Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Ninth Night

We went to Christmas Revels at Harvard on Wednesday.
If there was such a thing as the “ninth night” of Chanukah, that would have been the night.
But there is no ninth night.

Revels this year had a skeleton figure which moved silently and somberly throughout the show - even dancing in the lobby of Memorial Hall during” Lord Of The Dance”. Ironically, the skeleton was played by a young, lithe woman. To me, the skeleton embodied “death”; the program ascribed “time”. One could make a case for synonymousness.

Both Chuck and I found the skeleton’s presence disturbing. That’s because we are acutely conscious of death, now that Chuck’s aunt is dying.

We are all dying. Trite and cliched but it is natheless true. As we come to terms with Tanta’s cancer and begin to work with hospice, how can we be anything else but aware of death?

So to attend Revels, a celebratory tradition for us going back decades, and be repeatedly confronted with death, when what we wanted was distraction and delight, was painful. It didn’t matter that I spent intermission and one quarter of the second act on my cell phone with caregivers, an agency and an emergency room. When that incident was resolved I wanted to go back to good cheer. No matter how rousing the songs nor how robust the audience participation, there she was, the skeleton in our midst.

Perhaps it was coincidence or perhaps a message from the universe and, most likely, of universal importance. But it was more than we wanted; frankly, more than we needed.

Tanta will turn 89 next week. Her doctor, who says he is always wrong about such monumental predictions, says it will not be a year and it will not be six months.

There will likely be no 90th birthday celebration for Tanta.

Just as there is no ninth night.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Not A Creature Was Stirring

...He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight -
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Whether it was written by Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston, Jr. “Twas The Night Before Christmas” has a special place in my heart. Less as a poem and more as the beautiful musical arrangement by Harry Simeone and sung by his Chorale. I can still see my Dad standing in our living room in Warwick, Rhode Island. The room was illuminated by electric candles in the four windows, wax tapers on the mantlepiece, the crackling wood fire below, the twinkling lights on the Christmas Tree and the single golden bulb inside the manger. Dad would be singing along with the album, as it was spinning on the stereo. All was calm, bright, safe and right with world.

May we all know such peace and joy again...

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. We lit the candles, read the story and sang the songs. But I’m afraid the latkes will have to wait another day or so until things slow down around here.

They will slow down, won’t they? ;o)

Here’s some useful information which I posted last year:
: : As always, has an a great and exhaustive section of their website devoted to all things Chanukah - from history to how to light the menorah/chanukiah.

: : And the best book to guide you through the Festival of Lights is still “Haneirot and Halalu, These Lights Are Holy” edited by Elyse D. Frishman and illustrated by Leonard Baskin.

A Freilichen Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Need Or Scam & Does It Matter?

Back in May of 2010 I posted about my dilemma when it comes to being panhandled. Many of you shared your stories of when you do and don’t and the internal struggles you have. I came away from that discussion feeling that saying no was generally the best strategy and to always say no to giving someone a lift somewhere. However, in the twenty months since I posted “Need Or Scam?” I have witnessed several instances of generosity under comparable circumstances, by folks seemingly far less fortunate than I. I say seemingly because we never can really tell who’s the prince and who’s the pauper just on appearance alone. These have happened in Worcester, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and so on.

Late one night last winter, there was a young man who was a bit in his cups. He claimed he hadn’t eaten all day and wanted a couple of bucks to get a hamburger at the Burger King across the street from the Hess gasoline station in Webster Square in Worcester. He approached Chuck who was pumping gas. Chuck politely declined. Sitting in the car, I watched as the fellow went up to all the other customers. The only one who reached into his pocket and handed him a couple of bucks was a young man, dressed very casually, driving a beater. If I had been ranking customers socio-economically based on their rides, this guy would have been at the bottom.

Another time I was waiting for Chuck to sort out a transaction at the service desk in the Stop and Shop in Lincoln Plaza. It was late. The store was quiet with only one clerk near me ringing up orders. I watched as several customers passed through. I saw a young woman shopping with her pre-teen daughter. They were purchasing basic, no frills items. When the clerk asked if she wanted to donate to a local charity, the woman did not hesitate and said yes immediately. Then a man came through buying value sized bags of rice, cans of Spam and a few other basics. He too readily agreed to donate. None of the three appeared to have the last name of Rockefeller or Trump. But a couple of customers in office attire both declined to contribute - as had we when we were checking out. While not the same as being panhandled I was struck by the difference in responses.

These and several other moments have triggered interesting conversations between Chuck and me on our long rides between home and Rhode Island or home and Brookline. As a result, we ended up shifting our position on panhandlers from no to maybe.

This evening, we were driving back home from a tough visit in Brookline involving a medical appointment for a loved one. We ran a few errands along the way including stopping by the WalMart in Northborough. As we exited our vehicle in the bustling parking lot, a man in his late thirties or early forties approached us. He was holding a cell phone. He said he was driving between Worcester and Framingham and his car was running on fumes. Could we give him two or three bucks just to get a gallon of gas. He expressed embarrassment because of his predicament. He offered to mail the money back to us. (See paragraph one of Need Or Scam?!) Neither one of us fully believed him. Chuck glanced at me. I nodded and Chuck handed the fellow three bucks. The man repeated his offer to mail it back to us. (He had no way of knowing that was the least reassuring part of his story!) We declined and wished him well.

Will we always say yes? Not likely. But as we walked into WalMart we both felt glad that we had once again said yes. This time we understood that we had acted in a gray area, but that we had acted in kindness and with a desire to trust. We also knew the importance of letting go - not just of the three dollars, but of the decision. The money was moving on in the universe. We sent it with our best wishes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

23 & 1/2 Hours

This puts it all in perspective:

Thank you Dr. Mike Evans!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I admit I get a kick out of the flashmob phenomenon. This one from Minnesota is a holiday delight!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Sideshow Closes

Herman Cain “suspended” his presidential campaign today.

Jaws did not drop.

There are so many important problems in need of solutions in this country and around the world. It's troubling how much media attention was devoted to Cain and all of his "alleged" affairs. Journalists should know better, but they find the bread and circuses impossible to resist. Before tossing his hat into the race, Cain had to know he was never a viable presidential candidate. He’s been in it just to raise his profile and to profit from it down the road. He owes all of us an apology for wasting our time and serving up adulterous chum to the media.

Not to mention the apology he owes his beleaguered wife Gloria.