Sunday, August 28, 2016

Today's MOZEN: A Fine Line

Words and photo by F LoBuono

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

This is what San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick told an NFL Media crew in a post-game interview as his reason for not standing with his teammates for the playing of the traditional pre-game National Anthem.

The public outcry in its aftermath has been swift, visceral, and, mostly vicious. His action has caused a firestorm, literally, as thousands have set his team jersey to the torch. Most people are incensed by their perception of the hypocrisy of a million dollar athlete who has reaped the riches of American culture while condemning it at the same time.

They have a point.

But, I would like to take this conversation in a different direction.

There is not only hypocrisy in such an endeavor, there is irony, as well. Like burning the Flag or any other desecration of it, not standing for our National Anthem brings out the very paradox of what it means to be an American. We prize freedom above all else. Time and again we have proven our metal by our willingness to die for it as a concept. We are willing to fight to keep that freedom. And, the Flag and Anthem represent that concept AND sacrifice. Now, here's the irony: The very ideal for which billions have given all, protects the freedom of his RIGHT to act his conscience. We, as a free society, don't get to choose someone else's sense of duty. Yes, even if that means the perception to millions of being an arrogant asshole. THIS is the irony and the CHALLANGE of American Democracy. It has always been there and always will be.

We, as a society, also have a right to our expression. If the people are outraged, then so be it. And, Mr. Kaepernick will have to understand that part of being in a democracy is acceptance of the responsibility for one's actions. Let's see if he will reap the whirl wind.

In the meantime, call him a fool, or selfish, or a hypocrite. But, also acknowledge the irony of his actions; they are not un-American. In fact, in many ways, they were ultra-American. It's what the sacrifice is all about. Those who know, know.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Today's MOZEN: No Doubt

F LoBuono
Doubt is an insidious force. It can work on the human psyche much as water that seeps into a fissure does to the strongest rock. It's hardly noticed at first. After all, what can mere liquid do to solid rock? But, the water is relentless. It works inexorably over time to slowly but assuredly ruin the integrity of the stone. Eventually, the water has its way and the rock is split.

So it is for people. At least it is for me.

Generally, my personality is one that many describe as "Type A". I tend to talk too much and too loudly. Simply put, I can be hard to miss. I've been told by my mother that I have always been this way. And, I see no real reason to change. I know who I am and I like myself. I'm pretty damned good at some things and suck at others. I have a VERY strong sense of myself. Being that way, overall, has served me well. Of course, some people are critical and I understand their reasoning. I could be a better listener and a healthy dose of humility is occasionally necessary. But, I believe that I'm truly at my best when I BELIEVE in myself and my ability to do ANYTHING that I set my mind to (except, perhaps, dunk a basketball).

And, doubt is the enemy of all that.

When I allow doubt to be injected into my mind-set and I lose confidence, I turn into a quivering mass of jelly. Instead of believing that if I do my best the outcome will ALWAYS be positive (and that does NOT always mean being successful), negativity and fear of failure of the most egregious kind dominate my thinking. I don't sleep well. I don't eat well. And, I don't FEEL well. It wears on me like the unrelenting water works on the stone. Over time, I'm bound to crack.

Despite what others may perceive of me, I am a deep thinker and I take things (especially important ones) very seriously. Even though I might sport a confident and jovial appearance, there are times when I am simply racked with doubt: can I do this or that? Am I truly good enough, etc.?  At some point, my thought process can make me appear as a dog chasing its tail - there's a lot action leading no where. So, what's the point?

Having confidence does not mean that you will never fail. But, it does insulate you from the doubt caused by the fear of failure that is so counter productive to getting things done. No one is 100% effective 100% of the time. Therefore, failure from time is to be expected but never feared. If we let doubt and worry drive our wagon, we'll never get anywhere. Knowing that failing is a part of life should be enough to dispel our anxieties. Besides, if you have confidence in yourself and your abilities added to the proper preparation to do a job, chances are you will succeed FAR more often than you will fail. There are few guarantees in life except this one: if you fear failure and let it dominate your thinking, you WILL fail. Doubt and anxiety will rule the day.

