Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Good Friends - A Snippet

We met when the Jews came to visit after I was shot.  They brought a Shabbat meal and words of comfort and left me with a new friend for life.

Our husbands embrace their alone time with the same degree of passion.  Writing is a passion and political activism is part and parcel of our beings.  We love our two kids and our one grandchild (each) with reckless abandon.

We don't like to shop, but sometimes we give in to the urge.... and this is what happens when that urge strikes us at different times, in different stores, with different motivations.....
but the same outcome.

Sometimes it's obvious that we were meant to be in one another's lives.

It's Ba-a-a-ack

And yes, there's an ack in the title.

TrumpCare is back, and it's worse than ever.  John McCain's best friend, Lindsay Graham, joined with Louisiana's Bill Cassidy in introducing a revised repeal-and-replace bill that Ohio's John Kasich tweeets eliminates the guardrails that protect some of the most vulnerable among us.

In a sop to my own Senator's NO vote in July, Arizona is poised to receive heaping piles of pork from Graham-Cassidy.  Can he be bought off?  I tried to ask his office that very question this morning, but the phone was busy ... very very busy .... in the car (on speakerphone if I had ever gotten through).. from home ... on my cell on the way to pick up the mail.  I'll comment on his website and his Facebook page, but I wanted to have my voice heard, too.

Indivisible has a lengthy but readable outline of the bill here.  There's a sample script for contacting your Senators here.  If you live in Arizona or Ohio or Tennessee or Alaska, they've created special scripts for you - asking for a return to regular order in the Senate where those Senators can speak their mind in the time honored traditions of their institution.

I'm asking you to take the next two minutes, the ones you'd have devoted to reading a typical post in The Burrow, and make those phone calls right now.  If you can't get through, go to the Senators' webpages and comment as a constituent.  Ask for a response.  You can start here, at our government's cleverly titled Contact Elected Officials site.

If you don't act, you don't get to complain.

Monday, September 18, 2017


It's hard to think of autumn when I'm sweating in shorts and a tank top.  It's too hot to plant, too hot to rejigger the irrigation system, too hot to revamp the containers and replant that which needs more or less sunshine.  The euphorbia along the edge of the roadway are scorched, I hope not beyond repair, but I'm too uncomfortable to help them.

A lot of Tucsonans are sharing these thoughts.  Buying a frame for our new 11x14 FlapJilly portrait by JPetersenPhotography, I had this same conversation with the cashier.  It's not that we're complaining, necessarily.  It's that we're bored.  We're ready for light sweaters and narrow wale corduroy slacks.  We're tired of sleeveless blouses and ready to don our cowboy boots.  But boots when it's 98 degrees, humidity or not, lead to very sweaty feet.  We agreed that we'd have to wait.  We agreed that we were pretty peeved about it.

Michael's has everything Fall on sale.  Halloween decor and Thanksgiving serving pieces and stickers and candles and everything in between, all colored orange and brown.  I wandered the aisles, filling my cart with an owl and a pillow and some small ceramic pumpkins, laughing at the heat rising from the parking lot as I schlepped my treasures to The Uv.  The thermometer might be telling me that it's time to swim, but my purchases announced that it was time to drag out the autumn tchotchkes.

We'll be in Indiana for Halloween with the grandbaby, so my decor will be less scary and more generically seasonal this year. It's not that much of a problem;  I discarded my witches several years ago, along with the kindergarten treasures my now-30-somethings created.  I struggled with the turkey candle holders and turkey platters and turkey lawn ornaments; it seems counter-intuitive to venerate that which I am soon to eat.  For now, they remain in the box.

But the new owl sits cozily beside the farmers and the pumpkins and the curcubits in all their many incarnations - paper squash, ceramic cucumbers, plush pumpkins, etc etc etc.  JannyLou is the only one I know who consistently decorates for each season; last night she told me that Marshall's (a store whose threshold I have never crossed) has lots of cute things you don't need but really want to have.  I may stop in this week, on the theory that you can never have too much of a good thing.

If only I could wear my wool socks and a cut-off sweatshirt while I'm carting things from the garage to the mantles.  Then it might actually feel like Fall.  For now, it will just have to look like it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Feeling the Years

I'm trying to buy a wedding present, but I'm getting stuck in the past.

I'm remembering him as a toddler, as the 3 year old birthday boy, as the suburbanite living across the street from his school until his parents finally returned him to his proper place, the city.

I'm remembering his mother's gigantic cell phone and her fiendish attachment to it... and to him... when our sons were quite a bit smaller than they are right now.

I'm having a hard time adjusting to the fact that it has been three decades since the boys hid under the kitchen table together.  I don't feel that much older, but one of those little ones is tying the knot in 6 weeks ... and pre-schoolers don't get married in fancy hotels downtown.

Where have those years gone?  Amster's oldest is in high school.  I'm on Medicare.  The calendar pages keep turning and I don't notice anything changing.

I suppose that's a good thing.  I suppose I should be flattered that the Uber driver thought I was late 40's/early 50's at the most.  But sometimes,  the reality of buying a crystal carafe for a kid whose diapers I changed just stops me dead in my tracks.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Brief and Random Thoughts on Sports

TBG watched about 10 minutes of Monday Night Football this week.  My campaign to minimize the intrusion of football in my life is gaining ground.  On the other hand, while I was visiting FlapJilly, he and Big Cuter spent much of the weekend dissecting the actions of overgrown men running into and away from one another.  They've been betting against the spread since the kid was in elementary school; they have years of records to prove it.  I suppose it's too deep a bond to sever.... at least, for now.
TBG's having another hometown moment, with the Cleveland Indians now proud possessors of the American League's longest winning streak.  The Tribe has won 21 in a row and ESPN is all Cleve-town all the time.

It's nice to see my guy smiling.
Thinking about the Indians reminds me of my Marin friend, a self-described scary black man several decades my junior.  Talking with Dana Carvey (yes, I'm name dropping ... and I'm smiling as I'm doing it!  He was just one of the guys.  Oh, I did love living in Marin.) one afternoon in front of the gym where we all trained.

The news was filled with outrage over the Redskins' ownership's refusal to consider a name change.  Someone in the group asked me if I'd like a team named The Hebes, then asked my friend how he'd feel about cheering for The Aunt Jemimas.  Without skipping a beat, his reply was (and still is) perfect:
I don't know.  Are they winning?
FlapJilly is playing soccer at pre-school.  The program comes to them, one morning a week.  She has an orange jersey, of which she is quite proud.

Monday was the first session.  They learned to kick and to shuffle side to side and they ran very very fast.  In the email the coach will send to the parents each week there was also The Word of The Week.  This week's word was Respect.  Respect for each other, for the coach, and for the game.

