Saturday, August 28, 2010

Five Years

It's been five years since Katrina. As I thought of that this morning, a song by one of my very favorite artists of all time, David Bowie, came into my mind. It's a song he wrote based on a dream he had. It's called "Five Years" and it's about the end of the world:

Five Years

David Bowie is about 15 years older than I, yet we are both considered Baby Boomers, although some scholars say that people my age are really in a seperate, distinct generation, sometimes called "Generation Jones", but I and most people who are obsessed with such matters put all of us into the Baby Boom generation, calling us younger set the "Late Boomers". Anyway, from the first Boomers like Bowie, all the way through the "Late Boomers" like me, our generation grew up in the shadow of the cold war, and I think most of us always felt in the back of our minds like the world could end at any moment. The following political ad sums up the psyche of my generation, particularly of us younger ones who were the exact age of this child when the ad aired in 1964:

daisy ad

I still feel that the world could end at any time, although images of mushroom clouds have given way to images of polar bears clinging to small fragments of melting ice surrounded by water.

Katrina was the end of the world for those who perished. For the survivors, it wasn't the end, but it changed their world. And for those of us looking on from a safe distance, what have we learned? People are still denying that human-induced climate change is real, the Army Corps of Engineers apparently has still not fixed all the things wrong with the levy system and that ill-conceived MRGO canal to prevent another Katrina from devastating New Orleans again, and we all just basically are going along in denial, be it about the microcosm that is New Orleans, or the macrocosm that is our one and only precious planet earth.

If we don't wake up and wise up, if our spiritual evolution doesn't somehow catch up to our technological evolution, then we will remain like a two-year old who has stumbled upon daddy's loaded gun. We have all the things we think empower us, like nuclear bombs, oil rigs, dams and canals, cars, and all sorts of things that make our lives easier and give us the all-important, aforementioned POWER, or so we think. However, there is no real power in working against nature. That "power" is illusory.

The real power in this world comes from understanding our place in nature, that we are a part of it, not apart from it, and that we must respect it, not violate it. When we finally--if we finally and in time--learn to treat nature with respect and live in harmony with it versus trying to dominate it, then future generations won't write songs about the world ending.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adopt an Animal, Save a World

There are several horrifying, infuriating stories of cruelty to animals in the news today. I suggest, to anyone wanting to channel their outrage and concern in a positive, helpful way, that you consider adopting a cat or dog from a shelter or reputable rescue organization. There are so many wonderful animals needing good homes. If you are able to help, why not make someone's LIFE and become a loving forever home? It’s true that you can’t save them all, but maybe you can save one (or two!). Same song, verse two: you can’t save the whole world, but you can be all the difference in the world to the one you do save.

The only way I know of to counter the violence, cruelty and indifference in this world is with respect, love and caring. Adopting a stray or shelter cat or dog and giving that animal a lifetime of the aforementioned respect, love and caring is a wonderful way to, as Gandhi said, "be the change you wish to see in the world." When you realize this, you realize that saving one little fur-clad soul helps save the whole world.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

And Crown Thy Good with Brotherhood

I am definitely in favor of allowing the mosque to be built near Ground Zero. Far from dishonoring the 9/11 victims, I think allowing and even, dare I say, welcoming the mosque profoundly honors them by honoring what America truly stands for and making a bold, bright statement to any would-be terrorists out there, as well as to everyone else, that what the United States of America stands for will never be weakened or turned away from for any reason, let alone due to a violent, cruel, downright evil act of terrorism such as what occurred on 9/11.

What do we stand for? We stand for freedom, tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity. Of course a mosque should be allowed to be built near Ground Zero, as should a church, a synagogue, a Buddhist temple, or any other house of peaceful worship and/or community/cultural outreach that any group desires to build. I think it deeply honors the victims of 9/11, as well as our country, to say to the terrorists: you haven’t stopped us, and you won’t stop us. You will never stop America from being America. You won’t stop us from upholding religious freedom, from respecting and celebrating each other’s differences, or from being the marvelous, remarkable, pluralistic, free country that we are. Just because you hate us, does not mean that we, in turn, will choose to hate anyone who happens to be a member of the same faith as you were, any more than the actions of Timothy McVeigh made us hate all Christians. Just because you, 9/11 terrorists, had hate and violence in your hearts, doesn’t mean that we, Americans, will let go of the tolerance, respect for diversity and our most cherished values like religious freedom that we have in our hearts and in our constitution, and that define who we are as Americans and America. Just because you were small-minded, doesn’t mean we will become as you were. We’re Americans: we welcome a house of worship, of whatever faith, to be built near Ground Zero.  We stand for religious freedom and pluralism.  The violent, evil, terrorist acts of 9/11 have not, and will never, change that.

