Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 30, 2015--Fridays at the Bristol Diner--Not In a Million Years

We were having coffee at the Bristol Diner with our good friend, John.

"Just the other day I reread your blog from last March about an idea you had for a new invention."

"I don't remember that one," I said.

"I thought it was one of your best. Not the invention part but the blog itself." He winked at me. "The one about a universal credit card where people could consolidate all their credit and bank and store cards on one card so they wouldn't have to carry around a fistful of them."

"Now I remember. It's the one about how since I know nothing about computing or IT or anything electronic I ran the idea by a very young friend who builds software to see what he thought."

"Yes. And how he got back to you in less than a day with a whole big long list of things about how there may be something already that does this and that if you want to come up with a viable idea you need to think about what he called pain points."

"Yeah. And then I wrote about how when Rona heard about his response she chimed in and shared her thoughts about how, if I want to think about pain points, I should think about the pain of being left behind by his generation and feeling out of it. Etcetera. Etcetera."

"Out of it indeed. That defines you and . . . me."

To shift the conversation away from the depressing, I said, "On the subject of inventions, I have another one for you."

"Here we go," Rona sighed, now concentrating fully on her coffee.

"When I told you about it the other day," I directed this to Rona, "you thought it was a good idea. Maybe not ready for Shark Tank, but at least decent." She continued to pretend to ignore me.

"So what's this one?" John asked.

"You used to be a house painter, right?" He nodded, thinking back 40 years. "When you first got here." He nodded again. "Well, we had painters around last week to paint our renovated front porch and to do touch-up work on the rest of the house. They primed everything, then put on two coats of paint, and for the decking, stain. They used three different paint colors and then there was the stain."

"And?" John asked, checking his watch. He needed to get to his office.

"So I was thinking, how about inventing and of course patenting a four-in-one paint caddie?"

"A what?"

"A paint caddie. You know, it would be one piece but made up of four separate cups attached to each other and in each one you'd put a little of the three or four paints or stains you're using. It would have a handle for the whole contraption to make it easy to carry around and in each cup you'd also have a paint brush."

I noticed John beginning to smile, thinking I was really onto something.

Feeling excited, I said, "This would save all sorts of time as you moved from place to place to put some gray paint on the lattice, then some white on the trim, and in the third cup you'd put some stain. Etcetera."

His smile had broadened, but this time I noticed a glimmer of skepticism.

"Pretty good, right?" I nonetheless offered hopefully.

"Not in a million years," he finally said, friendly in spite of how he expressed his opinion.

"But wouldn't you as a painter feel that . . . ?"

"Not in a million years," he repeated, this time more full voiced. "That's the opposite of the way painters paint. I mean real painters." I knew that excluded me. By then Rona was in her full glory, egging him on.

But wouldn't . . . ?"

"As I said," he opted not to say again what he had said, but did say, "First of all you'd have to have three or four brushes always sittin' in paint. Not a good thing. And then, more important, real painters," he emphasized that again, "Real painters have their own ways of doing things. We, I mean they take pride in doing things their own way, including being very messy. Have you ever noticed that they wear white coveralls? That's for a reason. They're not into efficiency. They fancy themselves creative types. I could go on, but I have to run."

With that he popped up out of the booth.

"But what about people who are not real painters? Wouldn't this . . ."

"About them I wouldn't know," he said over his shoulder, racing to the door.

"But at least," deflated, I said to Rona, "he liked the idea about the universal credit card."

"Not the idea," Rona enjoyed reminding me, "But how you told the story."

"But at least I gave him a few laughs."

"Not that many," she said.


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Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29, 2015--Jiggery-Pokery

In his, even for him intemperate rant against the Supreme Court's historic 6-3 decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), associate justice Anton Scalia went further than usual in a descent that went beyond the judicial to the very personal.

More than saying that he fervently disagrees with his colleagues' legal logic, he accused them of participating in a deceitful and dishonest act, even applying the archaic Scottish slur jiggery-pokery to impeach their honor and integrity.

In the old days, which he so reveres, he might have been called out to a duel on the field of honor by one of the other justices. But alas, we will have to endure more of him and more of this because the court, under chief justice Roberts, is going rogue on him.

As the intellectual leader of the court's conservatives, the alleged strict constructionists or texturalists,  for decades dominating the other three to four justices who have placidly gone along with his views of the Constitution (with Kennedy occasionally being a swing vote, agreeing with the four automatic liberals), Scalia now finds himself at times in the minority, especially when the court hands down its most significant decisions, like last week's rulings on Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the Fair Housing Act. (Do not overlook the importance of the latter.)

Scalia might have been more enraged than ever by Roberts' majority opinion in Burwell (the ACA appeal) where he subtly and without attribution quoted Scalia to himself to support the core of the argument he articulated for the five concurring justices.

It is all about context, as Scalia claimed in cases last year when he employed the same contextual argument--it is all about what the Congress truly intended. In the ACA case, Roberts wrote last week, if one looks at the 900-plus page context of the ACA--as Scalia would have us do in selective instances such as this one for laws he viscerally despises--it is clear that Congress intended the uncovered to be able to obtain affordable health care insurance.

Being quoted this way to justify something he violently opposes clearly got under Scalia's skin and motivated him to deliver his dissent from the bench, a highly unusual occurrence that underscored his fury.

But, again, Scalia's intemperance is less about the Obamacare vote than his sense that the court and American society on key social issues are moving on and he is more and more being left in the retrograde past--multiple meanings intended.

He will learn forcefully now that this is the Roberts' Court, not the Scalia.


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Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28, 2015--Lady of Forest Trace: My Mother at 107

My mother turns 107 today. She is doing pretty well for someone her age. Mainly resting now, but she is still living in her apartment where she feels and is secure and comfortable. I think she is determined to get to 108. I'll keep you posted.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26, 2015--Obamacare!

With the Supreme Court decision announced yesterday that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional, in addition to all the lives that will be bettered and saved as a result, there is one jolly political irony for those of us who consider it a pretty good piece of social legislation and feel that Barack Obama deserves to leave office in two-and-a-half years with his reputation, all right--his legacy, enhanced.

Here's the irony--

From literally the day Obama was elected in November 2008, many activist Republicans saw his election somehow to be illegitimate and have done everything they can to bring him down and delegitimatize him and his accomplishments--again, his legacy.

This is not to say that he has been a "great" or even a "near-great" president (if he secures a sound deal with Iran regarding their nuclear weapons program his stature will rise further) or that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but all things considered--the economy, the roiled world with its out-of-control nationalisms and terrorism--he has done a rather good job. The economy is decidedly better than the one he inherited and he did end in an admittedly bumpy way the two wars that George W. Bush started and led into chaos.

But still GOP leaders and most of their followers wake up every day thinking about what they can do to undo everything Obama had a hand in accomplishing. Nothing more fervently than the ACA which the House of Representatives under John Boehner's fractured leadership voted to repeal literally dozens of times. There was a time during 2010 after the GOP seized control of the House that they did so every week for months.

Even Jeb Bush yesterday, with all the courage of a marshmallow, vowed to repeal it the day he is sworn into office in January 2017

As a sneering epithet to stigmatize the ACA, Republicans labeled it Obamacare. They couldn't say it enough. It was supposed to remind Americans that this abominable piece of legislation was the result of "his" efforts, the best evidence that he was a European-style socialist.

The name stuck. And isn't it amusing that this healthcare law, which is already providing life-saving coverage for up to 17 million previously uninsured Americans, many of them poor, and now twice has been upheld by a radically divided Supreme Court, will likely remain a permanent part of our social safety net alongside Social Security and more appropriately Medicare and Medicaid?

No other law that I can think of is named for a president. Social Security isn't called Roosevelt-Security, Medicare is not referred to as Johnsoncare, nor is the Voting Right Act named for LBJ. Welfare reform is not Clintonfare. Yes, we have the Monroe and Truman Doctrines but they were promulgated by an executive order, not something hatched with their leadership and then considered and passed by Congress.

Obamacare will be the way the Affordable Care Act will forever be known. So three-cheers for it and Obama.

As Joe Biden was heard to say on an open mike back in Match 2010 when it was passed, "This is a big f---ing deal."


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Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 25, 2015--Busy Morning

We have the painters here working on the front porch and I need to get a few things done before they arrive. I will be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24, 2105--Republican Demons

Republican politicians are struggling now with demons of their own arousing--the demons of white supremacy and racism.

Here's the problem--

Until 1963-64 when the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were passed by Congress and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, politically, the South was the "Solid South" with all offices from dog catcher to sheriff to governor and senator totally in the hands of Democrats. Republicans were seen as the party of Lincoln, the president who pressed the Civil War.

That all began to change as Richard Nixon, seeing an opportunity for the GOP, implemented his Southern Strategy, a blatant appeal to white southerners to switch their allegiance to Republicans who, in spite of the law, would not put pressure on them to integrate, act affirmatively in regard to college admissions and employment, or encourage black people to register or turn out to vote.

In fact, with GOP leadership, the opposite happened, including supporting elaborate schemes to suppress minority-voter turnout and pressing for cutbacks in federal programs that served many people of color--food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, welfare.

And so by the 1980s, schools in the South remained largely segregated, laws remained on the books that did not allow whites and blacks to marry, and with the exception of gerrymandered congressional districts that were carved out to create a few with black voter majorities, virtually all elected officials were white and Republican.

