TJ’s Weekly Haiku Challenge: WATER LILIES

TJ Paris has been offering his weekly haiku challenge and this week’s challenge is water lilies. Happy to report that I’m haiku coo cooing again!

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One amidst many

Colors escaped from my dreams

Earth’s water lilies

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Posted in haiku, nature, photography, poetry | Leave a comment

Film Review – Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe

stefan_zweigWe rarely view a film with five principal languages – German, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. But the film Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe, written and directed by Maria Schrader, pays homage to the last seven years of the extraordinary life of the great Jewish Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader), whose popularity in the 1920s and 30s made him the most translated author in the world. It also telescopes us into his world where, after his writing was banned in Austria and his citizenship revoked on account of his Jewishness, Zweig fled – in exile – to live in London, New York City, and to settle, finally, in Brazil.

The film is divided into segments, each reflecting a different time and place where Zweig and his second wife Lotte (Aenne Schwarz) travelled – Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, to name a few. But wherever Zweig is, the realities of the ascendency of fascist Europe form, although off-screen, an inextricable part of the story. Nazi horrors and the decline of moral values are never far from Zweig’s inner and tormented world.

One of the earliest dynamics shows itself in Rio, 1936, where Zweig is being honored by the P.E.N (Poets, Essayists and Novelists) Club for their 14th International Conference. American-Jewish journalist Joseph Brainin (André Szymanski), also of Austrian heritage, confronts and challenges Zweig to use his international literary clout to publicly condemn Nazi aggression. Zweig, however, lives in two worlds and one of those worlds is the intellectual world, where there is no room for polemics.

Balancing against the intellectual world of his writing and his idealistic hope for the long-run future of Europe is his emotional world, in which he has lost the very bedrock of his life: his home, homeland, citizenship, and the world of German, the language in which he thinks and writes.

Wherever Zweig goes, requests to sponsor a fellow Jew in Europe for travel to Brazil pursue him. In a remote village in Brazil, he steals time, as the town’s mayor is honoring him, to make some arrangements before Brazil ceases to issue visas. “He who has no country has no future,” he states. In New York City, he and Lotte are guests of Zweig’s first wife Friderike (Barbara Sukowa), who, with her two daughters from her first marriage, crossed the Pyranees by foot in order to escape France and reach the United States. As the clouds of war, devastation and anti-Jewish legislation begin to mount in Europe, Friderike prevails upon him to sponsor another desperate Jewish acquaintance still in Austria for travel to the U.S. Zweig himself aches to have a sense of belonging and of peace, which he needs to write and make a living in this new world. He cannot sponsor everybody.

To demonstrate the increasing desperation of European Jews, director Shrader’s clever camera work shows not scenes of war, but a shot of piles of bundled mail on Frederike’s table with similar requests awaiting the revered writer.

In Petrópolis, Brazil, he and Lotte choose to settle down where they feel the warmth of acceptance, racial and ethnic diversity, and the beauty of an unspoiled land. In this paradise still his mind is restless. He and friend and fellow writer Ernst Feder (Matthias Brandt), who has also settled there, look upon the splendor from the balcony of his home. “We have no reason to complain.”

“No.” Each man stares into the tropical distance. The silence answers.

“Not us.” Both men attest to the impossibility of blocking out the suffering of their kinsmen and the moral depravity now marking Europe.

Most viewers will not know of Zweig or his international renown and will have to piece together a great deal of background information, the film’s most prominent shortcoming. We will wonder what he wrote, the specifics under which he left Austria, why he and Friderike divorced and how they yet maintained a trusting friendship, and more. The transitions between segments are somewhat bumpy.

But the reward of seeing this strong film overcomes this. Passionate acting dynamics, in particular of Josef Hader and Barbara Sukowa, and dialogue place us in the middle of ethical dilemmas. I’m hoping the film inspires viewers to read Zweig’s stories and novellas and his revealing and magnificent autobiography “The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European,” completed in 1939. Viewers may be surprised that his writing was the inspiration behind the critically-acclaimed film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or that a Jewish writer in the 1920s and 30s could have the international stature that rock stars have today.

One of the film’s lighter moments takes place in a Brazilian village where Zweig is so revered that the mayor hires a marching band to serenade him and Lotte with “The Blue Danube” waltz.

Interestingly, the film’s original title is Stefan Zweig: Before the Dawn, and we might ask what dawn this refers to. Perhaps this is the author’s personal search; perhaps it is the viewer’s search, hoping that Zweig personally, and Europe overall, will reawaken from its Nazi horror and, one morning all will be well.

