Depressed Canadaphile Watching Humanity Wither

For several years now, I’ve been following various Canadian news outlets on Facebook. I regularly read Canadian newspapers online. I explore Canada on maps and read about Canadian villages and Canadian customs. My frame of mind is this: I want to be Canadian. Not one of the new Canadians who are attempting to emulate Trump supporters. No, I want to be one of the innately good, gentle, honestly progressive Canadians who brought Justin Trudeau into the limelight and ushered him in to lead Canada toward the light. I want to be a citizen of the gentle adult country that exudes respect and decency, all the while showing its adventuresome face and its wacky side to the world. Canada. The country that understands conversation and debate. The country that values decency in human interaction so much more than does my own home country. Could it be that I’m romanticizing Canada? Is it possible that I overlook ugly flaws that would, if acknowledged, make me feel less enamored of the land and its people? Not just possible, I suspect, but highly probable. But that’s all right, because when we want something or someone to be the epitome of goodness, we behave as if they’ve already achieved that state of grace. We don’t ignore the breaches of decorum. We express our disappointment privately and do our best to encourage and reward corrected behavior.

But I’ve seen signs that the pedestal upon which I’ve placed my wished-for homeland has cracks. And seeing those cracks, caused by negligence and abuse, makes me angry. The vision of those faults recalls the signs of the irreversible damage that would befall my own country years ago when the beacon of democracy began its inevitable decline into a failed partisan state. The decline of civilization, it its entirety, began several millenia ago. The speed with which its dissolution is taking place has increased dramatically since the world chose to romanticize the monstrosity that we now call World War II. If we’d only acknowledged from the outset that a cataclysmic event that ended with the annihilation of thousands of innocent civilians in a nuclear holocaust could be considered no less than evil in its most base and fundamental form, we might have escaped. But, no, we treated victory in the ward as if it were sainthood, rather than a chance outcome of a demonic savage rite of passage.

Decent places, good cultures…they’re being savaged by humanity’s inability to comprehend its responsibility for its own victimhood. Canada. Iceland. Sweden. Finland. Denmark. And what of the goodness hidden behind ugly masks in Africa? There’s decency there, too. And in South America and throughout Asia. But decency’s decline began at home. Human society ultimately deserves to be swallowed by the Earth upon which it played out. And it will be done.

If only I could slink away to a quiet corner of Canada and live out my days in peace as the world collapses around us all. I have a friend who lives in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. That seems like a good base from which to watch the demise of civilization, surrounded by neighbors who care about one another and the little piece of the planet they inhabit. They, too, will be expunged from the planet, likely in a hot, dense haze of greed and larceny. But it may take longer for them to go than for North Dakota and Washington, DC and Harare.

We all want to hold out hope. Hope and prayer, together, are giving us school shootings and entire territories of the United States wallowing in agony without electricity. Hope is allowing corrupt politicians to gorge themselves on the fruits of the labors of people they deride. Hope is an illusion without substance. Violent overthrow, not only of government, but of humanity itself, is nature’s way of putting hope in its place.

And with that cheery note, I bid the world good morning.

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Wretched Night

The depths of the night—the darkest, loneliest hours—reveal the starkest realities about one’s psyche. During those empty hours, a person can indulge in the luxury of self-recrimination without a safety net. At night, alone with one’s thoughts and memories and with unrestrained acknowledgement of one’s motives, one can explore the rivers that wash away the delicate shores of the soul. Sitting awake in the middle of the night, when the rest of the world is asleep and preparing for the onslaught of day, one is given a stark and unpleasant opportunity to reflect on one’s humanity and to consider whether “humanity” is an apt term to apply to the scourge of which we humans are a part.

The news is full of rancor, reporting on and encouraging attacks on all manner of deviance manifested by people in the political and entertainment spotlights. The attacks are warranted, but they deflect from the images we all see in the mirror. Outrage against unspeakable behaviors masks, or perhaps drowns, the outrage we ought to feel about “lesser” crimes we see, or commit, every day. Crimes like spousal abuse, child abuse, bullying, road rage, genocide, mindless hatred. But the more public crimes, the crimes that awaken and incense us, flood our minds, washing away the more common transgressions.

Night time is a time of hopelessness. It is a time during which the ugly side of humanity can be honestly and fearlessly examined. Night time reveals the hopeless tide in which we swim and in which, ultimately, we will drown. Hope is all we have, yet hope is an illusion with no basis in reality. The future is a quagmire, just like the present. Humanity will not recover from its afflictions because humanity, itself, is the affliction. Greed and corruption and contempt are our natural states. Pockets of decency, when they bubble to the surface, are dispatched quickly enough; empathy and sympathy and caring are the outlier emotions that must be smothered under emotions more suited to our murderous souls.

Decency is stretched thin. It is wearing through and dissolving, replaced by hubris and raw arrogance. For some reason, a film I watched earlier this year is on my mind.  I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. But, then, I never did. I no longer hold out hope. Hope is like a drug; it offers a promise of relief, but instead it simply delays the collapse of the body’s defenses. It’s now four in the morning and I feel no less dejected and forlorn than when I started writing this meaningless diatribe. If I had access to large quantities of Ambien or some other sleeping pills, I might swallow the whole batch. But I don’t, so instead I’ll brew another cup of coffee and read Shakespearean sonnets. Let’s see if I can recall sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

If I can keep those words and the thoughts they conjure in my mind—those words, read as part of my wedding vows by a Unitarian minister—I might survive for awhile longer. Even in this deep and ugly abyss of depression or whatever it is that got me out of bed and is keeping me awake in the wee hours, the language of the bard gives me hope. I don’t know just why, though. The words remain illusions, too. Shakespeare painted a picture with words. Just as a Rembrandt painting does not represent reality, neither does a Shakespeare sonnet. Both of them, though, represent hope. Hope. That tragic lie, that dissembler, that thief of reason. With enough words and paint, even this world in which we live can be made to seem tolerable, if only for awhile.

Coffee. That’s what I need. If it weren’t for the lack of good beans, I’d make a bit of espresso. But I’ll have to settle for French roast, not a bad fall-back. I’m in the mood for a cigarette, too. I haven’t smoked in thirteen years, but for some reason I think a cigarette would be quite nice right now. Or maybe a cigar. It’s only been thirteen years? It seems longer.

