Believe Me

When I was in college and participated in debates; while not ON the debate team and not part OF a debate club, I always got an A grade when I wrote a debate, even when I had to argue a point I disagreed with, and I never, not once ever, said the words “believe me” during the minutes I was speaking.  One, because I learned, perhaps in middle school, that when you are making a case for a position, or making a point, or stressing a topic’s worthiness or uselessness, the facts that you are using to argue your point, or that you believe will state your case and stress your position, must speak for themselves.  And two, because the words ‘believe me,’ are generally understood to be included when a person is lying, trying to appear to know more than he or she actually knows, or is so self-absorbed and of the know-it-all mind-set, that they say the words ‘believe me’ to simply put the emphasis on the me…ego stroking oneself.  I learned that  the term “believe me” is more like a phrase one would hear from the snake oil salesman, rolling into town when so many are sick or down on their luck, in his brilliantly adorned wagon, with over the top decor and thick velvet draperies with tassels of the finest ribbon…oh…well, wait…

You see, I was taught in junior high, high school, AND college, that if one uses a term like “believe me” during an initial position statement or rebuttal, I most certainly would not receive a grade of A, and if I was ignorant enough to use that term more than once in my presentation and did not use  facts, statistics, scholarly journals, court cases, registered documents, published research, or books, I would perhaps get an F.  A big fat F.  Kind of like a big fat bubble, ready to burst, kind of like a big fat loser sitting in bed wasting his days as a computer hacker trying to get into the emails of the DNC.  That kind of big.

All I know for sure is that what I watched last night was so painfully juvenile in its delivery that any thinking person, any informed person, any person with even basic levels of knowledge of the world in which we live and how it works, whether in all its many failures or all its many successes, would be positively mad to think that this person last night on television performed well, or let me go out on a limb here and write, even acceptably, considering the “prize.”  This is not an effort to get an A in debate class.  This is an effort to demonstrate to the undecided voters of our country that this choice is what they want and the other choice is what they don’t.  It was an opportunity to sway some of those who are confused and I don’t imagine that it was a success.

Believe me, it was embarrassing to think that about half of the people with whom I share the title of ‘registered voters who vote’ will be voting for this person in November.  If I was from another planet and these believers, these purchasers of the snake oil, these people who think all will be great again if they drink the Kool-Aid, were from their own planet, I’d more easily believe that this was happening…but some of these people are people to whom I am related and love, they are people who live in my little neighborhood, they are people who shop at the same grocery store I do.  Believe me, I am shocked that, after last night, they could still think, or believe, that this person is a good choice, or who represents their best interests…but here is the biggest shock of them all…some of them are so sure they don’t want the other person, and know without any doubt who they will vote for in November, that they likely did not even watch…and today they will watch their news programs and listen to the sound bites and nod their heads and just believe that somehow this person is going to shake things up in a way to put our country in some other, better, direction…that anything will be better than what they have had the last eight years…I believe that for those who did watch last night, the majority already knew who they would vote for in November anyway and they just wanted to see how it was going to flow.

Believe me, what I saw last night was horrifying to my understanding of both the English language and grammar in general, and debating in particular.  Believe me, I went into last night’s event feeling a bit disheartened anyway, because the person for whom I did vote in the primary, and did believe was the right choice and the best choice for the country in which I live, was not the candidate speaking for my side, but I still thought it an important, meaningful, and valuable way to spend some time…I care about the country I live in, I care about the earth that feeds me, and I care about the universe that we all share.  Believe me, if you did not watch last night, you should have.  Believe me, if you still think this person is the right person for you to vote for in November, after watching last night or perhaps reading the transcripts today, I am shocked by your brain and how it processes information, but because I respect that we all have a right to think what we think and believe what we want to believe, I accept it.  I respect your right to be wrong, just as you must respect mine.  I don’t know if any undecided voters were guided last night to leaning in either direction.  I don’t know if anybody who watched last night would have her mind changed by what she heard, or lean in a new and different direction by what he saw.  I don’t know how one side’s people can claim the debate a success after what I saw and heard last night, because to me, it was clear that one person had facts, statistics, and clear details to support the statements made and ideas put forth, and the other person had only the powers of the purported ‘very good brain.’  If I was a college professor, and last night I had two students in front of me and I had to write in my grade book today, one would get an F and the other would not.  Believe me, with all that time to prepare, I’d think that student who got the F, did not really care what I thought.

