Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Makes a Friend a Friend?

I don’t even know his name! And I probably had private dialogue for less than four hours over fifteen years. Still, I found myself driving the hundred-mile round trip to Torrance South High School to meet about 275 fellow “Hashers”, gathering to honor a living, paraplegic, cancer victim named Fungus Amungus who decided to go out in style, with friends. It gives one pause.

The trail went past a Catholic Church, which seemed fitting enough so I paused for a prayer. “Is it all right, Father, to drink beer while I’m praying?” “No, my son, that would be most inappropriate.” “Well, Father, would it be all right if I prayed while drinking beer?” “Oh, that would be most appropriate. As a matter of fact I have heard that God receives many petitions while people are engaged in sex.”

I found myself joining the Orange County group of Hash House Harriers some 35 years ago, mostly because the group was composed of several Marines who were patients of mine at MCAS El Toro or the Helicopter Base at Tustin. We were a motley crew of about 20 who gathered somewhere in developing South OC on alternating Saturday mornings to do the ritual Fox and Hounds trail started by ex-pat Brits in Kuala Lumpur in 1936. And, like the originals, we met afterwards to drink beer, sing rowdy songs, and as the group began to attract women (not difficult when you have a bunch of Marines), loudly proclaim our desire for them to “Show us your tits.”

That, by the way, was Fungus’ only request at this, his last Hash. His tee-shirt proclaimed, “Show me your tits. I’m not dead yet.” There seemed no reluctance to grant his final wish.

Today’s group included runners (mostly walkers these days) from the OC Hash House Harriers, LA HHH, Long Beach H3, Fungus’ own Full Moon H3, and, as I found out from the shouts of proud participants, San Diego H3, Santa Clarita H3, Humping Hash and probably several more of the twenty-some Hash between Santa Barbara and San Diego. I spoke to new friend MIA (who suspects her name was bequeathed because she used to skip the On-Ons that followed the runs), and she was interested in my experience running with the Washington DC Hash Groups, which include the Great Falls Hash (mostly CIA types), the DC Harriettes (started as an all-woman group) and the DC H3, the first Hash on U.S. soil. While flattering, her attention could have gone to many in the group who have done Internation and National Inter-Hashes. My own name (a name is given on your sixth run) is DrDeeKay, fitting title for a dentist named Dee. I have met more than a dozen Dr “Somethings” in my travels, one who was in the porn industry. Expands the definition of professionalism.

I just finished listening to a book by Christopher Buckley, “Losing Mum and Pup”. A fascinating story with some good suggestions about making arrangements for your own passing. His story gives lie to the adage, “If you want a big crowd at your funeral, die young.” So many wanted to be part of the ceremony for 83 year-old William F. Buckley, Jr. that son Cristo had to refuse a eulogy offer from the then sitting Vice President, Dick Cheney at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I can only remember two funerals of OC Hashers, a young Marine called Sugartits and a Brewmeister named Yeast Infection. I hope I will have opportunity to attend Fungus’. I more hope that Hashers will be at my own.

There is a general belief that you can’t buy friendship. Witnessing the events of today, I would demure. Fungus, like many Hashers, bought friendship by giving gifts: gifts like listening, caring, and most of all sharing: experiences, travels, stories, and, in the case of the Hash, anonymity and the lack of competition it allows.

Any Hashers out there?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Blessings

We truly are blessed to be living in Southern California, which although we reside in what is actually south Orange County, my Midwestern relatives see as the Greater Los Angeles Metro area. While those same relatives are digging their way out of record snowfalls, finding the effort a distraction from concern over being out of work for more than 99 weeks, and while their concern about even sports centers on the classic rivalry between the Bears and the Packers and the Jets and the Steelers, we focus on lighter fare.

Such as, who will be the starting Power Forward for the West in the upcoming All-Star game? The two main candidates are the rookie Blake Griffin, who has carried the lackluster Clippers on his broad shoulders to become a serious threat, even beating their crosstown rivals, the Lakers the last time they met. In the other corner is Lamar Odom, who has become a major asset to the above-mentioned Lakers now that Andrew Bynum’s return to health has allowed him to play the Forward position he is better suited for.

Ironically, Odom played several seasons for the same Clippers without being able to polish their stone. Not entirely his fault I’m sure, but certainly a measure by which they could be compared. However Lamar has an LA asset Griffin is missing: he is married to a celebrity.

And not just any celebrity. He is married to Khloe Kardashian, and is even being written into the scripts of a hot reality television show, which will feature incidents in the real life of this couple and Lamar’s two children from his previous marriage. Khloe and her sisters, Kourtney and Kim (must make monograming the towels easier and cheaper to have all Ks) are now in their fourth, very successful season on E!, unrivaled in their popularity with women 18-34 who have missed Sex in the City for far too long.

