Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Footnote To My Prison Concert --

The day before yesterday, I received a copy of the prison's quarterly publication, "Scenic Outlook". I read it cover-to-cover. At the very front of it is a full-page article about my May 19th concert there (please read my earlier post about the concert). The last paragraph of the article touched me in an exquisitely poignant way; it said "The men of NECX cannot express enough our gratitude for the wonderful evening brought to us by Ms. Landau. We want her to know that .. for all the days or years we might spend in prision, her gift to us was one hour of one day that we were free". I hope to return there in the spring to perform again.

Indian Daisies --

That's what I call them ... I don't know why. They are "Tall or Giant Sunflowers" (helianthus giganteus) officially. I'll put a picture of them up for you to see. I have a group of them that I transplanted from my former residence (I got the originals from my friend, Janna ... see "Friends" post). They are the happiest-looking flowers -- perennials, and very, very tall!

True Friends --

The post I just finished writing (about the little dog) makes me realize the very real bond we can feel with certain people. Speaking from my own perspective, some of those people will probably never re-enter my life, but they leave a definite imprint on my spirit.

Friendships begin in a variety of ways. When I was a child, there were circumstances that got in the way of my having any really close friends. When I was in high school, there were several really genuine friends, of both genders. I think back about them sometimes and wish I could be with them one more time. One passed away several years ago from lung cancer ... she'd begun smoking at age 14. Another was/is a fascinating lady who immigrated to the US from Italy with her family. She was a couple of years older than me, spoke with a rich and beautiful accent, and showed me her father's wine cellar (from which we sampled, but minimally)! She talked to me about staying in school when everything in my life and my family was falling apart. I occasionally think about each of the two boys who were friends and wanted to be more ... and wish I could somehow tell them, over the span of miles and years, how much they graced my life, especially at a time when it was sorely needed.

My previous post mentions the wonderful lady who helped me rescue the little dog I named Janna. Let's call them Little Janna (the dog) and Big Janna (the human), although Big Janna is really not "big", but she is very big-hearted. I've known her since 1988.

Some friends come into our lives for just a while; some stay. The saying "for a reason, a season, or a lifetime" is relevant. One of my bandmates was a true friend and a kindred soul, who I truly miss; he passed away a year ago. I have other true friends -- both men and women -- who I dearly love, and each brings unique rays into my life.

Recently, I had a valuable (but painful) experience that resulted from an acquaintance via my role as piano teacher, who urgently requested my help with a writing project, promising to "not cheat" me, and proclaiming that I am his "most trusted friend", though this was a surprise to me. Well, being a semi-pushover for flattery of this kind, I agreed to help and I put in an earnest 35 or so hours of my best work, along with a bunch of expenses for printer ink, Kodak photo paper, regular paper, photocopying, etc. (I also did the photography and graphic design). It was a very beautiful piece of work. He loved it! He loved it for three weeks. Until a month rolled by and I reminded him about compensating me. You guessed it -- he suddenly didn't like it and didn't want "to get into it" anymore. So I've included one negative sampling of the word "friend".

But, back to the positive! Genuine friends are like precious gems. I treasure my friends.

Helping Animals --

For most of my adult life I’ve been involved in causes that advance the humane treatment of animals. My introduction to the very existence of such causes was some graphic film footage I happened to see on television sometime in the early 1970s; it was about whitecoat baby seals. It really jolted me and opened up my heart to the needs and sufferings of other beings. So letter-writing, sign-carrying, radio PSAs, whatever, became a part of my life’s activity. During the 1990s, I edited and published Janna Publications (named for a little rescued dog and the brand-new friend who helped with the rescue). It was a newsletter, sprinkled with my hand-drawn illustrations and articles about various animal-related issues. I still have a box of the back issues, if anyone would like any of them. Most of the items covered are relevant today.

For ten years (October of 1993 to early 2004), I promoted, booked, and presented a humane education program that I had scripted. I traveled to classrooms in all of the schools in Knox and contiguous counties, all grade levels. I also went to the various locations of the Boys & Girls Clubs and Park & Recreation sites, presenting the program on behalf of an area non-profit organization. Kids and teachers were enthusiastic about it. Soon I was also speaking at adult civic organizations, responding to calls of college students who had chosen an animal topic for a paper and were requesting my help and to several requests for pet bereavement counseling. Many aspects of the work were gut-wrenching, but, overall, the work was very meaningful and fulfilling and I was able to pour a lot of passion into it. I have boxes of letters, posters, drawings, and cards from kids, teachers, and scout leaders, that were sent to me over the years.

