Archive

Archive for the ‘escape’ Category

Too Damn Lucky

May 23, 2017 1 comment

The birth of a new person creates a considerable disturbance in the lives of the parent(s) and other people. Some newborns have the misfortune to be born into a dysfunctional family, or an impoverished family, or to a drug-addicted hooker. Those people come into society already in a deep hole, out of which they must climb. They must, to rise within their environment until they can escape it. It’s a forbidding quest.

Some people, myself for instance, are born into poor families that intend to not stay poor. We lived above a corner ‘smoke shop’, my parents, my grandparents, my uncle and me. I was surrounded with love and protection, and had no idea I was poor. I was comfortable and well fed.

My father was smart and ambitious, and by the time I was four, we lived in a lovely little house, outside of downtown. It had a front lawn, a back yard, a concrete driveway and a cute garage. My mother had roses growing up the sides of the garage, and a blossoming cherry tree in the middle of the yard.

My father had been partners with his brother in a small, downtown lunch counter. After a year or so, The Second World War came along. My father took a job in a scrap yard. After he learned the ropes, he bought a classy suit and a pickup truck. Mornings, he would put on the suit, look great, and go out to manufacturers to buy their scrap metal. At midday, he returned home, ate lunch, put on work coveralls, and returned with the pickup truck to fetch the metals he’d bought. He then sold the load at a profit, to an established scrap yard. Soon he had a scrap yard of his own, with cranes and trucks and railway sidings. Stuff was happening.

Then came a large home, cars for my father (Buick), my mother (Pontiac), and me (Corvette). Also, a lakefront cottage, and several boats. We had rowboats, speedboats, sailboats, and my father’s large cruiser. I don’t know how dad did it, but I was certainly a beneficiary.

After a while, he sold his scrap business and started a lumber business. He was a restless man, always seeking new, unlikely challenges. After the lumber business, he became founding president of a new department store chain. I didn’t benefit so much from that plateau, because I was grown up, out of the house, and getting my own life going.

All my life, I’ve been too damned lucky.

How Much Life is Enough?

May 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Editor’s note: Amitai Etzioni is a sociologist and professor of international relations at George Washington University and the author of several books, including “Security First” and “New Common Ground.” He was a senior adviser to the Carter administration and has taught at Columbia and Harvard universities and the University of California, Berkeley.

(CNN) — No one has come out yet and explicitly suggested that old folks like me (I am about to turn 83) should be treated the way the Eskimos, as folklore has it, used to treat theirs: put on an ice floe and left to float away into the sunset. We are, however, coming dangerously close.

A recent study by Dr. Alvin C. Kwok and his colleagues finds that surgery is common in the last year, month and week of life. Eighty-year-olds had a 35% chance of going under the knife in the last year of their lives; nearly one out of five Medicare recipients had surgery in their last month and one in 10 in their last week.

Nobody doubts that some of these surgeries were necessary. But major medical and ethical figures argue that they reflect our reluctance to accept death or let go, the surgeons’ activist interventionist orientation and the way the incentives are aligned.

As the surgeon Atul Gawande put it in The New Yorker: “Our medical system is excellent at trying to stave off death with eight-thousand-dollar-a-month chemotherapy, three-thousand-dollar-a-day intensive care, five-thousand-dollar-an-hour surgery. But, ultimately, death comes, and no one is good at knowing when to stop.”

It remained for Daniel Callahan, an influential bioethicist and co-founder of the prestigious Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute in New York, to take the next step. In a May article in The New Republic, Callahan (with co-author Sherwin B. Nuland) argues for a cease-fire in America’s “war against death,” calling on us to surrender gracefully; Americans thus “may die earlier than [is now common], but they will die better deaths.”

Focusing on care for the elderly, Callahan and Nuland warn that our present attitudes “doom most of us to an old age that will end badly: with our declining bodies falling apart as they always have but devilishly — and expensively — stretching out the suffering and decay.” They hence call on us to abandon the “traditional open-ended model” (which assumes medical advances will continue unabated) in favor of more realistic priorities, namely reducing early death and improving the quality of life for everyone. They further advocate age-based prioritization, giving the highest to children and “the lowest to those over 80.”

The journalist Beth Baker summed up this position: “After people have lived a reasonably full life of, say, 70 to 80 years, they should be offered high quality long-term care, home care, rehabilitation and income support, but not extraordinary and expensive medical procedures.”

