I know I promised to write today about the unfriendliest country I’ve ever been to, but I think if it's all right I’m going to postpone that ‘til tomorrow.
Because as this past Saturday, June 28, 2014, was the 100-year anniversary of the murder that detonated World War I, there was a lot of commentary over the weekend on the devastating repercussions of that event, how they played out a hundred years ago and how they continue to play out on the map of our world to this day. And so I thought I'd add my commentary as well.
I know some wars are easier to understand than others; World War II, for example: very much a war of actions bringing on equal and opposite reactions. But I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around World War I.
I mean, the heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungarian Empire is murdered in Serbia by a youngster with a hand gun so Russia reacts to the shooting by declaring war on its former buddy Germany, which reacts to Russia by invading Belgium and France?
I know there were also treaties and alliances and failed diplomacy and political and regional and historical conflicts in play, but even when it's laid out for me I have a hard time connecting the dots: one man kill another and the whole world ends up in flames?
And so I have a hard time seeing the historical context; when I think of World War I all I can see are images from a horror movie.
I see a patrol of young British soldiers tentatively making their way through a dark, burned-out French forest , when through the fog bursts a unit of German flame-throwers in long coats, helmets and gas masks, fuel cannisters of liquid fuel strapped to their backs, looking to the screaming terrified soldiers like fire-shooting demons from hell.
I see a group of French soldiers making their way east when through the smoke of the cannons creeps a different kind of smoke with a greenish tint. Thinking this is some smoke screen set off by the enemy to distract them, the French soldiers rush into the deadly chlorine gas never living to learn that they were the first victims of gas warfare.
I see American soldiers who've been standing for days in trenches ankle-deep in filthy stagnant water with nowhere to move suddenly hearing the bell that signifies a mustard gas attack and seeing the yellow-brown cloud coming at them, closer, closer, closer...
I see a unit of German soldiers watching, terrified, as a British armoured tank, the first they've ever seen, coming at them like some unstoppable mechanical monster.
I see surreal destroyed landscapes, No Man's land, trenches and barbed wired and bodies and smoke and fire and poisoned air.
And I see the Douaumont Ossuary, a 150-foot high bullet-shaped silo at Douaumont, France, which is filled with the bones of 130,000 unknown French and German soldiers who fell at the battle of Verdun.
I know that weapons are invented to use by armies to fight wars. But to me there's just something particularly barbaric about the weapons of World War I. Flame-throwers. Poisoned Gas.
Do you ever wonder what kind of human beings would spend their God-given gifts thinking up and creating such things?
Tom and I visited the Douaumont Ossuary in fall of 1975 when we toured the World War I and World War II battlefields of France.
I was in Kroger's the other day in the self-check-out lane cooling my heels while I waited for the cashier to come over and reason with my machine, which was refusing to let me scan my cantaloupe.
In fact there must have been a wave of recalcitrance running through the Kroger scanner machine community because it seemed that everyone's machine was fritzing.
While I waited my turn I watched the hassled check-out attendant, a young lady probably in her late 20's who's worked at Kroger's for years, zip from customer to customer, giving each machine a zap from her machine-gun to get it going again.
One customer, though, a small woman, obviously a foreigner, dressed in a long black hijab veil and dress, seemed to be having a bigger problem. I'm not sure what her problem was, but she was not happy.
She appeared to be scolding the young attendant while the attendant studied the woman's sales receipt. The attendant then pointed to the receipt and began explaining something to the woman, but the woman wasn't having it.
"What's the matter with your head?" I heard the woman bark at the girl, "are you stupid?"
"I'm just trying to help you understand it," the girl replied meekly, as she began loading the woman's bags into her cart for her.
The woman threw up her hands. "Ah, you're wasting my time!" Then she stood there, arms crossed, while the attendant, who looked close to tears, finished loading her cart for her. The woman then grabbed her cart and whisked out of the store without a thank-you. That's when the thought hit me:
There goes a woman who's used to having servants and that's how she treats them and she thinks of this supermarket attendant as her servant.
