State of the Union

At long last a Health Care Reform bill has been signed by the President. It is far weaker than I had hoped, but it is on the right path. It was a big relief after all the fear-mongering and hate talk across the Nation for many many months.

However, the spiteful rhetoric continues. Almost unabated, in fact. I am still struggling to understand how so much fear can be generated by trying to secure the common good for all Americans. As our Constitution preamble states we should provide for a: more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

I am positive our deist founding fathers would never intend for us to step over the dying bodies of our neighbors who cannot obtain health insurance on our way to the grocery store. They believed in conserving our planet, caring for the less fortunate and holding our freedoms dear, to the point of sacrificing our lives for the right. They were never spiteful and fearful in the face of change.

No where in our founding documents or in the twenty-seven amendments will you find any hint of “All for me and you get your own!” mentality. As a nation we have tried to “form a more perfect union” which implies a work in progress, not a static un-changing state that cares not for the tired, hungry and homeless. America’s core values are much ballyhooed these days. If we are such a great and powerful nation, someone needs to explain how the core values of hatefulness and selfishness have taken over the American heart.

Preachers teach that Christianity will bring you wealth on This Earth, that Christians are blessed above all others. Perhaps this where we have gone wrong: twisting Christ’s teachings on the Mount from the “meek shall inherit the earth” to “take all you want. God has chosen you to reap all the riches and let everyone else fend for themselves.”

Yikes.

At least that is the rhetoric I hear across the land. When sitting with a perfectly normal looking couple the other day, I was astonished to hear incredibly hateful invectives fired at anyone who dares to help families care for their children with “handouts” from the government. Everything that I believe in is anathema to them. As I watched the woman expound on dismantling the Social Security system because they should not have to pay a tax for something she didn’t want and only stupid lazy people would need, I actually gasped at the look on her face: sheer hatred. She was irate, full of righteous indignation. Amazing! I must confess I was struck dumb in the full force and fury of her ire. I realized I could not communicate with her or her husband. We do not share the same language!

A sorry state of affairs.

Last Night I Dreamed of an Old Lover

When I awoke, I shook the dream from my head, like shards of dried leaves. After coffee, the thought of him returned and would not go away.

So, I searched for him on the Web and found that he had died peacefully at home a couple months ago. His death hung there in front of me – hard, cold and irrevocable.

I stared at the page for long minutes remembering our times together. Fleeting moments in one’s life, not enough to mark on the calendar even. Just a few afternoons of playfulness and tender loving. He was a bear of a man – all tight curls and round belly. Laughter flowing out of him, enveloping me like a cloud, sheltering me from the world.

But in the end, his poetry touched me deeper than his sex. And, we quickly moved on from our physical entanglements. And, then we just moved on. But his poetry stayed in my head and heart. I thought he would always be there, creating and laughing.

It seems we do not live forever, not even laughing poets.

More on The Art of French Cooking…

Sunday morning found me scanning this fine cook book to acquaint myself with all things Julia and I came across an entry retelling the “book tour” she and Simca took to introduce Americans to the Art. It was definitely an ad hoc tour as they would go where ever they might have friends or family and use those relationships to coax others to join them. Quaint really when one considers the current state of affairs ala book publishing!

The one that really caught me was the stop in Pasadena, Julia’s parents’ home town. She succinctly describes how the venue had no kitchen but that she and Simca were undaunted by the lack of facilities and prepared a fine French meal using portable stoves and tables. They successfully presented a three course meal in the morning session and were breaking before the afternoon session for another group of people.

But the really special tell of this story is that Paul Child was the one who managed the clean up of all the dirty pots, pans and dishes in the ladies room sink between “sets.” And, this was at his quiet insistence. If ever there was a jewel of man, it was he! In that tiny story, I could almost reach out and feel the love he had for her. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

Kitchen Diaries

I made my first Art of French Cooking recipe last night and was impressed at the level of detailed information provided in this wonderful book. Of course, Julia is all the rage these days based upon the wonderful movie Julie and Julia, and all the attention is well-deserved. Having grown up with Julia on TV, I was always intrigued by her show, but never had the nerve to actually attempt her methods. Well, I have gotten over that! However, I doubt I will ever feel compelled to create an aspic at any time. Last night’s menu: Supremes de Volailles a Brun (chicken breasts sauteed in clarified butter) and Choux de Bruxelles (brussels sprouts braised in olive oil (Julia of course used more butter, but I am already working around her…)

I will not be making a habit of relating my cooking tales here – Julie Powell has already handled that subject far beyond any ambitions I might have in that direction. I just wanted to memorialize my first experience at this advanced age – the real joy of creating something simply delicious in the solitude of one’s kitchen – Just me and Julia Child – two large women communing over the stove.

Delightful.

Message to My President

Ok, Mr President, you are beginning to freak me out! Why, oh why, the soft response to Joe Wilson’s calling you a liar? And, what on earth is happening when a liar calling someone a liar gets the non-lying person to change their perfectly sane and legal stance on an issue, i.e., immigration and health care.

