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.

Shore Leave

The Ship of Misery pulled into the dock, and I climbed off into the jungle town. I walked behind the Avondale MARTA station. I walked through neighborhood streets heading west by the sun and watching for traffic lights and other signs of civilization. I wanted to walk to forget. I wanted to walk until darkness or sunset. I knew I'd have to go home and fix dinner. I hoped for a good social time on Second Life. I missed the pool, but I did not care. I'm back on deck now. It is crowded here. I'm here for the ride.

Here it is. I'm not sure if his family is in my synaoguge. I suspect they were peripheral players, but one never knows. There will be questions of who is in and who is out. There will be worse than that. I went through this three times before I was twenty. Loss of a contemporary is not a rite of passage, but it changes your life forever. I still carry the scars of both deaths.

There is nothing redeeming about a tragedy like this. The hurt takes months to go away and in some ways it never leaves. Some people will ask horrible questions because they have to ask them. People will ask how did Ben die? I don't know. I hope the medical examiner got to perform an autopsy and the family consented to it. A well meaning friend asked if it was a drug overdose. I said I thought it was an epileptic seizure. I am just guessing.

When I was twelve, I lost a classmate on March 6, 1975. Her name was Mary Benedicts and she sat right in front of me in homeroom and math class. She lived at 13 Wildwood, Ardsley New York, a neighborhood within walking distance of my own, an area we called "Behind the High School." Mary would never live to go to Ardsley high school. We were in seventh grade when a gas furnace in her house leaked and then exploded. Her father perished in the fire. Mary, according to what they told us, died in her sleep from suffocation before the blaze started. I guess the medical examiner did his or her job.

I was a wretchedly unhappy early adolescent and I asked: "Why wasn't it me instead?" Yeah, I wanted to trade places. I never considered suicide, beacuse I fear what for a better word you can call demons, but I would have gladly traded in my seventh grade reality for something different. That's not a trade you get to make. This was survivor envy, not survivor guilt. I spent a lot of time in middle and high school attempting to resurrect Mary through fiction and art. An art project in ninth grade, which was supposed to be a poster with a made up alphabet, featured a picture of Mary Benedicts and two other girls from the other side, having returned to earth, the roof of Ardsley Middle School to be exact. The roof of Ardsley Middle School is a great, flat white expanse of pebbles that glows in the sun. It's still there. The picture vanished. My Mom threw it away when she downsized. I don't know why I didn't rescue it. It doesn't matter, because I can never forget.

Danya Betrai Bulkhind committed suicide on the morning of September 20, 1980. My sophomore year roommate, Cynthia Thompson, was the last one to see her alive. Cyndi was singing in the bathroom and Danya complimented her. I saw Danya the day before she killed herself. She was curled up perpendicular to the extra long bed, curled up like a sad shrimp who cried "Go away!" when I returned the painting supplies to she and her roommate, Ernst. I went out to hunt insects at the arboretum beyond the Ag Quad, and Danya threw herself off the Fall Creek Bridge. I once read over Danya's shoulder (That's what it felt like) when I took biochem as a junior. I was reading along and my textbook changed to one with orange illustrations. I later figured out which textbook I had seen. I knew over whose shoulder I read for those few brief seconds. Yes, it felt weird. I shivered as I walked to Risley for lunch that day.

Danya was crazy. Crazy people kill themselves. Sane people may wish they were dead, but the wish is not father to the deed. Generally we sane folks stick around to see what will happen next or take care of business or because there is something fun expected on the weekend or a birthday or holiday is coming up. Sane people even stick around when they realize they don't have a lot of options which was the way I felt at the end of my first semester of library school. I managed to get good (inflated) grades and graduate. I managed to find a job. I'm forty-eight and it's been my lot to keep managing.

That won't be Ben's lot. I don't envy him this time around. I hope he did not have a hand in his own demise. People will hurt even if it was simply unknown disease that took him. People will hurt even if it was nobody's fault, which it may well be. Excrement happens, and the universe throws shit at you. It's that simple, and that absolutely, suckie. That is why I walked back down out of the jungles of Decatur and climbed back on the ship.