 

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

15 years ago, my nephew was four and absolutely obsessed with planes, trains, and cars.  He loved to design entire train tracks, villages, towns, and cities, and all of his construction projects involved all things that moved.  He loved all things transportation.  My sister, his mother, and I had taken him to train museums, train stations, air shows, car shows, steam engine rides, 30th Street Station, fire department shows, police car parades…you name it, if it involved planes, trains, and cars, we had weekend road trips with this little blonde boy who loved all of it.  So…15 years ago, as I turned on CNN for the background noise I liked to have while I worked in my home office, when I saw smoke and fire coming out of the top of a giant building in New York City, my first thought was, “oh, wow, Shawn will love this!” and I immediately stuck a tape into the VCR to record what was happening, knowing he would be fascinated…I did not, for the first few minutes, even think about what this scene on my television screen implied.  I did not, for the first few minutes, even think about the fact that this was not a movie, not a retelling of an event.   For the first few minutes, all I thought about was that my nephew would think all this fire was wild, and that fire engines and police cars involved in the excitement of a big tower in a big city that was aflame, would be really exciting for a little kid who loved big things…

…then, after several minutes, my brain adjusted…my ideas of what a cool aunt I was, to have thought to put a tape in the VCR to record for him this big news story on a random morning, turned to…oh, there are people at work, in that building…oh, the building is on fire, and people were there, at their desks working, or getting ready to turn on their computers at their desks, as I was just about to do as well, but now their office is exploding…and my excitement for this tape I was going to make for my nephew became stomach turning disbelief, that I was watching, live, people burning to death…then as I sat on my giant purple sofa, I watched, with my own eyes, the camera angle that was on this burning building, as a plane, flew low, and smashed right into the building next to the one that was already on fire…AND by then my brain and my heart and my stomach were in complete alignment, and I became nauseated and was afraid I might throw up because I had watched, on tv, from my giant purple sofa, next to my cozy home office, not only lots of people dying inside a building, but then many more people dying on an airplane that had just smashed into the building next to the one already engulfed, and I began to cry…

The excitement that I felt for being such an awesome auntie to have quickly thought to record a big city event for my little pre-school aged blonde genius nephew, became the unbearable heaviness of indescribable sadness that on live television I was watching people die in a horribly gruesome and surely terrifying manner.  I did not move from that giant purple sofa for more than an hour.  I drove to Wawa and bought cigarettes and sat on my back deck and smoked until I could think clearly and wondered what on earth was happening…and as I sat, dressed in my work clothes, and wearing my fabulous jewelry, sitting, smoking on my back deck, and not working, I began to think about a woman in north Jersey, or Westchester County, who might be my age, who might at this very minute be sitting on her back deck, smoking a cigarette, and realizing that on live tv, she just watched her hard-working husband burn to death, at his desk, at work, and that her life as she knew it was never going to ever be the same…I thought for many minutes about, how would you tell your children, when they got home from school that their father left for work before they had woken up for school and there he died, at his desk, because a plane smashed into the building where he worked?

Needless to say, I did not get any work done that day that I recall…I typed up some reports and although our job had us on major deadlines and we had to have a minimum number of reports completed per month, I felt pretty sure that nobody that day was going to want to have a phone interview with me that morning about their jerk of a neighbor, collecting disability benefits because he hurt his knee on the job, but how he plays basketball in a men’s league under a nickname.  I felt pretty sure that no judge’s assistant wanted to discuss a case that had been sent back again, for more evidence.  I felt pretty sure that no person I talked to that day would want to talk about anything other than what was happening on CNN right before their eyes in real-time…

The tape ran for six hours or so, and then I stuck another blank tape in.  I could not stop watching the television.  I could not stop crying as I watched all those brave men and women running around in total chaos trying to help.  Over the next day I could not stop crying…seeing teenage girls weeping while being interviewed that their dad was a fireman and that he went to the call yesterday morning but that they have not heard from him since…the children’s loss those first few days was beyond heartbreaking to me, to us all.  We, I think I speak for us all, when I write that we had been, and still to an extent remain, very isolated from the world’s violence…there are places on the planet where terrifying things happen regularly, and people just deal with it as best that they can…we all, that morning were shocked and perplexed and confused, I think more so than scared, because things like this just don’t happen to us…

Six weeks later, on the morning of October 22nd, my girlfriend and I were at Newark airport, on our way to see Pearl Jam in Seattle.  I looked at every person in the seats around me in a different way…not suspiciously necessarily, but bewildered perhaps…and felt amazed by how you can be seated right next to somebody who is wearing the same Converse high-tops as you, and has the same JanSport back pack as you, but they are a deranged psychopath and you can’t know it by looking at them…I still have the tapes, all of them, recorded on a long ago tossed vcr, labeled with purple electrical tape that says simply September 11th, and I never once watched them after I took them out of the vcr, and I never once showed them to Shawn, and now he is 19, and stands six and a half feet tall, and has lost his boyish love of planes, trains, and cars…but on Friday afternoon, after I got my granddaughter off the bus, she said, “Nana I want to interview you. We have to ask a family member where they were on the morning of September 11th and what they remember.”  …And the thing I remember most was dropping that tape into the vcr, knowing my nephew was going to think, “wow…”

