on the team shows any promise, he gets moved up to a higher level, so these are either kids right out of high school or guys who will be working as car salesmen by the end of the season. You also get the occasional major leaguer on a rehab assignment. Orel Hershiser pitched his last game at the Epicenter.

The games are hilarious. Lacking any other draw, they go for the goofy. Between innings, they have contests for audience members. The prizes are gift certificates for local restaurants and businesses. You may see people throwing water balloons at each other, or racing around the bases with the Quakes' two mascots, Tremor, a dinosaur-like creature whose jersey bears the number 4.8, and Aftershock, who is exactly half Tremor's size and bears the number 2.4. I shelled out for the top price ticket--$10--and got a front row seat on the third base line, right next to the home team dugout. It was Wienie Wednesday, so my Hebrew National hot dog cost me a buck. I got to see a game that was not nearly as bad as you'd think it would be, and a bunch of people having a good time for not much money. If you ask me, that's what baseball ought to be about.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hooray For Massachusetts

Four years ago Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same sex marriage for its residents. Then California not only legalized same sex marriages for its residents but invited any same sex couple regardless of what state they lived in to come to California and pay the fees and tie the knot. Huh? Did that mean that two men long residents of the State of Ohio could come to California and be legally married? As long as the proper papers were filled out and as long as the appropriate fees were paid, yes. Definitely. Legally married at least in California.
The State of California has to have noticed that the legalization of same sex marriage has been good for the economy. Beyond the license fees there's the hotel or the hall or the caterers or the travel and accommodations for out of town guests and the clothes and the sequins and the bands and all the stuff that has long gone with a wedding between a man and a woman.
Perhaps Massachusetts has noticed the economic aspect of all of this, too, because the State Senate has just repealed a 1913 state law which prevented the marriage in Massachusetts of out-of-state couples if the marriages would not be legal in their home states. The repeal is expected to pass the Massachusetts House later this week. It is estimated that the repeal of this old law will bring in over one hundred million dollars to the Massachusetts economy.
Sometimes we do the right thing simply because it is the right thing.
Sometimes we do the right thing because of greater benefits.
And sometimes we champion the greater benefits to get the right thing done.
Thanks, Massachusetts, for reminding us that there are situations in which everyone can win.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Get Over It

The cover of The New Yorker magazine is the flap du jour in a presidential campaign filled with flaps of one kind or another. On this particular cover, Democratic candidate Barack Obama is pictured in what is apparently intended to be Muslim garb and his wife Michelle, rifle slug over her shoulder, is apparently being depicted as a new millennium Angela Davis. The satire of the magazine's cover escapes me. The bad taste does not. The outrage expressed by Senator Obama and his staff is certainly understandable and the outrage expressed by Senator McCain and his staff is certainly appreciated.
There is no law -- yet -- against a slick, successful magazine's having a cover which in the opinion of many is in the worst of taste. Nor should there be such a law. Hopefully reader outrage and decreased revenues from advertisements, subscriptions and sales will be voices loud enough for the publishers of The New Yorker to clearly see the outcome of bad judgment.
Here's what concerns me.
Once again Senator Obama is having to deny that he is a Muslim, that he took his oath of office with a hand on a copy of the Koran, denying that he etc. etc. etc. In a country claiming to have been founded on a separation of church and state, should it really matter whether Senator Obama is a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim or even, God forbid, an atheist? Or even for that matter, should we have cared that Mitt Romney was a Mormon? The greater concern should have been over why his parents named him Mitt not whether he was a good Mormon or a bad Mormon or any kind of Mormon.
In this season of presidential hopeful hoopla where the first woman ever in our history made a serious run for the office, where the oldest man ever to seek the office is presumably the Republican nominee and where the first racially mixed and selecting to call himself black or African American man to seek the office is the presumed Democratic nominee -- in this year in which diversity in the race for the nation's highest office cannot be ignored or denied why should any candidate's religious affiliation be questioned? Is it because deep down inside we as a country reject this alleged separation of church and state or mosque and state or synagogue and state? Or do we really only care about the church part and all other belief systems are suspect for any number of things?
Come on. Give me a break.
Wouldn't we be better off having an honest Muslim in the Oval Office than a crooked Christian?
Barack Obama is not a Muslim. That's okay.
But if he were, what difference would it make?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Celebrate

I was driving down the street and while passing a high school, I saw on the sidewalk some kind of cart with a balloon attached to it. I figured it was a hand cart selling ice cream or tacos. When I got closer, I saw that it was a wheelbarrow filled with dirt, and attached to the handle was a balloon that read, "Happy Birthday". Someone who spends their days pushing around a wheelbarrow of dirt probably works pretty hard and probably doesn't get paid a whole lot. But someone thought enough to send them a birthday greeting. Life is short. Celebrate while you can.