Baker’s interview with Callahan reveals one reason this line of argument should be watched with great concern: Once we set an age after which we shall provide mainly palliative care, economic pressures may well push us to ratchet down the age. If 80 was a good number a few years ago, given the huge deficit and the pressure to cut Medicare expenditures, there seems no obvious reason not to lower the cut-off age to, say, 70. And nations that have weaker economies, the logic would follow, should cut off interventionist care at an even younger age. Say, 50 for Guatemala?

Above all, age is the wrong criterion. The capacity to recover and return to a meaningful life is the proper criterion.

Thus, if a person is young but has a terminal disease, say, advanced pancreatic cancer, and physicians determine that he has but a few months, maybe weeks, to live (a determination doctors often make), he may be spared aggressive interventions and be provided with mainly palliative care. In contrast, an 80-year-old with, say, pneumonia — who can return to his family and friends to be loved and give love, contribute to the community through his volunteering and enjoy his retirement he earned with decades of work — should be given all the treatments needed to return him to his life (which in my case includes a full-time job and some work on the side).

We should learn to accept death more readily; we should stop aggressive interventions when there is little hope; we should provide dying people with palliative care to make their passing less painful and less traumatic. Such a case may not just be that of an elderly person succumbing to a terminal illness — it can be that of a preemie born too early to survive, a youngster following a car wreck, a worker following a tragic accident. We should learn from the Eskimos — they long ago stopped abandoning their elderly just because they got “too” old.

06. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

May 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter 6

Milton Korn sat in his cramped studio, staring at the unfinished canvas on his easel. He was unable to get clear, his vision for the painting, and it was almost frightening for him. He’d never before had the real world interfere in his private, creative world. For the first time, a melange of thoughts pressed his creative mind aside.

His thought batted back and forth, like a badminton bird over a net. One moment he’s consumed with concern about his bold assertion to Honey Freed. He could easily afford the 100 acres, with money left over to build a studio. His mind pulled from thoughts of Honey and wandered through visions of the property. The Maple forest on the southernmost 12 acres was a rare enclave of mature trees that had not yet been cut into lumber. If he was owner… co-owner… he could protect those ancient beauties.

Would Honey Freed also be a tree-hugger, or might she be mercenary, and wish to turn the trees into cash. Hopefully, she would share Milton’s ecological interests. If not, perhaps he could help her to understand its importance.

Milton forced himself to stop beating around the bush in his head. What about Honey Freed. She’s smart, a successful professional, tall, and too goddamn gorgeous for Milton, he thought. He would have living quarters adjacent to his studio, on a wing of the house far from Honey’s quarters.

He envisioned separate basic bathrooms for each of them, conveniently connected to their living quarters. Each would have a sink, a toilet, and a medicine cabinet. There would be a mutual bathroom, with a spacious Jacuzzi tub and shower, mirrors and so on. They would make a schedule between themselves, as to when the central bathroom priority was for Milton or Honey.

As for Honey Freed, she had less time to muse on the proposal than had Milton. She was busy with pre-production meetings, casting sessions, and all the other complications in producing commercials. When she at last got home, at 2:20am, she began her analysis of Milton’s suggestion. She had come to think of it as, “The Korn Roast.”

She tossed her clothes on the floor, and stepped into her shower. As the warm water flowed softly over her body, she didn’t need to think about the property. She had been enjoying it in her mind for months. She had to think about the romantic aspect of sharing a home with a tall, good-looking, successful artist.

Honey imagined that they’d design the home together. They could have their rooms across a hall from each other, just for safety. They could have animals, and let them be free to wander in the Maple forest, and frolic on the open pasture. She hoped that Milton liked the idea. She felt certain that he’d want to keep the forest safe and whole. If not… it would be a problem.

Both Milton Korn and Honey Freed slept well, with visions of their possible partnership in the country. Milton dreamed of beautiful light in his studio, and the peace and quiet in which to paint. Honey saw herself in farm clothes, caring for horses, Scottish Highland Longhorn cattle, lamas, goats, and dogs. Lots of dogs.

Within a week, if Honey decides to accept Milton’s offer, they’ll be negotiating joining lives, while they don’t even really know each other. They are each very intelligent, and will be aware of the inevitable problems they will have to overcome.

05. THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

May 2, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter Five

 

Milton Korn had never had any interest in cars. He didn’t actually like to drive. On this occasion, with Honey Freed doing the driving, in an Alpha-Romeo Spyder, Milton began to feel in a unique mood.

The make of car meant nothing to Milton, but the beautiful design and the luxurious leather upholstery gave him a feeling. He had never felt any feeling from riding in a car, but on this occasion, he had feelings.

