Daily Prompt: Lilacs

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My son was born on the 7th of May. The lilacs bloomed that week, down on Long Island where we lived.

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All my friends and family who visited brought lilacs. Their scent filled the room.

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The smell of lilacs makes me feel young and reminds me of May 1969, when the lilacs bloomed.

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Traveling slowly through time

Without a machine or a wormhole we travel through time every day of our lives.

When I was perhaps ten, I read about Halley’s Comet. I learned it would be visible in the heavens on my 39th birthday.

“Wow” I said. “I’ll be so old and I will see the comet on my birthday … when I am thirty-nine.” I couldn’t imagine ever being so old … or seeing Halley’s Comet.

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When my 39th birthday rolled around, I was living in Jerusalem. On my birthday, as I had planned when I was 10 years old, we went out into the Judean desert and saw the comet. It was Rosh Chodesh, the new moon which has special significance in Judaism. One of our group was Orthodox (the rest of us were not) and he had a lot of praying to do before we went to see the comet.

The Jerusalem Post had published the exact times when the comet would be visible and where on the horizon to look. Sure enough, there it was, low on the horizon over Bethlehem. It turned out, when we got back to the house, we could see it perfectly from our balcony. When we knew where to look, it was easy to locate. halleys-comet-1986

That was 27 years ago. I remember knowing the comet was coming and I planned to see it on my 39th birthday. I did see it on that birthday, in a different country on the other side of the world. Now, in my 66th year, I remember the knowing, the seeing. I have the perspective of a child, a woman, and the grandmother. I have traveled through time. Slowly. Without a machine, without a wormhole.

It is no less time traveling than in a science fiction story … just a great deal slower.

Life is a trip through time. Mine, yours, everyone’s. We won’t bump into our younger or older self, but we carry each of these selves. They are as real and alive as the memories we keep.

Bringing the Party To You: The Avengers (2012)

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If you have been following the long trail of Marvel comic book hero films: Ironman (2008, 2010) , the Hulk (2008), Captain America (2011), and Thor (2011) – The Avengers is what you’ve been waiting for.

The heroes whose back stories you’ve seen in the movies — and if you are of the right generation, read in the comic books of your youth — come together to … well, take a guess. Let’s not always see the same hands. You, in the back! You’re right! A gold star to you.

They are going to save the world. These are the superheroes to do it. All of the names and faces are familiar from previous movies, with the exception of a new Hulk who is just what the doctor ordered. Hulk-wise.

This is the first fully realized not-so-jolly green giant. He isn’t selling vegetables, nor is he — as the Hulk — the mindless muscle of earlier versions. He is closer to the comic book Hulk who retained enough front brain information to make him more than the personification of blunt-force trauma. He is believable, or as believable as Hulk is ever likely to be.

Of course the movie has first-rate computer generated graphics, effects, and a top-quality soundtrack. We would expect nothing less from this team. There’s more than enough of every kind of violence, explosions, lightning, weird machines from outer space, inexplicable magic and power by good guys and bad guys to entertain anyone willing to let allow him or herself to be entertained. Over-intellectualized spoil-sports are welcome to find something else to do.

To sum it all up in a nutshell, the bad guys come through a hole in the universe and the Avengers, all incredibly handsome and brilliant heroically protect the people of Earth from destruction and domination by the Evilest Empire ever. If that were all, it would be enough, but The Avengers is more than violence and special effects.

As characters, each of the Avengers has a unique back story. Each one has a distinct personality, much of which you’ve glimpsed in the various movies leading up to this one. They are witty enough to make me laugh in the midst of mayhem.

The script is crisp, the actors can act (whoa, how did that happen? That never happens!) and it all comes together in a very satisfying action movie that is perhaps the quintessential superhero movie — so far. They did it right. It seems too short.  It leaves you wanting more.

More we shall get. As long as we gobble up whatever this franchise cranks out and it continues to be enormously profitable, we will have more. There are at least 2 more “sequels” scheduled for production during 2013  and 2014. I expect that’s the tip of a large iceberg.

Although it remains to be seen if the producers can keep the group together and retain the quality they’ve so far produced, but there’s no reason to assume that they can’t and won’t. They’ve found a winning combination: intelligent action heroes fighting life and death battles and not behaving like mindless morons. Good scripts, good actors, quality CGI.

