Monday, September 26, 2011

Time, So Little, So Much

As he reflected on his life he became aware of time was always in the forefront of his thinking. From what he could remember  the only time, "time" wasn't in his calculations was for the first five years of his life. He could truly say that he was free of care as long as his mother, father and to a lesser extent his family of aunts, uncles and cousins were there. It seemed that one day he became aware that they were "there", always were "there", always existed and he was safe just being with them. The one thing he didn't like was that he had to do what-ever they told him to do regardless of the whether or not he wanted to do it. It was a small price to pay since they fed him, clothe him and kept him safe. During this period of his life time meant nothing. He woke up and played and was fed, washed and went to bed for naps or a night's sleep. For the most part it was the most carefree moment in his life. Once he started school things changed.

Time became very important. He had to get up at a certain time. He had to be at school a certain time for a certain amount of time. When he got out of school he had to take time for homework, as if the period spent in the school wasn't time consuming enough. He had to figure out how to convince his mother that he did all his homework so that he could have time to go out and play ball with his friends. His father came home at a certain time, 5PM and he had to be in to eat dinner because everybody had to sit at the dinner table when Pop was there. No ifs, ands, or buts. After dinner time led to bed time for rest and start the next day all over again with time deadlines all over the place. School sure changed the carefree days he once had.

He knew it was eight years in the school before high school's four years. At six years old eight years seemed excessively long and twelve years seemed an eternity. He tried to look at it in the short term, only six months until he was promoted to the next grade. BUT what if he wasn't promoted? He would have to spend more time going over the time just expended. Time couldn't move fast enough. He couldn't wait until he reached double digits, wow, ten, eleven and twelve. Then a teenager. Big enough to be able to beat up those who were beating him up, or so he thought. Time passed so slowly. He felt he would never be in high school. He was pretty sure he would never get out of elementary school.

There were good times. He hung out in the schoolyard where he spent time playing all sorts of ball, smoking cigarettes, talking about girls and getting into fights. These were the good times until his mother found out some of what he was doing and then came the bad times. AND he thought, "Boy when I grow up I'm getting out of here so I can drink, smoke and have all the girls I want without mom getting in the way!". But time was moving ever so slowly. Summers would drag on forever and it seemed it took longer than six months for a term to go by. He was sure a year was really longer because he never was getting to the time when he could be on his own. But like everything in life time does go by and suddenly he was in his twenties.

He had to go in the Army, everybody did back then, drafted or joined. He was faced with two years active, two years active reserve and two years inactive reserve. Again these years seemed like an eternity especially since he had his girl waiting for him. Would she wait? He was as unsure of that premise as he was about getting out of grammar and high school. She waited, thank God! After active service he had two years to serve in the active reserve which had two weeks away each year. Time just crawled until the service time was over. It seemed to him ever since he was kid, around six, he was looking forward to time passing so he could be older, more on his own, freer. Time always was standing still. Then he reached middle age, whatever that age might be and he couldn't stop time from flowing from one period to the next. The kids were growing up. All his relatives were getting older and before you knew it they were gone in a blink of an eye. It was all getting out of hand. He went to the universities at night over two decades. He thought he'd never get his high school diploma and now he had three degrees. The two decades of night college seemed to go by as quick as a flash.

Now as he is settling into old age he can't stop time from flying by. Where once he couldn't wait to be a preteen, then a teenager, then in his twenties now he just wants to enjoy the day and let the time slow down but it has to rush by, for that is life. In a way this period is similar to pre-school years for him. There isn't any goals he has to meet except those he sets for himself. There are no time periods such as the service or school or jobs that constrain him except those he sets for himself. What is missing is mom,dad and those uncles, aunts and cousins. As he reflects all those years seem to have gone by so quickly like a shooting star now that they have past. The one thing he has gotten out of it all is that while time may be your enemy it is also your friend and he just has to figure out how to keep it as friendly as he can.    

Monday, September 19, 2011

Teach Me Tonight

Did you say I have a lot to learn?
Well don't think I'm trying not to learn,
Since this is the perfect spot to learn
Teach me tonight!

Starting with the ABC of it,
Right down to the XYZ of it
Help me solve the mystery of it,
Teach me tonight!

The sky's a blackboard high above you,
If a shooting star goes by,
I'll use that star to write I love you,
Ten Thousand times across the sky!

One Thing isn't very clear my love,
Should the teacher stand so near my love?
Graduation's almost near my love,
Please teach me tonight!

