August 30, 2005

Cry Me Some Comic Relief

I wasn’t going to post about the storm, but realized I must. It’s not really about the storm, it’s about the reporting of the storm. I’m hoping this will count for originality, at least somewhat.

I am not heartless; let it be known up front that I do feel deeply for those affected by Katrina, but the following post is my pathetic attempt to share some form of levity (it’s allowed … really) to an otherwise grave situation.

While listening to and watching the news this weekend, I couldn’t help but zone in on several profound statements uttered by the various anchors. A couple of these verbal gems, I found to be rip-snortin’ knee slappers … but perhaps only because I desperately needed release from all the tension. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, no matter what the trauma is, I shall always seek and find some sort release.

It feels like it’s my duty to share these precious statements with you ~ to get them into writing. Enjoy.

~ CNN ~ Female anchor informed me that traffic on Sunday afternoon was tied up terribly, in fact, “bumper to bumper” on this one road leading out of New Orleans. She said (and I’m not being creative here) “Traffic is now at a virtual standstill, and I have a feeling it’s only going to get worse.”

Now [scratching head] … I’ve BEEN in traffic at a virtual standstill. I’ve sat on I-95 Southbound for five hours on a Fourth of July weekend … not moving one foot in 40 minutes time. Zip. Squat. So my question is, exactly how does it get worse than a standstill? Do they start going in reverse?

~ MSNBC ~ Footage showing female reporter out in the early storm winds and torrential rain. She says these words, “It’s so bad out here you can’t stand up!” Problem? There she was, standing up while she made this revelation.

~ CNN ~ Male reporter, again, out in the downpour, being blown about as he suddenly turned to his extreme right and kept his face into the rain for a full count of thirty “You see? You can’t do this. You can’t look right into the rain, it’s pelting so forcefully!”

Okay fella, I’ll tell you what you can’t do. You can’t tell me what you can’t do while you’re freaking DOING it. That’s what you can’t do! You may tell me what you can’t do while you’re NOT doing it … that I’ll buy. But mama didn’t raise no fool here. If you ran out of shit to say, turn off the mic.

~ FOX NEWS ~ (and I swear to you, these are all statements that I documented) Male meteorologist standing before map of Florida and discussing how badly Katrina hit a certain area, “A friend of mine told me, in fact, that this was the worst catagory one storm he’s ever witnessed.”

Okay, let’s keep it in perspective here, just for a second. Category one means just that - category one. They put them into categories for a reason. Because if it gets worse than a category one, they can call it a category two, and so on.

Category one is, by every definition possible, the least horrific hurricane of the bunch; the runt of the hurricane litter. Even the worst category one hurricane is STILL just a category one. I didn’t make this rule ~ blame the weather weenies. So, in essence, what this highly educated meteorologist said to millions of viewers that day, was “…this was the strongest weakest storm he’s ever witnessed.” I’m sorry, but I find some humor in that.

~ CNN ~ While reading a prompt, one of the female anchors, tired (I’m sure) after a full day of repetitious reporting, spoke these words while they showed an image of a flooded street in New Orleans:
“And here we can see signs of early flooding in the easternmost area of Los Angeles.” You may want to read it again.

Mind you, this was a photo they had already aired about 942 times throughout the morning. I knew it was in New Orleans, she knew it was in New Orleans, but I found it kind of comical that the tired neurons in her brain forced her to say “Los Angeles” when they intercepted the abbreviation for Louisiana – “LA”

I’ll admit, that one, I thought was more cute than comical or pathetic.

Of course, I’ve saved the best for last.

~ CNN ~ The female anchor was about to switch us over to images of the video conference between the President and the emergency management team. She, in all her infinite reporting wisdom, made the following announcement:

“Now we’re going to bring you the live video conference between President Bush and the emergency response team. This is quite an event … just remember folks, in this room you will see all the people responsible for controlling the weather.”

You know, I never thought in all my days I’d get to actually SEE the folks responsible for controlling the weather. Never. It WAS going to be quite the event. And to think I always figured nature controlled the weather.

