Saturday, July 9, 2016

Murder, American Style

It resumes - the American way of police officers murdering black men.

And then - the murder of many police officers in Dallas.

And now - the futile and (likely) cynical statements of politicians that "we are all in this together" - we are not - and "we are better than this" - we are not. This is exactly who we are as a culture: violent, intolerant, racist and immature. And an aspect of our immaturity is our refusal to see that we are not all in this together - we are riven by class problems and privilege claims, but many of us are safe from the direct impact of our class and race problems. Another aspect of our immaturity is that many of us believe that we are better than this because we have religious beliefs that tell us we are better than this; but those beliefs do not prove themselves, and facing our ineptitude as fellow citizens and our racist and other privilege claims requires setting aside the beliefs we have in ourselves and in the exalted condition many believe we are in because of our religion.

We will not become the better, more caring, less violent and less race-and-class-based culture than we are currently in until we grow up, value education again (as we once did), recognize dangerous weapons for the danger they create, and live by the values we have long claimed in our founding documents but not yet lived beginning with the belief that all are created equal. We have never lived that, never believed it; but we have complimented and soothed ourselves by saying we believed it. Enough of childishness - our egos - and enough of childish things - weapons made only to kill.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Death of a Friend ... and Great Human Being

My friend Janis K. G. Loo died last night of ovarian cancer. She was a remarkable person, a hero of goodness & caring ... and strength. Janis & I met in 1978 and stayed friends over all those years despite her residence in her native Hawai'i and mine on the mainland. We seldom saw one another but stayed in contact, sharing our lives. I remember when she met her husband and when each of their five children came to them. I remember their two trips to China, a few years apart, to adopt two of those children. I remember when she gave a kidney to a stranger - because it mattered & she could do it; so Janis did it. That's the way she was. I remember all the times when she gave me support as I endured troubled times. She was always there for so many people, and now she is gone; and it hurts.

Janis was extraordinary in so many ways, but perhaps what most stands out for me is her constancy in caring. She did not vary or fluctuate in her caring, her presence, her acceptance and love of people, yet Janis did not lose any of herself - she was not a martyr; rather, she had a very unusual capacity to care, actively, without damaging or diminishing herself, while building up others.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Being "the Other"

I just talked by phone with my daughter Emme (who is gay) and was on her way to the vigil in downtown Los Angeles. The horror, the sadness, the confusion, the fear - among other feelings - that she, at 29, has experienced yesterday and today are ghastly. The cause of these emotions - LGBTQ-phobia, murderous lack of acceptance of "the other," & the pathological immaturity of a culture that permits war weapons in civilian & disturbed hands - is appalling & outrageous.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Wonder of Wonders

I have a lot of active dreams in which I am traveling or walking or interacting with people. The other night I dreamed I was watching a ballgame, and the announcer and director cut away with the story of how well Stevie Wonder was doing in minor league baseball. The announcer talked about how remarkable this was, given that Stevie is blind. Then they played a recording of Stevie batting ... wearing a short top hat.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Great Man You Likely Do Not Know

A great man died yesterday, and I am fortunate to have been well acquainted with him. Charles Derleth was a painter and a longtime teacher of art at John Burroughs School in St. Louis County, Missouri. Mr. Derleth taught my daughters and thousands of other people in their adolescence. When new students (the school is 7th-12th grades) said to him, "I can't paint," he kindly and candidly said, "I can't paint as well as I would like, but with practice I can get better and better." He meant it, and they did.
15 years ago, while cutting branches off a tree in his back yard, Mr. Derleth fell and became paralyzed from the chest down. He had been a very active man, always participated in the School's weeklong programs at a rough site in rural Missouri, teaching kids ecology; but he lived the next 15 years in a wheelchair. He missed most of a year during his convalescence and rehabilitation but then resumed his teaching, and taught for another seven years. On one of my visits to the nursing home during his rehabilitation, he laughed and said he hoped to be released from "the medium security institution" by the end of the week. I remember laughing with him and also being astonished that he could laugh and joke.
Charles Derleth was as kind and supportive of people as I can imagine, and that was before his accident. He remained all that but added heroism, continuing to love and support - and TEACH - his students. He also continued to paint, and paint he did. He was marvelous.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Reading About Writing

I'm reading Douglas Kennedy's The Moment, some of which is set in Berlin in 1984. The protagonist is a writer, gone to Berlin to observe and take in - to find a story. He lodges in the apartment of a painter, and - watching him one night - notes that, "Every so often there is a here-and-now in the realm of creative work .... A strange switch is thrown in your brain. You are not pondering or cogitating or thinking about what happens next. You are simply doing. The work has taken you over.... That's it. The moment. The most unbridled form of romance imaginable. Pure mad love." [italics his]

I remember that experience during the writing of numerous essays and humorous writings, an experience reminiscent for me of what I have heard sculptors say, that the work of art was already there in the stone, and they were freeing it by their pounding, chiseling and cutting. (I drove past an abandoned gas station-truck-garage-restaurant complex in the desert, killed by the Great Recession of 2008; and I saw that the work of art was there, turned around and went back to photograph it - and it was there, just waiting for me to find the lines of sight, and I did. I knew as soon as I saw it - at 65 miles per hour - that the piece was there, waiting to be seen. Finding the lines to capture this tragedy was simple, just a matter of being open enough to see the loss and emptiness. Attention had to be paid.)

The moment is what matters.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Being There, Glad to Have Been There

I was part of an unusual and nice occurrence today. I had just left our home and turned the corner to walk to a medical appointment a couple of miles away when a car pulled to the curb next to me and a voice asked me a question. A man and a woman were in the front seats of a medium-sized car, with people in the back seat. I walked towards the car, and the man driving asked if I knew where Children's Hospital was. The man and woman appeared to be Latin American - Guatemalan was my guess - and I noticed that the woman did not speak. I said I knew where that hospital was and began to give directions. At the same time, the right side rear window began rolling down, and I saw a young girl there, looking with curiosity and what seemed to be enthusiasm. Through the front passenger window I saw a second young child in the back seat. Although the man spoke English my efforts to give directions seemed to be failing. So, I said I would show them if he would like for me to ride along. He did, so I got into the back seat. He followed the turn by turn directions I gave, and drove to the hospital, perhaps half a mile. When we arrived, I started to get out of the car, but he insisted on driving me back to my home. I resisted but soon saw that he wanted to do this in order not to have inconvenienced me more than the few minutes since we had met. So, he drove me home, and we all - I would say warmly - wished one another well. The adults were grateful; I was gratified to have been helpful to these nice people. The two daughters seemed enthralled by the adventure of it! Both had been smiling for minutes and waved good-bye.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hallmark Days