Now, the Republican electoral base, especially party activists who through their engagement during primary campaigns, that base which disproportionately determines who will be nominated for gubernatorial, congressional, and national office, is largely made up of aging white men.

And sad to say, since a large part of that base harbors anti-minority, even racist views, to attract their support it is necessary for candidates to pander to their prejudices.

Even now, after the massacre in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, GOP aspirants to the presidency are speaking equivocally about what happened (Rick Perry called it an "accident") and dodging the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag that flies on the grounds of the state legislature.

With the notable exceptions of thus-far non-candidate Mitt Romney, who immediately called for it to be removed, and just yesterday South Carolina governor Nikki Haley's call for it to be taken down, all other Republican candidates have spoken out of both sides of their mouths.

For example, both Jeb Bush and his estranged mentee, Marco Rubio punted questions about the flag by saying they felt "confident that the state will do the right thing."

More troubling, more toxic, as a way to cozy up to racists and cater at the party's bigoted base, many of the current Republican candidates have accepted campaign contributions from white-supremasist organizations that the church shooter followed and to whose websites he contributed comments and manifestos.

One stands out--

The Council of Conservative Citizens, which, according to the New York Times, in the council's words, opposes "all efforts to mix the races" and calls for the dismantling of the "imperial judiciary" that  in 1954 required the desegregation of the nation's public schools.

The council as well has been a generous funder of many of the current GOP nomination seekers. Though as the result of the murders in Charleston, some of the candidates last weekend returned the money or contributed what they received to charity, one wonders what Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, and even Nikki Haley were thinking when they accepted council support.

It is actually clear what they were thinking and attempting to say by their tacit involvement with this hate group--
Wink, wink--you know we're with you. In spite of what we may have to say to appear tolerant, we stand with you, share your views, and won't cause you any pain. We'll make sure you can keep your guns, even of the same type that kid used in Charleston. And again, in spite of what we may have to say, we won't take away the flag you so passionately choose to salute.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 23, 2015--Midcoast: Boston Creams

It was not yet 8:30 but already Frosty's was out of Boston Creams.

"They're my favorites," Rona whined. "We drove 40 miles to get here and they're gone?"

"I'm afraid so," one of the young women behind the counter said, clearly having heard disappointment of this kind expressed before. So cheerily she added, "We have all sorts of other donuts left that are equally delicious. Chocolate Coconut, Glazed Twists as well as Maple Glazed, Chocolate Butter Crunch, and Honey Dipped, my personal favorite. Surely . . ."

"I love them too," Rona said, calming down. "But it's just . . . I know I'm being a baby but . . ."

"I know, I know," the young woman said empathetically, "People come from hours away and if we're sold out of their favorites they get very upset."

"I'm not really upset," Rona assured her. "Just a bit disappointed." But perking up asked, "Did you say you still have Twists? I love them too. And Chocolate Butter Crunch?" The woman nodded, smiling broadly. "To tell you the truth, they're my second favorite. By the time we got to Wiscasset this morning I couldn't make up my mind if Boston Creams or Chocolate Butter Crunches are my favorite."

"So why not get a couple of the chocolate ones and a few others that the two of you can share?" She looked over at me contemplating the Twists and raised Glazed, my favorites.

"We probably should get a half dozen,"I said. "We're really in Brunswick to get our car serviced. We scheduled it so we could get to Frosty's early so as to be able to . . ."

"Not that early," Rona said under her breath still not reconciled to the fact that there were no more Boston Creams.

But we ordered a tray of six assorted donuts, coffee, and water and slid into a booth to savor our treats.

And they were wonderful. It took all our will power to keep us from finishing them in less than ten minutes.

"These really are amazing," Rona mumbled, her mouth full of Chocolate Butter Crunch.

"I say amen to that," I mumbled, my mouth stuffed with Raised Glazed.

I looked up from what was left on the tray--not much--and saw standing by our booth the young woman who had served us. She appeared to be hiding something in her Frosty's smock. "Here," she said. "Don't tell anyone." And with that she slipped another paper-wrapped donut onto our tray. "On me," she said.

"It's a Boston . . ." Rona almost shrieked.

"Keep it down," I said. "people are looking at us."

"How did it get here? I mean, did she . . . ?" Realizing what had happened Rona lowered her voice to a conspiratorially whisper. "How nice is that? Where did she get it? She said they had all sold out today by eight o'clock."

I looked over to the woman and gave her a surreptitious nod of thanks and saw her opening one of the boxes full of pre-ordered donuts, sliding a Glazed into it and quickly securing the lid. I was certain to replace a Boston Cream, the one she gave us.

"I think she . . ."

It was Rona's turn to stifle me. "Let's just eat it and not talk," she said. "Here, here's your piece." Decidedly less than half. But it is Rona's favorite and so I understood.

"It's some gud. I left em," Rona tried to say while washing down the Boston Cream with some of Frosty's fine French Roast coffee. "The cuffie's some gud wit da Bustin Cleam."

"And wasn't that the nicest thing ever? What the girl did?"

Rona, trying to smile with a full mouth, nodded.


Later that day, back in New Harbor, we wandered the aisles in Reilly's Grocery, seeking inspiration for what to make for dinner. We hadn't eaten anything since Frosty's and the car servicing turned out to be a car repair since they found two of our cylinders were misfiring. We were at the dealer's for hours. So we were tired, getting hungry, and grumpy.

"What do you think about grilling some of their beef medallions?" I suggested, "We had them last week and they came out really good. Especially with that Montreal Steak spice." Rona shook her head at that.

"I could go for meat but something a little more savory. Here, what about these skewers of thinly-sliced beef that say they were marinated in a Bourbon sauce? They look good to me. We've had some of their other marinated meat and they've always been good."

"I could go for that," I said, "But are there enough in the meat chest? By the time we can get everything cooked we'll both be starving."

"Am I in your way?" Rona asked another customer who was also looking at the meat on display.

"No, I'm fine," he said, "I'm actually here to get some of the skewered beef you're looking at. I eat it all the time. It's flavorful and simple to make. You see, I'm on my own. Live by myself."

"We were just wondering if there would be enough," Rona began to say. I nudged her since we might be in competition with the man who was clearly committed to buying a few skewers. There looked to be about five of them. I estimated to satisfy our appetite we would need at least three. That would leave him with only . . .

He turned away and drifted further down the aisle toward the pork chops.

"Let's try them," Rona said. "Reilly's never disappoints us. And they're only $5.99 a pound. Can't beat the price."

"But what about . . .?" I whispered, cocking my head in his direction, "I mean, he really lives here and is clearly a working man, a contractor or something, so . . ."

By then he had returned to where we were holding and looking more closely at three skewers. There were just two remaining in the chest. He bent to pick them up. Clearly he was as eager to have them as we. I sensed he was disappointed that there were only two left but thought, first-come-first-served.

"If three aren't enough for you," he said, "You can also have these."

"We don't want to . . ." I began to say.

"Really, you'll like them and I'm not sure if you're very hungry that three'll be enough." Feeling our hesitation, he said, "Truly. I'm fine. I'll be fine." He held the last two skewers toward us, as in an offering.

When we hesitated, he gently returned them to the shelf where they had been and picked up a package of boneless pork chops.

"I've been thinking about these all week," he said, heading toward the checkout counter.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015--Black Like Me

In 1957, in The White Negro, Norman Mailer wrote about young white people who so liked jazz and were so turned off by what they saw as conformist white culture, that they adopted black culture as their own.

Four years later, in 1961, journalist John Howard Griffin, wrote Black Like Me. It is a non-fiction account of his six-week experience traveling in the racially-segregated South while passing as a Negro. Reversing the much more common reality of some light-skinned black people who, to avoid discrimination, passed for white.

In Griffin's case he arranged for his skin to be darkened through the administration of Oxsoralen, an anti-vertigo drug that also darkened skin, prescribed for him by a dermatologist. In addition, he spent 16-hour days for weeks under an ultraviolet lamp.

He met segregation, threats, and enough overt racism that within days he feared for his life and tried to blend into the background so as to avoid the dangers he sensed around him. He kept a journal of his travels and it formed the core of his book and then later a major motion picture starring James Whitmore.


Something analogous to this has been going on in the state of Washington where Rachel Dolezal recently resigned from her position as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. Like Griffin she is white and was attempting to pass for black.

Aside from the fact that she has become an instant butt of jokes on late-night TV and comes from a crazy-mixed-up family (her parents were the ones ultimately to out her) her claim that she is black (which she still insists is true though acknowledging she does not have "one drop of black blood" in her genetic background) raises a whole set of complicated issues about race and identity and what it means to be black or white or Asian or Christian or Jewish or, for that matter, male or female.

In regard to the latter, Bruce Jenner recently revealed that he was undergoing treatment to become a biological woman because for his entire live he thought of himself more as a woman than a man.

Dolezal says a version of the same thing--growing up with four adopted black children as siblings she claims to have developed a deep commitment to black culture and the issues African Americans, because of their race, still face in America.

She said, and continues to affirm even after being forced to resign and dragged through the media gauntlet, that she "identifies as black"--
But it's a little more complex than me identifying as black, or answering the question of, 'Are you black or white?' . . . Well, I definitely am not white. Nothing about being white describes who I am.
She, though, is genetically white but thinks of herself as black. Jenner is genetically male but identifies as female. Situations of this kind are common enough and are now being more openly discussed.

