A perfect sea urchin

My Evil Thoughts

Welcome to where I air my evil views, proud, uncowed, unbowed, and absolutely evil, superficial, and ignorant. Get used to it. To return to the main blog page, just click here.

"The Show Must Go On"

I still haven't written Dov. I know most of you are thinking, than I never will. Phrases to put in a letter to him go around and around in my head. Dov does not find writing easy and that along with lack of a computer may be the reason he does not contact me. That means there is no malice on his part. Of course nearly all of my potential letters sound hackneyed and stale. "My holidays were...." How were my holidays? Except for the killer, tension headache I got on Day 2 of Rosh HaShannah, my holidays were OK. I managed to have a fairly easy fast on Yom Kippur. I sat outside a lot, and the mosquitoes bit me.

I find going to synagogue a bit stale these days, though the walk is still fine. It's fine even if it rains. It's fine if it's cold. It was especially fine before sunrise in the summer, though I had trouble staying awake once I made it. I can still pray when I have something for which to ask. I don't forget to thank God for blessings and really nice outdoor sights. God is very much like a boyfriend in a longterm relationship right now. I love Him, but we're always going to the same old places. Liturgical prayer is not easy. Prayer on demand does not always come.

I did find a praise report on Saturday night. Tucker Stilley, for whom I asked for prayers on the bimah. These are prayers for the sick, and Tucker has ALS. He is at home with round the clock care and totally paralyzed, but he can make things on the computer and is working despite his handicap and illness. That he can still work and enjoy life is cause enough to say my prayers are answered. Sometimes it is easy to forget the reason I go to synagogue. Let's just say, Tucker helped me remember.

Right now I am exceedingly grateful that I am NOT out of medication. I made a mad dash to Kaiser to renew my prescription for psych meds including a benzodiazipene. Benzodiazipene withdrawal is ugly, and that is an understatement. I'm on a new benzo, and I'm not sure what happens when I run out. I did not want to learn about that this weekend. It was raining. I waited for a bus that was ten minutes late in the rain. It was still raining when I reached the Northlake Mall. The #125 MARTA bus has changed routes and no longer can drop me within a mile of Kaiser. It drops me two miles away. Kaiser closed at 7:30pm and my watch said 6:50pm. I walked as fast as I could through the rain. I felt like a junkie in search of a fix. I half ran that last half mile up the deserted road to the Crescent Center and scooted straight up the automatic doors. They opened.

Everyone was quite pleasant to me in the pharmacy. The pharmacist even asked about side effects. Kaiser can be wonderful. My other prescriptions, though, can't be filled in the pharmacy. I am low on vitamin D, so I need to eat fatty fish. The doctor suggested tuna and salmon, but sardines have a lot more taste. I'm letting myself scarf three cans of sardines a week. I hope that helps. A sardine prescription is nearly as good as an ice cream prescription, since like ice cream sardines come in flavors and sauces and they have a good strong, but mild taste.

I of course had to wait for the bus back in the rain. I sat in the cramped shelter with two other women. I was glad the shelter was there. I was glad when the bus came. I read on the bus and got motion sick. I climbed off the bus shivering and shakey and very light on my feet. Somehow I got down the steps to Kensington Station, but I had to ride two stops home with my eyes closed to stem the nausea. If you cut the visual input, motion sickness usually stops...fast. Mine did, but I was still week and shakey. Anyway, I have my meds and that is what counts. Things could be a lot worse.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 28, 2010

Along the Shoreline

I won't leave the river even after leaving the boat, and no I haven't written Dov. I need a quiet place for that both inside my head and inside my surroundings. It needs a lot of thought. I've been thinking about it a lot and it needs yet more thought. That is the way it is.

