Friday, July 31, 2009

Lucia Whelan -- 911 Call

A few days ago I posted Black vs White, Police vs Citizen about an incident involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge, MA police officer, James Crowley.

I mentioned the name of the person whose call to 911 initiated the incident. And I also repeated what I had read about Whelan in news media stories.

Turns out that what I posted was wrong because the news media stories were wrong.

Now that's not really a shocking revelation to me because in every case about which I have personal knowledge and there is a media story there are factual inaccuracies in the latter. Several times I've been interviewed myself and then read the reporter's account of what I supposedly said only to be absolutely amazed at the inaccuracy.

Since my post though the original 911 call recording and transcript has been made public and Ms. Whelan has actually made public appearance(s).

It is obvious now in hindsight that Ms. Whelan did absolutely nothing wrong and should never have been so maligned as she was by all sorts of opiners.

That includes me even though I didn't say anything bad about her. I did repeat erroneous information and I wanted to correct that.

So apologies to Ms. Whelan.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Strange Being A Parent Even Temporarily

I was a father once. Well I am still a father technically but my children are adults and I am talking about the kind of parenting one does when the children are not adults.

My granddaughters stayed with us about a week. And one day while grandma was on the phone I was asked "Can we go for a walk?"

I was stunned.

First thing I had to do was process what had just happened. Someone -- another human being -- had just asked my permission to do something. What? Suddenly I recalled that my reality had changed and there were now these people living here and I was in some kind of loco parentis role. Wow! I hadn't thought about that.

And I had been asked permission to do something mundane -- take a walk. I realized in that instant just how long it had been since I had been a real parent.

That made me recall just how many decisions and choices that parents have to make when it comes to their children. Amazing really. What an awesome responsibility to raise children.

Life experiences.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


One of my very earliest memories is riding in a Jeep that would have been a lot like this one except it was undoubtedly older.

This one is a 1950 Willys CJ-3A. That makes it 59 years old. I am still older though admittedly not by much.

I remember that early Jeep ride in some detail. My mother was driving. I think we must have been driving to our then new farm and it must have been about 1950 or 1951. It was very, very cold. There was no heater. That means it was either a military model MB or a CJ-2. I'm guessing it was MB.

I remember standing and leaning over against my mother. I was bundled up against the cold with a cap and coat and mittens. I remember they were mittens and not gloves.

Seems a funny detail to recall but I do or at least I think I do.

The cold and no heater and our bodies made the windows fog up and hard to see out.

I remember my mother shifting the manual transmission. She would have been 37 or maybe 38 then. I find myself wishing I had known my parents at that age.

Maybe it is that Jeep ride that has made me want a Jeep. Or maybe it is my experience with them when I was in the National Guard way back in 1970. Back then we had 1950 vintage Jeeps. I managed to get one stuck once between two trees when we were on a training exercise. That feat caused some consternation among my superiors.

I happened to mention the other day that I had always wanted an old Jeep. Someone said "like a 1980 vintage?" I replied "No, like a 1950 vintage."

So they've been on the lookout for one ever since.

And on Tuesday, July 21st, one appeared for sale on one of the Internet lists.

We went to look at it and decided it should come live with us at our place.

So we bought it. Now we have to get it running.

UPDATE - before posting but after I wrote the entry:

We got it running. Well, "we" is actually Mark who can do most anything mechanical. He got it running.

I did check in on him and asked how things were going and kind of acted like I knew something about stuff like fixing an old Jeep.

And if you manage to live a few years you do learn a few things about various things.

Learning about stuff is different than actually being able to do stuff.

This is also me shot from the passenger side.

One thing I notice for certain is that the steering wheel seems a whole lot closer to my stomach than it did when I was driving similar Jeeps when I was 22. This Jeep was only 20 when I was 22.

I wonder if the Jeep changed? Surely it isn't me.

The thing runs great now that I've driven it. We need a few more things but all in all I am very, very happy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules
Stacy Perman

This book was just released this year in April by Harper Business.

