Archive for February 2009

Mardi Gras with tanks

February 25, 2009

Sections of the counter newspaper were being exchanged beteen customers. The guy next to me had the A section, the national news.

“They say yesterday’s Mardi Gras celebration was the biggest since pre-Hurricane Katrina,” he said aloud. “I went there once, when I was nineteen,” he continued. “Wild place. Million people from out-of-town.”

He spoke in short fragments. “College students. Military guys. Bars took out their windows and sold drinks to you standing on the sidewalk. People slept in the parks. Mardi Gras is really 12 days long. Each day named for a Greek god. The last day is Mardi Gras, the Day of Rex. Point is, bars don’t stay open all night like you’d think. They start shutting down around midnight because people are exhausted from partying for going on two weeks.”

He went silent as coffees were sipped, breakfasts were ordered, and customer checks were calculated.

“I always thought I’d go back, but I never did.”

“That’s what I said about Germany,” piped in an old timer a few seats away. “I wanted to see…” and he stopped.

“You visited Germany?” asked Mr. Mardi Gras.

The old guy smiled, “Yeh.”

“What was it you wanted to see?”

“Well, when I was there – Nuremburg – we drove over crumbled buildings in our tanks. I just want to see, well, what it looks like now.”

Society’s economic woes mirrored by waitresses

February 12, 2009

I usually come to the diner weekdays, but last weekend I stopped in on Sunday with Annette for a late morning omelet.

Annette’s daughter waits tables here Sundays. She is one of three part-time weekend waitresses. Each is thirty or younger, went to college, and has another “main” job. This is in contrast to the three full-time waitresses who work here during the week. They are fifty-plus, didn’t go to college, and this is their main job.

I am familair enough with all six waitresses to know that they all own – or lack – approximately the same amount of material possessions. The difference in personal cash flow seems to be related to the amount of debt each has; primarily college loans and credit card balances.

I find it tragically ironic that today’s college-prepared young people, at least many of the ones I know, seem to be so saddled with debt that they must work two jobs to survive.

Searching for Jehovah

February 5, 2009

Question: What do you call a person who is an insomniac, an agnostic, and is dyslexic? Answer: Someone who lies awake at night wondering if there really is a doG.

That may be an old joke, but it’s often how I feel. For centuries the idea of God has been presented to us by organized religion.  Presented by radical Fundamentalists who hate and kill in His name; presented by ineffectual Western denomiations who are only “religious” on key Sundays during the year; presented by odd sects, like Mennonites or Lamas, who mind their own God-blessed business.

In college I majored in biology and I can articulate the key arguments supporting evolution. But as someone with five senses, I watch a great blue heron fly through the mist at sunrise and convince myself there must be a Reason. I watch 350,000,000 Americans go through their day and wonder if there isn’t a Purpose.

In the song Counting Blue Cars, by Dishwalla, a child asks, “Tell me all your thoughts on God, ’cause I’d really like to meet her; tell me all your thoughts on God, ’cause I’m on my way to see her; tell me, am I very far, now, am I very far?”

Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift. Maybe religion needs to stop leading men and, instead, follow women.

Graveside memorial service on a cold day

February 3, 2009

Last Sunday I attended a graveside sevice for my very first boss, David “Scotty” Caplan, former owner of Scotty’s Shell Station at Twelve Corners in the Town of Brighton. I worked for him part-time from age 16 to 22.

Scotty was almost 97 when he passed away. Seventy people came to his burial. When you’re that old and seventy people show up to bury you on a bitter cold February morning, that’s proof you’ve “lived.”

He gave up his pilot’s license at 82. His wife died when he was 93. He was run over by a van when he was 94 – he should have stayed airborne where it was safer. The rabbi said, “He was aged, but not old.”

Scotty was a Jew. Ironically, he gave his Shell Station workers small Christmas presents each year. I remember receiving a pair of gloves.

This past Sunday seventy pairs of eyes watched as they lowered his coffin into the ground. In what the rabbi described as “the Jewish tradition honoring the cycle of life,” we were all invited to throw a shovelful of dirt on his coffin. I was early enough in line to have my dirt bounce off the bare wood of his coffin. A strange feeling it was, burying the man who taught me what “work” was – how to deal with the mechanical part and the people part of the job.

Sorry, Scotty, if that shovelful of dirt didn’t seem like the proper way to say thanks.

Bird feeder as a mirror of life

February 2, 2009

A couple days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, cognizant of the fact that there were birds at the feeder just outside the window, but paying them little mind since they were run-of-the-mill house sparrows. Suddenly there was a flash of movement at the feeder. By the time I looked, all I could see was a hawk flying off with what appeared to be a house sparrow in his talons.

My friend, Dale, said the snow is so deep in his back yard in Saratoga Springs, NY, that a squirrel can walk across the top of it, step right over the squirrel foil on the bird feeder pole, and help itself to more sunflower seeds than a whole flock of sparrows can consume.

The hawks and the squirrels don’t follow the system we had in mind when we installed the feeders: wait your turn…do unto others… 

Like real life, the big guys eat the little guys, and the freeloaders tend to take the lions share.