Friday, October 30, 2009

It Could Have Been Rupert.....

I like to cry when I eat spicy foods, watch chick flicks or read beautifully written novels, NOT when I read about police busting down doors of innocent people’s homes resulting in a dog getting out and run over by a car and killed. The police thought the dog was guarding drugs or guns, believing the barking to be that of a pit bull; it was a Pomeranian. They were responding to a “possible shots fired” call. We get those often in my neighborhood, though it’s usually only the yahoos behind us on Gertrude Street setting off fireworks.

This bothers me greatly, as many of you may understand, as Rupert is part Lab, part pit bull. If you ring our door bell – even if he knows you well – the first thirty seconds of your visit to our house, you may wonder if you want to step inside our door. Of course, once he knows it’s you, all is fine. But if that same group of police officers had come to our door and heard Rupert, he’d never have had the chance to escape – I’m certain he’d have been shot dead the first time he showed them his teeth.

Rupert never once destroyed a sock, a shoe or even one of his own toys as a puppy. He’s never been a destructive dog. Protective, yes. Once we came home and the curtain that hangs on the half window of our back door was on the floor and many items on a bookshelf we have near that door were also on the floor. We know that someone had tried to break in our house and Rupert scared them away. He did his job. Now every time I set a pan on my hanging pot and pan holder over my sink, he starts barking and howling – I believe the scratching sound the pots make going on the hooks is what he heard at that back door by our kitchen when someone tried to break in. He would scare me, if I didn’t know what a sweet dog he truly is.

I’d like to think that we know the police who patrol our streets well enough for something like this to never happen to us, but I’m really not that confident. Just last month I called 911. I was out walking Rupert and witnessed four young men orchestrate an ambush of a woman pushing a child in a stroller. Another woman walking with these men proceeded to beat the daylights out of this woman on the hood of a car parked on Green Street while the baby cried in the stroller and the men stood by and cheered. Here’s how the 911 call went:

“Do they have any weapons?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does anyone need medical attention?”
“I don’t know.”
“We can’t send anyone to the scene unless there are weapons or someone needs medical attention, ma’am.”

OK. I guess next time I should lie and say “shots fired” and then make sure I lock Rupert up in the basement.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tea with the Ladies of Song

I left the house last night expecting to host an Open Mic Poetry Night at Sugarpearl and found out they'd changed it to the first Wednesday of the month instead of every Wednesday (yeah!) and had forgotten to tell me. No big deal. I called a friend who had mentioned she might be coming and gave her the update, pulled some poetry I was editing from my bag, ordered a cup of tea and settled in at a table for some quiet time. At the very least, I knew I could enjoy the company of the Sugarpearl staff and edit my work without Rupert's cold doggy nose butting up against my arm, his way of trying to convince me that throwing the ball would be more fun than rearranging words on paper. If I was lucky, Joanne would arrive, we'd have tea and a nice friendly chat on a chilly evening. It can't get much better than that.

And then the door opened and there was a familiar face. It was Judy, a very talented musician I always enjoy listening to at the Woodshed. I'd never seen her at Sugarpearl, but everyone else in the world loves coffee, so why shouldn't she stop in for a cup on a chilly Wednesday night? Or was she there for the poetry reading? Yes. She was going to listen to me read. I was shocked. Humbled. OK, let's be honest. I was absolutely terrified. Her lyrics often make me gasp, they are so good. I was so relieved the event had been cancelled, so I could get used to the idea of having her in a future audience. She ordered coffee and we had a delightful chat, got to know each other a little bit. I'm still in awe of her talent.

I'm always surprised when people show up to hear me read. Joanne did indeed arrive, and then Wendy came, too! These two ladies often delight me with their music. I love hearing them strum their guitars and play the songs they've written, often dealing with situations in their lives that are heartfelt. They make you feel their pain, take you right to the moment. I try to do that with my poetry, too. I feel a connection with them. I never tire of listening to them and hope to never bore them, either. They honor me when they offer such support.

We had a nice little chat about various things. I'm definitely the outsider, yet it does not matter. I have such respect for their talent and the way they blend their passion for words and music into their lives. They always inspire me. And I do look forward to actually reading for them sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Going Back To Bed

Ssssh. Don't tell anybody.

