Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Where's the Soap?

I'm not much of a social media person. I suppose this blog is considered social media, but I don't have an Instagram account and peek at Twitter only occasionally. I do have a Facebook account and peruse the posts of others on a fairly regular basis though I don't post much myself. I like happy animal videos and will share those. Not big on memes. I'm involved in some local projects so I post about that. But for the most part, I read what other people are saying. Politics and our divided country, not surprisingly, are popular topics these days. 

When I was growing up -- as older people like to say -- times were different. Not always wonderful, but less complicated. There was a midday family dinner every Sunday and lots of outside time, twilight hours spent with cousins playing hide-and-seek and kick-the-can; climbing my uncle's cow-strewn hills in summer and tobogganing down those same hills in winter. Corny maybe, but looking back those activities seemed pretty wholesome and were certainly fun. No staring at cell phones or laptop screens. "Social media" was hearing my cousin Judy's opinion in the horse barn, or commenting on my cousin Sally's views on the turtles that hatched in her dad's sawdust pile. 

In those days there were three channels on TV (and one was fuzzy). There was no cussing or anything even close to it on television back then. The news came on for an hour in the evening and was not a 24/7 deluge of information. My parents read the newspaper for news and read books for leisure. Dad liked westerns, Mom liked romance novels. There were some cusswords in my house but were mild by comparison to today. I might hear an occasional "Damn!" if someone hit their finger with a hammer or other choice words if the dog peed in the house. I've often told the story of the only time I ever heard my dad say the f-word, and that was when he was teaching me how to drive ("Stop this f-ing car!!"), which, as I review his reaction now to my driving 40 miles an hour over potholes, seems reasonable. I didn't curse or call people names when I was a kid. I'm not saying I was perfect, but I was taught not to do that. 

My mother, Iva, was the teacher of that lesson. I can't remember exactly how old I was, over five, under 10. I know I was in school, which is where I imagine I picked up the salty words I aimed at my sister one day in the kitchen. I didn't know what it meant for, surely, if I had, I wouldn't have said it in front of my mother. I also don't know what my sister did or said to elicit my response. But whatever it was, I told my sister to "eat me."

Now you have to understand. When I was growing up in the 1960s, parents ruled with a different kind of hand. There was no, "Oh honey, you shouldn't say such things." No discussion. No 'time out' to think about one's sins. My mother took hold of my arm, frog-marched me over to the sink, and washed my mouth out with soap. Ran that bar of Ivory under the faucet, got a good handful of bubbles going and filled my mouth with suds. I'm sure there was also some yelling though I don't really remember. What I do remember was the lesson: watch what comes out of your mouth or suffer the consequences. Got it, Iva, lesson learned. Never again was my mouth washed out with soap. 

This is not to say by any means, and as my friends will be quick to tell you, that I don't swear or make off-color remarks in 2020 (so, dear friends reading this, there's no need to comment). And while my mother's intention may have been for me to keep my language squeaky clean, what she actually taught me was to use words with care. If you're going to let loose with a barrage of expletives, know your audience. Use your head. Don't let it affect your goals, business or otherwise. Don't be insulting and don't be cruel. Name-calling fell into that same category. As I mentioned, I have not been perfect over the years, but if something cruel or coarse has left my mouth aimed at another person, it was not done so without the image of my mother's face rising before me with a bar of soap in her hand. 

What I have read on social media over the past few years has been astonishing to me. People I know or with whom I am vaguely acquainted, some of them local business owners, not to mention politicians and world figures whose job it is to lead the way for the people who elected them, saying the most vile things to or about each other. I am not a delicate flower who swoons at the slightest oath (again, consult my friends). Still, the name calling and cursing shocks me, then makes me sad. Then it makes me sick. 

Technology has opened doors for the ignorant bully to emerge, albeit often hidden behind the glowing computer screen -- and sometimes speaking to us from the glowing television screen -- who has been waiting for the opportunity to voice an opinion, vitriol they would rarely say to your face. What are these people thinking? Do they really believe they're making a difference in the world or convincing anyone of their views by prefacing a person's name with ugly adjectives? Did their mothers not have a bar of soap in the house? 