I felt the impulse to abandon my groceries and run out of the store after the woman, tell her she needed to go back and apologize to the girl and that in this country we don't treat our service people that way.
Fortunately I squashed the urge. I don't think it would have been a good move.
But I did tell the girl, when she finally made it over to de-fritz my machine, that I was sorry about how that woman had treated her, that the woman had no call to behave that way, I told the girl that she was the last person who should be treated that way because she was always so nice and helpful and friendly to the customers and that we all really did appreciate her. I told her I was going to go over and tell her manager how well she handled that mean customer. And I did.
After I left Krogers I thought about , as I think about from time to time, how friendly and helpful service people in this country almost always are. The sales clerk in the Dollar Tree is as friendly and helpful as the sale clerk at Nordstroms. The server behind the counter at McDonald's is as friendly as the server in the priciest four-star restaurant. The supermarket worker. The greeter at Walmart. The gas station cashier. Of course there is the odd exception once in a while, but I'd say that as a rule everyone who waits on you is friendly and helpful, even though they're on their feet and have to be dealing with the public all day long.
Like this friendly sushi chef at the Giant Eagle Deli who helped me decide what kind of sushi I wanted then let my friend Marianne take a photo for my blog.
Or this young bartender working the Saturday night shift O'Charley's who chatted with me about his three kids.
Maybe the fact that our service workers are so friendly is an extension of the friendliness of Americans in general. Despite all our differences we truly are a congenial people. In fact, of the three countries I've lived in and the over half a dozen more I've been a tourist in*, America remains for me the friendliest country of them all.
Would you like to know which country, from my experience, is the unfriendliest of them all?
I bet you'll never guess!
I'll tell you on Monday!
Everyone have a wonderful weekend! ;)
*Lived in U.S., France and Germany
Been to Spain, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Nicaragua.
Yesterday during our weekly coffee and bagel assemblage we members of the Panera Posse fell to lamenting how awful the news seems to be these days. You open the newspaper or turn on the TV or online news and it's all crime, corruption, shootings, terrorists, floods, tornadoes, Iraq, Egypt, Congress, and a hundred other things to make you too scared or depressed to step off your front porch.
Somebody in the group suggested that we should all just put down our newspapers and turn off the news.
"Then turn on the radio, " I suggested
But alas, sometimes the conversational topics move at such a lively clip among the Posse that the window of opportunity for commentary can be small, and so yesterday I didn't get around to sharing with them why we should turn on the radio or to which radio station we should tune.
But that's okay, I'll share with you all now that:
1. We should all turn on the radio to divert and heal our minds from the effects of the news we just saw, and
2. To this end we should turn to our local rock station and listen to the songs. Or rather, more specifically, the song lyrics.
Because, if you listen closely to today’s rock and rap music, you'll hear some really funny lyrics. I'm not kidding. I believe that today's pop lyricists have taken on the public service of cheering us up by sticking a random funny line here and there into an otherwise serious song with the express purpose of making us make us laugh and ask, “Wait, did they really say that?”
For example, if you turn on our local Columbus pop station, 107.9, you’re likely to hear some of the following lyrics:
She’s a beast
I call her Karma
She’ll eat your heart out
Like Jeffrey Dahmer
"Dark Horse", Katy Perry and Juicy J
But you lied again,
Now you get to watch her leave out the window
Guess that's why they call it window pain
“Love The Way You Lie”, Eminem I’m staring at ya trying to figure out how you got in them jeans.
"21 Questions", 50 Cent
So let me get you in your birthday suit
It's time to bring out the big... big... big... big... BIG... BIG... balloons!
