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Sunday, October 2, 2016


Headlines scream: “Trump Wall Built: Total Success.” “Muslims Have Been Rounded Up.” “Dissenting Journalists Disappear.” And one of my favorites: “All the World Marvels at American Greatness.”

It’s day 200 of Trump’s first term. The talking heads said look at the first 100 days.  But that went by in a streak of TV, cable news channels, and news articles covering nothing but Trump doings. Trump appointed Donald Trump, Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy while Congress was in recess. Trump banned overweight women from appearing in public without full body coverings.

Trump started his own reality and news TV channel. The ratings are out the roof. Citizens competed to be on the show to win a lifetime pardon for any crime they might commit. The first winner was Trump’s son-in-law. Chris Christie, now Secretary of State, also competed but didn’t win. Just goes to show you the program isn’t rigged.

Trump awarded himself a lifetime exemption from paying any taxes and also 20% of all revenues derived from federally owned properties. Crowds wearing caps that say: “Ain’t America Great!” cheered.

And then came the loyalty oaths. Anyone who wanted to work for or stay employed by the federal government, work as a government contractor, or receive any government entitlement, such as Social Security, Veterans benefits, or government pension had to sign.

Soon all large employers and most state and local governments were following suit and also were requiring their employees and retirees to sign the oath. The State of West Virginia and the City of Austin had refused to require a loyalty oath of their employees and contractors. All their federal funds were shut off. Soon they were back in line. It’s good to know everyone is loyal, isn’t it?

There were rumors some left-wing Hollywood types had tried to put up a fuss about signing. They claimed it was a Joe McCarthy-type communist witch hunt. But most of them signed. There was talk of independents who were holding out. That in some secret locations there was renegade news, films or shows with actors or writers who hadn’t signed the loyalty oath.

But very few average citizens were brave enough to try to see such showings. Rumor had it the renegade news and films showings were just to ferret out the un-Trumps. Armed crowds of Trump supporters somehow always found those secret locations and clubbed, shot, or pepper sprayed anyone not wearing the “Keep America Great Caps” who happened to be in the area.

All the while Team Trump turned a nice profit on the caps bearing the different “Great America” logos, as they are known. Everyone bought at least one. It isn’t safe to go out without a Great America cap. You have to hand it to Trump—he’s a great businessman.

Some professional athletes thought they could avoid signing the oath. But if they didn’t sign, they didn’t play. And that was the last anyone heard of them. In fact, most people claimed all professional athletes signed the pledge and there had never been any disloyal players. I thought I remembered a football player, some player whose name ended in “nick”, hadn’t signed.

Don’t you like the way everybody is ok now if you identify people by their race, religion or nationality? But anyway, my friends tell me this half Polock, half Black football player exists only in my mind. And that I’ve got short term memory loss. If everybody says it, it must be so.

U. S and Russia have never been better friends. Putin praised all Americans for finally electing a great leader. Kim Jong-un even jumped on the Trump bandwagon. It’s a good thing we have alliances with those good friends. Because some disloyal countries considered attacking us. Emperor Trump (oh, did I mention, that’s his new title?) quickly forced them to back down. He’s so tough!

The news channels all reported our success in immediately defeating our enemies. But sometimes I wonder why the mandatory draft of all citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 is needed. Of course, men and women are segregated. For the protection of the women. Trump really looks out for the soft womenfolk. But sometimes I wonder where have all the young people gone? And why?

I’ve tried to stop all this wondering. Trump TV tells me it’s better to enjoy the show than it is to ask a lot of questions. Questions just lead to unhealthy thinking. And Trump is the healthiest thinker our country, even our world, has ever known.

There was a time, back just in 2016, when I thought we weren’t the greatest nation. I wasn’t sure about Trump as President. And I thought a woman President wouldn’t be all that strong. Women tend to get whiny or shrill. I was tired of seeing Hillary in pantsuits and I was so tired of hearing about her emails.

I knew Trump could do better. I wasn’t sure I understood his positions on everything or how he would make his promises come true. But I really thought he would make our country great again. And he believed in what I believed in. Sometimes I wasn’t sure just what that was but I’ve always been sure he would fix everything.

