Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crazy Wimmin

I saw a tiger ...

So I’m driving home from work last night, listening to the radio, and this screeching tone interrupts the song. You know the one – that Emergency System tone that modulates from shriek to squeal to growl for 20 seconds in a bid for your attention, as if the first three seconds is not enough. In the past, you’d be treated to this cacophony, only to hear, “This is a test. This is test of the Emergency Message System.” Lately, however, there haven’t been many tests. Lately that awful sound precedes an Amber Alert. A child is missing, and giving the statistically short window for recovering kidnapped or lost children, the police are asking for all eyes now, if you please.

The Amber Alert asked for all to be on the look-out for a missing 9-year old. I simultaneously sent up a prayer that they find her in one piece, and listened for additional information. It is in another county, so I won’t see any suspicious cars driving by. The girl’s mother was also kidnapped. By two black men.


I can almost feel heads nodding in this area, “Of course.” I can also almost hear others wondering if this is real or just another Crazy Wimmin hoax. I simultaneously pray for the victims and protest the jaded among us who are willing to tar an entire race as criminal because of yet another violent crime perpetrated by “black men”. And, I protest those who are quite willing to believe that this is just another woman making up an African-American bogeyman.

It’s a strange phenomenon, these women who make up attackers and color them black, as if that will male their story more believable. There was that woman who drove her car into a river with her two small children in the backseat, and blamed it on black men. There was the woman who carved a ‘B’ in her own face, and blamed it on a large, black, disgruntled Obama supporter. Surely there is a limit to the number of crazy women who do bad things and make up fictitious black assailants to blame them on. Surely a real daughter and real mother are in real danger, requiring hard-nosed investigators and dogs and door-to-door searches. Surely there are bad men in need of capture and punishment. So I prayed for the safe recovery of little girl and her mother.

I checked for news today, hoping for a happy ending. We could do without another murder – especially that of a child – for forever, frankly. Here is what I read. Seems the mother called 911 from her cell reporting that she was thrown in the trunk of a car with which she had had a traffic accident. Her daughter was in the car too. Seems the father came on the Today Show begging for the return of his daughter and ex-wife. Seems the police did indeed go door-to-door seeking leads, and later found her car in Center City. Seems there’s now some Philadelphia Airport video showing the mother and daughter boarding a plane to Orlando, Florida. Fake ID, cash payment for one-way tickets, the whole ugly shebang.

All those people looking. All those police resources spent. All that fear. The father’s tears, another daughter (left behind) writing beseeching messages on their mother’s Facebook account. All the angst and all the prayers … wasted. Well, maybe not the prayers; they are apparently not in danger.

The police are no longer looking for two black male kidnappers in Philadelphia. Instead, the FBI is now looking for a 9-year old girl and her mother in Florida.


Oh wait. I just checked. They found the mother and daughter, and took them into custody. The FBI must be thrilled.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My Godmother (Or Why I am the way I am)

Photo: Andy Wright

So I’m driving down the road with my Mother today … I’d tell you where I we were coming from, but my girl Rebecca-san would drive down here and smack the taste outta my mouth. {smile} Maybe I’ll tackle that one tomorrow …

Anyhoo – We’re looking at all the beautiful flower along the road. My mother points out these beautiful jewel-tone blooms, asking what they are.

“Maybe they’re nasturtiums? Or is it too early?” I respond.

“Maybe. They look like some I had in my garden. Joan Agocs gave them to me, and I planted them on the hill on Maple Avenue. She told me they would grow by themselves as long as I didn't try to move them. She was right.”

“They grew well?”

“Till I moved them. Then they died.”

“Dear God! Why’d you move them?” I laughed.

“Well I … I don’t know. I just …”

“Didn’t believe her? Wanted to experiment? Geez! Who is Joan anyway – what was her name?”

“Joan Agocs She was your Godmother.”

“Well of course that’s why I don’t know who she is! Because you appointed a godmother that I never met!” (Old argument.)

“You can’t let that go, can you?”

“Never met her. She went back to England …”

“She was funny and interesting. I liked her very much. Another very good friend that just disappeared from my life. That happens to me all the time.”

“Maybe it’s because you never call them.”

“Well … We all lead such busy lives” She sighs.

“Honestly, Mom. So what was she like?”

“She was a war bride. Came over from Bristol after the war. Her city was bombed a lot. Once she returned home on the train from a date, and the whole section of town had been bombed out. Even the train station was gone. Her date abandoned her on the tracks to see about his family. Just left her there. She had to pick her way back home. There were no landmarks left to navigate by.”

