Sunday, May 31, 2009

June Gloom

In June 1987, I was living in San Francisco and was to attend a conference for work in Northridge. Thrilled at getting out of the fog, I packed shorts, tanks tops and a bathing suit - the hotel had an outdoor pool - and got ready for some heat. I arrived in Northridge to find all the Southern Californians wearing sweatshirts, and the weather quite similar to what I had left at home. "June gloom", they all said, "Didn't you know?"

The weather phenomena called June gloom is, according to Wikipedia, "a California term for a weather pattern that results in overcast skies with mild temperatures during the late spring and early summer. The condition is prevalent in many parts of the world where marine stratus or stratocumulus clouds are common, particularly off the western coasts of continents..."

I just arrived back in Southern California four days ago, and even though it is still late May, June gloom is in force. Some days it has burned off in the afternoon, some days it lasts all day. I put on my sweatshirt with no complaints. There'll be plenty of heat later on. Right now, I like it. It reminds me of San Francisco.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Goodbye, Jay

I never watched you much but I hate goodbyes.
So, I'll miss you.
Go figure.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reflections From the End of the Road

The hand-off from one travel companion to another went off well. One Family Human flew in from Los Angeles to Albuquerque and the Other Family Human flew back to New York. There was time enough in between for a picnic lunch at the Albuquerque International Airport as documented in another entry here.

The First Family Human and I had arrived early enough the previous day to enjoy an afternoon walking around Old Town Albuquerque and a nice dinner at our hotel. The main plaza of Old Town is the center of a number of streets which feature shops displaying Native American crafts - turquoise, silver, blankets, embroidered shirts and dresses. A sign on the door of a store holding a close-out sale told us that it was one of only two Indian-owned stores in all of Old Town. I was dismayed and surprised. The Other Family Human, who spent considerable time working on an Indian reservation in upstate New York, was just dismayed.

So, the Family Dog and I are at the end of our road for now, back in Los Angeles. We love to travel by car, and are looking forward to our next adventure.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zucchini Update

The Jersey City zucchini are thriving and about to bloom. Mind you, these were started from seeds -- not simply moved from one container to the other.
Pretty soon it will be time to dig out the stained and torn copy of "The Zucchini Cook Book". Really. There is a book devoted to nothing except zucchini recipes.
Way to go, Jersey!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Just For The Airport I Would Live There

Generally airports are just things we walk through to get someplace else. The Albuquerque International Airport is different.
It's friendly. It's pretty. And it's a perfect place for a picnic. Really. The parking lot provides views of the mountains. Benches and tables invite people to stay awhile. So we did. There in the parking lot in between thunder storms, we dined on sushi and fruit and tea. People who walked by admired the Family Dog and even smiled at us. They paused to chat -- about the weather, about the dog -- about all sorts of stuff.
And inside the airport people waiting for passengers or seeing people off have a chance to eat and wash up and pause to shop before the security madness separates them from those who are coming or going on the airplanes for which the airport was designed.
The place seems to want people around.
Go figure.
If I had frequent flyer miles to carelessly use before they expired, I would definitely fly to Albuquerque just to be in the airport.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We Remember

Sergeant Jerry Walker
Killed in the South Pacific
January 9, 1943
Age 19

"Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound the last post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers o' the Forest?"
Gordon Bok -- "No Man's Land"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Memorial Day of Appreciation

The wars in Afganistan and Iraq continue on. Do we realize the risks our military take to protect the homeland? Do we realize the medical personnel (doctors, nurses, medic aids, etc.) it takes to save the lives of our young soldiers fighting these wars? The medical personnel place their lives on the line each and every day as the wars continue. They are almost on the front lines. The wounded are taken to a trauma center in Balad (a city near Iraq) first to stabilize their condition and then the critically injured are air lifted to an airforce base in Germany where the real healing begins and surgeries are performed. Inside these facilities is turmoil and pure chaos to quickly treat our injured and save their lives. From there, they are flown to medical facilities in the United States to complete the healing and rehabilitation. It is of utmost importance that we take care of our wounded soldiers, not only medically but, financially, emotionally and spiritually. After all, they put their lives on the line to save our citizens from harm. We owe them much respect and apprecation and should be grateful that we have such brave heros! Bravo to our soldiers and the medical personnel. My heart goes out to them all!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On American Soil

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum was created to honor those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The Memorial and Museum are dedicated to educating visitors about the impact of violence, informing about events surrounding the bombing, and inspiring hope and healing through lessons learned by those affected.

