The Message of Rainbows

The words “Bad news” jumped out at me in my messages.  It came just as we were preparing to go on vacation in Hawaii.  Life intruded to inform me of a friend’s untimely and sudden death.  Shocked, I let the news pass through me and busied myself with packing.

News of death is becoming a more frequent visitor lately.  But this loss was so unexpected it brought home the reality of life’s precariousness.

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Then, arriving in Hawaii, I spotted a rainbow,  the first of many.  Looking at first like an optical illusion, which of course it is, I watched it quickly intensify, shine brilliantly between dark clouds and ocean, and then, just as quickly, fade and disappear.  The perfect metaphor for life?

Don’t weep, insects –
Lovers, stars themselves,
Must part.

– Kobayashi Issa

How to Find Good Beyond the Evil

This is a complicated holiday season.  The glitter, the shopping and the decorating can feel imposed by the calendar, out of sync with our daily headlines of war, hate, bombings, shootings, election results and humanitarian concerns.

The tendency to feel overwhelmed by all the darkness in the world can easily let the air out of our sense of personal well-being.  It can suck the air out of conversations. It can lead to isolation and depression. Many I know seem compelled to relive the results of our November election, looking to place blame, as if that somehow could change the outcome. I don’t have all the answers, nor do the pundits, as far as I can tell.  Maybe history will inform us. It’s the same in trying to understand how the world has stood by watching the suffering in Syria.

I do sense that all the toxicity is becoming toxic in itself.  It can lead to an obsession with “news” and with social media. It’s not far downhill to pessimism and cynicism.  There is a steep personal cost in holding on to the disappointment and rage.

me-and-natana

This morning, when I opened Facebook, I was greeted by a photo of myself taken a few  years ago, dancing with my youngest granddaughter.  My heart melted. I thought THIS is the kind of thing that I need to keep in front of me. I was tuned into NPR. Randomly, the program I “needed ” to hear turned out to be a compelling discussion on KQED’s Forum  about The Book of Joy, Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

 The message from the two giants of the spiritual world is that one must look at the arc of time during difficult times like these.  This period is an aberration.  If it were normal human behavior, we wouldn’t find it so disturbing.

Both men, coming from very different traditions, despite their incredibly difficult journeys, kept stressing the goodness of humanity.  After finding myself so moved by the photo I saw this morning, I immediately agreed.

At the risk of sounding like a Rogers and Hammerstein play,

Think mother and family love, the bonds of friendship, the arts, nurses, doctors, teachers, the White Hats in Syria, philanthropy.  If this isn’t enough, bring home the most beautiful flower you can find and place it in a vase where you’ll be able to appreciate it, watch a snowfall, find a friend who makes you laugh so hard you cry, watch the clouds change color at dusk, bake cookies and distribute them after eating several, surprise a long lost friend with a phone call, play with a puppy…well you get my gist.

white-hats

If none of that helps, you have my permission to indulge in your drink or drug of choice and have a long cry in your beer.

How is Everything?

I generally see myself as a relatively easy going and compassionate person.  An uglier, impatient side of my personality reveals itself when I eat at certain California restaurants. I’m surprised by the depth of my annoyance. And, it’s only getting worse.

pet-peeve

I have pet peeves with many restaurants in California.  They can cause an otherwise fine meal to turn unpleasant. There are some restaurant practices that ought to be eliminated and never should have begun. But it’s been contagious and now these scenarios described below are very common.  They arouse an inner nastiness and a penchant for sarcasm in me that can border on the abusive.  The key words there are “in me.” Fortunately, I rarely verbalize my disdain.  Well, only once or twice, when I absolutely couldn’t stand it anymore.

Scenario One

I’ve just met a long lost friend for lunch/dinner.  We’re happy to see each other and quickly become engaged in an intense conversation, catching up with each other.  The menu is on the table, but we haven’t glanced at it yet.  We’re connecting.

Out of nowhere the bright smiling face of a server appears, asking us if we’d like to order.  Our conversation is instantly interrupted without any hesitation. It’s sometimes hard to pick back up again and harder still not to resent the interruption.

Note to managers:  Please train your staff to remember it’s rude to interrupt.  They most likely learned this years ago when they were toddlers.  You and they are going against the grain of established politeness.

Second Scenario.

I’ve ordered my food.  It’s been delivered. It’s been in front of me about 6 seconds. I may or may not have had time to take a bite.  Again, out of nowhere, a smiling server rushes over, “How is everything?? ” he/she gleefully asks.  A little later in the meal, another unwarranted appearance is made.  I’m  busy talking or eating when I’m confronted again.  “Is there anything else you need?” or “Is everything all right?   Or, the favored stand-by  “how is everything?”

Go away.  Don’t bother me. You might have good intentions, but… If I need to let you know how my food is tasting, I’ll find you.  If I need something else that’s missing from the meal, I’ll find you. If I’ve dropped my silverware, I’ll find you. If you’ve forgotten the popover that’s supposed to come with my rib roast, I’ll find you.   FYI, The food is the same as it was when it first came to my table.  No one switched plates on me. No need to ask again.  EVER!  (See?  Just nasty.)

disclaimer: Actually, there is one thing I want to be sure you keep an eye on.  It’s is my need for a drink refill, be it water or wine or cocktail.  That’s ALL you need to keep an eye on.  Don’t approach the table unless you see a glass that’s been drained. Only then, may you ask me if I’d like a refill.empty-glasses

Third  Scenario

eating-in-the-cold

It’s winter in Central California.  Although it’s warmer than most of the country, it does get cold, particularly once the sun sets.  That’s cold enough to need to wear several warm layers and even wrap a scarf around your exposed neck to keep warm.

