A September Morning

The sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance

The air breezy, light and warm

A beautiful day but not perfect

We remarked that there were no clouds

And wonder now, were they frightened away by impending

Horrors to come?

The bliss of our ignorance a comfort still.

 

A glorious backdrop

For a summer day thrown into sharp contrast

A decent into darkness, confusion and doom.

From ferries, bridges, building windows and street corners…

We came to identify, were slapped hard by, the worst within us

We came to know and taste the hate

We shook from the violation

We cried from the pain, the loss, the fear.

 

We saw what we should not see

We smelled what no one should smell

We felt, though we could not feel

Our senses blurred and betrayed

Our minds unable to conceive or believe.

A sleepless city silenced and stunned.

 

From near,  explosions ripped through buildings and  hearts

Fire and noise and glass and panic

Plummeting potential lost to despair

Then, billowing clouds of smoke and death

 

From far, the stillness remained for a time. For a time.

As news traveled, streets emptied

No traffic. No people. No noise and, no planes.

No planes.

 

Unrelenting rays of sunshine attempted to warm blood run cold

An endless sea of blue sky our only shroud for man-made hell

Heaven a far away witness

As we reached out for desperate consolation.

The Sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance.

(2004)

It took me 3 years, after witnessing the explosions on September 11th, from a Staten Island ferry set to take off for Wall Street, to write this poem. What could not be conveyed on the Evening News  was the smell of death that hung over the city for weeks as the fire continued to burn from within.  That the National Guard stopped us in cars and buses to sweep for bombs before we drove over bridges and into tunnels or patrolled commuter buses, staring us down, to ensure there weren’t terrorists in our midst. That the only sound that we heard at first, and what persisted for weeks and months were sirens from police and fire department vehicles.  That no matter where you went, from supermarket to library, there were pictures of those who perished, plastered everywhere. And so many funerals that whole streets were blocked off and traffic diverted, for them to take place.  Funerals that went on for years.  That FDNY firehouses lost large numbers of men, my fire department having lost 11 (11 in Heaven). That people were panicking-in subways when hysteria set in and in underwater tunnels when traffic was stopped on the FDR highway for the huge metal beams from the WTC to be transported to barges.  That in a city with 3 major airports and constant air traffic, the resulting silence was deafening when that traffic came to a halt.  And when planes took to the skies again, people held their breath or panicked when planes went overhead or seemed to fly too close.  Not to mention that only two months after the attacks on September 11th, there was a major plane crash in Queens, NY, where another 260 people died and which sent us all over the edge again. And that if there was a possible threat, the city would shut down essential bridges and tunnels leaving people stranded or unable to return to their homes for hours. The effects of this day lasted years and for those who lost loved ones, a lifetime.

We Will Never Forget all who lost their lives and all who worked “the pile” to  reclaim the World Trade Center and our city, piece by piece.

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A “Short” Musing About Men

The Olympics has re-ignited a question that has plagued me for years. What happened to men’s shorts?  When I  cast my memory back I wonder, am I going mad?  In the 1970s and 80s,  I recall boys, men, professional tennis players and everyone really, wearing shorts that were, well, short.  This was normal. Men in the 1950s were less self-conscious and shy about showing some leg than millenium men of today as evidenced by the photo above!

Pantone Speedo-I’m sorry, there is nothing wrong with this!

Many even wore Speedos on the beach (gasp).  A man’s, shall we say, package, was just that, nothing more, nothing less.  Not unlike women’s breasts, they protruded a bit through clothing. Yes we all see them, but we move on with our lives.  The Olympics reminded me that I was not going crazy, that Speedos and similar swim suits are indeed used and considered quite normal.  I have several European men as Facebook friends and they never tire of posting photos of themselves on boats, swimming in gorgeous places or playing games on the beach, always sporting a Speedo.  And, they look good. Even guys with some weight to lose look better in shorter trunks (why are they called trunks?)  What is with the American male and the Victorian hemline that continues to grow? I remember suits getting a bit longer, to mid-thigh, then above the knee and now more men than not are wearing Bermuda length shorts and bathing suits.  When surfers wear them, they are called board shorts. When guys wear them outside of the ocean, they are Bermuda’s, sorry guys.   Why are 20-year-old wearing Bermudas?  When did men become such prudes and what are they hiding?  Surely they can contain themselves within the confines of a normal pair of shorts, no?  And, is this what’s next?