Aside from lunching in Tulsa, we didn't plan to stop anywhere today, but as we approached Oklahoma City, the Other Family Human, who was driving, asked me if there was a memorial at the site of the bombing of the Federal Building. I checked the tour book, and found that the memorial was downtown, and not at all out of our way. It is the most poignant and beautiful memorial I have ever witnessed. It acknowledges the survivors as well as those who died. It is a brilliant work of art, and every part of it is relevant and meaningful. We wish we'd had time to see the museum, too, but it was closing as we arrived. I know that Oklahoma City isn't on the radar screen of most of the readers of this blog, but I urge you, if you are anywhere in the vicinity, to see it, or go to its website at What a fine and appropriate place to find ourselves on this Memorial Day weekend.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The Gateway Arch is a 630 feet high inverted catenary of stainless steel, according to the Auto Club book. That does not quite describe how magnificent it is. We arrived late in the afternoon, driving over the Martin Luther King Memorial Bridge from Illinois, right into a downtown St. Louis filled with commuters trying to get out of the city for Memorial Day weekend, Cardinals fans trying to park for the evening's game, tourists, gamblers hoping for a big win at the riverboat casinos and conventioneers. The Family Dog was a little overwhelmed. This was the most urban environment he's ever seen, and he had to cross a really big street. But the Auto Club book listed the Gateway to the West as one of the national monuments where pets are welcome, and we didn't want to deprive him of his chance to see a national monument. Also, it is situated in a beautiful park right on the Mississippi River, and he was more impressed by a couple of trees in the park than he was by the arch itself. Different travelers have different experiences on the same trip.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reverse Road Trip - Day One

Random thoughts from a day on the road:
The A&P market in Hoboken has really high prices, but the red and yellow Delicious apples were on sale, so we got them. The Pennsylvania Turnpike has really improved its highway rest stops since the last time I drove through. If you want to know where all the American family farms went, look in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. May is a beautiful time of year to be on the road. You can always get a decent meal and a lot of corny fun at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It doesn't take long for someone who hasn't driven a stick shift since 1974 to get the knack again. Zanesville, Ohio is a hub for crafts; especially pottery and basket weaving, but we don't really have time to appreciate it. Tonight, we are shooting for Rolla, Missouri. The Other Family Human is wearing her St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt. She hopes Derek Jeter will forgive her, just this once.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Just Enjoy The Wine

Enough of the 'glass half full or half empty' debate. It doesn't matter.
Here's what matters -- the ullage.
Ullage refers to the unfilled space in a container of liquid.
It's an old word originally having something to do with bung holes and barrels.
With this new way of looking at things, we are no longer forced to watch the contents of our glasses of wine, of our bottles of wine, or of our capacities for joy become smaller.
With this new way of looking at things, we can simply choose to watch the ullage of our glasses, our bottles, or our lives expand.
We choose how we see things. The names we call things matters.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reverse Road Trip - Day Before

I moved out of the senior community today. I feel twenty years younger already. Tomorrow, I will hit the road with the Family Dog and a Family Human for the return trip to California, which I had thought would not happen for quite a number of years, if at all. To quote John Lennon, life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.

Today, I marveled at the fact that, for six months, I felt like I've been living very sparsely, and yet it took a lot of boxes to pack and ship that supposed paucity. I took a box of canned goods to the synagogue for the food bank - there are people who need it. I had lunch with the Grandhumans. I'm having dinner with the Next Generation Humans, and we're leaving in the morning. if all goes well, next stop, Zanesville, Ohio.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Power's Back

Whether the power was off here for six or eight hours, my primary concern had been the perishable stuff in the refrigerator. All appears to be well. The fish I defrosted for dinner tonight still felt cold so I cooked it and now several hours later I appear to remain intact.
Apparently for the length of time the power went missing there was little danger of spoilage.
This from the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service:

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

While I didn't go out and buy dry ice, I did have a couple of those large blue ice things frozen and ready to go. I was at work all day so unless the family cats yearned for raw, frozen fish there was little danger of someone's opening the door to either the refrigerator or freezer.