The final scene in the bountiful unspoiled Petrópolis connects eerily with the film’s opening scene, where he is being honored by the president of Brazil with a lavish and highly orchestrated meal. Flowers  are arranged by attendants with the delicacy of heart surgery. How better to then transition to the contradiction between that, and Zweig’s internal world and the external horrors of a suffering Europe and Jewish population.

Some may judge the way the revered Zweig and his wife’s lives ended, so gingerly depicted in this film, but Maria Schrader’s film boldly depicts the monumental challenges encountered by Zweig – a great writer, refugee, pacifist and idealist in search of pride, self-esteem and a life of meaning – when all of Europe and the world he knew was falling apart.

 

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Posted in ethics, film reviews, life, movies, politics | Leave a comment

Truth or Mom?

As a college writing teacher, my students were required to write essays that would answer the question: Is it ever okay to lie?

Paper after paper my students would write “Yes” and go on to support their answers. I knew many people who lied regularly. But it was unusual for me to listen to somebody defend their lying.

The situation was often this: The student would have an elderly parent or grandparent who lived far away. Very far away.  Say, for example, the student lived in New York and the elderly grandparent was living in China. The student’s father was ill and nobody would tell the elderly grandparent back in the homeland. Their reasoning was this: That it would upset the grandparent so it was better to say nothing. I always just focused on the students’ writing, their development of ideas, sentence structure and grammar, but inside I was kind of horrified. How could you not tell a grandparent that their son was sick? Or dying? Or dead?

Recently I’ve started lying to my mom. It just happens. She’s elderly and has dementia. So when my husband came home from a business trip with a broken leg, did I tell her? Absolutely – NOT.

Last month I detected a large lump on the back of my head. To the doctor and hospital I went. Did I tell my mom? Absolutely – NOT. The lump thankfully turned out to be just a fatty deposit.

Sometimes I have to get my mom up and walking. She’ll stay in bed all day until dinner unless somebody gets her up and walking. I’ll call her around noon or 1pm and tell her it’s time to take a walk down the hall. She’ll ask, “Can I go back to bed after this?” I answer, “Absolutely!” Then in an hour I’ll tell her that her aid is coming. I don’t mention that her aid will be getting her onto the exercise bicycle.

Last week her home health aid texted me that my mom didn’t want to do a certain activity. She texted me, “I hate to lie to her but sometimes I just have to, to get her there.” To the home health aid I wrote, “You’re not lying. You are honest when you say, “Yes, you can go back to sleep after this. You’re just not telling her that she cannot go back to sleep right after this.””

It’s disturbing to not tell the truth, or to withhold the truth. It’s a line to be very very careful about. I have to decide in each and every case. But it does feel right to not worry somebody who, as part of her medical condition, lacks initiative and needs a little ‘help’ to get moving. I know what the consequences would be of my mom laying in bed all morning and afternoon. They would not be good.

With my husband’s broken leg, what I don’t want to have happen is for my mom to feel that she’s burdening me with taking care of her, on top of taking care of my husband. That could really be bad.

Maybe there’s somebody around and my mom will ask, “Have I ever met her (or him) before?” There was a time when  – without hesitation – I would say “Yes.” But now I hedge. “I don’t think so,” and she’ll feel better. It’s hard enough for her – she knows, she really really knows, that her memory is failing. Badly. But I’m not going to rub it in and feel unnecessarily badly about her condition.

Okay, let’s not call it a lie. Maybe let’s call it less than truth.

The last time I drove home from visiting her, a 7-hour drive mostly in the dark, she wanted me to call her when I got home. It was getting really late. Really late. Like middle of the night late. There was no way I was going to phone her at 3am. I considered lying and telling her I had arrived home, safely. NO I couldn’t do that. What if something actually happened to me on the road after I phoned her? Next idea: I might make her angry, but the call went something like this: “Mom, it’s getting late and I’m not home yet but I’m only an hour away from home. I’m not going to call you again because it’s just getting too late.” And she said, “That’s fine, dear. Thank you and drive safely.”

My religious tradition says one may lie to preserve the cause of peace, not to hurt another person’s feelings, or to provide comfort. One may also lie in a situation where honesty might cause oneself or another person harm.

Honestly, it’s not always so easy to tell what that line is. And dealing with aging parents is difficult enough. Maybe some of my students had this right all along.

