OUR HEART IS SICK by Beth Rankin

OUR HEART IS SICK by Beth Rankin

I start my mornings, when I have time, with a cup of coffee and the Internet. First, emails. Then, Facebook. I’m sitting here today in embroidered blue jeans and my tie-dyed tee with fringes on its sleeves…about as “hippie” as my attire can get, I guess. I select something from Pandora and find my attention caught by this music. It got me thinking.

Thinking about the way our nation, our communities were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We were as split and splintered as perhaps no other time since the Civil War. It was a time, like now, when a person’s political stance fractured families and friendships. Even in myself, understanding the sense of patriotic pride that pushed some guys I knew to enlist and go off to what was most assuredly a blood bath, I had trouble balancing that sense of pride with the horror of what the war was doing to the people in Vietnam and more importantly, the people who came back damaged by their experience. We were cruel to our veterans who returned and many remain burnt out to this day. Others were proud of their service and resumed life. Still others were angry at the anger and so the split continued.

There has always been a crowd chanting and others proclaiming

We talked about a generation gap but no one really worked on healing the other divide. And so we who were teenagers when college students who were peacefully protesting were murdered have now become senior citizens. And the divide seems to be greater than ever.

When I heard the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song Ohio playing on Pandora it made me pause and I then had a very disturbing thought…and that is why I turned here to try to find a pathway through it.

Today, if we had a similar shooting of four kids (who were peacefully demonstrating) on a college campus ordered by a government militia would it stop the atrocity that they were protesting? And I don’t think the answer would be yes today. Not any longer.

When a man gets dragged out of his reserved and purchased airline seat and people start posting things that are not perfect about his life as a way to discredit HIM, someone has lost their values.

When grieving parents of a fallen soldier offer the Presidential candidate a copy of the Constitution and then they are attacked for not being perfect, someone has lost their values.

When Congressional Representatives refuse to meet with their Constituents during a recess when time to schedule town halls is normal, someone has lost their values.

When there is growing evidence that our President is focused on personal gain and benefits for his peers in the uber-wealthy, and his supporters criticize the messengers, someone has lost their values.

When friends stop talking to long term friends because there are differences of opinions, someone has lost their

 

My mom called the Baby Boomers the “me” generation. From her view she saw a lot of young people who wanted to break with conventional behavior and do “their own thing.” She felt this kind of individualism would move us into a broken community and while there are many benefits for people pursuing their pathway even when unconventional, there is a truism that if the focus is ONLY on the individual, the community loses.

As I drove south last week to go to the Shakespeare Festival held in Ashland, Oregon, I passed through the beautiful green fields of the Williamette Valley. One town, Junction City is a conservative stronghold in this very mixed region. At the southern edge of town in front of a tire dealership, the owner often posts political statements. This one caught my eye and I laughed. “Snowflakes ahead” referring to the city of Eugene, a very strong liberal community.

Being called a snowflake is a trendy insult used by conservatives generally against anyone who thinks individuals have rights. They say we are responding this way because our feelings are hurt and so they belittle us. They don’t understand that it is not our own personal feelings that are hurt but an empathetic response for members in our community who have been hurt. To me it implies short-term issues and perhaps a lack of intelligence. I tend to feel irritated when someone refers to me as a snowflake because I have been this way for……..hmmmmmmm at least five decades that I can claim to my own thinking and reasoning.

The problem, though, is not what my cohort is called, but the fact that people prefer to demean and detract instead of trying to understand.

It gets down to core values.

If you feel people who suggest you read something and think about it makes you feel dumb, you have a self-esteem problem.

If you feel people who expect women/Blacks/Latinos/LGBTQ/handicapped to have equal access and equal opportunity are causing you pain, you have a vision problem.

If you feel that there is only one way that is right, you have a navigator problem.

If you feel that people who are not wealthy are better than everyone else who then is worthless and there for you to use, you have a humanity problem.

If you feel that the homeless have done something bad and deserve their hard times, you have a cardiac illness.

As a society, as a community, we are sick and most of all, it is our heart that needs to repair.

Can we do it?

All I know is that if something horrendous like Kent State happens today, I wonder if we will react as a unified community, realizing we ALL must move off our spots to work together?

The short answer is…no. We did not act unified about Standing Rock. We did not act unified about Flint. We did not act unified about how Congress is dismantling laws that hold corporations responsible to make sure the water they spill into and the air they emit into stay clean. We have not acted unified about the idea that our government has been influenced by another country over an election (as we have influenced countless other countries’ elections). We did band together pretty well a few weeks ago about health insurance but the power mongers are still wanting more more more and this fight is not over yet. We have not acted united about how this President ignores rules and conventions of his office.

The longer answer is…perhaps we can. If we don’t lose our way even more first.

What do you think? Your comments show you are thinking…a very good sign.

[Beth Rankin lives with her husband Graham in McMinnville, Oregon.  She blogs, writes, creates, speaks out, is an activist and runs her own company. Readers are invited to visit Beth’s blog “GoingPlacesLivingLife” where comments to this article can be left. Comments can also be left here at Columnist with a View (columnistwithaview.com). We are grateful that Beth allows us to re-print her columns.]

 

 

EULOGY TO MY RAPIST by The Progressive Alien

EULOGY TO MY RAPIST by The Progressive Alien

[This piece is reproduced with permission from Daily Kos.  It has been reblogged by “This Week in the War on Women,” “Community Spotlight,” and “House of LIGHTS.  It is somewhat lengthy, but the editor highly recommends reading it all the way through.  It is one of the most poignant pieces I have run across on this subject.]

