Sunday, November 30, 2008

Road Trip - Sunday

In snow and rain we arrived in Brooklyn. Seven days with the trip officially beginning in Tucson on Tuesday morning and now we're here. The dog was a most amazing pooch and we were pretty terrific ourselves. We're all a little the worse for wear. The Saturn just got it's three thousand mile oil change before we left California and already its due for another.
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.


I was watching a movie on television based on a Stephen King novel, "Deperation". I was into the movie for the first 12 minutes and then a break for commercials. After the commercials, the movie was shown for another 10 minutes and another comercial break lasting approximately 6 minutes. Then the movie and commercial break for about 5 minutes. And so on and so on. It was beginning to get irritating. No sooner I'd really get back into the movie than there were comercials - not one commercial but, 12 to 14. I know, I counted them! This movie was not a "who dun it" sort of movie. You knew who did it but, you didn't know who was going to be murdered or killed by some sort of Satan being that was uncovered in an old mine. It was supposed to be a terrifying thriller - a nail biter. Much to my dismay, I wasn't terrified - I was irritated at so many commercials. The movie was probably a little over an hour but due to the many, many commerials, it's duration was close to 2 hours. Talk about desperation. I didn't care about the movie any more. I was desperate for the movie to end so I could get on line to e-mail the station showing this movie to give them a piece of my desperation.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Road Trip - Saturday

This has been a five state day -- Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We were in West Virginia for about twenty miles and Maryland for even less but they still count. The Trip Tik provided by the triple A club has been amazing. Except that those pages and pages and pages of a couple hundred miles of road on a page gave me a pretty narrow view of this road trip. Today I opened a United States map and was astonished to see how far we've traveled. And we're not there yet. Our final destination is Brooklyn and we'll be there around noon tomorrow even though it's just a couple of hours from where we sleep tonight. Tomorrow is a sleep until at least seven travel day.
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.

Merry Christmas

I guess I'll never grow up. This is the time of year I love placing figurines of people, animals, buildings, lamp posts, etc. together to form little towns. I love placing train tracks throughout the town so the train can ride upon them. It's fun to place small and large trees throughout the village and to place sleds and automobiles in various spots. What's more fun is sprinkling sparkley snow on everything when the town has been completed. Some houses and stores have lights inside so you can just imagine being a little person living in that town. You can think about the merriment of sledding down that steep hill you put together with cardboard and pretend you're riding with Santa and his reindeer and that the elves made each and every toy at the North Pole. You can pretend to be a passenger riding in the train that "toots" every so often. You can pretend you live in one of the houses and that all your neighbors join togther to go Christmas caroling and everybody loves everybody. It's sure fun to be a little one again.

Kitty Diet

My good friend has asked me to look after her kitties while she's on vacation. When I entered her house, I was met by her two kitties. They were looking forlorned and knew I was there to feed them and clean their potty box. But, there was something else I could dedect in their glare at me. I opened the can of cat food and discovered it was "diet" food. That's what they were trying to tell me - they don't like diet food. They also told me about a big bad dog that lived there for a while and they are joyous that the dog decided to join his owner in new premises. Well, I hope my friend doesn't think I'm trying to usurp her, but I did break down today and brought them "real" cat food. They were delighted and quickly devoured it. I told them that was the end of the "real" food for now and they would have to get serious about their diets. They both agreed. If they don't tell their owner I helped them fall off the wagon, then I'll have to.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Road Trip - Friday

Roanoke, Virginia -- The dog will no longer get back in the car without a piece of Snausage held in the window of the opposite door. The most amazing traveller imaginable, he's beginning to get road weary.
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

Friends in the Fog

We did not begin our cross country drive until Boris, the master mechanic at the bottom of my hill, gave the car his okay. Part of that okay involved a gift box of two quarts of oil, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. Each container was carefully labeled just in case we confused motor oil with power steering oil. The brake fluid, Boris added, can be used in a pinch for clutch fluid. And so his label reminds us of that.
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.

Road Trip - Thursday

Thanksgiving in Mt. Pleasant, Texas dawned foggy. After our long day chasing after eight-foot rabbits and world famous barbecue on Wednesday, we were glad to stay in the hotel till well after nine waiting for the fog to lift. The hotel's complimentary breakfast bar included the ubiquitous make-your-own-waffle setup, and when I poured the batter in, I noticed that the waffle iron's shape was unusual, but it was not until the waffle was on the plate that I realized that it was in the shape of the state of Texas. Aside from being a little undercooked around Fort Worth, it was delicious.

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.

Happy Birthday, Richard

From all of us on the road.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All Roads In Abilene Lead To Harold's

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.

Road Trip - Wednesday - Mt. Pleasant, Texas

Somewhere between Pecos, Texas, and Odessa, Texas, the road curves. For miles before the curve, signs warn motorists of this upcoming event. The curve finally comes without reason. Really, there is no obvious reason for the asphalt to take this gentle three degree or so gentle turn except that, possibly, with so much space it just seemed like the thing to do. The flat land meets the sky forever in this part of the world. A gentle curve in the road is not something to be missed.
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

Chiles Rellenos in New Mexico

Thirteen years ago, a friend and I drove from New York to California. We stopped in Albuquerque around lunchtime. As travelers do, we bumbled around and decided to lunch in the dining room of a hotel in what I recall as the main square of oldtown Albuquerque. I ordered a chile relleno. My traveling companion, sickened by the unaccustomed heat, altitude and single-digit humidity, ordered a fruit plate and iced tea. With the first bite, I realized that I was eating a masterpiece. I kept trying to offer my poor companion a bite, "Come on, it's okay, it's vegetarian!" I never had a better chile relleno. To this day, I impute to all of New Mexico some mystical power over chiles rellenos. Today, we had lunch in Las Cruces on the drive from California to New York. As travelers do, my current traveling companion and I bumbled around far enough from the Interstate to find a real local Mexican restaurant. I ordered a chile relleno. It was a perfectly fine lunch in a nice place and the price was more than reasonable, but it was not by any means close to the best chile relleno in the world. Even if I was to go back to Albuquerque--about two hundred miles north of Las Cruces--and even if I could find that place again, it wouldn't be the same. Even if the hotel was still there, the dining room would be under new management, or that magnificent cook would have gone on to bigger and better things, or the chile supplier would have left town. And even if everything could be exactly the same, I bet the chile relleno couldn't live up to the build-up I've given it over the last thirteen years. Some things are better left to memory.

