Tag Archives: People

Love Letter To America

Like any true love, we want the best for those we care about. It is also essential to be honest. And so I will be honest with you because I care and because I love you. We were tested by this pandemic America…and we were found lacking.

While politicians and business owners are chomping at the bit to resume life as usual, I feel that something will be lost if we don’t take time to consider what the Corona virus shutdown was meant to teach us and why we are so quick to act like like it never happened.

Although I am not a nurse, doctor or respiratory therapist, I was considered “essential” and therefore worked through the last 6 months of this ongoing pandemic. It is perhaps the fact that I was not furloughed or quarantined that I find myself longing to embrace a once in a lifetime chance to see how the world was without us in it and to see what we can now bring to our lives that we wouldn’t, had we not been forced to pause.

I feel strongly that we got a glimpse of what life would be like without humans. And it was amazing. When human activity came to a halt, murky lagoon water returned to a beautiful aqua color and dolphins frolicked in the canals of Venice. Around the world, animals came out of hiding and took up residence in city streets and town centers. The air was clean. Even though I continued to trudge back and forth to work, the peace in the air was palpable. It was quiet!

I suppose I quasi-quarantined at the weekends and when I wasn’t on the hunt for toilet paper and Clorox wipes, I began to feel the need to gain some control of my reality by beautifying my back garden with flowers and doing a quick redecorating of my living room. I checked on family and friends, relieved that they were ok. I felt that we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. Yes this was global technically but the pandemic called us all to rise above routine and comfort, above convenience and what is known.

It wasn’t until people took to the streets with signs saying “I want my manicure” that I realized we were not all in this together. Other than procuring essentials, there was nothing to busy ourselves with. This was a chance to see the world differently and to perhaps make some changes. It was the first time I could glimpse peace on earth.

Yet people screamed out “I HAVE TO WORK?” “OPEN UP!” We have been tested America and we have been found lacking. This was a golden opportunity not to only stop a pandemic (that has gone on to kill over a hundred and sixty thousand people…and counting), but to reset, regroup and maybe even get in touch with our hearts that have been crying out for change. People complained before this that they felt lonely, unfulfilled, that they hated their jobs. That they didn’t have time to exercise or meditate. People in the millions were playing the lottery, hoping to strike it rich so they could walk away from soul-destroying jobs. What are we racing back to? Smog, traffic, pollution, sick wildlife? To paraphrase Thoreau, did we really want to race back to leading lives of quiet desperation?

People were willing to risk their lives, as well as ours, to work, when every health expert advised against it, not because they loved their jobs, but because they hadn’t saved ANY money or prepared themselves in any way for the eventual disaster that would befall them. We’ve seen severe reactions and blatant disregard for human life in the name of desperation. Protesters belittling and spitting on battle -weary healthcare workers was the breaking point for me. This is not us being our best selves. I promise you I’m not here to judge, I’m just asking you to think about what transpired. Because people don’t plan or save.

It’s more important in our society to have the latest iPhone, or the newest model car than to be adult and make our selves feel safe. So afraid are we to be judged or found lacking that we put our own lives at risk. Believe me, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons too but that is the thing, are we willing to learn from this and make better choices?

If everyone had a year of savings to get them through tough times, what would this time have looked like? Would people still have taken to the streets to demand to return to dead-end jobs? Who knows what life may have looked like. Some may have taken up painting or learned to play an instrument, they may have welcomed time to rest or learned to perfect that souffle. Others may have delved into nature or started reading books. We didn’t just fail our healthcare system and those who perished, we failed ourselves.

What I found most striking was the sheer inability of people to calm and soothe themselves. Some people were making more on unemployment than they did in those jobs they screamed to get back, Instead of being more loving, caring and generous, or adopting the “neighbors helping neighbors” mentality, many responded with anger, nastiness , hoarding and pushing others around in supermarkets. We witnessed something I never thought I would see; grown adults having temper tantrums in supermarkets and stores that attempted to protect their employees by asking them to temporarily, wear a mask. Temper tantrums! And denial that this virus even existed was off the charts. People were so accustomed to soothing themselves with things. That they were jumping out of their skin when left to sit with their own thoughts. Many took up drinking as a pastime and still others gave up completely.

My dear fellow humans, we must do better. We have to be able to endure, to soothe ourselves when life events take us by surprise. We must be able to handle distress when it comes to our front doors. I give you that this was a shock, most of us have not experience wars, famines, plagues or natural disasters. Yes it was stressful. Yes we had to take a step back and figure this thing out, maybe get creative and find new solutions. But to see the most basic aspects of civility, values and decency go out the window because people were unable to regulate themselves?