I wonder who else is awake at this hour? Who else is wrestling with emotional roller-coasters that plunge into dark, cavernous emptiness? Who else looks at the landscape of the universe and sees desolate plains that stretch toward eternity? Who else sees a dim glow of possibility on the horizon, a thousand light years away? Whoever it is, she or he is my kindred spirit, I think. We share a gloom that’s just shy of suicidal, yet we feel there’s warmth out there somewhere, if only enough of us…like souls…can find it and feed it. But there’s never enough time, in all of humanity’s time on earth, to stoke the right fires. Decency, compassion, love. They’re too fragile to survive. They’ve been battling for ever so long and they are losing their strength. Their foes are in the midst of a feeding frenzy and it’s just a matter of time before it’s over.

Glimmers of hope are dying embers. Perhaps I’ll douse them now with that next cup of coffee.

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Sitting in Judgment

I’ve given considerable thought of late to whether the behavior of movie stars, politicians, and other public figures who are accused of—or actually admit to—being sexual predators warrants nullifying the value of any contributions they may have made to society. In years past, the film work of Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, for example, has been denigrated after accusations were made against them. Today, the same issues are being brought forward in response to allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Gary Goddard, Roy Moore, Steven Seagal, Brett Rattner…the list goes on.

On the one hand, it seems that to continue lavishing praise on their work is an insult to their victims and, it might be argued, tacit approval or forgiveness for their transgressions. But on the other, to exclusively equate the value of a person’s work product with the quality of his or her personality seems ludicrous. If we look back in history at artists and other public figures, we find exceptional work done by people of questionable moral standards. For example, Ezra Pound was an anti-Semitic fascist, but much of his writing is revered today as the work of a genius. The German composer, Richard Wagner, is widely regarded as one of Hitler’s favorite composers and a man who apparently shared many of Hitler’s bigotries; yet he was unquestionably an extraordinarily talented composer.  Lord Byron is said to have committed incest. One could compile an enormous list of well-regarded writers who were, among other things, alcoholics, sexual predators, or who otherwise broke basic rules of social decency and decorum of their times. Is there a statute of limitations on moral judgement, or do we simply let bad behavior slide into the background over time, absent a time-dependent trigger?

How do we decide whether to abandon the work of people who engage in appalling deviant conduct or whether to differentiate between the person and the product? If time is the determining factor, at what point might it be acceptable to watch and appreciate Kevin Spacey’s work in House of Cards or enjoy a screening of Annie Hall? Is it now, or will it ever be, acceptable to extol the quality of China Town or Oliver Twist, in spite of Roman Polanski’s roles in the films? The questions, I suppose, are these: 1) does the value of superior work by a person discovered to have significant moral failings diminish upon the discovery? and 2) at what point does time heal the wounds of inexcusable transgression to the extent that a person’s contributions matter more than a person’s mistakes?

My point in raising these questions is not to serve as an apologist for morally bankrupt actors and politicians and artists. Rather, it’s simply to examine the way in which we deliver judgment against people we feel have wronged us or society or even specific segments of society. By condemning the work of people who have failed us in some way, I think we tend to rob ourselves of what might be the bits of decency some of these people offer us. Yet I really do understand the urge to demonize not only the person but their work; after all, if we continue to praise the work, we might be seen as giving a “pass” to their behavior, right? Well, maybe. But…I don’t think so. I think we must differentiate the person from the products they deliver; otherwise, we risk defining value by the timeframe in which it is delivered. That is, a brilliantly-directed film is a brilliantly-directed film only BEFORE its director is discovered to have engaged in sexual harassment; afterward, the film is, like the director, sullied and ugly. That flies in the face of reason, in my view. I think it makes more sense, after the discovery, to say, “How utterly odd that such a piece of beauty can emerge from the mind of someone so ugly!” Or something of that nature.

None of my comments thus far have even attempted to examine judgment from the standpoint of a person’s actions versus his motives or even his actions versus psychological drives over which he might have no control. Do we blame the perpetrator for behaviors that arise not from intent, but from unchecked sickness? Oh, that question begins to snip around the edges of how we define justice and decency and tolerance and forgiveness. These are too heady for me to tackle right now. Maybe they’re too heady for anyone to ever tackle them successfully. At the moment, methinks there’s a flexible continuum of morality (or the lack thereof) and justice. Good people really do bad things. And bad people really do good things. We are given the difficult task of evaluating and judging both groups of people and applying mercy and justice in equal, or appropriate, measure. Somewhere in the mix, we discover there’s a need to demonstrate our outrage and show our empathy and our sympathy for both victim and perpetrator.

It’s not easy being a moral and just human being. But, it seems, it’s easy for society to shirk those responsibilities and, instead, take on the duties of The Furies, satisfied only with vengeance. What’s the answer? It seems to me that asking the question is enough to set loose the fury that’s sweeping the news media and public conversations today.  I think it’s reasonable to say the alleged predatory behaviors of people like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K., et al, are indefensible while not necessarily condemning their life’s work in the same breath. But that’s just me. And that’s just in this moment. We shall see how this all plays out with those of us who were not the objects of their acts. But how will their victims deal with them and their work? All these questions, none with satisfactory answers!

 

 

 

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Thinking with my Fingers on a Cold Saturday Morning

The nights suddenly grew colder. Days finally relented, at least for a spell, allowing the temperatures to slip into much more comfortable ranges. The thermometer this morning claims the temperature has just edged down to thirty-five degrees. The weather forecast calls for the sun to heat the air to a comfortable sixty-two degrees later in the day. With mostly clear skies, decorated this morning with clouds tinted orange and red, the day promises to be comfortable. I spent much of the day yesterday in a fruitless attempt to relocate fallen leaves from in front of, beside, and behind the house. Though I got the job done, the trees are far from finished dropping leaves and the enormous piles I flushed away with the blower have the potential of returning from whence they came with a single gust of wind. Still, I feel obliged to attempt to keep the grounds of my tiny estate modestly well-kempt, if for no other reason than to demonstrate my concern for neighbors’ senses of social decorum.

I’ve allowed this weather to arrive without having first had the now-empty propane cylinders refilled and without having checked the batteries and valves in the gas-log fireplace. Such is life. As long as the heating system performs according to plan, that’s fine. Speaking of which, I haven’t had the seasonal maintenance done, either.

I’ve taken on responsibility for the Unitarian Universalist Village Church newsletter, beginning with the December issue. What was I thinking? I now really need to unload some other responsibilities, lest I feel constricted and confined. While I think it will be fun, I think it will take time to get used to the deadlines it imposes. Deadlines. As I used to tell my communications staff when I ran an organization that published multiple magazines and newsletters. “Deadlines mean either the publication goes out by the deadline or you do.” That was a pretty damn nasty attitude. I’ve mellowed slightly since then. Back then, a missed deadline was akin to the end of the world. Today, I understand more about flexibility and the impact of uncontrollable circumstance. Those life lessons should come earlier in life and should ripen into wisdom before geezerhood arrives.