Road Trip -- Tuesday

According to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News, the all American holiday of Thanksgiving didn't originate in 1621 at Plymouth Rock. Of course, we have to consider the source. We're in Texas now. Many Texans, it seems, like their version of Thanksgiving better because in their version the first Thanksgiving took place 23 years before Plymouth Rock. The Spanish conquistador Juan De Ornate arrived with about 600 people at El Paso Del Norte after a terrifying journey across the northern Mexican desert and a dangerous but successful crossing of the Rio Grande River. The Texas version tells that a group of Spanish Franciscan friars held a Mass of Thanksgiving for the safe arrival. During that mass they blessed food which the soldiers and colonists then ate.
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.


Okay, maybe it wasn't the best decision I have made as a mother... but it's done.  Tomorrow morning at 8:00AM my sixteen year old son will have three impacted wisdom teeth removed from deep inside his mouth.  Yes, I realize it is the day before Thanksgiving but between the orthodontist warning me that all the dental work previously endured  would be ruined and my son's unrelenting soccer schedule, honestly,  it was the only time. These horribly evil teeth have to come out and out they will come.  
This is a child that loves to eat but truly has difficulty consuming enough calories to maintain his weight.  He runs everywhere stopping only to refuel and sleep.  Have I told him that he may have to eat his Thanksgiving dinner through a straw?  Have I told him that he might not be feeling very festive? Does he realize that he'll only begin to feel like his old self  again when it's time to go back to school on Monday?   I am not feeling very wise.  As I look at his sweet and trusting face I decide ignorance is bliss.   You think I would have gotten the hang of this mother thing by now.  

Thanksgiving - What it Means to Me

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day. Some years ago, my son was born at an Army base in San Francisco two days after Thanksgiving. On some years, as this year, his birthday falls on Thanksgiving. He's been my greatest blessing ever. He may be somewhat physically disabled but, mentally, he far exceeds the kindest, the most thoughtful and generous and the most loving of all. He has a great spiritual sense and can foresee much into the future. He has a pure heart - a heart of gold. He has taught me patience and profound understanding. What's more, I love and adore him - he's my son!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Road Trip - Monday

Things we've learned along the way: Quartzsite barely in Western Arizona is a town of just about no people during most of the year. However, in January and February the population swells to over a million when people from all over the world encamp for several precious gem and mineral shows. One more thing about Quartzsite: Located in the town's outskirts (of course most of the town is its own outskirts) is one of the world's lesser pyramids. They called him Hi Jolly because no one in Quartzsite could master his real name, Haji Ali. He brought camels to the Western United States as part of some far flung Army project. The camels did great in the desert. Unfortunately, they terrified the horses and the mules and the cattle. The camels were shipped to other places. Hi Jolly remained and died in Quartzsite and there he is buried in his own pyramid.
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 Trip - Sunday

Surely you weren't expecting an early crack of dawn start with five or six hundred miles under the first day's belt. If you were expecting such a thing you perhaps are unfamiliar with the participants in this particular road trip -- two middle aged women, a middle aged dog, and a middle aged Saturn.
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.


To me, keys denote responsibility. I never needed any when I was a kid. My mother was at home when I came in from school, and if she wasn't, she left one for me under the doormat. When I got to college, you knew you were really a hotshot in the Theatre Department if you had the key to something in the building.

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

Road Trip Minus Day One

Here's the plan. We will drive across country with the dog in a nine year old, one hundred fifty thousand mile Saturn. The dog weights one hundred twelve pounds. The Saturn weights a lot more. The dog is relocating to Brooklyn. He's that kind of a guy. The Saturn is also relocating to Brooklyn.
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

Stay of Execution

Governor Sarah Palin issued a stay of execution for one lucky turkey. While she was being interviewed by the media congratulating her for saving the life of a turkey, turkeys were being slaughtered behind her back of which she was unaware. Much to Sarah's chagrin, the media cameras were rolling and picked up the slaughter. It wasn't a pleasant sight. The person slaughtering the turkeys was more interested in watching Sarah being interviewed and didn't pay much attention to what he was doing -- so matter of factly. I'm sure this is not the last we'll hear about this incident.

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!

A Wedding Day Miracle

Rachael Ray, a T.V. talk show host/chef, has got to be one of the most caring of all. Due to the destruction of Hurricane Ike in Harris County, Texas, wedding dreams were postponed. Rachael and staff gathered all that planned to be married when the hurricane hit - some 500 couples. She saw to it that the brides' dreams came true. She arranged for these couples to be married at the Minute Maid Park in Texas (a baseball stadium), turning it into a winter wonderland. Arrangements for the brides' gowns and grooms' tails were made. Flowers, white gold wedding bands, decorations, wedding cakes and catering were donated by companies such as the Houston Astors, David's Bridal, Aramark (catering), Bed, Bath and Beyond, to name a few. Wynonna Judd was the surprise entertainer. I'm sure all couples will agree that this was the most unforgetable wedding ever - a Cinderella wedding.

Work Place Icons

Wherever you work, whatever you do, they're all the same.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making A List

I made my list today.  Including my nephew the Marine and his two buddies that will join us, I'll host 28 people for Thanksgiving.  I do it every year and always rely on those coming to bring a dish to share.  It makes it interesting and and less stressful.  Since I've been a vegetarian most of my life, I am always thrilled when my friend offers to make and bring the turkey.  Watching her surgeon husband carve it is something to witness and has become a part of the ritual over the years.  Her mother-in-law makes homemade cranberry sauce and soup and mine is in charge of the champagne.  Although two of my kids will not be with us, having a houseful to share in the gluttonous day of gratitude will be fun and comforting.  
After all, who doesn't love Thanksgiving?  It's a story any third grader can tell you and is part of the culture we claim as our own.  It's about people getting along and making room for one another.  It's about tolerance and acceptance.  America, with all its imperfections, is as pluralistic as a nation can be.  It was the Natives who helped the pilgrims survive that first year. The pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11th, 1620 and their first winter was devastating.  Unfamiliar with survival in a foreign land they lost 46 of the original 102 that sailed on the Mayflower.  But the harvest of 1621 was a good one and the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast that included 91 Native Americans who knew what is was like to be persecuted for simply being who you are.  
And so, we'll travel miles to get there at one in the afternoon or five in the evening.  Some of us will choose to spend the day helping to serve others that don't have a home to go to.  Some will invite strangers or those new to the community to share in the meal and others, they'll go out because it's just easier.  Any way you slice it, it's truly an American ritual of sharing, caring and community that ultimately celebrates freedom, something we all believe in.  Something, that makes us proud to live where we do.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Challah Segulah

