Please keep in mind that I took the shower at my friends’ house very innocently, by myself and unaware. Only months later did I learn the history. The husband was a contractor who worked in Manhattan. After he refurbished the apartment of one of his more celebrated clients, Ms. Julie Andrews, he salvaged the pried-off shower tiles from the dumpster. Later, he installed the tiles in the guest bathroom of his own home.
Et voila! Just like that, I retroactively gained a barely-intimate, time-phased encounter with the famous singer, actress, and archetype of culturally-refined wholesomeness, the star of movies such as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and the mostly-forgotten S.O.B., produced by her husband of the time, Blake Edwards, in which she appeared topless for a brief scene.
I can’t imagine I will ever meet the legendary entertainer in question. But here I am publishing my little tale online, so it is at least conceivable that she will learn about this odd, obscure, minimalist yet arguably creepy intrusion into her life. As Rich F describes it, the two of us shared soap scum. So how would the Divine Ms. J react? Would she be amused, appalled, unperturbed, or some combination thereof? Maybe she would try to channel one or more of her famous characters. WWMPD: What would Mary Poppins do?
Every now and then, you may hear a mathematician, or someone mathematically-inclined, claim that at least a few molecules of your oxygen usage were also breathed in and out by some random actor of history, maybe George Washington, or Rasputin, or Secretariat. The claim is based on the quantity and fluidity of oxygen in the atmosphere, from which we all temporarily borrow tiny samples. Unfortunately—and this essay might be the only place you’ll read this—the logic is bogus. The underlying assumption is that oxygen is inert, or at least long-lasting. Not true. Inside your body (not to mention the bodies of all other multicellular organisms on the planet) molecular oxygen combines with assorted other chemicals to form two gases: carbon dioxide and water vapor. It also gets shoehorned into organic compounds and minerals, including the wood of trees, the exoskeletons of insects, and the calcium carbonate of coral reefs (which is alliterative up to ‘reefs.’) While the concentration of atmospheric oxygen has been relatively static, holding at around 21% over human history, the molecules are in dynamic equilibrium—the collection in the air today is not the same that Rasputin inhaled to manipulate imperial Russia, or that Secretariat used to outrun the competing stallions at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or Belmont Stakes (located in Elmont, New York, just down the highway from Hempstead, where my wife and I often visit good friends.)
I had always wanted to visit Crater Lake, in Oregon, and I finally got my chance last July on our family vacation. After studying the welcome packet, my wife announced our expedition to the lone swimming beach on the lake, located at the end of a hiking trail off a parking lot. As I would learn much later, the length of the trail is 1.2 miles each way, with an elevation difference of 620 feet.
Very quickly, my wife and the teenager scamper ahead, leaving me to deal with the toddler, age 2. One might think that this particular toddler would enjoy a hike with me, seeing as how he’s very physically active and, generally, thinks Dada is one amazing and wonderful guy. (Insert your own snarky comment here.) Alas, at this moment, the toddler has no interest in walking, and instead wants to kneel in the dirt and paw at the rocks in the wall, as well as grab and throw sticks, pebbles, and pine cones. I keep trying to cajole him forward, but my only recourse is to pick him up, sometimes kicking and screaming, and carry him along.
As we head DOWN the trail, we pass by hikers heading back UP. I can’t help but notice that the up-walking contingent is a group of panting, red-faced, tired men and women, most of them younger than I am, and seemingly, in better physical shape. Also—and this point is key, so pay attention here—they are not carrying toddlers uphill with them. No toddler-toters in sight, except me.
So (as I tell myself, repeatedly) the logical thing to do is turn back to the parking lot. Let the more mobile and resilient half of my family enjoy the beach while Nathen and I await them by the car.
But that’s not what I do. Why? Because we are here for family bonding! We are here to enjoy Crater Lake—together! All four of us! So, I press onward—down, down, down the trail, knowing full well that eventually I will need to return up, up, and up.
When Nathen and I finally arrive at the beach and meet up with my wife and Maxwell, the first words out of my mouth are: That may have been the stupidest thing I have ever done. But Druh is happy and bemused. She insists I have done far stupider things. She and Maxwell have been enjoying the water—famous for its clarity and coldness—and beckon me and Nathen to at least dip our toes inside, which we do. And no further, because that water is very, very cold. Maxwell, to his credit, swims for half an hour.
The hike back is the mirror image of the hike down, only slightly worse because of various laws of physics, and slightly better because this time the four of us are staying together. Nathen, as before, must be carried, as otherwise he plays with the dirt and the sticks and the pine cones, or in some circumstances, skips merrily along in the wrong direction. We hike at a measured pace, with several breaks, and the three of us take turns carrying Nathen, although I still do the brunt of the work. Coming around the last bend to arrive at the parking lot feels like both a tremendous relief and a tremendous accomplishment.
Later, we celebrate at Track Town Pizza in Eugene, located conveniently across the street from the basketball arena for the Ducks of the University of Oregon.
I didn’t know Ducks played basketball.
Last night I watched the debate of the 12 candidates for the Democratic nomination for president. I appreciate that they are men and women, young and old, gay and straight, ethnically diverse, and hail from all over the country—including the south, if you count Beto and Julio from Texas. I think all of them have their strengths and weaknesses, and if you mashed together the best features from each of them you’d get—well, a Star Trek episode, I suppose. We need to live in REALITY, people, which means, eventually, choosing our nominee. Heaven help us, because we need to get this right.
I like Elizabeth Warren, despite the way her left hand seems to be darning socks when she speaks. Bernie has a similar habit that looks like a combination of hunt-and-peck typewriting and ordering corned beef at the deli. But who cares—and I mean that question literally. How many American voters are prepared to veto a challenger because of a few tics or warts or a hangnail in favor of an incumbent who spews venom and spreads bubonic plague?
Rewind back to March, 2016. In Purim shpiels across the country, imitations of Bernie Sanders were cast as Mordechai, the hero of the story, while Donald Trump was the villainous Haman. At our temple, the latter character was played by my son the elder, not quite 11 years old at the time, and to rave reviews. The joke doesn’t seem that funny today, not with Kurds dying in Syria and children dying at the Mexican border, but I think it’s still important and useful to lampoon the guy, as stridently as possible.
For whatever it’s worth, I remember a conversation way back in 2003, when a slew of Democrats were competing to take on George W. Bush—a man who seems a paradigm of sanity and reasonableness compared to his current successor. The setting was a business dinner somewhere in the south, and the white male stranger next to me was going on about how the only Democrat candidate with the moral fiber to lead this nation was Joe Lieberman. He repeated the phrase “moral fiber” several times, and with great gusto and conviction. He also was convinced that I, as a Northeasterner with dark-rimmed eyeglasses and a Jewish nose, was pining for Hillary Clinton. Because I was representing Actual-Name-Not-Important Publishing Company at the time, I did my best to listen politely and not engage in an argument. I failed to glean why he deemed his preferred candidate to possess the morality in question, while other challengers did not.
Today, my suspicion is that this particular voter was, is, and will continue to be a supporter of Donald Trump. Obviously the Trump voters must come from somewhere. I do not understand how anyone can endorse Trump on moral grounds, but I expect some people manage to convince themselves. Astoundingly, all of those critics who lobbed self-righteous posturing and indignation at any liberal politician who didn’t precisely walk the straight and narrow seem perfectly willing to tolerate or excuse, and even endorse, a set of behaviors and ethics that are far, far worse than anything we have seen before in any federal officeholder, let alone President of the United States.
We need to work together to get Trump out of office. This is the moral challenge of our time.
That’s all I got for today. Peace be with you. Aloha, Salaam, Shalom, Sláinte.