Posted by: jevcat | February 18, 2013

Jonah’s Tantrum

The daily lectionary starts off Lent with an Ash Wednesday reading from Jonah (3:1-4:11).  We’re past the whale here and beyond children’s Sunday School story territory – though not beyond childish behavior.  Jonah, left without any other real option, gives in and goes to Ninevah to preach doom, destruction, and repentance – and the people of Ninevah, whether from true remorse or enlightened self-interest, do repent, so God spares them – which was God’s intent all along, as Jonah well knew.

God’s mercy does not sit well with Jonah.  (He is not alone in this; far too many of us want mercy for ourselves but not for people different from us — it’s for us, not them, and bring on the schadenfreude and that wonderful sense of being justified and righteous.)  So Jonah is angry and does what any self-respecting spoiled child would do:  he gets all petulant and pouts.  And he’s justified:  all that work, going up and down the city telling them all how wicked they are, and God doesn’t even have the decency to stand behind what he’s told Jonah to tell the Ninevites and destroy them.  Arms crossed, back turned, “Humph!” says Jonah, “I wanna’ die – go ahead, kill me.”

God is, I suspect, as amused and exasperated as any parent dealing with this sort of behavior, and asks gently, “Do you do well to be angry?”  God had been a parent for a long time even then and should have known better.  No kid wants to answer that sort of question accurately, and neither does Jonah.  He just stomps up to a place with a view of the city and plops down in hopes of getting to watch a good show if God does follow through and destroy the city.  Maybe if he does this, God will feel obliged to destroy it – justice meted out with a satisfying (for the watcher) impartiality.

By this point, if I were God, I’d be more tempted to thump Jonah than anyone in Ninevah, but God is a progressive sort of parent, and still trying to lead Jonah to see the right of things on his own.  So God has a plant grow to shade Jonah.  Things are going well now, Jonah must think, feeling like a baseball fan in possession of a stadium seat with unobstructed view but just under an overhang for shelter from direct sun or rain.  But then God sends a worm to kill the plant and a hot wind, besides.

Detail of Jonah window from Christ Church College, Oxford, borrowed from http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/visitor-information/what-to-look-for/stained-glass

Detail of Jonah window from Christ Church College, Oxford, borrowed from http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral/visitor-information/what-to-look-for/stained-glass

Now that things are uncomfortable, God asks again, “Do you do well to be angry?” and gets the sulky reply, lip stubbornly stuck out, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.  So there.”  (The Bible does not actually add “so there,” but I am fairly certain Jonah would have said it.  Or the Hebrew equivalent.)

Sometimes, the kid is just not going to “get” it, no matter what you do.  So God finally tells Jonah, “You have pity for the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, … And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city?”  I think this is again God trying to lead Jonah to better behavior – I sincerely doubt Jonah pitied the plant; he pitied only himself, and I’m afraid I have been in that position, too.

And that’s where the story ends.  The Bible doesn’t tell us if Jonah ever grew up and learned to think of anyone beside himself, stopped wanting to see other people punished (even if some of them are actually innocent) rather than wanting to see them move on to something better.  Maybe that’s because people in general are still trying (or not trying) to learn that lesson, and it’s not that far from “Yes, I do well to be angry” to “Crucify him!”

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Posted by: jevcat | January 13, 2013

Epiphany Wonderings

Jutta's Stars-2

It’s Epiphany season, and although (or perhaps because) I wound up not getting to church last Sunday for the big celebration, the thought of Epiphany has been floating in the back of my mind, periodically bobbing up and down, all week, maybe sort of like that star the Three Kings followed.

I can’t imagine dropping everything to follow a star.  I’m a nester; I’ve moved only once in my life, 27 years ago, and I think I’m still traumatized.  In some ways, though, I’m a follower:  I prefer to work in the background and generally am uncomfortable being in the spotlight.  And I try, not especially successfully, I fear, to be a follower of Jesus.