I watched really hard and these people didn’t have wings, they didn’t have halos or horns, they weren’t surrounded by balls of light and they didn’t look the least bit godlike. I was more than a little bit disappointed by this.

I’m sure it’s not always easy to be a news anchor, a reporter, or a weatherman, but it sure can be a wonderful source of entertainment if you just look beyond the news.

I got my release this weekend. I hope you find yours.

Stay safe ... and try to do it smiling.

August 23, 2005

Going, Going, (Almost) Gone

As many of you already know, I’ve been doing the unthinkable lately. I’ve been trying to access and repair the damage I’ve brought upon myself by being a “saver” most of my life, and trying hard to invalidate much of my shit (trust me, there IS no more-definitive word in this case).

I thought it might be fun to share some of my findings in the past two weeks. Remember, these are things that I obviously, at one time or another, deemed save-worthy. One of my favorite catch-phrases is “I might use (or need) that one day.” But people … I ask you …

~ Three plastic sandwich bags filled with matches. I used to collect match books. It was like a journey through my life looking at all the clubs, bars, restaurants and hotels I’ve gone to or stayed at since I went off on my own.

~ Old dried up Avon samples. Nothing stinks quite as badly as old Avon perfume packets. I guess I collected those too ~ perhaps hoping I wouldn’t go into a full-blown asthma attack by wearing perfume someday. As a touch of irony, I almost keeled over opening the lid of the bin in which these treasures were stored.

~ A thirty year-old pair of tap shoes. They were my last pair, and yes, I’m still hanging on to them even though someone switched feet on me while I was sleeping because they are about a whole size too small.

~ Baby clothes, baby hats, baby shoes, baby toys, baby blankets and baby diapers (yes, the old, cloth type), premie baby bottle and pampers. I only have one child - you’d think I had six - but apparently I was bound and determined to hang onto every shred of evidence in the event that she got whisked away by aliens. I’ve kept about five items and tossed the rest. The diapers make for wonderful dusting rags or fishing hand-wipes.

~ Two plastic sandwich bags filled with various nuts, bolts, screws, (hang onto your seatbelts) twist ties, pushpins, shower rings and oh yes, two old wooden clothes pins. Surely there was some significance to the clothes pins, but I probably wouldn’t admit to it even if I could remember.

~ Allen wrenches. Now really, in each of the five bins I’ve been through thus far, I’ve come across at least two allen wrenches. These annoying (yet at times, necessary) tools seem to pop up everywhere I turn. What is it about the allen wrench? Manufacturers seem to include one in anything that requires it for assembly, so why would anyone hold onto one – let alone a dozen?

~ Money. I’ve found some money in the forms of coins, paper and monopoly. It hasn’t added up to much, but let it be known that if I ever sell all my books? It may pay greatly to come to my yard sale; someone, long ago, must have told me the safest place to hide money is inside of books.

~ Old empty AND not-empty prescription bottles. What the HELL was I thinking? That if I waited long enough, the street value of valium might bring me a small fortune? The thing with the pills that cracks me up is that I’d get these prescriptions filled and never TAKE the damned things. I must have had visions of myself standing on street corners in the faraway future, waving signs that read “we gotcher pain killers, yer anti-depressants, yer seconals, tuinals, your beauties (as in black) and yer cramp-stoppers… step right up.” I was happy to finally discard these nasty things.

~ Speaking of street corners, I also broke down and tossed my “Jesus Saves” and “One Way” pamphlets from back in the days when I lost my flipping mind for a time and became a holy roller. It lasted about a year and a half, but oh my, was I ever good at it. (Grant, I thought of you when I found these things – figured you’d just love that) In my own defense, I didn’t stand on street corners. I just pissed off a world of people putting these things on windshield wipers in parking lots. Yes, that was probably me.

~ Records. I have more 45s than I care to discuss. Here, I’ll pull three titles out of the stack just to show where my head was at back then: (random pickins mind you) Lowdown by Boz Scaggs, Cisco Kid by War, and La La Peace Song by O.C. Smith. Oh, the list gets better, trust me. I’ll guesstimate that there are about a hundred and fifty 45s here. Anybody want some?