I'm going to like hearing about this..... I'm going to like it a lot.
My favorite sport these days is American Ninja Warrior, the timed obstacle course that favors the quick and the brave, the strong and the flexible, small people and tall people and men and women, all of whom compete on the same course, with no accommodations.  It's fast and fun and weirdly inclusive; we find ourselves moving in sync with the athletes as they fly and run and leap and fling themselves from pillar to post.  It's exhilarating to watch.

You need agility, grip strength, focus and tenacity.  It's only dangerous if you miss the objective and fall 18' into a pool of water, or swing on a rope into a heavily padded landing area.   The fans are up close and personal in bleachers paralleling the course, and they wave signs and wear matching t-shirts and cheer.

There is lots of cheering in Ninja Warrior, from the stands and the competitors, too.  They all want to win, and they all want to watch someone win.  They admire and gasp and applaud, marveling and despairing as we do, taking real pleasure in everyone's accomplishments.

It's everything wonderful about sports.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No

When we moved to Arizona, I made a promise to myself:  You don't have to go to any more meetings.
Today, I agreed to steward two meetings a month.  I couldn't help myself.  OFA asked, and I said yes.

Our Southern Arizona leader, a woman with the wonderfully appropriate name of Mary Darling, met me this afternoon at Crave, a coffee bar cum gathering place which deserves its own post.  Her husband, the oldest 16 year old you'll ever meet, and another organizer were introduced, and then we retired to our own little table, where she pitched her idea.

Filling every paragraph with and you're so good at that, she outlined a series of information sessions and postcard writing opportunities, visits to Rep. McSally's office, and personal commitments by the participants to further amplify the message.  

Amplifying the message means tweets and Facebook posts and Instagram pictures and, more to my skill set and comfort level, letters to the editor and op-ed pieces.  My role is to help the attendees find meaningful connections to the bullet points on the one page fact sheets OFA will prov, ide, which we'll start the meeting by reading to ourselves.  Facts may be indisputable, but they are less potent than personal stories, especially when it comes to connecting with staff, interns, Communications Directors, and, perhaps, one can hope, the Congresswoman herself.

It's a way to amplify my own voice while helping others.  It's making my little corner of the world just a little bit better.  It's two afternoons a month, on my schedule.

I really couldn't say no, although I feel like I should apologize to myself for breaking that promise... and doing it with a smile on my face and a hug around my heart.

(If you're local and want to be kept informed, let me know.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 11, 2001

Sixteen years ago, Christina-Taylor's parents were unaware of the planes flying into the Towers. They were busy with her birthing.

On another plane this afternoon, I did a little mourning and a little smiling.  I imagined her Sweet Sixteen party, an event that will never happen, which made me sad and mad and resigned.  But I could see her, dressed and accessorized to the nines, her hair as shiny as her eyes, greeting her guests, making sure everyone was having a great time, delighting in being the center of all the love and attention.

Her father reminded us over and over again that Christina-Taylor would not want sadness to be her legacy.  I try, each and every day, to remember that, to focus on her laugh and her attitude and the fun we had together.  Some days it's easier than others.

Flying home from my granddaughter, another tall, inquisitive, thoughtful, delightful girl, I felt the loss of the 9 year old holding my hand and jumping for joy over the prospect of an autographed picture of herself and her Congresswoman. I wallowed in the memory.

I didn't move the story forward; her birthday will not be desecrated by talk of guns.

Instead, I remembered touring behind the scenes at the Tucson Zoo and creating flyers for her business and playing pick-up sticks.  I remembered laughing with her parents over her antics.  I tried not to cry.

It's 110 very fast miles from the airport to my house; I made a quick detour at the very end.  Just outside our neighborhood,  Christina-Taylor's park has been upgraded to include an obelisk and a monarch butterfly way station and an educational garden and a statue of CTG and her brother.
I left her a birthday card and finished my drive home, fantasizing about her by my side.  It put a big smile back on my face.

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.  

Monday, September 11, 2017


There were lions and zebras and chimps. There was sunshine and there was a cousin and there were lots of snacks.
But mostly, my heart was filled with love. Some things are too beautiful not to share, things like this.
I'll write more for tomorrow. Today, I'm reveling in the love.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Setting Off on an Adventure

TBG doesn't want to get on a plane.  As I told him, I'm not leaving him behind.  He's not coming with me.  It's an active choice on his part, I can't feel sorry that he'll miss the fun.

Chicago will be sunny and warm this weekend, perfect for a party and for visiting with friends.  There will be breakfast with Niece-the-Youngest and a rental car to take me hither and yon, visiting old friends, dropping in on the bookstores on Broadway, sitting on a bench by the lake at the Far Far Park.  There will be visiting of the grandchild and the concomitant giggles and hugs and stories and dress up.

If only I didn't have to get up at 4am to catch my plane in Mesa.  Still, saving nearly $300 by flying Allegiant rather than a major carrier makes driving in the dark somewhat more acceptable.  Even with the weekend car rental, I'm more than $100 to the good for this trip.

All this fun, all by myself.

I can hardly wait.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's Just Cruel

DJT's 6 month ultimatum to Congress - fix DACA or I'll intervene - might be a political ploy, might be making good on a campaign promise, might be a sop to his base, might be the kick in the ass that Congress needs to get something, anything, going.  It might be all those things.  But one thing it is, for sure - it's cruel.

How do you expatriate someone who's never lived a sentient moment outside the USofA?

It's been heartening to hear Martha Pollack, Cornell's new President, say that the University will continue to aid its DACA students.  I loved hearing John Kasich inviting DACA recipients to come to Ohio, where they will be welcomed with open arms.  I've been tempted to join rallies and street side demonstrations; the invitations pour into my mailbox in a steady stream.

In turn, I've tried and tried to write something more eloquent than It's Just Cruel.  I want to add my voice to the outrage.  I want to make a difference.  I want to change someone's mind.

As I often sing to the kids at Prince, though, You can't always get what you want.

I'm coming up empty.  So, I'm sharing the words of twins, Notre Dame undergraduates, DACA recipients, children of undocumented parents, future world changers.  They are living it.  They say it better than I ever could.

Here's the link.  Enjoy.  Then, if you want to let your Senators and Representatives know how you think, click through here to make your voices heard.  If I can't find the words, maybe you can.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Random Thoughts

James Bond on endless repeat was a perfect choice for a holiday weekend; I salute the tv programmer who thought it up.  It's quotable, it's easy to pick up the story, and it's easy to leave when something or someone better comes along.   It's inter-generational, whether you're all laughing at the early and cheesy special effects or tossing your derby like Odd Job.

It's nice to know that some things really don't get old.
I activated the annual incarnation of my Costco card last week.  I called the number on the peel-off tag, and an absolutely delightful young voice welcomed me, confirmed my identity, and then heartily congratulated me.