But we all follow something or someone, I think, even those of us who lead – follow many things, in fact, in different ways.  And what we follow says a lot about us and who we are.

So I guess what I’ve been trying to figure out this week is:  what star(s) am I following? (other than see above).  Do I know what my goal is (come to think of it, did the Magi know? — They thought they did, but I rather suspect what they found wasn’t what they expected, which may be true for many of us).  What does what I follow that say about me?  Do I like the direction?  Does it feel right?  Where has it lead me?  And, perhaps most important, should I be going home by another way?

//

Posted by: jevcat | January 6, 2013

Epiphany 2006

A re-post, for the season:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We wandered far

chasing chimeras,

will-o-wisps,

there and gone

 

A bit of light,

a firefly,

there and gone.

 

No pillar of fire —

nothing so certain —

flickering candles…

Were they there at all?

There and gone.

 

We followed, with hope

there and gone.

 

So busy we were, in our moth-lives,

we might have missed it,

the star,

there and gone.

 

But we saw,

we ourselves

there and gone,

and home by another way.

 

Leading light,

there and not gone,

not then,

not now,

not ever.

 

Oh light-split night

no dawn so bright

Darkness rent

night spent

Glory.  Glory.

//

Posted by: jevcat | January 5, 2013

Things I Have Learned from Our Puppy

This fall – just two days before hurricane Sandy – my Beloved and I took possession of a then-12-week-old golden retriever puppy to train as a service dog for him, taking over from our wonderful Sam in the next year or so, with Sam moving on my Beloved’s family in Maine, one of both of their favorite spots, and a second career as a therapy dog.

We (including Sam and the cats) have spent the time since adjusting to life together and beginning the training of the puppy, whom we named Charlie.  This has been a learning experience for all of us, not just Charlie, and I would like, as a new year’s gift, to share some of those learnings:

It’s okay to lean on a friend

Lean on Me-Sam & Charlie_2-Crop

Treat everyone as a friend unless they prove otherwise

Sometimes a little dancing is good for you (photo)

Charlie Dancing with Kate

Take the time to sniff the roses – and everything else, too

Position is everything in life

Charlie Asleep Upside Down

Running around in circles doesn’t get you anywhere

Cat naps are not just for cats (and peaceful co-existence can work)

Family Nap

 Life is an adventure – go for it!

//

Posted by: jevcat | November 4, 2012

Sandy on Staten Island

Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,

O still, small voice of calm.

(652-Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Hymnal 1982)

Well, we didn’t get the earthquake.

It has been an interesting week in Staten Island, New York.

With hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Northeast, last Saturday my Beloved and I picked up our new puppy, who will be trained to take over for his aging service dog, and a friend and I drove to our favorite shopping place, nearby in Bayonne, New Jersey, to stores that may no longer be there.  It was already overcast, with multiple layers of clouds flying by in sometimes different directions.

Sunday clouds continued to build, as did wind, and there were scattered showers.  We made sure elderly twins in our building had food, visited an elderly friend in assisted living, battened down the hatches, taped the windows, and settled in to the background howl of the wind.  I baked a batch of butterscotch blondies, half with chocolate chips, while we still had power, which we were sure we would lose before it was over.

There wasn’t as much rain as hurricane Irene last year – which meant our bedroom window frame didn’t leak as much and we didn’t have ponding in our bedroom.  But the wind was worse, not just howling but literally shaking our six-story brick apartment building.  It had reached Irene levels with the storm still 500 miles away, which was unsettling, to say the least.

Monday, we watched on CNN and the Weather Channel as the storm moved closer – and fielded a phone call from my best friend, now in Houston, announcing:  “You guys are screwed.  Jim Cantore [Weather Channel] is in Battery Park.  If Jim Cantore is where you are, you’re screwed.” – which at least made us laugh.  I began to seriously wonder if our windows would hold [spoiler alert:  they did].

