Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our Cross to Bear

What better thing to do on a rainy, chilly Sunday at the end of May than to contemplate the story behind the cross that most of us think of as the primary symbol of Christianity.  The crucifix, which has Jesus on the cross, is used primarily by the Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans ... while the unencumbered cross is found in most of the Protestant groups.  Here are two versions of the crucifix.
In this first one, the spikes are clearly depicted as being through the hands of Jesus.

In this second view, the spikes have been driven into the wrists of Jesus, which is actually the more accurate portrayal of how crucifixion – the common way of killing people in those olden times– was actually done.  The hands would tear with the weight of the body, so they would drive the spikes through the wrists.

Why is the historically inaccurate image of Jesus on the cross so common?

It's interesting to note that crucifixion, in one form or another, was used as early as 500 years before Christ.  A fact which raises the issue of how and why it has become so associated with only one historical figure? 

Kids in Bible Study or Catechism classes are likely to think that Jesus was the only person killed in this brutal, humiliating manner. (I know I did). Of course grownups know better.  Especially those of us who remember Kirk Douglas in “Spartacus.”


One article on the history of the cross claims that the same symbol that Christians have revered for more than 2000 years was actually around for a long time before Jesus or the Christians showed up.  It was used as a sacred symbol among Chaldeans, Phoenicians and Egyptians; worshipped in Mexico and Peru before the ever persuasive missionaries ever showed up; and has always been associated with the Pagan Celts.   

And then it is said to be “equivalent to a symbol of Bacchus.”

Who was Bacchus you ask? 

D. M. Murdock (Dorothy M. Murdock, also known by her pen name Acharya S)[is an American author and proponent of the Christ myth theory) writes:    

The Greek god of wine, Dionysus or Bacchus, also called Icarus, has been depicted as having been born of a virgin mother on December 25th; performing miracles such as changing water into wine; appearing surrounded by or one of 12 figures; bearing epithets such as "Only Begotten Son" and "Savior"; dying; resurrecting after three days; and ascending into heaven.


Here are some different versions of the symbol of the cross.


 Celtic Cross
  Druid Cross

  Egyptian Cross

  Greek Tau Cross

  Germanic Cross


And an iteration of the Germanic Cross, the Swastika …


… Which is apparently more than 3,000 years old.  The term "Swastika" was originally the name for a hooked cross in Sanskrit, and swastikas have been found on artifacts, such as coins and pottery, from the ancient city of Troy.

Nothing is quite what it seems, is it?  Except that it’s still a rainy Sunday in May.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Making our Beds

Do you remember Chenille bedspreads?  The time when making the bed was easy:  pull up the bedspread and tuck it under the pillows?  This is a fancy one in a 1950s Ranch House.

For those of you who do not remember the Ranch House, here’s a picture of a typical one.


It was all part of the great marketing scheme to lure women back into the home so returning GIs could have their jobs back.  It was supposed to make Rosie the Riveter feel fulfilled by the joy of Jell-O salads and fondue parties.

A few years later, Betty Friedan blew that fallacy all to hell with the publication of one of the most influential books of the 20th Century which made it clear women had been duped by Madison Avenue.

Beds have been on my mind lately because our house is for sale, and in 2014 beds are piled with decorative pillows, the more the merrier.  So now, instead of just pulling up my duvet, I have to arrange all these pillows.  Here are a couple of examples of the 21st Century bed.

A far cry from the days of the simple Chenille bedspread.  In fact the second bed must surely come with instructions on proper pillow placement.


Remember when one of your parents told you:  You've made your bed, now lie in it”?  Meaning of course that ... you made the decision; now accept the consequences.  Like when you married the wrong person too soon, or gave up that scholarship to Yale to backpack through Europe and you got "fleeced" a week into your trip?

Beds have always held a certain fascination for us.  A place to rest a weary body; or to cuddle with your favorite pet; or have breakfast served to you on a special day … or to engage in that age old activity which we have all done.  And Big Pharms are using to make billions of dollars from men who aren’t “up” to it.

Here are some famous quotations about this place of pillows and pleasure:

“The happiest part of a man’s life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning.”

  Samuel Johnson


“The bed is now as public as the dinner table and governed by the same rules of formal confrontation.” 

Angela Carter (1940 – 1992) English novelist and journalist, known for her feminist, magical realism, and picaresque works.


“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends.  Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some odd couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning.  Thus, then, in our hearts honeymoon, lay I and Queenqueg (the chief harpooner aboard the Pequod)  – a cozy, loving pair.”

Herman Melville (1819-1891 author of “Moby Dick”


“What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?” 