Really I knew nothing about this hamburger chain except that I had seen the name mentioned a few times in various discussion board posts. Usually it was along the lines of "we should get one of those" places or "why don't we have an In-N-Out here."

But it is a California chain and I've been to California a total of three times in my life. And never did I go there to eat a hamburger. So I suppose it isn't all that strange that I would not have been to an In-N-Out.

And after reading the book it makes me want to go to one just to try it for myself.

The prologue describes the opening of a store in Tuscon, AZ in 2007. The description reminded me of my own experience with the Chick-Fil-A here at Fritts Farm in Moore, OK. Except, of course, that Chick-Fil-A sells chicken and In-N-Out sells hamburgers. And Chick-Fil-A is here and In-N-Out isn't.

But there are many other similarities between the two firms. Notably both are family owned which is to say private. Both have gone their own way rather than the "corporate" way. Both have a cult-like following (I started to write "kind of" but there is no "kind of" about it). Both have a nearly fanatical obsession with customer service, food quality, and cleanliness.

All that is well and good but not so much really what fascinated me about this story. Rather it is the similarity and contrast to my own family and personal story.

I'm not bothering with a review. Amazon offers plenty of those: editorial here and user here.

My family didn't sell hamburgers but we had a family business when I was growing up and when my children were growing up and now we have another one.

Thanks to my son who was on vacation in California and was able to get this nighttime picture for me of an actual In-N-Out Burger place. That's probably about as close as I'm going to get for now.

The In-N-Out story is many stories of course as are most involving humans. Every person that worked at In-N-Out probably could tell their own story in fact and it would be just as full of drama and interest as the one in this book.

But the story of In-N-Out is more than anything else the story of Harry and Esther Snyder and their sons, Rich and Guy. Harry was born in the same year as my mother and Esther in 1920 so I put them in the same age range as my own parents. They opened the first store in the year I was born and their sons were just a little younger than I am. So we share a time if not a place.

So I see family lessons in this story and I see business lessons as well. There are other lessons, too, but I'll leave those for others. I think family and business is a sufficiently large universe for my brief exploration.

The first thing that occurs to me is the idea of recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities as they come along. That's what it seems to that Harry and Esther Snyder did and that's what my mom and dad did as well. It wasn't that my parents had any great plan or that they wanted to be rich. They wanted to earn a living for their family and they used what they had. And they worked their tails off, too.

Is is really that hard to recognize opportunities?

Yes, it is. Just listen to people talk sometime. I had someone the other day say to me that they could have bought my dad's farm or land around it. In the context he was letting me know that he felt he missed an opportunity. Or I hear people say things like "I thought of something like that and I don't know why I didn't act on it." I received an email a few years ago from a friend I've not seen since high school. He told about working for Hewlett-Packard when they were still in a garage. But he left before the company became successful.

Then there is the power of "saying NO."

That what my dad and mom did when it came to their farm. Over the years they had so many offers to sell it. And I'm certain there was at least some temptation because I know there were money problems at various times. But Dad just kept saying "NO" and held on to the farm. Harry and Esther Snyder and their sons did the same thing.

In both cases money was not the overarching motivating factor. I'm not saying it was unimportant because it was. But Harry Snyder wanted to make hamburgers his way and he stuck to that. My Dad used to tell me to "pay attention to your business and let other people worry about theirs."

Don't borrow money. Both my parents and the Snyders just would not do anything they could not afford without borrowing.

A couple of serious negatives though I noticed from the book.

One is that family businesses become just all consuming. I know this from personal experience and it is surely something the book makes clear in the case of In-N-Out. There is this confusion that occurs between where family life ends and business life begins.

The family business can be used to control family members and others who work for the business. That almost always has negative repercussions for everyone involved. I saw that first hand as well.

In the Snyder's case the business caused a terrible rift in the family. So far we've managed to avoid that and I want to make sure we never, ever let the family business become more important than the family. Just not worth it.

That's about it I guess.

