Monday, August 29, 2011

Very, very lucky

Spouse and I count ourselves extremely lucky. Irene breezed through D.C. and didn't leave a mark on us. I know several thousands more will be without power for a few more days and they have my sympathy. My youngest sister and her family live in Lusby, Maryland, on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. Irene left many scars in that area. Schools are closed and it will take several more days before power and phone service are restored. Three trees came down on their property. One was a "gift" from a neighbors yard -- a big oak that crushed my nephew's truck. Two more narrowly missed hitting their house and several more, broken and leaning trees will have to be removed. My Mom stayed with my sister and her family through the hurricane because several of her Midwestern kids were concerned her little cottage, close to the Patuxent River would be in danger. As it turned out, she lost a few roofing shingles, but nothing else. Her retirement community lost power briefly during the night, so Mom's feeling very lucky, too. It was an exciting night at my sister's house. Mom/Grammy was glad to be there to help comfort 11 year old Alex who was still unsettled following the earthquake last Tuesday. The two of them decided they were having quite an adventure. As soon after the power went off, they all headed to bed. Alex slept between his mother and grandmother while his Dad and big brother made do in the living room. Several years ago, bro-in-law, Bill, installed a generator, so their refrigerator is still running along with a couple of lights and their neighbor is grateful for a long extension cord running between their houses, providng them with some power. I'm afraid the sound of chain saws and generators will outplay the cicadas for several more days. This hurricane could have been so much worse. Perhaps Mother Nature took pity on us because as Irene made landfall in several places, she weakened. I hope New Yorkers realize how lucky they are to have dodged a bullet this time. Towns and cities farther inland and on up into Maine and Canada were inundated and some may never recover. I thank God for sparing Spouse and me and pray that those who lost loved ones can find peace. Many, many more lost homes and personal belongings that cannot be replaced. I'm taking a lesson from that and gathering photos, letters and other irreplacable possessions into one package that I can grab and run with if necessary. It took an earthquake and hurricane all in one week to finally convince me that life is too precious to waste on stupid stuff like envy, regret, jealousy or pride. It won't be easy, but I'm going to try my best to remember that.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What's it all about, Alfie?

These peaceful, flag-waving, chanting marchers came by a few minutes ago. That's the State Department building in the background, so I figure they were trying to send a message there.
It took maybe twenty minutes for several hundred people to pass by, some banging drums and shouting.
I couldn't make out what they were chanting and it looked like their yellow flags had De-List Mex written on them. Guess I'll have to wait until CNN picks-up on them to figure out what they are trying to get across. Glad they came out before Irene visits this weekend. Her anticipated wrath was enough to postpone the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial scheduled for Sunday morning.
To my cherished, few, readers who live in Irene's path: Batten down the hatches!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Yesterday I asked What Gives? . . . today I found out.

The ground gave during a 5.9 earthquake centered 80 miles southwest of the District. I had just returned home from taking an elderly friend to the grocery store. What, at first felt like a very heavy truck driving by quickly became intense shaking.

My first thought was that some terrible structural problem was going to bring down our high rise apartment building. I heard things falling but didn't bother looking for them and went to the metal door frame of our bathroom.

Having never experienced an actual earthquake I started quaking. Grabbing my purse, I headed down the hall to collect a neighbor and took the stairs to get outside. Stuttering and knees quaking, I asked some college students with cellphones what they were hearing. That's when I heard it was an actual earthquake in Virginia.

It's been about one and a half hours since we rumbled and I'm somewhat anxious about after shocks, but since there's nothing I can do about it, I'm ready to evacuate again, if need be.

However, I can't get a troubling memory out of my mind. When the plane hit the Pentagon a few miles from us on September 11 the sensation felt very similar.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What Gives?

For the past month or so guys have been cutting and digging trenches down each side of our street. During the really hot weather, they worked at night. I could appreciate the need to wait til it was cooler, but the huge grinding blade they used to cut the pavement was really off-putting. It also caught people who normally park on the street by surprise.

Being a curious type, I have checked on their progress from time to time and am still puzzled as to what their mission was/is.

After cutting through the pavement, the debris was removed, leaving a neatly cut foot-wide trench. What looked like reinforcing bars were installed then dirt was packed in to street level. [I've never saw any pipes, cables or anything else installed.] Not long after, the crew returned, dug-up the compacted dirt and poured in paving material. The same is being repeated on the opposite side of the street right now.

Our street isn't what I'd call heavily-travelled and there are usually few potholes at the end of winter, so why all the digging and filling? Surely D.C. isn't into "make-work" projects for contractors . . . Anybody know what's going on?

Friday, August 19, 2011

My Turn to Gripe

GIVE THE MAN A BREAK! President Obama deserves a vacation and where he chooses to take it is his business [OK, and the Secret Service's,too]. He needs to get out the demented atmosphere of political Washington. I'm glad he's out there riding his bike with his family, breathing air untainted by politics.

