Sunday, December 25, 2011

Alone in Merriment with Blue Christmas Songs

Christmas is the season for merriment, but merriment requires spending time with people in common surrounding with a mutual host. Therefore, one can reason that Christmas was designed to bring people together and not intended for the soloist. It can be a very grim and lonesome day if you share the Christian belief and are alone or you don’t share the beliefs or practices and you feel left out. Well, my day was spent in solitude for neither of the aforementioned reasons.

At six in the morning Terry my friend in L.A. rang me. I was in a deep and sound sleep. He phoned early because he had been lonely and irritated because a past girlfriend Dahora stood him up. She had promised to come by the night before since her new boyfriend had gone out of town. Unfortunate for him, because he could not get over her since they parted over eleven months ago and he is still addicted to her in the fleshy-way. So I held the phone half-awake to listen to Terry’s whine about how he is tired of being alone, the song that rhythm and blues artist Al Green made popular in 1971. I am thinking to myself, ‘Well, I am also alone but I am not gonna have a baby about it, get over yourself’ I thought. I woke up alone and spent the day alone with the exception of attending a church service this morning which meant being surrounded by a few hundred people.

After church, I went to visit Aunt Leola who is ninety-three or four, the last surviving sibling of seventeen and lives alone. She has tons of great-great nieces and nephews and is always happy to have some company, so I stopped to visit someone who lives alone on Christmas Day. As I pulled up, Danna the neighbor and Jasper her five-year old son was bringing Aunt Leola a gift bag. Leola was doing fine and told us that her two nieces called and a nephew who offered to pick her up and bring her to their home for dinner. Almost always, Leola says, “I don’t want to go nowhere; I just want to stay at home.” So she is just fine all alone. I was feeling anxious myself to get to my own home, bake my chicken and cook okra, pour myself a cup of nog, throw on a fire log, turn on the jazz cable station and write in merriment by myself.

Christmas season is a time that is meant for merriment but it brings out the worst in families, people become depressed while others just medicate. When you think about it, a lot of Christmas songs are sad. Take the lyrics from Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas….just like the one I used to know” which can almost provoke tears. There are a ton of other songs: Elvis’ Blue Christmas, Charles Brown Please Come Home for Christmas, Christmas Just Aint Christmas Without The One You Love by the OJays, Brooks & Dunn's It Won't Be Christmas Without You, and The Emotions What Do the Lonely Do at Christmas. Even Prince made a sad Christmas song titled Loney Christmas. Although they are sad songs, we still love to listen to them. Whether you are alone or not, pour yourself a glass of eggnog, pop in a Christmas CD, and make your own merriment with the blue songs of Christmas.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Assisted Living Supporting Seniors and Families

Through the good times and the hard times, it is really tough in dealing with an aging parent alone. My father, Cliff has had several misfortunes in recent years. In his sixties, he became a dementia and Alzheimer patient. To compound matters his health took a turn for the worse at the beginning of this year when a sore on his toe would not heal.

As the legal conservator of my father, I have faced a host of concerns that are at minimal very challenging; but when I had to make a critical decision to approve amputating a limb I was overwhelmed. For four weeks, my dad was a hospital patient at Kaiser in Oakland. Although he has dementia, I know in my heart that he was fully aware and frightened about his condition. The hospital made a decision to keep him restrained throughout his stay because he tried to leave on several occasions. Needless to say, Cliff became very depressed refusing to eat and losing color and suffering from poor circulation.

Following the surgery, the surgeons and therapist in the hospital had written Cliff off. The inpatient social worker and case manager urged to place him in a full care nursing facility because they believed that he would not be a candidate for a prosthesis or therapy. They did not believe he would recover from the surgery, could not feed himself or do anything. The social worker said that they had to release him and he would have to find a place by the week’s end. This was very upsetting to me and it was all too clear that the hospital is focused on turn over; too busy processing patients in and out that there is no time to ‘understand’ or take in consideration the special needs. I was devastated and had all but given in to the social worker’s suggestion. However, when I spoke to Dinah Means-Bailes E.D. at AgeSong, she began to advocate on Cliff’s behalf as did Linda and Janice and everyone.