I hope to get to an In-N-Out Burger someday and try it out.

I very much recommend this book.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Black vs White, Police vs Citizen

This is the mug shot of Henry Louis Gates when he was arrested the other day (July 16, 2009) for disorderly conduct. The charges were later dropped but apparently the mug shot was taken before that.

As celebrity mug shots go this one isn't so bad really. Gates doesn't look bad at all. In fact I think he looks pretty good for a 58 year old guy. He looks reasonable and mild mannered and even kind of scholarly which for a Harvard "scholar" seems to me to be a good thing.

I think about what I'd look like in a mug shot sometimes when I leave the house without my shower and have my cap on my head to keep my notorious (in my family) mad scientist hair in place. Because I know they make you take your cap off. Not that I would be doing anything deliberately to get arrested mind you. But sometimes I think weird stuff like that.

Now this picture (and no I do not have permission to post these because I didn't ask anyone - but they are all over the Internet) is not as kind to Dr. Gates.

Nope. He does not seem so kindly and calm and scholarly in this one.

But I wouldn't be very happy myself if I were standing on my front porch with 3 (at least) rather large police offers surrounding me and me in handcuffs.

This photo was taken by a neighbor by the way. Neighbors figure into this entire incident in a big way, too. The neighbor taking this particular picture is William B. Carter. Carter is also 58 and retired from Bank of America according to one report I read. Same report said he had earned $4,000 for the photo as of July 23rd. I thought that was interesting.

Another "neighbor" began the police involvement in the incident. Her name is Lucia Whalen. She's a fund raiser for Harvard apparently. She was in her office on July 16th and looked out her window. She observed a couple of guys trying to break open a door. She called the cops and reported the incident.

This is the cop who got the call.

His name is James Crowley. He's a sergeant and been on the force 11 years. He's 42. It has been noted that he taught about racial profiling and apparently that's supposed to be of some meaningful importance in the reporting of this incident.

Someone -- maybe many someones -- asked him to apologize.

He refused.

He said he acted appropriately and had done nothing wrong and so there was nothing for which he should apologize.

Then our President (and there's no need for a photo of him because his image is everywhere these days) got involved when asked about the incident in a press conference. He said the police acted stupidly.

Now given the facts of the incident as I have written them and as I understand them to be true it is predictable and understandable what subsequently happened.

Black people (not all but many) said the incident was all about white racism, defended the black victim, recited personal stories of their own encounters with white police racism, and so on.

Lucia Whalen was called a racist because she saw two black guys with backpacks breaking in a door and called the police. All police persons are already assumed to be racists but they were again called racists at every possible turn.

Police everywhere, but mostly white ones, said the President didn't know the facts and shouldn't have gotten involved and that they were not stupid and not racists and that they acted appropriately and so on and so on.

Pundits -- but only white ones -- said the President made a rookie mistake, derailed his health care program; said racism was alive and well in America and we have a long way to go; said it was not just about racism but also elitism (smart Harvard people versus dumb police officers); and a bunch of other stuff.

Regular white people that I know did not initially have too much opinion about the incident until it became part of popular culture. Then the opinions expressed were mostly that you shouldn't screw around with people whose jobs allow them to carry guns and handcuffs.

I've had several incidents in my personal experience that returned to my consciousness as a result of this one.

Long, long ago I was already at work in the wee hours of the still dark morning. My then wife heard someone trying to break in and called me and the cops. When I got home I rushed into the house and right out the back door. I was confronted by two officers with guns drawn on both sides. They had no idea who I was and made me raise my hands and stop. Then I had to prove who I was and that I belonged there. And let me tell you I made no sudden movements and was extremely cautious about every little move I made.

Years after that I and my entire family was home sick with the flu. Somehow we set off the alarm which was monitored and the monitoring company called the police. We straightened things out with the monitor but it was too late to recall the gendarmes. So two officers arrived at my front door and I answered in my robe and best illness marked appearance. The police had no sympathy and demanded -- yes demanded -- my ID. I had to return upstairs to get it and they accompanied me inside but let me go upstairs alone. I rested much easier when they left I can tell you.

