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 Gift of an Hour

One of the students who frequents work's mothers gave me a ride home tonight which meant I got home an hour early. That means I am using this gift to blog. I have wanted to blog all day, though my thoughts are still in a jumble. A lot has happened. I can't discuss all of it here.

I nearly overslept Strive for Five (This is my fourth Strive) this morning. I dressed as fast as I could and double timed it through the streets at dawn. I was so worried about being late, I hardly noticed the world around me, but the world around me made a real effort to be noticed. This time the sky was turquoise and it faded to pale blue with a mauve and peach sunrise that was oddly dramatic. I was glad to be out. I heard lots of birds, but did not see any Canada geese. The first MARTA buses came and went. The roofers who work on the retirement home near the corner of Clairemont and Druid Hills Road were not yet on the job.

I noticed they were serving black cherry ice cream at Bursters. I always read the menu though I almost never eat there. When I did eat there last fall, I had pumpkin ice cream which was a treat but which my host's son found strange. It was the night after I made my first battle against an onslaught of fleas who made life, both human and feline, miserable. They are gone now. That is a relief.

I dozed a bit during the service. I felt serene and secure sleeping in syangogue. I think I also dozed because many of my own prayers (Yes, I freestyled!) were angry ones. I can't go into all the details, but let's just say that the Psalms of David when surrounded by enemies really resonated.

Of course my anger and my dozing to escape it, was not the main news. There was a man in the congregation (I'm the only female at these early morning services) who had lost his father over the weekend. He was dissheveled and his shirt had a ceremonial tear in it. Yes, he really ripped his clothes, not pinned a ripped black ribbon to them. I'd never seen that before. He looked tired. I told him I was sorry. I don't know his family well, so I did not pay a shivah call. Besides, I have my own Shabbos for which to prepare, and I was there at the morning service.

The bus ride was wonderful and quiet until a lot of people boarded the #125 along Indian Creek. Someone forgot how to pay a fare. That always gets ugly. I gave up my seat so a mother and daughter could ride together. I found another seat, so it was no great hardsehip. I even got to wait for the #125 with a friendly companion, a woman wearing burgundy scrubs who was heading for some sort of medical job. 8:30am is still pretty early in the morning.

I thought a lot about my angry prayers and went to talk with some of the people involved. I got an explanation that I don't like, but which still is better than not knowing. Oddly, I can live with it. I can't explain fully why. I'm not really angry any more. I'm not sure what the long range implications of what I learned are, but I can live with that. I have no idea what the future holds, given my health situation. Nobody knows the future. Right now I tell myself that my situation is a lot like being very angry I can't publicly read the Torah or lead a service in my Orthodox schul. Well, I can't read a lick of Hebrew and even if I learned it fairly well it would be a long time before I was proficient enough to take that role. If I were a talented Hebraicist. I might feel very differently, but I'm not.

If I were a parent with high school or middle school kids, I might not like my synagogue as much as I do, but again I'm a spinster in her late forties. I have different needs.

I thought a lot about the man who lost his father when I went to get my Cherry Pepsi at the CVS. My Cherry Pepsi is my reward for striving and I drink some of it on the bus, and some of it at work. I am learning again, how big a twenty ounce bottle of soda is. I am a world champion at nursing a soda.

I realized that there is one more passenger on the ship of misery. It's getting crowded as we peer off the decks. You can't swim to shore by the way. The river is full of pirhanas. I wonder how the man who lost his father got on. He certainly found the right boat, but still the ticketing process is obscure. I just want the stupid ship to stop and let me off the gang plank. I have a hunch that's not going to happen any time soon.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/27/10

Pretty Flowers

This morning while waiting for the #2 MARTA bus, I learned a scret about the pretty foundation planting that grows in pots outside many of the stores and offices on Ponce de Leon in Decatur. There is a landscape company that comes around and pumps the pots full of water and chemicals. They have a water and chemical truck that pulls up beside the sidewalk just for that purpose. The workers, who wear safety orange pinnies emblazoned with the landscape company's name, emerge, put cones around the truck and hose feed each large planter.