Are men so modest that they must be weighed down by another foot of fabric?  Take basketball players:

1970s

What’s wrong with these?

2000s

Look at all that fabric being dragged around on the court!
Photo Credit: Brandon Rush

They look like they are wearing skirts and they look absolutely ridiculous!  I’ve noticed the same disturbing trend in Tennis and British Football. Through the decades there seems to have been a movement going on underground that has systematically and continuously lead to longer shorts.  Have I been unaware of the mystique and taboo of the male knee which must now be hidden at all costs?  Are those with a puritanical bent paying off fashion designers to create these monstrosities?

Men's Tennis Team, 1975

Wow look at all those legs, guys today would be horrified!
Photo Credit: Duke Yearlook/flickr

Meanwhile men are defending the women’s beach volleyball “outfits” if you can call them that, to the hilt. “Oh, they can’t be encumbered, they have to wear swim suit bottoms 3 sizes too small.”  By the same token then, it would stand to reason that men in the same sport would wear Speedos right?  But no, they are wearing at the knee or below the knee mega shorts.

But seriously, lighten up, people, literally!

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My old draft published-this was the finished product-sorry about the confusion!

A Serene Scribe

Danny Boyle has done his country proud. I was very moved and impressed by his creation for the Olympics. I absolutely loved the intro as they flew over the country and along canals until they reached London and the Thames. The wink and nod they gave to Eastenders cracked me up.  Then the country anthems sung by British children. Oh! He killed me with that.  Each one a touching tribute to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Jerusalem and The Flower of Scotland are my favorites and when I hear them I get a lump in my throat.  However, I was surprised when other Yanks didn’t share my enthusiasm.  There was great attention to detail in incorporating the best the Brits have offered the world.  I don’t think people realize how much we have all been affected by their culture and innovations.  There was a lot of symbolism and a myriad of cultural…

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London Olympics

Olympic Tower Bridge

iwillbehomesoon/flickr

Danny Boyle has done his country proud. I was very moved and impressed by his creation for the Olympics. I absolutely loved the intro as they flew over the country and along canals until they reached London and the Thames. The wink and nod they gave to Eastenders cracked me up.  Then the country anthems sung by British children. Oh! He killed me with that.  Each one a touching tribute to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Jerusalem and The Flower of Scotland are my favorites and when I hear them I get a lump in my throat.  However, I was surprised when other Yanks didn’t share my enthusiasm.  There was great attention to detail in incorporating the best the Brits have offered the world.  I don’t think people realize how much we have all been affected by their culture and innovations.  There was a lot of symbolism and a myriad of cultural references that may have gone over the heads of those not familiar with British life.  Boyle wove a celebratory fabric made up history, humor, literature, trends and fads, music, inventions and showed the world what Brits are most proud of. Even so these triumphs and treasures were shown with hallmark understatedness and humility despite the spectacle.

20120725 Olympic opening ceremony rehearsal DSC_3438.jpg

Powder Photography/flickr

The ceremony began in a bucolic scene, the English countryside which was put in context by American commentators as an illustration of early British life however the English, Scottish and Welsh countrysides remain still and offer some of the most stunning views in the world. Countryside is as much a part of being british as tea and crumpets and has been the muse of writers for centuries: picnicking in, cycling past, walking along daffodils in and meandering through on a Sunday afternoon, pastoral scenes continue to entrance.  No matter the size of the city, in no time one can be back in the gloriously green. One can gaze at fields of lavender and rapeseed or watch lambs suckling in open fields in the spring.  It is a celebrated part of British life and no wonder that Boyle made it the beginning point of his ceremony. Of course it has also been the scene of strongholds and skirmishes between clans and countries too. The iconic hill is reminiscent of Glastonbury’s Tor, a mystical, spiritual area of England that again is engrained in the psyche of the British people and has been inhabited for many hundreds of years.

