Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Perfect Day

This is January.  I remember many bitter cold winters in Chicago.  Now I live in Dallas, where today the sun shines, and the temperature is in the 70's.  A perfect day.  On television the weather man tells me a cold front is coming next week.  Once again I will wear my heavy black, padded jacket to go out into a windy day with the thermometer rising only into the 40's at midday.  But I am determined to enjoy this beautiful weather for as long as it lasts. 

I will do tai chi.  I am still surprised at how a few quiet minutes doing tai chi strengthens my muscles and clears my head of all worries.

I have a set of folding metal lawn chairs that I took from Illinois to New Mexico thirty years ago, and which now sit on my patio in Dallas.  They still hold my overweight body comfortably.  I will sit on my patio, where the view over rows of garages does not compare with the view of the Sandia and Monsano Mountains from my house in Albuquerque.  Instead of looking at those dismal garage roofs, I will focus my eyes on the book in my lap.  I will not read anything serious.  I will choose  a book just for fun.  (Have you read “Mama Goes to Paris”?

Obama failed as President.  Idiots support Trump and Cruz. I will not get upset over politics.  I remember history.  Our country has survived many mediocre and/or incompetent Presidents.  Warren G. Harding.  Benjamin Harrison.  William McKinley.  Franklin Pierce.   

John McKinley, who lives on the fourth floor in this retirement home, frequently tells me how proud he is that he is a direct descendant of President William McKinley  At least he knows his great-great-grandfather President..

Shortly after my son Karl was born, his godmother, Margie Douglas, came to see me and the baby at that tiny, cramped “studio” apartment in Chicago, where I was happy, delighted with my baby son.  When I mentioned to Margie that my husband, studying history as a graduate student at Northwestern University, was writing a paper on Franklin Pierce, Margie, who had a master’s degree from Northwestern, said, “Who was Franklin Pierce”?

Next week when that cold wind comes down from Canada, I will have a lot to say about the current political situation.  But I hope you and I will both keep in mind that the voters, who elected mediocre and/or incompetent Presidents, were the nicest and kindest of people.  Mary Adams, the Albuquerque psychologist who gave me lots of good advice, told me, “Don’t say they are ignorant.  I say, ‘They are mis-informed.’”

The U.S. has survived.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Closet Democrats and the Tea Party

We are bombarded by all this political stuff.  I want to scream, “Stop!”.  I could be more polite and say something such as, “Radio and television report many political comments.”  Instead, I feel bored and affronted by all of it.  I feel as if tons of meaningless “stuff” was falling out of the sky (Where does tv come from?}and hitting me on the head.

 To add to my annoyance, there is the attitude of some old people who live with me in an “independent living retirement” community in Dallas.  Since I do not go to meals on the days I go to dialysis, on the other days I go to the dining room and sit with anyone who has a chair at their table.  Some people refuse to discuss politics and religion.  They are smart. 

Like the journalist I used to be, I ask questions.  One night I mentioned President Obama.  The woman sitting next to me looked up from her chicken-fried steak and turned her head away, refusing to look at me.  She shuttered, filled with disgust at the mention of our President.  She said, “He is the worst President we ever had.”  She also believes he is a Muslim and probably was born in Kenya. 

By asking about backgrounds and education, I discovered that the better educated people here, such as the charming doctor I sometimes sit with at supper, are Episcopalians, and most are “closet” Democrats.  I call them “closet Democrats” because if they let it be known that they vote for Democrats, they will be verbally attacked by Tea Party loyalists, like the woman who shuttered when I mentioned President Obama

The people who despise our President are usually Southerners, which means they are secret racists, but just as they promote their political opinions, they are all fundamental Christians.  They talk about “taking back the Constitution,” as “Our nation was founded as a Christian nation.”  If I tell them that some of the Founding Fathers were not Christians, they refuse to believe me, just as they refuse to believe that the World was not created in six days in 6,000 B.C.
I usually vote for Democratic candidates.  Not always.  In New Mexico I supported my Republican Congressman.  He voted for what he thought was right, even if it was not the official Party position.  I was surprised to learn he was a Jew who grew up in Chicago and came to New Mexico as a young lawyer to join the staff of the county’s district attorney. A woman, who had worked in that office, told me, “He was the best of all that worked there.”  I grieved with everyone in New Mexico when that honest Republican died in his early 40's of a rare form of skin cancer.

