20 August 2014

Take care of them

On my quest for dinner at a Pakistani dive tonight, which I discovered was closed (permanently, I might add) when I got there, I walked past the Mexican consulate. Hanging proudly from its facade, and flapping gently in the (unusually) cool summer breeze, was this:
La bandera mexicana

I lingered for a moment in front of the building, gazing up at that flag. I may or may not have lingered too long because I was invited to move it along by a security goon. I couldn't help but linger because Mexico is the country The Boy will soon call home for the next two years. I said a silent prayer for the people there. I prayed that they will take good care of our son. I couldn't help but wonder if his visa application, which has been approved (we think), had been processed inside there. I'm sure if it was that the earth moved for no one as they did it. But for us, the earth is moving pretty fast as we get him ready to go and meet the people who will watch over him as he serves.

As I walked away, thinking about the good people of Mexico watching over The Boy, I grew nostalgic and thought about my daughters and who has helped us take care of them. When Our Lady of Awesome brought Awesome home and he and I sat down for THAT talk between a future son-in-law and father-in-law, part of what we talked about focused on me insuring Awesome would take care of my girl. He's a good man and he's doing a great job doing what I asked him to do when we had that talk. I think of CAL and the circle of friends she has. I know she's found a group of young men and women who make her life an adventure (even if that involves the occasional ridiculous gun activity). Her friends are taking good care of her.

Now, please don't think our children are helpless. They aren't. I'm just feeling grateful tonight for all those people, known and unknown to us, who take care of them. While parenting comes naturally to some, it is not for the weak of heart, even when your children are older and doing big people things. You still worry and you're still glad there are folks to help you take care of them.

And for those of you keeping score, I recovered from the tragedy of the closed Pakistani joint and drowned my sorrows in a delicious bowl of drunken noodles at a Thai place. Seriously, who doesn't love that kind of goodness?!

09 August 2014

On Hallowed Ground

We've had the pleasure of hosting CAL's roommate and as the kids say today, BFF, A, for the last several days. It's her first time in Connecticutistan and the East Coast. She's gotten the grand tour, including two days in New York City. It was refreshing to experience the city with someone who'd never been there before. It does put a different spin on the place, to be sure.

As a part of the two day "Show and Tell" bonanza, we took her the National September 11 Memorial and this is where things went south, at least for me (I've been doing a slow burn about this all day, so buckle up, a long rant follows). For a host of reasons that I've documented here in postings on September 11th over the course of the last few years, 9/11 is particularly poignant for me. When we visited the Memorial when it was first opened, the Museum had not yet opened. Tickets were required to get on to the site and you were only on after a TSA DefCon 5 Security feel up. The mood was one of reverence as people gazed into memorials where the Towers once stood. Tears freely flowed as people read the names of those who died. It didn't matter if they knew them or not. People were honoring those who had died on that terrible day.

Imagine my dismay as we walked onto the Memorial site today. No longer are tickets required to get on the site. There is no security check. While there are signs posted throughout the site to remind people that they are on hallowed ground and to behave accordingly, it has become a circus. And not a good one, but then is there really a good circus? I digress. The site is mobbed with people. It seemed like each one felt compelled to grin broadly as they snapped selfies of themselves. Today I happened upon the name of someone who died that day with whom I share the same last name. For whatever reason, that struck me and a lot of the emotions of that day came back, and just like the last time we were at the site, tears began to fall. At that precise moment, some woman laid herself across the names of the dead I was looking at and with a big grin, took a selfie. I was appalled.

What is wrong with people? I wish I could say it was just Americans because heaven knows we have a well earned reputation for being particularly obnoxious, but in more languages than I care to count, I just got the sense people are treating this like any other tourist site, rather than the hallowed ground that it is. This is not Times Square. The Naked Cowboy, Elmo, Iron Man, or any of their ilk aren't here. Are people so oblivious and afflicted with such short-term memory issues that this Memorial is just another spot on their tour? My heart broke for a woman I saw today who wept at one of the names etched in the memorial. It was clear it was meaningful to her. And all around her, as she mourned, she got to hear things like, "Sid, where's a Starbucks?"

I don't pretend to be perfect and I know that I've committed my share of faux pas but I have tried to be respectful and reverent in places or situations that are hallowed or sacred to others. I'll never my forget my first trip to Rome when I was 17. I found myself with a group of Catholic kids from a private school in Dallas and they were all kinds of excited about going to the Vatican and for them, understandably so. I was amazed by the beauty there but shocked by the commercialism that surrounded the Vatican. There was someone selling Papal everything and anything within the walls of the Holy See. I struggled with that for quite some time. Many years later, during a trip to Istanbul, I remember visiting a mosque for the first time and being terrified I would do something to offend those in the mosque. I was so uneasy when learning that if we paid a few lire (yep, ancient times, people, before the Euro), we could see the men of the mosque praying during the call to prayer. Again, it seemed wrong to be doing that on what was something reverential to those of another faith. Just a few years ago, I found myself in Abu Dhabi, where I visited one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Before going, I read up on how to dress so as not to offend or be turned away. Inside one of the prayer areas, I, without thinking, picked up one of the Koran's that the faithful read from during prayers. Faster than you can say, "Die, infidel!" a security guard was at my side, taking the book from me and in stern, broken English, letting me know I could not touch any copies of that book. While relieved I was not on my way to living a remake of Midnight Express, I was embarrassed that I'd done something that might have been disrespectful in that place of worship.

