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A Few Random Thoughts During the Holiday Season...

...that don't particularly have anything to do with the Holidays. Or, perhaps more correctly, Holidaze. 

Do you remember the signs in practically every car on the road - or so it seemed- that read BABY ON BOARD? What? Like it's okay to hit a car with GROWN-UPS ON BOARD?  Adults don't count? Please don't hit this car because it has a baby in it whose life is obviously more precious than yours. Perhaps that was closer to the beginning of all of this "Politically Correct" nonsense that has gone so far that we are losing our Freedom of Speech. But I digress. 

The Holidays are For The Children.  Well, adults appreciate being thought of as well.  However, considering the economy we'd be better off going back to basics and making something if we can. I'm perfectly satisfied with an e-card. Just knowing someone has thought of me long enough to send one of those makes me happy. I'm not forgotten. As writers we live a pretty solitary life. As a single writer, mine is particularly solitary. My cat is a Chartreux. b2ap3_thumbnail_aimee--me.JPG 

She has a silent meow. As a migraineur, I appreciate that. It would be nice, however, if through some flight of fancy, she could say something, preferably in English, every now and then.

The thing that has been really irritating me (you knew I'd get to it, didn't you?) is Make a Wish. Before you start screaming at me for being mean or cruel, please hear me out. Have you ever heard of Make a Wish for Grown-ups? No?  Of course not. That's because there isn't one. My question is: why not? Do only children who are fatally ill deserve to have a wish fulfilled? Do people who have lived longer and had a difficult life not deserve to have a wish fulfilled?

I remember interviewing Tony Bennett many years ago. Some interviews stay with you. At one point, while discussing why he gives everything to each performance, and his performances are long, he told me he just wants to bring some happiness to people, an escape for a little while. He said some people are born under a lucky star, and some people, dammit, no matter how hard they work, nothing goes right. He has not forgotten those people. Apparently, everyone else has. If you've seen someone struggle with cancer, you know how debilitating it is, how barbaric the treatment. Some people have worked hard all their life, can't really afford to retire and haven't even taken a vacation, and then they're hit with a debilitating or fatal illness. What about them? Are they like the ones who aren't a BABY ON BOARD? They've lived "x" number of years, therefore no one needs to think of them, they've had their chance.

How many people have friends drift away when they're ill because it has gone on too long. I have had, and still have, many friends with chronic, but invisible, disabilities. One had a "close friend" tell her that she was lying when she was too sick to go out for dinner. I pointed out that she wasn't a real friend. This is the time of year when people are alone.  Some are healthy enough to go and help others, to be with friends. Others are incapacitated and completely alone. What of them?

What of older people? They have so much to share but people shy away from them. They have feelings. They still want to see people, have conversations, travel. They're not dead. Why can't people stop treating them as if they were?

I have no answers. Just questions and some food for thought for anyone who is reading this.

Copyright

© Darlene Arden

Recent Comments
Former Member
Love your comment about "holiDAZE!" I am a former wish-granter for MAKE-A-WISH and I always wondered why there wasn't a "wish-gra... Read More
Monday, 21 December 2015 12:28
Former Member
Hi Debby, Thank you for your comments. I'm glad to hear that someone else was wondering about doing something for adults. Thank... Read More
Monday, 21 December 2015 21:03
Former Member
I have to applaud Tony Bennet for his belief in those not born under the lucky star. He was one of a kind performer . I would ha... Read More
Monday, 21 December 2015 17:16
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It's The Law

     I just saw recently in The New York Times that in England it's illegal to wear a suit of armour in Parliament. The article doesn't say what the penalty is but I'd assume that in ancient England it could be pretty draconian. The article pertained to a movement now going on over there to sort out some of the obsolete laws that have accumulated over the many years of England's history. There are 44,000 of them that those charged with the duty must study and try to decide which to eliminate. A major problem is that they could still be used if someone should violate one of them. England is a very old country so I can see how daunting a job this can be.

