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Archive for the ‘Feelings’ Category

On August 22, 1974, I was a bright-eyed 18-year-old AFS foreign exchange student, when I arrived in Lakewood, New York. The Saxton family took me in for a year and made me one of theirs within the first few hours of my arrival. When we pulled up to the house at 22 E. Summit, they had hoisted two flags, the German one next to the American one. I took this picture within a few hours of arriving there on that hot August evening, the first day of a drastically changed life.

I gave the camera to my host sister Val who then took this picture of me by the flag. Check out my crazy cut-off shorts! The kids never let me hear the end of it, and those shorts went into the trash quickly never to be worn again.

Here is a view from the side of the house, looking toward the street. The house that was to be my home for the next year was so drastically different from the house in Germany that I had just left. The entire architecture in America is very different from that in Germany.

Many months later I went outside and took another picture of the place in winter, with the icicles pointing down from the roof.

Here I am in the hallway toward the end of the year, a proud high school graduate. By then, 22 E. Summit had become as much my home as any place in my life. I still remember the countless hours lying on my back on the thick, plush carpet, next to the stereo, listening the Elton John records using the headphones: “Ticking, Ticking, don’t ever ride on the devil’s knee, Momma said.”

Five years later, in the summer of 1979, I brought my German parents to the U.S. and we drove across the country from Arizona to New York. While we were there, my stepfather and I painted the house. Here we are, he on the left, myself on the right, working away in the hot summer morning.

The Saxtons sold the house within a couple of years after that and moved on with their lives, and so did I.

Now let’s turn the clock forward 40 years to last Sunday, Father’s Day 2019. My sister Val and I drove by the old place. It is now long abandoned and tagged by the authorities. There is a red warning sign on the wall. The place is infested with mold, bed bugs and anything else you can imagine after being left to the elements for years. I assume it will eventually be torn down. There are no other options left.

The yard is overgrown and the house is literally crumbling.

Here I am in front of the steps where I stood in my cutoff with fringes 45 years ago as a boy.

Looking in I see that the place is completely gutted. I can see the spot where I stood when I had my graduation picture taken. I see where the couch used to be where I watched Gilligan’s Island after school every afternoon, where I learned listening to rapidly spoken English in the first couple of months. The old house is full of memories.

No visit to the old house would be complete without a parting selfie. Here we are, Val and I, after a lifetime of memories and a friendship that started in these very rooms so long ago.

Good bye, 22 E. Summit.

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Vons Supermarket: “Would you like to donate five dollars for people in need?”

Panda Express Chinese Diner: “Would you like to donate your change to Children’s Hospital?”

Carl’s Junior Fast Food Restaurant: “Would you like to donate a dollar to help veterans?”

My answer to each of them: “No.”

Not “No, Thank You.” Not “I have already donated.” Just “No.”

I have no problem with charity for people in need, for sick children, and for veterans. But I have a problem with retail organizations hustling money from their customers, who, in the majority of cases, cannot afford those donation and probably need help themselves. I have always said simply “No” not because I don’t have the money to give, but because I do not believe in the principles applied.

In the case of Vons, who are “people in need?” How do I know my five dollars go there? Who are they accountable to? Where do they determine who is in need, and how?

In each of those cases, they prey on the person in line being embarrassed about saying “No.” Others standing behind or next to them in line can hear the conversation. People will say “Yes” just to get past the embarrassing moment. The young man in front of me at Vons was with his girlfriend. They bought just a few things. He donated more money to “people in need” than his total purchase value, just because he didn’t want to look like a miser in front of his girlfriend.

Why does our healthcare system need to beg for money for the Children’s Hospital in restaurants? Can’t we have a system that pays adequately for healthcare for children?

And what about or veterans? I believe the government that sends our young men and women overseas to get maimed and emotionally crippled owes those people adequate and quality healthcare. We should not need to beg for money in fast food lines for our veterans. Our politicians talk about how fine our military is, and we honor our service men and women by thanking them when we see them at the airport. But when they come back with limbs missing or drug addicted, we discard them. And we can’t figure out how to pay for their healthcare. That is – to me – repulsive.