And he has. Now I have a job. I work in the coal mine again. I don’t make much money. But I don’t need much. And I don’t have any time to spend money anyway since I work a 60-hour week. But Trump works three times as hard and as long as most people, a 180-hour week. The news reported that. So I really can’t complain.

Rumor has it the coal we mine is dipped in gold and then shipped to Florida for the latest Trump mansion. It looks amazing on TV. It’s an honor to have a part in building such a mansion for our leader.

I sort of wish I had health care again. I also wish I could afford to pay for public school for my kids. But as Trump says, “We all have to tighten our belts and make sacrifices if we are going to stay the greatest nation.”

And Trump says some kids can do better without going to school. My little Johnny will have the honor of starting work in the mines next year. Child labor laws have been abolished. Since we stopped immigrants from coming to this country we really have been able to put all Americans to work. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Black Men Dying

At the gym on Friday the TV news caught my attention and that of a number of other women as we passed through the locker room. Video of one of the latest shootings by police of a Black man had just been released.

I didn’t happen to know any of the other women who had gathered near the TV. The dominant question the newscasters were debating was whether the video answered the question of “Had the Black man been holding a gun”. The question most of us around the TV were asking each other was, “Which shooting was this?”

That’s not an entirely surprising question for several reasons. First, we all had been just passing through the locker room, either coming or going to a class or physical therapy, using the equipment or facilities.

Second, shootings of Black men regularly are in the news. Almost every day or so another video or newscast of such a shooting hits the headlines.

Finally, the actual news program was adding to the confusion of which shooting was on this video. Some of the women standing there with me thought this was the shooting in Tulsa.

As you may recall, in Tulsa a woman police office had just been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher. While we watched a video of police officers shooting a Black man, the scroll across the lower portion of the TV screen stated that a policewoman in Tulsa had just been charged with manslaughter.

Although it was thus not unreasonable to assume we were watching video from Tulsa, in fact, the video being shown was of the Charlotte shooting.

In the Charlotte shooting, Keith Lamont Scott had been sitting in his vehicle waiting for his son to arrive on the afternoon school bus. Police officers had come to this particular apartment parking lot to serve a warrant on another man. The officers had seen Scott sitting in a vehicle.

The latest reports have been that the officers saw Scott rolling a joint with a gun visible when they asked him to exit his vehicle. None of the videos so far have confirmed or refuted what Scott was doing in his vehicle or what he had in his hand when he exited the vehicle.

The video on TV on Friday afternoon had been taken by Scott’s wife before and during the Charlotte incident. She can be heard telling the police her husband had a “TBI”--for traumatic brain injury. She also said several times he was unarmed. And she repeatedly said to her husband, “Don’t do it.”  

None of us watching could be sure what she was telling her husband not to do. Nor did the video conclusively show, at least to the naked eye on TV, if Scott was holding a gun.

Most of the women watching the TV in the gym were about my age, seniors. Most also were white. Not too surprising since it was the middle of the afternoon on a Friday at a very nice, suburban gym.

One woman turned to me and said, “I think he must have had a gun. Why else would his wife say, ‘Don’t do it.’ to him?”

I replied “I’m not sure why the wife was saying that.” And then I added, “I still don’t know if he had a gun.”

As my fellow gym member turned to walk away, seeming to end our conversation, she said, “I’d hate to be a police officer nowadays.”

I replied, “I’d hate to be a Black man.”

Now the police have released some of their videos in the Charlotte shooting of Scott. Those videos also fail to answer the question of whether Scott was holding a gun when he exited his vehicle or at the time he was shot.

Lest you think I and the other woman ended up in a shoot-out at the gym on Friday, let me reassure you. The woman I had been talking to turned around and came back. We continued talking. We both agreed with the other’s point: it must be very difficult to be a police officer and make split-second, life-or-death decisions. We also agreed it is very difficult to be a person of color, particularly a Black man who is stopped by the police in today’s America.

The woman who had turned around and come back to talk to me told me about how afraid she sometimes is. She mentioned that she volunteers at a program to help recent immigrants. One of the women immigrants who had come for help was robbed by three young men as she waited on the porch of the office. The young thieves had taken her purse and all the cash she had saved. The woman told me how she had warned her granddaughters in college to never be by themselves, always stay with a group. We both agreed these can seem like dangerous times.

