Thursday, April 3, 2014

green, grey and approaching Earth Day


Plastic bags, bags, bags: they are everywhere.

Last Friday, on my way home from work, a rogue bag kite flew out from the wooded area along the Cross Island Pkwy and got caught in my front grille.  The bristling noise interrupted an attention grabbing-War of the Roses bit-on KTU. (sorry to those unfamiliar and from distant places)

Once untangled from the nose of my CRV the circulating winds may well have carried the fugitive bag toward Little Neck Bay and caused distress for a swan or an egret.

Weekend getaway frustration involves more than just dodging potholes.  I wondered if the event was triggered by the negligent disposal of another driver, or the untidy garbage collection of a nearby resident.

I grumbled above the radio, “Damn bags!”  Then I thought, “Damn dilemma”.

I tried to speculate if I could go Costco style on everything I purchase and lug each item, for all eternity, back home by transferring one or two at a time from cart to car and car to house. “Doubtful”, I muttered. “I’d snap, surely”, is the confirmed reply I issued to self.
Then my brain cramped a little more as I realized that I needed that flying bag kite back so I could clean the cat litter box later that night.  And my neighbor needs two to clean up after her dog.

I began thinking about Mayor de Blasio and the recently proposed NYC plan to subject plastic and paper bags to 10 cent penalties. 
As I approached the LIE merge, it dawned on me that I’ve also been missing out on the 5 cent per bag credit for packing with reusable’s that’s offered at my supermarket.

“Am I crazy?” I wondered aloud.  I really fell down on that one.  It’s better than coupons.  I can by a bushel of reusable bags, pack just a couple of items in each at checkout and walk away with about three bucks each time I shop.
But then between my ears I heard a voice say “maybe that’s the wrong spirit”.  We need to help the environment.  That’s the plan.  Yes, help the environment. 

Still driving along, and feeling fuzzy about the details, I had to put on hold any attempt at figuring out the dog poop with the bare hands quandary.  It’s just too complicated even with hands free technology.  But with a determination for openness I tried to presume that the research is done.  Right?  All this must have been carefully figured out to address the major culprit-those damn flimsy, omnipresent, flying high over ball fields and City and Town Halls everywhere-bag kites. 
Now with the sharp turn of my exit near I wanted to make a decision and so I declared “What the heck, I’ll try it, first thing in the morning I will go out and buy a bunch of those reusable bags”.

I guess there will be varieties and choices to make. 
Do I choose cotton, canvass or polypropylene bags?  Do I look for bags made in the USA?  Or maybe since I’m new to this I should just stick with the cheapest products.  Yes, that makes sense; browse the section made in China or elsewhere around the globe.  The bags smartly produced on much more raw material and energy.  The well traveled bags demanding enormous fossil fuel consumption on their trek back from Asia.  The colorful, stylish bags made without any trepidation of lead blends in the paints and dyes.

The bags that I will vow never to leave at home, or in the other car, or with my son at his Little League practice.  The magical bags that will avoid contamination by spills and bacteria and muck and mud and that will live on in the trunk of my car for perpetuity. 
The liberating reusable’s that I promise to monitor and cherish with honor and full disclosure.  The esteemed bags upon which I solemnly swear to not accept credit for when hauling home cardboard and hard plastic packaged vitamin supplements or thick plastic detergent bottles.  And conversely, I pledge to speak up when the gentlemen next to me buying pineapples in his kite bag at the express line is penalized.

Finally now, I reached home.  Radio off.  No more thinking or research.  Just action. 
But then, with keys in hand, as I tripped on my winter weary and organic lawn a different vision and vow came to mind.

An environmental vow that is void of vagueness.  A vow that has clarity and that doesn’t involve a lot of math, variables and time charts in order to pick the slightly lesser of two evils.
It goes like this. I will care about our aquifers and waterways.  I will care about our wildlife and cancer risks and will not use even one ounce of chemicals and pesticides between my picket fences as we move headlong into landscaping season.

It is a simple vow that requires no substitutes.  Grass already knows how to grow without chemicals.  It’s been happening for millions of years.
I closed the door behind me and thought, bags, bags, bags: we need to conserve and contain them. 