     But it reminded me of some American laws I've learned of over the years that still exist. It seems laws once enacted anywhere are unlikely to be repealed. Prohibition, of course, didn't have a very long run but it took an amendment to the Constitution to get rid of it.

     In the early 1950s I was in the Air Force. One of the bases I was stationed on was Fort Carson in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This was the cavalry base from which General Custer rode out to engage in the infamous Battle Of Little Big Horn. There were base regulations there against shooting buffalo from barracks windows. Another stipulated that all hostile Indians should be shot on sight. 

     Later I learned of a law I found amusing but which probably shows the mindset of the Pilgrim settlers, the Puritans, I guess. In Massachusetts it was still mandatory that any man over the age of eighteen who was unmarried could be made to leave his town. I guess a lot of men, if the law were still enforced, could be kept on the run forever if disinclined to marry or found unacceptable by discriminating women. The law was still active and could, at least theoretically, be pulled out in a case of serious halitosis. I wonder how many 30-year-olds could pass themselves off as 17.

     One British law that proved to be apocryphal stated that it was illegal for any woman to go topless publicly unless she was working in an exotic fish store.

  

     On the more serious side I just did something I wouldn't have believed I'd ever do. I watched a documentary of a criminal case in Wisconsin that ran, at the time I switched away from it, at least 10 hours. It was about a man who was convicted, it definitely seemed, unjustly of the murder of a woman in 1985. He served 18 years and was exonerated. The evidence convinced me, and I'm not easily convinced, that the man was innocent of the charges. Two years after being set free he was charged with a rape and murder of which he seemed to be clearly guilty. But the fascinating thing about the film was the amount of detail the people making the doc were able to get.

     I had plans to start on another project today but I looked into this because of a notice I got early this morning from Netflix. The case, especially when it went into the second trial, was so bizarre I couldn't turn away from it. I'm surprised I'd never heard of it until now but it was probably the strangest court case I've ever seen. In the second trial he was again found guilty but this time most of the evidence indicated he was. But, if it was the way it was shown, in the course of the second crime he involved a nephew, one who appeared to be seriously mentally challenged, in the act and he still had to go on trial. This is where I threw in the towel. It could be another 10 hours.

     After I get some work done, a major writing project I decided to start, I'll look into it again.

     I did take another look at the doc and the nephew had been sentenced to what would be 41 years in prison.

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Spelling Bee 1948

 

                                

     I was never much for crossword puzzles. That's my older sister's domain. But I did enjoy such things as the Reader's Digest's "Word Power". I enjoyed them because I was good at them. Anything that required the contestant to know the meanings of words or to make as many words as possible out of a given set of letters. The more unreasonable the rules the more I enjoyed it.

     Recently I bought my first Reader's Digest in years because it featured a cover article titled Why Aren't You Dead Yet? An intriguing question to me and, I assume, to my doctors. After seven heart attacks and a number of other life-threatening incidents including the surgeries attending each heart episode, nobody would consider me a likely candidate for extended longevity. But here I am.

     When I picked up that Reader's Digest, before looking at the article that had attracted me, I went for the Word Power page. I'm a little sorry I did. Twelve out of fifteen correct. Not bad? In "the old days" I'd have had 15 out of 15. Should I say, I'm slipping?

     What happened?

     I didn't get into college until I was 34 years old. It was something I'd always wanted but didn't think I'd ever achieve. A few years after moving to Los Angeles I enrolled in L.A. Valley College as an English major. On the first night of one of my early courses, a vocabulary course, the instructor handed out a test that would determine where we stood and how much work each student needed. As she handed the papers back the following week she asked the class, "do you know we have a man in this class who scored sixty-five out of sixty-five on this test? I've been teaching this course for thirty years and this is the first time I've seen this. I feigned a humility I didn't really feel.

     But there was a man I felt sorry for. He had a terrible stutter and probably didn't want to draw attention to himself. He had scored, he told me later, 64 out of 65. I thought that deserved at least an honorable mention.

     Well, I did title this Spelling Bee 1948, didn't I? Maybe I should get to that.