The radio was tuned to WNEW where William B. Williams was broadcasting his 8PM to mid-night show and the DeMarco sisters were singing "Teach Me Tonight".  Although some fifty-five years had past he remembered it as though it was yesterday. He finally had gotten her to agree to go out with him. It was a battle but his perseverance won through. He brought the car to a stop as he came to her house. He had to meet her parents, oh how he hated that part of dating. When he thought of how beautiful she was he figured it was worth it. He got out of the car and rang the bell. Her father buzzed him in and was waiting at the top of the stairs to inspect him as he walked up and into the apartment. He was given a seat as she wasn't quite ready yet. He knew she was probably ready but this was the time the parents had to get to "know" who was taking their daughter out for the night. They wanted to have some solace that he would not molest her and treat her right. The mother came into the room and he made sure he got up showing the proper respect. The three of them chatted for a while and then her sister and brother entered the room. He was getting the full inspection with the show of power that there were two full grown males ready to defend her honor in case he was to make the wrong moves. Finally, after what seemed an eternity she entered the room and she was worth it all. What a knock-out! She was the most gorgeous gal he had ever seen. He wasn't sure if it was love or lust or both but he knew he wanted to be with her tonight. The inspection was brought to a close by her coming into the room. The nice goodbyes were said and they were on their way. He held the car door open for her as she got in the car but he couldn't remember if he was supposed to cross in front of the car or the rear of the car to get into his side. He chose to go in front of the car as he figured she could always keep him in sight while he got into the driver's side. He liked the cars of those days as there was no console separating the driver and the passenger in the front seat, which he hoped would make it easier to put his arm around her, hopefully, after they spent the night dancing to some great love songs at this little bistro in Port Washington. He flipped the radio on and Willie B. was playing Frank Sinatra. Perfect way to start an evening, he thought. It was a moonlit, star filled high winter cloudless sky. Yes tonight could be beautiful.

They arrived at the club and the valet parked the car. The orchestra tonight was Mel Conners and his Trumpet. He used to play in Johnny Long's orchestra and he was trying to make it on his own. He loved Mel's music. His trumpet was on the style of Bobby Hackett, smooth, mellow and romantic. They ordered drinks, his was a Scotch on the rocks and her's a Sloe Gin Fizz. He never understood how she could drink such a sweet drink, each to his own poison, he guessed. The club was on Manhasset Bay and in the evening one could make out the reflection of the moon and stars on the blackness of the glassy water. She was a great dancer and loved the Latin music but he could only do some rumba and merengue . BUT he could do a great Lindy and slow fox trots where they could get really close with the spinning and dips were his specialty.He knew the lyrics of most of the romance songs and as the evening wore on he was singing them softly into her ear and she was responding by dancing closer and holding him tighter. At 11:30PM he had to leave since on the first date her time to get home on Sat. was no later than 12:30AM since "no good girl would stay out later than that without really knowing the guy she was with.", which was her parents mantra. He wanted to get her home a little early so he would stay in their good graces. 

The valet brought them the car. They got in. As he turned the car to leave they faced the water and she asked if they could stay there for a few minutes and drink in the beauty of this winter's night at the water's edge. He was all for that. He turned on the radio and William B. Williams was coming into his last fifteen minutes of his program. The night was chilly and the heater wasn't warmed up yet so he gently put his arm around her and pulled her close to him, to keep her from getting a chill, he said. For a brief moment they sat motionless drinking in the beauty of it all. Willy B. decided to end his program with the song he started it with. "Teach Me Tonight". As it asked the question, "Did you say I have a lot to learn?" she turned towards him and her lips parted and he couldn't resist, as he drew closer to her he drew her closer to him and their lips met. Yes, it was some fifty-five years ago but to him it was as yesterday. Her breath was warm, her lips sweet and inviting and perhaps it was the best kiss he ever experienced because it is so real to him even today after being with her for all these years and seven children and years of kissing and being in love. In fact if he saw a shooting star go by even today he would use that star to write I love you ten thousand times across the sky.      