It is the beginning of the period of #ExceptionalAmerica days - Mother's Day [gag], Memorial Day ['Merica is the Greatest Country in the History of the World, By God], Father's Day [Allow Me to Make Fun of You'all with a Paper Necktie; Have a Beer], Independence Day [We Are Not Only *Still* the Greatest Country in the World, By God, but for Now and All-Time, By God, We Are the Empire that God Loves], and then Labor Day [When We Pretend to Admire the Crum-Bum, Dirty Working Man on Whose Backs the Elite Stand, Sneering]. If anything identifies us, it is our love for these phony days of idealization and idolatry.

Each year - I am about to be 68 - I try - sometimes hard, sometimes harder, sometimes my very hardest - not to look down on our (my) culture or express my birthright of pain from the 1950's Eisenhower era of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and (especially) saying no evil about the middle class, conservative, upwardly-striving, suburban, status-conscious, longing-to-be-elitists among whom I endured a childhood of abuse and condescension in a culture of self-congratulatory self-righteousness and keeping up with the Joneses. This year, I won't even try. I no longer give too much of a damn about the feelings of those people, nor do I give too much of a damn about not toeing any lines or being inappropriate - in order not to be un-Amurrican or un-Christian or immodest in my rage.

I *HATE* these holidays. I especially hate Mother's Day with all its jewelry advertising, flower bedecking and mother-placing-on-pedestals AS THOUGH something about giving birth anoints mothers to be caring, present, sensitive and protective guardians of tiny-then-small people. Nothing so anoints mothers, and not all of them have any/all of those qualities. The damage and wreckage is bad enough; the damage and wreckage from having mother and father who had none of those qualities is worse. The requirement to celebrate mothers on Mother's Day - in church, in ads, in AA and Al-Anon meetings, at ballgames - is mind-bendingly horrible, akin to the horribleness of ever-present Christmas carols during "the holidays" for those damaged by Christian religious people/fanatics.

To anyone inclined to recommend therapy, please try to understand that I have endured the work of therapy for decades ... and am happier and healthier than ever before. To anyone inclined to recommend medication, you are reading the words of a veteran of legal, psychoactive meds. Some things don't go away; fortunately, some damage can be ameliorated ... and fortunately in my case has been. To anyone inclined to recommend "taking it easy," please understand that this is a (now) fairly rare expression of intensity that I decided to express on this day of days.

To anyone inclined to urge me to celebrate how much less terrorized and haunted I am now than ever before, I say, "You are correct, but PTSD does not go away; and I have not forgotten."

To anyone inclined to remind me that I have also had advantages that many people had not, you are correct - and I have not forgotten. Life has improved, and my life is better than it was and better than it might have been. I do not minimize that.

In my opinion, we are still a culture of seeing, hearing and speaking as little evil as possible, preferring almost always to seek the closest-as-possible-to-Hallmark views of us as possible. I say to hell with that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One American Story

In 1940 a family moved out of their neighborhood in north St. Louis because the only boy of the family - age 11 - came home with a black schoolmate after school one day. The family moved into an all-white neighborhood, and on the day they moved into their new house the 16 year old daughter (oldest child of five) of the family looked out her bedroom window at the 14 year old boy cutting the grass in his yard and (supposedly, according to her version, repeated in the "good times" of the '50's & '60's) said to herself, "That is the boy I'm going to marry." Whether she said it does not matter to how she saw her own - their - story. She had picked him out as her partner and pathway to her goals.

Four years later, while he was in flight training in the U.S. Army Air Corps, she married him. She was sure he was the one who would rise through the ranks of the business world once the war ended and he had gone to college. It was the way most women of that time who were inclined to upward mobility plotted their way to success and prominence ... and money. Although there were independent professional and business women, they were severely limited in their access to the ladder of success that was a part of the United States mythology.

The war ended while the boy was still in flight training - he never left California's Army airfields - and the couple returned to St. Louis where he enrolled at Washington University and she prepared for the birth of their first child, a girl. For three years, the woman tended him, their first child, their small GI-Bill-purchased house and their second child, a boy. For three years, he worked full-time as a mechanic in a gas station and went to school in mechanical engineering with a load 33% greater than full-time. Eight months after the second child was born, he graduated; and their striving up the ladder of success (Registered TM) began. They moved from St. Louis - the first move of a great many, all dedicated to rising up the ladder of success - to Alexandria, Louisiana, where they lived for one year. Over the next 16 years the family would live in 8 states.

The woman and man did not consider the impact of all these moves - uprooting, loss of friends, chronically being the new kids at school, differing school systems' orders of learning - on their children, the girl and the boy. The parents often said that all these moves were for the benefit of the family: the father's advancement would benefit them all. When the boy was 8 and the girl was 10 they rebelled when told they were moving again; this warning was added by the mother: "Don't ever tell your dad that you don't want to move. It would hurt him, and he couldn't take it."

All family decisions were based on the father's advancement, gender roles and the family's money supply. Thus, the boy's raggedy lower teeth were not fixed with braces because orthodontia was expensive, and lower teeth did not show on boys. When he gave a used baseball to a friend who had just gotten his first baseball glove - but had no ball - the mother hit him and screamed that he should never again waste the family's assets. "Assets" - yes, that is what she said. He was 8 years old. The daughter - a good and enthusiastic athlete - never got a baseball glove because "girls don't need those." Eventually, the daughter went to summer school and took correspondence courses so that she could graduate from high school one year early and get the hell out of Dodge - out of this family that was all about the advancement in money and prestige of the parents.

Fast-forward to 1968. The couple live in a fine English Tudor-style house in an old, exclusive near-suburb of St. Louis, and the man - only 42 years old - is the #3 executive of a large corporation. Because of a crisis in one of the company's major assets - in Australia - and because of his excellence of his work, he and other company leaders decided he was the one to go fix the situation. The asset was major, the crisis was major and the success of the man in fixing it - over a period of 16 months - was major. His salary was increased 50% as part of the agreement for him to go. For 1968 and 1969 he received a bonus of 1/3 of his expanded annual salary. He returned to St. Louis a hero.

