Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Better not button up your over coat, because, baby it is HOT outside! July 20th, 2010. Ten straight days of temperatures in the high nineties with no relief in sight! It's official, this past July has been the hottest July on record! Air conditioner sales have gone through the roof (that is if you can find a store that has them in stock!) Ditto for fans! Fans of every shape, size and variety (all made in China of course) are flying off the store shelves. The media daily airs stories about how ordinary folk are dealing with the unprecedented heat. The stories are fairly typical. Some people head down to the Jersey shore! Others seek out AC wherever they can find some (at the movies, libraries, shopping malls, etc.) Sleepless nights have become the norm and people are dozing off as they sit at their desks at work staring at their computer screens. Sales of ice cream, ices, cool beverages, whiskey, and beer are all making saloon keepers and ice cream vendors very happy. They are hoping the heat wave lasts forever!

Not me. I can barely function in this kind of oppressive heat. Just getting to and from work is a major chore and a major challenge. I seek out the shady side of the street. I pray that the AC on the buses and subways keep on working. I always have a bottle of water and enough tissues to wipe away the beads of sweat. By the time I get back home from work I am so stressed and frazzled all I want to do is flop in front of the AC and zone out watching TV. Trying to fall asleep at night is a battle. I sleep in short spurts, before the wheezing and ancient AC contraption in my window kicks into a higher gear straining to supply cooler air on demand. I also have an assortment of fans whirling and twirling and spinning in every room in every direction. I dream about frigid climes. I dream about the snow covered mountains of the Alps and Andes. I rent movies that include winter scenes, the more snow storms the better. Such movies remind me that the seasons really do still change and that the summer does not last forever. We are mercifully half way through July. Then comes August, usually the worst month for heat (more heat waves expected! Yipes!) How will we ever make it through? My electric bill is making my utility company rich, rich, rich (even as I struggle to pay last year's heating bill). What a racket! Bartender! Quick! Another cool one for me and my buddy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I am no spring chicken. Come this February I will be 64 years old, two years shy of my planned retirement. Retirement. A very scary word and a very scary new world. I am having a very difficult time planning what to do with myself when the time comes that I no longer need jump out of bed every work day at 6 am. Oh sure, I will enjoy being able to roll over and snooze on for another hour or so, but that still leaves the rest of the day to be filled. I hate doing household chores, something that I should have considered before I decided to become a home owner.

And the house needs a lot of maintenance, upkeep, repairs, general cleaning, constant pruning. The house is the most demanding and unforgiving mistress that I have ever had. Car ownership is a close second. At present I do not own a car and I do not miss it. Whenever happen to need a car these days I simply just rent one. I also belong to a car sharing co-op here in Philadelpia called Phillycarshare.com. Then there is also a rival company called Zip Car. Same general idea. Just rent a car for a short period of time to handle shopping chores, medical appointments, etc. Then drop the car off and you are done with it. No headaches. No worries about storage, insurance, maintenace, upkeep, finding a place to park etc. It makes sense since I live in a city that has an excellent public transit system for commuting back and forth to work. I have cut down my carbon foot print considerably and I feel better about that as well. Two pats on the back for self-congratulation.

I have spent a good deal of time in the course of my life trying to improve myself both spiritually and physically with varying degrees of success. When I was a practicing yoga enthusiast studying Hatha Yoga under a wonderful teacher named Swami Bua I succeeded in regaining physical fitness, health and a certain degree of spiritual enlightenment. When you've done it, it isn't bragging. Just a statement of fact. However, I was under the delusion that there were higher states of conciousness that I was not yet privy to. So I undertook transcendental meditation (much harder than it looks to the casual observer). I practiced various breathing techniques, a strict vegan diet, chanting, meditation, sufi dancing, etc.
Did I ever attain Buddha like enlightenment? The short answer is no, I don't think so. Did I succeed in ostracizing myself from the general society around me, including family and friends? Again the short answer is yes. I am very grateful to Swami Bua for taking me aside one day to share this tidbit of information: he said that there was no such thing as finding higher and higher states of consciousness or awareness. It was all a lot of hooey. No one knows what happens to our souls after we die, he said. Whatever happens, if anything is an unknowable mystery and it will always be so. I was very grateful for this advice. It saved me years and years of fruitless searching. I pass along this information in the hope that you too, dear reader, will benefit from Swami Bua's advice. Perhaps you too are searching and searching for cosmic answers to every philosophical question under the sun. I wish you all good luck in this endeavor however long it may take to discover, find, achieve whatever ultimate knowledge that you seek. As for me, these days watching a good baseball game on TV and rooting for the home team to win a pennant is about as much meditation as I can muster. As I have said, once upon a time I used to be different, but now, for better or worse, I am mostly the same.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I had a great 4th of July. I was able to finally get out of Philadelphia by driving down to Margate, New Jersey. Miraculously I was able to find a great parking spot not far from the Jessie O dock where a pontoon boat was waiting to take the next fishing party out to the back bays of Margate. Margate is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth, snuggled between the Atlantic Ocean and the back bay inlets that protect some of the state's most precious water birds, flora and fauna. The sky was blue with great puffs of white clouds and the air was clean and clear.
I was fortified by having grabbed a quick lunch at my favorite restaurant on the strip, Maynard's. Maynard's is a blue collar kind of a joint whose recently deceased owner Al Triano was one of the most congenial hosts I have ever met.

Al has set the tone and his son and staff carry on the traditions of hospitality, good food and drink without the pretentious prices or upscale decor of the more pricey joints on the strip. Maynard's is a place where a smelly fisherman can pop in for a cold beer before heading home to dinner and a shower, no questions asked. They also have an outside garden restaurant with bar and live entertainment. On a very hot day I prefer the inside with the air conditioning.

I arrived early at the dock, and purchased my ticket for the afternoon outing. The pontoon boat is extremely stable and well equipped with an experienced captain and crew. They also serve refreshments and there is an onboard rest room. Soon we were heading out to the bay for the afternoon's fishing. I love the water, the roar of the boat's twin outboard engines, the sea gulls following, laughing, begging for scraps of fish and bait. The oceanscape was breath takingly beautiful. The marshlands were the greenest green, against the deep blue sky and puffy white clouds. There was a constant sea breeze and the tempature was at least ten degrees cooler than the shore.

Soon we had our lines in the water, drifting with the tide, searching for elusive fish of all kinds, but mostly we were fishing to catch flounders. Flounders are among my favorite kind of fish. They are unique in their coloration and design, aptly called flat fish, with both eyes on one side of their body. I have seen so many of these fish that they no longer appear strange or odd to me. And they are good eating too. However they must be at least 18 inches long in order to be "keepers". We were able to catch about 100 fish of every size and description, but very few "keepers". The others were all catch and release. Catch and release allows the smaller fish to develop and multiply thus assuring that there will be plenty of fish for future generations.

Again my thoughts turned to the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing tragedy that the BP oil spill has caused. The ocean and every living thing in it is so precious. The environment must be protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy and treasure. Somehow we must learn from the BP calamity to make sure that such a travesty against nature does not ever happen again. I will dedicate the rest of my life to that purpose and I hope everyone will join me. What we do not know about the environment we must learn. I have said it before and I will say it again: We must all become oceanographers and marine biologists. We are all environmentalists and tree huggers now. Or at least we should all want to become such. Saving the planet is a huge calling, but it must become our highest priority if life on this planet, in all of its glory, magnificense and exquisite diversity is to survive. May it be so and speedily in our time. Peace, shalom.