Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I feel compelled to open this entry with a quote, a quote that sets the stage or captures the essence of the story or the issues being addressed. I settled on this one by Tom Blandi.

Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power
working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad.
It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness
and control this great force. Tom Blandi

The last two weeks have been fraught with a series of life situations that took me out of my frame. Granted the frame was a bit shaky over the last couple of weeks as the throws of life threw me some curves. I lost two dear friends in the matter of two weeks. I found myself behind on the bills and expected a shortfall in revenues. I had a fast approaching special event date that I have to prepare for. My computer is broken so no ability to update the blog as intended, and the list goes on. These feel like hairpin curves to racing car driver. It was almost too much to cope. But I had to remember and kept in mind that adversity builds character and helps one to find the means to succeed. This is all in the attitude, belief and elbow grease.

Now dealing with the sudden death of friends is hard and can be exhausting but we must endure, so we do. Catching up on bills and having the need or the desire to plan an event – incur cost on an empty purse - is quite another thing which has no easy answers. The expectation or even promise is that I will deliver. This piece of the life’s puzzle that I had to place in the scheme of things was more trying and difficult than accepting and coping with the deaths. And that is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Everyone knows and is feeling the effects of the recession. Some of us have been living in the ‘recession’ for years – more bills than resources - and find it difficult to cope. So imagine now the compounding effects of the recession on a person who is usually a dollar short but have to respond to life’s challenges and demands. Nowhere to turn for relief and life goes on! So what do you do? How do you do it? How do you not disappoint because you do not have in hand what you need to make it happen? Attitude! Belief that all things are possible and elbow grease is the formula for success. Fall back on the good old ingenuity, creativity, rolled up sleeves and friends. Take the little you have and make do. The good ole shoe string principle. Shoe string you ask? Yes. Beg, borrow, barter and bring in the sweat equity. That’ll do it!

So I paid what I had to, tinker with the computer to get it putz-ing along until such time and stretch the difference to set up the event. Cancel the party planner, cancel the caterer, re-arrange the space cost, surf the net to find the cheapest prices and call in the troops. Make an event of planning the event with those in your circle. It was great! Hustling around to get it together, a million phone calls and emails to the crew and from the crew to put things together. We finally come together to set up the place, prepare, serve and celebrate. What an event it was with all the trappings made with all the love on a shoe string. What a great feeling of the village ……!

James Russell Miller wrote, if you will call your troubles experiences,
and remember that every experience develops some latent
force within you,
you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances
may seem to be.

My lesson here is this; Life throws us all types of curves and how we respond makes all the difference. I know that if you find the magic in the desire to achieve or please, find the magic wand and bring in the goodness of the people around you, anything is possible. It might not be perfect, it will be tiring but stay in the game with resolve and it will get done. Whoa, when it all comes together, it’s marvelous! Be grateful, move forward on to the next event as if you had it under control all along. Attitude – Positive attitude. This experience reinforces the knowledge that our friends and our willingness to succeed is a force that makes us grow and makes us happy.

Friends, they are beautiful! And God has blessed me with some wonderful ones!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for everything! Ma, you ARE the Best!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Life's Journey

Anytime she felt she needed to make a point about our behavior, attitude or expectations, or just to get us to change course, my Grandmother always had a saying for us. The one that applies in this instance is this. She would say “the only thing in life that is guaranteed is death.” Grandpa would then say, “Well, dying is a part of life.” A time goes by I understand those sayings more and more, you know put them into perspective. Yes, dying is a part of life; the end of life. A wonderful person left us this week end and I cried.

Today I was told that a dear person I’ve worked along side for several years passed away overnight. Ironically, at the time I got the news, I was getting off my seat to walk over to her office to say good morning as I did so often. Sometimes she would beat me to the punch and come to see me. The words and emotion behind those words knocked my knees from under me and I fell back in my chair. What! I exclaimed, in confusion. As I thought I heard what I had heard, I moved towards the bearer of the news and she was in tears. What! I exclaimed again as tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to reach out to her but couldn’t even grip her arm. I was in shock. I was numb, confused and befuddled.

The church hymn asks, ‘death where is thy sting,’ usually sung in the Easter celebration for the risen omnipotent one has stung deeply. For us mortals, it is severe and final. When death occurs, the survivors have to go on living, despite the pain and despair of loosing a loved one, or hear of someone else’s loss. We not only have to contend with our feelings, we usually have to assure others that we are ok and in the end, the departed is better off. After all, sometimes life feels like hell on earth. We also must accept condolences and console others to help each other cope – live through the pain. It takes strength and the resolve to accept that our only option is to move forward.

I don’t know if losing someone suddenly is more painful than if death comes after the progression of an illness or a long, long life into the final stages. Age is not a factor, socio economic status, or even a continent. One thing for certain, death will reach you in some way shape or form at one time or another. In any case it hurts. It hurts even to say “sorry for your loss,” to a stranger. This is not a situation where lip service can suffice; the feeling runs deep into the soul. Commiserating with others is solace but not immunity. The mystery and mortality, the reality that there is one less person in your circle can be so devastating; debilitating and immobilizing. The pain, grief and anguish are huge.