I'm hoping this isn't who we've really become, men and women who cheer and think it's funny when listening to people curse and attack each other. I'm hoping it's a phase, a unique blip in time. I wonder: do those spewing this hostility really believe theirs is the voice of "the common man," something I keep hearing about? The voice of "the common man" is deeply embedded in who I am  because that social designation is where I come from: my parents were small town factory workers who never finished high school, who gave up a piece of their life for me, regular people who went to work every day in a dark, loud factory to put me through college so I might have better opportunities than they did. No...don't talk to me about the voice of the common man. I know that voice, and it is kind and generous and dedicated and hardworking and knows how to teach children that the words they say have consequences.  

I'm sure many will disagree with me, and that's okay. You wanna call me a name? Have at it. I learned at a young age from a wonderful woman who left this earth 28 years ago that people who say repulsive things to someone else don't reveal the character of the target, they reveal the character of themselves. In a way, I'm glad Iva isn't here to see this. There aren't enough Ivory bars in the world to wash away the hate speech and cruelty that so many Americans have embraced. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Do it for Laura

There's a place in Earlville, about five miles from where I live, called The Christmas Shop. The store isn't open year-round, only at Christmastime, and sells, as its name suggests, Christmas things: garland and ornaments and lights and other trinkets, not your Saks Fifth Avenue overpriced fifty-dollar glass baubles but nice basic stuff at very discount prices. I've bought lots of things there to fill out the holes in my holiday decorating, tiny silver trees to go with my tiny tree collection, oversized gold balls to hang from my porch eaves, window candles to replace those whose fuses have blown for the last time. I haven't gone there every season, just discovered the shop a few years back when my cousin, who volunteers there, told me about it. The store is set up nicely in a side-street building, a temporary spot, and is staffed by volunteers like my cousin. All the merchandise is donated and raises money (I think) for a local charity or church. The atmosphere is jolly, in no small part because of the people who take time out of their lives to work there.

The last time I visited the Christmas Shop I met a woman who was cashing me out. I could tell by her accent that she was from downstate and we struck up a conversation. I told her I lived in the New York City area for 30 years before moving back upstate to my hometown, she said she came from the Bronx. We shared city stories and talked about our lives now in decidedly more rural surroundings. I was amazed, and told her so, that her accent was still so pronounced after decades in this area. The accent I might add, and her staccato conversation style, were welcome to me: my many years in Manhattan, and Queens, and ultimately Long Island, were great ones that were filled with a good career and many dear friends. I left the store uplifted. How nice, I thought then, to have met someone from my old stomping grounds. 

The woman, whose name was Laura, was a bright light. She was effervescent and charming and full of life. She was easy to laugh and bright-eyed, a kind person doing good things for her community.

I learned today that Laura died on April 2. Of COVID-19. I further learned that her husband passed away today of the same virus, just 20-some days later. Laura was 63.

I didn't know Laura at all, really, only met her that one time. But I've been crying all morning, for her, for her husband, for the children they left behind, and for the other 46,000+ American people who have died from this disease in the past month. On March 17, when I started keeping track, there were 183,000 cases globally and 7,167 deaths. In the U.S. there were 4,661 cases and 85 deaths. As of today, just five weeks later, there are 2.6 million cases around the world and 825,306 cases in the United States. And those are the cases we know of. 

For the love of god, people, take this seriously. This isn't a Chinese virus, or a European virus, or a New York City virus or a virus from outer space. It's a virus and doesn't care what you look like or how old you are or who you vote for or where you live. Listen to the medical experts, not the talking heads with political agendas. The virus is here in our communities in upstate New York. You may think it's inconvenient, or that you'll look silly, but wear a mask if you have to go out. Essential workers, thank you for being out there for us, but please wear a mask. Everybody, wash your hands when you get home, wash your clothes when you get home, but if you don't have to go out for food or prescriptions or other essential supplies, and if you're not an essential worker, stay your ass in the house. Stop worrying about being bored or how to entertain your kids or that you haven't bought your vegetable seeds yet and instead worry about getting infected. Worry about infecting other people. Worry about dying. Worry about people you know dying. Wear a mask, wash your hands. Do it for your family. Do it for your neighbors. Do it for your community. Do it for your country.