It's crowded on the deck now. It's crowded in the snack bar. They have Baskin Robbins or a kosher substitute, thirty-one flavors of misery, thirty one flavors of grief. Ben's death makes a mockeryof the three weeks and nine days of mourning. You can grieve for what could have been. You can grieve for what you never had. You can grieve about the effects of decent pain. Ben's death makes all that seem puny and a parody of grief. This kind of a loss is off the chart. We try to pretend it doesn't happen. Well, my fellow passsengers, welcome to rality.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/30/10

Without Official Papers

How did this happen? My passport which lasted forever, expired in March. I couldn't vote in the primaries. I want to vote in the general election. I know I need some sort of ID. The reason I was using my US Passport as an ID rather than a nondriver's ID card the way I would have done in New York State, was that you had to be able to drive to get a nondriver's ID card in Columbus, Georgia. A passport was easier to get. It involved the US main and the US post office both accessible by an easy walk. Mass transit in Columbus Georgia was rudimentary, and there were no buses travelling eight miles out to the Motor Vehicle Department in the middle of nowhere. There was also no way to get a nondriver's ID downtown to which there were were buses, and to which the six mile walk was doable for someone in good physical condition. Passports, though, don't last forever.

Now I'm a person without official papers. I don't exist. I can't buy certain cold remedies for fear that I'll make them into methamphetimine. Of course I don't see how this stops anybody from buying cold remedy at several different drug stores. People get colds. It's an innocent purchase whether someone with ID makes it or not.

I read what it takes to renew my passport. It takes a lot of time and my expired passport could get lost in the mail. I do want to renew my passport, but I want and need to vote far more than I need to travel. For days I have been dreading looking up what it takes to obtain a nondriver's ID in Georgia. I was sure I did not have the papers, and that getting them would take forever. I finally screwed up my courage and went to The DeKalb County Motor Vehicle Department's Web Page, and read what I'd need. I have proof of residence. I, of course, am missing my birth certificate, and it needs to be a raised seal birth certificate. My heart sank.

Those things take weeks to get. I remember explaining about this when I got my first job in Utica. When I said "New York City" everyone in the personnel office understood, and we all waited the six weeks until the pretty, pale green document arrived. It is really very impressive. It has a real raised seal. Off I went to the New York City Department of Health web site prepared for another six week ordeal. The world has changed a lot since 1988. I ordered the certificate online and it takes five to ten days to process (Closer to five), and then another two to five days by mail. Let's just say I feel relieved. I will take some time off to travel down to the motor vehicle bureau and with papers in order, I'll become a real person with a real ID again, a state issued ID. Smile and say cheese! It won't even be remarkable as it was in 1990, when I watched my photo find its way on to a writeable CD. Back then that was top shelf technology at the county courthouse in Utica. Oneida County in New York State made getting a nondriver's ID very, easy. I hope DeKalb County here in Georgia works as well.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/28/10

Everyone Melts but Me

I didn't melt though we had temperatures in the mid-ninties. I like the heat and still freeze miserably in air conditioning. I sweat through shirts, but I don't get sick. I try to stay in the shade because the sun here is so strong it is painful. Still, I am out and about. If I sleep in, I have to be out and about in the heat. There are only so many hours that businesses are open on a Sunday so I sweat. I sweat until I semll like a sour hamper.

I even managed to pick up a sunburn. I went swimming around noon, before I went shopping at the Farmer's Market. The Farmer's Market is really not a famers' market, but a green grocer with very good prices. I took the bus part of the way to avoid a street with no shade. Still, I got my share of heat and sun. When I was in the bathroom at the Farmer's Market I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. "Boy!" I thought. "You have fantastic color!" My cheeks were lovely and rosey. Then I noticed my forehead and nose was also lovely and rosey, a pretty pink mask. I touched my skin. It did not hurt, but I had a very, mild sunburn, and it masks my face just where I take it out of the water to breathe when I swim breast stroke. By tomorrow, some of this red will turn brown. I don't usually s unburn, but being near water in the noon day sun was enough to leave a mark.

I made sure I could take a bus back from the market to the Avondale MARTA station. From there I could use shadey neighborhood streets. The trick, I learned yesterday is to eat and drink sufficiently. For some reason it takes calories as well as water to cope with the heat. I realized this when I had an easy walk back from synaoguge despite wearing stockings under a skirt and having a sweat shirt and windbreaker tied around my waist. The windbreaker was in case of rain and the sweat shirt came in handy in the freezing, cold sancutary. That synagogue is an ice box! I also work in an ice box. Needing a sweater to deal with air conditioning is part of summer in Atlanta.