William Shakespeare (The Bard, 1564-1616)


“It is comforting when one has a sorrow to lie in the warmth of one’s bed and there, abandoning all effort and all resistance, to bury even one’s head under the cover, giving one’s self up to it completely, moaning like branches in the autumn wind.  But there is still a better bed, full of divine odors.  It is our sweet, our profound, our impenetrable friendship.” 

Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922) French novelist, critic, and essayist.


And my favorite …

“Bed is the poor man’s opera.”  (meaning that sex offers to the poor the aesthetic experience that opera does the rich).

Attributed to George Bernard Shaw  (1856 –1950)  Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics; author of the play “Pygmalion.”

And now to toss all those pretty pillows in the corner and crawl into bed.





Sunday, May 18, 2014

Table for One

Alice faced the quandary head on:  What do you do when you have 50,000 free miles on Alaska Air that will soon expire?  She hates to waste anything, so of course she scheduled a round trip from Seattle to San Francisco … leaving on Mother’s Day when most people were enjoying a Mother’s Day brunch.
First class round trip on Alaska, Sunday morning to Wednesday evening.  Total cost to fly:  $5 in tax.   Alice saw that as a good omen.  She always paid attention to omens and signs of all kinds, lest she miss something she was meant to see.

The weather was lovely, the flight smooth and pleasant … made even better by the First Class Attendant, Paul, who was a hoot.  Alice and Paul clicked right away.  He lived in Palm Spring, was handsome and funny, and made great screwdrivers.  They swapped recipes.  She gave him three of her magazines.  And he gave her a big hug when she got off the plane.

Then she was off to see Boston, the scruffy little bunny at the Santa Cruz Rabbit Haven Bunny Rescue place.  Alice thought she was meant to rescue him, although another rabbit was the last thing she needed now.  Nonetheless, if Boston was trying to communicate to her – “BL Please come get me” – well, she just had to go to him and figure out the details later.
As luck would have it, Boston had been adopted three hours before she arrived … which was a really good thing all the way around.  Alice did hold some bunnies at the Bunny Open House, soaking up all that good bunny energy (along with plenty of bunny fur), and also met Heather the Mother Theresa of Rescued Rabbits. Heather sent her on her way ...  rabbit-less ... but with a hug, special gift candle, and a lovely red rose.

It was Boston’s location that led her to pick a hotel in Santa Cruz for two nights.  Alice had not been to Santa Cruz for 50 years.  Using Expedia for the first time ever, she booked two nights at The Santa Cruz Dream Inn – a Joie de Vivre Hotel.

Since Alice had taken Latin in High School, she figured “Joie de Vivre” was French that meant something like enjoying a life filled with pleasure. And she was right!  Her stay was perfect beyond words.

Fifty years ago, Alice did all the rides at the Boardwalk.  But this time, she enjoyed her king room with a balcony that looked out over the beach and water … and the soft bed where she slept for 12 hours upon arrival.
Perhaps this is the time to mention that Alice did this entire trip by herself.  No husband, daughter, relative or friend to accompany her.  This was the first time she had traveled alone since she drove from Chicago to Guemes Island, WA, by herself  24 years earlier.  24 years makes a difference in how well body parts work, especially feet, knees and legs.  But with her magical cane, Alice was fearless.

Once they spotted the cane, people offered to help her in one way or another throughout the entire trip.  Alice was deeply touched by all the kindness in the world.  The magical cane got her tables by the window when she dined; assistance with her luggage; and special treatment no matter where she went. 

Much of the time in the airports Alice simply dragged it along behind her when she was pulling her suitcase on wheels and carrying the extra bag of “must have” items.  But sometimes the cane was indispensable, allowing her to feel safe when setting off to see and do pleasurable things.  Alice had always been a bit of a Hedonist.

The one thing that did make a huge difference in the ease of traveling “alone” was her scheduling all her road trips (from the airport to Santa Cruz, SC to San Francisco, SF to the airport) with Shuttle Captain, the Anjorin Town Car Service -- (831) 431-7556.   The vehicles are black town cars; her driver, Derek, a very cool gentleman who loved Brazilian music.  Derek met her at the gate when she arrived in San Francisco and from then on she was in his care.
If Alice ever traveled to a place that was not served by the Shuttle Captain, she’d call UBER, which also has a fleet of town cars … but she doubted they would have handsome drivers who made her feel very special and played Brazilian music.  She actually ordered a Brazilian CD when she got home.

Santa Cruz was pure delight, plus she was able to easily walk the half-mile long Wharf located right next to the hotel.  A most generous gentleman let Alice use one of his spinning rods to fish for Halibut off the pier.  He rigged up her line with an obviously resistible lure, because she didn’t even get a nudge.  But it was great fun, and what a thrill it would have been to hook at 40-pound Halibut!