Chosen Silence

And so it happened that I could not speak.
Not in the metaphorical sense but in the real 'I've lost my voice" sense. Some upper respiratory infection no doubt. For at least a week I went about the business of working and living in almost complete silence or at best with a soft barely audible whisper in response to the events and the conversations of my life.
An interesting time, that week. I watched the expectations of the people in my life drop as less and less of a response was expected of me. And I became content to listen with no attempt to formulate my own thoughts into words which would not be spoken. It's a fascinating thing. I heard so much more when I knew I could would not reply. And the people in my life seemed to say so much more. Perhaps the knowledge that I would not reply freed them from anticipating a supportive or a negative or even a neutral response.
And now I am able to speak again.
With the return of that amazing gift of speech, I am aware of silence as a choice and that with the ability to speak comes the need to sometimes choose silence.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The City

The sounds of the city are melodies to the ear.

That's what I love about the city and there's so much more to endear.

Yes it's true, there are lies!

And there are legal ties!

We know there's much to fear!

And yet so much to hold dear.

Just listen to the train tooting on its tracks.

And before long, you'll realize there's not much this city lacks.

There are so many things to do and see.

Los Angeles is the place to be.

Happiness

When moments of happiness are realized, the more moments of happiness there will be to enjoy.
There are fleeting moments.
And moments that last a time span.
Moments like a "special" dance.
Moments of nature - birds chirping to their partners, owls hooting a friendly hoot, frogs croaking to be heard, the whisper of the wind, the silence of the night sky as the stars appear, one-by-one, and the glow from the moon.
Happiness can be found at night on the mountain trails or anywhere -- you just need to look for it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reading and Writing

Today, I would like to thank those who brought the world of words to me.

My sister Cheryl, six and a half years older than I, taught me how to read. After I had been in her life for three years she had about had it with my illiteracy, sat down with a Dr. Seuss book and pointed at the words as she read it to me. Somehow, I was able to make the connection between the words I was hearing and the words on the page, translate those words to other places, and I was off and running.

In seventh grade I had an English teacher, Carol Poteat, who taught us the art of the précis. This involves reading a two or three page article and condensing it to a paragraph, without omitting any relevant material. By the time I was twelve, thanks to Mrs. Poteat, I knew how to write in a clear and concise style.

My ninth grade English teacher was really something special. A black man who came from the Deep South in the 1950s and had a serious speech defect, I doubt anyone expected James Morris to be a New York City English teacher. Mr. Morris treated ninth graders as if we were college students, and got back college-level effort. When I got to college and took freshman comp, my classmates were terrified at the thought of writing a ten page term paper. I had written one twice that length in ninth grade.

So take a minute to think about who taught you what you know. Reading and writing are skills so basic to our lives that we don’t often think about how we came by them. Say thank you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Medi Gap?

What's Medi Gap?
It's medical services and medicines not covered under Part D of Medicare.
The Medicare Administration -- or better yet -- the Social Security Administration raved up and down how Part D would be a big money saver for those covered by Medicare.
When in truth and in fact it turned out to be a ruse.
The public was once again fooled by the underhanded method Part D was disguised -- that as being helpful to those on a fixed income.
As the state of the economy worsens, the wider the Medi Gap!
Will we have to lose thousands of people before medical services and medicines once again will be affordable?
When will the corruption stop?
When will we close the Medi Gap?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Don't Rain On My FM Station

Rumor has it -- well I guess it's not exactly a rumor since I heard it on the radio the other day -- that the 2010 Toyota Prius will have solar panels on the roof.

In Shakespeare's The Life and Death of King John, the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Pembroke and other 'lords' are kicking back in the palace with King John who is feeling pretty full of himself because he got a second coronation. Salisbury gets a line which eventually becomes -- as does much of Shakespeare -- a stock phrase.