“Eesh! Sounds gruesome.”

“And, stressful. They used to have dogfights over her city. Everyone would stop and watch. Joan said, ‘We would forget about the blokes who were actually flying the planes. We would watch it like it was a football game. Just look up, and there they were. When our bloke shot down the German plane, everyone would cheer.’ She had lots of bad memories of the war. That’s probably why she was an atheist.”

“An atheist? My Godmother was an atheist? You chose an atheist to be my Godmother??” I was laughing so hard that I could hardly see the road.

“Well she was spiritual.”

“See, this is why I am the way I am! My Godmother was an atheist. My Mother taught me to cast astrology charts and read Tarot cards when I was a child, and now she has the nerve to play organ and piano for Sunday church services!”

“Well, she came to your christening.”

“And, where was that? Stonehenge?”

“Since your brother was christened at my church, your father insisted that you be christened at his.”

She of Zoar Methodist and he of Wesley AME. Tsk. Such rich African American history! And yet, still I’m half pagan baby …

“So how’d she like it.” I asked.

“Hmmm. Well, once I told her how church enlightened and inspired me. How it filled me with warmth and community. Later she came up to my desk and said, ‘Don’t show me light! I don’t want you to show me no light!’ And, she walked away.


“Must have been the war. She was just such a terrific person.”

I have full faith and confidence that she was.

Monday, May 18, 2009


People are graduating all over.

Graduation. That rite of passage, that level-increase that indicates you have progressed, increased, learned, altered, improved, arrived. It’s that transitory warmth that lets you bask in the light of your accomplishments, or at least breathe a sigh of relief that something heavy has passed.

Yea! Lift a glass!

Now onto the next.

Commencement means something new has begun. Your journey has ended, only to dump you out on another road. All those beginnings and endings never really end; they just cycle around.

So you’re standing on a threshold, and what do you see? The bright sunshine of a new day? A long, dark, scary tunnel of the unknown? Maybe you’re too damned drunk to look yet, but the future is right now. Best be prying your eyes open to greet the dawn, girl. Might as well embrace her, because she’ll just keep rolling in day after day after day.

This brings to mind a young woman I met a few years ago. She had graduated from a very impressive university. She had travelled overseas to teach English to Chinese business folk. She had paddled down a big river to bring the Internet to native villages. She had worked for a prestigious arts organization. Lovely internships providing valuable life experience. And, she was looking for an entry-level job, a foot in the door for a good company where she could work and prosper and pay off her student loans.

She made me nauseous.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the value of corporations. Many are upstanding organizations that provide a good product. Scads of people have built careers, fell in love, married, raised families, and retired with a sense of accomplishment and a trunk filled with wonderful memories. What’s not to like?

But, rushing to the safe choice is not always the thing. I wonder if it is ever the thing. I am sure there are tens of thousands of responsible, fresh-faced graduates out there who have landed the corporate job, banked their graduation bucks, and now look forward to a decade of working in a cubicle, paying off student loans, and scraping to establish a nest egg for tomorrow. Hoping that nest egg can someday be combined with the one the cutie in Accounting is building – seed money for the Plan 529 that will send the next generation off to college.

So, in this graduation season, I just want to ask all you graduates for one favor. Not to mess with your karma … Okay, I’m messing with your karma. Find me, and sue me.

But, before you lock into that blue-dress-shirt-on-Tuesday job that you never heard of before, before you stuff your feet in three-inch heels and spruce up your cubicle with an African Violet, before you relegate that thing you love to do to weekends, and then to the basement, please pause. Please think. Please remember what you started off wanting to do. Please remember the dreams you had or discovered or considered. Please contemplate what made you spend those years pursuing that degree, and at least look around for a slice of your dream.

Exercise just a bit of patience while you do so. Tamp down the panic screaming for you to take any any any job. Look at door number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (I know time’s a-wasting, but at 22, is it really moving that fast?).

I don’t want you to crash in your parent’s basement. I don’t want you to miss an opportunity. I don’t want you to regret your choices, but I don’t want you to regret your choices. I want you to take just one extra moment to look for your true dream job. Who knows – you might find that door with the sun spilling over the threshold, and embark on that path that’s been calling you. And, wouldn’t that be worth the extra stretch?

Okay. Time to bask again: Congratulations on your most recent success!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Age of O/Let the Sunshine

Okay, O.
I get practicality.
I get compromise.
I get priorities, and planning, and baby-steps.
I even get “the lesser of two evils”.
I don’t particularly like any of these for one reason or another, or at one time or the other, but I get them.