 

 

Posted in dementia, ethics, grandparents, kindness, life, relationships | 3 Comments

Our Grand Rose of Sharon, and Her Attendants

Our beautiful lady has been showing off for four months now. Days shorten, evenings cool off, and still she (and her attendant bees!) glitters. All these, and more, from one bush.

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I know you’re in there, oh bee!

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Come out, bee, and show your face!

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And on a new day in different light….

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Posted in nature, photography, sun | 2 Comments

Book Review: Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS

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When we hear CIA – it’s impossible for this acronym to not conjure up an image – but how many of us know what the OSS was? During WWII, the Office of Strategic Services became America’s first central intelligence agency, with offices in Washington DC, which expanded to London, Spain, North Africa, Scandinavia and more, as the war theater expanded yet into the China/Burma/Japan theater.  And many of the most important figures in its mission to espionage were women.

Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS by Elizabeth McIntosh, herself a woman of the OSS, gives us a look at that this dangerous enterprise that spanned continents. It is written as a combination history book, and memoir – but a memoir of hundreds of women who risked it all for freedom.  Not only did the author, herself a member of the OSS in the Pacific theater and charged with “black propaganda,” do her scholarly research, but she visited those women who had survived and who were still alive many years later, interviewing them and piecing together the heroic stories of their daring exploits, and their after-story, always one of pride in what they had done as members of the OSS.

Some readers (such as on Goodreads, etc.) have complained at the litany of women whose exploits were described. For sure, some women’s stories are told in vivid detail, while others’ exploits are mentioned but briefly. It was wearing at times, particularly toward the end of the book when the topic turned to the China/Japan/Burma front. But there’s still so much more ahead: How many of us are surprised to learn that Julia McWilliams, who later married Paul Child and became our French Chef, Julia Child, was an OSS agent and stationed on in the Pacific front (See her recipe for sharp protection, below:)? sharp-protectantBut I think that’s the point. McIntosh wants us to know, although perhaps there is sometimes too much detail, that each woman was an integral part of the effort, each working efficiently, creatively, and utilizing her own talents, and each took risks. As the history of WWII fades in the minds of Americans alive today, as espionage is performed more by drones, satellites and computer hacking, we understand less and less what it took to defeat the Axis powers and Nazi Germany during the 1940’s. Some women packed parachutes, some encoded, some turned Nazis and German POWs into spies for the Allies forces, some traced Nazi gold as far as South America, some forged documents, some monitored the manufacture of weapons and other war supplies, and some rose to heroic stature.

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We also must marvel because any detail overlooked might cause death to one and to many: Women of the OSS often kept counterfeit money in their brassieres to soften it up, to make it look old and used. Women of the OSS COI (Cover and Documentation) research, and provided clothing for those going undercover so as not to alert a Nazi soldier to the irregularity. Women of the OSS trained men to smoke cigarettes down to the butt, as European men did. Nothing was too small to notice. Details meant lives saved.

There is no typical profile but for a woman who had skills, education, and a sense of mission. Many who we read about were Americans educated, at least for a while, in Europe, and so were multilingual, speaking English, French, German, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Czechoslovakian, and more. Many were not even Americans, but were dedicated to the Allied cause.

Among those who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star or the Career Intelligence Medal, or other honors. Cordelia Dodson, among her many other exploits, became a driver, which required driving in war-torn London, and relayed men to planes that were airlifting and dropping them off behind the lines in France, to join the men and women of the resistance. Marked by an artificial limb, “The Limping Lady,” Virginia Hall,  entered occupied France and organized, armed and trained three units consisting of 300 agents who took part in sabotage operations against the Germans; she located drop zones for supplies and money for the resistance, and recruited French citizens who would establish safe houses for agents and supplies, often carrying her detachable brass foot in a bag. Gertrude Legendre, a debutante who was initially supposed to supervise the routing, delivery and verification of intelligence in London, ended up on a mission in Germany with several others that found her in a prisoner of war camp in France, interrogated by the Gestapo, and later made a daring escape into neutral Switzerland by jumping off a train. Maria Gulovich, from Czechoslovakia, translated front-line intelligence from Slovak or German into Russian, and was eventually recruited by the OSS to lead a group of resistance fighters through occupying troops to the Russian front, acting as interpreter and foraging for food in the villages while on route. Chased for months by Germans and braving snowstorms, starvation, enemy fire, gangrene, betrayal and ultimately capture, she and her two companions made a final daring escape and were rescued by British and American OSS authorities.

