A little more Fascinating Aida to brighten your Monday.
How can you not love a song about condoms?
A little more Fascinating Aida to brighten your Monday.
How can you not love a song about condoms?
Many images have come out of Boston after the recent bombings. For some reason I was particularly moved by the cover to the Boston Magazine showing running shoes. The ‘heart & sole’ imagery may not be subtle but it highlights an element of the attack that is evocative. The international and cross-cultural nature of an athletic event like the Boston Marathon adds an extra layer of ugliness to this attack. It calls the mind the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics a couple of generations ago.
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Today is the birthday of Nelle Harper Lee. She is 87. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has always been one of my favorite books. It is the first book I recall reading more than once. The film adaptation starring Gregory Peck is a classic. I saw a stage adaptation a few years ago and found it is equally powerful as a play. She is one of inspirations that gave our ‘Harper’ her name.
It seems impossible to read anything about Harper Lee that doesn’t focus on that fact that “…Mockingbird” was her only book; often with an implied disappointment. I understand the fascination but I also find it annoying. How many masterpieces is a one required to produce before they earn their place in cultural history? Thanks to Ms. Lee, I learned to appreciate writers with what I think of as a southern voice. I’m sure I would have discovered Tennessee Williams had there never been “To Kill A Mockingbird”, but probably later than I did. I probably would have discovered Truman Capote as well though I am not sure. I’m not as confident I would have discovered William Faulkner, Eudora Welty or Flannery O’Connor. Thanks Ms. Lee…and Happy Birthday.
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The recent theft of my wallet spurred me to action canceling credit cards and replacing all the little bits of plastic and paper that represent my life in my back pocket. Most of the replacements have arrived and it occurs to me I need to buy a new wallet in which to keep them. I don’t think I have ever purchased a wallet. Is it possible, at my advanced age, that every wallet I’ve ever owned was either a birthday or Christmas gift? Since both are months away I must brave the frontier of this uncharted shopping territory. How exciting!
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One of the pieces of paper I need to replace is my Social Security card. I don’t have any particular emotional or sentimental attachment to my lost card but it occurs to me, aside from the birth certificate, it was the oldest piece of paper I owned. I was in 6th grade. I had just gotten my first job, a paper route, and needed to have a social security number. My mother took my sister and I to the office above the Post Office we both got them. I took pride in the fact my sister’s social security number was identical to mine except mine ended in a 7 and hers ended in an 8. My number was lower even though she was older; the things one finds interesting age 12. It was amusing to see how I signed my name at age 12. I wonder if I can try to recreate that on the new one. “But officer; it’s not forgery. It’s nostalgia.”
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Sometimes up-to-date information can be TMI. Friends in Portland OR recently sent a package using the Postal Service. USPS has committed time and energy to touting their new online tracking system in an effort to be more competitive. In this case, I was able to go online and see that the package went from Portland to Seattle to Phoenix. It arrived in Phoenix in the early hours of 4/23 where it was sorted and sent out for delivery. In the wee hours of 4/24 our box again toured the sorting facility and was sent back out for delivery. Apparently unable to get too much of a good thing, our intrepid parcel made one more nostalgic visit to the sorting facility in the early morning hours of 4/25 before being sent back out, again, for delivery. It finally arrived at our door about 4:30 PM. Had the package simply arrived the afternoon up on 4/25, while not dazzled by the speed, I would not have been dissatisfied with the service. But knowing the little-parcel-that-could made ‘last call’ at the Phoenix sorting facility three days in a row before finding its way to us looks like inefficiency. If Harry Potter had spent that much time under the Sorting Hat I would never have finished the first book.
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Life Lessons from the Lost Wallet Diaries….
After a recent hacking incident, WordPress posted information on its website recommending users enhance their security by moving to a second-level authentication system. In this system, in addition to ones user name and password, one needs to provide a 6 digit code that is generated by a smart-phone application to sign in. This is a variation of the SecureID system we used for years at the bank. I was familiar with the process so I put it in place.
