Saturday, March 21, 2009

How to Mix a Metaphor

Oliver visits to drink from the fish pool, no doubt noticing the tiny fish darting here and there, and storing that information for future reference. Cats are among the most dominant predators in our urban environments, always able to find food.

You don't hear about a food crisis for cats. If they are neglected by their owners, they employ a variety of strategies to get their nutrition:

* They flirt with new human care-takers. No animal is better than a strange cat at persuading us that (s)he is simply so cute that we really should feed him/her.

* They hunt (1). Without humans, rodents could not survive, but thanks to us, rats and mice proliferate in our cities. Whenever they want to, cats silently track these creatures, especially at night, when the rodents move around, just when the cats see, hear and smell them the best. No contest.

* They hunt (2). Fish. Let's just say that few fish are a match for any cat, once they rise to the top of a pond (where most food is located). Swipe!

* They hunt (3). Snakes. We once had a cat, Choicey, in our Mill Valley home, who specialized at catching small snakes, and bringing them to the front door, limp and bitten and scared. She didn't bother eating them, because she was well-fed, so my oldest son carefully tended their wounds, and nurtured them back to health in an empty aquarium, before setting them free. Had she needed the nutrition, however, she would have eaten them.

* They hunt (4). Birds. Cats catch birds by out-smarting them. Choicey waited until foolish birds, drunk on the fermented fruits in our orchard, flew away from a satisfying meal erratically. Using a vertical jump that would make any basketball star envious, she swiped them out of the air with ease, killed, and devoured them.

* They hunt (5). If it comes to it, cats will catch insects, butterflies, or almost anything else that moves.

* They steal. If there is no other alternative, a cat will find its way into some other creature's food supply, including, most easily, a human's. They'll lick butter, tongue up milk, grab a sardine or lox, hell there's lots of human food that a cat will steal, but only when desperate.

There are a lot of people going hungry tonight who could learn a trick or two from cats, but then we would really be living in a dog-eat-dog world eh?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Service for My Last Uncle


George A. Anderson, Sr., age 83, died March 10, 2009 at his home in Roseville. He was born August 2, 1925 to Alexander and Elsie Anderson in Detroit, Michigan. He was a veteran of WWII, a life member of Roseville Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2358, and retired from Chrysler Corporation as a Manufacturing Engineering Manager. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Reta; sons George, Jr. (Betty) and Daniel (Faye); 3 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

Following service in the Army in Europe, George returned to Detroit to begin work for General Motors Fisher Body division, eventually completing an apprenticeship in tool and die making. He was transferred to the then new Willow Springs, Illinois plant where he was promoted to general foreman. In 1957 he accepted a position with Chrysler Corporation as Superintendent of Tool and Die at the Twinsburg, Ohio stamping plant. He resigned from Chrysler in 1960 and moved to Tampa, Florida where he successfully operated a family business for 5 years. Returning to Chrysler Corporation at the Nine Mile Road Stamping Plant in Warren, Michigan in 1965, he helped move that facility to a top ranking in the corporation. Promoted a number of times over the next 15 years, he retired in 1980.

A memorial will be held on Sunday, March 29, 2009, from 2 PM to 6 PM, at the Roseville VFW Post 2358. His remains will be interred at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan on Tuesday, March 31, 2009. The family requests no flowers. Donations may be directed to VFW Post #2358, 25671 Gratiot Avenue, Roseville, MI 48066.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Writer's Muse: Jasmine & Rosemary Leaves

You never know where the next story might come from.

As you wander through your day, up this slope and down that alley, it is unpredictable which angle or shadow will suddenly catch your attention.

There are no guides for this stuff. All you have to go on is your instinct.

Yep, being on the hunt for your next story is not like settling in for a delicious burger & fries.

Nope, it's a lot more like having a dizzy spell, falling to your knees, only to notice how a blade of grass has somehow smashed its ways up through the crack in cement plates laid down by big, strong men, men with machines and men who are noisy.

Just before you lose consciousness, hopefully not quite yet for the last time here on earth, you whisper through your dry lips, "That blade of grass is so beautiful. Thank you, God."


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Mourning the death of the wife of a man I've never met...

Early in the romantic comedy, Love Actually, which I commend to you in the event you have never seen it, the character played by the great actor Liam Neeson performs a scene where he is delivering the eulogy for his fictional wife, who has all too prematurely passed on.

Tonight's news conveys the tragic headline that in his real life, Neeson has actually lost his real wife, Natasha Richardson, at the ever-so tender of age 45, in a tragic skiing accident.

I rarely write here about Hollywood, where I worked for years, but when I do, it always involves my experiences with the real people whose real lives I was privileged to share, even briefly. In that context, I regret that I never met Liam Neeson.

Because something about the way he acts tells me he will not be faking any kind of emotion as he buries his real wife in these coming days, much as how he "buried" his fictional wife in that movie.

While it is true that art imitates life, it is invariably tragic when life imitates art, forcing the artist to live through a pain he only had to previously fake on screen. My heart goes out to the real man tonight, wherever he is, and however alone in his grief he may feel.

Surely he will realize, as his character eventually learned in Love Actually, that a new day will indeed dawn, and love itself, actually, will return to him. Loss, and grief, however unbearable, yield new life. That is the way of our world, and as my farmer friends always said, back home in Michigan: "After the rain, the sun will shine."

May that sun shine on Liam Neeson and his sons, who have lost a wife and a mother, as well on all people mourning their loved ones tonight, March 18th, 2009.