All this shatters some kind of weird illusion I had about the store owners taking care of their own planters. I pictured store owners arriving late at night or early on a Sunday morning when no one was around and lovingly planting flats from one of the local garden nurseries. I pictured them bringing their daughters. It is always daughters, and the little girls love to help out.

I also pictured poor but genteel, minimum waged paid, retail help watering the plants with a washed out milk bottle or a plastic watering can. Usually in such establishment there is one employee, sometimes quite a senior one, who gets attached to the plants and considers watering them her special job. Other times, someone orders the kid to haul the water and water the planters. Usually they water around closing time because there is less transpiration at night, though they could also water in the cool of the morning this time of year.

Watering plants is a loving thing, but not when a landscaping company does it. Then it is just plain business. That it provides jobs is the only good thing about taking care of foundation planting in this way.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/26/10

River of Misery

I have decided that my friends and I bought tickets on the wrong boat or maybe it was the only boat leaving. I can't go into all the details, but one of us is out of a job. One of us lost her beloved dog less than a week ago. One of us is leaving town and fast. Another of us is leaving town too, but for reasons that are, to say the least either quite mundane or quite interesting. This one would like you to believe they are interesting. I suspect they are mundane and even cause for a bit of shadenfreude.

I have a bunch of so far prosaic health concerns. I am going for an examination and routine testing on June second. I fear the exam will be painful and the thought of being well behaved under pain makes me cringe. Meanwhile, I have a new smell on my face (CVS Adult Forumla Zit Killer), and two new pills the size of horse capsules to take. One is an multi-vitamin plus iron and calcium for my iron deficiency (Thankyou Kaiser Permanente), and the other is fish oil for my eczema. My doctor believes in supplements.

The boat is not a social place. I wish my friends were not on board with me skulking around on the lower deck. It's supposed to make you strong and brave to see your friends suffer worse than you. It doesn't. I just stare at the scenery and wonder how all of us could have made this colossal mistake, or maybe the ticket office messed up, or the captain up there on the bridge is too busy eating a KFC Double Down or smoking a J to know or care where we are going, or maybe the captain is grinning from hairy, dirty ear to ear because he has this whole thing arranged.

I look up but our ship is not flying a pirate's flag. It flies no flag or every flag. I wonder when the next port of call will be, because I want off this boat now. I'll probably take my baggage with me. It's my bod on this bucket of bilge that's the problem. The baggage will follow me or it won't, but I want off now, except, I might have to leave my friends. There also may be no ports of call, or the ship might be quarantined even if it lands somewhere.

We're all stuck by the rail, looking at the black water and the greenish grey sky. The jungle on the shoreline is impenetrable. There is not even a fisherman's hut, and there's no upstream traffic. Is SOS even appropriate? I sent an electronic sympathy card to the friend who lost her dog. I trimmed my nails and attack the zits. I keep my mouth shut a lot of the time. Let's talk about the weather. Let's play Scrabble. There's always Second Life. There are times when talking just won't do. We may all be on the misery boat, but we keep our secrets, and I still can't pry...and you know the river goes on forever.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/26/10

I Learn Something New Every Time I Strive

I overslept this morning's Strive for Five. Since I can't mess around with my vacation hours because this is the end of the month, I made a break for it and caught the bus up to Toco Hills or as close as any bus comes from Decatur. The bus got caught behind a slow, barely functioining traffic light at the VA Hospital and I arrived close to half an hour late and very embarassed.

With all that, I managed to engage with the siddur (prayer book or liturgy) and read a bit of Torah. I didn't get all the service, but I managed the silent prayer called the Amidah without wanting to poop out or freestyle. It is weird how good my concentration is early in the morning. I still feel like an alien and an invader on the female side of the mehitzah. I especially feel like one given my medical condition which is still there despite the fact that I'm not actively bleeding (If your hormonse are messed up or if there is something growing inside you that shouldn't be, it is still there whether you stain your panties or a pad or not). I live in a different kind of body. I also respond to my body differently. When I'm down, I put on my bright colored sweater and a pretty shirt for underneath it and try to bear up. No man would put on a bright red sweater (I have on a shocking pink fleece shirt) to make himself feel better unless he wore a lot of red. More likely, his wife or girlfriend would ask him to wear such a thing, or his daughters. "Oh doesn't Daddy look handsome!"

