Tuesday, November 2, 2010

guess who's coming to dinner

What a difference a few days make. A few of us recently attended a conversation for the New York Times restaurant series of panel discussions with Frank Bruni, the former Times restaurant critic. The panel included several of the city's most successful chefs talking about their restaurant careers and the empires that they have built. The chefs who participated were Daniel Boulud, Jean Georges Vongerichten and Michael White. Mr White is not as far down the career path as the other two chefs and acknowledged such in expressing his respect for the restaurateurs and their years of experience.

Mr. Bruni served as an affable host and attempted to not only extract information on business and management tactics but also anecdotes about mishaps and mayhem that had taken place in the dining rooms of these highly regarded chefs.

There was talk of regular customers and their likes and dislikes, menu changes, detailed orders, spilled drinks and of course how the chefs would know that Mr. Bruni was dining with companions for one of a series of meals to rate his dining experience for an upcoming review. As the talk ranged from Michelin stars and kitchen ingredients and trends Mr. Boulud emerged as the most chatty of the restaurant chefs when Mr. Bruni asked how they handled unruly customer requests or behavior. It seemed that once Mr. Boulud started recalling past dining incidents where he had to intervene the examples came rushing back to him as his French accent accelerated, the pitch of his voice rose and his hands fluttered in conversation before him.

Mr. Boulud spoke of world leaders dining at his restaurant and how one man in particular posessed a surprisingly limp handshake to which Frank Bruni joked that Daniel Boulud may need a police escort home. He would barely conclude one tale before another began as he launched into detailed recollections of customer requests or behavior. Most of the tales ended with the same response of how if Mr. Boulud did not think he could satisy a customer's expectations or if the customer had unwarranted demands, Mr Boulud demonstrated how he would just pull the white linen table out from in front of the diners and announce the experience was over. His philosophy was that you shouldn't keep any negative energy of a customer in his dining room only to send them out in the world to speak poorly of his restaurant. He wanted to maintain the dignity of his name and restaurant no matter how much money someone was about to spend. Finis. Au revoir.

Not even a fortnight later Daniel restaurant's received the most publicized patron they received to date in the form of a movie and television actor with a table that included an ex wife when the appetizers were served who then departed, a porn star who he took a shine to during the course of the meal and lots of expensive bottles of red wine. All the debauchery at the restaurant was just a prelude to the naked tantrum he would throw at the Plaza later that evening that included throwing furniture and pillows about as he trashed his hotel room. Antics that even Eloise would snicker at. Perhaps Mr. Boulud was at one of his other restaurants that evening.

Monday, August 16, 2010

men behaving badly

There was a thought provoking Op-Ed piece this past weekend called "Justin Beiber for President." The author's point was that during these difficult times adults seem to be simmering over into emotional meltdowns and that only the children seem composed and content. It is all around us in various forms. A baseball player for the Mets gets into a disagreement and is arrested for punching the father of his common law wife in the face. Francisco Rodriguez, known as the "emotional closer" for the baseball team, demonstrated that maybe his emotions need some anger management tools and proved he knows a whole different way to bring a situation to a close.

New Yorkers are plenty familiar with a certain finger and how it is used to communicate frustration and defiance. You expect it from drivers, people on bikes or pedestrians crossing the street. It is part of the culture of our lives. But who expected the offending gesture to come from former Mayor of New York, David Dinkins, when he flashed it on his way into Democratic Representative Charlie Rangel's eightieth birthday bash? The genteel man in a pink seersucker jacket answered a heckler, who called out to him by name, with the universal sign for you-know-what so quickly that people in the crowd weren't even sure that he had actually done it.

But the title for the whiniest meltdown goes to Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant, who responded to a passenger's rude behavior by getting on the plane's intercom and letting loose with a barrage of choice words, released the emergency air chute, and slid down after grabbing a few beers for the ride. We have yet to hear from the woman who set Mr. Slater's meter into high gear but other passengers have stated that he wasn't without blame.