When setting up the authentication system, the instructions stress the importance of printing a list of single-use back up codes. These codes would be used to access Wordpress if the authenticator application were unavailable for any reason. Since there is no way to access WordPress without a code, they warn users to print the backup codes and keep them in a safe place separate from your phone. They recommend keeping them in your wallet. That way, should your phone be unavailable for any reason, like, oh I don’t know, say, just hypothetically mind you, someone steals it, you can still access WordPress. Am I the one only person in the history of the world who lost their wallet and phone at the same time? The Happiness Engineers (yes, that is really what they’re called) at WordPress were terrific about assisting me but it took two days to regain access. For anyone else using the system, you may wish to consider keeping more than one copy of the backup codes and keeping one of them somewhere other than your wallet……
There was both joy and sorrow at Casa de Harper yesterday and time pieces were at the heart of both.
We are celebrating the return of Aunt Marion’s mantel clock. Marion was Harper’s Other Dad’s great-great-grandfather’s sister so it is a family heirloom. It is a wonderful old clock with charming chimes. It was in the repair shop for several months last year. Repair people for antique clocks are scarce so they are always busy. Also, parts don’t usually exist so, when needed, they need to be fabricated. We got the clock back and it worked for a few weeks but then stopped chiming. I took it back to the repair shop 5-6 weeks ago. I brought it home yesterday.
Sadly, I realized yesterday that there was another item taken in the recent burglary; my wristwatch. I didn’t miss it until yesterday. By all objective measures it is not a significant loss. It was a Seiko watch, well over 20 years old, and was not extravagantly expensive when I bought it. I’m not usually one who gets attached to material things but it meant a great deal to me.
I bought the watch years ago in St. Thomas while on a cruise. I had finally gotten to the point in my career where I started to feel like I had some disposable income. It was not a major purchase in financial terms but it was the first time I’d really given myself permission to buy something for myself that wasn’t a necessity.
There is an additional aspect. I struggled with coming out. I did not start to have experiences with men until I was over 30. After a couple of years of exploring and experimenting in my ‘kid-in-a-candy-store’ phase, I met someone. We were living together. That cruise was our first vacation together and one of the first times I’d ever done anything ‘in public’ as part of a male couple.
None of that, of course, has anything to do with a watch. The watch was an artifact from a time when I felt I’d put a dark time behind me and life held the promise of better things. I was right. There were better times ahead. The watch symbolized that moment of transition. I’ll miss it.
So…. it’s 6:45 AM and I’m in line at a McDonald’s in Uptown Phoenix. It wasn’t a destination I’d set out to explore but I was in the area. I had an errand to run nearby at 8:00 AM so I had an hour to kill. Options are limited in that area at that hour so I thought I’d get a beverage and read a book.
At the front of the line is a young couple, twenty-somethings, let’s call them “Boyfriend” and “Girlfriend”. The first thing I notice is that Boyfriend has a bicycle with him in line. I’d never seen anyone bring their bike inside a Mickey D’s before but there was no lock in sight and, after recent events in my life, I could certainly understand why he might be reluctant to rely on the honesty of passersby. The bike seemed out of place but it wasn’t inconveniencing anyone.
The other thing that became quickly apparent was that Boyfriend was high. I don’t mean a mellow, ‘catchin’-a-buzz-on-livin’-and-got-the-munchies’ high. I mean a ‘totally-f’d-up-on-meth’-at-6:45AM’ high.
There ought to be a law against T.U.I. (talking, under the influence). He was struggling to make it clear what he wanted. More accurately, he thought he was struggling. He was not having as much difficulty as he thought he was. After the a few minutes the counter person and every customer in the line, myself included, knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted two coffees. He wanted three McMuffins; two with egg and one without. He also wanted two apple pies.
“Are the apple pies still two for a dollar? I got them before here once and they were two for a dollar. My friend said he heard they were still two for a dollar but he wasn’t sure…. but that’s what I want. If they are still two for a dollar I would like to get them….two. That way we could each have one. But I only want two pies, not like two orders of pies . Because that would be four pies. We just want a two pies, I mean a total of two pies, one for each of us. I mean, you know? ….if they’re still two for a dollar. I’ve gotten them here like that lots of times.” He said it all in about 3 seconds.
By the time he was confident they’d reached a meeting of the minds on the pies, it was time to revisit the complexities of how many of the McMuffins had egg. The counter person repeated the order back accurately but Boyfriend just wasn’t sure …. so he’d start again, repeating the counter person’s exact words back as if it were breaking news….
“Did I ask about pies? I heard they were two for a dollar here.”
They whole time this was going on, Girlfriend was staring, unblinkingly, at him as if he were the oracle at Delphi. At first, I thought she was might be reading his lips but periodically she’d pipe in to make sure he knew she did not want an egg on her McMuffin. Whatever he was taking he had clearly shared with her.
