Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wedding goes off without a hitch

Comments heard at the wedding of Dan Deming and Nicole Toohey:

-Did you bring your umbrella? There's an 80 percent chance of rain.

-Yes. My hair frizzes something awful when it gets wet.

-We'll be under that covered stone pavilion over there. Unless there's a tornado we shouldn't get wet.

-Where Donna lives in Oklahoma they have tornados. Or is it hurricanes, Donna?


-And brush fires, right?

-Yes. We had fires the first week in April a mile away from the Ranch. We lost a corral in the fire but some people lost their homes.

-That's the bride's mom sitting over there. She and her daughter could be sisters. The dad is standing in the back. He said he's a nervous wreck.

-I don't know why. Did you see how he was sweating in the back of his hair?

-He's a retired Philly narcotics cop and he has to have seen everything. He'd get into foot chases and get shot at. But he's nervous walking his daughter down the aisle.

-There's the limo. The bridesmaids are all in there.

-Derek, is it okay if I go take a peak at them?

-Actually, ma'am, you're not supposed to.

-They wrote their own wedding vows. A friend is the lay reverend. He looks just like a Toohey.

- I kinda wondered if he was her father at the very beginning.

-She's taking her husband's name except she'll use Miss Toohey for her students.

-Why'd the limo disappear?

-It went around the corner to make a U-turn. Here it comes now.

-Oooh! Wow!

-Sara has a beautiful smile.
-Isn't my wife beautiful?

-Alice is the sister/law. She and her husband moved to CA cuz they're both actors and wanna find work. Sean Toohey's been in off-B'way plays.

-She's smart she's fixing her long dress so she doesn't trip. Look at those magenta-colored heels. She comes from a tall family.

-That's my daughter! She's so funny and so smart and so talented. And beautiful! Her father should smile more.

-Dyou realize it's not raining and the sun is shining?

-That's miraculous.

-There's more miracles going on than you realize about this wedding.

-I do, Nicole.

-I do, Daniel.

-Sara, will you hand Nicole Dan's ring?

-Sean, will you hand Dan Nicole's ring?

M U S I C F A D E.

-Look above the pavilion? See the rainbow?

-Wow! Look! There's a rainbow. And it's still drizzling a little.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Day at the Shore, stop signs be damned

Perfect timing. "Mimi" called to invite me to the shore. She advertises herself as the oldest person in our group but she has marvelous agility of motion and a brilliant wit. She's one of the very few treatment-resistant people in our group, five weeks of mania, five weeks of such severe depression she can't leave home. She said one thing her illness has taught her is "I'm not afraid to die."

During her last mania she bought herself a beautiful shiny gray car, not a bad purchase, but just a couple years sooner than she needed. Mimi loves to drive. And is a good driver. Mostly.

Until, that is, we got to our first stop sign right in her neighborhood. She cruised right through it. "Mimi," I said. "I noticed you didn't stop at the stop sign."

"I never do, Ruth," she said cruising thru another one.

"Is this something new? Or have you always driven this way?"

"Ever since I began to drive. I do see them. And I'm very cautious. My husband used to hate it, but he was a very mellow man and never complained."

"Mimi," I said. "I think ......."

"Oh, if you want me to come to a full stop, I will. From now on."

The trip was uneventful except Mimi is quite the talker so we missed all our exits. Me, I just sit there as oblivious as a child in its baby-seat. I can't stand back-seat driving so I just look out the window at the scenery and let Mimi figure out the route.

The Commodore Perry Bridge was a new experience. We were headed for that but we never did find it.

"What happened to Commodore Perry?" I asked her.

"Oh, I missed it," said Mimi. "There are other bridges tho to Jersey."

Indeed there were and we cruised into the edge of Cape May and The Lobster House at 1:30 pm just in time for lunch.

So did everyone else. I have never been to the Lobster House when it wasn't mobbed. I carried the vibrating beeper and took it into the bathroom with me, setting it on top of the toilet paper holder. Suddenly it began spazzing off - baDEEP-baDEEP-baDEEP - and nearly bounced off onto the floor.

After a hearty meal and surprisingly slow service, we headed for the beach at Stone Harbor. This was a first for me. Plenty of parking, a very clean-looking town. Mimi told me she daren't drive over the speed limit of 25 as it was strictly enforced. Aha! Pedestrians had the right of way, as they should, with their beach carts and chairs and umbrellas and baby strollers. It was marvelous.

Every person does their own thing on the beach. Mimi stripped to her bathing suit. She has lovely long legs and arms, is a beautiful woman, and goes in waist-deep to meet and jump into the waves. I watched her from afar while leafing thru my James Michener Art Museum catalog which is featuring the late great Jim Henson and his Muppets this fall.

Then I did my beach tour, walking briskly to the jetty, feet digging in the sand, bending to pet shiny round mounds of jellyfish, and fingering a few small round stones. Eventually I bathe my face and arms in the endless waves of salt water.

We had a wonderful time. Mimi is a terrific companion. "I'm so glad you're not depressed now," I said. "Yes," she said, "I wouldn't trade this for a million dollars."

She said she wanted to go to her church and give thanks for the return of her mental health.

You'll do it when you're ready, I said. Besides, there's no god anyway.

Oh, you don't think so, Ruth?


She mentioned she loved the last issue of the Compass. She found especial solace in the article by "Ralph" of New Jersey who wrote about his relentless 10-month battle to free himself of suicidal depression, still not gone by publishing time.

"Yeah, it's a true story," I said. "I'm glad that helped you. It's an awful story but I knew someone would find it helpful."

On our way out of town, we drove by the new Utz mansion, which Mimi declared a monstrosity. The neighbors are up in arms against it, she said.

"Gee, I think it's lovely," I said craning my neck to peek thru the narrow driveway at an immense dark-colored building reminiscent of the House of the Seven Gables.

"How can one family own such a huge house?" she said.

"Well, obviously they have enough money to afford it and whole families come to the shore together. Maybe they'll be hosting other families like the Herrs, the Lays, the Bachmans and Snyders..... a regular snack food consortium."

Here's a brief video, thanks to Greg Rittler.

The one reason I won't be back to Stone Harbor, unless the Utz family invites me up to swim in their backyard pool and use their cabanas, is b/c there is no boardwalk. How, after all, can you really enjoy the Shore's specialty foods - frozen custard, fresh-roasted peanuts, Stewart's root beer, fudge, curly french fries, crabcake sandwiches - if you're not walking on the Boardwalk with the crashing surf in the background.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Brief Bipolar Fantasy from Yours Truly

This is not quite as far-fetched as it sounds. Indeed, people will tell me, Do it, Ruth. Do it. But before I discuss my idea, lemme back track to the Led Zeppelin film where the group's fantasies were photographed in lyrical color reminiscent of the Swedish movie Elvira Madigan. One of their fantasies featured a motorcade for the Brits' triumphant entrance from their own airplane, which they had, into a motorcade w/police escort to Madison Square Garden.

