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A Glimmer of Hope

My first text of the morning was from the Bride: “Breaking News!”

BREAKING NEWS! These two words flashing across any screen used to get my heart churning, but now I just wonder what else Niki Minaj’s best friend’s cousin is up to… but wait! It’s a New York Times article – our Grands just may be vaccinated by Halloween.

“The need is urgent: Children now account for more than one in five new cases, and the highly contagious Delta variant has sent more children into hospitals and intensive care units in the past few weeks than at any other time in the pandemic. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the month for authorization to use the vaccine in these children.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/20/health/covid-children-vaccine-pfizer.html

What a joyous, rainy, overcast Monday. You see the Bride inherited her Father’s lungs, and kindly passed a little reactive airway disease down to the Pumpkin, who’s not so little anymore. As a baby, he would get rushed into a shower with croup late at night. It’s almost like having asthma; during allergy season he may need to use an inhaler. With children’s cases of Covid going up 250%, I was particularly worried about this little First Grader.

Bob and I decided to walk in our fancy, indoor mall yesterday after several days of rain. My medical consultant tells me I must keep moving after a fall, so we donned our Happy Masks and set out on an adventure. I’m just guessing, but probably less than 50% of shoppers were wearing masks. And each store had their own policy about masking hanging on their door. This is Nashville yes, but the rest of Tennessee helps keep our Covid numbers up; Tennessee is Number ONE in the nation for new Covid cases!

I keep wearing a mask indoors not because I’m afraid of getting sick. After two jabs of Moderna, I could easily not know I was infected, or be asymptomatic, and unknowingly pass the virus to a friend or loved one. I keep wearing my mask so that I can still hug my Grandchildren.

I keep wearing a mask indoors and don’t understand people walking through a mall with young children all unmasked.

I’ll keep wearing a mask indoors just as long as my daughter tells me to, along with my other medical consultant who will keep reminding me to bring a mask with me wherever we go. Bob has successfully passed his Emergency Medicine Boards this month, HOORAY!!! (docs have to re-certify every so many years). Hope reigns supreme at my city farmhouse. Maybe he’ll start doing remote medicine? Or Urgent Care? Or something medical?

Yesterday as we sat outside a cafe in the mall, Bob told me he’d been doing the math.

One out of every 200 people in this mall has Covid and doesn’t know it.”

It was not at all reassuring, but that’s why I love him. He will always tell me the truth and doesn’t mince words. He knows whether I broke a hip or not. He even does the dishes. He wants us to get booster shots soon, and our flu shots today!

I’m hopeful he’ll keep making sourdough bread and keep me laughing and walking and Covid-free for years to come. And I’m hopeful our Pumpkin and Bug and all the kids in that age range will stay safe for just another month or so.

On Balance

It was a Wednesday like any other. I was having my morning coffee and noticed the mourning dove diner atop the tree stump outside of my window was empty. One lone dove stared out into space, wondering where his breakfast might be… so I threw on a rain jacket because there was a dewy mist to the air, and headed outside with replacement seeds and nuts.

Feeding the birds has become a pleasurable pandemic habit. I love watching them squabble over position and seeing a cardinal can become the highlight of my day. Sometimes I worry that I’m becoming “That Old Lady,” but at least I’m not walking out of the house in my bedroom slippers anymore.

The fancy slip-on UGG shearling slippers contributed to the mishap last Wednesday. I was wearing them as I waltzed out to feed the city’s wildlife, since squirrels take their equal share of the dove diner. On balance, I was in great shape. Thanks to Pilates, my hips didn’t ache and my knees were less crumbly. In short, I didn’t stop before climbing stairs to wonder which foot should go first anymore. A breakthrough in our quest to age gracefully!

To say I lost my balance would be wrong.

I simply turned away from the feeder and put my right foot up on the deck’s rain-slicked step. In less than a second I landed right-side-down on the deck with my right arm extended. BOOM. I wondered if I’d broken my hip. My ankle hurt a little and I yelled for Bob, “BOB!”

