Friday, October 29, 2004

Rosie, the Goffins Cockatoo

I just came across a photo of a beautiful Goffins, the same species as "my" Bailey. The image is at veterinarians/vets.html

Not Subtraction, Addition without Permission

I've heard a lot of talk on the news these days, living in a "battle state" as they say. . . Ohio. . . about folks stealing political signs from the yards of their neighbors. Or maybe not their neighbors, who knows?

Today I ran into the reverse. Today, mid-morning, an older man who looked like someone's grandpa who should know better and who probably assumed no one was home, climbed up the steps to my small within-the-city-limits front yard and inserted a Lupher for Commissioner sign in my front yard. I never asked for the sign. No one else in my home asked for the sign. I have a presidential election sign in my front yard and the sign-sneaker placed his right next to it, wrongfully assuming that more is, well, okay by me. It's not.

While my property is so small as to barely be visible from the top of Mt. Pleasant, let alone an airplane, a jet, or outer space, it is my little piece of the earth (well, mine and the mortgage company's) and I get to choose what signs go on it (well, within the confines of the zoning department).

I'm ready for this election to be over. I have listened to CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, John Stewart, Larry King, the White House spokesman, Karen Hughes, the debates, the Kerry campaign chairman, the Guardian letter-writers and today bin Laden, from whom I narrowly escaped harm on Sept. 11, 2001, had to put in his two cents. I subscribed to the Columbus Dispatch, read the local Lancaster Eagle Gazette, and get Time, Newsweek, Atlantic Monthly, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, and Bird Talk. Not to mention Publishers Weekly, Writers Digest, National Geographic and The Sun. I'm on information overload, or, more precisely, superficial information overload.

I don't understand the Middle East, Alan Greenspan's economic policies, how to save Social Security, or how outsourcing can be good for America. I'm tired of calling Dell and other companies and talking to someone whose speech I cannot understand regarding technical terms that I already find difficult.

But, let's hear it for our system. In our system, an informed citizen, or uninformed citizen can vote for president. That vote will, hopefully be counted. If not on Nov. 2, then ten days later when the provisional ballots are accepted. And, hopefully then, unless the electoral votes go the other way. And unless one votes absentee ballots and they are lost in the mail. If all that doesn't mess up, then the one vote counts.

My vote is actually cancelled out by my mother's vote. I feel badly about voting the opposite of my mother as I've found she usually turns out to be right about most things.

It's disconcerting to know that the MRDD folk I visit weekly in a nursing home here in Southern Ohio are casting their ballots, with no permission by their guardians needed. Folks not allowed on the elevator, folks who cannot read, are casting their vote. If Advertising Age wants to know the most effective ad in this presidential election among twenty-something males with mental challenges, I can tell them it is the one where Kerry says everyone deserves healthcare. That's the one that they point to as being the reason to vote for Kerry. But, as one resident stated, "It doesn't really matter who gets elected; I mean they don't come here and tell me what to do."

We've got some other important issues on the ballot, like controversial Issue 1. No, I'm not saying what I think about that, but like the sign-switching situation (say that nine times fast) I found it disappointing that one of the nursing home residents knew what he thought about the Issue, but couldn't read the ballot. He asked a staff person or poll worker which way to mark the ballot consistent with his beliefs. When he told me the direction he was given and upon which he acted, I realized they had directed him to do the opposite of the outcome he wanted...

Thinking of all the people in nursing homes who are not mentally competent; all the people who are considered mentally competent but probably shouldn't be; all the folks who just don't care; or folks like me who know a bit about quite a few things but don't really have a deep understanding of many things... it's really amazing our country continues on as well as it does. Politicians, for all their faults, must deserve some credit. Yep, they have to advertise. They have to hire consultants and bow to their party's wishes. But, I don't think the pay is all that great, the traveling must get old, there are family separation issues, and the career path isn't that well respected. But, I say, thank you to those willing to run for public office. It is admirable. It is commendable. I couldn't do it; wouldn't do it; so I salute you and may the best candidate win!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Note from Robert Kurkela

October 20, 2004:

October is writing time for me. Changes in nature and Yankee baseball tend to occupy my thoughts for the duration of October and my mind goes into overdrive. This October I find myself contemplating not only stranded base runners and colorful vistas, but also a Presidential election and the death of a friend.

