Challenges

One often exaggerates little challenges way out of proportion to their actual size.  One recognizes this when confronted with real challenges, of significant dimension, that are nevertheless tackled by those people afflicted by them.  One then feels a little bit ashamed by one’s own silly exaggeration.

I was sitting in a coffee shop and downing a large cup of coffee, while observing the people pass by on a busy city sidewalk, an activity that I enjoy — observing people.  You actually perceive a lot if you step aside a moment from your busy life, and take some time to consciously observe the people around you.

I watched a blind person negotiate the button for a cross walk.  With her cane, she felt the end of the curb where it curves upward in order to find the post that contained the button.  She listened to the traffic to hear when it was time to cross, and then felt the surface of the bumpy crosswalk, again with her cane, to know the direction to walk in to get across the road.  Despite the blindness, she did all this very efficiently — clearly this particular section of her walk was very familiar to her.  But think about that — negotiating the busy streets of a major city blind.

I watched a cripple in a wheelchair make his way pushing the wheelchair with just one good foot and leg — but always moving backwards, that is, with his back always facing the direction he was moving in.  Just try to imagine that.  And just try to imagine that as the only way you can get around — sitting in a wheelchair and pushing it backwards with one foot.

I watched a madman beggar carrying on a gibberish conversation with each person who passed him by, as though they were actually interacting with him, instead of hurrying by to escape him.  Periodically, the man uttered, involuntarily, a shrill birdlike catcall that interrupted his otherwise unintelligible statements, for he was speaking in a language no other human being could positively understand, except that his soulful eyes were beseeching desperately — the message from the eyes was clear, even though his language was from Mars.  Now and then someone put a dollar in his cup, no doubt with the thought, there but for the grace of god go I.

I watched a very old woman with a severe case of osteoporosis, bent like a right-angle   T-square, and therefore forced to always look down at her toes, make her way with tiny steps, grudgingly, along the sidewalk, periodically having to crane her neck severely sideways to see if she was about to walk into anything.  Her entire world had been reduced to her toes.

By the time I finished my coffee, I didn’t feel quite so put out by my little troubles, but was struck by how cruel life can be.   No question, there is a significant number of people who must endure dreadful things…and it will always be so.

The ancient Stoics had a mental trick for chasing away the blues.  It was a kind of negative visualization where you consciously tried to think of the worst possible thing that could happen to you and the consequences — for instance, losing your legs or the aforementioned going blind, etc.  The idea was that by comparison to such awful eventualities, your present condition should seem quite benign, and so you hopefully gain some perspective.  I contend no such visualization is necessary to do this.  You just have to open your eyes.

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The Green Monster

I played Little League baseball, and was picked out for a spot on the team when I made a running catch in right field and threw out a base runner at second base who made the mistake of thinking it was a definite hit.  With such a sure glove, I ended up a catcher through high school and college, but while the arm was good enough, the bat wasn’t there to go for the big time.

If you grew up on Cape Cod as I did, of course the Red Sox were the team one rooted for, even though in those days — in the late 50s and early 60s — they were a hapless bunch, with zero pitching.  The routine on the radio was predictable.  The Red Sox would go through their line up with pathetic strike outs and easy pop flies to the infield until you finally came around to either Ted Williams or possibly the third baseman Frank Malzone, and then there would be — finally! — a home run or possibly an extra base hit. Then the dismal cycle would begin all over again with the rest of the washed out lineup. But you were a diehard fan, and there was always next year.

I just turned 71 years old, and like most old timers, I have a bucket list.  Guess what?  I had never once been inside Fenway Park to watch the beloved and certainly endured (in those early years, at least ) Red Sox go at it.  So last night, I took in my first live game, could actually see the likes of the famed Green Monster up close and personal, and get a feel for the place with my own eyes, as it actual is, not as it is projected on a flat TV screen and related secondhand through the radio.

When I handed the old codger taking the tickets my ticket, I mention it was the first time for me at Fenway.  Without missing a beat, he replied with a heavy emphasis on the last word that was pure Bostonian, that is, more pawk than park: “Welcome to Fenway Pawk!”