SALISBURY:
Therefore, to be possess'd with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

Old Salisbury is thinking and daring to say that perhaps one coronation was sufficient. The first stock phrase was taken directly from this scene -- Paint The Lilly. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century the term had slipped ever so slightly to 'Gild The Lilly'. Whichever phrase you like, they can be used interchangeably when speaking about or thinking about the solar panels soon to be on the roof of the Prius. Aren't these solar panels a little over the edge since they will do nothing toward powering the engine? Aren't they gilding the lily just a tiny bit?

Initial indications are that the panels won't be able to do much more than power the car's radio or possibly the air conditioner and maybe even some of the fans. That's not a bad thing, I suppose, but come on. Shouldn't the finest minds of automotive engineering focus on something to replace not enhance the internal combustion engine? I mean, shouldn't that be our goal instead of finding more places to put oil wells and especially places in this country and figuring out ways to build more fuel efficient automobiles and, now, figuring out ways to solar power the radios?

Oh, but wait. Maybe this is how the world is changed. Not by revolutions, necessarily, but by one solar panel at a time even if at first whether or not I listen to the radio while I'm driving will depend on the weather.

I could go for that -- for awhile.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What Is Perfection, Anyway?

Baseball is a funny sport. Obsessed with numbers, it encourages its players to also adopt obsessive behaviors. If Nomar Garciaparra picks up one more ritualized activity at the plate chances are the number of innings in a game will be cut to accommodate the length of time it takes for him to walk, strike out, or -- as is the case recently -- hit a home run or some other impressive bat connecting ball thing to drive in runs. He is truly a role model for those of us who have our own collections of rituals to enact before leaving the house or the kitchen or the office of the car. He reminds us that sometimes we, too, will hit home runs.
Aside from the obsession with obsessions, baseball and its players sometimes -- not very often -- but sometimes get to behave in just the opposite manner from society in general.
In society, a person is generally avoided when hard luck has come his way. Lay offs, lawsuits, divorces, illnesses are often events which leave us feeling alone and lost. Not so in baseball. The person who is on the verge of amazing accomplishment is the one shunned.
Take Hiroki Kuroda who Monday evening almost but not quite pitched a perfect game. At the beginning of the game he was a popular guy in the dug out. His team mates sat next to him and even spoke to him despite the fact that he doesn't speak or understand much English. Then as the game went on things began to chill a bit in the dug out until by the fifth inning no one got near the guy. He sat alone with the nearest teammate at least four feet away. And he sat in absolute silence. This happened because things were going so well for him.
Of course, when that insensitive guy on the other team got that hit into right field, things changed for Kuroda. He got a little more popular in his own dug out. Even Russell Martin, his catcher, got a little friendlier and sat a little closer. And by the end of the game, which was a shut out -- incredible enough to pull off -- instead of a perfect game, people were once again speaking to Kuroda.
All of which just goes to remind us that sometimes when the people we know seem to shun us, maybe they're just trying to help us stay focused and give us encouragement. Either that or they have mistaken themselves and us for major league baseball players.