Bette asked me what I was doing Sunday. "We need to bake challah and pray" she said, "Shelley's friend is really sick with cancer". "What kind of ritual is this?" I asked. I'm a rabbi, and if it was a Jewish ritual, I figured I'd have heard of it. But as it turns out, it is a Jewish custom. It comes from the Chassidic tradition, and it's called a challah segulah. Challah is the braided bread which is traditionally served on the Sabbath, but there is a tradition that a group of 40 women, (or 41, or 43, depending on the custom) baking challah together should pray for infertile women to become pregnant. That tradition mutated, and is also used as a prayer for those in need of healing. Bette's friends from the dog park, none of whom are Chassidic and only some of whom are Jewish, observe the custom. When those among them, or ones that they love, are ill, they gather as many of them as they can and bake challah. I figured, so what if I never heard of it?

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.

Basic Telephone Repair 101

Yes, it's true. I still have land line telephone service. I even have a rotary dial telephone in my garage. I also have a telephone in my kitchen and one in my bedroom. Three phones and not one of them is working right now. No dial tone. No one can call in. I can't call out. I have no idea when useful information stopped appearing on my telephone bill. Sometimes I have trouble even remembering who's is charge of my land line. It used to be Mountain Bell. Then it became Pacific Bell. Then SBC Global waltzed into the picture. Now I make my checks out to AT&T. I just spent some time looking at my most recent bill from AT&T. Forget that I pay way too much for what I get. That's nothing new. What irked me just now is that nowhere on that bill is there a telephone number to call if my phone isn't working. Didn't that used to be a three digit number that everyone knew? My bill gives me the number to call if I want to "Bundle Today" and the number to call if I have questions on my bill. I also see a separate number to call if I want Tariff Information, whatever that is. Nowhere, though, is there a number to call if I can't call. Come to think of it, perhaps AT&T is unaware of the fact that I have a cell phone.
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

Hungry In America

The Food Research and Action Center announced yesterday that last year more than 36.2 million people in this country lived in households struggling with hunger. Over eleven million of those people lived hungry. They never got enough to eat. The number of hungry adults and children in this country rises every day. Social service agencies, WIC offices, and emergency food providers tell of overwhelming needs.
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.

Big 3 Bailout

What? The Big 3 (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors) want $25 billion from the $700 billion bailout money the government has allocated for the bailout of banks, businesses, etc. Several years ago, didn't we bailout Chrysler? Why are they in financial problems again? Is it for the CEO and staff's million dollar bonuses? Chrysler needs to restaff and find a staff that knows the word "budget". How many more chances do we need to give Chrysler...and, for that matter, why must American citizens rescue the Big 3? Did any of us receive large bonuses? I'm sure we'd do a much better job if put in control because most of us know what a "budget" is. Do we have to educate the Big 3?

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 Ritual

I call my dad every Sunday.  It's become a ritual since my mom passed away about nine months ago.  He's always surprised to hear my voice and for most of the conversation he is happy and positive.  We talk about the kids, his health and the economy usually in that order.  I ask him advice on some aspect of our designated topics to move the dialogue along.  Sometimes I spark a nerve with one of my questions and he passionately lectures me.  I take in all of his words and ask follow-up questions when appropriate.    This time he strays from the script and tells me a about and incident that happened at a little Italian restaurant near his house.   He was enjoying an early dinner when two women approached him.
"Right there in the middle of my goat cheese salad I saw them coming towards me.  One of them I recognized.  She started talking and wouldn't stop.  She was trying to fix me up with her friend, a recent widow, and was about as subtle as a ton of bricks!"  
I softly asked him what happened next and he relayed that he politely said he was still in mourning and quietly went back to enjoying his meal.  He then chuckled and said, "You know why they all want me don't you?"  I waited patiently for him to finish his thought.  "Beyond the fact that I am handsome, fit and a great dancer...I can drive at night!"
At eighty-two he's still got it. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Power To The People

I just returned from many hours in downtown Los Angeles at the rally supporting 'No on 8'. (This post was written Saturday evening, November 15.) It was inspiring. There were at least 40,000 people there. This is a civil rights movement all over again. I almost felt like we should have all been wearing yellow armbands that said "Gay...Regardless of Our Orientation...And Standing Together." One woman near me had a great sign that said: "Mo' No Mo'...Mormon leaving church to support civil rights for all!" The speakers were excellent, and at some points I was moved to tears. I was surrounded by people who were joyous, kind, and determined. Maybe you, too, were there or at some other rally.
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

Home Style Miracles

The air smells of smoke. Breathing is tension inducing. The fires consume our attention. Sometimes they seem to be all around us. We live in a battle zone.
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.

Cruel Kindness, For Example

An oxymoron is defined as any type of utterance whether spoken or written which produces a seemingly self-contradictory effect. Apparently the word oxymoron originated in the 1650s. If something happens with sufficient frequency to require a name, we must assume that self contradiction is an integral part of human communication. By the way, the plural of oxymoron is 'oxymora'. That last bit of trivia allows me to make this next statement with confidence. I love oxymora.
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?"

Friday, November 14, 2008

What We Take

A hundred homes.  The Montecito fire continues to claim and threaten anything in its way including a small college in the middle of beautiful but highly flammable eucalyptus trees.  A thousand more families pack up what they are able to fit in their cars and wait out the devastation in the safe homes of family, friends and hotel rooms.  Which way the fire moves, dependent only on the often unpredictable direction of the wind.  Some homes are miraculously spared while others (sometimes next door)  are reduced to a charred shell of rubble.  
This is where I live too.  The risk of getting in the way of a California wildfire a constant threat when it is dry or conditions are prime for one careless or troubled soul.  
Five years ago while driving home one evening from Pasadena it looked as though our house was on fire.  As we drove into the community, we saw neighbors packing up and fire marshals banging on doors ordering families to get in their cars and leave the area.  Walking into my house I looked around.  What should I take?  What couldn't I replace? What couldn't I live without?  I gave each boy a small suitcase and told them to quickly pack some things.  Tom backed the truck up as close as he could to the front door and I grabbed whatever I could and threw it in. Photos, laptops, art and the cat. I drove the truck and the boys to the safe haven of grandma's house and didn't look back.  
Tom (it turned out) never left the house.  In between hosing the roof he documented all he could witness with a video camera in one hand, his cell phone in the other (constantly telling me he was fine) and a wet towel on his head.  
The next day the fire was contained.  Our neighborhood had been protected but others close by weren't as fortunate. I opened the boy's suitcases when we returned home and who they were came pouring out.  The 13 year old had packed only two things; his retainer and a pair of athletic shorts.  The 8 year old had neatly organized three sets of clothes.  When I asked him why three of everything,  he simply said, "I thought it would take that long to get my laundry done."

