THE COMPASS

Hebrew works differently than English and the only language very similar to it is — unsurprisingly — Arabic.

Hebrew uses root words and then twists them into various shapes to form adjectives, nouns, verbs, and other word forms that all, in some way take their original meaning from that root.

The word in Hebrew for “compass” means — as it does in English — a device that points you in a direction. But it also means the direction “North” and by mental rhyming, it also means “conscience.”

Because a compass points you north as your consciences points you in the “right direction.”

A logical language.

RIGID MINDS DON’T MAKE GREAT DISCUSSIONS

For a few days, I hooked up with a Boston Globe group. Its purpose was supposedly to address racism in Boston. Though we don’t live there anymore, we did live there a long time and we lived in Roxbury, the darkest part of the dark part of Boston. We lived there for ten years and they were ten of our best years. If that condo had anything other than electric heat — electric heat in New England is not really heat; it’s just burning money to take the chill off — and there was a way to get from the ground floor to third floor bedroom, and they hadn’t decided to redesign every road in Boston, AND we had somewhere to exercise our dogs, we’d have stayed. But I could see the future and a 3-story walk-up condo didn’t look like a good choice for us. Especially not for me.

Red lights in Roxbury

I found this house online. It was the right price. It had land and two fireplaces. The house needed work, but seemed structurally sound otherwise. It was in the whitest place I’d ever seen, so we found ourselves moving from the darkest area of Boston to the whitest area in central Massachusetts.

Having lived as a mixed couple in Boston, I thought we might have some interesting feedback to offer the group.

It turned out, this group was exactly like talking to a bunch of Republicans, but from another part of the spectrum. These were people who made pronouncements like “Black men have a lifespan in Boston of just 21 years and everyone hides their children.”

Roxbury

We lived on Circuit Street which is right in the middle of Roxbury. Garry was a lot more than 21 and so were all our neighbors — none of whom hid their children. It was a safe place to live because everyone watched out for everyone else. The crazed drive-by shooters never drove by our place. Probably half the men in the complex were police officers, sheriffs and a reporter, so it was probably just as well. I never felt unsafe walking the streets, though I have always preferred to avoid gangs of teenage boys. I have a firm belief that gangs of teenage boys are inherently dangerous, no matter what their class, color, or ethnicity. They are hormonal and quite probably, insane. They will not become sane until their mid twenties when the hormones slack off a bit and their brains clear.

Otherwise, I walked downtown and to the post office. I liked my neighbors and I think they like me. We had block parties with great food, music and laughter. It was a jolly place to live. I miss it.

So when whoever it was said “Men are doomed to die before age 21 and everyone hides their children,” I took umbrage. It was just like Trump telling Black people that they might as well vote for him because “what did they have to lose?” In fact this guy who was supposedly “fighting” racism was essentially going out of his way to prove all the crap people like Trump say, is right. Sometimes, you have to step back and consider what you are really saying to the world.

Making racism the whole story is stupid and not true. Most people in “the hood” live normal lives. Those reputed heavily armed tanks full of crazed shooters don’t roam the streets. In the ten years we lived there, NO ONE shot at me, near me, or threatened me. I wasn’t raped, assaulted, or propositioned. Men were polite and helpful. Women were charming and funny. No one tried to break into our house. No one stole our cars, which  is more than I can say for living on Beacon Hill where both of our cars were stolen.

There’s racism in Boston as there is everywhere. In my humble and apparently insignificant opinion, the serious racists don’t live in Boston.  They live in the white, wealthy suburbs. Those liberal places where everyone tells everyone tells everyone else how they many wonderful Black Friends they have, but you never see any of those friend around. They don’t visit — or get visited. Scratch that thin, brittle liberal surface and you’ve got a butt-load of racism underneath.


In fact, every state in the continental United States with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont has had lynching casualties. 


Boston is a real city. Black neighborhoods, many mixed neighborhoods. In fact, most neighborhoods are mixed. Some a lot, some just a bit. There’s a lot of intermarriage. Kids go to school together and it stopped being a big deal a long time. If Boston isn’t the most diverse city in the U.S., it is also very far from the most racist.

Boston is a complicated city. People in Boston are often surprisingly casual about race. People work together, walk together, shop together. And — Boston has never had a lynching.

So I was in that group and just a few days later, I resigned from it. I can’t talk to people whose minds are rigidly made up. If there’s no chance of anyone changing his or her opinion, there’s no point in talking.

At some point in time, everyone will have to stop and hear what other people are saying. Otherwise, there will never be any problems solved in this land of ours

IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS

This entire year has gone so fast, it’s truly a blur. I remember being a kid and years lasted a very long time. The interval between Kindergarten and high school was an eternity.

I remember being 13 and realizing in just three years, the World’s Fair would be in New York. I’d be old enough to visit on my own. On a date, maybe. Which I did. Me and my friend Alex. He wasn’t a serious date, just a college pal. We went exploring, discovering the thrill of Belgian waffles and the world’s fastest carousel from France. Alex was Swiss. He used to tell me about all things European, which was very exciting when I was 16 and couldn’t imagine that in 13 more years, I would be living overseas.

I recall looking at a calendar. Realizing Haley’s Comet would be “in town” on my 39th birthday … and thinking “Wow, I’ll be really OLD by then.” It came. I saw. I wrote an article about it which was the only thing I wrote that was published in the Jerusalem Post.

Time seems to go faster with each passing year. I don’t know why it seems that way. It is as if childhood lasts most of a lifetime, then the rest of your life takes two more years.

And now, it’s December 2017 and I’m 70, turning 71 in just a few months. Phew. I would like 2018 to go just a wee bit slower, if that is okay with whatever eternal clock is managing time.