She seemed genuinely happy.  Her Have a great day! as she hung up left me smiling.   It was a typical Costco experience.
That's what I thought about over the long weekend.  I exercised and I went to the movies and I browsed Macy's housewares department with Scarlett.  I read the next five or six volumes in Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series on my Kindle.  I checked YouTube and Facebook for FlapJilly updates.

I tried to regroup for the week to come.  Three days was hardly enough.
Does it feel like there are a lot of natural disasters piling up on one another right now?  Montana's been on fire for a month. .  Puerto Rico has 50 emergency shelters stocked and ready for the Category 5 hurricane they are calling Irma, who seems to be on a collision course with Florida, too.  Houston is moldy and mosquito ridden and, in some places, still under water.

What's a person to do?

Anna Eby, never one to leave something to chance, and lawyering and rescuing small equines and being the Mayor Pro Tem of Georgetown Texas was not enough, has, with her family, created Texas Families Disaster Relief.  One road trip in and they are looking for a bigger trailer

Person to person, making a difference in their little corner of the world.  It's really all any of us can do.  They accept donations, if you're so inclined.
That's as close to reality as I'm willing to get.  I'm saving the petty and the mean and the small for tomorrow.  For today, I'll leave you with a snapshot of FlapJilly's holiday weekend.... guaranteed to put a smile on your face.... because I'm trying to make a difference in my own little corner of the world

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Go See This Film

TBG and I each heard reviews of Baby Driver.  Neither of us remembers where.  We were struck, individually, by the reviewers' accolades.

I'll see anything with Kevin Spacey, even the latest season of House of Cards.  Jon Hamm's Everyman-with-Attitude is always one-note, spot on perfection; he's really not as deep as he seems. Lady Jane, my companion this afternoon, tells me, with more than a little twinkle in her eye, that Lily James married a black jazz man in Downton Abbey.  Jamie Foxx's over the top crazy is reliably on the edge of terrrifying.

And Eliza Gonzalez, over there on the left if you're reading on your desktop, defines sultry.  She also wields a mean machine gun, because what's a heist movie without guns and cars and babes with weaponry?

And this is, most definitely, a heist movie.

It's also a buddy movie, a romance, a coming of age film.  It's about family and debt and commitment.  There's not a wasted word.  It's predictable in the way that genre movies must be predictable, but it's quirky and surprising and startling, too.

The cinematography is a character in itself.  You are in the booth in the diner, with no space on either side.  Each of the car's windows and mirrors advances the story, often in 4 different directions at the same time.  It's all orchestrated to Baby's iPod playlists and cassette tapes; when an ear bud comes out, the volume goes down in the theater, too.  It makes for an interesting conceit, involving the viewer in the action and the character and the film itself in a way that I'd not felt before.

Ansel Elgort was new to me, but he's apparently a teen heart throb.  He's on screen in every scene, his reaction is the film's reaction, his point of view the focus around everything else (literally) revolves.  It's a quiet, desperate, loving performance, filled with strength that's subtle, brave, and fatalistic.  He's a walking sigh.

There's a love story and a Mom and Dad story and a How Did I Get Into This story rolling around in a bang-bang-shoot-'em-up, blow things up, destroy lots of cars movie that left Lady Jane and me with huge smiles, singing along to Paul Simon.

Go.  You won't regret it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Last Day of Summer Vacation

Today should be the last day of summer vacation.  School should start the day after Labor Day.  I know this as a proven fact; my inner clock reminds me each and every September.  I'm sorry if you disagree, but you are wrong.  Seriously wrong.  

Families should gather for one last day at the beach/the park/the ball field/the river/the backyard and eat hamburgers and toast marshmallows and catch fireflies as the moon rises over the neighbor's chimney.  Fourth of July seems like ages ago, the air is a little bit cooler, the days a little bit shorter, and it's time to get back to work.

Here in Tucson, kids have been in school for a month.  It's just not right.  

In honor of Labor Day, I am taking the day off.  Instead, I'm reviving an oldie but a goodie, from August 24, 2009.  Read and enjoy and say thank you to someone who works for a living. 

The First Day of School

Daddooooo always gave us a new pencil the night before the first day of school. It had the logo of his business, fancy green calligraphy and a point that was sharpened to the teeniest tiniest most perfect tip. It made you want to get to school the next morning just so you could write with it.

We got new shoes for the first day of school. Gym shoes were just that - shoes you wore in gym class. They weren't worn in the classroom and if you hadn't grown, last year's model would work just fine. But you definitely got new school shoes, along with a new purse or lunch box depending on your age and gender and a haircut and 3 new outfits. I suppose we out-grew or ripped or otherwise mutilated clothes which had to be replaced, but I don't remember much beyond the 3 new outfits and the shoes.

If you had a smart mom, which we did, you'd already bought the basic school supplies a week or so earlier. The notebooks had to be the right thickness, and the lines on the paper the exact shade of blue, but that was personal preference rather than dictated by a list. 

Our 3-ring binders with light blue cloth covers and a printed label inside the front cover where you wrote your name and new grade started out pristine and ended up raveling at the edges and covered in doodles and notes and memories of the year, transcribed as they happened. Sometimes I got a new one for the second semester.

Personally, I preferred the 48-count box of Crayolas to the 64-count. In third grade we were allowed to bring ink pens to school. Real ink pens, since ball-points were a rarity (Bich and the Biro brothers created the clear plastic stick pen in 1952, the year I was born). You could bring a fountain pen and an ink jar or you could use a cartridge pen with disposable plastic ink cartridges. Lavender or turquoise or black or royal blue inks were all acceptable; red was only for the teacher.

Beyond providing my pencil and a good luck hug and kiss, Daddooooo's role was to leave in the morning before we got up, just like he did every morning. Getting to school was a G'ma and kids operation and he only got in our way. 

Summer was over; the new year was beginning.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Labor Day

I'm taking the weekend off, aligning myself with Labor and celebrating all of us with deadlines and assignments and duties. 
Here's my Labor Day post, recycled and improved every year since 2012

My Zaydeh was a paperhanger. So was his son, my uncle. They belonged to the Paperhanger's Union. When he retired, my Zaydeh got a lapel pin and a photograph of himself and the also-retiring Union Rep. The Union Rep got a pension and health insurance. No one knows if he got a copy of the photograph, too.

It was that kind of complicated relationship to Labor, with a capital L, that dominated my growing up years. Daddooooo's father owned a business. G'ma's father was a worker. In the same way that her parents' accented speech and his parents' religious devotion were there, so was management/labor, bruising the edges of their relationship.

On the one hand, I sat on my Zaydeh's shoulders as he bounced me around the living room, singing Zum Gali Gali, a Zionist/Socialist work song.  When I needed a biography for a book report in second grade, his daughter, my mother, suggested Eugene Debs. I was the only one in the class who wrote about the Wobblies, who knew that, before Bernie Sanders, a Socialist, a man who understood the plight of the working man, ran for President, albeit from prison.

