Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Would Still Be Your Friend

If I had only seen you face,
In this or any other place.

I would still be your friend.
If I had only heard your voice,
Amid the universe of noise.

I would still be your friend.

If I had only read your words,
In full or only just one third.

I would still be your friend.

If I had only known your thoughts,
From all the people you had taught.

I would still be your friend.

If I were near or all the way blind,
And could only see you in my mind.

I would still be your friend.

If I had only briefly met your soul,
Heart and spirit; the person whole.

I would still be your friend.

And if you weren’t so beautiful,

While I mightn’t be so dutiful.

I would still be your friend.

But I am blessed for I have seen,
And heard and read, and to that very end.

I am now and will forever be your friend.


Photo Credit: Gavin Spencer

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. President

Breaking News From the Wolf Network...

President Barak Obama turned 50 years of age yesterday despite efforts from Congress to block the move.  Legislators worked feverishly to avoid this, the birthday, which was scheduled to take place just past midnight.  A last minute compromise by the President seemed to save the day when he agreed not to raise the issue again for one full year.

The White House released a statement indicating that the President was not thrilled about turning 50, but understands that some things are inevitable and he expressed hope that he is not only older but wiser by this action.

Even with the ink on the compromise still drying, some in Congress were calling for a Supper Committee to begin work on the plan for the President's 51st birthday.  Others have dismissed this as election year politics.

Instead of distributing pens after signing the  Birthday Bill, the President handed out cake causing some to call into question the fiscal responsibility of doing so.  The President, smiling and in a faux French accent said, "Oh! Let zhem eat zee cake!"   News of yet another Supper Committee is expected soon.

(But seriously, what a world we live in, huh?)


Photo Credits:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vineyard's Blend

I make wine as a hobby and my daughter is studying to be a sommelier, so I have some knowledge of wine. But I think I have much more knowledge about life and will combine both here for illustration.

I recently spent a week and a half on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and came away with a interesting observation.

Wine comes in many forms and varieties, as do people, and how people see wines or think about them is not dissimilar to societal views in general. Pardon me while I take a sip.

Let’s take a Merlot for instance. It is a singular, 100%, wine from a pure bred grape. It is only compared against itself and the competition among vintners is fierce to say the least. It can be an elitist, a segregationist, snobby, exclusive, unwilling to be a part of a bigger thing and bound by expectations.

Blended wines, on the other hand, are diverse, exciting, mysterious, entertaining, surprising, not bound by comparison or competition, and are willing to be tried in any situation. Let me do that now...sip, sip.

Martha’s Vineyard is a place where people go to get away from the world and I am happy to report that it is a place unto itself;  like a blended wine with all the best things diversity brings to a society.

If you walk around the town of Oak Bluffs, for instance, and observe and listen to the people around you, you can be forgiven for mistaking it for a waterside park in New York City. There are people of all nationalities, speaking the languages of those nationalities. But the most interesting thing I found was the fact that folks were so relaxed in this environment that no one really stood out as being different from anyone else. We were all just people on vacation, mixing with the locals and seeking the most we could get from the serenity of the place we were in. An ideal world, if you will. This calls for another sip.

A good example would be breakfast at Biscuit’s, a “minority owned” family business where we sat surrounded by people at one table speaking Russian, another table with a big group from the Caribbean, still another group in for the Portuguese-American parade, folks from Texas and a French couple. This is just a sampling, and I could not help but wonder why it is so hard for this to work in so many other places.

There is nothing wrong with liking a good Merlot, but people should not be afraid to try and to embrace a good blended wine whenever they come across one. Life is much too short to miss out on the beauty in the diversity of it. So, off I go to get another bottle of  Bordeaux. Salut!!


Photo Credit: casparcash

Martha's Vineyard Link


Saturday, July 2, 2011

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It does not matter what day it is when you are in a special place with special people.  Any day there is a beautiful day.  And I have found that the women in this particular neighborhood make it that way.

