Saturday, September 18, 2010

Angela, we miss you

The Way We Were, performed by Barbara Streisand

Mmm. Mmm.
Memories, light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we give to one another
For the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me would we? Could we?
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
What's too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it's the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were.

Angela, you have been gone for one year, and we miss you dearly.

Vicki has never had a friend like you and she never will again. You were always there for her, and Vicki knew that she could share anything with you at any time. If she ever needed anything, you would come to San Diego from Arizona as soon as humanly possible, and she was always welcome to visit you in Arizona. I thought of the above song because both of us and our family have so many great memories of you and your wonderful family.

Funny memories: Vicki remembers how the two of you went on a cruise to Ensenada from California many years ago, and you ended up being situated with a large group of lesbians because the people who booked the cruise just assumed that you were one of them. The lesbians would see you together for meals and, noticing how you were so close, just assumed that you were lesbians, telling you, "Isn't it wonderful being a lesbian and sharing your innermost thoughts with another woman." You would tell them, no, we're not lesbians, and they would keep telling you, it's OK, you can come out of the closet now, we are your sisters and we are there for you. Finally, you and Vicki got tired of hearing it, and said to them, OK, you're right, we are lesbians, it's just hard for us to talk about. After that, you and Vicki had a great time hanging out with the sisters, and experiencing (from a distance) the joys of being a lesbian!

Memories of our kids' childhoods: Our kids remember hanging out with your kids, Bobbie and Stevie, from the time they were little, in Torrance. We had so much fun walking around the Torrance neighborhoods with enough candy to feed about twice as many kids, with your kids greeting every neighbor with the words, "Happy Halloween," and putting a smile on the face of everyone who met them. You and I and Vicki would walk, it seemed, for miles and enjoy watching such a cute group of kids having such a good time. Our kids got to know you so well that for some reason, they were always afraid of you (even though I can't remember your actually yelling at them no matter what they did.) I just think you had a commanding presence which immediately inspired the respect of everyone who met you.

Sad memories: Vicki flew to Phoenix on the date that you died and found that your extended family from California was crowded around you and down the hallway of your room in the hospice, to the point where, as she entered your room, Vicki felt that it was as if the Red Sea was parting for her. Everyone in your family told Vicki that Angela waited for Vicki to arrive before you passed, and when Vicki kissed you goodbye on your forehead, that you died soon thereafter. I cannot think of a more stirring goodbye that anyone could have, and I know that no one deserved it more than you.

You would be happy to know that we know have an old dog, Cookie, who follows Vicki everywhere and is her loyal companion, no matter what. She is always there for Vicki, she cries whenever Vicki is gone, even from the room, and she even sticks her paw up for Vicki to hold when she feels lonely. Vicki can take Cookie for walks first thing in the morning, when the weather is chilly, and the day is young, and she can enjoy a type of quiet companionship with her that she cannot have with anyone else, including me.

Angela, there will never be another one like you, and I really wish you could be back again, even for one moment, to share your life with us, and be there for Vicki.

Happy Birthday, Zook

Mama Tried, by Merle Haggard

The first I remember knowin' was the lonesome whistle blowin'
And a youngun's dream of growin' up to ride.
On a freight train leavin' town, not knowin' where I was bound
No one changed my mind, but mama tried.

One and only rebel child from a family meek and mild
Mama seemed to know what lay in store
In spite of all my Sunday learnin'
For the bad I kept on turnin' and mama couldn't hold me anymore.

And I turned 21 in prison, doin' life without parole
No one could steer me right, but mama tried, mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleadin' I denied
That leaves only me to blame cause mama tried.

Dear old daddy rest his soul, left my mom a heavy load
She tried so very hard to fill his shoes
Workin' hours without rest, wanted me to have the best
Oh she tried to raise me right, but I refused.

And I turned 21 in prison, doin' life without parole
No one could steer me right, but mama tried, mama tried
Mama tried to raise me better, but her pleadin' I denied
That leaves only me to blame cause mama tried.

Happy birthday, Zook (David). You would have been 45 this year, and all of us in San Diego still cannot believe that you aren't here anymore.

I included the above song, Mama Tried, because you provided it to me on a tape you sent me of a Live Grateful Dead concert, circa 1971. At the time, I frankly did not pay a lot of attention to the tape, but, like most of the approximately one hundred tapes you gave me, I came to enjoy it over time, much like a fine old wine. In fact, I played this one so many times that (like so many of the other great tapes that you gave me), it wore out over time. However, I am happy to say that I found a copy of this song, and now I have a CD of this album, which I play all the time.

To me, this song is about two things: expectations and disappointment. I know that this song meant a lot to you. In fact, I think that you may have played it on your acoustic guitar the last time I saw you, in July, 2008.

