24 March 2018

RISSE Wish List Crafts – Spools, Beads, Threads

By: Jon Katz

Wish List Crafts

The new RISSE Amazon Wish List today focuses on crafts – tools for making jewelry, necklaces, beaded bracelets. I've bought one spool for $10.82. They are seeking nine more spools from $10-$11, and other crafts. I can't wait to see them on their necks and wrists, for them crafts often give them the chance to remember their countries and their families and their lives overseas. It's a  creative wish list, and colorful one.

Take a look if you can.

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Marching Behind Them Today

By: Jon Katz

Marching Behind

I live in gun country and Trump country, and personally, I don't know a single gun owner who is opposed to some reasonable steps to stop the slaughter thousands of Americans, including many children, from gun violence. A conservative estimate is 30,000 deaths a year. Nor do I know of any friend or non-gun owner here or elsewhere who is thinking about repealing the Second Amendment, even it that would be a practical impossibility.

I think as a first step, they – and me – would like it to be harder for disturbed and violent people to buy submachine guns (I wouldn't miss them if they were gone) or control the number and free flow of guns in America, which are now killing children almost daily. So we are going to march this afternoon in our town, they call it a "March For Our Lives," and I call it a March For Sanity.

I believe children have  constitutional right to not be butchered in their schools, and that our lawmakers have a constitutional duty to protect them.

More than 90 per cent of Americans support some limited and reasonable gun controls, and we are all awakening to find out that our political leaders have been purchased like tomatoes in a supermarket, they value the money they get more than the lives of their young constituents. I suspect we all know this will be  resolved in the voting booth and not on the streets.

Social scientists point out that million-person marches excite the media but don't seem to change anything.  Once the marches are over, people move on.  The civil rights movement built a vast bi-racial political structure and it took them 18 years to win voting rights.

Our attention spans are usually not as long as eighteen years. The sociologists blame the Internet for fooling people into thinking that a Facebook post is the same thing as a long-term plan or structure for changing laws. Facebook is great at getting people to march, but it is not a structure, it has no focus, people move on to different subjects every other minute.

The remarkable  kids from Parkland, Fla. seem to have gotten that message and are setting out to build a long-term coalition to elect representatives who will do their duty and protect them, rather than parrot the angry messages of ideologues doing the dirty work of the gun lobby.

Facebook works both ways. They can get people to march, they can also get people to vote against any member of Congress who votes against them – on either side.

I honor these children, they know they have to break through the constipated monologue by thinking differently and acting differently. And they really know how to use social media rather than be intimidated by it.

In some of the marches, they are asking people over 21 to march behind the students. I would be happy to do that. My generation has failed them, I am happy to stand behind them. All they want from me is money, a march or two and a vote. They will get all of those things.

I will be interested to see  how many people march in my small town on Main Street at 2 p.m. Maria is carrying a stick with her crochet gun sculpture attached. If lots of people get out to march here – in 2016 Trump signs popped up like dandelions, my first sense of what was building.

This is up to these brave and articulate children, they have great credibility with me. It is their struggle now, I think, and they have taken it up with great focus and determination. My job is to help when asked, and otherwise march behind them.

To be honest, I doubt I will be alive in 18 years to see these children triumph. Maybe it won't take them as long. Whether I live to see it or not doesn't really matter. it's one of those look-in-the-mirror-and-like-what-you-see things. If I didn't help, I could not respect the face that I see.

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23 March 2018

Bingo Night, Peaceful (Almost) And Fun

By: Jon Katz

Bingo Night

Maria and I have somehow slipped into the role of Bingo Night callers, we went for the third time to the Mansion for the Friday night bingo games. There was a bit of cheating, and some complaining and confusion, one fight – and some suspected prize theft  from the prize cart – but it was vastly more peaceful and smooth than some previous nights.

There was a lot of laughing too.

Things can get pretty raucous in the Bingo games at the Mansion, people who were sweet and docile an hour earlier turn into fearsome warriors at the Bingo Table. Last week one of the residents' took my gift of a $10 gift certificate from a convenience store to a nearby liquor store and tried to cash it in for vodka.

I didn't think she could do something like, but I will not underestimate her again.

I saw another resident had five squares marked but Maria had only called out one number. We moved the squares back and she didn't try it again. Feelings run high at Bingo.