I don’t know if people who are not familiar with the section of East Flatbush in Brooklyn have any idea of the beauty, caring, love and kindness that pervades this place.

In my long and getting longer life, I have worked in numerous situations and in various places where women either made up the bulk of the workforce, or were ever present in relation to it.  Whether it was sitting with a bird’s eye view of the daily fashion parade at 42nd and Lex in NYC, working in the facilities on a military base or walking the halls of colleges and hospitals, the women in those settings left their personal and professional impressions on me.

I can honestly say that never in all my travels have I met better people, who happen to be women, than those I’ve met in the midst of this neighborhood.  Their beauty is unmatched and, despite told and untold personal trials and tribulations, they love and care, give and smile, are professional and smart, work hard and laugh hard.  They recognize their own faults and forgive those of others. They are cautious from experience and open from their hearts.  They are worthy of their dreams and too often uncelebrated for the remarkable people they are.

If you are honest and respectful these women will reward you with an indelible smile that never leaves you.  And if you know any little bit about the tremendous hurdles these women have cleared in their lives, those smiles will leave you speechless.  If you are fortunate enough to be befriended by them, you are truly blessed indeed.  Would only that my travels had brought me here sooner.

The day is today, and it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Laynecom

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Insert your worst word here _____ .

But please do not say it.

Words can be powerful and they can heal, and words can hurt deeply. Powerful words are written down and used again or referenced. They guide and inspire; they bring hope and resolve. Healing words are passive and gentle, much appreciated in the moment, but often easily forgotten. Hurtful words dig in and last forever, they leave scars and turn people’s lives in the wrong direction. Of all the words there are, hurtful words are the worst.

Hurtful words are easy to say, but can’t be taken back. Once said, they are like bullets and the damage is done. Before people react and speak they should deliberate on what words they have in their gun and should keep the safety on.

It takes thought and time, caring and care to come up with powerful and healing words. Hurtful words come easily and recklessly, as if automatically, and perhaps say something awful about human nature. If one were to think of tolerance and equality, support and acceptance, love and kindness or even deference and consequence before uttering hurtful words, it is likely they would not.

And there is no shortage of hurtful words for every situation. And the situation does not even have to call out for words; the words are just there and so ready to do damage.
There are hurtful words that mindlessly target the color of a persons skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, their nationality, their height and weight, the speech, their clothes, their financial status, their politics, their religious affiliation, their education level, the books they chose or don’t; essentially everybody’s everything.

So I would suggest that anyone reading this take a moment and insert their worst word and really think about what that word means and how it can hurt or even destroy another person, who may very well have a hurtful word that could do the same to you.

Insert that word here ____. Think about it. But please don’t ever say it again.

L. S.

Friday, May 13, 2011

TGIF the 13th??

Well how can one person manage to do 13 superstitious things just getting ready for work? 

In an effort to avoid such things I managed to only make things worse. 

Upon waking I touched my left foot on the floor first (1).  Being annoyed by this I cracked the mirror in the bathroom retrieving my shave cream (2).   

Trying to make up for this I figured I'd throw some salt over my shoulder for good luck, but the cap on the shaker was loose and I spilled salt all over the place (3).

Frustrated, I sat at the table and tried to eat my recently salted cereal, inadvertently dropping and then picking up a knife (4).    So forlorn by all this I began to sing "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" (5) quickly stopping myself when I realized singing at the table is bad luck; plus everyone else in the house was sleeping. 

Trying to right the ship I went into the living room and looked out the window at the quiet street, but found myself unconsciously rocking the empty rocking chair; darn! (6) 

Not wanting to temp fate I moved my sister's purse to the floor so I could reach the umbrella to put it in the closet.  I had to take a hat off the shelf to do so. 

I threw the hat carelessly on the bed (7), picked up the umbrella, which opened (8) and was so taken aback I forgot about the purse on the floor (9). 

