All posts by nanluke81

About nanluke81

Life Considered is a blog about life on Planet Earth and having consideration for all the creatures that share it. And occasionally hockey, and music, and whatever other absurdity or amazingness catches my fancy every week. Life Considered is written by Nancy Lucas, a person who knows a little about a lot and cares deeply about our planet and its inhabitants.

Randomicity

Perhaps it’s the laziness borne of summer, or an overload of bad news on the political front, or even my daughter’s invasion of my physical and mental space these past few months.  But whatever the cause, I haven’t been able to string together sufficient cohesive paragraphs to produce a blog post since my last missive (which was a reflexive diatribe brought on by the aforementioned overload of bad news on the political front).  Regretfully, I haven’t been writing much in my journal – in fact, in a highly unusual circumstance for me, I’ve gone days without writing anything at all or, at most, a sentence saying how little I’ve been writing.

But occasionally I will have what I’ve been calling “common sense ideas,” which may ultimately end up turning into blog posts if I’m able to muster the sustained brain power.  For example, I think every publicly held company should include in every employee’s compensation package a share or number of shares of stock in the company, so employees become shareholders and literally have a vested interest in seeing their company succeed.  Those employees would care more about their jobs because the better they do, the better the company does, in a potentially endless cycle of success.

Another thought stream I’ve been entertaining (but I lack the capacity to get deep enough to write 500-1,000 words about it) is how I would fix the health care system in this country.  First, it should be mandated that all hospitals and all doctors have to take all insurances.  Second, all insurances should work the same way – same claims process, same reimbursement process, same referral process, etc.  This will cut down enormously on the administrative burden.  Third, the government should mandate that insurance companies cannot raise their rates every year, or ensure that any increases be linked to something like interest rates or cost-of-living.  Finally, as the process becomes more streamlined and the overhead and premium costs go down, then there would be no reason why larger employers couldn’t afford to insure even part-timers and the 30-hour minimum could be eliminated.

Here’s yet another recurring theme I keep returning to, in my head and my journal:  I don’t understand what the Republicans think will happen to the poor and the sick and the disabled and the elderly if they succeed in making Medicaid go away or cutting welfare and food stamps and school lunches, or when there’s no more funding for Section 8 public housing or public education.  (And of course, no abortions or contraception, so a ton of unwanted children adding to the already overburdened system.)  WHAT DO THEY THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ALL THESE PEOPLE IF THEIR LIFELINES ARE TAKEN AWAY??  If they thought the “great unwashed” were a burden before, what do they think they’ll be creating if Republicans are able to fulfill their dark and cruel desires?  Do they even care, as long as their own pockets are overflowing and they don’t have to actually SEE homeless or poor people?  It blows my mind.

And one more:  Elected representatives are supposed to do what their VOTERS want, not their DONORS.  Money for campaigns should be taken out of the equation entirely and people should be elected (or, more importantly, RE-elected) based on their record, not on how much money they’ve raised; on what they have DONE over what have they SAID (words are cheap, especially in the age of Trump).

* * *

So, those are some ways my mind has been wandering lately.  Which reminds me of the Beatles song, “I’m Fixing a Hole” (“to stop my mind from wandering / where it will go . . . “), which in turn reminds me of that post that was making its way around Facebook a few months ago about the 10 albums that most influenced you as a teenager.  A high school friend posted his list, and while I liked most of what he had included, my list would be ENTIRELY different even though it was from the same era.  My list of LPs on which I wore out the grooves in high school and early college is as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Bowie, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  2. T. Rex, “Electric Warrior”
  3. Elton John, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
  4. Leon Russell, “Carney” (one of the first albums I ever purchased with my own money, Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” being the other)
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy”
  6. The Beatles, “White Album” (“Sgt. Pepper” was a close second, and I also loved “Rubber Soul”)
  7. “The Ramones”
  8. Jethro Tull, “Aqualung”
  9. Neil Young, “After the Gold Rush”
  10. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”

Honorable Mention:

Queen, “Night at the Opera” (although my favorite Queen song, and the one that was our “let’s get crazy tonight!” theme, was “Tie Your Mother Down”)

“Foreigner”

Fleetwood Mac, “Rumors”

Rolling Stones, “Hot Rocks”

* * *

Speaking of school, remember how every new unit in English and science and social studies would include a list of vocabulary words that would be featured in the unit, and the first assignment was to look them up and learn to use them?  Well, in all the brilliant political commentary I’ve been reading lately (Washington Post, NYT, New Yorker, The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Esquire [I especially like Charlie Pierce, who seems to come up with all these obscure terms to describe the “vulgar talking yam” and his minions], to name a few), I’ve come across a list of words that were either new to me or I’d seen them before but wasn’t sure what they meant (sometimes I like to guess and then see how close I am to the actual definition).  Some of those words (and their definitions, thanks to the Merriam Webster.com dictionary) are as follows:

sophistry:  subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

mandarins (not the oranges or the Chinese):  a pedantic official; a bureaucrat.

mountebank:  a person who sells quack medicines from a platform;  a boastful unscrupulous pretender.  (See also:  Trump, Donald)

anthropocene:  the period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age.  (An aside:  I actually came across the word “anthrocene” in a song by Nick Cave, which may be a made-up word or a bastardization of “anthropocene”.  Actually, the well-read Mr. Cave probably got it from the science writer Andrew Revkin, who used the term “anthrocene” in his book Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast to describe a new geological era dominated by the actions of humans.)

wry:  bent, twisted, or turned, usually abnormally to one side; made by a deliberate distortion of the facial muscles, often to express irony or mockery; wrongheaded; cleverly and often ironically or grimly humorous.

redoubtable:  causing fear or alarm; or, alternatively, worthy of respect.

mondegreen:  a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung (e.g., “Hold me closer, Tony Danza”).

shebeen:  an unlicensed or illegally operated drinking establishment.

oleaginous:  I initially thought it meant oily, and I was right, but it also means marked by an offensively ingratiating manner or quality.  (See also:  Trump Cabinet meeting)

opéra bouffe:  satirical comic opera.

numinous:  filled with a sense of the presence of divinity; appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense.

imperious:  befitting or characteristic of one of eminent rank or attainments; commanding, dominant, domineering; marked by arrogant assurance.

I now challenge myself to use at least one of my new vocabulary words in my next blog post!