For the second straight year, I attended Game 6 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Again, Boston and the Yankees. Again, the Yankees lost. A rivalry only people from New York and Boston can understand. We supposedly hate each other because we have passion for our teams. But the term hate is too strong. We are all just rooting for our team to win. Obscene chants erupt from both Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium directed at players and opposing fans alike. It’s a part of the fun of experiencing the drama, the theatre that unfolds in front of our eyes.

Last night the fans took it to a new level. A justifiable reversed call by the umpires led to throwing of objects including full beers from the stands onto the field. Interestingly, I did not see anything thrown from the bleachers where I was sitting, the home of the most fervent of Yankee fans. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a whole crowd by a spiteful few.

A young child was seated two rows behind me last night with her parents. I thought that had she been sitting in the stands that a full beer could have landed on her from the upper deck. What an injury that would have been. Then, the riot police invade the bleachers and the field itself as if we’re 56,000 out of control insurgents in a war zone. How sad it had to come to this. I spoke openly with Boston fans around me and we were in agreement that this was unnecessary. In addition to this overreaction, I think now about the FDNY trucks parked outside the stadium. My best friend is in the FDNY and he told me they are there in case of a terrorist attack. The firemen’s job would be to spray the people coming out of the stadium to help decontaminate them. Yankee games ain’t what they used to be.

During the game, I wore a pair of beads that my friend Simon had made for me on a past trip to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. I brought them for good luck. They didn’t bring any for my team, but I don’t care about the team as much as I do my friend Simon. You see, he died a couple of weeks ago. He was in need of a kidney transplant but couldn’t get one in time because his system wasn’t strong enough to accept one. A fund was even established and he was able to return to his native Lebanon to try to obtain a kidney, even if he had to get it on the black market. But there his system wasn’t up to the challenge.

I recall an e-mail conversation I had with Simon while he was in Lebanon and how he couldn’t wait to get back to the United States. He said that we have no idea how free we are compared to a country like Lebanon and its political system and instability. He could have stayed in Lebanon to wait for that kidney and maybe his system would have revived itself for a transfer, but he chose to come back to the home he loved, good old Albany, NY, USA. I lost a friend, but not before he had the opportunity to hold my baby daughter Rachel one last time in August. She took a bottle in his arms and then she napped. I have pictures from that day that I will cherish forever. I somehow knew that this would be the last time I’d ever see him.

In the midst of all this excitement and depression, I have also been heavily involved with on-line chats on the Presidential election. The candidates remind me of over paid baseball players. The difference is that the outcome of this election is far greater than the outcome of Game 7 tonight in Yankee Stadium. Our country is divided. I’ve posted spiteful comments and I’ve been attacked likewise on-line. Not much different than chanting: “Boston sucks.” My political dilemma seems to focus on one issue entirely: the safety of my family and my country. Who is best for America? Who will lead our country forward with courage and grace in a world forever changed by events three years ago?

Thinking of Simon, he’s right. There is no better place to live. Now we are faced with a dead heat in the election and a 3-3 series with the winner taking all tonight. I will cheer for my home team, but I know all the superstitious rituals I perform in my house will not affect the outcome of the game. There will be a final score and I’ll live with it. It’s trivial considering I’m able to watch the excitement while a friend is not here to share it with his friends.

Our country may be polarized, but we are all citizens of a democracy. We may be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, whatever…but that is a reflection of the melting pot of our ancestors and their ideologies and the ideas passed down to us through generations. This is what makes our country so fascinating. We argue, but we are always there for our brothers and sisters in times of need, even if they don’t necessarily agree with our views on various topics. A Yankee fan started berating a Sox fan last night and I told him to let go of it, he was a great guy that flew in from Canada for the game. That to me is dedication to a team. And he wasn’t even an American! It may reflect on the dedication of the man to other causes as well.