     My family were all good with words. Spelling, parsing, knowing if a  sentence was grammatical or not. My mother went to the eighth grade in Ireland. Her father who died before he was forty taught school. So she was sure of good grounding from him, I guess. But she was a born grammarian. If she said it was right it was right; if she said it was wrong it was wrong. No other verification was needed. Her mother had died before her father and when my grandfather passed that left my mother and her three siblings orphans. Against the objections of the rest of my mother's relatives an uncle there who seemed to have the authority dictated that they should all go to the Uncle Willy in Philadelphia who had a mansion and could provide for them, including their education. Well, this was done and the mansion turned out to be a row home in the old Germantown section of Philly where Uncle Willy already had nine children and where their education stopped. Only Julia, the youngest who was only seven, too young to work, got to go to school.

     The three who were old enough worked 10 hours a day, six days a  week in textile mills. Uncle Willy had his own little industry, a sort of plantation, if you will.

     My father's father had come to "the states" in the late 1880s. He raised five children in the old Kensington section of Philadelphia. My father, like my mother, had had to leave school after the eighth grade, common in those days. And like her, if he told you something was right or wrong in matters of grammar and usage you could, as they say, take it to the bank. No teacher would disagree.

     From the time when I began school, at the dinner table, I'd ask, "what does p-s-y-c-h-i-a-...spell?" My father would say, "what do you think it spells?" And I'd have to work it out.

     This was the way it went.

     So, when in the eighth grade, I came home from school and announced that I was going to the Saint Joseph's spelling bee there wasn't much surprise.  The St. Joe's spelling bee was a major event for the Philadelphia Catholic Schools. The winner would receive a half-scholarship to St. Joseph's Prep, one of the three most prestigious high schools in the Catholic High School system. The two others were Roman Catholic and La Salle. The cost, while not half what it costs to send a child to grammar school today, was prohibitive for most families.

     In preparation for this, Immaculate Conception Grammar School, with a hundred and thirty boys split into two classrooms would have a spelldown, first in one classroom, then in the other, until they had eliminated all but four boys. The last four would be "heard" in the Mother Superior's office. Right now I should make clear that I wasn't anybody's favorite student in that school. I had behavioral problems. So the Mother wasn't pleased that I was among the four finalists. However, after she had "knocked down" the other three, three times, who were among the favorites, she had no choice but to send me to the Big Bee. 

     I trained hard. My older sister "heard" me daily, even going to the dictionary and resorting to words I'd never even heard. I didn't fail once.

     On the big day I dressed in the better of my two suits and rode the subway to the stop above Stiles Street, Columbia, I think. I walked the three blocks to the school at 17th and Stiles. I didn't remember ever even seeing this school from the outside, never mind going in. Inside, I walked the corridors, passing students and faculty, most of them I was sure, being Sunday, were there for the Big Bee. Directed to the auditorium I went in and was immediately struck by the size of it and the number of people already seated. It was nearly full.

     On stage were faculty members and behind them my fellow competitors. I was directed to take a seat among them.

     There were the usual instructions -- Say the word before and after spelling it; ask for it to be used in a sentence if needed; if you hear the buzzer after you've spelled the word leave the stage by the door on your right. The first boy was called and failed. He left the stage. Then another. Two spelled their words correctly as I remember, then my name was called. The word I was asked to spell was "handiwork". Easy money so far I t told myself.  With complete confidence I started, "handiwork, h-a-n-d-y..." The buzzer I thought was rude. Why were they interrupting me? In the middle of the word. I started again and the buzzer buzzed again. I was pointed to the door on the right.

     Walking, I'm sure, not ignominiously but arrogantly with visible resentment, toward the door the failures had passed through, now slightly open so the failures could hear and and see the proceedings, I saw one with a dictionary, the others leaning over his shoulder to see. "I spelled that right!" I said."No you didn't," somebody said. I said, "handi..." "That isn't what you said. You said, 'h-a-n-d-y...'" "I'd never say that!" But I think I realized then that what they were saying was true. I knew that all those days and weeks of preparation had resulted in a big flop. Another flop to add to my list. I had blown it. Not just a spelling bee but the first ever over a silly word like handiwork! 