DSC_3096

Nick J Webb/flickr

Another point that seemed to confuse was the pause of the workers as they gazed at poppy flowers.  While Americans celebrate Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day in the UK is another part of the culture. Every November, on the 11th day and at the 11th hour, everyone stops to pause for a minute of silence. Heads are bowed, lights are turned off, traffic stops. The UK comes to a halt to remember those who have died in war and to commemorate the end of the Great War, the war to end all wars as termed by H G Wells, famous English author.  No matter the size of city, town or village, there will be a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Great War (first world war), which devastated the UK due to the staggering number of men who perished. British traditions are steeped in history and there is great feeling behind what they do, for a reason.

Poppy Wreaths at The Cenotaph, London. Credit: 1 hr photo/flickr

Do people realize that the industrial revolution, which propelled us all out of fields and into cities and allowed life as we know it today, started in England?  British discoveries lead to the first cast iron bridge which lead to larger steel bridges and sky scrappers!  While most saw it as gritty, and no one does gritty like Boyle, the industrial revolution was highlighted in the Olympics for this reason. Do people also realize that the one invention that has propelled us farther still and changed life as we know it, the world-wide web, was created by a Brit named Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  A fellow blogger pointed out that he typed out “this is for everyone” which I somehow missed.  He was singled out during the ceremony, as he sat there humbly.  A man who deserves a Nobel price for bringing the whole world together and allowing us to have information at our fingertips, and, never asking for anything in return, as most would!  Everyone’s lives have been changed by these two things alone and that is why they were brought to the worlds attention.  I found the forging of and the lighting up of the Olympic rings to be very moving indeed.  What people from the UK have given to the world is a lot. Other British inventions as the Geordie in my life never tires of reminding me are: Subways, Telephone, phonograph, Electric Light (Joseph Swan, not Thomas Edison as is largely believed and yes Dave, he is a Geordie), Jet Planes, Steam Locomotive, Television, Electric Motor, Vitamins, Raincoat, Cement, Lawnmower and Vacuums! Get the picture? And this is not including discoveries in medicine, architecture, science, physics, etc.  Most of what we know as useful in our everyday life came from England. Now do you see what I mean when I say the Brits are understated in their showing off accomplishments?

Another huge contribution to the world has been literature and Boyle highlighted Shakespeare, J M Barrie and J K Rowling. Who can forget A.A. Milne, writer of Winnie the Poo, children’s poetry and Beatrix Potter? As well as Dylan Thomas, Rabbie Burns, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters… Again, a few mentioned, hundreds just as esteemed, not but an indication of what British literature has done for the world.

Then we had a taste of British humor with the Queen getting in the act and agreeing to be filmed for her grand entry into the Olympic stadium.  She was heard commenting today “I hope it made them laugh.”  The Brits have a wicked sense of humor which is quick and often times self-deprecating. I loved the Rowan Atkinson segments and the royal parachute jump. It really showed that Brits aren’t usually about pomp and circumstance and don’t take themselves seriously most of the time.

Then politically, Boyle highlighted the first Women’s Movement which allowed women to work and vote, rights that were forbidden not so long ago. Humanitarily, Britain created a nationalized health system recognizing long ago that health care is a basic human right and that lives should be treated and not left to private companies and insurance companies to decide if they will be greedy or benevolent. Funnily enough the rest of the world agreed with them save one country. Cheers to them for celebrating and recognizing this.  I wonder if this piece wasn’t meant as a reminder to those previous colonies who have gone astray, wink wink.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom (Photo credit: stumayhew)

Brits have every right to be proud of the opening ceremony.  They have had  mountains more accomplishments than were shown and this was just a tasting, a reminder that they have been and continue to be one of the first and still greatest societies ever!  Sure they could have beaten the drums louder, the Scots know how to do that, but that is not their way. Brits know where they have been. They know their own history as well as ours!  For a small country they have succeeded against all odds on many occasions.  I’ve no doubt this will be an Olympics to remember!

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Hot Flash? News Flash!