“The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” by de Goya

“The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” This seemed like an appropriate image to represent the failed reasoning that basically took a hike when by step-father rationalized that it was OK to have sex with an eleven year old girl.

Today is April 1st. I wish I had a joke to tell or a prank to pull. I was never good at that anyway.

Today would have been my step-father’s birthday. I’m not sure what year he was born–no hate, I was barely sixteen when I left home and, at the time, barely sentient–but I think it was 1954, which would have make him 63 years old. He died of unknown causes sometime on February 22nd or 23rd. For a time, he was the most important person in my life next to my mother.

I was on a plane, heading for Winnipeg at the time he was supposed to be going to the first day of his trial. When he didn’t show up, police were sent to his home, where they found him dead. He’d apparently called his lawyer a couple of days before, asking, “What would happen if I don’t show up? I’m…not feeling well.” He was told to see a doctor and that he’d better be there for his appointment for what was probably going to be the worst day of his life.

I suspect I know something of how he felt–it was going to be the worst day of my life, too.

His family will remember him as a father who cared about his two sons–me and my oldest brother will likely be forgotten, if not hated–and as a man who worked hard to support his family. I’m not sure what other feelings they’ll have, but I’m sure they will be positive and grieving where he is concerned.

As for me, I’ll remember him as my childhood terror, my rapist, the man who treated me as his personal punching bag when his life got to be too frustrating to bear. Seems he was easily frustrated, if the frequency of his abuse of me was any indicator.

Yet, when I was informed of his passing, I broke down into a crying fit the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. So many conflicting emotions, so many explosions of pain, hate, loss, grief, anger at having my vindication and justice-to-be-had ripped away…and even sadness of his fears, wishes that he had actually cared about me, disillusion at  having my childhood parent steal what little trust and innocent I had left….

I was his accuser. I was the one who set up the huge amount of stress that could have been survivable, if he had not had so many health problems that I barely knew anything about. He wasn’t a well man, I knew that much. His family blame me for his death, forgetting that he’d been obese, a lifelong smoker with only one working lung, diabetes, an enlarged heart and who knows what else. He likely would have died soon, in any case, even if there had been no accusations of rape to the authorities.

My middle oldest brother (the oldest of my step-father’s two sons) has disowned me over this, angry at me for bringing his father’s crimes to the surface. I think he believes me, that his father really did rape me repeatedly over a period of years, but having it be public? Oh, no, that was the greater crime to him. His father was a rapist, a child-abuser who beat all of us, including my middle brother, and an opportunistic pedophile, but his reputation and that of his side of the family was more important to protect. Who cares about his sister and the life his father all but ruined?

My brother’s wife hates me and thinks I’m a liar who only wanted attention, a bit of a turn-around from her earlier hate-filled opinion that seemed like she believed me, but that I should forgive her father-in-law. Her reaction to my outing the man, and later, his death, is muddled, at best, in my opinion. How could I possibly forgive a man who showed no remorse, who seemed to feel he was justified in doing what he did because my mother had her own problems dealing with her childhood rape and abuse and wouldn’t “put out”? How would my forgiveness help anyone?

I remember a towering presence in the dark halls of my mind. A presence I both feared and cared for, one I desperately wished would love me and protect me. I remember times when we went fishing as golden spots of happiness int he darkness. Catching my first fish. Laughing with my brothers and father–he was “Daddy” then–goofing around int he water while he shouted at us to “Get back here, you wanna drown?”

Colors overlay my memories of my past. The dark, strangely-glittering green from The Matrix comes very close to how some things appear in my memory.

I remember wrestling in the living-room with him and my brothers. My then-youngest brother laughing like a loon…until he fell badly and broke his elbow. No more wresting after that. I missed it. It as how I found out how physically strong I was. Picking up a man who stood five-foot ten inches and weighed 210 pounds was amazing to me. I was only five feet tall, at the time, maybe 110 pounds, and I lifted him off the floor. It was hard, but only because my arms could barely go around him.

I still remember his smell, musty and dry from working long shifts at the auto-body shop. He always came home tired and grey with dust, a bright smell of sweat under the grime. My little ginger cat, Khalea, absolutely loved his scent and would steal his shirts to roll and rub her face in the armpits to savour his smell all the more. We kept finding his t-shirts behind the furniture or simply dropped on the floor around the house. She loved his sneakers, too, but stealing them was harder.

My father’s hands: sometimes hurtful, sometimes gentle.

His hands were like rocks, cracked and callused, the crazing of the skin filled black with dirt he could never get out, no matter how often he washed and scrubbed. When I look at photos of dried, cracking earth, or images of Death Valley’s salt pans, it brings to mind his scaly hands, thick and strong, powerful and armoured. He tried so hard to be clean, as if he wanted to leave the signs of his job at his workplace.

I remember these things, but all of them tinged with fear and his odd, whispering voice that could never really get loud after having his neck and vocal chords severed from an accident in his youth. I believe his father remained a sad and bitter man until his own death because he’d been excommunicated from the religion he loved that forbade the blood-transfusions he’d needed to save his son’s life.

I’m sure Grandpa had fun in his life, though, he’d worked many fulfilling years with CN railways and he was so proud of his Santa Claus beard that won him to many first-place prizes at the Festival du Voyageur beard-growing contests. I loved that beard, so neat and full, pure white, just like his hair. I liked my step-father’s beard, too. An interesting, out-of-place red in the centre of the brown-black of the sides. Being half-Japanese made for fascinating genetic legacies.