Any resemblance to the famous former governor is purely coincidental.

With Halibut on her mind, Alice had the same menu item at the same restaurant for both lunch and dinner.  Perfectly grilled Halibut with a to-die-for beurre blance sauce.  The FireFish Grill is definitely on her list of must-go-to places.

Tip for women traveling alone:  make friends with the manager; always ask for a window table; and leave a big tip.
The piece de resistance of the Santa Cruz venture was being able to walk barefoot on the beach and even wade into the water.  For that Alice thanked The Big Kahuna and Santos at Verizon Wireless, who (together) healed her foot, enabling her to once again walk barefoot and feel the sand and the water beneath her feet.

The next morning, graced once again by glorious weather, Alice and Derek were zooming up Hwy 1 on the way to San Francisco.  The road hugs the spectacular California Coastline, so the trip was pure delight for both of them … with the ever-present Latin music enhancing the drive.  So many untouched places; a joy to behold.

Then, as if by magic, the town car came up over a rise and San Francisco --that magical City by the Bay -- lay before them glistening in all her splendor.  After getting a room upgrade at the Fisherman’s Wharf Holiday Inn Express and checking her bags, Derek dropped Alice off at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor … right in the heart of Fishman’s Wharf.

Crab was the first order of business in that historic spot, so Alice ordered one hot cracked crab with butter.  Words fail to describe the buttery sweetness of that king of all seafood:  fresh, hot Dungeness Crab (pictured above).

A wonderful part of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience is the musicians who play on the street corners.  That afternoon it was Allen Fredrick, who played the guitar and harmonica, sang and had some keyboards going in the background …  (  When the crab was gone and the fingers licked clean of butter, Alice decided to stay and enjoy the music with a fellow musician, David (Da-veed), who was singin’ and clappin’ and havin' all sorts of fun.  So the two of them spent the next two hours on that iconic corner saturated with the tunes and the pure joy of life. 
After diddling around a bit, she checked into her hotel room (nice!) with a view and windows that opened to let in the city sounds, eventually dressing for dinner.  Tonight it had to be Alioto’s that played such an important role in her memories.

When she was young and they brought family from “Back East” to The City, her folks would alternate between Alioto’s and Grotto No. 9 for the San Francisco meal.  So of course Alice told the maitre d that she had been here 60 years ago.  He was delighted, and selected a big comfy booth one row back from the window because it had less glare.

It was a lovely spot with a great view.  Alice had a Sapphire Martini, of course, some of that fabulous San Francisco bread (gluten-free be damned), and asked if one of the owners was on the premises.  It turned out that Richard Alioto was there, so he came by her table and they chatted about life the last 60 years.  Alice told him she was so happy there were some special things in life that didn’t change; then asked if he thought she could get a few more shrimp for her wonderful Shrimp Louie.
“Of course,” he said with a flourish of his arm, “I can take care of that right now.”
And did he ever!  The waiter returned with a huge plate of shrimp which completely covered any lettuce left on her plate … eyeing Alice with a skeptical look.  But she surprised him and ate every last one!
She encountered Richard again as she was leaving, telling him how delightful her meal was and that he really did look like a Mafia guy (which of course he is … but who cares?)  He laughed, shook her hand again, and wished her well.
Tip to women traveling alone:  You probably couldn’t do many of these things if you had to drag a man or companion around.  It is so much more fun when there is only one person who matters:  YOU!

On her leisurely walk back to the hotel, Alice bought a couple of things.  The Asian saleswoman said, “You are from the UK, right?”  Alice said no, that she was from the US.  The woman repeated herself, insisting that Alice was not fat enough or loud enough to be from the US!
On that happy note … Day 3 was coming to an end.  Another perfect day in what is a very safe part of the city.  The Holiday Inn Express is 2 blocks from the action, level walking, nice people everywhere.

The Last Day began by sharing the Holiday Inn’s complimentary breakfast with Seth Holmes, a young man Alice “adopted” back in 2003.  She is so proud of Seth.  He not only has his Ph.D. in Anthropology but is also an M.D. and an Associate Professor at UC Berkeley.  His book, “Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies” is fascinating.  Plus one whole page in the Summary is about Alice.
Then it was time to meet her first love in high school and his wife.  She had not seen Jim in more than 50 years, which explains why she didn’t recognize him.  He looked like Hemingway.

Jim decided they should have lunch at Scoma’s … boasting San Francisco’s finest seafood.  (He had Alice at “seafood.”)
And she enjoyed the best crab Louie of her life.