MENOPAUSE

(Photo credit: tejamen1947)

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been filled with a mild anxiety.  Am I perimenopausal?  Men? Come back, come on back, it’s ok. I’m not going there.  I wondered this because every evening for the past couple of weeks, I began to feel flushed  around 9pm and could not understand why. I was downright hot and had to turn on the ceiling fan in whatever room I was in.  Then the gasp. Oh my God is this a hot flash?  Do women become hot all of a sudden? Is this it? I tried to calm myself down thinking ok I’ll research menopause and see what I have to do.  There must be something I can do I thought, as I fanned myself furiously. I figured that I would need a game plan to come to terms with early aging and all that entailed.  One thing I knew for sure is that I would not take hormones.  Didn’t they say wild yam helped? Or edamame?  There was so much to look up!

Then the other day I came home and instead of walking into the kitchen with my mail as I usually did, I saw my cat in the dining room and went in to scoop her up. As I did, I passed the thermostat.  78??? How is it 78 degrees in here?  It didn’t feel like 78 degrees and was “in recovery” trying to get back down to 74 degrees.  I have a programmable thermostat and in the spring and summer leave it on 74 degrees all the time. I never even thought to check the thermostat when having these “hot flashes” because I knew I had it set to 74.  Lo and behold! I looked through the schedule and it had re-set itself to 83 degrees at 8pm. No wonder! So by 9pm the whole house was hot, it was not me! It also dawned on me that approximately 2 weeks before we had had a huge storm and the electricity had been out while I was at work as evidenced by the microwave and stove blinking the time at me.  Ah, so the power outage caused the thermostat to reset. I see. Wait for it….Oh! That means I’m not having hot flashes after all! Yippeeee!

How funny it is that one life event can have us re-evaluating it all. That’s it, I’m old!  This is the beginning of the end! I’m going to fight it every step of the way.  Oh the joy when I realized that fight would be for another day, hopefully a long time from now.   At least for now, homeostatis, hormones and my thermostat are holding steady.

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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I got the bright idea to begin car shopping so as to maximize the amount of trade-in value I could get for my car.  This began a series of interactions that I  1) thought I had learned from already and 2) assumed were antiquated and therefore no longer in play.

My first interaction was with Car Max for a purchase price for my car. I must say, Car Max has a very efficient and easy system in place and I was in and out of there in about 20 minutes with a top book value offer on my car.  Though this would seem like a good thing, it made me venture further into the jungle that is the car dealership world.

My second stop was at a hardcore dealership. This scenario never changes apparently. You’re browsing at the cars and the salesman sidles up quietly. Seems friendly enough outside, all smiles and jokes. But not unlike guys at a bar around closing time, they turn on you becoming very serious once you go inside the showroom.  They want something from you and they really don’t care what’s in it for you!   “How much do you want your monthly payments to be?”

You said that if I came in we could go over all the numbers to see what was possible. Can you tell me what your best price would be? How close to invoice can I get?

“Are you looking to trade in?”  Yes. “I don’t think you’ll get that much for it.”  I already checked Kelly Blue Book and NADA and Car Max offered me book value, sigh.  When I told him what the offer was he said there was no way he could match it.

“I’ll be right back” Ugh the dreaded visit to the manager already?  As if this guy doesn’t know what the car I’m looking at costs after dealing with hundreds of customers a week. He returns.

“Good news! What if I can put you in to [this] model?’

Um, I thought we were talking numbers first.  Plus, I wanted that model and that engine.

“But if I can put you into this for this much a month?”

But what is the price? No answer. He leaves again.

“Ok we’re going below invoice on this now. I can’t go any lower.  If I can get you into [this] model for this payment would you take it?”

Ok! What you are not hearing is that I don’t want that car. I want the other model with the bigger engine. I don’t want to ride a $25,000 lawnmower, thank you very much. You are also not discussing figures as you said you would. Now, I’m pissed.  This was all a waste of time and he just wanted to get me in here to play his little game.

“Well I know I can get you a good price on this car, I don’t know how much I can help you with that car. Do me a favor, take the car home tonight. Try it out, see what you think.”