My step-father probably had sour memories of his own from never being allowed to celebrate his birthday as a kid, or allowed to attend parties with his friends, or a myriad other activities his father’s religion deemed as sinful. Why wouldn’t he hate being made to wear a dreary suit, stand on street-corners holding the religious propaganda of his father’s faith while he’d probably wanted to run and play like any other kid?

I do remember that Christmas was seemingly fun for him. I know he seemed so happy to see the glee of his son opening the gifts he’d gotten him. His attention to my reactions and that of my oldest brother’s though? Muted, at best, not that we ever actually noticed through the joy of getting a new shirt or pair of pants, maybe an orange or two, some candy. I only remember after the fact.

There were good memories as I’d said, small golden, pink, blue or green spots surrounded by the deep gloom of purple-grey, or the red-black of my rage at those rough, well-loved hands on me, lifting me by my hair from the floor, the bright, bloody red of his leather belt whipping me. That creepy, whispering voice calling me stupid, retarded, a cunt, a moron who never seemed to learn…while I screamed, wondering how “talking back,” not doing the dishes, or finishing my homework, or getting yet another D in math was a crime deserving such agony. I know my punishments were sometimes well-deserved, but the scar on my right hand from one beating, and his admonition to lie about where it came from, tells me different….

He was a paler memory later in my life. The soft grey overtaking the dark. He was going greyer, too, salt and pepper replacing the strange red of his beard and the black of his hair. Sad pastels were softening him as he aged, as I aged and drifted away fleeing the soul-eating dark of my family.

My mother was always brown. Nicotine brown, Cree brown, dark brown hair, brown eyes and golden brown skin. Old photo brown. Brown circles under her eyes that she blamed on an allergic reaction to eye-shadow, even though she never wore eye-shadow, let alone under her eyes. Her anger at my failings and insistent strangeness was pink-brown, fast, hot and unpredictable. I never knew when the “rules” would change and she would sentence me to sit on our basement stairs to “wait until your father gets home”. Sometimes the wait was hours, often well past my usual bed-time if it was a school night. Occasionally, my sentence would be delayed because my step-father hadn’t come until two A.M. and I would be sent to bed, my punishment moved to a later time.

Wearing shorts could only invite unpleasant questions about the red-purple bruises running down my legs, so I usually wore pants for the next few weeks after a whipping until they faded–or kept wearing them due to a new set of welts covering the old ones, layers upon layers of “You’ve been bad and you need a spanking.”

I hated skirts, then. They always reminded me of the rape behind the Knox Cathedral when I was six years old. That monster was never caught. Somehow, I could bury that memory. I could easily recall the details of the event, of course, but it didn’t seem to affect me as much as having the same thing happen at home.

Home is supposed to be a haven filled with love, sharing dinners, birthdays, holidays, illnesses gentled away by a mother’s hands and kisses, the bright greens and golds of happy families. To have dreams only made the realities every more painful, re-enforcing the fact that I didn’t have that, didn’t deserve that, would never get it, no matter how I tried to fit in and conform to my parent’s expectations. I fought hard to do what they wanted, to shoe-horn myself into the boxes other people kept insisting were the proper containers for a little girl who wanted to be so much more. I never could, try or no. Why couldn’t I have an octagonal “box,” a round one, even a free form blob to curl up in and fill with soft nesting materials gathered by a fuzzy wee rodent?

Why wasn’t I allowed to be safe?

I was worthless. A strange little brown person who constantly refused to be “normal,” whatever that was. I wanted distinction, not attention, individuality, a self not controlled or molded by others. I knew, deep-down, that it was impossible. Their molding always happened, would always shade the colours of purple, green and cobalt that shifted and moved in a lava-lamp flow of hues and ideas, dreams and my need to create.

My love for books and art were my escape. And holy HECK, I want this bookshelf!

No matter my sorrows, no matter my furies, I could somehow create with whatever came to hand: pieces of leather, fabric or clothing I found in garbage cans, feathers found by the roadside, old pens and lined notebook paper. I was always drawing, always painting or writing (when I finally learned how to read when I was 11 or 12–now, I devour whole libraries of books), always weaving string and ribbons I took from packages. I would collect rocks, shells and the bones of dead things. I drew massive, complicated scenes on my walls in pencil, knowing I may have to erase them later, but needing to put the images populating my mind somewhere.

Everything I did was tinged by my past. I kept attempting to shed it like an old snake-skin, changing my clothes, dying my hair, evening discarding my birth names and creating new ones in the hopes of being a me I could stand and be proud of. I put it in my art, my journals (lots of whining there–you wouldn’t want to read it. ;-D), and what I wore or did. I thought, “If I get out, it won’t eat my soul.”

But he was always there, somewhere, hiding in the wrinkles of may brain, infesting my memory, or showing up unwanted in my dreams and nightmares. I’d see him hiding around the corners of my apartment, feel his presence looming over me like he’d done when I was a little girl, and hear that dry, rustling beetle-shell whisper of his voice, “Who do you think you are? You’re nothing. You’ll always be nothing. You were the closes thing at hand. You only exist because someone let you live to serve them. How can you believe you’re anything but a retard with fairy dreams for a life? Why do you think you can be anything other than a bum mooching off the world?” I was stupid. I was ugly. I was too weird for anyone to love.

