Tuesday, March 31, 2015

colored flowers for the rabbit to eat, that it may lay colored eggs

Easter is a funny Christian holiday. You never know where it's going to fall on the calendar. Could be March. Could be April. I've wondered about this for ever so long, so, today I Googled it and found answers. Yes. That is plural. There's not just one answer.

For those readers who may not know, Easter is when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, who rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion and ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God. These events are recorded in the New Testament of the Holy Bible.

However. What does that word mean?

  1. restore (a dead person) to life.
    "he was dead, but he was resurrected"
    synonyms:raise from the dead, restore to life, revive
    "we believe that Jesus was resurrected"

Given the literal implications of resurrection, it makes sense that Easter should be celebrated at the beginning of Spring, when everything is new again.

So, it appears that some folks decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after (but, never on) the Paschal full moon. Theoretically, the Paschal full moon is the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox.

On the two equinoxes every year, Spring and Autumn, the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal – but not quite. (Which is a whole other conversation for another day.)

In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea (the first Christian advisors, of sorts) established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. From that point forward, the Easter date depended on the ecclesiastical approximation of March 21 (the first day of Spring) for the vernal equinox.

Easter is delayed by one week if the full moon is on Sunday, which decreases the chances of it falling on the same day as the Jewish Passover. Got that?

According to the New Testament, Jesus celebrated Passover before he was crucified, so, clearly Passover is linked to the Christian holiday of Easter.

BUT!!! Easter and Passover are based on two different calendars. Easter is based on the solar calendar, the calendar commonly used today. In Western churches, Easter is dated as the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring which means it will occur somewhere between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Orthodox churches have a different approach based on the lunar calendar.

Passover, on the other hand, is based on the Jewish calendar, a lunar calendar that has twelve 28-day months. (Oh, the moon!) The Book of Leviticus, chapter 23, verses 4-8, puts the emphasis on the first and seventh days of Passover, calling for "gathering of a sacred assembly and abstaining from regular work." I have attended a Jewish Seder and the message appears to me to be similar ... many of the aspects of communion seem to have been taken from the Passover tradition. Renewal. Restoration. Or, as the Baptists say, "Born Again."

When I was a girl, Easter meant a new dress and new patent leather shoes, which I think was my favorite part of all the Easter brouhaha. There was always this atmosphere of newness in my mother's family (she had six sisters as nutty as she was!) and my mother prided herself on being a fashion conscious and modern woman. We always looked good!

As a child, Easter also meant dying eggs beautiful shades of red and blue and green that would be hidden for us to find and chocolates filled our colorful Easter baskets. For kids, Easter was a party with lots of cousins and ham and potato salad and lots of pretty new clothes. I don't know how we comprehended what Easter really was, but, somehow the message got through.

The way I think about my religion is more spiritual these days. Like the New Year, I'm eager for renewal and a new opportunity to get it right, if such a thing is even possible, that is.

I suspect there was a Jesus, and, after reading those New Testament stories so many times, I imagine that he was a radical, preaching love and kindness, which seems to have been unheard of at that time. We have different methods in the twenty-first century for crucifying people, but in Jesus' time, love and kindness were not qualities associated with conquering new worlds, so they treated him really bad. They made an example of him. I guess that Sanhedrin council thought they should just nip it in the bud. Clearly, that didn't work very well!

I watch daily the religious wars in the Middle East and it breaks my heart. If it were my world, everyone would start fresh come Easter Sunday, whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Agnostic. A fresh start for everyone would be good for the planet! I wish that each of us is renewed, restored and find a chocolate rabbit waiting for us!
Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

baby in the cradle

How odd.
I've discovered something that's NOT on Wikipedia.

Do you remember CB radios? They were popular with truck drivers before there were cell phones, allowing truckers to talk to each other while they were driving. They'd share weather and traffic info, alert their fellow drivers where the cops were set up with their speed traps, and if someone had trouble, a CB radio call brought help. When Burt Reynolds' movie, "Smokey and The Bandit" hit movie theatres across the country in 1977, CB radios became popular with mainstream America and the CB culture was born! Got that, good buddy?