A question posed by a Facebook page (“Intelligence is Sexy”) gave me reason to ponder my life last night. The question was: “Do you ever think about going where nobody knows you and starting a new life?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I think of that often. I think of that almost every day. Only after reading the question did it occur to me how frequently I’ve considered that fantasy. I wonder if it’s as common among other people as with me?  Several respondents replied with something like this: “I used to think so but realized that I kept taking me.” Hmm, there’s that. Maybe it’s not the place one runs from, but the person. One cannot escape oneself. If one tries, he ought to realize there’s something amiss, not in the place, but in the person. Though, admittedly, something can be horribly amiss in the place, as well; when one lives in a social and political stew capable of drowning decency and empathy is boiling contempt, one gets the sense that location matters.

All right, another idea that’s been percolating in my head for many, many years. Co-housing. What is co-housing? According to the Co-Housing Association of the United States, “Cohousing is an intentional community of private homes clustered around shared space.” Of late, I’ve read quite a lot about co-housing for seniors, people who opt in their later years to live in intentional communities with compatible friends and others, sharing communal space (kitchen, living areas, etc.), but maintaining their own private spaces (bedrooms, bathrooms, studies, etc.). The idea has, for years, appealed to me. Especially for seniors, the idea has enormous potential benefits. Groups of compatible people living privately in communal living can serve as support networks for one another. Co-housing provides a “ready-made” social environment that does not require over-commitment. I’m keeping it on my radar by keeping the association’s website readily available. Hot Springs Village (or, for that matter, the villages around Lake Chapala in Mexico) might be ideal spots for developing co-housing communities.

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Doldrums

I feel like I’ve abandoned my own commitment to writing. I’ve lost my enthusiasm about committing my thoughts to the page. I don’t know why that is. I hope the diminished devotion to writing what is on my mind is a temporary thing. I hope I recover my passion to translate what’s on my mind into words on the screen and, ultimately, into words that might appear on the printed page. But for now, I’m forcing even these words to leak, hesitantly and absent even the slightest exhilaration, from the tips of my fingers. My insistence that words spill from my mind onto the screen is causing me angst, not euphoria. Stories that once couldn’t wait to pour from my brain onto the page seem to have dried up, powdery leavings taking their place in my brain. Mornings of late do not excite me. I get up, make coffee, read the news, and curse the universe for its very existence. God damn, this is not who I wanted to be when I turned sixty-four last month. I wanted to be an energetic writer. I wanted to cultivate my creativity with words and with deeds. I wanted to carve my ideas into wood and stake my future on language. Instead, I’m shivering and cursing myself for having failed to accomplish anything of consequence since I retired early from a deeply unsatisfying career. These months long doldrums will surely pass. They must. I have things to accomplish, albeit nothing of substance. At the very least, I have people who depend on me to some extent for their happiness. They require me to lift myself out of this despairing mood.

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Los Perros: My Comments About the Film

To take my mind off the fact that we were leaving Ajijic and Mexico behind us, I decided to watch a movie on the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Guadalajara to Dallas. I selected Los Perros, a Chilean Spanish-language film with English subtitles. I subsequently learned that it is the second major film directed by Marcela Said, who also wrote this film. It’s a damn good thing it had subtitles; the quality of the audio was atrocious in the plane and the words I heard compared only modestly to the Spanish I know.  The film tells the story of a woman in her early forties named Mariana, used to wealth and its attendant luxuries thanks to a wealthy father (who we learn has a checkered past). Mariana is more than a bit arrogant and  steeped in privilege she uses as a grating, soft, but effective cudgel when she needs it. She is undergoing fertility treatments (one guesses at the urging of her husband) but isn’t much interested in that, nor in much of anything besides her dog. She refuses to tie the dog up, which results in its forays into a neighbor’s yard on multiple occasions. On the third occasion, the neighbor brings the dog home and threatens to shoot it if he finds it in his yard again.

Mariana has other interests, including running a small arts-related business, horseback riding, and jumping (on horses, that is). The latter develops into an interest in her considerably older instructor, Juan, who had been in the Pinochet-era army, as had Mariana’s father. Juan is under indictment for unspecified crimes connected to his military service.  In a rather odd turn, Mariana attempts to learn details of Juan’s history by trying to seduce a police detective; the plan backfires in important ways, but gives her some insights into Juan’s role in the Pinochet government.

Neither Mariana nor Juan are likable personalities; they have fundamental character flaws and behave in unpleasant ways. Yet as a viewer, I think most people will come to feel some empathy for the negativity in their lives and even some sympathy for them. They are, to use a phrase I often use to describe characters about whom I write, “good people who do bad things.” But their goodness is questionable. Yet when things happen to crush their respective fragile spirits, we empathize.

It occurs to me that Pinochet may never have been mentioned in the film. Whether it was or not, I am relatively certain the film deals with the crimes created under his dictatorship.

By the end of the film, one feels dissatisfied with the unresolved, unknown outcome. On the other hand, it was precisely the process of suggesting answers that were not provided that kept me interested and engaged.  The title, translated into English as “The Dogs,” is easy to understand as the film progresses. I’d give this film a solid “8.” While the film is a bit slow to develop, I liked it.

As I am wont to do, I decided after returning home (and because the clock changed and gave me an extra hour to do with what I like) to explore a bit about some of the film’s actors. Antonia Zegers played the character of Mariana. Zegers is a well-known television actress and has appeared in numerous stage and film productions. Zegers is 45 years old, I learned from the IMDb website. She separated from her husband in 2014 and, a year later, took up with a Chilean musician nine years her junior.

During my exploration of the actor behind Juan’s character (Alfredo Castro), I found the following comments about the film (Los Perros) in Variety magazine:

“The Dogs” marks Said’s follow-up to “The Summer of Flying Fish,” her debut, a critique of Chile’s bourgeoisie’s disavowal of political realities that was selected for Cannes’ 2013 Directors’ Fortnight, proved one of the new Latin American AMC-Sundance Channel’s first two pick-ups from Latin America, and established Said as one of Latin America’s distaff directors to track.