Those were never his words–they were mine. Interpretations of so many ancient accusations thrown at me to inform me of my low status and keep me there. All of them, except the phrase “You were the closest thing at hand”, were constructs of my insecurities fed by the constant and painful events of my childhood. That was the sentence that would haunt me for years after my demand for him to tell me why he did what he’d done to me.  They became the foundation of my next series of nightmares and broken-glass whispers in the back of my mind.

Whispers in my darkness.

So Goth, ain’t it? Such a silly pretension. A ridiculous, self-indulgent continuance of the self-hate, my hand permanently stapled to my forehead, “Oh, woe is me!”….

The trial was supposed to have been on the days of February 27th to around March 8th, depending on how long the jury would take to render a verdict. I was supposed to have spent several hours, of probably one day, telling my story of the abuse from over thirty-five years ago, and I could then go home March 1st after my testimony was done. My birthday is three days later. The rest of the trial would finish after I was back in California. I would learn the verdict through email or a phone call from my court liaison.

I was terrified, heart-sick, and yet, a growing calm was slowly filtering into me. I would be over. I’d be able to move on as my middle brother, my step-father’s first real son, had so callously told me twenty years before. Maybe my step-father could also finally shed the guilt he’d only admitted to one person, ever: my mother

Maybe it was his guilt that killed him. Maybe it was knowing that our secret was out at last. He’d had almost four years to face what he’d done after my revelation of his crimes. Roughly three after being formally charged with rape and child abuse and put on the sex-offender’s list. I remember how his hands trembled as he held his bottle of water during the pre-trial as he listened  to the questions the lawyers put to me to find out if there was enough evidence to send his case to a full trial. Was the shaking because of fear? I don’t know.

But, really, he’d had thirty-five or more years to face me, face what he’d done, take responsibility for it, and accept that my original demands for a simple, honest, remorseful, apology–all I’d actually wanted for so long–were both necessary, and hopefully healing, for the both of us.

His family grieves, and strangely, so do I.

Rest in Peace, Step-father, whatever peace you can find, as I’m still searching for. But, maybe it’s not as far away as I’d feared. There’s a small, golden light shining in the distance. Green-gold, softly glinting, as if in warm Spring sunlight. Perhaps I can finally reach it.

REFRESHING OLD WAYS: SHARING THE PATH by Beth Rankin

REFRESHING OLD WAYS: SHARING THE PATH by Beth Rankin

Living in the Williamette Valley is truly a foodie’s paradise. Everywhere you turn there is some food or beverage being grown or produced. In my interaction with local farmers I met Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor a few years ago and recently became aware she was been busy with a big project!—- Those of us who remember our Beowulf readings from high school English class merrily purchased our first cup of mead at Renaissance Festivals and were rewarded with a sweet drink. Perhaps we were young and that was palatable. But it was the last time I drank mead until I moved to Oregon’s Williamette Valley about three and a half years ago.

Living in the middle of wine country is a joy in many ways. Not only does it offer a lot in terms of oenophile enjoyment, but the countryside is beautiful.  And twice a year (Thanksgiving weekend and Memorial Day weekend) almost all the wineries open their doors, even if they normally do not have tasting rooms. It was our first Thanksgiving here and avoiding a popular location with the Portland crowd, we headed up Highway 47 north of McMinnville. When we got to Yamhill we stopped, on a whim, at a meadery at Kookoolan Farms.

Chrissie Manion Zaerpoor and her husband Koorosh met as engineers for Intel and purchased  a farm in Yamhill. Kookoolan Farms has evolved over time to work with other nearby farms to offer vegetables and meat to consumers throughout the region and its reputation for quality is well-known. To find out more about the farm and all they do check out their website and their Facebook page.

Like me, Chrissie remembered her Beowulf and started making mead from local honey. She perfected her craft, moving well beyond the sticky sweet stuff so many of us experienced at those Ren Fairs. In her question, she started gathering mead from other places in the United States and from around the world. This is when I met her. We visited her mead tasting room and were amazed at the variety of tastes offered.

a display of meads

And why not, when you really think about it?  Beer, which has the same basic components, has amazing variety. Wine, of course, varies not only by the type of grape but, as I have learned first hand, by the weather, the terroir, and the skill of the winemaker. Why not discover the same breadth and depth with mead?

Mead has been enjoyed by people for thousands and thousands of year. It seemed to be found often in monasteries which produced honey for the beeswax to make candles. The mead was a fortunate by product of that task. Today, home brewing shops throughout the country can attest to an upsurge in interest and currently there are over 400 commercially licensed meaderies in 46 states, up from 30 in 1997! Mead is considered to be the fastest growing beverage business.

Many meaderies, like Kookoolan, are very small with only limited and local distribution. However, there are many that have larger production and a number of bottle shops are expanding into a wider selection.

As interest grows, so do the number of books available on the subject. So far, however, most recent books about mead have been in the “how to” genre. Home brewing is highly popular and there are plenty of tips and lessons available to ease the learning curve.

However, as mead started becoming more popular, Chrissie realized there was something missing. Her clues came from the visitors to the tasting room. Not only “Where can I find mead besides your tasting room?” but “What would be a good dish to pair with this mead?”