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Human Side of Jesus

There are the Gospels which became the written word of the oral version of the life and times of Jesus Christ who was the founder of "The Way". The four gospels we are left with are considered "divine words" after a council examined all the books that were around such as The Gospel according to St. Thomas or St. Peter and decided after consideration and much prayer, I hope, that only Matthew, Mark, Luke and John merited to be considered as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Other books such as Acts, various Epistles and Revelation are considered to be inspired as well. Only the Gospels however reveal the human side of Jesus and very little of that I might add. Each Gospel was written with an audience in mind, Matthew and Mark were writing to Jewish readers while Luke was writing to a Gentile audience as John maybe did. Therefore some of the writings may be skewed in a certain manner to make the message more understandable. However there are only cursory insights provided as to the human side of Jesus. Yes they talked of the Virgin birth but only had a little mention St. Joesph his foster father who had to play a major role in the development of Jesus as a man . He provided a father figure who was always there way before Jesus could have had any inclination that he had a Divine Father. To some of the early writers St Joesph presented more of a problem than a virtue. There are many today who don't accept the Virgin birth as a reality and consider St. Joesph as the biological father. To realize how important St. Joesph was to the family just remember that no matter how strong and faithful the Blessed Mother was back then she had very little standing in the community and was regarded as property of her husband. St. Joesph was the bread winner, protector and good father figure for Jesus to look up to. I wonder when Joesph and Mary told Jesus that St. Joesph was not his biological father and what impact it had on him. How was Jesus affected by this new information that the seed in Mary was impregnated by the mighty one of Israel. Maybe he was never told. Maybe he was left to find this out for himself. The writings of the Gospels seem to indicate that he had to struggle to come to the conclusion who he was and what his mission was. All this must of had a great impact on the human side of Jesus.

He seems to be a good Jewish son who maybe sassed his mother and father when they lost him when he was twelve and subsequently found him. I guess they didn't get too angry with his answer since they were at fault in losing sight of him in the first place. Between twelve and thirty there isn't anything in Gospels about Jesus. However we can put together some pieces. Joesph died and for a while Jesus was the main support of Mary probably working as a carpenter, Joesph's trade. He was a tradesman, blue collar. He spent some years as an Essene which was a monastic sect of Judaism that believed in the common holding of assets and were conservative in their prayerful approach. Perhaps that is how Mary was taken care of when Jesus set out as a preacher unless he had saved some money for her support. Just a few things to consider from a human standpoint.

There are some things we can draw from the Gospels about the human side of Jesus. He seemed to like some of his followers better than some others. John seems to be close to him as well as Peter. My Grandmother seemed to feel he played jokes on the Big Fisherman because he was so likable and at times full of life. Jesus had friends outside of those who went from town to town with him. There were Martha, Mary and Lazarus who he raised from the dead. He seemed to stop at their house and have a good meal whenever he was near their town. He seemed to have a special affection for Mary Magdalene even after he rose from dead since she was the first one he appeared to. Some writers outside of the Church even say he loved her in a special way that men love women. He could have. He could have remained celibate. The whole relationship could have been very difficult purely from a human standpoint. Jesus seemed to have a soft spot in his human heart for women. He wasn't going to throw any stone at the prostitute brought before him. The fact is he saved her with a soft admonition of not to sin anymore which could have a warning that next time he wouldn't be there to save her. He seemed to enjoy parties, went to any dinner when asked and sometimes invited himself along with his band of followers. He didn't like the establishment especially the Jewish establishment. He seemed to play politics at times. When asked if they should pay taxes to Caesar he skirted the issue when he said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.". He knew his mission would have been aborted right there and then if he said what I feel he really wanted to say, "Hell no!", but the prudent thing was to say what he did. He was able to continue with his mission while teaching an important lesson to his enemies who were trying to entrap him.

When he was put to death he suffered great physical pain and humiliation. All human traits. I will never understand why there had to be such a bloody and painful death for the gates of heaven to be opened but that is a divine subject the human side is it HURT and seemed to go on forever in human terms. When he came back he stayed with his friends, ate breakfast and I bet had a glass of wine or two. Jesus of course is God but for me he was very human with all the hurts and good feelings I and you have. He had the same problems we have and had to die just the way we have to die. He was really like us in more ways than we can imagine. And if I might not be struck down for blasphemy, I love him just as much if not more because he is just as human as I am and can understand how I can screw up so badly while trying not to screw up.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Moses,Discernment and Us

Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. Not only was he old he stuttered. He really didn't think he was the man for the job but the burning bush had a voice that was insistent. So, the story goes he took his brother and family and went into Egypt where he led his people out of Egypt which was not without obstacles. When he finally got to the other side of the Red Sea he went around the desert for 40 years because his people didn't trust the word of the Lord through Moses that they could defeat the inhabitants of the land that was being promised to them. Some wags have suggested that they traveled around the desert in search of the promised land because Moses was lost and didn't want to ask directions because of male pride. However we shall reject that notion although it might bear some truth to it. Anyway, after 40 years the generation that doubted was almost all gone and the people were ready for the big battles which were to follow. Moses of course wasn't allowed to see the promised land supposedly because he struck some rock twice instead of once to get water but let's face facts, at 120 years old how much fight could he have left in him. He died before the battles began but as we all know the Jewish people were successful and conquered the land having a northern and southern kingdom.