Hot Under The Collar: Keeping Your Cool In Warm Weather

Charles Dudley Warner, editor of The Hartford Courant, said it in 1897 and his words hold true today: “Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”
We are familiar with the many connections between the weather and our physical health. Outbreaks of influenza are generally associated with cold, winter weather. Episodes of allergies can be triggered by weather. Predictions of hot, dry winds generally are accompanied by increased use of antihistamines and inhalers. Some among us can accurately predict weather changes by levels of physical pain in knees, elbows, and hips. Other connections between weather and health may be less familiar to us. Current studies indicate that certain weather conditions impact our circulatory and cardiac systems, the development of certain cancers, immune responses, and susceptibility to infectious disease. Such information can assist with preventative measures but can, as Charles Dudley Warner reminds us, never change the actual weather.
So here we are with temperatures ranging from the upper 90s to the low 100s and we’re too hot to care much about the words of Charles Dudley Warner or about what the scientific community may be studying. It is important, however, to remember that extreme weather does, indeed, impact our overall health and our abilities to function. While we seldom experience extreme cold weather, summers here in the Inland Valley can be hot. Really hot.
We are familiar with the term “winter blues”, that sense of melancholy sometimes accompanying short winter days with little sunshine. We are less familiar with the emotions and behaviors associated with hot weather. Just as, given sufficient time and lack of attention, those blues sometimes progress to depression or other serious disorders, heat related emotions and behaviors could become intrusive and serious.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Psychology studied the impact of heat on human behavior and noted a connection between heat and aggression. On hot days drivers of cars without air conditioning become impatient more quickly than drivers of cars with air conditioning and exhibit increased horn honking at cars failing to move when the traffic light turns green. The studies also noted that physical performance decreases as the temperature increases and attributed this, in part, to dehydration and its resultant fatigue. Cognitive performance also appeared to decline as the temperatures rose. Other studies have also noted the connection between increased temperatures and increased agitation and aggression.
From these studies we learn what we had already suspected. During really hot weather, we can easily lose our patience and our tempers. We feel tired. Sometimes it seems as though we can’t think clearly. We lack motivation to do much of anything. And often we just want to be left alone.
While accepting the wisdom that we can do nothing about the hot weather itself, we can do much to help ourselves weather it. Simply acknowledging that heat takes its toll on us is an important first step. During hot weather, even with good air conditioning, sleep is often disturbed. We toss and turn and climb out of bed feeling less than rested. Without air conditioning we are often unable to sleep comfortably. Dawn breaks and already we feel tired and irritable. Our energy levels are decreased and so we may drink more coffee to wake us up and energize us. And, or course, the coffee can add to our levels of irritation and even our levels of dehydration thus contributing to the heat related spiral of irritability.
Generally these discomforts and symptoms remain manageable. However, the irritability associated with extreme heat can quickly become anger or rage, which can lead to problematic behaviors.
We are at least minimally familiar with methods of maintaining physical health during hot weather. Drink plenty of water. Wear light clothing. Avoid stressful physical activity during the heat of the day. Wear a hat. Stay in air conditioning as much as possible, either in our homes or at shopping centers. Never, ever leave any living thing in a closed car not even for a minute.
Tending to our emotional health during hot weather is also crucial. Just knowing that we’re more susceptible to irritation and anger can help us help ourselves. And possibly the single most important thing we can do for others and ourselves is to count to ten. When the car in front of us doesn’t respond right away to the green light, count to ten. When the sales clerk in the grocery store doesn’t give us our change as fast as we’d like, count to ten. When the price of gasoline goes up again instead of down, count to ten. Remember that almost no one sleeps well during hot weather and nearly everyone feels tired and irritable. So count to ten.
Count to ten until our internal temperature goes down enough to at least match that of the external temperature. Drink a glass of water. And smile. Winter will come soon enough and then we can talk about days so cool we have to perhaps put on a heavier shirt. We’ll talk about that weather, too, but, of course, we will do absolutely nothing about it except to take very good care of ourselves. Because taking care of ourselves is the one thing we can do about the weather.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mental Note: Stay Angry

Remember when the price of regular gasoline passed the four dollar a gallon mark? Remember our shock and our outrage? And then remember when it passed four dollars and fifty cents a gallon and raced toward four dollars and seventy-five cents a gallon? There were to be protests and let's not buy gasoline for a day campaigns and let's modify our corporate large and small work schedules so we wouldn't have to drive to work so often and let's telecommute and let's and let's do all sorts of things to right this injustice and save the world.
The trouble with outrage is that in order for something meaningful so come from it, the outrage itself must be sustained. The cause of the outrage must remain urgent and always foremost in the minds of the people impacted.
So what's happened here? People don't seem so angry about the price of a gallon of gasoline these days and I must confess that I don't even know the current price of that gallon. And this should be cause for a whole new outrage over how easy it is to settle into a new routine especially when we feel that there's nothing we can do about the situation anyway.
Anger is one way we tell ourselves and others that we deserve better. Outrage is much more powerful but basically says the same thing. We deserve better than to settle into this situation. So does the world.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

If Not In My Backyard, Then Where?