My food made it home intact and undamaged despite the heat. Some of this is due to the fact that nearly all my fruit was green. If you ask who wants to buy unripe fruit, ask on a ninty plus degree day. Fruit that doesn't survive the trip home is a waste of money, and I stlll have fruit from last week. I have a ripening bowl and it is now full. In a few days, some of the contents will make their way to the fridge. Meanwhile, Lysistrata, my classic brown tabby queen cat (She is spayed but she is still a queen as far as I'm concerned.) started nuzzling the pluots. She nuzzled the fruit bowl as well. I know that she like all cats, can't taste sweet. She will NOT eat the fruit. It's just on her table where she has two nests, one at each end, and therefore, the fruits and their bowl are in her territory. The fruits could smell of whatever wearhouse they lived in before being shipped to the Farmer's Market or of whoever handled them. Either way, Lysistrata needed to mark them, and no I did not stop her. I'll wash the fruit before I eat it anyway, so she can nuzzle to her heart's content, purring while she makes sure the world knows the fruit bowl belongs to her.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/25/10

No Free Lunch for You

I'm not ready for a test of faith. I was ready several weeks ago, the last time I had an impending one, but not now. Maybe one is always ready in hindsight. A test of faith is a euphemism for not having someone invite me to lunch on shabbos. This of course should NOT be a disappointment. In fact, it is NOT a disappointment. Let's do a reality check folks. Let's do it once more, with feeling.I am not entitled dto a free lunch.. And even when I do get a free lunch, the company and the food are not always stellar. It is good that I don't have a free lunch.

True, I will have to walk home in the heat. True, I'll be tempted by the pool. True, I'll be tempted by the computer. True, I'll face a long afternoon of Shabbos boredom. The free lunches are really designed as time sinks to make keeping shabbos easier. On the other hand, I can read. I have plenty of reading matter. There is good, very cold, unsweet, Red Zinger tea in the fridge to drink, and I get to eat my own cooking which is my favorite cooking. The cats will get lots of petting, so they will enjoy themselves. There are a lot of upsides to a test of faith.

Right now for some reason, I can't think toward the future. I know I want to get in a swim tonight before shabbos starts. I did not mourn strictly before Tish B'Av, but there is only so much mourning you can do and summer is a bad time for mourning. If I want to feel bad, I have plenty of reason by the way. It is hot and we are on the verge of a drought. There are brown spots in the grass. Food is expensive due to crop failures. I can sit down any day of the week and tell you why this whole world is falling apart.

Two of my friends have fled the country, due in part to underemployment. A second friend is underemployed and her husband is unemployed. A third friend on the net can't work due to illness, and her husband has been unable to find steady work for months. Another friend on the net is unemployed an her husband is.... Is this getting to sound like a stinking, broken record. Since things are so rotten, who gives a you know what if I swim on Saturday? I guess I do not call the day that awaits me tomorrow a test of faith for nothing.

I am not sure of Emory's library hours on Saturday. They have good couches and all the magazines for which a person could ask. The library would make a pleasant stop on my way home. There are the animals on display in the pet store. I could visit the kitties waiting miserably in their cages for someone to give them a forever home. Don't ask me. I'm full up with two and I rent, but every now and again they have a huge tom with some personality who likes a good ear scritch. I'm also happy to naily pet any one who needs it.

Well, the library at Emory is open until 6pm. That should take a nice chunk out of the afternoon. There is a good kiddush waiting because the cupboard is full of love offering. If I feel very adventurous, I can always take a walk to the Oakhurst Community Garden below Agnes Scott. Passing a test of faith is after all just a matter of resourcefulness and forethought, and yes, there is no free lunch

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/23/10

Dreams on Tish B'Av

This is really true, though I didn't have any spectacular dreams on the brown leather couch in the kiddie lounge at Young Israel, where I went for Tish B'av services yesterday. Last Yom Kippur, I dreamed that I was taking both my parents over the roof tops of buildings as part of the path where the top of South Cayuga Street meets up with Hillview Place. This is one of the ways I used to bring my laundry home from the North Cayuga Street laundromat when I lived at 410 Hillview Place. Both my parents are Cornellians as I am, so the dream was very much about a longing for family and a meeting on common ground.