What I also found unique about this book is that it also gives voice to the these women’s scorn toward the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews. OSS women cared not just about Germany’s military takeover of land and territory in its quest for global domination, but about how Nazi’s treated other humans, including the Jews and Nazi attempts to exterminate them.

Wrote Cornelia Dodson, a graduate of Reed College in Oregon who was studying in Vienna in 1938 when Hitler’s troops marched in: “I learned to hate the Nazis from that time on. They were so arrogant, so merciless, rounding up anti-Nazis all over town, even during opera performances.  Their persecution of the Jews was inhuman.” (p. 172) Dodson returned to the U.S., but became a member of the OSS X-2 (Counter-terrorism Unit) later, then went on an undercover mission to Bern to obtain the complete set of diaries written by Mussolini’s son-in-law, Count Galeazzo Ciano.

Maria Gulovich began her anti-Nazi covert operations and resistance in her native village of Hrinova, Czechoslovakia, when she hid a young Jewish woman and her five-year-old son whom her sister had brought to her in her home.

In the first part of the book, the author mentions discrimination (such as the State Department being closed-minded about women), but in the epilogue she strongly advocates for equality of advancement when the CIA becomes America’s intelligence organization. She questions not just where women would be allowed to be in combat, notes advancements, but also advocates for rising within the organization, even for a woman to one day be head of the CIA.

Still, overall, McIntosh’s focus is on honoring these brave thousands of women, some named, many nameless, the choices they made and the sacrifices they made in the name of freedom and against tyranny, totalitarianism, and madness. As the conversation these days shifts to questions about women in combat and sexual assault in the military, this is the story of the brave women who, during World War II, were dropped behind enemy lines to defeat a “well-trained enemy” bent on world domination and genocide.


*The one historical inaccuracy I found was this, in reference to the  Enigma machine, the German cipher machine which GB had in its possession: “Later, code manuals and additional apparatus were captured.” (p. 146) After the truth about Enigma was declassified, it was revealed that Alan Turing devised the electromechanical machine that allowed the British to crack the Nazi code. Turing was later arrested, prosecuted and publicly humiliated for homosexual acts, and died young (either of poisoning or suicide) and thus during his lifetime was never able to be acknowledged for his singular role in winning the war. See also Joan Clark, the only woman who was on Turing’s code-breaking team. See “The Imitation Game,” screenplay by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

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Posted in book reviews, life, memories, politics, women | 4 Comments

Weight Loss for Seniors (and Others) – It Starts with the Haircut

Most of us at my age are pondering whether or not to begin to take social security payments, or when it’s time to retire. Both of these questions pale in comparison to the big one:

After having snacked and overindulged my way through the 15 years, is this the body weight I want to have for the rest of my life? Do I want to have this blob in my midsection for the next 30 years?

I used to tuck my stretch skirts under the blob that my tummy consisted of, and float my shirt over them. (Know what I’m referring to?) My husband would reach over and pull the skirt up over the blob.  I could grab the blob in one hand. Maybe two. One summer day I tried on a favorite dress, and struggled to zipper it or looked at my profile in the mirror and had to whisper “NO” and start all over. That was one too many times.

You should recognize by now that you don’t have to be over 60 to know what I’m talking about. After years of a little late night snacking here, a second helping of desert there, I borrowed from the Rabbi and sage Hillel the Elder: “If not now, when?”

Now two months into this commitment, I’m offering up my advice – nowhere near as sage as Hillel the Elder’s, but at least worth a few bytes of space on some server – for a successful weight loss journey:

    • Couple your weight loss with something else drastic that you’ve been wanting to do for a while. I had also been wanting to cut my hair short, to how I’d worn it as a child. So one day I went into the salon and said to my stylist, “I’ve been talking about this for years. Let’s do it.”                                                                                                                                                 short-cutsShe lopped it off, and the compliments haven’t stopped.  And I’ve already accomplished step 1 of my look better feel better plan. That has given me confidence to go on with this endeavor.
    • Be prepared for the long haul. The hardest may be the beginning, but this is not going to be short and easy. Say goodbye to the quick and easy weight loss of our 20s or 30s or even 40s. Week 1 will become Week 2, which will become Week 3, soon Month 1, Month 2 and so on. Our metabolism has changed, our muscle mass has diminished. You don’t need a new scale! To encourage you, try looking at how your clothing feels, if it’s looser and better fitting. But be encouraged that while you’re changing your eating habits for now, you’re also creating new eating habits for the long run.
    • Do you have any medical conditions that a change in diet could help with? Consider that and incorporate this into your new eating habits. Are you also pre-diabetic? Or have high blood pressure, that a change in what you eat could also mediate? My breakfast is now two hard-boiled eggs and because I have high cholesterol, I remove 1-1/2 of the yolks (leaving me only 1/2 yolk, to add a little flavor and color). I’m also pre-diabetic, so I have eliminated ice-cream and cake. An orange might be my fruit serving;  juice is also eliminated for the same reason, as one glass of juice is equivalent to 4 or more oranges and is too high in fructose sugars. I’m having some almonds each day for snacking, as recommended by the dietician. We eat more Omega3-rich and other foods, suggested to avoid Alzheimer’s., a fatal disease that currently has no cure and which is the cause of death for 1 out of 3 seniors. I have two small Stella D’Oro Swiss Fudge cookies after dinner as my daily indulgence.
    • Do not accept quitting. You’re a train on a track, and you cannot get off. Stay the journey. You cannot get off the diet tonight, and say “The diet begins tomorrow.” Some diets, such as the 5-2 diet, allow you to be “off” the diet for 2 out of every 7 days. After several months, I do occasionally have some ice-cream. But don’t then get angry at yourself for doing this. Justlove yourself, reaffirm your goal, and jump back into your seat on the train.

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    • Have a mantra. Mine is “Now or never.” (“I really don’t need this cookie” does not work with me at all!) The only other way for me to lose weight is to become very very ill. That is not an option here. This is about improving your quality of life and living well, not shortening it.
    •  Your diet should not be a foreign language. When you see diets others have eaten and the food looks strange, even the names of food are unrecognizable, that is not for you. Quinoa does not work for me. Work with what you eat and love.

For example, see this breakfast online.

If I scrambled 1/2 c. egg whites  with 1 t. olive oil, 1 t. chopped basil, 1 t. grated Parmesan, and 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes in the morning, I’d be stimulating the culinary sensory part of my brain way too much and getting off to a very bad start. My hard-boiled eggs are pre-cooked and shelled; I do six at a time, enough for 3 days. All I have to do in the morning is add the spoon of mayo, some salt and pepper, make a egg salad, and eat. My milk is the half and half in my coffee. As in “Would you like some coffee with your half and half?” My blueberries I save for later in the day, when I need a little snacking. etc. And no toast.

That same website has this dinner one evening:

Dinner
4 ounces grilled salmon
1 cup wild rice with 1 tablespoon slivered toasted almonds
1 cup wilted baby spinach with 1 teaspoon each olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grated Parmesan
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe topped with
1/2 cup all-fruit raspberry sorbet and 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts

That’s cool with me; we have salmon, or tilapia or maybe chicken, sometimes canned tuna. I dispense with the starches (although serve rice to my husband), except for Friday night and Saturday lunch, when I’ll have some bread. The almonds are my snacking food, for after meals. The spinach is great, and we might have broccoli or mixed veggies, sometimes plucked right from my garden. No sorbet for me. It’s the sugars. For Labor Day, my husband fired up the grill and cooked the chicken outside. Same food but a treat, with the new and exciting flavors.

My snacks may be almonds, a probiotic yogurt for lunch, a glass of milk after dinner.