It was lovely! Sirens whirling.

The NY Times is always looking for ideas from its readers. They have quite an extensive collection of health articles including 9 stories by bipolar folks. I loaded it on my website of course. I can't seem to shake my involvement in the bipolar world even tho I'm symptom-free.

If I could get some psychiatrists on my side other than Pam London-Barrett I'd write the NY Times and tell them that bipolar disorder often disappears in our late fifties. This is truly amazing news. People should be aware of it and who better than the Times to promulgate this new awareness. Now of course not everyone recovers. But enough people do to make it an item of supreme interest. It is always helpful for some of our newly diagnosed people to aspire to be med-free some day, albeit when they're old and crotchety like me.

New ideas are not in the purview of the average mind. Therefore I would have to marshal an enormous army of experts. What benefit would it offer them? None that I can think of. Few people are interested in the scientific truth from all perspectives. Most see thru a narrow lens, whatever their specialty.

Also on our New Directions website I highlighted an article from Time Mag called preventing mental illness. You simply spot children and teens who are having problems and give them the help they need. Some states have already enacted programs to that effect.

I proposed teaching classes to every diagnosed person with bipolar disorder. What could be simpler? They do it for diabetes. The insurance pays for it. I proposed it to the heads of our local counties several times who filed my requests in their dumpsters and I didn't stop there. I contacted major insurance companies and local hospitals.

I'm telling you all this to show the lack of influence of an ordinary citizen who may have the ideas of a genius but if she isn't taken seriously, she is building sand castles in the sky.

I suppose I could apply for a Pew Grant. You need a staff of a hundred to fill out their forms.

I may just take up the guitar. The library is offering free classes. I took lessons in Cleveland, Ohio, when I was 16. The famous Dick Lurie was my teacher. I could never find time to practice. I was too busy playing tennis and fantasizing about Andrew Inglis, Dwight Johnson, and Richard Mears.

May I be forgiven for having major fantasies about my newly discovered guitar prowess?

Getting off Lithium

"Ken" called to enlist my opinion about getting off lithium. Like many other bipolar support group leaders in the Philadelphia area - and certainly around the country - he had been on lithium nearly 2 decades and wondered at the possibility of going off. Nearly everyone asks their doctor about this. Opinions are mixed. Ken's doctor said she'd take him off but wanted to put him on some of the newer bipolar meds.

What were my thoughts on this? Ken knows I successfully came off lithium in 2000 and am symptom-free. Or, cured as I like to call it for emphasis.

Ken and I came up with a checklist of things. Because he is a support group leader he is an example to many others and his experiences, like mine, will be remembered. Neither Ken nor I are doctors but know ourselves and our minds better than anyone else. Both of us fervently believe in medication for bipolar disorder. But when a person reaches their MID-FIFTIES they may wish to consider going off meds.

If so, a strategy must be in place. Ken and I completed the strategy over the phone.

Since he is not working, he must maintain a strict daily schedule of activity which includes leaving home at least once a day to be among people. He will attend other area support groups to keep busy. He will engage in simple exercise such as walking. But above all, he will not isolate.

He will also not act upon any suicidal thoughts. Lithium is a strong protector against suicide. The ideation may occur but rarely the attempt. It is okay to think about killing yourself, this is an unfortunate symptom of bipolar disorder, but you must redirect your thoughts should they occur. Ken will do that.

I told him when I went off lithium I was assailed by suicidal thoughts. This was due to my doctor's failing to wean or titrate me down. A nice titration, which can be fairly brief in the case of lithium, should avoid this nastiest of all symptoms.

Lending credence to Ken's desire to get off the lithium is his own doctor-supervised titration recently from lithium due to digestive problems. Ken was lithium-free for 18 days. He told me he had never felt better in his life. He said, "I know this sounds funny but I felt like the real me. I felt I had a lot of energy and best of all my mind could think clearly for the first time since I was a young man."

He even had some difficult challenges with new members to his group which he handled beautifully. I commented that this was undoubtedly b/c he's mellowed over time, learned more about himself and life thru counseling and life experience, and that he's fully capable of handling challenges w/o being doped up.

I said that when I was on lithium I never felt truly like myself. It was as if there was an invisible shield between me and the world. We all have our own way of expressing such 'drugged-up' feelings. However, I said, most people I've talked to do not feel that way. They believe lithium normalizes them which is even better.

Ken must be extra-vigilant in gauging his moods to make sure he is not dipping into depression or rising into mania. If so, he must immediately get in touch w/the doctor and therapist for Plan B which may include more meds. We mustn't jeopardize his well-being. Talking things out w/his therapist or a good support person may be enough to sustain him thru any rough waters he may encounter. He must learn to endure any painful feelings such as anxiety, telling himself this is a temporary situation that will pass. This is the natural 'cognitive therapy' people give themselves.

I told him I had a lot of confidence in him and believed he could do it. I forgot to mention the addition of omega fatty acids to his diet, in pill form, but I'll call him tomro to mention it. I myself never got into vitamins b/c I abhor taking pills. I'd rather broil a nice thick piece of wild salmon and eat it on the back porch while listening to the cicadas sing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Fantasy World of Led Zeppelin

RZ: You'd think if you're asleep and choking on your own vomit you'd wake up.

Scott: I guess you're so drunk you're not aware of it. Luckily I've never been that drunk.

RZ: Who else choked on their own vomit and died? Was it Janis Joplin?

Scott: Jimi Hendrix. Hey, you promised to tell me the story about how Les Paul met Jimi Hendrix.

RZ: I'll tell you later. Let's go to sleep.

Scott has an enormous collection of old videotapes. Last weekend we celebrated the 40th anniv. of Woodstock by watching the video. We'd forgotten about so many of the bands. Remember Ten Years After? Awesome. How bout Canned Heat! I bought the Canned Heat album when I lived in San Francisco. Jimi Hendrix became famous in America as a result of Woodstock.

Oh! How could I forget Crosby Stills & Nash. Woodstock was only their SECOND live performance. And Carlos Santana. Man, can that guy play.

Scott was amazed (but not dazed and confused) that I was unfamiliar with the British band Led Zeppelin. "You'll recognize the songs," he successfully predicted.