Meanwhile, I need to plan an expedition in the dark, cold, and rain to Kaiser to get medications and possibly to vote in the nearby neighborhood. I also need to strike out in search of sardines in assorted flavors. My doctor has prescribed them to raise my viatmin D level. Sardine panazella made with Season sardines in Spanish sauce, but I'm not going to find Season in most places where I shop. Since MARTA cut its bus routes and changed others, getting to where I like to shop has been a challenge. I waited for close to an hour on a bench at the Candler Park MARTA station for the number two one fine Sunday. I'm loathe to do it again. The Sunday route has only one bus.

This morning, the Kensington Station bus bay was crawling with clip boarded MARTA workers taking notes of the buses and counting heads among the passengers. I suspect MARTA wants to get the kinks out of its new routes. Meanwhile, I have discovered the Express Routes #520 and #521 which get me up and down the hill to work quickly. That is a nice change except that MARTA is much better in some places and much worse in others.

I have started working on a campaign but finding the time to do it is hard. I need to cook for Open Door and Shabbos. I can't do data entry at home. The new regime wants to keep the sheets at headquarters. That makes it hard for any one who works full time to help out during the week. I could call them and find out if they can use a data enterer tonight. There is a Publix near North DeKalb Mall. It is a long walk home in the dark that could become a long walk home in the rain. I've all ready had one drowned rat experience this week. At least getting my medications refilled tonight is an impossibility. That means if the weather is good, I can play to take the #120 to DeKalb Industrial way and hit the local Kroger's or take the #121 from Memorial Bend and shop at the local Publix. I have a hunch the Publix in this neighborhood will have a very decent selection of canned fish due to the West Idnian population that also likes more than tasteless tuna. Hispanics also enjoy their sardinas.

I also need to hit Walgreens for slow release iron pills. They have their own brand and this is cheaper. I am very glad that my doctor is treating my fibroids with slow release iron rather than something more drastic. There are women who end up with hysterctomies who have what I have. Doctors push it on them, but not my HMO. I have young doctors who believe in nutrition. I am also being treated more cheaply and earlier than someone without insurance. Hopefully, the courts won't repeal health care reform, and we'll have close to universal coverage soon.

I have a ton of cooking to do this week. I also need to bake some more bread. I don't care what kind I bake, but it's good to keep the freezer well stockd, especially since I'm eating sardines. A sardine prescription is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, they taste delicious. Fish oil capsules make you burp fishy. Sardines of course taste like fish, but once they're down they don't repeat. Fish oil capsules, by contrast, are tasteless horse capsules, and then they repeat, though the current brand I have has stopped doing that. I still hate taking them. Eating sardines, however, is fun.

I guess tonight's errands won't be so bad. Now that shore leave is permanent, it has its advantages.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 26, 2010

Missing the Boat

I found my friend, Dov's, email address, not his Facebook profile or his wife's Facebook profile, but his regular email addresses. I guess that means I have to write him, even though in four months he has not sent me a single email. Even though he trashed his computer rather than bring it to Israel (Big mistake because he needed a good, cheap means of communicating with friends in America) there are public libraries and cybercafes there.

I found Dov's email address because I emailed him a few days after he left Atlanta. He never responded. He has called me twice, once from the airport as his plane was about to board for Israel and another time from Israel itself Eruv Rosh HaShannah. He was lucky enough to catch me en route to work. If Rosh HaShannah had fallen on another day, I would not have picked up my cell phone or been out of the office. Seven hours difference makes phone calls chancey and inconvenient.

Well as I said above, I sent the first email and heard nothing back until the phone call from the airport. I naturally asked: "Did you get your email?"

He hadn't. I was baffled. He explained that he had spent the whole week at his sister's house in New Jersey. Well New Jersey is not Bora Bora. Kinko's are all over the Northeast. I asked why he had not bothered to find a Kinko's. I go to Kinko's when I visit my mother's. I asked how in a whole week he had not found a cybercafe. A public library might also have given him limited access. He had found neither of course.