The City Room section of the New York Times said that we have gotten to know two men in the aviation business through their reactions to circumstances, one being Captain Sullenberger, who became known as the "hero of the Hudson" with his quick thinking that brought a plane to a safe landing in icy waters in January 2009 and the other, Mr. Slater, who became the poster boy of snarky, spectacular exits. The article poses the question "Who are you? Are you a Sully or a Slater?" Do you rise to the occasion in the face of adversity or take your toys, or in Mr. Slater's case a few beers, and walk off in a snit? The names of these two drastically different men are now synonymous with heroism and complete selfishness. Not only are you expected, as the employee of the airline, to be sure and keep your composure, it is what you are paid to do. Rude behavior, punching someone in the face or flipping a certain appendage is a way of expressing yourself but when your actions imperil other people when you walk off the job that is not something to be applauded, as of course, the ubiquitous "fans" are doing on the FaceBook page that has been created for Steven Slater. Someone could have been on the ground when that unannounced emergency slide was dispatched, it will cost the airline money to fix it and he left passengers in his charge unattended. Nothing to be proud of really.

Not responding to negative behavior may be the more difficult path to take but it is certainly the one to aspire to. Mr. Slater's ensuing hissy fit in response to a passenger's rude behavior doesn't make him a hero, it makes him a failure. Whatever that female passenger said or did to Steven Slater that day on the airplane he allowed her to make him lose any composure he may have had and for that he should not feel vindicated for his rant on the airplane's intercom and his trip down the slide to the tarmac below. Eleanor Roosevelt had a well known quote regarding personal behavior. "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." Perhaps, Mr. Slater and anyone else can heed that advice and people will stop applauding such selfish histrionics.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What an awful bit of avian irony. I filled the bird feeder attached to the window in the den and, as usual, it took about ten seconds for the first of the birds in the yard to land on it and start to peck away at the seeds in the feeder. In the colder months, when the natural food sources are scarce, they patiently wait on a snow covered globe of an evergreen bush for a turn at perching on the feeder for some sustenance. Today, I fill the feeder, hang it on the window and take my paper and cup of tea out to the back porch where I listen to the birds in the morning fly and call to each other in the tall trees that loom over the yard and some birds fly down and land on the edge of the pool as if it is one giant bird bath.
I sort through the pages of the newspaper preparing to read the utterly depressing updates of the damage caused by the hemorrhaging oil rig in the waters off the shores of the gulf coast as the morning sun begins to warm the wooden planks of the deck. I've been reading the tragic results of the spill on the innocent sea creatures and it makes one feel angry and hopeless all at once that something like this could happen and on such a grand scale.
But today the front page news includes some flocks of birds closer to home in the form of wildlife that peacefully coexist with the hum of city life. Canadian geese and their tiny offspring had become a familiar sight to the visitors and park rangers of Prospect Park and when one of the birds was discovered to have an arrow that had pierced its neck the rangers did what they could to help the bird. But as of a hot Thursday in July recently nearly all four hundred of the geese were gone. A group of wildlife biologists had swooped in and crated the geese and taken them to a neighborhood building to be gassed with lethal amounts of carbon dioxide.
Since that fateful day in January of last year that a group of geese flew into the engines of flight 1549 there have been efforts made to thin the population of geese in the areas surrounding the major metropolitan airports although the Smithsonian confirmed that the remains of those geese were not "residential" birds from the area as the Prospect Park birds were. The timing of the round up was intentionally timed to coincide with when the geese are molting and as a result can't fly. You would think that wildlife biologists could come up with a better plan. The pictures from the gulf coast are of technicians in lab coats and hair nets hand washing birds laden with oil on their feathers and morning visitors to a Brooklyn park discover flocks of birds that have become a familiar sight have vanished and wiry secure ties lie beside a pile of fluffy gosling feathers?
British Petroleum has finally put a cap on the flow of oil into the water. After the damage to present and future ecosystems and putting people out of business all along the coast it is a Pyrrhic victory at best. Compare it to the man who screwed up in an astounding way who sends you a colossal spray of flowers to apologize. The flowers may put him on slightly better ground but the focus is on everything he does from that point forward.

Monday, June 21, 2010

dawn of a new day

Day 60. It has become an ominous tally of days since a reckless British Petroleum oil rig started to spew gallon after gallon of oil into the open sea. The world got to meet a company executive in the form of Tony Hayward, a man in charge of so much, and if he is to be believed, a man aware of so little of his corporate information and their procedures. It was a stroke of unfortunate timing that the makers of Dawn, the dishwashing liquid, had run a series of advertisements for Earth Day showing oil slicked animals being washed in tubs of water with their wings and legs covered in soapy bubbles and bottles of Dove on the tables before them. Now British Petroleum has brought us the worst oil spill to date harming defenseless animals and wreaking havoc on ecosystems far into the future. The makers of Dawn are sending thousands of bottles on a daily basis to help in the rescue and clean up efforts. The estimate is that the workers cleaning the animals that come in to the rescue centers use a bottle of cleaning liquid for each gallon of water and as many as three bottles are used to clean one pelican.