Also on the USDA's website I found this amazing advice:
Never taste food to determine its safety.

You see? Our government really does look after us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Just For Eight Hours

Tomorrow in my neighborhood the Public Service Department will cut off the electricity for about eight hours for necessary repairs. This is as opposed to the recent multiple unexpected power outages lasting for several hours at a time.
So we know tomorrow between eight in the morning and five in the evening we will not have electricity. We can make plans.
Still, though, eight hours seems like a long time when everything we do depends in one way or another on electricity.
Good practice, I suppose, should we suddenly lose electricity on a much broader scale and descend into another dark age.
Should that happen I will definitely cancel my membership in the Book of the Month Club not because of a lack of light by which to read but because a dark age depends also on mental darkness.
I don't think the Age of Enlightenment referred to better candles.
Lights on. Lights off.
The important thing is to keep thinking.

Just Another One

Ho hum...Just another earthquake. It was a 4.7 according to Cal Tech in Pasadena. My son frantically yells, "We're having an earthquake. We're having an earthquake." I look around and see nothing falling or moving. I see the dog peacefully sleeping and the cats are all snuggled in their beds sound asleep...not even a twitch from them. My neighbors didn't frantically run out of their houses. Everything was quiet.

I replied to my son, "Relax, it's not doom's day yet. It's not the Big One. It's just another of our many earthquakes we have in Southern California....No Big Deal."

I've lived in Southern California most of my life. I've lived through too many quakes for this one 4.7 to even ruffle my feathers. I just can't get that excited anymore when a quake hits - I've gone through all the emergeny procedures and know them well, so I can't let one little 4.7 bother me. I'm more than prepared should we be rocked out of our home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shake, Rattle & Roll

I don't like earthquakes and we just had one. Okay, it wasn't the big one. It was 5.0 magnitude. But that's enough for me. The house shook. Things rattled. The news is saying it might have been a prelude to the BIG ONE which, of course, we here in California always expect.
While things were still shaking, I put my cell phone and my wallet in my pocket and headed for the bathroom. I figure what with the plumbing and all, that might be the safest room in the house.
And now we wait for an aftershock or several. That's one thing about earthquakes. We don't know what's going on.
Of course, Dr. Kate Hutton of Cal Tech is probably having the time of her life right now.
Different strokes and all that.
The family cats slept through the whole thing. Either that or they chose to ignore it. Cats are like that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brain of a Bird, Heart of a Lion

Or, just call me Tippi.
I parked the old red Jeep and started walking to my meeting. At first I thought maybe some sort of pebble had blown off of a roof and hit me on the head. I tried to brush it off of my head. Then it came again. This time I heard a strange whirring before impact. Not a big impact but definitely a sharp prick of something on my skull. Seconds later I heard that whirring again. I turned to see a bird like some sort of World War I ace of a pilot nose diving toward me. I waved my arms trying to distract the crazed pilot and failed. There it was again. That sharp prick on my skull before the bird pulled out of its nose dive to soar again to a tree or lamp post or brick wall. This kept up the entire distance from my Jeep to the door of my meeting. I expected blood to begin oozing down my face at any moment. I kept frantically waving my arms. Papers fell to my feet. Only unyielding pride forced me to pick them up.
I saw that movie. I know how it ended.
Finally at the building, at the door, of my meeting, I threw it open and dived into the room imagining feathers flying around me.
People stared.
Said I, "That bird is trying to kill me!"
"Oh, that," came the reply of a seasoned bird attack survivor. "It's spring. The bird has a nest somewhere. It's only trying to protect it."
"I was no where near its f'ing nest," I said realizing how completely I failed at keeping desperation and panic from my voice.
"You don't know that," from the seasoned survivor.
And, of course, I really didn't.
Generally I can't wait for meetings to end. I sat through this one -- no more or less deadly dull than most others -- dreading its end. I kept bringing up pointless suggestions or objections. I became that irritating person who never seems to want a meeting to end.
It did, though, finally.
When I stepped out of the building the bird saw me and headed for my head. Dignity lost to that so completely compelling fight or flee response. I ran to my Jeep. What I dropped stayed on the ground.
Once inside the Jeep, door closed, and locked I forced myself to take deep breaths and really truly consider the protective instincts of birds.
Very impressive. I mean it. Very impressive.
Later, though, come fall, those baby birds will get kicked out of the nest to either fall to the ground or learn really quickly how to fly.
In the meantime, I'm not going to anymore meetings there.
That bird hates me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Names Matter