She realized she had a definite advantage over just about everyone else in the field. When she went to make her lunch in her kitchen, it was fun to grab a small pour, or two or three in the adjacent tasting room and see what tasted good with the dish she had prepared for her meal. As she kept her notes, the light bulb started to burn brightly and the book concept was born. The Art of Mead Tasting and Food Paring took three years to produce. It is a joy to read…and even better to work through by cooking and tasting. Chrissie has not only explained the various kinds of meads that are available, but offered well-tested recipes to pair with the various kinds. Imagine, if you will, you have a pretty terrific chicken pot pie you have made, either from your own recipe or the one in the book. You might be tempted to pair it with a white wine for upper, but your enjoyment can be enhanced with the right kind of mead pairing.

From spicy (check out the shrimp gumbo!) to sweet there is something in here for every palate.

The book is divided into regions of the world, as mead is produced everywhere there is honey. One photograph really caught my eye; it showed an archaeological find at Tel Rehov, Israel with a multitude of preserved hives. This discovery proves that ancient civilizations, this one dating back to 900 CE, had a great appreciation for bees, honey and its byproducts.

The book explains mead history as part of the Paleo world, in Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean region, northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in Latin America. Recipes and pairing suggestions are offered to get your exploration rolling.

And, through it all, gorgeous photography. Even a simple photo of the collection of meads Chrissie obtained from meaderies around the world in the research for the book is beautiful, even as it began to overtake the floor space in their dining room.

My hope is in your own life adventures you make room for new challenges. Part of exploration may be of new places, but some new learning may take place in the known and safe nest of your own. Open your willingness to try not only new foods, but new beverages too. Perhaps this concept of mead pairings will get you thinking and not only check out the book, but start checking out the shelves in a local bottle shop. At a recent visit to a local grocery story yesterday, I found this.

And now I get to figure out what food will go well with it. Ahhhh, time to reread the book!

 

 

[Beth and Graham Rankin live in the Williamette Valley of  Oregon.  Beth is a entrepreneur, adventurer, writer, blogger (goingplaceslivinglife), “foodie,” crafter, “jack-of-all-trades” and the master of many!]

 

WHY ARGUE INSTEAD OF DOING RESEARCH? by Beth Rankin

WHY ARGUE INSTEAD OF DOING RESEARCH? by Beth Rankin

Time and again we see hints that many people have lost…or perhaps never developed….critical thinking skills. We can blame schools or families, but once a person reaches adulthood, the choice is theirs.

If you don’t know how to cook, watch some cooking videos or read a cookbook. If you don’t know how to put together that IKEA desk, go to YouTube. If you don’t know how to research something, there are plenty of instructions available.

Yes, it is easier to learn something when you are young. But if you want to improve the way you present yourself to the world, you can learn new tricks. Unless you prefer to be stuck in place.

Example: one of my friends on Facebook has a family member who often joins in the conversation. I have been warned time and again not to bother interacting with him; that he is a troll. However, I come from a long line of do-gooders and I am pretty stubborn. I think almost anyone is redeemable….if they show willingness to learn.

The thread got into Trump’s promise to bring back coal. No one contributing to the conversation had lived in West Virginia but since I had, and because I had had a meaningful conversation about coal with a mining engineer at one of my son’s cross country meets, I shared that exchange.

The information I shared is easily verified by countless articles posted to the Internet. However, the troll chose to tell me what I said was hearsay and he would just wait and see what Trump does to help the coal miners.

The legal definition of hearsay fits, but the common definition does not.

Since we were not in court, why the hesitation to accept what I offered? It took me less than three minutes to find and read an article from a reliable source about the causes of the decline in the coal industry in West Virginia.

He either had no interest in agreeing with anything anyone says or he has no desire to do research.

Either he enjoys his role of being a dissenter in the context of the Facebook discussion or he is unable to learn anything new.

He is only one of many many people who exhibit similar behavior. Think of your own habits. Do you agree or disagree with something based on the information presented or do you bother to take a few minutes to research independently?

I consider my time on Facebook to be “free time.” In other words, I CAN step away from the conversation to actually verify facts. This is NOT work! This is not something that is particularly time sensitive.

But what you say and do is your face to the world. Why be a troll?

From Wikipedia: In internet slang, a troll (/’trool/,/’troll/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion, often for the troll’s amusement. If a person chooses this behavior willingly, he or she certainly is not worth my effort to “teach.”

[Beth Rankin is an amazing person, a personal friend, a dedicated wife and mother, and a gifted entrepreneur, writer and researcher.  Beth lives with her husband in McMinnville, Oregon.  She is the developer and founder of Can-Do Foods and was a major force in the very early development of The Wild Ramp in Huntington, WV. Readers are encouraged to check out Beth’s blog at https://goingplaceslivinglife.wordpress.com.  Many thanks to Beth for the privilege of sharing her writing with our readers, too.] 

 

SAYING “GOODBYE” TO MUMBAI (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

SAYING “GOODBYE” TO MUMBAI (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

I figured out the solution for the potential hazard caused by all the coconuts hanging over streets and sidewalks. There are street vendors with piles of coconuts on every corner in Colaba. One can buy a coconut opened with a machete and a straw to drink the juice for 20 rupees. They come from somewhere. In my mind’s eye, I see young men climbing trees at night to harvest them before they are ripe enough to fall into the street.

COCONUT TREES LINE SOME OF THE STREETS

The banks have a plan for India. My earlier assessment of the reasons for demonetization were only partly correct. I have no talent for dishonesty or greed. I learned today that there will be a two and a half percent fee charged by the banks on every transaction, meaning that after 40 transactions of 100 rupees each the bank has earned the entire amount in fees. I just don’t think big enough when it comes to crime. Driving squatters out of their slums is but a cherry on a very rich cake.

