Making Do

I had the opportunity to interview Dave Rosner tonight. He’s a fascinating guy with a lot of depth, a great story and he’s seriously funny. If you don’t know who Dave is, go here. He’s a comedian, a Marine, an observant Jew, a Conservative, a whole bundle of contradictions and he’s just great to talk to. It’s such a pain to have to write 400 words about someone for whom the 400 words encompasses only a fraction of the story.

It’s been a rough couple of days as I have been dealing with Scoop the Wonderdog’s inevitable slide. He’s gotten worse, but he is not yet at the end. It’s coming, of course, but to put him down right now is to put down a dog who, while his life has changed, is not yet suffering so badly that it warrants euthanasia. We’re close to that–closer even than we were two weeks ago. But we’re not there yet. If I had to put a time on it, I would say that he won’t see Christmas, but I don’t know.

I also vacillate between feeling utter grief and sadness, so much so that it’s nearly uncontrollable, and being at peace with it. It’s not enough just to grieve Scoop for me. I’ve been spending a good deal of time with him, just talking to him and petting him. He seems to appreciate that. He seems to know–if nothing else, he knows he doesn’t feel like himself anymore. He wonders why, but accepts it as whatever it is to a dog, aging, sickness, both. What do you do when you’re about to lose your friend and family member and there’s nothing you can do to stop it?

No, it really isn’t like losing a person–not at all. But it is a grief, a hole in my life that will always leave a small scar. Scoop will be succeeded by another dog, no question. And the new dog may be spectacular. But he won’t be Scoop.

And as Forrest Gump said, “that’s all I have to say about that…”

Went out to one of the several new restaurants in town this evening called ‘Lure.” It’s a fish place and it really is quite good. It wasn’t terribly expensive and the fish was fresh and tasty. We were there with our friends the Davises and they too enjoyed the meal. It’s nice to go out in the middle of the week with people you know. It’s good to have adult conversation and good food. Does that go without saying?

I ate Scottish salmon prepared simply on the grill with lemon and butter. It came with veggies and a Caesar salad. All was fresh and delicious, the salmon cooked so perfectly, I can only remember one other cooked so well and that was on our honeymoon in Alaska in 1994. We got to go to a salmon cookout with an open alderwood grill and the fish had been caught that day. Wow, was that good. And yes, this rivaled, though did not match that.

I won’t write about my latest focus much–that focus is watching as Europe goes hell bent for cataclysm with the collapse of the Euro-economy and who knows where the next fight will be? One is coming, though. It’s in the air.

Well, gentles, it’s off to other deadlines and writings. I bid you all a good evening and wish you a long winter’s nap.

Onward.

Decoration Day

At the Storer mansion…

This stuff sits in the rafters of the garage where it gathers all manner of debris for about 11 months out of the year.

Peanut, Aunt Laurie and friend putting on the ornaments.

sAUNTa Laurie and Reindeer Lucy. As you might imagine, the antlers weren't a big hit with the brown dog.

The girls in the living room, warm fire in the fireplace and the Christmas tree up. A good day.

From Our family…to yours…

The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe smoulders and slow burns better than just about any actor working, past or present. It is for this reason that whatever movie he makes, I go and see it. Robin Hood got panned, but I saw it and loved it. I thought it was a fine prequel to the original story and it was Crowe at his smouldering finest. Until now.

The Next Three Days is a suspense thriller meant to both engage and intrigue the audience and it succeeds. Crowe plays John Brennan, a community college English teacher married to Lara, played by Elizabeth Banks, a sometimes abrasive business woman. Their son Luke is the center of their world and the tight writing and dialogue depicts a woman who is truly in love with her family, if somewhat jaded by the world around her.

It is for this reason that when the police come calling and arrest Lara on suspicion of the murder of her boss, the audience is left wondering not whether it is possible that Lara did it, but why. She’s contentious, but loving–jaded, but honest and her arrest and imprisonment breaks Luke’s will. At 6 years old, he’s left defending his mother against slanders and slurs about which he is uncertain and while dad (Crowe) tries to help, he is lost in another world.