Eventually he felt secure that the counter person had the order captured correctly and he was told that the total would be $8.32. That’s when he started emptying his pockets out on the counter. There was no paper money. It was all change. There might have been a couple of quarters but it was mostly dimes, nickles and pennies; lots and lots of pennies. Talking under the influence had been a snap compared to counting under the influence. Unfortunately, it soon; actually not that soon; became clear he did not have $8.32. That’s when they started revising to order to match the budget. At that point, the manager opened another register to handle the other people in line. Some of my queue mates had long since moved past bemused and were covering the spectrum between annoyed and irate. Eventually, I saw the couple leave the counter with a tray and their bicycle.
I am intrigued by my emotional reaction to this. Initially, I was saddened. Clearly there is a substance issue. Addiction damages or destroys far too many lives every year; especially among the young. I can’t imagine that a decade earlier this is where either of them thought they’d be. I am not sure why I think about that but I always do.
Even though I was in no hurry I admit I was also annoyed. There was a line of people being inconvenienced by these two, and I was the third person in it.
I’ll also admit that, ignoring the context, the conversation was pretty comical. Cheech & Chong built a career with material just like this.
When the coins came out I moved back to sadness. Maybe they’re homeless? The coins were the kind of thing one would collect on the street. Homelessness is a tragedy in America and Phoenix is not an easy climate in which to live on the street. People rarely freeze to death here but they die from the heat and dehydration. Also, the political climate here does not make it easy to find funding for shelters. The unspoken official position seems to be if we make the homeless uncomfortable enough they will go to California.
These two did not seem homeless though. My stereotypes will show here but most homeless people have ‘stuff’; backpacks or bags with spare clothing. water bottles, blankets or other things for sleeping. If you have no place to leave your possessions you carry them with you. The bike told me they proably weren’t living in their car. Also, at the risk of seeming insensitive, people in circumstances where they do not have access to showers and laundry show signs of wear & tear in a desert climate. These two looked like they’d had a rough night, to be sure, but their clothes were relatively clean and their hygiene was good. I’ve seen people look worse just doing ‘the walk of shame’. These two just looked like two people who got high and got hungry…at 6:45 AM.
It is hard to be empathetic, amused and annoyed all at the same time but I am not sure how else to describe how I felt. I hope they’re all right. I hope they get help. I hope next time they are in line behind me.
We are approaching the end of the season for the entertainment subscriptions. The stack of tickets that was so big and unwieldy last Fall is down to a scant few remaining. Arizona Opera closed out its season a couple of weeks ago. After last night’s performance, the Phoenix Symphony has only two more classical concerts. Ballet Arizona closes its subscription season next weekend and the Met’s “Live in HD” season ends tomorrow. I guess it’s time to start watching the “Real Housewives of…” Wherever. Do they have one set in Mayberry yet?
Last night’s Symphony concert was interesting. The first half was Liszt’s Dante Symphony. It is a musical version of the journey through Hell and Purgatory depicted in “The Divine Comedy“. I had never heard the symphony, or even heard of it, before last night.
I don’t know much about Liszt. I recognize “Liebestraum” when I hear it. Maybe that’s why I associate him with the piano. He was a well-known pianist in his day. I also think of him as associated with Wagner but, prior to checking with my BFF Wikipedia this morning, I could not have explained why. He was instrumental in supporting production of Wagner’s early work and Wagner married Liszt’s daughter. In any case, I saw “Liszt” on the ticket and assumed we’d be hearing a piano concerto. We did not.
The symphony is impressive. It starts in the lowest registers of the instruments and moves gradually upward until it ends in the highest. The Symphony Chorus was onstage as well but only the women. He only wanted the vocals on the highest ranges near the end; a ‘choir of angels’. I liked it very much. Here’s an bit from the beginning.
The second half of the concert was a piece by Venezuelan composer Antonio Estévez called La Cantata Criolla – Florentino el que canto con el Diablo. (“Florentino sings with the Devil“). Based on a poem by Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, it tells the story of a singing contest between the two title characters. I was envisioning kind of a highbrow take on “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I don’t know whether that was correct. We left at intermission so I didn’t hear it. I have something to look forward to next time the Symphony decides to do an ‘all Satan’ program.