Blessings go out to all those fighting the flames  and displaced by this tragedy.

Brenden Foster's Wish

As the number of homeless and hungry increases on a daily basis, a dying boy knows that one person can make a difference.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Taking Turns With Fate

There they were chatting on the corner. Two men waiting for the 'walk' icon to appear so they could cross the street. Each seemed to be enjoying the company of the other.
One man wore a business suit and held a worn briefcase in his right hand.
The other man wore patched, dirty clothes. His hair was long and uncombed and matted. He held on tightly to the handles of his shopping cart which was full of black plastic bags and newspapers and unidentifiable scraps of metal. Eight small American flags on wooden pieces of doweling -- held to the metal frame of the cart by duct tape -- waved in the breeze.
The 'walk' icon appeared and the men quickly finished their conversation.
The man wearing the business suit crossed to the other side with the light and continued on his way.
The man wearing for all intents and purposes rags, pushed his shopping cart off of the curb and walked into the opposing traffic. Going against the light, he challenged fate. Cars braked quickly. Tires squealed on the asphalt.
Neither man gave the other a second glance as though this, their morning ritual, always played itself out in predictable patterns.
Perhaps the man dressed for business had once pushed his own shopping cart wearing rags and a smile. And perhaps the man crossing the street against the light had once worn a business suit and carried his own brief case.
And perhaps -- just perhaps -- neither man had forgotten how quickly roles can reverse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beyond The Resume

I just read my son's resume.  It's well crafted in a bold font on a single page.  It contained all the appropriate information of graduations, awards and skills along with a note, "portfolio and references provided upon request."  He duly noted every job and internship he had before and during culinary school and dinner parties (mostly for my friends) that he catered.  The only real suggestion I had was that he print it on nice paper.
Although he is a new graduate filled with promise, the brick wall of a contracting economy is a reality he and his contemporaries ultimately face.  While he knows the restaurant business is down and that there are many talented chefs out there vying for the same unpaid internships, he believes in the dream.  The idealism of youth and the story of our new president may just work wonders.  His excitement is unwavering and contagious. He believes that if you work hard enough and wear your passion someone will notice and give you a chance.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brenden Foster Day

Brenden is an 11 year old diagnosed with leukemia and was given two weeks to live. That was approximately two weeks ago and he's still hanging on. During a news program he was watching on television, the cameras scanned a homeless tent city somewhere in Los Angeles. Brenden was so touched he told his mom that he, Brenden, needed desperately to help them. His story reached the media and people from all over were bringing food to the homeless. Union Rescue Mission has stepped in and will serve 2,500 meals on Friday, Novemer 14, 2008 designating this as "Brenden Foster Day". This has put a big smile on his face and has made a dying boy's last wish come true. What a brave boy and a true hero!

No Man's Land

Composer Eric Bogle has this to say about his song "No Man's Land":

I wrote this song after a short and very sobering tour round one of the vast military cemeteries in Northern France. There were a lot of Willie McBrides buried there... "

November 11th was originally called Armistice Day, and celebrated the end of World War I. It only became Veterans' Day in the United States, honoring the veterans of all wars, after World War II. This song sums up the horrors and repercussions of all wars, but it is written about World War I. On this Veterans/Armistice Day, let's hope that the world someday learns the lessons it comes to teach. The lyrics follow:

Well, how'd you do, Private Willie McBride,
D'you mind if I sit down here by your graveside?
I'll rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
Been walking all day, Lord, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916,
I hope you died quick and I hope you died "clean,"
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?
Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered ye down?
Did the bugles sing "The Last Post" in chorus?
Did the pipes play the "Flowers O' The Forest"?
And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
And, though you died back in 1916,
To that loyal heart are you ever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger, without even a name,
Forever enshrined behind some glass pane,
In an old photograph, torn and tattered and stained,
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Well, the sun's shining down on these green fields of France;
The warm wind blows gently, the red poppies dance.
The trenches have vanished long under the plow;
No gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land;
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man.
And a whole generation who were butchered and damned.

And I can't help but wonder now, Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you "the cause?"
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here's To You, Mr. President

Throughout her life my mother had only one President. Whenever she spoke of The President she absolutely was not referring to whatever man was currently sitting in the Oval Office. Franklin D. Roosevelt died months before my mother celebrated her twenty-seventh birthday. She'd seen him once when trains still carried people and presidents throughout the country. His train made a whistle stop in her small town of Wickenburg, Arizona. Doubtless just about everyone who lived in Wickenburg and its surrounding hills and deserts gathered at the Santa Fe Depot that day. My mother remembered in vivid detail The President standing on the platform at the back of the train -- at the back of his car.
"He waved to us. And he smiled."
Surely a man waving to a crowd and smiling could not have engendered such a life long loyalty. Perhaps it wasn't his waving to the crowd, after all. Maybe it was what he did for the whole country and -- as my mother felt -- for her and her family in particular. You see, my mother knew the Great Depression first hand. When my mother was fourteen years old -- in 1932 -- my grandfather died after a long illness. My mother was the youngest of seven children. She summed up that period as going abruptly from being poor to having nothing at all. She learned a lot of ways of cooking eggplant so that it looked almost but not quite like meat. She never lost the knack of always managing to cook up something out of nothing. She never forgot what it was like to lose everything. And she never forgot what her President did for her family and serendipitously for the rest of the country.
Here's what I'm thinking now. If my mother were alive, she might be on the verge of considering the possibility that this country is about to inaugurate another President.
I think she'd like that.

Fallout Of A Troubled Economy

Piles of pieces pulled apart.
Hidden scraps of faded ink falling on the floor.
A sweet
long forgotten note
cradled with delight
carefully refolded and
gently inside
a vacant candy dish.