Science has documented most of us fear the “others”. People who don’t look like us. People of other colors. People from different backgrounds, different countries, of different religions. We fear terrorists. As we get older we may fear the young. Women often fear unknown men.

Minorities also no doubt are more likely to fear the police. And not without justification. They are 30% more likely to be pulled over than Whites; three times as likely to be searched; and twice as likely to be shot by police.

So what do we do to pull our country together? Maybe we need to start by turning around, talking and listening to each other, thinking about what the other person must be feeling and thinking. The cop on the beat who just wants to go home at the end of his or her shift to their family. The person of color who probably is thinking and feeling the same thing. Most of us thinking and feeling those same things

And a lot of this talking and listening would be so much safer and easier if the cops were the only ones with guns. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Trip to Spain Without Leaving Louisville

If the thought of long TSA lines, extra airline charges for everything, including an assigned seat and a suitcase, leaves you reluctant to even think about travel to Europe, consider instead a visit to Caffe Classico where you will be transported in an instant from Louisville’s Frankfort Avenue to a Spanish café.

On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and some Saturday nights, you will be greeted not only by a friendly host but also the soft background music of live flamenco guitar by Gareth Jones.

We recently enjoyed such a getaway and a satisfying meal at Caffe Classico. We sipped a crisp Caposaldo Pinot Grigio from Italy ($7.50/$25) as we munched an order of Belgian Pomme Frittes (7.50).

Caffe Classico offers a solid selection of wines, beers, and even soft drinks (for example, Fever Tree Ginger Ale, $2.25; Aranciata, Limonata, $2.50) and coffees (not only Espresso, Cappuccino, and the like but Caffe Roma, Melange and Cortado from $2.50 to $5.00), and a full bar.

The Frittes are the perfect indulgent appetizer for someone with a gluten allergy. As anyone with a gluten allergy or intolerance can tell you, he or she usually is left hungrily eyeing other diners who can partake of all the tasty, non-gluten-friendly appetizers at the same time they chow down on warm bread. Not so at Caffe Classico.

Many of the appetizers, which range in price from $7.50 to $13.95, are or can be served gluten free or vegetarian: Tapita Rustica, a cheese plate of artisan cheeses from sapori d’italia, rustic hard salami, grapes, olives, figs and baguette slices; Croquetas De Salmon ($9.50); Mussels ($9.00); Empanadas, three baked Argentinian style beef, chicken or vegetarian empanadas ($9.75); and Huevos Fritos al Caballo, a heaping helping of frittes topped by two sunny-side-up eggs garnished with tomato vinaigrette ($8.50).

A diner could easily be content ordering from just the appetizer list. But we were not. We next chose from the variety of tasty and good-sized salads on the menu, including standards such as Caesar, Greek, Nicoise, and the out-of-the ordinary: Ensalada Fresca (fresh mixed greens with fresh tangerine wedges and pine nuts); Tortoni Buenos Aires (chef salad), priced from $7.00 to $9.50. Most can be ordered in half sizes or shared. For an additional charge, chicken, shrimp, steak or salmon can be added to any of the salads.

After sharing the Frites we each had half salads.  I enjoyed the standard Caesar salad, without croutons; my partner enjoyed the Greek salad with black olives, cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and pepperoncini. Both of the half salads were well-made with fresh ingredients and generously-sized.

I ordered as an entrée the 7 oz. salmon, which came nicely browned in a technique I’ve tried to duplicate at home by sautéing at high temperature. After a lot of grease spatters and not quite as good a result, I’m happy to leave this particular preparation to Caffe Classico. The asparagus spears served on the side were roasted and tasty but the woody ends could have been trimmed—or broken as my momma taught me to do—a little more. Mashed sweet potato was another fine side. But placing it under the salmon, as is the current dining style to create a pyramid of the items served with the entrée as if the chef is in a remake of Spielberg’s “Close Encounters”, resulted in the unfortunate smearing of salmon puree on the salmon, thus obscuring the taste and crisp texture of the salmon. I’d urge Caffe Classico either to go back to serving rounds of un-mashed sweet potatoes or placing the mashed sweet taters truly on the side.

My spouse enjoyed the Garlic Shrimp Linguine, a generous serving of shrimp atop linguine in a garlic, white wine, and butter sauce. I don’t think you can go wrong with that combination of ingredients. Caffe Classico nicely complimented the delicate sauce with pine nuts, baby spinach and fresh asiago.