He also returned to St. Louis an alcoholic. 18 months later, he was passed over for the presidency of the company when the president suddenly died; the presidency of that company had been the couple's goal for 20 years. 18 months after being passed over he was fired for alcoholism. His ladder had dry rot, and he and his wife suddenly had no position, no prominence, total disgrace (she took on his disgrace; her prominence once based on his position) and no income. Dramatically let down by her partner of 28 years, the wife was undone, resentful, embarrassed, enraged. They sold the big house and moved to the country to try to make a living raising cattle, something of which neither had any knowledge or experience. They toiled and fumbled for five years. She tried to control his drinking. He hid the extent of it - bottles hidden in culverts on the ranch & under the hood of his truck. (She continued to drive the Cadillac of their past life.) She cooperated in denying his drinking - each time he fell over, unconscious, she declared that he had had a stroke. (He "had" 63 of them, she told the son.)

During one of those years, he got a great job in Los Angeles and lost it the first day for drinking. Her rage grew. His rage grew. Their frustration and pain grew. On weekend visits, each would separately take the son for a ride and seek his opinion, "What should I do?" The son responded to each, "Get a divorce." But they didn't. On one visit the son warned the woman of the dangers of the shotgun in the house of this frightening, drunken, bitter man - "He will kill you or himself." She dismissed the warning. After five years on the ranch he killed himself with the shotgun. Both of his adult children, always terrified of him & resentful of their parents living their lives for money and prestige, were relieved. Each had long believed that he would kill them one day - but now he wouldn't.

The woman had been in the hospital when he killed himself, badly injured by a cow; and it was a year before she was able to move from the ranch. With the proceeds of life insurance and partial, then complete, sale of the ranch, she could live indefinitely in her beloved Hawai'i. Within two months she met another man with visions of wealth in his mind. He also had alimony and child support payments in arrears, no assets and a delight in hard drinking. This man had something that the first man had not - an eye for the get-rich-quick scheme, and a player's attitude towards the world, not the driven, workaholic attitude of the first man. He was 12 years younger than the woman, and he had the salesman's gift of seeming to make dreams about-to-come-true. Four months after they met they married. She merged her dream of wealth and prestige with his dream of wealth from investments (some of which were ruses) and schemes.

They lived high in fancy rented condos on the water on the Big Island, and used her money and their joint dreams & shared delusions for some years, till the money ran out. Then, they borrowed from banks willing to accept "stated assets" on a loan application as actual assets, the couple staying ahead of the game by hook and crook. (Except that time when the woman called her daughter and said, "If I don't have $_______ deposited in my account by bank opening on Monday morning I'll go to prison." She was in her mid-60's. The daughter wired 2/3 of her inheritance from her recently deceased grandfather.)

As with the first marriage, this marriage lasted 34.5 years, at which point the husband died. And the final accounting of the woman's lifelong quest for wealth and prominence - which she had talked about and planned for in the early years, flaunted when she had much of both, then plotted and dreamed again - and deluded herself - for many years? Their multi-mortgaged house had no equity, the husband's children had been paying the utility bills for months, and the couple's credit cards had a balance in excess of $60,000.00. She has no assets, her dreams extinguished, everything lost, one (now old) child completely alienated, the other not alienated but not in a position to assist much.

How many families in the heady days after World War II had goals, beliefs and values based on unbridled ambition and the belief that wealth and prominence would follow for those who were white, Republican and Protestant, who worked hard and played by the rules they thought applied? I don't know. This is one family.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bernie-Shirt Reactions

I wore one of my Bernie shirts today and walked to a doctor's appointment & then the library. On the way a couple of guys gave a thumbs up. In the medical building a white 20-something woman with a toddler in the elevator said something that seemed positive but that I could not decipher; so I said, "And we all need to get together to elect whoever wins the Democratic nomination." She noticeably physically reacted and said, "Not Hillary, no matter what they do to me!"

Outside the library, a black woman 35-40 smiled and said something positive about the shirt as we were walking towards one another. I smiled and said, "I'm hopeful." She said, "I am, too; and I just can't go for Hillary, anymore. There was a time, but not now. But, you know, we need for this sniping and attacking to stop. We're starting to look like the Republicans." I agreed with that.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Manliness in 'Merica

Last night a retired pro football player for the New Orleans Saints went to dinner with his wife and two friends. Will Smith was 34. They ate dinner at a restaurant where I have eaten, on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Then they got into their vehicles and drove away, Smith & his wife in their Mercedes SUV, their friends in the friends' Chevy.

A few minutes later, in the neighborhood known as the Lower Garden District, Smith's vehicle was rear-ended by a Hummer. The force of the collision propelled Smith's Mercedes forward into the rear of the Chevy. Smith got out of his vehicle, and the driver of the Hummer got out of his. Each man said some words. Then, the driver of the Hummer - a former high school football star - pulled a pistol and shot Smith several times. He fell and died. The driver of the Hummer also shot Smith's wife, twice in her legs. Hummer-man has been arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder. His life is mostly over, and Smith's certainly is.

I recall that one of the first things police chiefs did when policing in cities took over from old-fashioned county sheriffs was to remove guns from within city limits ... in order to prevent arguments and fistfights from becoming killings. That is not America, anymore.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Whence Hillary?

Recently, there has been a lot written about the difficulties of - and prejudice against - women candidates for office; as well, there has been some writing about the prospect of Bill Clinton becoming (what is absurdly titled) "First Gentleman" (as though Bill could ever be thought of as a gentleman). I have a variety of feelings about both of these issues (one revealed already in my comment about Bill ... or, as I prefer to call him, "Biiiiiiiiill").

I loathe the concept of "First Lady" as I loathe the concept of "First Gentleman." I do not loathe the concept of "First Child(ren)" but a repelled by it. We are not a monarchy, and we pretend not to have an aristocracy. In fact, I am old enough to remember when we did not treat the Presidential spouse as an icon of fashion, grace, goodness or anything else. Mamie Eisenhower seemed a nice person and good human being, but no one looked at her (to my knowledge) and thought, "She ought to have, or deserves to have, a say in any public issue of the day," or "She is the one whose taste or belief does, or should, affect how others in the Republic believe or view anything."