Go forth with confidence in everything that you do. You may not be perfect but, if you believe in yourself, you will be pretty damned good more often than not. And, that's good enough for most of us.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Today's Mostly True Short Story: When the Osprey Return

F LoBuono
Despite the fact that it was a blistering hot summer day, I was walking at a good pace. To protect myself from the scorching rays of the sun, I was wearing my broad-brimmed Panama Hat. Besides the obvious protection it provides, it looks cool as hell on me. I wear it low on my forehead, keep my head down, and just keep trucking along. In other words, I'm in my own little world and rarely get distracted by anyone.
I had just about reached the center of town when I heard someone say, "they're back". I glanced up briefly not sure where the voice had come from and what he had meant. That's when I noticed him. He's a regular in town and a little down on his luck. He was sitting on a bench in front of one of the retail stores. His clothes were dirty as was his face. I'm not sure where he lives but he's always around. But, outside of trying to bum cigarettes, he harms no one. I shot him a quick "hi" and continued on my way. Then, he said again - "they're back"! This time I slowed and asked, "who's back"? Excitedly, he pointed skyward and said, "the Osprey. They return to the same spot every year"! I followed his finger towards the azure sky and sure enough, there they were; two of them, soaring just above the village. There was no mistaking their bright white chests as they reflected the brilliant sunshine. They must have been a mating pair. Osprey are known to mate for life. Obviously, these two, as evidenced by their close aerial acrobatics, where well known to one another. Their flight was so effortless as they caught the wind off the water that they hardly had to beat there wings to stay aloft.
photo Graham Owen

I thought about pulling out my cell phone to attempt to capture an image of them. But, they were too high and moving too much for the camera in my phone to have made a decent photo. Besides, it was wonderful to simply enjoy them in the moment. They were there, real, and magnificent. And, for the brief period of time that I gazed at the fluid grace of their flying, simply enjoying them was enough. The camera never made it out of my pocket.

And, the Osprey went their way and I, mine. Just another day in Nyack.

I love this town.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Today's MOZEN: FOS - ALL

Words and photo by F LoBuono
Let's get beyond ALL the rhetoric from ALL the candidates by saying this: they are ALL just so full of shit. ALL of them. ALL of them make promises that they can't keep by saying almost anything mostly because they think it's what YOU want to hear. And, chances are that because they said what you wanted to hear, you'll vote for them. It's just a matter of is it the right shit for you?

Here's an example - the Democrats consider themselves to be more in touch with the environment then their Republican counterparts. In general, they support environmental issues like a ban on fracking and other initiatives to help reduce the effects of global warming. One of those platforms include greater recycling of non perishable materials, particularly plastics. I support them in these efforts. This is the shit that I want to hear.

Still, while working at the recently completed Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia the amount of waste material, particularly plastic water bottles, that could have been recycled and wasn't was staggering! Boxes and barrels placed outside of every work space in the venue were filled to capacity with TONS of plastic water bottles and emptied every hour or so for the course of the entire convention. This translated to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of water bottles that where thrown into mixed garbage instead of recycling bins! Why? Perhaps, they were separated and recycled after the fact, but I doubt that - too expensive. Besides, it would have been much easier to have had them placed in recycle containers in the first place! So, why? Oversight?

At the end of every shift, I would do a little clean-up of our work space. In addition to the normal business detritus, I would throw away hundreds of half-used water bottles. Things would get hectic and people would misplace their water. Instead of trying to locate their original bottle (mostly futile), people would just grab a fresh one - they were FREE, after all. Understandable, but think of the waste! To try to do my part and minimize the waste, I would label my water bottle with my initials so that I could locate it and at least finish one at a time. But, I worked a long shift and drank a lot of water. That translated to a lot of plastic, no matter how hard I tried. The amount of waste was shameful.

So, how difficult would it have been for someone, some "Big Shot" in the Democratic Party, to put into practice what the Party preaches and given at least SOME thought as to what was being wasted, literally, during the course of their Convention. Make no mistake, the GOP's Convention was just as wasteful. But, the Republicans are not that interested in the environment - and make no bones about it. At least they're honest in their disdain for it.

If the Democrats want to talk the talk, they need to walk the walk - and, it's easier than you think.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Todays' Mostly True Short Story: Nyack People - The Big Yellow Dog

Words and photo by F LoBuono
It must be a common site around Nyack by now; me and Rexie taking one of our frequent sojourns into town. We're pretty hard to miss. Not too many people stroll down Broadway with a 117 lb. yellow lab in tow. Rex is a BIG guy. Pushing 13 years-old, (that's like 145 in human years), he is in great shape, especially for his size. So, we walk at a pretty good pace.