Other entrees include a variety of meat selections: Steak Frittes, Flank Steak, Sausages Alemania, Pork Tenderloin Con Grappa Miel, and Chicken Roulade, all with interesting sides. Vegetarian choices include Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta and Saffron Asiago Risotto Cakes. Entrée prices ranged from $15.00 to $18.00.

Soups, pizzas, and sandwiches, including a variety of paninis and classic Argentinian and Spanish sandwiches, round out the menu. But a diner who wants a fuller European experience would be wise to consider trying, as we did on another visit, the Iberian Jamon (Spain’s legendary ham) menu, which ranges in price from $6.00, for a tasting portion, to $30.00 for a full plate of Jamon Iberico. As the menus says, “Delicioso!!”.

After three courses, we were too satiated to consider dessert. Though we enjoyed watching a couple near us share chocolate chip ice cream.

Caffe Classico is closed Monday, and open Tuesday 10-3, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 am to 10 pm, and Sundays, 9-4 for brunch. Bueno provecho! or Bon appetite! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A few years ago when I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand I wrote the essay below. I now am posting it because I've had minor surgery on my right wrist.  I'm finding this meditation again instructive. If you already are one of those creative, left-handed types you can smirk if you wish at the problems a right-hander has trying to live left-handed for a change. I also will add that in 2016 some things are easier to do one-handed. thanks primarily to Siri on my iPhone.

For three weeks I recently engaged in careful, deliberate thought before I took any action. Before getting out of bed in the morning, lifting a bite of food to my mouth, or even grooming myself  I considered how important was the activity, whether it was worthy of the effort, and what was the best way to accomplish whatever it was I was contemplating undertaking in even the most menial of ventures.

No, I have not gone and studied with one of the philosophers of the east or begun a self-awareness program, nor have I entered a CIA training program to perfect my skills of detection, though I have gained considerable self-awareness during the three weeks in question.

What I did was fumble through my life for three weeks with a cast on my right arm following surgery for a carpal tunnel release and a repair to the tendons at my right elbow.

This one-armed experience is something many of you may already have encountered some time in your life, having broken an arm or otherwise injured yourself and had to wear a cast for weeks. However, I had been fortunate enough to not have broken any major bones as a child and only now have learned one of life’s great lessons, that is, it is a lot easier to survive in this world with two working arms and hands.

In the process, of my recovery I acquired considerable insight into how many small things we do in our daily life and take for granted being able-bodied and two-handed.

That is not to even mention the many obstacles to the lefties among us of which we right-handers also are totally oblivious. My brother, a leftie, predicted that as a result of the “cast experience” I would develop ambidexterity because I would be forced to not use my right hand. That did not happen, though I became adept at doing more things with my left hand I never thought possible.

My husband, a psychologist, predicted I would become more in tune to the creative side of my mind. As psychologists will tell you, the right brain, which controls the left side of the body, is associated with creative endeavors. So, my spouse speculated that being forced to use the more creative side of my brain to work with my left hand I would tap into previously unused creative cranial crevices.  I do not know if that happened either exactly.

However, having my right arm in a cast did lead me to some discoveries. No one predicted how easy it is to become frustrated when the simple things one wants to do become extremely difficult (washing and styling one’s hair, zipping  pants, or opening jars, for example) and in some cases nearly impossible (tying shoelaces or opening a can) without two hands. In exchange for the hassles and what easily could have become extreme frustration, however, I stumbled upon a number of unexpected benefits. When using only one hand, and that hand is your non-dominant hand to boot, I discovered one is forced to slow down, think through what one wants to do, and also determine the best way to accomplish the objective. There is no multi-tasking when one is doing things with one left hand. At least there is no multi-tasking for me under those circumstances. So, for example, if one wants to open a jar where the lid is tightly screwed on, or a childproof medication bottle, one can hold the bottle between one’s teeth, if the bottle is small enough, or between one’s knees if it is larger but not too slippery.

Of course, one could declare oneself helpless until the cast is removed. But I think that would make the three weeks in a cast incredibly long not only for the cast-wearer but for everyone around the cast wearer.

