Friday, July 29, 2011

Truck drivers wave at her

About 25 years ago, I accompanied a woman I knew on her weekly automobile rides to New York City. She had a heavy foot on the gas pedal, but kept her dyed blond head focused on the rear view and side view mirrors. I had my instructions too - "look out for the troopers, but don't be obvious."

We drove to New York during non-rush hour times but on the ride home, cars and trucks filled the highway. Her mouth moved nonstop - usually about nothing. Once in a while we talked about our children, and she talked about her husbands and how jealous everybody was of her.

At one point, she even included me in the jealous of her group, but soon realized how wrong she was. I think the psychological term is projection when one attributes to another the emotion that one is feeling. Anyway, there were many times that she asked me for advice. But she held onto the idea that her singing teacher, a notable in the world of voice coaches, was jealous of her - not so much her voice but her figure, her so-called brains, and her academic credentials. I held my tongue because, as my husband says, her degree was not a PhD but a PHONY.

One day, while driving back to Philly from New York, she hiked up her skirt, tugged down her shirt, moistened her lips, and honked as we approached the front doors of an 18-wheeler. The driver looked through his window at her, waved and beeped his horn.

"See," she said. "I told you. All the truck drivers wave to me."

"You honhked and waved first," I said, trying to inject a touch of reality into her strange world.

"Sure," she said. "but he didn't have to wave back. He could have ignored me," which is exactly what I was trying to do.

She repeated her honk and wave at two more trucks who replied with good manners and good humor. Don't know what they were thinking but I knew right then that if I got home in one piece, I would never go with her again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tony Bennett

We have been fortunate enough to see Tony Bennett in concert on three different occasions at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia. And each time, the octogenarian put on a spectacular show. He sang for 90 minutes with no intermission. He never sat down, he never leaned against the piano or on a bar stool. And his smoky, dusky voice remained true.

the first time, before the concert began, three people sat down next to me. Together, they must have weighed 1200 pounds. Edgar offered to change seats with me and the words were barely out of his mouth when I stood up and we switched seats. The man who had been next to me and was now next to Edgar asked, "did your wife move because I'm so fat?" Edgar nodded and said, "It's not your fault."

Then a normal sized couple came and sat down next to me. The concert began. Tony Bennett started crooning and the stranger next to me, not Edgar, started singing along. I poked him, put my pointer finger to my lips, and he stopped - temporarily. I had to poke him three more times before he finally understood to keep quiet.

During that concert, Tony Bennett forgot the words to one song that he was singing in Italian. He la-la-la'd it until he caught up to the words and then said, "what do you expect from an Italian boy who was born in New York?"

Our second time gave us another memorable experience. We were sitting about 12 rows from the stage. An elderly, infirm couple on our row enjoyed Tony Bennett's singing and crooning. They swayed with the music and their eyes danced with delight. They couldn't move their feet because she had a cane and a crutch and he had a cane. But then Tony Bennett sang "Come Fly With Me" and she miraculously leaped to her feet, nevermind her cane and crutch which she left on the floor at her seat. She threw her arms into the air, ran to the apron of the stage, and shouted, "take me with you Tony. I made meatballs for you."

Nobody batted an eye and Tony Bennett did not miss a beat. She struggled back to her seat, still without her cane and crutch and beamed for the rest of the concert.

We felt that we had witnessed a miracle. It was almost as if we were at Lourdes.

We had misgivings when the third concert started and Tony Bennett's daughter sang for the first 15 minutes or so. Although she was OK, she is not her father. And she was a surprise - not listed on the tickets or the programs.

Tony Bennett put on his usual great, though slightly shortened show. He sang "smile though your heart is breaking," and told the following story. Back in the day, he got a long distance call from Switzerland. This was a very unusual occurrence. When he answered the phone he found out that he was talking to the composer who told him that his interpretation was the best he ever heard. And the composer was Charlie Chaplin.