Thankfully he came out to examine me and deemed me very lucky indeed. My hip was fine and he put a band-aid on my ankle. I have some road rash on my right elbow – this is how fast it happened, I never put my hand down – and a bruise on the right side of my thigh that’s about to turn all shades of purple. Mercy prevailed, as the Bride was working that Wednesday morning and I really didn’t want to be wheeled into her hospital’s ER.

My pride was hurt. Still no dog walkers saw my slipped n fell routine; even our neighbor didn’t come out of his house. It was just a hump day like every other in a pandemic. We were going to pick up the Frenchie puppy for his Nana and PopBob day camp since both doctors were working.

Would this be a good time to remind you that TN has the distinction of being number ONE in the country for new Covid cases per capita?!

The latest milestone is one of several records the state has reached in the past several weeks, stemming from a spike in cases and hospitalizations among school-aged children.

Hundreds of students throughout Tennessee have been forced to quarantine or isolate due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some schools have closed classrooms due to staffing shortages, while others have temporarily asked the state to switch to virtual learning.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/tennessee/articles/2021-09-14/tennessee-covid-19-cases-climb-to-top-in-the-country

On Yom Kippur we Jews are supposed to do a performance review of the past year. Last night, Bob and I hiked to a flowing creek by a golf course to throw our sins away. He had warned me I may be feeling the after effects of a fall, and I did. Thank you God for not breaking my hip. Despite my sore back, I cooked the last of our garden’s eggplant beforehand and delivered some to the Grands since both doctor-parents were working again.

On Balance, I’d rather not give our un-vaccinated grandchildren a deadly virus. I’d rather not hear what the twice impeached ex-president has to say. And I promise to only wear real shoes while feeding the birds.

Maybe it’s because I was reading about an English photographer and gardener who pivoted her lens to her own backyard as the Covid pandemic hit the UK. I love stories of resilience like this; your life is just chugging along happily and suddenly the world shuts down… Ola Maddams captured wildlife in their own element with a heat-sensing camera. I adored her incredible shots of hedgehogs and the occasional fox!

At least I think that’s why the word “hegemony” came to mind.

…the dominance of one group over another, often supported by legitimating norms and ideas. The term hegemony is today often used as shorthand to describe the relatively dominant position of a particular set of ideas and their associated tendency to become commonsensical and intuitive, thereby inhibiting the dissemination or even the articulation of alternative ideas.” 

https://www.britannica.com/topic/hegemony

My interpretation of hegemony is that a ruling class comes to power without a single gunshot. They spread their ideology through stories, propaganda and coercion until it seems normal. If the Taliban think that maintaining their control of Afghanistan will be easy, that killing anyone who may have been associated with the resistance or American interests will cement their power, they are wrong.

Our lasting legacy in a 20 year war of occupation will not be American schools and hospitals, it will most definitely not be free and fair elections. But what we have left is a new generation that knows what freedom feels like. Young people who know there is a culturally conservative way to practice Islam, but also a rational reform way of practicing their religion. Young women who feel it is their God-given right to be educated.

And what makes our departure different from every other colonizing force in the past? The internet can be smuggled under an abaya in the palm of a woman’s hand.

A neighbor in VA was from Iran. She once told me that women would cover their fancy Western clothes with a big coat when they went to a wedding. Self-called morality censors on the street would never bother them, or maybe they were paid to look the other way. Coats would come off at the wedding venue and alcohol would be served. Where there’s a will….

The Bride and Grands collected toiletries for the Islamic Center of Nashville on 9/11. The Imam told us they are expecting to help relocate around a hundred Afghan families to middle Tennessee. Bob and I took off our shoes and toured the mosque while the kids played on the soft, padded carpeting.

Everyone was so friendly. It felt good, even cleansing to do this small mitzvah on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The Hebrew word does not mean a “good deed,” it’s a bit more complicated.

The definition of mitzvah: “Mitzvah literally means “commandment.”  In fact, Jewish tradition understands exactly 613 mitzvot (plural of mitzvah) to be derived from the Hebrew Bible. The 613 are listed in Maimonides‘ Sefer Hamitzvot (Book of the Commandments), divided into “positive” (things one is required to do) and “negative” (things one may not do) commandments.”