That changed with Jack & Jackie Onassis ... excuse me, Jack & Jackie Kennedy.

We - our polity - elected Jack President (or didn't, depending upon how you view the 1960 ballot boxes dredged up from Lake Michigan during the 21st Century) by a tiny margin because he was prettier than the awful Dick Nixon. Upon his enthronement - because "we" wanted or needed to feel special, and have royalty again - "we" denoted her, also, as special, and declared that - they being two very pretty ones - this was the new age of King Arthur & the Seven Dwa... no, the new age of Camelot. As such, a queen was important and had a status of her own; and she also had the ability, right or duty to define various aspects of goodness & style. Jackie Kennedy may well have had lots of substance and merit, but her clout in terms of taste, style and beauty was based on her being queen/First Lady.

Lady Bird Johnson cared a great deal about highway beautification, as she no doubt had had before her husband became Prez, but her ability to affect how the nation saw the issue expanded greatly as a result of her becoming First Lady.

I do not recall Mamie Eisenhower promoting anything or seeing herself as rightly having special insight into what the public should do or believe or value. (See also, Bess Truman.)

Pat Nixon may or may not have believed in anything but Dick, and may or may not have promoted anything; but we were trying to end the war, so I don't remember.

Roslyn Carter was, I thought, wonderful in her role, in that she was a support to her spouse-Prez, did not appear to believe she was special simply because he was President, and added to the aura of humility of the White House (something long lost since 1981).

Nancy Reagan may or may not have thought of herself as a star but (IMHO) thought that Ronnie was God, so she promoted her role. Many have recently written that she was graceful, and I say, "Who cares?" But then, I do not grasp the significance of the role of "First" anything.

Laura Bush seemed to me to be generally humble, although some in the White House or Republican Party PR offices thought they needed to promote her.

And then there was Hillary Rodham a/k/a Hillary Clinton a/k/a Hillary Rodham Clinton. According to Biiiiill, when we voted for him we got a 2-for-1 (whether we liked it - or her - or not). I suppose one could say that we knew in advance that she and he believed a/this First Lady was going to assert that there could/should/would be a different role in the new age. Bill & Hillary never won a a majority, but they did win election twice.

And then an amazing thing happened.

Apparently because she had been a Partly-President, many people thought that she should be in some high office herself, and maybe that made sense. So, she returned to the state of her birth, childhood and adolescence - Illinois - uh-h, no she did not. She returned to the state where she and her husband had become famous and successful - Arkansas - uh-h-h, no she did not. She went to one of the rare states that allows someone who has not lived there for a period of time to run for the U.S. Senate. By great and happy coincidence, it also happened to contain a huge, vibrant and notable city where people who are very powerful also live. What luck!

And she was elected by virtue of her occupying the status of spouse to a U.S. President. (True, she had also had significant public policy experience while in the White House - you remember the creation of national health insurance for all, that was passed in 1994.) And she had vast public sympathy experience in the White House years as a result of being married to the First Sexist-Pig scoundrel, Biiiiiill. It could be said that the most significant basis upon which she was elected to the U.S. Senate was the sympathy that she had garnered for sticking with him.

After one term in the Senate, Ms. Clinton decided that she ought to be President, was qualified to be President, and was experienced enough to be President. Acknowledging that a good case could be made for her in 2006-08, could a good case for her have been made if she had not been married to someone who had been President? Is it conceivable that she could have been elected to the Senate from a state where she had never lived but for the happy coincidence of having been married to a scoundrel who was a scoundrel whilst being President? Could she have been elected to the Senate had she returned to Arkansas, where she notably had made a career for herself NOT in politics or high office, but in corporate law ... and in personal finance (and not cookie baking)?

So now, again, we consider whether we might elect someone to the highest office in order, partly, that we might show girls and young women that they, too, can reasonably and rationally aspire to be Prez, because someone female has been elected ... who just happened to have been married to someone who had been Prez before her. What would that tell girls and young women about how they ought to prime their political careers by first choosing wisely and well a man who WILL become President first?

And if this is not a sufficient reason to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to the office of the Presidency, then ought we look at her history of accomplishments. We have already considered her health policy. Then there is her Iraq War vote, and there is her Libya bombing attitude and her "support" of her Wall Street former constituents. Don't forget her courage in "dodging sniper fire" or in support of the Keystone XL pipeline, and her declaration that TPP was the gold-standard of trade agreements.

Whence Hillary?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

First Opportunity to Vote For Bernie Sanders

Saturday was primary election day in Louisiana, and it was the first time I have felt very enthused about a Presidential candidate in a long time - possibly since voting for George McGovern in 1972. (I had been 6 months too young to vote for Gene McCarthy in '68; had to be 21 then.)

Bernie lost here in Lu'Zana but won in Kansas, Nebraska (!) & Maine. Today are primaries or caucuses in Mississippi, Michigan, Hawai'i & Idaho. A week from now are some more. It is nice to feel enthused about a candidate, but I am appalled at the general level of campaign rhetoric, particularly in the Republican Party.

And then,

Today the Virginia Senate nominated the appalling former Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, to the Virginia Supreme Court.

What a country.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Making Chili

Today I made my second vat of chili of this mild New Orleans winter ... or maybe it was the third. I like to make chili and have done it for many years. Today's batch-making reminded me of one of the few truly great ideas in my "storied" life. (I like my stories, and I stand by every one of them.)

During the holiday season of 1993 or 1994, my then-wife-and-mother-of-our-daughters Linda and I talked about having a Christmas party, and while so discussing, inspiration struck. At least. that's how it seemed to me. (As I recall, Linda, mother-of-our-daughters-and-bringer-home-of-the-bacon, wondered if I'd had a brain lapse or worse. Maybe being home with the kids had rendered my mind ... that's all, just rendered it, like fat.) I said, "Instead of having a (boring, staid, follow-the-leader) Christmas party, let's have "A Chili & Eggnog Party"! And despite some(one's) misgivings, we did. (I will add that this occurred at the end of the Great Period of our marriage, shortly before (or before I recognized) the beginning of the Gradual and Fateful Decline. A year or two later, this inspiration would have been thrown onto the ash heap of Fading-Marriage Suggestions!)

We had never had a party before; probably there had never been more than 6 other adults together in our house during the period of our marriage, but we started a list and it kept growing. We decided to invite close friends, members of Linda's family, a few near neighbors who we did not know well ... and then we decided to invite some more people who were not close friends or close neighbors but who we thought might enjoy the party: nice acquaintances and not-quite-close-but-nice neighbors.