It was raining this morning. Pouring. We walked Rupert as usual. Chris drove off to work, I dried Rupert off and he curled up in the Barcalounger for his morning nap. I went upstairs, took off my soaking wet socks and the sweat pants I'd worn for the walk because the pant legs were soaked and had made my way into the bedroom to make up the bed and start my day.

The flannel sheets welcomed me back, my pillows still bunched up from too short a night's sleep....AND....the bed was empty....hubby safe at work and the hairy beast snoozing away downstairs. It was still dark and dreary outside. No emails demanded response. Denise is working today, Mary Ellen and Jeffrey are out of town, the mother-in-law staying in her end of town today, I could wait awhile before printing out poetry for the Open Mic tonight and any household chores can certainly wait.

I climbed back between those sheets, something I'm not usually inclined to do, as I'm one who has a difficult time napping. I stretched out and enjoyed the full width of the bed, not my usual position of nearly hanging off the edge as hubby likes the middle of the bed and Rupert often sleeps between us. And I fell fast asleep, had a lovely dream about a circus in Afghanistan, not surprising as I'm re-reading The Kite Runner and Water for Elephants currently.

But I'm feeling a little bit guilty for indulging in this rainy morning pleasure.

So, don't tell anyone, ok?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Looking Back

In a waiting room today I overhead a woman telling a teenager to enjoy herself now because these were the best days of her life. I literally wanted to puke. Or take that teenager aside and tell her the truth.

I’m not one to want to look back on what others might refer to as “good old days” very often. To begin with, those days simply weren’t all that good then and certainly don’t seem that way to me now. I don’t understand the “life was so much simpler then” comments I sometimes hear from others, accompanied by deep sighs of contentment. I guess their bowl of cherries came without any pits.

The truth is, I’d much rather look forward. I think today is one of the best days I’ll ever have, and that tomorrow is going to be even better. I’ve been that way too many years to even think about. And I hope I stay that way, no matter how many times someone calls me Pollyanna.

That’s not to say that I never do look back, because sometimes I do. And I’m often puzzled by the tricks memory plays on us, how people can remember events so differently. I think we’re wise to hold our memories up to the light and reflect on choices made. When I do that, I always find myself happy with whatever path I ended up taking, because each path led me to exactly where I am today, which is exactly where I want to be, and I could not be happier to be here.

I’d tell that teenager to learn to trust her own instincts, assure her that she’ll know when she’s happy and what the best days of her life are, she won’t need anyone else to tell her, just give it time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mark Zane and Friends at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse

What a shame folks in Cortland spent a rainy Friday night huddled beneath umbrellas at football games instead of sitting inside the cozy Blue Frog Coffeehouse listening to Mark Zane and Friends play. Those of us delighting in the tasty goods at the Blue Frog were treated to a fantastic show by Mark accompanied by Steve Pederson’s masterful bass and Frankie Diamond’s enticing electric guitar along with harmonica riffs courtesy of Paul Marconi and magical vocal harmonies tendered by Mary Snell.

These musicians worked so well together under Mark’s gentle guidance, one would never know they didn’t play together every night of the week. Perhaps they should; they have a certain chemistry that was a pleasure to witness. Mark is the most generous musician I’ve seen in a long time, and when he invited Jim Bob up on stage to sing “Country Roads” with him, the magic only Mark can work came to life once again. You had to be there to see it unfold. I could never find the right words to explain it. Next time, come in from the rain, sit a spell, listen and see it for yourself. It’s well worth your time.

Mark played many of his original tunes from his American Hunger CD and some from his “next” CD, one that cannot be released any time too soon for me, for these songs are amazing and I want them playing in my office as I write. I especially love his newest anthem to this wife, “I Got a Woman”. His tribute to one of my favorite Arthur Miller plays, called “Me and the Devil”, is becoming hard to forget, too. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again: his lyrics force you to think about a situation, long after he’s played his last note. He doesn’t tell you how to think, he just reminds you that there’s more than one way to look at anything.

