A Car Guy

Donna and I toodle around in a silver Lexus of recent vintage. Nice machine. All the bells and whistles, maps, guidance and extras. It’s what we drive hither and yon. We enjoy it together. When Donna needs to go somewhere, she drives the Lexus. However . . . .

We have a second car that normally only I drive. It is. . . my favorite car. It is a 1999 Ford Explorer with 91,600 miles on the odometer. We bought it new – 22 years ago. We’ve discussed the prospects of a new(er) car. But “we” really have no need for one. Donna drives the Lexus and I drive the Ford. I would prefer to drive the Ford in heavy snows and icy streets. It is like an aging gorilla (much like the driver) who knows the ropes. And roads.

I’ve never thought of myself as a “car guy” like some chaps who enjoy fixing and tuning their own cars. Or who like fancy cars, speed or state-of-the-art vehicles. Truth be told, our ’99 Ford does not have functioning air conditioning (which can be an issue when it’s blazing hot). And the radio imaging doesn’t work so apart from the channel selection buttons (or the “Scan” button that still works), I’d have no idea where I am on the dial. On the flip side, I do keep this machine well-oiled and souped up. New tires. New transmission. Brakes. Power steering. Yadda yadda. And every time I bring it in for servicing, one or two of the chaps there will sidle up and ask if I want to sell it.

I never really thought of myself as a car guy. But maybe – just maybe – I am. . . . .

My Brother was Killed in the Civil War

[An interesting repeat from August 9, 2013] Let’s say you meet a chap (his name is “Frank”) who tells you that his brother was killed in the Civil War.  Possible??  The quick answer is sure.  This was a question I recall hearing in grade school or high school though at that time, the brother was killed in the Revolutionary War. 

Frank is 90 years old (born in 1923).  When Frank was born, his father was 90 years old (born in 1833).  Frank’s father first married in 1850 and promptly had a son who became a drummer boy during the Civil War (1861-1865).  In 1863 at the terrible Battle of Gettysburg, the young man – age 12 – was killed in an explosion.  Frank’s father had a few more children, his wife died in 1915 and he remarried to a young woman and in 1923, Frank was born.  Thus if you meet Frank and he says “My brother was killed during the Civil War,” you’d best believe it.   🙂    

I Hope. . . .

Our “Inboxes” get an abundance of jokes, videos, political tripe, inspiration and miscellany. Most that I receive, I delete. But the video below is an exception. It struck a nerve. I would like to share it with you.

Just two weeks ago (May 26th), I mentioned how in World War II – 16.1 million Americans served in the military. 408,000 were killed – to the tune of abut 1,800 young Americans killed every week for nearly four years.

As we enter the post Memorial Day weekend, I would invite you to spend 6 minutes and 50 seconds and watch this powerful narration. And conclusion. We continue to owe much to our parents and grandparents for what they went through during years of conflict. And we owe many of our friends, brothers and sisters for their service today. I hope that future generations will remember their sacrifice. And appreciate.

Anti-Semitism

[An appropriate update of June 1, 2019] Donna and I went to a local synagogue to hear James Carroll speak about his book The Cloister. The presentation was on a Saturday following Shabbat services. As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by a heavily-armed security guard – wearing body armor. We looked okay so we entered the temple.  And I donned my kippah. . . .

Mr. Carroll, a former Catholic priest (who remains a devout Catholic), discussed his book — and the love story of Heloise and Abelard.  But then he began discussing the issue of anti-Semitism which has roots going back more than a thousand years.  14 million Jews in the world.  1.8 billion Muslims.  2.18 billion Christians.  And who today gets an uneven distribution of hatred?    Yep. . . . .

I just finished the book Anti-Semitism – Here and Now by Deborah Lipstadt.  Read it.  Please.  Most of us are aware of anti-Semites from alt-Right jerks.  But there is a smoldering anti-Semitism from progressives and those on the left. We see bigotry and hatred of Israel and Jews in American colleges and universities. For the latter, it is pointless to ask why we do not boycott human rights abuses in China, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Zimbabwe. Oh no. It is Israel that is in the cross hairs of the left.  And because many Israelis are Jewish, it is their faith that take the heat. 

In Europe it can be dangerous for a man to wear a kippah in public.  Synagogues are guarded by police.  And Jews feel concerns for safety from the moment they arise in the morning.   Anti-Semitism.  Making a comeback.  But did it ever leave?   