I made a number of other discoveries while wearing a cast. Before all of them fade into oblivion now that I have returned to the land of the two handed I thought I’d make a note of a few of them:

1) When I am not multi-tasking I have no problem recalling the exact word to describe a thought, feeling, or action. The short-term memory blackout I often experience disappears entirely when I am doing just one thing, rather than trying to do sixteen things at once.
 2) Pantyhose cannot be put on with one hand, and there really is no reason to put it on anyway.
3) Some things are worth appreciating when you are doing just that one thing at a time.
4) We are more creative in problem solving than we ever give ourselves credit for in rushing to accomplish things.
5) A lot of foods are difficult to eat with your left hand when you are right-handed. But many types of fruit are perfect to eat with one hand.

Now I am left wondering if these insights will leave me since I am back to normal and rushing helter-skelter through life without any thoughtful contemplation of how to hold the object I am opening, how to go to the next room and take three things along with me as well as a coffee cup, how to hold a book and turn to the next page using only one hand. I also wonder, if when I have carpal tunnel release done on my left hand it will be easier because I will be able to use my dominant hand. Or will some of these same insights come back to me. And would it be a good idea for each of us to tie one of our hands to our chest or behind our backs, if even just for an hour and see if we can discover the answers to some of life’s little mysteries using one hand but both sides of our brain.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Finding a Silver Lining at a Silver Diner

