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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Turbulence Mix

by Maureen Baraka Bonfante

Shimmy, Shimmy
Like a chicken cutlet
getting breaded in a zip-lock,
by a hungry man.

I am not big on the concept of fleshy, multi-celled organisms being enclosed in metal containers, in single unit or en masse and shooting out to the space above the clouds. "I can feel and be very close to the Creator from down here. Thank you very much!" Whether these vehicles-slash-temporary dwellings (depending on the length of your travel you may be dwelling in them) weigh a few thousand pounds like a Cesna or close to a 100 tons like a Boeing seems unnatural. Give me horseback or bicycle, a great pair of boots or sneakers, I'll get cross country. Backpack strapped, instead of strapping down to a coach or first class padded seat. Eventually. In a few months. That's the way man was designed to travel. Use those legs!

Ahhh, but the joy of travel by today's modern man. Metals forged and blended with a variety of resins, fabrics, and other components into vessels of different shapes, sizes and modes of transporting fleshy masses from Timbuctoo to the Galapagos. The science. The ingenuity. The training of all involved from project development to final product daily launches. Where would we be without them?

It's 2809 miles from New York City to San Diego. Walking at a pace of 3 miles per hour, 10 hours a day you could get there in 94 days and if you bike 40 hours a day 70 days, but you'll need lodging and that can get pricey. Amtrak with transfers, 4 days at a cost of $272 one-way. By car with a team of drivers to hit the road with you, keep the car in go mode and shape, driving non-stop, 43 hours. Forget about the GA$! And who would think of subjecting a horse to carrying ones weight for such a long journey? Where would you stop to get feed and a stable? Lush open plains for grazing?

"Ze plane, ze plane," shouted Tattoo as guests flew in to "Fantasy Island," that is ze way to go!

Left to right: Herve Villechaize (Tattoo) and Ricardo Montalban (Mr. Roarke)

What spectacular views of creation await you!

  San Diego (right)

San Diego Coastline (left). Sky before turbulence begins (right)

And then there's the turbulence. What to do, what to do, if you aren't a fan of roller coasters, heights and being confined to a chair or being boxed in for any length of time, but travel by plane you must? Nothing, just let go and relax! Trust in the skill of the pilot and crew to get passengers safely to point B. A prayer, some meditation can't hurt either. Some people like to talk about the movement of the plane to their travel companions. "Wu-ooh! Did you feel that one?" "Oh my God." "I remember one time..." Others drink, if they were fortunate enough to get one in hand before the shimmy shaking commenced. Sleep. Read. Watch the mini-back seat or over head TV. Listen to some music.

As the English Playwright and Poet, William Congreve penned in Act 1, Scene 1 of  the tragedy "The Mourning Bride" (1697), spoken by Almeria, the Princess of Granada:

"Music has Charms to sooth a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."

Music works, but just what kind is a question of taste and mood. For my ride back to NYC from San Diego the other day I choose Acoustic Singers, most on guitar. I call the following sampling of tunes I listened to in between reading, TV viewing, napping and munching, my Turbulence Mix, courtesy of Jet Blue, (xm) radio. The title of Jacqui Naylor's song "Easy Ride From Here," set the neurons off to a positive frame of mind. All had deep, rich, engaging lyrics, music and singing. Enjoy.


"  Do you have a fear of flying?"

Check out Les Posen's Fear of Flying Weblog for great tips. Understand the dynamics behind turbulence, why it is not unsafe, methods to reduce flight anxiety and more.

"Timbuctoo" sometimes written "Tim Buck Two"- is a slang expression used to refer to something far away. "All the way from Timbuctoo." Timbuktu is a city in Mali on the edge of the Sahara. A key post on the trans-Saharan caravan route for trade of gold and salt and Islamic scholarship. It is also a town in California in Yuba county, off the Yuba River and depending on what version of the story you follow it was named for or by an African American miner, who was originally from the Mali city. Either way, today unfortunately it is just a ghost town like many in the United States. With no push for preservation, its presence in the American landscape is fading fast.