In contrast, since I moved to Dallas, my Congressman is Jeb Hensarling, who lives in North Dallas with the rich folks, neighbors of George W. Bush, while most of his constituents in this gerrymandered district are working class.  Why do they vote for this man who votes for tax breaks for the rich?  He has ridden on the Tea Party band wagon since the beginning of that stubborn, unreasonable group.

I understand these people.  I grew up as one of them.  In college, where I majored in journalism, besides the classes in how to write headlines and “the Law of the Press”, I took courses in political science, economics, and religion.  My father told me, “I wish we had not let you go to college, because you turned away from the way you were brought up.”  If Daddy were alive today, he would be 129 years old and probably have the same attitude as the woman who shuttered at the name “Obama”. 

This is only the beginning.  It will take many blogs to expand why people hate Obama.  Be prepared.  Many rants to come.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Liza Doolittle Sings to Me

On television I heard Stephen Colbert and his guest sing a song you know.  I whispered the words Audrey Hepburn sang in “My Fair Lady”: “All I want is a room somewhere, with one enormous chair. Lots of coal making lots of heat.  Warm hands, warm feet.”

A cold, arctic wind has swept down over Texas, bringing the first “hard freeze” of the winter.  Do I really need  my luxurious apartment?  Lying back with my feet up in my big, brown electric recliner, I have my enormous chair.  No coal, but gas heat keeps me warm. 

At suppertime I will push my walker, which carries the oxygen tank, down the long hall to the dining room, where the chef will have prepared a gourmet meal of some fancy, marinated steak.  Do I really need all this fancy living?

This “retirement home” where I live in Dallas is expensive.  Most of the people who live here are rich, including retired doctors, Air Force colonels, plant managers, and the like.  Or they have rich children who pay the rent here to avoid having to put up with their parents living with them.  How many of them appreciate this way of spending their “declining years”?

I remember that, after Wally and I were divorced, my alimony was only $500 a month.  My rent for an apartment in Albuquerque was $350 (one-third of what it would be in Illinois).  I borrowed $15,000 from my mother for a down payment on a little house with payments of $350 a month.  A good deal, as it turned out, but I could not survive on the remaining $150.  I left my son Karl in the house in Albuquerque and drove back to Illinois to sue Wally for support.

What followed was three dreadful years.  Thanks to the generosity of friends, I was given places to stay for a couple of years.  Embarrassed to impose of them any longer, I went to a shelter for the homeless.  In DuPage County, Illinois, the program is called PADS; the homeless sleep on mattresses on the floor in various church halls, a different church each night.

One of the most rewarding experiences in my life.  I met people who were forced by circumstances to live this way.  At that time most of them were (like me) mentally ill.  Those poor souls could not work.  Others were young people who had low-paying jobs but could not afford the expensive rents in DuPage County. One was an unmarried pregnant girl who worked all day laying floor tiles, then came to Pads to sleep on the floor.  No one was there because they were “too lazy” to work.  No one wanted to be there. 

I slept on the floor in PADS for only a few nights.  Then my daughter Martha and her husband Don let me stay with them.  They were newlyweds.  It was not a happy situation. I found ways to escape.  Walking in the Morton Arboretum was excellent exorcize, plus being outdoors in the woods cleared my muddled brain.

On Monday nights I went to a writers group at the Downers Grove Public Library.  After meeting with the writers, I would go across the street to the Congregational Church, where PADS provided shelter every Monday night. Months wet by and the same group was still sleeping on the floor, caught by fate in situations which they could not change.  None of them could afford “a room somewhere, with one enormous chair.”  For them a small room of their own would be luxury.

Last night I had supper with a genial man who spoke with an Irish accent to order his supper of chicken-fried steak and black-eyed peas.  Born in Ireland, he came to the U.S. as a young man and achieved success as plant manager for a company which manufactured custom-made hats for a rich clientele.  . He said proudly, “I love America.  Anyone can succeed in this country if they just work hard.” He does not realize that the homeless are people who can not help themselves.

To my shame I did not speak up and tell him my experiences.  What will I do? Not much  I will send a check to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army takes care of hundreds in Dallas County. No enormous chairs but a warm place to sleep on these cold nights.  My little donation  is very little in the magnitude of the problem.