And the next time somebody tells you COVID-19 is a hoax, tell them about Laura.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Tailgate

When I think of my friend Amy Boise, I think of something really stupid we did years ago, when we were seniors in high school. My dad had a red and white pickup truck that for some reason Amy and I were driving around in one day -- normally I took my mom's car, a serious-minded Oldsmobile. I guess the truck made us feel reckless because at one point on this foolhardy afternoon I turned the wheel over to Amy and decided to stand on the rear bumper. Thinking I was in the truck bed, she stepped on the gas and I flew backward, saved only by my quick grab of the tailgate, which thankfully was up and locked into place. I have no memory of the before or after of my bumper-riding. I just remember, in slow motion, feeling her hit the gas, feeling my body jolt back, and then feeling the relief of the tailgate's hard metal in my hands. Had I fallen off the back of that pickup ... well, who knows what my future might have been: broken leg, broken spine. Broken neck.

As it happened, though, my future turned out fine. Amy and I and the rest of us in our "clique" went our separate ways and headed off to college (I didn't really know it was a clique back then, it felt more like clinging to compatible girlfriends who could help each other navigate the stormy, uncertain waters of high school). Amy's college career took her to Kentucky where, after college, she decided to stay. My path kept me in New York state for awhile, then took me to Arkansas, then back to New York, to Manhattan and surrounds. As any one of my friends will be quick to say about me, I have a hard time saying goodbye to people. With that said, I've been diligent about maintaining contact with friends all my life and Amy was no exception. Even though we were 800 miles apart, we always kept in touch. Amy and I weren't phone friends, and neither did we -- when the technology arrived -- communicate much by email. We were a bit old-fashioned: we wrote letters and cards and made a point to see each other in person, albeit infrequently. But the frequency didn't matter. Our friendship was cast in stone.

Time went on. Amy married and divorced, I almost married then didn't, Amy pursued a career in the insurance industry, I pursued one in medical publishing and conference management. We exchanged newsy Christmas cards and, as I said, saw each other occasionally, maybe once a year, maybe once every two years. Then I moved back to Sherburne in 2010 and not long after -- and I'm still not sure why -- I wrote an email to my high school friends saying it was time for us to start getting together more often, that we weren't getting any younger and sooner or later (and maybe sooner) one of us would "go" and we needed, I thought, to take advantage of days when we still had our health to spend time in each other's company. This was not an easy thing, as we were flung far and wide: Sherburne, Syracuse, Rochester, New Jersey, Boston, Kentucky. But we're a willful bunch and made it happen, which is when the Annual Memorial Day Girls' Weekend started. Not all of "the gang" came every year, the gang being Jen, Teresa, Jackie, Ann Kathryn, myself, and Amy, but there was always a good showing. We'd have food and drink and great fun at a grown-woman pajama party at my house, would allow our guy friends to participate for a few hours, but ultimately kicked them out around 9 p.m. so we could be just the girls, lounging around in bathrobes, sometimes (depending on dicey Central New York weather) with a fire crackling and feeling 17 when we were far from it. Amy came only once, that first year, because it was a 12-hour one-way drive for her, though in the years since 2010 Amy and I did see each other more often. She made a few trips to Sherburne, I made one to Kentucky around Christmas 2013. We had a lovely time that holiday, reminiscing about the old days: winters sitting on the heated kitchen floor in her parents' house; summer weekends with boyfriends at my parents' house; our trip to Disney World; band performances; class reunions. Curled in chairs in her beautiful Kentucky living room by the Christmas tree. Her cats purring nearby. Friends of forty-odd years as comfortable with each other as a sock and shoe.

Amy died today. Cancer, diagnosed last summer. The first of our high school crew to go. In November Jen, Teresa, Jackie, Ann Kathryn, and I got in a car and drove 12 hours south. We spent four days with our friend, who but for rather dramatic weight loss was just the same: stoic, blonde, beautiful, kind, a gentle humor, and determined to stay as independent as she could for as long as possible. We did our best for her: folded clothes, cleaned, made an early Thanksgiving dinner. We took her out to eat a few times, but mostly we sat around and talked, letting her know as best we could how much we loved her. One afternoon she put an old album on her turntable: the song was the SE band playing "Temptation" and we cried, which many who read this will understand. Our final glimpse of Amy was that night we drove away for the last time. She stood there alone in the lighted window waving goodbye as we pulled out of the driveway. It's a moment none of us will ever be able to unsee.