My Beloved chose his times to walk the dogs, trying for brief lulls between bands.  Monday evening, with many lights already out in our neighborhood, I went with him to help.  The cats and adult dog had been uneasy in the storm but the puppy, even out in the darkened street, was cheerfully oblivious, trying to jump on top of the older dog, trotting along, chasing blowing leaves, his ears flying in the wind.  An 11-week old puppy can lighten the heart through anything.

Back home, watching the green fire that periodically lit the sky like the aurora borealis as transformers blew all around us, keeping touch with friends and family with texts and e-mails, we began to hope we might, after all, not lose power.  Then the lights blinked on and off twice, and went out.

For the next three days, solar and battery-powered flashlights and radios gave light and information, and a phone charger let us have minimal outside contact.

Tuesday dawned windy, but with the worst over, and we walked the dogs along what was left of the waterfront – at least until the cops chased us.  What we saw was devastation.  Living on a hill (most folks don’t realize Staten Island has the highest natural point between Maine and Florida), we had never been afraid of flooding, but flooding was what had done the worst damage on the shore.  Heavy wooden benches with hurricane strapping had been tossed, large old trees uprooted from saturated earth, seawall vanished.

We ran into two ladies from a waterfront development who had not heeded the evacuation order, heading for the local precinct to ask for police protection and clearing of the roads down to them, which were blocked.  They told us floating beams had smashed through the windows of first floor apartments, demolishing them.  Walking over there, we saw concrete ripped off the exterior of at least one building, rebar exposed.  The walkway along the water was gone or sunken in spots, so no one dared to use it.

When we got home, a neighbor who is also a dear friend knocked on our door for help with his roommate’s medical emergency, his own cell phone being dead.  We called 911, and my Beloved, a former EMT, struggled up three flights of stairs with his crutch to offer assistance while I ran down to meet the ambulance and guide them up the six flights to the apartment.  After the medical folks took the patient to hospital, I followed with our elderly friend in my car, driving around fallen trees and downed power lines, and cautiously edging past intersections with darkened traffic lights.  We were glad that the hospital, in a flood and evacuation zone, was powered and operating.  (The patient, in the early stages of a stroke, is now fine and back home.)  Later, taking a different route home, we saw flotsam and jetsam left when the water had covered the main street, which is a bit more than a block from the water.

A nearby friend never lost power, so I spent my days at her place, charging the charger, phones, and laptop, walking home and up the stairs by flashlight.  Evenings, we ate catch-as-can, candlelight dinners from the slowly warming fridge with our neighbor.  Power came back Thursday evening, announced as I “charged” at my friend’s, by the caller ID on my phone lighting up with my home phone number, and I greeted my Beloved with a joyful “It’s back!”

For us, it was challenging and sometimes dangerous, but not, in the end, much more than an inconvenience and some degree of financial hardship.  For the shore communities of Staten Island and New Jersey, it was, for many, if not the end of the world, the end of theirs, in some cases literally, in others it might as well have been.  No one I know died, but my auto mechanic’s girlfriend lost her home and everything in it – still leaving her better off than the three people on her block who died (all of whom would be alive if they had heeded the evacuation order).

I think even those of us who got off easy will be a long time processing what happened.  I have no answers (except maybe, if the government tells you to evacuate, you evacuate).  But I listen for the stillness at the heart of the storm, and look for what I can do to help.
Because I had difficulty uploading them, some of these photos are out of order.  (The dog pictures are because I couldn’t resist.)

Posted by: jevcat | September 26, 2012

The Baseball Diaries or: Mets, Milestones, and Memories

 

“Play ball!”:  when used in combination, are there any more magical words in the English language?  – especially on a sunny, warm, and windy early fall afternoon, when clouds are moving so fast their shadows look like a time-elapse video as they cross the field.

Baseball seems to run in families – and I’m not talking about the Alou brothers, the Niekros, or the extended Bonds family.  I’m thinking more of my own family.