Paul Haggis wrote and directed the film and it is his writing that stands out. Haggis turns a mean hand at un-cliched and simple dialogue, allowing character to shine through. There is, of course, some suspension of disbelief as Crowe’s character thrusts himself into the violent world of drug and illegal document trading and gets the upper hand, just barely, on a couple of meth lab operators. It is a moment that, perhaps, could have been dropped from the story, but it’s not altogether an outlier.

Several sequences show Professor Brennan teaching Don Quixote and discussing its meaning with students. In those sequences, the audience is treated not to a teacher who’s rote knowledge of a text is on display, but of one who is visibly moved by the book which is about living in an alternate reality, about choosing one’s own path, one’s own destiny. After those sequences, Crowe’s Brennan makes his choice. This is when Crowe’s slow burn is at its finest. He must at once balance his tender and loving care of his young son with the fierce determination to not just exonerate his wife, but to set her free.

The film is about choices and at once descending into the reality of the present while choosing to live in an alternate reality of the future. “This will not be your life, I promise,” Crowe’s Brennan tells Lara. “I know you and I promise you this will not be your life.” With Herculean effort, then, Crowe makes critical and life-changing decisions to save Lara. But its her simple and silent moment of touching his hand that helps him make the most critical decision of all in the film-the one that will not only save their lives, but give them meaning as well by saving Luke.

The film is taut and superlative. The camera is close to all of the characters, even lingering for moments on secondary ones like Nicole, a pretty single mom who gets to know Crowe’s character while Lara is in prison, or Crowe’s on-screen father played by Brian Dennehy, who’s few lines in the film portray a strained, though not un-affectionate relationship with his son.

The police officers, who could have been portrayed as buffoons and second-guessers, are people with character, nuance and compassion. They never once fall into the cliche of big city cops who crack wise and “fight the system.” It is the police, in fact, who provide detail at the end of the film that allow the audience to believe in the alternate reality that Crowe’s character so desperately seeks.

A dreck filled Holiday

Full blown ear infection, cold, sniffles, cough, the works. No fever–thank God. But feeling punk. First time in a year. It’s been a great weekend. Dad, Joanne, Doug and his fiance, Katie, Katie’s parents, Sue and Aunt Laurie’s brother Herb and his brother-in-law, Chris-all here for dinner. Good times.

Had Thanksgiving dinner part two tonight. I made the requisite turkey sandwich with mayo, cranberry, lettuce, stuffing–all on rye. It was astoundingly good. Worth it. Took a catnap just before dinner-wrought by the dreck, I’m sure–and now, watching Wizard of Oz with Peanut.

Dad, Joanne and my pal Shawn saw The Next Three Days today. What a great film. I’ll review it tomorrow in full. A very fine movie, well worth seeing.

Scoop the wonderdog is fading. He’s had a tough weekend and appears to be suffering somewhat. These things, combined with a genuine bout with the dreck, have left me rather wordless. I have not much left to say.

Good weekend to all.

On Politics and Palin

I’d posted an open letter to Sarah Palin here the other night, but I took it down; not because of anything I wasn’t happy with, not because I didn’t believe every word of it. I did so because I felt that I didn’t want to go political just now. But, I think I’ll put the gist of it here because I’ve been thinking about what I said and I still agree with it.

Mrs. Palin will find in me an advocate. I appreciate her rebellious sense, her commitment to her family and her focus on living life freely on her own terms. I don’t just appreciate those things, I admire them and share them with her.

I also find her to be a breath of fresh air. She jars liberal sensibilities and their only recourse is to call her “stupid” and “ignorant.” To be sure, she’s no rocket scientist. But she’s not stupid. Like George Bush, perhaps, she is not a master of the language. Liberals, as is evinced by their worship of what they call President Obama’s intelligence, admire rhetoric even at the expense of competence and that is surely a definition of the Obama administration: All of the talk, none of the ability.

Mrs. Palin has accomplished in a short time the amazing feat of being an instant celebrity twice. First, she was thrust on to the stage as Mr. McCain’s running mate. Mr. McCain ran a dismal campaign and it was unfortunate. I voted for him and I did so willingly, but I knew as I did that the odds were against him and Mrs. Palin, unfortunately, allowed the press in too far and they knocked her right down.