Water, water, water: we need to love and respect it. 
© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, February 23, 2014

clicking on preview


 
When we close out this day in New York we will still have a few more weeks of cold and stormy weather to work through.  But the tantalizing glimpse of the future offered through sunny skies and temps well into the fifties this weekend felt as pleasurable as a first step in the sand at a favorite beach.
 
Like a lesson in antonyms, crocuses peeked through the soil across the street from giant mounds of mold laden and debris peppered snow.  And skaters, cyclists and joggers moved freely on trails and paths leading away from parking lots featuring still stranded cars.
 
The heavy weight of three, four, five or maybe even six wintry mix events has been lifted off of us.   ‘Ice dams’ will soon be a phrase I can forget I ever heard.
 
My shoulder is feeling better from the break in shoveling and I believe I won’t have to see the orthopedist after all.
 
Bystanders and traffic can coexist with tall buildings while no longer fearing large falling chunks of ice.  Streets are suddenly wider again and if I forget to fold over my side view mirror it’s no longer synonymous with a scheduled trip to the auto body shop.   
 
The tilting patios are beginning to level. 
 
Maybe….just maybe…I will consider driving on the Bronx River Potholeway again. 
 
I can think of a time when I will open my heating bill without first shuttering.  As a good sign, I have forgotten about the portable heater that helped keep the plumbing at the rear end of the house from freezing. 
 
And the self diagnosed frostbite on my cheek was just redness.
 
So too as I feel the seasons hardships slip away I will miss the snow forts and snowball fights with fav bud.  I’m glad as well for the sleigh riding trips.  And thankful, yes I’m even grateful, for occasionally being outside and in harmony with the quiet peacefulness of fresh fallen snow.


© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

greetings from the basement


It is the wallpaper on my phone.
I check on it before I leave for work in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.
I make sure it always has enough water, though I help guard against bloating.
I give it plenty of exercise but avoid overworking it.
I provide for regular check-ups.
I listen to it carefully.  I am grateful to have it. 
I touch it, talk to it, admire it, cherish it and rely on it.
At 43 years old I may soon have to assist it into retirement.
Until then, I am one with it.  As I fend off winter’s austerity to enjoy the beauty.

Everyone—please meet my boiler.

© 2014 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, December 22, 2013

hoping to God



After a stretch of time, when commitments in my business and personal life keep me away from posting I sometimes feel like catching up by integrating various topics into one piece.

A few days ago I was pondering how I might be able to roll Duck Dynasty, winter weather anxiety and Christmas into one viewpoint.

Then on Friday morning I walked upon a scene that eerily resembled a sad memory from thirty five years ago involving a lunch hour tragedy, a diesel truck and a young woman.

On this day it was mid-morning.  I had just dropped off my son, a ten year old fifth grader, at his school and I was driving on my way to a business appointment in Queens.  The destination was Northern Blvd in Woodside, to be exact, for those of you who are familiar with NYC.  As I exited the ramp from the Brooklyn-Queens Expwy several police cars and caution cones were in place and traffic was being re-directed.  There was no obvious sign of trouble and at first I thought that this might be part of a systematic shut down of ramps and roadways by the NYPD, which is routinely done when a dignitary is escorted through the city. 

I was directed to the right when I actually needed to go straight and so I chose to keep going right for a few avenues so I could get clear of all the snarled traffic.  Then I looped left and back across Northern Blvd to a metered parking spot on a side street within a couple of blocks of my meeting place.

As I gathered my materials and headed for the office building I was immediately struck by the vast silence.  I turned the corner onto the Boulevard and tip-toed along a city block that was entirely squared off by a police line except for a small path of sidewalk.  A large tractor-trailer truck sat dormant on the asphalt pavement.  There were a few dozen police officers, some crossing guards, many local residents, business owners and a news crew present.  But most notably there was stillness. 

Remembering back to college and a similar scene in lower Manhattan during a coffee break when I worked at Barnes & Noble I did not need to ask anyone what happened. 

