Thursday, October 28, 2010


Memories are like ancient cities that always seem to have yet another buried existence.
I ended up buying my grandmother's house when it was determined that someone should be around for safety's sake. Personally, I thought she would live forever preserved by hard work in the garden, eating raw horse radish and garlic, powdered donuts and half cooked bacon. The only food of hers that I could tolerate was home bread and pizza. I was always puzzled how someone who could make such tasty bread would sometimes make a sandwich without bread-believe me that is not a pretty sight. It's the conversations we had sitting in the living room while she would make rag rugs by hand without looking or seeming to concentrate on the task that I remember the most. She would complain about being in her eighties and having out lived all her friends and that soon it would be her time to die. I said, "Ma, if you were going to die you would have died years ago. After all, most people live to 75 or 80, but you've passed that age a long time ago so I don't really think you are going to die. Now Ma had no sense of humor, but she was devoted to her family- even grandchildren that she suspected had fallen down and hit their heads when they were little. That look and shake of the head, full of compassion for her not-right grandson was back once again. We also had odd theological discussions. We would talk about God and I said God was unknowable. Again the sad shake of the head for her Jewish grandson. I was Jewish because in Poland they only had Jews and Catholics and since I was not Catholic I had to be Jewish-plus I wore a hat if any more proof was needed. Anyway, she opened up her incredibly large Polish Bible filled with illustrations. Polish Bibles also have recipes for galumpkis(stuffed cabbage) and kruskies(a kind of a cookie). She turned to an illustrated portrait of God majestic in his white robes and flowing white hair. I must say He looked good for his age and bore a striking resemblance to country singer Kenny Rogers. Once again, faced with irrefutable evidence, I had to admit that God was not unknowable. Buying her a Xmas gift was close to impossible. What do you get someone who has nothing, and doesn't want or need anything? I bought for her a small statue of a lady that could have passed for Mary, the mother of Jesus. In the days after the holiday I could tell she was perturbed and puzzled by something. Finally she came into the living room one evening carrying my Xmas gift with a serous look on her face. "Ronnie, why you give me a statue of some guy named "Art" for Xmas?" I was really confused. She turned the statue upside down and sure enough written on the base was the word "Art". By the way, my grandmother didn't live forever. I am comforted by the fact that she is in heaven with Kenny Rogers and she is telling everyone what a great singer God is. God is a great singer. His songs are the lullabies of grandmothers softly singing their grandchildren to sleep.

Friday, October 22, 2010


One Show

I danced with one-legged lady
Far above the shuffling feet of clay
Her dress was torn
There was a run in her nylons
She held me close as a whisper and whispered
"Hold your head up
If you want to dance with me"
I had to ask
"How is it that you can dance on one leg?"
I felt the heat on my ear before I heard the words
"Patience, my love"
With a wave of her hand the music stopped
The air became silent
The room made room for us
Moving dancers became unmoving spectators
"Everyone, please listen!
Only the heart can lok up
Never look down
Never see the garbage in the streets
Never see the crumbling sidewalks
Never see.........................................
The one shoe

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

what a day

Tuesday is my long work that begins at six a.m. and ends with our "Don't Dis My Ability" radio show on Portsmouth Community Radio. Google search and you can listen to shows on audio archives. The guests were the director of Richie McFarland Children's Center and a father of one of the children afflicted with a rare birth defect. Moving story of love and devotion by a staff and a family. Not too long ago families were advised to give up their child to a state facility, but this father and the rest of the family would never, at any time or any place, abandon their son. Hard to keep control of your emotions sometimes when I look love in the face. I often wonder during these interviews what is the purpose of such mysterious events that occur in our lives. This morning I am thinking about this father and this family's obvious daily commitment to give their three year old son ...everything. And in doing so, give the rest of us hope which is...everything.
Last week I went to my old man's weekend job. Strange that I should be paid to live in what is essentially a Bed & Breakfast setting. The eighty year old mother was saying goodbye to her forty something autistic son telling him that he was perfect and asked him what does mommy want you to be. He answered as he always does with one word, "Happy".

I almost forgot. When I was leaving the radio station last night our engineer asked me if I was going to attend the pot luck and station meeting the next night. I said I could not because I had to be at my FA meeting. He told me that I was going to be named volunteer of the year at the dinner. Karen will accept and read this on my behalf.

Dear Friends and Fellow Volunteers,
I am the smallest member of a team of giants that make up "Don't Dis My Ability". Their names are Ali Ketchum, John Eubanks and John Lovering. We interview mountain climbers, who each and every day, climb the steepest of mountains. It is on their behalf that I accept this recognition.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dr. Mary story