We made a date to watch the film on Saturday evening. It's a long and rambling film that the group later said was not entirely to their liking, which is why perhaps I was googling away while watching it, finding information about:

Jimmy Page on guitar
John Paul Jones, keyboard and bassist
Robert Plant, lead singer
John Bonham, the drummer who died within 2 years of their American tour, causing the band to break up

The film interweaves favorite fantasies of the band members while they play live at Madison Square Garden. These lyrical romantic scenes are in sharp contrast to the gritty life they led as hard-working experimental musicians who were open to trying anything to make their sound better. Each and every member engaged in bold and creative ways to get the finest sound possible, just as Les Paul himself had played in echo chambers such as bathrooms to accentuate his guitar solos.

The movie The Song Remains the Same is filled with wonderful tunes like Stairway to Heaven, Dazed and Confused, and No Quarter.

Their live concerts often lasted FOUR HOURS. The men are on their feet jumping and stomping and shouting, using tremendous amounts of energy. They play off each other as if they can read each other's minds, allowing each one the joy of soloing for as long as 10 minutes each, while the others groove.

To do this live in concert - and to have your audience be with you - is truly wonderful. Scott nearly saw them live at The Spectrum but the drummer had broken his leg and the tour was canceled. We need our legs and we know how to use them (this is from ZZ Topp's Tush song).

Got me to thinking I rarely fantasize. Oh, I rehearse things, such as going to Lake Galena today for a paddleboat ride and finding the thunderstorms have just begun.

When I was a teenager I LIVED in a fantasy world. One strong fantasy I had was that at the age of 14 I was the first female Cleveland Indians baseball player. It sustained me thru my miserably boring years of junior high school.

Think about your own fantasies.... then and now. If you wanna share them, feel free.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

NIMH calling! The Lithium Connection

On Friday morning, I had a 20-minute follow-up interview for a bipolar genetic study I and my family members participated in several years ago. I'd tried to recruit as many bipolar people as I could for the study which included taking a blood sample. With the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000 it was thought that many conditions - including bipolar disorder - would easily divulge their genetic secrets.

Not so, as the NIMH researchers learned. The National Institute of Mental Health, residing in Bethesda, MD, is the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to mental health research.

Sara Richardson called to make an appt. for a follow-up phone call. I was more than happy to tell her the surprising news that I no longer have bipolar disorder. In turn, she surprised me by saying, "We're hearing more and more stories like yours. It seems that when people have been on lithium, some of them fully recover."

So, the Lithium Connection. I did tell her the high price I've paid - a sort of devil's bargain - I unwittingly made. "We'll give you back your mental health," said the magus, "but in return you give us your kidneys."

I'm not sure however that I totally credit lithium for my recovery. Some of my recovery, I believe, was my ability to take on tough challenges with feigned self-confidence, an airtight inner confidence in myself undoubtedly drummed in by my father plus my success early in life as a smart verbal popular individual, traits which vanished as a teenager.

Remember the importance of Early Experiences.

I tried to give my own 2 children the best early experiences I could. They turned out so well I can only think that I did a good job.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Buy a Toaster-Oven

I was having toaster-oven agita, you know, the toast was either burnt to a crisp or soggy, so I said, What good are my millions doing me tied up in bonds and hedge funds and IRAs and new cars. Go out in the wide world, Ruthie, and buy yourself a nice new toaster oven.

Ah, now the real agita begins. Shopping. I hate it. I can't stand it. Huge cavernous stores that are synonyms for the word 'agoraphobia' - fear of the marketplace. Take your pick. They're all bad.

I did a dry mental run thru the top stores in the area, which, not surprisingly, are also the top stores in Oklahoma or Texas.

Which was the least worst?

I drove over to K-Mart. Soon as I walked in the telltale K-Mart aroma stung my nostrils. Yuck! I hoped my clothes and hair wouldn't smell of it when I got home.

I do not wander aimlessly in stores. The lady told me where to go and I found an assortment of toaster-ovens. I was now totally on my own with indecipherable price tags and toasters stuck in boxes I could not open.

But hey I was in a good mood. Why not? I was about to make toast.

I began walking down the aisles looking for help. I put my hand up to my mouth as if it were a microphone and began announcing, "Sales associate to toaster aisle, sales associate to toaster aisle."

Finally about 2 miles away at the very end of the store, 3 individuals were huddled in secret conversation. They wore the special K-Mart red. As soon as they saw me, they turned their backs on me.

Hellooo! I yelled. I need your help.

I grabbed two of the men by the neck and pulled them with me toward the toaster aisle. Look, you goddam bastards, I said,

Actually, they were quite nice tho I did idly wonder if one of them just got out of jail.

Oh, I had them do the most awful things, Dear Reader. I made them WORK! They had to ask their supervisor questions about the toasters and they had to reach high up and pull a few down off the shelves.

This is great, I said to them. You never wanna lose a customer. Once you've got them in the store, you don't want them to leave unless.....

and they finished the sentence..... unless they buy your product.

This was their second day of work.

I had them carry the toaster up to the counter for me.

When I got there, ya know what Flossie said to me?

Sorry, ma'am, the sale price expired last Saturday.

I looked over at Derrick and Gary.

Do me a favor, I said to the lazy bums. Go get the price tag.

Flossie rang me up the sale price.

But.... I had to carry it out to the car cuz the boys skedaddled.

Be sure to read Peggela's comment below.....

Thanks for your reply Carole!

Here's what my friend Carole wrote: Just finished reading your current blogs. I love your writing! I was taken with the fact that you grew up in the Cleveland area - what part? We were just to a family wedding this past weekend in Cleveland. We were in the downtown area near 4th St. and the Rock -n- Roll Hall of Fame. What a hot weekend but, the wedding was awesome (reception at the Wyndham which was magnificent!) and it was good to see family members again.

My Dad grew up in the Bay Village area (site of the infamous Sam Sheppard case), our relatives live in Valley City.

RZ begins: First of all, Dear Reader, I should tell you that when I read the name Carole with an E on the end I pronounce it, just for fun, Ca-ROLE-ee. Who knows? Maybe Carole's husband Randy does that! (I like to show off the fact that I remember people's names. When you get Alzie's, that's the first thing to go.....names).

Carole is certainly right about Bay Village, Ohio. The osteopathic physician Sam Sheppard was found guilty of murdering his wife Marilyn who actually went to Cleveland Heights High School in the same class as my mother. In recent years, for some reason, the case was written about yet again, and I read all about it on this website. Look for other great murders here too.

Now, back to Cleveland. Our family lived there until about 1970 when my dad got transferred to the garment district in The Big Apple. The city had not yet begun its terrible decline that faces just about all inner cities today. Sounds like you and your family did what 'the new Cleveland' wants you to do - frequent the tourist attractions put there to revive the city.