Mainly, what constitutes gender (clearly more than genitals)? What defines race? Just how much African blood or DNA must one have to be considered black by others? And how much, if any, needs to be present for blacks or whites to deem themselves one or the other? Or determined by society and perhaps the courts if necessary? For example, in affirmative action cases?

Freud famously said, "Biology is destiny."

Perhaps not.

Indeed, many scholars claim that all forms of identity are socially constructed. If so--and I feel a strong case can be made that this is true--why is it all right for Bruce Jenner to think of himself as a woman but inappropriate for Rachel Dolezal to take on a black identity? If it is all right to assume one's own sense of gender, ethnicity, or belief system, why not blackness? Or whiteness? Is race still our hottest button?


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Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19, 2015--Best of Behind: The Jam Garage

A companion piece to "The Dump," this was first posted June 14, 2010--

After establishing a relationship with the town dump, next on our list of settling-in priorities was a visit to the Jam Garage.

This probably requires some explanation.

Wherever we are we are addicted to finding an indigenous place to go for breakfast. Half the reason we bought this cottage on the Midcoast of Maine was because of the Bristol Diner. A tiny hole-in-the-wall kind of establishment right across the road from the town hall, which, even before we entered it for the first time, had the look which conveyed the promise that we would encounter a diverse, very local clientele. And that, with a little luck, the people we would meet would be friendly and welcoming. So that we could have some instant social life and learn about the area in addition to finding good coffee and whatever the chef might throw together.

Well the chef-co-owner, Doug, does a lot more than throw things together. What he prepares for breakfast and lunch is blue-plate exceptional. Saturday morning, for example, I had one of his legendary egg dishes. This one scrambled eggs saturated with chopped sautéed asparagus (still crunchy), browned onions, sprigs of fresh thyme, and melted-in layers of Parmigiana cheese. All accompanied by a side of perfect hash-brown potatoes and a homemade biscuit. Um, um.

And the people—the wait staff and the regulars, which we quickly became—are as fine as the eats. There is Doug himself. Of west coast origin he is in Bristol now fresh from a stint of living in Alaska, and is not only a gifted chef but an accomplished artist and wit. Both are in evidence on the walls and diner’s chalkboard. “We Don’t Serve Fast Food” one sign proclaims, “We Serve Good Food As Fast As We Can.” And in case one day you are looking for soup at lunch, Doug, on another sign, tells you that the Soup of the Day is “No Soup.” But he will also let you know that they do have soupspoons for the daily chili.

His art is also on display. Currently, intricate ink line drawings that appear to have been influenced by what he must have seen and experienced among the native people in Alaska and the northwest. Mysterious and haunting stuff.

Crystal McLain, the other co-owner, is the place’s guiding spirit. And I mean both “guiding” and “spirit” literally. When in attendance, she is the diner’s impresario. When not there, she is pursuing her rapidly budding career with an ever-growing clientele as a licensed massage therapist. But to just encounter her at the diner is like receiving a massage of good cheer, ever-resilient optimism, and doses of wisdom that belie her years. And she makes sure, in her impresario way, that everyone feels paid attention to and gets to know each other. Shyness is not acceptable behavior when Crystal is in attendance and gliding between and among the three booths, two tables, and the six or seven stools at the counter.

It is not an uncommon occurrence that the10 to 12 of us who might be there at any time are all together engaged in a conversation that might be about the state of lobstering, the local primary elections, the latest show at the Farnsworth Museum, the Celtic-Lakers series, or the affects of social networking on American culture. All conversations from last Saturday morning.

And engaged in that conversation might be, as it was then, a former successful New York City accountant, John, who now with his son runs an international manufacturing company that produces world-class manways (look it up) and seems to have read pretty much everything important; Rod, a retired school superintendent from Ohio, who the other day had a lot of insight to share about the plague of bullying; a former contractor, Al, who specialized in the design and construction of huge spaces who now does lots of things, very much including producing books of his photos that do a remarkable job of capturing the beauty of this place and the lives of the people who work the waters (his latest, just published, is about Muscongus Bay); a former employee of a locally-owned telephone company, Ken, who has the driest wit around (and there is a hot contest here for that coveted title); a South Bristol women with roots that go back more than 300 years who, though she does not have the most worldly goods, doesn’t pursue them or keep score that way, but has devoted her life to the care of others and does so with so much generosity of spirit that if the encyclopedia needs an illustration for the Golden Rule a picture of Lynn would do very nicely; and then of course Rona and me, hanging out, sharing the conviviality. Fully welcomed by these wonderful people and the many others who make their way to the Bristol a few mornings a week. They make us feel part of their community, as if we have lived here all our lives.

We by now are fully ensconced and settled in there every day at the counter or in one of the cozy booths. So if you are in the neighborhood (and I recommend it) be sure to stop by. Doug has lots of good coffee waiting and the best hash ever, which I could go on about at some length but will restrain myself.

But what does any of this have to do with the Jam Garage?

Though all the food at the Bristol, as you’ve seen, is to write about, the jam, in little plastic punnets, though Smuckers, is, well, still Smuckers.

I don’t blame Doug. He keeps his prices affordable and those little things are cost-effective, control portions, and are easy to clean up. Homemade jam in jars or pots is more than anyone is entitled to expect. Thus, thankfully, about five miles from here, there is Simply Delicious Jams where we get incandescent homemade preserves. These are found just down the Pemaquid Harbor Road (of if you’re not at the moment nearby, you can order them on line via jamlady@earthlink.com). I recommend the Marion Blackberry. The self-titled Jam Lady sells them unattended from her garage. Thus, the Jam Garage.

On beautiful display she has Maine Wild Blueberry, distilled from those ubiquitous late summer local delicacies; Maine Strawberry and Maine Strawberry-Rhubarb (my second favorite); Old Fashioned Peach (I lied, this is my second favorite); Pure Raspberry (Rona’s choice); and, among a few others, Blackberry-Pomegranate (a little exotic for me in these climes). They range in price from $5.00 to $7.00 a mason jar and you pay by the honor system. There’s a box to stuff the bills into and in a large bowl there are a couple of fistfuls of quarters for change. Just perfect.

We began going there a couple of years ago and quickly became addicted to the jams that we take with us to the diner where they are an ideal accompaniment to Doug’s biscuits, muffins, and, especially the blueberry, to his steaming stacks of pancakes.

But the Jam Garage is not just about jam. There is something else about the place that draws us. Set in a meadow that lopes gently to Lockhart Cove, it also partakes, in that rural splendor, of the magic of theater. Like a stage set, the jams appear each day as if by magic. The door rolls up with no stagehand or jam-maker in sight like a proscenium curtain set in motion by a timer switch that must be secured within the house; and the lighting is so dramatically designed, as it would be for some screen ingénue, to show off the jams’ best side. Even if they were not so delicious, rather simply delicious, the setting and the lighting alone would cause one to stop and try a jar of Patriots Blend, which is, as the brochure puts it, concocted from “New England’s two native berries—Blueberries and Cranberries—with a hint of Orange.”

Also intriguing, though we have made our way through enough of the Jam Lady’s jam to bring us back there at least a dozen times, we have never caught site of her of anyone else. Which is a surprise because her acres of meadows and gardens and berry patches are in perfect order. Just like the garage and the jams and her house and everything in sight. This unattendedness, the sense of peace it instills, only contribute to the illusion that the jams are products of artifice and nature—they are there like the grass and trees and bushes and wild flowers and the air and breezes off the cove. But also, like the gardens, tended to and shaped by the hand of man. Or in this case, woman.

We are thus left to imagine her and her life.

She must of course be from a long-established family. Going back at least a hundred years; or perhaps like Lynn from South Bristol, her people were among the original settlers. Thus the Jam Lady’s recipes must have been passed down across many generations. Maybe even the local Indians, who for the most part were friendly, taught her ancestors some of their ways. How to cultivate the wild berries so as to assure a bountiful crop year after year and thus could serve as a carbohydrate staple in their diet and thereby help fend off the inevitable scarcities that are a consequence of the long and harsh Maine winters.

And then, considering the homestead’s location near some of the best fishing grounds in early America, some great, great great-grandfather would have taken to the sea to fish for the bountiful herring or another relative from the distant past would have taken up ship building. Around these parts then, and still, some of the new country’s best wood-hulled boats—schooners then, lobster boats and cruising yachts now—were constructed from the native oak and spruce and hickory.

Maybe a great, great-uncle had taught in one of the area’s first normal schools or been pastor of the South Bristol Congressionalist Church. Or a great aunt had been a nurse in the Second World War and another had been the town’s first female lawyer.

Rona and I build up quite an imaginative head of steam while contemplating that Jam Garage. Something special for sure happened there, well before there were garages, and is, we are convinced, continuing until at least today.


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Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015--Yugoslavia

Anyone following Behind knows that for years I have been an advocate for a redrawing of national borders in the Middle East. From the political borders imposed on Arab and Islamic people by the victorious Western superpowers at the end of the First World War to others that take history, culture, ethnicity, and religion into consideration.

Broadly speaking, for what we now call Iraq this would minimally mean separate countries for Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds.