THE SEE-SAW SOCIETY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I just had a terrible thought! What if the extreme political division in America continues? What would that mean, long-term, to our government and to our country?

The way I see it, we could just see-saw back and forth between Republican and Democratic Presidents and congressional control in Washington. When one party is in power, the other party will become energized and vote them out at the next presidential election (after either four or eight years of the ‘in’ party’s reign). Then the same thing will happen again and the current minority party will take over from the current majority party. This process could go on forever.

What would this mean for the country? When in office, each party will devote their energies to undoing everything the other party did during it’s time in power. The President will reverse as many of the opposition party’s executive orders as possible. Congress will pass laws to neutralize or reverse as many as possible of the ‘evil’ laws passed by the other party. The courts will be stacked with ‘good’ judges from the ruling Presidential/Congressional party.

This translates to total schizophrenia for the country. For four to eight years at a time, we’ll have, let’s say, a Democratic government. That would mean we’d live with policies that were pro-environment, pro-universal healthcare, pro-regulations, pro-entitlements, pro-voting rights, pro-women’s rights, pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-LGBT rights, pro-marijuana, pro-income equality, pro-Constitution and Bill Of Rights, pro-gun control, pro-middle class, pro-diplomacy, pro-Western European allies, etc. You get the idea.

Then when the pendulum swings, we’ll have four to eight years of a government that is against or indifferent to all of the above. That government would work hard to enforce the exact opposite.

(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / iqoncept

It may actually take more than four to eight years to undo all the ‘damage’ done by the opposition party during their time in power. So random rules and laws from each party’s tenure could remain. This would result in a mishmash of laws and policies coexisting, that range from right-wing/conservative to left-wing/progressive. But the major issues, the ones that electrify and motivate each base, these policies will swing wildly from one administration and congress to the next. There will be instability and confusion in every aspect of life.

The party in power will shut out the other party, minimizing that party and emasculating them. The continuation of one party rule, with no compromise or coöperation, will further fan the flames of inter party hatred and further fuel the bitter political divisions in the nation. It will also make it very hard to get anything done in Washington because majorities will always be small and fragile.

That leaves us with a barely functioning government that will always have the abject hatred of a large percentage of the country. Everyone will know that whatever the ruling party manages to accomplish will be undone and or reversed within a few years.

I don’t see how this cycle will get broken. Unless, the 60% – 65% of the people who hate Trump can come together and form a government that has at least some bipartisan support. Once that happens, the pendulum can stop swinging wildly and reset somewhere in the middle.

Until then, buckle up! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

PERSONAL UN-FAVORITES DIS-SERVICES

It’s an epidemic, a pandemic  — of bad service.

Do you remember when the customer was always right? I do. Because it wasn’t that long ago.

Customer satisfaction and service was the norm until about 2002. At which point everyone decided to save money by (A) “automating” customer service (B) eliminating service entirely, or (C) shipping it overseas to be handled by people who barely speak English and don’t know anything about the products. That was when you and me, the customers — we who spend our limited, disposable income on their products or services — became unimportant.

That was the year when we all became not worth the effort of answering a question, or supplying documentation. The gold standard for customer service became … nothing. These days, after slightly more than a decade of working out the details, most organizations do not offer any service to their customers. At all.


The overall attitude is “do the least you can — nothing, if possible.
All customers are liars and thieves. Treat them as such.”


Customer disservice. I think I’m permanently pissed off. Even thinking about calling a customer service department gets my blood boiling. I’m shocked if I’m treated well. Delighted, but shocked.

My personal un-favorites include:

  1. Recorded phone solicitations that interrupt your sleep, meals, conversations, and the show you’re watching.
  2. Calls that display a caller ID as a familiar phone number, but which they’ve hacked. Sometimes, it’s your OWN number. Why would you answer that?
  3. Fake charitable organizations, many supposedly in support of cancer research, who take your money and use it to line their own pockets.
  4. “Surveys” that are scams to collect your private data for sale and misuse.
  5. “Discount cards” which are just another way to collect your personal information so their company can sell it. You may not be worth much as a customer, but your buying habits sell for big bucks.
  6. Voice-mail systems at doctor’s offices with so many options you can’t remember the first option halfway through the message. The recordings go on forever. Worse, you have to listen to the whole spiel every time you call. The message starts with “Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. Our menu choices have recently changed …”  Recently was a year ago, sometimes even longer. You can sing along with the recording because you’ve heard it so many times.

CustServCartoon

Many companies no longer offer any option of speaking to a live person. Try to find a live human being at your electric company, cable provider, or credit card company.

Our electric company used to have customer service. Today, if you can find their phone number, a recorded message will tell you to visit the website. Online. Not quite what you need when the power’s off. Make sure you have their actual phone number on your device. You can’t look it up online when there’s no electricity because if there’s no electricity, there’s also no cable or WiFi. And no one has a real landline anymore — they are all cable lines.

If your entire life is online, it’s over when your power goes out, which is why I have real things — like books and magazines — I can use even by candlelight. Imagine that! AND I have DVDs that play when the cable is out! Whoo hoo!

Assuming you can worm your way through voice mail and finally push the magic number to connect you to a live agent, you hear: “Your business is important to us …” followed by Muzak and a 40-minute wait on hold. Better yet, it’s the long wait, followed by a disconnect and dial tone.

Death cust serv

Bad (automated) service is particular noxious when it’s a local company. You know both office workers (one of whom is the owner and the other, one of his kids) are probably chatting on Facebook while you listen to their 5-minute voice-mail message. All you wanted to do was ask on which night they are open late. By the end of the message, you no longer care.

There are still some good services out there. Blue Cross has one of them, by the way … and ironically, so does both Social Security and Medicare. If you bump into any others, be sure to tell them how wonderful they are. Maybe it will become contagious.