Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Swan of Another Color

When I was first old enough to vote, I registered as a Socialist. I even got a Socialist Labor Party newspaper delivered to me. Of course, I soon realized that to maximize my power as a voter, I had to belong to one of the major parties, so I switched to Democrat. I have only rarely voted a straight ticket and try to consider the candidates and issues on their own merits, but my position usually aligns with the Liberal Democrats.

So imagine my surprise as I watched swans and seagulls compete for handouts from visitors at the Palace of Fine Arts lake this afternoon. One swan got a huge mouthful of something orange and was immediately set upon with beaks, wings and claws by an entire flock of birds who wanted his yummy. They even drew blood which leaked onto his white feathers as they tried to take it away from him.

I found myself rooting for the underdog because it was many against one, but also because that one was enterprising or lucky enough to come into a giant orange yummy. It didn't seem right that all the others should claim a piece of it when they did nothing to deserve it, even to the point of being in the right place at the right time.

And it occurred to me that I was witnessing the battle between the Capitalists and the Socialists. And what is more, God help me, I was rooting for the Capitalist.

Friday, March 27, 2009

In Which She Loses It...

I just got off the phone with Melvin from Allstate Insurance. Mel-vin. Melvin is a major dork.

The reason for my call was that for an entire week, I have been unable to reach my local insurance agent. I have left several messages and have also been told by a terminally perky recorded voice which doubtless sports a voluntary blond side-ponytail to call back during regular business hours, which is exactly what I thought I was doing. Today I did a drive-by and the agency door was gated, so perhaps they are a casualty of the economy and failed to inform their clients, which in itself does not engender confidence.

I called the company's 800 number and explained to Mel-vin that since Flip is no longer driving, we need to make changes in our auto policy. We have never been informed that Flip's license was revoked, but presumably it was since by law, his doctor was required to report his condition to the DMV. (This also happened three years ago; the DMV never informed us of his changed status and he drove for eight or nine months without a license. When we finally found out, Flip took a written and driver's test to get it back. He decided not to fight it this time because he had a hard time passing the written test then.) The situation is ironic as he is one of the best drivers in San Francisco, a city where bad driving is a creative art form.

I assumed that our premiums would go down with only one insured driver, but Allstate seems to follow a Lewis Carroll kind of logic which allows them to charge us MORE if there is only one driver.

"Married people get a better rate," Melvin intoned, "because it shows a certain degree of responsibility."

Responsibility THIS, Melvin. I thought I was being responsible by informing them that I was now our only driver.

"So I'll do better if I leave him on the policy even though he's not driving?" I said.

He repeated his one pathetic line. It was apparently the only one he knew. "Married people show a certain degree of responsibility." I really despise pomposity.

Does this not seem a tad archaic to you, to say nothing of discriminatory? A baldfaced policy of sticking it to those who for whatever reason are not married. This is offensive in so many ways that I could catalog them alphabetically, chronologically or haphazardly. Take your pick.

I responded that Allstate was not the only show in town, and that I would be happy to take my business elsewhere. And I will. But I wish I could stick pins in that blowhard Melvin first, and watch the weasel pop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Its Ugly Head

While selecting peppers outside my neighborhood grocery, I overheard two men discussing "Jew Rosen." They kept referring to somebody as "Jew Rosen" and one of them said, 'He's another Madoff waiting to happen." The other sneered, "Like all Jews." They both snickered and chanted, "Jew Rosen, Jew Rosen." They seemed to find comfort in the taste of those words.

"Kill 'em all," said one of the gentleman. His friend replied, "They're all Jew Rosens."

I was livid.

I glanced at Flip, who said, "I know."

For a second, I wished the entire Israeli army was standing behind me with Uzis. Violent words beget violent thoughts which quickly escalate into violent deeds. I dismissed my imaginary soldiers.

Why do some people still perceive entire groups of other people as hateful and bad? How can we get past this limiting and hurtful belief system? What will it take to replace the rampant ugliness with the brotherly love we all subscribe to in theory, but often fail to practice?

One of the men was pushing a double stroller with two infants who are probably doomed to learn his prejudices along with their ABC's. When will it ever end?

My entire observance of Passover consists of buying a box of matzohs and eating them with butter and salt.

Flip noticed me partaking of my annual religious ritual and said, "That Nazi looks like wall board."

"Um, no. Nazi is not exactly what you want to call a matzoh," I said, "but I can see how you got confused since they both have 'z's in them."

So now I have a tiny window into how Alzheimer's works. Maybe. And no, he was not joking but sometimes, you just have to laugh anyway.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Support Groups Go Bad

Yet again, I have confirmed that I am not a joiner. Today I attended my fibromyalgia support group for the first time in months. The normal procedure is for each of the members to tell what is going on in her life, and how it affects the disease. Although I like most of the women in this group, sitting for two hours discussing illness strikes me as counter-productive because what you focus on expands. I would rather ignore the disease and do more interesting things. But to be fair, I may have that luxury because I am not as severely afflicted as some of the others.