As I mentioned, I don't do this goodbye thing well, and of course I know many more are ahead unless I'm next up at bat. The truth is we never know, do we? We look into the eyes of those we love and just don't know ... is the last picture I snapped of you on my phone actually the last? Is the last time I hugged your neck never to be repeated? Will I never touch your hand again, or hear you laugh?

Amy has moved on, and those of us who loved her should not be sad because the good part of her life was gone. And for friends still here by but a tenuous thread of breath and heartbeat? Let us take no moment for granted. Let us gather as often as possible and lounge in bathrobes by warm fires and clink glasses and acknowledge the pointlessness of political arguments and earthly things; let us be grateful that we have clung to that tailgate this long, because some of us have let go. More than anything, let us be thankful that by the grace of god there are dear ones who will stand by us until the end.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Emperor's New Clothes

Great tale. Hans Christian Anderson sure was a smart fella.

From http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheEmperorsNewClothes_e.html


Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed. He cared nothing about reviewing his soldiers, going to the theatre, or going for a ride in his carriage, except to show off his new clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day, and instead of saying, as one might, about any other ruler, "The King's in council," here they always said. "The Emperor's in his dressing room."

In the great city where he lived, life was always gay. Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbors were.

"I'll send my honest old minister to the weavers," the Emperor decided. "He'll be the best one to tell me how the material looks, for he's a sensible man and no one does his duty better."
So the honest old minister went to the room where the two swindlers sat working away at their empty looms.

"Heaven help me," he thought as his eyes flew wide open, "I can't see anything at all". But he did not say so.

Both the swindlers begged him to be so kind as to come near to approve the excellent pattern, the beautiful colors. They pointed to the empty looms, and the poor old minister stared as hard as he dared. He couldn't see anything, because there was nothing to see. "Heaven have mercy," he thought. "Can it be that I'm a fool? I'd have never guessed it, and not a soul must know. Am I unfit to be the minister? It would never do to let on that I can't see the cloth."

"Don't hesitate to tell us what you think of it," said one of the weavers.

"Oh, it's beautiful -it's enchanting." The old minister peered through his spectacles. "Such a pattern, what colors!" I'll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it."

"We're pleased to hear that," the swindlers said. They proceeded to name all the colors and to explain the intricate pattern. The old minister paid the closest attention, so that he could tell it all to the Emperor. And so he did.

The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.

The Emperor presently sent another trustworthy official to see how the work progressed and how soon it would be ready. The same thing happened to him that had happened to the minister. He looked and he looked, but as there was nothing to see in the looms he couldn't see anything.

"Isn't it a beautiful piece of goods?" the swindlers asked him, as they displayed and described their imaginary pattern.

"I know I'm not stupid," the man thought, "so it must be that I'm unworthy of my good office. That's strange. I mustn't let anyone find it out, though." So he praised the material he did not see. He declared he was delighted with the beautiful colors and the exquisite pattern. To the Emperor he said, "It held me spellbound."

All the town was talking of this splendid cloth, and the Emperor wanted to see it for himself while it was still in the looms. Attended by a band of chosen men, among whom were his two old trusted officials-the ones who had been to the weavers-he set out to see the two swindlers. He found them weaving with might and main, but without a thread in their looms.

"Magnificent," said the two officials already duped. "Just look, Your Majesty, what colors! What a design!" They pointed to the empty looms, each supposing that the others could see the stuff.
"What's this?" thought the Emperor. "I can't see anything. This is terrible!

Am I a fool? Am I unfit to be the Emperor? What a thing to happen to me of all people! - Oh! It's very pretty," he said. "It has my highest approval." And he nodded approbation at the empty loom. Nothing could make him say that he couldn't see anything.

His whole retinue stared and stared. One saw no more than another, but they all joined the Emperor in exclaiming, "Oh! It's very pretty," and they advised him to wear clothes made of this wonderful cloth especially for the great procession he was soon to lead. "Magnificent! Excellent! Unsurpassed!" were bandied from mouth to mouth, and everyone did his best to seem well pleased. The Emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of "Sir Weaver."