Again, we failed to teach ourselves, our students our children, the fundamentals of something we all have….feelings, and how to manage them. What do I do when I’m scared, when I’m lost, when I’m paralyzed with fear? What do I do? I know I didn’t learn that at home or in school. Why not I find myself asking now? Why not? What messages to do we get in our society about feelings? There’s no place for feelings in the workplace, in the military and in many homes. It’s ok to be happy right, but what about all those other feelings? We get the message that we should keep them to ourselves. Black people know all too well that they are not “allowed” to be angry in society. That doing so can at best have them judged and stereotyped or at worst get them killed. Women are supposed to be pleasant, have it together. What do we do when she’s crying uncontrollably or seething with rage? We don’t like it. And men of all colors learn very early on that they can’t be themselves, that they can’t cry, they can’t be confused. Look at the language that’s cropped up in the past 15 years or so “Man up, Suck it up, put on your big girl panties”. If you don’t hear it anywhere else, know that these are insults. These are negating statements meant to keep us in line.

We must be able to identify, acknowledge, process and release our emotions. It is essential to being human. How likely do you think it is that a young boy of 16 would shoot up a school if he had been allowed to own his feelings and those feelings were validated by others? So often we choose being cool and being aloof, cutting ourselves off from our own humanity.

To add insult to injury, we just happen to have a political system and media system that pushed fear agendas prior to and during this worldwide event. It is so easy to see the shortcomings of our country because we watched as country after country before us, handled this virus that was heading straight for us. They shut down, people donned, masks, they helped one another, they sang to each other and they cheered their health care systems. Their news was not alarmist, it was factual. Countries pulled together as we did not and have not since in many respects. We should not be too proud to learn from others. It’s a sign of intelligence.

Instead we fought with each other about science, about facts, and cue Q Anon…some of us left reality altogether! We blamed each other, railed against recommendations. We fought over rolls of toilet paper or we shunned our civic duty, refusing to do our part to contain the virus. At the time of this writing, people are getting summons for having Covid parties and not wearing masks. Other countries have seen us as the “teenager” in the room, always brash and unsophisticated in the ways of the world, but this time of lockdown showed us to be petulant children.

The good news is that many people did show up by helping others, wearing masks and understanding frayed nerves rather than striking back. We can still make lasting changes. We can learn to take care of our emotional states by using coping skills. We can reach out to others, to groups, we can journal, meditate, use mindfulness techniques, we can take walks in nature or get a pet. We can ensure our security by putting money aside. We don’t have to go from crisis to crisis. We can choose to pay of credit cards instead of buying that new video game or iPhone. We can choose love over fear, knowing that it will be ok, that we will make it out of this stronger and wiser for having had the experience.

What will you tell your grandchildren when 2020 goes down in history? That you refused to wear a mask, that you threw your groceries around or coughed in someone’s face? Or that you helped neighbors obtain groceries, that you learned to meditate and it made you a better person. That you realized with some quiet reflection that you don’t actually like being a lawyer and you only did it to make your parents happy. And that is what made you the best at what you do today.

Grasping or holding on for what was, only gets you more of the same. We could have come out of this time wanting to save our beautiful planet, having valued so much how the earth renewed herself in mere weeks. We could have championed the rights of animals after we saw how they gathered when not constantly harassed by well-meaning humans. Such was the case with a pair of pandas that finally mated when they were afforded some privacy!We could have opened our hearts to so much more love and compassion; having empathized with the staggering suffering we saw before us.

Is it too late? I don’t think so. It is never too late to love and be loved, to care for the earth and the animals, to beautify your lives and listen to your heart. Yes this is America, and we have choices. Let’s choose the healthy ones, the grown up ones next time around. Let’s connect to our human-ness and take care of ourselves and each other.

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My Lunch With Maya Angelou

Maya%20Angelou

Creative Commons

I was in college and standing in the Student Life office when another student came in to say that they had extra tickets to hear Maya Angelou speak at a local business lunch. This person waved an envelope around carelessly and asked if anyone wanted to go. I gasped inside and tried to quell the rising excitement inside me. Kids walked around busily and no one seemed to know who Maya Angelou was or what this lunch was about.

Is that for anyone?” I asked.

“Yeah” came the reply. “You want a ticket?”

I looked around and wondered why people weren’t knocking each other over to grab one for themselves. Just a couple of years before Maya Angelou had been one of only two poets to have spoken at an Inauguration and the only African-American woman to do it. She was an accomplished and highly respected author, Pulitzer Prize winner, civil rights activist, friend of Malcolm  X and Martin Luther King! She was Oprah’s friend and mentor, for heaven sake.  I thought it was only a matter of time before these tickets disappeared and so I grabbed one for myself.