Let's do it!

I can sit here, close my eyes and remember the exciting hustle-bustle of downtown Cleveland teeming with people and pigeons and beggars selling pencils. What a feeling of freedom I had stepping off the 'rapid transit' and going it alone to the Cleveland Public Library instead of our small quiet air-conditioned branch.

One time I sat in the downtown Reading Room an entire afternoon and read A Night in the Luxembourg, an arcane book I longed to read but was not allowed to check out b/c it was one of a kind. One of the page corners snapped off when I read it since someone had used it as a bookmark. I was appalled.

A Client to Remember

Beware of counter-transference, I said to myself before young "Will" arrived. Be aware of boundaries. We'd spoken over the phone and he told me a little about himself. A little? I allowed him to talk for about an hour while I sat recording notes and trying to make sense of his very young and very lost life.

When he arrived, he told me his best friend lived up the street and they used to cut thru my backyard to get to "the Screw," an affectionate term for the Keystone Screw factory behind my house. Not only that but he went to the same nursery school my son went to - Happy Tymes - oh, I said, Miss Bev and Miss Donna. (My son couldn't tell them apart. He called Bev "the one with the big pink lips.")

The day was scorching. I met Will out on the steps. I wanted to watch him walk in from the car. He wore a Pink Floyd shirt. "You're a good-looking guy," I said shaking his hand. My intuition was now set on 'high.' As I've said before it took me years before I felt comfortable as a therapist and finally at the age of 63 I feel I pretty much know what I'm doing. Except when I don't.

Hey, I said, I was just making myself a glass of mint iced tea. You want some?

Sure, he said, and we went into the kitchen. I got our drinks.

We made several trips down the stairs to the screened in back porch, carrying our drinks and a yellow pitcher of ice water. I brought my clock downstairs and put it on the table so we could both see it.

The time sped by. He never stopped talking.

"We have to stop in 5 minutes," I said.

"Good," he said. "I'm starving."

He complained that he hadn't any money. I myself was famished and am on an eating plan so that I must eat every three hours.

Listen, I said. I'm gonna make myself some lunch. If you want, I'll make you some eggs.

He followed me upstairs and I made the most scrumptious fresh eggs imaginable, putting in lots of fresh basil. I toasted 2 slices of whole-grain bread and we carried them back to the back porch along with one of those small personal watermelons from Little Bear Produce and feasted while the sun blazed in the sky.

A huge cicada alit on the outer screen and we watched its huge body in amazement. Birds of all sorts flew hither and yon in the thick woods beyond my house, undaunted by the heat or the coming threat of winter.

My client told a story. One of those little offhand observations thrown out by the unconscious that told me what he actually thought of the session. A person can say one thing - like - this is the best session I've had in a long time - but their unconscious is recording its own uncensored version.

His story was about a friend's goldfish. The goldfish started out very small but managed to survive thru wit and guile all the predators in the water. The goldfish was now the king of the fish.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Beauty of the Deadline / Poem: His Hands

By one in the afternoon I needed to have 8 copies of a new poem to hand out at my Willow Grove Writer's Group. A self-imposed deadline. I did write Stephen of my desire to write and blog it. A written notification of this sort keeps me accountable to myself and to someone else. This is also why we set goals at New Directions and also with my psychotherapy clients.

The poem of course is about my boyfriend whose hands I look at when he's fast asleep. Two weeks ago I knew I wanted to write about them. I jotted down some notes but promptly lost them. I began the poem last nite - it was quite awful - I mean really bad - but at least I began. At 12 noon today I sat down with my mellow jazz on the stereo and drew up a new document.

Then I decided to call my son Dan who I learned is having a bachelor party tonite at a "gentleman's club" downtown "if anyone shows up," he said.

I told him of my self-imposed deadline and he said, "Well, Mom, I'm not gonna enable your procrastination" so we hung up, I turned up the music and began to t-h-i-n-k.

Scott was outside cutting our lawns. Thank god. The sweat was running down his nose and his cap was wet. I held up the poem.

Can I read it later, he said.

Sure, I said.

He had no idea what it was about.

He followed me inside his house where I'd leave it on his kitchen table.

I don't have my reading glasses, he said.

Here's mine, I said handing him my black secretary glasses that make me look like my 87-year-old mother.

He sat down and began reading.

Oh, it's about me, he laughed. So that's why you asked me those questions last nite about the tools I use.

It's not 100 percent accurate, he said.

I know, I said. I don't care about that. I wanna create an image in my readers' minds. I did not write this to make you happy or to satisfy you.

I know, he said. You wrote it to satisfy yourself. I like it. It's good. It's very very good. Can I keep it?

Of course, I said. I've gotta go outside now and wipe off the bird crap on my car.

a catholic schoolboy’s across his
his tiny hands
how they trust him

the things he does with them
the places they go
he is a fixer of trains
a well-proportioned boy
fledged into the body of a man
his locker holds
a blue uniform
and airtight boots
with tips of steel
they call him on the loudspeaker
“Sherman to the car house!”
tools strapped to his belt
a silver flashlight
brightening the
womb of darkness
he crawls
like a stalking cat
hands nimble on the blind keyboard
of wires and switches
hard gleaming metal
wires and cable
the abdominal cavity of trains
where he lives

his whole life
lived in trains
and in rest from trains

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At the movies / Poem: Song for William

A whole lot of us went to the movies together. Some of us, myself included, saw the recent release of The Hurt Locker, indisputably the best film of the American involvement in the Iraq War. Filmed almost entirely in Jordan, near the border of wartorn Iraq w/displanced Iraqi refugees and fighters used as extras, the film realistically portrayed the sandy grittiness of everyday life in a platoon sent to dismantle bombs. Close-ups depicted the naturalness of the soldiers. It was hard to believe they were actors. The heavy uniforms they wore made us feel we were right there with them, a palpable sense of cinema verite.

The music combined haunting Arabic strains and mullah calls with thunderous battle cries, all for an exhilarating and suspenseful two hours of unmitigated suspense. There was not one superfluous moment, nor was there the gratuitous violence or sex we come to expect in American-made movies.

Go see it!

When my neighbor Charlie passed away, I went thru my computer documents trying to find some of the poems I'd written about Charlie, including one of my favorites called "All Life Has Charlie in it." I couldn't find it.

Question: Should a poet share her poems with the people she writes about?

Each poem must be considered on a case by case basis. As we know, I love the poems I write. At the advice of a friend, I mailed Wade in the Water Dry to the family I had written it about. Like many of my poems, it was an entire story. "Wade" referred to the waders worn by Ron, the Fisherman. The family never mentioned it to me.