The End Is Overdue

With each passing day, the Trump debacle becomes more worrisome even as it gets closer to imploding.  I spend far too much time thinking and worrying about it.  Recently, an idea occurred to me that seems so obvious that I had to wonder why no one has been discussing it.  (Conceivably I could have missed an opinion piece covering this topic, but, believe me, I read and watch a lot – A LOT, altogether TOO MUCH – of news reports about the current state of affairs in a variety of mediums, none of which qualifies as “fake news” in my book, although it certainly would for Trump and his herd.)  My idea is this:  By any measure, Trump is a narcissistic ignoramus, a serious peril to the people and perception of the United States, who denigrates the traditional American image and wreaks havoc on our global interests every time he opens his disgusting, petty little mouth or sends a misguided tweet with his stubby, uncalloused  little fingers.  So, why are the Republicans so intent on keeping him around?  If Trump were removed from office somehow (and in all likelihood the Republicans will have to be the ones to do it via impeachment, hopefully in the very near future), a conservative Republican would be the next in line, for as far down the line as we might end up going.

First up would be Mike Pence, although in my estimation he is also a dangerous lunatic who is wildly complicit in the whole disastrous Trump presidency and spends most of his time, when he’s not kissing Trump’s ass publicly, standing idly a step behind him with a smug smile while Trump puffs and poses and bloviates.  If I had my druthers, Pence would be eliminated from office as well, if not prosecuted for perjury and obstruction of his own.  (At the very least, he should be disqualified for being blind and naïve.  How could he not have known Mike Flynn was a political time bomb?  Representative Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has spoken often on his rounds of the political commentary shows about the dated letter that was sent to the White House TELLING THEM EXACTLY THIS.  So when Pence said he didn’t know, he either didn’t read a missive from the House Oversight Committee or he read it and then lied about it.  And that’s just one example of Pence’s duplicity.)

So let’s just say, wishfully speaking, that Pence is out as well, flushed down the toilet with the rest of the Trumpian turds.  Who’s next?  Paul Ryan, who has been a vice presidential candidate and a presidential candidate and is slobberingly desperate for this gig.  And if for some reason he’s out of the running, who’s next?  President pro tempore of the Senate, Orin Hatch, another long-standing spouter of the conservative party line.  WHY AREN’T THE REPUBLICANS CLAMORING FOR TRUMP’S REMOVAL?  Not that it would be great – oh, god, no – but at least there would be certain expectations of something resembling normal governmental functioning, decorum and (sort of) ethics.  At a minimum we wouldn’t have to deal with a president who is perhaps one of the dumbest people alive, who doesn’t believe that the law (which the legislators in Congress have the duty to create) applies to him and who is frighteningly apt to get us involved in some scary stuff, like a war or a dictatorship.*

If the Republicans successfully removed Trump from office, then America could start moving away from being the laughingstock we’ve become in the last six months.  (Six months!)  Some people might even see these Republican stalwarts as HEROES!!  They CLEANED HOUSE (literally)!!  They DID THE RIGHT THING!!  Saved the nation and the world from a lawless madman who should never have been elected in the first place, who won a tainted election with help from our mortal enemy, who belittled and insulted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM during and even before his campaign (and it continues to this day).  We won’t even remind them how much they simpered and sniveled and said, “Yes, Mr. Trump”, “Whatever you say, Mr. Trump” for far too long, before finally coming to their senses and taking assertive action.  What possible benefit do the Republicans get with Trump IN office that they would not have – perhaps three or four times over – if he were NOT in office?  Republicans would still control all three branches of government, and there wouldn’t be a polarizing, clueless idiot at the helm who, between the “Russia thing”, his disdain for the law and his love of authoritarianism, is very likely risking THEIR jobs in the 2018 election.  Trump sees no issue with threatening to fire special prosecutor Bob Mueller or his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, both of whom are technically supposed to be neutral, to serve the Constitution and the American people, not to blindly swear loyalty to Trump, especially now that Mueller is getting closer to the truth (Sessions is a strawman).  But Trump does not consider himself constrained by the traditional boundaries of how the U.S. government is supposed to work – and has worked – for upwards of two hundred years, or by the rules of ethics that should prevent him from profiting off his presidency.

I just don’t get it.  Congressional Republicans are craven people out solely for their own interests (and those of their deep-pocket donors, so, like I said, their own ($) interests).  Why don’t they admit that this ridiculous “Buffoon-in-Chief” experiment has failed miserably and they need to make the next move?  Who will step up to restore order to the law?  Democrats don’t have the numbers, nor do they have a cohesive message at the moment, but they would surely support the impeachment by the House and the conviction by the Senate.  So it’s got to be those craven, self-interested Republicans.  Hurry, please, before he blows something up.  He’s feeling like a cornered dog and all he knows how to do is destroy.

* I’ve been interested in this bipartisan bill being considered in Congress right now about preserving and even beefing up the sanctions against Russia as punishment for their (concededly admitted) meddling in the 2016 election.  According to Trump’s new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, he’s is ready to sign it.  [Sanders replaced the beleaguered Sean Spicer, who finally grew some cojones and decided he was done being a punching bag, but it may be too late for him now, since he’s shown himself on the public stage to be little more than a kicked dog.  I mean, how crushed must he have felt when Trump wouldn’t let Spicer, a devout Catholic, meet the Pope when they went to the Vatican?  Sad!]  But that’s probably because he is not aware (it almost goes without saying that Trump has not read the bill) that, within this potential law, there is a provision that says the president can’t reduce or remove the sanctions without the express approval of Congress.  It might be a hollow gesture, given that, as long as the Republicans retain control, they would probably red-stamp a Trump request.  But at least the opposition would be out in the open and subject to the court of public opinion (if not the actual courts).

Origin Stories

I’ve always been intrigued by the beginnings of things.  Like, who was the first person who decided that a gas station might be a good idea, given the proliferation of cars back in the early part of the 20th century?  I mean, we all know about the Fords and their Model T, but who was the savant who said, “Hmm, there needs to be a ready source of petrol for these new-fangled vehicles”?

This fascination with how things begin runs the gamut from big things – like, who planned and built the first skyscraper in New York City? – to a family name on the side of a landscaper’s truck.  Like, what possessed Mr. Maldonado to open his own landscaping company?  How did he generate the capital to buy the trucks and equipment and hire the workers?  Was his family nervous when he took on this huge responsibility with no promise of a return on his investment?