More on Timbuktu
At the behest of his father nineteen year old Alfred Tennyson submitted a poem on the subject of Timbuktu for a contest and his poem "Timbuctoo" won. Here's a sample:

(Lines 1-9)

I stood upon the Mountain which o'erlooks
The narrow seas, whose rapid interval
Parts Africa from green Europe, when the Sun
Had fall'n below th' Atlantick, and above
The silent Heavens were blench'd with faery light,
Uncertain whether faery light or cloud,
Flowing Southward, and the chasms of deep, deep blue
Slumber'd unfathomable, and the stars
Were flooded over with clear glory and pale.

(Lines 215-224)

     I am the Spirit,
The permeating life which courseth through
All th' intricate and labyrinthine veins
Of the great vine of Fable, which, outspread
With growth of shadowing leaf and clusters rare,
Reacheth to every corner under Heaven,
Deep-rooted in the living soil of truth;
So that men's hope and fears take refuge in
The fragrance of its complicated glooms,
And cool impleached twilights.

For more on this and to read his poem at length go to

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Light A Candle and Pass Its Light

By Maureen Baraka Bonfante

For yesterday.
For todays and tomorrows.
like the gymnast's silk scarf in dance.
Flicker, Flicker. Sway.
Carried by and put out, by the the air.
Ignited. Igniting.
Apple, vanilla, cinnamon, lilac, orange, rose.
Wedding Day.
Birthday numero uno or one hundred.
Held in tribute or silent protest.
Power outages. Crises.
Combustion => Fire.
Small. Contained.
Guiding lights.
Trick or not.
Candles. Life. That is what my buddy Ms. S and I chatted about during lunchtime on Wednesday. She was asked by a member of her congregation to prepare a birthday tribute, message to commemorate the special day. It was about candles, hardships, ones triumphs, personal and spiritual growth through struggles faced, gemmed by scripture, etc. And sacrifice. In order for a candle to issue light, a sacrifice must be made by the wax. It melts away until nothing remains, holding the wick in place, housing the burning flame safely for man to hold. If fuels the flame and protects the wick from burning too quickly. It makes the light last as long as it can. Candles are simple but amazing systems of light.

Ms. S and I talked about how we get light from others, through sharing thoughts, feelings, counsel, comfort. Sometimes it's just being there, being positive. And how after feeling a new from the light we receive, it passes on. Naturally, without thought, as the heart beats, as the lungs breathe to sustain the body's life. A positive domino effect, which steams from the smallest gestures at times. Her candle message inspired by a friend who helped her choose a motif and saying for the birthday card. Her sharing of the message she prepared and how it came about inspiring me.

Haiti's Earthquake

Twenty hours earlier, January 12th, 4:53PM a 7.0 earthquake, 13km (8.1 miles) deep, struck the nation of Haiti. In a few short minutes, the time it takes to get your morning coffee, pick up a sandwich, wrap, pizza for lunch, or afternoon snack for tea time, the foundations supporting the people, infrastructure of the poorest nation in the northern hemisphere was wrecked unmercifully.

I don't want to comment much on the absurdities people in positions of high influence in political, religious and other arenas are spewing and feeding to others through various media. There is a nation of 9 million hurting next door to US!!! Body spewing blood like a broken fire hydrant, dying from starvation and disease. Politicking, pandering, and profiteering (not just monetarily), drinking in "ego" shots, on the blood of the victims of Haiti's quake. These are defective candles.

Pictures of Hope and Devastation
Top: Spanish rescuer with 2 year old Redjeson Hauston and father Claude at right. 
Boy reaching out for H2O (AP).
Bottom: Girl crying after the quake, picture by Tequlia Minsky, NY Times. Bodies (AP)

The world is filled with pain and suffering, but we CAN CHOOSE how to react. Bystander? Participant? Ostrich with head in earth? With compassion or empathy? What the world needs now is to get as many candles lit, passing light on and on, like an Olympic torch.