So, as I prepare for the Yankees tonight, I will build a fire and cuddle up with my two daughters and wife. I’ll wear Simon’s beads and hope that he’s out of pain now. His life ended short, but his spirit will live on with his friends and family forever. I’ll also think of the election and how I’ll probably sit in front of my television on election night much like I will be tonight, watching history unfold in front of me. The best thing I can do to honor Simon is to simply vote. It is our greatest right as a United States citizen. I can also cheer my team on. In several weeks I’ll know who will be World Champions and who will be President of the United States.

However, in the grand scheme of things, nothing is more sacred than life itself. Simon lived his fully right up until his last day. When I find myself losing sight of what’s really important, I’ll simply return my thoughts to him and how he has made the journey that we all will take someday. Root for your team. Root for your candidate. Root for life. Live it fully yet live it wise. Live it selflessly, not selfishly. If you do, surely love will emanate from you and it will be contagious, passed on from one person to another. Do your part to leave this place better than it was before you were born unto it. This is my wish for all of you. My friend Simon accomplished this task in 38 short years. May all your lives be as blessed as his and may you come to understand your purpose on this planet.

With Love,
Robert W. Kurkela
Author of Lilies on the Moon

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Time for the Sapone al Melograno

October 18, 2004: Three years and one week. That's how long it took.

On September 10, 2001, I was in Manhattan and wandered into Takashimaya New York. I loved it! Especially the section with soaps, colognes and wonderfully scented powders. The woman who waited on me was so helpful, making such a precious event out of my less-than-$50 purchase. I bought some powder for my mother; and for me a nice large bar of "Sapone al Melograno," made from a hundreds-of-years-old formula by ... nuns in Italy! "Officina Profumo Farmaceutica."

One more reason to love New York. I can't find a bar of soap like this at Bath and Body Works.

The soap traveled in its simple white Italian wrapper, all the way across PA and back to Ohio, the sounds of NPR droning on that September 12th morning. I was supposed to have been in the WTC on 9/11, but I slept in. The next day I returned home.

I put the soap in my dresser drawer. It stayed there for two years. I moved it to the bathroom counter. It stayed there for one year. I thought I would keep it until I was an old lady and then one day open it up.

At some point in three years a parrot explored the wrapper. Indignant, I put it out of parrot's reach.

Yesterday, as I was preparing my bag to go to the Y swimming, I looked at that bar of soap and all the need for mystery, for drama, was gone. Time to use the good soap.

It smelled great. I smelled great. Life is good!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Color, Wonderful Color

Since painting down in Nelsonville with the Ohio Plein Air Society recently, I've been enjoying a rebirth, a resurgence, a revival ... holy smokes a renewal of the joy of ... paint and color and the feel of the canvas. The splash of the brush as it swishes in the water bowl. The bits of veridian and colbalt stuck to the edge of my hand and working its way under my fingernails.

The loss of a sense of time, and the beautiful beautiful autumn colors that perhaps only someone religated to Florida's nonstop tropical light for 17 years can fully appreciate. What is the name of the colors in the tree outside my office window? It's not orange, not yellow-red, not red-yellow... it looks like a cross between a pumpkin and an electric apple. I can't capture it! Darn. Maybe next time.

Yeah for the horses that I saw yesterday galloping down a hillside and around a path-encircled pond. Yeah for the purple, maroon, orange, yellow, red. Yeah to be living in such a beautiful place. Yeah for temperatures that are falling.

I like everything about this season, even the rainy days like today. The sounds (there's a quieting down, like autumn is the "getting ready for bed" time before snow starts).

I learned that the founder of OPAS passed away recently. He left behind a present for me, someone he didn't even know. For me and many others. A great organization that lit a match under my middleaged bottom and propelled me into this wonderful time of creativity.

At night, no "must see tv" c an entice me. I've taken to painting abstract rememberances; there's my feelings about being in NY on 9/11, there's one for my son, there are colors in the wings of my parrot that I wonder if I will ever capture.

Well, I may sound a bit over the top, but I assure you my enthusiasm is genuine. Here's to finding, or refinding, wonderful pasttimes, new friends, and that gorgeous vibrant color in the tree outside my window.