Rumor has it that Khloe is mounting a campaign on Twitter and Facebook to bring out the vote for hubby. And, since All-Star voting is decided by popular vote, and since following Social Media is a far more common activity here than shoveling snow, she is likely to have significant impact.

We will soon know if that is, in fact, the case. As my wife says, “We are indeed blessed to be living in LaLa Land.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

More about Dreams

Jeff Album, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs for Delta Dental and Vice President of the California Association of Dental Plans, shared with us a dream he had when he realized that he would have to set the keynote tone and make major introductions at the CADP Annual Legislative Conference. “I dreamed that I would be introducing Winston Churchill, who had agreed to be our substitute keynote speaker,” he said. Of course when he woke he realized that Sir Winston could not do that because he, like the CADP President also was at a different venue. Jeff expressed his disappointment. To which one of the crowd loudly commented, “How do you think we feel?”

Dreams were on my mind because, as is my wont, I watched a movie to pass the time on the flight up to Sacramento. This trip’s DVD was “Inception” the strange new film with Leonardo Dicaprio that stretches our understanding of dream worlds and how our dreams may be “captured” and manipulated. Weird film!

Of course this week also was the celebration of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King. And we were treated to several memories of his famous “I Had a Dream” speech, reminding us that dreams can endure and inspire if they capture a common, general concern.

On the topic of Dreams Come True, this week’s mail brought the proof of my book “Harnessing a Heritage” which, when approved set in motion the final publishing of my memoir. You can read more about my book on my website www.deefitzgerald.com and can purchase at a discount. By the end of next week you can read about it and order at a slightly higher fee from www.amazon.com . My goal is to sell 300 copies in six months, but I have absolutely no point of reference to know if that is realistic or not. But I can dream, can’t I?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weird Dreams

Lately I’ve found myself dreaming again. Oh, I guess I never really stopped, but lately my dreams have become for mainstream, which means that they often are of the classic variety: escape dreams, dreams of not being prepared for something, and dreams where there are really frightful occurrences or people. For most of the five years I have been semi-retired and fully relieved of stress, my dreams were of the problem-solving description, finding a solution to a problem I had worried about or finding the place where I had conveniently placed an object I could no longer find. Nice dreams.

When I was in undergraduate school I took several Psychology courses, including one on “Interpretation of Dreams”. I became kind of an amateur Freud and kept a journal of my dreams, ala Carl Jung. I lost no time in applying my new knowledge, freely offering to interpret the dreams of the girls I was dating, being sure to include the primary axiom that dreams are a means to release the frustration of the previous waking period. The operative concept being “release of frustration”.

One of my dreams was so explicit and so detailed that I worked it into a rather poorly written one-act play. As I remember it there was suspense and minor plot development, but the characters were stick figures on a three-dimensional stage. Several of my dreams in college days had deep sexual overtones, a topic that seems to have largely disappeared from current inventory.

My wife says she never dreams, but from all research this is probably unlikely. What is more likely is that she doesn’t remember her dreams. Or, since REM sleep, usually considered to be the time when we most often dream comes when we are about to wake, she may miss her dreams since she is always up at least thirty minutes before I am. Or maybe she has no frustrations to resolve.

Anyway, I have decided not to worry about how much I dream or what I dream about. I’ll continue to be thankful that I often wake in the morning and head towards that lost item, or grab the tool to fix that project, or much more common, head to my computer and that “work-around” I suddenly remember.

How do dreams enter your life or your sleep?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vitriol

A word that few of us have used in the last year, if ever, is the darling of the media this week in light of last Saturday’s tragic spree by Jared Lee Loughner. Spokespersons from both the left and the right have used the word to describe reactions to hate rhetoric in response to congressional and presidential actions on financial and health issues. But is the word, which comes from the bile produced by the body in response to anger, even the best description of what we are seeing?

Like many of you I have several friends who send me personal email during the day, much of it forwarded. Some are humorous, some titillating, and many are political in nature. There has been a move in the last year or so to use video clips instead of Power Point or written word, and more often than not I find them entertaining and sometimes insightful. Two of my friends are farther right than the Tea Party and I have learned to filter their message through a fine screen before I even listen or read the body of their message. At least one other thinks I need a lesson in understanding the common man’s needs and desires.

Interestingly, after the event and certainly after what seems to be the best speech President Obama has ever given and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ excellent progress, the emails have tempered, the tone has softened. There really seems to be a serious reflection that we may have gone too far, with too little substance, and should look at a larger perspective of what our country stands for and needs. I have seen no support for Sheriff Clarence Dupnik’s contention that conservatives are responsible for the shooting. Conversely I have seen less than majority support that the liberals are using the incident for political gain.