On the other hand, Daddooooo inherited his father's bridal shop, working alongside his brother and the cutters and pressers and seamstresses he'd known his entire life. He took care of the girls, the worker bees, the ones who created what he tried to sell. He struggled to make a success, and failed, and among those he held accountable were the Union Guys.

He was unable to make a go of a business he'd rather not have owned.  He was living a life unlike that which he'd imagined in college.  It was not making him happy, nor was it paying the oil bill.  The generalized angst was unassailable; the Union Guys were real.

Yet I knew that we needed unions - the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire proved that protections were necessary and that management had no interest in protecting the welfare of the worker. Without collective action, nothing could be achieved.  I was still the 8 year old in love with Eugene V. Debs.

Those feelings didn't seem incompatible with the boss's daughter piece of me, the one who loved seeing her Daddy's name on the showroom door.  The ladies did piece-work, but always had time to smile and chatter at me, in Italian.  The cutter, an imposing fellow with a gigantic pair of scissors, shared a small corner of his even more gigantic table with me, as I worked beside them, trimming lace, doing idiot work in my father's parlance, completely content, with a foot on each side of the divide. 

G'ma told me stories of her parents marching in Solidarity Parades, though never when Daddooooo was around to hear.  Daddooooo railed about union bullies, but rarely in G'ma's presence. 

The battle between labor and management, waged, silently, over my kitchen table.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Picture's Worth 1000 Words

And so, that's what you get today.
Include Thank You and Stickers!!! and 50 cents a cap among those words.
Include the definition of a cap (yes, it's the top of a water bottle, too), curiosity about the probability of monkeys in trees, and ferocious giggling as feet are stamped and fists are shaken and 5 and 6 year olds take delight in Grandma hollering about that peddler's caps.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
I take and create my joy where I can.
I can't make Harvey's waters recede, but I can take care of shoe laces and trips to the nurse,
making my corner of the world a better place, one pair of sneakers at a time.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Shoelace Fairy

It made sense, after a while, to sit on the ground.  Prince Elementary School is haunted by a demented Shoelace Fairy; it's the only reason that every third child has at least one shoestring dangling.

Tying shoes is a skill not mastered by many kindergarten kids.  The one who could create the knot and twist the bunny ears and pull it all tight did so with quiet concentration and a self-satisfied look as I narrated every step.  Her classmates were fascinated by her demonstration, and then they lined up in front of Grandma so that I could tie their shoes.

Sitting, we were nearly at eye level.  Their shoes were pink and camouflage and shiny and lit up and those who had velcro closures stood in line anyway, just to show me their shoes.  Admiration finished, we moved on to the speedy and abridged version of Caps For Sale, the book I was toting.  Giggling, they ran away, making way for a bigger boy to ask me to start from the beginning.  I did, reading every word until he shook his head, emphatically requesting that I do it like before, FAST!
So, I did.

I read it correctly for Story Time in the third of the five kindergarten classrooms I'll visit. The children sat on the rug, I sat in the teacher's chair, and the teacher sat among the kids.  The story became a participatory experience, with all my little monkeys on the carpet mimicked the monkeys the book, shaking their fists and stamping their feet and tsk tsk tsking away.

They lined up to receive their stickers - one for the student and one for the teacher.  By the end of the line, Ms Boyd's flowing tunic top was covered in tiny round penguin stickers, each one applied by a tiny hand.  There were many thank you's and I love you's and too many smiles to count.

This is the best elixir, denizens.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nicole/Nicolle Wallace - A Snippet

There are recurring characters on Law'n Order who tickle our fancy.  Larry Miller's Dobson is one of them; we take fiendish delight in watching his sleazy, nightclub owning,serial wife killing snark.  He's so awful, he's wonderful.

The other one is Nicole Wallace.  Brilliant, blonde, quick on the uptake and not shy about making her opinion known, this tv character is also a serial killer, with those who love her becoming, more often than not, her targets.

The problem is that MSNBC hired Bush 43's one-time Communications Director to host an afternoon talk show, and her name is Nicolle Wallace.  She's brilliant, blonde, quick on the uptake and not shy about making her opinion known.

I don't know why, but it bothers me.

See what I mean?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lawrence of Arabia, 55 Years Later

I had to ask TBG to check my math.  I'd already subtracted in my head and counted decades on my fingers.  I'm still stunned.  Apparently, Peter O'Toole first smoldered his eyes into mine 55 years ago.  I don't know where the time's gone.

I remember being struck then as I was today by how white Omar Sharif's teeth are, by how blue Peter O'Toole's eyes are, by how vast and isolated and insulated it was.  Then and now I loved the costumes and the scenery and the grandeur of it all.

Today,  I was struck by how naive they all were.  When I was 10, I missed the nuance of the cultural divide.

The Loft has new seats in its new 70mm equipped theater and every one of them held a patron.  It was an old-time movie going experience; I was there and I was here all at the same time.  I laughed at G'ma in my head, whispering about bottles of ketchup spilled as scimitars and knives hacked at body parts on the screen and I winced into her shoulder.  Scarlett and I, nestled into our comfy padded chairs on perfectly spaced risers, before and aft, sighed together and laughed together and gasped together and were equally glad to see Intermission role around.

Let's be clear, denizens, this movie begins with 10 minutes of music (the London Philharmonic performing Maurice Jarre's Oscar winning score) which commands your attention before the curtain goes up and the story begins, and goes on and on and on and on for 3 hours and 48 minutes of dazzling photography (it really did need Super Panavision and70mm) and manly men acting in manly ways with manly weapons on a soft and unforgiving desert.

Behind all that was Peter O'Toole, wondering along with Lawrence, who he was.  Frightened and exhausted, exalted and exultant, he was confused and he knew it and that, in itself, was fascinating to watch.  I was wondering along with him.

There was more, like  Jose Ferrer's Turkish officer, who was menacing in a sexually disturbing way I hadn't noticed when I was 10.  The quicksand was almost-but-not-quite-as horrifying, although I worried about it enough  to make it almost be true. Riding a camel full speed still seems like a terribly uncomfortable but eminently practical way to cross an uncrossable desert.  And, as I knew then and know now, colonialism (do we call it nation building now?) stinks.

The movie is wonderful.  The story is sad but (almost) true. It's worth investing nearly 4 hours to see it on the big screen.... once every 55 years or so.

Friday, August 25, 2017


I crocheted a blanket for FlapJilly.  Her mommy bought the pattern, which I'd seen but rejected because I'm cheap.  I bought the yarn at Michael's and, with all my coupons and their sale pricing, I spent less on the supplies than I did on lunch that day.