This week, I bought some small soft, stuffed animals, small and furry bunnies for, Easter. They were a big hit.

Alice, one of the oldest residents at the Mansion and one of the sweetest, surprised us by coming in. She had never played Bingo before. I gave her a quick lesson and stood beside her to help out.

Maria and I take turns calling out the numbers, one calls them and the other moves around to help people who have trouble seeing or hearing or moving the red covers on and off the numbers as the game progresses.

Tonight, Alice played her first Bingo game I stood right behind her to help spot the numbers she had on her board when they were called out. She won two games, and also a stuffed furry rabbit – a stuffed animal – and a 3-D book end.

We are figuring out how to control this unruly mob, and we'll be back calling the Bingo numbers  next week. I'll think of some fun prizes.

Oddly, we would not wish to be anywhere else. We met some friends at a brewery after the Bingo games, we were wiped out.

If you wish to write to the Mansion residents, you can do so by sending your letters to The Mansion, 11 S.Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

The names of the residents who would like to receive your letters are Winnie, Jean A., Ellen, Mary, Gerry, Sylvie, Alice G., Jean G., Madeline, Joan, Allan, William, John K, Helen, Bob, Alanna, Barbara, Peggie, Dorothy, Tim,  Debbie, Art, Guerda, Brenda, Wayne, Kenneth, Ruth and John.

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Gus’s Last Day: A Perfect Day

By: Jon Katz

Gus's Last Day

Everywhere I went today and yesterday, people told me I didn't look right, they asked me what was wrong, they said I looked tired, or sad. After the fifth or sixth time that this happened, I started to worry? Was I sick? Was my heart giving out? Was my pneumonia back.

Maria pleaded with me to rest, she said I needed to take it easy. Why, I wondered, were people seeing things in me I did not see in myself? Isn't that

Yesterday, my friend Ali, who sees me often and talks to me almost daily, she I didn't look right."You're not yourself, man," he said. So who was I?

This morning, a message from Esther,  a respected reader of the blog. "I don't think you realized how much little Gus took out of you," she wrote. "It's amazing what happens to a person once that stress is relieved and  you start to feel the void. ..I wish for you quiet time to recover physically and mentally. Gus was an awesome little fellow and he always made me smile to see his photos. The last few he didn't look as happy as a month ago, he looked almost like he was troubled…."

Hmmm, it has often been the case that readers of my book or the blog know me better than I know myself I remember after I got divorced and  went on a book tour, in almost every city someone came up to me and said "what took you so long? You were so obviously alone."

I have always survived trouble and danger by sucking it up and hiding what I was feeling.

In my life, I had to play dead all the time. I had to hide every feeling I ever had.

When face-to-face with real people, I do a turtle, I just take myself out of reach.

I know it's not the healthiest way to deal with emotions, but it is how I survived, and survive still, and probably, always.

Maria is quite the opposite, her emotions are right on the surface, they survived her ordeals, she protected them until she could be herself.  She releases them and feels them easily and openly.

In my world, there was nothing more dangerous than showing emotions, it attracted all the wrong people for all he wrong reasons. Much safer to tuck it inside and hide it until it was safe. Maria didn't hide hers, she built a wall around them until they could one day emerge.

I will never understand how people knew what I am feeling, but how foolish of me, if I am writing well and truthfully, it will be obvious.  Isn't that the job of a good writer. I see that I am truly and visibly sad and drained.  The truth is more in the middle for me, somewhere in between closing up and  opening, , but I still have things to learn about myself.

I will not be mourning Gus for months and years. But a few weeks or months are all fine, yes?

Gus's illness was traumatic and exhausting, and we did not get the happy ending, it was not a Disney story. People did love Gus, I only got three or four pieces of hate mail out of thousands of messages.

What we have enjoyed we can never lose, wrote Helen Keller, all that we love deeply, becomes a part of us.

We tried to give Gus a perfect day on his last day. We took his muzzle off and let him eat all the disgusting things he wanted. We knew he would throw up all day and he did. We let  him say goodbye to his many local people friends  and admirers, everybody loved Gus. We gave him as many treats as he wanted, and free rain of the grass and pasture.

We hugged him and played with him and talked to him. I didn't see what Esther saw in Gus's photos until a week or so ago. He had lost his puppy look, his bright eyes. He was looking tired, just like me, he was, looking thin and gaunt. He had aged far beyond his 10 months.