Arms reaching 
to framed photos
and tattered art
leave square imprints
of protected wall.
Folders filled with inspired creations
coat the inside of the metal can
like a rainbow.
In plastic crates
words on colored paper
from the debris
of Change.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Those Autumn Leaves

His front yard was covered with leaves. Doubtless trying to achieve some sense of order, he was raking the leaves onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk was also covered with leaves. Not just covered. The leaves were perhaps a foot high on the sidewalk and in his yard. It was hard to imagine where they'd all come from. There just didn't seem to be that many bare branched trees around.
While he raked he sang a song of contentment and joy. As I approached, our eyes met. I stopped walking. He stopped raking. His smile was infectious. I smiled back.
"You know you want to jump in them," he said.
He wasn't asking me. He was telling me. I was caught.
"Maybe not jump in them," I managed to reply. "Maybe just walk through them."
He gestured for me to proceed.
"But halfway through if you feel like jumping, please don't hesitate."
Halfway through I did feel like jumping. I also felt like scattering them all over the yard and the sidewalk and the street. I felt like grabbing handfuls and throwing them into the air and standing perfectly still while they rained down on my head.
I neither jumped nor threw. I did, however, listen very carefully to sounds of raked leaves crunching under my feet.
On the other side of my leaf crossing, I turned to look at the man.
"You could have done a whole lot more," he said.
"There's always more we could have done."
"I suppose so," he said and returned to raking and to his quiet song of contentment.
Two complete strangers spent a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon enjoying the simplest of life's pleasures.

Earthquake Drill

People of Southern California need to be reminded of the possibility of the big one hitting any day according to, I believe, the Department of Homeland Security. To this end, I believe the Department of Homeland Security enlisted approximately 5 million people to participate in an earthquake drill which is scheduled for Thursday, November 13, 2008. The Department of Homeland Security, Police Departments, Fire Departments, and various businesses, etc. will be some of the participants. The drill instruction will comprise of the "Drop...Cover...Hold On" theory. This is the largest quake prep drill ever. If you would like to take part in the drill, you need to sign up at "" and follow the instructions.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Crossing Guard

Most weekdays, I walk from my home to the subway at the junction of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues in Brooklyn. My walk takes me past four schools within two blocks: P.S. 152, P.S. 315, Midwood High School, and Brooklyn College. The high school and college students can look after themselves, presumably, but at the busy corner of Bedford Avenue and Glenwood Road, a crossing guard helps the elementary school children. One morning I was crossing Glenwood as the driver of an SUV was trying to nose his way into traffic, seemingly without regard to the pedestrian--me--in his path. When I got safely across the street to the crossing guard's corner, I stood waiting for the light to cross Bedford. She came over to me. "I saw you watching that guy. I was, too. I see everything at this corner." I try to vary my walking route somewhat, but I always make sure I cross Glenwood and Bedford at her corner. It's nice to know that you don't have to be a child to have someone watching out for you when you cross a busy street.

Always Learning

My mother-in-law has been a widow for five years and is one of the toughest broads I know.  Left on a doorstep of a convent 87 years ago, she was adopted by a couple that preferred a boy but settled for a girl.  She held her own on the farm in Iowa and married a soldier after only three dates.  He was absent for much of those early years either fighting in a war or building a business.  She quietly made it all work while raising four boys.  It's what women did.
The other day Tom picked up his mother's absentee ballot.  He knew his mother best but he just wasn't sure.  he wanted to believe that she voted for Obama but he didn't know and it bugged him. And so, he peeked.  It turns out for 61 years worth of elections my sweet mother-in-law would smile and nod in agreement with her conservative husband.  Then, she would quietly and confidently cast her ballot and cancel his vote with hers.   

Turning Red On Right

There I was stopped at a red light preparing to make a right turn. It's a busy intersection, the one with the red light. To my left, preparing to go through the intersection when our light turned green, was one of those big and pointless trucks. You know the ones. The tires themselves are about twice the height of most professional basketball players. Getting into the cabs of those things requires a step ladder or an elevator. The only way I could have possibly seen the traffic entering and crossing the intersection on their green light would have been to get out of my Jeep and look under the behemoth to my left.
So naturally the person in the car behind me -- also waiting to make a right turn -- began honking at me so incessantly that the behemoth human looked down at me -- literally -- shrugged his shoulders and laughed. While delightful, that nonverbal communication in no way informed me as to whether or not I could safely make a right turn on my red light.
I decided to wait out the light despite the incessant honking coming from the car behind me. Our light did turn green and I made my right turn. That wasn't good enough, apparently, for the honker who pulled up beside me. I refused to make eye contact despite the continued honking. Then the driver pulled in back of me and continued honking. I began to worry that I had become one of those around the campfire horror story characters. Perhaps there was a dark stranger hovering behind me wielding a knife or a chainsaw or water balloons. Maybe the honking driver was only trying to save my life. I changed lanes just to see what would happen. The honker changed lanes, too. This was getting pretty stupid. When the honker again pulled into the lane beside me, I made eye contact just to bring the drama to a close. I got the requisite finger and the wordless curse. I blew the driver a kiss and mouthed the words, "I love you, too." Apparently that was too much to bear and the driver gunned the engine onto a freeway ramp. Luckily it was a ramp for entering and not exiting. I certainly wished the driver no ill will just better manners.
I guess everything worked out okay. The driver only blasted me with words and fingers. There were no other weapons involved.
Woody Allen once observed that California's only cultural accomplishment was the ability to make a right turn on a red light.
Apparently that ability is no longer much of an accomplishment.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Got The Post Election Blues?