I made it five times; the instructions were more than a little unclear.  *I started, examined the results, pulled the work apart and started again* repeating the pattern between the *'s over and over and over again.  The mistakes only became clear as the garment grew.

It's worked with two strands of yarn at a time, which made unraveling it unnerving.  Tangles make me nutty, untangling reminds me of Tom Sawyer in drag, yet over and over I toiled, getting it right... or right enough.

And right enough it was.  Little Cuter had opened the packaging so extricating my gift was simple.  Folded in half, looking down at the roses, FlapJilly told her mother than It's a Belle one! as her father helped her put her arms through the holes.  It's open in the back, because it's a blanket, designed for snuggling, but for my favorite 3 year old it was the entree into Beauty and the Beast's world, complete with Dancing with the Daddy, not in his arms, but with Belle leading, holding her skirts, flouncing and twirling and doing just what she does in the movie.

I had the warmest cockles, denizens, the warmest cockles ever.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Because you had that red convertible.

Because you took me on the best first date ever.

Because your mother talked to me about grandchildren when I first visited you at home, while your brother was fascinated by the thin braids I'd woven, framing my face while the rest of my hair hung to my waist.  Because it felt as if I'd been coming to your house forever.

Because you explained the games you watched,  rather than excluding me due to my ignorance

Because we lived near and then far, apart and then together and then apart again, and I was always glad to see you.

Because you take the right things seriously.

Because I know you will never, knowingly, put me at risk.

Because ordering pizza is fine, even though a home cooked meal warms the cockles of your heart.

Because you think that your old polo shirts look adorable when I wear them around the house.

Because of that and because of this and because I can't imagine it any other way... Happy Anniversary, TBG.

Here's to 42 more years, because why not?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Phoenix and A Memory

I was 18 when I joined the Mobilization Against the War in the March on Washington, D.C.  Four of us drove from Ithaca to the home of a professor friend of a friend who welcomed a dozen or more of us, strangers in need of a free bed, into his huge home.  We sat in his backyard, under the stars, and tried to articulate our need to be there.

Because it was a need.  Our friends were being drafted when their grades fell.  We played cards with a friend who ate next to nothing, avoiding a 1-A classification by being too thin.  Bombs were being dropped on innocents and Communists alike, awful bombs raining napalm and Agent Orange on a country that wasn't threatening us for any reason other than we were there, threatening them.

There were some principled legislators, elected officials who made a difference.  I was in the audience when Sen. Frank Church spoke out about the war, making a case I could understand and repeat to Daddooooo, who took the other side.  Allard Lowenstein, who spoke truth to power, gave me a front row seat to his reelection campaign.

I listened.  I learned.  I grew.  I saw the impact one person could have. I had to be in Washington that April evening.  I had to be heard.

And now, the President is bringing the fight to my neighborhood.  I'm not 18 any more.  I've been perforated.  Advice on treating pepper spray is less comforting than horrifying.  That's why I'm sitting on my couch right now, passing up an opportunity to peacefully, publicly, protest that which is reprehensible...... although the opportunity to punch a Nazi in the nose was almost enough to put me in a car, with some friends, to walk and chant and then sleep on a friend's extra bed before heading home in the morning.

I'm there in spirit.

We do what we can do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Random Thoughts on the Eclipse

I chased around Tucson on Sunday afternoon, looking for the appropriate eye wear, dogged, once again by procrastination.  You'd think I'd learn.  You'd be wrong.

I bought my National Parks Old Person's Lifetime Pass this week, just a few days before the price goes from $10 to $80.  I've known that the price would increase since I qualified at age 62.... three years ago.

Really, you'd think I'd learn.
After a phone call revealed that the cupboards in the library were bare of the free viewing glasses (again, advertised for weeks), I was directed by Sarah, my local librarian, to Lunt Solar Systems.

2500 and something Coyote Something, off Grant, west of the I-10... her directions were more precise than my memory proved.  It became obvious that I was not the only one searching (for what turned out to be 2520 N Coyote Drive, Suite 111) when I joined the stopping-and-starting parade of vehicles wending our way through the (very empty) light industrial park that looks like every other light industrial park in America, on a random Sunday afternoon, when nothing but the place with the $4 each viewing glasses is open.
They have special hours this Sunday, Sarah told me.  They were very special, indeed.

It was a cash only salesroom, with two lovely people behind the counter, taking dollars and marking the sales in a notebook, with a pen, cross-hatching every fifth one handed out.  Nothing electronic, including the glasses themselves.  Cardboard and special filtered papery protective lenses and a cool design on one side, all the information one needed on the other.

Yes, he said, you can look directly at the sun with these glasses.  He said it.  He didn't growl or roll his eyes or have any snark at all. His co-worker was handling similar questions with equal equanimity.  It was a very Tucson experience, very special hours indeed.
I walked outside a little after 9:30 this morning, after proving to myself that the last piece of wisdom from Lunt Solar was true - I could see absolutely nothing unless I was looking directly at the sun.  That is to say, I put them on in the hallway and stumbled into the wall before removing them carefully if forcefully.
I looked at the sun.  It was amazing.

Then, I drove to Amphi Middle School, careful, once again to protect my eyes, changing the sun visors at every corner.
In the lobby, after another long look, two students who've never known their campus without me approached, silently, smiling, proprietarily.  We hugged.  They are big girls now, but we walked around their playground when they were very, very little, and we all remember that time.

We wondered what they made of eclipses before there was science.  I smiled, thought of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and, before I got too far into how predicting an eclipse saved a man's life, I thought to make sure that they'd heard of Mark Twain.

They hadn't.

Channeling Tom Hanks, I wondered aloud what they weren't teaching kids these days.  On the drive home I decided to read Huck Finn aloud to anyone who wanted to listen during lunchtime.
Did I mention that I paid close attention to the warnings?  Did I mention that I checked the certification numbers on my viewing glasses?  Did I tell you that I asked, even though I knew, if I could look at the sun?  Did I tell you how worried I was about burning my retinas and losing sight in the middle of my visual field?

Did I mention that these warnings were everywhere?  That it was impossible to pick up a newspaper, listen to a radio, and, most important to this final rant, I couldn't find a channel on television that wasn't telling me this, in bold, in italics, sternly, definitively, absolutely DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN.

With his aides shouting that which we'd all heard everywhere all day across all media, there was this:
Res ipso loquitor.
(The thing speaks for itself.)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Minor Annoyances

There was a dead baby bat floating in the pool this morning.  

It's not unusual for us to find fallen beasties there; birds capture prey and are often unable to transport them back to their nests.  We find tiny mice and ground squirrels, not often, but more than rarely. That's why I'm filing them under Minor Annoyances.