Castro is 61 years old and is an accomplished actor and, according to IMBd, “theatre director…pedagogue, playwright, and founder of Teatro La Memoria, a theatre company that marks a milestone in the history of contemporary Chilean theatre.” Interestingly, he has a history of collaboration with Pablos Larrain, described by IMDb as “Chile’s greatest movie director” and, perhaps not coincidentally, the estranged husband of Antonia Zegers. Even in Chile the romantic entanglements of actors and directors are headline events, it seems.

During my exploration of the film I watched and the people involved in its production, I came across the following Chilean films I’d like to watch one of these days:

  • El Verano de los Peces Voladores (The Summer of Flying Fish)
  • La Vida de Los Peces (The Life of Fish)
  • NO

There are more. For some reason, I find more depth in foreign films noir than in American films, even films of the same general genre. Most of the foreign films of that broad type I’ve watched seem to leave more to the imagination than do American films, which seem to “spell it all out for you.” Or maybe I just don’t follow foreign films as well, due to my reliance on subtitles. I’ve been intrigued by various Scandinavian films in the same way, as well as a few French films.

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Pedicuriosity

My sister-in-law treated me to a salon pedicure and she treated my wife to a salon foot massage while we were in Ajijic. I have become a fan of pedicures. My toenails are as short and well-groomed as they’ve ever been. The rough callouses on my feet are softer and less well-defined. My feet feel attractive! (I know they’re not, but they feel that way.)

I’ve always wondered about the allure of pedicures. What, I wondered, could make a woman (in my experience, discussions about pedicures and their value have been conducted by women) spend good money on foot and toe “work?” I know now. My pedicuriosity has been satisfied. Perhaps “satisfied” is not the correct word. Perhaps “triggered” or “sparked” or “launched” would more accurately describe the situation. The pedicure experience, alone, is enough to warrant reasonably frequent return trips to Ajijic.

If you want to know the name of a place where they give good pedicures, it’s Christine’s Hair Salon in Ajijic. According to their Facebook page, a pedicure is 250 pesos, or about $13. With a generous tip of, say, $3 (about 60 pesos), you’ve gotten a nice pedicure for only $16 US. From what I’ve been able to gather online, you’d pay at least $50 for a pedicure in Little Rock and frequently considerably more.

Okay, next I will polish up a post I wrote about a film I viewed on the flight to DFW from Guadalajara. And maybe I’ll just post it. Two posts in one day. Just like the old days.

 

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Ajijic, Continued

I already posted about our experience last night at Teocintle Maiz restaurant in Ajijic, but I’ll memorialize it here because previous posts are easier for me to find on my blog. Last night, we had a magnificent dinner. I ordered sauteed octopus. Janine had pork ribs with black mole. For a starter, I had huitlacoche cream soup. Janine ordered indias vestidas (fresh squash blossoms filled with cream cheese and kernels of corn, then deep-fried).  My sister-in-law ordered guacamole for the table and there was more among the four of us.  My sister-in-law chose poblano chicken breast for her entre and my brother selected birria de pollo. The entire meal worked out to about $34 US per couple.

We started the day’s meals with a visit to a little French-owned pastry shop across the street from a brew-pub we’d eaten lunch the day before. We enjoyed an alfresco breakfast, choosing from among a small but delicious assortment. I had a “traditional” breakfast of eggs over easy with bacon. It came with a hard French roll and a very nice dog begging for food at the table. For a change of pace, I ordered a latte instead of black coffee; I could get hooked.

My sister-in-law drove us down to a bank where we withdrew cash from the ATM, then dropped us on the main Ajijic square. Janine and I walked around the village center, pausing occasionally to look inside shops and galleries. We walked all the way down to Lake Chapala, walked a ways on the malecón, and then wandered to La Nueva Posada, where we had lunch outdoors at the hotel’s restaurant. Ajijic-style fish tacos for me and an interesting chicken curry dish with pineapple for Janine. From there, we drifted back toward the square, expecting to hail a taxi to take us back to the house. Apparently, all the taxi drivers were on siesta, so we hiked home along the carretera; not a long distance (maybe a mile or so), but a very difficult and sometimes dangerous trek over broken concrete, uneven cobblestone, and too near speeding drivers. Still, an interesting adventure!

Here are a few photos from our experiences so far. Food and the like.

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Ajijic and Last Night’s Dream

We’ve only been in Ajijic since Tuesday afternoon. Yet already I feel more relaxed and distant from the madness of 45 and his demented minions. The village of Ajijic is a mixture of cutting edge modern culture and grim reminders of the absence of adequate education and the presence of abject poverty. Yet poverty here is a part of everyday life. I don’t think poverty here is viewed with such judgmental derision as it is in the USA.

The subdivision (fraction enter) in which my brother and his wife live is one of both relative and real wealth. About seventy-five percent of residents are Mexican, the remainder ex-pats from the USA, Canada, and a smattering of Asians and others. The homes in the central part of the village are, by and large, small and rather ramshackle places, though pockets of relative wealth are visible in renovated apartments and stand alone houses. The village readily mixes residential and commercial, so it’s easy to walk to get groceries, visit restaurants, pay electric bills, etc. Having been here such a short time, my observations are mostly speculations for now. But they are my first impressions.

Yesterday, we had lunch in a brewpub, after spending part of the morning at the tiangus (Wednesday weekly market). The two experiences were like viewing the world from two opposite poles. Both were truly enjoyable experiences, but they offered glimpses into the contrasts between poverty and wealth, possibilities and certainties, and hopes and expectations. I may try to explain what I mean by that one day after I come to grips with it myself. I the afternoon, I had a two-hour massage by a woman who explained that she was realigning my muscles to their proper orientations to one another. My career sitting behind a desk, she explained, had done unhappy things to me. She offered that, after her therapy, I might want to abandon the planned treatment of getting injections in my neck. She suggested I seek out a Bowen method therapist to work on my bone spur issues, rather than a chiropractor. We’ll see.

I had a disturbing dream last night. In part of it, I was in a meeting in which I had a bitter disagreement with a man I found intensely irritating. Somehow, that morphed into a situation in which I discovered it was 10:00 p.m. and I had failed to do anything about organizing a work-related party that was supposed to have started at 9:00 p.m. at a hotel. I fumbled around and gathered up three or four bottles of wine and a few boxes of crackers and took them to my car, where I had to wait for other cars to move before I could get out. I made my way to the hotel, where I found a sparsely attended event in which the guests were understandably upset that there was food or wine. The hotel staff then went into high gear to produce food and wine, but the catering manager admonished me for planning an event that involved me sneaking into the venue with food and wine. I apologized profusely to the catering manager and the guests for completely dropping the ball. Everyone seemed satisfied and sympathetic, save for the one guy with whom I had an earlier disagreement. He said, repeatedly and with a demonic smile, “I’m going to get you fired for this!” I knew he would. I deserved it. I had no excuse for forgetting to make arrangements for an important event. Several times during the latter part of the dream, I thought I must be having a dream, but then slipped back into fearing for my job and reputation. Finally, at 5:30, a loud boom, like a gunshot, woke me. I’ve heard several similar explosive booms since. But I’m fortified with coffee now. The booms don’t scare me!

