The Sweet Sounds of Summer (?)

A lovely summer afternoon, gentle breeze, sweet smell of honeysuckle, and most important of all – peace and QUIET.

City of Long Beach, CA

I want to scream. I have a sweet little 8 foot by 6 foot pool in the backyard that I call my sanity spa. It is equipped with a donut-hole float, and a long, raft-float. My summer vacation consists of reading while I bounce about in the donut and take naps while floating on the raft. It is an idyllic existence for spending a leisurely summer during the pandemic. Except for …

WHEN IT’S NOT QUIET!@!

And much to my deep chagrin, this is often the case.

So, you say, buck up and let the neighborhood kids enjoy their summer fun!

It’s not neighborhood kids.

Well then, let the boy next door enjoy practicing his drums.

It’s the boy next door practicing drums, nor the girl across the street playing the piano.

Could it be a gaggle of crows wanting to chase away some poor, unfortunate owl?

No crows, no owl.

None of the above.

Here’s a hint:

The other day I had sunk into a lovely rapture while floating on my raft when I sprung off it in a fit of frustration and fear due to the suddenly loud and intrusive buzzing of a hedge trimmer.  

My neighbors. My butt to backyard neighbors. My 60-something neighbors. My obsessive-compulsive, yard-fanatical neighbors. My neighbors who often mow their Pebble Beach Golf Club-perfect lawn every day. Who trim their 2-foot high hedges once a week. Who had near-apoplexy when the water company had to dig up their lawn to fix a broken water main.

Take your pick: lawn mower, hedge trimmer, power-washer, edger, weed whacker, oh, and dare I forget, their daily greeting as they float about in their own, much-bigger-than-my pool. (Did I mention the moaning of their pool pump?) If you’re looking for non-natural yard noise, come join me and let the cacophony begin!

Gather Pennies, Screw People

For Donald Trump it’s all about pennies – trillions and billions and gazillions of them. For Donald Trump it is nothing about people. This man would be happy living on top of a heap of coins and cash in a world with no people. Thus is his resolution to bring the economy back by subjecting millions of Americans to the most evil and virulent disease known to modern humans.

Trump continues to snub the realities of a nation in crisis; instead, stupidly promising an imminent panacea in the face of hell.  In fact, in a recent daily update, he flouted the advice of one of his top task force members, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, who has emerged as one of two heroes in this health catastrophe (the other is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo), said that only the virus can set the timeline for reopening the country, not a human.

Enter another billionaire businessman. Tom Golisano is the founder of the successful company, Paychex. In the midst of the crisis, he was quoted as saying, “I have a very large concern that if businesses keep going along the way they’re going then so many of them will have to fold.” He added that it would be better for some people to die than to potentially have more die due to an economy in tatters. Of course, he has since stated that his words were taken out of context (?) and what he really meant was that once the health officials gave the all-clear, people should go back to work as quickly as possible. Not sure I see a whole lot of difference in his intentions where getting the economy going trumps (so to speak) keeping people healthy.

As the virus marches forward and shocks us with its advancing numbers, it appears that “normal life” could be weeks, even months away. Remember how Trump scoffed at what health experts were saying about the potency of this virus? Knowing Trump, he’s probably still in denial as the rest of us stalwartly face the deadly tsunami known as Covid 19.

Is Correct Use of the English Language Doomed?

I am a grammar geek. That’s not to say I always get it right, but I love thinking about it and see grammar as a giant puzzle that deserves to be dealt with justly and correctly. After all, I grew up in the age of sentence diagramming, which I loved and still think of fondly.

I am also an English teacher. I teach college students whose idea of grammar is to see how many letters they can eliminate in a word to have it still make sense: u, imho, lol, among many, many others

The students I teach are mostly serious students and good people. The course I teach is an upper level course that focuses on business writing. One of its main premises is that the students come to it equipped with the skills of grammar, and if lacking, it is up to them to seek remedial help.

Ha!

The other day I administered an exercise having to do with subject-verb agreement, sentence structure, punctuation, and a short essay. Granted, some of the questions were on the complex-side, but theoretically, questions these students should be able to handle. The results were abysmal.

I’m in mourning as I watch the purity of my lovely language losing out to the era of text messages, disappearing photos, and beyond-casual email.  In fact, I am appalled at the some emotionally-charged, poorly formatted and incompetently-written emails that come across my desk from students these days.

What is the answer? I declare that there is none. The language will evolve or dissolve and the question now is, does anybody care?

The Man and His Dog

Photo by Ryan Bruce from Burst

For over 20 years our paths crossed almost daily when he was walking his dog and I was either riding my bike or running in the days before my knee said enough.  He had two dogs during those 20 plus years. He didn’t walk for a while after his first dog died. I missed them. I was happy to see him back with his newly adopted friend.

In all that time we never spoke more than a comment or two about the weather or some other silly thing, yet he and his dog became part of my daily rhythm.  They could be counted on when other things couldn’t. He, with his jaunty little walk, and his faithful lab marching along beside him. It gave me a comfort I couldn’t understand to see them pass each day.

Then one day, he wasn’t jaunty anymore. His chin began to drop until after a few short months it became attached to his chest. He couldn’t raise his head or talk and a friendly greeting was met with a grunt. Drool soaked the front of his chest and he wasted away before our eyes.

ALS, or so he told us before he was no longer able to speak. Still, he walked. His pace became snail-like, but twice a day, no matter what, he and his dog walked by our house. Until they didn’t. And that’s when I knew.

Somehow, someway, a vacant house calls out to you, telling you it’s lonely. This week his house called out to me. It might have had something to do with the dumpster in the driveway, the lack of footprints in the snow, and its darkness now at night. He’s not there, and neither is his dog.

I feel a tremendous sense of loss for this man, who I barely knew. It’s like a song off key with no beat or rhythm.

Oh Christmas Tree

They make me sad, all those once magnificent Christmas trees. The real ones, now neglected and naked by the side of the road. I wonder what they were like when they were “before,” when they graced a hillside in spring, or accompanied their deciduous neighbors during the vibrant blazing of fall.

Photo by Jp Valery from Burst

When I was a child I begged for a “real” tree every Christmas time. I loved the smell of pine and the way it felt like I had my own forest in the living room. I loved that I had to crawl under the branches to make sure there was enough water in the tree stand. I loved how the needles fell off, covering the carpet under the tree. My parents did not love these things.

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst



We have an artificial tree now. I’m not a vegetarian (anymore), but there’s some of the same principle for me with Christmas trees. I almost feel pain when I think of them being cut down and schlepped off to some Christmas tree lot where they are judged and either chosen or rejected. And I feel even worse when I drive down the street and in front of many homes is a discarded, once naturally glorious evergreen tree.
Nick DiChario

Reader, writer, life-long mistake-maker

Judith Shenouda

Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications

Motivation for better life.

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