Friday, June 29, 2007

Tangerine Sky in the High Desert...California

The Antelope Valley, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles has some of the most beautiful topography and skies in the West. A valley surrounded by two mountain ranges, The San Gabriels and The Tehachapi, the Antelope Valley has clear skies, warm winds and breathtaking vistas.
Although a politically uber-conservative enclave for many years, the two main cities of Palmdale and Lancaster are embracing diversity with both a yelp and a whimper. The bumper crop of savvy and sophisticated transplants from "down below" (the very smoggy Los Angeles basin) are doing their part to persuade by example, and the result is that Palmdale, especially, offers a growing upscale quality of life, recreation, jobs, and shopping---with all the freedom and privacy normally associated with a more rural locale.
A national publication recently named Palmdale the Top Place to Retire in the country. Homes and land are still affordable, the shuttle can land at nearby Edwards AFB, and word has it that Palmdale International Airport will ultimately become the favored alternative to the busy and overcrowded Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Ok, so, with United Airlines currently the only airline (but, offering flights to many destinations) could take a while for Palmdale to become the departures and arrivals airport of choice for the beautiful people. So? Even Paradise has its growth pains.

Photo By T.T. Thomas

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Talk About Your Loose Canon (sic)!!!

I was amused to read that Cardinal Renato Martino, a kind of General Peter Pace of the Pope's Posse, has issued a 10 Commandments for Drivers, officially called "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road." Martino heads up the Vatican office of migrants and itinerants, most of whom, one could argue, probably don't drive much, so the Pastoral Care guidelines the very least, a bit out of Martino's daily bailiwick. But those kinds of details never stopped The Church from issuing proclamations.

You can read the whole story here, but what caught my eye, immediately was Commandment Number 5.

"Cars shall not be used for an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin."

Obviously, there could be some muddling of the new and old Commandments. Number 5 of the original 10 Commandments for ye who have lapsed or otherwise forgot is "Thou Shalt Not Kill," for Catholics and Lutherans, although for Jews Number 5 is "Honor Thy Mother and Father," with murder being relegated to Number 6. Not surprisingly, Number 6 for Catholics is "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery"---but all that is no doubt another subject for another day.

Although I am a big fan of the original Commandment Number 5, I am thinking that it's far too late for me to adhere to the New Number 5, noted above. And the issuance of a whole new 10 Commandments for Driving may be just a bit disingenuous on the part of the Vatican---not, mind you, that this would ever preclude Vatican equivocation on any subject. I submit two facts of history to support my contention.

First, Pope John Paul's PopeMobile was a Mercedes ML, retrofitted a bit for the protective bubble, of course; I have a Mercedes too; I'm sure his was not meant to be an expression of power and domination, and, naturally, neither is mine. I drive my Turbo VW Bug for that. (::eyeroll:: as my niece says).

Secondly, if the automobile were not an historically significant "occasion of sin" none of us would know much Certainly those of us who were raised Catholic, as I was, wouldn't know much. But...I do! First kiss? 1954 Mercury 2-door hardtop coupe in Parklane Green with Turquoise Blue/Arctic White interior. First, significant petting? 1962 Chevrolet Impala SS hardtop, burgundy. First, uh, advance party exploratory mission? 1963 Mustang, coupe, sunrise yellow with black interior. First Time in a car....I beg your pardon! I had a little more discretion than that when the big day arrived. By the way, does anyone remember: was it Howard Johnson's Motor Lodges that had the brown and orange color scheme, or was that....?

Martino also suggested prayer while driving and even pointed to the rosary as a good past time because its "rhythm and gentle repetition does not distract the driver's attention." I beg to differ! The Rosary, if said properly, is fifty, count 'em, Hail Marys and a few other prayers that will lead even the holiest among us to fall asleep at the droning "rhythm and gentle repetition," thus causing us to crash our cars and create all manner of havoc.

The thing is, if you grew up in the Midwest, in the '50's and '60's, as I did, you are going to be into and know your cars, generally speaking. Although your first driving experience may have been on your grandparent's farm, on a John Deere, your second driving experience was probably with your dad in the parking lot of the local high school on Sunday afternoon when no one was around. You had to pretend you hadn't already done the basics with your boyfriend two months earlier. The basics of driving , that is.

I think the Vatican needs to stay out of issuing edicts on driving, but, given the church's lingering presence in the bedroom, the car was inevitable, I suppose. Also, the PopeMobile link provides a fascinating historical overview of the relationship between the Vatican and Mercedes Benz. Disclosure: I happen to work for a Mercedes Benz dealer. I just know there's a Papal edict coming about blogging.

Well, actually, I did think there was one new Driving Commandment that had merit. I believe it's number 8, which states that those who are too young or too old should be charitably told not to drive.

So, when you charitably suggest that I give up my beloved wheels, and you will, be kind.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Great Escape

Photo by T.T. Thomas, Venice 2006

Venice: The Bridge of Sighs, completed in 1602, was built to connect a new prison building to the Doge Palace. It was called the Bridge of Sighs because it afforded prisoners their last look at their beloved Venice, and that event caused some heavy sighing. But the actual name was attached by 19th-century Romantic writers long after the bridge was built. Although known more for his lusty romantic endeavors, Giacomo Casanova escaped from the prison on October 31, 1756. He wrote about his daring escape in a book that was read all over Europe. Perhaps...perhaps he was an early blogger, of sorts. He crossed the Bridge of Sighs, as do we all, metaphorically speaking, in our own way, sighing, and blogging, about our great escape.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We'll Always Have....Napoleon?