I myself am a Unitarian Universalist (and I’m also Jewish--complex, I know, but that’s a topic for another blog sometime), so I don’t say this as someone who practices Islam myself. No, I say this as someone who cherishes what my country stands for. I will strongly defend the right of any religion to practice freely, and if this particular group is allowed to do so near Ground Zero, to me, it very powerfully honors and reaffirms what our country is all about and therefore honors the lives of the 9/11 victims. What would dishonor them and us as a country would be for us to become intolerant, like the 9/11 terrorists themselves. What would dishonor them would be to harden our hearts and turn our backs on one of our most fundamental tenets, that of religious freedom. For to do so would mean giving up what we are and becoming like the terrorists. By contrast, if we allow the mosque to be built, we are affirming what we are—a truly free, tolerant and diverse country--and making a statement that nothing has changed that, nothing has changed us, and we will never allow anything to change or compromise what America stands for.

The terrorists could not take away what we quintessentially are as a unique, admirable nation. Only we can choose to give that up. I say we choose instead to embrace and confidently reaffirm our most inspiring, precious founding values! I say allow the mosque near Ground Zero to be built. What a powerful, beautiful message that sends! It says: America is still America. America is still the tolerant, free nation we have always been and always will be.  9/11 didn’t change that. What could possibly honor the 9/11 victims more than making that glorious statement?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shopping Mall Hell

Well, sports fans, let me state for the official record that, from this date forward, I will never again set foot in a shopping mall. I’ve learned not to use the word “never” lightly, but in this case, I feel confident in applying it. As of yesterday’s trip to a mall, I realize that I cannot tolerate the whole experience, on several levels, all of which I’m about to expound upon in great detail. And I realize something else: dude, it’s 2010. One can shop on the internet and avoid every single one of the intolerable situations inherent to malls that I’m about to describe! YESSSSSSSS! Not only that, one can zero in like a lion on prey to exactly the hard-to-find item one wants and get it delivered to your doorstep. Hello: what’s not to love? In fact, I don’t know how I existed before the internet and what’s really odd is that I still don’t have it hooked up at home, but that’s a topic for another blog (a boring topic, but a topic nonetheless). Back to the utter hideousness of the mall experience and why I will never choose to subject myself to it again.

Intolerable Mall Reality Number One: Perfume-Poisoned Air

Some years back, marketing “experts” did all sorts of studies and determined that, if they infuse the air in mall stores, as well as the air outside of the stores, in the main concourse of the mall, with certain fragrances (read: noxious, toxic, caustic perfumes) it will entice people into their stores. Now, I don’t know who these experts are or what their focus groups were, but I strongly suspect some inherent flaws in their studies, because anyone like myself who has any sort of upper-respiratory issue, or anyone prone to headaches (which I am not, yet I left the mall yesterday sporting a God-awful one that was DEFINITELY induced by the perfume overload in the mall), or just plain anyone inhabiting a human body, really is not lured anywhere by toxic fumes, no matter how cloaked in sweetness they may be. In fact, do you know what makes me alert, exhilarated, and ready to shop, marketing experts out there reading this with fascination? AIR, baby: plain old oxygen, unadulterated!

It would be great if some developer would build a LEED-certified, “green mall”, that would boast, among other features, that it does not infuse the air with perfumes of any kind. Maybe I would shop at such a green mall, but until one materializes, deal me out of the noxious, chemical fume situation that is standard in the shopping malls of America. I don’t appreciate going into the mall feeling healthy and coming out with a splitting headache and my entire respiratory system being basically aflame. I like my air straight, the way nature made it. The perfumed air situation is the number one reason I will never set foot in a mall again. It’s been bugging and infuriating me for years, and yesterday was the last straw: I decided “NO MAS!” So much for perfumed air enticing shoppers in. Quite the contrary, like I said, it is THE main reason this shopper won’t ever set foot in a mall again, so take note, retail brain trusts out there: some folks don’t want to breathe toxic chemicals when we shop! We’re just quirky that way.

Intolerable Mall Reality Number Two: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit...Shopping Here!

If your body in any way deviates from what the Madison Avenue Gods deem to be normal (which does NOT necessarily correspond to what is actually normal) in size, length, width or anything else, good luck finding clothes that fit. As someone who is blessed enough to have lost 76 pounds but who, previous to that, struggled with obesity for my entire adult life (and I always will be challenged by trying to maintain a healthy weight—but I think I have the requisite tools, knowledge, experience, etc. to do it now), I know what it is like to shop in a mall and spend hours and hours AND HOURS there without being able to find a SINGLE pair of pants that fit. Now that I’ve lost the weight, I can find tons of pants in my size, but guess what? I happen to have short legs. Do you know how hard it is to find pants that say “short” or “petite” (and often “petite” is still too long—they have to say “short”, which is a rare find)? Answer Key: very. So even though I’m now what the Fashion Gods have deemed a normal size (although, I’m not sure--I think 12 may actually still be considered a “plus” size in some psycho fashionista circles), I still can’t find pants in retail stores without a massive effort to hunt for the elusive “short” or at least “petite” (“petite short” is like discovering a black pearl!). I also happen to have C width feet in a society that considers anything over B to be a wide width, even though the women’s widths go from A to E, so technically, C is exactly in the middle, exactly NORMAL. But never mind that fact, the Madison Avenue Gods have decreed long ago that any girl with a C width would be made to feel like a freak from childhood onward and made to shop at special stores for wide widths. It does seem now that the mainstream stores do have more wide width shoes in stock, but that has only been recently. Before that, you had to go to a special freak store for wide widths. And, by the way, A width is considered narrow. So, to recap, C is wide and A is narrow. In other words, the ONLY “normal” shoe width is B. Any other width and, sorry, you are deemed to be a freak of nature.