Before the procession the swindlers sat up all night and burned more than six candles, to show how busy they were finishing the Emperor's new clothes. They pretended to take the cloth off the loom. They made cuts in the air with huge scissors. And at last they said, "Now the Emperor's new clothes are ready for him."

Then the Emperor himself came with his noblest noblemen, and the swindlers each raised an arm as if they were holding something. They said, "These are the trousers, here's the coat, and this is the mantle," naming each garment. "All of them are as light as a spider web. One would almost think he had nothing on, but that's what makes them so fine."

"Exactly," all the noblemen agreed, though they could see nothing, for there was nothing to see.

"If Your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off," said the swindlers, "we will help you on with your new ones here in front of the long mirror."

The Emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. They took him around the waist and seemed to be fastening something - that was his train-as the Emperor turned round and round before the looking glass.

"How well Your Majesty's new clothes look. Aren't they becoming!" He heard on all sides, "That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit."

Then the minister of public processions announced: "Your Majesty's canopy is waiting outside."

"Well, I'm supposed to be ready," the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. "It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?" He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.

The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.

So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

"Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on."

"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

So What?

As a college freshman and English major I took an essay writing class my first semester. My professor's name was Dr. Snow. She was a stern taskmaster, a white-haired, unsmiling elder who took no prisoners. I remember absolutely nothing about the class other than my fear of Dr. Snow and the trouble that followed my first essay submission.

Having emerged from high school with some writing accolades, I felt pretty confident that I would do okay in Dr. Snow's essay class. Maybe even an A. I turned in my first essay (the subject of which I could not, under torture, recall) and strode back to my dorm, pleased with myself and looking forward to laurels from my new professor.

Next class Dr. Snow returned graded papers ... all but mine. She said she wanted to see me after class. A trickle of unease. Why?

After 50 minutes my fellow students departed and there we sat, Dr. Snow at her desk and I in my seat. She gazed coldly at my 18-year-old face and, holding my paper up in one hand, asked without introduction: "Where did you get this information?"

Over the years I've often said to friends "So-and-so had a parakeet look -- cocked head, blank eyes" to describe a person who just isn't getting the message. It's possible I came up with that metaphor because that's the first time in memory I was the parakeet. It took me a few long seconds for what she was getting at to compute. Then it came home.

"Are you suggesting I plagiarized this?" I asked her.

"Yes." No emotion, and no question in her mind that she was right.

Granted, I was young and hadn't even begun to write what I would come to do later in my life. But I'd written enough -- and had been taught well enough -- to know there is no greater transgression in writing than to steal someone else's words and call them your own.

I was outraged and told her so.

The truth, I think, has a certain ring to it. She grilled me for ten minutes, which may not sound like very long unless you're getting grilled by a formidable professor who's accusing you of cheating your first week in college. She asked me where I got specific information and I told her I got it out of my own head, having been a reader since I was old enough to talk. She asked me to explain the specific meaning of certain passages and I did, at length. She stared me down and I stared back. Finally satisfied that she was indeed hearing the truth, she wrote a B+ on the top of the paper (I guess an A would have been too much of an admission that she'd been wrong), handed it to me, and with what is probably my own imagination creating the rest, dismissed me with a tiny Devil Wears Prada hand wave and said softly "That's all."

I'm talking about this today, of course, because of the Melania Trump brouhaha at last night's Republican convention. This morning the Trumpsters circled the wagons after news broke that Mrs. T and her speechwriters borrowed rather liberally from Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 DNC. The Trumpsters -- those coiffed and snarling attack dogs that Trump's campaign unleashes at the first sign of trouble -- have insisted all over cable news today that the accusation of plagiarism is ridiculous! This is a Clinton plot because Hillary is threatened by strong-woman Melania! That Mrs. T used common phrases!

I can't speak for any Hillary let's-take-Melania-Trump-down plots, but I can tell you after watching the comparison of Mrs. Obama's 2008 speech and Mrs. Trump's speech of last evening that somebody ought to be fired over at Trump headquarters. Indeed, Melania may have the same feelings as Michelle about her word being her bond and encouraging children to reach for the sky (that's what the Trumpsters are saying, that she was just expressing similar feelings). But when said feelings are expressed verbatim that's call plagiarism, honey.