Some readers who have communicated with me say it would never work, that rivalries and blood-hatred is so intense that Sunnis would continue to fight with Shia and Turks with Kurds.

That may be but we have been seeing an alternative, deadly scenario playing out with millions either killed or made homeless, stateless.

Others have said to me that they might agree if there were current examples of the successful redrawing of borders.

There very well may be.

Take Yugoslavia as an example.

There is no historic, ancient Yugoslavia. It was a political construct that came about after the chaos of the First World War when territories of the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire were fused to become the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. That monarchy was overthrown at the end of World War II and a new "country" emerged, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, which for decades was dominated and kept from disintegrating by strongman Josip Broz, better known as Marshal Tito.


After Tito died, civil war broke out as Christian Serbs and Croats fought Bosnian Muslims. Many atrocities were committed, especially "ethnic cleansing" by Serbs of Bosnians.

By the mid 1990s, European members of NATO, recalling that World War I begin in Sarajevo, in what was to become Yugoslavia, and also concerned about the slaughter of Bosnians, began to mobilize peacekeeping forces, including eventually convincing President Bill Clinton to participate in bombing Serb forces.

In 1995, through Clinton's leadership, the contesting parties were convened in Ohio and spent weeks in effect confined there until they reached the historic Dayton Accords that once again redrew the map of the Balkans, this time more culturally than politically.


For 20 years, with U.S. and NATO troops still stationed on the ground as peacekeepers, the Accords have more or less held. There is reason to be optimistic that a version of peace will prevail.

This, then, is my best example of what might be possible in the long run in the Middle East if the parties there, left alone by outsiders--very much including the United States, were to stay out to the region and let the natural forces of history unfold and reach, to them, some sort of acceptable resolution.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015--Schmoozing With Congress

Again on Sunday, Maureen Dowd (who my 107-year-old mother calls Maureen Shroud) in the New York Times castigated Barack Obama for his unwillingness to deal directly with Congress. To work them, schmooze with them. How he has disdain for them, remains aloof, and thus is unable to get even widely-supported legislation passed, including last week to give him and future presidents more flexibility in Asian trade policy.

She wrote--
The president descended from the mountain for half an hour on Thursday evening, materializing at Nationals Park to schmooze with Democrats and Republicans at the annual congressional baseball game.
It was the first time he had deigned to drop by, and the murmur went up, "Jeez. Now? Really?" 
Obama has always resented the idea that it mattered for him to charm and knead and whip and hug and horse-trade his way to legislative victories, to lubricate the levers of government with personal loyalty. But, once more, he learned the hard way, it matters.
I am reading James Patterson's Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore, and a large section of it is devoted to Ronald Reagan and his presidency.

Reagan may not have been the sharpest tack but he was among the most effective presidents in getting his agenda enacted by Congress, even though during his eight years in office, for the most part, both houses were controlled by Democrats. Fiercely partisan ones at that. Tip O'Neill, for example, was Speaker of the House during Reagan's tenure and there was no stronger partisan than old Tip.

He disagreed with almost everything the president stood for, but made many deals with him when they met regularly at the White House after office hours, trading stories and sharing a bottle of fine Scotch.

No fan of Reagan, Patterson reports that during his first 100 days in office, even while recovering from a very serious assassination attempt, Reagan amazingly met 69 times with 467 members of Congress, in addition to lobbying many more on the phone.

No one yet has added up Obama's meetings with members of Congress, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that during his first six-and-a-half years as president he has had fewer than 69 meetings and met with and spoken personally with fewer than 100 members.

Patterson writes that--
Though Reagan rejected major changes in his [legislative] plans, his actions indicated . . .  that he was far from the inflexible ideologue that critics had described.
Yes, the tax cuts he enacted with bipartisan support added exponentially to the national debt, tripling between 1980 and 1989 from $914 billion to $2.7 trillion, in many ways he was a successful president--the economy improved and he proved adept at foreign policy, very much including getting along famously and doing serious business with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

Clearly schmoozing works.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015--The New Cold War

This report from the New York Times isn't from 1955 but appeared yesterday--
In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, official say.
What happened to détente? What happened with the Obama administration's claim that it had successfully pressed the "reset button" in our relations with Russia?

This sounds to me like all too familiar sabre-rattling.

But there's more.

A few days earlier the Pentagon announced that a Russian jet fighter buzzed a U.S. reconnaissance plane flying well outside Soviet borders over the Black Sea. It came within 10 feet of the American plane and maintained its provocative position for 10-15 minutes before breaking off. Overnight, the Russians announced they would match the U.S. buildup in Eastern Europe.

This to me sounds like back to the future and is very scary.


We know that Obama and Vladimir Putin despise each other and can't stand to be in the same room.

Nixon managed to meet and talk with Nikita Khrushchev, Roosevelt and Truman sucked it up and met and negotiated with Stalin, so why can't the current U.S. and Russian presidents do the same thing?

They would probably claim it's because they disagree about Crimea, which Russia annexed a year and a half ago. Obama sees Putin threatening more incursions in other culturally Russian parts of Ukraine; Putin sees it as an inevitable part of Russia's national destiny. We in America above all should understand his version of Manifest Destiny.

But none of this requires Cold-War-style confrontations. If Putin and Obama had a civil working relationships it all could be resolved with a few phone calls.
"Vlad, what's going on with you guys? I mean in Crimea." 
"Well, Barack, it's a traditional part of Russia, the people there are of Russian descent, speak Russian, and want to be a part of Russia. So why not let things take their course?" 
"I see your point. But what we need to do, Vlad, is sell the idea to our own people and make the case that you let the Crimeans vote about affiliating with Russia. Which they did and overwhelmingly wanted to. I'll work on Poroshenko to convince him it's no big deal. He owes me one. Everyone knows Crimea has been largely autonomous for decades so we should be able to put a fig leaf on the situation. How does that sound?" 
"I think I can make that happen. In the meantime, send my best to Michele." 
"And mine to . . . Sorry, I forgot her name. The gymnast?" 
"Alina, Alina Kabaeva. Will do. Talk to you soon. Call any time. You know I don't sleep."

So now that their relationship is ruptured, there will be no conversations of this kind and as a result we have economic and diplomatic sanctions flying in both direction, Russia has been kicked out of the G-8 (which is now again the G-7), and there are not-so-veiled threats of more to come, including additional close encounters in the sky and at sea. All we need is for one jet fighter pilot to make a mistake and launch a missile and who knows what would happen next.

This is the way adolescents behave, not the leaders of the world's two most powerful nations, both still with hundreds of intercontinental missiles at the ready and thousands of nuclear warheads.

Where are the adults?

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Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015--Back Tomorrow

I will return on Tuesday with thoughts about the New Cold War.

Friday, June 12, 2015

June 12, 2015--Best of Behind: Screen Doors

This was first posted on June 21, 2010--

We needed some work on our screen doors. The one on the road side, the other the bay side. Rich Cash who was working on them said that an old wood screen door was something to take good care of. “They don’t make them like they used to” was the way he put it.

“Look at how they fit the pieces together. No one does it like that anymore. Yes, the new ones, wood ones included, may give you a better seal but when these swing closed on their hinges they make a sound that just says ‘summer’ to me.” And to us. Very much to us, I thought

So when he recommended that he take them to his shop so he could replace the screening in the right way and also rehab them—not to change them in any essential way, but to give them there once-in-every-eighty-year reconditioning—we were agreeable to letting him take them. He said that it wasn’t buggy and he could get them back to us by the next morning, early the next morning, and through the evening and over night we probably wouldn’t be missing them. He smiled, “You’ll miss that solid thump sound, that I know. But it will make it that much the nicer having them back tomorrow. Good for at least another 80 years,” he promised.

I said, “I should live that long.”

So he took them down and noticed that the hinges themselves were “hinge bound”—“You see how metal touches metal?” He flexed the hinges to show us. “This means the door won’t close smoothly or all the way. That’s what all the salt in the air does to ‘em. Eats right into them. You can’t expect them to last forever. Or for that matter,” he nodded toward me, “anything.”

“What should we do about them?” Rona asked.

“I’d replace them,” Rich said. “I have a few old brass ones back in my shop still in good shape so, if you’d like, when I bring the doors back I could replace them.”

That sounded worth doing and we agreed to that too.

Rona said, “These doors are worth good treatment. Look how long they’ve taken care of the families that lived here. We want them to do the same for us.”

“And don’t forget that thump,” Rich said with a wink as he finished loading them gently into his truck.

It was the first hot evening of late June and, as we do on such days, when the air cools down, as it always does, to replace the air in the cottage that had been heated up through the day, we open both doors to allow the cool air to replace the hot. A rush of air occurs like a natural form of air conditioning.  And Rich was right, few bugs were out toward dusk; and even without the screen doors we were fine, just fine as the house filled with air that had been chilled by the water.

I was on the daybed making my way through a book of Raymond Carter stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, about men who step out on their women who in the process got stepped on by life. Spare, lapidary-like stories where just a word or the name of one of the forlorn characters can tear at your heart as they daily pronounce another doom. Perhaps a little dark for this sunny situation, but real life of the Carver type abounds here too and there is no one better at representing it. So I read on.

Rona, stretched out on the sofa, is revisiting May Sarton. Her exquisite journals of life on the Maine coast.  A House By the Sea, I think she is reading, the first one in Sarton’s exploration of the meaning of a life of solitude. Reading all six or seven of them last summer while we were renting this heatless cottage convinced Rona that this was a place for her, for us, to spend some real time struggling with the isolation and elements.