It was great fun getting to know the old beau and his lovely wife as they are today.  She invited them to come up her way and she would treat them to lunch at Mt. Ts:  breaded and fried Road Kill with the best sausage gravy anywhere. 

After an elegant chocolate dessert, they bid farewell and parted company near Jefferson and Taylor.

Another musician was really rockin’ with Otis Redding’s rendition of “Dock of the Bay” when Alice nabbed a seat at a small corner table in the shady outside area of Grotto No. 9 … another place on Memory Lane.  She spent the rest of the afternoon there, listening to the ever so talented Les Edwins
Before too long, Alice had joined a happy, fun couple at the next table, and invited her driver, Derek, and Les to join them for a farewell drink.  It was a great last afternoon filled with fun and good music; fascinating stories and good people.

Finally Derek said it was time to go, so they hugged everyone and wished them well.  Then swung by the hotel, grabbed her luggage, and made it in plenty of time … listening to the mellow tunes of Antonio Carlos Jobim on the way.
Tip to women traveling alone:  Few if any of the events of the Fantastically Fun Last Day would have happened if someone else has been tagging along.  Trust me.

After another enjoyable Alaska flight home, Alice picked up one last piece of wisdom for women of a certain age traveling alone:  if you want better service by hotel shuttle drivers, tell the hotel person that you are “disabled.” 

While Alice cringed at being referred to as “disabled” (which she was most certainly not!)– she realized this was a time to swallow one’s pride to prevent a 5-mile trudge through Sea-tac, escalators and elevators, cris-crossing the road while dodging vans and buses hoping to wind up in the right place.
At least she was partially consoled by her free room upgrade where she collapsed in the bed and slept until the noon shuttle took her home.  (If you're keeping track, this is the second free hotel room upgrade for Alice ... and at the first hotel she asked for a special room, which upgraded her at no charge onto the 7th floor.)  ...   "Ask and ye shall receive" is Alice's motto in life.

Tip for women traveling alone:  It’s simply more fun!







Friday, May 9, 2014

Gram vs the Smart Phone

As we recall from reading about Gram (aka Alice) from "Alice in Tomorrow Land", the techno-savvy grand daughter told Gram it was time for her to get a better cell phone:  a touch screen one.

Armed with that tidbit of information, Alice overheard people saying how Verizon offered a good product and good service.  She doubted that, because she had her phone service from Verizon once and cancelled it.  But that was years ago; perhaps the company was better now.  She spotted the Verizon Store in Burlington, WA ... right next to FedEx, which has the nice rest room.  A good omen.

When Alice walked into the busy store, a friendly "older" (as in not in her 20s or 30s like the rest of them) woman, Jan, asked for her name and told her someone would be with her shortly.  Before taking a seat, like the others, Alice asked Jan what kind of phone she used.  Jan whipped something out of her pocket that looked big enough for older fingers and said there was even an app that was a flashlight.

That's what sealed the deal for Alice ... when she saw that Jan was able to use one of those silly things that kids had velcroed to their bodies at all times.  Plus it had a flashlight.

When it was Alice's turn, she said to the salesperson, "I want what Jan has."  Which turned out not to be available ... so Alice ended up buying the one she thought was the closest to what Jan had, had a touch screen like the Granddaughter told her to get, and had a longer-lasting battery ... which was apparently a good thing.

All Alice really wanted was a phone.  What she left the store with was a Magnavox Droid Maxx -- a smart phone!  It was all so foreign and strange, and the person talked fast, and before she knew what was happening Alice -- now feeling very much like Gram -- left the store with this "thing" that had so much stuff on it that it was scary.

Thankfully there was a class in two days at the un-Godly hour of 7:30 am.  But the class was a must, since it took Gram 15 minutes to get the damn thing out of the box.  Obviously it had been packed by some person or machine that had no concept of how older fingers worked or did not work.

Then her car blew the head gasket, so she missed the class and the one after that.  So she left the thing in the Verizon bag with the shredded box as an example of why she hated Verizon and just forgot about it.  Alice didn't even know what her phone number was.  She felt blessed because she remembered her ATM password, her home phone, and her social security number.  There were no neurons available to deal with a second phone number. 

After Alice was marooned at home for almost two weeks, a good Samaritan in town, Mike Blade of Blade Chevrolet, let her borrow a loaner car while her car sat on his lot waiting for the two divorce attorneys to decide the fate of her 10 year old car with the blown head gasket.  Thank the Goddess!  Alice could now attend the class.

OMG!  There were six people there; each had something different.