I had been living in Key West for nearly seven years when Reagan's recession hit in 1983 and I lost all three of my jobs, one at a time. It was a desperate time for me. I didn't want to leave Key West. I loved it there. I wasn't a world traveler, so, I didn't know where else I could go and find work. I'd been playing around with the idea of Fort Lauderdale; I'd been there a couple of time with my girlfriend and it had a good vibe. But, you don't just up and move when you have a child. You have to plan and prepare. I wasn't yet smart enough to understand this, so I drove to my mother's in Virginia and left my daughter with my mom while I figured out what I was going to do. We agreed it would only be for a few weeks.

It was on that return trip to Key West that I learned about "baby in the cradle."

I was driving a 1977 Toyota Celica, like the one in the picture. From Key West to my mother's home in Virginia was a 13 hour ride, and, back then, I could handle it, stopping only when one of us had to go to the bathroom. It was me, the kid and our dog, and we made it to our destination without incident.

I stayed over for two nights, leaving my mom's right after dinner on the third day for the return run, thinking I could get through the Carolinas and Georgia and well into Florida by morning. Traffic late at night was mostly tractor trailers hauling freight. There weren't that many tourists driving to Florida back in the early 1980s; nothing like it is today. Disney World and Spring Break were folks' main reasons for coming to Florida back then.

I thought I was making really good time when I hit South of the Border at the NC/SC state line just after midnight, so I pulled into a Burger King for a cup of coffee and a bathroom break for me and the dog. I also bought her a hamburger. And, no, she didn't get the bun or the pickle; just the burger! When we'd finished our break, I got back into my car to head out, but it wouldn't start. It was definitely a "what the fuck" moment. Here I was, a long way from home with a tiny amount of money and no idea what to do.

I sat on the curb next to my car, the hood up, talking to the dog, trying to figure out what my next move was. I was grateful that it was night and there weren't a lot of people around. I was able to have a good cry. I'd been sitting there for a while when two guys came out of the Burger King and asked me what the problem was. I told 'em my car wouldn't start. The taller of the two walked over to his big rig and brought out a tool box. The other one, puffing on his Marlboro, poked around in the engine. It took them just a few minutes to diagnose my problem. The tall one said, "Your alternator is shot."

When I asked what that meant, they explained to me that they could get my car started, but, the battery wouldn't charge and I wouldn't be able to run my headlights. They suggested I wait until morning and return to my mother's in Virginia. They were clear that trying to drive to Key West without headlights was a risky thing to do. (Yes. I was foolish enough to think I could do it.)

I remember quietly crying and thanking them for their help and watching as they packed up their tools. The tall guy walked over to his truck, and the Marlboro man walked around behind the Burger King.

I watched as the tall one pulled his rig out onto the highway; then, he pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. At the same time, the Marlboro man came around from behind the Burger King in his rig and stopped right in front of me. I was still sitting on the curb with the dog on the leash. Mr. Marlboro jumped down from his cab and walked toward me.

He asked me if I was a fan of "Smokey and the Bandit."

Well, of course I was! Who wasn't?

Then he asked me if I had a CB radio in my car.

I did. My handle was "Lady Blue."

Then, he explained to me what they (he and the the tall guy) could do. He asked me if I knew what "baby in the cradle" was. I didn't. Then he explained it.  I could drive my car in between their trucks without my headlights. They were going to Jacksonville, planning to be there come morning, and if I could keep up, this was what they would do for me.

I don't know why they were willing to help me. To this day I cannot tell you why these two men would help a weepy woman with a dog. But, they did. And, I was very grateful.

I asked the Marlboro man if I could go pee and, before he could answer, I handed him the dog's leash. I didn't know how long it would be before they stopped, but, I had consumed a cup of coffee and I needed to tinkle before we hit the road. I was definitely in.

Driving your car between two big rigs is intimidating. Under normal circumstances, when you hit your brakes, your car stops within a few car lengths, based on the speed at which you're traveling. A tractor trailer needs a lot more of those 'car lengths' to come to a complete stop, so there's no messing around when you're riding in the "cradle." I spent the night listening and watching and maintaining 70 mph.

I will admit that the first hour or so was a bit harrowing. If you've ever driven through Georgia via I-95, there is one long stretch that's just forest on both sides of the road for as far as you can see. Somewhere in that stretch of road I began to feel comfortable. They chatted it up on the CB and every now and then they would call out to me. I was so overwhelmed by their kindness that I didn't know what to say most of the time.

We stopped at a truck stop around 5 AM, about 30 miles from the Florida state line. They started talking to me about stopping a good half hour before we ever exited the highway. It was the hardest part for me, maintaining speed and distance, slowing down slowly while watching behind and in front. But, I did it. Or, THEY did it!

