Archived Post April 2008

April 2008

Sweetie Okay – What About Boy? 

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
~ Sir Winston Churchill ~

The Democratic National Party wrote Kate last week asking for money.  I am certain they wrote her, in response to my recent purchase, in her name, of Hillary paraphernalia.  Kate’s birthday is in June, and I had bought her an assortment of Hillary items, to lift both Kate and Hillary’s spirits. 

I must say, that Kate has made it clear, that she will not vote for Obama.  She has always been proud of her rich heritage as a Democrat; and despite my best efforts, in the last twenty plus years; I have not been able to get her to cross over to the Republican Party.  Yet, this year, I feel there may be a crack in the dam.  Therefore, besides ordering the Hillary gear, I also bought her a Pink Elephant baseball cap.  Kate likes caps, and the Pink Elephants are the Republican woman’s group. 

The tiny box which arrived from the Hillary camp almost went unnoticed on my front door porch.  Meanwhile, a few days later, the box from the Republican National Committee arrived.  The box was huge, and boasted a lovely, patriotic, flag label, which instantly caught my eye.  I will admit I love surprises, even if I have sent them to myself – there is something about those brown paper packages.  I looked at the label a couple of times, wondering about its contents, as I did not imagine my Pink Elephant hat, and a couple of lapel pins, being housed in such a large box. 

I took the box to my bedroom closet, to open it behind closed doors, so that Kate would not see its contents.  When I opened the huge box, I found it filled with packing peanuts.  I fished around the box, and found a very cute package, wrapped in pink paper with pink, purple, and white dots; and tied with curling ribbon, in the same colors.  I could not believe it when I took the package out of the box.  I kept wondering, for several days, if perhaps someone had sent me an RNC gift, as I had not asked for the hat to be wrapped.  Indeed, I felt like I had been given a gift. 

As I have said, I had planned to give Kate the political items on her birthday, but given the current situation, it seems that Hillary may be out of the race, before Kate’s birthday, thus, not wanting to later spoil Kate’s birthday, I decided to give them to her now.  She of course, loved the Hillary items, and was touched that I had made a donation, on her credit card.  I waited a few days, to give her the RNC box.  I could have waited, as I do not think the Republican Party will have any major announcements around June 4 which would negatively impact Kate’s birthday celebration, but I could not resist the cute package.  She liked the hat, impressed with the quality, and the fact that the logo is small and discreet.  (I figured if she did not like it, I would happily wear it, so all would be fine.) 

Once the pre birthday surprises were open, I brought the boxes out to show Kate.  It was impossible not to notice the difference between the boxes, packaging, and presentation. Kate, being a good democrat asked what the difference was in shipping – no dice; I did not pay extra for the big box or wrapping paper. 

None of this is significant.  I was equally frustrated with both parties for selling American political items, which were made in China – so much for the argument regarding outsourcing.  But I was stuck with the difference in presentation, and the fact that the presentation mattered, that it had an impact on my perception. 

The Democratic Party has a problem with perception, and it is not just in its packaging department.  The party is being presented as a party of sexist bigots who do not seem to care that women make up the majority of American voters. 

I have been waiting for party leaders to address the sexist language and attacks on Senator Clinton, and it has not happened; but a protest has begun.  Women have started to say enough of Mr. Sweetie; I will get back to you. 

As you may know, a female reporter asked Senator Obama a question regarding his plans to help American autoworkers.  He responded by saying: “Hold on a second sweetie.”  Obama’s blatantly sexist response to his blatantly sexist behavior was: “That is a bad habit of mine.”  His behavior has all but been dropped, in the press. 

The golden boy who can do no harm – wait, did I just call a black man a boy?  It is an accepted phrase – the golden boy.  Obama is a man; he has found success at an early age, which I think are the criteria necessary to be considered a golden boy. 

Can anyone imagine the outrage if either Senator McCain or Senator Clinton referred to Mr. Obama as a golden boy?  The cries of racism would be unquenchable.  There would be no end to lectures on how inappropriate, under any circumstances; it is to call an African American man a boy, in the twenty first century.  There would be protest, in the streets, possibly riots and most definitely backlash that would demand blood and apologies.

Yet, it is perfectly acceptable for this black man to be a sexist.  Mr. Obama was not talking to his wife or children, but rather to a reporter, who happened to be a woman.  Would he have called Charlie Rose or Charlie Gibson sweetie?  The reporter has not indicated that she has an intimate relationship with Mr. Obama that would lay the ground work for such terms of endearment, especially in a professional setting.  So why are women not screaming and yelling – oh yes, because that would make them hysterical.

Women, however, are finally organizing.  I have been wondering what they were waiting for, as a Republican I have found the Democrats behavior outrageous – this is the party that still claims that Al Gore lost the election because votes in Florida were not counted, and yet they are now the ones ignoring the millions of votes cast in both Florida and Michigan.  But at least there are finally signs that Democratic women are tired of being silenced.

Two women in Ohio, Cynthia Ruccia and Jamie Dixey have started a group called Clinton Supporters Count Too.  They are organizing to actively work against Senator Obama’s nomination, and demand that all votes be counted.  As of yet, they have not put up a website, but I will pass that information on, when it is available.  Of course, thinking of helping them or calling the Democratic Party to account for its sexist behavior would only concern you if you were a woman, or a man who either has a mother, wife, girlfriend, sister, aunt, daughter, or granddaughter. 

Clinton Supporters Count Too are asking for a boycott of NBC and its affiliates on May 20, 2008, they are also suggesting that protestors demonstrate in front of NBC stations, on that date, when they believe that Senator Obama will announce that he has secured the delegates to become the Democratic Party candidate.  There anger with NBC is due to their sexist attitudes toward Senator Clinton, whom they feel needs to be able take the joke – even if the jokes are not funny.

Repeatedly, women are told that sexist behavior is our problem.  The offending party did not mean anything by their comments.  I disagree.  I am in favor of the First Amendment.  I believe that we should have the power to freely speak our minds.  But I also believe that we must own our words.  It is true, that one can not control how words are received; yet as a society that pretends to be politically correct, we have established guidelines to eliminate causing unnecessary offense.  I find it hard to believe that a man with a prestigious, Ivy League education does not know what constitutes sexist language.  

As previously commented on, in these pages, I have watched with great distress, the anguish and angst which Kate has felt watching Hillary Clinton nutcracker dolls hit the market, and no one care.  Would anyone produce, market, and buy a watermelon eating, car jacking Barack Obama? 

I do believe that this is a critical election, and that we need a strong president.  I am deeply troubled by the economy and all which that entails, the unrest in the Middle East, the growing number of violent crimes, terrorist attacks at home and abroad, and the educational standards in American schools and with our general population.  Perhaps Senator Obama simply did not have an answer on how to help the autoworkers, and so he thought he could brush off the reporter, who was only a woman.  After all who would care how he spoke to her?  I care. 

We need someone who is not afraid to lead, not someone who only offers rhetoric.  Words are one of the most powerful tools available to us – today more so than ever.  But we must understand the consequences of those words.  At the end of this election cycle we will be putting a Senator in the White House, it will either be Vietnam veteran, and former prisoner of war, who is a senior citizen, an African – American man, in his forties, whose middle name is Hussein, or a white, middle age woman, who use to be a first Lady – Abigail, Dolly, and Eleanor have to be watching in amazement. 

The debates on age and experience are valid and important.  I am a Cuban – American woman, who grew up in a house where Spanish was spoken, we ate rice and beans, and interacted in a Latin – American world.  I have lived the last twenty-one years of my life with a very liberal, woman, who is a Democrat.   I own a home in a neighborhood that until Hurricane Wilma, was predominately peopled by Jewish senior citizens, whom I have been privileged to call friends.  I am a Pentecostal Christian, who has more friends which are atheist than Christians.  My oldest friends are Greeks, Persians, Cubans, and hyphenated Americans.  My nieces are half Mexican and half Slovakian-English.  I am a feminist and a Republican.  I am pro-choice and I believe in the NRA.  I am diversity, this is what an America of choice and opportunity looks like. 

I am in favor of change for America, but at the end of this election cycle my question to the male biased media and to Mr. Barack Obama is:  Are women better off?  We are not only the majority of the voters we are the majority of the citizens, how much is this campaign going to cost us?  What price will American women pay to have an African – American man put into the White House?  

It was white, women, suffragist and abolitionist who fought to end slavery in this country, yet even then, when they came to ask the likes of Frederick Douglas for help, his response was perhaps later.  Olympia Brown asked for universal suffrage for every color and every sex.  Douglas responded that “the present claim for the negro is one of the most urgent necessity.” He said that women suffragist and abolitionist were anti-negro despite their record of having led the war against slavery.  That war involved the Republicans coming to power, this war is with the Democrats, but things have changed little – women still have to wait and the tally has not stopped.

(I would urge everyone to read this column

That is all for now.

~ M ~

April 2008

Come Sit Awhile

“When the perishable been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying this is written will come true:  Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death is your sting?”
 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55

A few years ago, on a lovely New England autumn day, Kate and I found ourselves touring Concord, Massachusetts.  It is the site of the first battle of the Revolutionary War, and former home of some of Americas more prominent writers.  After touring the Minuteman National Park, Emerson’s House and the Concord Museum, we walked into Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which is located in the heart of the city. 

It was a strange moment, I hesitated for a second, before entering the open gates. When I was very young, I remember being told that trips to Paris, and Buenos Aires, must include visits to the cemetery, something which I could not understand – why would one go sightseeing in a graveyard?  I visited Paris several times, but in my youth, when I could not imagine tearing myself away, from the city, to go traipsing through a cemetery, I never made it to Montmartre or Pere-Lachaise.  But I wandered into Sleepy Hollow, and walked through the shaded paths which led me to the final resting place of Henry Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott. 

Earlier in the day, I had visited Alcott’s home, which is beautifully preserved.  I had seen the setting for her stories and the place she lived and worked, now I found myself standing over her grave, wondering why?  Why is it that we seem to preserve where people are born and where they die?  What does it mean?  Why do we go in search of birthplaces and gravesites? 

I have a stone, in my yard that my Uncle Bill, one of my Mother’s younger brothers, gave me.  He picked it up, handed it to me, and said here this is from where your Mother was born.  We were standing on an old road, in Southern Ohio, on a very hot summer day, looking at a grove of trees, when he bent down to pick up the large, flat rock.  My Mother and I had gone on a road trip to Ohio, from Maine.  We were stopping at all of the places which had meant something to either her or me.  On that particular day, we were driving with Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan, as well as Uncle Junior, who was acting as our tour guide.  Stopping at the sites where the various Coopers had been born and lived, before moving to Columbus.  We also toured several cemetery’s, taking pictures of the headstones which bore the names of the family patriarchs and matriarchs, none of which had achieved sufficient fame, in their life time, which would cause anyone other than family, to come in search of the places which marked their life.

A few weeks ago, my Uncle Bill died.  He had endured a variety of ailments, and it seems that his heart finally stopped.  I was not terribly surprised, when he died, not because he had been unwell, but rather because his wife, Joan, of over fifty years, had died a year ago.  I could not imagine him living long without her. 

The last few months, have been permeated with death and disease.  Today, once again, I have had news that a man who once showed me great kindness is terminally ill, and I am saddened.  As of late, we have lost several people, and have seen quite a few dealing with serious health problems; thus we have spent a lot of time in hospitals, and a lot of time in the discussion of the dead. 

 The rituals of death are not easy.  We do not deal with death enough to be accustomed to her, which is a good thing.   I recall, many years ago, being in Israel and being surprised by the security, in such ordinary places, like the post office.  I was not used to seeing soldiers walking around with machine guns, and I thought about how very difficult a life that must be – living in a state of constant war, surrounded by death. 

For most of us, the loss of human life is tragic, even when it is someone whom we say has lived a good long life – what ever that may mean.  What is good enough or long enough?  Perhaps those are words we use to comfort ourselves, so that we can accept an irrevocable loss; or to avoid lingering too long on the topic of death, which inevitably we too will have to face.  Though the living will only afford death so much room, until they are forced to do otherwise. 

My Mother recently told me that after her brother, my Uncle Lester died, my Uncle Bill took Lester a beer – rather took Lester’s headstone a beer.  I thought it was a sweet story, something which I am sure spoke of the beers the two must have shared in life, but also to the notion of how the living remember the dead. 

The events of the last few months, coupled with unavoidable aging, have caused me to think about my own life, and death.  As a Christian, I do not fear for my soul, nor do I worry about eternity.  I do not spend much time thinking about what awaits me after death, as I am quite comfortable with my faith and its teachings; but I have been thinking about what I will leave behind and how will I be remembered.  I can not imagine anyone traipsing through Ohio State University Hospital, to find the ward I was born in, and there is certainly no childhood home, that will be preserved.  My sisters and I have never shared a beer – not one of our beverages of choice, so what would I like? 

I have always said that when you have children, you have an instant legacy – many of my friends, with children, have argued that I am incorrect, in this notion.  I will bow to their expertise, but maintain that it is me who mourns my father – so who will mourn me?  I do not know, but I have decided that beside what ever words I write, and trees I plant, I want to leave behind a bench.  Kate has been greatly discomforted by these words, but I persist in posting them, because I think we should state our wishes, while we can; and I want a bench. 

The first Christmas, after my family joined Kate and me, in Maine, we all decided to go to Cape Neddick, in York, Maine, to watch the arrival of Santa Clause and the lighting of the Nubbel Light House, which opened in 1879, and is still operated by the United States Coast Guard. 

It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and in Maine, winter had long since arrived.   It was particularly cold, on the evening that we gathered together, in Sohier Park, where spectators come to watch the sea, which separates the mainland from the small island, where the light house stands, a beacon to passing ships.

As we stood stomping our feet, and rubbing our gloved hands, trying to keep warm, we laughed and chatted about how silly it was to be at the beach, on such a winter’s night and about how coming events had better be spectacular – they did not disappoint.  Eventually, Santa arrived, in a fire engine, and the light house, as well as the now vacant keeper’s cottages, came to life, with bright white lights.  There were rounds of applause and a few minutes of silence as each of us decided that we had witnessed a bit of Christmas magic. 

Later, on Christmas Eve, when we gathered to open presents, each household, in our family, found a small box from Caroline, my younger sister, which housed a round, blue, ornament, with an imprint of Nubbel.  It was the perfect keepsake, to remember our first Christmas together, in Maine. 

Since that time, we have often returned to Sohier Park, mostly playing tour guide for guest to Maine, as Nubbel light house is one of the most photographed light houses in the world.  It is sort of Maine’s Hollywood sign or Empire State building. 

Scattered through the park, are memorial, cement benches that are inscribed with dates and names, of the people they stand to commemorate, or an occasional line of clever text.  I want one of those benches.  I do not know why it should be in Maine, as our sojourn there was brief, and given the gypsy souls of my family, it may be that none of them will even live in the area, when my life comes to an end; but I would like a bench where people can come and sit, look at the wild rocky coast, and crashing ocean waves, and think about the people they love and the life they are living.  I do not care if they stop to think about who I was, or why my bench is there, I imagine by then I will be off discovering other worlds and will not care.

I did find my way, not once, but twice – I had to show Kate – to La Recoleta, in Buenos Aires, having gone there older, and perhaps more aware of my own mortality, I suppose I found time for the dead.  La Recoleta is a collection of mausoleums which are housed in a diminutive city, with street signs, to guide you as you stroll the “streets,” looking for Eva Peron’s resting place and it should be included in a visit to Buenos Aires . . . that is all for now. 

~ M ~

April 2008

History for Sale

Be guided by the rule:
“If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”
~ United States of America Office of Price Administration ~

I have eighteen minutes left!  I can feel my heart beating faster, as I refresh my page, for the twentieth time, in the last ten minutes.  I started by simply “watching” but then I bid; and thus the true wait began.  Would I be outbid?  Or would I win?  The days tick away, finally in red numbers the hours left are displayed, until you reach minutes, then the <1 sign appears, and you feel certain you are safe, until your hopes are dashed that first time, after which not even the <1 sign is sufficient to bring comfort, you need to see the word Won!  You need to know that you are the highest bidder, and have thus won the privilege of laying down cold, hard cash – well Pay Pal, mostly, for an item which you never knew existed that you now must have.  Yes, I have discovered eBay.

eBay is an online auction house and source of endless entertainment.  According to their web site, eBay began when its’ founder listed a broken laser pointer for sale, in September, of 1995.  The pointer sold to a man for $14.83, who was contacted by company founder, Pierre Omidyar, curious to know why anyone would buy a broken laser pointer.  The customer answered that he collected broken laser pointers – who knew?  Mr. Omidyar knew then he had found an untapped knitch.

A few years ago, both of my sisters were buying and selling things on eBay.  I heard enough of their stories for my interest to be peeked, and even opened an account, whose password I can of course not remember.  I listed a few things, which did not sell and forgot about eBay, until a couple of months ago when I read a story about a woman taking her daughter to the newly reopened Plaza Hotel, in New York City, for tea.  The woman mentioned that Eloise was her daughter’s favorite book, and with my lap top, sitting beside me, I decided to investigate Eloise; which eventually landed me on eBay, where an original Eloise doll, with her clothes, were for sale.

After several failed log on attempts, with my own account, I asked Kate if she had an account, she did – and for once, my security genius had a password I could remember – I was in, and decided to bid.  The doll was beautiful, as were her clothes, she was an original doll from the 1950’s, and I quickly fell in love.  I had found her at the beginning of the auction, and thought she was most definitely worth the twelve dollars, then it went up to twenty, and I stopped at thirty, though through eBay magic, you are able to continue to watch the progress, of a sale, even if you are not bidding any longer – she eventually sold for over eight hundred dollars!  Wow!  I began playing with eBay. 

 I have found that no matter what I put into their search engine, something shows up.  Also, I have been surprised by what we do and do not value. A first edition of a Hemingway novel sold for just over fifty dollars, while a first edition of Garcia-Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, went for over $1400.00.   Has Hemingway fallen out of favor, or are there simply more of his books available?  I watched a collection of George Washington’s speeches, disappointed that the coverless book was only garnering fifteen and twenty dollar bids, however, when the auction finally finished, someone paid over $3,000 to preserve that bit of history – I was relieved.

It is true that I have now bought several things which I certainly never even thought about owning, but I have yet to face buyer’s remorse.  I do have one advantage, over most people, not only am I using Kate’s eBay account, but I am also using her Pay Pal account, so I have yet to see a bill – I know, I have a good life. 

 The thing is that some nice man in New York, who was cleaning out his parent’s home, found that his mother had saved her ration books, from World War II; and oddly, he did not seem interested in keeping them – for less than five dollars, I too have bought a piece of history!  I really do feel that the package he sent me should be headed toward the Smithsonian, instead of me; but I do not think they placed a bid.

I have always been interested in World War II, and have asked countless people, who lived through the war about the ration books.  For most, the rationing process was not something they wanted to remember, and no one with whom I have spoken, had ever kept one of the books.  I was shocked when I saw one for sale, and the opening bid was only ninety-nine cents.  When my package arrived, I was more than pleasantly surprised. 

First, though not of great significance, the provenance of my purchase is correct, as advertised.  The last names, on the books, match the sellers, as does the city and state.  Secondly, my New York seller has sent me much more than I anticipated.  I received War Ration Book One, registered to his mother, Dora, who on May 6, 1942 was 43 years old, 5’6” tall, with hazel eyes and brown hair.  War ration stamps 19 and 20, are left in that book, a ration coupon for five pounds of sugar is paper clipped to the book.  I wonder why she did not redeem the sugar coupon?  It was at the start of the war, for Americans, did she not need the sugar or was it just too expensive? 

I was also sent two copies of War Ration Book No. 3, Dora’s and Perry, her husband.  Perry who was 55 years old, 5’11” tall, was a conductor on the Erie, while Dora, I have now learned was a telephone operator.  In book One, the physical description was much more complete, but there was no listing of occupations.  So I now know what Dora did for a living, but I do not know Perry’s hair or eye color. 

Book No. 3 also admonishes the holder to be guided by the rule: “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”  Wise words, indeed – but certainly in conflict with the eBay world.  Again, Dora and Perry did not use all of the coupons in book No. 3, the same amount of pages are missing, and two additional stamps, from the last pages, in each book.         

By Book Four, they are once again writing out the number, as they did with Book One, in the title; and only the person’s name, to which it was issued, along with their address and signature are on the books.  By now, Dora has devised a very clever way of keeping all the coupons attached, which they must be, in order to be valid, and still separated by categories.  There are three paperclips on each of the two copies of Book Four – I must add that they are round clips, some showing signs of rust, but the design, of the clip, is new to me. I have never seen this type of paper clip; there are also two more traditional, elongated looking clips, and one square paper clip. 

The man, in New York, also sent me 7 additional coupons, for meat, fats, fish, and cheese; a case, with the Ration Books, embossed in gold letters, made of a material which I can not, as of yet, identify, and a newspaper article announcing the local rationing boards point values for meat – it was folded in half, and neatly fit into the case. 

There is so much in front of me, and I am grateful that Dora’s son did not throw out these wonderful pieces of history; which I am sure he would have, had there not been an eBay – another wonder of the Internet which I so love.  One can read about history, which I do; but there is something transforming about being able to hold history, in your own hands.  The fact that I am able to flip through these books, to glean information not only about the people to whom they were issued, but the process and even the materials which they are made of, is exhilarating!

Another one of the thrills from eBay is the arrival of the package.  There is great excitement and anticipation as you cut away paper and tape, and unwind bubble wrap, looking for the prized contents of the envelope or box – I have even received beautiful hand written notes, on homemade stationary, thanking me for my purchase – I am keeping them, at least for a bit.  Once your purchase is unwrapped, you must decide what to do with Dora and Perry’s war ration books?  I do have an idea.

For now, I will keep them in the World War II section of my library, but this week, I spoke with my 17 year old niece, Hannah, who will be graduating from high school, in a few weeks.  As we chatted about her future plans for college and where she would like to travel, she specifically mentioned going to Pearl Harbor, because she loves World War II.  I can not take credit for that interest.  Her paternal grandmother did give her an American Girl doll, Molly, when Hannah was very young.  (Molly is the doll from World War II who comes with books and accessories, as does the entire collection.) Perhaps Molly began Hannah’s interest in World War II?  Nevertheless, as I heard Hannah speaking, I thought to myself, I suppose one day I shall pass Dora and Perry’s books on to Hannah. The ration books will then be coming from me, with my additional history added to their story, and it will be up to Hannah to decide what to do with them – I do hope that if she decides not to keep them, she will put them back on eBay or send them on to the Smithsonian. 

The eighteen minutes have passed and yes I have won!  I can now look forward to the arrival of three demitasse cups and saucers by Limoges.  They too were supposedly found when cleaning out a house, a grandmothers’ this time.  This seller thinks they are from the World Fair, in Paris, in 1900.  As previously noted, on these pages, I like old junk.  I come by my interest naturally and I think genetically.  My Mother gave us a love for old things, and my Father a love for old facts.  Thus an old thing with an old story, and I am in heaven – that is all for now.

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