But before being admitted into my meeting on the second floor of the company two blocks away I asked the receptionist if she knew exactly what had happened.  A young boy, a third grader, was run over and killed as he was heading to school.  “I feel bad for everyone”, she said.  Speechless and knowing this was the last day of school before the Christmas break I nodded and thought how sometimes I wish we could just turn back time.

After the appointment I had to walk back past the same route.  It looked as if everyone had been stopped in time for the entire hour and no one had moved. Few words were being spoken.  On the periphery, by a 7 Eleven, I could see some folks using hand gestures to explain where the vehicle came from and how the dreadful accident occurred.  The truck’s bulky engine, cab and container were shrouded in yellow tape and it loomed ghostly and mummified in the center of the street.

I was thinking about how it is typically challenging enough to sense and feel the wonder and beauty of the world amid all the dangers and heartache that abound.  Gut wrenching events like these would seem to move the challenging to the impossible for the families involved.

This is the season of joy and merriment.  But it’s a man-made season.  The seasons of life and nature work beyond our control and don’t always allow for concurrence. 

In times of despair some people turn closer toward faith.  Others turn full steam away from conviction.

The longing for a higher power is clearly understandable, especially in the face of the incomprehensible.  And the dismissal of any possibility of a Godly being is equally understood. 

In my speechlessness, as I looked around, I can only reflect upon the two thoughts in my head.  Eight year old boys go directly to heaven and I hope to God that it exists.

© 2013 Christopher’s Views

Sunday, November 24, 2013

hitting my stride instead


Before the sanitation collectors toss the lids off my garbage pails in the early morning and ahead of the New York Times delivery person’s schedule for hurling all the news that’s fit to print midway beneath the rear axle of my car I am usually fast afoot and running a route towards the high school track a mile and a half away.  A few loops around and several on the weekends helps me to clear my head and provide prep for the day to come.
It’s therapeutic for me and is akin to being in a special place.  But lately I have encountered a high frequency of negative interference during these runs. 

For as dangerous as using handheld phones or texting while driving may be, the crack of dawn hours are full of the worst drivers known to man.  Perhaps they assume that no one else is on the road as they blow through STOP signs as I approach the intersections.  Evidently their spouses, friends and children run chronically late for the morning trains, in that I have nearly been run over on two occasions recently while driver and passenger alike focus only on the station 500 yards forward as they vie for the shortcut to the platform and seemingly pretend to miss me by feet instead of inches.

My grandmother used to have an apt expression.  Racing to their graves, she would say, racing to their graves.  And wise as that was, the flip side that focuses on me, is what instinctively and gladly took over causing me to comply with a simple hands held wide apart gesture and mouthing, “Are you kidding me”, instead of punching the rear window of the latest car to screech around a FULL STOP sign and ignore my existence. 
Confirmed to me instantaneously is why I am out there in the first place.  I’m out there for pleasure, for peace and a little bit of paradise each day.

Just like many of us I’m fighting the stress of a long day, traffic snarls, building back up my 401k, emotional scars, grief, finding the right babysitter, weaning off sugar and carbs, caretaking, and societal group depression as I marvel at the incompetence of government.  (PS…why couldn’t the NSA just take a few extra minutes and set up HealthCare.gov?).  We probably could have signed up for health insurance faster if we accessed it through Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
So yes…I understand the world is a stressful environment.

But as miles and minutes gave way to seconds my frosty nose met the warm air of freshly brewing coffee as I habitually entered the luncheonette at the end of my run so I could chug down a water and pick up my customary lottery ticket.
And so, as the scents flowed, I sneezed.  And four regulars harmoniously rang out…”God Bless”. 

Politeness and awareness aren’t totally withered away I thought. 
Maybe the Thanksgiving and holiday season will polish it up and dust it off a bit…well…perhaps. 

In either case I will keep on attending to my daily morning paradise, regardless of the obstacles.  And if my lottery ticket ever scores I will stick to the same route.  But I will be temporarily relocated to Nirvana.
© 2013 Christopher’s Views
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 30, 2013

common sense 101 vs. convolution 99.9



The health care system in the United States had been broken and bleeding money for a long time.  The Affordable Care Act makes an attempt to change that scenario. 