While searching for my Charlie poems, which I never did find, I found about 7 others I'd totally forgotten about. Here's my Song for William.


Before tonight there was never a William
You will write a poem about me, you said.
I looked down and wondered, will I?

I was in your living room, your wife had died
three years ago, you had kissed other women
but never slept with one
though you waited for the girl from New York
to come back to the bar
Perhaps I am she. We don’t know yet.

In your living room I told you,
William I asked three men to dance before I asked you.
The first one said, I have only just gotten here and am
drinking my beer.
Oh, I said, are those the rules we play by?

I told that to Bill on the couch and you laughed and said,
You told him that?

I did, I said, hunching down my red sweater.

When you said you’d dance with me I didn’t care who you
were, I just wanted to dance.
We danced and I looked at you a couple of times
You looked nice.

I guess we’re about the same age, I said looking at your flat stomach
and slender thighs
I wore a red v-neck and my hair looked nice

You dance like a teenager you said

I want to hit the floor, I said,
can you hit the floor with me?

We both did
You could keep up with me
You were short and slender
I loved the way you moved
Good dancers make good lovers
I was looking for a lover
to love forever

You invited me over
Told me your wife had died.
I saw her picture. Gail was her name.
She was on a boat and smiling wearing white.
Why not smile, William?
She had you.

I’m awfully hungry I said. What you got to eat?
You opened up the fridge and from my seat
I saw the rotisserie chicken.
Can you heat it up for me?

You did and I cut it into bite size pieces
put a little salt on it and ate it with my fingers.

You said you got bored and always needed to
learn new things.
Would you like to learn about me, Bill?

I’d like to see your house, I said.
We went to the room where the bench press was
and the big television set
There was another room, a shop,
with a Chase and Sanborn can of screws
and a deer you shot and had stuffed on the wall.

This was Churchville. Not my neighborhood.
And signs of Support the Troops all around the house.

You’re an intelligent woman, you said, and never once
apologized like they do for not being educated.
You’d had your life spread out like a red carpet
leading to today,
you'd worked as a crane operator downtown
moving Philadelphia's ancient soil
to build new skyscrapers
while I was far away in Willow Grove never having
met you or heard about you or even known about your existence
while you wore your helmet and your muddy boots, a small man,
Boy, you said, can those construction men drink.

I asked to see your bedroom. A giant bed right in the middle
on a raised platform.
I’ve bought some plants, you said, and showed me
the new plants you’d bought,
I barely looked,
then sat down on the bed. It was a comfortable looking bed
as big as they come.

You sat there so I sat down too.
We talked some more
eyes magnetized to the other

You leaned over on your elbow
and said I’d like to kiss you.

Well, that’s all right, I said as you came near
and I waited to see what it would feel like
what William’s imprint on me would be

It was a big wonderful kiss
Warm and open like the sea opening up and
wave upon gentle wave came inside me
and swept me away

It was a great introduction to a symphony

and you tried to pull me back for the second movement
I wanted to pull back with you but I couldn’t go
my strings were not tuned up
and you tried your best to tune them
a brief struggle to pull me back
and then defeat

It’s just that I’m so tired, I said,
and making love takes so much energy.
It don't either, you said,
it’s the most natural thing there is
like calveing

but it was no good for me.

I hope you’ll invite me back I said.
Do you think you will?

I just might, you said.
I just might.

My bet is yes. And I will content myself
with the symphonic kiss and plan
four long romantic movements on that
long bed of yours as the moon rolls
around in its eternal orb but William
you never rang.

Soda-Pop King from LA / Eggplant Recipe

His second-generation mom n pop shop carries brands of bottled soda-pops to die for! Listen to the sound of the clinking glass bottles. Video courtesy of I muted the sound for the first few seconds so as not to listen to the shampoo commercial. I myself am partial to Stewart's Root Beer, esp. on the Ocean City Board Walk, fresh from the vat. Click here.

Herewith a few childhood memories. As kids growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, my mom did not allow us to drink pop, as we called it, in the house. Naturally I developed a ferocious appetite for the stuff, ubiquitous in neighbors' homes where I discovered the wonders of Squirt, a grapefruit-flavored soda,

My dad's business associates would send gifts at Christmas-time including huge boxes of bing cherries from Harry and David's in Medford, OR and a coffee soda like the one John Nese talks about in the video. We kept the coffee soda in the cool basement but no one, including me, liked it. Today I'm quite sure I'd feel differently.

What are your memories of your favorite drinks?

When my neighbor Charlie passed, I made a fruit bowl for the family with plump red bing cherries, among other things, and a bowl of pistachios. I also bought a large glass bottle of Acqua Panna water from Tuscany, shown in the video. Chilled, the water was disappointing, not enough bubbles, but I did use the bottle as a rolling pin to crush some pistachios for a superb eggplant dish I made for dinner. See below.


Our eggplant was barely visible in the garden. It was dragging along the ground, a dangerous place for, as we know, the bottom could well become rotten. The challenge was to pick it as soon as it was big enough to cook with, eggplant being one of the few veggies that's no good raw.

It sat on the kitchen table an entire day so I could have the pleasure of gazing at this beautifully shaped and colored fruit, shiny as a purple mirror. Finally I was ready to cook with it.

Having just seen the Julia Child movie, I was ready to experiment, which I do every time I make something. I pulled out my Joy of Cooking book (whose author makes a delightful appearance in the movie) and selected a do-able recipe.

Due to my own peculiar dietary regulations, I had to circumvent using the most popular of ingredients - tomatoes (ah, such sweet sorrow!) and full-fat cheese. Each of these ingredients has too much potassium which is bad for my failing kidneys. Not to worry! There are many delicious foods I CAN eat.

Slice half-inch rounds of eggplant slices and lay in a greased baking pan. Onto these you will put:

Fresh-squeezed lemon for flavor enhancement

Generous mound of grated onion, grated carrot (for color)

Crushed unsalted pistachios (to crush, put em in a pleastic ziplock bag and roll with rolling pin or reasonable facsimile such as the aforementioned glass water bottle)

Sprinkle nuts liberally over each slice of eggplant

Cover with cheese. In my case, I use low-sodium deli cheese slices.

Cover till oblivion with fresh basil.

Bake, covered, for 20 minutes.

Turn off oven and pick up Scott from the train. "Ruth, this is really impressive," he said. "It's so creamy just the way I like it."