I had a big conversation with myself on Saturday afternoon and decided to attack this thing with the tools at hand. It's my body, and I know it better than anybody else. I now no longer have a menstrual schedule that is reliable. That doesn't scare me though it feels weird. It is actually a sign that I am in good health and just getting older. One of the best indicators of oncoming menses is my face. I have mild adult acne. There is still some left from the previous cycle that ended late last week. I bought some adult formula Clearasil. I also bought an emory board and nail clipper. A manicure, pediculre, and a baking soda bath if I can find my shower cap, will do wonders for my morale. I'll clean off last month's zits so I can start on a clean slate and then watch the skin. A man would not think of such a plan. Surely he would not include baths and improved grooming as part of the regimen. I'm not sure what a man would do. Men do not live as intimately with their health as women.

I inadvertantly stumped the rabbi on Saturday when we mentioned that those who were made impure by contact with a corpse were exiled from the camp in the book of Numbers (Bamidbar). I spoke up and said that this law also exiled doctors, nurses, and undertakers. Nearly everyone in these three professions (not to mention midwives) come in cotact with dead bodies by having pronounce a death or care for the dying. One of the women in the class said she doubted there were any "registered nurses" in the camp. I replied that there have always been those who nursed the sick. This rule put any one who nursed the sick in jeopardy of exile. The rabbi was surprsied at all this, but he reluctantly agreed.

By the way, one thing that does not defile anybody, even temporarily, in the Book of Numbers is excrement. It is true that a week's exile would be impractactical, but one would expect rules for washing one's hands nad feet for example after disposing of the contents of the chamber pot or spreading manure. The honey wagon driver might be expected to clean himself up at the end of the day. The authors of the Book of Numbers could care less about excrement.

As on the last Strive that had a normal route to work, the #30 MARTA ride and the southbound #125 were both gentle and nice. The people on the bus and the driver were all quiet, caring folks destined for assorted jobs. Even the small children on their way to day care were quiet. The #19 that took forever was full of folks who worked at the VA Hospital. I got to see the Canada Geese from the window. The lady who pointed them out called them ducks. There was only one gosling left with three adults walking across the VA Hospital's lawn. I hope the other goslings have not been hit by cars. Geese are supposed to be good and intelligent parents, but Clairemont Road is not an easy place to raise a family. Maybe they just figure there's always next year.

I did not pray for anything in particular this Strive since I was not freestyling it. I was glad I had time to get to the drug store afterwards but I didn't obsess about the soda. It's part of the deal. I hope I don't oversleep for Thursday's Strive and that the MARTA schedules for the new, fused routes come out soon so I can continue to Strive. I think somehow it is good for me.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/24/10

Things can Change

On Monday I prayed for the storm to open and another storm to subside. Neither occured. By yesterday morning, I realized my body was doing something other than "normal aging." I remembered the doctor's appointment I had set today for my eczema, which is a never ending complaint. It was not hard to explain what was happening. In fact, they ask about it. If circumstances had been different, if the waters had receded in a fashion that was just a bit late, I would have shrugged the whole business off and said nothing.

As it was, Wednesday, there was no question that the storm was still on. I sat in the stall in the ladies room, wiped, and uttered an expletive. Someone who had come in to use the one holder asked what happened. I told her the truth: I'm sick and I'm scaird. I then said I was not in pain. No drink of water, no lying down, no nostrums were going to fix me. I needed medical attention. I was on that cliff from where one stands down feeling nausiated and scaird. I was small and vulnerable. I was philosophical in the way no one should be philosophical. I cried my eyeballs out during Yizkor and the latter half of the Shavuos service. I actually got all cried out.

I don't ever feel really numb. I hurt all over with the pain that has no place. I need to be able to think and become creative in this new frightened space. This fear that my life might be cut short by a dread disease I dare not name is my new companion. Yes, it sucks. Yes, others have been there. No, I don't deserve this, but nobody ever deserves this. I just prayed to HaShem to if the worst should happen, to let me make the best use of whatever time I had. That's a scarey prayer, but that's what I want. Maybe I know something and that is why I'm so scaird. Maybe I just feel vulnerable.