Tony "I Want My Life Back" Hayward is in desperate need of some better Public Relations people or a somewhat capable acting coach to teach him how to put in a valiant effort to at least feign sympathy and contrition. Somehow this man's prickly attitude conveys that he doesn't fully comprehend or care that he is at the helm of one of the greatest assaults on the environment. As one columnist pointed out where is Al Gore in the midst of all this? Some people just don't get the fact that in giving a smug answer to a question they inevitably shine the light on themselves even brighter as in Mr. Hayward's defense as to why he wasn't aware of the dangers and concern with this drill off the coast of New Orleans, a place so close to being able to see progress come full circle after Hurricane Katrina. Tony Hayward's flippant answer was they he is in charge of overseeing many of these rigs in an effort to paint a portrait of himself as a distracted and overwhelmed corporate executive. "With respect sir," Mr. Hayward said "We drill hundreds of wells around the world." A Texas Representative, Michael C. Burgess, who was conducting the line of questioning pointedly shot back with "That's what's scaring me now."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

you can't handle the truth

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Andrew Wheeler. Two guys who won't be working as fact checkers any time soon. One aligns himself with veterans of war without ever having been a part of any military action and one duped the most prestigious education institutions in the country with phony credentials and plagiarized letters. Richard Blumenthal has been in politics for many years, fabricated war status and all, but it seems that it is only when he stepped up to run for a national Senate seat that the light was more focused on him and his claims of being mistreated by his fellow Americans when returning home as a veteran is a heart wrenching story he has shared with crowds. Andrew Wheeler had his imagined academic career mapped out to include top tier schools and a 'life of deception' according to one newspaper and a transcript with egregious inaccuracies.

In his teachings Thomas Aquinas presented the philosophy that a lie is something that is a purposefully stated untruth making the intention behind the lie more offensive than the wrongful statement. The prevarications of these two men in their respectful situations are very much the same and yet all together different in their overall scenarios.

Did Blumenthal think he would never be questioned about his distorted perceptions he put forth as a veteran? Of course he would be taken to task by the press. It has forever been the relation ship of the press and politicians to operate on the assumption that most politicians are not telling the whole truth. It is the topic of every late night talk show host and their nightly monologues sometimes giving writers the task of simply getting it down on paper and transferred to cue cards as is. People have claimed to be a part of groups of which they were not members, privy to conversations with people they haven't met and boasting to have earned degrees or awards that they had not received. Whatever side of the aisle you are on most people would most likely think that claiming to be a part of a war you never served in as pretty reprehensible. Perhaps that was the idea that Blumenthal was counting on to try and weave this patriotic tale on the campaign trail.

That belief is how Andrew Wheeler got as far as he did with his armful of creative credentials. An ivy league school is operating on the belief system that if you state that you are a straight A student from MIT that you are in fact that impressive student. This was one of the flags that was raised in the unraveling of Wheeler's imaginary academic career. Even someone as duplicitous as Wheeler missed the fact that MIT does not give letter grades for the first semester of freshmen year as he had taken credit for. A representative from Harvard's admission office explained that they are not in the frame of mind of trying to disprove the impressive achievements of their applicants. In Andrew Wheeler's case he took advantage of that loophole and didn't pad his resume but became a straight A transfer student from MIT instead of the Maine college student he actually was.

In Wheeler's case what he did will surely catch the eye of a Gordon Gecko somewhere and he will probably end up with a more lucrative career than some of the Harvard graduates who would have been a part of his fictional graduation class. Don't just dream. Dream big. Don't lie. Lie big.

Monday, April 19, 2010

return to sender

When I was considering adopting a dog I was amazed at how many people suggested that I could always give the animal back to the shelter if the situation did not work out . Really? What kind of a half-hearted commitment is that? What is your measure of success or failure?

It makes you wonder what an American woman, who adopted a seven year old boy from Russia, was thinking (or not thinking) when she put him on a flight back to Russia alone with a note pinned to his sweater. He had been in her home for a total of four days. We will never know what her "that's it, he's going back" moment was and it doesn't matter. The damage to the soul of this child has been done.