The Friends helped play some toe-tapping cover songs, too, by Springsteen, the Moody Blues, Dylan, and Neil Young. Paul and Frankie did a fine job on some Townes VanZandt tunes. But I have to say my favorite of the evening was a cover of song by White Lion called “When the Children Cry.” I had never heard this song before, probably because I was too busy during the time period it was first recorded NOT listening to the music my kids played back then. Mary Snell did the singing and Mark played guitar while sitting on a stool beside her. Their performance was riveting, Mary’s vocals quickly quieting the room, drawing you into the song and insisting you hang on her every word. Mark’s guitar playing gave you a glimpse into his metal-playing past and sounded as if the entire band was backing Mary at times. Listening to them, you couldn’t help but forget everything and anything around you. There was only the song, only that moment.

How rare that kind of moment is, yet there it was, at the Blue Frog Coffeehouse, on a windy, rainy Friday night, when Mark Zane and his Friends took the stage. I was so happy to have been in the audience for such a special performance. Thanks to all who made it possible!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Birthday Greetings

Yesterday would have been my father's 78th birthday.

I can no longer pick up the phone and wish him a happy birthday or drive over to spend the day with him.

I spent the day furiously vacuuming my house, dusting the cobwebs away, scrubbing the counter tops, putting all our clutter of the week away.

My grief spills over still.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Knit Wit on Green Street

We're still taking pictures and I'm trying to get them to "work" on a new blog....but if you want to see some of the creations I'll be taking to Plowshares in December, check out my other blog...Knit Wit on Green Street. (You can access it from my profile.)


We had lunch this week with a friend from out of town who loves to go to one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood. She's been in the swirl of a merger at her place of employment. After more than twenty years with her company, she's hoping to hold on to the job she once loved dearly, having gone above and beyond to bring success to both herself and her company.

I've been watching from the sidelines as this drama has played out, knowing too much from the human resources world. All I could do was rework a resume for her and try to make her see the writing on the wall. A number of times she would ask me, "Doesn't loyalty count?" I never had a good answer; it was a question I wrestled with too often myself as the value of an employee's loyalty has seemed to diminish in the work world. Many who grew up believing you'd always have a job if you showed up every day and gave 110% still ended up being downsized.

Our friend likes going to this neighborhood spot because the waitress is so wonderful....bubbly, willing to make substitutions with a smile, never forgets that we're in a hurry and need a receipt for the meal, always has something funny to tell us and makes us feel at home. She's a huge draw for the place, runs a Trivia night and we were anxious to know when the next night would be. Our friend was wondering if she'd be in town when they had the next Trivia night; our waitress said she hadn't figured out when she'd be having it yet but she'd be sure to let us know. This was said with the usual huge smile and our conversation switched from trouble in the workplace to how nice it would be to work in a small place like this restaurant.

And then the check was delivered to us, by our waitress, who had come back into the room a totally different person. I noticed she was holding back tears. She said, quite calmly, "I just wanted you to know that I will not be hosting Trivia night. My hours have just been cut so a family member of the owner can have more hours here." And she walked away.

"See? It's everywhere!" our friend having employment issues exclaimed.

I was proud of the waitress for handling herself so professionally. And very annoyed at the owner of this restaurant for several reasons. To begin with, this kind of news should NEVER be delivered in the middle of noon-time rush. The quality of this waitress shone through because she stayed and continued her job with grace when she could have thrown a temper tantrum and turned your quaint little dining room into who-knows-what. More importantly, she's done a TON to grow your business, and now your partner, who folks like but who certainly is not a waitress, will be hard pressed to keep up the pace.

I understand financial concerns lead to necessary decisions that are no doubt difficult to make. But it leads me back to that question that keeps floating around in my head that never has a good answer. "Doesn't loyalty count?" I think this waitress deserved better.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Turner to Cezanne

Last Friday hubby took the afternoon off and we went to the Everson Museum's exhibit of fifty-three masterpieces from the National Museum of Wales. This exhibit will be here until January. If you live in Syracuse, find the time to go see it. Even the young man who yelled at me (yes, truly "yelled") for being too close to the paintings couldn't spoil my absolute joy in seeing this collection. (And, young can't really appreciate the pencil lines in Turner's astounding watercolors unless you look up close.....I'm old and can't see much with my bifocals.....give me a break.)

