Friday, July 31, 2009
My characteristic response has been to stare at the earnest colleague and reply, "I don't understand your question. My weekend requires no preparation." Well, maybe not those exact words but certainly words along those lines because I really have not understood the question. That is, I have not understood it until today. Now I have greater insight..
Not wanting to endure one more Friday of trying to figure out that completely confounding question, I asked someone with obviously far more social sense than I possess.
While her answer wasn't exactly, "You are an idiot." she would have been entitled to express that sentiment. She didn't though.
She explained that the question is generally rhetorical. The person asking it may actually be saying something like, "Wow! This week is over!."
Apparently many people who work a Monday through Friday week look forward to the week's end. To me, looking forward to the end of any day, week, month, or year seems like a lack of focus on the present and its possibilities.
Nevertheless, I can't wait to be asked the inevitable Friday question so I can respond, as instructed, "Boy Am I!"
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tess Gerritsen, author of The Bone Garden, is a physician who stopped practicing medicine to write mysteries and raise her children.
It's been fun to watch her grow as a writer.
I just finished reading The Bone Garden and, aside from feeling really irritated about way too many dangling things such as, "Here is where it's at," I really enjoyed the book. I couldn't, in fact, willingly put it down.
Not only is it a good mystery, it's a fascinating glimpse into Boston medical schools of the early nineteenth century. The author goes back and forth between the present day and 1830 Boston to weave a story which ultimately has a few holes in the quilt. However, for a good read, a great distraction, and a wonderful first meeting with Oliver Wendell Holmes, a doctor and father of THE Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Bone Garden is wonderful.
By the way, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes made a stunning contribution to American medicine. He dared to suggest that doctors wash their hands between surgeries.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It isn't his fault; he's a big powerful dog and a natural predator. The rabbit was his natural prey. Not to denigrate his accomplishment, the rabbits on this particular hillside seem more dimwitted than most, often standing in full sight contemplating the universe, unaware that any creature might wish anything other than good will to bunnies. It's just that, at seven o'clock in the morning, I don't care to be witness to the food chain in quite such a lurid fashion. Nature isn't always pretty.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Not long ago I spoke to a woman who for years expected people to mistreat her. She didn't want to be mistreated. Nevertheless, because of mistreatment early in her life, that's what she expected. Throughout the years, she developed a logical defense. She mistreated people first thus robbing them of the chance to be cruel or rude to her. She even began delighting in her cruelty. Without realizing it, she looked for cruelty in every person she met. She wore blinders that effectively blocked her vision to kindness or even to indifference.
Eventually she may consider looking for other characteristics in the people she meets.
While she may never stop wearing blinders, she may at least shift her narrow focus to a different trail and following it she may find that people are capable of surprising and positive behaviors.
We find that for which we seek.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Blinders, then, can keep us safe.
There is, though, a time to put them on and a time to take them off.
Of course the blinders to which I refer and the blinders we fasten to our own selves -- the emotional blinders with which we see or experience only a small part of our emotional landscape. And here's the kicker, to keep the mule analogy going. We choose when to wear our emotional blinders and we choose which emotion path on which to focus. We can choose anger or we can choose acceptance. We can choose contentment or we can choose distress. We maintain our own emotional trails.
The trouble with blinders is that while limited focus may sometimes keep us safe, we never see the entire, amazing emotional landscape of life.
Once at the top or the bottom of those narrow Grand Canyon trails, the mules have no need for their blinders. They're safe.
You will be, too.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
There is nothing to do. I’ll turn on the television. The cable is out so I think I’ll listen to my ipod. My ipod isn’t working, I’ll play around on the Internet. The Internets connection is messed up, I’ll read a book. And so on, and so on. We have so much stimulation all the time. Why do we need to be entertained constantly? Why can’t we just sit still and be quiet? I challenge you to take time today to just sit without stimulation for five minutes. Without tending to that itch on you knee, or scanning the room for something to look at. Sit in a comfortable spot. Your favorite reading chair, the bed, or the floor. It doesn’t matter. Just try to quiet your mind and focus on being still. I think you’ll find it more challanging than a game of rock band.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
She was my friend.
She was my mother.
I miss her.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Today I visited my favorite place in the world, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. No matter what time of year it is, there is something beautiful to look at. The roses were overblown from heat and my favorites, the lilacs and cherry blossoms, have been gone for months but the water lilies were at their very best, and the sheer amount of greenery brought joy to my heart. Being in the garden is like entering a different world. It sits in the middle of a relatively grimy part of Brooklyn, but you forget that as soon as you walk through its gates. New Yorkers who habitually shout, shove and hustle can be seen murmuring and strolling instead. Everybody needs a little corner of beauty in their lives. Welcome to mine.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
All good things do eventually end. Eventually fire fighters had to put out the fire. Eventually.