I’ve driven the some 260 plus mile stretch of Interstate Highway 64 between St. Louis, Missouri, my birthplace, and Louisville Kentucky, my home for the last thirty years, hundreds of times.
That stretch of interstate’s not a very interesting road: straight and flat for the most part with few stops along the way. Sometimes there’s flooding along the sides of the road, in Indiana and Illinois, sometimes there’s construction on the road. I’ve run into some major storms while driving that stretch. But it’s always been just a means to an end, getting from one city to the other.
The people in the car and the purpose of the trip vary. Holidays and special occasions: the car laden down like Santa’s sleigh with Christmas presents, our two sons when they were young and a big collie dog.
Traveling to my parents’ and my in-laws’ 50th wedding anniversaries, which as coincidence would have it, were the exact same date.  To accommodate our attending both, my in-laws had a lunch-time celebration; my parents an evening event.
I remember that trip because we were in a particular hurry; my husband got a speeding ticket. Our parents who were retired and relatively healthy at the time would have told us to take our time. I could almost hear my Dad, “Better to arrive in one piece and late than get in an accident.” I have to admit we haven’t always heeded the advice to take our time.
We’ve driven that interstate in sickness and health:  hurry-up trips when a parent or a relative was sick or had died. Depending on who was doing the driving we often compared our drive times, my husband’s always the shortest. When I drove alone it added fifteen to thirty minutes to the time, either because of extra stops or a lighter foot. Music, audio books or games, depending on our moods and who was in the car helped to pass the miles.
Many of the Louisville to St. Louis trips were over the last decade of my and my husband’s parents’ lives. Stress and worry were a constant on those drives as we often were racing to a hospital or rehab center because of the latest chapter in a string of difficult times. So many trips that only a few of those drives do I remember specifically.
The reason for one drive on that same stretch of I-64 was to return from a weekend get-together with two best friends from high school. We get together at least once a year, sometimes in fun locations, such as a five-day trip to Asheville, North Carolina. But many times our get togethers are just a quick add-on to a trip to our hometown to see family and friends.
Our friendships, originating when we entered an all-girl high school at ages thirteen and fourteen, have lasted now fifty years. Like traveling that interstate, our friendships have been in good times and bad. We’ve been in each other weddings, celebrated the births of our children, and for two of us, our grandchildren. We’ve shared the difficulties and joys of raising children, working in jobs we loved or hated, going back to graduate and law school. More recently, we’ve laughed together over the indignities of age. We have seen some husbands come and go, and have shared our sorrows with the passing of all of our parents. This trip, time and money led us to decide on a short trip to our hometown.
After a fun weekend and saying goodbye to my friends, I headed home on Monday morning, spurred to get an early start by my husband who had been watching the weather. He often checks the weather radar even if we are just crossing the street to walk the dog in the park on a cloudy day, frequently saving us from being caught in a sudden downpour. He advised I should leave early to avoid a line of severe weather coming in from the north, predicted to arrive in Louisville at 5 PM eastern. With the early start I thought I was on track to beat the storm by a couple of hours.
Stopping at a rest area in Illinois I saw a text from my husband updating me that the storm now had changed paths and likely would intersect I-64 right after Evansville, Indiana by early afternoon. My thoughtful husband suggested I stop in Evansville for a couple of hours to let the storm pass.
My husband and I had stopped at that exit just two weeks befoe with a packed lunch for me and to buy McDonalds’ happy meals for our grandkids. That trip with our two grandchildren in the back seat had been an unqualified delight. We went to a Cardinal baseball game, explored the twelve story playground that is the City Museum, and ate genuine frozen custard from Ted Drewes, coincidentally my very first employer. Giggles and “stump the grandparents” on a Presidential 20 Questions game passed the time on the drives there and back.
Evansville is the approximate mid-way of the drive, and would be a convenient stopping point for lunch again today. Except for the fact I had no packed lunch and all of the fast food restaurants at that location, where we had stopped hundreds of time to get gas, stretch and use the rest rooms, are not particularly friendly to someone with a gluten allergy, such as me.
Making fun of people who are gluten free is almost a national pastime now. It was a running joke in Asheville on the comedy bus tour my friends from high school and I took last year. Tom Waits, George Clooney and David Letterman championed “Free the Glutens” on one of Letterman’s last Tonight Show appearances. Articles abound with reasonable arguments that, except for the small percentage of the population with celiac disease, most people do not benefit from avoiding gluten.
All of that is fine, except for those of us who do have celiac or gluten intolerance. Even a tiny crumb of bread or cross-contamination with a wheat product makes me sick for days. There currently is no medication to help the gastro-intestinal discomfort and flu-like symptoms that result from a mistake at a restaurant. For that reason, I avoid most fast food restaurants and those without a gluten-free menu.
As a result, on long car trips, airplanes and at airports, concerts and stadiums, to name just a few gluten-free-hostile venues, I often find myself painfully hungry if I don’t bring my own food or if the venue does not permit outside food.
I wasn’t looking forward to prolonging my stop in Evansville this time, knowing all of the usual restaurants we had tried involved fast food and the only likely gluten-free option would be a drink. Nevertheless, I reflected that sitting with a bottle of water at a rest stop is better than trying to drive through a severe storm.
I recalled another trip home from St. Louis when an unexpected storm caught me in blowing, blinding rain where I was afraid to pull off the road but also afraid to continue on. Eventually, I was able to follow the taillights of a large truck and pull off at this same Evansville exit, hunkering down, along with a lot of 18-wheelers at an abandoned service station, as golf-ball-sized hail pelted the overhang.
I didn’t want to repeat that experience so I pulled off at the exit. Since wasting time was the point of my stop, I drove a half mile past McDonalds, Arby’s and the service stations. I had seen a new sign for a Denny’s and could not recall seeing that restaurant at this location.
Finally, I spotted what looked like a 1950’s-era, silver diner, tucked near one of the motels, barely visible from the road. I figured it would be more pleasant to drink an ice tea and sit at a table, even if I was hungry, than to sit in my car and wait for the storm to pass.
Stepping out of my fourteen-year old, boxy Toyota that no one would mistake for a time-traveling DeLorean, I nevertheless felt a bit like Marty McFly as I walked into a diner that looked like it had been transported from an earlier era.
The diner oozed the same old-fashioned charm on the inside as on the outside. A friendly waitress seated me and provided a menu, at which I barely glanced. After ordering ice tea, I asked the waitress if they had anything gluten free. To my surprise she pointed out the menu was color coded and clearly marked for guests with food allergies.
I thought the diner must be from “Back to the Future 4”, the yet-to-be-made sequel where the past combined the best of the old and the new, including foods labeled for people like me with food allergies. All gluten-free choices were clearly marked.  In addition to salads and entrée choices, sandwiches could be ordered on gluten-free bread. Breakfast, including gluten-free pancakes, was served all day. This was Nirvana for someone with celiac disease. I confidently chose a gluten-free salad, with grilled chicken. A meal that easily would satisfy for the long stop as well as the rest of the drive home.
Before leaving I asked the waitress when this Denny’s diner had opened. I expected it had been recently. She said she’d worked there for the last fifteen years. Apparently, we had just never ventured more than a mile off the interstate.
After a long-ish lunch break I called to check in with my husband of 43 years. I was beginning to think of him as my “personal weather man”. He said the storm had passed, the highway beyond Evansville should be clear sailing. He also suggested I take my time and travel safely. Strange words from one who in past years had often wondered why it took me longer to make the drive.
Driving home I thought back to one other Louisville to St. Louis trip. Ten years ago, on the day my Dad died, I quickly threw a few things in a suitcase and headed to St. Louis late in the afternoon, a time I had never made the drive. My husband and sons would join me the next day. I cried a little as I drove, but kept on that straight stretch of highway without stop until I could see the St. Louis skyline from Illinois. A sight I’d never seen before: a gorgeous sunset, framed by the Gateway Arch, hit me like a blow to the chest. My tears stopped and I smiled. I could almost hear my Dad say, “Stop and look at that amazing view.”
This trip to St. Louis and back to see my “besties” was not life changing. Nor was my short detour and stop at the Denny’s silver diner at the Evansville exit. Though failing to heed the changing weather and getting caught in a bad storm could have been.