Maybe being scaird is not such a bat thing. I'm going to get some routine gynecological care, I really need so even if I get a clean bill of health none of this is wasted. If I don't get a clean bill of health, I am under a doctor's care and have a fighting chance to live a normal life. If the worst should happen, I realized it soon enough to get my priorities straight.

Right now the storm outside has just passed through. It also rained this morning. It also looks like the other storm may be subsiding, but I won't know until tomorrow afternoon and I'm no longer watching either storm so anxiously. If both storms do what they need to do, I'm glad they waited a bit.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/21/10

Redeeming Boaz

This is a midrash. It is my midrash on the Book of Ruth. If you read Ruth, you'll notice it makes no mention of Boaz' first wife or even if he had a first wife. Well, this story answers the question:

Her name was Doria. That's an odd name for a daughter of Yehudah, but she was an odd girl, not odd in a bad way, headstrong, independent, and hard working. She was brilliant in the way of women, sewing, broidering, and doing business. Trading in the market was her favorite sport. Market days were her Sabbaths and New Moons. Marriage didn't change that.

I should have known. She infuriated me. When I'd see her in a new piece of finery, I had to know its origin and the origin of the money with which she paid for it. When she went to the market, I had to know with whom she talked. At first she recounted the whole business gaily, and then she caught on. "Boaz, honey I talk to everybody. Do you expect that I sit silent as a stone. That's not how a market works." I tried to explain that a wife should be modest. She explained that one who sold broidery, beadwork, and fancy goods needed to talk to find new suppliers and put customers at ease. It was just the way the men sat in the gate and talked of the law. Merchants and customers talked business.

She told the truth, though it made me angry beyond belief and my insistence on her living a quiet, modest life also infuriated her. We fought. I don't know who we avoided hitting one another. I think it was because I threatened to take her to the laver at the Mishkan nad have her drink the bitter waters. Now, she was innocent of adultery. I know that now. Beads, threads, and dye stuffs were her lovers. Still she dreaded the laver. "There's no way I want to be tied to you forever, and have one of your brats you fool!" she screeched at me, for such was the fate of innocent women who drank of the water of bitterness.

When I turned my back she was gone, with her beads, her drop spindles, her threads, and her dye stuffs. Three days later, her brothers, uncles, and their friends appeared on my doorstep armed with clubs and farm implements. Doria had grown up in a rough home, I realized. Now I had rough relatives demanding I divorce her. I did as they demanded.

I guess an experience like that makes you fearful of marriage. It took that poor Moabite girl whom Naomi adopted to make me see reason. She, who did not know what became of my last wife, slept with me like a bride on her first night, no not like a bride, like a wife who welcomes her husband's bed; for I was no man for a virgin, too old and too in need of the warmth beneath my mantle in the pile of grain on the threshing floor.

And on impulse I married her. I don't care if the children are mine. They are technically her late husband, Mahlon's. I have all ready missed a chance to have a house full of daughters. Doria married the red headed bead merchant a decent season after I gave her her freedom. It was a match made in heaven, and instead of "my brat" HaShem rewarded her with two sets of twin daughters. I see them from time to time, a flock of peacocks in their finery wearing what they sell, dreams of simple beauty. The red headed bead merchant's house is no doubt a deafening hub of women's chatter, but none eat the idleness and everyone envies their prosperity.

With Ruth, things will be quieter, because I will be quieter. I will not enquire into her past. I will not enquire what goes on between she and her mother-in-law who both a fixer and fixture if you get what I mean. I tell myself I have learned my lesson. I redeemed the poor mother-in-law's inheritance, but I have to redeem myself. -- Boaz ben Salmon.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/21/10

Strive for Five II and More

The sky is different every day. Monday morning before dawn, it turned from smoke to silver and light grey. That meant we had no sunrise. That meant no rain after the few drops that may have fell in the night. We need the rain. There was another storm inside me, slowed to a drizzle that needed to dry up. I prayed hard over that. Start one storm. Get me wet. I can be a drowned rat for the sake of the environment, and dry up the other storm.