The two hour season finale of Grey's Anatomy certainly held some surprises. My favorite line, however, was, "I survived being named Arizona. Trust me, I'm tough." Or something to that effect.
So I'm left to ponder not the events of the finale but people named Arizona. I've known two women with that first name and neither was a character in a popular television program. Both did, though, work in the Globe High School school system and, in fact, in the same building.
Arizona Cubitto was the secretary for the high school principal. Arizona Hazelwood was the secretary to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for Gila County. Her office was also in that big pink high school building.
Both women were formidable and amazing. They, too, survived being named Arizona.
Incidentally, Arizona Hazelwood's sister was Georgia Belle Baker who well into her eighties ran single handedly a cattle ranch up under the Mogollon Rim.
Georgia Bell wasn't named Arizona but she may as well have been because she certainly knew a thing or two about survival.
Of course, parents naming both of their daughters Arizona would have been about as unusual as parents naming one daughter Arizona.
My mother was not named Arizona. However, despite that fact, I am from Arizona.
Life for the most part is far more interesting and confusing than season finales of popular television programs.
Go figure.


Superman leaps tall buildings with a single bound and is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locamotive but, can he teach our kids to read?

Proudly dressed in blue attire with a "D" symbol across his chest, Danagerman is known as our latest urban super hero from the streets of Los Angeles. He's a real life super hero and urges kids to stay in school, be literate, fully educated and live a healthy lifestyle. His motto is "The more you read, the more you learn" and is out to help our younger generation live a happier life. All he has to do is place his boot on the pavement to let the kids know he's there to help. Hooray for Dangerman.

Thank you Dangerman for saving our kids from the mean streets of Los Angeles. We welcome you with open arms . Continue saving our kids. Go Dangerman go! Somebody has to save our next generation!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just Don't Tell Anyone

Listening with one ear and very little attention to detail, I caught the latest radio headlines as I drove home from work.
Somewhere between the Miller Brewery in Irwindale and a gridlock just the other side of Pasadena, I listened to an interview with a torture authority.
He didn't want his identity disclosed so he spoke behind a screen -- for the radio interview.
However, the interviewer used the torture authority's name.
Perhaps speaking the name of a person whose face is hidden behind a screen is just one way of protecting the person's identity.
I missed the point of the interview because I got so wrapped up in fathoming the logic of this approach to privacy.
Also, of course, I was driving.

Monday, May 11, 2009


The Atlantis Space Shuttle lifted off at Cape Canaveral today on an 11 day mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. Atlantis had 7 crew members to perform 5 space walks to install and repair instruments and replace positioning on the telecscope which orbits 350-400 miles above Earth. Supposedly with the repairs completed, scientists will now have 90% more power to study our mysterious outer space. Wouldn't it be something if they discovered that those little green Martians were a reality? Or maybe, scientists might find the Enterprise somewhere in the black holes? Or even Captain Kirk's or Spock's looks-alike? They say there's a look-alike for every human. Or maybe there is such a thing as an alternate universe? What do you think?


In 2004, paleoanthropologists digging on the Indonesian island Flores found fossilized bones of a hominid that didn't appear to match any previously known species. Their brains and bodies were about 1/3 the size of Homo erectus, the ancestor of Homo sapiens, but their feet were far longer and flatter than would make sense for a creature of their size. They have been officially named Homo floresiensis, but researchers, clearly fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels, nicknamed them "hobbits".

Now of course, H. floresiensis wasn't any more like Bilbo Baggins or Sam Gamgee than H. erectus resembled Albert Einstein. They were primitive. They had teeny brains, and the smartest of the lot couldn't brew a cup of tea or furnish a hobbit hole on the best day he ever had.

At first, it was thought that hobbits belonged to the H. erectus species and had become dwarfed from living isolated on an island, or from some genetic defect. But recent evidence, especially that gained from examining the foot bones, indicates, in the words of William Harcourt-Smith, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, that the recent discovery of the "hobbit foot is another strong piece of evidence that they were nothing like us."

