Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's Eating You?

Well, we counted our eggplants before they hatched. A few days ago, I went to look at the two beautiful little purple orbs and found that one of them had been gnawed to the nub by some sloppy creature who left shreds of its lunch in the dirt below. Aside from losing the fruit of our labors, I was a little discomfited by the thought of something big enough to chow down a small eggplant in one meal hanging out on the balcony next to our bedroom.

Well, I'll show it, I thought. One of the groundskeepers at Claremont told me that a good non-toxic way to protect fruits and vegetables from pests was to spray them with a solution of water and dishwashing liquid. He explained that they don't like the taste so they leave them alone and all you have to do is wash the soap off before you eat it. I tried that. Our creature went ahead and ate the other eggplant in the same manner. Apparently, he or she thought we had a special on the menu that day and were serving it a la parmigiana. Okay, I don't know much about gardening and I'm stumped. But we've got two more incipient eggplants and I'd really like to protect them. Any ideas out there?

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Worried

What if Dr. Gregory House, after his discharge from a New Jersey psychiatric facility, returns to work just a nice, brilliant doctor?
Someone needs to tell him that sanity is not all it is cracked up to be.
Oh, wait a minute.
He isn't real.
Never mind.
Still, sanity is not all it is cracked up to be.
If it were, the people who claim to be sane would be a lot happier.
And so I worry about Dr. House. If he's sane will he still be able to enjoy misery?
Stay tuned.
I know I will.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bathroom Graffiti

I like reading the graffiti in public bathrooms. I get a sense of the cosmic yearnings and the petty jealousies of a neighborhood.
Yesterday I found myself in a bathroom in a convenience store/gasoline station somewhere along Interstate 15 south of Ontario and north of Escondido.
Written on the walls were the usual I loves and I hates. And then there was this: Never stop believing.
Never stop believing.
Having no idea the intentions of the author of that particular graffiti, I chose my own meaning. Taking that meaning to heart, I will try to never stop believing in miracles and in my own ability to create those miracles.
Words can change lives. Even words written on the bathroom walls of roadside convenience markets.
Here's to hope.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Awake Ye Sleepers

At this mandated time of renewal rejoice in life's possibilities.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Social Justice Doesn't Just Happen

There was a time when songs changed the world -- songs of peace and hope and protest. There was a time when social justice was the agenda and not simply shouted sound bites. The sixties remain the watershed decade for social action on behalf of social justice. That agenda informed coffee house discussions and sit ins and peaceful marches.
The death yesterday of Mary Travers silences an amazing vocal gift. It also represents the beginning of another silence -- the voices and the energies of people who created a national awareness of sorrow and a national desire for change.
We all have hammers. What we do with them matters.
Let us continue to hammer out justice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What A Voice - What A Loss

Mary Travers


The answer will always be blowin' in the wind.

Conception Day

Anyone in the mood for a meaningful romance? A city in Russia has set aside one day a year for conception. The population of the city has been lagging for quite some time so the residents of the city came up with the bright idea of creating a day for conception and made it inticing by offering to those parents bearing children a new car, a new home, scholarships plus many, many more intriguing gifts. This should help boost the town's citizenship. Good idea? What do you think?

Heaven Sent

I happen to live in one of the best neighborhoods ever with the greatest of neighbors. I have a special needs son and whenever there's an earthquake, fire or some pending disaster, they are always there - checking on us to make sure we're safe from harm. At night when they're home, they turn on their patio light. When I see that lit, I am at ease knowing someone is watching out for us. I have a specially equipped minivan, the main purpose of which is take my son to and from doctors' appointments. The van isn't driven every day, of my neighbors drives it back and forth to work one day a week to keep it in proper running order. If that isn't "being there", then I don't know what is. All I can say is thanks - your thoughtfulness and kindness makes life much easier for us! Heaven must have sent you.

Appearances May Be Deceiving

Today, I had an appointment in Beverly Hills and on my way home I thought it would be a good time to stop at Kosher Club on Pico and LaBrea to pick up some goodies for Jewish New Year, which will begin on Friday night. I anticipated that, two days before the holiday, it would be crowded. The aisles at Kosher Club aren't wide enough to get two carts by one another, so there is a fair amount of jostling.