We did not have a big house and did not know whether everyone invited would fit, if they all came. Also (and this was one of the heart-breaking aspects of our marriage over the last 12 of its 20 years), our house did not have "flow." I hate to admit, but (as a male) have to admit, that I do not relate to or value "flow" in a house; but for this night and while anticipating perhaps 50 people in our house, flow was an issue.

But, could it possibly be that 50 people - many of whom we barely knew - would all say "Yes" to our invitation? "Chili & Eggnog" was, after all, scheduled during the Christmas/Holiday Season?

We planned other edible items and drinks, guessing at how much we might need; but the core treats for the night were to be chili and eggnog, lots of chili and eggnog. I composed invitations, humorously & somewhat fictionally describing the genesis of this party idea, and we sent them out. Everybody responded.

Everybody responded in the affirmative.

We began a slowly growing panic as the date got closer and we bought supplies.

No one canceled. We continued to build our panic.

The night came, vats of chili and gallons of eggnog were prepared and arranged. Other drinks and treats were spread, and we crossed our fingers.

Everybody came. No one failed to appear. At first it was a little weird; there were lots of people there who did not know many of the other people. And, of course, there was NO FLOW!

But the weirdness did not last long; people drank and talked, ate and talked, found interest in new acquaintances and talked. The music we had chosen seemed to be the correct volume and type. Life was good; people were cheerful. Several people came up to me and thanked me for inviting them. Some said they had been surprised at the invitation and did not know why we had invited them, but they were glad we had. Several people remarked on what a fun time our party was.

No one left early. No one got drunk or otherwise obnoxious. No one spilled chili on the floor. No one got sick. People stayed till after midnight. We did not run out of food or drink, but almost all of the chili was eaten, eggnog was drunk. For the only time in my life I had had a part in creating a great party. We (I) had billed it on the invitation as "The First Annual Chili and Eggnog Party." There never was a second one. But for one shining moment, "Chili and Eggnog" was The Bomb.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Musings about USA/Amurrica/'Merica/Amerika

This has been some week. A family member is angry at me for failing to honor my father and my mother. The Mardi Gras period has ended here in South Lu'Zana. And in the public life of Our Republic there have been the death of Scalia and the carnival event of the Republicans' latest "debate." Quite a week, yessiree.

As I have read, powerful Senatorial Republicans have declared that they will not honor the President's Constitutionally-mandated appointment of a Supreme Court Justice - all while maintaining that they love, cherish and obey the Constitution. Their view that the current Prez cannot effectually appoint a Justice is disingenuously based on their stated belief that "the people" should have a say in who is appointed, notwithstanding that the people have chosen Barack Obama twice, by compelling margins, to be precisely the person who is not only authorized to make these appointments but required to do so by that same Constitution. In my opinion the real foundation for their view is that the President is black, secondarily that they are not quite sure he is Christian, or at least not a Christian as in the Conservative White Christianity that they purport - or pretend - to follow.

Does a significant proportion of likely Republican primary voters view the "debates" so far of that Party with alarm? Does a significant proportion of them find them satisfying and helpful to them in discerning who to vote for, who would be a good President and who would be a wise and judicious Commander-in-Chief? Alternately, is there a significant proportion who are appalled at the substance of these "debates" but who are nonetheless thrilled at the spectacle?

The ultimate convergent on one nominee and the changes of attitudes of those not chosen will be interesting to see. The effect on the populace and the preservation of the Republic, on the other hand, of the calamitous debates and the actions of the Senate might well be more than interesting.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Visceral Reflections From Today's News

It's only mid-morning, but already there is news that has unnerved and distressed me, led me to gasp in wonder-horror. Carrier Corporation - maker of air-conditioning systems - has announced that it will shut down its giant plant in Indianapolis, eliminating 1,400 jobs over the next two years. It is moving this plant's operations to Monterrey, Mexico.

NAFTA, we more than know ye. American "corporate citizens" - we know ye too well.

In Maryland yesterday, a 67 year old man shot an officer who approached him in a restaurant, then fled. He was pursued by another officer, and the 67 year old shot him, too. Both officers died. As it has been reported, the first officer was not attempting to arrest the 67 year old, but asked how he was, and was then shot in the head. I have no information about the man's motive(s) or mental state.

I have no wisdom about these events, but they are exemplars of two of the major political-cultural issues of the U.S. in our time - employment/corporate behavior and availability of guns.

Regardless of Carrier Corporation's prospective improvement in its bottom line, removing 1,400 families from the ranks of the employed middle-class cannot increase the number of families that are available to purchase air-conditioners from Carrier. And it will not only be the 1,400 families' purchasing power that is affected. I recall the time in my childhood in Evansville, Indiana, when Chrysler Corporation closed its local automobile assembly plant. It did not affect my father's employment with Peabody Coal Company, but when we had to move because my father was transferred, two years later, my parents could not sell our house because the housing market in Evansville had crashed with the closure of the Chrysler plant. In fact, it was after two transfers, and two moves for our family, that my parents were finally able to sell the Evansville house - at a loss - 4 years later. So, there was a ripple effect of that plant closing that damaged the entire region and affected people's ability to buy houses ... and air-conditioners.

It has not yet been reported whether the Maryland killer had a concealed-carry license, or whether he had a mental health (or other) condition that should have prevented him from owning or carrying a gun. If he had a concealed carry license, clearly he should not have had one. If he did not have such license, he still carried a concealed weapon. If she should have been disqualified, he still carried a concealed weapon. The common variable: the existence, presence and possession of a gun ... an artifact of our society's culture of gun specialness.