Many thousand years later as we consider the Exodus story one wonders at what age exactly does God have in mind for his followers to do the work he has planned. I know some people around 80, some older some younger, that really do not seem to have any energy left in them that can get them from sunrise to sunset.  AND if they are called by God he seems to do so in a more obscure way than let us say, a burning bush. The thought of a 40 year assignment at that advanced age doesn't really seem possible. Does it? Come to think of it Moses wasn't looking to do anything but shepherd the flock and enjoy his family when God called him. He had run out of Egypt as a young man and was on the lam for the rest of his life so to speak. Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

Can there be a plan for the aged as well as the young? Can the aged discern what the mission might be? OR Has the aged lost the feeling of relevance in today's life and times. It seems that our society only recognizes youth as having value. After the energy and drive has been used and the young have become old they are expected to take it easy and rest, travel, eat and be merry before sickness overtakes them. The relevance lost by the older generation is partly their fault because they want to play the role given to them and have no particular goal or drive other than to have a good time. I am not sure what the answer to this is but I maintain that each human being has relevance beyond just existing and that goals and dreams should be held by all no matter what age. Perhaps we will never see a burning bush with a voice so strong that it will motivate us to some great deed but perhaps if we listen quietly we will hear God's whispering to us with a request for some action on our part. All we have to do is listen and in the quiet stillness of creation hear our God speaking to us. This advice is directed to the young as well because they are so caught up in the noise of this world with the problems of school, family and finances they can't hear God above the din that surrounds them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My How Tempus Doth Fugit!

How many years has it been since they first met, fifty? They had met purely by happenstance. He was the up and coming bright young man in the New York international office and she was on a short term assignment from the home office. No one in the New York office really knew what her assignment was to be or why she was being sent in. She was held in suspicion as being a spy for the west coast office. The politicians planned on befriending her to find out what the story was and who was in trouble. He on the other hand had insolence of youth. He didn't know why she was coming and quite frankly didn't care. His plan was to ignore her and go about his business just as he had always done.

She arrived at the office on a Monday. She flew in over the weekend and was already set up in an apartment in German Town around 86th. Street and Lexington Ave. The Vice President in charge of the International operations made sure she had an office with the appropriate furniture. He called a staff meeting to introduce us and her. The Vice President explained she was called in to help with the new business in the Television end of our business. Television was sort of anathema to us in the movie business in those days since it was siphoning off a lot of our business. Those in the know figured the best way to beat them was to join them. The problem was many of the TV salesmen who were there from the ground floor actually were the rough and tough guys from the clothing industry. They could do a lot of business but they could offend a lot of important people also. She was there to help them through the rough spots of a start up business and once they were settled in she would return to the home office. Every-one breathed a sigh of relief and she was accepted. But he was determined to ignore her.

She, however proved difficult to ignore since he was in charge of finance she needed his assistance on many of the projects she was working on. They would spend a few mornings on these projects but when lunch time came if he didn't have a business lunch set up he would disappear and come back later seemingly walking with a buzz. She suspected and was correct that he was drinking his lunch alone. She on the other hand didn't eat lunch unless of course she had a business meeting. She liked to scamper around Manhattan hitting all the big stores like Henri Bendel, Sax Fifth Ave., Bloomingdale's and the like trying on the most expensive furs, jewelry, shoes and other clothing items without actually buying them. She had the chutzpah to put on enough of a front that the sales people all thought she came from money. One day she asked him where he was going for lunch and if she could go along. He brought her to his favorite bar but she didn't even finish the first drink he bought while he had his three Gibsons, oh how he loved those cocktail onions. She felt comfortable enough to tell him they would have more fun if he would come along with her while she shopped the ritziest stores in Manhattan. AND she was right. The sales people would always make sure to ask him if he liked what she was trying on, including the Pearls that were worth about $5,000. He would always play the game and defer to her saying he had nothing to do with the whole thing and with a wink and a smile they would say they understood but still ask him what they thought. After they left the store and grabbed a quick iced tea they would laugh at the fact that the sales people thought he was her sugar daddy.