Back to the plus-size thing: even though I now, mercifully, don’t have to worry about that anymore, I will never forget what it was like for the many years that I did, nor will I understand why, in a nation with people growing fatter and fatter, most retail outlets only have clothes going up to a size 14, unless they have special plus-size sections (which only some of the bigger, “anchor” department stores in any given mall usually do). Your cool, brand-name stores usually, to this day, still only go up to size 14. I know because I went to one yesterday. One that I haven’t been able to go to for many years because I was too fat. But here I’ve lost 76 lbs and I wanted to go back to my favorite store. And sure enough, I fit into the clothes. Surreal. I’m now a 12 and they go up to 14. Didn’t buy any, as I forgot how expensive this store is, and that the pants are always way too long for me, and it turned out that the few pairs of pants that were not too long were “low riders” and I’m talking LOW riders, so since I’m not 16 years old and/or a guest on The Jerry Springer Show, I didn’t buy those (we’ll get to that in the third intolerable thing about malls, so don’t go away). I did say something to the salesperson, though, to the tune that I love their clothes and that they should have a plus-size section or entire separate plus-size store, just as they have a separate kids’ store. She said “Oh, you have to go on line, we have plus sizes on line.” Well, no, thankfully, I don’t have to do that anymore (except I do because of the aforementioned perfume sitch in malls and the aforementioned short legs), but why should anyone have to? Why don’t you have some of ALL of your sizes right in the retail store? Are plus-sized people not deserving of being able to shop in a physical store like people size 14 and under? What the hell is THAT?! “Separate but equal?” Attention, mall shoppers: All the fat people, please go home. We only want slim, svelte, airbrushed people with long legs atop B-width feet sashaying through our mall. We have an image to maintain. You understand. But, take heart: we still want your money, even though we don’t want your presence in our stores! You can order your clothes on line so as not to disgust our other patrons with your plus size and/or your short legs and/or any other freakish deviation you may sport from what WE deem to be airbrushed perfection.

Well, message received.

Intolerable Mall Reality Number Three: If You Are Over Sweet 16, You’re Not Mall Material

With the exception of the big department stores, it seems that all the stores in malls are geared towards teenagers and maybe some stretch that out into luring in someone in their 20’s, but mostly the clothes are for teenage girls. The stores have names like “Splish!” or “Splash!” or “I was taking a bath!” and instead of having any actual clothes that an actual person could wear to an actual job, or to school or anywhere other than out clubbing with Paris Hilton, they have things like size 2 sheer shimmery tank tops covered in sequins or low-rise jeans that, literally, are too low-rise for anyone over the age of 18 to sport with a straight face, let alone out in public. One store that shall be nameless but that is named after someone with a secret, not only was the worst offender in the entire mall yesterday in terms of how much noxious perfume they had in the air, but apparently they currently have a HOT PINK theme to everything in their store, from the bras (which were virtually all MAGENTA/HOT PINK) to their line of fragrances and lotions and God knows what which were virtually all HOT PINK also and one of the items (I think it was perfume, but I was too far in shock from the SHOCKING PINK and the poisonous perfume and all the 12-year-old salespeople who helpfully accosted me at the door to notice) was even called “Pink”. Silly me, I only went in there on a hot tip from another 12-year-old salesperson in another store to the tune that they usually have good sales on bras. Well, all I know is that all the bras were either MAGENTA or geared towards some Hugh Heffner fantasy from the 1970’s or I don’t know what and I didn’t really take long enough to delve deeper and find out if they had any “normal” bras because, seriously, the perfume in that particular store was making me very ill so I skedaddled outta there. Whoa.

It was then it hit me, amidst the “Splish!” and the “Dish!” and the “Frivolous Wish!” stores (all three of which I made up—writer’s license to illustrate my point that there are no stores that sell any actual items that an actual person over the age of MOST 25 would ever want to purchase) that, face it, Peppermint Twist, for some reason, none of these stores want your business. You, for many years, were too fat. You’ve always had legs that are too short. Your feet are just a shade too wide. And now you are WAY too old. Face it: you are just not mall material, never have been, never will be. So take your perfume-induced headache and upper-respiratory woes, and your unopened wallet, and walk away.

Thank God for the internet.