Mom was a Brooklyn Dodger fan who had the misfortune to live in northern Manhattan, in close proximity to the Yankees and, in those days, the even-closer Giants.  Family legend tells of the time Mom and our cousin Cliff nearly got lynched at the Polo Grounds when a Dodger hit a game-winning home run and Mom leapt to her feet with a roar, accidentally showering the row in front with the contents of a bag of peanuts.  She never reconciled to the loss of the Dodgers, and my younger brother and I were nurtured on tales of Dodger exploits, particularly those of her beloved Pete Reiser being carried off the field after yet another collision with the outfield wall, and her continuing regret over what his career might have been, if only outfield walls had been padded in those days.

A family predilection to root for the underdog kept us from being Yankees fans, although my brother and I did eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, develop a fondness that finally blossomed fully in the years of Jeter, Posada, et alia (and after George Steinbrenner began stepping back a bit).  [I still remember with what impatient and delighted anticipation I waited for my brother to get home from school the day the Yankees hired Billy Martin to manage for the third (or was it the fourth?) time.  Ensuing conversation:  Me:  “The Yankees have hired a new manager.”  Brother:  “Who?”  Me:  “Billy Martin.”  Brother:  “No, really, who?”]

With the birth of the Mets in 1962, Mom, like so many others, finally found another hapless team to which to transfer her allegiance, and my brother and I were raised to be Mets fans  (within the family, it is not necessarily considered an accident that my brother was also born in 1962, although there is some feeling it might just be kismet).

My brother’s and my very first live baseball game was at the new Shea Stadium, when our uncle, who worked for the Daily News, got us press seats to see the Giants and Mets.  Press seats!  Willie Mays!  Heaven!  We could all barely contain ourselves on the bus out to Shea.  Our rapture was only somewhat tempered by the discovery that press seats should be accompanied by oxygen and a Sherpa.

With families natal dates running from late July to early September, birthdays were often celebrated at the ball park.  Dad was not particularly a baseball fan (soccer was more his style), but he would often accompany us to games, living in hope that one of the vendors, instead of yelling “Hot dogs!” would yell “Franks!” so that Dad could respond, “You’re welcome!”  (This tells you much about our personal “life with father.”)

Although we could walk to Yankee Stadium [well, it was about a mile and three quarters, but we’ve always been a walking family and it took about the same amount of time as sitting on a bus in traffic for the Macombs Dam(n) Bridge], we went more often to Shea, a place of milestones and memory for us:

The time Tom Seaver was stuck in traffic in back of our post-game bus, and my pig-tailed, Mets-capped teenage self waved hysterically from the back window until traffic finally released the poor man to change lanes (the family held me personally responsible for Seaver’s multi-game losing streak that followed).

• My brother, me, my best friend, sitting in outfield seats when a foul ball flew in our direction, and we did our own baseball version of the Three Monkeys:  my brother, glove on hand, stretched for the ball; I reached out cupped hands, but flinching, turned my head; my best friend ducked and covered.  (In the end, it wasn’t really that close, and the prize went to someone else.)

• Getting almost field-level seats (back when those were still affordable, before they became the exclusive purview of the corporate world) to celebrate the team’s ballyhooed rookie at Strawberry Sunday.

• Players dear to our hearts:  Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, splashing through a wet outfield and making the sliding, tsunami-inducing catch; the cerebral (and beautiful) Ron Darling; Mom’s beloved Rusty Staub refusing to wear long sleeves, no matter the temperature; long, drawn-out chants of “Moooo-kie” and that world-lighting grin.

• The year we went to opening day and the stadium’s staff were totally unprepared, with food lines so long the bathroom doors were perpetually whacking whoever had the misfortune to be last, food ran out well before many of us made it to the front, and I wrote a scathingly sarcastic letter (I ran across a copy of the draft last year in a box of old papers) that scored us two tickets to a game of our choice later in the season.

• The game whose start was so long-delayed by rain that, when they finally got around to the Star-Spangled Banner, either the scoreboard or its operator were so well-lubricated by rain (or other liquids) that the posted lyrics were totally garbled, and my brother insisted on singing them as shown.