Several times I've had to go to an office to meet police because of alarms and actual burglaries. I can tell you that in every instance the police (both men and women, black and white and other) have been at very high alert. There was palatable tension. And their tension alone made me have a lot of tension, too. Usually I was already tense because of the alarm.

A couple of times I've rather stupidly entered a dark warehouse or office alone when an alarm was going off. It is scary.

Truthfully I am kind of cynical about this entire Henry Louis Gates incident.

Not the original incident. I think it was just exactly what it seemed.

But I am suspicious of Gates' subsequent behavior. I think he may have taken advantage of what he perceived to be an opportunity for some publicity. Gates is apparently one of the smartest people in the world. It is hard for me to believe he did not understand or anticipate the result of his action.

And, yes, I do not think the cop was as smart as Gates and I suspect he did fail to anticipate and think through the results of his action. So, yes, I am being a bit stereotypical myself.

And the President of the Unite States? I am absolutely cynical that he "made a rookie mistake." These things are like performances and highly choreographed. And the President is also very smart. It is just hard for me to believe he didn't understand what he was doing.

You have to admit that Gates received publicity that you simply couldn't have purchased at any price. And it cannot be bad for his career -- which appears to be a professional racial victim advocate. And Mr. Obama is his friend. And you know what they say about friends in high places.

Now I don't know any of these people and if I did I might dismiss all my conjecture. It is only conjecture.

But everyone else is conjecturing all over the place so I figured I might as well, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scary Dream

I don't often remember my dreams. I don't often have bad dreams. Or maybe I just don't remember them.

So maybe that's why this one was particularly disturbing.

I was not alone in the dream but I am uncertain who was with me. That doesn't mean I did not know them. I think I did. I think I had some degree of responsibility for them. But now I can't remember if there was one other or more others. I think more.

We had been climbing into mountain places and crossing dangerous bridges. We'd been working hard. But we'd finally arrived somewhere.

And there were some kind of monk like people there. They wanted us to do three things I think. I don't recall all three. But one had to do with drinking some kind of drink. And another had to do with reciting some kind of pledge in an unfamiliar tongue.

I was afraid. But whomever I was with wanted to do it and wanted me to do it, too.

I think it ended with me having to decide to abandon my companion. For some reason I think I had some kind of responsibility for my companion. But I wouldn't drink and I wouldn't recite so I had to leave.

The drink would have numbed my mind I know. I think the pledge was some kind of allegiance to some kind of demon god or something.

But I think it was not a god like those old idols. I think it was some kind of modern god.

That's it - that's the dream.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I read Malcolm Berko's column the other day in our local newspaper:
Dear Mr. Berko: Can you explain in simple English who Joseph Schumpeter was and what this economist was talking about when he wrote about the industrial collapses and changes in employment and production?

What do you think of economists, especially Schumpeter, who many people seem to be quoting?

E.L., Waukegan, Ill.

Dear E.L.: I don’t like economists, who are some of the most useless people on the planet.

The economists I know are cross-dressers, drive Volvos, tend to be anti-social, their shoes squeak even when standing till, their cologne smells like Juicy Fruit, and they have the emotional range of Formica.

Former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose hobby is teaching cats to swim underwater, is a perfect example. As I’ve been telling audiences since 1998, "He ain’t the crispiest Dorito in the bag.”
I laughed out loud.

Also had to look up Joseph Schumpeter on Wikipedia to read who he was and what he though. However, I resisted the urge to buy any books.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

A while back Amazon offered a Kindle version of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I wasn't really interested in again reading the novel. Although I very much did enjoy reading it ages ago when I was much younger. Of course when I read it the year 1984 was still in the future. And I recall thinking that I would not be so terribly surprised to find at least some of what was described in the novel become fact.

Then when 1984 arrived it wasn't much like the novel here in the U S of A anyways.

