Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mob Mentality.....would you join in?

There is no human quality quite like joining groups. For example; do you belong to the Democrats, Republicans, or Independents?Were you raised in the following faith communities Catholics, Protestants or Muslim? Are you single, married, or divorced? Does someone call you a mother, father or a grandparent?  Which group do you wave a banner for Pro choice or Pro life? Do support or oppose Bruce/Kaitlyn Jenner's transformation? You see what I mean, we either feel safer (physically, emotionally or spiritually) in large groups or want to stand out in small groups (a big fish in a small pond is not the same big fish in an ocean.)
   Sometimes the choice to join a group can happen in just a few seconds, with drastic consequences.  The following story happened on Labor Day weekend in the Circle of Orange during the International Street Fair over thirty years ago. It was hot.  Not just regular California Labor Day weekend hot this was like Africa Hot.  My girlfriend and I had been walking around the food and craft booths for about thirty minutes.  We were sweating and uncomfortable.  I made the executive decision to go to a friends apartment overlooking the Circle to get a few minutes in the cool air conditioned apartment.  We buzzed Don's apartment and he was excited to let us in.  Don and his wife had only been here a short while and were enjoying showing off their new home.  
    I walked to his window over looking the street fair and asked if I could open it and peek outside.  The building was built in the twenties and a lot of fixtures were very old including the window.  I  pulled up on the window and let go (assuming it would stay put, not knowing it required a stick to hold it open.)  The window came down with a crash and all the glass fell down to the street below.  Worried that someone got hurt I quickly looked outside and saw everyone was unharmed.  For some reason I screamed out, "Who threw that rock?"  There was six people right below us standing around reviewing the broken glass.  One of them was a young man who was a punk rock fan (dressed in wild clothes with colored hair sticking up and pointing in different directions.) The five other people all pointed at him in unison.  He ran off as fast as he could.  I could hear some of the five yell, "Stop him."  No one did. He got away as fast as his legs could take him.
    I will always remember that day and the choice everyone made, wondering if I would have joined in?

Friday, August 28, 2015

I'm Your Huckleberry Tombstone

This is a scene out of the movie "Tombstone." The reason that I like it (besides the fact that Doc Holliday is a dentist that carries a gun and delivers justice with swift Colt accuracy) is because the bully in this scene believes he is going to get the jump on a slower less menacing opponent. What he gets is someone his equal. He doesn't like that, but realizes he can't get out of this situation.
   I don't like bullies.  I never have.  They are usually people with little self confidence that feel the need to put others down so they can feel better about themselves.  Bullies come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Most people see a bully as someone large and menacing. Not true.  One of the meanest bullies I knew was only five foot.  
   Have you heard of the pecking order.  This was a dissertation written in 1921 by the Norwegian zoologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe.  It was based on his study of hens (female chickens) and how they determined who would have access to food first.  They would use their beaks to prove who deserved the top position. Doesn't this sound familiar?  A person who will talk ill-will about someone else to make that other person a social leper.  How often did this happen in high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Now?  We see bullies everyday.  
   Like I said before, "I knew someone who was only five foot tall, but was the meanest bully on the block."  She only smiled when she was talking bad about somebody. She would get a belly laugh when telling a story about how someone was fat or stupid.  She was cruel.  She felt good talking bad about others because "pecking" someone down means you get to eat first. 
   The thing about bullies is they are truly weak emotionally. If you stand up to them and challenge them emotionally and mentally  you will win.  They usually get their way in life, but when a victim stands up to the bully the bully doesn't know what to do.
    Don't let a bully put "Huckleberry" on your tombstone!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My 423 foot mistake in Oklahoma City.