During the stretches of our walk where there is little traffic, human or vehicular, I let him walk off the leash. He really is a gentle giant and would never hurt another living thing - human or canine. So, he's no threat. In fact, he's GREAT with kids. He's so big that they can really latch on to him. And, he is incredibly patient. Allowing him off the leash gives him the freedom to sniff AND pee away. And, pee he does - on just about everything. Anything taller than an ant hill is fair game and a sure target. Of course, I DO control him - no peeing in gardens or on lawn furniture LOL! But, it's good for him to do what he does best. After all, he IS a retriever. It's in his genes.

Because he spends so much time sniffing and peeing, he often falls a little behind. It's never too far and he is never out of my sight or voice. So, I often continue on my pace and allow him to take his. At some point, he notices the gap and hustles to make up the difference. I never have to turn around because I can hear him, chugging away, like some kind of runaway freight train. He IS a BIG guy.

Well, one day, while he was in the process of catching up to me, I noticed a woman coming in the opposite direction. I always check people out to see if they might be intimidated by the dog. If so, I put him on the leash immediately. This woman appeared as no threat. As a matter of fact, she smiled, as most do when they see him.  As she approached, she came closer so that she could say something:

Sir, there's a large, yellow dog following you.

Without turning around as she passed and maintaining our pace, I replied:

Seems to be happening a lot lately.

Without another word exchanged, she went on her way and, we, ours.

I love this town.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Today's Guest Artisit: Cynthia Imperatore - How To Deal With Anticipatory Grief

Photo F LoBuono/Words C Imperatore
Cynthia Imperatore is a special human being in so many ways. One of the most important ones is her work as an "End of Life Doula". These people are the last-line, if you will, in the Hospice program whose special skills and compassion guide the dying person AND their families in the transition from this life to whatever lies beyond. It is a most spiritual calling and she does it well. Here is her response to a question about "Anticipatory Grief".

I have experienced it myself. In some ways, it was worse than the actual, just like anticipating a good event often outweighs our experience of the event itself. They are different terrains, or variations. Like climbing a mountain... As you look at the ascent before you, you wonder if you have the stamina, the strength to accomplish it. You may want to turn back. But once you start on the trail—though there are more difficult portions (of mountain or grief) that have you quail—you find that step by step or day by day, you can do it... This is the power of being present to what is, being present to the moment.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Guest Artist - Poetry by Ian Keeney "E-race My Name

E-race My Name
by Ian Keeney

We are all part of the human equation.

We come from the same Earth so what's the discussion?

Look into these eyes,
Recognize what it is you see.
Not the skin on the outside,
But what's on the inside of me.

I am your friend. I am your brother.
I am your equal, not your enemy.
We stand united as one power,
The human race, each a delicate flower
In a boundless potpourri.

Erase my face. 
Look at my soul. 
Then you will see me as a whole.

I am a doctor who heals the sick. 
I am a custodian who mops the floor. 
I built your house brick by brick. 
I fought for this country when we went to war. 

We may not look the same
But we look at the same sky. 
Don't look down at me or cast up your nose,
Look straight at me, eye to eye.

Inside, humans are all of the same composition.

Native American
Native Hawaiian
Pacific Islander
You may not look like me, but you are still my brother.

Today's MOZEN: Intangible

Words and photo by F LoBuono

The dictionary partially defines its meaning as incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch. In other words, it's the quality we see in a person or thing that goes beyond what is easily recognized. For example, we can see a person as tall, or skinny, or fair, or dark, etc. These are physically defining features. They are obvious. Intangible refers to characteristics that are perceived rather than simply observed. They are personality traits like humor, intuition, honesty, humility, intelligence (beyond education), tenacity, equanimity, empathy, and compassion, among others. When added to our physical peculiarities, they make us complete. They make us human! Without them, we are just a mass of cells. We most often choose our friends based on their intangibles rather than for their physical qualities - or, at least we SHOULD.

It's a word often heard when referring to political candidates. And, rightly so. Very few of us will ever get to know a candidate personally. We may get a chance to meet one. But, to actually KNOW one is an entirely different matter. We have to rely on what we see, hear, and perceive, mostly through the media, to form our opinions. Since, candidates regularly discuss their platforms for the economy, for education, for defense, etc. we can get an inkling as how they would run the Country. THAT is what campaigning is all about. So, we can ascertain something about their policies.