There is a new woman in the group whom I had never met before. Leslie has a glass-shattering voice which caused my nervous system to accelerate from neutral to full bore migraine in 60 seconds. She hijacked the conversation to inform us that she has traveled the world extensively, that she has been a fixture for many years on the 100 Most Beautiful Single Women in San Francisco list, but that she has no boyfriend although she had stated earlier that she'd spent the night on her boyfriend's yacht in Sausalito. She inflicted a shtick routine on us about getting a bikini wax, announced that she has not had full toenails for years because of a fungus, and demanded the answer to all her life's problems, but when anyone made a suggestion, she yelled "NO!! I already tried that."

I didn't make any suggestions because I was lost in wonder that there is a list of the 100 Most Beautiful Single Women in San Francisco, and that she is on it. I was mildly curious about her ranking on that list, but chose not to engage her in any more conversation than necessary because her voice was like cracking black ice on a winter pond, the kind that kills people.

I only went to the group because Shirley, the leader, has a new dog, a Belgian Shepherd, and I wanted to meet her. The dog, who is beautiful and sweet, has been debarked. I would have preferred that if anybody permanently lose her voice, it be Leslie. Life is unfair.

Yesterday, Flip and I attended our weekly Alzheimer's meeting at which the diagnosed parties are separated from their caregivers into two groups which meet in different rooms. When I rejoined Flip afterward, he told me that Heather, the woman who leads his group, had yelled at him. He was unable to remember exactly what she said, but he was very clear that she tore into him, broke his balls and it was humiliating. He stated that he would not return as long as she was there.

It seems that he welcomed a new attendee, and Heather's agenda did not allow for "side conversations." I think the meetings should be more flexible as these people are already dealing with a horrible disease, and perhaps her ego also needs an adjustment. I don't know exactly what happened since I wasn't there, but protecting Flip is my main concern. Nothing should be added to his huge and unfair burden which can be prevented. Plus, they don't have any dogs at the Alzheimer's meetings.

I suggested that from now on, we be each other's support group. He agreed. "They're just bitch sessions anyway," he said.

"So how are you doing this week?" I asked, dangling my reading glasses over my book.

"Shitty," he said as he idly thrummed his guitar. "How are YOU?"

"Crappy." I put my glasses back on and found my place. "Ok, meeting's over. As you were."

I feel so supported now, it only took ten seconds, and we didn't have to go anywhere. I think we may be onto something.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Please Help!

As some of you know, I am a wolf enthusiast. This link tells a little about my Gray Wolf, Baby. who lived with me for 13 years and who still owns a large piece of my heart. So I am extremely upset that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has just approved the Bush Administration’s plan to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana ~ a decision that could lead to the deaths of nearly 1,000 wolves, including those in the western Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Delisting wolves is contingent upon two things that have not yet been achieved: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plan must be based on current, credible science that ensures a healthy, sustainable and well-connected wolf population level. All of the states in the delisting area must have wolf management requisitions that provide for such a sustainable wolf population after Federal protections are lifted.

Salazar's decision fails to adequately address biological concerns about the lack of genetic exchange among wolf populations in the Northern Rockies. These concerns led a Federal court to overturn the same delisting rule late last year when the Bush Administration issued it. This decision also fails to address concerns with Idaho's state wolf management plan and regulations that undermine the goal of a sustainable wolf population by killing massive numbers of wolves.

If this dismays you as it does me, please make your voice heard.

Call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-9453, select option "3" for "endangered species" and hit "O" to speak with the operator. Once you are connected, deliver this simple message:

I am calling to express my extreme disappointment in Interior Secretary Salazar’s decision to eliminate Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies states of Idaho and Montana.

If his decision is allowed to stand, nearly two-thirds of the wolves in the Northern Rockies could be killed. I strongly urge Secretary Salazar to stop the implementation of this awful rule and reconsider his approach to wolf conservation in the Northern Rockies.

I added that when we elected President Obama, we expected broad-spectrum change. Secretary Salazar is implementing a discredited Bush Administration policy, so I hope that President Obama will step in and urge him to reverse his decision which violates the Endangered Species Act and allows more than 1,000 out of the roughly 1,500 wolves in the region to be killed.

Wolves are not only highly intelligent, magical animals, but an extremely important part of our ecosystem. They cannot speak for themselves, so I hope that as many of you as possible will take the time to speak for them, and for all of us who share the natural world. I had to wait 13 minutes to speak to someone who was polite but clearly bored. Still, they are required to log all messages they receive so I am hopeful that if enough people call, Secretary Salazar will reverse this brutal policy.

Thank you for caring!