~ I have turned up at least eight big fat photo albums worth of random pictures. These don’t get thrown out. Maybe, when all is said and done with my dejunking process, I will grit my teeth and discard the doubles, triples and so-out-of-focus-that-I-can-barely-make-them-out shots. Maybe. (None of the photos, by the way, ever made it into albums)

~ Pay stubs dating as far back as 1971 and no, I’m not kidding. I didn’t keep them all, just one or a couple from every single on-the-books job I’ve ever had! It’s time to kiss them goodbye. I swear, it’s almost as though I was afraid I’d lose my identity – or worse, my memory. Now that I know having these things wouldn’t help if I did, they’re going.

~ Scented votive candles that now smell like the mildewy papers and junk they were stored amidst. I know they were once scented because it says so on the fuzzy labels at the bottoms.

~ Bubble-wrap. I wasted twenty minutes in one sitting popping every last bubble before I finally tossed this crap. (next time I haven’t posted in awhile, you can use that visual to figure out what’s taking me so long)

~ Writing implements. Oh sweet mother of holy lead and ink - have I got a collection of pens, pencils, markers and highlighters! If each one were worth a buck, I’d be taking you all out to dinner (plane fare included). I think it’s fairly easy to see where I was headed with all these implements … I wanted desperately to be a writer, and in the event of some catastrophic shut-down of all pen/pencil factories worldwide, dammit, I was going to be well prepared. Little did I know during the years of collecting that I would be writing about just this topic by means of a keyboard! (What a dreadful waste ~ the collection, that is, hopefully not this post)

Thank you to everyone for the kind thoughts and comments at my last post! They are all greatly appreciated.

August 17, 2005

I Don't Want to Know

Poetry is not my forte. Actually, I’m not sure what my forte is; perhaps remembering ~ or writing about remembering. In any case, on rare occasion, I’m struck with vivid recall that comes to me in rhythmic patterns ~ so I grab a pen or a keyboard and try to get it into writing. If it happens to end up in poetic form, so be it.

The following were some thoughts that crossed my mind the other day as I stumbled upon a photo of my dear childhood friend, Annie. She was not an extraordinary person ~ which makes her extraordinary death so tragically ironic. She was like me, like you, and like the thousands of others who went off to work one day assuming they would live and breathe for years to come.

I Don’t Want To Know

What did she think as she rolled out of bed
What thoughts were consuming her pretty head
Did she dwell on her workload, or on that night’s meal
Would she whip up a salad, or noodles with veal

What was she thinking; the breeze in her hair
As she traveled to work with nary a care
Did she think about laundry or missing the boat
Did she dwell on some problems ~ however remote

What was she thinking that September morn
While she trod to her job up the path ~ so well worn
Was she planning for lunch to go sit in the park
Was she hoping to get home long before dark

As she sat at her desk on the ninetieth floor
Was she sipping her coffee when came the loud roar
Did she hear it arriving or not till it hit
Was she worried at all that this could be “it”

What did she think while her tower tossed wildly
Did she panic or plan her escape, kind of mildly
I know that she met with some friends to discuss
The best way to leave without too much fuss

What did she say to her mom on the phone
While she still believed fully that she’d return home
I know she assured her that all was okay;
That she’d tell her much more at the end of the day

What did she think as she chose not to leave
As the others walked down - as was wise - they believed
Was she hoping to seek out the one left behind
Or wishing this was but a dream in her mind

Maybe she spotted her purse the last minute
And stopped at her desk to just grab something in it
Maybe she thought it was safer right there
As she looked out her window and saw the black air

What did she think as the plane hit her tower
“Could this really be my last living hour?”
Maybe she didn’t think much thought at all
As she scrambled and faltered and held to a wall

Did she smell things and see things that no one should see
Did she pray really hard to the powers that be
Was she frightened or calm in that New York second
Or did she go bravely as her heaven beckoned

