Monday, December 24, 2012

…anything but fine

Often times when I’m about three-quarters through my cool down after a long run I am most at peace with myself and my environment.  My mind is clear, my body is strong yet relaxed and I haven’t answered a call or an e-mail in an hour.  I feel recharged, self-assured, confident, and newly ready to focus and take on constructive challenges.  

It’s therapeutic for me and I’m thankful for those times. 

There are other times when I’m not confident and not relaxed.  I don’t like being tossed in with crowds of people and lots of chatter.  I become unfocused and uneasy.  Perhaps it has something to do with having grown up in a large and loud family.  In any case I accept my shortcoming and am grateful for my awareness.  

I also don’t like when the world around me is spiraling downward.  I can only detach so far.  Major events in society affect me because I’m not good at putting up walls and I don’t see the point in assuming things will get better.  Some things get worse before they get better.  

Since the nightmarish massacre in Newtown, Ct. almost ten days ago much has been said.  We hear the daily talking points about mental health, personality disorders, autism and Asperger’s syndrome in the media.  We are provided this information in a manner similar to getting our Dow Jones Stock Index report as if it credibly explains what’s really going on in the financial world.

We hear about allowing teachers to carry guns in school verse gun control laws needing to be tightened and all the while knowing the ideologies have been clashing and at odds for years.

We hear people speak.   We have heard President Obama speak and seen him cry.  We’ve heard from Governor’s, Senator’s, Congressional leaders and Mayor’s.  We’ve read editorials, seen guest psychologists and priests.  And we’ve heard from the N.R.A., courtesy of Wayne LaPierre.

Fingers are pointed.  One group blames another.  News anchors may call invited experts ‘stupid’.  Self appointed experts may polish up their retorts and call another host ‘obtuse’. 

Perhaps the silver lining is that the horrific events that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary have made it clear to nearly everyone that big changes are needed.  However, I’m less sure that nearly everyone realizes that working together provides for a greater probability of success than working separately.  

There is no single answer to thwarting or preventing a crazed gunman’s delusional carnage whether in a school, in a movie theater or at a shopping mall.

Prevention is not singularly about mental health.  It’s not singularly about gun control.  It’s not singularly about violent video games.  It’s not singularly about security.  It’s about all that and more.

And where do our rights fit into the puzzle? Of course we all have rights under the constitution and rights to our own opinions as well.  The tricky part is working together so that everyone’s rights are in harmony.  Giving and receiving, strangely novel concepts, may be worthy of further exploration.

Gun control is vital and I hope it materializes.  Maybe the N.R.A. will one day move away from its worn adage that ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’.  The mom (Nancy Lanza) was their good guy.  The son (Adam Lanza) was their bad guy.  If the ‘good guy’ didn’t have a semi-automatic assault weapon capable of rapidly shooting hundreds of rounds and inflicting maximum bloodshed that would ultimately fall into the hands of a ‘bad guy’ living under the same roof, the Sandy Hook atrocity may never have happened.

Let’s not kid ourselves though about getting to work on the needed mental health reforms, developing real awareness and bringing forth meaningful results.  This will take much time.  It won’t get better overnight.  In the short term, having police in our schools may not be such a bad idea.  Certainly no prevention methods are perfect.  But we do need the police involved to figure out what more can be done on the security front.  Doing nothing more on security seems foolish.  Certainly I wouldn’t want mere armed security guards.  They lack the training and supervision of active duty police. And I think arming teachers and principals on such a large scale would be a step, two or three backwards.

At the moment, the carols are fully piped into our surroundings.  Reindeer antlers pass on the left as they protrude from SUV side windows.  The festive meals and pies are being prepared.  The liquor has been delivered.  Someone in each town is waiting to win the holiday light show contest.  

The guns, high powered rifles and ammunition sales are soaring.  

Twenty first-graders have just been laid to rest.  And several wonderful teachers and staff will no longer be sharing hugs with their loved ones anymore either.   

Merry is out of step.  I all but exclusively use the word ‘holiday’ as I feel the best messages of the season grow more and more fleeting, even among folks with religious connectivity. 

Maybe next year will be different.  When trying to get somewhere new, having clarity on the current position is helpful.