During his hospital stay, interns from AgeSong went to visit him. Just like a family member, Cliff would become very happy because his eyes lit at the sight of the interns. This was a good sign for him. By the following week, Cliff came home to AgeSong! His beautiful eyes lit up upon entering the foyer and he smiled to see the familiar kind and loving faces that joyously welcomed him back home.
I am so happy and pleased to know that my dad is in a caring a loving place. AgeSong at Lakeside Park has the most wonderful and genuine and attentive staff. Not only do they care about the residents, they care about the families too. They are the only family that Cliff and I have in the Bay Area and we are so thankful to everyone at AgeSong at Lakeside Park Lakeside.

In closing, while hospitals such as Kaiser that operates on such large scales with processing tens of thousands patients in one day the services are less and less personalized and more focused on profit generation; it is pleasing to know that assisted living make up in the care that hopitals lack. I want to thank everyone for helping us through this very difficult period. I know that Cliff loves and thanks everyone as I do.
You guys are the best!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Comedy Traffic School… Who’s Laughing?

December 11, 2010 was the longest day of my life when I had to attended traffic school for a speeding ticket I got while driving to Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving Holiday. It happened on Highway 5, just south of the Grapevine going from 3200 feet downhill through Angeles’s National Forrest. About 5 seconds within my peripheral view, I spotted the Highway Patrol officer on the side of the road. Within three seconds, I braked noting my speed at about 90 miles which meant it would take me about three seconds to slow down to 70 miles. I was traveling about 135 feet per second. I passed the officer, but five seconds later he pulled from the side of the road after giving some poor sucker speeding home-bound a ticket, he spotted me and with his red flashing lights and summoned me to the side of the road. “Damn it! Another $500 donation to the state,” I swore to myself. The officer walked over and leaned with his arms resting on the side of inside of my window, “You were going 100.” Now, I admit that I was speeding at 90, but what the hell. Who is going to drive all the way to Santa Clarita in the middle of nowhere to dispute 10 extra miles.” No choice for me, traffic school it is. Back in the Bay Area, I go online to pay my fines and I sign up for traffic school. Somehow it feels more civil.
I saw that there were several schools with comedy and cheap in the name; Comedy for Less Traffic school, Great Comedians, Cheap N Fun. The names were endless. So I figured, if I have to suffer for eight hours then I should be able to laugh at my dilemma; so I chose Comedy Traffic School in Berkeley on Saturday. Great idea! I’ll deal with this before the New Year reigns and begin fresh.
Almost a month later on a stormy Saturday morning just before Christmas, I drive through the rain to arrive 8am at the La Quinta Inn on University Avenue, a dreary two-and-a-half-star AAA rated hotel. I go inside and ask the clerk, a twenty-something stringy-haired guy with blank eyes -where do I go for the traffic school. He points to his right towards a staircase covered in dingy red carpeting announcing, “Upstairs in the conference room on the second floor.” When I arrive to the second floor, I walk into a spacious room with a 1970’s popcorn asbestos ceiling dimly lit with chandeliers, carpeted wall-to-wall in a twenty-year old dizzying red paisley design with walls painted the color of baby pooh. The room itself was much too large and too cold for the small group of thirty-forty soon-to-be tortured violators.
The instructor appeared old and weary. He was a white guy who looked 88 years old, a gray-haired Air Force veteran who flew in WWII. Are you kidding me?? My great uncle flew in WWII and he’s been dead now for almost twenty-five years! His name was George Slayton. He was hard of hearing and he spoke painfully slow. George wore a navy blue shirt, dark grey trousers and a Members Only jacket with hearing aids in both ears. For an icebreaker, he told a joke, “An old farmer was stopped by a traffic officer going to town. The officer began to write out a ticket citing the old farmer for running a stop-sign with occasional stops to swat flies from his face. The old farmer said you kno’ those are circle flies. The officer said what’s that? Farmer said, circle flies ‘because they like to circle around a horse’s ass. His punch line was, “Never joke with the officer who is writing you a ticket.” The morning crept along minute by minute. By 11am, I felt lethargic thinking that I was not going to make it through the day. The young girl next to me was hiding behind her notebook and secretly texting her boyfriend. Everyone was struggling to stay awake. Why can’t he just let us go?