How can a Mongol dwelling remind me of a story about my mother? That's not a rhetorical question. I'm reaching out for help, people. I heard the word "yurt" yesterday. Yurt is a Mongol dwelling. Actually, I don't even know if the person said "yurt". They might have said, "I hurt my finger" or "Do you think Gertrude is a nice name for our new baby"? It doesn't matter because I immediately thought of something that happened forty years ago. We had a demented neighbor who lived across the street in a run down house. He was a short little man that had a loud raspy voice which he used to yell at anyone who crossed his path. His name was Art, but for some reason we referred to him as "Yurt" and we were afraid of him. I don't know why we called him "Yurt". We thought it was a funny name for a mythical figure who escaped from violent children's fable. "Run! Yurt is after us! We dared each other to knock on his door but no one ever had the nerve. There was a wonderful elderly couple who lived in a little cottage right next to Yurt's house. They were even more afraid of Yurt than my friends and I. One summer they were painting their little cottage--just the two of them. Yurt was watching their progress every day. He knew that sooner or later they would need to paint the back of their cottage that was right on the edge of his property. Yurt knew that the old couple would have to put a ladder on his property in order to paint the back of their cottage and he was waiting to pounce on them with flying geriatric fists. The old couple came over to my mother, who liked to sit on her porch in good weather and wait for the next patient.
"Dr. Mary! What can we do? Mr. Kass is waiting for us to trespass on his property so he can scream and wave his fists and call the police. We really need to finish painting our cottage!"
I was listening to the conversation and wondered what my mother would do? She said, "Mr. Kass takes his basket and wheels it down South Chestnut Street to buy groceries for the week. You have about an hour and a half to finish painting the back of the cottage. Have all your materials ready tomorrow afternoon when he leaves for shopping and as soon as he gets out of sight paint as fast as you can!" This was better than a low budget crime picture at the shabby theater on Main street where the popcorn was so old and disgusting that the only reason the kids bought a bag for 10 cents was to dump it on someone's head. I sat on the porch way too excited for a lazy summer afternoon and wondered. Would Yurt surprise the old folks on his property and beat the stuffing out of them? Would he catch them high up on the ladder and kick the ladder out from under them? I sat on our porch--front row seating for the main event. I looked at the old couple slapping paint everywhere. Then I looked at Yurt just coming into sight on South Chestnut. So far he hadn't spotted the mad painters. I leaned back and got comfortable. Any moment now I thought. Yurt finally looked up and let out what was most likely a garbled raspy obscenity. He started yelling and running with his grocery cart. The old couple finished putting paint on the last bare spot and scampered down the ladder. They struggled carrying the ladder and paint supplies as Yurt got closer and closer. It was going to be a photo finish and the winner was Mr. & Mrs. Geezer by a nose. They ran into their house, locked the door and pulled down the shades. Yurt was jumping up and down waving his fists until he wore himself out. Defeated, he slinked back with his weeks food to his ramshackle house.
Years later a normal couple bought Yurt's house and a couple of young guys rented the old folk's cottage. The neighborhood was no where near as fun. Everything changed except my mother. Desperate people--either physically or emotionally sick would come to her with impossible problems and she knew what to say and how to help them. Toward the end of her life I came home to her house in Maine and saw a sobbing lady being swallowed by my mother who was sobbing right along with her. They never saw me. I'm confident that she was doing exactly the right thing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Tuesday is the only week day I work and thank God for that. I don't know how I ever did this job 7 days a week. People all over the world say that in different languages. I read a National Geographic article about Chinese men who all their lives pull barges up a river. A whole line of them strapped to a heavy rope straining from morning to night. Strange what we complain about. Muhammad said in an Hadith that "A complaining man complains in paradise". I wasn't aware that He visited America. Goldilocks complained about porridge or something about three bears. I'm not sure I can sympathize with the complaints of mythical characters. Maybe Goldy was upset about stepping in something outside the bears cottage--that at least would be more understandable. There is a joke about an elderly grandmother with early signs of dementia visiting her family in Florida. She asked to take her little grandson to the beach dressed in a brand new sailor suit she had brought with her. After repeated assurances that she would be vigilant at the ocean off they went. Of course the old lady lapsed into dreams of long ago moonlight and jasmine when she could actually see the moon and smell the jasmine. The little boy wandered into the ocean and was going down under the waves when a lifeguard saved him. He was brought to the grandmother and given mouth-to-mouth to revive him. After some tense moments the boy began to cough and the crowd cheered. He was placed in the old ladies' arms. She looked down and then looked at the lifeguard and said, "he had a hat".
In an another era, an ice wagon would come to your house and drop off a block of ice to keep your food cold in an ice box. The idea should be revived except it should be a complaint wagon that comes to your door. I would gather all my complaints and hand them to the driver and he would complain "That's all? You must not be really living if you did not suffer disappointments yesterday. Did you not fall short of perfection? Were you not trying hard enough. Did you not have your love discarded like a used piece of gum?
What a world when the man who drives the complaint wagon complains better than anybody else. A final word. I am surprised as you are that this bit of fluff congealed and became serious. Oh well, I'll just try harder tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

a bit abstract

Each day on this new program, which is saving my life second-by second, new doors and windows keep opening up to the wider inner and outer worlds. I came into the bare church hall in downtown Portsmouth almost three months ago at 400lbs and nothing was working on my body except my ability to chew the wrong substances. Like most people I thought this was just a diet program cloaked in the trappings of spirituality, but found that it is a spiritual program cloaked in the trappings of a diet program. New revelations about myself as a Baha'i, about the mysteries of people and life grow like an out of control virus. The latest is an observation is about the wisdom of god reflected in the changes in my life. When I stopped poisoning my body with the wrong foods I began a rapid loss of weight the speed of which made those changes blatantly obvious. What is also obvious is the wisdom displayed in those changes, again second-by-second, as the weight disappears from areas most likely to threaten my existence. I lose a pound every two days mainly my stomach and not from my head or heart or lungs. Think about that a moment. This a continuous display of mind boggling intelligence that I have not noticed before. My intelligent food choices have open the door for the wisdom of God to work a miracle on a physical level. Conversely, slowly gaining weight every year was killing me. Despite my prayers, my behavior prevented the answer to my prayers from reaching me. To carry the comparison further, allowing the poison of materialism and ego and all the other poisons to enter my spiritual being prevents the spiritual wisdom of God to reach my spiritual reality. Bahai's believe that the spiritual world is a reflection of the physical world and that the main purpose of the physical world is for the individual to continually ask the inner question, "I observe this reality in the physical world what is the spirtual counterpart?" An obvious example is that we understand spiritual laws because we live with physical laws every day. To sum up; I am experiencing new insights on every level of the wisdom of God on a daily basis instead of experiencing new insights into my personal ignorance. Maybe there is hope for me yet.