I know I’ve been asking but now I’ll confess
I don’t want to know what she thought in distress
I don’t want to feel the great anguish inside
I don’t want to know how it felt as she died

In loving memory of

Anne Marie Martino Cramer

March 30, 1954

Aged 47 Years


September 11, 2001

(For anyone interested in reading a rather lengthy but complete story regarding our childhood friendship and more details of the events that swept Anne from her family and friends, see this post: )

August 07, 2005

Springs of (interpreted) Eastern Wisdom

I recently unearthed a large box of books from our basement storage area. They had been displaced to this nether region every since my move here five and a half years ago. Many of the paperbacks had to be discarded as I flipped through their dank-smelling, age-stained pages. I did, however, manage to salvage some of my favorites.

I have two tiny books that are crammed with words of wisdom from eastern philosophers. I’ve read them both, cover to cover many times and yet, I remain largely unwise. Go figure.

I thought about it for a bit this early morning and decided that the problem lies in interpretation. Oh, they’re written in my primary language, but too often, the transfer of thought processes wasn’t made clear enough.

And so, I’ve decided to post some fine excerpts from these little gems (books), and offer my own special version of what the wise messages truly meant to convey.

First I’ll offer the actual quote and author. Immediately after, I will present my own interpretation so that you too, might take heed and live the life of a full-flavored sage.

“Man cannot for a thousand days on end enjoy the good, just as the flower cannot bloom a hundred days” (Tseng-Kuang)
It’s really okay to be a jackass every now and again (WH)

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life” (no author named)
Use condoms (WH)

“The greatest revelation is stillness” (Lao-Tse)
Exercise isn’t worth it (WH)

“Rejoice at your life for the time is more advanced than you would think” (author’s name in eastern writing but looks kinda like this: #*&^^)
We’re all gonna die and it could happen tomorrow (WH)

“That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change ~ but that they build a nest in your hair, this you can prevent” (&@*#)
Wash and brush your hair often (WH)

“Thousands upon thousands of rivers flow into the sea, but the sea is never full ~ and if man could turn stone into gold, still would his heart never be contented” (author unknown)
We’re a spoiled rotten lot (WH)

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear” (Baba Ram Dass)
Shut your pie hole and listen up (WH)

“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be” (Bruce Lee)
Easier is better (WH)

“Work is prayer. Work is also stink. Therefore stink is prayer” (Aldous Huxley)
I don’t have an interpretation for this. I just like the “work is also stink” part.

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there” (Miles Davis)
Jazz allows you to screw up (musically) and still fit right in (WH)

“If you are too excited by joy, later you will have to cry” (Tibetan saying)
Whatever you do, don’t enjoy happiness too much (WH)

“No suffering befalls the man who calls nothing his own” (Dhammapada)
Sell everything and claim bankruptcy (WH)

“One joy dispels a hundred cares” (no author named)
Dwell on the good shit (WH)

I can’t be the only one who reads a fine quote and puts his/her own spin on it. This is an open invitation to join me in clarifying the words of the wise. Feel free to place your interpretations in comments here, and if you can’t think of a quote that particularly moves you, steal one from this post.

I’m in the process of organizing my home-office (notice I didn't say RE-organizing). Anyone who knows me, even a little bit, will appreciate the depth of that sentence. Hopefully, in a few days, I’ll be posting about this most exciting adventure.

And finally, in keeping with the theme of this post, as well-known genius/comic, George Carlin, once said, “Ya can’t have everything, where would you put it all?”
Well, as I peer into boxes, bags and bins of my “stuff,” I’m beginning to feel as though I DO have everything … and my mission this week is to find a place for at least a small percent of it.

August 01, 2005

The First Time I Got Lucky

Once upon a time, a very young Hag frequented many amusement parks in the New York City/New Jersey area. Her father always worked long hours, seven days a week, but in his off-time ~ Saturday mornings ~ he would gather up his brood and tote them off for a day filled with rides, arcade games, candy apples, cotton candy, hot dogs and lemonade. And there would be much rejoicing.