On July 17 Dorothea Dix will have been dead for one hundred twenty-one years. She died at the age of eighty-five years. For the first half of her life she tried to find meaningful work in the few professions available to women. She worked as a schoolteacher and a governess. She did some writing. She paid a price for traditionalism and in her mid thirties suffered a severe 'breakdown'. She went to England to recover and wound up in the company of some pretty radical thinkers who believed that the government should assume responsibility for the social welfare of its citizens. She also entered into the British 'lunacy reform movement' and returned to her home state of Massachusetts with a focused passion -- the welfare of the indigent mentally ill. She dared to speak out against the incarceration of the mentally ill in prisons where they were often chained to walls and left to recover independent of any type of treatment or attention. She researched this treatment and presented her report to the legislature. She had found that the indigent mentally ill were often chained, left naked, beaten with rods and lashed into certainly not recovery but at least obedience. She changed the laws in Massachusetts to expand the state's mental hospital in Worcester.
Off and running, Ms. Dix expanded her research and documented the treatment of the indigent mentally ill on a national level. She lobbied state legislatures to improve the treatment of the mentally ill and those changes impacted North Carolina and Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
But even then, even Dorothea Dix, knew that permanent reform for the treatment of the mentally ill and certainly for the indigent mentally ill was a Sisyphean undertaking and too emotionally beaten up to continue, she returned to Europe to recover in saner climates.
Again energized, she returned to this country to become the Superintendent of Union Army Nurses. Always at odds with the male doctors, she was eventually fired. She lived out the rest of her life feeling like a complete failure.
Sometimes she worked for free and she never sought the limelight or glory. And she certainly missed out on her retirement benefits. Luckily for her, though, the State of New Jersey remembered and appreciated. She was given a room at the New Jersey State Hospital in Morris Plains and there she died -- in accommodations similar to those available to the indigent mentally ill in New Jersey because of her belief that the mentally ill deserve respect and gentle treatment. She got it that it's no crime to suffer from any illness.
All that she accomplished and tried to accomplish she did in the second half of her life after what might have been called a mid life crisis.
One hundred twenty-one years after the death of this social reformer, the largest psychiatric facility in the country is the Los Angeles County Jail. One hundred twenty-one years after the death of this woman who often worked for nothing, services to the indigent mentally ill are eliminated or reduced so severely as to be available only as token treatment. One hundred twenty-one years after the death of this woman who believed and knew that anyone can become indigent and anyone can become mentally ill, few people want treatment centers in their back yards.
But Dorothea Dix's work did change the way people think and feel about the indigent mentally ill. That's why so many underpaid, never heard of mental health professionals work so hard to help better the lives of people who live on the fringes of society not because that's where they want to live but because that's where society puts them.
And those who don't want them in their backyards are right. The mentally ill do not belong in backyards. They belong in their own homes and they deserve the best medical treatment - both physical and mental -- possible.
But first, of course, we must fight wars and fix toilets in outer space and pay unbelievable salaries to our executives and make sure, definitely, that our oil companies continue to rake in obscene profits.
Social welfare demands social justice.
We need another Dorothea Dix to point that out and to champion without concern for fame or wealth the rights of those among us unable to do so for themselves. In the meantime, it's reassuring and, yes, inspiring to know that she gave it her best shot.

Sense and Sensitivity

To take care of a cold makes sense.
To take care of an illness makes sense.
To seek the advice of medical professionals makes sense.
But what sense do medical professionals make when they show no sensitivity towards the mental challenges of their patients?
What about someone seriously ill, in the hospital, and medical doctors tell you "You're in VERY bad shape" -- NOOO kidding!
What about someone who is desperately trying to follow the doctor's instructions and a doctor or nurse speak negatively as though you're not trying to heal?
When someone is chronically ill, don't the medical professionals realize their words are heavily weighed by their patient and could seriously alter his or her well-being?
Where's the understanding by medical professionals of the nature of illnesses and the affect it has on a patient's mental status?
Shouldn't a sensitivity or a psychological class be a requirement prior to graduation?
Do the professionals know about "bed side manner" or has that been lost?
What happened to medical sensitivity?
I know what happened -- the insurance and pharmaceutical companies took it away.

What Is It About Keys?

