Monday, October 26, 2009

Visiting Paradise

I recently returned from a trip to Guatemala which has provided me with a deeper perspective on my life and on the culture in which we live here in the United States.
Our hosts at Iglasia Shalom were wonderful people, and it was a pleasure to get to know a number of people during my visit to Guatemala City and Antigua.

In visiting a few families in the steep and hilly slum area of Guatemala City called Paradise (pictured), I was humbled to realize how blessed a person I am, and how much I have. Most of these families live a life with little hope for anything, and merely subsist in tiny concrete block and corrugated tin dwellings stacked precariously on top of one another.

Meeting many of the children was a joy. Despite living in poverty they are still children, and a smile, or a hug, goes a long way. I spent some time with my new friend, Christopher, who never knew his father and at some point lost his mother (I am not clear on the details). Although he spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish, we had a great time playing together, and sharing a meal together. We had a particularly terrific time making sculptures out of candy, each of us trying to outdo the other. Already I miss Christopher, and look forward to seeing him again someday.

On Monday we spent the day providing new shoes and socks for more than four hundred of these children. I spent the entire day washing filthy, sometimes sore-ridden feet. This, too, was a humbling experience, but the smiles on some of these kids provided me with priceless moments of joy, particularly when washing the feet of the ticklish ones.

Visiting Antigua was one of the highlights of the trip. An old Spanish town in a valley surrounded by smoldering volcanoes and high mountains on which coffee and avocados are grown, Antigua has been destroyed a number of times but still manages to thrive.

Did I mention the coffee? Mmmmm.... good coffee.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Annotated Beach Photo

In order to provide you with the most for your entertainment dollar, I include below an annotataed version of the beach photo I posted in my little-viewed post, "Indian Summer." In the annotated version of the photo, I reference a broken toe. I must, however, reliquish the Golden Digit Award for blogs about toes to my friend George, who, because of my last-minute trip to the coast, I failed to entertain. See more on George's toe here and here.

Indian Summer

After a series of challenges in nailing down dates for an extended family trip to the coast this summer, we managed to schedule and then re-schedule a family weekend to the beach in October! After a few missteps we managed to get things together at the last moment as the trip meant much to our daughter, and we'd had to bag it back during Labor Day Weekend due to logistical concerns.

For me, the weekend was nice, relaxing, mindless. We enjoyed some good food, courtesy of Papa Jim (always game for a nice seafood dinner, where as Mom elected, as is her custom at fine seafood restaurants across this great nation, to order the chicken sandwich) and time for just...well, doing nothing. Which we all need, now and again.

I spent some extended time on the beach, during which I carefully applied SPF 30 to all exposed parts of my body except the bridge of my nose, a splotch on my forehead and a place on my cheek, all of which are rather red. There are two lines down my forearms which did not receive the sunscreen, and those places are bright red as well, given I spent a couple of hours holding my book up in order to block out the sun.

Saturday was 90 degrees, very warm and muggy, and frolicking in the surf was the order of the day. I managed to read the 1920 novel "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," by Agatha Christie, her first novel and the first appearance of her famed detective Hercule Poirot. (Incidentally, the final Poirot novel, "Curtain," is also set at Styles, an English estate, and narrated by the same character, Hastings. "Curtain" was published in 1975 but, interestingly enough, written during the 1930's).

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


I don't know why she complains about taking out the garbage. It's a very easy job. I can think of few tasks which are simpler - bag the garbage, take it to the curb, bag the garbage and take it to the curb.

I guess some kids are lightweights and not cut out for work.

Although, in her defense, we do seem to produce a lot of trash.

Friday, October 02, 2009

In Support of Alan Grayson

With his audacious remarks about the Republican health care bill calling for a quick death to all Americans who are diagnosed with a cold or a gall bladder infection, Democratic Florida Congressman Alan Grayson has proved several things that I don’t think come as a surprise to anyone:

• that the House Democrats and its leadership continue to demonstrate an unparallel level of hypocrisy;
• that the House democrats participate in as much hate-mongering as the Republicans;
• and that Grayson, like many of his colleagues on the left and the right, makes headlines telling lies.

It doesn’t matter that the Republicans don’t have a heath care bill up for debate, nor does it matter than this imaginary plan to which Grayson refers supports an American “Holocaust.” (Nice word, Mr. Grayson). But so what? Grayson has as much a right to his opinion as Representative Joe Wilson. And in this free country of ours, he is welcome to express it through whatever means are available to him. And in Grayson’s (and Wilson’s) case, those "means" are the floor of the House of Representatives.

And Rep. Grayson is welcome to lie, if so he chooses. That's fine with me. And in Grayson's case I use the word “lie” because I don’t think Grayson is demented enough to actually believe his own statements. But I could be wrong.

Yes, Rep. Grayson's words are incendiary, far more incendiary than Wilson’s. And perhaps they are stupid, poorly chosen and uncalled-for. But that’s what we get in a country with a constitutional protection of speech. It’s up to each of us to determine whether or not Grayson is an insightful political genius or an utter boob. The media can give this idiot airplay, or ignore this savvy orator all together. Regardless, Grayson has a position, an opinion, and has as much right to express that as anyone. If there are consequences, so be it. That’s something else we take on in a free society—the ability to speak our minds and the responsibility to accept any consequences our words may have.

In light of his comments I am left wondering whether the Republicans will respond to Grayson in the manner in which Democrats responded to Wilson. Will the Republicans work as hard as Democrats to stifle and suppress free speech? Will the right go on and on demanding pointless, meaningless apologies while the work of the people is placed on a back burner? Will the Republicans resort to the sort of ad hominem arguments the democrats got elected on, while the important issues linger on without proactive analysis and debate?

I don’t doubt it for a moment.