Email doesn't do any good if people don't check it, but now that I have no longer thought that I lost Dov's address and Dov has failed to link up wtih me on Facebook, I feel obligated to write to Dov. I am obligated whether I like it or not, because Dov and I were friends. We were shopping buds at the Farmer's Market. We made the kind of talk friends make about our childhoods and families. We could never figure out how much food we needed. I always ended up with less than I expected and Dov always ended up with more. Back in the bad old days when we shopped together before I built his web page, we were shopping buds. There's no erasing that. Dov could share secrets with me, he could not share with most other females. In Orthodox Jewish households, men are often the less religious partner. As a spinster, I'm not a typical Orthodox female.

Anyway, Dov had a place in my life that was more than doing mutual favors, any port in a storm, or we associate because we go to the same schul. That is why I am angry that he has let himself drift away. I pulled my weight and set up a friendship page not just for him but for all of his friends or any one who might like to be his friend. That was a gift. He spurned my gift!

And with all that anger, I still can't just walk away. I have to write him, but what do I say in such a situation?

Part of me needs to feel compassionate, and part of me does. In fact, part of me is downright empathetic. One of the darkest periods in my life was 1985 when I was facing an eviction that I said I would challenge in court (The landlord backed down but never rented to another female again.) and was laid off and underemployed and decided NOT to look for work because job hunting so expletive deleted, I would not be able to do it and have the energy to do applying to graduate school justice. It was the RIGHT choice. I never would have had my University Fellowship to Syracuse had I not put my energy into using my leisure hours to mount a national campaign to get into grad school and get money.

I know what it is to look for work. I know how much it hurts whether one is pulling down a pay check or not. Actually, there was only one point in my life (and it was brief) where I looked for work and had no job whatsoever. No, there were three such points, but I found something to fill the gap in a matter of days the second time around. I considered myself fiercely unlucky with work at that point in my life. I'd never been able to earn very much money. I joked I was earning more per hour than I ever had with enough hours to make nearly full time work, but I wasn't getting paid very much. I was working very hard (phone surveys), and my future was far from certain. I had a master's degree and was doing phone surveys, and I was still job hunting.

Though I was far from starving (I even bought new sneakers that fall. I had bought interview clothes and pieced together a professional summer wardrobe for my internship the summer before I started graduate school.), I was still job hunting and I felt wretched. I came back from my mom's after Thanksgiving and had a job interview a day or two later. I heard nothing back. I went to Shabbos services Friday night at the Chabad House on Berkeley Drive. They served cordials, and I drank a bit too much considering my miserable state.

I walked home on a cold November night and passed the three sided dormitories on my way down to Genessee Street where I shared what had once been a supremely, luxurious four bedroom apartment (I have never lived anywhere as elegant though I have lived in "nicer" places since.) The air was very cold and if I made just the right &qut;Whoop!" noise, it echoed back at me off of the dormitories. I went "Whoop!" The dormitories went "Whoop!&quuot; I went "Whoop!" again. The dormitories whooped back at me. I found all of this wonderfully amusing.

Then along came a campus policeman. He asked if I was all right. I was thrilled with the way my echo sounded off of the dormitories. I told him about the fantastic echoing properties of the buildings and even demonstrated it by going "Whooop!" The dormitories went "Whoooop!" back at me and the policeman left me to "Whoop it up" in peace. Four days later, I had my first professional job.

The part of me that went "Whoop!" is the part that needs to write to Dov. That's also the part of me that is tongue tied. Any one who drunk or sober enjoys going "Whoop!" to hear her own echo is clearly at a loss for words.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 22, 2010

Off the Boat?

My friend found a full time job. My friends who fled to Israel are gone. I can try emailing Dov again, but sometimes you just have to live with the fact your friends are gone. It's not your fault. It's the economy's fault and somewhat their fault, and sometimes there are stories of which you don't want to know the end. I don't want to say more. One can not ride the boat forever. I gave the captain notice. I packed up my box of tools. I stole his Lady GaGa CD because I'm going to need her wherever I go.