 

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Escape

Our adventure begins Monday afternoon. We board a flight for Dallas, stay the night at an airport motel, then fly to Guadalajara on Tuesday. From there, we’ll get a taxi to Ajijic. And there we will unwind. The unexpectedly full calendar will cease to exist for a while. The obligations of retirement will disappear. The commitments we’ve made without realizing we’ve made them will be put on hold. Vacation. That’s a welcome word.

I’ve allowed myself to over commit. I wasn’t forced. I’ve taken on the role of treasurer of the Writers’ Club. And membership data maintainer. And newsletter writer and distributor. And presenter. And on and on and on. And I’ve allowed myself to commit to being the newsletter editor for the Unitarian Universalist church. And I took on management of an art show for an artists’ club. I’m stupid in some senses. But I’m withdrawing from some of these obligations. If my effing arm stops hurting so I can write–really write–I’ll drop more of them.

But I need someone to take my place. I’m easily replaceable, believe me. A trained monkey could do most of my duties. But I’ve gotten off track, haven’t I? We leave for Mexico tomorrow! Oh, yes!

I will eat guacamole more than I should. I will drink tequila (and other alcoholic beverages) more than I should. I will refrain from exercise more than I should. But I will have a wonderful time!  I will spend time conversing with my very intelligent brother and sister-in-law and that, alone, will make the trip worthwhile. God, I need time to unwind from whatever it is that is keeping me tightly wound. I need an escape valve. And Ajijic is it.

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Puerto Rico Needs Help

A member of the Unitarian Universalist Village Church sent a message to some members of the congregation, maybe all, suggesting it might be appropriate to have a conversation about how the church might assist the Unitarian Universalist Puerto Rico (UUPR) congregation as they attempt to help the island recover. I sent a message to the UUPR Facebook page, asking how other congregations might be able to help. Here’s the response I got this morning, in the early hours:

Hi John, Thank you for your patience. As one news organization rightly pointed out, we should have moved to the Recovery Phase yet we are still in Emergency Phase one month out. 80% of the island is still without power and even though the statistics show 71% have running water, 100% of it is still unsafe to drink as it is not being chlorinated yet. Consequently recovery efforts are painfully slow. We are working on an initiative with a local NGO whose management I am personally familiar. http://www.conprmetidos.org/ Before the disaster, it was a nonprofit seeking to attract PR millennials back to the island for their businesses, etc. So they already had staff working on island development, but have had to pivot to island recovery efforts. The important thing is that they have trained people on the ground who are trying to appraise needs (keeping in mind it is still impossible to each some communities other than by helicopter). No public schools have yet reopened and when they do only a fraction will be able to do so. They are sadly looking at a lost year of education for students. I wanted to give you this overview so you wouldn’t think we were ignoring your kind and generous offer. Hopefully this week, we can iron out the details of assistance. Most likely it would be for a congregation to “adopt” a Boys/Girls Club location to get it up and running. These facilities (there is at least one in every city in PR) are serving as community centers in a way no other organization can. The aid would be to provide a generator (hopefully solar), and water purification so activities and maybe even some educational programs could start to take place. So please stay tuned! We are eager to match up congregations with needs on the island — and there will be so many. One estimate I have seen is that it will take $91 billion, yes, billion, for all the recovery efforts, and 5-6 years….

I don’t know whether the UUVC congregation can adopt a Boys/Girls Club. But anyone who reads this message can help in some way. There are many organizations collecting cash to help PR rebuild. Here’s a place to start.

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64

A good night’s sleep and a nice day following improved my mood considerably. Today was good. Two meals “out” and far too many calories, but worth every bit. I spent part of the day wrestling acorns and leaves off the deck and part thinking about our upcoming visit to Mexico. A good day. A good day to turn 64 and a good day to be 64.

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Nothing

I suppose I should mark the occasion in some fashion. So I will. About eight minutes ago, I turned sixty-four years old. That doesn’t sound like much, I’ll admit, but it is monumental to me. I’ve reached a point in my life at which I have to admit, “I’m old.” That is odd and ugly. Not that I admit it, but that I feel I must. I know people decades older who are not old. But I am. I don’t know just what it is, but I feel spent. Used up. Finished. This birthday is one I’d just as soon not have. I feel as if it’s the last one I’ll experience. That’s macabre, I know, but it’s just the way I feel. I’m alone on my sixty-fourth birthday. My wife is in the next room, watching television. Yet I’m sitting here alone, watching my computer screen change with every tap of my fingers. And, so what? Nothing. That’s what. Nothing.

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Jumble

I have more things to say than I can put into words.
My thoughts are jumbled, random, unconnected.
I’m soaked in confusion, amplified by world events
and streaked with fear and anger, and muddled by beads of
hope so small I think they have little chance of
surviving the turmoil and chaos of raw bewilderment
that cascades down my brain like a waterfall.

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Wine and Cheese

After a long, strange day and evening, tonight just seemed to call for wine and cheese. It would be a relaxer, a way to slip into the evening rather than be thrust into it with no adjusting timeline. So I made it be so. Here’s bleu cheese, parmesan, and white cheddar accompanying a sliced plum and a nice fat olive. With a glass of cabernet sauvignon. I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed the occasional calls that had no voice on the other end of the line. I did not enjoy the sound, tonight, of acorns raining down on the deck in rapid-fire fashion. Before we left for our engagement late this afternoon, I used the lawn blower to remove all the leaves and acorns from the deck. A short while ago, the rain of acorns was incredibly loud. I suspect my work was for naught.  Notwithstanding the acorns, I do love the forests here.

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Pendulum

The bob of our pendulum is a razor sharp disk,
cutting the air with its long swings before
gravity and time curtail its trajectory,
when it cuts our ties with time and
severs the cables that bind us to this life.

Mathematicians and physicists calculate the
motions of pendula, predicting with certainty
the moment at which gravity and mass and friction
conspire to end their movements, turning
motion into stillness, cousin of death.