GIVE KATE A BREAK! Where do fashionistas get off scolding Princess Kate for wearing the same outfit twice? I admire her practicality. She's sending a good message of making do with what she has. Besides, some outfits just make a woman feel good, so why not wear it often. As for those who criticize her make-up -- Oh, please! She's clearly lovely and loved by her husband.

SEPTEMBER 11 -- As the infamous anniversary date approaches please, let's remember it's nine/eleven, not nine/one/one. Even network talking heads get it wrong. Remembering the day is cringe-inducing enough without corrupting the date.

PLEASE. In the name of all that is good why can't television muckety-mucks put an end to reality shows? For the life of me, I cannot figure out why young women, who clearly have personality problems, would invite a camera to follow them through hissy-fits and childish though profane tirades while planning their special day. How could any male with even half a brain want to marry such a creature?! That's just one type of reality show. I admit I've watched very few. It's too embarrassing to watch people in what should be private situations.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT believe everything campaigning politicians tell you. August 17th was not Elvis Presley's birthday and, no she won't be able to swish her magic wand to bring gas prices down to $2.00 a gallon if elected president. As for Rick Perry: OMG!! Yes, he's good lookin' but man, oh, man he's dense! Grippin' and Grinnin' ain't gonna win no races. Griping about the status quo won't win friends or influence voters, either. Pull out before you make a total ass of yourself.

FRACKING may sound like something frat-boys do to new pledges, but it's far scarier. Oil companies are proudly announcing the promise of huge supplies of natural gas and oil just waiting to be tapped thousands of feet deep in the Earth. They add that we'll have many more years of fossil fuel to fill our gas tanks, warm our homes and keep America competitive with other oil producing nations. You betcha! What about the dangers of fracking? Fracking accidents have already contaminated ground water and released toxic gases. Injecting massive amounts of water and chemicals under high pressure into the material containing all the oil makes me wonder about geophysical damages, too. If you want to know more, check this out: Fracking - SourceWatch.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stevie T.

He could have been the inspiration for Charlie Brown: guileless innocence and earnest curiosity.

Stevie, his younger sister and parents lived in a garage apartment behind us when I was very young. Another young family occupied the upstairs apartment and all of us kids were of similar ages.

Stevie's father was a massive guy and in the Coast Guard. He was the only person who could approach his scary German Shepherd who, it seemed, spent his entire life chained to a post on their back porch. Mr. T. was domineering and not particularly fond of his only son. Mrs. T. was a tiny little woman, intimidated by her husband.

Stevie was a little awkward and shy, but he worked hard at trying to insert himself into others' lives. He might have been a little slow mentally but I never saw him get angry. We went through school together then lost track of each other after graduating from high school. I went off to college and Stevie went off to work.

He died about this time last year. The cause was not mentioned but the abundant appreciation and love of his many friends was staggering. I felt ashamed for not making more of an effort to befriend him when I had the chance.

The moral of this story is that each of us has the potential to be a significant force for good in others' lives. Stevie's legacy is one worth remembering. His kindness and acceptance of others' faults and failings earned him respect and love.I wish I'd been smart enough to recognize and appreciate those qualities when I was four.

[left to right: Stevie, me, my big brother]

Saturday, August 6, 2011

What the &%#*?!

Decorum is a useful tool in just about any given situation. It helps to maintain the dignity of all parties as well as discouraging bad or dangerous behavior.

The Congress of the United States of America used to be a bastion of decorum.

It has been infuriating as well as hideously embarrassing to watch the country's elected representatives bicker, name-call and generally grouse about not getting their way on various issues. They exhibited more slapstick than a serious debate on the future financial and social standing of our beloved country.

I can't help but attribute this to the so-called Tea Party. They were elected because of their hyperbole and ranting about issues near and dear to every American. They told "the people" what they wanted to hear though not the full story. Reality never entered their minds.

Sure; taxes are a bane to everyone, but they quite literally keep many of us alive and sheltered. Think about people you know who are just barely hanging on trying to live on Social Security or other federal benefits. Then think about many other Americans living high off the hog from wealth they earned AND collecting Social Security. That monthly government check probably amounts to a drop in the bucket in their overall income. Is that fair?!

Also, is anyone thinking about the fact that, even after all the years you paid into the Social Security pot you draw all of it within the first two or three years you start collecting benefits?

Of course there are flaws in all federal programs, some of them so heavily entrenched that it will take years to put them on a more practical footing. It has to start somewhere and Congress seems determined not to touch any entitlements or tax measures. Both houses are deadlocked and pretty useless. President Obama must be frustrated out of his mind by their game-playing. I know I am.

Playing "Chicken" with people's lives and finances is not the answer. And the stock market is the biggest bunch of chickens yet! Now is the time to invest in our country, not hold back.

Remember: you can't take it with you!