Marvel has nailed the formula. What is surprising to me is that so many studios have not put it together the equation that will give them a hit every single time. Pretty simple. Good actors, good technical crew, good script, good director, interesting (and fun!) story. It’s a box office guarantee …  the winning combination. Any producer could apply it. So why don’t they?

Movies should not be dull. Personally, I can live without philosophy or a message. More than enlightenment, I want to be entertainment. I want to be excited, to laugh, to applaud.

I want to have fun at the movies. Like we used to in the good old days.

I’m tired of critics. How many of you got a thrill watching The English Patient? Or The Hurt Locker? Too many critically acclaimed films are boring. Dull as dirt and about as memorable. These movies have become laugh lines on late night comedy shows. No one watches them, at least not voluntarily. You’d actually have to hold a gun to my head to convince me to watch any of them. Critics love them, but audiences stay away in droves. They lack the single quality every movie must have to be a called good. It has to be entertaining. Professional critics seem to have missed this detail.

Mom and Pop – Closed For Business

Mom and Pop. American political mythology declares them the backbone of business.

They are the official symbol of our nation’s best, the hardest workers. The folks who build our towns and cities. How fine it is to do business with neighbors and friends rather than faceless corporate franchise operations. Oh, wait. Our friends and neighbors work for those conglomerates. So aren’t we dealing with them anyhow?

Every day, it gets harder to find a Mom and Pop business. Blame it all on corporate greed pushing out small businesses, if you like. Always nice to have someone to blame. Too bad it’s not true. Or, not as true as we would like it to be.

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We love simple answers and if we can’t find one, we’ll make one up. The world keeps changing. So does what people want for themselves and their kids. Labor intensive small retail businesses have long been the bulwark of America’s Main Street but they aren’t appealing to today’s computer-savvy kids who are far more likely to want a shot at the boardroom of one of those aforementioned faceless corporations.

Who does want to run those little businesses? Immigrants. The people we are so determined to get keep out of our country or get rid of. They don’t see long hours and hard work as punishment. They see it as an opportunity. It’s American kids who see mom and pop’s business as a dead-end.

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Everyone has a piece of the truth. It’s a matter of how you look at it. Most of our small general stores, if they haven’t already been knocked down to make way for a CVS or Stop & Shop, are being run by recent arrivals from India, Pakistan and Asia. They work long hours, put they hearts into it and do well. They go out of their way to build relationships with their customers. And they succeed. Immigrants have always been the true bulwark of the “American dream” because they came here full of dreams.

The original Mom and Pop? They got old. Their kids never wanted to work at the family deli, restaurant or ice cream shop, so as soon as a better offer came along, they took it. Moreover, Mom and Pop didn’t send the kids to college so they could slave their lives away like they had, so they’re onboard. That was always the plan.

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One by one, family run businesses are closing. Young Americans don’t want to work so many hours for such small returns. The older generation agrees. You and me may want to support them, but they are no longer looking for our support. They want to retire. If they can’t find a buyer for the business, they will sell the land to the highest bidder.

Is it unreasonable to profit from long years of sweat and labor? Everyone knows small retail businesses — unless they find a niche market that doesn’t put them in head-to-head competition with corporate franchises — barely survive, even with community support.

I’d gladly support local small businesses, but who? One by one, our restaurants, delis, gift shops, independent groceries, book stores are going away. There is only one independent bookstore in the Valley now. There never were many, but now, just one.

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Independent drug stores? Gone. Small clothing shops? None. We have a few delis, restaurants, hair dressers and fingernail shops. Services do okay, but not retail shops. Restaurants, especially if they serve alcohol do okay. You can always find a couple of tattoo parlors. A lumber yard with two branches and a hardware store. Everyone else sold, closed and moved away.

We are grateful to haveWalmart. Without it we’d have no place to shop for anything without driving 25 miles to the mall where we would merely be buying from different corporations. We need someplace to buy dish towels, paper goods and bathmats. The place to go if the microwave suddenly dies or I break another coffee carafe. Walmart did not displace local businesses. We never had many and now, even fewer. Maybe a hundred years ago, but not in the last 50.

Good bye, Mom. Good bye, Pop. We miss you, but I understand. You worked hard. You want some time off now and an easier life for your kids. Welcome newcomers. Prejudice and politics be damned. I’m glad to have you in my town.