Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The First Day

Today was Phil's first day of radiation for early-stage prostate cancer. We overslept. We didn't get up until 5:45, which meant we weren't in the car until 6:10. We didn't realize that rush hour would already be well underway at that hour, and we had 24 miles to go to make a 7 AM appointment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. 

It was a beautiful spring morning. The daffodils were gone except for withered brownish blossoms,  but the red buds and self-seeded Bradford pears were lovely. A quarter moon sat low in the sky. Traffic slowed, traffic sped up, drivers switched lanes unexpectedly. Still, Phil managed to squeeze into a narrow space near the "Radiation Oncology Patients' Entrance" at 5 to 7. 

Phil's machine, "Synergy", was ready for him. He is the first patient of the day for this machine, which is one of several.  All the machines have upbeat names. I sat in the waiting area with other patients and family members, in full view of the radiation room. Four heavy sliding doors seal the room while the patient is on the table. A sign by the door reads "Beam On." A Korean lady with two high-school or college-age kids chatted while her son and daughter focused on their iPhones. Her husband must return to the hospital each afternoon for the second phase of his treatment, which has to be scheduled six hours after phase one. They go home during the interval, but this can't leave them much time for anything else but being treated for a life-threatening illness. Also saw a cheerful man with half his face gone. And I heard laughter in the hall. People are remarkable.

We stopped at Lexington Market on the way home for bacon, eggs, and toast from a stand run by  a perky Korean lady with broken English. We ate standing up at a table and watched a quartet of deaf people having a loud argument in sign language.  We were home by 9:15. Thirty-nine days to go. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

America the Boorish

Domestic Manners of the AmericansDomestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fanny Trollope, mother of the Victorian novelist, Anthony Trollope, came to America in 1827. She lived for several years in Cincinnati, which was then the hog capital of the nation. She loved America, but loathed Americans. She delighted in America-the-beautiful, but found her citizens boorish and ignorant. They were ridiculously proud of their form of government and stubbornly insisted, against evidence quite obvious to Mrs. Trollope, that all men were created equal. Mrs. Trollope was quick to point out that this vaunted equality was extended to neither Native Americans nor slaves. Mrs. Trollope was glad to return to civilization (Europe) in 1832, and the Americans were doubtless delighted to see her go.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877 by Eric Foner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The past is never dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” The truth of this observation by Southern writer William Faulkner came home to me as I worked my way through this “perennial classic,” Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877. Then, as now, differing opinions about where to draw the line between property rights and civil rights divided families, political parties and the country. This sober, nuanced story, which tells what happened after the death of the Great Emancipator, changed my thinking about our country’s past and present. I learned that the South was not a monolith. Some of the propertied people and many of the small, independent farmers were Unionists. I learned that African Americans played a key role in shaping local government policy during the early days of Reconstruction, but that their advances were set aside as white men started reclaiming their positions of power, often resorting to violence. Finally, I learned how the federal government expanded its power during and after the war, taxing income, instituting the draft and building a large bureaucracy. Its role during the early days of Reconstruction as guarantor of the rights of former slaves against local infringement set it at odds with those of that day who revered the Founding Fathers for the strict limits they’d set on centralized power. It was this concentrated power that the Fathers saw as the major threat to individual liberties. This sounds familiar, as well as the fear of 19th-century Republicans and Democrats alike that “special measures” adopted to ease the transition of former slaves to eventual self-sufficiency would foster a “culture of dependency.” The debt-ridden Southern states taxed the poor heavily to pay for education and hospitals, but within a decade were forced to abandon these programs. Eventually, the federal government tired of its effort to reconstruct the South. It never, however, completely disbanded the army, which it now used to break strikes among immigrant laborers and to fight Native Americans. This was not an easy book to read, not only because it covered unfamiliar territory in great detail, but also described atrocities committed against the innocent. I am glad I stuck with it nevertheless.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Know Why the Caged Bird Grumps

When our younger daughter was in her teens, we redecorated her room. She had the smaller of the two girls' bedrooms, so we got her a loft bed with a built-in desk and bookcase. She chose the jungle wallpaper and her dad put it up. He even wall-papered her little closet so meticulously that we're keeping it that way, even though the bedroom wallpaper was removed yesterday. 

The loftbed has been removed as well. First, we tried giving it away. When there were no takers, we hired a "green" junkman to remove it. He planned to take the bed to a thrift-shop furniture outlet rather than trucking it off to the landfill. We might have kept it forever except that I always forgot about the loft when I sat down at the desk. After banging my head countless times, I knew the bed had to go while I still had sense enough to get rid of it. 

We decided to have both the bedroom and the family room painted at the same time. It's taking three days. They will finish tomorrow. I can't wait! Over a week ago, we started moving the contents of these two rooms to the living room. Two rooms can hold an unbelievable amount of stuff. Our living room looks like it belongs to a hoarder. We can't find anything. We're getting grumpy. Very grumpy.