• The way we two Episcopalians so often have found ourselves accidentally at “Jewish Heritage Night,” with a resulting collection of t-shirts that say “Let’s go Mets” in Hebrew (although, our great-grandfather having been Jewish, it’s not entirely inappropriate).

• The time we had to wait outside for well into the game for a tardy friend whose ticket we had – a wait compensated, in large part, by getting to see a group of college-age young men with a copier-paper carton full of ice and bottles of beer whose co-conspirators entered first, lowering a rope down the open side of Shea which was tied around the carton so it could be hauled, hand-over-hand, up the side – losing only one bottle in the process – before the “ground crew” entered the stadium themselves, to enthusiastic applause of bystanders (an anecdote I wrote up and was published in the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diary” column during Shea’s last season).

• In the days before the seventh-inning beer cut-off, an afternoon slugfest where the section next to ours in right field, upper-deck seats contained a large group, half of which were rooting for the visiting team.  Each time a home run was hit, the other side’s fans would buy a round for the whole group.  The wonder was, no one was died or was grievously injured navigating the stairs on the way down – at least as far as we could tell.

Mom and Dad are long gone, alas, viewing games now from an even higher (but presumably better) vantage point, but my brother and I, with no children of our own to torture, re-tell these stories to each other (and any long-suffering friends who accompany us) every summer at the ball park.  There are no equally good Citifield stories yet, but we are working on it — the year Citifield opened, we made our first visit on my brother’s birthday, and I had the scoreboard flash his name in the group greetings.  It’s a nice park, much homier than the new Yankee Stadium (which in my humble opinion looks like a cross between something that would have done Albert Speer proud and a luxury suburban shopping mall).  We have high hopes for it.

It’s not as easy to get to games as it was, between our crazy schedules and current economic realities, but this year we were generously gifted with tickets to four games, two of which they actually won, and a third of which was a great game for eight and a half innings.  This past Saturday was the last of these, and the best:  conditions, conversation, and company, and all were wonderful (about the only down side to the day was I lost my Mets cap somewhere en route).

We even got to see the hot knuckleballer R. A. Dickey (if one can use the term “hot” for a pitcher whose fastest pitch occasionally grazes 80 m.p.h.).  We both have a soft spot for knuckleballers, as is at least one of my brother’s friends:  Conversation with friend at an earlier game when we also saw Dickey pitch:  Me:  “Has there ever been a knuckleballer with a bland personality?”  Friend (after long pause):  “No, I don’t think so.”.  We were disappointed when a tiring Dickey was pulled in the ninth, but, three Florida runs scored later, the Mets still emerged with a 4-3 win, no thanks to the reliever.  As the last ball was caught and we breathed a sigh of contented relief, my brother said with some disgust, “There ought to be something to call that other than a ‘save’,” to which I responded, “Sustained.”  My brother says we ought to remember that term.

It was our last baseball game of the season, and I didn’t want it to end, but like all good things, it did, and soon the season itself will be over.  The Mets won’t be going to the playoffs this year, but we’re Mets fans; we’re used to that.  And after all, there’s always next year.

Posted by: jevcat | August 14, 2012

Kinshasa Symphony

I saw an amazing movie tonight, Kinshasa Symphony, that I wish everyone who cares about music and everyone who believes in the human spirit – and especially those who have stopped believing – could see.  It’s a German-made documentary in French and a Congolese language with English subtitles that may be the most moving film I have ever seen – I spent at least a third of it trying not to sob audibly and could not talk about it for nearly an hour without risk of bursting into tears.  And it’s funny, too.