Besides which, what will medical providers do when an injured child shows up on their doorsteps requiring immediate medical attention or death? Ask for his documentation? Or attend to the injuries?

In my world, they had better attend to the injuries and worry about documents later. As, I believe, this is the actual law of the land! I cannot understand why you bend to these insane people! This is not the person I elected who promised me there would be Change I could believe in. Do you know where that person went?

——
Sent to Obama on 09/12/09 at 7:46AM via White House Contact Page

Owen Meany – Lessons for Us All

I just finished reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This book was first published in 1989, and I am not sure why it has taken so long for me to get to it. I read The World According to Garp several times back in the day, as well as The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, A Son of the Circus, and A Widow for One Year. How did I miss the best of the lot? (I admit that I have read none of Mr Irving’s more recent works – 1999 being the “newest” on my list of Reads.)

Well, at least now I have read it and can report that it is worth every minute. There are a multitude of reviews and re-tellings of the plot on line, so I will not bother with that. What is amazing to me is how the 50’s and 60’s are so finely evoked in this tale of faith. Not to mention the narrator’s sharp tongue on all things Reagan and conservative. Obviously, this is my kind of story! For anyone too young to have endured the anti-war / pro-war war that raged in America during the Vietnam fiasco, I strongly recommend this book. And, for those who are too young to remember the Iran-Contra fiasco, this is a nice refresher course in how American politics waltzed into the Land of Absurdity from which it has never returned.

But probably the real reason to read Meany is to explore the world of Faith and what it means in our culture. Certainly, we hear this word every day in America. God is another word we hear all too often coming at us as a justification for just about anything. Irving’s presentation of faith and god are more in line with what even an agnostic can understand. Of course, the precept that the lead character has seen his date of death and knows that it is his fate, are not common to most people’s experience. But we are dealing with an Irving novel, lest we forget, and strange things are always the norm.

After sleeping on this, I feel that Irving is asking his reader to do some serious thinking about what constitutes a miracle in a world without faith. I, for one, do not believe in miracles, for I have no faith in such phenom. Of course, I am not alone in this regard. However, there are many among us who are willing, if not eager, to see miracles where there are none. Then, I have to ask myself, would the god of my understanding really create a life, a strange and idiosyncratic life at that, to save 7 small Vietnamese orphans? If he would do that, why would he let us have a war there in the first place. Seems a lot of trouble to go through to not fix what was severely broken in the world. And, it certainly could not have been for the additional bonus of bringing the narrator to “find” his faith and start going to church. That seems like over kill to me. But then, I am a Skeptic of the first order.

And, above all else, in Owen Meany, one finds the funniest of all Irving’s characters. It is his forthrightness that makes him so. I found myself laughing out loud countless times throughout this novel and in tears at the end – tears for Owen and for me – there was no more to read!

The Age of Medicare

Last week I visited with my contact at the Social Security Administration. All very nice, as long as you follow the script. But, no sense of humor. The young woman I met with was very polite and intent on doing her job as defined in some obscure employee manual. She was most concerned that I understood that not telling her the truth was a federal crime. She explained that point to me three times: at the outset of the appointment, just prior to starting her set of standard questions and then again at the end of the interview. I hope I told the truth at all times. Being almost 65 makes my ability to remember all facts slightly suspect. I came armed with proof of my birth. (Certificate of Live Birth, being suspect these days, I was a little worried about that. Needlessly, as it turned out.) I also brought my marriage certificate, my Social Security Card and my latest statement from the SSA itself. But, all she really required was my drivers license! She did deign to review my birth certificate because I gave it to her in response to her questions about my place of birth. But as she reviewed that document, she still had to ask me what city I was born in as if to test my ability to read my own history.

The most amazing thing was the fact that the government knows more about me than I can remember: when I worked and did not work, my ex-husband’s retirement status, my own status, dates I married and divorced, and so forth. I was amazed. Whoever says their life is not an open book, has not sat down with a SSA agent recently!

I declined to “file a claim” for SSI as I am still working and do not have a retirement date in mind. I was interested in enrolling in Medicare however as my own health care provider is intent on moving over to the single payer provider it seems. That is so that they can get my high-risk aged self off their books and then offer me the “supplemental” health care where the government takes the major risk and they come along for the ride and collect their pound of flesh. Ah, well. I decided to enroll in Parts A and B. I then found out I have to find my own carrier for Part D as it is optional and is not managed by Medicare itself.

As luck would have it, when I returned home, the USPS had delivered a package from our health care broker (yes, everyone gets a little piece of that medical care premium you pay every month.) which weighed in at least 2 pounds! I have not yet found the courage or time to plow through that bundle page by page. However, I did see immediately, that for some obscure reason Blue Shield does not offer Medicare Part D in the region in which I reside! I will never understand all the mumbo-jumbo surrounding health care. I swear.

I will be contacting our agent for a more thorough explanation, of course. But it will not change the facts.

The thing is: how did I get so old as to qualify for single-payer health care in America?