At some time in our lives, we all need to be told we’re good or shown the way. A simple story about giving kids from Oakland’s toughest neighborhoods a chance to rise above the violence in their communities strangely touched me and compelled me to write. As I do this, I am not that far from Oakland. I have heard enough to tell you that the culture of violence described is not exaggerated. Patients who see me for marijuana permission are happy and delighted they do not have to drive there.
So there are children who grow up in a culture of violence. I see adults. Not too long ago, I was seeing adults for social security evaluations in Los Angeles. Many of them had been caught in crossfire, perhaps shot on their way to the supermarket or even in front of their own homes. They told me they did not know why or by whom, and sometimes they still had bullets in them somewhere. Other times it was just a memory that so overwhelmed them that the quality of their post-traumatic stress disorder was like the sort of thing that you see in Vietnam veterans. Read more on It Takes So Little…
“How in the world do you know how to say that in French?” I asked my hostess, in French. The reason for that was simple — we were in France and she was French. In fact, she was my closest friend at that time and in that place. As I look back, she was one of the best friends I have ever had, in a basically friendless world where I have received few favors. She told me — as we stood in front of a cranberry display on the Market of the Rue Mouffetard, in Paris — that she had learned the word when she had been on the team that discovered that DNA (and not protein) was the hereditary material. Afterward she had a year of sabbatical in Cleveland, Ohio at the Case Western University, and they grew cranberries somewhere around there. Her friends had known that this strange little fruit did not exist in France, so they showed it to her, and somehow they had tested and exchanged vocabulary, just as I had with her.
Although I had been born in suburban Boston, I had not seen cranberries growing in a bog until a high school road trip. My class had traveled to see Plymouth Rock, and the reproduction of the Mayflower (so tiny — they must have been really cramped) and other such things I had been told existed no other place on God’s green Earth except for Cape Cod. I was glad I had my French friend to help me break such myths of chauvinistic rubbish. How strong the myth had felt, how deeply I had believed it, and for so long. Read more on Canneberges?…
On A Cat Aging
by Sir Alexander Gray
He blinks upon the hearth-rug
And yawns in deep content,
Accepting all the comforts
That Providence has sent.
Louder he purrs and louder,
In one glad hymn of praise
For all the night’s adventures,
For quiet, restful days.
Life will go on forever,
With all that cat can wish;
Warmth, and the glad procession
Of fish and milk and fish.
Only – the thought disturbs him -
He’s noticed once or twice,
That times are somehow breeding
A nimbler race of mice.
I loved Merlin – King Arthur’s court wizard — when I was a kid and that was just about the time that Disney came out with “The Sword in the Stone.”
WOW – nearly 50 years ago!
Later I was to love the Arthurian legend in many deep and symbolic ways — love it so much that for a long time I kept a light-up, plug-in sword which was (actually, fairly easily) removed from a plastic pseudo-crystalline rainbow light-shooting stone. Doing so didn’t make me a queen of anything, though.
It is almost impossible, I think, to be human and anything more than partially literate without knowing the splendor of the Arthurian legend.
Fast forward to the present, and I am a wizard in my own way – a doctor. I wanted every patient to have the smiling sense of the Arthurian splendor that I had when I pulled that ersatz sword from the ersatz stone. Most of them did, until that piece, like many dear to me, was lost in a series of moves.