I’ve been thinking about this as a blog post topic for a while.  It seems to arise in my mind when I’m driving, for some reason.  I look around me and all I see are daring “firsts” – who invented traffic lights?  Who opened the first yoga studio?  Kudos to all those folks who came from some other nation with the express goal of opening a family restaurant and introducing Indian food or Peruvian rotisserie chicken or even the ubiquitous Chinese cuisine(now “Asian fusion”) to the palates of boring Americana!  Who were the city planners who came up with the completely illogical naming of streets in the West End of Long Beach, where every street bears the name of a state but there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the order that they are in.  (Example:  Arizona Avenue, where I live, is sandwiched between Nebraska and Oregon.  Huh?)

When I went back to live at my mother’s house in Seaford (a small town on the South Shore of Long Island, which always impressed me because, according to the “Welcome to Seaford” town sign on Merrick Road, was established way back in the 1600s) while attending law school, I used to power walk around the various neighborhoods, including the ancient (by Seaford standards) Seaford Harbor.  I imagined that some of the properties down there might actually have been “purchased” (or flat out taken) from the Native Americans who lived there before the incursion of the town-founding Europeans in 1624.  One of the (many, many) things I want to do when I retire is historical real estate research, to maybe track the stories of some of the oldest titled properties on Long Island.  SOMEBODY (or more likely a small group of SOMEBODIES) had to be the first settlers in a strange land.  We always hear about the Pilgrims and the Jamestown colony but what about the first Long Islanders?  And let’s take it back even further, to the REAL first Long Islanders.  Where did the original natives come from?  They didn’t just spring up from the earth.

Go back even further, hundreds of thousands of years in the past.  Dictionaries always include the etymology of words, but who was the first person to actually use that word in conversation enough so that it would be memorialized through future generations?  Among the first humans to use words to communicate, who decided on the meanings?  Who invented written words?  For that matter, who was the first human to sing, or play music?  Who built the first guitar, and how did that person know what he (or she) was doing?

[I could get off on a whole tangent here, and perhaps I will one of these days, for a deeper discussion about the origins of our planet, and specifically our species on this planet, which I think about a lot.  Ultimately I’m content that I have no answers and will in all likelihood never get answers to those deepest of questions.  But a mind exercise I often engage in when I’m among masses of people –in Penn Station, for example – is to note that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE PEOPLE AROUND ME came out of a woman’s body and was a tiny, helpless infant, unable to talk, walk or do anything on their own for at least the first five years of their lives.  EVERY SINGLE PERSON, AS FAR BACK AS HUMAN HISTORY GOES.  That is, except for the very FIRST person or persons, if you consider that a human being is born of sperm and ova.  There’s always a “first”, right?  (Shall we engage in the proverbial chicken-and-egg debate, anyone?)  I understand how organized religions strive to present their own take on some kind of origin story (none of which I find to be a satisfying explanation), because it’s the first prong of humankind’s most intriguing inquiries:  Where did we come from, why are we here, and where are we going?  I don’t claim to have any answers except for these:  I came from SOMEWHERE, because I am quite obviously HERE.  I have some purpose for being here; I just haven’t figured it out yet (but hopefully I will).  And I won’t know where we go when we die until I actually die, which I am in no hurry to do.  You might say that’s simplistic and that I’m not a particularly deep thinker, which would be true.  But I’ve always been a person who prefers the obvious explanation.  I would make a very poor conspiracy theorist.]

My daily email from the inspirational blog “The Seeds 4 Life” today featured a sentence that very much captures my feelings about this whole line of thought:  “When you look around, everything you see was once someone’s dream or vision.”  [“You Have Brains in Your Head. You Have Feet in Your Shoes. You Can Steer Yourself Any Direction You Choose – Dr. Seuss”, posted by: Johanna Rosberg, TheSeeds 4 Life, 7/18/17, http://www.theseeds4life.com/you-have-brains-in-your-head-you-have-feet-in-your-shoes-you-can-steer-yourself-any-direction-you-choose-dr-seuss#more-6273]  Yes, copycats usually end up cashing in on someone else’s ideas, although they also make improvements.  I mean, the Wright Brothers are the renowned fathers of aviation, but some much-later genius said to himself (and his investors), “I think we need a whole FLEET of these flying machines to actually carry multiple humans from one place to another”.  It’s those first risk-takers that impress me the most.

* * * * *

Speaking of beginnings, I was so excited for the return of Game of Thrones this weekend and Episode 1 did not disappoint, laying the groundwork for what promises to be a scintillating Season 7.  From George R.R. Martin’s brain sprung this endlessly fascinating universe, and I will be sorry when the tale ends, presumably a little over a year from now.  There’s talk of prequels and sequels, and those efforts may have merit, but none will ever match the grandeur and fascination of the original.  (There’s always the novels, though – and we have two more of those massive tomes to look forward to!)

Children Are Our Future

I saw the Nick Cave documentary “One More Time with Feeling” at City Winery in NYC last night.  It was yet another excellent “date” suggestion by my friend Sue (she always has the BEST ideas):  a free showing (to those who made advance reservations, which she did, twice, just to be sure) of the recent film describing his creative process and how specifically the making of his most recent album, “Skeleton Tree”, was a way of dealing with his grief over the accidental death of his 15-year-old son Arthur.  The film also featured his wife Susie Bick and his other son, Arthur’s twin Earl, as well as Nick’s long-time musical partner Warren Ellis.  Nick Cave is one of my heroes and I believe he is a genius writer, composer and musician, so I would have fully appreciated the movie as a straightforward window into his creativity (much like his “20,000 Days on Earth,” which was a dramatization of a “typical” Nick Cave-ian day).  But the pervasive undercurrent of pain and grief among the principals in the film made it heartbreaking as well as fascinating.

I cannot imagine the devastation of losing a child.  I agonize over those stories on the evening newscasts – like the one last week about that monster who, in an uncontrollable road rage, fatally shot an accomplished young woman, days away from attending her college orientation, because she wouldn’t let him merge into her lane – where a parent, face swollen and red from days of non-stop weeping, can barely speak when confronted by the news crews asking about the horrifying and unexpected death of their beloved child, even days or weeks after their loss.

My daughter is so very precious to me.  I never had any great desire to be a parent, and it pretty much took me the entirety of her nearly 22 years of life on earth so far to admit that I’ve done a good enough job raising her to not have caused her any noticeable damage.  She has never been anything other than amazing to me, this passionate, caring, intelligent, funny and gorgeous young woman, everything I ever imagined or wished she would become.  And her future is bright and exciting, although she’s not quite sure where she’s headed just yet.  (I’m not worried – she’ll get there.)  The possibility of her not being around anymore is beyond imagining.