We like to eat in bed while watching TV and moaning with delight. I had a tall glass of ice-cold water with lemon juice.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Passing of a Good Man

I was reading the new Jeffrey Deaver novel, Broken Window, about online data retrieval, when I heard a knock on the door.

Who is it? I yelled from my downstairs bed.

Nancy Myers, came the voice.

I went upstairs and there she was standing outside the screen door in her shorts and holding some sort of a vine or flower.

Her husband Charlie, had died in a nursing home, at age 81, his mind gone.

My voice shook with sorrow as I said how sorry I was and what a wonderful neighbor he was. That man could do anything with his hands - he'd been a foreman at the nearby Procter and Gamble. He and I used to sit on his front porch and we'd reminiscence, mostly about his long life and his early years, how he met Nan, how he saw her and said, That's the girl I wanna marry, and on and on.

He'd told me about his mean abusive father who made of Charlie his whipping boy but Charlie himself hadn't a mean bone in his body. He followed the stock market and when his mind was beginning to go told me he was worth millions. His wife just shook her head over that.

His millions tho were in the good deeds he did.

The viewing was at 10 a.m. this morning. I wore a dress to keep cool in, today was the hottest day of the year. The little church was b'ful. Husband-and-wife pastors. They wore fancy garments and kept changing vestments during the ceremony.

They offered a strange way of grieving, very different from my own Jewish people, similar to my ex-husband's funeral in March. Seems like they have a real hard time accepting death. Just when they remind the audience that Charlie has passed away they say things like But do not fear for he has gone directly to heaven, you shall see him again if you believe.

This went on and on for a good half hour. Finally the pastor changed into some new clothes and invited us to come up to take the Eucharist or the wafer IF we had been baptized.

I was trying to stick it out. Honest I was. I sat in the very last row so I could bolt at any time. During the singing of a hymn which must've lasted a whole 10 minutes, I was drawn to the open window and beautiful sunny day.

Ruthie, I said to myself. You sit in your pew and do not DARE to get up to look out the window. Actually, we had risen to sing the hymn.

I walked slowly to the window. I knew I was gonna see something spectacular. I just knew it.

A fat robin sat on the lawn and - look! - darting off to my left and onto the black-eyed susans was a tiny goldfinch. He was very busy poking his nose in all the black-eyed susans. Two verses, now three, went by while that goldfinch satisfied himself.

I walked back to my place in the pew and was spotted by the usher who was no mere churchman but indeed was one of the undertakers. He handed me a brochure I am the redemption. I nodded in thanks and mumbled the words of a devoted incorrigible unbeliever curmudgeon to myself.

Charlie looked very well in the coffin. The hands give it away that you're dead. They were in an awkward position like he was just about to crack his knuckles. I was finding it hard to sit still so I said to myself, Wouldn't it be funny if he strode out of his coffin and with huge giant steps walked all over the people - just bumping along as if in flight - and sat down beside me.

I pretended to see him coming and mentally moved my sunglasses and little stash of papers they give you - plus Charlie's photo on this newsprint-like paper - away from my seat so he could sit down next to me.

I pretended we were back home on Cowbell Road sitting at the top of his porch in those swan chairs discussing the meaning of life.

It you know what it is, please write.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A'compassing we will go!

Yes the Compass is out. Mark Amos at Bux-Mont Stationers in Hatboro, PA is currently my most favorite person in the entire world. Not only is he an expert desktop publisher, but he gives me much-needed advice on everything from aesthetics to readability to what shade of lipstick and eyeshadow I should use.

BTW, NEVER say LOL after you make a joke.

Armed with a box of Compass I stopped at a few places to show it off. Places I did NOT go in Hatboro were: Daddypops Diner, Ming's Restaurant which is going downhill, Le Coffee Salon which went outa business, the Red Barn Mall which smells bad and is dark, La Fontana which is my favorite local restaurant.

I did however go to Pennypack Trust nature center for my semi-annual inquiry, this time on Coyotes. No, said director David Robertson, the animal you saw in your backyard was not a coyote. A coyote looks like a shaggy German shepherd.

While there I complimented David and Lauren on their new long slip-free carpet they ordered from a catalogue and admired a fallen nest they had on their desk. I told them the sad tale of our little dead sparrow which in fact has disappeared from his above-ground burial site, Scott checks on these matters.

Then I went over to Mom's house where I have a new appreciation for her hoarding capacities. I used to get mad at her. She hardly throws anything away. During our rains, she had water in her basement which floated parts of Tyler's crib throughout the entire space.

Tyler is 18 years old. My mother felt terrible about the crib which my sister Ellen said is no longer in compliance with crib regulations.

Mom, I said, maybe you can have it REBUILT to fit regulations! Wouldn't that be nice? Then you'd have a crib ready for the next time a baby came over.

She was glad to see the Compass. I gave her two since a member of our group is practically a member of my mom's family.

Today I sent my Mom a Happy Birthday postcard. What? I should spend 4.95 on a card?

Okay, gotta leave for group now.

From suicide to ice cream: All in a day's work

I'd just gotten off the phone with Tony Salvatore of MCES, the emergency crisis center for Montgomery County, PA, having told him of a call our support group received. "Lance" was a well-spoken man who in the course of a two-minute voicemail asking us to return his call went from telling us he was 'passively suicidal' to concluding with "I can't take it any more." He was experiencing such trauma, he said, that it was impossible to describe it.

One of our phone greeters took the call. Our greeter then called me. I listened to it and immediately called Lance. No answer.

I walked over to the window and imagined the poor guy pacing back and forth deciding what to do with himself.

I asked myself, What would a really smart person do in my place?

I googled his phone no. to see where he lived. It did not show up. So I called the Upper Moreland police department. I explained the situation to Tina the Dispatcher. She explained it to a police officer.

Half hour later they me called back. They had kept phoning Lance until he answered. He was driving in his car and said the crisis had passed.

Yes, until the next time. Lance knows where to find us. Will he reach out again? I just left him another message. He said he would return my call. "I'm not in any imminent danger," he said.

I needed to process my feelings with someone which is why I called Tony. "You did good," he said.

Today after mailing out the third batch of The Compass, I looked at my watch and said, Time for ice cream, Ruthie. I just discovered that the Dunkin Donuts in Hatboro is also a Baskin n Robbins. It's my duty as an American citizen to check out all the ice cream places along my watch.

At the last minute, tho, I decided to be a good girl and not stop for ice cream. Instead I went to the Giant Supermarket to do my shopping.

Many roads led to the supermarket. However, great music was on the radio so I wanted to groove with the music so I chose the most scenic road. I must say I love driving and get a natural high from driving with great music. I'm currently addicted to the following YouTube selection after hearing it on the radio. He's 74 years old and from Canada.