In my dream on Tish B'av, I was helping my mom to make stew or she was helping me. We seldom cook together. Mom was and is very territorial about her kitchen and a consumate neat freak. I reached adulthood not really knowing how to cook and making my housemates in the Prospect of Whitby my unwitting victims. I could, however, bake so go figure. Mom and home ec classes taught me that much. I probably even could have made bread, but was afraid to try at that point in my life.

Tish B'av is a holiday for thinking about the past and one's ties to it. Some things one should never give up mourning. Some wounds should never ever heal. Some parts of Judaism at least don't go in for that right thinking psychobabble about letting go and moving on. So it is with Brainstorms and so it is with the Second Temple. We got besieged by the Romans. We got scattered all over Europe. We had our religion changed forever and at the time against our will, though by now we have grown used to the changes and rather like them. Those Jews who went to Western Europe became Eurpean. When we moved to Eastern Europe we were still European.

We don't want another temple. I don't think most of us would want a caste of parasitic priests ruling us, requiring huge herds of animals, many of which would just get cremated and not eaten. Many of us would see no point in the expense or the cruelty of animal sacrifice. Besides, we don't have the Ark of the Covenant, so what would be the point? Just putting the Ark on exhibit somewhere, maybe behind a three inch thick piece of glass or other transparent material might be a great idea, and satisfying to modern sensibilities, but we don't have an Ark so that's out of the question.

Even if you don't let go, time and circumstances force you to move on. It's been that way in six years with Brainstorms. Yes, I could play pretend. It's not pointless. It's become fiction that probably bears on resemblence to anything but a memory of a collection of web boards to which I've belonged for five months, and that is a memory that grows dimmer and dimmer. I've found Second Life. I found Neopets. I'm busy with RAOK and LOTH on Facebook and that fills my promise to work against Brainstorms' ideals. I don't share music illicitly. I try to draw my own images. I do use Creative Commons but I do not believe in Lawrence Lessig's license to steal. Those who disrepsect property wind up disrepecting people. Like the Jews who were besieged and degraded by the Romans, I was jerked around miserably at Brainstorms.

The memories of that lengthy parody of due process will always be with me, and satisfyingly enough the scars are still there. There is a community out there called The Perfect World. I have a membership there, and have never been ill treated, even though they hose the place out each morning, and you know why. I have never become deeply involved or participated very much. I have sworn no more intellectual communities unless they are work related or unless I was all ready a member in May 2004. I have kept my promise. I am gun shy. When Brainstorms ejected me, they took a piece of my innocence that thankfully has never returned.

OK, so the sixty-four thousand dollar question is: do I want to go back to Brainstorms. Suppose Howard Rheingold or whoever is in charge there, the governing counsel, came back to me and saidL: "All is forgiven. We'd like you to rejoin, no questions asked." First, I thank God no one is making me such an offer, because I just might say "yes," but even if I said "yes," I would probably treat Brainstorms much as I treat the Perfect World. There are no more perfect worlds, and a part of me would like to avoid people who are willing to inflict the kind of pain and damage the Brainstormers inflicted on me. Let the Romans have Italy. Let them have Jerusalem. Me, I'll either go out and fight with the Parthians, who are the up and coming superpower in the Near East or I'll be heading over the Alps to Gratianopolis, at the edge of the empire where I can do what I want.

In six years, I've built a cyberlife that does not include Brainstorms and also one that does not depend on community where the lights are always on and there is always something happening. Similarly, we Jews have build a religion that no longer needs a Temple or animal sacrifice. We still have the scar. It still hurts. Maybe not being able to go back is a form of damage in and of itself. Maybe realizing that you can't go back is cause enough to mourn.

As often happens on Tish B'av, I got a chance to draw. You can draw on Tish B'av and I had my sketch diary at the ready. I opened it up prepared to design textiles for new outfits for Iyoba in Second Life, but instead, I found images for a redesign of Haldis' team at the Webleagues and realized I ought to finish the job. Site Fighting may be on its way out, but I want to go with a beautiful team site for Haldis. You can't go back, but you can enjoy the time you have left. I think I need only two or three images and some time with a scanner and GIMP to get things ready. The team will have a truely modern design. The Wayback Machine will spider it, and there it will be for all to see. That is how I want it to end. I know we can not go back to the glory days of Site Fighting and I know I will mourn its loss, probably for the rest of my life. There is such a thing by the way as anticipatory grief.