I resent that we resort to collecting money for their care from those that can least afford it – people eating in fast food places. Our president has spent over $100 million of taxpayer money on golf vacations in just two years, and we beg customers in Carl’s Junior for money for veterans!

Screwed up, we are.

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In an episode of Dr. Who:

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Lost my Toddler Son Once

Many years ago, when my now 30-year-old son was two or three years old, he was playing in the yard while I was working. Then I looked up and I couldn’t see him. I checked around the corner of the house. Nothing.

I went inside and checked all rooms. Nothing.

I ran outside, now serious adrenaline had kicked in. I raced around the entire house. Nothing.

I started yelling for him. Nothing.

I ran 50 yards down the street. Nothing.

Complete and utter panic.

I ran back to the house, grabbed my bicycle. I figured that every second counted now. I rode further down the street calling for him. Nothing.

I figured I had gone further than he could have wandered off and returned home. Ran all around the yard again, calling for him. Nothing.

Then, suddenly, he ambled out from behind the acacia bushes along the fence, and I just about melted. I don’t know how long the entire episode was. Three or four minutes?

Three of four minutes of utter panic, because I had lost my child.

I’ll never forget the agony I went through.

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We Are Family!

Photo Credit: Lothar Frosch [click to enlarge]

There are ten siblings in our family. We were all ten of us together in a room for the last time on Christmas Eve 1978. Not once, since then, have all of us been together at the same time. It’s not like “normal” families with a few siblings, who can get together on the holidays. We’re spread over three countries and two continents. There was always at least one of us missing, and that one was mostly myself, due to my living the farthest away.

For the occasion of our dad’s 90th birthday on March 17, 2018, exactly 14,328 days after Christmas Eve 1978, we all got together and here is the picture.

The youngest of us, our brother on the left side, was four years old in 1978. He is now 44. I am the oldest, 5th from the left in the back. I was 22 then. You can do the math.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of being part of this great group of siblings.

 

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photo credit: Imgur

Not only does this make me want to ride this road,
but it reminds me of this climb.

Good Times!

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Ocean Majesty

In Hawaii, the ocean is never far away. Life is dominated by the ocean. Its power, its grace, its eternity is overwhelming.

Recently a friend (WI) sent me this poem about the ocean by Lord Byron (1788 – 1824), from “Childe Harold,” Canto IV.

Here in Hawaii, this rings true, every minute, every day, all the time:

THERE is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean,—roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin,—his control
Stops with the shore;—upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths,—thy fields
Are not a spoil for him,—thou dost arise
And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields
For earth’s destruction thou dost all despise,
Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies,
And send’st him, shivering in thy playful spray
And howling, to his gods, where haply lies
His petty hope in some near port or bay,
And dashest him again to earth:—there let him lay.

The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee and arbiter of war,—
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar
Alike the Armada’s pride or spoils of Trafalgar.

Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee;
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters wasted them while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou;
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves’ play,
Time writes no wrinkles on thine azure brow;
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed,—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublime,
The image of Eternity,—the throne
Of the Invisible! even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy
I wantoned with thy breakers,—they to me
Were a delight; and if the freshening sea
Made them a terror, ’t was a pleasing fear;
For I was as it were a child of thee,
And trusted to thy billows far and near,
And laid my hand upon thy mane,—as I do here.

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Back in June of 2011 I predicted that the once popular Todai Sushi Restaurant in Mission Valley would go out of business. Here is the blog entry I wrote then.

This is what it looks like today:

todai-graffiti todai-graffiti

It has obviously been out of business for a few years. I read that someone recently bought the property, is cleaning it up now in order to launch a new restaurant venture.

It was Lehr’s Greenhouse Restaurant and Florist between 1980 and 1987, and I remember going there once for a Sunday brunch sometime in 1986 for some memorable event, like a birthday or Mother’s Day.