Although he was still full of life, he did look discouraged towards the end, he was losing his spirit.

Looking at him last weekend, I could feel the cold hand of death creeping up on him. It was no longer if, but when,. It was over, really, a question of how much suffering to inflict up on him. He did not deserve to suffer, my job to keep that from happening.

We brought him up to bed that last night, and he got sick a few time- we came  him treats, something that was forbidden. We cleaned a lot of sheets. Finally, he went to sleep, but he was much more restless than usual.  He had bad dreams. When he woke up, he looked like people are telling me I look right now.  I didn't ask him if he was okay, or what was wrong. I knew, of course. In the morning, he slept for hours in my study, on Lenore's sofa, just a few feet from me.

The Gus we know was fading, right before my eyes, sometimes when  you're too close, it's hard to see. I try not to show fear or sadness around the dogs, because they can sense emotions so easily, and he didn't need mine.

In the afternoon, he brought me one of his stuffed animals and tried to tease me into throwing it. He succeeded, as usual, but his heart wasn't in it. He let go too easily and gave up, which he never did,  walked over to his bed in front of the tire and lay down. The reign of the Little King i over, I thought.

We were so lucky to have a vet like  Dr. Suzanne Fariello and her quite wonderful crew – Cassandra, Nicole, and Lisa. They only seem to employ empathetic and loving and competent people there.  I would everyone could have a vet like this, and a staff like this, and I wish every dog could leave the world as peacefully and lovingly as Gus did.

I couldn't cure his disease, but I could speak for him at the end, and permit him to leave the world in dignity an without suffering; That is what I could do.

It would have been so much harder without Dr. Fariello and her crew.

I think of Gus a lot still, i know he is in a freezer somewhere, waiting: here in the country we can't bury loved ones in the winter, the ground will take a few weeks to thaw, and Gus will come home where he belongs.

Thanks to other people,  I think I know now that it is true that I am spent also, and obviously look like hell. Perhaps I am not dying myself.

Thanks Esther, I appreciate hearing the truth even when I don't like it. I don't want people to look at me any more and ask me if I'm all right. I intend to look in the mirror and grasp just where I am and heal in the ways I have learned to do.

I realize that I never quite let go of Gus, I just rushed past it, and death is not like that. Grief makes up its own mind about when to leave, and I better respect it, or it will chase me down the road and bit me in the ass.

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A Big Weekend: Extreme Bingo, March For Children, Trip To Brooklyn

By: Jon Katz

Big Weekend

Today kicks off a big weekend for us.

Tonight, Maria and I will call the Bingo game at the Mansion. If  you think a Bingo game at an assisted care facility is a quiet affair, think again. It's a raucous brawl. There is suspected cheating, fights and arguments, outsiders slipping into the game without permission, residents trying to trade their gift certificate prices in for booze, ineligible people grabbing prices.

Last week, Maria and I wanted to hire a security guard. We've cooked up all kinds of plans to quiet things down and we'll be at our posts at 6 p.m. sharp with our new system. Wish us luck.

Tomorrow morning, Maria and I will go to visit our friend, the poet Mary Kellogg, who broke her hip in a fall last week in her home. She is doing well in rehab, eager to get home, we'll go say hello.

Tomorrow afternoon, we will join the March For Our Lives, children are marching in 800 cities for common sense gun control, and we will be marching with them here in Cambridge, we'll be walking a mile down Main Street at 2 p.m. I stand with the children who demand that they be safe in their schools. They are fighting for all of us.

Sunday, Maria and I will be getting up at 4 a.m. to catch an early train to Brooklyn, time to visit my granddaughter Robin, we'll be returning early Sunday evening. I'm bringing a small digital camera for toddlers, stickers and a sack full of books Robin is deep into reading and stickers and we can find common ground there.

Sunday night, I hope to watch Stormy Daniels tell her story on CBS's 60 Minutes." I admire her for what she is trying to do. I don't care who sleeps with who, but I don't care for the idea of powerful old rich men buying people to keep them silent. If you want to be a free spirit and live in an open marriage and also be President Of the United States, then take some responsibility for what you have chosen to do.

Sometimes, you just have to stand up and take the music.

We are our stories, we have the right to tell them.

I think next week would be a good time to rest. I'm having some quiet hours in the afternoon, listening to music, meditating, drinking up the silence. Good for me.

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