This presidential election seemed to go on forever. We rode the democratic roller coaster with Obama and Clinton. We watched John McCain carry his own suitcases when his campaign ran out of money. We marveled at the stamina of the three major candidates. We gasped in horror as the Republican Vice Presidential nominee was announced. We monitored so many polls we lost track of their meaning. We felt we personally knew the cable news and political commentary anchors. We felt energized. We felt drained. We bit our fingernails. We resubscribed to magazines and newspapers for information out of date by press time. We searched the Internet and googled and yahoo-ed constantly.
And now it's over. Our man won. Our initiative failed to fail but that's another story and another birth of a civil rights movement.
So here we are. Exhausted with time and energy on our hands. There are no more polls to monitor, no more campaign sound bites to analyze. Why do we feel so tired and sad and drained? Why do we stare at computer or television screens as though they had only moments before arrived from another dimension? Why do we feel so sad despite having gained so much?
Because it's over.
Anytime we focus and sustain energy and attention and passion and creativity for an extended period of time, we feel a post project, post birth, post election, post creation let down. With enough severity and time, those feelings could become actual depression.
Best way to combat them?
Get passionately involved again.
Care enough about something to, say, sit down in the intersections of Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards along with several hundred other people and watch the traffic at rush hour stop.
Care enough about something to, say, pick up a sign in protest of injustice.
Or, if it's too soon for any of that, get some exercise. Or laugh. Both activities initiate the release of serotonin which make us feel a whole lot better.
And know that what you're feeling is natural and okay. These post election blues are the price we pay for the passion we felt.

Lech Lecha

Saying good-by to my second son to leave home was easier than I thought.  I felt many things... relief, gratitude, joy and a touch of sadness.  It was far less dramatic yet similar to the feelings I had only a year ago when when the older one left for a dream job 3000 miles away.  A trained chef at twenty, this child needed to leave home.  That was clear.  His script was written in his hometown and so we gave him a gentle (yet firm) push to go for himself, to himself, to find himself.  Leaving one place for another is never easy.   But it seems that there is more fear than I remember when I left my parents home all those years ago.  The excitement tempered with a bad economy and fierce competition for a job with decent benefits.  Yes, he left.  And, if things don't work out he'll be back.   We'll dust him off, give him time to regroup and send him out again.   

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Daddy Was A Cowboy

If he hadn't died thirty-eight years ago at the age of fifty-eight, my father would have celebrated his 96th birthday today. He would be an age still within the limits of today's life expectancy.
My father was a cowboy. He could smell rain days away from its hitting the ground and he could see on the barest of desert soil enough green to feed a mother cow. He tipped his hat to women and allowed his eyes to tell you what he felt if you were brave enough to look right into them. He played the harmonica and provided the only music by which he and my mother ever danced -- the 'put your little foot right there' dance. Then they'd turn to the right. Then they'd turn to the left. Then they'd turn to the right. Then they'd turn to the left.
Once my Aunt Cassie admitted that her parents and her grandmother couldn't actually remember the date of my father's birth. Apparently giving birth at home in the early 1900s could be a fairly intense experience during which the participants could easily lose track of time. My grandparents, according to Cassie, figured that my father's conception took place just about the time Arizona became a state. As my aunt told it, election day in 1912 was on November 6th. And so in honor of the first election of the baby state's statehood, my grandparents declared that day the birthday of their only son. That and, as my aunt later remembered, there was a big storm that night and they didn't want to forget about that, either.
Happy birthday, Daddy.

Festival of Lights

Every Christmas season, Griffith Park's Crystal Springs Road is lit up with colorful lights and scenery sponsored by the Los Angeles Water & Power. A portion of this road is transformed into fantasy for adults and children alike. Music waifs into the night air and suddenly you feel joyous of the season. I've had occasion to hike the hills behind Crystal Springs Road at night during this season. There's nothing to put you into the Xmas mood more than viewing the scenic displays from atop a hill, hearing the sounds of Christmas carols filling the air. It's very soothing and relaxing. If you've never frequented Crystal Springs Road during the festive season, I would definitely prescribe it for one and all. The road is opened around 5:00-7:00 p.m.. Crystal Springs Road runs almost parallel to the Los Angeles Zoo. You're in for a beautiful breathtaking surprise - somthing you can tuck into your fond memory banks.


I have three cats that were inside/outside animals all their lives until about three years ago when I discovered we not only had coyotes for neighbors but we also had bobcats and mountain lions. I discovered a bobcat near my back yard who I mistakenly thought was one of my cats (his markings are almost identical to that of a bobcats except his coloring is deeper). When I realized my mistake and with the help of a human neighbor, I quickly tried to round up my kitties. We were successful except for one who ran and jumped up on the roof. My neighbor followed him over the back side of my roof to the front of the house successfully capturing the little bugger. Now, every once in a while, one will escape out the front door where sometimes visitors are careless and don't close the door all the way behind them. One such event happened last week. The guilty escapee now does every trick he can to get my attention so I will let him out. He has nudged me, butted heads with me, bitten my toes, rubs in and out of my legs - why he has even marked me and mind you, he has been neutered. Oh well, give him another week or so and he will settle in once again. He's definitely my wild one and a good potential escapee and most importantly, I adore him.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change in America

I, too, want change in America. We didn't vote Obama into office because of his color. We voted him in because we share his dreams for America. Yes, for America -- not for the color of skin -- for America. Some media and certain shows are playing this up as though it was a racial contest. No such thing! One voter was interviewed and commented, "This is like the civil liberties..." fought in the '60's. Obama was voted in to maintain America's freedom - not for just Black people but for all its people. The media needs to stand back and play down skin color and show Obama's strengths, intelligence and leadership. One of the most historic events can turn into a 3-ring circus if we're not careful.

Remote wars

I watched the election coverage last night with several young people ages 16 to 23.  We constantly fought over the remote.  A few only wanted to watch Stewart and Colbert on the comedy channel.  They believed Obama would win big and wanted to be entertained until the moment of certainty arrived.  There were a few that liked the special channel, tiny boxes on one screen displaying every network that offered coverage.  I tried to see how "cool" it was not to miss anything (as the benefit of this choice was explained to me) but I just felt confused and old.   I simply couldn't see or hear anything.   Since I was the senior senator in the room, I quickly vetoed this choice.  And then there were those that were perfectly fine with a skilled commercial flipping between CNN and MSNBC.  Every time someone usurped control, I felt a certain disloyalty to the people I had been getting my political food from this past year.  These young people I witnessed history with last night (some in school, some with jobs, some without) invaded my space, talked incessantly and laughed throughout the evening.  They were positive about change and how it will be achieved.  They liked that the new president plays basketball.  Seeing these young people engaged in the process (on any channel) makes me believe that the future is in very good hands.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes! We Can, Too!

If California's Proposition 8 passes -- if the people who fear diversity and embrace oppression claim a voting victory -- everyone will lose.
Same sex couples will not disappear nor will they stop seeking equality. A victory for this absurd ballot initiative will only make people who care for justice more determined to seek it and to win it.
The country mandated change tonight. To deny same sex couples the right to marry is regression to a darker time. A country determined to move toward the light will eventually refuse to tolerate all oppression.
So, you YES folk, if you win this round, enjoy your party.
The times they are a changing.
Life yearns for light.