I did almost hear my Dad’s voice again as I thought about the silver linings on this trip that will keep it in my memory as one of the memorable Louisville to St. Louis trips. I’ve come to treasure the value of family and good friends, reliance on my husband with his thoughtful concern, and I also found a great new stopping point for lunch where I can safely eat along a commonly-traveled road. How many more silver linings could I want?

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump, Not the Greatest

Trump now is the Republican nominee for President. Trump has painted a picture of hate, fear and doom. And claims he, and only he, will solve all of America’s problems.

You can rest assured Trump did not steal any of his speech from any previous candidate for U.S. President. Though it bears some resemblance to that of other narcissistic sociopaths. Compare it for example to Alec Baldwin’s speech in the 1993 movie, “Malice” where he announces he is god.

Before Trump’s triumphant and delusional acceptance speech of fear-mongering, the Trump campaign tried to kill the flap over plagiarism accusations against Mrs. Trump. Several sections of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention are word-for word identical to Michele Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention.

A Trump Organization speechwriter now has taken the blame for the plagiarism. But the irony continues—since that speechwriter works for one of Trump’s corporations, not the political campaign, the speechwriter’s work is an illegal campaign contribution. No matter, Trump and his entourage roll on. Rules don’t apply to “Him”.

But let’s pause for just a moment and consider the words that were stolen, words that speak of values and giving your word as your bond.

The actual words Melania Trump stole are even more remarkable than whom she chose to steal from. Let’s consider just Melania’s claim of what she learned at an early age from her parents— “you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say…and that you treat people with respect.” The exact same words, by the way that Michele Obama, wife of the first African-American President, whom Donald Trump falsely claimed had been born in Africa and thus was not qualified to hold the office of the President. 

What was it Melania meant when she referred to treating people with respect?

Nothing about Trump or his organization is consistent with living by values. Or people being able to trust your word is your bond.

The history of Trump’s business dealings contains mountains of evidence establishing his words are not his bond. He’s made his money by fast talk, tricks, and unfounded threats of litigation. If people are in his way, he makes fun of them and tries to humiliate them. So much for respect. He doesn’t fairly pay the people who work for him. So much for his word is his bond. His many bankruptcies are in keeping with how morally bankrupt he is.

Just take a peek at what Donald Trump’s ghostwriter has revealed about the dishonest, shady side of Trump.

Of course, now Trump’s lawyers are threatening his former ghostwriter for speaking the truth about Trump.

I pity Melania Trump if she actually believes any of the words she stole and used as her own. I pity all of us if we end up with Trump as President.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Muhammad Ali, The Greatest

This past weekend mourners came from across the globe as thousands from his hometown of Louisville Kentucky lined the streets of his funeral procession. All paying tribute to Muhammad Ali.

Ali universally is recognized with the appellation, “The Greatest”. Years ago, while travelling in London a Pakistani waiter, in difficult-to-understand English, inquired where in America we were from. Upon telling him we lived in Louisville, the waiter immediately replied, “Ah …Muhammad Ali, the Greatest Boxer.”