It is also possible to mourn what could have been. I think a lot of the "baseless hatred" stories that rabbis tell about the Second Temple on Tish B'av are of that nature. When I think about site fighting and I think about the social networking sites on the net, I think that given more foresight and funding, and a more liberal attitude, and some controls on wanton vote exchange and better relations between competitions when there were still plenty of web site owners looking for a connection, site fighting could have grown to the point where there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of competitors and where water cooler conversation would be about who is competing and whom one supports, and the different natures of different comps and the kinds of people each attracts. As a social entree, site fighting had a lot to recommend it. There is more to life than a meritocracy and mixing diverse people together while each keeps their own site which is their own site within very broad terms of service (and not a profile on a service that tries to mine their data) was a great idea. My dream of site fighting never happened. At most there were two hundred fighters actively exchanging votes. I think that number is now down to less than fifty. It's over, and it never was. Still I'm going to finish redesigning the Art Leagues to leave one for the archives, and maybe to show a little bit of the dream that never came true.

You can mourn in so many ways. Everyone should take some time to do it. One moves on anyway because one has to rebuild or learn to do without or a mixture of both. Sooner or later hope wears thin. It feels good though sometimes just to tally up the losses or the could have beens or the yet to be tallied losses and admit how rotten it all is. Acknowledging the hurt and admitting it is real, feels really good once in a while.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/21/10

No Way to Say "No"

If I were someone like Rabbi Broyde who didn't care what anybody thought and who could always in the end hang out his shingle and whose reputation was large enough to command a price, it might be different. If I had pious grandparents living or dead or other pious relatives, it might be different. My grandparents assimilated, and no I don't have a bubbie or a zeidi. Il n'est pas polie que parle une langue qui tous les gens ne copmprenent pas. I had a grandfather for whom I am named which means he died before I was born, but he was my mom's favorite parent. I had two grandmothers who were feisty old ladies, one grandfather who told me his secrets, and one great grandmother who was the stuff of legend, but pious, these people weren't.

So what is a bala tsuva to do when her boss asks her to attend a conference on Shabbos. I said "yes" to this two years ago. I even traveled to Philadelphia for it. Now the conference has come to Atlanta. My boss has offered travel funds which have somehow become available. I wasn't frum when I interviewed for this job. I became observant to pay back a debt of gratutitude to Hashem for what is called in Hebrew rachmones. Translated back into English this means special mercy. Rachmones is so awesome, for want of a better word, it is something you never want to receive. It also something of which you hope never to be in need. Yet, here I was in the summer and fall of 2006 with a gift from Heaven and the opportunity to become observant.

And don't ask me if I fear God's punishment. I don't, not in the simplistic sense. I just hate the idea of my breaking faith with a community and breaking faith with Him. That's the part that hurts. I will feel like such a hypocrite that weekend if I refuse the food and bring my own because I keep kosher. I will feel like a hypcrite going to services and then sneaking back home and going to the conference or carrying on Shabbos so I can attend the conference. You get the idea.

I wonder if there is a way to say "No." The answer from what I have heard of people who have actually done it, and not Michael Broyde, is that you suffer a few career consequences and move on. The one "real" person whom I have met who said "no" missed a promotion. For a lot of people that would be unacceptible! Some might even consider that unethical since the man in question had three children to feed. I have also sort of seen the real life results of saying "no" among the teenagers and recent college graduates in Toco Hills. Few of them work any kind of noncasual job. A lot of low level jobs involve work on "weekends." In other words, for most regular folks "no" has consequences.

The question then is, are the consequences acceptible. I am self supporting. I have money in the bank but no human backup and my own record finding work (at least in my own eyes. Remember I have waged several professional, national job hunts) is spotty. My nonprofessional employment record is painful. I've lived on air. It is a sickening feeling. I cherish security.

I also cherish my professional status. Going to conferences and doing well at work enhances this. A professional status, by the way, is far more than a job. It's bigger than parnassa, the Hewbew word for earning your bread. It's more than bread. It's the guarantee that the bread is fresh and wholesome, and that there is enough to feed others who want to learn to bake the same recipe. I in fact put my professional status ahead of my job. I don't want to say more, except that when I have had to say "no" to a boss, it has been over ethical issues involving my profession.