Everyone was very nice to me. As I headed down one aisle, a woman with a cart was about to start on her way up the aisle, and she backed up and let me pass, with a pleasant smile. I was also getting a few sidelong stares. I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans but that is nothing unusual for Kosher Club, where women's garb runs the gamut from my outfit to long skirts and hair coverings worn by Orthodox women.

When I looked in the mirror over the restroom sink, I realized the reason for all the glances. My t-shirt was imprinted with the words, "Presbyterian Disaster Assistance", a souvenir from my week working in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. The word "Presbyterian" has probably never popped up at Kosher Club before. Everyone was polite because they thought I was an outsider.

As I was checking out, one of the managers came out of the office, and looked at me. I recognized him from my days as a Hillel director, when we spent a fair amount of money on Kosher Club's food. As I saw he was about to recognize me and call out, "Hi, Rabbi, how are you?", I took my cart and left the store. A Presbyterian rabbi might just be too much for the folks at Kosher Club to take.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Speaking of Schisms

Once the dust had settled on the pitch pipe schism both new churches of a previous post seemed to settle down in new digs. Of course, one had music pitched to a particular starting note and the other had songs sung in whatever key happened to sail by. Time passed and then for whatever reason, the church on Deveraux Street vacated its premises.
Alortha Aston bought the property. Single handed and in her late seventies she started remodeling the place to turn it into her dream home sunken tub and all. I only saw the place once and it was looking pretty good. So did Alortha, for that matter all decked out in her work clothes and tool belt. Not a small undertaking for anyone -- turning a spiritual home into an actual home though one would think they should already be one and the same. At any rate just as Alortha was finishing her dream house it burned down and she wound up living in a mobile home on the barren banks of Roosevelt Lake.
I never knew what started the fire. Maybe Alortha accidentally hauled out the pitch pipe once owned and used by her brother-in-law. The rivers of old schisms apparently run deep.
Either that or she wasn't the electrician she tried to be.
Life like electricity is a risky business.

It's No Secret

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Walker Baron mentioned a secret parking street near Dodger Stadium that a friend had told us about. Two days after that, our friend tried to park on that secret street, couldn't find a space and accused us of spilling the secret. Never mind that, of the fifteen people who read this blog only five of them live in Southern California and only two of those care anything about baseball. Also, we never gave the location. Apparently, just thinking about a secret while blogging gives it away.

Turns out it's true. We were early to last night's game but just barely got the last space on the secret street and had to walk about a mile, thereby earning all the junk we ate at the ballpark. I warn you. Do not think while blogging. It won't be a secret any more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Go USC Trojans Apparently

We got to our seats, free Dodger dogs and beer in hand, just in time to remain standing for the National Anthem played by -- go figure -- the USC Trojan Marching Band. There in front of the band, clenched fist raised to if nothing more force victory from defeat's grasp, stood the horseless Tommy Trojan himself. Come to find out the My Town section of Dodger stadium was full of USC folk. And there I was just across the aisle up until that moment of getting it oblivious to the whole USC night at Dodger stadium thing. That's what I get for throwing away all of those solicitations from my Masters in Social Work graduate school. So we didn't get the nifty t-shirts or the lanyards or the little pennants. In fact, to make that aisle even wider, we couldn't even exit the closest entrance on account of we didn't have the right ticket.
That's okay. Most of the marching band wound up sitting in close to our section. I've never attended a ballgame with a Sousa phone before.
And no aisle is wide enough to take from me the fact that I knew - actually knew in person - one of the early Tommy Trojan drum majors. He wore the helmet and everything and I knew him. In fact, during my sophomore year in high school I lived with the aunt of said Tommy Trojan drum major. Alortha Aston's sister, Omega Watts' son Cloin was that very guy. Quite an accomplishment for a young man from Globe, Arizona, in a day and age when young men did not openly yearn to become a Tommy Trojan drum major much less actually realize that yearning. Luckily Cloin came from a family celebrating unusual names as well as unusual behavior. Cloin Watts doubtless got his musical ability from his uncle Loather Hamilton who defied tradition by using a pitch pipe in the church for which he was a song leader. That pitch pipe created such a stir that the church divided into those who supported the pitch pipe and those who refused to embrace it. One of the factions moved to another town. Through it all Cloin just kept his helmeted, feathered head high and marched on.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Break's Over