I was also thankful to God for the polenta which ended up to be too old to use. I am still thankful for it though because it inspired me to buy a bunch of broccoli rabe which I have not eaten in a cat's age. It has no shelf life and I usually do my cooking at the end of the week. Shavuous changes the schedule. One must accept gifts where one finds them.

I would have waited a long time for the northbound thirty bus, but T gave me a ride to Lindberg station. We had a field trip at work and hence, I had an unusual commute. I got to talk to T about gender issues. She feels them differently. I think some of the difference is that Judaism is very intellectual for T. It's intellectual for me too, but not at the same level. I work. I write for leisure. I draw. I try and find time for fiction. I all ready keep kosher. There is only so much effort in one body and brain, and only so many hours in a day. Hey somebody should stop competing and comparing, but sometimes camparisons are useful.

Yes, I know it's a "frat house" of sorts on the other side of the mehitzah, but it doesn't bother me. I used to board in frat houses. I think men are more straight up in their dealings. They also are generally less observant when it comes to practical matters and less detail oriented, which is maybe why it is better for women to pray without props. I think the props, like the choreography, get in the way of prayer anyway. The walk makes the experience spiritual.

I got through the siddur easily and followed the fast service. In some ways, I'm very mentally engaged in the mornings. I am sitting here now with a lot of somewhat answered prayers. I can't say what they all were. We did not get the storm outside. The storm inside is quiet, but it will take twenty-four hours to know if it is gone. It's not enough of a storm to be gross. It's just taking a day or two too long to run its course.

I climbed the huge stairway at the Peachtree Center MARTA station. It was six flights or more. A man in big shoes climbed it confidently. He was my inspiration, until he just kept going and my legs ached with lactic acid. I stopped, rested, kept going I had climbed too high to turn back. I was determined to take thes stairs, because I can, and I could. It just took me longer. There has to be a metaphor somewhere in that.

I made minted baked string beans and carrots and sauteed broccoli rabe and carrots for Shavuos. There are all ready beet rolls in the fridge, and the B's gave me a forty ounce jar of peanut butter they can't use. That means I get either peanut butter or sunbutter sandwiches on beet rolls and assorted vegetable dishes for the Shavuos meals I eat at home. I have a partial test of faith for the holiday, but in a way that is good, since my cooking is my personal favorite.

Yes, I fantasize about having my own cooking show, but for right now, all I've got is the pantry corner.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/18/10

Strive for Five I

Today was my first session with Strive for Five. Look down in the bottom right corner of the PDF and you'll see it. I was supposed to get up at 4:30am and got up at a 4:50am and was out the door by 5:10am. I made it. That is the first good news. There is actually a lot of good news.

Attending early morning minyan did not change my life, but it was interesting. The walk is interesting. I had forgotten that being out at dawn is magical. I watched the world around me change color from black and sulphur yellow, to dark blue and white, to grey and green. I even saw a pallid, magenta sunrise. You don't want to see a gorgeous, flaming sunrise. Red sky at night sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailors give warning. A big, flaming sunrise means rain is in the way. I remember riding into bleeding skies in the Columbus Shuttle long ago, and knowing it was going to rain in Atlanta or we were going to drive through a squall on the way there. This morning, however, the sun shown.

I had some trouble keeping up with the service which goes fast. Rabbi Berger apologized to me, not that he needed to say he was sorry. It was not that fast. Saying the same prayers over and over again, takes patience. Some of them, especially the psalms, are quite poetic and enjoyable. Some don't resonate at all and feel just like boilerplate. If this happens, you can always stop reading and just pray free style. I free styled a little, but mostly stuck to the liturgy. I don't tell any of the rabbis I free style. If you are curious, I prayed for the graduates since today is commencement and I prayed for harmony in the workplace.