Falling

I love this week…the end of summer and knowing that fall is just ahead…When I was young we had a surf shop in our town called Things-U-Like, and they sold  yellow t-shirts, that read in orange lettering, “it’s better in September” and here at the Jersey shore it’s true.  We still have bright sunny hot days, but the humidity is significantly diminished and we have fewer beach flies and even fewer greenheads here near the bay.  We still have restaurants and stores open but we have fewer cars and even fewer traffic lights, and we can finally drive over 35 mph and get to where we are going a bit more easily.  Sure, the sunsets are earlier but we still have a month of what we call Local Summer.  Over the last few days, the weather channel and the local Philadelphia news channels had us on high alert for a tropical storm, but if you looked outside and did not know this, you would think I was joking…it’s been gorgeous out.  It is just the best time of the year here.

As autumn begins, I really enjoy my coffee out on the decks as the sun peeks up from behind my tall cedars, without that heavy feeling on my skin, sickly & sweaty with that overall dead-of-summer coating of “ick.”  I’ve always loved the fall, I appreciate the mix of colors that the trees start to give us, and I live on a road that is just about the most beautiful one in our whole town…rural, and full of such a wide variety of different species which change color and texture throughout these weeks in a way that gives us a new show every day if we take the time to notice.  Some wooded areas go from green to brown in a couple of days and then just look bland and sad for months, but not this road; this street delights me every time I pause to look, and revel in nature’s art project this time of year.

My joy for this season ahead feels muchier than usual, for a few reasons I suppose, primarily that this begins my last year of life in my forties; I feel something like a pull to start living that “now or never” way of life that many I know have mastered, and I have failed to even start.  Anything that I think I ought to be doing, or feel like I should have already done, kind of needs to be addressed…this is the last year of my 40’s and any changes that I want for any aspect of my life feel like now is the time or I had best stop thinking about them and accept them as they are…that “old dog/new tricks” business…I’ve said and written for years that I want to travel more and I am so excited that my boyfriend’s part-time job as a professional percussionist with a nationally touring tribute band has provided us with lots of opportunities to travel, and while I don’t have the freedom or the means to go to all the places he is getting to play, I am excited that I’m getting out of my small circle of life a bit more than I ever did before, and my list of places we get to see this year is getting longer and longer with every new gig that they book!  This week starts the first year my daughter works in her new career as a school teacher, this season starts the first year of having my new son-in-law as part of this family, it’s the beginning of our Sweet-Ti’s middle school experience, and it starts the little-blonde-wonder in the gifted program at school with some violin lessons on the side, and although my heart is heavy for her, as it’s the first time she’ll be going to school without her sister, she’s so lovely and adaptable that I suspect it will just fall into place for her, and honestly, when you think about it, things somehow do always fall into place don’t they?

My only difficulty (if I allow it) this time of year (if I let my brain dwell on it, or recognize a difficulty at all) is KNOWING, or I guess I should say anticipating with dread, that my small business becomes positively tiny, and grinds to a H A L T…a really, and I mean R E A L L Y slow, and I mean so S L O W, few months loom ahead of me…and I start my annual fall panic…the ‘what ifs’ of my world…what if I don’t get any new customers for next year, or new work for the off-season…I can panic and freak-out until my eyelashes fall out (which has happened during several fall seasons) but I’ve learned, or begun to understand, that this dreading and worry does nothing but upset my being, it positively serves no purpose whatsoever, and weakens my soul…and so I am trying, already, even though it’s only Labor Day weekend, to not have any bad vibes about the months ahead.  I promised myself, during my nightly chats with the universe over this summer, that I was not going to let worry get to me, or let stress consume me, and instead I am only going to focus on all that is good…AND there is so much, so very, very much, that is good.  Just because fall is the time of year that I normally worry, there is no reason I have to do it this fall, or ever again for that matter!!  Using the super powers of my brain to stop this chatter that begins to fill the empty spaces of my brain is going to be another of my new autumnal habits!  Practice makes perfect, right?!  I’m going to be excited about walking my grandchildren to the bus each morning, I’m going to be excited that I have neither “boss” nor office which allows me to be home in time to get them off the bus in the afternoons if need be, or available to drive little humans to dance classes and violin lessons, I’m going to be excited that I don’t have to find somebody to “cover my shift” when I get to go to New Hope, Bridgeport, and Niagara Falls to watch my boyfriend make music magic with his band…I’m practicing to notice all that is good and right and easy, and not be bogged down by the worries and thoughts of what is not so good or far from easy.  I have many friends who meditate and who have trained their brains to not get lost in the thoughts that serve no purpose, and I find that the more I practice these daily gratitudes, and the more I practice my presence, I am less and less inclined to even notice, let alone dwell on the worry…and honestly, what is better than falling back in love with your own life?  It’s the best kind of falling there is…