“Birthday”, Katy Perry
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
"Let It Go”, Idina Menzel
My OCD is conkin’ me in the head
“The Monster”, Eminem
I love you like a fat boy love cake
“21 questions” 50 Cent
In fact, The song “21 Questions” by 50 Cent is a veritable treasure trove of funny lyrics. There’s one passage where the rapper goes into a sort of a rogue Dr. Suess cadence:
Could you love me in a Bently?
Could you love me on a bus?
If I got locked up and sentenced to a quarter century
Could I count on you to be there to support me mentally?
And then there’s one more song I want to mention, though it’s slightly off-subject, called, “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo. As you may guess from it’s title, this song’s lyrics are for the most part obnoxious and annoying, a couple of examples being: “Got her saved in my phone under 'Big Booty'” and “Our conversations ain’t long but you know what is”.
Now you’re probably saying, so just don’t listen to it. But here’s my problem: Between each of the short verses of "Talk Dirty" there's this wonderful sort of Middle Eastern-klezmer-hip-hop fusion instrumental that I love. So in order to get to the good music I have to listen to the likes of "I don't speak the language but ya booty don't need no 'splainin'".
Oh well, at least it takes my mind off the news. ;)
Continued from yesterday...
I suppose the knowledge that the Columbus Gay Pride Parade was coming up was tucked away in some remote corner of my mind palace (as Sherlock Holmes would say). It just wasn't anywhere near the front door.
And if I hadn't skipped church for several weeks previous to the event (with nothing but stellar excuses for skipping, of course ) I would have known that the parade was last Saturday and that a group from Peace was going to march in support of gay rights.
Subsequently it came as a complete surprise last Saturday night when my daughter Theresa who was visiting for the weekend pulled up her Facebook page and showed me the photos of our pastor Doug Warburton and members of our congregation marching in the parade.
Pastor Doug Warburton, flashing a peace sign.
My initial reaction reaction was, "Oh my gosh, I'm so proud of them!"
And I was proud of them, not only for standing up for what they believed in, but for believing in what they believed in.
And for being on the right side of history.
I believe that history is always evolving away from oppression and in the direction of human rights, though it's a slow evolution borne of long struggles and much suffering.
I once heard a historian say that when a human rights struggle is history, when it's the indisputable law of the land and has become the status quo, then the majority will defend the law because they want to be on the side of the angels. But during the actual era of the struggle very few will get involved or take a public stand in support of their unjustly fellow treated fellow human beings.
But last Saturday the members of Peace did get involved and they did take a public stand.
Which is why now I not only love being a part of Peace, but I'm proud, as well.
I love my church, Peace Lutheran, or as we call it, appropriately, Peace.
-that we worship sitting on folding chairs in an auditorium that also serves as a community center and gym.*
- that beautiful, spirit-lifting music and singing is a fundamental part of our worship:
Our worship musicians
- that every Sunday service begins with an announcement of opportunities for community service.
- that the sign in our lobby reads, "The Heartbeat of Peace is Service."
-that community service is in fact the heartbeat of Peace.
- that our pastors, Kai Nilsen and Doug Warburton, preach: on kindness, tolerance and acceptance of one another; that we've been blessed to be a blessing to others; that righteousness is wrong and empathy is right; that none of us has our life together all the time and that the kindest words in the English language are "me, too"; that what matters to God isn't what we do on Sunday morning but how we treat each other every day of the week; that there over 1100 bible verses commanding us to care for the poor; that, as St Iraneus said over 1800 years ago, "The glory of God is a human being who is fully alive".
- that Peace offers a free community lunch every Sunday afternoon.
- that we have a yearly pet blessing to which even non-members come to have their pets blessed.
-that we minister to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the mentally disabled and those who've been hit by natural disasters,
-that Peace is only two blocks from my house so I can walk there.
-that I can be part of Peace.
But since this past weekend I now have a new feeling about Peace.
To Be Continued...
*Or there's a service in the church sanctuary for those who like their worship served up with pews, stained glass, and traditional church music.
Tommy and Theresa, as bad as me about the bird.
A continuing saga from last week...