     But I thought of my parents who had been denied an education at which either of them would have excelled. Although they wouldn't have let me know it they probably saw my winning that scholarship as a kind of vindication for them. My brothers and sister who also wouldn't have let me know it would have been proud. On the interminable subway ride home these were my thoughts.

     In class the next day I made up a lie about the word I had failed on. I'm sure the class and certainly the sister who had cheered for the black sheep, sooner or later, knew what had really happened.

     But I also knew and have known since that I really didn't want to go to St. Joe's. The reputation of the place, if nothing else, would have intimidated me. However, I'm equally certain that I didn't throw  the bee. I wanted to win just to win. I can't tell you what I would have done with the scholarship. Wasted it, probably. Now, thinking of it sixty-eight years later, I'd say, God knew. And maybe He said, "I'll let this kid have his little day but the big prize has to go to somebody who deserves it, somebody who will make good use of it." 

     Maybe.

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Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
So sorry to learn that you're still having problems, Charlie. Your technology has been a very trying saga for you. I do hope you'v... Read More
Monday, 07 December 2015 19:13
Former Member
Right, Rosy, I hope you got my messages today and my computer lady is coming out tomorrow (was supposed to be today) and we'll se... Read More
Friday, 11 December 2015 03:08
Katherine Gregor
Hello, Charlie. I hope you get back on line soon. Good luck!
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 20:54
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First Green Room Blog Post

It has been a long time since I've had a second blog. It was, admittedly, a blow when The Red Room was sold. I was pretty happy there. I was comfortable. I should have realized something was afoot when they started adding new people at a rapid pace. It was more of a process to be a blogger there and they had some well-known people. I was surprised when I was accepted. The one thing I couldn't understand was why, when I posted certain opinions, I was attacked by so many people. Most of those people never commented on my other posts. I finally learned that the only people who could comment were other Red Room members so no one would be attacked. Apparently, the members hadn't been apprised of that.

My other blog relates to my work. It's about companion animals, how to make life better for them, as well as lesser-known charities, the occasional book or toy review, whatever strikes my fancy as important for pet owners to know. It's on Blogger which is basically idiot-proof.

Rosy Cole invited me here when The Green Room was first opened. Little did she know that I have a show business background so the name, at least, was eminently suitable. I wanted to look around. I had, like other bloggers, felt broadsided when The Red Room closed its virtual doors. Everyone seems to be at Word Press. It has a learning curve, which is fine, but the features everyone loves were things that I hated, like putting your cursor over a picture to see more information. I find such gimmicks to be more of a nuisance. The more I looked at sites, the more disenchanted I became. I put the idea of a second blog on the back burner. And then I returned to it. There was Rosy. Friendly, welcoming Rosy. Not to mention her dog. Always a bonus for me. They both seemed to be inviting me.

I took the plunge, created an account and then ran directly, at top speed, into writer's block. Would I give up any secrets? Would I post about current events? Would I comment on the state of Journalism today?  Nothing. Just nothing.

I decided to just let something flow, stream-of-consciousness, now or never. So here I am and now you know why I'm here. Does anyone care? I don't know but I've made a start.

If anyone wants to know more about me, or about my work, my published books, etc., you have but to ask. My life is pretty much the proverbial "open book."

Recent Comments
Stephen Evans
Welcome Darlene. Glad to see you here. I was thinking just this morning about the difference between Red Room and Green Room. To ... Read More
Sunday, 06 December 2015 21:03
Former Member
Thank you so much for your warm welcome, Stephen. Red Room was where I went to teach myself to blog, to experiment. I met some rea... Read More
Sunday, 06 December 2015 22:12
Rosy Cole
Hello there, Darlene. Welcome! So glad you took the plunge. We're honoured to have such an eminent translator of four-legged frien... Read More
Sunday, 06 December 2015 22:25
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