A Small Loss

The fires in California are clearly wearing people’s patience thin, understandably. I have family and friends there. Over on Facebook, I just got blocked by a friend, who I’ve never met in person, who lives near one of these fires.  This quickly happened after a mild disagreement arose between us about something quite minor.  I expressed a short, mixed reaction on his page about a film he happens to like.

This now-former “friend” is a published author and man with whom I share a lot of sensibilities.  I appreciate much of his perspective/worldview.

The loss is a small one and I suppose it can be argued it’s their loss more than mine.  But, briefly, it admittedly hurts.  (And I am all-too-familiar with over-reactivity.)

**Note to self: Breathe. We live in tense, often chaotic times. Remember to think and speak from compassion. Ultimately, most of us, if not all, are in this together.

While Hanging Out for Jury Duty

Last Monday morning, I drove down to Boston to report for federal jury duty (which I eventually managed to get out of in an honest way).  Arriving early, I walked around outside and took photos with my phone, including a few pictures of the imposing yet interesting brick edifice of the federal courthouse.

Anyway, after waiting for over an hour with at least a hundred other people to go into a courtroom and be selected or weeded out for a jury, I joined my small assigned group of fifteen or so. We walked together across the pristine, high-ceilinged hall, enormous windows to our left that looked out into grass-covered grounds and a sun-dappled ocean. With a combination of enthusiasm and gentle sarcasm, I said to my fellow prospective jurors, who ranged in age from early 20s to about mid 60s, “Wow! It’s a field trip!” A few people, including a young woman next to me, smiled and tittered. Everyone else remained stone-faced.

We proceeded to the elevator, like cooperative children on a school outing (or sheep in a pasture), and went up to the next floor where the courtroom was. While we waited some more, immediately outside of the courtroom, I said some other flip remark, again eliciting a few smiles and a brief laugh. Everyone stood silently, in their own world, so it seemed.

Like each person there for jury duty, I too had been uprooted from my daily life, in my case, a job I’m devoted to and a nice rhythm of living within a community long-searched for. Hence, like everyone else, I was not exactly happy to be there. Sadly, humor and a willingness to make the best of the situation via exercising just a bit of camaraderie felt lacking in the group. Everyone was dour-faced, and all of this outside the actual courtroom. I felt both glad to pierce the hard silence with some levity yet mildly disappointed and alone. Alone among many, so familiar, both for me and everyone there. Perhaps folks felt lost and awkward without their cell phones in hand. By the front entrance, we’d had to turn them over to security for safe-keeping.

Jury duty is a most serious matter and the Boston federal courthouse underscores this point everywhere you look. Quotes about justice, engraved along the walls, glared at me from room to hallway. I get it, and I have served on two juries over the past several years. But, I was damned if humor and the striving for human connection, no matter how brief among total strangers– my fellow human beings– were going to be shut down in me, especially when the moment called for these very attributes to come forth and lend some balance and perspective to it all.

Road Rage as a Learning Moment

Road rage in Massachusetts is out of control, as I imagine it is in a lot of other states throughout the U.S.  Earlier, I was driving down a main thoroughfare when a burly white guy from off a side street pushed his car into oncoming traffic, in front of me, to my left.  I shook my head at him as I drove on by.  Shortly, he sped up from behind, turned into a store parking lot (to my right) and barreled along there while making it a point to flip me the bird– instead of watch where he was going.

Toxic masculinity is a real thing, be it on the road or anywhere else.  This problematic phenomenon admittedly irritates me when I’m faced with it head on.  It’s all such an obnoxious exhibition of childish entitlement, lack of empathy, and poor sense of boundaries.  Very un-evolved.  Breathe and enter a peaceful place, I try to remind myself, time and again.  This behavior from some men is troublesome and, ultimately, rather sad.  Toxic masculine men deeply challenge my human compassion capacity.  Therein lays the reason why they continue to be teachers of sorts for me.  Live and learn, then wake up another day to keep living and learning, while also taking no shit.

Memorial Day Reflections

Memorial Day is a sad day for me, as I reflect upon all the deaths from wars over the centuries. I am grateful to my grandfathers Ralph “Spike” Martin and Phil Daughtry for their hard sacrifices in World War II and before and after that as the caring, troubled men that they were. They lived long after the War, both damaged in different ways by battle.  My grandfather Phil (over on the British front) was wounded in the gut from shrapnel, I believe. He was never the same, his body riddled with health issues for the rest of his life.  My other grandfather Spike, from Georgia, U.S.A. was hardier in constitution and lucky to have not been physically injured.  He also served in the Korean War.  But, his mental trauma came through in violence-filled daydreaming and the occasional out-of-the blue loss of temper. Nevertheless, they were both good providers and loving grandfathers. I honor their memory not only today but all the time, as much as I can.

Brief Reflection on My Travels and Openness

When I was 5 1/2 years old, I began over a year of travel with my parents that took me overseas to England and Europe, then back across the Atlantic down to Central America and up through Mexico, all before arriving back home, Northern CA. We moved around a lot, living for a while in ethnically diverse Berkeley of the 1970s. (Telegraph Avenue was hopping then with merchants selling their colorful wares.) We visited at least a few Native American Indian reservations. There were some other journeys too and peoples I met along the way.

I know that my openness to meeting and learning from others who are far different than myself stems in significant part from the various cultures and ways of life I was exposed to over extended periods of time at such a young age. In a sense, my own backyard was expanded early on to encompass whole other countries and peoples. And while I am often a homebody these days, feeling tired at times from a hard week’s work, in my heart I remain ever-open to meeting and welcoming an array of people into my life.