The media kept referring to this woman as a 'mother.' Would she have been able to return a baby she had given birth to because she found the situation to be just too overwhelming? There isn't a more selfless job than being a mother. Mothers are exhausted with newborn babies because of a lack of sleep as well as taking care of a helpless baby who is completely dependant on her for every physical need. As the child gets older a mother is there to guide you through the journey of learning to walk and talk and read and provide the kisses and hugs that allow a child to gain independence and a feeling of confidence.

In this instance the woman said that the Russian adoption agency had failed to disclose the emotional problems that the boy arrived with. She knew that this boy had been taken away from his biological mother because of her struggles with alcohol and was being adopted at the tender age of seven. How much more information do you need to determine that this was going to be a challenge at the very least? What is worse? The fact that she broke the agreement after a mere four days or that she sent him back on a plane all alone? She did what was best for her and not the well being of a child. The only good thing she did was to show that she was not 'mother material' as soon as she did. It is an insult to mothers everywhere that the media kept referring to her as the 'mother' who returned her adopted son to the orphanage that he came from. A mother put the needs of her child in front of everything else.

What kind of work do you put into a commitment if you have an escape clause of any kind? The motto of NASA is one of relentless determination. The words of inspiration between mission control to Apollo 13 are words of advice that everyone should heed when entering into what seems like a daunting task. "Failure is not an option."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

in the pink

Everyone has their inner clock to mark the passing of time. It may be the beginning of a new calendar year, the September back to school rush or a birthday. Mine is rooted, literally, outside the bedroom window. It is around the third week of March when the bare limbs of the magnolia tree start to wink little slivers of cotton candy pink from the heavy buds that have carried the weight of winter snow and frost. Someone, who was my introduction to gardening and the strength of perennials, once commented when I was talking about what I would do differently for the next growing season. "It's in your soul now," she said. "People who really love their gardens in their souls are always looking ahead at ways to improve or plan differently." March is the month of seed and garden catalogues, trays and garden magazines and it feels like a new beginning every year to me.

When we moved into our house on an unseasonably warm day in November ten years ago a friend of mine stopped by with her three small children. One of her boys had the classic Elmer Fudd 'r' speech pattern and pointed up at the magnolia which had dropped most of its leaves by then. He said "I have one of those 'twees.' They are 'pwetty twees' but they are 'vewy, vewy' messy!" He sure knew what he was talking about. I love the magnolia but each season aside from winter has a different clean up assignment. There are enormous leaves that drop, candle shaped parts of the flower pod that bounce off the car and eventually all the delicate pink pedals will come down, leaving the tree bare once more, before the leaves fill in the blanks with new green leaves.

For about two weeks the magnolia tree will start its journey from its winter rest with what seem like tiny pink light bulbs that get a bit brighter every day. The buds are all out of their protective cocoons now and the timing of warm weather arriving in the next few days will be the perfect combination for the perfume of the magnolia's flowers to fill the yard. The magnolia flowers mingle with the intoxicating scent of the hyacinths that sprout at the tree's roots along with daffodils and later the tulips and I welcome the display every spring. The enormous spray of pink flowers against a cerulean sky is a sight so lovely the garbage truck lingered at the end of the drive on one collection morning last year. "Wow. That's a great tree," one of the men yelled to me last year as I worked on my flower boxes.

When the tree drops its leaves in the fall it feels like the awning that we ate outdoor candlelit meals under has been retracted for the season revealing the bird nests that were hidden among the tallest branches. That is the time we retreat indoors and on those chilly days when it feels like spring will never arrive. The first bit of pink in the buds of the magnolia tree says it is indeed on the way.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

march madness

There is something so restorative about this time of year. The first garden growth of the season emerge from the crown of plants and the delicate snowdrops dangling buds on arching stems signal the first signs of spring. It is the time of year to see signs of life start to burst forth in the buds of flowering trees and tiny clusters of leaves that appear on rose bushes that looked winter weary just a short time ago. The resilience of perennials never fails to amaze any gardener at their ability to come back to life, year after year, after a winter slumber.

March is the annual riddle of 'in like a lion and out like a lamb' that moves us forward to longer days of warm sunshine and outdoor activity. The reference of lion and lamb describes the beginning and the end of the month of March and the dance of weather patterns that it offers to tease and madden all of us who are ready to shake off the last signs of the winter season.