Well, certainly not. Middle Earth was a swell place. Hobbits sat around eating and never having heart attacks, smoking pipes and never getting lung cancer, and being happy with few possessions and a lot of leisure time. The only ones that ever got in trouble were those that left their world and entered ours. With all the rotten news going around, it's nice to find hard scientific evidence to back up a great fantasy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Changing Gears In Mid Aisle

But first a little background information: I shop at the same supermarket as do many on duty members of the Glendale Fire Department. Often I park my red Jeep near their red trucks. That's the first bit of background information. Here's the second. An East Coast Family Human adores fire fighters.
I'm often tempted, while doing my shopping, to ask the Glendale fire fighters to pose for a photograph so I can send it to that East Coast Family Human. Always, though, I rationalize away the temptation.
Today was no exception.
There they were discussing whether to buy whole milk, 2% milk or 1% and there I was considering the many ways I might approach them for a quick cell phone camera picture. But they seemed so involved in their shopping came today's rationalization for my lack of chutzpah.
They continued their shopping. I finished mine.
While I pushed my cart to my car, all of the fire fighters ran by me in heads down, full stride, this is urgent form. I opened the tail gate of my Jeep not even bothering to pretend I was loading groceries. I just sat down and stared as the fire fighters heaved duffel bags out of their rig. They pulled on their heavy doubtless fire proofed or fire retarded pants and coats. Standing on one foot at a time, they traded their grocery shopping shoes for heavy boots. All of this took seconds. Duffel bags now full of street clothes were tossed back into the rig. Finally, the men pulled fire proof hoods over their heads and faces. Back in front of the milk cabinet they wore baseball caps. Now they wore their distinctive hard hats.
The rig driver already had the engine going, the lights flashing, and the siren blaring by the time the last fire fighter jumped aboard.
As they pulled away I shouted, "Be careful!"
The truck slowed just a second as --to the man -- each fire fighter, able to touch not lips but the fireproof fabric of his hood, blew me a kiss.
Even before I could wonder about their almost full cart of groceries abandoned in some supermarket aisle, I quickly touched my lips and blew the kisses 3,000 miles east of where I stood. You see, I knew who they really had in mind when they blew those kisses.

Balcony Update

Those Jersey City balcony zucchini are moving right along toward blossoms and produce.
Container gardening is a science requiring a lot more attention than gardens in the wide open spaces of back yards of empty lots or fields. Especially balcony container gardens contending with wind and heat reflected from concrete and glass.
We'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 8, 2009

walking around looking at things

So I'm downtown yesterday, this is Los Angeles, around Pershing Square, but over on 5th St, walking towards Main. Now if you are not familiar with this part of town, let me explain. This means I crossed Broadway and Spring Streets. Back in the day, say earlier last century, but even into the childhoods of late middle aged native Angelinos, Broadway was a grand thoroughfare, lined with huge splendid theaters and the flagship stores of all the big department stores. Spring was "The Wall Street of The West." M.F. K. Fisher gives us to understand that at one time it was the alley of all the most excellent restaurant food to be eaten in the city. (Well a good deal of it at least.)

With one thing and another, all the grand old building have been pretty much left to quietly moulder, while a teeming marketplace of tiny businesses has grown up around their ankles, and Mexican evangelists preach in the old theaters. "The Jewellry District" is down here now too. Faded old signs can still be made out everywhere, advertising residence hotels and apartments, some at weekly rates that nowadays could get you a really swell 20oz. coffee beverage. That's how old and long unmolested the signage is.

I'm looking up at these plentious old residences, intensely curious about what this street was like in May of say, 1926, or 1921, or 1915. Some of it, as best I can tell, would have been pretty snazzy living. Some places have been patched up enough to funtion as residence hotels, but not at all the kind they used to be. Some are rehabbed to the nines and offered as LOFTS. One place offered "micro-lofts." (Huh?) But imagine--living above the crossstreet, between two of the most splendid and important streets west of the Mississippi! Back in the day. (Now there is PLENTY to be said about candidates for "the most splendid and important streets west of the Mississippi.") I'm trotting along with the crowds on the sidewalk, wondering about the hardworn little glass blocks set into the pavement beneath my feet--they let light into a subterraian storage room?--and the curbs' differing heights, and what their ages may be. One building gives evidence of what looks like it was at one time a second story balconied ballroom.