Now, she comes out with her new show on TLC and more than 5 million people watch. She launched herself and her family into reality show stardom-their unique claim to fame is being related to the second woman to be chosen to run for Vice-President. And therein lies the problem.

Allow me to draw an analogy. When Jerry Brown threw his hat into the ring for governor of California, I was appalled. He’d already done the job from 1975-1983 and he wasn’t all that good then. He tends to leave places a little worse off than he found them and California cannot do that right now. But his opponent in the race was Meg Whitman and it was apparent from the beginning that Mrs. Whitman was not up to the task. I was an early supporter of Mrs. Whitman’s but I left the reservation, as it were, when she simply descended into the worst campaign since John McCain’s. And the reason her campaign was so bad was because she really didn’t have any idea what she was doing. She had no real plans for what should happen next in a state that is near bankruptcy. If it weren’t for the topography and the weather in this state, it would pretty well be emptied out by now, which is probably what needs to happen. A total reset.

In any event, Mrs. Whitman lost to Mr. Brown decisively. Now, Jerry Brown is in charge of the most ungovernable state in the U.S. Public unions, over-spending on programs, entitlements and high taxes have driven business out, left housing a wreck and the state in a mounding pile of debt and hurt. It’s Mr. Brown’s problem now.

But Mr. Brown is an honest broker. I don’t agree with him most of the time. I didn’t vote for him. But I’ve never thought he was dishonest. He inherits problems that, perhaps, it is best he tries to tackle. It would be easy for public unions like the one of which I am a member (California Federation of Teachers), to simply dismiss a governor Whitman and take along the left and Democrats for the ride. It will be less easy when Governor Brown, for whom they campaigned and spent money, asks them to make sacrifices. If the state is to survive, real “austerity” is definitely in play.

But I digress. Mrs. Palin, whose star has risen over the past year, is not a serious player and that is my point. She is not an honest broker, not anymore. She may even be unaware of the change that took place, if indeed it was a change, and it may be she is innocent in the process. If so, that too does not speak well of her political talents.

The show on TLC, an unqualified success by television standards, should mark the end of Mrs. Palin’s political aspirations. For in allowing such a program to be made, she has made it clear that it is ego that drives her and at very least, she is a cult of personality, not a genuine leader.

For my part, It’s inescapable that Mrs. Palin, a beautiful woman with a beautiful family, is no longer serious about governing. She is serious about her family and her beliefs. She is equally serious about the values she holds dear and that among those, as the man said, are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those are qualities to admire and they may well be why she had a shot in Presidential politics.

But the past few months have shown that while her endorsements meant something in the November 2nd elections, they did not mean everything.

In her own parlance, then, I would say that Mrs. Palin is pretty flippin’ great. But she is not Presidential material and it is my hope that in this most serious of times, she will bow out of her desire to be the leader of the flippin’ free world.

Change in the Weather

Rained some today, but certainly not the rain we were warned about–the rain we were told would destroy our hopes and dreams, pouring pestilence from a leaden sky. That’s the way the Weather Channel and Weather.com described it anyway. “SEVERE WEATHER ALERT!” Yeah. Purdy darn severe, there folks. Why, it was wet and everything.

I learned a long time ago that one shouldn’t complain about the weather. Turns out there is very little you can do about it-global warming alarmists notwithstanding. And they don’t either, you know? Did you read this? Turns out the IPCC is admitting that the alarmism was never about climate after all. It was about redistribution of wealth plain and simple. It’s a hoax, always has been. It follows hard along with the news last summer that the IPCC lied about “consensus” on global warming, too.

Anyway, I learned not to complain about the weather and mostly, I don’t. I do, however, complain about the knuckleheads that claim they can “predict” it. I actually have weather.com on my Blackberry as an app and I check it pretty frequently. Nine times out of 10, it’s wrong. It’s not 100 percent glaringly wrong, just off–by 10 degrees or by clouds and sun. Heck, if weather.com says it’s going to rain, I go get my car washed. They’re usually wrong. They weren’t this time–at least in the morning. In fact, I checked weather.com late this afternoon and it said it was raining at that moment. Trouble is, it wasn’t. And not only wasn’t it raining, but the rain clouds had all but disappeared.