We’re now approaching the year’s longest day; and since the sun doesn’t set across the bay on the Christmas Cove side until almost 9:00, we can read well into the evening without turning on a light. May Sarton style.

With less than a half hour of light remaining, out of our peripheral vision we saw something fly in through the unscreened bay-side door and flap into the kitchen. “Must be a big bug,” Rona said, putting Sarton down.

“I saw it too,” I said, putting Carver down, not entirely unhappy to get some relief from my reading—yet another husband had just emotionally abandoned his woman. “Let me see if I can kill it.” In the previous story Dummy, a quintessential Carver invention, had murdered his wife with a hammer and then drowned himself. So you can see killing and death were on my mind.

“No need to do that,” Rona implored me. “Just try to get it to fly back out. You know, get behind it with a newspaper or something and direct it toward the door. I’ll get you a towel. That should work.”

“Good idea,” I said. I wanted back from Carver’s world. As little swatting and killing as possible. “This is not much of a problem. We’ve had the doors open for two hours and this is the first bug I’ve seen.”

I was standing by the entrance to the kitchen looking around for the insect. It was quite a large one from what I had seen of it and thought it would be easy to spot and then guide toward the door.

“I think it’s a mouse,” Rona said. She was now standing next to me with a hand towel from the bathroom.

“That can’t be,” I said. “We both saw it fly in. Mice don’t fly.”

“Of course I know that. But look over there. One the floor.” She was pointing. “See that little head? I don’t have my glasses on but that looks like a mouse to me. Maybe we have both a bug and a mouse. I’m having second thoughts about having let Rich take the screens.”

“I think it’s a bird. A little sparrow.” Now I was pointing.

“I see. You’re right. It’s a bird.”

And with that, it flapped its wings frantically and flew toward one of the windows. The big glass one that looks out over the lawn to the water. He slammed into it repeatedly thinking, because the slant of the light made the glass invisible, that it opened to the outdoors.

“She’s going to kill herself,” Rona said all concerned.

“I don’t think so,” I said, “Maybe he’ll knock himself out and then we’ll be able to pick him up and take him outside. We’ve seen that happen before with birds crashing into windows, not knowing they’re there. Knocking themselves out and then when they come to they just pick themselves up and fly away as if nothing had happened. Maybe that will happen to him.”

The bird continued to thrash around and slam into the glass. There was no sign that he was slowing down or close to knocking himself unconscious.

“We can’t just stand here watching her kill herself. You need to so something. Like I said, take this towel, get behind her, and try to direct her out the door.”

So I did. I walked as slowly and silently as I could into the kitchen and positioned myself behind where the bird was still thumping into the window, thinking that I might then be able to gently encourage him to fly toward the open door.

I did manage to make this happen. More or less. More because the bird did fly back into the living room closer to the door; less because he was now busy smashing himself into one of the large windows there.

“This is not working,” Rona said even more upset. “We can’t let her kill herself. Use the towel to try to grasp her. Carefully of course. And then walk her to the door and release her.”

“Good idea,” I said, “but easier said then done.”

“Try it, would you! Don’t just stand there! She’s helpless and more and more frantic. Poor thing.”

By then the bird had fluttered into one of the corners of the room and, seemingly panting for breath, sat on the windowsill. I could see the condensation on the windowpane from his quick breaths. He didn’t or couldn’t move or try to avoid me as I slowly closed in on him towel outstretched.

“Have you got her yet? I’m worried that her heart is beating so fast that it will give out.” I moved in closer. “Do you have her?”

“Just about,” I whispered. “I think this is going to work.” And with that, as quickly and carefully as I could, I reached out to cover the sparrow with the towel, which I succeeded in doing, and gently grasped his palpitating little body. A flurry of feathers from his wings came loose and fluttered to the floor.

“Oh God,” Rona said, “Look what happened. I‘m not sure you should release her. Will she be able to fly after losing all those feathers?”

“I don’t know,” I said as I moved toward the screenless door, holding the bird in the towel before me as if it were an offering. “There’s only one way to find out.” And with that I let the towel fall away and with the bird itself in my hands I set him free. He dropped to the deck, flapping his wings furiously. They twapped the deck but he was not able to lift off.

“I don’t think she can fly,” Rona said. “Just what I was worried about. Now what should we do? Should I call . . .?”

But before she could complete the thought the bird rose from the deck and flew toward where I knew there was a nest in the bayberry bushes.

“I think he’ll be all right,” I said with relief.

Rona, smiling, was bathed in the last light of the day.

I was up, as usual, very early the next morning and went out into the garden to check on the rosa rugosa bushes we had planted the day before. From the bedroom window it looked as if one was wilting and I thought I would give it some water in order to try to revive it.

There’s a small path back to where the roses are and, to avoid the wet grass, as I stepped carefully on the granite stones that lead back there, there was, hopping along right behind me, a small sparrow. Just like the one we had freed the night before. It can’t be, I thought, there is no way it can be him. Or might it be?

There is no way of knowing. But he did fly up to and perch on the rose bush I had come out to check. It is not the kind of thorny bush where these birds usually come to rest. And he did remain there, struggling to keep his balance, as I poked around the root ball to see if it had retained the water we had doused it with when we set it in the ground.

The bush seemed fine. The leaves were not drooping. But it had been good to check. The bird remained on its highest branch as I turned back toward the house; and, as when I had gone out along the path, the bird fluttered off and followed me, not more than a few feet behind, as far as the steps up to the deck.

I couldn’t wait for Rona to get up so I could tell her what had happened. When she did, still half asleep but excited, she said she was convinced it was the bird from the night before. “There’s no other explanation. Birds don’t act this way. Follow you on the path or fly right up to you as you do your gardening. Unless maybe if you feed them. Which you weren’t doing. So it must have been her.”

The next three mornings, up again at dawn, I went to check that same bush. Thinking, as I am prone to do at that time of day, before I resume my worldly ways, that it was our rose bush.

But there was no sign of the sparrow. Maybe, I thought, he had retuned to the small flock that typically at this time of day work the bayberries in search of ripening berries or the proverbial early worm.

So, after a few days of fruitless waiting, I returned to my life and routines as I assume he had to his.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11, 2015--Too Busy

Actually, just the right amount of busy to get all sorts of things accomplished, including a trip to Brunswick, just in time yesterday morning to get the last six amazing Frosty's donuts. Including Rona's favorite--the Boston cream. But not enough time to get any typing done.

So I will return to this spot tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015--Midcoast: The Lindbergs

"But you are the Linddbergs," she insisted.

We were having dinner at the Anchor Restaurant in Round Pond. It was Rona's birthday and we were celebrating, well into a bottle of sparkling rosé.

"I'm sorry to be interrupting your dinner."

To this I mumbled something.

"But you look like them to me."

"Well, we're not," I said, not looking up.

"What you're eating looks delicious," she said, leaning closer to get a better look at Rona's soft shell clam appetizer. "But, again, I'm sorry to be interrupting."

"In truth you . . ." I trailed off.

"I need to find the Lindbergs," she pressed on. "I met them, I think you, a couple of times. Once at a tag sale at our house. We're the ones who used to own the Bristol barn. Do you remember that?"

"I think I remember," Rona said, friendlier and more welcoming than I.

"And then at a concert. I think the DaPonte string quartet. At the Walpole Meeting House. Where they perform in candlelight."

"We're really not . . ."

"It's OK," Rona said, hushing me.

"We're really not them," I said, hoping Rita--she had by then introduced herself--would return to her table and let us enjoy the food and view and occasion.

"How could that be?" she said. "I met you at least twice."

"That may be true," I said, trying not to sound exasperated, "But that doesn't make us the Lindbergs."

"We actually know them," Rona said, "Which makes this quite a coincidence. To be confused for them, I mean."

"If you're not them, then who are you?"

Rona gave her our names and reached across the table to take her extended hand. "I'm so mixed up," Rita said.

"Tell me about it," I said under my breath.

"I need to find them," she paused, smiling. She shrugged, indeed looking mixed up.

"Did you make arrangements to meet them here?" Feeling badly for her now, I was trying to be helpful.

"No. But I thought I would run into them here or somewhere else. This is such a small town." Her smile now fading.

"If it's important to see them, meet with them, why don't you call them and arrange something?"

"I could do that," she said. "If you're not them, I guess that's what I should do. They're supposed to mentor me."

I looked at her skeptically since she appeared to be about 60 and wondered what would constitute mentoring for a 60 year-old.

"What would they do with you. I mean, help you with?" I said.

"Bees."

"Bees?"

"Yes, they agreed to help me get started. With a hive of my own."

"They are quiet experienced," Rona said, "They gave us a bottle of their honey last year and it was so delicious I finished it in a month."

"So that's why I have to find them."

I nodded, now empathetically.

"I wish you were them," she said with an edge of sadness.

"I understand," Rona siad.

By then our entrées had arrived, and noticing that, she said, "I'm so sorry to be interrupting you." Then, perking up and, more playfully, added, "But you really are the Lindbergs, aren't you?"

From her renewed smile I knew she was having fun with us. A unexpected birthday treat.