I feel a positive charge in the Fall air, except for a certain legislator from West Virginia. Maybe Manchin is just a slow poke and he’ll see the light soon.

We gave the Love Bug a butterfly kit for her 9th birthday and she received her caterpillars last week. They’ll soon be emerging from their chrysalis to be released in their garden, joining the fuzzy bees tunneling into the outlandish, pink rose-of-sharon blooms.

Let’s hope that in the coming year all the anti-vaxxers and climate deniers, anti-semites and Islamaphobes find themselves overwhelmed by the hegemony of naturalists. By a love for the diversity of humans, animals and habitat.

Photo by Ola Maddams https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-58327374

Azure Sky

Blue is my favorite color. Blue like the ocean, or a cloudless sky; azure blue can be brutal and beautiful all at once. Twenty years ago today, September 10th, I walked out my front door in Rumson, NJ and looked up to see a Great Blue Heron glide across our garage, swooping down to the river. He looked to be a pale grey compared to that azure sky.

The garage at the time was home to my son’s band. There was a drum set in one corner, speakers, microphones, a rug and some old furniture. A big yellow street sign, “Hope Road,” was hung on one of the walls – later the American flag would cover the doorway.

I used to serve the boys in the band bagel dogs, chips and soda. We weren’t into “healthy eating” yet, I was still happy if the Rocker took time to eat a meal with us at all. I tried not to nag about finishing up his college applications, and wondered aloud if he really wanted to go… it turns out he did.

In retrospect, my worries seemed so small.

Would the Bride be safe in a basement apartment in DC? We had just helped her move on from college to her first job at the Federal Trade Commission. Her Public Policy major had prepared her for this paralegal appointment, I wondered if she would be bound for law school.

Every morning I’d send her a quick email – just to check in. I once asked her if my daily notes were too intrusive, and she said no, she just didn’t always have time to answer me. But she loved getting them; I wish I had archived all those notes. I tried to be poetic, and positive. So many words have been lost over the years.

On the bright blue morning of September 11th, I called her on the government’s office line. Something was happening, something monumental. Planes had flown into the Twin Towers and maybe the Pentagon. Daddy was heading to the marina in Highlands. Did a helicopter crash on the Mall? There was another plane missing. She and her co-workers left their federal building and walked to their homes, not wanting to use the subway.

Her birthday became a National Day of Mourning. Monmouth County NJ lost 147 souls on 9/11, including a neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue, the street where we lived. And a high school classmate of hers, and his father.

I never thought in my wildest dreams, that a group of home-grown, “misinformed,” stop/the/steal crazy conservative terrorists could ever breach the People’s House. Could accomplish in a few hours what Bin Laden spent years planning, only to be denied in the last hour of 9/11 by REAL patriots who died in a field in Pennsylvania.

And now these Domestic Terrorists are coming back? While Nashville celebrates Pride Weekend September 18-19, DC will host another… what? Rally, Protest to free the Terrorists, ie Traitors, an Insurrectionist Mob? Will they bring guns or rely on flag poles and bear spray again?

President Biden’s ultimatum yesterday to anti-vaxxers was long overdue. Hearing last night that the Justice Department has decided to sue Texas for their blatantly illegal heartbeat bill was also a welcome reprieve from the news of late. Have the Democrats finally found their footing? Can we turn our country into its purple-blue mountain majesty. Take this test to know where you stand:

Hello Fall and candied apples! We celebrated the Bride and Groom’s anniversary yesterday, which was better than last year since we were quarantining. Today a new year begins on the Jewish calendar.

You may think it’s 2021, but for Jews around the world it’s 5782! It’s time to gather and listen to the shofar, to dip apples in honey. But since our Grands are too young to be vaccinated, there will be no religious service to attend, not even outside.

The Delta variant and vaccine deniers, politicians and mask evaders are rejoicing no doubt.

And since Great Grandma Ada left us almost one year ago, the excitement of a new year – one that looks destined to continue a spiritual lockdown – has eluded me. Granted this holiday isn’t the biggest one on the Jewish calendar, but for me it was the easiest to accomplish at home. You could use flour, and nothing had to be fried!

September is not just for holidays, let the month of many birthday parties begin!