One time I even stood up to a colleague/supervisor over the way we were going to treat a prospective customer. Working or not working on Shabbos is NOT an ethical question. It is a question of how one spends one's leisure. It is a lifestyle question. Not all halacha deal with human ethics and in this case with what I do for a living they don't.

So the question is can I say "no?" If I valued adherance to my faith even in conflicts that were not ethical, over my professional status I could say "yes" but I don't. I am hurting no one but myself, and I am also benefiting. Religion is not the only thing I value. I don't think that's exactly hypocritical, but if it is, hypocrisy is the normal state of human affairs.

Second, my ancestors would all tell me to go to the conference. My grandfathers had to work Saturdays to support their families and compete in the business world. Synagogues used to be full of early minyans on Saturday morning that included the men who had to work six days a week because that was what was done, and the men still wanted a religious life. Those men had families to support, businesses to compete with, and questions of status in the wider world to answer. I am like those men. My boss is making me do this. A request from a superior is a command. I am not, unlike my real life example, going to give up professional status or take a hit because I refuse to work Saturdays.

As an aside, I'll be all "churched out" because this conference falls at the very end of a series of fall holidays. I remember how I felt last year and what a sour note Simchas Torah ended on. I think I'll be glad to have something secular to do. Can one be an honest hypocrite?

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/15/10

Sun, Clouds, Sweat, and Prayer

I went to Strive for Five on Monday. The sky stayed black for a long time as I walked up the hill. Then it turned to an overcast greyness with no sunrise. I strained for the tell tale red that gives warning and saw only coppery orange. We had no rain until late in the day and then way more thunder than anything else. There are black clouds and thunder outside my window now. That is a good thing if the sky can wring itself out. The ground is parched. There are big brown spots where the grass does not get watered.

I mostly slept through Strive for Five on Monday, but I did stay awake enough to appreciate Hallel which is mostly psalms of David rejoicing at surviving battle. Somehow those always inspire me. When I told a curious fellow passenger waiting for the #125 bus that I had been at an early morning prayer service, he asked if I had prayed for him. I told him that, no. I had prayed for rain. I did not even pray about the new assignment at work which I won't discuss on this blog. I had a game plan for that and was full of confidence. It was the thirsty earth that had me worried.

Monday dawned hot and sticky, but the air was full of that sickly sweet, dry grass smell that screams DROUGHT. People were edgy. The #30 bus which is usually the domainof somnolent commuters had a loud contingent in the back section. Adolescents or those recently escaped from that age range talked too loud and played music from their cell phones just loud enough to entertain the rest of the bus. Yes, it was real entertaining.

On the #125 into Clarkston, people fussed and fretted the whole way. One grown woman nearly had a melt down. It did not help that the bus got stuck behind a grade crossing and rerouted itself down one exit of the highway. Being in a bus on the highway is a novelty. I kind of enjoyed the ride. I did not have to worry about being late to work. I set up my Strive days to have slack in the morning schedule in case of a missed bus connection. That by the way, happened the last time I strove.

The rain has started to fall outside my window as I write this. It is loud because it hits a pipe. The thunder adds a deep accompaniment. I am glad it is raining. I am glad even though it may rain out my swim. Right now, I see brightness at the edge of the sky. The rain storm is like the one yesterday, all too brief. You know you have a serious drought, when you pray for rain and want more.

By the way, I could care less about the heat. The heat I just live with. Sometimes I get too much sun. Sunday, when I went shopping in the heat of the day, I came home soaked with sweat. I fell asleep around 6:30pm and woke up some time in the night and made myself eat supper, take a shower, and go back to bed. It was a strange existence to have a weekend so wiped out. On the other hand once it's behind me, I take it in stride. I remember worse. I remember the summer of 2008 when people sat on the sidewalk or the stone walls while waiting for the bus where there was no stop. I remember seeing people sick from the heat on the buses and supermarkets crowded late at night because they were big and cool and because it is better NOT to bring home groceries in the heat of the day even if you have a car. This summer is nothing like that except for the lack of rain.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/13/10

...I'm a D-E-C-K Head

I guess we all have moments like this. I missed Striver for Five again this morning due to oversleeping. My body demands the sleep and takes it, and I'm too young to go to bed with the chickens. Enough said.

