in the late afternoon with my mother

It was a lovely day, the late afternoon sun just over the beach.. 20140927_182510I sat with my mother on a bench in the wide expanse. She looked at me for a long moment, almost sentimental. She was never like that.

I put my hand on her shoulder and she held it there. I was comfortable with her like that, the first time in our lives. She was 90.

The nurse arrived, her shadow over our legs. “Don’t get her crying now.”

She helped my mother stand and we walked with her back to the car.

Breaking Up with Fedex

The package failed to arrive, and the Fedex website gave conflicting information. The package was both “In Transit” and at a Fedex facility in Richmond, B.C. Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 1.17.40 PMI called the next morning, and the Fedex agent promised to get back to me with further information. I had the same conversation on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday morning. And then they had their answer: “The FDA will not approve the package. It cannot be shipped.”

“Why did it take you four days to figure that out?”

“It is smoked fish. The FDA will not allow it to be shipped across the border.”

“The contents is written on the package. I’m looking at a scan of it right now. Can you read that too? It says ‘Dressed smoked salmon vacuum sealed, right?” Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 1.44.49 PM“The FDA will not allow it to be shipped.”

“But why didn’t you inform the shipper of this issue when he dropped the package off?”

There was a brief pause. “The package was inspected by the FDA and was not approved for shipment into the United States.”

“That’s not the point, is it? This isn’t an FDA issue. This is a Fedex issue. Fedex should have communicated this basic information before it was shipped.”

“I apologize for any inconvenience, sir.”

“Your apology is irrelevant. Besides you’re not even apologizing for what happened.”

“Would you like to file a complaint?”

“That’s what I’m doing right now, isn’t it?”

“If you wish to file a complaint, I can contact the Fedex branch so that the manager can ensure that training prevents this problem from happening again.”

“It’s not just the one person in one Fedex office. It’s a Fedex problem. It’s systemic. A shipment was given to you, a shipment containing perishable items, to be delivered the next day. I contacted you seven times over the last four days and no one knew why the package was stuck in transit.”24035365_BG2“Sir, would you like to file a complaint?”

“Yes, I would like to file a complaint but not just against one employee in one office.”

There was a long pause. “I don’t know what you want me to do.”

“Take responsibility for the lack of communication at Fedex. Acknowledge that Fedex did not do its job.”

“I’m sorry you were inconvenienced, sir.”

“The message I am getting from you is that I shouldn’t ship with Fedex.”

There was a long silence.

“Unless I’m missing something.”

She sounded tired. “I’m sorry you have been inconvenienced, sir.”

“That could be your new slogan.”

She stayed silent.

“Hello?”

“Yes?” Her voice was weak.

“Is there anything else?”

“I am really sorry you have been inconvenienced.”

The Last and Final, Final Word

“As for the disposal of your bodies…”

This was an initial meeting, many years before anything would actually have to be done. They were only preparing him for the idea, the fact that this event, one day, would occur. It was a fact of life.

“The body hair is shaved…”

He considered his veins and joints and thought about how he had been the only one who knew them, that they were solely his, his intimates.

“Bodily fluids are drained…”

Once he was gone, that was it; there were no bodies, no veins and joints. They would rot. But the fact was that he could not surrender these parts of self – his very self – to this man or any other. They were his. It was as simple as that. He had to leave.

“An incision is made…”

He didn’t raise his hand. He kept that, like the rest of him, close to himself, as he made a long backward step and pushed open the door.

“Excuse me?” The man’s voice was sharp, suddenly unpleasant.

He only half turned back, still pushing open the door. “Yes?”

“Where are you going?”

“Out.” He left.

“Strictly Enforced”: The Meaningless of Words

Signs proclaim it all too often. Strict signFor speed limits, curfews, leash laws, even dress codes.

And yet is it? Enforced strictly, that is. The answer would have to be sometimes, which undercuts the “strictly” bit.homeownerThe same wording is used in announcement before many live events: “No photography permitted. This policy is strictly enforced.” And yet…phonesatconcertsThis is not to say that I am in favor of strictly enforcing anything – beyond Do not inflict harm on or endanger others – but that different words should be used. phoneAt least then the words would mean something.

Top 5 Philosophers Who Would Have Made Great Sports Radio Hosts

Philosophers, like sports radio hosts, can really go on about nothing for a long time. Ipso factovoltaire5. Voltaire, a good listener and solid thinker: “The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.” 

Galileo4. Galileo Galilei, not one to steer clear of controversy: “The sun,with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

hannah-arendt3. Hannah Arendt, clear and direct, puts men in their place: “Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.”

marshallmcluhan2. Marshall McLuhan, understands the way of the world, especially in its coldest of forms: “I’ve always been careful never to predict anything that had not already happened.”

socrates1. Socrates, the grand-master of the dialectic: “Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.”

*For the record, the Bottom Five read likes this: Arthur Schopenhauer (gloomy!), Ayn Rand (repeats herself), Niccolo Machiavelli (one-trick pony), Rene Descartes (drones on and on) and Friedrich Nietzsche (way too intense).

BAM Offers Endurance Tests in Mediocrity

Two recent events at the Brooklyn Academy of Arts (BAM) sounded excellent on paper: Tony Kushner’s  Angels in America is universally praised as is the work of dance choreographer Pina Bausch. Pina Bausch at BAMHowever instead of reflection and inspiration, the never-ending productions (five hours and three hours each respectively) became endurance tests, challenges to the viewer to just stay awake.  20140607_164314I took to staring at the lights at stage left, studying the shadows of the players wandering about, and then studying the back of my hand, the veins bulging over my knuckle, the dry edge of a cuticle, and then chewing the inside of my mouth with a feverish intensity, so much so that it became bloody and sore, the only thing keeping me awake.

The highlight of both evenings, in fact, was the dinner break, where we patrons were given the unique opportunity of picnicking on the floor. 20141023_213319After that, it was back to our moderately comfortable seats and the grindstone of keeping my head propped up and my eyes on the prize: the time to go home. Only an hour and 25 minutes to go…almost an hour, almost there…