This past week was a bit chaotic, getting my kid off to South Africa for her three-week internship at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre on the outskirts of Kruger National Park. She was surprisingly nervous for such an intrepid traveler, but by the time she arrived in Johannesburg yesterday – after 18 hours on two different planes with a four-hour layover in between during the early morning hours, so she couldn’t even enjoy some Heinekens in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport while she waited – she had calmed down and was ready to undertake her adventure. Today we finally figured out how to communicate via text and a pre-paid phone, so that offered some relief, too. While I was able to track her flight and knew exactly where she was in the sky at all times, it was still a little nerve-wracking until I knew for sure that she had touched down. My biggest fear was that she would fall asleep in the airport and miss her connecting flight. I’m looking forward to her photos and tales of her adventures.
The whole time she was preparing to go, I kept thinking about my (crazy, I realize now) parents letting me, at 15 years of age, fly by myself halfway around the world to live with strangers in Chile for three months (see “Viajes”, 7/14/15). There was no Internet or mobile phones in those days so that you could easily keep in touch. Now, of course, taking into consideration the time difference, you can have instantaneous contact whether you’re one mile away or 10,000 (more like 7,950, but still). And frankly, I was a terrible correspondent. I don’t know how they did it. (Perhaps they were happy to see the back of me!! I remember my mother telling me once that, from about the ages of 14 to 17, every time I came in the house the hair on the back of her neck stood up.)
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I’m still having flashbacks to this week’s Game of Thrones episode. It was the most intense hour of television I can recall in recent memory, and I’m counting down the hours to next week’s season finale, which promises to be another hour-plus chock-full of intensity. But what am I going to do with myself after next weekend, with no GOT for another year and no hockey for at least the rest of the summer? Maybe I should get out more, or catch up on some films. I have a list as long as my arm AND my leg of movies I want to see, but I’m not even sure any more how to go about getting access to them other than the ”On Demand” movies available on my premium cable channels. I may have to break down and get a “trial membership” for Netflix, which they’re always offering to me as a former subscriber. But, as I recall, they don’t have a great selection of films anymore, at least not available for streaming – and do they even still do the CD thing? Maybe I can binge-watch “Orange is the New Black” or “Orphan Black” or even “Breaking Bad”, which I never watched the first time around despite being highly recommended by someone whose taste I trust.
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I play Words With Friends obsessively. I have like ten games going, with friends and strangers alike. I don’t even really care if I win – I just like the challenge of playing against someone else, trying to make the best possible word with the letters I’ve got and what my opponent has left me on the board – and this despite the fact that the program crashes with alarming frequency. Lately Google Chrome has been putting up an “Oh, Snap!” icon and asking me if I want to give my feedback about how mad I am that I keep continually crashing, and I always send the feedback, but I don’t know where it’s going or if it’ll do any good. Who knows? Maybe it’s putting me on some kind of “clueless” list of people who have no idea of what viruses and malware they’re allowing to infect their computers. It’s actually time for my bi-annual visit from Neil, my computer guy. And I’ve definitely learned my lesson about backing things up, so hopefully the next full-on crash (and I’m totally expecting there to be one) won’t be as devastating as some of my prior data disasters.
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After an aggravating process of getting clearances for, and then undergoing, a minor diagnostic surgical procedure, I’ve officially gotten a clean bill of health today, which is always a relief when you get to be my age. Even though I have chronic and multiple aches and pains in nearly every part of my body, and I take way too many daily pills for maintenance of my various conditions (many of which would be reduced if not eliminated completely by losing at least 20 and more like 40 pounds; my secretary and her husband recently had some kind of gastric bypass surgery and have succeeded in losing enough weight to basically cure themselves of high blood pressure and diabetes), I am a reasonably healthy person, and for that I am extremely grateful. A few close friends recently have been valiantly battling cancer and other serious ailments and I’m full of admiration for their steadfastness and the strength of their life forces. Support networks are so vital during treatment and recovery, but unless you’re right next door, it’s hard to know what to do to help (even though you really want to). It also reminds you how precious friends and family are, and how beautiful life can (and should) be. When illness afflicts our friends and family members, or tragedies like the Orlando shooting strike strangers, we are overwhelmed with sadness and grief, but life demands that the focus be redirected to things that are joyful and uplifting. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s the only answer. There is a great Martin Luther King quote that I have up on my bulletin board that reads, in part: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
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Speaking of hate, I’ve been struck by a thought recently about Donald Trump, who (finally!) seems to be sinking like a stone from the weight of his own ego and stupidity as his campaign implodes. Wouldn’t it be classic if one day very soon he gets on TV and just says, “I’m out”? I wouldn’t put it past him, not for one second. He’ll spin it, of course, to make it appear that he has controlled every aspect, and he could have won the presidency, but due to one fake and/or overblown reason or another – he’ll come up with something absurd, I’m sure – he’s decided to abandon his campaign. A move like that would show him to be nothing more than the big-mouthed bully (i.e., coward) that he is and would serve the lunatic Republican Party right. We’ll see how this plays out over the coming months, but I’m a tad less frightened today than I was a few weeks ago that there is even a snowball’s chance in hell of Trump being elected president.