No calculus can forecast the moment at which
the bob of our pendulum will cease its
relentless pursuit of a goal we cannot
understand, a thirst for something language
cannot describe, for words never reach the end.

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Bless Our Souls

David Brooks is a New York Times op-ed columnist and frequent guest on NPR and PBS programs. In my view, he usually holds centrist Republican viewpoints, though he tends to run a little more left of center than what I used to consider Republican perspectives. Today, he tends to run considerably more than a little left of center when compared to what I hear from Republicans in Congress. But he’s no progressive, by any means. At least not in my view. The fact that he’s so rational in stating his positions, especially when they are counter to mine, is one of the reasons I respect him. Some of my left-leaning friends revile him as a Republican puppet; I see nothing like that in him. My perspectives usually differ sharply from his. But something he wrote in his New York Times op-ed yesterday, brought to my attention by a friend, entitled “Guns and the Soul of America” really resonates with me.

Brooks cited research that indicated explosive growth in the percentage of Americans who supported gun rights and a drop in the percentage supporting gun control. In 2000, according to a Pew survey, 29 percent of Americans supported more gun rights and 67 percent supported more gun control. By 2016, 52 percent supported more gun rights and 46 percent supported more gun control.  Brooks contends that the reason for the shift is that industrialization swept over the country more than a century ago. Monetary policy became the proxy for the fight over values and identify ushered in by industrialization. The tensions between people in agriculture and industry and those outside those spheres has been growing ever since. Though he didn’t say it, I think Brooks would argue that technology in recent years has exacerbated the divide, causing people in agricultural and industrial America to feel that their way of life is being threatened by postindustrial society. Brooks says their fear is legitimate.  Members of those threatened segments have seized on issues like guns, immigration, and the flag as launchpads for their attack (“counterassault,” to use Brooks’ term) on postindustrialization’s attack on their cultural values and identity. Guns, he says, are a proxy for broader matters and simply represent a touch point for larger social issues.

Brooks asserts that the only way to address the divide “is to forge some sort of synthesis
on the larger postindustrialization/populism war.” He does not suggest how to forge that synthesis, but I wrote the following to my friend about my reaction to the article:

My gut tells me it might begin with a lessening of the shrill screams on “my” side of the argument about guns and hyper-patriotism/nationalism. Acknowledging that people “might” have legitimate concerns about cultural dislocations involving things like gun rights, respect for the flag, etc., could temper the rage that seems white-hot on the right. But, at the same time, I think it’s important that what I believe are legitimate positions of the left and the moderate center not be dismissed.

Acknowledgement must not equate to acquiescence. I suspect the fervor of progressives, particularly those on the far-left fringes of progressivism, has in part fueled the fear of people who find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum. The same is true, though, at the other end of the spectrum. When I see alt-right demonstrations that seem intent on instilling fear in progressives, I find that they work; and I become more intent at calling out what I consider stupidity, racism, irrational nationalist fervor, etc., etc., etc.

The solution eludes me. Frankly, I’m not sure there is one. But I am as close to certain as I can be that ratcheting up the tensions by moving more and more toward opposite poles will do nothing but make things worse. Perhaps a chorus of intelligent, rational, centrist voices from inside our political system would help. First, we’d have to find those intelligent, rational, centrists and put them in office. Perhaps a chorus of intelligent, rational, centrist voices from inside other social institutions would help. Churches, the news media, well-regarded authors and actors and others who really ought not so heavily influence our culture but do, nonetheless.

It ought to be obvious that screaming and name-calling and accusations thrown at a group of people will generate like responses from the targets of abuse. But we (and I include myself in that “we”) tend not to think in response to such barrages but, instead, to react. So it should come as no surprise to progressives that our shrill reactions to shrill voices will generate responses that are even angrier and more shrill. Conservatives ought not be surprised when progressives react the same way. But we’ve all allowed our emotions, not our intellects, to rule our responses. As a result, the people on both sides of the divide who do not think for themselves but, instead, allow others to think for them, just get louder and louder and more and more firmly ensconced in their positions.

Who are those rational leaders who will guide us out of the darkness? I wish I knew. Let me think on it through my fingers. From the “left,” I’m having a bit of a difficult time. As much as I agree with the ideals set forth by people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, their hyper-partisan words prove to me they are not the ones. The place to look for possible candidates in Congress is among those Democrats and Independents castigated by those further left as “turncoats.” The place to look for possible candidates on the right is among those Republicans and Independents castigated by those further right as “turncoats.” That is, moderates.  Ideal candidates would be Democrats elected in traditionally Republican states and vice versa. People already on the national scene might include people like John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, and John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado. Ohio has been a swing state (that went for Trump in 2016 but for Obama in 2012). Colorado has gone between Republican and Democrat in elections past, voting Democrat in 2016. Hickenlooper is a Democrat but one, I would argue, who could be considered moderate on many issues. There’s been talk in the media that he and John Kasich might be members of a two-party ticket in 2020.

Whether the two Johns join forces or not, they could be among voices nationally who might soften the conversations about guns, patriotism, etc. Both of them already have targets on their backs by people at the fringes of their respective parties, but they might be able to temper the conversations. Despite the massive numbers of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, I believe the vast majority of Americans have more moderate voices than their more vocal cohorts. Perhaps, just perhaps, the more moderate people who refrain from joining the political conversations (or, the fray, as it were) might just join in and insist on respectful conversations in which facts matter more than volume and in which civility counts more than contempt.

David Brooks’ article was about guns and the soul of America. Bless our souls. Does America even have one?

 

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Mom’s Birthday

My mother was forty-five years old when I, the sixth child, was born. I cannot even imagine the stresses she must have endured, rearing six children from birth through young adulthood. Each of us required at least eighteen years of discipline, instruction, tolerance, and of course love. That is the equivalent of one hundred and eight years devoted to her children. She would have been one hundred and nine years old today if she were still alive. But she died at age seventy-eight. It’s hard for me to believe that she’s been gone thirty-one years.  And it’s stunning for me to finally realize she gave her children more time than she had to give. On this, her birthday, I offer another reminder of one of her favorite flowers, yellow roses.

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Patriotism versus Nationalism

I wrote the following on Facebook on September 25. I’m copying it here just so I can more easily find it; to know where my mind was on that day.