Kinshasa Symphony tells the story of L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanuiste as it prepares for its first public concert – a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth (!) –  through the stories of its amateur musicians:  the founder/conductor, an airline pilot who had been laid off and built an orchestra from people who frequently could not even read music when they began; the first violinist, who tries, not altogether successfully, to explain what an octave is, but explains beautifully what Mozart means to him; the orchestra manager, who sacrificed his own double bass to serve as a template for making instruments they have no other way of obtaining; the electrician who couldn’t find a job so opened a hair salon and whose task it is, when the power (and lights) die during rehearsal, to put down his viola and go get the generator running before returning to his place in the orchestra; the dignified single mother who plays the flute and brings her young son with her to rehearsal and on her seemingly impossible search for a decent, affordable place for them to live – these people will break your heart and build a home there, bringing joy to fill the broken places with them as they succeed.

The showing to which I went was, in part, an effort by the Harlem Opera Theater (http://www.harlemoperatheater.org/) to raise money to bring the Kinshasa Symphony of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to New York, Boston, and maybe Washington, D.C. next year.  I have no money to spare right now, but if they hadn’t run out of pledge cards tonight, they’d have gotten some of my grocery money.  They still might.

If you can find it, see this movie; if you are able, contribute to bring these folks here.  Meanwhile, here’s a link to an NPR review with video clip.

Posted by: jevcat | July 3, 2012

The Ladies Who Lap (Reprise)

This past weekend was the first in New York’s outdoor pool season, and, although now gainfully employed and so only able to swim on weekends, it is still a pleasure both to swim and to be re-united with the other “regulars” at the neighborhood pool.  One of them reminded me that, in a blog post two years ago, I had christened us “The Ladies Who Lap,” so, in her (or maybe our) honor, I am re-posting it:

Swimming is something I’ve done since childhood, when my dad taught me how to swim and my mom taught me how to body-surf.  Wide World of Sports and Olympic coverage gave me endless tutorials on technique.  All I needed was a place to swim.

In recent years, that place has been, at least in summer, Lyons Pool, a WPA project that used federal money to take the “lemons” of Depression (the previous one, I mean) unemployment to make the “lemonade” of paid work that is still paying dividends to grand-children – and probably great-grandchildren – of the men who built it (are you listening, Washington?).

Lyons Pool<br/>Photographer: Daniel Avila

Lyons Pool, photographed by Daniel Avila. http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/lyonspool/

 

Being unemployed myself, these days, I decided to make my own version of “lemonade” and swim every day, rather than just on weekends.  The pool opens at 11:00, and most days I’ve hit the water shortly thereafter.  On days when a camp is there, about half the pool is reserved for them, and those of us who want to swim laps practice our individual versions of steeplechase or obstacle course swimming.  But most days, a small portion at one end is roped off just for those who lap swim.

The area allowed is not large, and in late afternoon it can resemble the Long Island Expressway at rush hour, but earlier there is usually just a small number, and there’s a camaraderie that develops over time.  There are a few men, but most of us “lappers” are women:  The young woman who works nights and comes to swim beforehand.  The recently retired teacher, who’s been swimming here summers for a quarter century.  A German friend who is here for her annual month-long visit to her daughter, also a friend, who swims with us on weekends.  The very heavy blond, valiant in her bathing suit, accessorized between lockers and water by a flowing chiffon wrap from waist to ankles so even on land she seems to float – if Rubens painted a Valkyrie, she would have looked like this – and she swims, ever so slowly, but with an endurance that puts me to shame.  The somewhat less heavy (and less bold) woman who wears a swim dress with a hem past her knees and swims almost tirelessly but who drives everyone else crazy by talking incessantly – one is almost afraid to come up for breath for fear of finding oneself in the midst of a conversation one didn’t know one was having.

And yet we all talk, in between laps.  We are mostly middle age and older and continuous laps are more than most of us can manage.  But we are regulars, and the lifeguards are tolerant, so long as we catch both our breath and the latest news while at either end and not blocking the lanes.  The lanes are not marked, but there are few collisions, as we are usually careful not to run into each other, and time our starts in accordance with room available and our knowledge of each other’s speeds.