Then my mind started to wander. I think everybody's mind wanders even with Hallel (We had Hallel because it is Rosh Hodesh or the new moon, which is the start of a new month in the Hebrew calendar.) and some pretty good psalms. I started to think about the bus ride to work which involved two buses. Synching up two buses on MARTA is tricky in the best of times and the #30 which I needed to take to reach the #125 at North Lake runs every forty-five minutes to an hour. This is where the apocryphal stories of having to wait an hour for a MARTA bus begin. I did have to wait about twenty-five minutes, but knew it was coming because I had a schedule in my pocket.

I kept thinking about the wait and going over to the CVS to get a Wild Cherry Pepsi, which is a good change from Cherry Coke. It made sense. I had a long wait. I had time. I'd put it to good use. Then my mind wandered again. I pictured the CVS. It is a very modern CVS with a public rest room, and a huge plantation like porch. We have half a dozen of these nice CVS scattered around Atlanta. They are beautiful, inviting, and sterile. They are not large, but they make me feel small even though I find them inviting. I imagined myself a little ant approaching the great castle of the CVS, and then getting on the bus. I was a marble in a tin can or a tumble bug on a plastic track, rolling to work, like all the other little marbles and ants visiting stores for a morning pick me up and then riding public transit, and I felt small but I felt kinship with all the other small folks who had something to go. You can't NOT think about having somewhere to go in the morning I guess.

Naturally, since I do some free styling when I prayed, I prayed for a safe uneventful journey to my job. I got that for which I prayed. The bus drivers were even in pleasant and motherly moods. That helped a lot, and there were no loud or rude passengers. The #30 was crowded with lots of little marbles rolling off to their assorted jobs. I may just be a marble in a slot, but I try to have a spiritual life.

I also meditated on the extra pan of polenta. I am getting a "test of faith" for Shavuos. This happens sometimes. It doesn't mean you are chopped liver or cursed. It means there is no such thing as a free lunch, and I am not the sort to beg. I like my own cooking anyway. Well, I have beet rolls made to serve with peanut butter for a kind of quick pick-me-up main dish, and I have another salad or roast vegetable dish planned. I also made polenta pie with chard and lima beans for Shabbos and chayote and jicama salad, but Shavuous is Wednesday and the Shabbos food tends to be running low by then. Well, when I made polenta, I had an extra pan leftover. This doesn't always happen, but there it was and with the test of faith, I realized I probably could use an extra side dish. Now I have a little blessing coming my way. It's odd how God sends you gifts when you sort of least expect it.

Of course one can not write about early morning minyan, without discussing the gender issue. My synagogue is Modern Orthodox. I hate mentioning this because I just like to say I'm Jewish and I try to follow halacha and live an obserrvant life. It has meaning for me. I don't mind answering intelligent questions. If I fight about my religion it is with those of my own faith who say nobody should practice or that practice is unimportant. People with a different creed are just that.

One of the things that shocks liberal folks about Orthodox Judaism is the mehitzah or barrier. Men and women pray in separate sections of the sanctuary. It's not quite separate but equal, but a synaoguge is not a public school system, and it is possible to fix up a building so women can see and hear the service as well as men can. In fact, that is standard operating procedure. Women can give sermons. Women can not lead the service from the bimah or read the Torah publicly from the scroll. Like everyone who is not leading, my synagogue expects them to read along in Hebrew or English.

Women are also NOT OBLIGATED to attend minyan. We're exempt from many time-sensitive mitzvot because we might have young children. Of course that doesn't mean we can't go to services. There are many women without children, and even mothers benefit by getting out of the house. Put a third way, this is the Twenty-First Century and women participate in public life. Case closed.

That was why I did not expect to be the only woman striving for five, but when I saw the list of strivers' names posted on the sanctuary door last Shabbos, mine was the only female one. I thought that strange. The rabbi even announced that Strive for Five was open to women as well as men despite our "lack of obligation." Today, though, I was the sole occupant of the women's section.