On many occasions, Coney Island would be the park of choice. This had become one of the little Hag’s favorite outings. In retrospect, she got the biggest thrill out of strolling along the boardwalk and looking out over the ocean, enjoying the smell and taste of salt in the air while watching all the noisy rides twist, turn and spin around her.

Coney Island is a small peninsula off the southernmost tip of Brooklyn. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was barren and overrun with rabbits. It came to be called “Coney Island” when the Dutch came along bearing konyns (Dutch for house-rabbit), leaving them to run freely on the little peninsula.

The konyns apparently “loved each other” very, very much because eventually, they produced hundreds and hundreds of baby konyns, which produced hundreds and hundreds more. The place was dubbed Konyn Eilint, which later evolved to its current English title - but enough about history.

In the early 1960s, a family could pay one price and enjoy the amusement park all day long. A circular ticket was issued to each family member, and each time anyone went on a ride, a hole was punched along the outer rim of the ticket. In the center, there was a six-digit number. At some point during the day, if you happened to be in Steeplechase Park (an old section of Coney Island featuring indoor and outdoor rides), two numbers were called out over a loud speaker. The winners received a special prize for the day.

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And so on this special day, the little white haired Haglet rode the rides, ate the fun foods and roamed about with her sisters; not a care in the world. Big sister, Janet was asked to keep a watchful eye on her so that the others could enjoy the “big people” rides, and Janet decided to walk the little one indoors at Steeplechase to see what all the commotion was about. Up on a stage, standing at a podium, a man was talking loudly into a screechy microphone.

It was prize-time! “Yay” said the Hag as she jumped up and down, fairly clueless and unable to see a flipping thing for all the big people around her. Janet grabbed the little one’s ticket and carefully read the numbers as they were being called out. “Nope, we didn’t win,” she said.

But wait! There was yet another prize to be issued!

Suddenly, Janet jumped up quickly and grabbed the Haglet’s hand, “You won … you won!”

“Yayyyy” the Haglet cried out loudly. She was hauled through the crowd of hundreds of people and dragged up to the stage. She was a tad embarrassed by all the attention, still something inside told her this was a good thing indeed. She liked to win. (She still does)

After careful checking of the numbers, the man awarded the prize to the young Hag and again, there was great glee and much rejoicing!

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Alas, it was apparently meant to be that the little Hag was awarded a larger than life, boys bicycle. She couldn’t even hold the thing up let alone ride it! Still, she won, and all was good and right with her world.

Lugging the prize all the way home to Staten Island hadn’t been part of her father’s plan, still he did so, tying it up in the trunk of the old Chevy Belair. The trip home seemed endless, but when they finally arrived, the bike was placed carefully on the front porch for the Haglet to admire.

The nice men at Coney Island were kind enough to offer a trade-in for an identical, girl’s version of the bike… but there would be a weeklong wait for the trade to take place. It didn’t matter to the little winner because she wouldn’t be riding it for at least a year. It was enough to sit and stare at it, play with the headlight and bell, and plan her first neighborhood journey.

Certain sisters became outraged that they weren’t permitted to use the shiny new bicycle ~ but this felt fair to the Haglet because all of her life thus far, she’d been wearing hand-me-down clothes and playing with dolls whose hair had long-ago fallen out. Secretly, she thought to herself on several THOUSAND occasions in sing-song style, “Haha on you guys, it’s MINE, all MINE.”

It hadn’t always been easy being the youngest of four girls.

Eventually, the new bicycle arrived (handlebar streamers and all) and within a year or so, it could finally be ridden. “Yayyy” said the little winner.

Every now and again, someone will talk, write or reminisce about Coney Island. Some people recall the tasty Nathan’s hotdogs, some recall the incredible crowds at the beach, some ~ the crazy and exciting rides (parachute jump and boxcar Ferris wheel), but in the time-worn heart of a modern day Hag, Coney Island will always hold a particularly special place. It was the first time she really got lucky.

The End.

*first photo taken in '59 - a few years prior to the event
*second photo is not actual bicycle - Googled photo image of '61 Schwinn