Remember. This country was founded on principles of decency and honor. We’ve failed to achieve our objectives many times, but they’ve remained. Even in dark times, when “leaders” are ignorant and blind, the rest of us must remember our direction. We must remain true to the compass that guides us. Patriots love this country and rightfully call its failings into question just as they celebrate its greatness. Nationalists love themselves and do their best to paint themselves as patriots. They’re not patriots. They are narcissists whose only value is in attaching themselves to empty promises and false pride.

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I Cry Too Easily

From the very first moment I heard it, Pachebel’s Canon in D reached into me and drew out tears. I cannot for the life of me understand what it is, but that music always reduces me to tears. It’s not that I associate it with any specific event or category of event; the music has no connection (in my mind) with weddings or funerals or anything of that sort. It just causes me to well up with emotion unlike anything I’ve known. If I were a religious man, I’d say the music conjures God. But it’s not that. It’s something real, something enormously moving. I decided to see if I’d written about it before. I have. Five years ago, I wrote “I always come back to this music when I need to feel that the world is beautiful.” That’s all I said. And maybe that’s all I need to say. Tonight, perhaps I need to feel the world is beautiful. I know better. It’s ugly and dangerous and lacking compassion. But it has potential.

Tonight, as my arm and elbow throb and my shoulder aches, I listen to Pachelbel and I wish I had been born in a different time, a time in which one person’s empathy and compassion mattered. “As if we mattered.” Ach, but we don’t. We matter to a precious few, but we don’t matter to most. That’s the problem. We should matter, but we don’t. And that may be the final bell that tolls. When we come to realize we’re just a mistake, an error that had potential but failed to meet it, we ought to seek out that bell and make it ring.

I’m just so tired of pain and Trump and people wallowing in self-pity because their views did not prevail.  So I listen to Pachelbel and realize the two pity-party people who’ve opted out of the experiment don’t matter. But I weep for them, too, because they’re lost and searching, too.  Some days, I wish there were a God. Or a Devil. I’d be willing to make a deal with either of them if I could erase the pain of generations and educate the uneducated about the demon they worship.

I write “stream of consciousness” stuff that makes no sense to anyone but me; I know that. But I write it because I know that, later, I’ll come back to it and it will make perfectly good sense to me. And it will be fodder for something that may, in some tiny sense, matter to someone, someday. But probably not. I have to realize, too, that my words may mean nothing to anyone but me. That’s painful, but it’s a reality we all must face. Did our lives matter? Ultimately, in the big picture, probably not. In the more focused, smaller image: maybe. A little.

 

 

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Slow Return

I’ve been distracted. Mentally, physically, emotionally. My mind has been elsewhere. I suppose part of it has been fear. Fear that the cause of the pain in my arm and shoulder might be worse than a pinched nerve. Or that whatever the cause, it might be a permanent condition. Or that the solution will reveal that my horrifically expensive insurance was designed with an “out” for the insurance company, so that I’ll be faced with either permanent pain or financial ruin. These are worries that have no place in my brain. They’re manufactured from fear; they don’t arise from facts. They’re part of an enormous web of “what ifs” that, once allowed to fester into their ugly potential, seem to take on a life of their own. I can control those fears, those stories spun by my imagination. But I’ve allowed them to pull me in and spin me into a tightly wound rubber band.

Among the consequences of my distraction is what amounts to my abandonment of my writing. That’s not healthy, because writing is one of the things that keeps me partially sane. It provides a release valve, albeit not necessarily an obvious one, for pressures I create inside my head.

I can’t blame my distraction entirely on my fears about my arm and shoulder pain (which, incidentally, has declined significantly and is far more tolerable than it once was). I’ve given my calendar permission to enslave me, which is a distraction in itself. I have obligations damn near every minute of every day. Most of them are obligations I’ve taken on willingly. A writers’ group meeting.  Working on a writer’s group website and sending meeting reminders and keeping club financial records. A class on weather warning. Taking a vehicle to a mechanic. A driving class from AAA to cut my insurance rates. Another meeting with writers. An international wine and food event. A tour of garden railroads. And then there are obligations I take on begrudgingly; visiting the chiropractor and scheduling a CT scan (maybe).  None of these really command my time. But they fill my time. I could cancel any one of them or all of them, but that would create issues of another kind. All these obligations and commitments rob me of time I should use to do work around the house. And they rob me of time when I ought to be writing.

I look forward to a commitment that will take me away from all these other commitments. We’re scheduled to go to Mexico next month, where we’ll spend ten days without obligations (I hope); just being lazy and absorbing the gentleness of place. Maybe I’ll write. Maybe not. I will be “on vacation.” That’s such an odd thought; being “on vacation” from retirement. I thought retirement would be like a permanent vacation. But vacations of the past, of which there were precious few, carried with them their own stresses. I suppose retirement is like a vacation, after all.

Meditation. That has some appeal. Meditation to bring about serenity or, at least, cool acceptance of circumstances. I’ll get back here more frequently when I’m ready and when it feels right.

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Pregunta

Those of us who own computers—and there are millions of us—are fortunate in the extreme. The mere fact that we are able to play with (or work with) machines that give us capabilities far beyond anything our molasses minds could do on their own is amazing. It suggests we need not worry about where our next meal is coming from, nor where we will sleep tonight.

“¿Fuiste a la playa ayer?” preguntó Diana.

“No, fui al mercado y luego al cine.” Linda sonrió y se rió.

Perhaps I’d learn Spanish faster if, instead of writing in English, I wrote in Spanish.  Of course, I’d have to supply a translation, so that would add to the word count. Aha! I could write short novellas, offer translations, and could then say they were multilingual novels.

The translations, so far:

“Did you go to the beach yesterday?” asked Diana.

“No, I went to the market and then to the movies.” Linda smiled and laughed.

Tal vez aprendería español más rápido si, en vez de escribir en inglés, escribiera en español. Por supuesto, tendría que proporcionar una traducción, por lo que añadiría al recuento de palabras. ¡Ah! Podría escribir novelas cortas, ofrecer traducciones, y luego podría decir que eran novelas multilingües.

The last translation is not fair, as it was supplied by Google Translate.

La última traducción no fue justa, porque Google Translate lo proporcionó.

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Serpent

“What in the name of God is that?” Brenda’s voice hissed, jarring Carl’s attention, as the unexpected sound erupted from behind his left shoulder.

“Why do you do that? You startled the hell out of me.”

“Sorry. Well, what is it?”

“It’s a snake of some kind.”

“Duh! I know it’s a snake. What’s it doing in the garage?”

“It’s taking dancing lessons!”  Carl spit the words from his mouth like they were bitter pills.