My friend Robin said she wouldn't touch the Paris Hilton story (stories) with a 10-ft pole. My feeling is that if you can guarantee me a pole of at least 10 feet, I'll take it on. And I swear, what you are about to read has nothing whatsoever to do with having spent a night, Fajita Friday I believe it was called, in the Albuquerque Hilton last July. Like so many of the Hilton Hotels, this one was a privately owned franchise. A true half-star hotel. Nevertheless, I think we all need to step back a pace and put our Fairness Caps on. I think we need to put it all in perspective. I think...well, here's a place to start: Paris Hilton is 26 years old.

By the age of 26, the following people had achieved the following:

American anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote her famous dissertation, Coming of Age in Samoa, which claimed that in some societies adolescence is not a particularly difficult time.

Albert Einstein published five major research papers in a German physics journal, fundamentally changing man's view of the universe and leading to such inventions as television and the atomic bomb.

Benjamin Franklin published the first edition of Poor Richard's Almanac, which was to play a large role in molding the diverse American character.

Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Chereshkova became the first woman to travel in space.

College dropout Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer.

Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, revolutionizing the economies of the United States and Britain.

Antoine Joseph Sax invented the brass saxophone.

"Johnny Appleseed" brought apple seeds to the Ohio Valley.

Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy.

British ethologist Jane Goodall set up camp in the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve on Lake Tanganyika and began studying the lives of chimpanzees.

Ken Kesey published his first novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Thomas Pynchon published V., for which he won the William Faulkner First Novel Award.

I found this list, called Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age, and the neat thing about this little widget is you can put in your age. I don't actually know what Mz. Hilton has accomplished, but I was amused to read she told Barbara Walters that she was going to "stop acting dumb." I'm telling you: Once you get the "act as if" thing down, there's nothing you can't do.

I'm not sure what the list says about Mz. Hilton, but it sure was depressing to me about me! Somewhere on that same site there's a link to a similar widget called Late Starters. The one I recall is something about Harlan Sanders turning a greasy spoon into Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 65. That should make everyone, including Hilton, feel bettah.

But, let's be honest here. Paris is no longer the story: Her sister Nicki is. Yes she is. The papparotters follow her to and from the Los Angeles county lockup when she goes to visit her favorite felon. They click their cameras, and they scream at her. "How's Paris, Nicki?" they yell in unison, or, alternately, staccato-like, verbal Gatling guns rat-tat-tatting one after the other.

But Nicki is Paris' sister, let there be no doubt. "She's being strong," she answered to all the yells, clicks, catcalls and rat tats.

Hmmm. Being strong. Although I'm not entirely sure I remember being 26, I think "being strong" is probably a lot better than I was doing at that age. And neither of my sisters were ever any good at spin.

"What is wrong with you? Get a grip," they would say.

Thanks, Mary, thanks Liz. Better to have a sister who tells you the truth than handlers who don't. By the way, I don't know what was wrong with me, but I got a grip and proceeded forward as if I had one---a grip, I mean. By the time I actually got a grip, why I hadn't got one sooner no longer really mattered. I don't know if Nicki should tell (or has told) Paris to get a grip....I'm just saying.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I lied to Robin Mizell

Honestly, when Robin kept suggesting I start a blog, I completely forgot that at some distant point in the past, I did start one. I was mad at CNN for something the then evening anchor called "The Whip." It was like a 10-second video headline from the reporters in the field, followed by a half-hour wait for the full story. Quite annoying. Anderson Cooper was still covering hurricanes, and really, my CNN dedication all came down to watching Christiane Amanpour, and, when she was on, Judy Woodruff. They were the only two people worth listening to. Anderson was OK, and he's certainly improved, but Aaron Brown, who got the play of a lifetime by starting his CNN anchor gig on 9/11---yes, that 9/11---was starting to bug me with his sardonic smirk. But I digress.

So, I played around with this blog thing, wrote a couple posts back in 2006 that I've deleted today at the request of my audience of one, Weird Harold, my partner. (Another story, another time).

"Too dated, not really worth archiving and not really your best," she said.

The thought occured to me that I need a friend besides Harold. That could prove difficult as I've already told Robin a whopper, and while she didn't exactly think I walked on water, I believe I had her pretty well convinced I invented it, and that could all be in the, uh, drink, now, as it were. I'm not proud to be such an illusion buster, but there you have it. (Robin and are are really fond of the nautical metaphors, and we'll extend to Naval militaria metaphors, but only when desperate or completely out of ideas).

But, at the end of the day, I think she'll forgive me for my momentary lapse in memory, because the real point of this blog thing still escapes me, and Robin seems absolutely determined to prove to me that blogging is, if not de rigeur for the efficacious living of life, then certainly certainly a basic necessity for a life well lived. I met Robin when we worked on the Assignment Zero...thing. Met a few super people there. Had a generally uneasy experience. Here's Robin's 'take' on it on how we got to know one another.

Blogs. Yes, I read them; yes, I enjoy many of them; no, I don't really "get" them. As a vehicle, I mean. As a medium, or is it media? What really, is the point of my providing you with my point? And yet, here I am. No, that's not apologia---let's not forget I barely know what I'm doing, so, I'm reluctant to apologize for it just yet. That could happen, though.

As it says up top, this is all opinion, but not all my opinion. I'm going to invite some guest writers, and naturally, one always hopes people will post a comment now and then. All topics are fair game.

Anyway, I'm sorry Robin. Please post on my blog. Please show me how this thing works. How do I link to something with just one word? Thanks. You're going to be sorry you got me started on this.