Most of us swim slowly, and we all have our preferred strokes, with breast stroke being the overwhelming favorite, although the talker favors Australian crawl and all but one or two of us switch, at least sometimes – me most of all:  My routine is to start with breast stroke, then move on, in turn, to Australian crawl, back stroke, and side stroke, although I cannot hold a straight line on back stroke so usually duck under the ropes and take my chances in the open area of the pool for that particular lap, not wanting to interfere with the others.

This year, to my delight, I have added the butterfly to my repertoire .  As a child I was fascinated by the butterfly stroke, which seemed somehow glamorous and special, but try as I might, carefully watching medal winners on tv in slow motion and trying to model my stroke after theirs, I could never do it for more than a few strokes – and that only in deep water.  Breathing while butterflying was impossible.  Yet I loved the feel a dolphin kick, and never stopped trying to put the pieces together (without drowning).  This year, magically, somehow everything fell into place, and the feeling of rippling through the water is wonderful and triumphant.  But then again, aren’t we all meant to be born again through water and the Spirit?

Posted by: jevcat | June 2, 2012

Day of Disaster and Story

It was a day that would have done Murphy proud – or made him cringe.  It was a Super Monday on a Friday, in a short week that shouldn’t have had a Monday at all.

Having spent all day Thursday thinking it was Friday, I woke up yesterday to the unpleasant realization that it hadn’t been, and no, I could not sleep in, I had to get up for work.  Worse, although it was payday (good) there were some bills due that I had to pay (bad), one of which would involve fighting over a charge (worse) – all before work.  So I stumbled out of the bedroom to the computer, and, just routine, checked my bank account.  Not only was the automatic deposit for my paycheck not showing, I had a negative balance.  WHAT????  Life is such that I had calculated – literally, I used a calculator – the amount of money in the checking account down to the last penny.  Apparently, for me a calculator is not enough.  Frantically scrabbling for my checkbook and calculator, I re-calculated last week’s numbers, and yes, somewhere I had punched in the wrong number, making the last several entries wrong and, instead of a balance of $16, I was in the red for $75, not counting the $35 bounced check fees that had not yet been assessed (not to mention that, to add insult to injury, the two overdrawn checks had only hit the bank the day before).  To quote Charlie Brown:  “Augh!”

And – PANIC! – my paycheck wasn’t there.  I hit Refresh.  Nothing.  Glanced at the clock, hit Refresh again.  Nothing.  Ex-ed out of the tab, opened a new one, logged in again.  Nothing.  Glanced at clock again – getting late.  Tried Refresh one more time, then went in to make lunch to take to work and breakfast for the boat, periodically crossing back to the computer and hitting Refresh.  Nothing.  I set up the espresso stuff for my Beloved, hit Refresh.  Nothing.  I start packing the bread, cottage cheese, fruit, hummus, carrot and celery sticks into my tote bag, hear my Beloved’s painful, slow morning progress from bedroom to bathroom (he is in the midst of a bad flare-up of his condition) and nobly resist the temptation to immediately run over to him, hysterically jumping up and down, waving my arms, and announcing the twin disasters.  I try the computer once more:  SUCCESS!  My paycheck has arrived!  Technology is wonderful!  I try to pay the bill on line and find a glitch resulting from a previous misunderstanding has not yet been cleared up (technology is only wonderful when it works – my feelings about modern technology resemble those of Ghandi when asked what he thought about Western civilization:  “It would be a good idea.”).  Frantically I scribble out a paper check, hunt for a stamp for the envelope, and scrawl the phone number on back of an envelope and shove all in my purse so I can mail the check and call and tell them it is in the mail.  I glance at the clock:  I have now missed the ferry I wanted to get.

I kiss my Beloved, tell him (probably too soon) what has happened, glance at the clock – getting late for the next boat – and race to the kitchen to slam my tea for the boat into the nuker, race to the bedroom, throw my clothes for the day onto the bed, race into the bathroom for morning ablutions, at the end of which I reach for a Q-tip and, in the process, jostle a bottle of Revlon Wild Lemon perfume, one of two that recently emerged from the bottom of a carton at back of a closet, along with assorted other detritus from my youth not seen in decades (curious if it was still made, I Googled and ran across ads for “Vintage” Wild Lemon; sigh).  I watch as it totters, tumbles, and hits the tiles with a spectacular smash, smithereens and miniscule shards flying up and scattering across the narrow bathroom, including into the cats’ food and water dishes.  The refreshing scent of lemon fills the bathroom.  Feeling a slight sting, I look down and see a tiny drop of blood emerge from a spot on my foot.  So much for that next boat.