Apparently though there were a lot of other folks who did want to read a Kindle version of the novel. Or at least they bought and downloaded copies of it.

But the publisher apparently changed its mind about the entire idea of offering an eBook version and thereby instructed Amazon to stop offering them for sale. So Amazon removed the item from the store.

Which in turn removed the titles from individual users' Kindles.

Which in turn caused quite an uproar.

Which in turn caused me to become interested in the entire matter.

In my research I found that the novel will enter the public domain in the United States in the year 2044. I'll be 96 then and probably have lost interest if I'm still around.

It turns out though that the novel has already entered the public domain in Australia and that in fact the novel in question was available for reading from a web site. I clicked the link and the book in HTML glory appeared on my computer screen.

Somehow the government is going to have to get control of this entire thing or all sorts of people are going to be reading 1984 in violation of the copyright.

Maybe we're not as far from 1984 as I thought.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life With Teenagers

My friend Dave with undoubtedly be delighted to learn that I have two teenage girls living at our house for a few days.

They are really good kids and we are enjoying them so much. But I have to say that they have caused quite a change in the patterns and habits of my daily life. It has been a very long while since I lived with a teenager.

The first thing I notice is just how boring and mundane is my life minus teenagers. Sometimes one doesn't understand these things until one is exposed to the exact opposite.

The second thing I notice is that there actually can be organized chaos.

The third thing is that teenage girls -- I think moreso than boys -- attempt to occupy and use all available and even potentially available space. This task they prove to be remarkably successful and capable of achieving. I believe if we had twice the space or half the space the result would be the same.

They're pretty good cooks though. And that's good because they eat a lot. We were totally unprepared for just how much a lot is. We don't even buy bread period. So we thought buying one loaf was quite a lot. We've had to return to the store for more and I notice that loaf is nearly depleted now.

Apparently they live more at night though and I live more in the day time. That's another big difference.

But what a treat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Young Couple

I was really tired the morning after our quick but long trip. I was a bit later than normal and it was already sunny.

Earlier I thought about staying in bed even longer but I never have been much of a morning sleeper. It's like a switch for me. I am either awake or asleep or on a very brief trip to one or the other.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The Sun was bright and the sky was clear and there was no wind. Things seemed cleaner and fresher. And I was so glad to be home. Just nothing like sleeping in your own bed with your own pillow.

I was taking it pretty easy and driving even beneath the already slow speed limit. I was so enjoying the day and looking all around me and noticing things in more detail than normal. And "more" for me is not a lot I am acutely aware.

It was just before I turned the corner that I noticed the parked car and a little ways from it a young couple.

It is not unusual to see cars in that place nor people enjoying the little park like area at the entrance to our addition. It is one of the things that attracted us to the area. Photographers use it often as a setting for their commissions.

Really I don't know how old they were but the sense I have is that they were young. I think they were nearer to high school than college graduation. But it is just a feeling.

They were sitting on the ground and they were facing each other. They were very close and their bodies were entwined. Her arms were around his neck and his around hers. Their faces were hidden in each others embrace.

It was the briefest glimpse even at my slow speed and then I was past them and in seconds they were only shadows of thought in my mind.

There had been no motion I had noticed when I passed them by. I could not see expressions on either face.

But there was nothing amorous about their embrace.

Perhaps there was joy. I cannot say not.

But I think it was a sad embrace. I don't know for certain but that's my feeling. And it made me a little sad myself. As though there had been some awful misfortune that had befallen them. And each was comforting the other though the experience of this grief.

But my sadness gave way to a feeling of happiness. But it was the kind of happiness that makes you want to cry because it is so beautiful.

I think they were comforting each other. It wasn't comfort by word or deed. It was comfort by presence and touch and that amazing thing we call love.

There's a beauty to that.

When I returned a few hours later they were gone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not All Starbucks Are The Same

I go almost every morning to the Fritts Farm Starbucks in Moore, OK.

There's a saying that "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

I proved that saying true in the case of my Fritts Farm Starbucks this last week as we took a quick trip out of town.