Speaking rich cake, my dentists presented one to me before I left. We took photos and exchanged hugs. They will provide transport to the airport so I had to tell day driver to cancel on night driver. I gave him a 2000 rupee note for taking such good care of me.

As I returned from my final visit to the dentist, we stopped for traffic near the hotel. The young woman with the child that I met when I first arrived and provided with formula for her baby was walking by. She recognized me and smiled with a wave. That is the only thank you that is needed. I know that my small gift was appreciated because she remembered me.

The mystery of the red tree nut is solved. I have seen several of the trees in the area. When I arrived the fruits were bright red and sat high in the tree.

CASHEWS IN STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT

When they are red, the husks contain the same allergen as poison oak. I noticed during my hike yesterday that many of the trees contain fruit that is black. After it turns black, it splits open revealing the nuts much like the burr on chestnut splits. The nuts are still green because they have not been roasted. They are cashews.

My thoughts about my next to last ride in the traffic of Mumbai is that humans can accomplish things through mutual assistance and cooperation. Drive here requires it. There are too few traffic control devices and too many vehicles moving on sometimes very narrow streets designed for horse drawn vehicles. But, the traffic keeps moving because one driver willingly yields to the needs of another. Indians are very social and cooperative with one another and they live in harmony with their neighbors to reach common goals.

CROWDED STREETS IN MUMBAI

Indian society has had its divisions and there is still much tension with Pakistan. That aside, Indians cooperate and work well together in teams. There is no bullshit rugged individualism here.

It is 7:45 am on Thursday in Mumbai. My bags are packed. My driver will be here at 10:15. The airport is about an hour away. I should be there by 11:30 pm and my plane doesn’t leave until 2:15 am, but I’ll need to swing by British Air, check my bags and pick up my boarding passes, sell my rupees back tot he Bank of India, then go to immigration and report that I am exiting the country and go through security. It is a long walk to the gates. I packed my checked-through bag heavy so that I wouldn’t need to lug it all around with me. I hope I’m not overweight with it. I’ll go to the departure lounge and start a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I found one on the street for 100 rupees. Although that book helped determine the course of my life in so many ways, I haven’t read it in at least forty years. It is the reason that I went to law school. I think that I am a better lawyer than Atticus. I wouldn’t have let Mayella leave the stand until I had broken her!

About that trip home. I left the hotel at 9:30 with a driver who was forty-five minutes early. He spoke no English, but managed to get me to the right terminal at the right point. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has two enormous terminals, one for domestic and one for international flights. I was delivered to Terminal 2. Some of you may have noticed that my favorite museum has the name Chhatrapati Shivaji in it, as well. Shivaji Bhonsle was a warrior king who lived in the 17th Century. He became known as Chhatrapati Shivaji, Chhatrapati being a title.  There was no queue at the British Airways counter and I was able to quickly collect my boarding pass and check my big bag through to Charleston.

BRITISH AIRWAYS

The airport was really not crowded when I arrived so I was able to quickly clear immigration. They want to make sure that those who arrive also leave according to the terms of a visa issued to you. The clerk at the hotel notifies immigration when you check out and leave. Visitors are photographed when arriving and leaving. Fingerprints were also collected by immigration enforcement when I arrived although I don’t think that mine are easy to print. My skin has thinned to the point that mine are no longer visible. There were no lines at security either so I quickly entered the departure area, sold my rupees back to the Bank of India for less than I paid. They get you for a total of abut 5% if you buy them and sell them. I made my way to the nearly empty departure lounge for a long wait. I couldn’t log onto CSIA WiFi because I had no Indian phone number so I spent my time watching the other passengers, reading or watching some stupid Bollywood movie on a huge TV, which was directly in front of me. Bollywood movies are the worst, but I find them hilarious when they are meant to be serious dramas. All Indian actors are light-skinned. The “drama” situations were comedic. Dialogue is Hindi but I could understand the plots anyway. The one being shown was their version of General Hospital, but I doubt if the hospital scenes were realistic since admissions and treatments happen in the same room!

The lounge filled up, and we boarded the plane about forty minutes before departure. I found my exit row seat and we departed on time. The plane was a newer version of the Boeing 777. It has nine seats across in groups of three divided by aisles on either side and four sections. I always fly tourist so I always sit in the last section and there were about 180 of us crammed into it. I flew in an Airbus 300 from London to Charlotte. I had an aisle seat but it became uncomfortable after five hours.

SEATING IN A LARGE, MODERN AIRLINER

The A330 has only eight passengers with two on each side of the fuselage and four in the center. I was in the center section. The seats on the 777 are just a bit narrower than the ones on the A330. I fell asleep for awhile when we departed since I hadn’t slept any since Wednesday night. I declined the first meal offered so I was hungry eight hours later when breakfast was served. I could have had an Indian breakfast or an English breakfast. I chose poorly…in heaven, the Italians are the cooks and in hell the English are the cooks! One tray contained two lumps of a thing recognizable as having once been a potato and something stewed that was once a tomato. There were two other lumps that were unrecognizable, although I ate them both. What did Mick Dundee say? “You can survive on it but it tastes like shit.” Two biscuits (crackers to us), cream cheese, some kind of bad pastry and soggy watermelon and cantaloupe along with some plain yogurt which I don’t care for. I prefer my yogurt flavored with fruit in it. I saw “Girl on a Train” during the flight. It is a really good movie and I recommend it to those who have missed it. We arrived at BA Terminal 5 at Heathrow on time after nine hours. It takes an hour longer coming back because of the headwinds.