I know that you had high expectations of yourself (and others), and, like me, you found that often reality did not meet your expectations. Like me, the profession you chose was not your first choice, but you simply shook off the negativity of not pursuing your original career option, and you instead found that you could build a successful working life and home life anyway. I think all of us go through the ups and downs of having high expectations and searing disappointments, and persevering through them, and I know you worked very hard in difficult conditions so that you could feed your family.

et me give you a quick update on what you have missed, since I know, if you were still around, I would have heard your strong opinion about these things:

  • The Padres--They have had an amazing year, since they were picked to finish last in their division, the National League, major league baseball, and, all in all, were in line to be probably one of the worst teams in the history of organized sports. At one point they were ahead by over six games over the Giants. I know that if you were here, you would have predicted their demise, and said the whole thing was a fluke, based on good pitching and a few timely hits and bounces of the baseball. And, of course, as the Padres seem to be burned out, and are now behind the Giants in the Western division, you would have been right.
  • The Chargers-Yikes, if you had seen their first game in Kansas City, where they were ran up and down the field in terrible weather conditions, and were handily defeated by a team that they have owned for a long time, you would have laughed your head off and said, the Chargers suck once again. And, unlike me, you maybe could have watched their second home game against Jacksonville since, out in Dayton, Nevada, you would have had a chance of seeing a game that is being blacked out in San Diego due to crummy ticket sales.
  • Music--I never realized, during your life, how much my sons Alex and Josh discussed music with you, in person, during the July 2008 cruise, and via email and blogging. The kids bring up, all the time, things that they went over with you about music. Recently, when we were discussing Subterreanean Homesick Blues, by Bob Dylan, the kids said they had discussed the version of this song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and you said that you thought it sucked. Josh regularly blogs about music, in his latest blog, which is, of course, dedicated to you.
  • Your musical interests and knowledge were quite diverse and amazing, and you were always generous in taking the time and making the effort to provide me your mixtapes of probably up to a hundred different artists. Also, you had the creativity (and the courage) to regularly record new songs and make videos of them on You Tube. At your funeral, where the videos were playing on a screen in the front of the room, more than a few people were moved to tears as they saw your moving portrayals of your hopes, dreams, and joys.
  • The Tea Party--You would not believe how these nut-jobs are all of a sudden winning primaries against established Republican candidates. I am sure that by now, you would have done extensive blogs and probably recorded some more songs about how those tax hatin', gun-tottin', immigrant despisin', extremists are now in a position to win some Congressional seats unless the country wakes up, in the general elections, to see how if these folks get in power, God help us (pardon the irony, Sarah P)
We lit a yahrtzeit candle last night, in your memory, David.

Thanks for all that you taught us, and for all of the memories we have of you.

Rest in peace.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Black Peter

Lyrics to Black Peter :
All of my friends come to see me last night
I was laying in my bed and dying
Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel
say "the weather down here so fine"

Just then the wind
came squalling through the door
but who can
the weather command?
Just want to have
a little peace to die
and a friend or two
I love at hand

Fever roll up to a hundred and five
Roll on up
gonna roll back down
One more day
I find myself alive
maybe go
beneath the ground

See here how everything
lead up to this day
and it's just like
any other day
that's ever been
Sun goin up
and then the
sun it goin down
Shine through my window and
my friends they come around
come around
come around

People may know but
the people don't care
that a man could be
as poor as me...
"Take a look at poor Peter
he's lyin in pain
now let's go run
and see"

Run and see
hey, hey,
run and see

It seems hard to believe that Zook (David) has been gone for one year. I have known that this day was coming for a long time but it still seems unreal to me that such a tragedy could have happened to such a larger than life person. I believe that Zook cited this song in what turned out to be one of his last blogs when he learned for the first time that his health was in serious jeopardy due to a serious aorta defect.

One of the hardest things to accept about death is that yes, life goes on without you. In fact, I just thought of a story that someone told me how, no matter how important you may think your existence is, what your existence really amounts to is the same as a hand in a glass of water. When I asked this person what she meant, she said that it means that when you put your hand in the water, and then take it out, at first the water swirls around your glass for awhile. slows down. Then, ever slower....Then, just a small shimmering of activity. And finally, after awhile, the water will just sit there in the if you never existed.

David was definitely someone who did not just stir the glass of water that represents life. He spilled it, threw it, shook it, even threw the glass against the wall, shattered the glass, and even did substantial damage to the wall!

I would like to think that if one of us had an inkling that this catastrophe was coming, we could have spoken to him, and, just maybe, been able to postpone such a cataclysmic event. But then again, would David have listened? Knowing David, he probably would have been doubtful, or even laughed at any of us for even making such a suggestion. Nevertheless, it's still nice to at least wonder about such a question which will never be answered.

Using the above Grateful Dead song as a reference point, I think that all of us who knew David could agree that David definitely was able to have "a little peace to die" and "a friend or two I love at hand" before his untimely demise. In reading the uplifting and happy parts of his blogs, and viewing some of his more emotional musical performances, such as his last performance, "I Wanna Fly," performed just hours before he died, we can view an artist who very much enjoyed his craft and poured his soul into his writing and performances. He also spoke at length of how he loved to play guitar and laugh into the wee hours of the night with some of his guitar-playing colleagues whom he had known since his college days.