Most of the people around me look rather eccentric. They greet eachother with pleasure, pass around cigarettes, discuss vicodin prescriptions and how they might be shared, and sit discussing the news in the sun. I arrive at the Nickel Diner, a very pleasant place for breakfast or lunch. The entrees are affordable for me if not for the folks outside. I eat eggs and hash and a homemade "pop-tart" and read Isabella Bird's account of travelling through Persia in 1890. She is forever mentioning the "melancholy aspect" of land once rich and well irrigated lying now as a waste, the intense and wretched poverty of people living amid the ruins of once-mighty cities, now brought low by long neglect and inefficient goverment.

When the owers of the Nickel Diner took over this space, they had to rip out crappy 70's panelling and the cheap tiles that lowered the ceiling to eight feet. After doing so, they found soaring ceilings, and the original menu still painted on the wall, from perhaps the 40's, from the decent good diner previously there. One of the owners, looking at the legend over the door, said, "Sometimes the space just tells you what it wants to be."

"This is the Place
there is no place
quite like this place
anywhere near this place
so this must be the place"

Heroditus wrote something in his Histories that I don't quite remember about the changing fortunes of cities.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Family Dog's Girlfriend

I have just broken the news to The Family Dog that we are moving back to California. On the whole, he's happy wherever I am, but it means he is going to have to bid farewell to his girlfriend Sadie.

Sadie lives in the house two doors down from our temporary New Jersey home. She is some sort of husky mix, and has one ear that stands up and one ear that flops down. She's pretty darn cute. Her humans often leave her outside on a long leash for a couple of hours at a time, and The Family Dog stands at the sliding glass door and looks at her. He stares. He whines. He moans. From time to time I take pity and take him out to walk past her. Sadie puts her nose up in the air. If we get too close, she growls. The Family Dog affects disinterest and goes about his business.

However, once the other one is no longer within reach, it's a different story. We walk past, and Sadie strives to reach and sniff where The Family Dog has been. Once she is inside, he wants to sniff her perimeters. They seem to like the way each other smells better than they like the dog itself. Some relationships are just like that, I guess.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Going Where The Grass Doesn't Grow

It's wildfire season in Southern California and one is already burning in Santa Barbara. More cases of Swine Flu are rumored or reported. Despite all the money sent their way, our banks may not be doing as well as hoped.
And this morning as I drove to work I had to dodge a man driving a lawn mower in reverse on the wrong side of the street -- if there is any right side of the street on which to drive a lawn mower going backwards.
It's amazing how given a steady bombardment of disaster news we can put all sorts of stuff in the background until we just don't give it much attention.
However, having to quickly move out of our lane of traffic to dodge a lawn mower going backward while coming toward us can really get us focused.
Or, perhaps I should avoid the Royal We and say instead: Wow! That woke me up!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Perhaps We Over Reacted

My paternal grandmother wasn't one in a million. She was one in 100 million. She died in 1918 at the age of 26 from the Spanish flu. My life has been informed by flu.
The Spanish flu pandemic lasted from March, 1918, until June, 1920, and killed at least one hundred million people. It touched almost every part of the world including the Arctic Circle and remote Pacific islands. It affected almost one billion people -- more than half of the population of the world at that time.
No flu outbreak since the Spanish flu has even come close to the global horrors that claimed my grandmother's life. Maybe because of those two awesome years of pandemic, however, the word 'flu' creates a visceral reaction in all of us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each flu season is unique, but it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. About 36,000 Americans die on average per year from the complications of flu.
Flu can be a killer, no doubt about it.
So, though, can be constant panic and stress.
Here's a thought. Let's wash our hands often, get plenty of rest, eat healthy meals, and turn off the radios and televisions at least when portents of doom assault us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Folk Era Has Aged Well

I spent yesterday evening tucked into the corner of the third tier at Madison Square Garden. I was one of about 18,000 people there to wish Pete Seeger a happy ninetieth birthday, to contribute to his Clearwater Project which, since 1969 has cleaned the Hudson River (or at least keeps it from getting any filthier) and to participate in an event filled with hope for the future and memories, fond and otherwise, of the past.