As it is plain to those who will see that racism is endemic in our culture and has had, and continues to have, enormous and deleterious effects on people who are not white, it is plain that corporations doing whatever they choose in order to pursue profit has damaged and is damaging our society. As is just as plain, the presence and unique position of guns in our culture is killing us - individually and as a whole. We are not an 18th Century society without a standing army, needing a citizen militia. We are not an 18th Century society that possesses only single-shot, muzzle-loading firearms. We are a society that has not grown up; we have a culture of adolescence - we cling to laws and rules from another time that we simply hold onto because some of us want what we want and refuse to grasp that we can only prosper (in all senses) from recognizing that we are a community. We can be healthy as a community - a group that recognizes our sameness and supports ourselves generally - or we can continue our dysfunction as a failed proto-community that nurtures self-destruction. We can care and be oriented to the health of a society, or we can seek our individual desires and demands. We can choose "us" or "me." We cannot choose both.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Fortunate Result of Being Mindful

Holly Troup and I were walking back from the library (again) and passed a man who appeared deep into middle-age sitting on a metal railing along the sidewalk. The bus stop was across the street, not hear him; and something about him simply did not look right. So, I walked back a few steps and stopped in front of him and said, "Are you all right?" He responded, "No, I'm really not. I'm sick and don't have enough money to take the bus to get my medicine." I told him I did and got out my wallet. I asked him what had happened, and he pulled up his shirt, revealing two significant scars near his waist. I asked if he had been shot, and he told me he'd had colon surgery. We talked for another minute, and then introduced ourselves. I told him - candidly - that I was glad I had met him; he said he would remember me. I believe I'll remember Mr. Wayne. (In the deep South we often append a "Mr." or "Ms." to a first name.) I am glad I paid attention to my awareness that something was amiss. It was good for me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to View - or Happily Live Through - the Democratic Race

I read a lot of news and commentary, so I am aware of an alleged fight between "bots" or automatic nags of Sanders and Clinton supporters. These people apparently are saying mean, harsh or untrue statements about their opposing candidate. Being a Sanders supporter I am sensitive to those labeled "BernieBros" who supposedly are for Sanders because they *HATE* Hillary Clinton (and will lie or do anything harmful to her campaign). This alleged hatred is supposedly mean, nasty and horrible - much like the members of The Group W bench in "Alice's Restaurant."

However, I cannot tell whether these people (1) exist, (2) are mean, nasty, horrible and dishonest, or (3) *HATE* Hillary Clinton. One of my problems in trying to grasp this alleged phenomenon is that I have read many statements, posts and tweets by people favoring Clinton that say that the act of posting exact quotes of Clinton is harassment, sexist, evil, cowardly, awful and unfair. I also do not know whether those who claim there are terrible "BernieBros" mean to imply that all terrible "BernieBros" are male. (It might be difficult for Clinton supporters to claim that female Sanders supporters are sexist, but I am not young enough - or cool enough - to know whether or not that would be difficult for her supporters.)

Another aspect of this situation is that the Clinton supporters whose words I have read deny that any of them do, have or even might ever say anything underhanded or mean, despite statements slandering, quoting, disparaging and denying Sanders' ideas and actions. When Bernie supporters assert that Clinton supporters have "gone negative" against him, some Clinton supporters claim sexism or flat denial; others say, "He started it!"

For a few days I wrote asserting certain facts about Clinton's career, and that was not productive. Recently, I have made a point of addressing supporters of both candidates to the effect that it is harmful in the long (November) run for anyone who intends to vote for the nominee to be divisive or destructive of the reputation of either candidate. Some people have responded positively to this idea; others have not. I understand the frustrations of hearing seemingly untrue statements made about one's favored candidate, and I feel those frustrations from time to time. But few partisans are open to learning or hearing about the warts on their preferred candidate or are interested in being reminded of the contradictions or flip-flops on positions that inevitably appear to exist. One thing that I thought both groups of people could agree on was being non-destructive. I was wrong.

So I have decided to view this contest - and indeed the upcoming likely *TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD* general election campaign - from a perspective of hope ... and amusement. Nothing I do or say is likely to affect the outcome. Regardless of how it goes or how it ends it should be a very interesting, dramatic and possibly fun experience. I do not have an idea what the resolution will be, or who the main participants will be. I expect to feel exhilaration, bewilderment, fear, anguish and ... at some points, condescension. I may feel part of this - a human involved in and affected by this process. At certain points I may feel so bewildered that I find it difficult to grasp that I am part of this group/gang/mob who are simulating self-government. Probably some of the time - hopefully not at the end! - I will look down on the nitwits who nominate or vote for one or more the candidates. (Will another Quayle/Palin be chosen for Veep?)

But I intend to be, although partisan, not demeaning or despairing of a cataclysm. That is my story on February 3rd, 2016, and I believe I will stick to it. Of course, I could be wrong.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Carnival Time in Our NOLA Neighborhood

The Mardi Gras spirit goes on for several weeks before the actual day, and people - friends, neighbors and strangers - regularly wish everyone they pass, "Happy Mardi Gras." The spirit is real in south Louisiana, and most houses are decorated; people here feel Mardi Gras; it is real, and at least as vivid as the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The major parades - 33 of them in the New Orleans area - go on for more than two weeks. Our neighbor, however, adds to this pageantry by hosting two (minor, unofficial) walking groups that parade annually during this time. He states a simple formula for attracting these wildly-outfitted groups that march to music that they provide - beer, tables full of glasses of beer.

So, these wild-and-fun 50-80 people draped in gaudy and beautiful robes, hats and other outfits - shout and smile and converse with all who mingle with them (including Holly and me), drink beer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then proceed on their route that goes for two miles or more through Uptown New Orleans. One of these groups arrives at a reasonable hour, but the other usually arrives next door to us at 7:00 a.m., noisy and excited but always fun, and always cheerful and friendly.

Mardi Gras is much, much more than rabidly shouting tourists in the French Quarter; it is an annual groundswell of good-will and merry-making for people of all kinds and all ages - and all mixed together - almost universally friendly and safe and joyous ... and communal. Mardi Gras is part of who we are, from Mobile, Alabama (home of the first Mardi Gras parades), through all of southern Louisiana to the Texas border. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Another Day

It was another day in Amurrica - a day dominated by reports of the Witless One From Wasilla screeching, blaming, lying and failing to complete a sentence.

After an hour of reading about this, I left home to walk to a doctor's appointment and found America, again. I spoke to a man sitting at a bus stop who was wearing a NY Yankees baseball cap, and we talked about the prospects for the upcoming season. He asked about the Cardinals when he saw my cap. It was a nice interaction, one I initiated because I wanted to be engaged in this place that I love, that is home, and be back in America again, at least for awhile.

It had rained sometime before I was awake, so the streets were partly wet, partly dry. It is winter, but in New Orleans that means that it is likely not to be too hot to wear jeans; it was about 65 and very pleasant.