Which is all for the good, in my opinion. I am strongly supportive of the suggestion that the parties mingle during the State of the Union report from the President. I am also in favor of collegiality in discussing the obvious shortcomings in the hastily crafted health legislation. In short, I am in favor of positive action to address our country’s problems.

Perhaps the better word would be Vitality, which stems from a rush of blood in response to action, not bile.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reliving the Glory Days

It has been twenty-five years since I put on a naval uniform to go to work, and I seldom dwell on the twenty-five years I did just that, but yesterday, in the most unlikely of places, I found myself reflecting on my career, not from the perspective of accomplishments, but sharing some knowledge with fellow sailors.

I was in one of LA’s large casting studios, auditioning for a senior golfing duffer with about sixty of my fellow actors. I overheard one of them mention to another that he had been a submariner and, when I found myself waiting on a bench near him, I said, “Did I hear that you were in the navy?” He was, and as we talked about duty stations (I was in New London, CT near the time he was) a third actor, there for a Daily Soap audition asked me what I thought about the relief of Captain Owen Honors from command of the USS Enterprise.

My thoughts were that the punishment probably exceeded fitting the crime, since he was making an effort to improve morale, using a closed-circuit television presentation, while at sea, to a captive audience with a presentation never intended to leave the ship. An error in judgment certainly, but we all make mistakes. My questioner, it turns out, was himself called to task for an event in the 1970s that has come to be called The Tailhook Incident. This was an annual celebration in Las Vegas where primarily naval fighter pilots gather with fellow aviators to share stories of carrier landings and release testosterone. The particular year he was referring to was the last of the events, reported by a curious press and costing several flag officers their careers. His room was not one of the more egregious; he was only serving margaritas, but he was called to testify in Congress.

As we talked he shared how his GI Bill worked out well for him and how his pension supports his acting career. We branched on to discuss how the surprisingly few career officers now find benefits being changed halfway through a career. How small the pool of qualified candidates, how limited are the duties and opportunities of service, and how fortunate we were to serve when we did, in spite of the fact that the country was so opposed to the Viet Nam conflict.

There were at least twenty years difference in our ages and yet for a few minutes we were discussing a moment of common experience and it felt nice. It reminded me that one of the fringe benefits of staying with acting is meeting some interesting people and finding what we have in common with complete strangers and new friends.

Life is indeed good!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thank You Notes

NPR interviewed John Kralik this week. He has written a book with a rather unusual twist. He was struck last year with the impersonality of receiving a gift and decided to write a Thank You note every day for a year. In his interview he stated that the idea came from a tradition his grandfather started, encouraging him and his siblings to express their thanks in writing. To reward them he would give them a silver dollar. And if they wrote a thank you note for the dollar he would give them another. Seemingly Mr. Kralik lost interest when that incentive disappeared.

The first week or so went famously. In fact his son, receiving a note, called him to invite him to lunch and while at lunch repaid him $1,000, a loan that had long been forgotten. But after a while he ran out of people or occasions to thank, and discovered what would be the nucleus of the book, expressing thanks for little things.

Like the Barista at Starbucks remembering his name and his regular order. And eventually his daughter, mostly for being there when he needed someone to love. The book “365 Thank Yous”   is available at Amazon, where shortly I hope you will also find my book “Harnessing a Heritage”.

My wife writes Thank You Notes and well remembers those who write one to her. Each one is handwritten, specific to the event or gift, and in a style that would make her mother proud. My mother also taught me to write Thank You Notes, but I must confess I rarely do anymore and mostly have fallen into the habit of using Blue Mountain or some other computerized format.

Mr. Kralik subtitles his book “The Year a Simple Act of Gratitude Changed My Life.” That may be a little grandiose for me, but it is inspirational to remember everyday actions that have a special effect.

Several years ago, Mary and I attended a Leadership Conference where the Keynoter stressed that we should give at least one “TahDah” a day. Her point was that unless people receive acknowledgement that they do everyday acts in a special way, they fall into mediocrity. Since that time we probably give a collective or individual “TahDah” several times a week: Fix that plumbing problem instead of just bringing attention to it? TahDah! Remembering that someone couldn’t find that pastry warming mitten and finding it? TahDah! Fix the leaning Christmas tree when we were just going to live with the list (#2 son), TahDah! Offer to carry the suitcases up from the car (#1 son), TahDah!