The first was Saturday. Bob and I drove the Grands to a first grade friend’s party at an outdoor mini-golf course. I’m constantly amazed at how young parents can deliver a safe birthday celebration for their children during our year and a half of living with Covid.

The L’il Pumpkin said yesterday, “Isn’t Delta an airplane?” And we all joined in with applause because of course it’s an airline and it’s also a kitchen faucet, and a toilet. Now the image of a Delta toilet is stuck in my mind. Being able to laugh, to make Dad Jokes, was helpful as we reminisced with the Bride and Groom about the wedding. Because my daughter and husband were married on a mountain.

They said their vows on a sunlit, crisp day in an apple orchard, under Ada’s handmade Huppah.

And since Rosh Hashanah moves around on a lunar calendar, it wasn’t until today that I made the connection – apples and honey is to the New Year as an apple orchard is to the Wedding!

There is the tiniest of chills in the early morning air here in Nashville. The oppressive 90+ degree heat has left us. As the High Holy Days approach, I’m thinking of renewal. Of strengthening ties that bind and letting go of nonsense. Of living in the present so I can recognize joy when it appears. Of creating healthier habits, of accepting the things I cannot change.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr

A Cold Day in TX

I was going to write about refrigerators… and washing machines.

About how my Nana didn’t want to give up her ice box, but she finally relented. When I was young, she would send me to the store to buy Dolly Madison ice cream for her new Frigidaire, the kind with a big compressor on top.

On laundry day, I remember my foster mother Nell would pull the hand-crank-wringer washing machine over to the kitchen sink. She’d hook up the hose to the faucet, push clothes through the wringer while telling me to stay away because ‘God forbid you don’t want to crush your hand.’ Then she would hang the clothes up to dry outside in the sunshine. I still wish I had a clothesline.

But then I made the mistake of checking Twitter.

Oh Texas, you and your lone star. The state where you don’t need a permit to carry a gun, but just try and get an abortion after 6 weeks and anybody can put a bounty on your head. I wonder if SCOTUS actually thought this through? By letting their “heartbeat bill” stand, the court has set a precedent – something most Republicans never want to do.

Because if TX legislators can make a legal and constitutional activity impossible in practical terms, there are no limits!

Do you think you are guaranteed free speech? What if some red states made it functionally illegal for any reporter to say anything bad about Republicans? They’ve already created their own version of events around the last election. Don’t forget “alternative facts.” Maybe they’ll decide to just outlaw elections! The GOP knows best after all.

They’ve opened their state to vigilante justice for everyone! Now YOU can be a bounty hunter, and YOU can be a bounty hunter!! Look out Dawg.

Since our Volunteer State has already passed a no-permit-open-carry law, I have a feeling TN will follow suit, along with all the other red southern states. Get ready to have neighbors telling on neighbors to make a quick 10 grand.

I was going to write about refrigerators.

I wanted to tell you that Bob and I decided our new home gift to the Rocker and Aunt Kiki would be a kitchen appliance. I was thinking of a dishwasher since they’ve never had one, when The Rocker said, “How about a refrigerator?!”

And right before we left for LA, we noticed during our harried house search, that some refrigerators were hard to find! One modern loft-type condo in Nashville had refrigerated drawers…you heard that right, drawers! You can even find a dishwasher disguised as a drawer.

Many things that are immediately identifiable as things in the majority of American kitchens — appliances recognizable from their size, shape and the general appearance they have had since roughly the 1940s — are, in the homes of the wealthy, increasingly being transmogrified into cabinets.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/31/style/hidden-fridges-status-kitchens.html

Transmogrify?! Meaning to change in appearance or form, in a mystical or strange way. Kind of like a frog turning into a prince. Still, I remember back in the 80’s my brother and his wife had a wooden paneled refrigerator in their Holly Springs kitchen. It was pretty hard to open it in fact. And that gorgeous house in Hawaii – it had a separate drawer for ice.

Hawaii currently has too much Covid, kind of like us in Tennessee. In California, you can walk into a weed shop and buy as much marijuana as you want. In Texas, poor young women will be forced to carry a pregnancy to its end. Yes, only the poor will suffer, because the wealthy will always find a way around. Roe is being eroded by extremists who deny elections and refuse to wear masks, by selfish-so-called God fearing Christians.