Among the attendees there was a lot of grey hair, middle-aged spread and walkers and canes, but on the whole, the folk generation has aged well, and no one had to be carried downstairs when the escalators broke as the audience was leaving. To be fair, there were quite a number of younger people attending, too.

The people on stage spanned the generations, too, but the sense of history hovered over the heads of the older performers. In a concert devoted in part to songs of protest, how can you have Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Ruby Dee on a stage together without thinking about their political struggles, reflecting on the frightening state this country has come to in recent years, and wondering who will be the ones to spur us on to make sure that there are better times ahead?

Ordinarily, I do not have the attention span for a four and a half hour concert, but this was more like a singalong sprinkled with performances. A Family Human seated beside me noted how this occasion made her realize how much she missed sitting around with a bunch of people and singing. Maybe the time has come to break out the guitars and dust off the songbooks.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pete!

A few family humans are right now attending Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
He's being honored with a concert.
As you can see, the family humans are celebrating with several thousand others who stand in awe before a man such as Peter Seeger.
We'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You Can't Necessarily Bank On It

My federal tax refund check arrived in the mail yesterday. I generally get a little something back. I like to take too much out of my paycheck. That way I don't have to worry about having to pay a lot in taxes each April. It works out. I either get a little back or I pay a little. Either way it's always just a little.
A few years back I used my bank's ATM to deposit my refund check. The machine ate the check. It was never seen again and the bank, naturally, had no record of the deposit because the eating happened before the computer had a chance to process my deposit.
Trying to get Bank Of America to credit my account wasn't, apparently, possible. Trying to persuade the federal government to issue me another check got nothing except silence. Perhaps if I had said that my dog ate the check instead of the ATM ate the check I might have at least gotten a nasty letter. What I got, though, was nothing.
Ever since that nasty little incident, I go to a teller inside the bank and deposit the check the old fashioned way.
Off I went today, therefore, to deposit my little refund check.
The line to the tellers was long and I patiently waited my turn.
I explained to the teller that I wanted to deposit a check.
He looked at me with alarm. Another teller rushed to his side.
"Do you know how to use the ATM?" she asked me.
"Excuse me?"
Her question confused me. She spoke louder.
"DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THE ATM?" because, of course, volume always makes things more comprehensible.
"Yes," I replied.
"I CAN TEACH YOU TO USE IT!" she shouted.
"I know how to use it. I don't want to use it," was my normal-voiced reply.
"I know how to use the ATM," said I as the teller prepared to exit the bullet proofed teller area to brave the likes of me.
I really didn't want her to venture into my world.
Her voice had become shrill. I lowered my volume just in case she felt threatened. One doesn't really ever want to cause alarm in a bank. Those guards have guns which they have no idea how to fire.
"I know how to work the ATM," I repeated. "I don't want to use it."
The bank manager appeared next to the two beleaguered tellers.
"I can help you," she said and whipped, I mean whipped, out a deposit slip.
She peered at her computer screen and repeated my name several times. After each repetition I assured her that my name was correct and had not changed since her previous repetition. She seemed to doubt me. She started to fill out a deposit slip. You see, my bank is in Pomona where customers cannot be trusted with deadly devices such as pens and deposit slips. She made some sort of serious mistake on my slip, tore it up, and whipped out another.
Glaring at me she of course asked, "Do you know how to work the ATM?"
She ruined three deposit slips before slapping the fourth into the chest of the teller with whom I had started this travesty.
"How about if I just use the ATM?" I asked him.
"No," he said. "We've already started this."
I guess that's what the Hatfields said to the McCoys or the Grahams to the Tewksburys just after their feuds to the last people began. I imagined my generations and those of the teller finally settling the score on some crowded street.
The teller seemed to have learned nothing from the manager. He destroyed three more deposit slips.
I again offered to use the ATM and from his expression suspected that if I once more made that offer I would be arrested.
Twenty-three minutes after I arrived at the window, the teller -- with glazed eyes and sweat streaked face -- gave me a little piece of paper acknowledging that I had made a deposit to my savings account.
My original intention had been to take a few dollars out of that account for groceries and other normal necessary stuff.
I decided to skip food for awhile. A really long while if withdrawing money from my account involves going again to that teller window.
I'm not even sure the check was actually deposited. Who knows, the bank manager may have taken it in back and eaten it.