I had my shoes on, so I could walk across the gravel and retrieve the pool skimmer.  There was another Minor Annoyance. I secured the skimmer behind the equipment wall before we went to the Midwest last month.  I usually go barefoot on my fabulous deck surface; it's never too hot or too cold or too slippery or to scratchy.... it's just right. But bare feet do not mix well with natural desert surfaces, and there was a lot of natural desert surface between the deck and the skimmer.  The pool sat, unskimmed, swimmable but somewhat leafy, until this morning, when I removed one Minor Annoyance from the list.
I sat at my desk to type this, and my eyes fell on another Minor Annoyance.  The Assistant Principal sent me a spreadsheet.  I printed it out and deleted the email.  Now, I want to add to the information I already have, but the electronic version is gone.  I could ask for another (embarrassing) or I could retype the whole damn thing.  I could prevail upon Big Cuter to do this for me, but he's done it for me twice before and (embarrassing) I can't find either of them.  Idiot Work, Daddooooo called it, and Idiot Work it will be this afternoon when I retype that which annoys me.

Minor problems, but there, nonetheless.
I have six beautiful mailing boxes to my right, on my desk.  They are pristine, elegant in their simplicity, and totally useless to me.  Yet, I cannot bring myself to throw them away.  Like MOTG, I am a hoarder of containers which may, someday, be useful.  I know that I will want them the moment I deconstruct them and recycle them, which is why they have sat on the desk for a month.  

I can feel Little Cuter rolling her eyes right now, wondering how I can work in such a cluttered environment, perplexed as to why I don't just get rid of them and the nagging they cause at the back of my brain.  I can't explain it.  It's a Minor Annoyance.
And why am I concentrating on such nonsense?  Perhaps because someone I love posted something I hate on Facebook and I don't know what to do about it.  Ignore?  Educate?  Writhe in angst?  

Honestly, denizens, focusing on the Minor Annoyances is all that's keeping me sane right now.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Curated Random Thoughts on Recent Events

This morning, I thanked Little Cuter for sharing her family with us last night and before I could finish she sighed and said she understood, that she walked into her house and took a deep cleansing breath,, leaving Recent Events outside.

It was easier for me to do that when FlapJilly and SIR and my daughter were there to distract me.
Valerie Plame Wilson, one of my heroes,  posted this on Facebook, citing @CelesteHeadlee:
Want to make sure you all saw this photo.
It's the line of people in Durham waiting to turn themselves in for toppling the Confed statue.

Only 9 of them were answering warrants, the rest were channeling Bible stories... you know... I am Spartacus! ... I am Spartacus!.... I am Spartacus.
Neither Robert E. Lee then nor Robert E. Lee V now, neither the great-great-something grandsons of Stonewall Jackson nor the direct descendants of Jefferson Davis think the statues of their relatives should remain standing in public spaces.  A museum is where these anachronistic pieces should reside; they don't represent us or our parents, said the Jackson kid on CNN.

I think family should trump anybody else when it comes to a physical representative of a relative. Drape them with weatherproof cloth tonight, and make plans to move them tomorrow.  The kids are against them, and their views are dispositive.
Can the Republican Party expel the President?   I bet Sen. Bob Corker wishes it were so. 

USA TODAY's headline says it all: Republican Sen. Bob Corker: Trump has not shown 'competence' needed to lead.  TBG says that's not an impeachable offense; it's neither a high crime nor a misdemeanor.  There's the 25th Amendment, but President Pence makes me nauseous as I look at those pixels.  I'm heartened by the separate and equally disgusted individual statements made by each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; they understand the character of this nation, using Sen. Corker's words.
The Jewish Daily Forward was a staple of my Bubba and Zada's kitchen table.  They were Wobblies, Socialists, refugees, new Americans with ideals who marched and had opinions; this was their  newspaper. It was a big deal when it began to be published in English, leaving the original Yiddish behind.  

In the 21st Century, its great-great-something offspring,  Forward.com, is an interesting place to visit.  Today, Yael Reisman restored my faith in humanity.  She describes the response of the organizers of the March for Racial Justice, who did not realize that September 30 was Yom Kippur when we were factoring in these and other considerations and applying for permits.

They went on to demonstrate how to write a real apology:
Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part. It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond. Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships.

We made a mistake.  We didn't think.  It's on us. We should have apologized sooner.  Let's work together so this doesn't happen again.  

As she titles her post, The March For Racial Justice Just Welcomed Jews Back Into The Left.  My grandparents are smiling down on us right now.
I can't even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen or terrorists.  

I'm giggling as I watch snippets of this week's SNL Weekend Update.  In true Second City fashion, former cast members are reappearing.  You must stream it.

I have to stop watching and typing and obsessing because I'm losing my giggle.  Anyway, I have my own personal commentator right here on Douglas the Couch.  Hours before Michael Beschloss referenced it on CNN, TBG was talking about Seven Days in May.

Feeling smug. We're done.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Today's Terrifying Thoughts

The day started with the best business people dropping out of Councils that had been disbanded because who wants to host a party that no one will attend?

I watched Nicole Wallace, Communications Director for George Bush and McCain/Palin, wonder who resigns over this?

I found out that there is a uniform for white supremacists: a white polo shirt, tan khaki pants, and a red ball cap, aping Donald Trump's leisure wear.  I found out that the Nazis and the Klan (and the other groups whose names and websites I don't want to know about or promote) are recruiting on college campuses, looking for clean cut youngsters who are willing to climb into the clown car.

I began to compose this ad:
Very Nice People
who participated in the Unite The Right rally in C'ville.  
You know, the one whose poster featured all those white nationalists, Klansmen, Nazis.
(Added bonus if you can articulate a nice reason for associating with assholes.)
My President tells me that you exist.
Please bring your unicorn to confirm your identity.

I began editing aloud.  I watched TBG laugh, then pause, then frown, before begging me to avoid attending any counter-demonstrations in the near future, That tipped the scales; now we were both terrified. 

I turned off my brain and delivered a nice long dose of this
and this
via FaceTime.

It was a much better place to be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It's Nazis, For Crying Out Loud

I thought there was one thing everyone could agree upon - Nazis have no place in the USofA.

It seemed like a gimme, a simple thing, say Nazis are Bad and move on.

Instead, our President invented an entire movement and accused them of attacking those peacefully protesting white guys who really really cared about a statute of Robert E. Lee.

I'm waiting for the Republican Party to disassociate itself from this man.  I'm wondering what the Kushners' rabbi has to say about all this.  I wonder how my Breitbart reading friend can justify the false moral equivalencies his President draws.

But mostly, I was really confused about the whole alt-left thing, never having been asked to join and wondering who amongst us had the secret password to this hitherto unknown cohort.  All became clear when Big Cuter shared this tweet from @Scott_Gilmore

Alt-left, violently coming at the alt-right, circa 1944.