A few weeks back I joined my son Bobby on his quest to move to Chicago. That Thursday morning we left Albuquerque and nine short hours later we made our way to the Bricktown Convention Center Hotel. I wanted to make this a memorable night for him so I asked the desk manager if there was a steak house in town that was worthwhile.  He stated, "Mickey Mantles Steakhouse is the best!" This sounded like a great recommendation plus the manager also reminded us that with our room reservations we also got free shuttle service back and forth to the down town (Bricktown) area.   It was agreed that Bobby and I would meet downstairs at six for the shuttle ride.  As a side note, Mickey Mantle is the best baseball player to come out of Oklahoma. For two baseball fans this was going to be great.
    I was the first one downstairs and I asked the desk manager which way to the shuttle. He pointed toward an elderly black gentleman sitting by himself in the lounge chair.  He looked a little like BB King (except he didn't smile very big and when his mouth did open I could see that his front teeth were gold!)  Bobby joined me as I began to ask Luther about driving us to the restaurant. I asked him, "How far is Mantels?" He mumbled something and started to walk outside. Bobby and I followed him to a minivan. We got in not knowing if we were going to dinner or a legalized cock fight.  About a minute into our shuttle ride I became "chatty." I practically told this guy our life story before he joined the conversation.  He talked about being eighteen and spending two glorious months at the beach in California before being sent back to Oklahoma.  I imagine his two months were probably during the Nixon administration.  
   By the end of his short story about blondes and bikinis at Venice Beach, we arrived at the restaurant. "Here you go, enjoy dinner" said Luther. We walked inside the small and dimly lit restaurant.  We were greeted by a young female hostess who sat us down.  I looked around looking for pictures or memorabilia of Mickey Mantle, but could see none (maybe there were some in the back or in the bathroom, I thought.)  Our waiter came up and mentioned the specials of the evening and took our drink orders.  Bobby and I made small talk about his conversation with his girlfriend which distracted me from looking for more clues about Mickey.
   Our drinks arrived and the waiter took our order for dinner.  I kept looking around for any sort of clue regarding the relationship of the name of this restaurant and its interior decor.  My soup arrived (the Lobster Bisque was a good choice.)  Bobby was eating his salad when my curiosity could no longer be held back.  I called over the hostess and asked her about the name.  She replied, "I don't know why it's called Mantels, I've only worked here three months.  I'll get someone who knows."  A minute later our waiter showed up and I asked him the same question.  His reply, "You want Mickey Mantles. Those bastards opened up the same year we did and we have been fighting them over the name ever since. We're 'Mantels'.  As in wine mantel."  I was stunned at the mix up. I asked him, "Where is it located?"  He said, "just down the street."
   As you can imagine how confused and disappointed I was that we  ended up in the wrong place on a night I was hoping to make special for my son. Bobby is a baseball fan and I thought this steakhouse would be memorable. We finished and walked outside where I could see the sign for Mickey Mantle's restaurant.  It was only 423 feet away.  Ironically,  this was the average distance for a Mickey Mantle home run.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A New Start....what would you leave behind?

Tuesday night we get the keys to our new home.  Julie and I are packed and ready to move.  We are only going two miles away from where we are now, but it seems so much further.  The reason is that this represents a collective fresh start for the both of us.  
The old condo was picked out by Julie four years ago.  I joined her in 2013.  In the last 32 months this sweet little home has been the source of family and friend frivolity. It has kept us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There has been lots of laughter and love exchanged under this pretty little roof. 
This small condo has also endured much sadness We lost Julie's mom and sweet cousin Sheri. My dad passed last year as well.  We endured a terrible court battle for my matrimonial independence (I don't think this little home could stand one more box of deposition materials.) 
   We are taking our clothes, furniture and cookware.  We would like to leave behind our sad memories from the last 32 months.  So tonight Julie and I are going to write down on a piece of paper all the sad memories we would like to move away from.   We don't want to forget about those we lost, we just don't want to be sad about it anymore. When talking about my dad I would like not to "tear up." I want to talk about how funny he was or how much love he gave my kids. Julie would like to talk about how much fun it was to grow up with Sheri, not how tragic it was that she died so suddenly. 
    We don't want to talk about negative people who were in our lives for so many years and now are not.  We want to leave the negativity behind.  No more "Did William do this? Did Tracy do that?"  They are in the world, they just don't need to be in ours. We really have control about who we talk about and how much time we spend thinking about them.  Unfortunately, we have let these people occupy the residency of our minds. 
We are giving them an eviction notice tonight.
   In addition to the sad memories of our loved ones that we will write down, we will include the list of those people and topics that take away from our positive energy.  When done with this list we will put it in a small broken suitcase and leave it in the middle of our old bedroom.  We will ask this home to do us one more favor and keep this suitcase and its contents as we begin our New Renaissance period. 
(The name of our new street is Donatello.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

If you could go back in time....would you?

Yesterday I was having a talk with a very wise friend.  We discussed the ever popular question, "Would you go back in time?" I said, "Yes, with what I know now!"  He responded, "Oh no, you can't cheat.  You need to go back without knowing what happened."
I sat back with raised eyebrows.  I have never thought of these rules for this mental game.  I always thought about how much I would change by righting all of my wrong decisions.  Now I'm being told that I can go back, but I will probably do the exact same thing.
   My wise friend said, "I won't go back, just to repeat the same mistakes."  I quickly agreed, but as the day went on I thought about some moments in time that I wish I could go back.  I was thinking about a vacation we took in 1999.  It was a cruise to Alaska.  We had the best time.  None of us had ever seen glaciers before.  We spent an entire day in Glacier Bay watching these gigantic chunks of ice "calve." The kids held butterflies in the palms of their hands in an aviary in Victoria.  Mary had her hair done for the first time by a stylist.  I danced with my little Mary every night (and I even had her brothers take turns dancing with her- she was six and loved to dance.)  The kids and I went panning for gold at a camp in Skagway.  We took a train ride into the hills above Juneau.  In Ketchikan we watched the locals carve a totem pole.  The boys stayed up late to watch a comedian perform on the ship. They thought he was the funniest guy ever, of course they were 9 and 10.
We dressed up several times for formal dinner nights in which the boys and I wore suits and the girls wore pretty dresses. It was fun.
   Would I go all the way back to 1999 to experience life again? I don't think so.  There were good times as well as the bad ones, but if I go back it would be another twelve years before I would see Julie.  I just can't risk that.  I've already waited a long time to be in her life.  I have pictures from that vacation and I have my memories. 
       I sure would like to have one more dance with Mary.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The story of the man who discovered "Laughing Gas" for Dentistry....a laughing matter?