The top was down, and the wind noise made conversation uncomfortable, so Honey just drove, and Milton sat and thought. He began to think about Honey, and her car. He was comparing the character of the car with the character of the woman. If she is successful, and can choose any car she’d like, and she chose this example of understated elegance, perhaps she is not superficial or false.

The road was wide and smooth at first. When Honey took an exit off the Autoroute onto a two-lane, the surroundings became interesting. Broad fields of corn, hay, and soybeans lay like blankets across hundreds of acres on both sides of the road.

Before long, Honey turned off the secondary highway, onto a dusty dirt road. This road led them away from the open, cultivated fields. They drove through the cooling shade of huge Maple trees that lined the small road. As they emerged from the grove of hardwoods, Honey tuned up a long, dirt driveway that led up to the top of a large hill. Honey stopped there and got out of the car. Milton followed suit. They stood together and looked out over the grassy fields.

“Where’s the house?” said Milton.

“There is no house, yet,” said Honey. “I’m going to design and build my own, if I can ever get to own this place.” She pointed out various features of the land, and said that she wants her home to be on this hill, where they stood together.

“Do you want a partner?” said Milton.

“God, no!” said Honey. “I want to be free.”

“So do I,” said Milton. “This is a great spot. If you change your mind about sharing, I’ll put up the money and you could repay me your half.”

“Geeze, that’s a serious temptation,” said Honey Freed.  “I have to think about it.”

“I have to decide where I’ll go if  you decide to take this on alone, so please try to decide soonish,” said Milton Korn.

“Within a week, okay?” said Honey.

“Okay, thanks,” said Milton. He stood there and visualized  what it would be like to have a home and studio in this environment. He thought about buying this place out from under Honey. The acquaintances each had to make a hard decision.

The (Drudge) Lady of the House

May 1, 2017 Leave a comment

We all knew that Claire’s home would be perfect, as always. I confided in Lois that it was difficult to understand her horrible personal taste in clothing, considering the flawless design and colour pallet. Her home is the epitome of aesthetic perfection, yet her wardrobe seems to be made of dishtowels and drapes.

“I suppose it takes all kinds,” Lois said

“Some kinds of aesthetic decisions should be stopped,” I said.

“How could one do that?” Lois said. I paused a moment.

“I’m going to confront her with it,” I said. “I’m going to ask her why her home is so perfect, yet her fashion sense is lacking.”

About ten days later, after I had confronted Claire about her aesthetically perfect home and less attractive garments, I phoned Lois.

“What did she say?” Lois said.

“She dropped her clothes off, right there in the kitchen,” I said. “Then she said, ‘What do you see?”

“What did you see!” Lois screamed into the phone.

“I see a stunning body, a gorgeous face without a speck of makeup, flowing black hair and legs that are long, and beautifully shaped, as is all of her. That’s what I told her. She said that she used to dress in fashion, with good aesthetic designs and fabrics. Men would not take her seriously, nor would they leave her alone. She shows herself to men that she chooses, and the rest of the time, she lives her life unmolested.”

THE LAND OF MILT AND HONEY

April 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Chapter One

Most of the people who had been born and raised in Whitewood had long since left for big cities that were bustling with advancement opportunities.  There was nothing to keep young people in the tiny hometown so they went away to work in office towers and underground shopping malls and suburban offices in busy urban areas.  The few that stayed in Whitewood took jobs either in Korn’s Super-Econo Market, Korn’s Fashion For Families shop, Korn’s Electronics and Computer Centre, and Korn’s Fine Pine Furniture Manufacturing Corporation.

The only young person that remained in Whitewood but did not work for one of the Korn family’s enterprises was the Korn’s only son, Milton.  The Korn’s only daughter, Rebecca was twenty-two, two years younger than Milton was.  She had moved to Montreal at eighteen for a job with an advertising agency.

Milton had made himself a studio in an unused space over the three-car garage behind the Korn mansion.  The well-known residence stood back from the road on their five-hundred-acre horse farm.  Milton was an artist who created paintings, sculptures, carvings and drawings of various kinds.

Milton’s works sold for good prices at biannual art shows in Winnipeg, where locals with an interest in art respected and collected his work.  Most of the time, however, his parents supported him.  That is to say they fed, clothed, and housed Milton, but there was no moral support or encouragement.  Quite the opposite most of the time as his parents said everything they could to discourage him.  They refused to recognise the value of his work, even when he turned over to them the proceeds of his sales, usually between ten thousand and twenty thousand dollars during each show.  The derision intensified when Rebecca took on her job in the city, and escalated even more when she was rapidly promoted to more and more responsible – and lucrative – positions.

