50-32 – Happy Halloween

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I tried so hard to find a picure of when I was a kid in the plastic Princess costume – it may have been Sleeping Beauty – but I could not find it. It’ll probably turn up around Christmas.

That is the first costume that I remember wearing as a kid. I have no real memories of other costumes until high school when I went as Oscar Madison one year and wore my Dad’s Army uniform another. Someone shaving creamed my back while I was wearing that and I was so pissed off because I wasn’t supposed to get it dirty.

Over the years, I’ve gone to several Halloween parties, some with themes like science-fiction [I was a Bajoran civilian from DS9] or superheroes and villains [as Poison Ivy].

For a decade I was in a medieval re-enactment group so every weekend was Halloween, only historically accurate.

I remember going through the drive-through at Burger King or Dunkin’ Donuts in full medieval regalia where I would get some odd looks. I went into a 7-11 once to buy soda.

Our friends have a summer family reunion that is a costumed event. Last year, we were pirates and cowboys the year before.

Gishwhes has also afforded me opportunities to dress up, most memorably as Batgirl, an homage to Yvonne Craig who had recently died.

Any excuse to dress up and have fun.

This year’s costume, as journalist/press person, is my first, perrhaps only politically charged costume.

This year, my middle son is a pink dinosaur person with a spear, and he is the happiest little kid in the world. He can’t wait until after Halloween because the pink dinosaur costume is also pajamas, and he will probably wear them every night this winter.

My daughter is Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, and she is using all of her own clothes. Resourceful, and…a little scary. She decorated an old wiffle-ball bat and I put the makeup on her, and it is perfect.

This is what Halloween is. Kids and fun and candy, of course. This year, we’re also giving out toys and Halloween pencils that we had around the house, leftovers from a school party or McDonald’s happy meal. We did this last year, and the kids were so thrilled to get something like that.

The school parade is in an hour – my daughter’s last one in elementary school; then no more school Halloween parties. It is the end of an era.

5/8 – Year of Mercy – Intentions

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It always amuses me when things do not go as planned but still they go, and then it’s okay or even better.

I arrived this monring at church intent on writing for about half an hour or so. Instead, I spied the holy door and my intent changed to going through the holy door first, one more time. I prayed the prayer that Pope Francis provided for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. I prayed the prayer on the door, and I entered. I was greeted with sounds of the choir practicing. Acapella. Beautiful. The church was still dim, lights not on yet; only natural light filtering through the skylight and the stained glass. It reminded me of my first few days visiting the church.

Before I could take my seat to write before the mass began, I was stopped by a good friend. She was telling me how she and her husband started watching The Walking Dead. They started with season one and are a few episodes into season two and they love it. This made me smile. It shows me not to make assumptions. I would never have recommended that she watch it but so glad she enjoys it.

I was also stopped by my morning of service committee chairperson to tell me I was on my own at the registration table next week. Instead of my usual dread of such a thing, the change, the unexpected, I was not only relieved but thankful I’d volunteered for the registration in the front place.

Mercy and gratitude are everywhere.

You don’t even need to look very far to discover it.

Halloween and Political Statement

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​As Walter Cronkite said, “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy.”

My Halloween costume this year is a political statement. I’ve been shocked and appalled by the number of attacks, both verbally and physically on journalists in the past year and throughout this election cycle, mainly from one side in particular.

There is a reason that freedom of the press is in the first amendment; it is that important.

We can’t let serious presidential candidates mock journalists for their disabilities.

We can’t let candidates refuse press credentials to mainstream, reliable, longstanding investigative journalistic newspapers like The Washington Post, the paper that broke the Watergate scandal.

At the same time, we can’t let them issue credentials to their friends.

We can’t let campaign employees (Lewandowski) assault journalists (from Breitbart no less).

We can’t let journalists (like Amy Goodman) be arrested for inciting and disorderly conduct when she is working as a journalist (and has been for more than 20 years) and covering an important news story that you just don’t like (ND pipeline).

I’m certain that I’ve left out at least half a dozen incidents that I can’t recall at this moment.

This is for every journalist kidnapped while doing their job. At the most recent White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama honored Jason Rezaian, journalist released from an Iranian prison. He stated, in part, “This year, we see that courage [Jason Rezaian] in the flesh and it’s a living testament to the very idea of a free press, and a reminder of the rising level of danger, and political intimidation, and physical threats faced by reporters overseas.” [And I would add, here at home as well.]

This is for David Bloom who died doing his job.

This is for Daniel Pearl who was murdered for his religion.

