Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pay It Forward

Last Friday, I had to cross one of our bay area bridges. When I got to the toll plaza, I had my five dollars cash in my hand, ready to hand over to the toll taker. When my car finally rolled up to the window, the toll taker pointed to the driver in front of me, and said "He paid your toll". Me: "Excuse me?" "He paid your toll." Me, incredulously: "What?" "That driver paid your toll. You can go!"

Hmmm....what is the world coming to? I thought. Later that day, a colleague mentioned to me that the concept of "Pay It Forward" had been mentioned on the radio, and one of the suggestions was to pay the toll of a complete stranger. I had heard of the concept, seen the movie. So, I thought, OK, I'll try it. The next day, I handed my Starbucks card (with a ten dollar balance) over to a complete stranger behind me in line. I added five dollars, because if I only handed over five dollars, then I figured I wasn't really paying it forward, I was only passing it on.

But, you know what? It didn't really do anything for me. Did the well dressed guy behind me really need someone to give him ten dollars? Probably not. What about the homeless person sleeping under the bridge down the street? Or children in third world countries without schools? I would rather my five dollars go to help re-build Haiti, rather than someone in a Mercedes crossing the bay bridge.

"Pay-It-Forward" is not a new concept. It has been done for years by volunteers who mentor children, by anyone who has stood up for civil rights or peace, and anyone who has worked to clean up our environment. These are the people who are trying to make the world a better place for the next generation, and generation after that. Tossing five dollars to the guy behind you in line is easy. Giving of your time takes more effort but in the long run, this is what really pays it foward.

Judy and Sarah

One lives in San Francisco, surrounded by the pulse of the city where there is always something happening, on the edge of the Haight, within a few blocks of the Golden Gate Park, the DeYoung Art Museum, Japanese Tea Garden, Arboretum, and new Science Museum. The symphony, the ballet, theatre and numerous museums are a short bus ride away.

The other lives on an idyllic campus-like setting, with lots of open space, grass, and trees, in an environment that caters to pre-school age children like her own, a place that is generally quiet and peaceful, and where you can have all of your meals in the communal dining hall without ever cooking or washing a dish.

The city slicker, who moved to the City two years ago to live with her boyfriend , would rather be back in the suburbs where all her friends still live. The kibbutz transplant would rather be back in the glitzy city of LA where she grew up, despite its sometimes sordid underbelly.

It seems ironic. But of course there is more to each of their stories than the single paragraph above.

The city slicker has been housebound for most of the two years she has lived in the City due to an accident that happened shortly after she moved. Getting up and down the stairs in the three story Victorian has been a challenge at times; getting around the City has been difficult at best.

The LA-kibbutz transplant has uprooted her LA lifestyle and moved halfway across the world, to a different culture, language and lifestyle. Her kids are thriving, but she feels isolated, even though connected to her friends by Facebook and Skype.

We have cell phones, internet, Facebook, cars and jet planes. We can live in a bustling metropolis and still feel cut off from the world....from "our" world....the world we have grown up in or the world we have created for ourselves. We can live in the friendliest of places, and still long for "home".

I myself was involuntarily transplanted from East to West coast over 30 years ago. I too moved in with a boyfriend, who later became my husband. A temporary job turned into a permanent one, and here I am, 30 years later, still living in California. Over many years, California became "home" to me.

I have asked myself recently how would I feel if I was needed by my family in Connecticut. There is no question in my mind that I would drop everything and be on the next plane, no questions asked. I am just not sure how long it would take before Connecticut felt like "home" to me again, or if it ever would.

Home can be many things. It is where you feel loved. It is where you are most comfortable. It is your favorite place, the place you can relax and be yourself. The place you "fit-in". It is where your friends are. And, as was once said, "Home is where the heart is." Exactly right my friends, exactly right.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hot Fudge Sundae

I was in the neighborhood, had stopped to make a phone call to the East Coast on my way home from work, before everyone in my family had gone to bed. (I don't call friends after 10pm, but I can call certain family members until 11pm, at least the night owls in the family.) And I had a hankering for a hot fudge sundae. It didn't hurt that one of the late night eateries that serves hot fudge sundaes was across the street.

Hot fudge vanilla ice cream sundaes should be made as the name implies. That's HOT as in H-O-T, and vanilla as in REAL and ice cream as in CREAMY. Not too difficult. The "fudge" needs to be thick, and not some thin, runny syrup. Did I mention it should be HOT? Hot and thick and melting right into the scoop of chilled vanilla ice cream like lava pouring down a mountainside.

The sundae I had the other night was a disappointment to say the least. The fudge was not hot enough, so the frigidly cold ice cream quickly congealed it. It tasted like fudge, but it pooled into clumps like tar poured on a winter's day in Canada.

Does anyplace make a decent hot fudge sundae anymore? If you know of any place in the bay area, please let me know. There used to be ice cream "parlors" that did nothing but make sundaes (and ice cream floats, and banana splits, and milkshakes), places you could go and sit at wooden tables or in booths, not in some tiny airless room on some brightly colored, very hard plastic chair.

Frozen yogurt stands, seemingly ever more popular and possibly more healthy for you (if you don't load them up with sugary calorie laden toppings) are a poor substitute for a good, old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Because once in a while, you've just got to splurge.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right

- George Harrison, the Beatles

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not Happy Campers

My lavender June flowers are NOT blooming. They bloom EVERY June first, right on schedule, EVERY year - but they are not blooming yet this year. Its June 5th. They are not happy campers.

Please, someone, send this gloomy Seattle weather back where it came from.

The constant grey overcast skies are depressing. Enough already! My tomato plants need SUNSHINE!!

Lord, hear my prayer.

Even atheists get down on their knees sometimes.