Neil Young's song "Light a Candle" conveys a beautiful message, fitting for the times we are living in, marking the dawn of a new decade in our human history. Following the lyrics and video clip are two others I found were a good compliment as today is Martin Luther King Day. One brought to my attention by my friend Mr. A (another example of passing the light), "Lean on Me," by Playing For Change (Peace Through Music) by a group of campers and volunteers at the Anaheim YMCA at Camp Fox in Catalina Island, CA, the second "Students remember 'I have a dream' speech," at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

As we reflect on our lives, in what has come to pass let's remember the little ones who will be the leaders and caretakers of the nation of Haiti. Who like our children have dreams we can help come true.

Light a Candle 
by Neil Young

Instead of cursing the darkness, 
light a candle for where we're going.
There's something ahead worth looking for.

When the light of time is on us,
we will see our moment come,
and the living soul inside will carry on.

It's a chance to give new meaning,
to every move we make,
through the caverns and the caves where we come from.

When the light of dawn is on us,
we will see what we can be,
and the ancient ones will sleep an easy sleep.

In the hallways of the ages,
on the road to history,
what we do now will always be with us.

It's a chance to give new meaning,
to every move we make,
in the caverns and the caves where we come from.

Instead of cursing the darkness,
light a candle for where we're going,
there's something ahead worth looking for.

When the light of time is on us,
we will see our moment come,
and the living soul inside will carry on.

Light a candle in the darkness
so others might see ahead.

Light a candle in the darkness when you go.

Links of Interest 

Helping the Victims of Haiti's Earthquake  
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Monday, January 11, 2010

More than a Clown Nose

      Once upon a time there was a spider, a frog, a boy or a girl or a princess of cinder, a family, a somebody-bodies or something(s) or other...
     Some days just seem to take the form of a once upon a time tale or odyssey. They start with a protagonist (you) facing a challenge (major or minor), embarking on a quest in which you encounter many strange and interesting beings while traveling to near and faraway lands. Unknown. Familiar. Either way, today it's all new.
     I ended 2009 by setting out on a quest early in the morning "In Search of Clown Nose," two to be exact, to wear at the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. From our windows high above all looked clear. Just a few clouds cast shadows on the red, gray and tan brick homes below, while a pocket-full of flakes skirted down slowly, dressing the naked branches of the trees in a white veil.
The Challenge

     Drop off winter coats, get Armour to wear under, face gear, clown noses and harlequin hat, visit mother and return to the tower by 4PM to rest before the run. Simple, yes? Of course things didn't go that way. What reward would there have been? Lesson to be learned, opportunity for one's growing inside then out if the quest were easy?

(Above)  Great Classic Car! Not mine, unfortunate/fortunately. Like the other townsfolk I waited 40+ minutes for a NYCT coach to the train. Fingertips tingling. Thank God I still felt them and for my Doc's. At least my feet were dry. 

The Journey

     It's all about perspective, macro or micro (view from above or up close). More snow had built up than observed from the tower's windows. I was not prepared. The gate closed behind me. There was no turning back now 'til the quest was done.
     Armed with a small hot coffee I boarded the train for clown stop number 2-Bryant Park. It is almost noon. But it is almost noon on New Year's Eve so the streets are full with party people looking for hats, blowers and noise makers while scoping places to continue the partying after the ball drops. I walk around the Pond looking for the drop off box for the coats. "No, nothing here or here, or there." "Where are the security, information  people when you need them?" Brrr it's cold, but the snow. There is just something about the snow falling and blanketing everything in white that makes everything feel alright. A few people are walking in and out of the Holiday shops, eating at Celsius and skating. "Might as well take a few pics while I'm here."

No one is sitting on the porch or keeping the lonely, little snowman company. 
Quelle dommage. What a pitty.

Statue of Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946), a great American writer, 
patron and lover of the arts.

Shops in the Park. "Whose says dogs and cats can't tell time?"

Drop off coats, finally, at box near Rockefeller Center. Check one done. Three to go. The snow stops!