This month we got a drastic swing in weather systems in a few week's time. Winter's last wallop of a snowstorm had the neighborhood humming with snow blowers the first blustery week end of the month and the sound of leaf blowers and scraping rakes for spring clean up the next. Within a week we went from drying out our damp gloves, hats and scarves on the radiators to working in the yard without jackets.

It turns out the March weather surprises weren't satisfied with the juxtaposition of two back to back opposing weather scenarios. We are at the midway mark on the calendar and there has been a snowstorm, followed by a fling with spring and then a storm that Dorothy Gale and Toto would have taken pause. Howling winds shook the trees and tossed trash cans around the streets while the sky took on an eerie glow and the relentless rain pounded the streets creating lakes at intersections and swallowing small cars who dared to pass. Sirens wailed as fire engines went from one downed tree to the next blocking off streets with streamers of yellow caution tape. Huge trees that had stood for years in yards and parks were ripped from their bases taking squares of cement up with the roots. In a few hours massive trees were laying across lawns or tangled in power cords that left neighborhoods in darkness.

The strength of winds that rattle your windows with such force reminds you just how powerful nature's forces can be. The day after the sixty mile hour winds blew through the streets were littered with broken limbs of trees and mangled umbrellas turned inside out. A Brooklyn parish lost their pine tree that is decorated each holiday season for Christmas. The tree was planted thirty years ago to protect the church's stained glass windows from the footballs the kids like to toss around on the lawn. Here today, gone tomorrow. No amount of 'reality' tv could put on such a spectacle.

Friday, February 26, 2010

go for the gold

For the second time in a month we have had an honest to goodness can't-get-the-back-door-open-because-of-the-snow-drifts blizzard. We haven't had many significant snowfalls the past few years so it was a reminder of what winter weather can do that we had two major storms dumping snow within a few weeks of each other making February a busy month of clean up. Recently, a school age boy offered his perspective of the winter season before the first big storm roared in and closed the schools. At that time he pointed out that we had only had what he decreed as 'week-end snow.' 'Week-end snow' does not bring the magical day of reprieve from all duties related to reading, writing and arithmetic so the storm shouldn't bother to blow through at all according to this second grade meteorologist. As long as I don't need to be anywhere I like a good snowfall as it slowly transforms the landscape outside. Sometimes, it is just the restorative break that you didn't know you needed until you got it.

The mountains of snow also provided the perfect backdrop for the Winter Olympics. I can't sit back and relax and watch Olympic athletes on display in their respective sports. It makes me very tense knowing how much time and dedication comes down to a fraction of a second or the slightest wobble of a step. I know that is the very essence of the Olympic intensity but it simply rattles me too much to be entertaining. There are always tales of insurmountable obstacles that have been overcome and heartbreaking near misses that stun the athlete and the supporters in the crowd. The images of skiers crashing into banks of snow or the figure skater who lands a jump seated on the ice. How do you shake that off? The thought of carrying that through the years emotionally after all the dedication and work that was invested is mentally numbing.

At the Calgary Olympics in 1998 Gerard Kemkers, a speed skater in the 10,000 meter race, fell on the fifth lap of his race but he made what he considers himself to be the biggest mistake of his career in the 2010 games. Last week, Kemkers, who now coaches a Dutch skater who has dominated the sport since the 2006 Olympics, Sven Kramer, mistakenly yelled for Kramer to take the inside lane which ended with Kramer being disqualified from the race. The call was made in an instant and Gerard Kemkers had to deliver the news during Kramer's cool down lap, unaware that his coach had made such an error. Kramer had finished the race with his fists pumped in the air thinking that he had his second Olympic record and gold medal of the Vancouver games and now his coach is breaking the news that his call of poor judgement has cost Kramer a victory in his 10,000 meter race.

Kramer's time of twelve minutes 54.50 seconds was stricken from the records. A South Korean whose time was 12:58.55 was awarded the Gold medal earning him an Olympic record, a Russian who trailed Kramer by 7.57 seconds got the silver and a fellow countryman took home the Bronze.