She wasn't pretty, was extremely thin but when she walked into a room she caught everybody's eye. She carried herself with assurance and a touch of femininity that caused men to want to talk to her and women to be jealous even though they were prettier and sexier. There were many business affairs during the week that required their attendance with parties to follow. They might spend time together at these functions but every one at the office was getting the idea that a tryst was going on. They never saw each other outside of business related situations. They never saw each other on weekends. But the office gossip was that she was breaking up his marriage. He was married to a beautiful Hispanic very sexy lady who he loved more than life itself but the gossipers only saw this office relationship as a tryst, perhaps because in the industry such cheating was commonplace. The Advertising lady, she was way ahead of her time to be in such a position, took her aside and chided her for being so heartless. That afternoon they went to a restaurant instead of doing the shopping thing. She wanted to know if it was true that she was breaking up his marriage. He assured her that what they had was love but not the kind of love he had with his little Hispanic fireball. He did say that it would be fun to let them at the office think what they want while they would enjoy the relationship they had. That night he went home and told his wife what had transpired. She seemed to understand everything but he sensed maybe a little "something" was there. So that night he was more romantic than ever with her assuring her, he thought , there would never be anyone but her, his fireball.

Two years went by and they became closer exchanging secrets and feelings but never stepping over the line of beingPhilia which is great concern and care as one would have for a family member but perhaps a little deeper than just brotherly love.

And so she flew off to California where she grew in the profession and became famous, married had a great family and made a lot of money. She became one of the most respected women in her profession. He never reached the heights he seemed to be headed for He was a bit too harsh and made some enemies. He refused to take advantages of opportunities as they arose since they would have taken him away from his family for too many months a year. Eventually he left the film industry and settled down into the financial industry in a very boring no-where job that offered security. As she rose in stature he settled into obscurity. Over the years they kept in touch when she would have to come into New York for business purposes and they would sit and talk like the old days for a few hours or so. Eventually their lives became so divergent that they drifted apart and lost contact with each other for over ten years.

His wife passed away after a long illness which caused him to reflect on his life and he remembered his long lost gal pal and wondered what and how she was doing. He was getting on in age and he was aware that he had less time to do many things that he would like to do since the window of opportunity was closing very rapidly. One day going through some old papers he came upon her address. He didn't know if she still resided there but he took a chance and dropped her a note saying he was thinking of her to which she responded that he was in her mind also. Another card came a few months later telling him she had to come to New York on family business and would like to meet. He of course said sure let's do it. So they set a date, time and place.

As the day of their meeting came closer he became nervous about he meeting. He thought she might even not recognize him and after the first greeting what in the world would they talk about. He was convinced that she rose above him in every way and they would have nothing in common, except perhaps the two years they spent together so very long ago when the world seemed very young. The day came and he almost called her to cancel the meeting with some flimsy excuse and he would have done so but he had the nagging feeling that this window would close never to be opened again and they would never see each other again. He asked himself if this could be a premonition of death? Whose death? He just didn't know so with this in mind he went to see her.

He was waiting in the lobby of her hotel for about ten minutes. One of the elevator doors opened and there she was. He recognized her immediately as she was speaking in her bright lady like style to someone getting off the elevator with her. She was older yes but still maintained the energy of youth and the essence of femininity. He was completely bald somewhat out of shape and he wanted to run but he heard her call his name and run into his arms and they hugged and kissed. Laughing she said today we are going to do something like the old days. There were errands to run and we had to pick up theatre tickets for two plays she was going to see which meant we were going to walk all over New York to the final box office which was across the street from where we used to work. The hours spent together was terrific. She did most of the talking and she was as full of life as she was some fifty years ago. She wanted to have a late lunch but he refused because quite truthfully he was bushed and his feet were barking at him. Quite frankly he was showing his age. Just before the parted they reminisced about what only they could know and the moment was sweet. They hugged and kissed warmly perhaps with perhaps a little more love than that Greek word "Philia".

He sat on the Long Island Railroad train going homeward and he thought it was a great day. She is terrific but this will probably be the last time we see each other and finality always has sadness attached to it. He remembered his nagging feeling something dreadful would keep them from future meetings but he pushed those thoughts out of his mind. It is peculiar how there are brief times in our lives that have a lasting effect. He wondered if he took some of the turns in the road that could have led to a successful career would have brought fame and fortune. But he thought not if it would have meant losing his Hispanic fireball who he loved even more on this day for always understanding his love for her was deeper and eternal.