I couuldn't cry when we had a bon voyage party for my friends who went to Israel. They left because both of them were underemployed. I don't know the rest. I don't want to know. I can guess, and what I guess scares me. I also play blame the victim with my friends. Some of that is probably true, but what is the point? Could any of us do any better? No doubt, I'd run into obstacles of my own making and they would be different, but they would be obstacles all the same? Job hunting expletive deleteds, and that is the truth.

Still, I couldn't cry. Why cry? There is email to span the globe, and Facebook, and Israel did not get hit by the recession in the same way as the United States. People aren't saints because they are leaving, and no one is indispensible, even good friends. They can't be indispensible because they leave. They leave because they have good reasons.

Only now, do I miss my friend. There's an empty, forty ounce, JIF peanut butter jar in my dish drainer. It was a full jar when my friend gave it to me. My friend also had a whole sea bass (cleaned but with the head and tail on it) in his freezer. He was supposed to serve it for Passover and never did. I don't know what became of it. I'm going to ask my friend if I ever get in touch with him again. I guess this sea bass is the difference between us. I figured out what to do with forty ounces of peanut butter, sandwiches plus two casseroles, and he bought a whole sea bass.

We used to joke about ourselves whenever we went to the Farmer's Market. I miss the trips not for the ride (I can arrange to catch a bus back if the heat is a real issue)but for the joke. It went something like this. His wife was not with us. I used to wonder about this, but people with long marriages make all sorts of compromises. He was too old and sickly for me. Had he been younger and cuter, I might have morphed into a disruptive presence, but it was strictly platonic between us and very social.

The joke went like this: Neither of us was any good at estimating the amount of groceries we needed and how long it would take. I always said: "I need a whole week's worth of groceries." To me, that was a lot. My fruit bowl was after all empty. No fruit would have meant a week of unspeakable bag lunching misery. That is how I think, and then there's two side dishes and one main dish (at least) to plan. I may need a few extras too, especially if I am trying something out.

My friend on the other hand always needed "only a little bit." Needless to say, he spent twice what I did and took about the same time. We never shopped together. I suspect, I was disorganized, but I don't think he was all that organized either. His wife, by contrast, would have been a paragon of both speed and organization, but she didn't like to shop or it wasn't her thing or maybe they would have fought. I don't know. I've often wondered about my friend's private life, but it is just that, private. I also consider myself friends with his wife by the way, but I was closer to him.

Anyway, I wait for my friend on Facebook, but he didn't take his computer. He took all the files, but didn't have the box shipped with all his household goods. The computer could have been upgraded fairly cheaply, and it makes a big difference. I had an upgrade done on my own computer to enable me to play Second Life. The other reason for sending the computer is that a computer, even an old and rickety one, means cheap communication. It also means commmunication across eight time zones. A 10pm call in Israel is likely to hit the answering machine because I am at work or if it's to my cell, I'm working and I won't pick it up. An email is something I can ready when I am ready. The same is true for Facebook messages. Facebook messaging is email minus any worries about spam.

Well, my friend has no computer. He's in Israel and he's gone. I guess he is off the ship of misery that rode through the May entries of this blog. He and his family had their passports stamped and got ashore. I was not allowed off the ship. I don't have the papers. Also still on board but missing is my friend who lost both her job and her dog, though she has a new dog now. Both she and the dog are below decks or maybe they jumped overboard. It's summer and the ship is deserted. I'm left on the deck a total...er uh...dick head.

By the way, my health is more or less fine. Supplements and watchful waiting take care of the fibroids and other female issues as well as some iron deficiency. My friends are gone though and I'm stuck on this silly ship. I'm not up for Saturday's test of faith even though I cooked and stowed all the food last night. When it's vacation time, home hospitality drops by the wayside. I'm OK with that. No one ever promised me a free lunch, and they surely don't serve those on the Ship of Misery.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/8/10

A Test of Faith

I missed Strive for Five this morning because I got to bed at 3:30am and I wanted to sleep. I opened my eyes at 11am. This should have felt like I was back in Columbus, Georgia, but it doesn't. Nothing this three day weekend has felt like it should, but that is fine with me.