My country is transmogrifying into something I don’t recognize.

No matter what you think should or could be the priority for our government – public health initiatives that include vaccines and guns for instance, or the economy or human rights – if you can’t vote, your opinions are moot.

When we moved to Nashville, one of the first things I did was register to vote. I remember registering to vote at Monticello in Charlottesville on a very hot Fourth of July. I can’t abide by people who say it doesn’t matter if they vote or not, and I’ve tried talking with them. The Flapper used to say that, “All politicians are crooks.” And maybe that’s why I’d like to see money banished from politics, to end Citizens United and get rid of the politician/lobbyist network.

But my foster parents always had hope for a more democratic society. They would get dressed up every four years and go out to vote at night, after Daddy Jim got home from work at Picatinny Arsenal. He would dry the dinner dishes while Nell put on some powder and lipstick. They never told me who they voted for, but somehow I knew; he was a Union man after al.

This new Republican party, the one trying to erode our right to vote, trying to make it harder to vote, trying to make it a privilege, all the while gerrymandering their way into office, is vexing. Did you know that in Australia people don’t register to vote? They just show up and VOTE!

The one thing I think every American, every blue and red state, can agree on is that every person who is eligible to vote, should have the opportunity to vote. But…

“Studies over the years have found that as many as one in 10 citizens lacks the documentation they need to vote, and they are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, poor, or over the age of 65. The Atlantic poll suggests that the gap remains: 9 percent of respondents said they lacked a government-issued ID, although a much smaller share (2 percent) said that was the reason they did not vote in 2020. Because the overwhelming majority of Americans do have IDs, “we don’t realize there’s this whole other side of the country that’s facing this massive crisis,” says Kat Calvin, who launched the nonprofit Spread the Vote, which helps people obtain IDs.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2021/08/voting-rights-national-id-card/619772/

And there’s the rub. Both parties hate the idea of a national Voter ID law.

In Rumson, we used to check in at the private day school to vote and have our signatures verified by a clerk behind a desk. We would pull out our driver’s license, and then we’d have to sign our name in a box in a huge ledger right next to our original signature. and the poll official would verify that indeed we are one and the same person!

France and Germany hand out voter ID cards to their citizens when they turn 16. Out of 200 countries around the world, at least 170 have some form of required ID to vote. I guess Americans must think that everybody drives a car, but in fact over 10% of adults do not have a driver’s license; and more and more young people are choosing not to drive for climate reasons.

When I was talking with Bob about this, because in my mind making voting easier IS the priority, he said, “We need to show our ID when we board a plane, when we buy alcohol,” and though he understands that there are very important privacy issues to be worked out, he wondered why it would seem like an imposition. Back when we used to go to the gym, we had a bar code on our cell phones to show that we were members of the YMCA. We used to joke that we were becoming the BORG, soon we’d have microchips behind our ears like dogs.

Also, we all have Social Security numbers – now we get them as soon as we are born! I didn’t get my Social Security card until I started working at a fancy women’s clothing store wrapping Christmas presents when I was 16. Nobody I know is complaining about that, in fact we’re all pretty happy about it as we age.

But back to Bob, who is a true futurist. He said the only reliable way to identify someone will be with “biometric markers!” What is that you might ask – “Biometric identifiers are any personal feature that is unique to an individual, including fingerprints, iris scans, DNA, facial features, voice and many other markers. In some cases, these identifiers are already making it into consumer technology.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/10/17/the-biometrics-revolution-is-already-here-and-you-may-not-be-ready-for-it/

Come to think of it, I kinda like using my fingerprint to open my iPad.

I know, I know you’re probably worried about targeted ads and the loss of privacy. Well, get over it, we’ll work it out! “You don’t need to see his identification,” because the Evil Empire of Amazon already has all the information they need. Shouldn’t it be easier to vote than to place an Amazon Prime order for a Lego set?

ps The almost 7 year old Pumpkin is a huge Star Wars fan!

Peach Tree

Testing, one two three. Testing. My patience has been tested like never before these past few weeks. First it was the dumpster.