I don’t think I will write a Thank You Note every day in 2011, but I can commit to increasing the frequency of “TahDah”s beyond my family. Do you have a “TahDah” tradition?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Angels

Putting away Christmas decorations I was reminded that we have quite a collection of angels, which including the one over the crèche number a dozen or more. They have come into our house mostly because friends, noticing that we had a display add to it. Although I enjoy the collection, it really belongs to my wife Mary. Even in the off-season she has angels to keep her company as another friend gave her a “birthday angel” for at least 5 years, all done by the same artist and all dutifully protecting her during her kitchen chores.

As a practicing Catholic I take these angels as a natural course of events and sometimes don’t give them the credit they deserve. First of all they are more than decoration. They have important jobs to do!

One of the first prayers I learned, which I said as I knelt by my bed every night, was ”Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this night be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule and guide. Amen.” That was pretty clear. They guard us, from all sorts of dangers. And I suppose from evil.

Both the Old and New Testaments stress their mission as messengers. The Three Kings were warned that they should not go back to Herod. Joseph was warned that he should flee to Egypt. Mary was told she would bear a son, as was Abraham, who would have children “as numerous as the stars in the sky.” And each of the named angels, including Michael, Lucifer, Gabriel, and Raphael has attributed specific missions, many of which have been captured in art through the ages.

Contemporary authors like Dan Brown and Anne Rice have used or alluded to angels in their fiction and have more or less made a vampire/angel connection. Thinking on that and noting the huge attraction of the vampire theme to our adolescent population, I wonder if maybe we have missed a bet by not encouraging our children to discover their Guardian Angel when they were growing up. I think I’ll mention that to my son and his sons, aged five and twelve.

On the rear window of my car I have a small press-on decal of an angel. It came from a commemorative service, a memorial of my niece, who died at the age of 43 from breast cancer. It is there to remind me that she is with God and yet continues to have the interests of those she loved at heart. I see it and think of her every day. Do angels have a place in your life?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What Are You Doing New Year’s…?

For some reason this year I found myself reflecting on how I celebrate New Year’s. I guess I should say we, since Mary and I have pretty much celebrated it together for about 50 years. The event has undergone considerable reshaping, and I think it has for much of the population.

When I was growing up, the idea of a New Year’s Eve Party was to come as close as possible to what my parents did to celebrate the occasion. Fancy dress, lots of festive food and drink, close friends and even some sense of celebrity. I remember crashing one of my parent’s parties when I was in high school and hearing Harry James, in a city of 30,000 in north central Iowa. I remember, almost the same time, calling my mother from a family party, where I was with a girl I was trying to impress asking what the quotation was from Winnie the Pooh about sitting on a stair (Christopher Milne, actually: “ A bear, no matter how hard he tries, gets chubby without exercise.”… She was VERY impressed).

I remember in our early married years, travelling to Tijuana to have a late super and go to a Hai Lai match. I remember once, trapped by no-drink duty at an Officers Club in Subic Bay, having my uniform pocket blown off by a cherry bomb, stuck in it, and feeling very little empathy for people who could drink themselves silly on a festive night.

I remember later, again on duty when a Sailor’s wife came in to have a tooth treated because she never had the courage to visit a dentist except on New Year’s Eve. Mostly when not on duty, I was one of the festive people.

Sometime about 20 years ago, we slipped into a different pattern. I forget the precise time, but I remember it was either the first Superman movie or maybe the second James Bond movie. Whatever, it was very poplar and at the time, people were being turned away from theaters because of over selling capacity. We decided that we would celebrate by going to a popular movie, then finding a nice place to eat and finally, coming home to “beat pots and pans in the street”. We continue that tradition to this day.

This year we were perfectly fitted to continue our tradition. The movie, “The King Speaks” was hot, in limited distribution. fit our desires, and was showing at the right time. The restaurant, The Crush, was within a mile of our house, offering comfort for a bottle of wine, and they took a 9:00 PM reservation with no questions asked or extra charges expected. That’s not how things turned out.

When we arrived at the theater, we were told the performance was sold out. Petitions that past experience allowed us to “split” and find seats were met with new policy that disallowed that option. So, we returned home and watched “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” a film that inspired a musical of the same name, which we had recently seen in New York. Then, off to the restaurant for a nice dinner, jazz, blues music, peasant conversation and a chance to share the evening with our recently divorced son. Not all bad.

Still, I kept coming back to why the movie was sold out. Could it be that it was that popular? More likely is that in our down-turn economy, people are finding less extravagant ways to celebrate; taking advantage of the lower cost, lower risk (of law infractions), and greater intimacy of an evening spent with family and friends than in the spaces of Time Square, Central Park, or the Washington DC Post Office (all of which I’ve done). Again, not all bad.

How do you spend New Year’s?