This past week, I was reminded of how much of that identity remains with me. On Saturday, Jerry rushed into the house during his lunch break and excitedly told me he had an emergency that needed my help. I went outside and, there in the back of his pickup truck, was a dog – a chihuahua – unconscious. He explained how he’d seen a driver in a maroon Mercedes hit the dog about three blocks away. The driver did not stop. Jerry had looked and noticed that, although the dog's eyes were closed and she at first appeared to not be alive, she was breathing so he stopped and held up traffic in both directions while he picked her up and put her in his truck. She looked pitiful, bleeding from one ear and eye and with several injured spots on her head. She was either pregnant or had given birth; she had no collar or ID. I gave Jerry some towels to put around her and then rushed into the house and telephoned the nearest vet’s office. I was matter-of-factly told that they were about to close and I’d need to call an emergency clinic. I repeated my request for help and was told to "hold on", which I did until another country song played and I realized no one was returning to the phone. The emergency clinic took my information, recited their initial charges, and said they’d be expecting me. When I went back outside, all of a sudden the little dog regained consciousness and began frantically running around the back of the truck trying to jump out, not letting us get near her (she was terrified, growling, and definitely ready to administer a bite or two). We tossed a padded quilt over her and Jerry carefully wrapped her in it so he could transfer her to the back of my truck, which has a closed back. I adjusted the tailgate so she would have ventilation and then I called City Animal Control. I was thankful for having been put on that rude, eternal hold by the vet’s office because, if I’d put her on the front seat of my truck and started driving to the emergency clinic as I’d planned, she would have regained consciousness beside me in the truck. Jerry left to go back to work and an AC officer soon came. As gently as she could under the circumstances, she manuevered the little dog into a cage in her truck and told me she would drive by the area where I’d told her the dog had been hit, to see if the owner could be located, since veterinary care was needed. Beyond that, of course, the dog was bound for the animal shelter, an evaluation, and possible vet care. I did suspect that there was internal injury and bleeding so she may have had to be euthanized.

The circumstances reminded me of the portion of my humane education program where I’d tell kids and adults that animal control officers have "a very hard job". A very hard job, indeed. This particular lady remarked that this was her "second one today who has been hit" (by a vehicle).

Also remembered were the things I used to say about animals being abandoned and left to the fates, without any ID or means of obtaining food or protecting themselves from traffic, the elements, larger animals, and even some mean person. The little dog has reaffirmed that part of my identify that I carried proudly during the years I passionately delivered my program, as humane education director.

Please contact me if you would like any of my Janna Publications back issues. I also have a limited quantity of other pro-animal literature.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Vehicles & Their People

While the topic is sort of mundane, an amusing and interesting thread began in my mind yesterday as my truck and I visited the final service facility for his scheduled maintenance.

"Lance" is my truck and he is a ‘91 Chevy S-10 model. We’d done the oil change and lube at Precision Tune, the tire rotation at Firestone, had replaced some miscellaneous blown out light bulbs ourselves, and were now at Pep Boys to get the transmission fluid exchanged, the windshield wipers replaced, and two additional bulbs inserted (that can only be inserted when the truck is on a lift). I stand in line with the other customers. Just ahead of me, a woman, perhaps around age 40, says to the service manager "It still stops, but it takes a while ... it’s kind of scary". (!) I cringe, inwardly; I mean it’s more than just "kind of scary"... imagine being on the same road with her and her vehicle as they "take a while" to stop.

Fortunately there is a jovial elderly gentleman, all smiles, and he brightens the vibe in the room as the line moves forward. I have reached the desk and sign in, handing over Lance’s keys, and then advancing into the waiting room. It isn't too bad ("bad" defined as "noisy" and/or crowded); the television is at an acceptable volume. Through the prattle of a re-run of The Price Is Right, I make several phone calls to try and get a ride to avoid sitting there for the two hour wait.

Whenever I find myself in a waiting room, I am conscious of the different types and combinations of people who are also there. I’ve noticed I deliberately take mental notes ever since one of my psychology class assignments (years ago), which required me to visit a hospital ER waiting room for a period of hours and observe the interactions and probable relationships between prospective patients and accompanying friends and relatives -- as well the mannerisms of people who were there alone. A lively, elderly lady in denim capri pants is talkative, hard-of-hearing, and constantly scurries back and forth between the waiting room and the work area. Her companion is matronly-looking and quiet, as she stays put in her chair. Then, in come three men, two of whom are together, dressed in denim jeans and white tee shirts; they sit and just play with their cell phones. The third man is dressed in a suit and tie and is obviously on a work break, marking the time he has to wait, rather tensely. My cell phone rings ... one of my phone messages has been retrieved and a ride is on its way to pick me up.

It occurs to me, as it has in the past, how attached (as well as dependent) we tend to get regarding our vehicles. I talk to Lance every time I drive somewhere and I often give him an affectionate pat on the right side of his steering column – a gesture I liken to stroking a horse on the side of his neck. Well, Lance and I have been together for eleven years!

There is no moral to this story except that maybe it makes sense to keep one’s vehicle road-worthy instead of feeding the car manufacturers and credit companies (and subscribing to the corporate plan that churns out a gazillion new cars every year). Lance agrees!