Nothing was left of the building that had such a short time earlier housed medical marijuana offices and, of course, the supplies used by said offices.
Had the currently considered tax on the sale of medical marijuana already been in place, what a sad loss of possible revenue for the state this little fire would have been. As it is, though, this morning was just a little calmer than most hot Monday mornings.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thanks to ted.com for this and many other videos used by witsendmagazine.
So long to an icon of a man. He will sorely be missed by all.
"And that's the way it is."
Thursday, July 16, 2009
There is a logical next step to this proposed tax on prescription weed. Make the whole plant legal and tax each and every sale. Obviously legalizing marijuana and taxing those sales would doubtless not only balance the budget but within a very short time put the state in financial black.
But perhaps I move too fast. Even without legalizing the whole plant, I think placing a tax on the sale of medical marijuana is a great idea. Not only will those taxes add up to millions, think of the economic boost for other areas. The sale of chocolate chip cookies and Snickers candy bars will sky rocket. Life being incredibly logical, dentists and weight loss enterprises will subsequently rake in the profits. While the number of citations for speeding may dwindle considerably, those issued to drivers sitting at intersections completely transfixed by the lights changing from red to green to yellow and back to red will more than compensate for the speeding ticket revenue loss.
I commend the political leaders of this state for their creative approach to solving this current financial political stalemate.
Yo -- Keep truckin' on.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Regardless of the precise definition, eras end.
So it is with Virgil's Hardware Home & Garden store. After a century of private, family ownership, the off beat little we have just about anything you could want and a lot of what you don't want store was sold to something called Do It Center and its parent company, Neiman Reed Lumber Company out of Chatsworth.
Virgil's is no Lowes. It's not OSH nor is it Home Depot. Virgil's is quirky in the extreme. Shelves are stocked in an order surely inspired by the chaos theory. Mail boxes are stacked next to flash lights. That makes a certain amount of sense. Coming home after dark, I suppose you might wish you had picked up that flash light when you bought the new mail box. Sponge Bob Square Pants humidifiers can be found near the Weber grills. Tupperware containers stacked precariously invite shoppers to look beyond their clutter to the hand drills. And of course, there's always the eggs. Only at Virgil's can you buy a crescent wrench and a dozen cage free eggs.
Virgil's reminds me of a store owned by the brothers Ray and Glenn Hoagland. Ray had never left the little Arizona town of his birth nor had he even ventured past the bend in the road. My mother once asked the price of an item. Ray's answer was, "It probably costs too much and you don't need it anyway."
Ray took care of his customers. So did the folks at Virgil's.
Eras end. Eras begin.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Planning for jury duty is a little like preparing for a long airplane flight. The seats will be uncomfortable, the recirculated air will become stale, the hours will seem long, and eventually the restrooms will get pretty funky. Knowing all of this actually helps me prepare.
Once I know my reporting date, I carefully select a book to take along. I begin looking forward to reading it. I don't ever take a hard back book. They weigh too much and I want to keep the load light. I bring along several light and healthy snacks and a bottle of water. I bring layers of clothing because temperature control seems beyond the ability of our entire judicial system. The most important thing I bring along is positive energy. The energy in a room full of unhappy people who don't want to be there can be pretty depleting. It takes a lot of calm to counteract that negativity.
Finally, once I'm headed to the court, I simply let go of wanting to be elsewhere. I board the plane, listen to the safety instructions, and really, truly let it be. Just as long flights end, jury duty plays itself out. I'm not in charge of either journey. Besides, you never know who you'll meet along the way. Sometimes you meet friends and sometimes you make friends.
Drink lots of water. Read a good book. Eat a few Red Vines. Spend the per diem pay foolishly.
The events of our lives don't matter nearly as much as the meanings we give them.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Free at last. Thank God I'm free at last.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I never met Billy. Once I saw him sitting in the passenger seat of the car owned by his parents. Either his father or his mother had run into the store and left Billy alone in the car. My mother and I walked by and when we were far enough away to not be heard, my mother whispered to me, "That's Billy."
Even without her explanation, I probably would have known that the dreamy faced, smiling young man was Billy. He looked strangely and hauntingly peaceful.
In that small town, Billy helped my parents teach me a powerful lesson. Heads are fragile. I have never, since at least the age of four, even considered walking in back of a horse. While that lesson may be of little use at the moment, it probably saved my life several times over on the cattle ranch of my youth. And who knows. The memory of my mother's whispered, "That's Billy," may sometime in the future keep me from becoming my own worst enemy.