A year or so later, we bought a coffee table book of Tony Bennett's sketches and paintings. He caught, in a few well drawn lines, the movements and spirit of the people he sketched.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Service Engine Soon

I could never understand why drivers ignore the "service engine soon" light until Tuesday. We had been out driving on Monday - from here to there and to other places and when we finally got home, just before I turned the car off, the little yellow light came on. I ignored it and then on Tuesday morning, early, I turned on the car and the light appeared.

After turning off the car, I called the Nissan agency, identified myself and heard "Did you get gas recently?" I had. "Try tightening the gas cap." But if I tighten it too much, I can't open it. "Make usre it clickes." Done. "And don't worry. The light will stay on for a few more days." What if it's something else, I asked. "You don't have nough miles on the car to worry."

So now, I have joined the group of drivers who ignore the "service engine soon" light. Sometimes with great inconveniences.

A few years ago, we visited some friends in San Frnaciso. They grasciously took us to all the tourist attractions we wanted to see, drove us on twisty and turny Lombard Street, speeded up at the top of the hills to give us a zero gravity thrill as we bounced, and parked on the hill near the iconic Victorian houses. We took our photos, got back in the car, and nothing. Eventually, Three A's came, and the four of us sat with the driver in his tow truck.

"Didn't you see the warning light?" "Sure. It's been on for more than two weeks. I just continued to ignore it." The car was fixed and we all shared an interesting experience.

From time to time on TV shows someone says, "I just ignore it," referring to the service engine soon light. Now I know why. It's on the advice of the service managers.

Subtitles and visually impaired viewers

I never thought I would have to write this - it's a bad idea to take a visually handicapped person to see a movie with subtitles. And now we can laugh at the scene when a friend took her mother to see the movie about Edith Piaf.

The movie was almost entirely in French with English subtitles. Her mother who knows no French, caught some of the movie action, but none of the subtitles. And this was the scene as described to me.

"What are they doing now?" and in between reading the subtitles, there was a rapid description of the action on the scene.

"What? I can't hear you." Then was a disclaimer of talking as loud as possible but not wanting to disturb the other patrons.

"Why did they say that?" Then followed a brief summary of the actions up to that point.

"What's happening now?" And these events repeated and repeated throughout the length of the movie.

My friend still does not see the humor in this. But she does admit that attending the Edith Piaf movie was a better experience than the time she went with both her parents and she sat in the middle, between them.

The first complaint was that they were sitting too close to the screen and the faces were blurry. Of course, her mother chose the seats. And then her parents talked to each other, over her, the entire time. She says that she is still not sure what the movie was about because she kept shushing her parents. They were talking so loud that they disturbed the other movie goers whose complaints were ignored. She marvels that they were not thrown out.

The Weather

It's hot. Really hot. And Humid. The weather professionals call it a "heat dome." New words in the meteorological dictionary. They had to coin new summer words to go with the "wintry mix" that they used when snow mixed with sleet, freezing rain, and wind.

The TV meteorologists put on sad and concerned faces as they point to the record setting temperatures that they are predicting. And then they call in assistance from knowledgable people who share advice on how to stay cool. As if we idiots don't know to "stay hydrated" and keep out of the sun and seek air conditioned places to hang out and wear light colored and light weight clothes.

Staying hydrated is an interesting concept. It's not enough just to drink when you're thirsty. I remember listening to Pat Croce on the radio. He said that when you realize you are thirsty, you're 2 quarts low.

But, back to the weather. Meteorologists live for abnormal weather. If it's only going to be a little bit cold, they report it, but with no excitement in their voices and no anticipation of news. The same with rain, wind, snow, hurricanes, floods, tornados, etc.

Remember the scenes of the meteorologists who were standing in Minot, ND, watching the Suris River rise to devastating levels.

And remember the ice storms this past winter when cars and trucks skidded and slid all over Chicago. and the live, minute by minute coverage of the tornado that struck Birmingham, Alabama.