My aforementioned friend Sue waited until later in life to have a child and her son, Jed, is the light of her life.  I saw a recent photo of him from his 8th grade graduation ceremony and he looked so mature and confident.  I knew she was somewhere in the background just gut-busting with pride.  My daughter’s aunt had her first child just over a year ago, and judging by the barrage of Facebook photos (which I love seeing), she cannot get enough of her kid (and neither can her mom, Darian’s grandmother).  A child who is wanted and beloved is a miracle in every way.

Sometimes I try to imagine life for my daughter after I’m gone (she’ll be pretty old by then, I hope).  She says she doesn’t really want children of her own (just pets), but I remind her that it was never on my radar either until the day when, at age 35, I found out I was pregnant and figured, hey, I’ve been in a committed relationship for 6 years and my boyfriend had just suggested that we “do the right thing” and get married.  (How romantic, right?  My ex finally figured out my sense of romance after multiple incidents like this:  He once sent me a dozen roses at my office for Valentine’s Day and I was furious at him for spending so much money.)  If I don’t have a kid now, when (if ever)?  Instinctively, it felt good to make the choice to go ahead with parenthood.  (It almost goes without saying, to anyone who regularly reads this blog, that I am grateful that I had the choice, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that my daughter and her potential daughters and every other daughter always have that choice as well.)

My pregnancy  itself was pretty painless, until about a month before my due date when I developed preeclampsia and my doctor put me in the hospital for a couple of days just to get my blood pressure under control.  Eventually, the toxemia, plus the baby being over 9 pounds, led to me being induced, which failed miserably, and then a C-section, so I never even went through labor.  In retrospect, having my daughter was the best decision I ever made.

But let’s say she DOES decide to have a child or perhaps two.  (I never understand anyone who wants more than two kids.  One is perfect, but two is okay, especially if there’s one of each gender, so they can keep each other company.  I had a friend who, in her forties, after a number of failed pregnancies, gave birth to boy and girl twins, healthy and perfect in every way.  And yet she wanted to risk having ANOTHER child, at her advanced age.  That was something I just couldn’t comprehend, but it’s a free country (so far), and people should be able to have as many children as they want, as long as they have the means to properly take care of them.  Her third child turned out just fine, by the way.)  Would Darian and her kids (and perhaps a father/husband) live in this house, our renovated bungalow here at the beach?  She made me promise I wouldn’t sell it, but the big questions is:  Will this house survive global warming?  Now that it’s been “flood-proofed”, it has a better chance, but if sea levels rise to the point where the Long Beach barrier island goes underwater, EVERTHING will be gone, flood-proofing be damned.

I saw an AARP article the other day that talked about how the number of people living to be 100 will increase 12 times by 2060.  [Jo Ann Jenkins, “Live to 100. Plan on It,” AARP.org, 5/2/17, http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2017/jeanne-calment-plan-to-live-to-100-jj.html]  In 2060, I would be counted among that number.  I think I would like that, as long as I wasn’t decrepit and/or demented.  I clearly ought to start taking better care of myself!

And yet I fear for our planet, for the human race.  It seems that the people with the loudest voices and the deepest pockets (despite not having the largest numbers) are hell-bent on destroying Earth and all the creatures who call it home.  I have always believed that our creator set our species, the most advanced on the planet, on this grand experiment to exponentially evolve and advance, to get not only smarter but also more altruistic and cooperative (see “Aliens & Altruism, 7/29/15, for an earlier take on this topic), but it could just as easily be that we were designed to self-destruct at or before some random “expiration date.”.  If that does happen, would it be during my lifetime?  My daughter’s?  The lifetimes of my daughter’s children, or their children?

What did our grandparents and great-grandparents (and beyond) think about this topic?  I mean, my great-grandmother (who lived to 102) was born in the late 1800s, before telephones and electricity and air travel, let alone computers and thousand-channel streaming TV.  I’ve never been a huge science fiction fan but it certainly is intriguing to project into the future, to wonder what human beings might be capable of, both good and bad.  For the sake of our children and (potential) grandchildren, I certainly hope it’s the former.

Frustration Overload

The other night I watched the powerful documentary “Hell on Earth:  The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” (2017), directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested.  The filmmakers focused on two brothers who, with their families of young children, try to escape the two-headed horrors of terrorists claiming territory and a so-called leader who bombs and poisons his own people.  What is Assad’s end game here?  That he lords it over a shattered hulk of a landscape where whatever populace remains pay hollow homage and secretly hate him?  (Why do so many of the world’s despots have creepy close-together dead piggy eyes and petty little mouths?  Trump’s mouth resembles an anus, and Putin’s eyes are reptilian.  Assad, to me, looks like an ugly cartoon dog.)

What is the end game of ANY of it??  How will the impossibly complicated conflict among the various shades of Islam, secular and religious —and let’s not forget Israel, which is a burr under the saddle of ALL of Islam and a very key part of the Middle East notwithstanding Trump’s ignorance – come to any kind of conclusion?  Mutually assured destruction?  Holy war?  End of days??  Sometimes I wish there really WERE a messiah who would descend from the heavens to render final divine judgment on all the hypocrites and evildoers currently inhabiting this planet (and maybe resurrect all the monsters who came before, just for good measure).  And all the jihadists and evangelicals and hard-line Jewish settlers and atheistic bad guys (organized religion is responsible for a lot of humankind’s problems, but not ALL) will, once and for all, know that they’ve been wrong all along — that they’ve been erroneously proselytizing for a creator who loves its creation and would NEVER want it destroyed by war or murder or repression or man-made disease and climate catastrophes; that our creator, whatever or wherever it may be, is in all likelihood colossally disappointed by the way its precious creation has abused and maligned this most magnificent gift we have been given.

I’m just starting Richard Engel’s account of two decades of turmoil in the Middle East (And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades in the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 2016)), from his vantage point as a war correspondent, and I’m already fascinated.  (I have such a crush on him.)  The Middle East of today is actually an artificial creation, manipulated by the world powers of Europe (primarily France and England), in much the same way that the populations of Eastern Europe were artificially and indiscriminately separated and forced together by Russia.  Of course, it was inevitable that the centuries-long exercise of colonial power by white, Christian, European men would end badly – the unwashed masses can only be trod upon for so long before they realize they’ve got strength in numbers and  can, with an effectively timed effort, rise up to resist their oppressors.  But what will it take?  What about people like me – perhaps a majority of us – who were fortunate enough to live a life of privilege, aware that it was at the expense of the less fortunate, but frustrated by the fact that there was little that could be done to change the situation from your vantage point, no matter how wrong you believed it to be.  And even at that, people of color, Native Americans, the poor and the homeless often resent much of the support and assistance proffered by (white) people who have sympathy and maybe even empathy but will never truly understand what their lives are like.