It was almost time for lunch. The instructor explained that he was required to keep everyone until a quarter to four and those we must return in time from lunch or we would have to stay to make up the time. Everyone rushed towards the door tearing down the stairs to escape the hotel. I drove around Berkeley, feeling relieved in search for something to eat. I drove down University to 6th Street then North to Gilman and back on to Pablo Avenue to Chipotle while listening to the Santa Claus Congress wars on This American Life. Everywhere the streets were packed with cars and people. My relief turned into a slight panic and my chuckles turned into cursing whispers as the minutes dwindled away and I still had not found food to eat. I circled the block a second time from Gilman and San Pablo and parked. Crossing in the middle of San Pablo, looking right and left hoping that no traffic cop was in sight, I ran across the street into the parking lot in front on Chipotle. It was my un-preferred meal for the day, a black bean veggie burrito with Pico de Gallo and extra guacamole. I sat at the counter and choked down my burrito. Glancing at my watched I calculated that I better get a start considering the rain and the Berkeley traffic to make it back on time for the remaining afternoon torture.
I proceeded down San Pablo and took a right Camelia St and then left on 8th. I arrived 8th and Hearts and saw the Ethiopian church I dropped off Ahmed to attend a funeral. Across the street was open art studio where I managed to run in and purchase a pair of silver earrings with tiny pearls to give to my goddaughter Asia. Six minutes left. I’ve gotta get going if I am to be on time, so back in the car down 8th Street. Just when I get to University, a community bus in front of me and traffic isn’t moving on University. It’s just my luck to get stuck behind a BORP bus (BORP stands for Bay Area Outreach Program). Ugh! Three minutes late, I slam my car into park and BORP my tail in the Quinta Inn and up the stairs into the classroom. Everyone looks at me as though I’ve screwed myself, but George was too self-involved and in the middle of another one of his excruciating stories about the time he purchased a Ford T-Bird Diamond Jubilee, the best car ever built. The torture stories continued for another three hours mostly about WWII; about how the German villages were absent of me who were away fighting. He told us how the German women loves the foreign soldiers and if you were an American soldier you were the most sought after male in most of the European villages. You could see the pride of his past while he cruised down memory lane.
3:30PM-George talked about the corporate bail outs and called President Obama the CEO of Ford, the builder of the most fabulous automobile in the western world. He described how his father owned an eight cylinder Model-T automobile. When he was 11 years old, he learned how to drive sitting on books behind the wheel of a Model –T. Wow! Okay, I’m struggling to stay away and I notice the Indian lady on my right whose chin is resting on her chest. She is asleep. The African American woman in front of me is beginning to look lethargic. I know my excuse is that I was up late drinking Crown Royal, but I wonder what her excuse is. George begins to talk about tire traction and tread calibration, and there is a sudden chorus of deep sighs. The African American lady turns around and says, “Kill me now.”
3:56PM- Four minutes left. Everyone is antsy. The folding chairs began to feel like concrete over an hour ago. You could hear the continuous vibration of cell phones signaling. A young woman in the row behind me whispers into her iPod, “This is killing me. When this over, I am never going to get another ticket again in life.” George announces, “You all can go in two minutes after I go over some important road tips in the case of mechanical failure.” George’s last tip for the road was if your fan belt ever goes out, use a pair of panty hose around the pulley until you can get to the next stop. It is great tips like this that makes traffic school worth every penny raised for the traffic violation and time well spent for California drivers. After all, we Californians need to be punished, right? We need to continue paying exorbitant fines and blood fees. It’s all for the greater good of Comedy Traffic School. To the repeat offenders and the sadomasochists; for your next traffic violation, remember to go and see George. Help keep old humorless chaps like him and other jobless and unemployable comedians working in the exciting field of Comedy Traffic School.