Randy Rosenthal’s Chicago Tribune review comments and quotes Lipstadt’s work “And so if we think ourselves to be liberal, or progressive, or simply decent, ‘we must insist that anti-Semitism be treated with the same seriousness as racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia.'”  I hope you say “Amen.”   

Therefore. . . .

Henry Joel Cadbury (1883-1974) was a Biblical scholar and Quaker historian. He served as a professor of divinity at Harvard. He was Chairman of the American Friends Service Committee. And he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 on behalf of the Religious Society of Friends.

When addressing his fellow Quakers, he would often speak of how there are two kinds of people in the world: “Therefore” people and “However” people. He explained that when faced with life’s problems and difficulties, many folks will say “Therefore” I need to do something. “Therefore” I need to help. These folks would then go on to correct the problem – or seek ways in which to do so. It is the “Therefore” people who continually look for reasons, ways and means to help.

“However” people have a different view. When faced with the same problems or difficulties, their response might be “I see the problem, however there’s nothing I can do about it. . . . .” Cadbury’s conclusion was that the world needs more “Therefore” people. We each have the capacity — to be a “Therefore” person. Each day is an opportunity — to make a difference.

Mother Teresa’s eloquence gives inspiration to “Therefore” people:

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.

Therefore. . . .

There is this Girl. . . .

[A repeat from July 10, 2016] There is this girl. Her name is Lisa.  She is captivating and I’ve admired her for a long time. Donna is vaguely aware of my interest in Lisa but she let’s it go.  I have gone on websites to read about Lisa.  And there was one occasion some years ago when our paths actually crossed.  It was in Paris.  There she was.  And I stood. Watching her.  For quite a while.  From about thirty feet away.  Lisa’s last name is Gherardini.

I guess I’m not the only guy in the world who has had a special interest in Lisa.  You see Lisa Gherardini is — the Mona Lisa.  

Lisa – the young wife of Francesco del Gioconda – was painted by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1503 and 1506.  However Leonardo – who claimed he “never completed a single work” – continued to refine Lisa after he moved to France.  He may have applied the final touches of paint in 1516 or 1517.

After Leonardo’s death, the painting was purchased by Francis I of France.  Louis XIV moved Lisa to the Palace of Versailles – and after the Revolution, Lisa was placed in the Louvre.  In 1911, Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee – Vincenzo Peruggia – who felt that Lisa should be returned to Italy.  Peruggia’s theft was discovered two years later when he tried to sell Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  There have been several attempts to deface Lisa – but she continues smiling seductively – behind layers of bulletproof glass.

The aesthetics of da Vinci’s painting are nuanced.  Lisa is sitting upright with hands folded in a reserved attitude.  There is an imaginary landscape behind Lisa which introduces for the first time an “aerial perspective.”  Lisa is considered the most famous painting in the world.  And the most valuable – with an estimated worth of $782,000,000.   I can’t wait to cross paths with Lisa again. . . . .   

Christianity, Judaism and Islam

[It is a holy time of year for the three Abrahamic faiths, – a repeat of March 17, 2018] Islam, Judaism and Christianity all trace their lineage to a common ancestor  — Abraham.  And before that, Adam and Eve.  Abraham had two sons:  Isaac (by Sarah) and Ishmael (by Hagar).  Isaac begat the Line of David from which Jewish and Christian traditions derive.  Ishmael was the forefather of Muhammad — the Messenger of Islam.  God promises in Genesis 21:18 to make a “great nation” of Ishmael.   

Jesus (Isa) is revered in Islam as a Messiah and is mentioned nearly a hundred times in the Quran.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran.  She even has her own surra (19).  Islam accepts the Old Testament as “The Word of God.”  And most of the prophets are mentioned by name in the Quran.   

Common heritage, common prophets, beliefs and commands.  Yet many view the differences as irreconcilable.  Islam has 72 insular sects.  Christianity has its own islands of belief and Judaism has various divisions.  Despite common origin, there is distrust, misunderstanding and even violence — all in the name of religion.    While most Christian and Jewish traditions accept and tolerate competing denominations and other religions, violence seems to be confined to Islam.  I previously reported that statistically between 85% and 97% of all violence by Islamic terrorist groups is directed at Muslims.   