When I get to the Giant, I park very far away at the place where all the business executives in white shirts and ties park. My radio is blasting. I carry a Compass with me to give to Mary Ann Moylan the nutritionist. When I see her she is in the Cooking School talking to people and then I hand it to her.

What class is this, I ask. Diabetes? There seemed to be a row of fat people there.

No, no, it's the frozen desserts class. We're gonna compare different frozen desserts such as ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet, and sorbet.

When does it start? I ask.

In 5 minutes, she says.

I'll be back, I say.

Dyou ever feel The Force is with ya, brother?

I took my shopping cart and selected my watermelon, low sodium American cheese, and walnuts from the bin. Walnuts go rancid so I sniffed the bin. There was no bad smell and then just to make sure, I ate one. It was fine. Ten minutes earlier I had returned an entire container of rancid walnuts.

When class began, we tasted about 12 different frozen desserts.

The first four, all made by Breyer, were terrible. Names like Breyer's Double Churn Free or Smooth & Dreamy Light. One taste was all I could stomach. Most people liked them.

Then came the worst one of all - Edy's Peach-flavored frozen yogurt. Sounds great, right? They're served in tiny little plastic cups, similar to the ones that we got when Sabin's polio vaccine was served in a sugar cube. We all lined up for that, a big adventure.

You know how wine tasters make a big deal of all the different flavors that come out in a single sip of wine. Same is true with this peach-flavor yogurt. At first, you're delighted by its creaminess and its perfect sweetness. And then it hits you! This overpoweringly horrible flavor. I'd know that flavor ANYWHERE! And I eat no foods that have this ingredient in it.

Ruth, what do you think of it? asks Mary Ann.

It's awful, I say. It's got a preservative in it I can't stand. She reads the list of ingredients. There it is: Carrageenan. I looked it up the other day on the 'net. Lab mice carry placards protesting it. So do I.

My diet health plan, designed by Mary Ann, has me eating small "feedings" many times a day. I'd prefer not to use the word feeding since it makes me sound like a cow but on the other hand it's different and I like being different. When I knew I'd be waylaid in the cooking class, I quickly got some free food. They almost always have cheese n crackers that are out of this world!

I always look to see if "Hannah" is there. She's the mom of a bipolar man. "How's our boy doing?" I asked her one time.

"Oh, he's in jail again," she said. "This time he's not coming home."

You can save some of the people some of the time but you can't save em all.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A cup of tea with Alex and Shinu

I drove to the end of the cul de sac hoping that Alex would be outside in the garden. That way I'd know which house was his. A man was in a driveway. I yelled out my window, Dyou know which house a fellow named Alex lives in?

"The house with the green car in the drive," said he.

I backed up my car so it fit snugly round the curve of the cul de sac. Then I jogged up the rather steep driveway in the wet sandals I wear in the aftermath of our flood season. Squoosh, squoosh.

I rap on the door and - voila! - Alex opens it. It's been months since I've seen him. And now he and his family have moved from their apartment in Upper Moreland, PA to their first house. It is nothing short of magnificent.

He invites me in but first I must remove my shoes as is the custom. I place them on the porch beside a family of sandals and flip-flops. His wife Shinu (sha-NOO) comes in, dressed in western attire. The house smells of sandalwood and Indian cooking. We sit down in the sunken living room whose high ceilings create an open feeling. The furniture is covered with attractive bedspreads.

I sit and gaze at a huge maple tree out the window, laden with green leaves still dripping wet from our violent rains.

That's some tree, I say. Look at all the trunks it has. I've never seen a maple like it.

And what kind of tree is next to it? I ask.

That's an ash, he says.

I get up and go to the window. "Gee, I've never known what an ash is. It looks as though it's part maple too."

"This is like our monsoon season," says Alex, "except it rains without stopping for 10 or 12 days."

Soon Shinu comes back in the room holding a small boy in her arms. He has a full round face and brown skin the same color as their own.

Alex stands up and takes the boy in his arms.

"This is Sahil," he says to me. "We're babysitting him while his parents work."

It was Sunday. They work at a factory somewhere in Philadelphia. This is their only child.

"He's a year and a half," says Alex, holding him and pressing his cheek against Sahil's and then kissing him loudly. His family are Muslim, originally from Pakistan. India and Pakistan were once one country but separated for religious reasons. Alex and his family are Christians.

Little Sahil calls him Papa. Later I too will hold him but will refrain from kissing him or pressing my cheek to his. I will lift him up high for he wants to see something on the mantel - Ba-ba-ba-ba - he says and points toward a crystal globe of Santa Claus and his reindeer. I wonder how kids identify things of interest like that.

We tour the house and the huge backyard garden. Melons are sprouting along the ground. As soon as they begin to bud on the ground, Alex scoops up the melon, no matter how small, and puts them on a piece of cut-out plastic, such as milk carton, to keep them off the ground, where they would begin to rot.

The largest melons are the size of basketballs.

All three girls are home. The oldest has just graduated Ursinus College in Collegeville, located in the same town where Alex works. He's a corrections officer at Graterford Prison. He's known to the inmates as a 'good' guard. His prison stories are the best around but we never discussed prison, except that I told him our new Compass magazine has a section called Prisons: The New Asylums and has 4 prison stories, the first one called What's a nice Jewish Family doing in a place like this?

I am getting ready to leave but Alex insists I stay and have a cup of tea. All the cooking is done by his wife Shinu. I sit back down, watch Sahil toddle along, while I await the arrival of my tea. Altho Alex's house sits atop a hill, much of the property got drenched. They keep Persian-style carpets on the front porch, which were soaked, and also on the backporch, which still had puddles.

Finally the tea arrived in glass mugs. You could smell it when Shinu brought it from the kitchen, carefully down the stair to the sunken living room. It was light brown in color. When it finally cooled it tasted like nothing I've ever drank before. It was exquisite!

What's in here? I marveled.

It is tea, said, Alex, with ginger root and cardamom.

When the teas arrived and we put them on the glass coffee table, Alex made a big ceremony to Sahil of how hot they were, how he mustn't touch it. He clucked his mouth, sucked in his breath, blew outward, blew on his hands, making quite a big adorable fuss. What a good papa he was! All the while little Sahil carried on his own conversation - all nonsense, at his young age - but quite conversational.

I sat back enchanted until it was time to leave.

That night I lie awake until three in the morning. It hadn't occurred to me that by drinking the tea I was imbibing caffeine. It was worth it though. I watched Turner Classic films - North by Northwest with Cary Grant running away from the airplane - and the amazing Boys from Brazil, a thriller where little boys have been cloned and bear the DNA of one of the worst tyrants in modern history.