Ruins now but memories remain.

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throwing-up-over-devos

Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary

We now have placed the lives and futures of all the country’s teachers and students into the hands of a dimwit religious rich woman under the leadership of a buffoon.

The Dumbing Down of America is Well Underway and the Oligarchy is Solidified.

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The Final Box

Yesterday I was asked to fill out a survey, I guess for the first time since I turned 60 a couple of months ago.

the-final-box

For the first time I had to check “the final box.”

 

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Moby Dick - Chapter IX

I recently connected with my Latin and German professor from when I was 11, and he was 28. An email exchange ensued discussing literature in a multitude of languages. I told him I could not read Moby Dick.

He responded:

Zu Moby Dick: Da ist zweifellos so manches, was für den Leser nur schwer verdaulich ist. Aber nicht wenige Stellen sind wunderbar. Besonders schön Kapitel 9 „The Sermon“! Jeder einzelne Satz ist ein Genuß! Beispiel: “In this world, shipmates, Sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport; whereas Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.“ Oder: “Woe to him whose good name is more to him than goodness!”

Ah, so I pulled the trusty old book off the shelf, thumbed through the yellowed pages, found chapter IX and started reading.

Coffee, Moby Dick and world class prose on a Saturday morning, after coming home from a long work trip back east last night – it does not get any better than this.

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…was on my daughter’s wedding day – yesterday!

Wedding Day

If you want to know more about her, there is no better place to check than her own blog entry about herself on her and her husband Tyler’s business blog for SoundViz.

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From a Proud Dad

Virgin America

My daughter and her husband-to-be are flying in from San Francisco tonight. They’ll be staying with us for a few days before their wedding next week! The moms of the bride and groom leaked this to the airlines – and the happy couple got a free upgrade by Virgin America.

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Here is a video of a German language slam poem with a powerful impact. There are no English versions that I could find. The title is Behind Us My Country. If you know German, you must listen to every word. If you don’t know German, you should play a minute or so to get the cadence of the poem, and how the two speakers alternate.

Below is my translation. You can see the speaker on the right and the one on the left. Both tell their stories.

This is a powerful explanation of the complex sentiments of Germans toward refugees, that an American will likely not be able to understand.

But it rings true for me personally, as I am the son of a refugee myself and as my entire life, the person I am, is shaped in many ways by the experiences of my father who often might have said himself: Behind Us My Country.

 