Everyone who is there to board a connecting flight is herded through security again and directed to the lower level to board a bus for the other terminals. American uses Terminal 3. We were subjected to what I can only describe as interrogation by airline employees before boarding the bus, and it didn’t end with the origin of the trip and the reason for being there. They wanted to know how I made my living, what kind of law I practiced, where my office was, my home address and so forth.

AMERICAN AIRLINES

I became irritated by the invasion and told the employee that I had a boarding pass that entitled me to a seat on the airplane and that I had a passport which entitled me to return to the United States and that I was done playing twenty questions. He decided that he had gathered enough “intelligence” for whomever had directed this interrogation, which likely was recorded by Big Brother as I was waved through. I have never been asked these questions by the airline before.

When I arrived in Charlotte, immigration officers there only asked me where I had been and whether I had any prohibited material, things like produce, soil plants, etc., and customs only inquired about items subject to the luxury tax. What the hell!

[Thanks to Gina Stanley for sharing her recent adventure to and from Mumbai, India.  It’s probably obvious that Gina went to Mumbai to have extensive dental work.  I’ve seen her since she came home, and she looks wonderful!  Gina is a practicing attorney in Huntington, WV. She is a gifted writer, sharing interesting details, pungent personal opinion, and an accurate look at a place most of us will never see.]    

MY TIME IN MUMBAI IS SHORT (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

MY TIME IN MUMBAI IS SHORT (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

I had no internet service for most of the day yesterday. I walked to the Starbucks at the Taj, hoping to get on their WiFi. The Taj is owned by the Tata family, the same family that built the Chhatrapati Shivaji. They have wealth many generations old. They own the Tetley Tea Company, a string of other hotels, telecommunications, banks, an auto company and truck manufacturing, shipping, steel, airlines and THE STARBUCKS! Forbes doesn’t rank them among the richest people in the world probably because they don’t flaunt their wealth. Anyway, WiFi is not free there and I couldn’t pay for it because I don’t have an Indian phone.

THE TAJ HOTEL

I can’t get Windows 10 to download Google Chrome anymore. I had it on the machine once but I uninstalled the program when I couldn’t get it to work well. I can’t even get Edge to let me open g-mail or any product other than ones installed by Microsoft, like Yahoo and Mozilla, neither of which I like. I suppose that I’ll need to pay my computer guy to do it. Or, my grandson has a birthday next month and doesn’t have a computer. I’ll just wrap it up for him. I’ll need to find an adapter though. The plug is configured for use in Asia.

I left at three o’clock yesterday for the dentist. The drive there was not bad and the traffic was light for Mumbai. I left the dentist at 7:30. They installed the abutments (the part that is attached mechanically to implants with screws) and loaded the crowns in the abutments. Then they adjusted the bite, removed groups of crowns on each jaw. They will be glued in place when I return at 4:30 today so I will have teeth in South Mumbai. I haven’t had more than breakfast each day for the last three days and I haven’t had anything difficult to bite and chew for a year. The crowns look very pretty and they even corrected for my overbite.

My driver waited for me the whole time. When I arrived back at the hotel a little after 8:00. Traffic in Mumbai is heavier in the evening and lightest in the morning. He charged me 1,000 INR for the trip and the wait. That is about $15 for five hours. More than fair, I think.

I took a long walk today from Colaba to the back bay over to Fort and back to my hotel.

On my hike, I passed Wesley Church, one of the oldest surviving Christian churches in South Mumbai.  It was built in 1840. A tenement near Wesley Church is for the working poor who are able to pay the rent.

The park across the street commemorates the mutiny of Indian naval brigades in 1857-1858.  I took some photos of the park from the other side of the street.

The small fruit is one of the more than 800 varieties of fig trees seen from the sidewalk. I picked one but it was hard. I don’t know if these are edible. We would cut down this tree. In India many trees are sacred so in this case a portion of the wall was removed to made way for the tree.

There is an athletic field for a school behind this wall with bleachers for viewing either football (soccer) or cricket. Cricket is the national pastime of India. School children were practicing cricket. The school is on the other side of the street although it looks nothing like a school in a western sense.

This is a traffic training park for children paid for by the Western India Auto Association and operated by the Mumbai police. Accidents involving pedestrians are not uncommon here. There are roadways in this park and traffic signals. Children are taught the rules of the road and when to cross streets. There are bleachers here, too. A public study pavilion was in rather heavy use when I walked by it. 

CRICKET FIELD AT CUFFE

The public cricket field at Cuffe Parade, an upper scale area of South Mumbai adjacent to both Colaba and Church Gate. This field is about half mile long and two hundred yards wide.

BACK BAY HOTELS

These apartment flats are typical of those in the entire back bay area. Most are seven or eight stories high. These buildings overlooked the cricket field.

Since I am leaving tomorrow night, they fixed the internet about twenty minutes ago. I had no service for half of the time here! [EDITOR’S NOTE:  These are the sorts of complications one comes to expect when traveling abroad!]

It is 6:30 am on Friday in Mumbai. The house crows are very noisy and people have been checking out and leaving early. The disadvantage of a room with a view is that I hear all of the street noise.