This is for Bob Woodruff who got a traumatic brain injury doing his job.
This is for Spotlight, the Academy Award’s Best Picture for 2016.

This is for every journalist who went to jail for protecting a source.

This is for the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

50-31 – The Magic Tunnel

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The Magic Tunnel by Caroline D. Emerson was one of my favorite books as a child, and it still resides on my bookshelf. I will take it out on occasion and thumb through it, reading bits and pieces and remembering what I loved about it.

It was multi-genre, taking on adventure, history and historical fiction, and time travel, and it probably influenced the direction of my interests more than I would have thought at the time. It had everything a voracious reader in elementary school could ask for.

I spent my elementary years in NYC – Queens with grandparents in both Queens and the Bronx. The brother and sister in The Magic Tunnel also lived in New York City, and in taking the subway, something I did with my uncle and on class trips, they found adventure in the past before NYC became New York. It was originally New Amsterdam, and in their travels, they met the original Dutch colonialists, the Native Americans already living in the area, and Peter Stuyvesant.

They explored the Dutch settlement and saw other aspects of Dutch colonial life and recognized much as what they had been learning in school as well as straightening out some misconceptions from that time period.

In the years after reading this, I immersed myself into history and science-fiction, still two of my loves. I also continue to have an unfinished novel from college in the same multi-genre way, combining time travel, adventure, and history. Without realizing it, I’m certain that The Magic Tunnel was a strong influence to begin and continue that story. Even today, I still come back to it and try to tweak and add elements, thinking maybe the story is relevant and can still go somewhere.

After college, I joined a re-enactment group to study and fully immerse myself in The Middle Ages.

I still love train travel, and am thinking of how to take a train trip for a writing excursion, although I’m not sure that I want to travel to another dimension or plane.

Published in 1964, it may certainly be dated and somewhat stereotypical, but it is still worth a look to see how our past was perceived and may have been perceived by two elementary age siblings just trying to get home.

50-30 – The Post Office

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I grew up in the post office. Sort of. Both of my parents worked for the post office, and I’d visit them often from when I was young, in elementary school right up to college and after.

I knew where the employee only door was to visit my mother, and I’d walk on through even though it said, No Admittance, Employees Only. This was also my way of bypassing the line and I would give my mother my mail and she’d dump it into the sorting tray.

I used to send a lot of letters and cards to friends and pen pals. I didn’t realize that stamps had to be paid for; that thyey cost money. My parents never asked me for money for stamps.I thought they were a benefit of working for the post office.

I’d leave my mail sticking out of the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom at night, and the next morning they’d be gone and on their way to the addressee.

I sat at Gloria’s desk, twirling in her chair, pushing around the cigarette butts in the ashtray with a pencil. I’d use the stampers on blank pieces of routing paper: First Class, Air Mail, Fragile.

On ocassion, I’d sort the mail into the carrier’s trays by zip code.

I would address letters to my grandmother by simply writing Grandma and her address.

I knew the importance of the return address and using a zip code. I rebelled against the zip plus four.

For a long time, I could identify a state by its zip code, and I was one of the only kids in class who knew all the postal abbreviations for all of the states.

Even today, two hundred fifty miles away from those childhood post offices, I still feel at home sending out my letters and packages. I sneak behind the second counter to build my boxes, pack them, address them and tape them closed. This isn’t an official counter where the stamps and money are kept. It is alongside the retail section. It might have had a cash register a long time ago for just the retail items, but it’s just a great space to pack up and get my Christmas presents ready for mailing. I do get asked a lot of questions, though because everyone thinks I work there. I can almost always answer the questions, which makes me feel good too.

As a kid, I knew not to put any mail in the blue neighborhood boxes. I still don’t although the problems that happened in the 70s don’t really happen too much anymore – fireworks in July, eggs at Halloween.I do hand my already stamped mail to the clerk about ninety-nine percent of the time.

Fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous? My clerk knows I know it, and he has to say it anyway, so I just smile and wait patiently to answer him. Usually it’s the first three, especially around the holiday season.

I automatically hand over my credit card, knowing the clerk needs it for the credit transaction.

I’ve asked for tape and markers and staplers.

I almost always use priority mail. I remember when priority mail was guaranteed like express mail is.

The price of stamps almost always goes up right after Mother’s Day, at least it did two or three times in a row.

I remember when computers came into the station, and at my parents’ first station together, we could walk to the pizza place and back. Joe’s Pizza.

As an adult they kind of frown on you spinning the chairs around, but there was not a chair that I didn’t spin when I was a kid.