Brenda’s face contorted into a fierce scowl. “All right! You don’t have to get smart with me. I just asked a simple question.”

“I don’t know what it’s doing here,” Carl said. “I don’t know how it got here. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know its name. I don’t know its pedigree or whether it’s poisonous.”

Brenda’s scowl deepened. “Why are you being such an ass?”

“I’m trying to figure out how to get the damn thing out of the garage and you’re disturbing my concentration. Let me finish this and then you can ask your stupid questions!”

“As you used to tell me, there are no stupid questions. Only stupid people. And I’m not stupid, so that must leave you.” With that, Brenda wheeled around and stormed back into the house.

Carl opened a large paper grocery bag, placed it on the floor, and began to coax the snake into it, using the handle of a broom. The creature writhed, its red, yellow, and black rings around its body almost dancing, as Carl shoved at it with the broom. With the snake fully inside the bag, he pushed the open end down with the broom, gingerly folded it to close it, and picked up the trapped viper. Jeez, this snake is heavier than I thought it would be.

Carl took the bag inside the house and set it on the kitchen counter. “Brenda, it’s in the bag,” he called. No response. “Brenda, the snake is in the bag on the counter.” Still nothing.

What am I going to do with this damn snake? It’s supposed to be illegal to kill them, but…

The sound crinkling craft paper interrupted his thought as the snake moved inside the bag. Carl watched the bag bulge as the reptile made its way around the edges of its prison.

I’ll search Google to see what kind of snake it is and how to get rid of it.

Brenda’s voice intruded on his internet search. “What’s in this bag on the counter?”

Carl heard the unmistakable sound  made when craft paper is handled. “Don’t open it, it’s…”

Carl sensed that Brenda’s scream was from pain, not fear. But fear gripped Carl as he viewed an image of a coral snake on the screen.

 

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Gingerly Approaching a Moroccan Cooking Binge

Last night, our meal’s main course was Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon, Olives, and Harissa. I made the harissa, which delivers one of my favorite flavors,the day before. I served the chicken over brown rice, alongside a few cucumber spears, some sliced tomatoes, and sweet peppers. I was generally satisfied with the meal, but not as thrilled as I had hoped and expected. I think it was the brown rice; its consistency wasn’t quite right. Perhaps my lower-than-expected satisfaction derived from the fact that the fresh ginger I used wasn’t really fresh. I bought it a week or more ago and wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. When I unwrapped it yesterday to grate it, I discovered that it had deteriorated considerably. Though I was able to salvage enough for the recipe, I question whether the stuff was adequate for the task. My experience with the unsatisfactory ginger led me to explore the “best” ways to preserve fresh ginger. My research suggests these as the best ways:

  1. Plant fresh, unpeeled ginger in potting soil. That, from what I’ve read, will keep it quite fresh and will probably result in the growth of some foliage.
  2. Place fresh, unpeeled ginger in a zip-lock bag, squeezed to remove as much air as possible, and put the bag in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.
  3. Immerse peeled ginger in a glass jar of vodka.

All three methods, according to the sources I found, will keep the ginger fresh for at least eight weeks.

I discarded the ginger left over after I made last night’s meal. So, I need to add ginger to the shopping list, along with ground coriander seed. I’m sure there’s more. But that will do for now.

My current fixation on Moroccan food shows no signs of diminution. For breakfast this morning, I used last night’s leftovers, which actually tasted better today than last night. I plan to make several other Moroccan dishes in the weeks to come, provided my wife does not tired of my experimentation. On the menus will be: Lamb with Couscous, Moroccan-Style Spiced Shrimp, Chickpea and Tomato Stew, and Méchoui of Lamb with Charmoula. I made enough harissa to last through all of them, provided I do not use it first in any number of other dishes I think would benefit from its rich, spicy flavor. The odds are good I’ll have to make another batch (or two) long before I get through the menus.

This morning, we’re attending the annual “water ceremony” at the Unitarian Universalist church. It will be our first “water ceremony.” My gut tells me it will be far too woo-woo for my taste, but we shall see. I’ll wager no one in the church this morning, aside from my favorite wife and me, had home-made Moroccan food last night. I’ll even up the ante and wager than no one else had the same breakfast we had this morning, either.

I’m getting slightly better at writing by speaking, but I still can’t seem to do fiction that way. I long for my wrist, arm, and shoulder to get over whatever it is that’s bothering them. Tomorrow, I may seek out a chiropractor.

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Here’s to Boston

Thanks to this morning’s newsletter (Fast Forward)  from the Boston Globe, I learned that today is the 120th anniversary of the launch of the first subway in this country. At 6:00 a.m. on September 1, 1897, one hundred people rode the subway through a tunnel under downtown Boston.  I had assumed that the first subway was in New York City, but my research this morning revealed that New York’s first underground commuter line did not operate until October 27, 1904. Almost thirty-six years earlier, the city’s first elevated line opened. New York’s rapid transit system is the largest in the western world, butsystems in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Guangzhou, and Moscow eclipsed its ridership. The New York system, though, is the largest in terms of the number of stations (472). On September 23, 2014, more than 6.1 million people rode the New York subway system,

But today’s celebration is about Boston’s innovation, not New York’s, nor the other systems with greater ridership. Have I ever mentioned I am easily distracted, starting my writing with the intent to write about one subject, but drifting off into other areas almost without realizing it? Maybe I should explore what I’ve written to determine whether I’ve mentioned that before. But not yet. Not now.

There’s much about Boston I find appealing. Even before I learned that it set the pace for public transportation in the United States, I liked Boston. I like the in-your-face honesty that characterizes the city. I like its rough-and-tumble personage. I like Santarpio’s Pizza. I like the JFK Library. I appreciate that Boston is largely a very progressive Democratic stronghold, a place where the obligations of society are honored and practiced. Obviously, not all people in Boston are progressive Democrats, but the city votes the way I wish the country at large would vote. Sure, Boston has its share of problems, but it leans left, the way I like a city to lean.

I like the fact that the Boston Globe (and other outlets, I’m sure) reminded the people of the City of Boston that yesterday at 5:00 p.m. was the deadline to take items to Boston City Hall for people stranded in Texas by Hurricane Harvey. The collection effort solicited baby formula, toiletries, non-perishable food, blankets, new clothes, and diapers. Additional collection centers were established throughout the city. The items are to be packed up and shipped to Texas today, September 1.

Congratulations to Boston the 120th anniversary of it subway system.  And for being the city it is. I’d like to visit again. I really would.

 

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