I saw too much disrespect today at a place where nearly 3,000 people, innocent people, died. I saw too many people who really didn't seem to remember that fact. It didn't seem to be a place of reverence or one of hallowed ground. It was, like I said, just one more thing to check off on the "If it's Tuesday, it must be Schenectady" bus tour. The world could use a little more reverence and respect. Perhaps we'd be in a little bit better shape if we took the time to respect that which is holy or sacred to others, even if we may not understand why it means what it does to them. We've got to try to be better to one another. We just do.

06 August 2014

Coming full circle

Last night, my phone lit up, indicating I had an incoming FaceTime call from none other than The Boy. Before answering I had to ask myself if his edict that our communication was solely to be en espanol was still in place and since I couldn't remember, I went with that old standby, ingles.

In a couple of breathless, punctuation-free sentences, he announced the following: "SoIputsomeblondehighlightsinmyhairAnditlooksawesomeAndyoucantgetmadatmebecauseyoudiditooyourfreshmanyearofcollegeMomtoldme," and then he showed off his "Baywatch" worthy locks. To clarify, I mean if "Baywatch" ordered that their cast got their hair done in a dingy dorm bathroom, using cheap dye from Sally's Beauty Hut.

I had a split second to decide how I was going to react. I wrote about my own run-in with 'Sun In,' exacerbated by a tanning bed ("Paging melanoma on line 9!") during my freshman year of college here in the Den back in April 2013. Suffice to say, my late father was disappointed and more than a bit upset. I decided to not be upset. I mean it's not like he's dating America's Skankheart, Miley Cyrus. I would be IRATE were that the case. No, he's nearly nineteen and about to leave on a two year mission. In all likelihood, he will be getting haircuts with hedge trimmers, so a little last bit of his fun with his hair was OK.

So I didn't freak. I just told him the color had to be gone by August 31st, the Sunday he will speak in Church for his mission farewell. We agreed on that. I told him to go find a girl to swoon over his new blondeness. I have yet to hear how that went.

I couldn't help but laugh after we hung up. I laughed at my own eighteen year old self and how things come full circle. I see flashes of that kid from long ago in my son, The Boy. The good news is that he's far smarter than me. To quote Meatloaf, "It's all coming back to me now." It makes me laugh. Those were great times. But I wouldn't go back. Life is even better now. I'm content to take my wife by the hand and watch it all come full circle through our children. 

03 August 2014

Les (Not) Miserables

Regional Theater at it is finest
As part of our ongoing, albeit weak, attempts to get to know this corner of New England better, we headed to the village of Rhinebeck, NY last night for a dose of regional theater. Now when you think regional theater, you may think of something along the lines of what the woefully talentless Corky St. Clair foisted upon the unsuspecting people of Blaine, MO in the awesome "Waiting for Guffman." You might think of a horrific version of "A Streetcar Named Desire" starring that guy who danced a lot in "Laverne and Shirley" being put on in a dimly lit dinner theater in Vero Beach, FL, where the $4.59 plate of brisket is a brighter star than the hapless cast.

Truth be told, my expectations were at about that level as we pulled into Rhinebeck last night to see the production of "Les Miserables." I was kind of expecting to be miserable. I can report that myths were shattered last night. Shattered may be too strong a word; perhaps adjusted would be more appropriate. First, Rhinebeck itself. What a quaint little place! And fairly close to the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Presidential Library. Um, who knew? I didn't, because once again, as a victim graduate of the Scottsdale Public School System, thanks for omitting great swaths of American history. At least I graduated knowing the now defunct Lunt Avenue Marble Club had the best fried zucchini around. Because that was going to be helpful later in life. But I digress. Back to Rhinebeck - seriously what a cool vibe in that town. It was a beautiful drive too. Had no idea there was that much farm property in northwest Connecticutistan and the Hudson Valley of New York. Beautiful.

Another myth adjusted: a regional theater in what appears to be a big red barn can stage a pretty good version of "Les Mis." With less than 150 seats (my count), and our seats being on the third row, it was an intimate experience. The actors sang with visible vigor and if you were in the front row, you got a little of the Sea World Splash Zone experience, whether you wanted it or not, during a couple of the scenes. Was every one a trained singer / actor? Nope. Was every one committed to putting a great performance? For sure. Was it a little goofy? You bet, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Here's the thing for me - it took me 13, count 'em, 13 years to read the unabridged version of Hugo's 'Les Miserables.' That's either completely committed and totally insane and the line between the two is razor thin. The redemptive message of Jean Val Jean resonates with me, as it does with many. The musical, although bombastic at times, with its soaring score, nails that message time and again. And I have to admit, they pulled it off, regional theater-style last night. So well done. Corky St. Clair couldn't hold a candle to you.

"Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved." Victor Hugo, Les Miserables