The shore is barren and grassy. There is no town here. Think of the Ark perched on Mount Ararat only there has been no flood to destroy the world. The world is out there in the tall grass and along the river and maybe in the forest. I will never know what happened to the fish that Dov never served for Passover. I go for an ultrasound of my left breast today. I'm getting older, but that happens to everybody, and the alternative is worse. I promised that I would not let that upset me. The painful eczema on my hands is another matter.

In the Bible cities spring up from nowhere. This is not the Bible. I'm left with a body in need of care and a decision whether to try reaching my friend one more time. And then what....

On land or on the river, I'm pretty much a lost soul. One thing I've learned is that it doesn't have to be my fault to be my problem. All I have to do is care about an issue. Even my health issues are not my own fault. They just are. I need shoes. My cyberlife is troubled through no fault of my own. Depending on others is always fraught. There is not much more I can say. Haldis needs to go out and check her team at Webleagues. Iyoba and I need to make sure we can get turtle food and dip eggs and elixir so we can keep breeding our turtles. I tell myself this is what I get for being a holdout and late adapter.

I am not going to cry over it, but you know that's a lie. I'm going to need a new cell phone. Technology can make me happy. Food can make me happy. My cats make me very happy. When I am out of sorts, my boy kitty washes me. When my queen cat, Lysistrata, wants to rule the world and take over my computer desk, Hertzel doesn't let her. He gets up there too and purrs loudly. He behaves politely so Lysistrata sees him NOT get yelled at by me, but instead welcome. She washes herself. She gives dirty looks. Hertzel gets his spot on the desk without so much as a new nick on his face. Hertzel does not give up and does not lose his sweetness. There is a lesson in this for me even though I am not a neutered white tom cat.

Hertzel is also my caregiver kitty. If I'm depressed or sick, I get washed. This is what cats do to care for other members of the colony. I guess the theory goes that if you are down or sick, a good grooming brings up your morale. I appreciate the little wet wash cloth of a tongue unless I'm so tired the grooming is not letting me sleep.

Right now, I am wanting to spend time alone writing about and reading about religion. Some of the sociology of religion stuff I encounter scares me. Feel good sermons do nothing for me. Seeing how frum life effects young people scares me. What works for me at present would not have worked when I was twenty-two or even fresh out of grad school. I needed the general world all too much. Sometimes social cohesion turns into social exclusion. My mom got that one so right on the phone last night it was not funny. I don't really wrestle with it at my age, because an adult living alone in his/her own apartment gets more social inclusion by joining a group. A student in a dormitory needs to be open to the whole world because the whole world is much more closely at hand. Later in life, the world hides its apartments, couples, and work places. You can want to interface with it all you want, but you actually meet more people by joining a more insular group. Perhaps when I get much older as in retired, the dynamic will change again. The fact is I benefited from living a secular life and now use those benefits to lead a frum life.

I am really glad my mom is asking questions about my religious beliefs and what they mean and what I think about them. The questions mean that she wants to understand and learn and that she takes me seriously. She has the sociology of religion thing down pat. She asks about what types of coercion are used to keep kids in the religion and whether the families care about secular education. Since most modern orthodox people do, it's not big deal. The coercion is sort of on the same level used to keep me secular. Parents control access to religious institutions via the automobile and education and activities via the purse strings. A teenager with a Metro Card or Breeze Card is an empowered teen and there's no way to keep her down on the farm. I told her that Rabbi Broyde says you can reduce the attrition rate (My mom asked about the attrition rate for Orthodox youth and about their "rebellion") to seven percent. The published literature places it at twenty percent. Social penalties and social control work, but not anywhere near a hundred percent.

We talked about an English rabbi who came to preach at my schul. He preached a feel good sermon. Those always get under my skin. Besides, he needed a good fact checking. Feel good sermons teach nothing. They may inspire some people, but I want to learn not be inspired. The most inspiring sermon out there in any faith is: "can you move an inch?" Most people can so it's a challenge that is realistic. Telling Jews not to be embarassed about their faith just is a no go when you really think about it.