I don’t want to take it home.

“Just take it home and see what you think, then just bring it back tomorrow.”

You just want me to take it home, knowing I don’t like it, to get me back in here tomorrow.

“Well, I’d like to get your business.” So, again, just wasting my time then.

And for kicks, you like manipulating people, is that it? I said to myself.

Then get me the car I want at the price I want? How about that?

I left this dealership never knowing what the actual price of the car I wanted was. There was no way he was going to tell me what the invoice price was, what the APR actually was or what credit score he had pulled up.  What I did know was that he wanted me to help him reduce the stock he had on hand and was not interested in anything else. Why would I want to give my money to him?

The next day I got 2 calls in a row from him. I didn’t answer as I was at work and didn’t have time to BS with him.  I listened to the voicemail message.

“Dana, I have great news for you, give me a call.”

I called back.

“So if I can get you the car you want for this price ($40 over the monthly payment I was willing to pay) would you want it?” Oh! He had heard me. He wasn’t deaf after all.

I thought you said you had good news. What was it?

“Well I’d have to call the bank and talk to the manager but if I can get it for you at the monthly payment, would you take it?”

What’s the price? And again, you called me saying YOU had good news. What was it? $40 over my limit was not “good news” air-quoting as if he could see me.

Obviously there was no communication going on here and I fell for the “good news” bs!  This guy did not have the ability to take in information, process it and give feedback based on said information.  I kept presenting him with my reality and he stayed in his own cloak and dagger world of smoke and mirrors.

I’ll think about it, I lied.  And why does it feel so right to lie to a car salesman?

Next dealership, same situation. Can  you do better than the MSRP? Again the answer that comes back is a question, “what do you want your monthly payments to be?”  I don’t know! I’m not making any decisions about anything until I know the best price I can get, here or someplace else.  What happened to the days of getting $2,000 to $4,000 off MSRP?  I need to feel that I’m getting something out of this transaction.

Is it because I’m a woman?  Do they not realize that there are more women than men out there? That even when men are present, a woman’s opinion weighs heavily in the transaction?  Don’t they have wives or girlfriends they must interact with on a daily basis? Are they stupid?  Because they really seem stupid. But I know they are not stupid. They are dumb as fox. They are playing the same game they played when I bought my first car. The day they mugged me right there in the dealership when I fell for every trick in the book.  I know better now. I know I’m not going to fall for inflated APRs or for higher prices. The problem is, I did want a car and could not get past the manipulation to get one! Why was it so difficult to get straight answers?  And, car dealers seem to enjoy dragging it all out with phone calls for days. Sorry! I’m done. I don’t have the patience for all that.

I went back to Car Max which reminds me of a restaurant.  You sit in an office with the menu displayed on the computer in front of you and you choose what you want and go outside and test drive it.  I know they build in cushion on trade-ins and the price of the car is probably $1-2,000 more than one has to pay but you don’t have to sit through hours of mind numbing double-talk and they are nice and they don’t have to speak with their managers.  The figures are right there in front of you and the application is done on the computer you are facing.  If I’m going to pay more than I should either way, I’ll take my car sunny-side up with a side order of satisfaction, and you can hold the crazy bullshit!

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The Middle of Nowhere

Country Road

Country Road (Photo credit: freefotouk)

When I’d drive from New York to Florida or back, I’d often stop somewhere in the middle, the middle of nowhere that is. As far as I was concerned, there was New York, there was Florida. That made up the east coast.  Then there was California on the west coast.  I made weekend trips into Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and down to Washington but that was pretty much it-my America was made up of bookends really.  My road companions agreed and if I got a call from someone checking on my status and they asked where I was, I never offered the name of the town or the handful of historical sites that I had passed. My answer was always the same. I’m in the middle of nowhere.  Usually the caller would understand and express concern and offer the same advice. “If you get pulled over, don’t argue with the police there. Just say yes sir, no matter what. And get the hell out!”