Insults flowed whenever Milton was in earshot.  He began to live in the studio constantly, and rarely saw his parents.  His mother and father took turns slapping him psychologically with statements like:

“You’ll never amount to anything doing art.”

“Your father needs you to help with the business.”

In spite of the scorn, Milton Korn continued with his personal career.  He was twenty-four years old and past the time when he should be away from his parents’ home and perhaps getting married.  Milton’s father barely spoke to him, crushed that his only son was uninterested in taking over the family enterprises.   Samuel Korn had worked all his life to create wealth and security for his family.  It was an unbearable burden of the ageing man, and his health was fading with the stress of watching his son waste his life.

Milton didn’t feel that he was wasting his life.  The more art he created, the better his art became.  He worked intensely on his oil paintings, watercolours, clay and wax sculptures and woodcarvings.  He also enjoyed an active social life.  He was tall, lean, and handsome, besides having a wealthy and influential family.  His gallery showings garnered him a lot of attention from women young and old.  He enjoyed the attention, but never intended to unite with any of his female companions. He always made certain each of them understood that this was his intention.

His parents pushed and bribed him.

In the end, Milton Korn’s parents gave him 30 days to vacate the family home.  Over the years he had been given much by his wealthy parents as the only way they knew to get him to be what they wanted him to be.  Everything that anyone would want – cars, boats, money, travel, and credit cards were handed to him without question – obviously meant to bribe Milton into obedience.

In preparation for setting off into the real world, Milton arranged for a one-man show of his art and design work at the Gallery Communicate in Regina.  Every piece but one was sold, and Milton had almost thirty-four thousand dollars after the gallery’s commission, but there was much more to come in a form he had never contemplated.

On the prairie flatlands outside of Regina a crew was producing a television commercial for an importer of Asian automobiles.  With a Sunday off, most of the crew wandered around the city sightseeing and relaxing.  The producer, Honey Freed, wandered into the Gallery Communicate, and was surprised and excited by what she saw, in the work of Milton Korn.  She asked the proprietor if she knew the artist well, and was told that he was familiar.  Although he was rarely seen in town, he was well known, because his family virtually owned the town.

Honey learned that during this night, the crew would be setting up an exhibit of Milton’s work. The vernissage will be tomorrow.

(To Be Continued)

 

I’d Prefer to be a Seagull

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I used to stand out at the end of the pier in front of our cottage at Thunder Beach, on Georgian Bay. I’d stand with the wind at my back, so the seagulls could hover in front of me with the wind beneath their wings, so to speak. They’d line up in tiers, five or six levels high, dozens of wings gleaming in the summer sun.

I’d toss bits of bread up in the air to them. One golden beak after another would snap my gift out of the air and zoom off, while the next gull filled the space. It was a wonderful feeling, standing less than 3 feet from a soaring cloud of gorgeous birds.

They weren’t always soaring; sometimes they were walking on the beach. Waddling, actually, and picking up tiny edibles from time to time. Sometimes they were floating, comfortably bobbing over the waves. At will, they would rise from the surface and gracefully power themselves to… anywhere they want. They can literally go anywhere in the world. They can fly on a breeze, and if they’re tired they can sit on the water. If they want to avoid a storm, they can walk under a tree. If they’re hungry, they are capable of either scavenging or hunting. So, I’d Prefer to be a Seagull.

I’m a seagull on a weekend, walking along the beach at the foot of Toronto. Not only is this a lovely place, where people can stroll together on the boardwalk, but also, a law protects us seagulls. People can go to jail for hassling us. Cool, eh?

There’s a lot to eat along the boardwalk. People drop pieces of hot-dog bun, or a kid drops an ice-cream cone, and there we are, earning our keep. We pick up and consume the dropped things of others. When we’ve had enough, or some kids bother us, we just glide out to sit on the cool waters of Lake Ontario. The water’s clean, with things for us gulls to hunt, as well as scavenge.

The only thing wrong with the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood, which is gorgeous, by the way, is that winter comes to Toronto. It’s not serious, like Montreal or Buffalo, but it’s winter, and Lake Ontario freezes in places. I’d rather not stay by the city and live uncomfortably, even though there’s plenty to eat, even in winter.

I spread my broad, beautiful wings and lift off. I could go to Spain, or Australia, or anywhere. It’s no problem for me, the seagull. I can stop anytime, anyplace, to rest or eat. I think I’ll glide over to Malta for a few months. I’ll be “The Maltese Seagull.” Take care of yourself.