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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.
6) IT IS GOOD TO HAVE A SPOUSE WHO WILL TIE YOUR TENNIS SHOES SO YOU CAN GO FOR A WALK, EVEN IF YOU HAVE ONE ARM IN A CAST, OR MAYBE BECAUSE YOU HAVE ONE ARM IN A CAST

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.