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The flaky lady downstairs is becoming an issue. I ran into her in the lobby of my building yesterday and we rode the elevator up together. She acts all friendly, but evidently she finds my dogs and their incessant barking “very distracting”. First of all, I know for a fact that they do NOT bark incessantly because I am home with them the bulk of the time (6 days a week, at most gone for a couple of hours a day for errands or volunteering at the shelter). They’re pretty lazy dogs, too, so I can’t imagine that they’re frantically running around screaming and yelling when I’m not home. They’re mostly sleeping, and they bark – usually a short, sharp burst, nothing sustained, especially when I’m here to threaten them with the spray bottle – when they’re triggered by some noise or distraction. The lady said to me, “You’re used to having dogs, so it may not seem like a lot of barking to YOU!” Like everything else anyone says to me, I took this to heart, because maybe she’s right and I want nothing more than to be a considerate neighbor. So I’ve started keeping a “barking log” in order to have some indication of exactly when and how often they’re barking and what’s causing it. For example, at 12:43 A.M. this morning, someone was shooting off fireworks (yes, fireworks: As you might imagine, this isn’t a particularly quiet neighborhood to begin with – the other day, a car alarm was going off every ten minutes for two hours from like 6 A.M. to 8 A.M. and then ANOTHER car alarm was going off every 20 minutes all damn day – and yet, it is my two little dogs barking occasionally that is so “distracting” to my downstairs neighbor). Woken from his sleep by the racket, of course Munchie had to squeeze out a few barks. I do not blame him. Who is shooting off LOUD fireworks at 12:43 A.M. on a Monday night/Tuesday morning? The nerve. But the next time she challenges me on my noisy animals, I’ll be armed with EVIDENCE.
In all seriousness, I don’t know what she wants me to do about them, although at one point she (somewhat disturbingly, especially given how paranoid I already am about having more animals than I’m supposed to in this apartment) challenged my having TWO dogs, as if having one fewer dog would mean any less barking. Dogs are legitimately permitted in this building, and I pay my rent like everyone else (and an extra fee and deposit for the privilege of having them here). I’m entitled to live my life without having to change my behavior to suit my neighbors (although of course I have changed my behavior, because I’m sensitive like that, but there’s a limit).
Perhaps I should use my mediation training to settle my own dispute. In fact, there was an exercise that we did our in week-long seminar that involved noise in an apartment building, and in fact it is an extremely common cause of friction between neighbors. Here’s what I would (and hopefully will, if given the opportunity) say to her: “Look, [name withheld], as I’m discovering, a lot of this is just the reality of sharing walls and floors and ceilings with other human beings, all of whom are (presumably) paying their rent and entitled to go about the daily business of living their lives.
“But I am sympathetic to your concerns, and I want to be a good neighbor for the brief time that we’re going to be here together. Short of me moving out or getting rid of the dogs, neither of which is going to happen (for a while, anyway, given that they haven’t even started working on my house yet), is there something I can do to address the problem? Is any particular time of day more troublesome? Would you like my cell number so you can text me if you’re being inordinately bothered by something the boys and/or I are doing? I’m honestly sorry that my dogs’ barking bothers you. I’d really like to try to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, because I like you and I think we could even become friends if given a chance.”
Think it will work? Watch this space! Besides, it could always be worse: I have a friend who lives in a pretty fancy high-rise building with a Hudson River view who, a few times a week, sometimes in the middle of the day, hears quite clearly her neighbors having noisy sex!!