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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

June 9, 2015--Perfection

Perhaps it's where we are. Maybe it's because of the way we live while here. Or it could be the people with whom we have become friends. Wonderful people. Of course it could be the weather--gray one day or hour, then clear and sparkling, sometimes dramatically and dangerously threatening. All awesomely beautiful. Maybe we are just feeling good and in a romanticizing mood.

Whatever the cause, we have been spending time thinking about perfection.

About certain things Rona can be a bit of an absolutist. I on the other hand may be inclined to seek compromise, middle ground, consensus. Or do this because I am an equivocator by nature with few guiding principles. These differences between us, though, contribute to a good debate about a lot of things, including what might be thought to be perfect.

For Rona there is, cannot be anything even resembling perfect; and, more perplexing to me, to her nothing can be improved enough to become perfect. Things that by nature are not perfect cannot become perfect. Perfect is flawless, and not capable of becoming so. Perfect is not the result of any process--it just is or must be.

In fact, perfect to her does not exist anywhere in nature, and especially not among humans, since everything is subject to change. But not change leading to perfection. Just to hopefully something better. Much better is possible, hoped for--even to a very good outcome--but just not to perfect.

Thus, for her, what we experience here is not perfection. Cannot be. By this definition anything, everything can be improved but still not become perfect. It is always out of reach. In fact, the closer one approaches the more it tantalizingly retreats.

Rona does believe that things can become much better, even when it feels they cannot be. They just never can become perfect.

I am not happy thinking this way, though I suspect she is right. It is just that I do not want to give in to the view that there can be an end to striving.

So I retreat and turn to dictionaries in defense of my position about perfection.

One says perfect "is as good as it is possible to be."

I like that. Nothing static here. The pursuit of perfect is thus literally full of possibilities.

Perfection, another says, is as "free as possible from all flaws or defects." Again, the allure of possibilities.

Etymologically, I point out--my best repost---that perfect, perfection is from the Latin perficere, which means "to complete." I embrace this lower standard. I believe in the value of completion. It helps me make my case.

In the meantime, as I write this, the sun is rising. The light, perfect on the bay and islands. Or at least becoming so.

Rona on her birthday

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Monday, June 08, 2015

June 8, 2015--On, Wisconsin

At football games the University of Wisconsin Badgers' fans sing this song--

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
Run the ball clear down the field,
A touchdown sure this time 
(U rah rah)
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows!--fight, fight, fight!
We'll win this game.

Ah, if only Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and for the moment the front-runner for the GOP nomination, could appropriate this song instead of trying again to get John Mellencamp to let him use "Small Town"--

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town,
Prob'ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities.

Liberal Mellencamp told him, No way!

But with the governor recently turning his attention to undermining the quality of one of his state's institutional crown jewels--the University of Wisconsin--even he doesn't have the audacity to use the Badgers' fight song.

He finished off the state's municipal unions--his claim to national fame--survived a recall election, then reelection, and now is moving to take on the state's professors. A soft-touch group of opponents if there ever was one who are more used to taking sabbaticals than fighting a hyper-ambitious governor.

His plan for the university is to eliminate tenure.

Currently at UW, and almost all other private and public colleges and universities, tenure is universally available. Typically, anyone who holds the rank of associate or full professor who is rehired over three to five years is eligible for tenure, which, if awarded provides lifetime employment.

We could debate whether tenure is necessary or even a good idea. Advocates claim it allows professors academic freedom--to hold and teach any views they wish, very much including controversial ones. It protects faculty, they say, from being fired for their views, which has occurred at various times in our history, including the 1950s when Senator Joseph McCarthy led a campaign against alleged communist penetration of our government and universities. Scores were intimidated and others fired for their supposed beliefs.

Others say tenure causes professors to lose their intellectual edge and too often, no longer interested in teaching but protected, to phone in their lectures.

Walker is not making similar claims, not demonologizing the faculty, merely asserting that tenure allows faculty members too much say about how universities are governed--it diminishes the power and control of the central administrations. In effect, he is saying, tenure and its privileges give too much authority to employees and too little to those that are expected to lead them--university management.

So much for right-wing Walker being true to his anti-government, anti-institution posture.

But Walker has a point. His real agenda is not university governance but to grab headlines by bully-style beating up on, in truth, rather powerless state employees who are stereotypically portrayed as absent-minded, lazy, and over-privledged. They typically "work"--teach--three days a week, at most nine months a year, and every seven years or so get the year off while receiving either half or full pay.

A pretty good deal by any measure.

As with other state workers, whose union he busted and from whom he then demanded and secured various financial givebacks, Walker is now going after another subset of Wisconsin employees who have little support among Wisconsinites, many of whom struggle to get by, not infrequently working two or three jobs just to stand still. How many trying to stay above water have any sympathy for others who they feel are less deserving of an easy ride? Walker is betting many and that that discontent, that anger, will propel him to the presidency.

Wisconsin has traditionally been a liberal state. Progressivism, liberalism has deep roots there. But now three times voters have turned out to keep Walker in office. He has been able to attract big Koch-brothers money likely because they see in Wisconsin's political transformation their hoped-for vision for America's future. If it can happen in the home state of La Follette, Proxmire, and Feingold, it can happen anywhere. But, we need to remind ourselves, Joseph McCarthy was also from the Badger State.

And, yes, Governor Walker is a college drop-out.


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Friday, June 05, 2015

June 5, 2015--Best of Behind: Midcoast--Search Dog

Here from July 20, 2009 is an early Midcoast story--

We were in town and after morning coffee wandered from store to store tracking down items we had on our shopping list. The weather was cooler than I had anticipated and since I hadn’t packed enough warm clothing I wanted to stop in Renys to see if they had any fleece vests on sale or maybe a couple of long sleeve pullovers.

Then Rona planned to make buttermilk biscuits but since the house we were renting did not have a baking sheet she thought maybe we’d find one, also at Renys. And tucked away back of the parking lot on the east side of Main Street there was a small, very personal shop that among other gourmet items and local fresh herbs carried crusty sourdough bread that we had tried late last week and since it went well with the fish dishes we had been preparing, we thought we’d buy another loaf.

And of course we needed to pick up the Times and the weekly Lincoln County News. They were available in the Maine Coast Bookstore and while Rona was paying I could rummage among books that were remaindered. Up here one could never have enough to read.

We then crossed back to the parking lot by the harbor where we had parked because I was anxious that we might be in danger of getting a ticket. We were in a two-hour zone and I had been warned that the police had stepped up their enforcement, chalking tires with abandon because, in the current economic climate, unwilling to raise taxes to pay for dwindling town services they were raising money by pouncing on any car that was parked for even a few minutes beyond the limit.

But Rona said relax, we’re on vacation, that we still have lots of time so why rush when there were a few other things we needed to get done. She had spotted a gift shop and wanted to look for birthday cards to send to friends and family members who have August birthdays. Cards appropriate for the occasion but maybe with a Midcoast theme. She wasn’t thinking about anything with lobsters embossed on them but maybe there were some nice note cards with starfish or sailboats. Salty but not too kitschy.

“Don’t worry so much about the car. It will still be there when we're done. This isn't Manhattan. They won't tow it away. We’re here to unwind after a rough May and June.”

It had been a difficult time. We were struggling along with a few people close to us who have serious illnesses. They were thankfully doing much better now, but it had been harrowing earlier. In spite of this, clearly Maine was not as yet working its wonders on me. Nonetheless I said, at least half-meaning it that I was in fact determined to seek inner peace, “I am getting there. But, you’re right. I do need to relax more.” I caught myself acknowledging that and quickly added, “But I am. I am becoming calm. Really.” Rona looked at me with understandable skepticism. And to demonstrate how I was more laid back I said, “Why don’t you look at the cards and I’ll hang out here on the street and look through the paper in the sun. The sun is good.”

“That’s fine,” Rona said, “but I don’t call reading the New York Times exactly being relaxed. Even in the sun. All you’ll find there is bad news about the economy, the Middle East, healthcare, and everything else. Of course, do what you want.”

“But,” I protested, “I’ve got the local paper and it’s full of all sorts of good community news. Like book talks and farmers’ markets.” I didn’t tell her that the lead story was about a 72 year-old man who had been killed on US 1 when he crashed his motorcycle into the back of a pickup.

“Whatever,” she said and disappeared into the shop.

I hung out there, facing the sun, thinking more about what a 72 year-old was doing riding a motorcycle on Route 1 than about tomorrow’s farmer’s market, where there was hope that the first local corn would finally be available. Should someone that age be out on a Harley? Then again, maybe that’s the way to go.

While lost in these less-than-calming thoughts I noticed, coming down the street toward me, a man with what looked like a seeing-eye dog. But as he got closer it was clear that the man was not blind—I could tell that by how he was checking out things on the street and in the stores that they were passing. Perhaps he’s training him, I then thought. Though that seemed unusual for a small town. I had only seen dogs of this kind in cities. But that’s in part why we are here—to have some new experiences. Relaxing ones, I reminded myself.

As they drew closer I could see that the dog was wearing a bright yellow plastic vest; and when they were just a few yards away I could read printed on it, on both sides--Search Dog. The New Yorker in me was immediately drawn back to 9/11 when police departments from up and down the east coast had sent dogs of this kind to help find survivors buried in the rubble and then later, after things turned even more hopeless, body parts.