By Saturday the bird was more nervous than ever.
It took only opening the front door - the inner door, not even the outer glass screen door - apparently she could hear the sound through the glass - for the bird to bolt the flower pot and take off for the highest branch in our big tree.
We decided to use only the back door but we were too much in the habit of opening the front door to remember until we'd see the bird zipping away to the tree.
One time while she was up in the tree I set up a folding chair on the porch next to the flower pot and stood on it, hoping to get a peek at what was going on in the nest. But even standing on the chair I couldn’t see into the flower pot so I grabbed my camera and reached it up over the pot, positioned it downwards and snapped. Here’s what I got:
I guessed that explained why the bird was now so wired and worried. I’d be.
I was, in fact, a little worried for the eggs left by themselves . I sat at the front window to watch and see if their mother would come back.
After a while she flew from the big tree in our yard to the small one across from our porch. She hopped from branch to branch, closer and closer, then when she was on the edge of the branch closest to the flower pot she lost her nerve and hopped back to a branch farther away. Then a few moments later she hopped forward again to the edge of closest branch, again lost her nerve, again hopped away. She repeated this advance-retreat several more times.
I knew exactly how the bird felt. I’d felt the same paralyzing fear myself a few times last year when I was hiking the mountains of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain and was faced with having to descend a treacherously steep rocky path or cross a running stream on narrow unsteady stones. (If interested, see “Tighten Your Boots”, www.pattiliszkay.weebly.com ).
Finally the bird found the courage to fly across the branch to the flower pot where she perched for a few moments on the hanger.
See her perched on the upper right side of the hanger?
But instead of hopping back into the nest with her eggs she flew off again to a high branch in the big tree.
Now I was afraid that maybe when I’d hovered over the nest to take my picture I’d left my scent. Maybe the smell of me had driven her away from her eggs for good.
From my window I tried to see where she was, but she must have been too high up in the tree.
That’s when I started talking to that mama bird. Or rather, thinking to her.
See, I remembered that I knew someone whose pet bird had flown out an open window. This person loved their bird and so contacted a - okay, this sounds weird, I know – but the person contacted a pet psychic who was endeavouring to find the bird and then “think” it back home. Or something like that.
I don’t know whether that person’s bird came back, but I figured that since there are people out there who make a living thinking to animals – maybe it’s related to praying, who knows? - maybe there’s something to it. Or not. What harm would it do?
Anyway, in my mind I asked the mother bird to come back to her nest. I told her that no one would hurt her here, that we cared about her and her eggs, that I was a mother, too, and knew how much she cared about her babies. I told her that I understood her fear and I told her how I’d once been so afraid to cross a stream that somebody had to come over and grab my arm and drag me across (see “Tighten Your Boots” October 24, 2013 post).
I sat thinking the bird back to her nest, which I did more because it felt good to do than because I believed it would work, though after a few minutes she did return to the tree close to the porch, did her advance-and-retreat a few times then finally flew to flower pot and hopped back into her nest. For which I sent out a thought of gratitude.
Maybe it’s crazy that I’d get so involved with a little mama bird and her eggs; though when I think of the lengths I’ve gone through for all the stray animals my children have brought home over the years –including the rabbits that used to live in our family room - it’s probably not too surprising.
On the other hand, it says in Luke, 12:6-7:
“Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? And yet the Father watches over every one of them.”
So I figure at least I’m in good company.
1. The other night Tommy and I were watching "World War Z".
(Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet seen the movie and are planning to.)
My husband Tom walked into the room during the scene just after the hordes of enraged zombies have scaled the 100-foot-high wall built around Jerusalem and are pouring into the crowded streets, attacking the fleeing terrified citizens and overpowering the soldiers.
He thought we were watching the news. He thought it was footage of Iraq.
We told him no, it was just a movie.
Then he said, "But it's no different from what's going on in Iraq. It might as well be a zombie attack going on over there because stopping those militants will be like trying to stop an army of zombies.”