In my post of August 25, 2016, I commented on the ecumenical role the Archangel Gabriel – the Divine messenger.  Gabriel has been a messenger in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, and Bahai.   Each faith urges “Shalom” [Peace]; “As-salamu Aleikum” [Peace]; “Peace be with you” [Peace].  Perhaps God, Allah, Jehovah is trying to give us mere mortals an ecumenical message.   

14 Years

[A repeat from October 21, 2018] In 1972, Donna and I took an extended honeymoon to Spain and Portugal. In Spain, we traveled around – sightseeing and attending the corridas of famed matador Diego Puerta in Madrid, Cordoba and Sevilla.  And we took pictures galore. In Ayamonte Spain, I traded three ice cream cones for a photo of three little boys (“It’s okay – he’s a tourist” said the woman working the open air shop). Then there was the fishing boat where the six men were quick to pose following my request. And in Lisbon, we walked the gardens of Jeronimos Monastery.  A gardener – wearing a black turtleneck and jeans – was suspended on a board over a large circular clock garden.  Clipping flowers.  He smiled, tipped his beret and posed.  Snap.  Snap.  Snap.  

Fast forward nearly 15 years.  Donna and I returned to Spain and Portugal with our 10 year old daughter, and friends, Diane and David and their son Dave.  Before leaving, I had the photograph assemblage mentioned above blown up to eight by tens.     

In Ayamonte, we went back to the same ice cream shop and I showed the same (now older) woman the photo of the three little boys.  She gasped.  And identified each one.  She asked us to be at her store in the morning.  And we were – greeted by a crowd.  And the three little – now grown – boys.  We gave each one an 8″ x 10″.   One mother cried on seeing the photo as she had no pictures of her son as a little boy.  

The fishing boats were gone – replaced by a small office of the Guardia Civil — the national police who sport the tri-cornered hat.  An officer identified one fisherman as the father of Ayamonte’s head of Guardia Civil – who marched over.  And began weeping when I gave him some 8″ x 10’s”.  His father had died a few years before.  He handed me his card – “if you ever need help in Spain, you call me.”  I still have his card. . . . .

And in Jeronimos, we found the gardener — now in a drab gray uniform.  Raking leaves.  And three weeks from his retirement.  He saw his photograph.  And his eyes filled with tears.  At his request, we buzzed through two rolls of Polaroid film taking pictures for our gardener friend – and each member of his entire gardening crew.

Creating memories. . . . .  

The All Blacks. . . . .

[A repeat from May 7, 2017] Rugby was first introduced in New Zealand in 1870.  The Kiwi team adopted the name “The Originals.”  But in 1905 – during a tour of the British Isles – the team became known as the “All Blacks” because of their uniforms.  And the name stuck.

The All Blacks are the greatest rugby team in the world.  Since the introduction of World Rugby Rankings in 2003, All Blacks have held the number one ranking longer than all other teams – combined!   And they have been the World Rugby Team of the Year ten times since the award was created in 2001.  

Before each international match, the All Blacks perform a “haka” — a Maori challenge to the opposition.  I can’t explain it.  Please — spend 2-1/2 minutes and watch the following video (or use this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiKFYTFJ_kw ).  

I’m teaching my granddaughters the haka.  Words too.  I’m gonna start doing the haka on Saturday mornings on the first tee when I play golf.  Wearing my All Blacks’ hat.  Ka mate!  Ka mate!    

Ka ora!  Ka ora!  Whiti te ra

The Parrot

(A repeat from July 19, 2012)

A man was looking for a present to buy his elderly mother. What to get he thought. An idea came to him. His mother had lived alone for years.  Maybe a pet?  Not a dog or cat – too much work.  So he went to the pet shop.

The owner said “I’ve got just the thing. I have a parrot. Smart as a whip. Speaks seven languages. Friendly.   She can talk to him.  Great companion.  Bird likes to watch t.v. too.”   The owner named a hefty price.

The man grimaced but said “I’ll take him.”  He had the pet store deliver the parrot to his mother.  And he called her the following week. 

Hi MomHey how do you like the parrot I sent you?”

He was delicious,” the mother said.

WHATDon’t tell me you ate him!” 

Of course I did.” 

Mom – that parrot was supposed to be a pet!  He spoke seven languages.”

Well he should have said something.”