Anyone who has made this trip knows about the signs for South of the Border. Pedro bombards you with billboards that start about 100 miles before you get to it and by the time you do get there, your expectations arThe Strip  - South of the Bordere through the roof.  Wow, what is this South of the Border place? What’s going on? What a let down! It is a little place off  the I-95 highway that is terrifyingly plastic with a mish mosh of plaster sculptures that don’t make sense. They have souvenir and firework shops.  I never made the Mexican connection with this remote area of South Carolina but after all the signs one must at least stop in to check it out, especially when road weary.  I remember getting out of the car and into an eerie stillness that was disturbing on many levels, especially when fake Mexicans and apes were staring me down.  I wanted to scream and get back in the car.  Apparently SOB has a website now, very high-tech, and they explain that they have several restaurants and motels. An added bonus is that they can host conferences and weddings. No thanks. If I want a Mexican wedding I’ll go to Cabo thank you very much.

Back to the point at hand, again, here is this Mexican hot spot, in the middle of nowhere with hardly a soul in sight. The other main attraction on this route is Cracker Barrel. When you are tired and cranky and hungry, this place is an oasis.  Home cooked food, homemade desserts and a shop with interesting things to buy-from old-fashioned candy to picture frames, seasonal items and Christmas decorations. I love it.

Kids looking through bins of Webkinz at a Crac...

Cracker Barrel in Pueblo, Colorado, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have since moved to the South and after leaving a Cracker Barrel one day and driving from one country town to another, it hit me. I have moved to the middle of nowhere! Oh my God, I’m one of them!  One of these people who seemed like aliens to me before.  People who didn’t live near the ocean, museums, ports or places where they make books. You know, civilization of any kind.  Then horror of horrors I realized that any of the patrons at Cracker Barrel, who had done the same as I had years ago and exited the highway while en route to more exciting places, thought I was one of them too!  Aw bless, she doesn’t know what a Broadway show is or what the Hudson looks like, poor thing!

They do have Barnes and Noble, oh I made sure of that before I came.  And, as long as there is a Barnes and Noble in the vicinity, I can handle just about anything else. When the Bible Belt goes to church, I pop in to a quiet B&N and sip on a Chai Latte while flipping through books and magazines at my leisure.  When the whole of the South is watching college football, I can meander through empty aisles at my favorite shops or enjoy not waiting at favorite restaurants.  They also have Publix grocery stores here and anyone from Florida knows that once you’ve been in one Publix, you’ve been in all Publix (Publixes?) and it feels like home. Ok the pizza and bagels are crap but it is nice to drive with little to no traffic and to have open skies and green vistas.   We even get Broadway shows. The road company but still Broadway.  It’s not the same, no one could mistake a little country town for New York City, but it’s quiet for the most part.  I have more than a postage stamp sized garden and I see birds that aren’t pigeons.  We have outdoor symphonies and poetry night at the coffee place-come on! Would I move somewhere where there are Neanderthals? Many barbecue year round and take trips to the beaches and lakes in the summer.  Even Starbucks and Trader Joes have found us.

Yes I do miss the mom and pop shops of New York and finding one of a kind items. Though what one loses in the unique and new one gains in not being in the rat race and not feeling the pressure to be ahead of everyone else; on the train, with fashion, news and art (Oh! You didn’t know they were showing Elizabethan toothbrushes at the Met? All my friends have seen it. You must go. You didn’t see Rent? That is a travesty, how could you not have seen Rent? You don’t live on the Upper West Side? That’s where all the good restaurants are now. Any one who says it isn’t is just lying to you. You haven’t been to Cannes?). Blah blah blah.  People are neurotic because the city never sleeps. New Yorkers are bombarded 24/7. What am I missing? What’s going on? What happened, I have to know!!!  The worst thing in New York is not being in the know. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are rich or poor. If you know something before everyone else, you have cachet. But it’s so exhausting!

New York will always be my city and I love it like a family member but the middle of nowhere gives me a break from all that and lets me be me. Don’t mind me as I wander aimlessly for a while in the here and now, in the I’m OK, you’re OK. You get back on the highway and catch up with your friends. I’m going to have my little cotton socks blessed while I sip on some sweet tea. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

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