Now, Kemkers has two bungled Olympic mishaps to haunt him. One that happened to him and one he was the cause of for someone else. I felt bad enough for Kemkers, the coach, as his mistake came to light, only to find out about his own personal speed skating Waterloo back in Calgary. I wish I had never heard about that now.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

to a dear buddyroo

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
Holden Caulfield's opening statement in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. I can vividly recall the chair I was sitting in when I started to read those words. There is nothing better than being gripped by something you start to read and you instinctively know that you are going to get lost in it.
Much of what was written about J.D. Salinger in his lifetime referred to him as a 'recluse' when, in fact, he was leading a simple life in a quiet town on the Connecticut River. Perhaps, in an effort to explain why anyone at the peak of his career would do something as unthinkable as to walk away from it all, his story wrote itself for those who didn't understand. Obviously, he liked his neighbors and the town of Cornish, NH and the residents treated him like a regular guy and not a literary icon who lived in their midst. It wasn't a conspiracy of any sort that his neighbors not only respected his privacy, but helped him protect it, when strangers inquired about where his residence was from the proprietor of the local general store. The story goes that the ruder the request of the nosy stranger the more inaccurate the details provided. In this self confessional world we live in, with the infamous '15 minutes of fame' that seem to have stretched to at least an hour now, it is a testament to the residents of Cornish that they still have not revealed anything more about Salinger after his death. He was allowed to live his corduroy pants and sweater existence in a town he was fond of and attend church suppers just like anyone else. He was the guy who got his paper every day at the general store, had a favorite diner where he liked to eat his lunch alone and he got to be the guy who scribbled in his notebook and sat at the end of the table where they kept the pies at the church suppers.
Holden Caulfield, Salinger's protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye, longed to find a place that was 'nice and peaceful.' It seems that Salinger was able to do just that. He wasn't the mysterious figure in the window that some made him out to be but the man who wanted his privacy. Being alone at lunch doesn't necessarily mean that you are lonely. He tipped the young servers at the church suppers and agreed to allow neighborhood children to use the hill on his property for a brisk trip on a sled on a snowy day. It seems that there was a mutual respect between Salinger and his neighbors and not some contractual binding agreement that demanded their loyalty to his wishes. In this day of eroding respect for others this town is an example of the human spirit of common courtesy and decency. We could all take a page from their book.
The letters of correspondence of J.D. Salinger and a friend are being reviewed and dissected and one has to wonder why the friend parted with them at any point. There is some speculation that it is perhaps owed to the fact that Salinger refused the friend's request to furnish him with an autographed copy of Catcher in the Rye. In the letter to the friend he offers the explanation "Most stuff that is genuine is better left unsaid."

Friday, February 5, 2010

don't ask, don't bark, don't tell

Man's best friend. That is until he barks in a New York city apartment. The same week that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, calls for the end of the sixteen year old 'don't ask, don't tell' law which would abolish what he refers to as "a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens" in the United States military, word comes of Nestle, a daschund-terrier mix residing on the Upper East Side with his human companions, who had his vocal cords cut in order to reduce his bark to nothing more than a raspy whisper. Someone in Nestle's building threatened to go to the co-op board about his barking.
A recent article reveals that it seems it is a common practice for dogs to be subjected to a procedure called 'debarking.' These dogs range from those living in private homes, to those on the show-dog circuit and includes drug dealers who want their attack dogs silent to conduct business in the shadows. The procedure of debarking has been around for decades but those veterinarians who perform the surgery don't often advertise that they do so.
Animal rights advocates denounce the practice as robbing a dog of the very essence of what is natural for the animal in order to communicate. In an article that I read it states the list of situations and things that Nestle would bark at, one of them being the new puppy. So, the owner doesn't do any type of behavior modification or call in a trainer but has the dog's vocal cords cut in order to comply with noise regulations set in his co-op building and there is now another puppy? A puppy who according to the owner who was interviewed may be headed for a similar fate. In addition to the veterinarians who don't advertise that they perform the procedure there is also a dog breeder and handler mentioned who wouldn't give his last name after being interviewed. If you are going to subject an animal to such a practice own up to it.
Both of my dogs were adopted from the North Shore Animal League. They are a no kill shelter that gives every animal a chance. After my first dog left us much too soon I went back to the North Shore to find my dog that I have now. He reminded me of my first guy and in a state of still grieving my first dog I walked out with a little bundle of blonde puppiness. He had that musky puppy smell with his adoption papers tucked under his thin blue collar that marked him as a male. That puppy was given the impossible task that is placed upon the dog who is adopted after the loss of a beloved companion.
My dog barks at the mailman every day. Every day. The mailman joked to me one day "is it just me he doesn't like or does he bark like that at everyone?" Dogs bark at mailmen for a reason. In their loyal minds they are protecting their home and that pesky mailman is the one guy who hasn't gotten the message and keeps coming back! When we lived in an apartment building years ago with our first dog I remember someone saying that when your dog barks at the front door you have no idea if he barked at someone passing by in the hall or if he just sent someone suspicious away from your door. How many times have you heard the story that had a happy ending about the people who narrowly escaped the burning building or the person who slipped through the frozen lake because the dog was barking? Sometimes, when I read stories like that it makes me like the dogs more than the people. Where's the Dog Whisperer when you need him? I have a plaque over my back door that reads 'Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.' I try.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