What I don’t get is this rumored desire to hold back the torture photos (
story here). The Pentagon was going to release them. Everyone was on board. Get it all out in the open. Begin the healing. Then the commanders warned that such material might incite retribution, and now you and yours are flying the banner of “National Security” of all things, as if that dog of a song hadn’t stunk up the charts when the last Administration sang it off-key. What are you doing? More importantly, what are you thinking?

You say dark forces will see the photos of our soldiers behaving badly, inhumanly, in direct contradiction of all the national values we profess to hold dear. Yes. You say that terrorists will be inflamed by our brutal treatment of their brothers-in-arms and seek to retaliate. Maybe. You say the safety of our servicemen and women around the globe will be compromised by the release of such blatant evidence of our misguided attempts to protect ourselves. Really?

I say you have stepped off the path, and are tumbling head-first into the briar patch.

Do you really think that those who are willing to blow themselves to oblivion in pursuit of their agenda are sitting on any fence making up their minds about these United States of America? Do you think that the previously released material, the unrelenting chest-thumping, the condescending speeches, and shocking arrogance of the past Administration has gone unnoticed? Do you truly think that this evidence will be the stuff that finally and thoroughly unhinges our enemies, drawing them to every overseas base and every American shore with rabid intent?

But perhaps it is not the wrath of our enemies you fear, but the wrath of our friends. Perhaps you believe that the former Coalition-of-the-Willing would be disabused of the notion of our moral superiority were these photos to hit the street. I must ask: Just what crazy horror shows are captured in these photos? Because, the world - friend and foe – have never been as blind to our sins as we have been. But, even we see that the light of our beacon has dimmed, and we have sworn our commitment to the restoration of our reputation.

So, I ask again: What are you doing? You must know that reputations are never, ever built in the dark. Trust is not nourished on secrets. Hiding our sins will not hold back the storm. Doing so will only strip away the one key ingredient needed to heal a reputation: the truth.

President Obama, we need to raise the shades, open the windows, and let in the sunshine. We need to stand up and admit our sins. We need to apologize and make amends. No one respects the man who locks the truth in a drawer, hoping that the folder will be lost or forgotten. If we want to regain global respect, to de-fang the black of heart, and to block similar crimes in the future, we need to say, “Yes. See right here? Yes, we did it. This is where, who, how, and why. And, this is how we are going to make sure it never happens again.”

That is how we will begin to regain the respect of friend and foe. That is how we will begin to regain our self-respect.

Let the sunshine in.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Mother’s Garden

Random bits of my Mother's Garden

My Mother’s garden has always been wild and unpredictable. Being a Sagittarian with a significant Virgo influence, she is constantly stretched between twin goddess-muses: Free-wheeling Abandon and Obligatory Order. And, the balance of power changes without notice. Except in her gardens. And in her children.

In my Mother’s garden, things go in, are given fertilizer, sun and water, and are left to take root. There is no plan. There is no grand design. Nature will out, and it does.

And, the same conditions apply for her children. Oh, once there were plans and visions of who we would become. My Mother dreamt of upright individuals embracing success, God, and functional families.

We were provided food, clothing, the best education, and music lessons (piano, cello, violin, and guitar). We read shelves and shelves of books. We lived in a safe place near woods and fields and streams.

We always had a bike and a sled and a closet full of board games. We went to church and sang on the choir. We drove to Canada, Florida and cross-country to California. We flew to Jamaica, and also through the skies of New England in a Piper Cub. We were well cared for, and then we were reluctantly let go to bloom.

When I was 21, I worked for a nursery, and decided to take our garden in hand. I brought home bulbs by the bagful, shrubs and perennials by the trunkful, and balled trees tied to the roof of my car. I dug walkways and carved out flower beds. I thought I brought colors that coordinated. I thought I brought species that grew to the proper size. But, my efforts only made my Mother’s garden a more substantial riot. The trees towered over the roof, the flowerbeds were a psychedelic tapestry, and the bulbs naturalized simply because that is what they do.

And, my Mother was pleased, because by day the riot energized the viewer; and by night the colors faded to a murmur, leaving the white dogwood and the white tulips to glow in the moonlight like the gardens in the best fairy tales. And, that is the way her children grow. We have not followed a plan or design; we grow out of our borders; and we clash much, much more than we harmonize.

But, my Mother knows that in the odd moment, when the full moon shines and the spring breezes blow, we glow with the inner light of who we were always meant to be.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.