T-Ball for Tiny Tykes

Two years ago I was invited to my adopted Grandson's first T-ball game. The team consisted of ten 3 and 4 year olds. They gathered in the bull pen, giggling, comparing their uniforms and strutting their baseball stuff. Oh I'm sure they felt like big leaguers! After the team mom (my adopted daughter) settled the little ones in batting order on the bench, one at a time they would approach home plate with the help of their dads or moms. They were all so excited about being "real ball players". They kept getting up and down on the bench, runing back and forth. Finally, batter up! The little tykes had no idea who was batting, how they got to home plate, etc. They were extremely hyper. So....most dads or moms walked their little ones to home plate, showed them the stance and hollered when to swing at the ball - it was hilarious. One little boy cried all the way to home plate with his dad tugging him along. His dad helped him hit his first ball and ran with him towards the direction of first base. The little one was so proud that he hit the ball he couldn't help smiling from ear to ear. When they switched to field positions, most of the kids didn't know what to do. After a lot of coaxing from their moms and dads, they sort of got the idea. After a few hours, the kids were really getting tired so much so that some of them were sitting on the ground in the general direction of the area they were supposed to cover. The short stop (my grandson), sat in the same spot with his shoes off, playing with his feet during the entire time he was in the field. I couldn't believe it - my heart was touched to see these little tykes try to act like big leaguers. I am amused when I look back on the pictures I took that day.

A President Is Born

After a day of anxious waiting and pacing, the labor is over and the election is decided and the future -- a healthy, hopeful future -- is born.

Sometimes the right thing really does happen.

So Go Vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Subway Etiquette

I grew up in New York and subway etiquette was drummed into my head from an early age. A polite person gives up his or her seat to people in certain categories. The categories are: pregnant women, disabled people, and older people, especially older women. When I was really young, a gentleman gave his seat to a lady, but that went the way of the dinosaur by the 1970s.

When I moved back to New York last month, I was pleased to see that subway etiquette is still operational. At least, I was pleased until, in the last week, on two separate occasions, polite young people offered their seats to me. Me? I'm not old enough to be offered a subway seat. I was deeply troubled, and mentioned it to my friend, who is my age. "Oh, yeah, that happens to me, too," she said, "but I just assume they thought I was pregnant."

And Finally This

I'm sharing an e mail that's been making the rounds. Today it arrived on my desk. I have no idea who originated it. I do hope, though, that if any YES folk received and read this message, they have paid attention to its words and change their YES to NO.

You are my friends. I respect and admire you. You are the best women I have ever met -- generous, kind, and willing to help anyone who needs help. I am very concerned about this misleading information about Proposition 8. It all sounds so real, but is it not true.
Here is the truth:
1. No church is required to perform -- or not perform -- any ceremony. This would be a direct violation of the federal constitution protecting separation of church and state.
2. Schools do not teach gay (or any other) marriage to kindergartners. The teach protection from strangers. Sex education is taught in high school and they teach - "This is how it happens. Don't do it." Marriage education is taught in high school and covers good parenting, child care, and nutrition.
3. No child is required to participate if the parent does not want the child to do so. A parent may have the child excused from sex education, etc., by notifying the school. Best to give the school a letter to file so no one forgets. That's all a parent has to do -- tell the school. That can be done at the beginning of each year before instruction even begins.
4. Marriage and Domestic Partnership are not the same thing. The civil rights are not the same for both.
5. Classic 'traditional' marriage is not affected by the people entering into it. If it were, the biggest threat is the huge number of divorces and wife abuse practiced in straight marriages.
We founded this nation on the belief that every religion is protected by prohibiting laws that are based on religious doctrine.
We founded this nation to protect minorities.
The proud nation of the United States does not legislate to take away the rights of others nor do we condone political and personal hatred against each other.
This is not a religious issue. It is a civil rights issue.d It is a moral issue because others need our help.
Please remember that I have a daughter who has devoted her life since junior high to bettering the lives of others. You have met her, seen her photos, know how she has helped hundreds of poor families right here in our community. She is willing to go back to Pakistan to find ways to improve the lives of women by improving their chances for education.
Doesn't she deserve the same civil rights as I do?
If it is okay to persecute a group, what will protect us if we are next?
Thank you my friends.

I don't know Sally but I commend her for these words.

Hooray For Hassan Alyassin

Remember several months ago when this young man was going door to door in Pomona letting people know of his ambition to run for mayor? He rang the doorbell of the co-founder. So taken was she by his forthright, honest ambition that she gave him ten dollars on the spot and wished him well.
And he made it. He is running for mayor of Pomona. The odds are against his winning this go around and in favor of his trying again.
Who knows. Maybe during his next campaign he'll be able to pay a printer for posters instead of painting them himself on scraps of plywood.
Hassan, we're rooting for you.

PSA No To Proposition 8

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'll Want My Money Back

Back in the mid seventeen hundreds there was a lot of stuff going on that required brave and forward thinking decisions by courageous, articulate, fair-minded people. Luckily, we seem to have had quite a few folk like that back then.

For example, the Stamp Act of 1765, enacted by the British Parliament, mandated that revenue stamps be affixed to all newspapers, pamphlets, licenses, leases, or other legal documents. The revenue garnered by those stamps would be used in theory for "defending, protecting, and securing" the American colonies. Over in England, the financial burden seemed so evenly and lightly distributed that the measure passed Parliament with little debate. Of course, it wasn't their lives on which those members of Parliament were voting so their decision was probably fairly simple.

The violence of the reaction in the thirteen colonies, however, was impressive and completely surprising to Parliament. The act aroused the hostility of the most powerful and articulate groups in the colonies -- journalists, lawyers, clergymen, merchants, and businessmen, north and south, east and west -- because it wasn't fair.

In the summer of 1765 trade between the colonies and England practically stopped. Prominent men organized as "Sons of Liberty," and political opposition soon flared into rebellion. Inflamed crowds paraded the streets of Boston. From Massachusetts to South Carolina the act was nullified, and mobs destroyed the hated stamps.

The Virginia Assembly passed a set of resolutions denouncing taxation without representation as a threat to colonial liberties.