I had long suspected that my particular Starbucks was a special place. I just didn't know how special it really was.

Never have I entered my Starbucks without a cheery greeting from one and usually several of the baristas working there. Often there are customers who I also know. Whichever one of us sees the other first initiates the greeting which is quickly reciprocated.

In my case familiarity may not have bred contempt but I surely had succumbed to taking my Starbucks for granted.

There are some Starbucks were the baristas do not appear happy at all to be working there. Now it isn't that they were impolite or rude or discourteous. I am just used to having happy people make my coffee.

It isn't because of being busy either. My Starbucks is usually busy. I could even understand being ignored because of someone being overwhelmed with other customers.

But people that are overwhelmed by no customers makes no sense to me.

Another interesting thing I learned while gone is that the cheerfulness of my barista has a profound impact on the taste of my coffee.

I am so glad to be home!

And while I am at it hotels are not like home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Me When We Landed On The Moon

We were at my Aunt Larry's house watching the whole thing on TV 40 years ago.

I am the guy sitting in the chair. Apparently my pants are too short. My dear Judy says I still tend to want my pants too short.

From left to right behind me is my Aunt Ruth, cousin Brian, cousin Marilyn, Aunt Larry, and ex-wife Debbie.

I was 21.

Now I did not really remember this although I do have vague memories now that I've seen the photo.

Rather my brother who is our family historian and archivist sent the photo to via email with an explanation. As I study the photo the memory of the occasion does become less vague but it is hardly in focus.

He also sent a second image which I felt obligated to include on my blog entry. I started to say for posterity but that seems a little absurd to me.

But maybe no more absurd than landing on the Moon in the first place.

From left to right is my mother, Evelyn, and behind her by father, Alton. Seated next to him is his brother, my Uncle Vic. Next to Uncle Vic in the floor is my grandmother, Letitia. Directly behind my uncle is my cousin Pam and next to her is cousin Marilyn.

I think these are just treasures and I am so happy to have them again and to look at them and use them to spur my so very faulty memories of that time.

I had not yet gone off to boot camp nor had I graduated college. My wife was not yet pregnant with our first child. I think my cousins were still in high school then.

Really amazing photos.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Profoundly Ignorant

I heard the phrase "profoundly ignorant" used by a TV business commentator in describing a magazine article. I really liked the phrase.

That made me think, too.

I have been and am profoundly ignorant about any number of things. A few of these I know now after learning something about the subjects. But the vast remainder I know not.

That's because it takes a certain amount of knowledge to raise one's level of ignorance to the profound level.

Otherwise one is simply blissfully unaware.

Nothing really wrong with that as long as it is maintained privately.

After many years of negative experience it is my conclusion that the trick is to attempt silence regularly and consistently in order to shield from public notice the depth of one's own stupidity. That way the public is safer.

Not that I have arrived mind you but I am trying.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

No Place

Sunday morning I watched the local political show that comes on just before "Meet The Press." "Flash Point" is its name.

There is a moderator who attempts a neutrality of sorts, a democrat, and a republican. Usually there is a guest. The "democrat" always says bad things about republicans. The republican responds and the democrat attacks back and so on. The democrat's attacks always seem personal to me.

Usually the republican guy tries to be less personal in his own attacks but sometimes he, too, slides into personal attacks. Maybe less frequently than the democrat I think but hard to measure.

But it is called "Flash Point" so it is certainly not surprising that the format is adversarial and hostile at that. And the democrat is an attorney and attorneys seem more adversarial to me in general than most folks. The republican is a businessman who served as mayor once.

I really do not like to say bad things about other people. I was thinking that this morning while I watched that show. I think the republican guy lost his last couple of elections probably because he isn't very good at saying bad things about other people. Others disagree with me of course.

The democrat is really good at it. But he lost his elections, too. Maybe he is just a bit too abrasive about it.

I guess there's a skill level to it. Some politicians are really good at it. Some not.