The lunch was that same day and I did not have time to go home and change. As I walked into the hotel lobby, I felt intimidated walking into the ballroom filled primarily with businessmen in suits. I increasing believed I really didn’t belong there in my shorts and t-shirt. I also knew I could not pass up this once in a lifetime chance to meet an icon who inspired my life. I wondered if the message of this poet would be lost on a room full of businessmen who thought in dollars and cents.  After some preliminary speeches, Dr Angelou was introduced. She stood taller than many and spoke with a deeper voice than I had heard a woman speak with before; a voice filled with the conviction of the truth she spoke.  She assembled her words differently than I was used to, and I had to adjust my ears to receive her message. In no time, the room was as one. We sat before this sorceress who wove words in an alchemy that cast its spell spectacularly. Ideas swirled and danced and with each rhythmic phrase, she pulled down walls and facades.

As this event occurred in 1994, I do not recall the details of her speech, however I do remember that the room was transformed and transfixed. There we sat, fellow humans, in awe of the greatness that was before us. Dr Angelou had an ability to speak to the soul, not the ego and we were humbled. For a brief time, we sat as children watching magic as her words came to life in hearts and minds.

After her speech ended and the applause and standing ovations subsided, Dr Angelou stood at a long table and graciously signed autographs. I brought along my paperback copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, feeling unworthy and wondering if she would sign my little book. Dr Angelou took my hand, which was at once dwarfed by hers. Her long fingers coming to rest above my wrist as we shook. I honestly thought I would pass out. Although I was raised to see people as people and no better or worse than me, this was different. She was a force. I remember too, the single gold ring she wore which appeared to have been sculpted in the shape of an elegant crane. An appropriate symbol, I thought, for this most regal of women. Cranes represent good fortune and I could not think of anything more auspicious than having this gift of listening to the thoughts of Maya Angelou over lunch. Lunch! In sunny Ft Lauderdale, Florida and for only a roomful of people, as the rest of the world went about its business as if nothing extraordinary was happening!  She signed my book in swirls of black pen and thanked me as I gushed and fumbled my way through a rushed introduction. I remember walking back out into the radiant sunshine not believing my luck and just wanting to be a better person. Such was the power of Maya Angelou.

I’ve not spoken of this event much throughout the years and until today I was not sure why. I think it was so special and her words so beautiful that anything I could have said would not have touched the depth and breadth of it. It goes without saying that meeting Maya Angelou was an experience I will treasure always.

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A Silenced Writer

Writer's block

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How does one write about not writing?  I’m not referring to writer’s block. I’m talking about when a particular topic is off-limits.  I’m talking about wanting to write about something so bad it hurts.  It is right there in front of me, tempting me all the while.  It’s like when someone tells the  funniest  joke you ever heard.  You are about to burst with laughter when your boss walks in the room and you must reverse thrust to avoid being inappropriate.  It is a lot of energy to hold back, like a sneeze.  The kind of feeling that sort of implodes and you are left feeling somehow frustrated and unfulfilled. You knew it would have been such a good release but now the moment has gone and you are left alone waiting for it to kind of reabsorb.   My writing is relegated to talking about things outside of my profession. If it wasn’t, I’d have an easy book to write, let me tell you.

I am ever the observer as sentences and images form in my head constantly. Images which have flown out and crashed to the ground as of late, grudgingly censored by me.  So frustrating!  My fingers have been twitching to bang out letters on the keyboard, illustrating idiosyncracies, inconsistencies, contradictions, kindnesses, heart wrenching tales which would make grown men cry and mind-blowing stories that have brought me to my knees. But I can’t!  For this reason I have written fluff instead of substance.  Why I can not compartmentalize and move ahead with other thoughts and projects I have no idea.

I have gone through a series of experiences recently which were overwhelming, exciting, scary, frustrating, stressful, invigorating and did I mention overwhelming? I am not permitted though to bring them into the public domain.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve jumped through hoops, I’ve been flexible and most of all,  I’ve listened and learned. And, I hope my listening has helped.

Other ideas have paled in comparison and so I decided not to write about them.  Writing about not writing and picking at the edges of this larger experience is helpful to a degree I suppose. Getting it out there to be able to move on is the goal.

What I can say is that doing something scary, that moves me out of my comfort zone, has in short order proven to be an invaluable experience.  I have been honored to learn more about a group of people who have humbled me, to say the least.  I so wish I could share the experience with you.