Saturday I had a test of faith. This means that nobody invited me to their home for Shabbos lunch. This happens sometimes. The trick to handling it well is remembering you aren't in sixth grade any more. It's not personal or it if it so what. You are not entitled to a free lunch. I trotted home, but was too sick to eat much. My stomach was violently upset due to female trouble and as a reaction to two drugs I take which are stomach irritants. I'm going to have to go through this once a month whether I like it or not. Such is life. The cold was still there, but mostly gone. I did not swim Sunday because I did not have time for it, but today I got in the water and it was wonderful, but there I was Saturday, alone, sick, and with a long Shabbos afternoon stretching out. I did not eat.

I drank some ice tea and went to bed. I slept most of the aftrenoon and woke up around 8pm. I then realized I wanted a walk. I got up. Dressed in shorts and carried only my keys on a halachily approved shoe lace and walked to downtown Decatur and then back via Glenlake Road. My stomach was no longer upset. My nose no longer ran. The night was not too hot and the sun was starting to set. I felt fantastic. I felt grateful. It was as if I had had a fantastic Shabbos. I guess this is what a test of faith is all about.

Some of that good attitude has even stuck around. It is hard to describe, but I have a short day off due to sleeping in and nothing much to do, but I went for a swim. I am making bread. I am playing Second Life and I don't care.

I do want to write about Parshas Pinchas but I want to check some facts. I think I may have a new take on the story. If I don't, I'll feel sort of relieved...I guess.

The fireworks at Lenox were fantastic as always. I still do not know why any one goes to the Decatur show unless they want their little kids to ride their bike in the parade, when they can go to the largest show in the Southeast via MARTA. The fireworks are amazing. They come in every color of the rainbow and they don't have too many screamers or boomers, just lots of color and interesting shapes, but the fireworks are not the main part of the evening I remember. Even the great pressing surge of people making their way down Paces Ferry Road to the MARTA station when the show was over. I do remember the smoke and cinders that hung in the air like disappointment and triumph when the show was over and how as usual the songs clipped together left out disquieting lyrics. Fourth of July is feel good time after all.

What stands out from this year was the crowd and the hosts from WSB, the local CBS affiliate, who worked them. Any one who works a crowd needs to think about safety, heat, and human nature. First the hosts threw beachballs into the crowd. Some people took these home, but they also tossed them around first. One even hit me on the head, but a beach ball is soft, inflated, and light as a feather.

Then the hosts started throwing t-shirts. You can't play with a t-shirt. Finders keepers. Hands shot up. Eyes followed the trajectory of what they must have been shooting with a catapault. Arms stretched and when a t-shirt fell, the crowd went into a frenzy. I saw people alnmost fight over a shirt not too far from me. I saw it twice. The second time, I said to the woman next to me: "Somebody could get hurt." She realized this too and had a look of such pain and remorse on her face for having been part of the frenzy. It was a myrical that nobody near me was hurt. That someone might have gotten bruised or had a hand or foot stepped on is a foregone conclusion.

I wish the staff at WSB realized that people get strange in the heat when they stand in a crowd listening to loud oldies and waiting for the main show. They get strange when their stomachs are full of warm beer and their bodies are coated with sweat. You don't want to throw things at people like that and have them scramble for them. It's fun to play God with them sure, but you are also playing devil and you may not like the results.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/5/10

And the World Stood Still

The world either stood still or I got off it and it passed me by. Now not only am I among the sick in my habits, thanks to health insurance, I am one of the sick for real thanks to a nasty cold. My nose is a burning snot factory. My eyes are on fire. I thought I had a hormonal headache this morning with a few little sniffles. Nope... I feel prickly. The thought of swimming makes me ill. This thing hit like a locomotive, and I was lying on the tracks taking a sunbath. Goodbye evening swim. I don't even feel like making corn bread, though I probably will. I could always make corn pone. It's chewier and can be easily reheated.

I don't know why I got this cold. I could have met someone sick at the big medical complex in Sandy Springs yesterday. I could have met some poor, sick soul on the MARTA trains. It could be stress. It's been six months without a virus. Before that they hit me nonstop one after another. That's what made me get doctored in the first place. It's like coming full circle.

I don't care if the world passes me by. I am going to collapse in my tracks no matter what. It is only because I value this blog, that I've kicked it off for the month. Self expression is more important than community. Use it or lose it. I always have something to say, and it's pretty usually evil.

Eileen H. Kramer -- 7/1/10