Right before we flew to LA, a group of smartly dressed people began appearing in front of our living room windows; pointing up, taking pictures and generally talking about their dating lives. Our city farmhouse sits right up to the sidewalk so Ms Bean will yelp every time someone walks by.

Bob of course got the lowdown. It seems there is a major problem with the apartment building across the street. These were professional engineers and photographers and consultants who were about to investigate who was at fault – was it the building’s owners or the builders? They brought in the big dumpster, and dropped it right in front of our front door!

It would only be a couple of weeks they assured us.

Meanwhile, we turned up our classical music on Sonos, brought our cricket-chirping noise machine downstairs, and attempted to carry on all while parking our car at the opposite end of our street so we wouldn’t block traffic. I longed for my quiet Blue Ridge sanctuary as I watched a guy in a cherry picker strip siding off the apartment building and toss it in the dumpster.

Would this building collapse like the one in Miami? There was no time to worry since we hopped on a plane to California.

When we returned surprise surprise, the dumpster was still there and it had a friend – a big green cherry picker parked directly across from our garden. Before we left, the picker had left every evening, but now it must be moving in.

The black tarps down the five story building would flutter with the wind when I opened the living room shutters, and come Monday morning, a miracle. No noise! Tuesday morning came and nobody showed up, nada. So Bob had a little talk with the building manager and whatdoyaknow, the dumpster and the cherry picker disappeared…. All except the fluttering black tarps that grace the view from my window.

Instead of enjoying the relative quiet, we packed up Ms Bean and drove to Atlanta. Her car sickness is well behind her, she happily curled up in the back seat. The four hour road trip saw very few people wearing masks, and now that we’ve arrived it’s even less.

Our Big Chill reunion got off to a great start because everybody is vaccinated and our friends had just installed a pool! Our host was in Guys and Dolls with me, he’s a retired PA. I attended the Junior Prom with the lawyer from Buffalo. And Bob’s best bud came all the way from Richmond, an engineer recently single. Our history goes back to elementary school for Bob, and I was lucky to join the group of nerdy smart kids in high school.

But our host’s daughter was recently exposed to someone with COVID. So the weekend is ours to reminisce and laugh and cry over our lost brothers, Lyle, Rich, Dickie. To debate the merits of crystals. To catch up on our respective lives, good and bad.

And just as we were lounging around the gorgeous pool, we heard construction noise nearby, like right next door. A tree had fallen on the neighbor’s house and so…. Here we were in this verdant Atlanta suburb, and it wasn’t filled with leaf blowers but good ole heavy construction was going on a mere 50 ft away.

We feasted on Low Country Stew and had a yummy peach cobbler for dessert last night. I wonder if it was a peach tree.

SNAFOOEY

“This town is a make-you town
Or a break-you-town and bring-you-down town” ole Blue Eyes

Landing back in Nashville, we were assaulted by the humidity. After a week in LA, I almost forgot that dewy glow; the sticky, sweaty, summer ‘situation normal’ of living in the South. Bob and I wore Envo masks throughout the airport, mainly because we didn’t want to expose the Grands to Covid. The masks are like N95s, only a little more comfortable because the perimeter is rimmed with a soft gel that molds to your face. https://envomask.com/

Which was fine at LAX, but even our Envo masks were no match for the saturated, humid conditions of the Music City. My mask kept slipping and sliding down my nose!

I couldn’t help but notice another big difference – people actually wore their regular, cloth masks everywhere in California. There may have been 99.9% compliance inside buildings, and most wore their masks walking down the street too. Restaurants had set up outdoor dining in parking lots and on sidewalks. Gov Newsom even issued another order for mask wearing in large crowds just before we left!

Bob and I went to Whole Foods downtown last night and we guesstimated about 30% mask-compliance. At WHOLE FOODS… Oh, and all those dog walkers in our neighborhood? Not a masked face in sight, but neither are we masked outside, since we manage to stay six feet away from people. That social distance isn’t always possible in the streets of LA.

So, can we legislate moral responsibility?