But since I was trying not to allow myself to continue to be mired in thoughts of this kind, to the man who I assumed was his handler, with some awkwardness, avoiding even a hint of anything disturbing or grim, I said as brightly as I could, “Is he looking for me?”

With barely a glance and without a word they passed right by me and I was left to watch them work their way up the street. I noticed that they both had the same deliberate gate, as if practicing stepping over dangerous piles of rubble from a bombing or a . . .

But I quickly, just as was instructed to do, cut that thought short and leafed through the paper to see again what they were reporting about what would be in this week’s farmer’s market. The first black currents, I noticed. Maybe Rona would turn them into a compote that I could then use as a marinade for some nice broiled loin lamb chops with . . .

When I looked up again, still straining to stay in sunlight, I saw the policeman and the dog working their way back in my direction. Clearly training was going on, I was relieved to realize, and that they were not searching for a lost or kidnapped child, or anything tragic like that. And this time the trainer allowed the dog to come up to me and give me a good sniffing. Not in my crotch, which most non-search-dog dogs would do, but more my trouser cuffs, socks, and shoes.

“You asked if he was looking for you. Right?” I nodded. “Well, if it’s all right with you I thought I would have him search for you.”

I was confused, “But he’s found me, no?” I pointed down at him where he was giving me a good going over. “How would he search for me since he’s already found me?”

“You see how he’s sniffin’ at your pants leg? He’ll now remember that. From that he’ll remember you. And, again if you’re willin’, we’ll head back that way,” he pointed way up the street, “and then when you’re done that paper—nothin’ much good in there to tell you the truth—you can go anywhere you want in town, you can even hide if you want to. Actually, that’d be good. And then in about 15 minutes or so, I’ll have him search for you. To see how well he’s doin’ at that. We just got him and are trainin’ him. To tell you the truth, he’s not comin’ along all that well. So this would be good for him. How does that sound to you?”

I very much liked the idea and said, “Sure. Sounds like fun and maybe it will be helpful. He looks like quite a nice fella.”

I bent to pat his head but his handler stepped in to stop me. “One thing—no one who isn’t workin’ him should ever touch him. It only confuses things. Understood?”

“Yes. Sure. Sorry. My wife’s in the store and as soon as she comes out we’ll go and hide somewhere. Is that OK? I mean hiding?”

“Like I said, whatever you want. If he gets trained proper I can’t tell you the kinds of things we’ll be havin’ him doing.”

I very much wanted to know but Rona later will be proud of me for again retraining myself from asking. I was under orders to stay away from these kinds of grim matters.

“You know,” I added, half-kidding, “I’ve been trying to find myself for years. Maybe this will help with that.”

Clearly he either didn’t understand my pseudo-existentialist comment or in fact did and thought it not worthy of response. And thus, for whatever reason, without another word they headed back up the street and I folded up the paper, very eager now for Rona to finish her shopping. I thought the only things remaining on our list were the cards and that as soon as she came out we could spend the full 15 minutes hiding ourselves.

My first thought was to find a place down by the dock where they bring in all the fish. It would be full of conflicting smells and thus would be a good test for the dog. But as I thought about this I realized maybe Rona wouldn’t like what I had agreed to do, feeling that I, with my aggressive big-city ways, had imposed myself on the policeman. Her style was more to fit in by not making us too obvious, too seemingly eager to meet and befriend people. Especially local people who were welcoming to outsiders but also were clear about wanting to maintain a separation between themselves and us. At least on initial encounter. And if she felt this way about what I had agreed to, she would be more than half right.

So maybe, I thought, I wouldn’t tell Rona what happened. That I would say, “You know we never walked along the docks. Since it’s a nice morning, maybe we should do that.” And then whatever happened or didn’t happen with the dog I would deal with. After the fact. I felt that it was at best fifty-fifty that they would find us, I mean me--that the handler had said the dog wasn’t doing very well--and that if they didn’t, as I expected they wouldn’t—especially if I could find us a good hiding place--I would have nothing to explain to Rona. If they did, I would hem and haw and then eventually say wasn’t it cool. I felt sure she would come around to that. After all, she liked dogs, though she would be frustrated that she wouldn’t be allowed to pat him.

And with that Rona bounced out of the shop and rejoined me on the street, excitedly showing me a box of note cards she had bought with tasteful pictures on them of various seascapes. Very nice. Not at all tacky. Since she was in such a good mood, I suggested a walk down by the boats. She said that sounded nice and off we went.

It was midmorning and there was little activity. The fishing and lobster boats had set out much earlier and wouldn’t return for some hours. As we passed through the parking lot to get to the moorings, I had some fleeting anxiety again about our car but put that quickly aside since I was now on a mission to help with searches and rescues.

After a few minutes, Rona stated the obvious, “There’s not much going on here. Maybe we should come back one afternoon when the boats come in and we could even buy some fresh fish or lobsters.”

“That sounds like a good idea to me. But let’s walk a little further. There’s a pile of nets I wouldn’t mind checking out.” I was stalling for time and also thought that behind the smelly nets would be a good place to hide.

“I don’t know what it is with you and fishing nets,” Rona said, reminding me that whenever we are anywhere in a port, here or overseas, I seem to have this fascination with nets.

Again, seeking to buy time, I ruminated out loud about this peculiar interest of mine. “I don’t know why. I think it may be because when I was a kid my father used to like to take us to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, down by the fishing piers, and we would wander around among the boats and stalls. I remember fantasizing about working on one of those boats. Hauling nets or something. For some reason this always . . .”

“You know, it’s getting late. We have some things in the car that we should be putting into the refrigerator. We can come back here another time. And you can visit your nets.”

“You know how most kids like me back then dreamed about being firemen and . . .”

“You mean boys.”

“Yes, boys, and . . .”

I interrupted myself because, as Rona and I were going back and forth about my fascination with fishing nets, up toward the street, just beginning to turn down toward the docks I spotted a glint of yellow—the sun’s reflection off the search dog’s vest. He was clearly sniffing his way along, leading his handler right toward us.

I grabbed hold of Rona’s sleeve and began to pull her toward the mountain of fishing nets. “What are you doing?” Rona squealed. “You’re tugging on my sleeve.”

“I know. Sorry. I just want to get a closer look at those nets. I’ve never seen any like them.”

“I think you’re crazy. I thought Maine would have a good effect on you, a calming one; but now look at . . .”

“Please, just this once, let’s take a look at these. Trust me they’re really special.” Rolling her eyes up in her head Rona relented and followed me behind the pile. I pretended to scrutinize them while she stood aloof with her arms folded, impatiently tapping her foot.

Even though I was bent low, out of the tops of my eyes I could see her waiting, aggravated but indulgent, while I pretended to examine the floats on the nets, crouching ever lower and lower. I was trying to curl up into a ball to better hide myself.

But huddling as I was against the nets, thinking I had successfully made myself virtually invisible, as they drew even closer, I could also not fail to see the search dog and his handler.

They came to a stop a few yards from me and the dog promptly sat on his haunches. I had expected he would leap at me, growl, and then bite at my trouser cuffs. But he and the policeman remained where they were, totally still, without moving closer.

What I was really up to was about to be exposed to Rona and thus I began fumbling in my mind to concoct an explanation and also what I was certain would need to be a seemingly-sincere apology.

“Did you find yourself yet?”

“What was that?” Rona said, more confused than I. After all I at least knew what they and I had been up to.

“Oh, nothing,” I said with as much matter-of-factness as I could muster.

“Nothing? But didn’t you hear what he said?”

“Not really,” I lied.

She turned to them for conformation about what she had clearly heard, but they had already retraced most of their steps back up toward the street.

“Well, I never,” Rona said, exasperated.

I didn’t right then try to explain anything or look directly at her, but promised myself that when we were back at the house and all the groceries were safely away, I would tell her the whole story. Or at least I though I would.



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Thursday, June 04, 2015

June 4, 2015--Midcoast: The Latest

The hot topic of conversation when the seasonal people arrive is what's new on the restaurant front. Of course updates about houses for sale and who died during the winter are also on everyone's mind.

So as to be able to join in the restaurant talk, the first night we arrived we went to a place that is under new ownership and from what we had been hearing was already being touted as a welcome addition to the local culinary scene.

Things are still quiet around here so reservations weren't necessary, in fact there were fewer than ten dining and drinking at the bar when we showed up.

True to what we had been hearing, it is very good, with a beautifully redone bar area that will, I am certain, be lively. Maybe a bit to lively for me but many times a boisterous bar crowd helps assure that the restaurant is making money and everyone from the staff to the customers benefit.

It was so good in fact that we returned for a second visit and were just as happy with what the kitchen turned out the first time. And we picked up from the new owners enough restaurant gossip of the sort that friends are eager to hear about. Among many other things much more profound it is yet another way we feel welcomed--having some harmless gossip to share.

The first night the waitress we had was clearly a rookie. She was lovely and attentive but still needed to learn a few things in order to be able to keep up the pace and service when the crowds begin to arrive in a few weeks.

She told us this was her first waitressing job and wanted to know what we thought of how well she was doing. This seemed genuine enough and so we shared a few suggestions like saving a trip from the kitchen by clearing empty dishes from tables in her station after bringing out other customers' orders and to be sure to check regularly to see if people need more water. With so many these days paying attention to hydration good service suggests checking often is a good idea and will be appreciated.