Knowing that Zook had at least some genuine moments of extreme happiness, despite the darkness he seemed to fight throughout much of his life, can bring comfort to all of us who still cannot believe that he has been gone for one year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cell phone stores

Happy New Year, everybody! My son and I visited a local ATT wireless store yesterday, to exchange his now dying cell phone for a new one.

Cell phones! What an amazing invention! When Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, rolled off the inflatable mattress in his swimming pool, the middle-aged man, speaking to Benjamin, told him: "Remember one word: plastics." If this movie were happening today, he would tell him to remember one thing: cell phones. If you build it (a cell phone tower), they will come: People using cell phones for good things (staying in touch with their friends, wives, and kids); for immoral things (making dates with their girlfriends and boyfriends, so they can cheat on their spouses or significant others); bad things (setting up terrorist plots or criminal enterprises); violent things (detonating IEDS or explosives); and stupid things (texting people you don't really know to discuss things you don't really care about so you can waste time which don't really have to avoid having to do things which you are supposed to be doing). It's enough to make Alexander Graham Bell turn over in his grave.

I have learned some interesting facts about cell phone stores:

1. Terminology: When your phone that you purchased within the last year or so starts to fall apart, and you need to get a new one, the cell phone company will tell you that you need an "upgrade." Does an upgrade mean that you will get a better phone? No, not exactly, it just means that the phone you will now get, if you are cheap (like me), and you want the least expensive phone possible, is simply one that works, which makes it an "upgrade" to the phone which you are returning, since that phone is one that does not work any longer.

2. Customer convenience: You might think that bringing in a dying cell phone, taking out its brain (the SIMM chip), and transplanting the brain to a new body, in a new cell phone, would be a fairly simple experience. On the contrary, nothing is simple about it. Also, if you don't save your phone numbers into your SIMM chip, you may be in for a nasty surprise, which is that all those phone numbers that you spent all that time saving into your phone are, poof, gone forever.

3. The waiting game: When you walk into the store, they will ask you to sign your name to a piece of paper, and then you wait. The interesting part of this is that you may find that somebody, whom you do not recognize, will walk up to you, address you by your first name, and then ask you to go to the counter to talk to a customer service rep. You might wonder, how do they do that, presuming that you are not a celebrity whom is instantly recognizable. My son convinced me that after you sign the piece of paper, and walk away, somebody takes careful notes about your appearance, and then records those notes next to your name. So, in my case, they probably wrote down something like "Old fat guy with glasses who looks like he is bored out of his mind."

4. The two boring TV screens: What is really annoying about this is that unless you want to spend your waiting period wandering the store looking at the phones that you can't afford or the exciting accessories that you don't need, you can watch two gorgeous TV screens that are facing some reasonably comfortable chairs. Just think of what you could be watching: live or recorded TV shows, sporting events, the news, weather channels, or other exciting TV fare. Fuhgetaboudit! This particular store features two screens, one with a few seconds of Dexter, from Showtime, a few brief shots of movies made many years ago, and the other with a few seconds of sports figures including Kobe Bryant and Serena Williams showing off their shots, both sets featuring never-ending tape loops. If there is a more efficient way of torturing your customers, I would like to see it. The cell phone store therefore ensures that by the time you get to exchange your phone, your are really bored and angry.

5. Don't trust your customer: When you finally get your phone, after it's tested and turned on, you get your rebate form, (allowing you to, someday, get a debit card, which is actually a credit card and which you will, if you remember, use to buy groceries so that every cent of the card is used up since, obviously, the cell phone store is hoping that you will give up by then, allowing them to make the extra $50 that you are owed), you get your phone, your phone bag, and your sales receipt, you might think, OK, touchdown, that's it, I am done!

Wrong. What this store does is that the cell phone rep holds on to the bag, the cell phone, the rebate form and the rest of it, and he or she walks out from beyond the counter and escorts you out of the store, opens the door, and hands you the bag, thus ensuring that your shopping experience is ended with you, finally out of the store. You might wonder, what is their motivation for this, sudden, wonderful treatment after the last thirty minutes or so of suffering?

Maybe they think you want to come back to the store and repeat the whole experience? Doubtful.

Maybe, they are in effect, apologizing for making you suffer through this whole ridiculous experience? Probably not.

Are they showing off to the other customers in the store how devoted they are to you? Probably not a bad idea, but also doubtful.

This may seem paranoid, but the most likely reason is to make sure that once you have the bag in your hand, you are out of the store, and do not have a chance to stuff your bag with some post-Christmas gifts, such as cell phone chargers, ear buds, and other items that are worth $100 or less. How about walking off with the cell phones themselves, that could cost $100 and up? No, the cell phone store shows, for once, some intelligence here, since this valuable merchandise is beyond reach to the customers, since it is accessible only to employees armed with the proper passcodes.

So, does any of this make sense? No, especially, since, with all of our available technology, one would think this could be something that could be done much more efficiently, instead of being such an amazing waste of resources, time and effort. So, next time you need to go to a cell phone store to "upgrade" your phone, make sure you bring a book to read, or an IPOD to listen to. Perhaps that way, you won't be able to think of how unnecessary this experience has to be.