Today the Trumpsters, along with denying any culpability for this obvious act of plagiarism, are also squealing So what? That's really been their battle cry for months, hasn't it? Every time DT spews out another racist or sexist or downright frightening remark, the Trumpsters circle those wagons, pop up on "the shows" and shout So what? 

Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, addresses the issue of plagiarism and answers the question "So what?" rather succinctly in an article published in the Huffington Post in August 2014:

"Plagiarism -- simply put, presenting someone else's words or thoughts as your own with no attribution to the original author -- is a serious intellectual and moral problem for several reasons.

Plagiarism's moral problem is clear: taking someone else's intellectual work product and using it without attribution is theft. Without fundamental moral rules protecting intellectual work products in a manner equivalent to more tangible goods or money, the work loses value. The plagiarist essentially robs the author of the value of the written word.

But plagiarists do not simply take someone else's work product for their own private enjoyment, which might be weird but harmless. Plagiarism reaches its full blown status as a moral problem and disciplinary (possibly expellable or fireable) offense when the plagiarist uses the other person's uncited work for personal and professional gain -- to earn credits or a college degree, to get ahead at work, to win a Pulitzer Prize, to sell a book or an article."

Or maybe to promote one's husband who's running for President of the United States.

Now nobody's perfect, that's true, and throughout history good, moral men and women have certainly engaged in a little shuck and jive. However, Donald Trump's entire campaign seems to be bereft of morals. The name calling, the swearing, the lying. Encouraging violence at his rallies. Calling women fat pigs. Calling Mexicans rapists. The Trump University debacle. And now the stealing of someone else's words -- and not just anyone but for the love of god Mrs. Barack Obama -- and putting them in the mouth of his wife. Donald didn't do it personally and it's unlikely that Melania wrote her own speech. So the campaign has some staffer who wrote the words, and when he/she got stuck, googled Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech and said "Hey, this is good!" and hit copy/paste, assuming nobody would know the difference. And if they did know the difference, So what? The staffer felt comfortable plagiarizing and then maybe musing So what? because that's what he learned from the top.

I remember thinking, back in 1974 under the icy gaze of Dr. Snow, that any career I might have in writing could be over if I was unable to convince this influential professor I was telling her the truth, that I hadn't plagiarized my essay. Plagiarizing was then -- and still is -- a very big deal. That Trump and his Trumpsters don't think so -- and that this man and his henchmen who are so close to the most powerful office in the world seem to have no moral center -- should be a big wake-up call for anyone who plans to vote for him. I'm not trying to pick a fight here with my friends on the right side of the political spectrum: I get it, his sound bites can be entertaining and his blustering about international affairs maybe fills a void for the angry who are looking for someone to blame. But with that said, you've gotta admit the guy is just scary. He tells his constituents he's an outsider. Yes, that's true. What he doesn't say is that he's also a megalomaniac, although to anybody paying attention, that should be obvious.

To quote Tony Schwartz, Trump's own hand-picked biographer and co-author of The Art of the Deal:

“You know, it’s a terrifying thing. I haven’t slept a night through since Donald Trump announced for president because I believe he is so insecure, so easily provoked and not — not particularly — nearly as smart as people might imagine he is. I do worry that with the nuclear codes, he would end civilization as we know it.” 

Not much to say after that.