Of course, as a female, I am a member of a repressed class that, as recently as the 1920s, was still deemed to be nothing more than the property of our fathers and then our husbands, too feeble-minded (dare I say secretly dangerous?) to even open our own bank accounts or purchase a car.  Generally speaking, all women are still objectified and belittled and demeaned by all men — but especially white men in positions of power – to the point where the scores of white men dominating our current government (have you seen the lily white and exclusively male Senate crew making hash of this so-called “replacement” of the Affordable Care Act?) are attempting to control the decisions that only women should be able to make about their own bodies.  It boggles my mind that there is still such a powerful anti-choice movement in this country (which, it must be said, includes women among their number), to the point where there are quite a few states that have only a single location, in the entire state, where abortions can be performed.  ONE!!  I read something so obvious the other day:  these folks aren’t “pro-life” so much as they’re “pro-forced pregnancy”.  I saw a cool video posted by Bill Nye the Science Guy the other day [https://www.dailydot.com/irl/bill-nye-abortion-scientific-reasoning-big-think/?fb=dd%3Deg] where he completely deflated any claim that “life begins at conception”:  Eggs are fertilized by sperm cells ALL THE TIME but don’t necessary go on to become a child.  Any miscarriage – even where the woman doesn’t even KNOW she’s miscarried – is a wholly natural and uncontrollable response by a female body indicating that the conditions are not optimal for a full-term pregnancy.  But the bottom line is, WHO HAS ANY RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO WITH MY OWN BODY??  How does my choice whether or not to have a child have ANY impact on anyone other than ME??

Which gets me into a whole other line of frustrations about human rights:  as a human being, I should be entitled to exercise my rights to do whatever I please, unless and until MY rights infringe on YOUR rights.  Otherwise, it’s none of your damn business.  Gay marriage?  What the hell does it have to do with YOU, Mr. Conservative Politician?  That inane Defense of Marriage Act they tried to put forward a few years ago – defend marriage from WHAT??  Infringement on its “sanctity” by the gays??  The whole argument is hollow and frankly ridiculous.

The human rights battles being fought in the US of A are bad enough, but when expanded to the world stage, it becomes paralyzing in its magnitude.  A child unjustifiably detained by the North Koreans is returned to his parents with irreparable brain damage caused by his torture at their hands, only to die within days of his return.  For what?  For possibly attempting to steal a poster (although nothing can be proven, especially since he is not able to tell)?  Supposedly they believed him to be a CIA operative but still, torture is a universal crime.  North Korea may be a freakish anomaly (have you ever seen a satellite photo of North Korea at night?  THERE ARE NO LIGHTS), but dangerous all the same.  What is the end game for all of Kim Jong-un’s missile tests?  Would he actually dare to use his puny (yet still deadly) missiles on South Korea or Japan?  The unpredictability of it all is chilling.

Apart from North Korea, there are plenty of other danger zones when it comes to the human rights.  There’s the repression of the press and political opposition by Putin, Erdogan, China, the Saudis, countless African nations – it all becomes too much to bear.   I genuinely admire the people who work for organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and even the ACLU (local and national chapters), and I wish there was something I could do (apart from sending money, which I lack at the moment) to help.

I started writing this blog with an idealistic intention to make the world a better place one blog post at a time.  To the extent that my blog posts have any effect at all on the world – like a butterfly wing flap or pebble’s ripple in a pond – I try to stay positive and not complain too much about things I cannot control.  Trump winning the presidency was a rude awakening for me, and my blog posts during the election and in the time since are evidence of that.  His term thus far has been a nightmare of epic proportions and it’s just getting worse.  Our standing on the world stage is lower than it’s ever been, and trusted allies are questioning our commitment to shared goals.  On a personal level, my demeanor and frame of mind have been negatively affected on a daily basis.  I am afraid, and I am ashamed at my impotence.

But even Obama, as much as I respected him and believe he did as good a job as he could as president under the oppositional conditions he faced (but while always maintaining a sense of grace and higher purpose), failed in the Middle East and also domestically, with his partial and largely ineffectual efforts at gun control and reforming health care.  And under his watch, the monolithic Republican Party has gained in power and numbers, both fairly (thanks to a woefully ignorant voting public and lethargy among those who can’t even be bothered to vote) and unfairly (thanks to illicit gerrymandering, which hopefully the courts – including the Supreme Court – will succeed in curtailing, not to mention that sneaky little Russian “interference” that’s all the rage these days), both at the state and federal levels.  If even Barack Obama, ostensibly the most powerful and level-headed person in the world during his presidency, was not able to bring about as much positive change as he wanted to, what possible effect could my paltry little blog have?  The problems we face in the world right now are so overwhelming, all I can do is feel sad and frustrated and powerless.

I know there are good people doing good things out there.  I love my “Upworthiest” emails (do yourself a favor and sign up for some truly POSITIVE perspectives:  http://www.upworthy.com); they are a ray of sunshine amid the dark tales of war and waste and repression and inequality.  Wasn’t it Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that only light can defeat the dark?  But I guess it’s very, very dark these days, because all those tiny personal bits of brightness out barely seem to be making an impact.  (Remember George H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light”?  Of course, he was using that image to encourage the “little people” to do more charitable work with their limited resources rather than relying on our taxpayer-funded GOVERNMENT to do it, but it’s still a nice metaphor.)

In contrast, so many things I read about or hear on the TV leave me upset, drained and demoralized.  I wonder why I even waste energy thinking about them.  There’s a whole laundry list of things that frustrate me these days, many of which will probably end up as a blog post of their own.  For instance:

(1)          Partisan politics:  When did Republicans and Democrats get so completely diametrically opposed with their political positions that they can’t ever compromise or even have an open discussion about things that are important FOR THE WHOLE COUNTRY, not just Dems or Republicans, not just rich or poor, not just white folks in Red States or recent immigrants in Sanctuary Cities (we are ALL immigrants, remember?)? We are supposed to be UNITED, especially as viewed by the rest of the world.  Don’t Republicans have children to whom they want to leave a healthier planet?  Can’t we agree that ALL Americans have “certain inalienable rights”, and then protect those rights for EVERYONE, no ifs, ands or buts?  Maybe the answer, like in most other civilized nations, is to break the mega-parties into multiple smaller factions, where coalitions can be built and it’s not so much “us vs. them”.  But the way things are now, it’s just dumb and nothing gets done.