It seems that the art world can – a museum in Texas is trying to hold onto an 18th Century Bernardo Bellotto painting, “Marketplace at Pirna,” that a Jewish German citizen, a department store magnate named Emden, had sold “under duress” in order to escape to Switzerland in the early 1930s.

“Juan Carlos Emden, the Chile-based grandson of Max Emden, said the family has been trying to recover “Marketplace at Pirna” for about 15 years. He said that in November 2011, a lawyer for the Houston Museum of Fine Arts wrote to a representative of the heirs threatening legal action if the family did not “immediately cease and desist” from contacting the museum and required all correspondence to be sent via its lawyer.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/17/arts/design/duress-bellotto-painting.html

Mr Emden originally sold three Bellotto paintings – two have been returned to his heirs by the German government, but the marketplace painting mistakenly landed in the Netherlands, and they sold it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. TX curators believe it was purchased in good faith. But the Edmen estate argues that “…Nazi-looted art determined that Emden was a victim of the “systematic destruction of people’s economic livelihoods by the Third Reich as a tool of National Socialist racial policy.

Should his heirs be punished simply because Edmen was smart enough to see the future demise of his country, and rich enough to leave Germany before war was declared? Were it not for the rise of Hitler, his heirs would still be German citizens and millions of Jews would have survived.

The legal SNAFU here is the question of what constitutes a “sale under duress?”

The Terezin Declaration was signed by the US and 46 other countries in 2009. It states that “Just and Fair” solutions must be applied to art that was confiscated or sold during the war; and Germany has extended this to mean works that were sold “under duress.” So is the moral criterion for a country different than it might be for a private institution like a museum?

And this is exactly how we find ourselves right in the middle of a military slang acronym – Situation Normal All F-ed Up! The term found its way into our speech during WWII, a soldier could satirize his life without offending his commanding officer.

And just like Afghanistan was a country full of warlords and mini-feifdoms before and after Russia left, and before we tried our luck 20 years ago, the US is a country divided into some states that mandate mask wearing and maybe even vaccines to attend public school, and other states, like TX that don’t. And TN too. Some states, like FL, will give your kids a voucher for a charter or private school if they are being bullied into wearing masks…

The Grands got some bad news. Their school was now requiring them to wear masks OUTSIDE, can you imagine? The Love Bug said: “That’s OK Mommy, we wear them outside anyway.” I’m pretty sure children are more altruistic than most adults these days.

Masks on lariats

Bad Boys

We’d been painting swatches of different colors on the drywalls of the Rocker’s new home in the hills of LA It was a construction zone; pipes and plaster everywhere. My son radiated happiness as he explained the timeline for the floors and kitchen appliances.

He’d been stripping paint off the wood ceiling and beams for weeks, when he wasn’t composing music.

Aunt Kiki was back at her studio, designing dreamy houses and hotels for the carriage trade. She’d picked the sumptuous colors for their new home and was planning on meeting us for dinner. Sushi was on the menu for sure.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the beauty of California. For the smell of oleander, the intense sun, for everybody wearing masks! Palm trees poked through the horizon as we headed back to their apartment, a one bedroom nest that was their workplace/safe harbor during COVID.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, sirens! The Rocker slammed on the brakes, turned to me and said, “It’s a car chase!”

Bob was in the front seat, we looked at each other as a grey sedan went flying by the front windshield, followed closely by a black and white police car. Within a second we heard a crash.

As we inched our way into the intersection, I looked down the street – a cop (holding onto his gun) jumped out of his car in hot pursuit of a runner (holding onto his pants). It felt like they must be filming an episode of Law and Order, only this was real. We’d just missed being tee-boned by a runaway felon. Actually, there were four guys in that first car, and the LAPD caught them all.

The Rocker swears this doesn’t happen all the time, and yet, if you Google “car chase,” The City of Angels is prompted. Later that evening, I asked Kiki if Cedar Sinai Hospital really had fine art hanging in their hallways. Thankfully she had never visited that ER. In imagining the worst case scenario, I put my own positive spin on our near death adventure.

To every war that ends, there is an aftermath. To every vaccine there is a variant. To every brilliant day in The Hollywood hills, there may be a car chase.

A view from the treehouse
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