I had Indian pizza at the Basilico, an upscale eatery on the next street. It is perfectly safe to stroll the streets at night because of the ever-present crush of humanity. The crust was crispy, the sauce was good, there was a big collection of julienned veggies on it and it was topped with mozzarella. Italian spices, including crushed red pepper, were brought to the table. I also had a virgin pina colada made with fresh pineapple juice and fresh coconut juice. Those are wonderful. I couldn’t eat it all, so I asked them to pack up the half that I was unable to eat and I offered it to the door man who seemed very thankful to receive it. My conclusion is that Indian pizza far surpasses Thai pizza in taste.

I haven’t had alcohol here, not that I drink often at home. Most places don’t serve it and no one serves it on Monday (I am not sure why that is so) or to a person not yet 25-years-old. Muslims are required to abstain and none of their establishments have it. I have mentioned that most of the businesses in the area seem to be owned by Muslims and there is a significant population of them in this area assumed from their manner of dress (I haven’t encountered any radical jihadists to my knowledge). I hope that I am allowed to return to the country. India officially discourages the use of tobacco and alcohol. There are public service announcements during movies. We are told that tobacco causes cancer and kills. Alcohol is injurious to health, it is claimed. The claim about alcohol is mostly true and the one about tobacco is absolutely true. Can anyone imagine the furor that both industries would raise in the United States. My belief is that tobacco products are very expensive here. I have seen no one smoking in public but I have seen a few sidewalk vendors selling it.

I had my last breakfast at the Godwin. My belief is that both hotels are owned by the same company. They are about thirty feet apart.

Back to breakfast. Breakfast at the Residence Hotel in Fort was better than here, but the food is all right. I had scrambled eggs and pancakes. There is no sugar in these and they are spicy and meant to be eaten with a coconut chutney made from crushed coconut. The chutney is also spiced so it is a mixture of sweet, salty and hot. My personal waiter (that is what he has become because I tip him one-hundred rupees a day) brought me two glasses of orange juice and a pot of tea which he poured and sweetened for me. I am unaccustomed to be waited upon and it seems a little embarrassing to me. The other guests have noticed that I get such lavish attention and I am certain that they wonder about it. It probably doesn’t occur to them that they should tip, too. The meal is part of the room rent. He will miss my tips, which have been 700 rupees a week or about $11 USD.

I also pay my driver well. Two brothers handle my transportation. Independent taxi drivers tend to congregate at hotels. They likely bribe the doormen to send them riders. The brothers have always driven me where I need to go. I will travel to the clinic for my last visit with the daytime brother and the night brother will take me to the airport. They always wait on me when I go to the dentist so I need not find a taxi to bring me to Colaba from Kemps Corner, an often tricky proposition. I pay them a big premium to wait. I could take a metered cab for about 150 rupees so that would be about 300 rupees round trip or about $4.50 USD. I pay the brothers either 800 or 1000 rupees depending upon the length of the wait. The meter drivers work for cab companies and many of them live in the slums and speak no English. The brothers speak some English, own their own vehicles which have air-conditioning, they buy their own fuel and pay for their licenses. They must think that what I pay is generous because they are at my beck and call. I would feel that I am exploiting them if I paid them less. So, I estimate that I will have paid more than $100 USD for transportation since arriving and the trips today will cost about 2,000 rupees or about $30. The trip to the airport takes about an hour, and the nigh brother will take me at 10, deliver me to the right terminal and help me with my bags. Tipping is the right thing to do and it buys better service!

Because I also tip the housekeeping staff, they give me extra towels, a vase of flowers and extra water for my room. I have them clean every other day and pay them 100 rupees for it. I am greeted by them when I come and go.

How does one exchange money in Mumbai? Most banks don’t do it. The hotel did it for me when I was here in May last year. Rupees can be bought from the Bank of India at the airport but they only gave me sixty-four rupees per dollar. So, I have been using the services of a man who can be easily located. I tell the doorman that I need rupees and the guy shows up in five minutes on the terrace. He gives me 65 rupees per dollar and I always buy 6,500 at a time. If I have any when I get to the airport, I am required to sell them back to the Bank of India. It is illegal to take rupees from India.

INDIAN RUPEES

There is a movement here to demonetize India. The explanation given (propaganda) is that all of the cash is in the cities and there is none in villages to stimulate commerce. A more likely explanation is that if poor people in the slums of Mumbai have no debit cards (and they won’t) they will be forced to return to their villages. When they leave, the slums will become available for clearing and commercial development by the already wealthy.

A MUMBAI SLUM

“Think of the poor villages,” the ads proclaim. “Do your part to help. Demonetize India to help them out,” they beg. “Don’t use cash use electronic payment.” Obviously, more money can be printed if cash is in short supply. The currency of India is only supported by the likelihood that India will pay its bills, just as ours is. I am told that it is also being done to deal with the dark money problem. That is, to bring bribery out in the open. Bribery becomes more difficult if a paper trail must be created. A bribe can be paid with blood diamonds, gold or a tanker of crude. I believe that my guess is the best answer. The government simply wants to drive the poor out of cities like Mumbai.

If you want to know the real reason for something done by government don’t listen to the propaganda and don’t be distracted by their lies. Determine who will benefit the most. It is always the already wealthy. Public charter schools in our country? Are they favored, for example, by DeVos because religion can be taught there? Are they favored by DeVos because children will be better educated? Or, are they favored because they will be operated for someone’s profit? The latter, I think.