We rarely move out of our comfort zones and don’t realize that we have until we are shocked and horrified, usually with an accompanying “what was I thinking?”   I think that making major changes in life will always be a rewarding experience, no matter what the experience turns out to be and I recommend it highly.  As for this dramatic Italian though, the silence is killing me!

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On Being Italian

OK. Not all Italians are easily excitable, dramatic, exaggerate and gesture enthusiastically but it is not uncommon and I’m afraid to say I got the gene! I do not speak for all Italians. I speak for me and those I know.  I can also tell you honestly that the times I’ve visited Italy it was heartening  and satisfying to see all the characteristics mentioned above, playing out in lively scenes that are deemed “too much” or too dramatic here.

Outsiders can mistakenly think Italians are upset, angry or yelling but we are just showing interest in a somewhat loud way. Every man who joined our family asked the same question, “what’s wrong?” What do you mean one of us would say quizzically. “Why are you all talking and yelling at the same time?”  Yelling!?! We aren’t yelling, we would say, looking at time as if they were crazy.  My interpretation is that we care about whatever it is that has caught our attention.  I would think people would appreciate this fact! I am always suspicious of people who don’t show any emotion…what are they hiding?  What are they not saying? Eh, must be the Sicilian in me.  I just don’t understand this I’m-too-cool-to-release-an-emotion, thing.  We all have them people, let them out!

Drama. One person’s drama is another persons way of life.  When an Italian says things like: You’re killing me here, Madonna Mia! (as in virgin mother not the stroppy singer), Va fancula (don’t use this one), A Fa Napoli (go to hell or get the hell outta here), I can’t take it!  (In Brooklyn “I caaaan’t”)….It’s language meant to express the feeling they are having. They don’t necessarily mean what they say. It is the same reason I exaggerate.  If I say it’s 100 degrees in here. I don’t really think it’s 100 degrees but that’s what it feels like.  When there were two dogs in the house I would say things like , oh God, I can’t walk with 27 dogs in my way!  Again, capturing the feeeling, nothing more nothing less.  I crack up when someone tries to explain the realities to me. “Dana it’s only 72 degrees in here.”  You’re killing me!

A typical conversation between my husband and myself:

Me: “When are you going to mow the lawn?”

Him: “Later”

Me: “But it’s 7:00pm now”

Him: “I know”

Me: “So you’re going to mow the lawn at 12 o’clock at night?

Again, simply underscoring the late hour. The come back is always an explanation of the actual time and how he didn’t say he would mow the lawn at 12 o’ clock. Sighhhh…message lost.

When I’m upset or excited about something, it will be expressed in hand gestures or my speech or both. One way or another it is coming out! It doesn’t matter what the reality is. So one will hear: I’ve had 100 calls today at work (20), I had to pay like $1,000 to get the car fixed ($350), There were 57 people ahead of me in the supermarket line….you get the picture.  And, when I hear something upsetting for myself or someone else, I’ll gasp or say WHAT?!!!  I think being Italian and apatheic is impossible!  Contrast this with my husband, a Brit, who would respond to the same information with “riiight” as he calmly took in the information.
I could write a post on the phrase Oh My God alone. It is used liberally and in many different situations. It is not reserved for a calamity.   There is “Oh my God!” meaning, I don’t believe it, I’m shocked or got bad news. Then there is oh-my-God which means, he or she is an idiot or something is ridiculous.  Let’s not forget  OhmyGod! which means I forgot something or someone or something is in danger and action needs to be taken. And lastly, Oh my Gaaaawd which is said as a cry (not a whine) which means I’m being stressed to the max . Usually because someone is doing my head in and/or annoying me. When this is used the receiver of the phrase will have a short amount of time to correct their offending behavior because the sender is about to blow up!  Each version is said with its own inflection and different words are stressed.  Of course Italians don’t own these three words and other nationalities have their own versions.

When I lived in England, exclamations were frowned upon. Though Brits do know how to curse and do so very well I might add, Brits do not appear to be comfortable with general outbursts as a rule, rather it seems to be a source of pride that one can keep it together in any situation. Keep Calm Carry On was a war slogan meant to remind people that they were not to freak out once bombs started dropping remember!  I once called (called mind you. I didn’t shout or scream) to my husband who was further down the supermarket aisle than I was and everyone turned around. His face went pale and I thought he was going to pass out. He looked at me as if I’d jumped into the refrigerated section and was throwing thing around like an ape.  I’m not uncouth and am appreciative of manners and etiquette.  I was innocently holding  a package of fresh mozzarella but when I saw that it had come from Italy, I had to share it and thought he’d be as happy as I was.