      •  Exercise, and exercise more.  A friend recently complained because she runs 1/2 hour on the treadmill at the gym each day and she’s not losing weight. Defining your goal as weight loss may be the problem. You want to lose weight, but you also want to slim down. These are two different goals. That 1/2 hour on the treadmill is nice but it’s probably just compensating for all the sitting and driving and sitting and driving that we in this day and age are doing. To LOSE weight, and even importantly to BUILD MUSCLE, you’re going to have to jog on a a track, and go beyond that 1/2 hour on the treadmill. What do you love doing? I love to but only on an outdoor track. I love to play tennis, bike, and swim (mostly outdoors). Whatever you can love doing, do it. Ping pong? Do it, religiously.Why is it important to differentiate between losing weight and slimming down? Five pounds of FAT has much more mass (that is, it’s larger) than five pounds of MUSCLE. If you want to also be slimmer, eat fewer calories but build muscle. (See the photos in this hyperlink.) Don’t have a good way to build muscle? Ask a fitness person at the gym to set you up a program. Walk to the store. Bike, if you dare, and if you can. Don’t just walk your dog; jog with him. Your dog might shed a few needed pounds, and build up some muscle, too.                                                                                                                          9_11_035
      •  Learn from, but don’t be or feel bound by, the popular diets of the day, their pros and cons. Use what works for you, but remember, these diets are contrived, made up. Take the principles of healthy eating, know what is good for you and not good for you, and take it from there. Vegetarians and vegans must also make sure they are not getting malnourished as the days of the diet wear on, into weeks and months. Most of these diets have a reduction in starchy carbohydrates and in fructose and glucose sugars. Most include almonds and some nuts (but not too many). And everybody is agreeing: LOW CARBS!! Take a supplement if necessary, to ensure a well-balanced diet.
      • If you go out to eat, be prepared to leave food, and maybe lots of it, on your plate. Contrary to what you learned as a kid, you do not have to eat everything on your plate. Concerned about food waste? I was at an out-of-town wedding last week, and there was way more food than was healthy even for a male adult who was a foot taller than me. I asked the server to place certain items in a bag for me to carry out and I kept everything cool in the hotel mini-fridge. (I also have traveled using our camping cooler.) This worked out well since I was out of town and needed to eat the next day.
      • The reward for exercising is NOT eating. The reward for exercising is a healthier you, and progress in your goal of weight loss and slimming down (building muscle).
      • Get ready to be admired for your resolve. Secretly all around you are people who wish they could lose weight successfully.  They’ll ask, “How did you do it?” They’ll certainly validate you when you’ve lost the weight and tell you how great you look.

You’ll know this diet is working when you have more energy in the morning, more energy through out the day, that’s great. Protein for breakfast, rather than carbos, has worked really well for me. You may also be surprised that after a few months you’ve lost your urges to snack on carbs during the day and in the evening.

Enjoy on that ride!

And to think this all started out with a cute bob haircut!

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Posted in clothing, dementia, food, health, tennis | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Was He Black?” The Unfortunate Aftermath of an Incident

It was already scorching hot at 5 a.m. and the morning sun already lit up the city streets that stretched east and west, and those that stretched north and south, as well as the rivers that bounded the city limits, when the three cops parked their squad cars and walked into the street-level mini-mart on the southwest corner as soon as it opened. The morning coffee was hot and fresh, from the first batch of the day. The donuts, fresh and chewy.  The three cops walked back to their squad cars, ate their donuts, drank their coffee, and talked. In the background the scratchy 911 dispatches were already steady.

Joe the gay guy who lived on the ground-level apartment of a 3-story building in the middle of the block that housed the mini-mart was up early, as he usually was. But this morning was different, not just because it was so hot so early. This was the gay guy’s first morning unemployed, and he was awake out of habit. He used to wake up early to open up one of the neighborhood gay bars. I actually never knew this: For all the years he and I were neighbors I never asked him what he did for a living.

Somebody else was awake at 5 a.m. – the black guy who was making his way up the fire escape of our building, past the vacant second floor, and in through the tiny bathroom window that was open on the third floor. I first saw him as I heard the words, “Take off your clothes,” and opened my eyes to see him standing above me with a 12-inch knife blade pointed right at me.

I’ll skip the next ten minutes, except to say eventually the gay guy heard a lot of screaming and figured it was just my TV. When the screaming didn’t end, and when it sounded really loud to him, he went to his phone and called 9-1-1. Then he  went out to the street and waited for cops, with the front door wide open.

As fast as a donut crumbles, the three cops were there at the front door and running up the winding staircase stairs to my 3rd floor apartment. The cop with the biggest foot bashed the door down and all entered behind him.

Hearing the decisive call “POLICE,” the assailant abandoned his struggle with me, ran out the kitchen door that led to the fire escape, down the fire escape, down the path, and jumped over a high wooden fence, to the narrow cobbled street beyond.

The cops watched as he jumped over the fence, then quickly ran back out to try to capture him.  My gay neighbor Joe came up to my apartment to see if I was okay. I offered Joe some apple juice that I’d had in my fridge and had a little for myself. I think it was the first time that Joe was in my apartment. That’s also when Joe pointed to my hand and showed me that I’d been stabbed.

The next time I saw a cop, one was assisting me in getting downstairs to the street in front of my apartment where I was asked me to ID the guy, who was then led into the back of the waiting paddy wagon; and then the cop assisted me into the back seat of a squad car and sped me off to the hospital.

Later that day after I came back to consciousness, a black detective, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, was by my side, gently asking me questions and writing my answers. His being there was comforting. I never saw him again; I think he got everything he needed.