Earlier this evening I listened to a recording of beautiful, classical guitar. As I listened, I thought of Billy for the first time in decades and wondered what he enjoyed.
Heads are fragile and life is precious.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Surely no one -- not even the King of Pop himself -- would want to be remembered for funeral ticket scalping and custody battles and who, by the way, has recently asked how his children are doing. Their father is dead. Surely that simple fact is worth at least a few solemn pages somewhere.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
When Manny doesn't play, the left fielder for the Dodgers is Juan Pierre. You can tell that Pierre has never used steroids, because if he did, he would have more muscle to show for it. He's a skinny guy whose cap is too big for him, and when he puts on a batting helmet, he looks like he should be playing in Little League. He is a consistent hitter and a terrific baserunner. Late in Friday's game, he prevented an Adrian Gonzalez hit by making a catch at the wall that Manny would only have reached in his dreams. I was sad when I thought that Pierre's time in left field was at an end. Maybe Joe Torre agrees with me and Manny will have to earn his way back to a starting role.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
For years, I've taken my car to a local gas station for gas and sometimes for a mechanical fix. The cashier was always busy but usually had a couple of minutes for friendly chatter. Likewise, with the mechanic. Several months ago, the cashier informed me the owner told her there was to be no chatter - strictly business. Shortly after that, the mechanic quit.
Today, I was at my local pharmacy and the usual person located my prescriptions and told me the owner advised her that all talk was to be of a business nature. In the past, I would converse with her for just a very few friendly minutes.
What's happening to our society? Is it some discipline enveloping American enterprise? Are we too busy to be courteous and friendly or have we become an uncaring society?
I was at the ball park yesterday and at the beginning of the seventh inning stretch, we were asked to rise for the singing of "God Bless America". Unbidden, men removed their hats and a majority of people placed their hands over their hearts.
"God Bless America" was written by Irving Berlin in 1918. He was serving in the U.S. Army during World War I at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. He wrote a revue to be performed in the camp called, "Yip Yip Yaphank", and "God Bless America" was to be the finale. The stories vary here. Some sources say that the camp authorities rejected it as too jingoistic, and others say that Berlin felt that its solemn tone conflicted with the comic spirit of the rest of the show. In any case, it was put away for twenty years.
On the eve of World War II, asked to write a patriotic song for Kate Smith, Berlin pulled out the song and rewrote some of the words. It was first performed on Smith's national radio show on Armistice Day, November 11, 1938. It was an immediate sensation. For a time, Smith held the exclusive rights to perform the song, and even after that option ended, her name and "God Bless America" were inextricably linked. The song received new life after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and was memorably recorded by singer Celine Dion. It has been less memorably rendered by many, many others.
Okay, I admit that "God Bless America" is a great song. It was almost named the national anthem before Kate Smith addressed Congress and begged them not to get rid of "The Star-Spangled Banner", which was written during a battle in the war of 1812. Of course, Kate Smith is one of the twelve people since 1812 who could actually sing "The Star-Spangled Banner". Her rendition of our real national anthem is the B side of her single of "God Bless America".
But why are people rising and removing their headgear and putting their hands over their hearts? First of all, a person is only supposed to place their hand on their heart to pledge allegiance, not to sing the national anthem, or any other song. Anyone at school assembly at P.S 156, Queens, New York who didn't know that would have been laughed out of the auditorium. Secondly, almost doesn't count (I learned that at P.S. 156 too). We can only have one national anthem, and "God Bless America" isn't it, and shouldn't receive the respect that is due only to "The Star-Spangled Banner".
On the eve of this Independence Day weekend, I have a number of other gripes about patriotic decorum. I could go on for quite a while about the mistakes people make in displaying the American flag. I suggest that we have a national school assembly to refresh our memories for the right way to perform these patriotic acts. Attendance will be mandatory, but middie blouses and pleated navy skirts are optional.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
When we lived in New Jersey, our community was filled with squirrels. The Family Dog's approach was to leap in their direction, barking loudly, giving them ample opportunity to scurry across the street or up a tree. He did once flush out a dead one for a second, before I had the chance to pull him away.
Back in California, he has found a wealth of prey. There are squirrels here too as well as rabbits and the occasional roadrunner. But he likes hunting lizards best of all. They are even faster than squirrels, and he has no chance of catching one, but that doesn't stop him. He is regularly covered with leaves from diving into bushes and attempting to score a lizard. I am heartened by his can-do attitude. How many of us can fail time after time and approach each new opportunity with a whole heart and utter confidence?