(Top left to right) Snow-capped pines near the Rock. The Paramount Building, C.W and George L. Rapp, architects (1926-27).  (Bottom) The art of haggling in New York City on display (left). Crews setting up for the big event (right).

     The clocks crowning The Paramount Building tick out reminders that it's time for this or that. Everyone's reminder is different. For me it's time to make up the hour I lost in the morning. No more playing tourist. Get back on quest mode and head down to New York Costumes. But maneuvering the crowds with NYC zigzagging-flash is hard. The crowd's too thick. If I'm lucky I can get 5 minutes back. Done!

     The train pulls in. "Victory is mine!" Not. I miss the transfer point. Surprise. Surprise. No time to make a U-turn I speed down Waverly Place. Clown stop number 3. And a few scenes snapped at and about Washington Square Park. 
     Plan B in play, return to the tower by six. Like a clown pulling assorted favors and tricks from a sack, you always have to have a back up plan or two or three...

Washington Arch (left). Peeking at a lion through the curl of an iron gate (right).

     Eastside, Westside all around the town New York City has a wonderful mix of architecture from different periods and influences to treat the eyes of the weariest traveler. And it's time for this one to take a break.

Grace Church, style Gothic, 1846, James Renwick, Jr., Architect 

New York Costumes. Darby and the creepy clown welcome all.

     A block later I arrive at the entrance to the wonderful land of costumes. I am not alone. Others are brought in by their own quests for fun New Year's Eve wear. Besides my own folk, there were many who traveled from faraway lands. France, Germany and Spain are in the house when I arrive, trying to figure out what they should buy. I am captivated by the wonderful displays. "How about a Stewie mask instead?" "Or a fancy masquerade one?" "Hmm... scary clown?" Cool hats. Cool glasses... Cool... Plan C. Be home by seven. 
     After wandering about for a bit a fork pokes my side. It's time to move on. Still two more checks to go, though the major key of the quest was at hand. There are many clown noses to choose from, from the pro types to the red or black foam and plastic squeaking honkers. "Two squeaking honkers, please!" If anything our cats will get a blast when we squeak-squeak them at them. Harlequin topper. Runners Store at Grand Central for Amour and face gear. Dinner with the Momma. Check, check and checks. I make it back to the tower by seven. A new quest begins.

Jeopardy Answer: Who is Patch Adams? 

Dr. Patch Adams brings out a smile from a sick child in Guatemala.

      We were too cold to put our squeaking honkers on at the run. The snow and cold took center stage off and on throughout the day, transforming Central  Park to a snowy, icy paradise. So we just settled on wearing crazy toppers. But I'm sure we will find other opportunities to don them this year maybe with a a cool pair of Mary Jane's like these instead of our sneakers and Dr. Martens.
     In laying out this blog I thought it would be nice to get a clown nose photo or illustration and did some browsing. I stumbled upon some interesting blogs and web pages, but none were as moving as those with comments, articles, videos and more on Dr. Patch Adams. If a picture is worth a thousand words, his were more than a million, spreading smiles and laughter and goodwill around the world. He has inspired many.
     In Guatemala a group of friends joined together with the goal of bringing laughter and a sense of optimism to sick children and seniors in hospitals and their efforts blossomed to the formation of a legal organization called "Fabrica de Sonrisas" (Smile Factory). After a 5 month training period in the art of balloon-twisting and other smile inducing treatments the volunteers graduate and make weekly patient visits.
     In Italy, Clown One Italia, formed by Ginevra Sanguigno, actress and clown with the support of Dr. Adams' engages in social and healthcare support activities. Its humanitarian efforts spanning the globe as well as those of others. HEALING THROUGH HUMOR!  SMILE!!

 Links of Interest
Bryant Park
Times Square
(For a map of the area click on District Map under the Facts and Figures tab)
New York Architecture
(Get more information on The Paramount Building, Grace Church and other structures throughout the city)
New York Costumes
Dr. Patch Adams and the Gesundheit Institute
Fabrica de Sonrisas
Clown One Italia

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