The second day in the hospital was special. Beaten and wounded, I was recuperating when three cops came into my room. Three white cops, standing shoulder to shoulder, by the side of my hospital bed. They introduced themselves: Gary, Pete and Mike. Gary, Pete and Mike.

One said, “You look beautiful.”

I’m thinking to myself, my face is swollen and black and blue. I can’t find the glint in my eyes because the whites are now red. They told me even that the swelling had gone down from what I looked like the day before. (How mangled did I look like the day before??)

I asked “Why didn’t you shoot when you saw the guy running away?”

Gary said, “You can’t shoot at somebody who is escaping from a crime.” I think about that nowadays especially.

Pete told me how the guy, who was cornered in somebody’s back yard, was capture. He had “the business end” pointed at him – I had to use my imagination but figured out what that was – but didn’t use it and didn’t need to.

Mike was the guy with the big foot, and apparently his big foot left a big mark in the door.

Eventually I was discharged from the hospital, and then had to meet with the District Attorney on my case. He was a big D.A. – what I mean by that is that he was a big black guy with the smile of a teddy bear. I hadn’t seen many smiles lately. I liked him right away. I asked, and he told me a little about himself, where he had gone to law school, and about his father being a military man, about how his little son was looking forward to him coming home that night so they could have a “man to man talk.” As difficult as it was to go over the details of the case, as difficult as it was to look at photographs from my apartment, now the “crime scene,” I was comfortable and confident around him. We met again before the preliminary hearing. Same soft smile. Same personable air.

The days and months leading up to the trial involved lots and lots of physical therapy appointments.

People would see my injured arm and ask, “What happened?” They were more than I little surprised that the answer wasn’t something simple like “I was ice-skating” or “I fell off my bicycle.” It was painful to review the incident but I’d answer the basics, at least what they needed to know. My answer was usually something like “A guy came into my apartment early one morning….”

A good bit of the time the first question back to me would be:

“Was he black?”

“Why do you need to know that?” I’d ask. Or maybe I’d ask,”What does that matter?”

I never ever got an actual reason why. But maybe half the time they’d ask.

Sometimes my answer would be, “Why do you need to know? My DA is black and he’s really really great.”  People cared when the criminal behavior reinforced a negative notion they already had of the black race, but didn’t care, or weren’t impressed, when the person and his behavior was exemplary.

About one month later, I went back to my old building and visited Joe. Joe-whose-last-name-I-don’t-even-know. Joe the gay guy. I thanked him for what he’d done to save my life. He didn’t see calling 9-1-1 as anything heroic. Thinking about it now, I should have gotten Joe a gift. But at that time, and for many many months after, I was traumatized. I wonder where he is, what he’s doing.

During the months of my recuperation and while awaiting the trial, I heard on the radio that one of the three cops had been brought up on charges of abusing somebody he was taking into custody. One of the three cops who had visited me by my bedside. One of the three cops that had rushed into my apartment, and that had pursued the assailant through the city streets, and who had been so careful to not injure an escaping assailant. To the court, I submitted a written character witness statement, and showed up to his trial to attest to his character. The lives these cops live.

In the middle of everything,  the Italian judge sitting on the case was fired for corruption charges and we had to wait until a new judge was assigned.

Then I was told that I had a new D.A. Why? The name of my very likeable District Attorney had been submitted by President George W. Bush to serve as a United States Federal Judge. Sorry to lose him, but cream rises to the top, and he was recognized, and he was deserving. But the Republican Senate refused to ratify him. I followed for months, when his name was resubmitted by President Bill Clinton and he was approved by the United States Senate for the Federal judgeship. Which is where he honorably serves to date.

256px-Liberty_Bell_2008

My next D.A. was also male, and he was white, like me, and Jewish, like me.

What a varied bunch we were, working together for life and for justice. But that’s what it looks like, in order to secure the blessings of liberty… And some cop to tell you – when you’ve been down and almost out – that you look beautiful.

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Posted in addiction, life, politics, relationships, united states | 2 Comments

TJ’s Weekly Household Haiku Challenge: “Vibrant”

Once again I’m inspired by TJ Paris and his weekly household item haiku challenge. This week’s challenge is the adjective, “vibrant.” TJ also has a new format for his haiku challenge. Check it out!

 

Again, her eyes gleam!

Either the chemo’s working

Or all our prayers are.

 

roses

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Posted in haiku, health, medications | 8 Comments

What’s A Little Pound Here and There?