Since it wasn't crowded and she was eager to get as much feedback as we were willing to offer we began to learn more about her.

"I'm just 17," she told us, "Not in school at the moment though at the end of the summer I plan to go to college in Bangor and study to become a nurse."

"That's great," Rona said, "Nurses are in demand in Maine, what with the population aging, and there should be plenty of jobs available after you graduate."

"I really love taking care of people," she said, her face lighting up, "I've already been doing quite a lot of that at home. Anytime anyone's laid up they turn to me and I always do wherever I can to make things better for them."

"That doesn't surprise me," I said. "I pick up from you that you're a caring person. So," I said, shifting the subject, "You must be about to graduate from high school."

"Not yet," she said, "I need some more courses because I didn't take a full load."

"Because . . .?" Rona asked.

"I was working with my father."

"Oh, doing what if I may ask?"

"Lobstering. Pulling traps."

I looked at her more carefully since pulling traps requires great strength and stamina, not so say considerable skill to avoid getting seriously injured. Though she appeared to be just a bit over 5 feet tall she was sturdy looking and even muscular. Like a well-trained athlete.

"Wow," I said, "How long did you do that?"

"Since I was 14," she said. "Not every day because I had school and all that. But we worked it out with the school. I took some courses by independent study. There are lots of kids here who work boats with their dads. Even a few with their moms. The high school here is used to that and makes provisions for sternmen and women. I guess we're really more boys and girls than sternmen and women." She chuckled. "That's why I'm a little behind."

"That's very impressive," Rona said. "When you work with your father what's your day like? I mean, when do you go out?"

"We lobster out of Friendship and I wake up a three."

"Three!" I said, "And I thought I was an early riser. What time do you go out?"

"By four I'm already pulling traps," she shrugged as if the apologize.

"And you get back to the dock?"

"Depends, but most days by four or five."

"That's a very long day," Rona said.

She shrugged again. "That's what it is. I admit I get tired and it's hard then to do any school work, but I'm doing OK. By the end of the summer I should be able to graduate and be ready for nursing school."

"That'll feel like a vacation," Rona said.

"Can I get you some more water?" she asked, showing off that she had heard our suggestions. "Folks need to hydrate."

She spun on her heel and went off to get the water pitcher.

"I wonder what our friends back in New York would say about her," I mused.

"Especially those who have nothing but complaints about what they claim to be a spoiled younger generation."

"It would be good for them to meet her and hear her story. And all the other ones we learn about when we're here."

"By the example of these kids we don't have anything to worry about," Rona said. "As soon as possible we should turn the world over to them."



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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

June 3, 2015-- X-Ray

On our last day in New York, before heading to Maine, Rona needed a routine medical test. A scan.

The AC at the imaging center was not working and the waiting area was sweltering. While filling out the forms, Rona wondered if without air conditioning they would be able to run the equipment. "I think they generate a lot of heat so to use them they have to be in a cool environment. Since there's no emergency we can always get the scans done up in Maine."

"Let me ask," I said. "We're here and if possible let's get it over with. Let me find out what's going on."

I checked with a staff member and she indicated they were working on the problem and at most Rona would have to wait no more than 45 minutes.

"Drink lots of water," I said. "You need to keep hydrated."

"What's that ruckus," Rona said. "It sounds as if someone's having a fight."

From the reception area I heard a woman, clearly agitated, say loud enough for all to hear, "I don't know where he is. The traffic was abysmal. Three hours it took to get here from Atlantic City. An hour through the tunnel alone. I don't know why his doctor made us make the trip. We could have gotten his X-rays done in New Jersey. At the worst, in New Brunswick. Maybe an hour's drive. At Robert Wood Johnson. What's so unusual that they have to do? X-ray his thyroid, that's all. No big deal. And now I don't know where he is." She sounded desperate.

"OK, so he probably has cancer. It's still early they say. He's not dying. At least not yet. Though when I get my hands on him . . . " She trailed off.

"Should I see if I can help?" I asked.

"I'd stay out of it," Rona said, "Try to stay cool and see if anything more happens. They just sound stressed. That drive alone . . ."

"But didn't she say she doesn't know what happened to him? That she doesn't know where he is? I could maybe go look for him. My guess is he doesn't want to get the tests done and ran off. I know from not wanting to deal with medical issues. I almost died 15 years ago when I ignored all sorts of symptoms."

"Tell me about it," Rona said under her breath.

"I mean maybe I could talk with him about what I did and didn't do and how when I finally dealt with the problems I eventually got better."

"My advice. Sit here and drink your water. We have  a lot to do today and the next two days to get ready to head north."

"I'm losing my mind," the woman up front resumed, "I'm at the end of my rope. For all I know he's heading back to Jersey. He's that crazy. And," she added, "scared."

"I need to talk with her," I said, "I know it's not my business but it's reminding me of what I did and how I made you crazy. Maybe I can help."

"Whatever," Rona said.

The Jersey woman was soaking wet from the heat and anxiety. As I moved toward her she backed away, as if knowing my intentions and not wanting to have to handle another crazy person.

Softly I said, "Is there anything I can do to help?" She backed further away, almost to the entrance door. "I mean, I couldn't help but hear what you were saying. About your husband."

"Him," she spat.

"I don't know . . . but I . . . 15 years ago did . . . so I thought I might . . ."

"What are you talking about?" she exploded as if to transfer her frustration and anger to me.

"I just thought . . ."

"Thanks for your thoughts but, frankly, it's none of your business."

I backed up a step and was about to turn around when a man, it couldn't have been anyone but her husband, burst through the door. He was wearing shorts, flip flops, and a sleeveless tank top and was so soaking wet that sweat dripped on the carpet from all parts of his body. Almost immediately a puddle formed at his feet.

"So there you are, big shot," his wife said. "Did you have a nice walk? Did you get a cup of coffee? Maybe a hot dog? You haven't eaten in half an hour and I know you must be starving."

"Let's get out of here," he growled. "I've had it up to here." He lifted a hand six inches above his head. I could see his swollen thyroid. "Let's get the car out of the garage. I mean let's pay them the ransom they charge to park here in Manhattan. I don't know how anyone can afford to live in this place much less park their car. Sheet."

"You're either getting that X-ray or you're going home to Jersey yourself. I'm the one who's had it up to here." She too gestured to indicate how high up-to-here was for her.

"Do we need to talk about this in public?" He shot me a glance. "What I do, what you do, it's between us. Right? Private."

"Private," she sputtered. "The way you walk around, on the Upper Eastside looking like a clown. You call that private? You make such a spectacle of yourself that half the city's looking at you."

"Let's get the car, Marcy. By now they'll charge me 50 bucks to get it out of hock."

"I told you if you don't get the test you're on your own."

"I told you while we were lined up for an hour trying to get in the tunnel that I am not going to do that. I know I have a problem, but I want to handle it my way."

"Which is to ignore it and get into real trouble. Like dying trouble."

"If that's to be, that's to be. I want to live and, yes, die if it comes to that, my way."

"You've been listening to too much Frank Sinatra you guinea, you."

"Leave my heritage out of this," he said, straightening himself. I sensed a change in tenor.

"It's my heritage too so I can call you whatever the eff I want. But what I really want is for you to stop acting like a baby and let them do the friggen test."

"I know about that test and how the next thing they'll be doin' to me is cuttin' me open and then there'll be chemo and radiation and other shit and then before you know it I'll be bald as that guy over there," he nodded in my direction, "And after that it will be time to take me on a one-way ride to the cemetery."

"You know . . ." I tried to interject myself, "Like you . . . 15 years ago I . . ."

"Who is this creep?" he asked his wife, again meaning me. "You invited him to talk? Look old man, stay out of my business. Get my drift?"

"I only . . ."

"Whatever you're here for," he cut me off before I could say another word, "be a good boy and take your medicine or have your MRI. Or whatever. But in the meantime, as they say where I come from, take a powder."

I shuffled back to where Rona was waiting. She continued to sip her water. I shrugged. She had heard the entire encounter. "What did I tell you? That's none of your business and if anything you made matters worse."

"Actually, I thought I was being helpful."

"Really? Helpful? You almost got yourself killed."

"I think I got them to deflect some of their frustration and anger for each other onto me."

"Another crazy person."

Thankfully, the AC by then was working sufficiently to allow testing to begin. Rona was first and kissed me, breaking the tension, and said, "Wish me luck." I smiled, knowing she didn't need it for this.

Later that day, at dinner, after a couple of glasses of wine, I ventured, "You know that guy from this morning?"

"The one who threatened to kill you?"

"He was just scared. Which I can relate to. But I have a question that he brought to mind."

"It is?"

"Maybe he is onto something with his my-way approach to the business of getting older and developing serious medical conditions. Maybe backing off is not such a bad idea."

"Backing off? I'm not following you."

"Maybe just let things happen? I mean, for the simple stuff do what you can to deal with it; but for more serious things that sweep you into the medical world, which take over your life--I mean for those things that do that, that take you over and turn you into a perpetual patient--we know people like that who do nothing but go to doctors and have tests and then procedures and operations--to squeeze out a few more months or even a year or two, but a year or two in medical purgatory. Again, for the most serious conditions. Does that make sense?"

"You've had too much wine," Rona said, "and like you Atlantic City friend have been listening to too much Frank Sinatra."


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