Behind Us My Country

Everything I am was born there

Everything that was home to me

The square, where we children played

The smile of my first love

The apple tree in our park

And the little lake hidden behind the mountain

The hot tea on the tin tray

Creased story tellers

Laugh wrinkles decorate their faces

Chattering on the way home from school

Night was until the parents slept and then out again

The squeaking bicycle of my brother

The poems of Rudas

And the smell of wet lawn

Radios that despite tortured tuning still carry out the melodies

The singing of my sister in the morning

My mother, my mother with her eternal money worries

And I don’t know why: Ladybugs

All that was my home

All that way once my home

But I could not stay anymore

Behind us the war

The fresh grave of my parents

The last clump of dirt is still rolling off

It hasn’t found it final spot yet

So fresh is my mourning

And nothing has been digested

I could not stay any longer

The spoke of us as the living dead

Our people forced into trains that slid along in the smoke of the locomotives

Our doors smashed

Shopping windows in shards

Our parents intimidated, our siblings abuse

Cruel news from friends that were still there

Most had disappeared

It was impossible to stay, not another day

The next step in my city is the last step in my country

And the worst step then onto this rusty boat

Next we turn, then we hold on, and then it will sink

Turned over to the sea

In the ocean, without consolation

The moon hides behind the clouds

The night so dark, you see nothing

For hours, nothing

And when I close my eyes in the dark

I hear the voice of my mother

Around us the lord is only the sea

As if our boat was the heart of all things

I open my eyes and gaze toward the sky

Prayers are our sails

Life vests will take over the rest

But the hope they cannot carry

A man swims toward me

Here, take him, I can’t go on anymore

He is one year old and his name is Berstin

His father slides out of the vest into the eternal dark blue

That’s how I became father the first time

In the ocean

He handed him to me

The man in the vest gave me his inheritance

Arrived in exile, I learned quickly

the most important words are permit to day, sorry, and thank you

Arrived in exile I saw a family reunited after a long time

How the father wimpered out of good luck

Deep from inside with the shame of a man who seldom cries

I followed that family step by step

But only with my gaze

Arrived in exile

But the earth of home comes along on the soles of our feet

I am from there, and I have memories

I was born like people are born

I have a mother that loves me

And it breaks my heart

In the letters that she writes I can see how meanwhile her hand has a tremor

When I say homesick, I say dream

Because the old home hardly exists any longer

Do we stay here, do we become beach again?

Not quite sea, not quite land

Do we stay here, we become beach again.

Not quite sea, not quite land

Arrived in exile, a man welcomes me

The other waves foreign flags

Sometimes one feels the love, sometimes one feels the hate

They look at your head scarf

They look into my passport

But don’t be angry, forgive them

They forget the love, they forgot the love

I wish them peace

On the contrary, show them, stand up

Tear off our legs and we walk on our hands

Tear off our legs and we walk on our hands

We will make the best of our lives until our lives end

And who know, maybe one day I return home

I not everything will have changed

Perhaps I’ll see our old apple tree

Or the square with the brown rusty fence

And I hug my siblings and kiss my mother

And luck bites its little tooth into my heart

My name is Achmed Yusuf

Father of Berstin

And I am a refugee

I fled Syria

My name is Daniel Levie

I am a refugee

I fled Germany

The year is 2015

The year is 1938

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Books in BoxesAll my life I have been a bibliophile. When I was a teenager, leaving home, I had several boxes of books that I hauled with me and kept in boxes, because where I lived there was not enough shelf room to put them all. As I got older and had a family, I would from time to time purge some of the older books in yard sales. But mostly I added my new books to boxes in the garage. One day I’d have a house with a “library” where I could display my books. So I kept them.

In the last five years I have resorted to buying only Kindle books. Even when I wanted to re-read an old book I knew I have somewhere in the boxes, I have re-bought the book in the Kindle format. I didn’t feel like rummaging through boxes to find it, and I prefer the consistent font, size and form factor that all my books now have. I don’t like holding hardcopy books anymore.

That was the moment of revelation for me. I have these heavy objects in boxes that I no longer have any use for. Even if I had a house large enough for a library, I no longer see the point of displaying decades-old relics. A few years ago I decided to sell them. I created an Amazon seller account and listed about 50 books, and a few of them actually sold. I found, however, that after I purchased padded envelopes and labels, and I paid for the shipping with the U.S. Postal Service, and Amazon took its cut, I didn’t make any money. And for those books where there are already a dozen other listings for $0.01, plus $3.99 for shipping, it actually cost me money to “sell” those books, because the Amazon cut and the shipping didn’t leave enough room for the packing materials. That was not even counting my time to take and fulfill the order, package the book, and take it to the post office (to get the lowest rate).

There are some companies that buy used books in bulk. One of them even has a mobile app that allows you to scan the ISBN number and gives you an immediate offer. I downloaded the app and scanned a random ten books on my self and found that they didn’t even want to buy a single one of them.

I also found that nobody wants donated books when I googled the subject. Libraries, used book stores, even Goodwill, routinely throw books into recycle bins because they have no place to put them. Here is a blog post with many comments attesting to that reality. Nobody wants my old books, even though every one of them had enough meaning and value for me at one time in my life to pay out retail dollars to buy them.

I will keep the coffee table books, art books I enjoy, and reference works that have some value, and make sure I get the volume down to no more than two boxes. The rest will go into the paper recycle bin every week, until they are gone.

Good-bye, old life-long friends, good-bye!

 

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