I guess time will tell whether Tom is right.
2. The bird came back to her nest in the flower pot after all (see yesterday's blog). But now the porch activity has her so spooked that every time someone walks up our front steps or opens the front door she flies away out of the pot and up into our front yard tree.
Which begs the question: why didn't the bird build her nest high up in the safe tree in the first place?
Maybe the fancy flower pot looked classier and the location more private and desirable than the plain old tree where all the other birds live along with the neighborhood squirrels and chipmunks.
So she went and built this upscale nest away from the tree where everybirdy else built and now she jumps out of her feathers every time she hears a noise. Subsequently she's spending more time in the tree than in the flower pot, I feel like I have to start using the backdoor, and I still can't water the flowers. I mean, I could, but, you know, I can't. Dumb bird.
I wanted a flower pot so I bought one and and hung it up high from a hook attached to the eaves over my front porch.
Every other day or so I reach up and jiggle the pot to get it off the hook then I set it down on the porch to water the flowers.
But the other day after I'd set the pot on the porch I saw that a bird had built a beautiful little nest right in the middle of the flowers.
I carefully returned the flower pot/bird home to its hook, trying not to jiggle it any more than necessary.
Now I don't have the heart to water the flowers for fear of drowning the bird's nest. But on the other hand, if I don't water the flowers they'll die.
But I've heard that when a bird's nest is disturbed the bird won't return to it, and I figure it's possible that when I jiggled the pot loose from the hook and lowered to the ground I disturbed the nest enough to ruin it for the bird.
Or might the bird return to the nest after all and lay its eggs? The flower pot hangs too high for me to check inside without first jiggling it loose and setting it on the ground, which would doubtless cause the bird, if it did return, to fly away and abandon its eggs for good. Then, of course, I'd be able to save the flowers but the baby birds would die.
So I could not water the flowers for fear of hurting the birds if they happened to be in the nest. But if I don't water the flowers and the bird's nest was already ruined then the flowers would die for nothing.
So at this point whatever course of action I decide on next, either the flowers, birds nest, or both will be ruined.
I had the best intentions when I bought that flower pot and attached it to my house. But if I'd never bought it in the first place then it wouldn't be my responsibility to keep the flowers alive and the bird would surely have found somewhere else to build its nest and I wouldn't be sitting here wondering what to do next.
I guess the moral is, think it through before you buy yourself a flower pot. Or a war in the Middle East.
So now I'm kind of stuck on this idea of Do-Over Prom. I do think it's going to take off. As Claire sighed after her first do-over prom a couple of weeks ago: "We just don't have enough dances."
If nothing else, Do-over Prom could help fill the void.
But, say, do any of you have a fantasy job? A job that you don't seriously see yourself doing, but one that it's just fun to imagine yourself doing?
For example, my daughter Maria, who co-owns and manages with her husband Justin a Los Angeles commercial real estate management company, JRealty, says her fantasy job is to be a sound-mixer in a recording studio. My son Tommy, a program manager in pediatric cancer research at Nationwide Children's Hospital, has the fantasy job of playing guitar in a band (though I'm not sure this technically counts as a fantasy since he does sometimes play in our band at Peace Church). The fantasy job of my sister Romaine, a quality assurance engineer in the video computing field, is to be an artist/counselor located on the beach of a tropical island.
And me, a piano teacher, my fantasy job up until now has been that of a wedding designer for big gala weddings where money's no object.
But I think I've just switched fantasy jobs. I think my new fantasy job is Do-over Prom Planner with my own business, Do-Over Prom Productions Inc.
Over and above providing the standard services like venue, themed decorations, food and the DJ, here are a few of the options I would offer as part of my Do-over Prom Premium Package:
1. Producing and directing the do-over promposal*, all costumes, props and video included.
2. A Do-over Prom dating site. You could meet a person and have a date for Do-over at the same time. All your friends who came to Do-over could also weigh in on your date.