(2)          Income inequality:  I have covered this topic a few times in this blog.  I find it so disheartening that people who have SO MUCH begrudge a few extra dollars in the pockets of people who work hard and still have NOT ENOUGH.  I’m sick of it. Develop some compassion.  Look beyond your bubble of privilege and wealth.  There ARE people of worth outside your protective shell who deserve a chance to succeed in life.  What was that quote I saw on Facebook the other day?  “Equal rights for others does not mean less rights for you.  It’s not pie.”  PAY UP, RICH PEOPLE!

(3)          Then again, you can’t make saints out of the poor, or drugs addicts, or petty criminals, either.  Yes, their unfortunate life circumstances have often forced them into difficult decisions, but there is something called “personal responsibility” also.  Poor people CAN succeed despite their limited resources and sad circumstances, but a boost and/or helping hand from people who are more fortunate would certainly not hurt.  And drug addicts and petty criminals should be helped to transition back into society with the support they need to thrive, not suffer the inevitable recidivism that is the only possible outcome for the profit-centers that our prisons have become.

(4)          Guns.  I HATE guns.  They are nothing more than penis substitutes, in my mind, tools for the weak.  Last week’s VICE episode (Season 5, Episode 71) was about how entrenched the gun industry is in this country.  Americans do love their guns, boy.  The VICE correspondent was interviewing the proprietor of the nation’s foremost gun mega-shop and he was saying how gun buying is cyclical, but as far as I can tell, in my lifetime, there has been nothing but an INCREASE in the number of guns and the ease with which people can obtain guns.  I think all guns should be incinerated, but I admit that’s unrealistic, given the American lust for firearms.  (Who, apart from a soldier, needs a semi-automatic weapon?  Would a pistol or a rifle not kill someone just as easily?)  A more sensible option would be for governments (probably at the state level, because the federal government is just too cumbersome and partisan to get ANYTHING done these days) to regulate guns like they regulate the motor vehicles we all drive.  Hey, they’re both instrumentalities of death:  cars are potential, but guns are assured.  That’s what guns are FOR – to kill things.  Yet we do more to protect each other from car accidents than we do from gun accidents.  I saw a statistic today that thousands of children are killed or injured by firearms every year.  Do Americans not want to protect their CHILDREN?  (Or I guess another solution is that kids could just be armed themselves, like the youthful gun groups and pre-teen sharpshooters sponsored by gun manufacturers featured on the VICE episode.)

AH, BREATHE, NAN.  We can only do what we can do.  In fact, I’m going to attend my Organize, Plan, Act meeting tomorrow evening.  They’ve arranged some interesting speakers, and I’m looking forward to spending time with like-minded individuals who are as frustrated as I am but who actually manage to maintain a positive outlook.  I desperately need to tap into that.  And hey, it’s not only safety that comes with numbers – it’s comfort, too.

Hopefully my next blog post will have a lighter message.  I think we could all use one. these days.

The Curse of an Empty Head

Two weeks have passed since my last blog post and my head is utterly and completely empty.  Oh, don’t get me wrong – a lot has gone on, and there’s much that needs to be done.  But when it comes to blog ideas – or to any deep thoughts at all, frankly – I’m at a loss.

It’s just that my gray matter has been occupied by the usual nonsense, to wit:

(1)  Taking on more work so that I can earn money to pay bills.  One may think that, now that my house is effectively done and my daughter’s college is almost all paid for (thanks to a Parent Plus loan that will cover not only this summer’s courses but also a bulk of the Fall semester, which will thankfully be her last), I should be swimming in excess cash.  NOT SO.  There was my hospital stay that will need to be paid for somehow (given that my so-called health insurance carries a $6,750 deductible that has to come out of my pocket before they’ll pay for ANYTHING), not to mention the City MD bill (no reduced rate for a follow-up visit during which they basically just sent me to the hospital, evidently). And now my little Munchie needs not only bladder stone surgery (his second, which I expected) but also knee surgery (which I didn’t). There is no insurance (with or without a deductible) for THAT. Every time I think I’m out of the hole, something tosses me back in.

(2)  I wake up every day (usually later than I’d intended, reluctant to emerge from the safe cocoon of my bed, entertained by silly dreams rather than having to face the drudgery of my real life) wondering what new nonsense our ersatz president has gotten up to overnight. I never thought I could hate a public figure as much as I hate that man. I want him DISAPPEARED. I still ravenously read every critique I can; I follow Robert Reich and Keith Olbermann religiously (and Rachel Maddow, who’s been “under the weather” and absent from her namesake show for nearly two weeks and I’m going through withdrawal); and I hope against hope that someone with ability, power and good sense will take the reins of the government away from what Charles Pierce of Esquire has fabulously called the “vulgar talking yam” and MAKE AMERICA GOOD AGAIN.

(3)  I had barely recovered from the Gizmo finger biting infection when, lo and behold, at the Best Friends Adoption Event in NYC this past Saturday, a big jerk of a cat named Buster decided he’d had enough of my affection and bit the hell out of my right hand.  My poor right hand!  I’ve had to learn how to be more ambidextrous over the past month due to the fact that, before now, my left hand has been basically useless.  And I am so paranoid now about infection!  I have been washing and wrapping both bite spots on my hand obsessively, checking for the telltale red streaks up my arm (which have not appeared this time, thank goodness).  I’ve heard from various sources that cat bites are even worse than dog bites, but so far I seem to have dodged a bullet.  The oddest thing about it is, I’ve been bitten by shelter cats before and, for the first few months that he lived with us, Gizmo must have bitten my fingers and hands at least once a day, but there was never any infection.  Someone said it might be that my diabetes has compromised my body’s ability to fight infection, and that brings me to . . .