'Nuf said.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Sorbet

I've spent two days thinking about Nazis.

It's an ugly place to be.  I don't do ugly any more.  I take care of my little piece of the world, and I try not to dwell on the terrifying, the horrifying, the grotesque.  They'll be there whether I obsess about them or not.

So, this morning, I snuggled into a comfy chair with my fully charged Kindle, and picked up Killing Grounds, number 8 of the 22 Kate Shugak novels I downloaded as a present for myself a few Christmases ago.  There's a 23rd one out now, after a long hiatus, and in its honor I'm rereading them all, from the beginning.

Alaska is as much a character in the series as are The Handsome State Trooper and the half husky half wolf house-companion and the salmon and the mountains. They are much better company than the talking heads.  They are, by magnitudes unfathomable, better company than Donald Trump.

Monday, August 14, 2017


This has nothing to do with liberals or conservatives, as far as I'm concerned. It has to do with hate.

The  Charlottesville driver is to blame, just as the fool who opened fire on the Republican baseball players is to blame, and the mentally ill young man who shot us is to blame.

The Nazis, the KKK, and the white supremacists who organized and attended the event in Charlottesville are to blame, and so is everyone who remains silent in the face of this assault on the very basis if what makes America America.

It's larger than ideology.  It's about who are as Americans.  It's about how we respond when things get out of hand.

Words matter because words lead to action.

Our shooter was fueled by alt-right white supremacist talk radio.  Steve Scalise's shooter was very very very angry at them. The young man who killed Heather Heyer left a massive gathering of gun-carrying, torch bearing, angry people who looked just like him, his ears filled with their shouted epithets.... epithets which are illegal in Germany, where they know a thing or two about Nazi propaganda.  

They may rally and they may sow hatred to their hearts' content, but their right to free speech ends as their bullet goes through me, or you.  But, I know you know that.  This is about more than the violent acts themselves.  This is about the heart and soul of our country.

Spreading hate, fueling racism, and inspiring bigotry should never be tolerated in our country.

I went to public schools.  Over and over again, year after year, I learned about the founding of America.  I learned about Roger Williams and James Oglethorpe and William Penn and Peter Minuit, about putting aside religious disputes to form a more perfect union, one where all are created equal, one where all has expanded and grown as we have expanded and grown.  

Sometimes the change is hard.  Sometimes it makes us anxious.  Sometimes it makes us furious enough to march down the streets, shouting and ranting and railing against those who have wronged us.  But we are Americans, and there are certain expectations.  We go to the ballot box, not the gun shelf.  We don't drive our cars into our opponents, we vote them and their ideas into and out of office.

Public figures have a further obligation. They have a platform.  They speak for America.   Senator McCain made me proud, releasing his statement almost immediately: 
“White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special. 
“As we mourn the tragedy that has occurred in Charlottesville, American patriots of all colors and creeds must come together to defy those who raise the flag of hatred and bigotry.” 
The fact that my Congresswoman and my President have to be coaxed to speak at all, either unable or uninterested in understanding the nuance of the situation, is terrifying.  Without false equivalencies, without hesitation, I'd like to hear them say that we are not the Klan or white supremacy or Naziism. 

Fight back with kindness. Show love for your neighbors. 
Prove that what happened in #Charlottesville is not a representation of who we are.

Personally, the fact that my Representative and my President have to be nudged toward explicitly denouncing Nazis, without reservation or false equivalencies, is terrifying.  I hope you'll stand beside me when the putsch begins. 

My heart is with everyone who is hurting, their families, 
and everyone who was made to feel unsafe in our country.

The italicized words are from Gabby Giffords' statement on Facebook.  As always, she continues to inspire. As always, I am reminded of why I wanted to bring a bright eyed nine year old to shake her hand.

We were on the receiving end of the kind of hatred that ends in violence, hatred that interfered with that most American activity - speaking to our elected official, seeking redress of grievances, propounding a cause, urging action, with words. Words matter.

Moreover, our elected officials are supposed to be the grown ups in the room.  They are supposed to remind us of our better angels, of who we know we are, deep down, as American patriots.  It's not about liberal versus conservative, about left versus right, about Democrat or Republican or Green.

It's about what's right.  The Klan is not right.  The Nazi Party is not right.  It shouldn't be that hard to say.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Back to School Love Fest 2017

It started on Monday, with a Costco run.  Two sheet cakes later, I was driving my propped open cooler across town to Prince Elementary School and Amphi Middle School, the places where I hang my hat.  They were busy getting settled; I left the cakes in the refrigerators, with a love note pinned to the long long tables that are characteristic of faculty lounges nationwide.
I've given up on providing knives and plates and napkins; this is an eat and run environment which comes equipped with all the tools necessary to dig in and get out fast.  I spend GRIN's money on the food itself and everyone is happy.

Tuesday found me at Albertsons, watching the bakery clerk fill a shopping cart with goodies. 
Each and every year a young woman smiles at me from behind that same counter as she fills my basket to the brim with goodies that Vera, my favorite manager, is glad to share.  Vera says it makes her happy to provide the donuts and crullers and layer cakes and muffins and cookies and chocolate fudge squares and I know that the schools are happy to receive them.
This is what I started GRIN to do - to bring together those who have with who need, to connect the generous with the wanting, to share the love.  I spent all morning doing just that.  
I visited nine more schools, waving to busy principals I've known for years, hugging those who were free to reminisce about their starts at Prince and Amphi, whose principal, Tassi Call, after having seeded the District with those she trained, is now in the Administration Building, sharing her knowledge with everyone.  

I stopped in to see her, too.  Yes, this is the 7th year I've done this project.  Yes, time flies.  She helped me with some business for another volunteer, and I left to finish my rounds.  There was so much love to be shared.  

I remember you! 

Christina-Taylor's picture on the wall of the school she attended, surrounded by American flags and a bronze plaque, sparked another conversation about the little girl whose death sparked all these good deeds.  I told our story to a young teacher from Utah, who was stunned to realize that everyone who walked by knew the tale.  This happened to all of us had never been clearer.  

Four hours later, I was home, nursing my exhausted body.  Two days later I spent the morning at Prince, giving stickers to little ones who were just a little bit anxious about the first day of school.  See that sticker on Mommy's shirt?  She's going to miss you today, and when she does she'll rub her sticker and feel like you are with her.  And that sticker on your shirt?  It can do the same thing.  It's like a little hug around your heart, and it helps, a lot.

And, as one Mommy added, maybe you'll be rubbing it at the exact same time that I am!

Those are the connections that make my heart sing.  It's a wonderful adventure, the start of a new school year.  Especially when you are greeted by this, on your classroom door:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I was Rolfed this afternoon.  This was my second appointment, and I liked it even more than the first one.  I'd resisted the gift certificate for nearly a year; I went, the first time, to assuage my guilt over an un-used gift from a woman I see every week.  By the middle of the session, I was hooked.