At 9:00 AM tomorrow morning we’ll see the Met’s ‘Live in HD” simulcast of Handel’s Giulio Cesare. The reviews I’ve seen have been glowing. With countertenor David Daniels and soprano Natalie Dessay in the roles of Caesar and Cleopatra, it has the potential to be memorable. I have only seen a few Baroque operas and this is not among them so it will be new to me. I’m intrigued by the teasers we’ve seen all season. The costumes and set conjure an image in my mind more of Gilbert & Sullivan than Handel. I am also fascinated that Julius Caesar is a countertenor role. It seems incongruous to me. With a length exceeding four hours, I will have plenty of time to think about it. Any any case, we have tickets and I always love Natalie Dessay so I might as well go for it. [Get it?? ‘Go for it’?….’Go for’?… Gopher?…. Gopher Baroque? Stop groaning!]
Casa de Harper was burglarized last Thursday. As such things go, this one was pretty tame. We were lucky.
Picture it. (“Sicily; 1912…”- just kidding) It’s a pleasant spring evening. Harper and her Other Dad are in the bedroom snoozing away. Your humble narrator is in the den at the computer.
Our back yard is accessible from the house through sliding glass doors from either the bedroom or the kitchen. On cool evenings it is my wont to leave the doors open when we are home and still up. It allows for ventilation through the house and Harper can go in & out at will. I go around and ‘lock up’ before I go to bed.
A wall surrounds our back yard. The walls are for privacy more than security. Most people have pools and the walls keep out neighborhood youngsters and pets that might accidentally fall in. They also stop coyotes, and such, from wandering in to make mischief.
I had unpacked my gym bag and left my ‘street clothes’ on a counter in the family room; a polo shirt and a pair of cargo shorts. Apparently, at some point along the way, I put down a book nearby as well.
About 11:00 PM some honesty-challenged individual climbed over the wall and walked in through the open kitchen door. Apparently they saw the cargo shorts and made to check the pockets. In doing so, they knocked the book off the counter. This was happening about 20′ from where I was sitting but in another room. I heard the book hit the floor and, thinking Harper’s Other Dad had gotten up, called out to see what happened. Hearing no answer, I went to investigate. Apparently when I called out our burglar realized how close I was and ran back out the way he/she came in; taking the cargo shorts, containing my wallet, my iPhone and about $8 in cash.
When I came around the corner, I saw the book on the floor and thought; “Hmmm; I wonder what caused this book to fall to the floor”. But nothing seemed amiss. I did not notice the shorts were gone. So I picked up the book, walked through the house closing doors and windows and went to bed unaware of my brush with the slimy underbelly of urban society.
The next morning I got up and, as is my habit, checked my email. There was a note from a credit card company advising of suspicious activity and asking that I call the Fraud Dept to verify charges. “Please have your credit card ready when you call.” I went off in search of my wallet and the realization started to sink in.
There is much for which I am thankful.
No one was hurt. One hears horror stories about things becoming violent when people walk in on burglars.
There was no damage to our home. Since I was so accommodating as to leave the door open for him, there was no need to break in.
Since he was scared off so quickly, he didn’t have time to look for other things to steal. Harper’s Other Dad’s wallet was lying a few feet away and was untouched.
Nothing of sentimental value was lost. I did like those shorts but my wallet is utilitarian; ID, credit cards; a couple gift cards that probably had a few bucks left on them. There were no photos or keepsakes.
I cancelled the debit and credit cards. I locked, erased and suspended service to the phone. I replaced it a couple of days later.
The specter of “identity theft” looms large since both my credit cards and my driver’s license are now in the hands of the underworld but I placed Fraud Alerts with the credit bureaus and notified the banks where I do business. I’ll have to wait for the other shoe to drop on that.
It’s creepy to think of a stranger in our home; more so because we were home at the time. Plus I don’t get the sense this was the charmingly roguish, “cute-in-a-serial-killer-kind-of-way” bad boy one sees in movies. He probably couldn’t even sing and dance. Had I rounded the corner and found Kevin Kline or Rex Smith I’d have given him the $8…. and my phone number, though probably not the phone itself.
I was a little sad about having missed last weekend’s trip to Colorado to visit some of the family of Harper’s Other Dad. I cheered up significantly, however, when he came home with presents.
Not only did I get a cool t-shirt from the University of Colorado (Go Buffaloes!)
But his Harper’s Great-Aunt B sent DUCKS!
The armada grows.
And soon it will be time for maneuvers.