I like the old method of weather forecasting better: Walk out on your front porch and look up at the sky, feel the air around you. That will give you a pretty good idea of the weather. Except if you work for weather.com. And we’re supposed to rely on these folks to know what’s happening 100 years from now?

Sigh. Again.

It was a nice Saturday. Peanut had a friend over this afternoon and she stayed through dinner. They had a good time together and there was little drama. There’s always some, of course. They are girls after all-and mine is an only child. She’s a veritable drama factory. But, it was a fine day with a quick set of interviews and an article to write and a family movie this evening.

I rarely post on Saturday nights, though I never say never. I’ll keep it brief tonight, gentles and beg your indulgence.

Onward.

OK, I’m being cynical.

Beware: Sappy syrupy-ness ahead.

I slept a sleep last night that was delightful. I didn’t wake up for a long time. Normally, you’d think that would be…well…normal. But I am a habitually light sleeper most of the time (though admittedly not all) and I awaken easily and frequently. There are nights, however, like last night where that was not a problem. Sleep came-fast and lovely, beautiful, dreamless, unqualified sleep.

I imagine that I have caused my own circumstance. I bring it on myself. I tend to wait until night to start thinking about the bigger issues of the day. I’m a creature of habit and it’s not a good habit. But I’ve also noticed that when I want to, I can control it. Just have to think about it a bit, I suppose.

Allow me to update you on Scoop the wonderdog. He’s a good lad, Scoop is. But it’s true that his illness is slowing him down and I wish it were not so. The tumors have spread, you can feel them in other parts of his body, and it won’t be too long until the disease has its way with him. Right now, his suffering is minimal. It has caused a change in routine and he has noticed it. We took him off of prednisone because it no longer seemed to be shrinking anything and the side effects were mounting, including serious weight gain as his already voracious appetite, for people food, increased. He still eats and he still does all the other calls of nature, but we can tell it’s not the same.

He eats with no relish and his desire to walk, while still very much intact, can be assuaged with a simple jaunt around the block. At times, he doesn’t even ask for one. We think that he too has noticed the change in the routine and we know he’s noticed how tired he is. He spends a lot of time sleeping now and a lot more time in a lying down position, rather than constantly on the go.

Still, in the morning, he gets up, gets his morning “greenie” (a chewy bone-shaped minty dental thingy-that’s the official term), which he dearly loves, and goes outside to do his morning constitutional–patrol the perimeter and pee on all those things that need peeing on.

Since Marley and me was already written, I don’t suppose Scoop and me will be. Enough books about dogs and how they change your life because, well, the world doesn’t need more of them.

Scoop is now with me here on the couch. The rain is starting to fall outside and the cool evening has settled in. I love this time of year, this weather and I love that it’s not hot out right now. I love that my girls are upstairs snuggling in for a late fall Friday night and I love that Sue’s heart is strong as she copes with the possibility of changes in her career.

I hate that Scoop is sick. And I hate that it is a slow and suffering illness. I hate that I have to make the decision as to what to do. Lord, how I pray that if he is marked to go–he can do so without me having to euthanize him. It breaks my heart on a daily basis watching him go through this.

But it reminds me too that love is such a powerful force, a healing force. I am reminded of this daily as well. I am a blessed man–I realize what’s important most of the time and very little of it has to do with ambition, the pursuit of wealth or position. Oh, I engage in those things, make no mistake. But I do so with the grounding that without the love of my family and friends and the loyalty of my friend Scoop, it would not be very important.

Onward.

1 step up, 2 steps back

I was on deadline again tonight and it was a poignant story. I’ve written about it before and to preserve my own sanity, I’ll not revisit the subject again.

We have become those people we hear so frequently about these days. Sue, who is a consulting dietitian with her own neat little practice and a collection of clients, may well have lost the biggest client today. The nursing home with whom she contracts is going the corporate route, hiring a food service co. with a built-in dietitian. For them, the advantages are obvious–it’s a one size fits all system and for the fee that the nursing home pays, they get a uniform set of standards and they meet all the requirements.

This, of course, will be the direction that Obama-care takes us, only it won’t be dietitians and nurses only that go this route. Doctors, too, will realize that the financial benefit of going into medicine is simply no longer worth the effort. There will be fewer and fewer specialists and the result will be long lines, long waits, higher costs but lower pay for docs and government bureaucracy takes over. Sue knew it was coming–she just didn’t know when.