The exact same game was there to be seen by virtually everyone in the stadium, yet, upon reflection, I realized that while that was true, it was also true that each person might well have seen the game quite differently.

The boys with their mitts at the ready watched the game in a kind of hero worship of Major League ball players they themselves could only hope to become.  For these beaming eyed boys, the panorama of the game was a kind of aspiration for a magical future where they would make the game-saving catch or hit the dramatic 9th-inning home run to win the game — and all the laurels.

For the old men in the stands, the panorama was bathed in the nostalgia of their long lost youth when the game was played seemingly forever in an endless sunny afternoon — an afternoon that nevertheless did pass them by, unannounced and unnoticed, never to be enjoyed again, a love labor’s lost.

Many in the stands who had not been themselves baseball players — perhaps girlfriends or buddies who played the other sport, whatever that might be — were there simply to cheer and relish the roller coaster emotional symphony played out before them  — the rising crescendo of the chorus from the crowd for a long fly ball that just might make it all the way out…or the collective groan for strike three and the third out with bases loaded, a la Casey at the Bat.

So, yes, there was just the one game for all to see last night, but I contend many games were actually seen.  I know the game I personally saw in my heart of hearts was very different.  That game stretched all the way back to my very first catch in right field and the instant glory it conferred.  But while there were variable games observed last night, there was one thing that was fixed, irrefutable, unmistakable, even potentially immemorial like the Roman Colosseum — that would be Fenway Park itself, the stage upon which each generation of the very best ballplayers have their day in the sun.

Bean Town

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True Love

Holding hands,

An elderly couple

Walks slowly through the park.

Like a bee hovering momentarily over flowers,

The couple stops now and then

To share comments about this and that,

Savoring the nectar,

Then moves on to the next attraction,

To the next blossom,

Unhurried, self-contained, free.

 

All around the couple,

Singles clutch their cell phones,

Ever impatient to be elsewhere.

All Poetry — Henry Barnard

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Grocery Store Checkout Line

When you are into nutritious, plant-based eating, you can’t help but take a peek at what foods other people in the checkout line are buying.  I was really shocked today when I observed what this old man who was just in front of me was buying.  There were no vegetables or fruit at all — zero, none.  He bought a large amount of soda — a six pack of sugared Coke and a dozen of those little bottles of diet Ginger Ale.  There were two large bottles of wine, a loaf of white bread, a quart of ice cream, and a package of chocolates that claimed to contain some peanut butter.  That was it.

The man was only slightly overweight but somewhat stooped, possibly from early onset osteoporosis; his skin was splotchy with rashes on the face; and his thinning hair was lack luster with large clumps of hair missing in odd places on his scalp.

My analysis from the content of these groceries is that he is at least a moderate alcoholic with the purchase of not one but two large bottles of wine — why the need for an extra bottle?  That he buys so much soda indicates that he drinks enough wine to give him serious dehydration, so that he needs all that soda in order to stay hydrated.

A diet based on white bread, ice cream, and candy, albeit with some peanut butter in the candy, is definitely a one-way ticket to anemia, possibly chronic anemia.  The anemia would explain the poor condition of his skin as well as his irregular hair loss.  The fatigue he would feel from chronic anemia as a result of this minimal nutrition would reinforce his alcoholism as an escape — as would resorting to eating ice cream and candy.  Basically, with such low energy from this terrible diet, he may feel so overwhelmed physically that he resorts to alcohol, ice cream and candy as compensation in order to cope.

Clearly, based on this diet alone, the man knows absolutely nothing about nutrition, and so doesn’t realize what he is doing to himself with such an egregious diet.  Here’s a case were ignorance isn’t bliss.

His prognosis: obviously liver disease would be in the cards, but the diet has virtually no anti-oxidants or any of the other cancer-fighting nutrients that one would get from a well-balanced diet, so tumor growth is predictable.  Without much calcium or vitamin D in his diet, his mild osteoporosis, at his age, could accelerate rapidly.

All of the above is because he is completely ignorant about food — what you don’t know can kill you.

Alcoholism

Anemia

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