Related links

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bye Bye Birdie

I'm writing this on a Sunday afternoon. It's chilly November, although last week was quite beautiful. There's a fire going in my fireplace and I'm doing some TV binge-watching (the hilarious LillyHammer). Harry is on my lap snoozing, and Ruby is nearby. But there's a heartbeat missing from this cozy room: my Lucy.
The first time I saw Lucy she was about the size of a hefty coffee mug. She was born at Mountain Top Golf Course here in Sherburne, the runt of a big litter and easily two times smaller than her littermates. She was sickly, had some sort of respiratory infection, and when I first spotted her she was scampering around under golf cart wheels. The guys at the course nicknamed her "Lucky" because she was nearly run over so many times. I just deleted the "k" and called her Lucy. Gathered her up and took her back to Long Island with me. This was in 2000.
She was a complicated cat. So loving and sweet, a calico who would curl next to me in bed, where in the morning we would wake together. Her walk was dainty, like a little old lady. She was also a bit of a bitch. Once I walked into a guest room and saw her squatting to pee on a brand new mattress. She also, periodically, made her mark on carpets. There were times, I admit, when I thought about strangling her, or taking her to the vet for "the final ride." But of course I never did. I loved her in spite of this peeing flaw, and in fact in the last year she'd been really good. The four of us -- Harry, Ruby, Lucy, and I -- had found an easy peace here on Classic Street. Harry liked the cats -- or at least found them worth an up-close evaluation -- and the cats tolerated him in spite of his barking and sniffing and jealous tantrums when Lucy or Ruby climbed up on my lap. 
My cats go outside ("better to die on your feet than live on your knees" and all that), and on the evening of October 27th Lucy, who'd been out all day, didn't come home. Ruby-the-Rebel stays out overnight sometimes, but never Lucy. The morning of the 28th I knew something wrong when she wasn't at the door.
Hope (of course) springs eternal. Days went by as I watched out the window, checking the door compulsively, expecting to see her sitting there on the sunny porch as I'd seen the afternoon of October 27th. My friends imparted cat advice: "My cat came home after 10 days missing!" Another friend's cat had been locked in a garage and was finally freed. But no. Lucy didn't come home.
Finally (feeling stupid that I hadn't thought of it earlier), I posted her photo on Facebook. In five minutes I got a response: "Look across the street from your house; there's a cat's body there," someone said. Indeed. It was my Lucy, there in grass.
I don't know what happened. Was she hit by a car? Or maybe she just gave up and died. She'd been acting "funny" lately, staring into corners and yowling, squishing herself into strange spaces. And she was, after all, 15-going-on-16. When I found her I didn't investigate to see if there was blood. In fact I freaked a bit, ran to my cousin-neighbors and asked Frank to put her in a box for me, wrapped in a towel. Then when I tried to dig a hole and couldn't, I called my friend Mike to do the job. Lots of crying and hand waving and head thrashing ensued, but in the end Lucy came home, and is now safely buried in the back yard.
There is a contract, if you will, that we agree to when we adopt a pet. An understanding that this little creature we take into our homes and treat as a child will probably die before we do. We have 10, maybe 15, if we're really lucky maybe 18 years with a cat or dog. These babies of ours never grow up and move away, never crash the car, never get mad and say I hate you. They love us unconditionally, welcoming us with big eyes when we come through the door, and when they die we're tortured by their absence. I still see Lucy curled on the sofa in my office, or warming herself by the fireplace. I don't see her piddling accidents. I see my darling's green eyes or hear her scratchy meows. I feel her jumping on the bed, though when I look she isn't (of course) there.
I can only hope she died easy. And I suppose I'll get over the absent feel of her brushing against my legs as I sit at my desk, nudging my ankle for love.
My nickname for her, since she was baby, was Lucy Bird, or for short, Birdie. I've called Ruby "Birdie" six dozen times since Lucy died, which I never did before. I suppose that will fade away, too.
There's something funny about all this -- odd funny, not haha funny: a dear relative of mine died on October 27th six years ago. Maybe it was just Birdie's time, and Scarlet stepped in to take her home. So I'm trying to imagine Lucy curled on Scarlet's lap, Scarlet stroking Lucy's beautiful calico coat, the both of them watching out for the rest of us down here.
I like that idea.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

SSIRP Breaks Ground

Senator James Seward, Sherburne Town Supervisor Charles Mastro, and Sherburne Mayor Bill Acee joined SSIRP board members and representatives of Rich & Gardner Construction Company on July 13 for a groundbreaking ceremony at The Sherburne Inn. Senator Seward congratulated SSIRP on what he called "a great day for Sherburne," adding that The Inn is not only at the physical center of the community, but at its emotional and social center as well. "The Sherburne Inn represents Sherburne's history," he said, "and its future."
Pictured here, left to right: Mark Becht of Rich & Gardner Construction; Kathleen Yasas, SSIRP president; Kristina Rodriguez, SSIRP board member; Steve Perrin, SSIRP vice president and project manager; Chris Hoffman, SSIRP treasurer; Senator Seward; Charles Mastro; SSIRP board member Vince Yacono; Bill Acee; and Mike Gardner, of Rich & Gardner Construction.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum