Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Rules of Compassion

When I boarded the subway this morning, one entire bench was taken up by a rather rough looking guy stretched out sound asleep. Now, you must understand how highly prized and fought over these seats are, especially during rush hour (which in New York runs roughly from 5am to, er, 5am).

I've witnessed some pretty scary battles over subway seats before, so the fact that this guy was shutting 4 or 5 people out of a place to park their bums was cheeky (no pun intended), indeed. But there he was. Snoring away. He was a big feller, too, so not even one person could have squeezed into part of the seat.

I found a seat right off, so he didn't cost me a place of comfort. But as I watched him (sleeping) - and the reactions of others as they crowded onto the train - I found myself wondering why I didn't feel any compassion towards they guy. Who knows what caused him to have to sleep on the subway? What was it about his past or current life left him with no place to bed down except a hard bench on a noisy train? Was he just a lazy sum'beach or had he worked hard all night and just didn't have money to sleep anywhere else?

But I didn't dwell on those speculations. I was too busy trying to sort out why his being there irritated me so much. After all, I am in the compassion business, right? Do I only feel for the nameless hordes of folks "out there"? Why wouldn't the same feeling kick in when I'm confronted up-close-and-personal with someone who might need compassion? How do I take more notice of what's going on right in front of my face in the same way I do of Sudanese refugees or children with AIDS in South Africa?

Am I missing the point? Are there any rules of compassion?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Toughest Exercise Routine

I spent the day in one of those all-day, hard-working meetings. It went pretty well, considering that the last few gatherings of the group have almost resulted in bloodshed (figuratively speaking). Still, after it was all over, I was shatteringly tired.

"The meeting went well," a co-worker said, "Why are you so tired?"

"Well," sez I, "It takes all my energy and muscle-groups to keep my mouth shut."

Yup. I bet I burned off hundreds of calories just making sure my jaw wasn't flapping or my throat making speech-like sounds at inappropriate (or even appropriate) times. I mean, it was solid 8-hour rigorous exercise session. Surely it was the equivalent of several hours on a StairMaster.

My point is that some of the most tiring, draining things in life don't count as physical exercise. You know. The really hard stuff.

. . . Like keeping all those marbles (aka, "must-do's") from sliding off the table of life. (Builds strength in the arms, right?)

. . . Like withstanding a session of tongue-lashing or insult-hurling. (All that bobbing, weaving, ducking - just like 10 rounds in the ring with a prize-fighter.)

. . . Like sitting through a blindingly boring speech. (Do repeated hammer-blows to the head burn calories or just turn your brain to mush?)

. . . And, yes, like keeping my mouth shut.

I'm feelin' the burn just thinking about those things.

Now, excuse me while I take an early bath, then hit the bed with a great book (The Glass Castle, thank you very much Cuz). I've run the marathon today.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Watch This Space

I did it. I joined WeightWatchers yesterday. A group meets here at the Episcopal Church Center, and rumor has it they have an uproarious time, so that's why I joined. I like uproarious groups. And if I lose a few pounds? Well, no complaint. Especially when I saw how much I weighed. Yikes!

Confession: I don't own a scale. "No hock, Sherlock," I hear you saying out there. Anyway, why have a scale? It only brings sorrow and depression. I just look at the way my clothes fit (or not) or how tiny (or big) a space I take up on a subway seat, when I get one. So yeah, actually seeing a number on that scale yesterday was a sad, sad thing.

But really. The main reason I joined was because I wanted a little more fun in my life. Honestly.

So watch this space, at least the amount I fill up in the world. Let's hope it shrinks a just little bit. Now excuse me while I try to sort out how many points a hot fudge sundae has.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Remembering Suzanne Pleshette: Best Sitcom Finale Ever

Well, we lost another one. Suzanne Pleshette died over the weekend, she of Rome Adventure, The Birds, and best of all "The Bob Newhart Show." What a dame! I thought it was cool that she was briefly married to Troy Donahue in her young, hot days but ended up with good old Tom Posten at the end. (Tom Posten died last year, God rest his hilarious soul.)

Both Pleshette and Posten had roles in "The Bob Newhart Show," and Posten went on to become a regular on "Newhart," as well. Though I liked the first show better than the second, I have to admit that the finale of "Newhart" was the best sitcom finale ever. Better than the finale of "M*A*S*H" (which was way too serious). Way, way better than the finale of "Friends." Way, way, way better than the "Seinfeld" finale, which was just awful.

But in that last scene of "Newhart" when Bob wakes up in bed with Emily (Pleshette) in the old Bob Newhart Show's Chicago apartment - "it was all a dream!" - completely hilarious! Newhart and Pleshette pulled it off beautifully. What a total surprise!

Here's to you, Suzanne Pleshette, aka Emily Hartley. Thanks for a great body of work, especially your part in the best sitcom finale of all time.

(Second best sitcom finale? Why, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," of course. Everyone gets fired but Ted. Ha! "It's a long way to Tipperary. It's a long way to go . . . ")

Friday, January 18, 2008

Low Profile

I'm keeping one right now. Work is crazy-busy since that the cats are out of the bag regarding who's going, who's staying, and where we go from here. My workload has quadrupled with my new position. I suspect the salary won't grow exponentially, however. Still, I have a job. No complaints, my friends. Not now, anyway.

The cough's almost gone, but I'm still spending the dark winter evenings with my nose in a book or watching repeats of Law & Order, Law & Order SVU, Law & Order Criminal Intent, Law & Order Sushi On A Roll, and so forth. When I get L&O Fatigue, I grab one of the books on the stack and go to it. Almost finished with The Emperor's Children. My copy of The Glass Castle came in the other day, so that's next up. It looks like a page-turner.

And speaking of books, I got a sort of chain letter thing from Lil Sis the other day, but this one I'm going for. (I'm a notorious chain-letter-email breaker, just so you know.) Here's how it works: You send one already-read old book to the person listed on the letter (not the sender), then send 6 letters out and put the name/address of the person who sent it to you on the letter you send out so that those folks will send them a book. It's really not as confusing as I've described it.

Anyway, the theory is that eventually I should get 36 books coming my way. Of course, they won't be of my choosing, but it should be interesting to see: A) what books are sent, and B) where they come from. That is - of course - if C) anybody sends me anything. So heads up to 6 of you out there - you'll be getting Sis's letter from me in a few days. I've already sent them out. Dropped a Katie Fforde book (good airplane/bath reading) to the person as per instructions. We'll see . . .

By the way, I've been lurking around everyone else's blogs but have kept my comments to myself. I've grown blog-comment-lazy, I guess. Things will re-energize soon, I know.

I'm counting down to the 3-day weekend. Aaaaaaaaaaah!

Friday, January 11, 2008

That was the week that was

Remember the classic television show That Was The Week That Was? I never saw the original British version, though I do have some of its sketches on a comedy album (remember those big black vinyl disks?) I picked up when I was living in England. I do, however, remember watching the American version, which aired in the early 1960's. Yes, I'm that old.

Anyway, I thought of the program as I looked back over the week. Here's my not very David Frost-y version of the TW3 theme song:

That was the week that was:
It started with a cough
(And stuffy nose and cloggy lungs)
And – alas - has yet to wear off.

That was the week that was:
I slogged it out at work.
With tasks piled high and tensions rife,
My like looked like soleil du cirque.

That was the week that was:
I tried to follow the news.
Hillary’s up, Britney’s down, Bush is where?
Ooh, pass the booze.

That was the week that was:
At least it ended well.
The reorganization has a place for me
So I still have a job, which is swell.

That was the week that was:
What will the next one bring?
As long as I get rid of this *@#*-ing cough,
I can handle anything.

How memorable was your week?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bad Cold/Good Books

I'm starting the year off with a big bad cold. It's certainly survivable, but the hacking cough is getting to me. All sorts of unpleasantness have settled in my lungs for the long-haul, it seems. Yes, I'm ingesting vast quantities of orange juice, hot tea, chicken soup, and Musinex - all the non-prescription remedies the law'll allow - but to no avail.

This darn cough is driving me crazy. Worse at night, or course. My head aches from all the coughing. I haven't blown out an eardrum yet (oh, yeah, I did that some years back during a cough-attack), but I've come close. Wonder if an afternoon in an old-fashioned steam room would help?

There is a good side to this, however. Although I'm not able to sleep, I am able to read, and I got a load of new books for Christmas that have kept me in relatively good-humor throughout my cough-a-thon. Friend Carey gave me The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Satterfield which I tore through at a rapid pace. Good story. I'm a sucker for anything that involves an antiquarian bookstore.