(4)  My health. Although I haven’t necessarily felt any specific physical effects, my “numbers” (sugars, A1C, thyroid-related hormones, cholesterol, lipids, etc.) have all been lousy over the past few months.  I believe this is directly attributable to the fact that I gained back the 30-plus pounds I lost a couple of years ago, primarily because I can’t seem to stop eating CRAP.  I also haven’t begun my walking regime.  My injured big toe has been to blame for that, although when the nail finally comes off – which the podiatrist said could be any day now – I’ll hopefully be able to begin in earnest.  I finally have a comfy pair of walking sneakers, so that’s no longer an excuse.  If I could just start walking regularly and cut back on my food intake – including a major reduction of CRAP – it would undoubtedly have a positive effect on my blood numbers and my general health and well-being.

But despite all of the above contributing to the empty-headedness that has plagued me for the past couple of weeks (actually, it’s been a lot longer than that, which is part of the reason why my blog has been biweekly lately), I have managed to enjoy some diversions, including going to a local music venue last Friday with my sister to see a few not-very-good bands, although the people-watching alone provided a couple of hours of amusement.  The evening was suggested by my cousin George (of the George and Tony Entertainment Show podcast), whose childhood friend was the drummer for one of the not-very-good bands (in their defense, it was in fact their first gig together), so he and his wife Connie had driven up from their home outside D.C. (eight long, torturous hours for a trip that should not normally take eight hours) for a reunion of old friends and family.  We ended up at a local diner after the show, where we could actually hear each other talk and had some laughs amidst good company and pancakes.  I didn’t get home till 2 a.m.!

Having my kid home has also been fun (if expensive). She’s been decorating her room and it really captures her personality.  It makes me feel like bit of a sluggard because I’ve barely done anything to decorate or even organize the rest of the house and I’ve been back home for over two months.  It is true, though, that in order to do so, I need to replenish the coffers, which hasn’t been easy (see #1 above).

I’m glad that the summer is finally here (although the weather has been anything but summerlike for the past couple of weeks now), most of all because, now that I have PARKING (!!), I can actually go out and have meals with friends, enjoy some live music under the stars (my friend Chris’ CSNY cover band Four-Way Street is playing right nearby in Island Park in July, which should be great, weather permitting) and generally engage in some semblance of a social life.  It’s so liberating not to have to worry about where I’ll be able to park when I get home, at any hour of the day or night.

Hopefully, a few solid days of rest and relaxation, not to mention some power walks, will clear my head enough to allow in some ideas of substance that I can explore in future blog posts.  I also need to broaden my exposure beyond Facebook and watching reality competitions on MTV.  I haven’t read a meaty, thought-provoking book in ages, although I just finished Call Me By Your Name  by André Aciman, a lovely gay coming-of-age novel whose main character I envisioned as my daughter’s former therapist (and mine before hers) and I’m finishing up The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, who I like a lot but whose memoir-light doesn’t provide much food for thought (with the possible exception of a powerful piece about an abusive ex-boyfriend that should be required reading for every young woman).  I also haven’t seen any quality films lately other than Mad Max: Fury Road, which was visually arresting but ultimately kind of bleak.

So I here and now commit, in virtual print, that I will devote this summer to filling up my empty head with beauty and art and deeper thoughts about humanity and the planet to share as they come.

An Inconvenient Week

It started on Saturday, a little over a week ago.  I had just come back from the chiropractor and was settling in for a pleasant Saturday morning, doodling around on the computer and whatnot before I headed off to the shelter in the afternoon.  I was in the process of feeding the menagerie (including my sweet foster dog Marco), the first step of which is giving Gizmo his allergy medication.  I wrap the pill in a meaty little pocket and sometimes smear it with peanut butter if he initially balks.  On this particular morning, he was particularly ornery and did not want the pill, no matter how many times I put it in front of him, on the floor or in my hand.  He finally had had enough and lashed out, catching the fleshy bottom part of the middle finger on my right hand, digging in his teeth and whipping his head from side to side for a couple of savage shakes.

After the cursing and tear-inducing pain, I ran my finger under cold water and did the usual cleaning and bandaging.  I put some ice on it and, when I went to the shelter later that same day, I made sure to wear gloves from the moment I got there.  But somehow, infection got into the puncture wound that Gizmo’s tooth had caused.  That night, watching “Fury Road” with my daughter and her brother, alternating 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off with ice packs, my finger just kept getting fatter and fatter with an escalating throb.

By the next morning, there were streaks up my arm, indicating a traveling infection.  It being Sunday, my regular doctor wasn’t in, so I walked over to the local City M.D.  The doctor there was concerned, even suggesting that I might want to go to the hospital now for “a few days” (!!) of IV antibiotics.  Ultimately, they were able to hook me up right there in the office, after taking some x-rays to ensure nothing was broken.   They sent me home with a prescription and said to come back on Tuesday.

Sunday was Mother’s Day.  The weather was pleasant, at least in the early part of the day, and my daughter and I drove out to Pinelawn Cemetery, where my mother’s ashes are in a niche (next to her parents – it was a promise I had made to her on the day she knew she was dying that I would keep them all together and visit often).  Afterward we had lunch at Cheeburger Cheeburger, served by a kid who looked a little like a low-rent Channing Tatum (one of my daughter’s favorite “boys”) and I really didn’t give my finger much of a thought, other than making sure to keep it elevated because whenever it hung down, it pulsed painfully.  I actually thought it might be getting better.

On Monday, the streaks up my arm were gone and the swelling in my hand had subsided.  The finger at first seemed better, but by the evening it had turned into an excruciating mess, cherry red infection in the flesh around the wound straining at the skin at the base of my finger.  By the time I went back to City M.D. on Tuesday, I knew I was in trouble.  They sent me directly to the emergency room, where I spent four hours  in the waiting area feeling frustrated at having to sit for so long but also sympathetic to the people there who were clearly worse off than I was, with my measly infected finger.  I was finally brought back and put in a room, where I had to put on a gown, get more x-rays and get hooked up to the IV that would be my “best friend” (said the nurse) for the foreseeable future.  Darian showed up with some yummy food but I couldn’t really eat it.  I hadn’t eaten much all day and so had a raging hunger headache on top of it all.

When the hand doctor arrived, I thought he was actually kind of cute, and we joked about which character he would be on “Grey’s Anatomy” (I thought he was plastic surgeon Jackson Avery; he thought he was Dr. McSteamy; I told him McSteamy was dead but he was the one who had taught Jackson Avery everything he knew).  Then he proceeded to put me through paroxysms of pain I don’t think I’ve ever felt before (with the possible exception of when I had kidney stones), digging into the puncture wound with some kind of sharp metal tool (tweezer, perhaps?) to clear out the poison.  Darian was contorting over in the corner, feeling sympathetic pain as she watched him torture her mother with a hint of a smile on his face.