I went on to see my doctor and had a good talk with her; as usual, she had worthwhile suggestions, including "accept yourself; you are okay and fairly normal. You are handling things/life much better than you once did." She listened well, and I felt more accepting of my situation by the time I left. I was intending to walk home, but drizzly rain began so I took the bus, which luckily arrived just as I got to the bus stop. 

When I got home, I took a nap, which felt good. The craziness is still going on in Amurrica - two nitwits gave speeches blaming Obama about nearly everything, and at Oral Roberts Looniversity, to bad. What a mess; what a country.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Tired, Valued Friend

Holly and I were walking to the library and encountered our friend, the first person we had met when we moved here - and a man who feels like an anchor to us in our neighborhood. Our friend (who I choose not to name) was a civil rights worker in the 1960's, after quitting school at 16. He worked throughout Mississippi and south Louisiana. In his 20's he completed high school and went to college up north. He became an architect and built multiple dwelling buildings in poor areas that surround the college where he taught, in a major northeastern city.

Our friend told us that his father had passed on almost two weeks ago. He seemed thoughtful and calm, and he told us he was relieved. His dad was 96 and had been bedridden in our friend's home for three years. Our friend's mother had also been bedridden in his home until her passing two years ago.

Our friend said he had confined himself to his home since his father's death, only coming out - like just now - to get food. He has been reclaiming his house, cleaning and putting back in order things that were put away when his parents moved in, one by one. He said he did not want any help, wanted only to clean baseboards and walls, replace items in their original position; and he wanted solitude.

It was a gift for Holly and me to see and spend a little time with our friend. It was gratifying to see him relieved, and to hear him say, "I accomplished what I set out to do. Dad did not get sick or have to go to the hospital for the three years I took care of him. He did not die in agony. He was peaceful and died in his sleep."

Now that is a blessing.

Chicken Dreaming Corn, a novel

I was reminded of this book by Roy Hoffman, which I consider to be The Great American Novel, when I read a tweet this morning by the NBC foreign correspondent , who mentioned a bakery founded in Brooklyn by a Syrian immigrant. Chicken Dreaming Corn is the story of a neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama, that featured a number of immigrants from several countries. I always feel glad when I remember this amazing book because the story is great while the feel is very, very personal. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Some Benefits From Being There

"Wake up. Wake up, Rick. Our neighbor has been in an accident and needs us." That was the beginning of this morning ... or, more accurately, that was the beginning of the part of the morning when I was willing to become awake. I had been awake shortly after dawn but settled back into sleep - and into one of my traveling or movement dreams, a pleasant one. When the wake-up call came, with soft pinches of toes and rubbing of feet, and a gentle but alarmed voice by my loving partner Holly, I rose readily although gingerly. It was 8:30 a.m., and I knew I had had enough sleep to be able to function as our neighbor needed me to do; but I was a bit stiff and not yet alert.

I got dressed, washed my face to get more awake, then went into the kitchen to heat some coffee to help more with waking up. Holly told me that our neighbor was not hurt, but that her car was damaged; and she needed us to pick her up. So, we drove to where we thought she was, called from the car when we did not find her, and then got to her location, where she was talking to a police officer.

The sky had been grey, and the temperature mild when we arrived. As time passed, while we waited for the AAA man to load her car onto the tow truck, the sky finished clearing, but it seemed a bit cooler. There was no more spattering of rain, so I had left my Cardinals baseball cap in the car.

I watched the tow truck operator, impressed at the skill he showed in his work: one wheel and tire were at a cock-eyed angle, and he had to remove them and guide the car up the ramp of the trunk without causing further damage to the suspension or other under-carriage parts of our friend's car. This took a number of different actions on his part, using a multiple-step process of leveraging the car and clearing space. He was patient and careful, and he did his work competently without rushing. As someone with few physical skills, I admire people who can actually do things, can take something that is not working, or not working optimally, and cause it to function well. This man could.

Holly and I were at the scene for a little over an hour, our friend and neighbor more than three, when we were able to leave and return home. We were both impressed at how calm and accepting our friend was, although we knew that this accident had caused - and would cause - substantial stress and inconvenience to her. For the second time today, I was impressed with the skills of another person.

The three of us talked through the detritus of having been through the accident scene: did she need food; verifying that we would be home all day should she need us, confirming that we would be available to take her to see her doctor should that need arise today or tomorrow. We all expressed gratitude for being one another's neighbor - and friend - there to help when one of us needed it.

Then Holly and I went upstairs to have some coffee and go on with our day. From my point of view the day had started off very well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Living Through an Anxious Day

Yesterday, after an early surprise, I confronted the anxiety I felt and found a surprising response: "regardless of result, it will be all right." So, I ate regularly, read a lot, moved around a little, waited awhile, read some more, contemplated a nap ... did not take it, but read some more.

In earlier times I have had trouble handling anxiety - lots of trouble. I have spent much - way too much - of my life wondering worriedly "What if?" (This worry has not led to commensurate accomplishment.)

A valued result came yesterday from fearful but direct and honest action the day before. Some insight came to me as a result of committing to open communication yesterday. Some freedom resulted today from lessening of the power of yesterday's anxiety.

So, openness has been fruitful in results and in feeling at (relative) peace. I will endeavor to be more peaceful ... and therefore fruitful.

[I continue to be grateful for the words and wisdom of Alan Watts, Gail Wilson and Jason Weston.]

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Paying Attention to What We Need

I know that I ought to - no, must - eat at least every two hours. My body does not work like the bodies of most people, so I eat every two hours. That seems simple, and usually this does not cause any problem. Yesterday, though, I lost track of how long it had been since I ate, even though I had eaten a good meal and did not feel hungry.

So, as we were walking back from the library I became, without any warning, ill at ease, a little bit physically unstable and anxiously aware that I needed to eat, right away, in order not to fall over. We were half a block from our destination - La Boulangerie - a wonderful bakery in our neighborhood. We went in, and I hurriedly picked something, something sweet with quick-metabolizing sugar. I had time to pay and walk to the table. I thought I had time to do those actions and eat, and thus be okay, but I did not. I was able to eat but not able to stave off what had already begun. After eating and taking some glucose pills we walked home, and I drank a glass of water and went to bed. Three hours later, I woke up and felt fine but was, in fact, worn. After staying up till bedtime, I slept ten more hours.