After Tale, I decided to stay in England with Charles Todd's A Long Shadow, featuring the post-WWI sleuth, Inspector Ian Rutledge. The Todd mysteries are easy reads for me, WWI aficionado that I am. Todd is actual the nom-de-plume of a mother-son writing team. Can't imagine how that works. Oh, well. It does.

Now I've moved back to this side of the pond with The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud. Just got into it last night, so I can't make much of judgment yet. It's a different kettle of fish from the two cozy English mysteries. Interesting writing and story threads. And a good old Anne Tyler is waiting after that. (Thanks for the Borders gift card, Nephew!)

So, even though I'm starting the year with a bad cold, I have some good books to help me make it through the - cough! cough! - night.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Twilight Zone-a-Rama

Was anyone else glued to SciFi's Twilight Zone Marathon over New Year's? I just couldn't stop watching. "One more episode, and then I'll turn it off," I'd say. But, nope. Couldn't do it.

I guess you could write it off as nostalgia - "Ooh! I saw that one at Debbie Goff's slumber party!" - but it's more than that, I think. Great stories. Tight writing by the likes of Rod Serling (natch), Ray Bradbury, Earl Hamner. Stars and future-stars aplenty.

The weirdness was in the tales themselves. And yeah, there was some hokey make-up for some of the space monsters and that odd thing outside the airplane window that freaked out William Shatner, but most of the stories didn't involve special effects of any kind. Just little twists in reality. Nothing was what it appeared to be on the surface. And when the truth was revealed, you'd smack your head and say, "Oh, man! I never saw that coming!" C'mon. You know you fell for "To Serve Man" just like the rest of us did.

Most of the episodes are text-book Cold War fables. And the ones about space were written and performed during the height of the Space-Race, which gives them an interesting perspective. The show says so much about the socio-political climate of the late 50's/early 60's. The fallout shelters. The "aliens" next door. Time travel (backward and forward). And those pesky evil toys - telephones, dolls, ventriloquist dummies.

Yes, but what impact does Twilight Zone have on our lives today? Well, I don't know about you, but I always look for that monster on the airplane wing every time I fly. And I never answer toy telephones. Oooh.

My Quadrennial Knicker-Wad

After extolling to Elsie the other day about how I try to stay away from politics on this blog, I just have to post about the Iowa Caucus-New Hampshire Primary silliness that happens every four years. Granted, once they're over, I forget about 'em until the next national election; then I get steamed up all over again.

Iowa? New Hampshire? What? Here are two states that don't have (m)any people in them, and yet, candidates and the media fall all over themselves trying to get a handful of folks to commit one way or another. By the time we emerge from New Hampshire, the field of candidates has been culled, winners declared, money committed - all on the say-so of a couple a hundred thousand people. Shoot, there are that many people sitting on any given block or two of Manhattan.

But do folks in - oh, I don't know, pick a metropolitan area - Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, or San Diego get to put in their 2-cents' worth on who the nominees will be? Not until later in the game, and by then there ain't much of a choice. Is it just me, or does the tail seem to be wagging the dog, here?

With all due respect to the fine upstanding folks in Iowa and New Hampshire, it's time to move over and let other regions get first crack at winnowing the presidential candidate field. I no longer buy the rationale of rural folk making major political decisions for the other 90% of the country. (Same goes for the antiquated excuses for the Electoral College.)

Is anyone out there brave enough to change this absurd system?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Elsie and Shorty Get S'mac'd for New Year's

New York City was the scene of a New Year’s S’mac Down, as Elsie and Shorty met up for lunch at Sarita’s Mac ‘n Cheese in the East Village. It was a gloomy old day, but two blog friends meeting for the first time brightened things up considerably.

First thing you should know: we talked about all of ya’. Yeah, we did. Were your ears burning? It was all good stuff, not to worry.

Over our Manchego (Elsie) and Cajun (Shorty) macaroni and cheese dishes, we got to know each other the old fashioned way – face-to-face. Don’t we look adorable?

And generous Elsie fulfilled one of my Christmas wishes by giving me – wait for it – a brand new Etch-a-Sketch! Woo-hoo! I’ve been doodling on it ever since I got home. I suspect it will cut into my blogging time. Hmm. Ooh! And also, Elsie presented my with a lovely bottle of Rhode Island Red.

Could a gal have a better New Year’s Day than that? Mac-and-cheese, Etch-a-Sketch, a bottle of red, and finally getting to meet Elsie. Perfect!