Some restaurants attempt to delude themselves and their clients, pretending to be in the exotic tropics, serving food indoors and outdoors year round.   Beware of restaurants that have their front doors open in 50-degree weather, even if it does mean that there’s one less move required to go inside and it initially looks welcoming. An open door really means you’ll be freezing through dinner or awkwardly wearing all your outside clothes while you’re sitting inside, wondering why you have to pay for such an experience.

Beware also of restaurants who are still serving dinners on their patios or courtyards during the dark nights of winter.  That means an open door policy as well so that the waiters can pass easily between the indoors and outdoors with plates of food. While the doors are open, the outside diners huddle together under heat lamps and those inside must pile on their clothing layers just so their hands work well enough to hold silverware and bring food to their hungry mouths.

Another note to managers:  Just close the damn doors, please.  Recognise that night time temps in CA in the winter are generally in the low 50’s or 40’s.  This is the time to create a cozy INDOORS atmosphere, not one that feels as if I’m eating in a refrigerator.   99.9% of diners are capable of opening your front door, no matter what the temperature.  Regarding your back door, those tourists must be taught to eat inside.

Fourth Scenariorestaurant-disgust

The first question out of a servers’mouth is “Have you eaten here before?”  Even if it’s a lie, please say yes.  If not, we all might be subjected to an item by item recitation of everything on the menu.  It’s as if no one except the server is able to read.  Then, creative embellishments are added.  For example, if the menu says sauteéd they’ll tell me with what and with how much.  They’re also capable of making up stuff, telling diners whether items are wild when they’re not, or they have no idea. Beware of mushroom descriptions as well, usually, they’re  just plain brown, but they’re claimed to be wild. This might be a self-indulgent moment for the server to shine on center stage, but it’s pure torture for me.

If I have a question, please let me ask it.

Fifth Scenario

I stop eating out.

It’s a Hard Rain

LIfe continues to hum along as if nothing is out of the ordinary is happening.

But there’s a soundtrack in the background of my life that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.  It usually begins with two words:  Donald Trump.  Some new phrases have caught my attention too.  Alt right, anyone?  fake news? false equivalencies?

“Every president has lied,” I heard a Trump supporter announce this morning.

La cantautor estadounidense Patti Smith canta "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", de Bob Dylan, durante la ceremonia de entrega de los premios Nobel en Estocolmo, el sábado 10 de diciembre del 2016. Smith tuvo que tratar dos veces antes de que le saliera bien el tema. Dylan fue el ganador de este año del premio Nobel de Literatura pero no asistió a la ceremonia porque dijo que tenía otros compromisos. (Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency via AP)

I watched a video of Patti Smith at the Nobel Prize ceremony, sing Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.  There was the Reality, sensed by everyone in attendance, impossible to ignore, a seer’s acknowledgement of the dystopian place we’re now in.  Every day, it’s more unwelcome information.  Donald Trump’s tweets.  Donald Trump’s vindictiveness.  Donald Trump’s non-stop celebration of his own ignorance.  You couldn’t make this shit up if you wanted to.

Where oh where are we headed if this poor excuse of a man with an imaginary brain can create so much confusion and turmoil before he takes office?  An avowed anti-environmentalist heading the EPA?  The foxes are all guarding the henhouses now.  Checks and balances?  Teetering or fallen.

The mainstream media seems to be at loose ends. They know that they’re being manipulated but have no idea how to respond.  What is fairness when truthfulness has lost its meaning?  Why are most  journalists unwilling to demand the truth from politicians?  So many questions.  My anger and disdain at the impotence of the television media is at a rolling boil.

I think I care more about the USA and what we have represented to most of the world than I have realized.  Now, that so much of the legacy seems threatened, I want to protect it.

Mainstream Republicans are keeping their mouths shut when asked to comment on Trump’s most ridiculous pronouncements.  Come’on boys, where’s your spine?  Please consider what’s at stake.

To preserve my own sanity, I’ve cut down on watching television reporting.  Nor, do I find it particularly helpful to listen to the journalists I trust give voice to my own fears.

I am at a loss in knowing what to do that might alter the outcome of the election.But I   hear people grumbling louder each day and preparing for battle.  There’s a sense of growing discomfort in our country.  Maybe the battle lines are being drawn as I write.

Sooner, rather than later, It must be regarded by all Americans as unacceptable for the president elect to lie and distort the truth. There must be consequences. At some point, fake news cannot be tolerated.  We must also look carefully at our educational system which made it possible for millions of Americans to be rendered unable to think critically and discriminate the truth from the fabricated.

etc.

etc.

etc.

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Tree Deprivation Syndrome

It’s all been debated so many times. It’s a holiday rife with conflicts as well as delights. Natural/vs. artificial tree?  Merry Christmas vs. Happy holidays? A crèche scene on public property? Kwanza? How does Christmas measure up against Chanukah?  (It doesn’t, nor can it.  Only thing it shares is a winter date of celebration.) (my opinion)

For a Jewish child surrounded by the signs its annual arrival, it’s fascinating, forbidden other.  Look, but don’t touch. The idealized 1950’s Christmas world was a constructed make-believe land, irresistible to most children,  blanketed in perfectly white snow, inhabited by a perfectly white smiling attractive families, accompanied by a cute puppies wearing an oversized red bow.  In this perfect world, a sleigh is outside your door, your mom is in the kitchen with a cute apron on, baking ridiculous amounts of perfectly formed, baked and cleverly decorated cookies. Every house has a wreath and candles. Good will abounds.  It was Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Escapism at its finest.  The Norman Rockwell image below, however is what Stockbridge Mass. looks like!  Ah, nostalgia. Continue reading “Tree Deprivation Syndrome”