Alice brought the original bag with the shredded box, which she emptied on the floor in front of the instructor and let it be known that on a scale of 1-10 ... Verizon was hovering slightly above one.  And the only reason it was that high is she liked the pretty purple case and the picture of the field of lupines that was displayed when they showed her how to turn the thing on.

She asked to meet the manager (always go to the top), who turned out to be the assistant manager, a very attractive young man with some kind of strange gel on his nice blond-ish hair.  He was cute, young enough to be her grandson, and was a triplet ... plus he had the surfer hair thing goin' on.

So she pointed to the shredded pieces of box on the floor, told him she was a writer, and was going to write about her experience with this Droid Maxx thing.  So, if he wanted "his" store to move from its place near zero, he needed to understand that she was part of a HUGE segment of the population who didn't tweet or text or take their cell phones to bed.  And he'd be wise to practice on her to expand his market.

That's when things started to get better.  Alice was served coffee, just the way she liked it.  Then it seemed as if she had her own person, Paul, to speak simply to her while Santos was rattling off instructions that everyone else seemed to understand.  Paul finally "got it" that all Alice wanted to do with the thing -- at that point in time -- is to make and receive phone calls.  That was it.  So he showed her how to do that AND how to use the camera.  (It had a camera!  Who knew that?!)

After an hour and a half of being treated very special by all the sweet young men in the store, Alice went to her car and called the granddaughter who told her to get the touch screen.  She was surprised when Gram told her what she actually bought.  But pleased that Gram could actually make a call on the phone that was ever so much smarter than she was.

During the two months since Alice bought the R2D2 phone, she has become part of the Burlington Verizon Family.  Probably because she's been to the store at least three times a week.  Now she takes cookies for them because all those "kids" work so hard and such long hours that they need something sweet to perk them up in the afternoon.

And when she walks in the front door, Jan or someone will get her a chair so she can sit in "her" place and wait for her favorite guy, the fast talking Santos who speaks as slow as he can when dealing with the customer from hell.

She still likes Stephen the Asst Manager and Paul and Ren and a bunch of the others, but Santos is her main man.  He has taught her how to do amazing things with the phone she originally couldn't get out of the box.  He showed her how to stop taking videos of her feet and how to take pictures and then send them to her home email so she could post them or whatever.

And he even showed her how to play all kinds of music and then set her up with a different kind of account, since the music she listened to at the Westin Hotel cost her $45.

And then ... her man Santos did the most amazing thing!  He healed her foot that has not worked right for at least 5 years.  Alice had not been able to walk barefooted without her foot catching on the carpet.  She fell three times and one time the pain was so bad she was sure she broke her foot.  It was black and blue for days, and she reluctantly accepted that she would no longer feel the sand beneath her bare feet when she walked on beaches.  Or on cool grassy lawns.  It was part of getting older. 

But after Santos heard her sad story, he reached down and touched her foot with his hand and said "Jesus, please heal Dorothy's foot."  Normally Alice would have written him off as one of those Evangelical Healer Wackos except it actually worked!

On the way to he car, she could tell her gait, which had been screwed up also, was so much better.  So, when she got home, she asked The Husband to watch her walk across the room.  He was amazed, asking "Did you get that brace you were supposed to get last November?"

"Nope."  She responded happily.  "The guy at Verizon healed it."  The Husband rolled his eyes and drifted downstairs.  But Alice knew it was healed -- even if she she didn't get the how or why.

The bottom line here in our tale of Gram vs the Smart Phone is that Gram has a ways to go before learning about all the cool stuff she can do.  But, because of the infinite patience and caring of the people at the Burlington Verizon Store, she knows that she will continue to learn.  And may even master it all by the time it has been declared archaic and no longer supported.

People who care about the customer -- even an annoying, pain in the butt one like Alice -- make all the difference.   Alice loves her smart phone; loves her little adopted Verizon family; wishes Stephen would leave the gel off his surfer dude hair; will be forever grateful to Santos who is her friend for life; and on a scale of 1-10, she awards Burlington Verizon an 11. 


It's always about the people.  From sweet Jan as the greeter who made Alice believe that maybe she, too, could learn.  To all those young, smart, technical whizzes who will work for hours to solve a customer's problem.  So, unlike the other cell phone companies in Skagit County where the occasional customer will wander in ... Burlington Verizon is busy all the time.  And all the customers leave with smiles on their faces because of those special people who care enough to help us all through the fast-paced, complex maze of technology ... to attain the level where we feel good about what we can do with the product we bought. 

Alice is going to take her new smart phone to San Francisco this weekend, and knows she will "do the town" as a vibrant semi-technically savvy woman.  Plus she can always call Santos if she runs into any technical snags.