This is just one of those things - really, it is not too bad, and not dangerous. But it is something that changes the days of people with Type II diabetes. Everyone gets hungry; but if I wait to eat until I notice I am hungry it is likely too late to avoid an incident like this, resulting in my body needing a lot of sleep in order to get back to what seems to be normal functioning. I say "seems to be normal functioning" because that is just a guess, because during the extra sleep time I am neither eating nor hydrating - another requirement that diabetics must do regularly, not only when they are thirsty, to avoid becoming disoriented.

Aging, of course, makes changes in our bodies and in what is normal for each of us. I have been fortunate in not having too many things go wrong. The onset of diabetes a few years ago gave me a glimpse of how bodily deterioration can go. Of course, it could be much (and may later be) worse, and for many people it is. I remember thinking - really believing - that if I were ever faced with a malady or affliction that required a major change in my habitual behaviors I would simply thumb my nose at that ... and say, "Do what you will" to the disease or debility. But, as I have with alcoholism lo these many years, I have found myself willingly adjusting to The New Me. I am not the "me" I used to be, nor am I the "me" I intended or hoped to be. But I am okay with the "me" I've become, the one who needs regularity, more sleep than before and is more a human being, less a human doing.

As to this latest change, it's just one of those things.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Morning at the hospital

Yesterday we went to the medical center for a diagnostic test. This is, of course, always a treat for anyone. As usual, we had been told to arrive 30 minutes early; I have never understood this instruction: Why should we be there a half hour before anything happens? But we were there, 35 minutes early, in fact. We went where we were supposed to go, per instructions; then we found we were in the wrong place. After awhile we were walked to the right place, where we sat in a tiny room with 8 other people who were also there half an hour early. The "security door" was opened by everyone who went in and out of the secure area, and it screeched every single time it was opened, approximately 3 times per minute. It provided no security for anyone but was very loud.

We waited 25 minutes past the appointed time, inhaling as many cough & cold germs as we were able in the tiny waiting-for-illness room. Then the one of us who was not having the test went back to the lobby and got coffee and began to read. In so doing I happened upon a melange of human beings who were also in the medical center for their own or a companion's test or treatment. To my delight, I found that a great variety of people came and went. There were people who appeared healthy and people who were hurting or distressed in some way. There were very old people, often assisted by someone else - sometimes even by someone else who appeared to be as old. There were young people. There were people of what we think/speak of as different races, and some of apparent different ethnicities. There were people who appeared impoverished, and people who were very well-dressed and apparently affluent.

There was also the very nice woman who made lattes and served coffee, who applied a senior citizen discount to my purchase without asking my age (she was correct). It struck me that she knew that I was distracted simply by being in a hospital - no one goes there for fun, or rather very few do. She did a thoughtful, unasked favor. And there was also a man, a customer like me, who made a kind comment - unasked and unexpected.

The time waiting was, then, not time wasted or disturbed/disheartening time. It was time shared with many other people, most of whom would not have ticked off "at the hospital" as a preferred manner of spending time, but who enriched my day. I hope some of them felt the same.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Getting my hair cut

I had intended to get a haircut before we drove to Nebraska in mid-December, but I didn't do it. Two months before, the guy who has cut my hair for a couple of years moved to a location that is inconvenient for me ... and takes me through a neighborhood where I do not feel comfortable. The previous place was 10 blocks from home, on Magazine Street; and I loved the walk. The new place is 2 miles from home, and I can drive, walk or take the bus. I had been there once but put off going.

As our driving trip approached I thought of the times I had gotten my hair cut while on the road. It had been an adventure - and fun - to stop wherever I happened to see a barbershop. So, I decided to get my hair cut on the trip; but we never passed an open shop.

As we approached Nebraska, Holly told me there was a hair-cutter in a town near her family's ranch, and I could go there; or I could go to the person who has cut her hair for years. Holly said she would call and see if that person was in town, or whether she and her husband had already gone to Arizona for the winter. It turned out they were already gone. One day when we were in the town near the ranch, I walked into the hair-cutting emporium that had a sign saying walk-ins were welcome. I was welcomed but told that she was fully booked for the day. We never made it back to that town, 10 miles away.

On the drive back to New Orleans, we did not see an open barbershop; so I was back to the issue of whether to go to the guy I like but who is no longer convenient or located in a place I am comfortable. The options apart from him are (1) much more expensive "salon" (and my hair does not justify more expense) or (2) the old-man barber shop that features the aura of every barber shop in the 1950's and earlier. I had been there twice before - over a period of three years - and do not like the feeling of being there. I thought about texting "my" guy and seeing if he had time for me today. He usually does. And then I thought again about going there ... and I decided to go to the old-man barbershop, which is 9 blocks from home.

When I arrived, there was one barber cutting one man's hair and two barbers waiting for customers. I got into the chair in front of the barber who was standing behind it. (The other was sitting in the customer section along the wall. With my great ability to figure out social situations, I gathered that there was a system or etiquette to this, and the guy behind the chair was next in line to receive a customer.) As soon as I sat down the barber (approximately 80 years old) asked the question that barbers and hair stylists always ask - and baffle - me: "How would you like your hair done?"

If I knew what was best for my hair, I would do it myself. I think those with the training and experience are far better suited than me to decide what should be done with my hair. That is never the answer, though, so I tried to tell him what I thought was best. He began to cut. Shortly, he brought a mirror to the side of my head and asked me whether I wanted more hair cut. I can hardly see without my glasses on, especially to the side of my head; and I didn't know whether I wanted more cut or not. So, I lied; I made up that I wanted more cut. He applauded me, thought that was best: "better to take off a little at a time, rather than cut too much," he said.

In ten minutes, the process was complete; I (over-)paid him and walked out. I over-paid him because I am terrible at dealing with the prices of haircuts: union barbers in New Orleans charge $17.00, but this shop gives a $2.00 discount for people 65 & older (of which I am one). Should I ask for $2.00 back from my 20-dollar bill, making it $15.00 plus a $3.00 tip; or is that Scrooge-like? I don't know. My regular (former?) guy offered no senior discount, so I always gave him $20.00, and I was happy with that. Should I, today, ask for a couple bucks back from this 80 year old barber because he was offering me (age 67) a discount? I don't know.

Now my hair is finally cut, and I feel guilty for abandoning my former guy, who I like. And I still have not figured out whether I over-paid the guy today.