Put another way, out in the field, it is not a question of pride but of personal spiritual practice awkwardly meeting conflicting values and there really being no good solutions. First, telling someone they are going to Hell is an insult and just plain rude. Telling someone they are practicing their faith all wrong and in an inuathentic way is also an insult. In a normal work place, nobody is going to insult any one else. Even on Second Life I am not going to rebuke and insult fellow Jews even when they need it. They need to hear it from someone else. I left their group and will have nothing to do with it.

In real life, or a polite work place, people talk religion by comparing it and in the Northeast people wear it on their sleeve. I'll sit and compare notes with the Adventists who find me fascinating, and also to some extent with the reform convert. If I am going to give and receive insults, there are far uglier and much more effective ways of doing it than resorting to the supernatural, and one of them is religiously related. "No thank you," are the three most powerful words in the English language. They should be sufficient to stop further inquiry. When they are not, there is trouble. This is especially true when food is concerned. "I'm not eating your food," never said but acted upon with the simple "No thank you," is a far more potent insult than "You are going to Hell." This is true whether the dish is home made or purchased from a bakery or restaurant held in high esteem. By refusing the food, you are saying that you do not share the same values as those with whom you eat and you don't hold their favorite restaurant or bakery in high esteem. Of course "No thank you," should stop the conversation, but when it doesn't, the following occurs:

Colleague: "You're not having any cake?" It is plainly obvious I have not taken the cake and have politely declined it.

Me: "No, I'm afraid not."

Here is where things turn weird. Colleague: "Why not?" This question is out of bounds. It is embarassing to answer and embarassing to ask. It has breached my privacy.

Me: "I keep kosher."

The conversation goes on about how the cake is probably too rich to be kosher. I explain about the lack of rabbinic supervision rather than sinful ingredients being the reason for the cake being nonkosher. A nonkosher product is in no way an inferior or cursed product. I believe that and I'm no snob, but I don't owe any one an explanation.

Now we come to a second awkward situation. Depending on where you were brought up and how, you to varying degrees are supposed to eat what you are given or among the standard choices or you are supposed to choose nothing and not make a fuss. If there is an outing at work that includes a meal at a clearly nonKosher restaurant, you can ask not to be included in the meal. This is handled in various ways but it is basic religious accomodation. I have no problem with asking or receiving this. Usually it means I return early or get left behind and someone comes back for me to take me home after the lunch.

A conference with a sit down luncheon is another matter. I've been bringing my own lunch but then slipping out to eat it because I don't want to consdtantly tell the wait staff no thank you. It's embarssing for me. It's embarassing for the wait staff, and it's embarassing for my table mates. I have seen people do the picky eater thing in reatuarants and private homes for all sorts of reasons (health and religious) and I hate watching it. I don't want to be that kind of hateful, but eating somewhere else, while sometimes welcome down time, also is anti-social. I asked my kosher friends what they do. They ask for a kosher meal. This means lots of phone calls since kosher is not a choice listed on most conference registration forms. This means being a thorn in the side of hotel restaurant staff and local kosher caterers. Then one receives a foil wrapped microwaveable meal or reheatable meal that may well be far inferior to my bag lunch one has to feign liking it. And after all that I may also still have to bat the waiters away and respond to unwanted inquiries from my table mates. This is one without a good solution.

By the way, I am quite proud of my Judaism when I deliver my salad once a week to Open Door. I was more than happy to help them set up for a meal and to load the trucks going up to the prison at Christmast time. The trucks are full of care packages for the men (It is mostly men) on Death Row or in J House. I feel proud being a Jew when I do something of which I can be proud and something God wants. I felt proud going to the party where the cake was served because it was a colleague's birthday. I felt proud to celebrate my colleague's birthday. I did not feel proud to refuse the cake. That was just a necessity.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 18, 2010

Two Sonnets

On Rostering the Art Leagues

I just looked back.
There's nothing more to do.
It takes less time than it used to.
I rostered this team in one quick whack
Fighters are what we lack.
I wonder, are we through?
Why am I telling this to you?
Is this the end of our long track
I wonder now?
I love this team!
I wish I could do more!
I don't know how,
Except to care for this team,
No matter what's in store.