r u aware what all the texting will do 2 u l8r kids?

Turn on, tune in, drop out. Timothy Leary would be proud. The kids gather in groups most afternoons outside Starbucks. Their heads are bowed to their phones, furiously text messaging and they barely speak to each other. One day I just may do it. Walk up to them, take their phones out of their busy hands and make them talk to each other. Is your BFF here? Then have a conversation with her in person.
An entirely different language structure has emerged in this rushed world.
There have been many articles about texting slowly eroding children's vocabulary and linguistic abilities but now there is an actual estimate given. According to Jean Gross, England's first children's communication czar, (how's that for a title?) children are communicating in abbreviated text speak and only utilize a vocabulary of 800 words on a daily basis. With fewer words at their disposal it is going to have far reaching repercussions later in life. Nothing to LOL at. Perhaps it was inevitable that people would start to communicate in acronyms. The internet itself spawned 'www' which is the only acronym that takes more time to articulate than the words the letters stand for.
A friend of mine lamented that children aren't focusing on penmanship in school. Who is writing letters anymore that penmanship needs to be mastered? It's not just children though. An e mail I received from another adult's phone was littered with so many shortened words and acronyms that it actually took me longer to read because I am not proficient in the new text speak that is masquerading as language. "R u going 2 b thr? C u l8r!" What? I eventually figured it out but in this multi tasking world does it really save people that much precious time to not spell out an entire word? Are you so pressed to shave seconds off your day that the word 'to' needs to be abbreviated? The old PBS show Zoom had a made up language that we all tried to master when we were kids. "Hub I frub ends. Dub oo yub oo knub oo whub ut thub is ub is?" The idea was to insert 'ub' in front of vowels to 'Zoom speak.' The previous statement would be "Hi friends. Do you know what this is?" At least Zoom's tongue twisters required some creative thinking.
The young adults who are only using their arsenal of 800 words are supposedly doomed when they enter the workforce according to these studies that have estimated young people can't string an acceptable sentence together with adjectives and adverbs. But if their parents are adopting the same clipped communication won't everyone meet somewhere in the middle eventually?
Years ago Kentucky Fried Chicken came up with their 'new and improved' KFC Express. Faster fast food. Is it more important to do something quickly or do something well?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

out with the old and in with the new

The Christmas tree stands illuminated in the same corner location in the living room year after year. That's right. Not the politically correct 'holiday tree.' That's what it was called in our house when I grew up and that is what I continue to call it. If there is some gnarly branch or bare spot that I didn't notice when we purchased the tree I can just turn the unsightly side to the corner. Problem solved. The tree's corner location also affords me the opportunity to end the season with a ceremonial shove out the window. It has an extremely cathartic effect.

January brings some dreary days with the first month of the calendar year. Sorry to anyone who has a January 24 birthday since a British survey deemed it the 'most depressing day of the year.' The argument is that it coincides with when all the holiday bills fill the mailbox to capacity. It is the equivalent of a financial holiday hangover.

The turn of events of last January has changed the way that I will forever look at Canadian geese. The birds have always been the pesky nuisance of many a park keeper and they occasionally fly in a squawking triangle over the house. But last January 15 they were enough of a force to accidentally fly into the motor of an airliner and take it out of the skies with an emergency landing in the icy waters of the Hudson river. It was immediately dubbed the 'miracle on the Hudson' but after word of the quick thinking pilot and his calm instructions and maneuvers were revealed it seemed as if we should give more credit to Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger III for pulling off a miracle. His response to the situation meant that Flight 1549 became many stories to many people but they all had the same happy ending. It was a miracle that the plane floated but it was the quick thinking and response of Captain Sullenberger that had the plane come to its safe resting spot in the river. 'Mastery of the Hudson' perhaps.