Ever see someone you hadn’t seen in a long time? Do you quietly approach them or call to them in whispering tones? Or do you act Italian and squeal “oh my God! I can’t believe it! Hiiiii!  How are youuuu??? Complete with delight and lots of hugs and kisses? Again, demonstrating care and interest!

I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing or a New York thing but when I get angry, I curse.  I don’t know many New Yorkers who have a problem with this. Cursing is not seen as coarse or crude, rather it is a creative way of expressing one’s self.  Cursing and degree of anger are positively correlated.  Spouses take heed!  Again, it was nice to hear people exclaiming, cursing, and generally expressing themselves in Italy without it being seen as a character flaw!

Italians talk. They talk with their mouths, their hands, their facial muscles, their shoulders, their whole bodies really.  You will always know what we think, how we feel and where you stand.  If we love you, you will be showered with affection and if we are angry you will know it, the offending situation will be addressed and it will be done with.  We are an expressive people and don’t usually hold things in.  What’s the point of having emotions and feelings if you can’t express them?  Viva Italiano!

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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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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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A Television Musing

 

English: L'Occitane Garden, Chelsea Flower Sho...
English: L’Occitane Garden, Chelsea Flower Show, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok, I admit it. I have too much time on my hands during this heat wave. I am happy to remain indoors until it breaks and have found myself watching more TV than usual. I have the following questions:

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012 (Photo credit: Karen Roe)

1)  HGTV-Does it not stand for Home and Garden Television?  I’ve never seen a gardening show on this channel. And the home repair shows need to move to the DIY channel if you ask me.  There is so much opportunity to air shows like the Chelsea Flower Show  which is an inspiring few days of jaw dropping gardening artistry and would make anyone want to get outside and plant. Instead they crank out show after show about selling a house, buying a house or fixing a house.  There are garden shows all over the world, why not show some?  We need inspiration people!

2) A&E-it started out well. Lofty ideals.  Arts and Entertainment. Self-explanatory.  However it has taken a dive into seediness and murder. Which would make it the S&M channel.  How did they segue into shows like Snapped which they broadcast ad nauseam?  I expected Opera, performance shows highlighting dance, acting and music and a Broadway show thrown in here and there for good measure.  A quick review of the programming reveals: Sell This House, Flip This House, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (what?), and Criminal Minds.  What philistine took over the network and settled on the basest programming they could find?  It is the antithesis of what A&E stands for and was meant to broaden the mind and bring joy, was it not?

Deutsch: Coco Loco Beach / Palawan

4)  The Learning Channel-wow! if any channel raised my hopes it was this one. I’m thinking foreign languages, self-growth, a bit of History and Science-anything to broaden the mind. Let’s see what we’ve got on tap:  Randy to the Rescue (a wedding dress show), Say Yes To The Dress (a wedding dress show), Four Houses (a show where self-absorbed people compete to see who has the best house despite having completely different tastes in design and decor) and of course, what learning channel would not be complete without Real Life Mysteries, Medical Mysteries and a show about addiction. Teach me how to change my own oil. Why not bring in experts in Photography to help us work our digital cameras?  And of course for those aging among us, ratings would soar if they aired shows about new technology and how to use it.

5)  The BBC-this one is painful for me as well.  It was very difficult to leave the UK knowing I would not have access to fantastic programming and honest/real content. The BBC news alone opened my eyes to all that was going on in the world, news Americans are not privy to unless they dig for it. Ok, they show nudity and allow cursing which the moral majority may object to but their shows reflect the real world and ask real world questions and dramas and comedies are second to none.  Their made for tv movies are what we put in Masterpiece Theater years later!  I was elated when BBC America first aired however they too have taken to showing hours of old Star Trek episodes or day long marathons of Top Gear (I like the show but come on!). Any hint of nudity or cursing is blurred and beeped which defeats the purpose-this network should be on a premium channel and allowed to be the BBC. PS-for the love of tea and crumpets, don’t do subtitles on British shows. Give people a minute to train their ears to a mild accent change. We can take it!

Many of the channels, no matter the genre, have filler shows about auctions, shark attacks and police arrests. Mind numbing shows meant to….do what? Of course we haven’t even started on reality tv, crappy made for tv movies and biased news.  Either those in broadcasting believe that Americans really are too stupid to notice the sub par content they air or producers, writers and developers are  paid a lot of money to do very little indeed.

Maybe they just need someone to organize and put shows in their proper places and on the correct channels. Surely some tv queen of clutter can help them out.

Can we not aspire to more inspiring ideas that make one feel they’ve experienced something instead of regretting they spent an hour watching one of these shows, knowing it was an hour they will never get back?  My nook is looking better by the minute.

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