270px-SpaghettataMy pots and pans were pretty scrappy, picked up in a supermarket or hardware store here and there over the years. But the name Calphalon had a nice ring about it. This Calphalon pot, however, significantly shinier than anything I’d had, was three times larger than any pot I had ever cooked in, or lifted, or washed. A box of spaghetti would last me weeks. But suddenly I was cooking up the entire box in one night in the shiny Calphalon pot, every week. There was also now three times as much water to drain! Another mess, too, and a steamy one at that.  Then there was the job of transferring the pasta to the large celadon ceramic pasta dish also three times larger than I had ever known.

Dinner had to be served not whenever I was hungry but carefully calibrated to be too early and not too late. It had to be sandwiched nicely in between my new step-daughter getting home from her after-school activities, and before she went upstairs to practice her flute and do her hours and hours of homework and before the dog got his evening walk. After homework and before bedtime was evening snack time. Ice cream! Ice cream all around, in our bedroom, on the bed, in front of the TV! Everybody loved dinner, everybody loved the spaghetti, and everybody loved the ice cream.

And I felt sick!

The calculation was simple: From a single person cooking or one, I was now cooking for three – myself, a husband (who ran 50 miles each week) and a teenage step-daughter.

Considering as a single, I didn’t even purchase ice cream, my new refrigerator, double the size of the one I had in my Brooklyn apartment, with an entire side being the freezer, held temptation in all forms, shapes, flavors, food groups, and temperatures. It was a very bad day when my step-daughter innocently enough, said to me one day, “There’s nothing in the fridge!” Apparently Dad did a much better job of keeping the refrigerator stocked than I did.

There were a lot of firsts those years. It was the first time somebody had gotten down on one knee and asked me, “Will you marry me?” It was also the first time my physician said, “You have to lose weight.”

Of course eventually my step-daughter went off to college and I was only shopping and cooking for two. I was sure that my waistline would be saved. But no! I was shopping and cooking for two – but the scale, digital and accurate, and I were at a standoff.

Gone was the spaghetti from my shopping cart. Gone the different meal each evening. Gone is the ice cream. But in its place is my husband’s new love and evening snack: frozen yogurt. Coffee frozen yogurt. Quarts of it. And only him and me around to eat it.

Then came another first, as my doctor said, “You’re pre-diabetic. You have to meet with the nurse and go over your diet.”  Loyally, I created a little chart for my weight and checked off food types as I ate them: Dairy, protein, fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, nuts and oils… I was always the athlete: Bicycling to work, swimming, tennis, but then another first from the doctor: “What are you doing for exercise?”

Gone is the orange juice and Mango Tango. Replaced with countable oranges. Gone the cashews. Replaced with a serving of 8 almonds. Gone the white basmati rice, replaced with brown basmati rice. Gone half an avocado for guacamole; now 1/4 the avocado for guacamole. Two years later, my blood sugar level is acceptable. My weight is still not.

Last month hubby and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Sixteen years of love, giving, sharing, supporting each others, sixteen years of happiness. And sixteen years of frozen yogurt in the freezer and cake in the bread box for my long-distance runner husband.

That’s also .63 pounds for every year of marriage. This statistic probably wouldn’t bother anybody but me.

“What’s a little pound here and there?”

“You still look good!”

“But you’re so active!”

I swear I can hear my bones saying to me, “Ouch. You’re putting too much weight on me. Lighten up!” I’m sure my digestive system is saying, “Why you making me work overtime? Easy. Easy. Easy!”

Last night I went into my third cooking mode: Cooking one meal for my husband and one entirely separate meal for me. I’m going to try eating high protein: Sliced turkey, egg salad, boiled chicken, tuna and salmon for snacks and for dinner. The husband is getting various Indian food dinners with rice cooked in tumeric, a little wine on the side. Or maybe a mini-pizza. He’d better hope I lose significant weight soon.

For the record, I’m not saying that I won’t try a few of his leftovers as I walk the dishes from the table back to the sink… I am saying that it’s sure a lot harder to take it off than to put it on in the first place.

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Posted in food, health, marriage | 2 Comments

TJ’s Weekly Household Haiku Challenge: Paper Knife (What’s that?)

TJ Paris has been offering his weekly household item haiku challenge and this week’s challenge is a paper knife.

What’s a paper knife, you may ask? I asked the same thing, one day in my college Spanish class.

Here is my haiku:

Edgy

Printed in Madrid.
Bring your paper knife to class.
Book learning made real.

 

Uncut_book_p1190369

By David Monniaux – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1840480

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Posted in haiku, learning, life | Tagged | 7 Comments