Saturday, May 31, 2008

History (of sorts) is made: My first-ever Victoria's Secret purchase

This is a gift I purchased for my wife earlier today. The accompanying story will probably amuse anyone who knows me even reasonably well. So click on the image and enjoy!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"When the student is ready, the teacher will come"

I have always enjoyed reading Larry Elder's column, which appears regularly in Jewish World Review. But I did not know until today that before he became a columnist, he was a professional headhunter for law firms -- and that his headhunter days, in turn, were preceded a few years devoted to his own law practice. He has apparently done a lot with his life.

Today's column, found here, is an affectionate tribute to one of his professional mentors, and it incorporates the proverb I have adopted as the title for this post. I had never heard it before seeing it in the column today, but I can certainly relate to it. When I read that line, I must have smiled, and I know for certain that it immediately reminded me of my dance instructor, from whom I have learned so much in the little less than a year and a half I have known her. I will never be able to repay her for all that she has done for me. It has certainly been true in my case that in what was probably the darkest hour of my life, I was ready, and my teacher did in fact come. Since then, Angie has played a unique and very special role on the stage of my life, and has done so magnificently. It has been perhaps the closest thing to absolute perfection that she will ever achieve in her lifetime.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The last doughboy

I have always been very sensitive to the ebb and flow of history, to the connection we have with the past, and which one generation has with those that preceded it. Thus it is that I have been following, with great interest, the story of America's last surviving World War I veteran -- Frank Buckles, age 107, who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, and who is apparently quite spry and alert for a man of such advanced age. But spry and durable though he might be, he, too, is mortal, and his inevitable appointment with the Reaper is obviously near at hand. Soon he, like the nearly five million veterans who preceded him, will be gone, and our already attenuated sense of connection with the Great War will be preserved only through books, film documentaries, museums, and the like, there no longer being any living memories of the conflict.

Today I found this article about him in Jewish World Review. It was written by columnist George F. Will, who I believe would be a good read -- and a thought-provoking one as well -- even if he were to write something about, say, the long roll-call of Smiths who appear in the Manhattan telephone directory.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The youngest heroes

It is certainly no secret that the past couple of years have been exceptionally difficult for me, so much so that it is tempting to give in to the almost overwhelming feelings of pain and despair. The author of one of the two articles I am sharing here summarized my own thoughts quite well. "How many of us face long odds and struggle with hardship, sickness and despair?" he wrote. "Who hasn't been tempted to surrender to the thought that the hate and pain and sorrow of this life are too great to endure?" Perhaps every thoughtful person wonders about that from time to time, especially during middle age.

As tempting as that has been, however, I haven't quite done it yet. I do count myself to have been remarkably fortunate in the friendships I have had over the years, and my support network has been helpful to me during this time. My dance instructor has been especially so. She is perhaps the bravest young woman I have ever known, and what she is teaching me about life in general, and how to find joy amid struggle and pain, is far more important than her more formal lessons on the foxtrot, rumba, and West Coast swing. I look at her and think that if she faced her own odds and accomplished what she did, then perhaps I can, too. Not long ago I told her that although she had some help along the way, she had done more than anyone else to shepherd me through an especially dangerous passage in my life's journey, and that I knew I would always owe her for that. Her example of courage and nobility has inspired me far more than I think she will ever know.

Those, of course, are two of the human virtues I most admire, and seeing them displayed from time to time is a big part of what, in the end, makes this life worthwhile in spite of its sorrows. Two other examples are shared here. A couple of days ago I sent an e-mail link to this article to my friend Michelle, and told her it was one of the most inspiring stories I had ever read. It was written by columnist Bob Greene nearly nine years ago, and in all the years since, I don't know how many times I have read it myself or shared it with the most important people in my life. The morning after I sent this link to Michelle, I sent it to a few of my co-workers, and I hope that someone else in need of inspiration and encouragement will now find it here.

This must have been my week for finding inspiring stories, because only hours after I sent that e-mail to Michelle, I found an even better story in that day's edition of the same website. It was this, which I eagerly commend to what few readers I have. But I suggest keeping a Kleenex handy when you read it. The prophet Isaiah would perhaps have loved this story; he, after all, was the one who wrote the inspired prediction that "a little child [would] lead them."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paul Greenberg on what he should have learned

In about three weeks I will observe my 55th birthday. (Note that I chose that word instead of celebrate.) I'm not exactly an ancient relic, but I am neither as young nor as healthy as I used to be, and I am realizing more and more that my youth is gone forever. To paraphrase Dante, the arc of my years is clearly descending. But a lot has happened during those 55 years, some of it very good, much of it not so good.

I am naturally inclined to thoughtful introspection, and by now I hope I have acquired at least a measure of wisdom during my restless and difficult journey. Last week I told my friend Michelle about a newspaper article I had read earlier that day, which in turn was about letters middle-aged women had written to their younger selves, all of which had then been compiled into a book. I told her I might do that myself one of these times, and now that I think of it, I might post the letter right here on my blog.

Meanwhile, today I came across this column in today's Jewish World Review. It's by Paul Greenberg, who has long been one of my favorite columnists. I think he is a bit older than I am, but having read this piece, I believe he would understand why someone would want to write a letter to his or her younger self.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fishing at sunset, Tempe Town Lake, Arizona

I ended an unusually long hiatus from photography with a weekend trip to Tempe Town Lake, where I came up with some really good images. This one emerged as my clear favorite.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sheila the sis

I have never been able to get excited about Mother's Day, for reasons which I know are obvious to just about everyone who knows me even reasonably well. As I have observed on this blog and elsewhere, the phrase "mother's love" is, to me, an oxymoron. But I rejoice for the myriads of people who, fortunately for them and for the world in general, will never have to say that.

One of those individuals is my niece Jenny, of whom I am extremely fond. She wrote this Mother's Day tribute to her own mother, my sister Sheila, who came to Arizona to visit us a couple of months ago. My favorite story about Sheila is related here by Jenny; it's about the time she decked a boy for bullying her, thereby ending forever that particular childhood trauma of hers. I have repeated that tale countless times over the years, always with a mixture of wonder and amusement. Until today, however, I did not know that she had once been named Miss Congeniality in a beauty contest, although that comes as no surprise to me.

So tonight I post the link to Jenny's tribute, hoping that my readers will find it as amusing and entertaining as I have. (The accompanying photo, by the way, was taken by me when Sheila visited us back in March. It made the Explore page on Flickr.)