I am not sure what to make of this. I have boarded in fraternity houses and the experience comes to mind. Maybe morning liturgical prayer with all the trappings of ceremonial shawls and phylacteries is a male preserve. It's like talking sports statistics, not just about one's favorite team, but real hard core stats or going down to New York City to attend the NFL or NBA drafts which are public. It's a geeky pursuit. As a female, I don't have any ceremonial props. I just pray in my street clothes which makes my life easier. Still I feel like the only woman boarding in the frat house. I remember the summer I sacrificed a set of sheets to make curtains for the toilet stalls and hung a sign that announced when a female was using the shower. I also cleaned up the john and made shelves for toiletries from boards and cinder blocks. I was a very good, little boarder.

I just broke a gender barrier this morning, well sort of. As I said before, what happens psychologically and socially on the other side of the mehitzah is unknown territory. I don't know how men approach daily liturgical prayer or what it means for them. To me Strive for Five is a learning experience and a bit of a mini retreat, though sometimes I find prayer in the oddest places and I think of things I would not expect. I am sure the men don't experience any of this or they experience the ritual quite differently. I wish I could ask some of them. I might talk to Rabbi Berger or Rabbi Farber. I don't know if Rabbi Broyde would be responsive.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/14/10

Prisoner of my Body

That is what I feel like at the moment. I am trying to resist the urge to feel cheated. I planned this weekend to take that spring fever walk, just to get out and go and keep going wherever I want. Now, why didn't I do it?

Well Friday morning I got my period which means a fair amount of discomfort. For most of this weekend I was weirdly unwell, mainly with all over achiness and an upset stomach. I came back from schul and slept until around 2am, took care of site fighting, domestic chores, and then went to Toco Hills to buy junk food to donate to the schul. I got a ride back with the bag of kitty litter. The apartment smells good, but you can guess what I did -- take another nap.

About five o'clock I got to take a walk to Farmer's Market. Yes, I know same old, but eating, sleeping, and being pain free take precedence over everything else. I did manage to take a detour on my way to get a soda on my way to go to the market. I walked through the streets that are south of East College which leads into Avondale Estates. I sw mainly older houses which remind me that this part of DeKalb County was rural until fifty years ago. It is a miracle that I live in an area that is so new that does not feel so soulless. Most of the rural houses are now expensive bungaloes or they were before the collapse in real estate prizes. Quite a few need work. How do you say "fixer upper?"

I did not see many animals or exciting gardens. The season for exciting gardens has all ready come and gone. Spring comes and goes in the South all too fast. I did see a lovely garden of overwintering flowers, lush snapdragons and pansies, outside Paws, Whiskers, and Wags which is Your Pet Crematory. It's a crematory not a crematorium. Still, I think the flowers are a nice touch.

There are all kinds of interesting businesses along East Ponce de Leon. There are two doggie day cares. There's a strip club. There's an incubator of sorts full of offices. There's a now closed restaurant that may have been a Vietnamese coffee house or similar enterprise. There is a whole sale ware house that sells junk to the public. Sorry, I've been inside it. The description is apt, and there is a self storage place with a great mural of kitties sitting under the moon on its otherwise plain, brick exterior.

The best sight on East Ponce is the MARTA repair yards. I got to look down through the fence and see two ghost trains going through their paces. Ghost trains are trains getting est driven in the yard. They have few cars, and all their lights are out sometimes they pull into the Avondale MARTA station on the middle tracks. They are spooky. Tonight I watched the ghost trains before the entered the stations. One of them squealed on the tracks. It almost moaned. It was a creepy sight but fascinating.

I also got to look down into the MARTA train yards when I crossed the bridge from East Ponce to East College in search of a soda earlier. I thought it would be great if someone could arrange a guided tour of the repair yards. That would be something worth seeing. One night on a train out of Kensington Station, I met a man worked in the yards, third shift. He hade thirty dollars an hour. I don't know what he did there, probably some highly skilled and/or very dirty work.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/10/10

Memorial Bend

The post office, where I had to go to mail my bills, yesterday at lunch break is at the Memorial Bend Shopping Center. Memorial bend if you just look at it, and if you drive by it rather than walk to it, looks just like any other shopping center on a busy highway, probably anywhere in the United States, but especially the South. Still, the place is worth a second look.

The walk to it is through what should be a fairly bucolic stretch of wooded four lane road called College Memorial Drive. College Memorial Drive, alas, is anything but bucolic. First, one has to reach the sidewalks. This means crossing without a light. Worse yet, the drivers use the street as a kind of cut-through, and they speed like demons. In other words, my trip started out with me taking my life in my hands.