"That's it", I said, and I decided I should just get out of the house and go to work.  As I left the house I walked directly under a ladder (10) as a black cat crossed my path (11). 

Then as I approached my car I heard a hooting sound.  I looked up to the amazing sight of an owl in the daylight (12).  Being so taken in by this I did not notice the crack in the sidewalk I had successfully avoided for 15 years (13) and stepped right on it. 

I got in my car and took a deep breath knowing the rest of the day was going to be fine. 

(None of this happened of course, but what fun anyway.) 

Happy Friday the 13th!

Photo Credit:  Jade A/Canada

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Ordinary Lunch

From the Desk of the Esquire's Kitchen

Today I wish to share a brave intervention in the never ending quest to improve the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Culinary inspiration struck me this morning when I spied some Raspberry Preserves in the fridge. No ordinary PB&J today, I thought! I quickly assembled the needed tools and food stuffs. One butter knife and a tablespoon would suffice to handle the construction.

As for the ingredients:
Two medium slices of fresh whole wheat bread (end pieces are acceptable).
Super Crunchy Style Skippy Peanut Butter (or brand and crunch level of your choice).
Smucker's Raspberry Preserves (or again what ever the heck you want to use).
Now to build the meal:

(1) Apply peanut butter to the bread in the desired amount, preferably within the bounds of the bread.
(2) Apply a tablespoon of the preserves, again avoiding spillover because then it's just such a mess getting it out of the sandwich bag.
(3) Collapse the two bread slices upon each other and voila!

Now to report on the feasting:
All the heightened anticipation quickly fled with the first bite of this absolutely somewhat above average version of a PB & J sandwich.
I will nevertheless remain faithful to this easier than pie lunch creation, but I do hear grapes and strawberries calling!
Bon Appetit'
Le Esquire

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It is 4:30 AM - One Hundred and Fifty Years Later

An odd title, to be sure, unless you are a history buff and realize what today represents. It is 4:30 AM on April 12, 2011. I looked at my alarm clock this morning and I noted this time, on this day. It was not accidental as I am a restless sleeper and often check the time as I shift and turn throughout the night. Today, however, I wanted to see the clock turn to 4:30 AM for a very particular reason. At exactly 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861, one hundred and fifty years ago, the first shot was fired in our tragic Civil War. More significantly for me that shot represents what was the beginning of the end of the great sin of slavery in America.

It would not be easy or even a stated priority until later in the awful and bloody struggle, but that act of war on the shores of South Carolina set the stage for an epic battle of ways of life that could not exist side by side with the question of human enslavement and human rights unaddressed. The former was addressed by this war, but the latter is in many ways still an open question. But first a bit more history.

The opposite ways of life that brought the tension to a boiling point were different in fact, but perhaps not so much in essence. The cities were concentrated in the North from the beginning of American settlement. When the South started to be inhabited, territories (future States) granted families large swaths of land; too large for them to properly manage. In the North, labor was cheap given the concentration of people and work conditions were terrible. In the South, labor was scare and expensive. The tragic solution for the South arrived on slave ships. People, not fully recognized as such, became commodities. Even before our Revolution against English rule this difference in ways of life was evident and part of the political discussion. Eventually, the United States of America, all 13 of them, were formed into an uneasy, imperfect union.

The issue of slavery was always on the table, but was never dealt with head on. States acted very much independent of one another and when the Civil War broke out in 1861 there were some who were surprised it had not come earlier. It would be a most destructive and costly growing pain for the relatively young Republic. Under the mantra of “States Rights” and sovereignty, slavery was the thing the South could not let go of and a divided Union was the thing the North would not allow.

At 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861, there were about 23 million people living in the North and about 9 million living in the South, nearly half of whom were slaves. Over the next four years, Southern soldiers, almost all of whom did not own slaves, fought for officers who did, while Northern immigrant soldiers, who had never seen a slave, fought for officers who were politicians or business men and had earned their fortunes off the backs of others.