The starting point at present is a society that is anything but fine and the most appropriate gift under everyone’s tree would be 52 weeks of psychotherapy.  Anyone who’s been lighting more than seven strands of blinkers from their home this past week may want to double down and splurge on 104. 

Or, an alternate plan could involve boosting the sale of sleep aids in the hope and quest for visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads.

© 2012 Christopher’s Views.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Irving…we have a problem

For the second time within 30 days, a food (for lack of a worthy synonym) I was attempting to purchase had been wiped clear from store shelves here in NY.  And I feel a need to share some thoughts about this upheaval, while I simultaneously attempt to move away from the hard and sad realities of my last few posts and speak to a lighter topic.  

Contrary to what you are about to hear and may not read between the lines, my diet has long been mostly Mediterranean and in the year since I have given up chocolate I have brown bagged and packed considerably more fruit, vegetables, granola, and whole grains into my life.  I can certainly attest to a daily fiber intake that is up in the 90 percentile range.

Hidden amongst all the eggplant and olive oil though are the experiences of a boy who grew up just blocks from a Hostess/Wonder Bread outlet in Brooklyn.  Yankee Doodles and a glass of milk were a foundation of existence.  There is no mystery as to why I am a recovering chocoholic.  For almost as long as my memory permits recall my chocolate dependency caused me to stop whatever I was doing at 3PM each day, then find and consume something, anything, whether it was a natural or man-made cousin of the cocoa bean.  Sometimes, in my youth, a ballgame or chore would cause me to get to the bread factory a bit late.  My favorites might have been snatched up already.  But the sweet smell of freshly packaged artificial flavoring was too comforting to pass up.  Surely I would walk away with at least a box or two of Devil Dogs.  

As an adult one of my longest periods of destructive behavior, one that I would estimate at about 5 years, put either two chocolate CupCakes or Yodels in my digestive tract everyday…rain or shine…winter, spring, summer or fall.  In time my addiction spilled over the aisles.  I weathered a Dove Bar era, ushered in by the large size dark chocolate variety.  I’m grateful to be past a Hershey’s Malted Milk Ball chapter, plus an M&M’s stage that was maybe the roughest of all as I would crave those smooth and brightly colored, glistening candy coated morsels at mid-afternoon and then again at 10PM.

Occasionally I would try to wean myself off the brown sugar by making a different choice.  All that did was to make me a professional sampler of various brands of Coffee Cake’s and Fruit Pies.  If you were to cut up the pie treats and blindfold me I could tell the difference between a Hostess, Drake’s or Entenmann’s fruit pie, whether cherry or apple.  If you were to ask me my favorite: the two Drake’s squares have the best overall texture, glaze and close to real fruit flavor.  And if you were to dangle the rarely found blueberry pie snacks in front of me, you would have me at hello.    

But mostly I want to know where is the next businessman or woman who wants to take a crack at peddling these finely refined frills.  Every once in a while I want to be able to dunk a Twinkie into my coffee.  And I stand ready and willing to pay an additional 25 cents per serving to get myself off the newly forming long lines of sugar deprived refugees who are too frazzled to quickly open up a flattened plastic bag, pull out a glazed donut from the bakery display without blocking the tongs and the wax paper and, in effect, creating a big kink in the whole process of pulling off the road and into 7-Eleven.  

World peace?  I just want short, no-nonsense lines when I get my gas or when I slip into a craving for a cup of coffee along with a synthetic pink, coconut sprinkled, and expertly preserved cream filled core of compressed Doodle-like chocolate hidden beneath a tangy marshmallow ball---in a twin pack of course.  

Any questions?

© 2012 Christopher’s Views

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

thinking of Jim

Sadly, in the midst of all the stormy NY weather recently, a larger storm was unfolding closer to our home and hearts for the past couple of months.  My brother-in-law, Jim, who was just 46 years-old had been battling a very aggressive type of cancer.  And on Saturday, November 10th, his pain and suffering ended.  He will be forever in our thoughts, and in our hearts.

Anyone who knew Jim well may have spent the past few days feeling especially disoriented. Sometimes when the world doesn’t make sense, parts of my mind seem to float away.  