However, at some point, people want to know more about them - as PEOPLE. What makes them tick? How do they think? And, perhaps, most importantly, how do they FEEL, especially about important social issues? This is where INTANGIBLES come in. Does the candidate have more going on than just how to raise or not raise taxes? How do the things not mentioned in their speeches affect their decision making? Are they good under pressure? Do they have a value system in place that leads them down the path of justice and righteousness? Do they have a sense of humor? Are they tenacious? Can they be trusted? All of these things are important to judge in a candidates character. Because, without them, they cannot lead.

I do not KNOW Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I can only form my opinion based on what I have heard concerning their policies and what I can PERCEIVE of their intangibles.

As for their policies, we can debate them another day. I would rather, at this point, concentrate on their intangibles. And, I can make this simple: Hillary may lack in some areas but Donald Trump possesses NONE of the intangibles that I would look for in a leader! None. Zip. Zilch. Zero. He does not speak well, i.e. lacks intelligence. He's not funny. He lies constantly. He lacks empathy and compassion. And, if he had ANY intuition he would simply shut the hell up. But, he can't - because he lacks the humility to do it.

In other words, as I would not have him as a friend, I MOST CERTAINLY would not have him as my President.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Today's MOZEN: The Summer Swelter

Words and photos by F LoBuono
If you haven't noticed, we are in the midst of a classic New York summer heatwave. And, it's a doozy. In our New Yawk vernacular we would say, it's not just the heat, it's the damned HUMIDITY! In fact, it's so friggin' humid that if you did pass out from the heat, you don't have to worry about falling down - the air is so thick it'll just hold you up! My friends who served in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam had a term for this type of heat that by it's very sound describes it most accurately: The Mung. Even the frequent thunderstorms that we have encounter haven't cooled us down one bit. Rather, they've just made the heat wet.

There aren't many who would say that they enjoy this type of weather. But, I am in that minority. In fact, in some ways, I actually love it.

First, my Sicilian heritage helps. I am dark-skinned and tan easily. I often tell people that I get dark so quickly that it begins as soon someone even shows me a photograph of the sun. Be that as it may, I relish being in the sun. I love to bask in it's power on my face and body. I'm like a giant solar cell that sucks up energy from its rays. So, to the embarrassment of many but me, I'm shirtless whenever possible. To me, the sun is light. And, light is life. I couldn't live without it. Of course, I take precautions to protect myself from it, too. Part of enjoying life in the sun is knowing when enough is enough. But, still, I love the feel of the heat. I even enjoy the sweat pouring out of my body. It gives me a sense of myself. I'm ALIVE.

Second, when the heat and humidity are this intense, Mother Nature wins. You just HAVE to slow down. Similar to a winter blizzard, the City takes on a completely different pace - one that is considerably slower than the frantic, frenetic one we must cope with on a so-called normal day. Just as the streets may appear empty during a snow storm, so it is in a summer swelter. Normally bustling streets can seem eerily quiet. It leaves you thinking, "where did all the people go"? In my mind's eye (or ear), I can hear the faint sound of a radio playing Janis Joplin's version of "Summertime" through and open window. Perhaps, you may find, as has been a NY tradition for ions, a group of kids cooling off at an open fire hydrant (although this tradition has faded). Being able to get to water is key - even if it's just a cold shower or a dash through the gushing water of a fire hydrant. The combination of cool water on a hot body is both refreshing and rejuvenating. I know that as long as I can get to water to cool off, there is no such thing as too hot for me.

Third, summer swelters like this one will almost assuredly produce thunder storms whose celestial pyrotechnics cannot be matched by anything made by man. Last night, around midnight, on my way home from work, I was treated to one of the most spectacular light shows that I have ever seen. The lightening exploded with thunderous claps behind the thick clouds and over the George Washington Bridge. The effect was to create astonishing shapes and forms that lit up the entire bridge and City. Then, the rain came in buckets to quench a thirsty world. It was almost as if I could hear the earth drink.

Certainly, this weather can be difficult. In some cases, it may even be deadly - if you don't respect it. But, that's another reason that I love it. You must or it will hurt you. But, if you do, at least to me, the rewards can be many. You just have have to accept it for what it and look for what it brings instead of what it takes away.

Thursday, August 11, 2016