Dishonesty and crime were rampant, and many of the fraud and abuse laws we follow today were drafted during the Civil War when manufacturers ripped off the government with such things a cardboard boots and guns made of soap. The slaves, whose lives were hanging in the balance, seemed the only innocent and honest brokers in all of this.

Strange as it may seem, with the hope of a quick end to the sporadic violence that followed the attack on Fort Sumter and the rebellious States still having a chance to return to the Union, laws that would appear today to be insane were still in force. A prime example, which made headlines early in the conflict, had to do with 4 escaped slaves who sought asylum on the side of a river opposite to where they were building a Confederate encampment. Under a flag of truce a Confederate officer requested of the Union General that the slaves be returned as provided under existing US law. The General, a New England attorney by trade, knowing full well that the official position taken to date was to respect the law, argued first that the requesting officer was no longer subject to US law as he and his men had seceded from the Union. The rebel officer came back saying that the Union is not allowing them to secede; to which the General insisted that they had in fact done so by going to war. The rebel continued that the slaves were property and should therefore be returned. The clever General then proposed that the run away slaves were now contraband of war and would not be returned.

This concept of contraband ironically held in this situation and is said to have influenced President Lincoln’s development of the Emancipation Proclamation. The four runaways were thereafter hired and paid wages by the Union Army to help build their encampment. The word spread and soon the number of slaves seeking freedom swelled.

Escaped and free former slaves sought to assist in the cause, but were met with resistance, often fueled by ignorance and unfamiliarity. Gradually, inroads were made. By the end of the war there were some 180,000 former slaves serving in the Union Army. And some historians attribute their contributions as being critical to the final outcome. But, as a harbinger of things to come, such gallant action and service did not equate to equality. A Black Union Army Private earned $10 a month compared to his White comrade in arms who earned $13; a significant difference in those days. Perhaps in the first act in the quest for Civil Rights, some Black soldiers chose to serve without pay rather than to be treated inequitably. Eventually, the matter was rectified.

The joy and hope for so many after the war ended was short lived to be sure. With the assassination of Abraham Lincoln any chance of a real Reconstruction died as well. The leadership of the country was handed over to Andrew Johnson of North Carolina. Dreams of freedom and full participation were dashed, and slavery was replaced with segregation and prejudice. It would be an unthinkable one hundred years before a real Civil Rights movement took hold in America. And in the nearly fifty years since then, it is hard to know how well we’ve done as a society in making up for the sins of the past.

I do not know that I am equipped to handle such an evaluation. I am not Black and at the time of the Civil War my own descendants were fighting for a different kind of freedom in Ireland. I have witnessed the progress in Civil Rights since the 60s, but still have to scratch my head at veiled and not so veiled political and civil discourse. I am still astonished at what people will say out loud or when they mistake their audience as sympathetic. I find it very hard to say ‘forgive them for they know not what they do.’

I am equally, in a completely opposite way, astonished at the inner strength and perseverance of the people who are still fighting the fight, seeking to right wrongs and who are nevertheless happier by far than those with unjustified prejudice in their hearts. Something an old “Negro League” baseball player once said in an interview has stayed with me for years now. He talked about a particularly bad year of road travel to games in many Southern cities. At each stop there would be some new impediment to normalcy; a segregated bathroom, or water fountain, or eating establishment. They’d hear every kind of name being called. He said they could never just relax and enjoy what they were doing for a living. His question to no one in particular was, “What have we ever done as a people to deserve this kind of treatment?”

The answer, of course, and most obviously is, “Nothing!”

Much has changed and signs of hope are clear. We have a man named Obama in the White House. But the fact and the question remains:

It is 4:30 AM - one hundred and fifty years later; where do we stand?

Luke S.

Photo Credit: Margan Zajdowicz

Thursday, March 24, 2011

ALOHA means Hello/Good-bye"

I heard a new word this weekend.  At least new to me, and yet this simple word explains so much about the rights and wrongs of human history. 