When I was a freshman at the UCLA School of Dentistry they told us a story of Dr. Horace Wells.  He was a Connecticut dentist who had the pleasure of trying Nitrous Oxide while attending a sideshow at a traveling circus.  He was so surprised by his lack of sensation he had an associate (John Riggs) pull one of his own teeth while under the influence of this novice gas. He felt NO pain!!  
     Imagine discovering a way to work on patients (medically or dentally) without pain.  This was 1845 and no such method was available.  Revolutionary was too small a word to use.  This was beyond anyone's wildest dreams.  Horace really thought he was onto something.  Since he tried this on himself, he decided to try it on 12-15  patients.  It was a success! Almost all the patients felt no pain.  He now wanted to show the world.  Friends told him to patent the idea and he would be rich.  Horace always responded the same way, " pain relief should be as free as the air!" He didn't want riches, he wanted to help his fellow man.
    Horace went to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  in front of a room of 200 dentists, surgeons and students he asks for a volunteer.  A man with a toothache raised his hand and was brought up and sat in a chair in the center of the auditorium.  Dr. Wells administered the Nitrous Oxide to the young man and then proceeded to extract the bad tooth. The patient screamed in pain. The audience became an ugly mob yelling, "humbug and fraud!" Horace was mystified. This had worked before, it had worked on him why didn't it work now.
   He was discredited and humiliated.  He quit dentistry. Within a year he committed suicide.  During that year his partner (Dr. William Morton) practiced using Nitrous Oxide on patients in the practice.  He noticed that there was a small percentage of patients that the "Laughing Gas" did not work.  Dr. Morton then went to the same medical auditorium that was the scene of Dr. Wells failure a year earlier and performed an extraction with no pain.  He yelled out, "Gentlemen, this is no Humbug!"
   Sixteen years after his death, Dr. Horace Wells was recognized by the American Dental Association for his discovery of modern anesthesia.  Six years later the American Medical Association also acknowledged him.  To imagine how many millions of people have benefited by his work is staggering.  I try and imagine the last year of his life filled with that overwhelming feeling of failure and loneliness.  All he wanted to do was help his fellow man. He gave up too early.  A couple of months after his death his discovery was given life.  He never realized it!
   It took me nearly three decades to realize why my instructor told us this story.  I thought for so long it was to understand that a small percentage of the population do not respond to the gas.  Actually, I think he was telling us to face our failures and keep trying. Giving up too soon is not a "laughing matter."


Sunday, August 9, 2015

I am a Bull Whip Enthusiast....just like Indiana Jones!

 When the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came out I was a freshman at CSUF.  At that point, movies were still magical and really let me dream about endless possibilities.  One dream was the ability to master a bull whip.  Indiana Jones used his bull whip to subdue a crowd, to escape death and to capture his lady love. Here was a man that had no fear.  He jumped off a ship and hung onto a periscope of a submarine for "I don't know how far?" He battled Nazi's and withstood the "Wrath of God!" I wanted to be him.  I can remember telling my parents how "cool" it would be to crack a whip.  At that point the only thing I was cracking was zoology and chemistry books.
   Some months later my parents came back from a Mexican Rivera cruise.  My dad had bought a twelve foot bull whip from some leather shop in Mazatlan.  As a boy, his hero was Clyde Beatty the lion tamer.  My father had fantasized not to be a dentist, but to someday be that brave man with the power to subdue the "King of the Jungle."  He had taught himself how to crack a whip and had even somehow taught his little dog "Taffy" to jump through a hoop.  So with some experience with a whip, my dad gave me a demonstration.  It was not pretty, but he made it crack!  I watched him do it again, at which point he handed it to me and said, "try not to kill yourself."  I was so excited I didn't really understand what he meant.  
    After a couple of tries, I was stinging.  I had hit myself with the whip and it was not pleasant.  Somehow, I wasn't discouraged. I kept trying and finally it happened.  The Crack!!! It was empowering!!  I couldn't believe I could make such a load scary sound.  I did it again and again.  It was awesome. Most of my friends would not even try it.  That made me feel great.  I felt that I had conquered "Everest."  A feat few would even attempt.  That was in 1982.
 Fast forward to 2015. I am now able to snap a cigarette out of someone's mouth (although I have few takers.)  I am now on day 5 of my trip to Chicago with my son Bobby.  My cousins in Eureka, Missouri are enthusiastic and willing to try just about anything.  Every single cousin (male and female) tried the whip. Is this a state thing? In California, I can hardly get anyone to try it.  The Missouri residents don't want to miss out on being the one who can make it crack.  The girls are the ones who really give it the most effort.  Don't ever judge a book by its cover! Without question my female cousin, a few years younger than me was able to put some extra effort into the process.  As you can see below she was able to make it happen.  She felt empowered!  This new found talent made her feel a little stronger, bolder, maybe a bit like "Indiana Jones"?


               Here am I showing everyone how to use the whip.  As much as I enjoy cracking the whip, having a student accomplish this made me feel even better!  I left behind my whip. I thought that  this new student may teach another (don't worry, I have another!)