Loss– there is no going back; no do over. No more opportunity to say I’m sorry. No let’s try again. No don’t worry it will be alright. No, none of that once death comes. It’s all over. Done! The End! Kaput! C’est Finis! No more ability or opportunity to correct or make amends, thank or praise. This finality is the most intense pain and sadly that is death.

I couldn’t understand or believe what I was hearing. I walked into the other office to see the others, to check the news. Every one there was in disarray with looks of disbelief and wonder from the news. From the expressions and the somber look on everyone’s face I knew it was true. I leaned against the file cabinet as I felt I needed to anchor myself to keep from falling. That would not even be a joke from the wryest person around because we all loved, respected and appreciated her. As I stood there with my colleagues struggling to hold back the tears, all I could see or hear was my last conversation with her; “I’ll be alright, I’ll rest up this weekend. I’ll be fine!” She would be ok, she told me so. I believed her. Why not, she’s said that to me before and she was back. Did she know that would be our last conversation, even subconsciously? How, why, what, oh my God, how? No, no not her. She was……she was going to be ok. What did I miss? Could I have done something to change this outcome? What am I going to do now?!

I had to come to grips with the reality that she is gone and the rest of us will have to live on. We will have to remember, relish the ideas, thoughts and exchanges we’ve had, we’ve shared and lived, lived with and laughed about. We will have to find a way to pick up the slack, fill the void and absorb the loss in more ways than one. Her memory, thoughts and the love that she brought and shared must take us forward. The strength and courage that she displayed and the joy and beauty she brought to us will live on in our minds. I shall miss you and I shall live as you did and would; Happy, practical and honest. Take life as it comes and roll with it.

I will turn to the words of wisdom for strength and motivation, the examples of others moving forward and her memory of positive acquiescence. One thing I know is this; life guarantees death and we will survive, endure and eventually succumb. Hopefully the legacy will be such that the living will appreciates the value of life and live each day in love, joy, peace and beauty of service, respect and appreciation for music. She was a prolific dancer.

Every beginning has an end, this we know. When, how, why the end is reached is a mystery, a painful event. We will endure.

Thank you for sharing and giving to me. I am fortunate to have known you. I cried today because I miss you. Rest eternally in peace!

For all who read or browse this piece, I pray that you find something useful to help you in your journey. I hope you will share your vision, experiences or thoughts on this with us.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Tow Pound Episode

Life In the Big City
I am writing this story for the many people who have had a similar experience; including the 50 or so people that I spent this time with and felt the same way I did. Consider it a heads up to those of you who own or operate a vehicle in the city, watch out. In any case we should not have to feel abused even if we have to pay a penalty for our failings. After all, “two wrongs……!”

The Journey
I drove into the city to attend a 5:30 pm meeting, not so much because of the time but for expedience – I wanted to keep moving forward toward my final destination for the day. I wanted to get home right after the meeting instead of going back to get the car and then go home. After about 40 minutes of circling the area of my meeting looking for parking, I found this spot which seem to fit the bill; a space for about two vehicles in front of this building on a no parking 7am – 7pm street. This small area had signs which read no parking between 7am and 4:30 pm. By this time it was 5:45. So, cool! I parked, looked up at the sign again to make sure, I was parked right next to the sign post and had a clear and direct view of the sign. This is good, I thought. I put on the club and went running off to my meeting trying to make it as close to 5:30 as possible after it passed.

I returned about 2 hours later to find another car in the exact spot where I parked. There was no mistake, this was a black car, and mine is white. After all, I didn’t ‘touch the stuff’ since I had the wheels. The only conclusion is I was towed. My car is old; it had the club on it, who would steal that? It had to be the cops. After a few phone calls, it was confirmed, my car was towed. At this time I will have to attempt to retrieve the vehicle tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the night and next morning replaying the signs in my mind and trying to understand what the violation was. Why was I towed? It was a valid parking spot. I parked within the time allowed. I have a parking permit. What’s the problem? This whole episode was an enigma to me. I called the authorities again to get more information as to why I was towed but they did not have a reason noted in the system. As I tried to come up with an explanation, I remembered that I had an outstanding parking ticket so I guess that’s the reason.

The Chase
The first step to recover the car was a long trip into the city to pay for the outstanding ticket and obtain a clearance document. With clearance document in hand, travel to the pound area and pay the tow fee and pick up the car. Ok. That was clear. I made my move to follow the process to close this chapter.

The payment center was a fairly decent place and looked welcoming. The clerk at the Payment Center Information counter directed me to the appropriate area. I was called to the window within five minutes. He looked up my information to generate the payment slip. I asked him if the reason for the towing was noted in the record as. He said no. I explained that I was parked legally; I had a permit, so I am not sure why I was towed. He couldn’t figure it out either. Was it the outstanding ticket, was it the parking location? What? He instructed me to go to the pound to get the ticket that was placed on the car when it was towed and return with it to see the judge. I could then request a dismissal thereby eliminating the fee. Hmmm, this might be an answer to the financial fix I was now in.