On January 15 of this year the passengers gathered on the anniversary to reconnect and share stories. They sailed out to the very spot where that plane became the common thread in their lives and they toasted each other with champagne and the intentionally ironic choice of Grey Goose. After the events in the Hudson last year the jokes sprouted about ordering 'two shots of Grey Goose and a splash of water.' Now the King of Cocktails, Don DeGroff, has delivered 'The Sully' in a recipe in The New York Times which is essentially a Manhattan with a float of champagne on top. Someone chartered a small plane to fly over the Hudson to mark the anniversary as the passengers celebrated on their boat. Early into the flight though the plane was forced to, wait for it, make an emergency landing in the nearby Staten Island landfill. The banner the plane intended to display read "If you died today would you go to heaven or hell? John 14:16.' Pull out your best shaker and stirrer, mix your self a 'Sully' and ponder that thought.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

Here it comes. 'Start your diet.' 'Drop the holiday pounds in the new year.' Does everyone really lose all sense of control at the end of the year when it comes to indulgences? Or does it happen all year with many things? A new year and a time to reflect. There is debate as to whether this year, 2010, is the first year of a new decade or the last year of a decade gone by. Either way, time is moving forward but pause a moment to look back and take stock of lessons learned. Did you discover a new author, find a great vacation destination or master a new recipe? What will you remember about '09? Let's review all that was surprising, not so surprising, ridiculous and creepy about the last calendar year.

10. Ex senator John Edwards taught us that if your wife is terminally ill and there is a woman that you supposedly had an affair with who has a child who looks exactly like you it is probably best to admit paternity sooner rather than later. The pro bono lawyer turned out to be a snake oil salesman in disguise. Maybe his scorned wife could heal the family and move on by practicing 'resilience' instead of making it the title of her new book and hitting the talk show circuit.

9. Thank you to former governor Eliot Spitzer for introducing the world to Ashley Dupre. Those of us who don't know how to keep our husbands happy now have her 'advice' column in The New York Post to turn to for guidance. We finally have all the answers to our burning questions on relationship bliss, from the always helpful call girl perspective, now that Robert Murdoch's newest employee is on the beat.

8. Ex Governor Rob Blagojevich showed us that if you keep stating something as a belief long enough you may be able to make it become true. Or not. And if your credibility is still on shaky ground it is a good idea to try and get on a reality television show like 'I am a celebrity.....get me out of here.' When a federal judge informs you that you can't leave the country to participate it's always handy to have one of those supportive political spouses to take your place.

7. Senator John Ensign of Nevada demonstrated that if you have an affair with your best friend's wife, both of whom work for you, it is perfectly acceptable to continue to pursue her after the friend confronts you. And confronts you again. No, really you have to stop now.

6. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's 'soul mate' was in a more geographically desirable locale in order to hide all the way in Argentina. When the relationship was exposed he apologized in a speech where he states "I am sorry for hurting her, my children and my wife." The mistress should never have top billing in the heartfelt statement to your constituents. Did he run that past anybody before making a public apology?

5. Bernie Madoff showed us what a human being looks like who has no moral compass whatsoever. When he wasn't cheating little old ladies and entire families out of their life savings he was cheating in the old fashioned sense of the word on his wife.

4. David Letterman found out what it was like to become the one on the receiving end of late night jokes in regard to your personal life. What could it have been like to be a woman in that working environment if you weren't one of the many women involved with him? How was it that he was praised for having 'class' for addressing the issue so quickly?

3. Michael Jackson's sad, strange life came to an end at the hands of a doctor who administered powerful narcotics for the star to get some sleep. A stunning example of having enough money and no one to say no to you, ever.

2. We learned a new term this year. 'Octomom.' All the people out there who are struggling to finance the birth of one child, whose insurance doesn't cover the costly procedures, collectively thank this delusional woman and reckless doctor. Do the math. 1 seemingly unstable, unemployed, single mother + 1 irresponsible 'doctor' + 6 children + eight babies = millions of people who may never have insurance companies start to defray the cost of the dream of having a child.

1. You can hear the sponsors closing their doors and pulling the plugs all around us. 2010 is the year that we found out that Mrs. Tiger Woods wields a mean golf club herself. Be careful who your kids' role models are. Did you think that the name Tiger Woods would be synonymous with a bevy of porn stars at the start of 2009? Well, it sure is now.

Drink a cup of kindness to days of auld lang syne!