3. A nursery and play area where the kids can stay while you're at do-over prom. Each prom-goer would be provided with a baby monitor that they could keep checking all evening.
4. Prom Drama. This would be a performance-art activity that any of the do-over prom goers could participate in; it would involve the participants breaking into spontaneous little prom-themed dramas for the entertainment of all throughout the course of the evening. Among the available prom drama skit titles would be:
-"Meet Me In The Ladies' Room, B**ch."
-"Our Prom King Was A Queen."
- "She Twerked Her Way Into My Boyfriend's Heart."
- "Of Course She Dumped You, Dude, Your Promposal Sucked".
- "They Told Me The Punch Was Spiked So I Drank It And Acted All Slutty Then Found Out It Wasn't Spiked After All".
- "I Should Never Have Ordered The Olive Garden Marinara Sauce In This White Tux".
- "I Got The 'Had To Take My Friend's Sister To Prom' Blues." (That's what Z had when he had to take me to my prom. See May 16 post).
Most of the above drama titles are based on true prom events.
That's about all the Do-over Prom ideas I've come up with so far for my Do-over Prom package. Can you think of any other good ones? Or maybe ideas for your own fantasy job? 8)
*If you don't know what a promposal is, please see the May 15 post.
PS - I'm also on twitter now if you'd like to follow. 8)
I'd never heard of Adult Prom - or as I want to officially christen it, Do-Over Prom - before Claire told me about it (see yesterday's post). But does it not seem like a great idea, one that 's going to just take off and go viral and be going on everywhere come prom season? And to Josh, who organized the much-enjoyed "Enchantment Under The Sea", and to all of you who were part of that night I say remember that you were among the Lockport, Illinois pioneers of this soon-to- be-trending trend.
Or is it already trending and I just haven't heard about it?
So I googled and wikipedia'd "adult prom" to see if it was already out there and I just wasn't in the loop.
According to Wikipedia:
"(Adult proms) have become increasingly common, especially in the United States, and usually are hosted as fundraisers for charities."
Which is good. Fun with a purpose.
I scrolled down and found a few more search results, which suggests that Do-over Prom is actually out there, but not the big thing that I think it's going to become.
From what I could find on the subject, it appears that there are presently two categories of of adult prom: the first, with a small enough presence to be classified as more of a sub-genre, is presented as a more serious-minded event, a chance to re-live the magic of that first prom or experience the magic of the prom you never attended but as you would have liked it to be had you attended, a glittery, sparkly, romantic formal evening with the love of your life. In other words, just like a high school prom but for grown-ups. And you don't have to hide a flask under your tux because there's an open bar. This sub-genre of the do-over should, by rights, continued to be called Adult Prom so as to distinguish it from the larger category of do-overs I came across.
This major category of do-overs, whether for charity or just-for-fun, shared a common trait. All had to them a tongue-in-cheekiness, a spirit of levity and humor.
Some of the do-overs I found on line were more parodies at heart, such as one where the the dress requirement was the cheesiest prom attire one could put together, or another where there were chaperones telling the dancers to dance closer together. And then there was the spiked "prom punch" that appears to be standard-issue at all do-overs.
But I think the real appeal of the Do-Over Prom is its implicit humor of self-awareness; of looking back and smiling at our younger selves and at how important to us were such things as prom, how much emotion we set into one evening, how having a bad or disappointing prom experience could feel like the end of the world, (see my May 16 post about my bad prom), how missing your prom could be devastating, and then how soon it didn't matter anymore because you'd grown up and gotten on with your life.
And I think that at this point, the point where whatever stings and arrows we might have endured during our school years don't matter any more, when we can accept that all the experiences of our youth, good and bad, have gone into the mix of making us into who we are, then we're ready for our do-over prom.
Hopefully we're all ready.
'Cause I think it's on its way. ;)
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTPN7NYY
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.