The survivor. It still has the price sticker on it that says “Korvettes” — which for New Yorkers will tell just HOW “vintage” it is. I feel old.

Down on all fours, I cleaned up, sniffling with self-pity, fighting off my Beloved who kept insisting he could do it despite my pointing out that, with the flare up, he is having enough to do just staying vertical.  Won that one, lost the argument about me wanting to walk his service dog for him.  Band-aided the two nicks on my foot (found the second while tending to the first), grabbed my now-lukewarm tea, and raced down the hill to make a boat 45 minutes after the one I’d planned on.  Of course, it was late and I could have sauntered down in leisurely fashion and still made it.

Took the subway instead of my preferred bus because of the time factor, but decided to splurge and buy a raspberry corn scone and mini-sticky bun at Eli’s in Grand Central Market on the way from train to office.  I picked up the scone, deposited it in the bag, which it promptly dropped straight through the bottom of and onto the floor.  At this point, my sense of humor would normally have kicked in, but it didn’t, so I knew the situation was dire.  Fortunately the cashier had seen the whole thing and just told me to take another.  I paid with a $20, shoved the bills and coins of change into my slacks pocket and headed for the office.  Shortly after arriving, I put my hand into my pocket and discovered that, while the coins were still there, the $15 in paper money had vanished, and nearly cried again, feeling as though it were divine retribution for having spent money on pastries.

But then my part-time assistant came over, I started to tell him the tale of my sorrows, and, when I got to the part about the scone’s long descent, my sense of humor finally kicked in and I started laughing.

All of which is a probably over-long way of getting to the insight:  human beings are story-tellers.  I’ve always known I was, but it’s not just me.  Scholars, anthropologists, and philosophers have spilled much ink (and nowadays used many electrons or whatever) in trying to define what makes us human, but I think that this is it:  we tell stories.  And our stories can make us laugh at and with ourselves.  We now know animals can convey information, sometimes quite complex information, but (so far as we can determine) they don’t tell stories – healing, laughter-inducing, joy-and-pain-sharing stories.  Perhaps all that makes us human, and all we have achieved, began with the first human to say, “Let me tell you a story.”  Perhaps all of Creation is God’s way of telling a story.

Posted by: jevcat | May 28, 2012

The Greening of St. George

Spring shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Easter and warmer weather announce it.  So do spring blossoms and attendant allergies.  But somehow it does, at least sometimes.  I opened my eyes one morning a couple of weeks ago, and suddenly the trees had leaves.  When did that happen?

Maybe it has to do with the schedule I’d been keeping of long hours at the day job and evenings and weekends (and commutes – and eternal blessings on the friend who gave me her old laptop!) tethered to my computer with freelance work – welcome for needed income, but rough on both me and my Beloved (Hello.  You look familiar.  Don’t you live here?)  Or maybe it’s related to the fact that we had an insanely mild winter or that the trees we can see from our bedroom (the ones the organization that owns the building in back of ours hasn’t cut down, that is – don’t get me started) are of a late-blooming variety, but somehow, some way, I missed it.

And for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been walking around the world wide-eyed and astonished.  Is it always this green?  Have I just forgotten?  And have there always been this many shades of green?  Is it even possible that there are this many shades of green?

So before spring runs right into the arms of summer and we all start feeling a little wilted and scorched, I thought I’d share the wonder a bit with a few photos of spring as it currently appears in St. George, Staten Island, my neighborhood, where the trees are such a bright explosion of greens, even recent grey days have not really seemed dark.

 

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