This must have been the coldest day of the winter thus far. After hopping a train and two buses and a 10 minute walk in gale force winds along the waterfront, I got to the site. As I entered the facility I knew I was in what I call a typical citizen penalty facility – the drab appearance of the facility, malady of the staff and a lot of frustrated citizens. As I approached the window, Window #1, “What is the plate number” was hurled at me. As I responded, the woman behind the window walked away and returned to the window with the paperwork. I attempted to state my case but she cut me off. She instructed me to go back to the payment center, pay for the ticket then return with the clearance document. I was dismissed. I attempted to restate my position and was abruptly cut off with a repeat of her earlier statement, go pay and come back. By this time it was too late for me to get back to the payment center before the end of the work day. Besides I wasn’t feeling well and longed to put my head on my pillow, on my bed. Here comes another day without the car. Here comes an additional fee on the tow amount.

The Odyssey
I returned to the payment center to follow through. The process was orderly and quick; a painless process. So with renewed optimism and zeal to complete this mission, I forged ahead to the tow pound. Entering the Tow Pound on an 18 degree temperature day, the line was to the door. The first line is for window #1. Everything starts there. It could also end there, depending to the issue or her response. My first trip started and ended with Window #1. I was at the door, the last one on the line at the time. The line was moving rather slowly and people kept coming in. Each person marked their place in the line and stood on the side until the line moved. The only other window opened was Window #6 – the cashier. The 2 rows of seats in the place were taken except for 3 seats. There were a couple of people standing, leaning against the wall, waiting to be called. They were all waiting for Window #6. If I thought Window #1 was slow, Window #6 was five times slower and with an attitude bigger than the wait time to approach the Window.

My return and approach to window #1 was met with a slightly different question than my earlier visit. As I approached the window I heard, “what type of vehicle”. As I responded, the attendant walked across the room and returned with a stack of papers. She asked me a couple of questions, checked the documents, asked for my ID and directed me to the seating area to wait to be called. I will be called by Window #6. Everyone sitting and the few standing against the wall were all waiting for Window #6.

Window #6 operator was poised as if she was presiding over her fiefdom. She is the one in control, she calls the plays and if anyone dares to approach the window without being called, whoa Nelly, they’re going to get it. An unsuspecting woman approached Window #6 to ask for clarification. The line for Window #1 was long and no other staff was present. Oh my goodness, what a blow. The woman retreated with her head hung and slid back over to the seating area. She could barely mutter from the shock, “Whoa, she is so nasty.” A tongue lashing and reprimand for darkening her window with without being called. How dare you? “Follow instructions!” Sadly, each un-invited approach added 10 minutes to the wait time for the next call.

As I sat waiting my turn, I wondered what could be the reason for the excessive delay in completing the transaction to be able to get your vehicle. Window #1 checked over the documents, collected the ID’s etc and placed them in the hopper for window #6. Window #6 collects the money and sends you to the pick up area. What else is there to do that takes so much time. I carefully observed the action and interaction as the next ‘victim’ approached the window. There’s the comment, the admonishment, collection and redirection. The receipt is handed to the customer and motioned to the pick up area. As the person walks away from the window, she again inspects, staple, and shuffle the papers some more. She then repositions herself on her seat as if to savor the moment before taking on another payment. She then picks up another paperwork and spent time as if to familiarizing herself with every detail in the document before she calls the owner’s name.

After over an hour in the place, another staff came to sit at another Window, Window #2. This person was about the business at hand. She did not seem to have the self importance or appear to have a need to ‘pose’ for us in the waiting area. She is serving the same function as Window #6 and getting it done. The seats were emptying out. Thank goodness! Fortunately, I was called by Window #2. I was happy because I was setting up for Window #6.

Be aware that driving into the city can be more than hazardous to your health. It can hurt you in your pocket book in more ways than the cost of eating or drinking in the city. Be mindful that if you owe parking tickets, which are the reality in this town, you could get towed even if you are within the limits of the amount to avoid the tow. I do not wish this on anyone but keep in mind that if it happens to you, take a chill pill because you will need it.

The attitude of Window #6 is that of the overworked and under paid city worker who is disgruntled because she has to do the work of several people by her lonesome. “They need to send more people to help”, she muttered as the restlessness of the crowd was heightening. She is the authority, and she will do as much and work as quickly as she pleases. Sadly this is typical of the reason city workers get a bad rep. The assumption and belief that city workers are lazy slackers that are wasting tax payers’ dollars is perpetuated by the Window #6 staff that was present at the time. This is so far from the truth but sadly this behavior is evident at Service Centers where a lot of people encounter city workers. This is not the attitude, belief or practice of most city workers or the majority of workers in the system today, but unfortunately it exists.

Window #6, you are a dinosaur, old school, ineffective, disgusting and an insult to all of the hard working good natured civil service corps. You are a slap in the face of the reform and quality cadre of city workers. You don’t belong and you are doing a dis- service to the tax paying residents of the city and the majority of city workers everywhere. Even if we have to visit such facility as the tow pound, which is another story, we should be treated with respect, you know, the “R” in CPR. Hey, didn’t you get the CPR course? Go do it or get off the seat!