Second, College Memorial has at least one dead business on it. It used to be a recording studio. Before that it was a day care center. Now it's "Available," which is real estate-ease for for sale. It's been for sale forever. I think the vandals ahve gotten to it. So it goes. The complexes along College Memorial are gated for a reason.

Still Clarkston is more vibrant and a lot happier than many scruffy neighborhoods in West Atlanta. One of the reasons is that people walk. On College Memorial and on Memorial, you will pass people and they will pass you, and no one will apologize. These are city folks, and they'll dispense with stupid greetings and leave you alone. They know there are sidewalks. They belong there. They are going about their business and expect you to do the same. I like that.

Where the sidewalks end, and they end in the weirdest places, you can see a very well defined trail indicating lots of pedestrian traffic in the salmon colored, clay soil, which you see because feet all going somewhere have long worn away the grass. When you I pass the bus stop just beyond the Lutheran Church, there is often someone in the kiosk. The 121 MARTA bus runs up and down Memorial every twenty minutes and even more often at rush hour. This will change on July 1, when MARTA cutbacks go into effect.

Finally, you reach Memorial Bend shopping center. It doesn't look like much of a place. There is a Pizza Hut/Wing Street, Subway, some clothing stores, a TJ Maxx across the road, a Publix, a Post Office, and further up the road is a Walgreens. All of this is important. There is also a bus waiting bench on the right of way that you will often share in the evening with another fellow rider. That is the beginning of your second look. You have to remember that all those pedestrians, and the drivers in what is usually a bustling parking lot, have to come from somewhere, and all around this shopping center are modest, apartment complexes, but even those of modest means need stuff.

Now take a third look. The clean well lighted chain stores have excellent selections and non-rip off prices. If you need to rent a video tape, buy some pain killer or tooth paste, need a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, or a cheap sixty-four ounce bottle of soda, Memorial Bend is the place to go. Moreover, the Publix has the best selection of tea short of Whole Foods or Rainbow Natural Foods in Atlanta. The immigrant population are all hot tea drinkers.

Places like Memorial Bend keep neighborhoods like Clarkston from turning into "food deserts," though there is a curiously Atlanta twist to the story. The presence of big green grocers like Your Dekalb Farmer's market makes supermarket produce a bit of a convenience and a bit pricey. Savvy shoppers go to Your Dekalb Farmer's market for their weekly produce fix. The other weird twist is that I can NOT buy pantyhose at Memorial bend. The Publix there for some reason does not sell them and the Walgreens does not have standard size (Size B) non-control top regular, ordinary pantyhose. I do better in and around Decatur for some reason. I think this has to do with questions of ethnicity and size.

The presence of "hideous plastic chain stores" is also a good thing for another reason. Stores do not operate as charities, and if they can't turn a profit or if shrinkage makes it impossible for them to earn a profit, they close. Publix and the other chains can survive and thrive at Memorial Bend, and when I enter Publix, I don't have to surrender my backpack at the service counter as I do at the Kroger's on North Decatur where I usually shop. That too, is an excellent sign.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/5/10

Making Life Complicated

All I want to do is pay my bills, but there are no more mailboxes on campus. There is a post office about a mile or more from here on foot, but mailing my bills is going to absorb my entire lunch break. Let's just say I am less than thrilled.

Naturally, I decided to see if there were any mailboxes nearby about which I did not know. I went to the Postal Service web site and to Find-A-Mailbox.com, and both sites listed the now gone mailboxes that are no longer on campus. How do you say "out of date?" or better yet underwhelmed?

I of course have a bright idea. Why not phone the local post office? They'll know if the mailbox on Indian Creek a few blocks from here (much closer) still exists. I'm not a big fan of making these kinds of phone calls. For routine questions, like "Where is the nearest mailbox?" or "What hours are you open?" robots and computers ought to be able to provide answers, but GIGO: Garbage in. Garbage out. I guess I have to make that call or take a long walk at lunch.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 5/4/10