They bought me breakfast, waited while I got gas and we got out on the road that one last time. As we crossed the Florida state line, the sun was coming up and they got chatty on the CB. They began explaining to me what was going to happen when we got to Jacksonville, that they would be exiting the highway and I would continue on my journey to Key West. I remember telling them I wished there was some way I could thank them. And, I remember the Marlboro man saying, "Get home safe. That'll be thanks enough."

It's been a really long time since I thought about that trip from Virginia to Key West. A single memory, frozen in my mind. So, when it surfaced recently, as old memories are prone to do, I Googled "baby in the cradle." I was truly surprised that there was nothing at all. Not a single entry.

Since that time, I have loved and respected truck drivers. I'm the one who slows to let them pull over in front of me on the highway when no one else will. And, I'm the one who gets mad (and, blows her horn) at people who cut in front of big rigs. Those idiots need to spend a night in the 'cradle' to teach them a lesson! Although, these days, you probably won't see that happening. Too many cars, too many people and way too many regulations. And, lots of highway patrol officers.

Wherever the tall guy and the Marlboro man went, whatever they did after that night, I'm sure their good karma followed. Lucky for me those angels were on duty that night. They kept me safe and helped me get home. Thank you, both.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I read the local newspaper almost every day. The (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel. And, I'm talking about the actual newspaper, the one that's delivered to your front door. Not the digital version. There's just something about the newspaper ... the way you hold it up to shut other folks out as you read the news or the comics or the obituaries. There's a melody to the rustling paper as you turn the pages. Sometimes I even get a whiff of the ink used to print the paper and I like that.

There have been a lot of stories in the "Local" section of the news this past year about the homeless situation in Fort Lauderdale. The groups that feed them on the beach have been targeted because feeding the homeless people at the beach interferes with the tourists' perception of paradise and that is contrary to the Fort Lauderdale mayor and city commission. They think it should appear that life in south Florida is all sunshine and rainbows so everyone wants to come here. Which is exactly why the homeless come here. It's warm. And, someone will feed them.

Last week, I left my office to get a sandwich. I got caught by the traffic signal and so, had time to sit and watch what was going on at the bus stop there on the corner. There's a bench and there is usually a couple of folks waiting for the next bus. I am an avid people watcher, but, on this particular day, there was this woman ... she was wrapped from head to toe in a rather stylish combination of fashions and she walked in circles around the bench, talking to someone unseen by me. There were people waiting for the bus, but they had clearly distanced themselves from her. 

As she repeated her path around the bench, I noted there were several shopping bags leaning against the bench, clearly filled with this woman's few personal belongings. I watched in fascination as she walked around and around the bench and I wondered to myself how a person could be this way, how they could repeat this walking around the bench over and over. I wondered how long she had been here. I grabbed my camera and fired a couple of shots.

Then, the light changed and I went to Burger King.

Later the same day, a little after 4:30, I headed back toward that traffic signal. There is a gas station on that corner and I was on "E" for empty. I pulled in, parked next to the pump, swiped my ATM card and set the pump to fill my tank. And, as I leaned against my car to wait, I saw her.

The woman. Walking in circles around the bench. Still. Four hours later. So, once again, I grabbed my camera.

I don't know much about homeless people. I am deeply saddened by families who live in their cars, a type of homelessness that no one talks much about. I see people sleeping in the bushes sometimes on the back side of the bus station. And, I know the local police often find homeless individuals hiding, sleeping, peeing and pooping in the beautiful landscaping we have here in sunny, south Florida. It seems these folks have little regard for the other folks around them, though. This lack of respect makes it hard for me to have sympathy for them. Why can't they just get a job and get their life together? What's so hard about that?

You see, the thing is ... I know how hard it can be. I've watched my brother struggle with issues that caused him to be homeless just two years ago. He's in a group living facility today, working day labor and just getting by, but he still hasn't found a full-time job. I often wonder if there is a connection between those two things? The homelessness status and getting a job?

I wish I knew.

They are not going away anytime soon. Not until it's warmer up north. Then there aren't as many of them. Especially during the summer. They come back, though. When it gets cold up north, they head south and a lot of them like Fort Lauderdale Beach. I don't think they're here for fun in the sun, though. I think they come here just to keep warm. It's a good thing the sunshine is free, isn't it?