Haldis K. Guerrin 10/9/10

For Dov

I can no longer hide,
That you have gone away.
Silence with nothing more to say,
Across the ocean wide.
Was nine thousand miles to wide,
For our friendship to stay,
Except for a short call before New Year's Day?
And don't say I haven't tried.
With email and a group on Facebook too,
I reached out to you electronically,
And my efforts were a flop!
I heard nothing back from you,
As if you'd forgotten me.
You've let our friendship drop.

Eileen H. Kramer 10/10/10

Eileen H. Kramer AND Haldis K. Guerrin -- 10/10/10

Moses is Dead and Adam is Born

Last week I missed Parshas Berashit, the story of creation in synagogue. We cover a lot of ground. The creation myth, is just a myth, but it is something more, it is the story of how we as human beings (and for those in the synagogue that is the vast majority of us since our ancestors are from Europe and the Middle East) in Western Civilization became who we are. Adam and Eve's descendents have just emerged from the Neolithic Revolution and began to work metal, either copper or bronze and live in settlements. Sometimes they live in cities. It dismays them that the earth loses its fertility when overworked, and salinates when irrigated. They can dig the ditches that bring water to the thirsty fields, but not understand the chemistry of the soil. They can sew but they can not yet work iron. They can even build boats (Think Parshas Noach!).

They have a keen eye for the world around them. They recognize animals, plants, and the stars, in teh way most urban Americans would not. They have something close to a historical memory of the hunter-gatherer past which they idolize, even though grain can feed more people. They are aware that humans have grown smaller on a less protein rich diet. Think of the references to giants in Genesis.

They are dismayed at the climate change that was part of the last interglacial five thousand years BCE. They watched as water levels in the Black Sea rose, wiping out villages or at least forcing the inhabitants who could work metal and make patterned pottery, to move to higher ground. This is the story behind the story of the Flood.

What is amazing about this story is that I can understand so much of it, even at a distance of seven thousand years. What is also amazing is that this story has survived, unwritten and moved from tongue to tongue until someone could write it in phonetic script and then pass it along. Even if we understand that the ground salts out when irrigated and malnutrition means shorter statured individuals and urban living is a struggle, we can also sympathize with all those problems and emotions. The folks who told the story of Berashit and others now lost; for there must have been others, were us with less technology. What came before them, is a mystery. Berashit is our beginning and somehow its story has survived.

I will be glad to be back to synagogue. I missed services last week due to a job-related conference. I'm a regular synagogue-goer. I like the way the prayers are sung. I like the communal snack after services. I like seeing all the old, familiar faces. I'm not one for chit-chatting in the sanctuary though sometimes I'll take an extra long seventh inning stretch in the front room. My synagogue is in a converted house so we don't have a social hall. Sometimes I'll help with kiddush, though not that often. I love to chase away the thieving, little kids and chastise the thieving adults. They set an awful example. There are leftovers from the early minyan and coffee or tea if you are truely hungry.

I wish I had more in common with some of the women. I wonder if Black Stockings is still around. I know her address and can arrange to pass her house fairly easily, but she and I don't share a world except for faith in God and a willingness to adhere to personal spiritual practice. That's what all those mitzvot about Shabbos and kashrut are. That is fine with me. Being decent has to begin somewhere and usually it begins with silly little physical things and your own person. Take care of yourself and get busy, and you won't be quite as nasty to others. You may even get your priorities straight. Does it work? I think that in the absence of spiritual discipline, human beings tend (though they don't always) to do what is expedient rather than what is best. I think personal spiritual practice, makes doing the best thing and the right thing easier and more likely. That is just my opinion. The rabbis may have a different explanation. I write this stuff from the top of my head.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 8, 2010

Walking to Work in the Dark

This happens this time of year. The sky was peacock blue when I left the apartment. I walked to synagogue in the dark when I strove for five last summer. I made five or six such trips. They are oddly memorable. The spirituality effected my nose. There is something about the end of the night. One becomes very aware of the smells. I am less aware of smells than moods when I go to work in the dark. The hour between seven and eight am is a sad one. If you are asleep then, you miss something, but be grateful for that.