Muhammad Ali won Olympic Gold in 1960 as the light heavyweight and won the world heavyweight championship in 1964, 1974 and 1978. He was a hero to many and went on to far surpass the realms of boxing.

He also was a poet, recognized for his spoken word albums with two Grammy Award nominations, a humanitarian and a man of religious convictions. Numerous LGBT athletes praised Ali for his authenticity and activism. 

In Louisville, Ali also was a person you might run into on the street or at an ordinary restaurant.

In the commemorations of Ali’s life as we mourn his passing at age 74, there are a couple of significant aspects that are glossed over in all of the hoopla of this celebration of a life cut short too soon.

The first elephant in the room we seem to be unable to see is how and why Ali went from heroic, to vilified, to now sanctified.

There’s no dispute about the facts. Ali was a complicated, multi-faceted man and his life was not without controversy. In 1964 Ali changed his name to Muhammad Ali from Cassius Clay, what he referred to as his “slave name”. That and his membership in the Nation of Islam or Black Muslims, as it was sometimes called, and his outspokenness in the Civil Rights movement resulted in a host of very negative reactions.

He later converted to mainstream Sunni Islam. Ali, of course, also attracted wide-spread attention when he sought conscientious objector status. He eventually received that designation but not until after he was arrested and fought his conviction all the way to the U.S Supreme Court for his refusal to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.  Although Ali remained free, he was stripped of his title and his boxing license suspended. As the comedian George Carlin intoned, the government had decided that if Ali was unwilling to kill people in war they weren’t going to let him fight people in the boxing ring.

When Ali boxed, he was celebrated by white and black folks alike. But when he spoke, his words elicited hatred, derision and denial from wide segments of America.

During this time, while the media readily referred to actors such as Rock Hudson and Doris Day by the names they had chosen, most of the mainstream media for many years did not show Ali the simple respect to recognize his name change to Muhammad Ali.  

I am old enough to vividly remember the hatred and slurs, the only one I will repeat here, “draft dodger”, that were directed at Ali because of his stance on the Vietnam War and his embrace of minority rights and a religion many didn’t understand.  

Interestingly, the embrace of Ali by mainstream America seems to have coincided with the time, early in his career, when he was just boxing and not yet fully vocalizing his beliefs. And then again in his later years when Parkinson’s for the most part had silenced him. In the early 1990’s one could encounter a mostly silent, shuffling Ali in Louisville, a sad shadow of the proud, strong, outspoken young man he had been.

Today we again are hearing and seeing the same hatred of foreigners, those of another religion, race, sexual orientation, or ethnic group. We are left to wonder what Ali thought about the resurrection of the same ugly hatred that had been hurled at him during his days of speaking his truth to power.

Ironically, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Trump, the mouthpiece of much of today’s hatred, chimed in to mourn the passing of this boxing legend, barely pausing for breath as he spews forth hatred of everything Ali stood for.  

Another elephant in the room that everyone tiptoes around is the likely cause of Ali’s Parkinson, the disease that robbed him of speech and easy movement for more than the last two decades and that caused his early death.

I recently have heard and read medical experts interviewed about the type of Parkinson’s Ali had. They say they are trying to find ways to help those with Parkinson’s. As one expert put it, scientists are nowhere close to a cure. Instead they are poking at the edges, trying to find drugs that might lessen the impact of dopamine which treats some of Parkinson symptoms but causes difficult side effects all its own.

But where are the experts or opinion leaders calling out for changes in our sports, our culture, our humanity so that young men can become “The Greatest” without engaging in sports resulting in head blows which in turn result in brain damage? Damage that diminishes the quality of and shortens their lives. Boxing, like some other sports with high risk of head trauma, long has been a ticket out of the ghetto for men of color.

Shouldn’t we recognize they have become gladiators who pound each other for our amusement and entertainment? And shouldn’t we do something about that?

Ali was one of the greatest boxers. Maybe the best ever. But he was much more than that. Ask yourself--would we ever have known him if he had not first made his name as a boxer? We all know the likely answer to that question. And when will we live in a sufficiently  evolved society  where we can appreciate the worth of people without having them first engage in activities, for our viewing pleasure, which shorten their lives and rob them of even a middle age with an intact  body and brain.

We will be a truly great nation when we create paths for all of our citizens to achieve their full potential and greatness without destroying themselves or others to please the crowds.