Eight hours after I had first arrived, I finally ended up in a double room with a nice older woman with a foot infection, who told the same damn story to anyone who would listen (I must have heard it at least 20 times) about how she would give “holy hell” to the social worker if she didn’t let her go to a rehab center rather than home because her daughter was ill and wouldn’t be able to take care of her.  There was also some ranting about the medication she needed costing a thousand dollars a pill at the rehab center but her daughter had researched it on the web and it was only $15.  Compared to what replaced her when she finally succeeded in getting transferred to her preferred location (at $50 a pill), Roommate 1 was a peach.

New roommate:  stereotypical Long Beach white trash, Motley Crüe groupie (still, in her late 40s), recovering drug addict with a 30-year-old daughter with three kids who’s a plus-size model and a son in jail who DID NOT SHUT UP the entire time I was there, whether she was on the phone or talking to her herself, or the aides, or, later, to me (despite no attempt on my part to move aside the closed curtain, mind you).  (To add insult to injury, she kept forgetting my name.) Her TV was on top volume (I was using headphones and still heard her TV more than I heard my own), she kept playing snippets of (loud) rock music on her phone, and the whining and complaining and cursing didn’t stop until she finally fell asleep at around 11:30.  But at 5:15 a. m., here comes the light, the TV (loudly), and the talking, all over again.  She evidently spilled coffee on her bed so she had to wash out her pajamas in the bathroom (“Hope you don’t mind my wet pajamas hanging from the bars near the toilet” – like I had a choice).

Roommate No. 2 was annoying in and of herself, but there were other infuriations, primary among them being that I JUST WANTED TO GO HOME.  I wanted to leave on Wednesday, after one night in the hospital.  Dr. Hand was pleased with how the finger was healing and said, as far as he was concerned, I could leave, but he deferred to the infectious disease doctor.  She showed up a couple of hours later and sentenced me to ANOTHER night and day of IV antibiotics even though everything was going well.  “You don’t want to mess with the hand,” every medical professional I saw warned me, and my diabetes didn’t help matters.

I had a chronic headache from the moment I arrived until the moment I left, finally, on Thursday.  My blood pressure spiked due to the stress and the infection, so they prescribed blood pressure medication that I don’t need and that ended up giving me a wicked sore throat as a side effect.  I couldn’t sleep, the food (a carb-controlled diet, of course) was god-awful and no matter what position I put my bed in, I could not get comfortable.  (Like an idiot, I forgot to tell Darian to include my journal when she brought some clean undies and my computer and iPod.  I’m pretty sure I would have felt immeasurably better if I could have vented on paper.  I might have even managed to write a few “reserve” blog posts to use for slow weeks.  But I wasn’t that smart.)

Fortunately, I didn’t have much work to do, which was both a good thing (I wasn’t really missing anything important and no one was clamoring for me to produce documents or run a closing) and a bad thing (I was already having a quiet month and no work = no money).  The other major stressor, of course, is the cost of it all.  In my infinite wisdom, at the beginning of the year I had increased the deductible under my health insurance to $6,750 in order to reduce my monthly premium.  At the time, I had figured that I had never met my $2,250 deductible before and I was still getting things like doctor visits, lab tests and prescription drugs covered, so what difference would it make if I raised the deductible to $6,750 and paid $100 less a month in premiums?  Well, the joke was on me.  Who knows what three days and two nights in a hospital are going to cost me, with every pill and shot and blood test running up the tab, and seeing no fewer than three different doctors?  I am assuming that my deductible will finally be met, but where am I supposed to find $6,000?

By the time I finally got home Thursday night, after literally three hours of torture waiting for the release papers to come through, to enjoy a Wendy’s Son of Baconator and a bacon-and-cheese baked potato (finally!  Something I could eat and ENJOY), I felt like I had been through the wringer but was happy to return to the comforts of home and my familiar old life.  Sure, I had to soak and have Darian wrap my finger a few times a day, and I have to continue taking antibiotics, which are wreaking havoc on my stomach and related regions (and also my mouth – somehow my mouth constantly feels like I’ve eaten the saltiest of salt bagels, and no amount of beverage or even ice cream can soothe it).  And it sure was nice to sleep in my bed.

Spent a rainy Friday catching up with myself (and also treated myself to a late afternoon nap).  Saturday, we went to my daughter’s cousin’s first birthday party, an extravagant and spectacular affair with a barnyard theme that featured a couple of hours of live animals.  [An aside:  At the party, while I enjoyed barbecue (while trying not to get my finger bandage dirty) and partook liberally of the spread of adorable snacks and desserts), my miserable week somehow rubbed off on my daughter’s sister.  She managed to sprain her ankle playing volleyball on the front lawn and completely missed the animals, including a pony ride, because her dad (my ex) had to take her to the emergency room.  Poor kid.  I feel for her misfortune.]

And how did this week from somewhere-close-to-hell finally end?  In a fender-bender in major traffic on First Avenue, being tossed around the back of the Posh Pets animal transport van after being cut off by an Uber driver who yelled and screamed and threatened but then said “Never mind” when it turned out he didn’t have his license on him.  I landed knee, then head, and I think I jammed my bad finger at some point in my forward tumble.  But the good news is that Marco got adopted by a lovely family and, apart from the crash, a late spring day in Union Square with good people and lots of creatures was kind of a pleasant way to end a really long seven-plus days.  I’m looking forward to sheer uneventfulness this week (and maybe a few hours of work).

A humble postscript:  All this whining about my infected middle finger and two days in the hospital have given me a much greater appreciation of the suffering of my dear friends and family members who have been through the gauntlet of cancer treatment.  I truly have no clue how bad it could be.  My experience represented only a tiny fraction of what they had to go through (and, in some cases, continue to go through).  Hospitals are horrible places, but admittedly people do emerge from there and begin to feel better.  On the other hand, being in the hospital also reminded me a lot of my mother and how she spent her agonizing last months, shuttling between a hospital bed and a rehab bed and slowly losing her mind.  I can easily see how that happens as well.

One final thought:  As miserable an experience as being in the hospital was, the people there – the nurses and aides, and even the volunteers – were, without exception, pleasant and helpful, to the extent they could be given hospital red tape and protocol, which by their nature are frustrating for everyone.  Nurses and aides just have to deal with the bullshit on a daily basis, so they’re not as bothered and in fact retain their senses of humor and a gentleness of spirit that is perfect for soothing exasperated people like me.