I’ve lived in NY my whole life, having driven nearly a million miles around these streets.  But twice since Saturday I’ve made wrong turns going to a local drugstore and to my office as well.  I’ve gone back to my dresser drawer for socks when I was already wearing them.  I’ve poured milk in my iced tea.  And I nearly fed our feline pet her dinner by pouring out the last half of my bag of pretzels into her cat bowl.

While my mind was silently working in overdrive behind the scenes trying to find answers my body was slowed to a crawl, unable to see far ahead and I felt as though I were in an endless haze.

At the end of this search for reason, when the software in my head was finished scanning every single file on record, the sum of all my brainpower came back with no responses on death.

Instead, this hunt for answers came back with memories.  It came back with peace.  It came back with open arms.  It came back tall, strong and kind-hearted.  It came back with a hearty chuckle, a big smile and a long held laugh.  It came back with a marvelous sense of humor.  It came back with a request for a roast beef sandwich delivery to North Shore Hospital.  It came back singing and playing the guitar.  It came back with paintings more colorful than nature and bigger than their canvasses.  It came back with stickball, basketball and NY baseball.  It came back with hugs.  It came back with tears.  It came back with sorrow.  It came back with joy.  It came back with a world class temperament.  It came back as a beloved husband, a devoted father, an adoring son, a fervent brother, a fondest friend and a valiant, courageous person.  It came back with thumbs up.  It came back in a good place.  It came back down-to-earth.  It came back with life.

And it all came back with love from Jim.

November 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

1:56, a very fast time….for gas

I pulled into the right lane of traffic on a main thoroughfare in Queens currently being used as a gas line.  I stepped out of my car and walked around to the passenger side window of the vehicle in front of mine.  What gas station and how far away, I asked through his window.  ‘Hess’, he replied, ‘and about 4 blocks I think.’  I sauntered back to my CRV thinking two things.  One-I suppose the configuration of that guy’s heating system takes down his hot water along with his power as he was in desperate need of a shower and two-I can see more than four blocks away and couldn’t see a gas station.  

I got off the line, drove away and found the dubious oasis of a pit stop nine and a half blocks away.  Crazy still, they were not pumping any gas and were just waiting for a delivery.  These scenes are playing out all over the NY Metropolitan area.  And as a caveat to this particular encounter, it was 6am.  The vast majority of these wannabe fuel patrons had been sleeping overnight in their cars.  I heard that another nearby Queen’s gas station was shut down by the police while pumping fuel when a fist fight broke out, so add the sum of all those cars next to you in line now.

Notwithstanding all that, in the continual darkness, I navigated myself and my quarter tank of gas back home for breakfast.  Fuel something I suppose.

But getting home is not a sure bet either these days.  Intersections with dead traffic signals are meant to be treated as 4-way stop signs.  Most drivers are either unaware of that fact, or perhaps just don’t care to lower their scarce MPG’s; other great thinkers seemingly believe an expressway has been suddenly opened.  Crossing these major junctions has become dangerous.  I have seen a couple of serious accidents and heard of others who have been badly injured.

And there exists a growing contingent of folks who are riding their bicycles around in pitch black conditions as well.  The combination of not yet removed fallen trees, tangled among down power lines by the sides of unlit roads, sleep deprived bike riders and vehicle operators who now seem desensitized to danger via the omnipresence of police tape and caution cones is a troubling mix. 

The NYC Board of Education has announced that schools will reopen Monday.  However, many schools in the tri-state area are still closed due to lack of power, significant water damage, or they may be functional but are being used as a community shelter.

Throughout the region, homes near the shores were completely destroyed and many other properties will have to be torn down. 

Much of the subway system may be up and moving again, but a better check of reality is that more than 100 people lost their lives in Sandy’s path, at least 42 of those in NY. 

Knowing all this, I could not believe Mayor Bloomberg had even been contemplating going forward with the NYC Marathon that been scheduled for today, but was thankfully canceled as of Friday afternoon.  I’m glad he finally came to his senses.  Police, Fire, Ambulance and other city services are still greatly needed elsewhere.  And the only time results worth measuring today involve how long it will take to move the needle on your dashboard from E to F.

Certainly NYC will continue its rehab and soon be strong, vibrant and healthy again.  For now though, it must begin to walk before it can run.

© 2012 Christopher’s Views

Alas, with a bit of luck a tank of gas will help bring food and clothing to some of those in need.