The power of that little cup of tea is staggering!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Death Watch for a Baby Sparrow

Last nite, Scott and I are in bed watching The Grapes of Wrath (1940) with Henry Fonda, the sad but ultimately triumphant saga of a group of dirt-poor tenant farmers in Oklahoma who arrive with thousands of other poor Oklahomans to California where they erroneously believe work and wages will be available to them.

Fonda and Ma, brilliantly played by Jane Darwell, deliver some stirring lines - ooh! I'm getting goose bumps now as I remember them - about the will of their people - just regular people - who will always survive, for they are the only ones who know the true meaning of life, of hard work, of family, of song and of love. These were amazing admirable people.

As darkness fell here in Willow Grove, PA, Scott and I were both thinking of our little sparrow who had been torn from his nest and who now lived alone in a borrowed nest right outside my family room, where my bed is, making not a sound, while all about him sparrows chattered away.

Scott mentioned he thought of euthanizing the bird but that he hadn't the nerve. Oh, you mustn't do that, I said, what'll the other birds think.

Somehow messages are conveyed among birds. We didn't wanna disturb the laws of nature. I mentioned to Scott that he had permission to euthanize ME if the time ever came.

I briefly thought about religions that promulgate life after death, which, I spose, is most of em. Shouldn't there be an afterlife for sparrows too? Shouldn't he be greeted by a huge loving sparrow mama who will fold the little guy in her arms and say, There there! We were with you in your struggles, my darling, and now you've come home.

Before it was terribly dark, Scott put on his slippers and went out to the shrub where he'd placed the robin's nest with the sparrow in it.

He's stopped breathing, Scott said.

I marveled how quickly the bird had passed from his quick breaths to no visible breathing. What caused his rapid decline? Sure, he was traumatized landing on my bedroom floor among all my fallen pens and a copy of my yellow booklet on how I recovered from bipolar disorder. And then when we shooed him into the dust-bin and deposited him in the robin's nest.

Earlier that day my darling son Dan was over doing some computer stuff for me. I showed him the new & improved back porch and he noticed the unused robin's nest on the table.

He paused a moment, my son, who is taller than me and has the blue eyes of his dad, and he ran his hands around the robin's nest exclaiming, "This is really amazing, Mom. And look how they know to put the soft material on the bottom." We marveled at how sturdy it was even tho it had blown out of a tree. "Do they use glue?" he wondered aloud.

This morning Scott checked on the nest. The rain had tilted it in the shrub. The bird, he reported, was dead. We'll move it later to a soft spot in the backyard where nature will decide what use to put it to next.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My worst Bird fear came true!

No, not Charlie "Bird" Parker, silly. What? Can you hear my jazz music in the background. I'm listening to Miles playing Bitches Brew. Listen to the opening chords. What does it remind you of? How about the call of the hounds?

So. I'm getting my house ready for the wedding guests. I am excruciatingly selfish about being inconvenienced but signed up for 2 families to stay with me for the wedding. I hired a cleaning lady to clean off my hideously filthy back porch. She uses products to clean with. I would've washed everything with Dawn dishwashing liquid and guess what? Nothing would have come off. That woman scrubbed for three whole hours and did a wonderful job. Ah-choo! Those products caused me to sneeze.

I asked her, By chance dyou know anybody who needs a room air-conditioner. I have 3 of them but have subsequently gotten central air.

Next day she calls me and says her mom is desperately hot in this summer weather. Can she pick up the a/c's?

Sure, I say. I don't charge her cuz I just wanna get rid of em.

An hour ago this Saturday a man arrives to pick up the bedroom a/c. I tell him there's a bird's nest inside, I hope it doesn't cause any trouble.

Oh, I'm used to things like this, he says. No problem.

He's a union painter from the city. Working overtime on Saturday.

Scott says, I'm glad to hear you're union.

They unscrew the air-conditioner. Straw from the bird's nest is visible from my bedroom window. My fear of course is my house will be filled with flying panicking sparrows.

Mike the painter says, I'll just pull out the air conditioner and put it on my shoulders.

He's one of those men who looks very strong.

I lead him out of the bedroom and down the stairs telling him to watch his step. We get it out to his van and then I hear Scott yelling.

Ruth, get a broom!

I run in the house.

There's a baby bird on the floor, he says. I go in the kitchen and stand there dazed. I don't know what to do, I say to myself.

I grab the broom and then the smaller whisk broom and dustpan and run upstairs.

No noise in the bedroom.

Where is he? I ask.

He's under the foam, says Scott. He's terrified.

Scott scoops him up into the dustpan. I expected to see a naked baby bird but no, he was a fledgling, with smooth brown feathers, and a bright orange beak.

Scott brings him downstairs and outside.

Keep him near the window, I say.

Lucky for the baby bird, I have an extra robin's nest I keep on the backporch. We scoop up the bird and place the sparrow in the robin's nest. We put it in a bush.

Then I go and call Carolyn, my naturalist friend who tells me what to do.

Do nothing. Don't attempt to feed him. He will probly not survive, she says, so don't be disappointed. This is why birds have so many babies she says.

There is a great chattering of birds out in my sideyard. Sparrows all. Are they discussing the fate of the baby bird? Will mom return?

Carolyn tells me that whatever happens the bird will be part of the food chain for other animals. When he's dead he will keep another animal alive.

Oh, if only you could see him, those feathers breathing in and out, in and out, in total silence.

The Big Oops!

The title of my email was Compass mag cover. I sent it yesterday to many of the contributors to indicate the Compass would actually be published next week. Inadvertently I emailed the entire contents, not just the cover photo. I only realized my mistake this morning when Joe Bunting wrote and said how much he enjoyed the entire issue.

At our Thursday nite meeting I had emailed my group and asked them to p'pate in a group photo at St Peter's church in Glenside PA. When I pulled up, late as always, an enormous group was standing in the parking lot chatting. Wow, I thought, they heeded my call. I felt so proud. They like us!

The day before I'd gone over to the church and spoken to the biz manager, Mike Sayre, who took me on a tour of possible photographic sites. Unbeknownst to many of us, there's a b'ful peaceful inner courtyard filled with flowers and a statue of St. Francis. We decided that was the perfect photography venue. If only it didn't rain. If it rained, we would go into the chapel. Mike showed me how to turn on the lights as we'd pose against the beautiful stained glass.

I told him I'm Jewish but I appreciate the elegance of Christian art. One of his parishioners fashioned some simple yet elegant crosses that are real treasures.

Did it rain on our group photo shoot? Click here to find out.