Sometimes you just gotta step back and take stock. Stores do it on a regular basis. I used to help my Aunt Cassie take inventory at Brayton's Commercial Store where she worked for years. I was a regular after school fixture. During inventory time I got to read the numbers off of the shoe boxes and count the number of yardage frames left unbroken while Cassie logged what I reported. It was as awesome task. Sometimes the store even closed for a day or two so inventory could be completed. The job was that important.
So close up shop for a day or two and put your life marks in the ledger. Make sure they accurately reflect what you've done, what you've got, and what's on the to do list.
Without inventories Brayton's owner -- an affable guy named Sky Thurber -- would never have known the true life of his store.
Inventories tell us what to reorder and what to forget about.
All you need is a clip board and a sharpened pencil.
It's that time of year.

Missing The Point

In this summer of screaming and cavorting during which we turned what should have been and indeed what deserved to be a critical debate on social justice and social need into a carnival midway I think the main point was lost.
We don't need more health insurance. Health insurance is neither a fundamental need nor a fundamental right.
What we need is health care.
Health care is the issue and the need not health insurance.
There. I said it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Because That's The Way Things Work

At the beginning of this summer, we started a vegetable garden on our balcony. If it had been our main source of food, we'd have starved by now, unless two people can live on one tomato or pepper every week or so.

So on Sunday, as the previous post indicates, we joined a CSA, bringing bountiful amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit into our home.

Word apparently reached the balcony garden. Who says plants don't communicate?

This morning, I picked five tomatoes. The pepper plant is undergoing a growth spurt, and will likely produce a bumper crop in a week or so. And the eggplant, which till now has done nothing but sit there and soak up water has now produced two incipient fruit, see above.

Now if only the zucchini would get the message.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Support Agriculture In Your Community

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
That's all there is to it.
At the Eagle Rock Plaza's Sunday morning farmer's market a box of CSA produce costs $15.00 and is filled with melons and okra and squash and greens and herbs and cucumbers -- more than enough produce for two people.
Our particular CSA is the South Central Farmers' Cooperative based out of, you guessed it, South Central Los Angeles. The South Central Farmers' CSA program started on a 14 acre piece of property on Alameda at 41 Street and now links
locally grown produce to all members of Los Angeles, regardless of race, ethnicity, background, and economic status. By the way, those original 14 acres were bulldozed in 2006 to doubtless make room for yet another empty lot in South Central Los Angeles.
Local farmers need our support and we need organically grown produce. It's that simple. Check it out. Find a farmers' market near you and then locate the CSA booth.
You'll be doing yourself and the planet a favor.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Amarone and Murder

Some people might say than an Amarone is a wine to kill for so imagine my surprise when the wine showed up in Tess Gerritsen's most recent murder mystery, The Keepsake. But there it was almost at the end of the book. Regular Gerritsen character Maura Isles thinks of her uneaten grilled cheese sandwich left at home and the glass of wine now offered her. "It was a rich Amarone, so dark it appeared almost black in the parlor's firelight." I kind of had the book's ending figured out so there were no surprises there but imagine my surprise at the mention of this wine. I'm thinking that since Tess Gerritsen is a physician turned writer most of the medical stuff in her books is fairly right on. So is her description of and I'm assuming appreciation of Amarone.
The wine itself is a fluke. It was originally supposed to be a sweet wine called Recioto but the guy in charge forgot about it and allowed the grapes to continue fermenting until it lost all of its sweetness. Not wanting to toss the whole thing out, the new brew was named Amarone which apparently acutually means big bitter. In the scheme of wine things, Amarone is fairly new. Despite its new comer status, it's already made its mark in popular culture.
In the book Silence of the Lambs, Hanibal Lecter eats the census taker's liver with fava beans and Amarone. I know, in the movie he enjoyed a Chianti. Go figure.
If she had only mentioned the wine earlier in the book I might have poured myself a glass of Two Buck Chuck Red and pretended. The real stuff is pretty expensive.
It's still a good wine. And the book was good, too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gentle Evenings and Happy Days