The miscreants have to be ready for forced labor at the Department of Probation at 7:30am, so at 7:15am, the early ones are lined up. If I oversleep I see the officers sort them into sheep and wolves. Felons stand on the left, while those whose crimes are misdemeanors stand on the right. They form two slow moving lines. Today I was too early to see the lineup. The miscreants crowd the sidewalk. Part of their punishment is being made to congregate standing with nowhere to go. Except at MARTA stations and similar facilities, those with more status do not just stand around. The poop out areas in malls are a weird exception, but in modern malls, designers make these look like living rooms and only five or six people are there and they sit comfortably as if they belong there. That is no accident. When people lose status, those in power force them to congregate in public and uncomfortably. This is as true of the miscreants at the Probation Office as it is of the folks outside a Business Services office who are noncitizens in need of getting their papers straight in some way, as it is of those getting served coffee, meals, or free clothes at the Open Door, though to the Open Door's credit, they provide benches and seats in their yard. Those with a bit more status, have a place to sit, just like those pooping out at the mall or waiting for a MARTA train. There are benches at nearly all MARTA stations to show that those who can afford a bus or train ride have enough status to rest their butts and not just stand around.

You see lots of tired people going to work or school between seven and eight am. A lot of them are home health aides or nurses' aides. You can tell them easily by their scrubs which act as a kind of uniform. There are maintenance workers of all types including employees of the county jail though you see more of these if you ride the #121 MARTA bus which stops there than if you ride the #125 bus. There are the students. The high school kids are loud. The college students are sleepy. They have 8am classes and they manage to make the long journey in the dark. One can tell them by their large packs and informal dress. The office workers often have their poor feet squeezed into heels.

Sleepers are common. I sat next to one. About a third of all passengers sleep. I like to sleep on the buses because sometimes I just don't want to be there. I don't like to sleep on the train in the morning because the scenery between Avondale and Kensington Stations is not to be missed. On one side is the industrial back end of Avondale Estates. You get to see the back sides of factories and ware houses that are actually interesting and probably more productive later in the day. On the other side of the tracks are the MARTA repair yards. The train is elevated so you can see down into the yard which is filled with track, sidelined trains, a train repair garage as large as an airplane hangar, and a long, caterpillar of a train washing stall.

Kensington Station in the morning is a bustling place. At night it is sad and cold no matter the temperature. The sodium lights on the windy subterranean but still outdoor platform give the place an eerie feel, but in the morning the station can be pleasant because everyone is heading somewhere else. The bus yard is strictly business. There are benches, but usually the buses stand ready for commuters and students.

I'll save Memorial Drive for another post. My last stop on my morning commute before walking to work is QuikTrip. My newest addiction is something called Mighty Mocha. It's hot chocolate for grownups. Everyone gets greeted by pert and perky sales help at QuikTrip. Their boss says they have to greet everyone so they do. This makes them say "Hell" every five seconds as the door swings open and more commuters enter. There are pepole buying gas, lottery tickets, junk food, sweets, soda, coffee, tea, frozen drinks, cigarettes, you name it. I once even bought cat food in a QuikTrip. It was Purina's regular chow which my cats adored. QuikTrip is a temple of small time vice and wish fulfillment, and very little desperation. I always marvel at the attractively displayed junk food and the assorted hotdogs and taquitoes roasting on rollers, not that I can buy those. They just look welcoming.

Everyone is very polite and careful about personal space as we fill styrofoam cups with hot drinks and get them covered for the journey ahead. The clerks are polite as I fish around for change. Even the people behind me in line are polite. No one asks "Is that all?" No one asks if I found what I needed either. At QuikTrip the answer is nearly always "yes."

