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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The movie extras in your life

There was a hilarious show called Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist that was on Comedy Central a few years back.  It had a very clever concept: Jonathon Katz played a Bob Newhart-esque psychiatrist and comedians were his “patients”.  His dry humor with quiet delivery was very conducive to the comedians’ uproarious delivery.
One of the comedians featured was Louis C K. His routine on the couch consisted of explaining how he is starting to see the same stranger twice.  His conclusion was that God was running out of extras in the movie of his life. To drive home his point, he put on the voice of God (very deep and authoritative) instructing a person to run into Louis when on the bus.
However, the man objected, stating he was the jogger that ran by him just today.
God’s retort? “Just go! Put on a hat, I don’t care!” (clip of the episode below, Bees and SIDS, Minutes 8:47 through 9:15)
This concept of “movie extras” in my life stuck with me. After watching this particular episode, I decided to be aware of the people around me more closely, especially on my way to work. I found this travel time quiet and reflective, primed for observation.  Also, I was on the road for at least 40 minutes. Surely that would give me enough time to look about! Besides, driving into work can be pretty mundane—always with the same crowded freeway and roads. I figured this exercise would liven things up a bit.
It actually worked. For months, I saw the same truck on the road.  Granted, this full sized truck was hard to miss. It was painted in a metallic, shiny purple color with sunflower yellow script written on the tail gate. Every day, this truck was either in front, beside or behind me.
Contrary to the episode, I didn’t feel God was running out of extras in my life. Rather the extras in the movie of my life were having recurring appearances, cameo roles if you will.
Then again, maybe God had a conversation with the driver:
“You, in the purple truck, drive in front of Diane!”
“But I was just driving side by side with her yesterday! Surely she will recognize me!”
“No matter, wear a hat!”
I grew to expect seeing this truck on my way to work. We had a connection, though we never met face to face.  We were both going to work at the same time and route. In a large city as Las Vegas, where people can be quite anonymous, this simple observation of a familiar vehicle was very comforting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where were you on 9/11?

This day being the 10th anniversary of 9/11 brings back vivid memories for me.
We were living in Las Vegas, and on that fateful morning I was driving my son, who was three at the time, to his grandma's on my way to work. I was about to turn onto the Desert Inn Flyover, which is a bridge that goes over the Las Vegas Strip. I had turned on my favorite radio station and noticed that they were not playing music. The DJs’ voices were not their usual upbeat and conversational tones. I turned up the volume, and the morning DJ was talking about the latest news bulletin. He said it was originally reported that the airplane that had crashed into the first World Trade Center Tower in New York City was a tragic accident. Now, there was the report that another plane had purposely flown into the second tower.
I was stunned, my mind was reeling.  What were they talking about? What was going on in New York this morning? As if to answer my questions, the local radio station turned over the airwaves to the national news. On my drive over the Flyover, I was brought up to date of the horrific calamity. I remember looking up through the windshield at the clear blue sky and noticing there were no planes, which was very unusual, especially in Las Vegas. I quickly glanced in the back seat at my son, who was dozing in his car seat. He was too young to know the world was is complete turmoil.
I arrived at my mother-in-law's apartment.   It was very common for her to be watching the news this time in the morning. I had this urgent need to fully understand what was going on. However, as I carried in Derek into her living room, Linda was watching a Western movie on TBS! She greeted me with a smile and asked quite casually what was going.
I advised she turn on the news right now. When she turned the channel, she and I were dumbstruck. The images were so much worse than what was broadcasted on the radio: the New York skyline pouring with smoke and wreckage, people in business attire covered in ash, running from the buildings. It really hit me hard as a working mom—the Towers were filled with innocent people that wouldn’t be going home again.
Since there were no announcements of attacks in Las Vegas, I decided to try to keep things normal as possible.  I kissed Derek goodbye, gave my husband a call and set off to work at a construction company.
As soon as I arrived, I could tell everyone had heard the news. There were a few wrinkles that developed:
  • The assistant controller left early to try to contact friends he knew that worked at the Pentagon. He wasn’t getting through by phone and he was very upset. Thankfully, he was able to reach them and they were not in that area of the building that was destroyed.  
  • We had a few superintendents that were literally stranded in the Phoenix airport. All flights were grounded for the entire United States. The superintendents were trying to line up a car rental to drive back to Las Vegas, but since everyone else at the airport were doing the same thing, chances were slim they would make it back to the office tomorrow.
  • No houses were constructed by our company that day.  Somehow, a television showed up in the break room and all of us at the office gravitated towards it throughout the day. When we weren’t watching the news, we worried if there would be an attack on the Las Vegas Strip—after all, our office was in the shadow of the Stratosphere!
At the risk of sounding like a movie cliché, there really was a great disturbance in the Force. At the end of that terrible day, my husband and I had headaches that wouldn’t quit.  It was only made worse by watching the news.
In the weeks that followed, the positive thing that glimmered was the spirit of community and patriotism. At work, we all wore red, white and blue ribbons, neighbors put out the American flags in front of their houses and the radio was filled with inspiring songs. Even though we were far away in the West, we were affected by what was going on at the East Coast. We were all in this together and together, we were all we needed. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Newest Member Part 1

“What in the world is that doing here?” Mimosa asked, his whiskers twitching. He, Stanley and Pepper sat together on the living room floor. They were all staring at the creature curled on the floor next to the couch. Its black fur almost blended into the dark brown couch behind it.
                “From what I can gather, that puppy is just sitting there,” Stanley answered, leaping up on top of the wooden coffee table for an observational, non-committal look from above. 
                The puppy looked up at Stanley with her light brown eyes rimmed with blue. She opened her mouth and let her tongue hang out in greeting.
                “Wow! Is this all it can do?” Mimosa groaned, joining Stanley on the coffee table. “Stick its tongue out?”
                “Well, she’s young, give it some time,” Stanley advised, watching the puppy as she now happily chewed on her own paw.
                “I’m so happy!” Pepper cried, wagging her tail and going into true downward dog position. “I’m not the only dog! I’m not outnumbered!”
                “Well, you should tell her that the paws are for walking, not for chewing!” Mimosa suggested, shaking his head at the puppy in disgust.
                “Okay, okay,” Pepper sprang to her feet and trotted over to the puppy. “Stop chewing on your paws!” she shouted, enunciating every syllable.
                “She’s slow, not deaf!” Mimosa hissed, tightly closing his eyes to the ruckus Pepper was making.
                “She’s a puppy, not slow!” Stanley swatted Mimosa’s ear in reprimand.  “Don’t be mean!”
                The puppy stopped chewing on her paw and looked at Pepper. “Who?” she whimpered.
                “Hey! She can talk!” Mimosa snapped his head up.
                “Of course she can!” Stanley said, busying himself by cleaning the back of his ears with his paw.
                “Does she think she’s an owl?” Pepper whispered to the cats on the table, her brow furrowed with worry. 
                “No, Pepper. She’s young and will probably speak in one or two word sentences.” Stanley sighed.  “The puppy was asking what your name is.”
                “Oooh!” Pepper nodded her head in realization. Directing her gaze to the puppy, she answered slowly, “My…name…is…Pepper! I…am…a…dog…like…you! What…is…your…name?”
(To be continued....)