A Fish-Eye View

The circus playing out on Capitol Hill today around the million-dollar bonuses doled out at AIG does illustrate one useful commonality between our fiercely fractionated political parties: No one likes the rich, not even the rich themselves.

Here, in a nutshell, is what is happening in America, as we speak:

*Rich people (those with assets of $1 million or more, and annual income of $250K or more) are nervous about losing their entitlements. They know they cannot expect public sympathy, but they sure hope their politician friends, of whatever ideological stripe, since all politicians are "green" when it comes to the smell of money, will offer them relief from the prospect that they may have to sell off the house in the Hamptons, discontinue the Limo service, or opt their kids out of private school.

*The Super Rich, like Donald Trump, are buying up property at fire sale prices These types of rich always get richer. Trump is on a buying spree in Washington, D.C., among other places.

*The so-called "middle class," which included most of the rest of us until recently, are in shock. We are simply frozen in disbelief. We are losing our jobs, some of us are losing our homes, our cars, and -- if we had any -- our savings. We can't afford health insurance even if we can get access to it. We are depressed and sinking lower in that depression. There will be suicides, there will be violence, there will be crime from this class quite soon. I also predict mass demonstrations that inevitably turn into riots this coming summer.

*The working poor and the poor are on the verge of desperation. I know many of these folks, by virtue of where I live, my habit of striking up conversations with anyone I encounter on the street, and by having actual eyes that really see (something most politicians lost a long time ago.) These guys are already experiencing a wave of petty crime, and in some cases indulging in it themselves. Shoplifting is on the rise around here; laptop thefts are common, cars are broken into (one neighbor said her car has been ransacked twice in the past few months -- the would-be thief took nothing because she keeps nothing of value in her car) but broke her windows in the process.) Someone tried to force his way into a house around the corner earlier this week. Three neighbors have been held up at gunpoint recently; one as shot and wounded. Unintelligible violence spontaneously breaks out from formerly peaceful households or over minor traffic incidents.

I may be just one small minnow in a very large pond, but this is what I see around me. Batten down the hatches, folks, it's going to get rocky...


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How Children See

Through a child's eye, this is a pace of magic. The parks, the backyards, the windows where cats nap, the Victorian turrets, the long beach, the bridges, the museums -- all of them spur imaginary scenarios of the sort I hear emanating from my back seat day after day.

These stories, if captured, would reveal the City's potential to inspire that rarely occurs to the adults toiling to get by here.

What we tend to take for granted is to them a game yet only partly played, with any kind of outcome possible -- regardless of the odds. Kids don't believe in odds; they believe in magic.

By that definition, I must still be a kid, too.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

बित्तेर्नेस, Anger

This message arrived earlier today from a friend who asked me why I am not more outwardly angry about my recent (and in his eyes, unjustified) layoff by a Silicon Valley firm, after only eight months on the job, which has inevitably subjected my kids and me to a degree of trouble that seems (to my friend) disrespectful and cruel. Of course, I had to reply to him that the youngster who hired me didn't even know who I actually was and didn't take the time to find out. Hey, he is a baby, give him a break, he's just learning -- that is my attitude. He will find out some day. The context is that my friend suffered a similar (fired) fate around the same time I did, and here is what he emailed me:

"David, as you of all people know, it sucks to be laid off. To be honest I hate the people who have laid me off in my career -- every single one of them. Oh, I will try to act nice, be gracious, say the right things, like you always seem to do. (But how exactly do you do that?) Some of these bastards I even would work for, or with, again, if the circumstances were right.

"But why don't these shitheads know that this is a community we live in? We are all in this together, right? Why do they think their babies matter more than ours?

"Like you, I am raising young children. I can't help hating my ex-bosses' young children, however, I feel nothing toward them but an icy hate, and I feel guilty for these feelings. After all, these little ones, like yours and mine, didn't get to choose their parents.

"These 27 -year-old bastards coming out of B-schools and the arrogant shits running those fucking Silicon Valley firms don't buy any of this. They have their assured privileges (for now, though their day is coming, hah!) and they foolishly think they have an IQ advantage over everybody else.

"They believe in a Darwinian notion, heedless that he who lives by Darwinism, will die by Darwinism -- cold, alone, reviled, forgotten.

"DW, you simply don't hire a professional like you or me and then fire that person a few months later, handing out a doleful pittance of severance. I hope all of these creeps fail and fail badly. I wish to dance on their graves."

Needless to say, I was sad to read this message of sadness and bitterness, and yet, I confess, I share many of my friend's feelings toward those who have treated him (and me) like a disposable commodity.

But I have a precious weapon my friend may lack, and that is a belief in the Golden Rule. I never concentrate on what others do to me, only how I treat others. Perhaps if I opened my eyes to his perspective, I also would become angry, and even vengeful.

But I can never forget the lovely black, smallpocked face of the young nurse caring for me in the darkness of what should have been, by all rights, my last night on earth 38 years ago in India, as I fought my way back to life from Typhoid fever and Salmonella; nor the words she spoke, "There are a thousand rivers and they all flow to the sea."

Yep, and what goes around comes around. I know how the bastards who have mistreated me and my friend will end up. I pity them, even as I forgive them They know not what they have done.

But they will eventually discover those awful truths and they will have to live with the consequences. There is no escape from karma.

So, to my angry and bitter friend, I emailed back, "I would rather be you or me than them. Stay strong, and forgive those who mistreat you. They know not what they do."