One of the few happy childhood memories I hold dear is that of sprawling on the living room floor or my mother's bed with her art books surrounding us. My mother would carefully flip through pages until she found the painting she wished to "review" with me that particular day and then she'd tell me about the technique the artist used or tell me stories about the artist's life. I learned as I grew older that some of what she told me was fiction fueled by alcohol, but much of it was based on her knowledge and love of art.

And there at the Everson were many of the very paintings we had studied: "The Good Samaritan"; "La Parisienne"; "The Conversation". As I wandered the rooms, VanGogh, Millet, Renoir, Manet, Pissaro, Bonnard, Meissonier, Daumier all "spoke" to me, inviting me into their lives, as they had when I was a child full of dreams of living in Paris and writing poetry, a dream I have not yet let go.

Then I saw Claude Monet's "Waterlilies", well positioned and nicely lit on a back wall. My mother loved these paintings most of all and had told me how he had fashioned his own pond in his backyard so he wouldn't have to leave his house to paint them. I had always wondered if this was true or not....and there on the plaque near this painting were words describing how he tended to the lily ponds on his property. It brought tears to my eyes....not only to view the astounding beauty of the painting.....but to realize, once again, that sometimes truth could be found in my mother's words.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Week's Playlist...

Man Under the Bridge....Mark Zane
Hate It Here....Wilco
Did She Jump....Richard/Linda Thompson
Goodbye Earl....Dixie Chicks
Give Me Back My Country...The Kennedys
Empire State....Dana "Short Order" Cooke
The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square...Willie Nile
Bethlehem...Mark Zane
Galway to Graceland....Plainsong
The Married Men...The Roches
When I Was Young...The Animals
Outrageous...Paul Simon
Dimming of the Day...The Five Blind Boys of Alabama
If I Ever Leave This World Alive....Flogging Molly
Firecracker....Wailin' Jennys
Sound of Your Voice...Barenaked Ladies
When the Spell is Broken...Bonnie Raitt
In My Life...Judy Collins
Last Tears....Indigo Girls
Long Walk Home...Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When Did People Get So Mean?

I’m not one to keep my mouth shut when it comes to politics, as many of you know. If I was someone who dwelled on labels, I’d have several attached to me that might indeed raise fear and loathing in others: green, tree hugger, pro-choice, feminist, and….here it comes……liberal.

I’m not against paying taxes. I just wish there were boxes on my tax return I could check so I could say how I wanted my money spent: “yes” on making our schools better and “no” on weapons of any kind, for example. I still like Jerry Brown’s flat tax idea.

Have we forgotten that almost all of us are the offspring of immigrants? My grandfather was sent to America because he lived too close to the battles of the Catholics and Protestants in the United Kingdom. He took easily to farm work, became a successful dairy farmer, came to own several dairy farms. Was it easier for him because his accent was not so difficult to understand and his skin color light?

As a consumer of healthcare services and one who worked in healthcare for twenty years, guess what folks? The system needs fixing. Desperately. It’s too late even. We’re already paying the price for those who have gone too long without healthcare.

So where is this rant leading? Lately I have been bombarded with emails bashing President Obama and his policies. I’ve deleted many, asked to be excluded from lists, even called a cousin and tried to have a conversation about why such emails frighten me, especially the ones that appear to be extremely racist and full of incendiary language and information that simply isn’t factual.

Many of these emails dwell on what our founding fathers envisioned for our country, except for one huge omission: the separation of church and state. Those patriots founded a new nation based on the principal that everyone was free to practice the religion of their choice, after living in an environment where one religion was the expected, accepted way of life. They knew from experience this did not work; thus, separation of church and state.

Emails I’ve received lately imply that the only “good” American is a Christian. I have to wonder if “good” may also mean “white”. My outrage is tempered by my sorrow, my fear.

“Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Roman 13.9)

I wonder why I never see that in any of these emails.

Monday, October 5, 2009


"Make new friends, but keep the is silver, but the other gold" Here's some of my "gold".