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Monday, June 29, 2009

Tie Dye leaves home

When Alex and Zac were nine or ten, we were talking about college. Alex asked me if I would take care of Tie Dye, our 2 year old tortoise shell cat, until they got back from college. I was tickled and touched that he assumed life would resume and be the same, with all of us living together again after "college."

Sixteen years later he knows that nothing stays the same. He and Zac have been on their own, in different cities, since they finished college a few years back. And Tie Dye breathed her last yesterday, almost exactly 24 hours ago, when she was euthanized.

Zac and Alex were her "pet humans" and they gave her all the love a little cat could purr up. I'd never adopted a tortoise shell kitty and was trying to steer the boys to a tabby or a black cat at the Humane Society. They said, "Dad, it's the personality that counts!" and that was it.

As I held her lifeless bony body yesterday, I looked down at the variegated orange, rust-brown, and yellow pallette of her fur and buried my face in her side, breathing in as much of her beauty as I could.

She had an uncanny ability to know when it was exactly 6 PM. She'd come get me wherever I might be in the house and tell me it was time for wet food with the exact same meow-tones. It was her favorite time of day and as sick as she got in the final week, she only missed the call one time. Yesterday, the vet left Sally and me alone with Tie Dye for a few minutes before the euthanization, while emotions took over. I noticed a bag of treats on the desk and grabbed some. Tie Dye perked up for the first time all day and gobbled down several. Her purr was mostly wheez at this point, but it was a sweet moment none the less. And it was just a few minutes past 6.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Regulating Banks

This American Life (my favorite radio show) produced a recent episode on the current economic meltdown, called The Watchmen. They explore who was supposed to be regulating the Wall Street companies before they collapsed and required trillions in taxpayer bailouts.

We all know now that mortgages were being handed out like handbills at a political rally or maybe more like credit card enticements we get in our daily mail - regardless of anybody's ability to pay them off. It turns out many jobless people were given a mortgage while the bank execs and jr. execs were swimming in bonus millions – soon to be joined by creative insurance companies like AIG. But who was watching the store for us depositors and taxpayers and regular people who work far from the financial sector doing little jobs like teaching, construction, nursing, and firefighting?

They trace down three regulating bodies that could have put an early stop to the whole thing, but didn't. One was the Office of Thrift Supervision. One was Congress which has committees overseeing the banks. One was the ratings agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's. ("Poor" must be some kind of joke for that firm.)

The Office of Thrift Supervision is funded according to the number of banks and holding companies that it regulates. When banks close OTS'ers lose their jobs. Congress members depend dearly on the campaign contributions from the banks they regulate. The ratings companies, it turns out, are also paid by the issuers of stocks and bonds that they rate. What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Got Milk

I saw this list of "The 100 Most Influential Taglines Since 1948" on a blog called "Tagline Guru." He calls taglines the "haiku of branding."

It also includes the most memorable jingles.

I knew most of them. Those marketing haiku's stuck in the wrinkles of my brain while so many significant memories, facts, conversations, and good jokes all faded like dreams in the night. Oh well, here's some of the ones I liked most:

4. Where’s the beef? (1984) Wendy’s

6. Think different. (1998) Apple Computer

7. We try harder. (1962) Avis

24. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. (1966) Alka-Seltzer

48. Our repairmen are the loneliest guys in town. (1967) Maytag Appliance

67. We answer to a higher authority. (1975) Hebrew National

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pre-Father's Day Dream

Last weekend I flew down to San Diego and got to visit both my sons Alex and Zac and Sally's daughter, Hannah. Zac drove down from Santa Barbara to join us. My role as Dad with adult kids is still new to me, though the twin boys are now 26 and have been making their own way for several years. I'm not exactly clear on how they see me now, what they need from me now, what advice or worries to voice, what confidences to share. But what remains crystal clear, is the pure pleasure of looking at them. I can still feel a sense of miracle at their being at all and my visceral connection to their lives, and theirs to mine. yummmm.......

We played doubles tennis with one of Alex's apartment-mates, Sean. At this point, my main goal is to make a few good hits and most importantly, not to keel over, or spoil all the fun with a heart attack. It worked out pretty well, though there was a rebellious muscle in my neck, determined to spoil my illusion of being a 20-something too. Within a half hour after we stopped playing I couldn't turn my head right or left and had to turn my whole body to speak to someone throughout the Padres game we went to see with Hannah and Heather. I was all of 56 years old for that event.

The first night I stayed at Alex's apartment and he stayed at his girlfriend Heather's. He gave me his bed and Zac slept on a pad on the floor next to the bed. Before waking up the next morning, I had a long, convoluted dream that I've mostly forgotten. But there was a scene in the middle of it where my Mom showed up. She's been dead almost 30 years now and I almost never get an appearance from her in my dreams. It must have been triggered by how connected and happy I felt with Zac and Alex close by.

When we woke up I told Zac that I had a rare "Rochelle sighting" in my dreams and that I remember asking her to come to my backyard and see the flowers I'd planted that were all blossoming. Then the dream evaporated - as they do - in the welcoming breeze of the new day.

It wasn't until last night that the dream came back and grabbed my attention. While I'm no dream-specialist, it is clear to me that I wanted to show Rochelle her grandsons Zac and Alex who are in full blossom at age 26.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Show Me the Money!

In California we have come up over $24 billion dollars short for our upcoming budget year. There's a number of facts that would help me know where to make up the shortfall. Most of all, I'd like to see a list of Californians by income levels in one column and what they paid in taxes in the other column.

If there's a half million Californians making $2 million dollars or more and paying less than one million in taxes, then I know where I'd recommend we make up the entire shortfall. ($100K per person)

If there's 2 million Californians making over $200K and paying less than $50,000, then I know where I'd make up 20 billion dollars by charging each an additional $10K in taxes.

It makes no sense to have a huge gap between rich and poor if we aren't taking care of so many in our society – let alone closing the state parks.

If there's no such unreasonable gap......if everyone is already shouldering the collective load to a fair extent, then I'm as ready as any Republican to get out my red marker. I'd just like to see this financial information about personal wealth and what portion people have put in for the common good.

Doesn't that seem like one of the first things newspapers should put into their coverage of this budget crisis?