Talking about it is confusing; it's been done with me, on me, to me, but never at me.  The practitioner finds my psoas and follows it along its merry path, while I breathe and move my knees to one side and my head to the other.  It's not a process for amateurs.  The sensations are deep and unusual and sometimes require sending the breath to the part that is talking the loudest.

And that's the part I like the most of it - talking to my body and having it talk back.

A massage therapist in Marin insisted that TBG learn to love his basketball damaged knee.  She encouraged him to speak of it kindly, to rub the soreness with kindness, to think of it as a valued part of his body.  He snickered and continued to be pissed at it.

Twenty years later I heard the same thing from a physical therapist at the Rehab Institute urging me to embrace the mended bones, the regenerating nerves, the muscles strengthening even as I galumphed across the floor.

Twenty years before Marin I'd heard the same thing from a friend who was powering through an aerobics class as I gasped for air beside her.  Put a smile on your face and tell yourself you're having fun was the secret, so I did and I did.

And so, leaving my second Rolf inspired experience today, I was not surprised to be given these instructions:  Talk to your psoas; touch it here and here and here.  Remind it about lengthening.

Being an obedient client, I leave you now to commune with my psoas in that epsom salts bath I never got to last night.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Channeling My 10 Year Old Self

Fire and Fury.

That's what our President is threatening.  Fire and Fury..... 45's version of Shock and Awe? 

This is my nightmare scenario.  Two unstable, egomaniacal, powerful leaders tossing the threat of nuclear war around like they are calling out a death metal band.

Miniaturized nuclear weapons... and I don't care how well they can be aimed because almost counts in horse-shoes and in atomic blasts.

When President Kennedy took to the black and white tv in the living room to warn us of an imminent danger just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, I locked myself in my parents' stall shower.  I stood there, writing my will in the fog on the walls, thinking that I might never take another shower because the world would be blown to bits.

I'm having those same worries right now.

I'm going to take a bath.  Do you think Epsom Salts can cure what ails me?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Boots on the Ground

The President thinks that the generals are doing a lousy job.  He thinks that policy should be driven from the ground up.  That is, why not ask the people who are actually doing the job what they think should be done?  He saw that the management driven renovation of 21, his favorite NY restaurant, was a failure because the busboys and the waiters were not consulted.  He seems to think that the same might work in Afghanistan.

Setting aside the feelings of the generals, is there merit to his idea?  I can't believe I am typing this, but I'm leaning toward a yes.

Ask a school teacher if administrative decrees make a positive difference in their classrooms.  It might have made sense to the District Office to place all the non-English speaking kindergarteners in one room, but it left the teacher unable to communicate with a third of her students.  Since few of the children had attended pre-school, they were unprepared to sit on their own colored square, to line up quietly, to face front when the teacher was speaking.  Without enough English to understand the directions, chaos ensued.

Ask a sales rep if Corporate's changes - made in the middle of the day, in the middle of the month,  in the middle of a call, without any warning - are helpful.  .

Ask the lunch room ladies if pre-cooked foodstuffs are delivered lukewarm, rendering the veggies soggy and unappetizing.  Wonder with them if the small savings in cost outweigh the waste of the inedible.

Ask the cyclists in spin class where the mirrors ought to be before Corporate decides they should be behind you.

True, those at the top can see the bigger picture.  True, there is a different skill set needed to create policy than to implement it.  True, individual needs often skew judgments.  But sometimes those small voices need to be heard.

I'm not certain that every soldier knows the right way to succeed in Afghanistan.  In fact, I am certain that success is unobtainable. Even Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world between Macedonia and India, turned his back on the area.  If we are not nation building any more, why are we there?  Is a military solution the path we should be following?  For an administration which has devastated the State Department's budget, which is pulling back from the soft power pieces of diplomacy, this is a true conundrum.

But, perhaps, it might be wise to ask for suggestions from the bottom up.  We can't do any worse than we are doing now.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Stoking the Base

OFA invited me to a public event on a sunny Saturday morning.  I debated taking Amster's boys, but got caught up in the fact that they are now older than CTG will ever be, and so I went on my own.  That took some courage, a prophylactic email to the organizer affirming that there would be security, and the ability to stand for an hour or two.  I had it covered, but I was still anxious.

But Topher Spiro, policy wonk hero, was driving a bus across the USofA,
and he chose to stop in Tucson. 
Civic pride and curiosity about his message to exhausted members of the choir (after a resounding victory on healthcare) combined to propel me across town.  I knew I'd made the right decision when I saw his shirt.
Big Cuter wore the same shirt  last week in Indiana.  Explaining it to me, he called it his stealth shirt, the message arcane enough to be safe in any political environment.

Veterans for Peace were there to keep us safe, but there wasn't any danger.  I wandered through the crowd, commiserating with other women of a certain age who were holding I Stand with Planned Parenthood signs; feeling disgusted by having to fight this battle all over again lent a certain poignance to the event. We were crones, fighting for others, as we fought for ourselves decades ago.

   There were opportunities to thank Senator McCain for his vote
and to use Sen. Flake's face as a blank canvas
which felt oddly appropriate.

The media was out, 
and so were the Mayor
Gabby's trauma surgeon and my State Legislator.

Gabby and Mark were the headliners, and their words, written together but delivered by everyone's favorite Navy flier, left me inspired and moved and proud.
But Steve and little Anthony, 
stole the show. This big guy, a self-described fixer, wasn't looking for a hand out.  He was just looking for affordable insurance coverage for his little boy, who will, over time, need another heart transplant.  Yes, another.  Anthony's big brother was prouder of his own brand new big boy underwear than he was of anything else, and that made the story more immediate.  It can happen to anyone was the theme of the morning, and the urgency was reinforced by moms and foster moms and students who were going along just fine until medical emergencies shattered their worlds. 
The humans staring down at us from the side of the bus overshadowed it all. 
The message is simple. 
Thank those who do the right thing.
Chastise those who don't, who say one thing but vote another.
Speak out at town halls, if you have them, and demand answers from those who are silent.
Be armed with the facts to dispute the Obamacare is failing meme.
Be proud but continue to be vigilant.  

And then it was over.  One hour and fifteen minutes and we were dismissed.  
People lined up around Mark and Gabby as I walked away.  I was inspired, as always, by Gabby's resilience and exuberance and strength, and now by Anthony and Topher and OFA.  And I was feeling inordinately proud of my new t-shirt, bestowed upon me by our OFA organizer.  
I'll be part of the delegation dropping off Thank You postcards at Sen. McCain's office on Wednesday.  I have to keep up the fight, to continue to deserve my shirt.


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