At the very last minute we acquired two free tickets to tonight's Dodger game. A couple of days ago we probably would not have gone to the game. The air was too full of smoke and the nerves too tense from fire concerns to even breathe deeply let alone enjoy a game. Today the smoke lifted a bit and despite its ominous origins, the Station fire seemed at least half way contained. So off to the game went we.
Earlier in the season a good friend showed me her secret and free baseball game parking place the location of which I won't reveal because then, well, you wouldn't be a secret any more.
Since this was all very last minute we were running late and even in the secret parking place couldn't get as close to the stadium as I would have liked. Free, though, is free and we gladly walked the extra distance.
At about the seventh inning stretch I smelled smoke and assumed the wind from the Station fire had shifted in our direction. I also assumed that the helicopter flying over head was checking out the game. And that haze around the outfield lights had to be, well, night time fog surely drifting on to the field.
Imagine my surprise, then, after having ignored all of these clues, to find that the street -- my friend's secret parking place and now my secret parking place too -- was closed because of a brush fire right about where we would have parked had we arrived earlier.
Things seemed to be out and under control when we walked by several fire trucks. The fire fighters were already coiling their heavy hoses. Even so, I wanted to applaud them. I didn't, though. After all, the street was closed and the game was ending. I still had time to make a U turn and be on my way before the street opened to post game traffic.
Driving home listening to the news to see if we could hear anything about the Chavez Ravine brush fire we learned of a small earthquake up around Bakersfield.
Apparently no one was injured in the earthquake, the little brush fire appeared to be out, the big brush fire appeared to be under control, the Dodgers won, and on the still waters of the New Jersey shore a full moon promised bright futures.
Life is good.

How About Some Good News For A Change?

In this morning's Los Angeles Times, on page 22, there was an article entitled: "Israelis and Palestinians talking again after months-long freeze". The article went on to say that Israeli and Palestinian officials held their first high-level meeting in months on Wednesday and discussed ways to bolster a promising economic recovery in the West Bank.

That's news, and it's good news. Why bury it on the last page of the "world" section?

Now, you know that if a Palestinian suicide bomber had blown up a bus in Israel, or if the Israeli army had killed a Palestinian family, that would have been on the front page. With color pictures.

I know that there is plenty of evil in the world, and that it has to be reported. But after days and days of looking at pictures of fire, hurricane Jimena, and the ugly creep who abducted Jaycee Lee Dugard, it would have been nice to see something hopeful on the front page of the paper.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Be ATM Wise

If you use a bank ATM, be on the alert. For safety sake, the authorities will soon be installing a $25.00 computer software program at all of their ATM's to protect the public from ATM robberies. If you are held at gun point to take money from your bank account through the ATM, you can alert the authorities/police of your situation by inserting your secret code number backwards at the machine. Learn your code number forward and backward so there's no hesitation on your part that would warn the robber of your notification to the police. Be safe!

The Tao on Disaster

What with the fires and hurricanes, I came across a reading in 365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao that may be helpful:

Mute black night,
Sudden fire.

Disaster strikes in its own time. It is so overwhelming that we can do nothing other than accept it. It alters the course of our days, our work, our very thinking. Although it is tempting to resent disaster, there is not much use in doing so. We cannot say that a disaster had malice toward us, though it might have been deadly, and it's hard to say that it has "wrecked" our plans: In one stroke it changes the very basis of the day.

Disaster is natural. It is not the curse of the gods, it is not punishment. Disaster results from the interplay of forces: the earthquake from pressures in the earth, the hurricane from wind and rain, even the accidental fire from a spark. We rush to ask "Why?" in the wake of a great disaster, but we should not let superstition interfere with dispassionate acceptance. There is no god visiting down destruction.

Disasters may well change us deeply, but they will pass. We must keep to our deeper convictions and remember our goals. Whether we remain ash or become the phoenix is up to us.