A few days later, the Massachusetts House invited all the colonies to appoint delegates to a Congress in New York to deal with the Stamp Act. This Congress, held in October 1765, was the first inter-colonial meeting ever summoned on an American initiative.

No taxation without representation became the battle cry of the American Revolution.

So here we are about to vote on whether or not people in the State of California should be denied basic rights extended to the majority of the population. If that initiative passes, it seems only fair and completely democratic, according to the wisdom of our founding fathers, that all who are denied rights afforded to others should be given tax breaks. We could call those breaks the "We Screwed Them Tax Cuts" or the "We Think We're Better Than You" tax cuts.

On Wednesday morning, if the YES folks have won their absurd battle, it's only fair that those who have lost their constitutional rights be reimbursed for past taxes and given on going tax breaks until the day their rights are restored.

Sorry, Not Today Folks

I've been thinking a lot about those people on the corners waving their YES signs in my face. Today I was considering running an errand, picking up some essential piece of plastic upon which the quality of my life depends. I've decided to wait a few days to make that purchase. The self satisfied expressions on their faces is not a sight I care to take in this peaceful, post drizzly night morning on which I have been afforded an extra hour of time.
I do wonder, though, what aspect of traditional marriage they want to protect and preserve. Is it the high divorce rate? Is it the staggeringly high incidents of domestic violence and child abuse? Or are they protecting their fortress from liberation and joy and from people who have waited and organized and hoped for lifetimes that their time would come?
My current fantasy is that these 'traditional marriage' YES folk would suddenly become the minority. They would become the ten percent of the population and everyone would get to vote on whether or not the marriages of those ten percent would remain valid and whether or not that ten percent would ever again be allowed to legally marry. I think those YES folk would be pretty terrified.
It is so much easier to be self righteous when you're in the majority. In the majority it is so easy to forget that when you oppress one section of humanity you ultimately oppress yourself.

I'm Hooked

I admit it.  I'm hooked.  I can't go more than an hour or two without checking electoral vote websites and examining the latest battleground state statistics.  I'm constantly flipping channels searching for the latest news.   I hold my breath with every breaking story and blunder reported hoping it doesn't change a commanding lead.  The situation room, Hardball and Rachel Maddow are some of the places I find comfort.  I force myself (although I don't last very long) to listen to Fox news (noise) to check out what the competition is saying.  I go from being completely confident to worrying that not enough young people will vote.  I share any information  that makes a stronger case.  I am excited yet fearful.  While I hold down the home front, Tom will go to Nevada to help.  Like many others, I'm emotionally exhausted.  I can only imagine how my candidate feels...

More Clergy Ask You To Vote No

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Daylight Savings

How many of you would like to see daylight savings time stay in year round? I, for one, do not relish the idea of darkness at 5:00 p.m. Why, it feels as though it's almost time to get ready for bed. Do you realize that our physical bodies go through a tremendous strain for about four weeks out of the year? I recently heard a media rumor that perhaps it's being taken into consideration by our government to keep daylight savings time year round. Wouldn't that be wonderful? No more changing all our clocks, DVD players, reprogramming our T.V. channels, etc. No more headlights at 5:00 p.m. We would have one more hour to accomplish our errands free of nightfall. What do you say? Should we petition our Assemblymen, Mayor, Senator, Representative, Congressman or our Governor for year round daylight savings?

Dorothy (Del) Martin: May 5, 1921 - August 27,2008

Del Martin devoted most of her life to championing on behalf of civil liberties, human dignity, feminism, and equality for all. She was born in San Francisco and she died in San Francisco. She and Phyllis Lyon lived together for over fifty years.
Del challenged misconceptions about gender and sexuality and fought against the criminalization of homosexuality. She helped create the Council on Religion and the Homosexual to lobby city lawmakers and reduce police harassment of gay men and women. She was an early member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and worked to remove homophobia from that women's movement. She and Phyllis were the first same sex couple to join NOW with a 'couple's membership' rate. She led a campaign against the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its classification of psychiatric disorders. In 1973 homosexuality was taken out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. With the publication of 'Battered Wives' in 1976, Del Martin became a major catalyst for the movement against domestic violence. She became nationally know as an advocate for battered women. She co-founded the Coalition for Justice for Battered Women in 1975, La Casa de las Madres (a shelter for battered women) in 1976, and the California Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 1977. In 1976 Del was appointed Chair of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. With Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin was given the Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in 1990. That is the highest honor extended by the ACLU. In 1979 San Francisco health care providers established a clinic to provide area lesbians access to nonjudgmental, affordable health care. The clinic is called the Lyon-Martin Health Services. In 1995 Senator Dianne Feinstein named Del Martin as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. (Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi named Phyllis Lyon.) Together Martin and Lyon reminded thousands of people that homosexuals grow old, too, and must be included in all aging policies. The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality gave Martin and Lyon their Outstanding Public Service Award in 1996.
Del Martin believed that "... nothing is ever accomplished by hiding in a dark corner." That belief guided her life.
In a life filled with astonishingly brave and selfless political acts on behalf of social justice, the last public and political act in Del Martin's long career took place on June 16, 2008.
On June 16, 2008, Del Martin married her partner of 55 years, Phyllis Lyon. With Phyllis holding her hand for support, Del cut the first slice of their wedding cake.
Del and Phyllis were the first couple to wed in San Francisco after the California Supreme Court recognized that marriage for same-sex couples is a fundamental right in a case brought by plaintiffs including Martin and Lyon.
Del Martin is survived by her daughter Kendra Mon, her son-in-law Eugene Lane, her granddaughter Lorraine Mon, her grandson Kevin Mon, her sister-in-law Patricia Lyon, and by her domestic partner of 55 years and legally wed spouse of 73 days Phyllis Lyon.

Doing Right Feels Good

There they were again full of hate and fear holding their signs encouraging passersby to vote in favor of taking away constitutional rights from at least 10% of the people in this state. This weekend things were a little different, though. Several people holding NO signs had joined the YES sign holders. The YES folk stood stony faced while the NO folk waved and smiled and seemed generally pleased to be standing outside holding signs encouraging passersby to support the constitution and equal rights for all.
Maybe the NO folk were happy. Maybe it just feels better to be championing for the common good instead of spreading hatred and fear and lies.
Those NO folks were, to me, the cavalry coming over the hill sounding bugle cries of hope.

To Have And To Hold