Sunday, November 24, 2013

WHERE WERE YOU?

Everyone who was of an age to remember, remembers where they were.  I was a few weeks shy of 13 years old, in 7th grade Earth Science class, my first class after lunch period.  We were settling at our desks when the principal's voice came  over the intercom.  President Kennedy had been shot. Our president was dead.  I remember the stunned silence.

The school day went on.  In German class next period, our teacher (a man) was weeping.  The last class of the day was band.  The girl in front of me was sobbing.  It started to sink in. I want to say I had genuine sadness too.  But frankly, I was oblivious to politics at that age, and while I knew this was a terrible thing, I didn't feel sad; just a little scared and confused.  Still, I tried to make myself cry, wanting to feel something other than numb.

At home, my mom and my grandma, who lived with us, were grim-faced.  When my dad came home from work they all sat glued to the TV all evening and for the next couple of days.  On Sunday, my mom and I were in the kitchen, my dad watching TV in the living room.  Suddenly he shouted out, "Oh my god!  Now they've shot Oswald!"  My mom and I ran to the TV and watched as more mayhem unfolded in Dallas.  After that I remember bits and pieces about the funeral march through Washington and seeing the now iconic scene of Jackie and her children, with John-John saluting his father's casket.

I remember thinking something had changed; my safe and predictable world was not so secure anymore.  Years passed, the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights marches were staples on nightly news. In April of the year I was 17 another bulletin interrupted our lives with news of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.   Stunned again and this time legitimately sad.  I had awakened to the Civil Rights Movement and the craziness of the Viet Nam War; I was starting to take sides.  Still, it seemed that somehow the world would right itself, wouldn't it?

I wasn't completely done in until 2 months later, when my alarm went off before school.  It was to be a fun day at the end of the year when our yearbooks would be delivered and we'd spend the day running around getting signatures and good wishes from our friends.  But what I heard, when the clock radio clicked on, devastated me.  Robert Kennedy was dead.   I remember running downstairs to my mother in the kitchen, sobbing, "Someone shot Robert Kennedy!"  She clicked on her radio and we listened together.  And then it was another vigil, more days of sadness, confusion, funeral trains, and a shocked nation in mourning.

It went on from there, of course; more war, more protests, a President resigning in disgrace, Hawks vs Doves, dissension, a few political victories and many defeats, and the complete shock and dismay of 2001.  All of it made many of us cynical and disillusioned and I was no exception.  My bright spots were the Clinton years and most recently, Barack Obama's presidency.  But the vitriol from the conservatives, the rise of the Tea Party, the intractable ideological gridlock that has Congress reduced to impotence, are disheartening at a time that should be full of progress and good-will.  Every victory is hard-fought, and barely noticed above the shouting.

This has been my personal political journey, starting with that day in November 50 years ago.  For me politics is always singed with sadness, even when I'm at my most joyful; because I know that in the blink of an eye, the world I count on can once again shift off its axis into the abyss of grief and confusion.

Every generation has its shocks and setbacks.  We Boomers tend to think ours are the biggest or worst, but that's not true.  Each generation experiences its own challenges and seen through our own lens each feels monumental.

And still….I believe.  I believe in good winning out.  I believe that people of courage and love and brilliance will always come together and do the right thing -- no matter how hard, or how long it takes.  That crazy and contagious optimism was there in 1960 and again in 2008.  And it will come again.  And we will continue, hopefully with fewer heartaches and with collective committed determination to get it right.  Every time.

It's the least we can do to honor them all…the ones who died trying.

At least, that's the view from here….©

Sunday, November 17, 2013

LISTEN HERE, YOU LITTLE PIPSQUEAK!

Old people stereotypes include the curmudgeonly old lady waving a cane at some kid or an old man shouting "Get off my lawn".  I am that curmudgeon.  But like all of us, I feel justified in my ire.

I'm squabbling with the local newspaper circulation department.  It's been going on for over a month now, since the paper was sold to another publisher and our long-time delivery guy decided to pack it in, since he had to drive so far to the new distribution center to gather up his store of papers in the middle of the night for early morning delivery.

He was a gem; I miss him.  He would tuck little typed notes (typos, questionable grammar, and misspellings, notwithstanding) into the paper whenever he went on vacation to let us know we'd have a substitute and he hoped all would go well in his absence.  In December we'd get a holiday card from him with a note about it being his pleasure to serve us.  The cynical may have seen this as a thinly veiled plea for a Christmas tip, but I just thought it was a sweet, old-fashioned thing to do.  And I always sent him a hefty tip anyway, because he truly deserved it.

Our house is on a hill.  We have a steep driveway and about 1/3 of the way up a set of 15 cement stairs arches up to a short sidewalk, then 8 more stairs to our front porch.  It's a work-out, as our visitors can attest.  Our former delivery guy somehow managed to get our paper, without fail, to the top of those 15 stairs and onto the sidewalk along the front of our house.  I thought that was remarkable.  I never expected porch delivery and would have compromised with just getting it on the stairs somewhere.  But he always had it all the up and easy to grab -- even on those rare winter mornings when the whole driveway and stairway might be covered in snow.

So, the new guy….the first 2 weeks I went on a morning scavenger hunt as he seemed to unclear and inaccurate about where to toss the paper from his moving car (that's my best guess as to the silly places I found my paper).  I called to issue a little complaint and offer some helpful hints.  Circulation said they'd pass my comments on.  I was super nice and understanding of the learning curve of a new driver.

The next week I found my paper at the very top of my driveway outside the garage door.  Not the most obvious place (not at our house, anyway), but acceptable.  So, I thought, OK…new plan.  Fine.  But one morning I went out to find that the guy had had a bit of trouble backing down our steep, narrow drive and had veered off into the azaleas, smashing a couple to the ground and leaving tire tread in the drive where he must have had to spin his wheels to get traction with all that shrubbery he was dragging along holding him back.   I made another call, recommending that coming all the way up our driveway was treacherous and unnecessary.  I was pretty nice about the azaleas.  I'm an understanding and patient person, in general.

Every day since then, the paper has barely made it onto our property.  The guy must have decided he was jinxed by the azalea episode and now won't set his wheels or feet anywhere closer than dropping the paper out the window as he drives by.  I've called on this unacceptable practice twice now.  For a few days this week he did manage to toss it up the drive in the vicinity of the bottom of those 15 stairs and I was ready to live with this, thinking it is good exercise.  But this morning, again, I found the fat Sunday paper hovering just at the property line between driveway and street.

Last time I called I was not so kind and asked for a call-back from the delivery supervisor.  Never heard from him. I also made a modest threat that I might have to cancel my paper.  But I know I don't want to.

I love sitting down with the morning paper.  I've been a home delivery subscriber since 1982, when we moved into this house.  I don't like reading the on-line version (which they just announced will become a subscription and not free anymore).  But I am at the mercy of a confused, stubborn, lazy delivery guy and it pisses me off.  I don't like feeling ignored and helpless.  And I realize I'm just talking about a silly little newspaper….

I realize there are huge systems in place these days that ignore the truly helpless and my little foray into the relatively trivial abyss of this situation is more comical than tragic.  Still.  Some morning I might just lie in wait to wave my broom at him as he does his shoddy drive-by.

At least, that's the view from here….©