The word is "haole" and is pronounced "howly".  

The context in which I heard it for the first time was a story of the reaction of the Hawaiian natives to the arrival of the white man on their great wooden ships.  It was both a first impression and a response to the actions of these unwelcome explorers that says so much about our often tragic human history. 

The word means, in variations and in other cultures, without color, without a spirit and/or without a soul. 

When the Hawaiian's saw what these white men did to their culture, the women of their society, their land, their sacred traditions and their psyche, they rightly branded them to be without a soul. 

My immediate thought as I listened to this story was that my impression of one of life's great wrongs, prejudice, may not be as complete as I had thought.  I had always attributed prejudice to ignorance and greed, fear and selfishness, protectionism and power.  But I think I missed something in my own analysis, lack of a spirit, a soul and color. 

Now I don't mean color in terms of skin tone, although that is certainly how things have lined up, again in many variations.  I mean color in relation to the soul and spirit of a person.   I believe people with a well exercised spirit and soul are people of color in the greater sense.   

In opposite to prejudice, or being a haole, people of spirit and soul substitute being informed and sharing for ignorance and greed; they substitute courage and selflessness for fear and selfishness; and they protect the greater good and use their power to help others rather than isolating and alienating others. 

When I look back on history, and in particular our American history in this regard, I know what the cold business mechanics of slavery were in its time, but I can never understand why those who practiced it could not see the utter devastation it wrought upon an innocent people who only wanted the same things from life anyone else did.  How those soulless people could put their hands on the same Bible as the Abolitionists and feel grace is beyond me.  How they could cause a united nation to go to civil war to keep a sinful system intact and how that prejudice carried forward after their cause was defeated is beyond me.  It can only be that they were, and some are still, haoleies. 

I am always hopeful for a better day, and that day will only come when the battle of diversity is won by people of spirit, of soul and of color. 

L. S. 

Brit Brodeur: Photo link and credit

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Your Beauty...

By L.S.

When I see the beauty of your face,
I know I’ve seen no greater in this earthly place.
When I see the beauty of your soul,
I know in mine it has filled a waiting hole.
When I see the beauty of your mind, 
I know that you are truly one of a kind.
When I see the beauty of your heart,
I pray that as friends we may never part.
When I see the beauty of your spirit, 
I then truly know your beauty; all of it.
photo credit: Mourning Angel

Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking For Dummies

I can understand why a viral sensation was created when Mall security released footage of a woman caught on camera, texting while walking until she tripped and fell into a water fountain. I will admit that this was hilarious and I believe all of the news stations felt the same way as they kept rewinding it and rewinding it unnecessarily. Like it or not, texting has become a part of our ever evolving or devolving culture and as a result, so has Texting While Walking.

Today I felt as if I was in Battlestar Gallactica trying to simply make it down the hallway to the restroom in my workplace; Maneuvering around missiles and asteroids in the form of people Texting While Walking. It was a crazy obstacle course. I actually thought that at some point, these fast approaching humans would realize that another human was in front of them and then kindly step away. Nooooo. They kept bailing towards me totally engulfed in whatever they were texting; LOL, LMAO, maybe a smiley face?! What text is so important that it would take away your ability to walk properly? This past Saturday, while walking on Amsterdam Avenue, I witnessed a woman coming towards me, Texting While Walking until she plopped her foot right into a pile of dog dung. She actually stopped texting for a moment to see what she stepped in. She gingerly wiped her foot on the pavement and continued on her merry way texting again. Yuck! I have even had the opportunity on too many occasions to be held up at a green light while a pedestrian continued to Text While Walking with no idea or care that they no longer had the right of way. 

Texting While Driving is against the law but do you think that TWW (Texting While Walking) should also become a violation in order to keep people from walking into water fountains, dog dung, traffic or each other? Should tickets be written out to stop these people who apparently care more about their text than their own safety?  Maybe a book entitled, Walking for Dummies? What say you?