Outside the QuikTrip, are a host of amenities. There is a MARTA bus stop that is often full and where I get off if I want a Mighty Mocha. Near the bus stop are several overturned, black, plastic milk crates for resting or dining al fresco. Across the street is a Halal pizzaria that has a crowded porch after Friday prayers at the mosque up the road. There are feral cats in this neighborhood, but no feeding station. There is a feeding station on one of the college campuses. As far as I know there is no trap, spay/neuter, release program to keep the feral population under control. The ferals can find garbage and hunt nearly year around, and they also reproduce several times a year until disease or cars fell them. If there's not enough room, the surviving offspring move on to another neighborhood. One sees families of these wild felines around the various campuses. Occasionally one of them remembers to be friendly. It is hard to lose 10,000 years of domestication in a few generations.

Well, that's it. By the time I am at work, the sun is up. Most sunrises are not that special if they take place during a commute. The big difference is that the air has warmed. It is nearly time for the world beyond the convenience store and MARTA trains and the jails and their kin to open.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 7, 2010

Our First Big Silence

As silent periods on this blog go, this one was not too long, and the reason was a busy real life and Second Life. I'm not going to apologize. For those of you who are curious, the Ship of Misery still sails and I'm on board. I returned from the sick bay with new reason to stick around. There was some drama out in the scuppers over the weekend, but now things appear to be normal.

I had a doctor's appointment on Monday, and the doctor was unbelievably gentle and kind. She also takes my complaints seriously. Fifty years ago, no one would have considered my symptoms real. It took until around 1980 (actually it was some time while I was in high school) for the medical establishment to accept that menstral cramps have a biological basis. I would have been a "hysterical woman," with some sort of uterine problem. Better take the whole thing out and the ovaries too for good measure. See, no more menstrual trouble! Lysistrata or whatever spayed feline I would have lived with would have made space for me under the bed. Cats usually hide under the bed after they are spayed. The one exception to the rule was Georgia who insisted I place her water in the sink so she could jump up to a high place to drink it. Georgia was utterly fearless until the last days of her life. She also had that feline love of leaping and climbing that nothing stops.

The good news is that if I am no longer anemic, I can live with my fibroid filled womb intact. My fibroids, in case you are curious, are the size of grapefruits and tangerines. The three largest, the ones they measured are grapefruit size. The others are in there and smaller. They are anchored in place by uterine muscle so they don't bounce around. I am distended but feel no pain and am otherwise asymptomatic except for my "paunch." This is actually a fairly common state of affairs, according to an article I read in CINAHL.

I probably am just going through perimenopause which had to happen sometimes. Growing older is part of staying alive. The alternative expletive deleteds much worse. I know that is a cliché, but it's true. Put another way, it is great to know that I am not really sick with anything. Considering the alternatives, getting older is just fine with me.

OK, so you are wondering what, besides my friends' underemployment and absence, keeps me on this bucket of bolts floating down the nameless and unhappy river? Well, I have a uterine biopsy coming up. This is medical due diligence. Hopefully, the test will turn out negative which gives me an absolutely clean bill of health and the chance to do nothing which is what I want! The question I ask myself is whether this is even necessary and is it worth the pain I will endure for the reassurance. The pain is going to be absolutely horrific. I know that. It scares me. I'm not sure how to refuse this test gracefully.

I keep thinking back to that moment back at Shavuot, standing in the schul bathroom and raelizing: "I am sick." I remember the fear. Well, that moment hasn't really gone away. That is what I tell myself. It is amazing what you have to do to steel yourself for pain, pain, pain! Let's just say that part of my anatomy is full of nasty neurons.

I'm back in the galley with Lady GaGa and Sparks and a lot of other good music. I'm thinking about my friend who left for Israel and who hardly communicates with me. I'm thinking of my email friend who lost her home and my other Facebook friend who is unemployed. The Ship of Misery sails on with or without this blog. Now at least it sails while I blog.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 6, 2010