The possibility remains that the corporation with whom the nursing home contracts will offer Sue the job. The downside of that will be that they will expect her to learn their system, scrap her own that she’s developed over the last 8 years, and do it for about 15 bucks less an hour than she currently makes.

It’ll put a crimp in our style, but it’s not a devastating blow. Not yet. We’ll be alright, if somewhat less ambitious in our plans for large purchases and long vacations. Yessir…that economy is really turning around.

Well, coming up on 11, gentles….

Onward.

Coming up for Air

Coming up for air on a Wednesday night. It has been a slammed and busy couple of days and by the time I get ready to post, it’s close to 11:30 and I’m just too crispy done to foment a revolution in print.

It is the time of year–I crave brussel sprouts, especially my wife’s brazing of them with all sorts of flavors and, of course, bacon. Yes, I know it rather defeats the purpose of this little wonder of nature–but that’s OK with me. It’s Thanksgiving. Turkey and boats full of gravy, with a simple cornbread stuffing. Cranberries–for who can leave those out? You know what their best use is? After Thanksgiving, I get a nice ciabatta or crusty French bread and slather on a layer of mayo. Then, I pour on the cranberry sauce, pile on the turkey, add a slice of lettuce and tomato, onion if there’s any around and a slice or two of swiss or cheddar. Oh man. I cannot wait.

No travels this year. No drives across the desert, no plane trips north or east–just a simple home and family Holiday. We’ll have family come to us this year and that makes it even nicer. Big brother Doug is getting married this summer at Buena Vista Winery up in Sonoma wine country and we’re going to do a full vacation blowout this summer–drive up to the wedding, spend a few days there and then head north up to the Redwoods above Crescent City and then on to Oregon, a new state for Peanut and if we can, across the Columbia River and into Washington as well.

See? That’s where my mind is. So crowded with stuff to do at school, and in pieces I’m writing, that I’m already looking at summer. That’s wrong. Let’s turn that around. Back to the turkey and the brussel sprouts, the rolls and the wine, a bottle or two of Limoncello and a fire in the fireplace.

The weather is cooperating, too. Expecting some rain this weekend and the temps are coolish for us–in the 60’s in the daytime and in the 40’s at night. It’s a great time as long as we can avoid the Santa Anas. We just had them last week. Ugh.

Yes, I am rambling-thanks for noticing. I promise myself to write 1,00o words a day, but I’ve rather already done that so it’s kind of like free time now. I’m a kid in a candy store (ooooh. That’s cliche.) and I can write whatever I want. Which is to say, I can be pedantic and pedestrian with the best of them.

Did I mention that I think an ipad is in my future? Yes. I do. Sue has decided that our continuing expansion of furniture through the purchase of unmatching bookshelves and finding places to put them has become, well…tiresome. So she started in with, “you have too many books.”

Of course, I replied with the only thing I could, “is there any such thing?”

“Yes,” she said. “Yes, there is. And it’s happening in our house. We have a great library here in town…”

“You used the ‘l’ word. Let us not speak of this again.”

“You have to stop buying books. You read them and then they sit on the shelf.”

“That’s what they’re supposed to do. Then, you can show off for your friends and loved ones about how smart you are.”

“I believe you’ve made your point. Your friends and loved ones know how smart you are…”

“Yes,” said I. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“It’s time to step into the 21st Century. What do you want?”

Now-that means she’s talking tech. And I like tech. I’m fairly proficient with it, but I like it even more than I am proficient with it. So I agreed.

“Kindle?”

“Well, I like the Kindle. And it’s affordable. But it doesn’t do a whole lot other than, you know, read.”

“What then? ipad? You want an ipad?”

“Yes. Yes I do.”

“Alright, we can write it off. And then you can read your books on there and I don’t have to keep buying bookshelves.”

“You don’t have to buy them, you know? We can make them?” I was, of course, referring to the time honored tradition of milk crates and wood planks. She, however, didn’t reply verbally, though she did indeed reply.

“OK. ipad it is.”

That’s love, ladies and gentleman. And for that I am most thankful indeed.

Onward.