On June 28th of last year the U.S Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s provision that individuals may pay a penalty for not obtaining health insurance, as that may be reasonably characterized as a tax.

The only way to get a different result is to make a change.  Granted, the new system with insurance exchanges will likely not solve all the issues.  It will likely make insurance much more affordable and accessible for many people though.

People with health insurance don’t wait as long to see doctors and so get care when conditions are preventable, more treatable and less costly. 

People without health coverage wait longer to see doctors and so get care when conditions are advanced, less treatable and more costly.  And who picks up those increased costs? 

Well…there is no free ride…on anything.  Uninsured people in any system do not get free health care.  The costs are simply spread among everyone by the way of higher fees, higher premiums and an erosion of benefits.

Insurance 101 means gathering as large a pool of people as you can in order to collect the lowest premiums possible to be able to cover the anticipated claims of the community.  Having more people in the pool is better.  Except regarding adverse selection, and this can be avoided if younger and generally healthier people are incorporated.

But instead of trying to work from simplicity and common sense there are too many people trying to add complexity and nonsense into the equation.

If the Affordable Care Act were to fail, that’s okay.  Another change can begin. 

Doing nothing….well that’s a failure from the get go.

© 2013 Christopher’s Views
 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Let freedom….



A few weeks ago a great old friend from my childhood traveled up from Florida to NY with his family and together we barbequed with my family in the backyard.  Talk of Independence Day reminded me of how my friend was a fireworks aficionado.  When we were kids, in the late sixties, he would often remind me that 1976 was gonna be the big one.  I remember him foretelling of an all night celebration with crazy amounts of rockets everywhere.

My father was a fireworks heckler.  One year when I was a teenager, perhaps it was 1976 (though full clarity escapes me on this), my father remarkably agreed to let me shoot off some firecrackers in front of our house.  But there were rules.  I could only do one at a time—and what fun was that?  

Well…he devised some sort of pipe that he angled into our front garden.  Again, like the single at a time rule, he was opting for maximum control.  Oddly enough, each crack was magnified and sounded like a mini cannon.  If I sit quietly I can still hear the ringing in my left ear.  I’m sure the resulting effect was not what my father had planned. 

Over planning has its own set of pitfalls.  When overdoing something, I sometimes think about Isaac Newton and what he said about every action having an equal and opposite reaction.  Then I begin to think of moderating the course of action a bit.  Not that I can promote moderation as having any glitz or special attraction, I can’t.  But when thinking about equal and opposite reactions, and without knowing a time frame, avoiding the outlying choice of gluttony and the opposing choice of deprivation seems to be wise.  Gluttony let to run amuck can be about as devastating as deprivation winding up to backfire.  

When a government feels entitled to gather all the metadata it wants and the people just shrug their shoulders I see both gluttony and deprivation in play.

When not enough people favor closing the loophole on background checks and too many people think the second amendment simply grants hunters the right to own a gun I see gluttony and deprivation in play. 

When the NYPD thinks there is no need to independently monitor their stop and frisk tactics and some people get detained on a regular basis I see gluttony and deprivation in play.

When one day, instead of a salad, I may want to order bacon, egg and cheese on something hydrogenated and I might not be able to wash it all down with a Big Gulp….I will think of gluttony verse deprivation.

Prohibition didn’t work for good reason.  We need to learn for ourselves.    

Is that easy?  Of course it is not.  And as a society it requires great cooperation because we need to balance my freedoms, his freedoms, her freedoms and their freedoms.

Perfect and pure can be thrown out the window.  They will never reign. 

It is disappointing though to see how often we work to chip away and gnaw off one another’s freedom.  Especially for a nation that tops off a building’s spire at the 1776 foot mark to celebrate its freedom.  

Someday it may be hard to read the whittled away bottom line.  Perhaps as difficult as it would be to read the bottom of the bent and battered license plate of an old pick-up truck driven through the dirt back roads and rugged terrain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for several years.  

We may have to get down on our hands and knees with a magnifying glass in hand in order to read about what we build towers to proclaim ….”Live Free or Die”.

I hope that never happens.  If it does, then all those grand pyrotechnic shows will ring out just about as loud as a single dud.

© 2013 Christopher’s Views