No one ever needs to give me a key to the kingdom. I've got so many keys I'm certain one of my own would open the door. My particular problem with keys is that I can never remember if the keys I carry with me still open doors I currently use. So my key chain keeps acquiring more and more keys until I take some off and put them in 'that kitchen drawer' to see what happens. Generally nothing happens because those keys were to locks long ago changed or to offices where I no longer work or to cabinets donated to charity years before. And still I have the keys in the drawer. And then I open the drawer and marvel at the number of keys accumulating there -- keys bereft, apparently, of locks into which they once fit. It's a sad situation. Not necessarily for me. I can still manage both my life and my excess keys but sad for the keys. Feeling disconnected and cut off and, yes, purposeless is not an enviable situation. Possibly few worry about the well being of keys, however, but it is interesting to consider the things we or in this case I have difficulty tossing. Perhaps to me a key represents the possibility of entrance and to put that key in the garbage represents a loss of possibility. Either that or I'm riddled by indecision. Or perhaps I just like keys. Years ago I found an old key ring out in the Arizona desert of my childhood. It was so coated in mud and dirt that at first it almost looked like just another rock. I chipped away at the desert detritus until I got to the actual ring. On the ring were two or three keys and then a medallion bearing the words -- If found please return to George P. Hunt, Governor, the State of Arizona. For years I carried that key ring with me always intending one day to return it to at least the office of the governor. And then I lost it. Keys get us into places and they get us out of places. Jailers have keys. Prisoners do not. The housed have keys to their homes. The homeless do not. A key can be a powerful fact, an essential tool, and a compelling symbol. I'm still not certain, though, if I really need a drawer of keys to forgotten locks. And not one of those keys bears my name with a request to return the key to me. And if it did and someone actually did, I still wouldn't remember the lock into which the key fit.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Just Get Rid of the Wheels

On July First it became illegal in the State of California to drive while holding a cell phone. The implication is that if one holds a cell phone while driving then one must be speaking on the cell phone. It is still legal to speak on the cell phone, mind you -- just don't hold it. I'm a little confused about whether or not it's legal to hold the cell phone if you aren't speaking on it. The whole thing is pretty confusing. If you can't hold a cell phone while you drive, why can you continue to hold travel mugs? And why is it not illegal to read maps while we drive? And what about the parent constantly turning to scream at the kids in the back seat? And what about the guy the other day going south on the San Diego Freeway? He was using an electric shaver. Nothing, though, beats the man we saw driving along wearing traditional Jewish prayer garb, rocking back and forth, his prayer book in his left hand, alternatively reading a prayer and looking at the road? Are we going too far to make it illegal to pray while driving? Maybe the simpler approach is to make driving illegal. Then, of course, we lose a whole lot of our dependence on fossil fuels and would have to build, almost immediately good public transportation. Unless, of course, we went totally insane and walked or rode bicycles. But I can't think of this anymore. My cell phone is ringing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Well, I Declare!


IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
John Hancock
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Alyassin for Mayor

Last Sunday, I was busy paying bills--that grim process--when my doorbell rang. A young man stood at the door. He looked like someone who would be selling chocolate bars or magazines to benefit some wholesome charity, and that was the pitch for which I was preparing. "Hello", he said, "I'm Hassan Alyassin, and I'm running for mayor of Pomona. May I tell you about my seven-point program for improving the city?" "You're running for what?", I asked, "How old are you?" "I'm twenty-four", he replied. "And your experience?" I asked. "I graduated from UC Santa Cruz with my degree in biology and I'm applying to Western University for medical school. Do you know who Dennis Kucinich is? He's my inspiration. If we want things to change, we are the ones who have to change them." I read Hassan's seven-point program. I agreed with some of his points and we had a polite and informed exchange about one of the ones with which I disagreed. I asked if he had any staff - a publicity person, perhaps? and he said that he did, but she had gone home about an hour earlier because she was hungry. I ended up giving Hassan ten bucks for his campaign, even though, being in the midst of paying bills, I knew the state of my disposable income. He is the first candidate to have filed with the city, but he will certainly not be the last. The others will be better known, better qualified, and better funded. Hassan, like his role model Dennis Kucinich, will probably end up at the bottom of the heap. Nonetheless, for a few minutes on Sunday afternoon I had the feeling that democracy really could work if we all got behind it, and, just like they told me in fifth grade, any of us could grow up to be president of the United States. Or at least mayor of Pomona, California.