So in that way I don't find a place for me in the culture. I don't want to say bad things about anyone. That's not very popular right now. Nearly everyone it seems has something bad to say about everyone else.

I always wonder what they say about me to the next person that they meet. I bet you anything it is something bad though.

So I think there's no place for me at the proverbial table of political discourse.

Not that I think there should be really nor am I much interested anymore. It seems tiresome now to me. I've seen nearly all of this before now. My dad used to try to tell me this and I never could understand him. Finally I begin to see what he meant.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


My daily reading yesterday in the Bible was Obadiah.

It is one chapter and short on words as well as succinct on message.

It is not difficult to understand generally although there are plenty of problems in details as is pretty common.

There are two things that just really stood out for me as I read.

The stronger was the idea that failure to act was as bad as contributing to the act itself:
On that day you stood there and didn't do anything.
Strangers took your brother's army into exile.

Godless foreigners invaded and pillaged Jerusalem.
You stood there and watched.

You were as bad as they were.

You shouldn't have gloated over your brother
when he was down-and-out.

You shouldn't have laughed and joked at Judah's sons
when they were facedown in the mud.

You shouldn't have talked so big
when everything was so bad.

You shouldn't have taken advantage of my people
when their lives had fallen apart.

You of all people should not have been amused
by their troubles, their wrecked nation.

You shouldn't have taken the shirt off their back
when they were knocked flat, defenseless.

And you shouldn't have stood waiting at the outskirts
and cut off refugees,

And traitorously turned in helpless survivors
who had lost everything.
I found that passage rather appropriate to our modern world.

The second thing that jumped out at me was the idea that perceived security is not real security:
You thought you were so great,
perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain,
Thinking to yourself,
'Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!'

Think again. Even if, like an eagle,
you hang out on a high cliff-face,
Even if you build your nest in the stars,
I'll bring you down to earth."
Something we should all remember.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Meeting Strangers

When we arrived at the concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir the other evening it was about 100 degrees. The thermometer on the car said it was 104. Just by "feel" I think it was maybe a little hotter than that in the parking lot but I'll concede "about 100."

Regardless the temperature, or maybe because of it, we did not linger in the parking lot. I did, however, pay attention to where the car was parked as we began walking away. Good planning on my part but only because of my previous experiences losing cars in parking lots. It always impresses me how different a parking lot looks full compared to empty and in darkness rather than light.

There was a queue of people gathered at the building entrance closest to us so we began walking towards the end of the line.

Coincidentally we arrived about the same time as another couple. It was one of those situations where the man preceded us but we preceded his wife. So she joined him in front of us. Immediately he apologized for "cutting the line" which really hadn't happened. Besides no one was behind us anyway. So it was said in a pleasant, joking kind of way.

And we joked back about the fact that they gained so much ground and then we all laughed. I noticed the couple's laugh. Their laughs were exactly the same and very happy. Those laughs were such happy laughs in fact that it made me happy.

Then the woman asked her husband if he had the tickets. And he responded with kind of a blank look that was subtle enough to make me wonder. And then there was his big laugh again as he produced the tickets which was followed by her equally big laugh. Again it made me happy just hearing those laughs.

We made casual conversation then as the line moved towards the entrance. They mentioned their city and she regretted she had not brought a jacket. We laughed together at that because it was hotter in line than it was in the parking lot.

After we entered the building they went one way and we another. As we parted we wished each other well.

I thought to myself that it was such a pleasant experience to meet someone like this couple in a line of many other strangers. What a blessing.

Later Judy and I talked about how wonderfully matched we found this couple and how much we enjoyed talking to them in line and how happy their laughs made us both.

I bet you like this couple, too. And I bet you have a mental image of the man and the woman somehow based on my mere words.

And I bet in that mental image they are each of the same color.

And you would be wrong because he was one color and she was another and I've decided to omit the detail.

And it mattered not one bit. In fact it was not noticeable at all. That was especially true in light of the amazing similarity of their sense of humor.

And that's the way it should be.