Wonderful, beautiful, placid, comfortable weather, enjoyed by all is just plain dull and boring to the meteorologists.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2011 All Star Game

What's the matter with today's baseball players? The nerve of 16 of these talented, professional athletes not to show up at the All Star game. Are they so rich that they have forgotten why the All Star game is played? The revenues are supposed to go to the retirement fund of the old players. If there are no more old players who need the money, then the game should be abolished. It's certainly not a showcase for the best players in the leagues because the best players don't show up.

Reminds me of the football Pro Bowl games where the athletes had to be cajoled to attend. Except when the game was held in Honolulu. Then, the players and their families were delighted to participate. But even the Pro Bowl game is losing some of its luster when it is played before the Super Bowl. The logistics of those dates necessitates that none of the players on the Super Bowl teams participate.

Back to baseball - the advertisement that "this one counts" is losing its relevance, also. The only things that count, I hate to sound so jaded here, are the dollars and the more the elected and appointed athletes don't attend, the less money will be taken in. Is anyone going to care? The viewership for this year's All Star game was very, very low - either the lowest, or the next to the lowest of all time. An omen? Seems that the television viewers have voted with their remotes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Be Healthy. Take responsibility.

I was inspired by an editorial in an in-house publication that talked about personal responsibility for health care.

Of course, the writer is correct. For years and years and years, doctors had a uniform answer for whatever was wrong: "stop smoking" and "lose weight."

That still holds. But, have you seen how people eat? Just look at the plates at breakfast at the Embassy Suites! at the Renaissance Inns. at any place that offers free food. The plates are loaded with everything that is offered and then cleaned. Nothing is left. I even saw a person load her plate with multiple pieces of french toast, slabs of bacon, stacks of pancakes, heaping portion of scrambled eggs, maple syrup, and butter. We could not watch this person eat, it was truly disgusting. And, to no one's surprise, this person had a massive heart attack and died a couple of days later, well before the 50th birthday.

And alcohol, drinking to excess, or even drinking at all, contributes to liver problems, driving deaths, lack of control at the buffet table, domestic abuse, etc.

And don't forget the sun. Don't you wonder how something that makes you look so good and feel so good can be so bad for you

And the artificial sweeteners keep being indicted as unhealthful - as leading to an increase in fat, insulin, headaches, desire for more sweets. But those facts don't register on the user.

The camapaign against smoking seems to have been successful - especially when smoking is prohibited in most places. It used to be that we couldn't even walk down the street, in Waikiki, or Philadelphia, without running into throngs of smokers. Thankfully, that seems to be a thing of the past.

Although exercise makes one feel good, no doubt about that, the mouth trumps exercise. Have you seen people who work out at the gym, for any length of time, and then reward themselves with an ice cream sundae? or a doughnut? Happens with regularity

My years of biomedical and environmental research (25 years, at least) convinced me that salt and fat are the two major "bad guys" in our diet. As I jokingly said to a woman, one day, upon her question of what I do to maintain my figure, "if it tastes good, spit it out." Seriously, eating to live is the appropriate philosophy - not living to eat.

Restaurants won't like me because eating out is seen as a celebration. Fine, as long as moderation, not excess, is the phrase.

Those who have asked me, and listened to my dietary advice, have profited by losing weight, inches, and anxiety - My diet rules are simple: no sugar, no salt, no fat, nothing white, no artificial anything, and lots and lots and lots of water. Bread, as long as it is made from 100% whole wheat flour, is great; as are 100% whole wheat pasta products, brown rice, oatmeal, and so forth. We eat mainly skinless poultry (I can't eat or be near anything that swims or keeps company with swimmers, like fish, seaweed, and all the derivative products.)

Despite everybody's good habits and good intentions, sometimes disease invades our bodies - The sooner the person is treated, the better the chances of survival. and as we age, the older we get, the more medical problems arise, and the more complicated and expensive the treatment.

Of course we agree with the writer that every person has to assume responsibility for his own health and act accordingly.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I was not invited to the wedding

Years and years and years ago, one of my female cousins got married. She wanted a wedding that was more than she and/or her parents could afford and my father and another of her uncles paid for it. I must have been 9 or 10 years old, not really sure of my age, but a wedding - a young girl's dream of watching. But wait. I was not invited. Even though my father helped pay for it (or paid for almost all of it) "we're not having children at this wedding." So I spent the day with one of my considerably older cousins who also was not invited to the wedding. But he was a male, quite a grown man, and did not have any romantic visions of weddings.

I never heard a description of the wedding, of the wedding dress, of who was there, of what was served, or what kind of flowers decked the venue - nothing. My parents protected me against anything that might hurt me or my feelings. And the excuse of no children may or may not have been true. I never heard if there were any young people there or not.

Contrast this slight with my son's wedding to his beautiful, darling, intelligent, talented, and understanding wife. My two young grandchildren were both part of the wedding party. They did not detract from the beauty of the bride, they added to the beauty of the ceremony. They scattered the flower petals with the perfection of children. They walked slowly, smiling at the spectators, and running to their parents when they finished their jobs. Wonderful!

And now, there is another wedding, fortunately not from our side of any family, and the edict was "no children" and again, the girls were disappointed at first and the boys couldn't care. The wedding couple and their parents don't have the slightest idea of the joy they are missing, nor do they know what dark karma forces they have unleashed in this pique of nastiness.

I don't wish anybody any harm or unhappiness. But I think that as the years go by, there will be many, many, many regrets.

Monday, July 4, 2011

If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have gone to Medical School

Just ask my children. They'll tell you the countless times I said that in response to minor, or sometimes major, medical problems. "I have a splinter." OK, that I could handle with tweezers or a sharp sewing needle that I sterilized by holding a match to the sharp end. Of course, that required putting the eye of the needle in a piece of cork so that my fingers wouldn't get burned. And then, washing the splinter's previous home with soap, bactine, alcohol, etc. As my children grew older, splinters became almost routine but, each time, I had to steady myself against fainting.

My father knew me very well. He would not let me take biology (you're too squeamish and the disections will probably upset you and your stomach) or chemistry (you're very sensitive to smells and you could easily wind up in the ER). I took physics, the one science that would not offend my sensitivities and delicate nature. And, indeed, I liked physics - the only science that is logical.

Going back to my maternal doctoring. I knew to put ice on mosquito bites, followed by benedril; I knew to wash scrapes and abrasions and cuts with hot soapy water to prevent infections. But when I was confronted with a gaping dime-sized hole in the skin under the chin of one of my children and I said, "let's go to the ER," I heard, "No, Mom. You have to fix it." So, I garnered my strength and pulled the skin together with a butterfly bandage. Don't know how I did that, but it was correct, and there is no scar. I guess it's true that mothers get adrenalin surges when their children are in trouble.

So this week, Edgar underwent Mohs surgery for a melanoma in situ on his nose. The surgeon removed a large-sized tumor. The cancer is gone. And then he did reconstructive surgery that involved a skin flap, taken from his forehead, twisted, and sewed to his nose so that the outside skin from the forehead remains on the outside of the nose. The procedure took 12 hours and we were both worn out when it was over. But then, the medical staff said that I would have to change the dressing every day for a week until the stitches were removed. Remember, these people all went to school for advanced training and they acted as if anyone could perform the dressing change.

Here come the instructions - use sterilized scissors: how do I do that? Swish them in alchol. Cover all the blue stitches with vaseline, which was supplied; with the long Q-tips, which were supplied; cover everything with Telfa, which was supplied. Then came the tricky part. I had to put a pressure bandage from the tip of the nose up to the forehead. "A what?" Just cut the Telfa and apply it with pressure and tape it on with pressure.

I asked for a tenplate for the pressure bandage which one of the nurses made for me. There were plenty of supplies, and after the first time, with help and support from my children, I gained confidence. Yesterday, I changed the bandage with a supportive onlooker and today I did it by myself.

I have to repeat. If I wanted to be a doctor, I would have gone to medical school. I still don't want to be a doctor. I don't want to be a nurse. And my greatest preference would be never to need one.