The Ugliest House in Cambridge

Okay, it’s deep winter. The snow has turned crusty and brown. The sky is grey. The ice is black. We need a bit of color and light.

Sorry folks, all I have to offer is the ugliest house in Cambridge.

For some time there was debate. Was the ugliest house in Cambridge the triplex on the corner of Sherman Street whose spindly front baloneys hang over the too-steep driveway? Or was it the cottage in East Cambridge that some fledging architect sheathed in asphalt diamond shingles circa 1952? Until, a few years ago, a universally declaimed winner emerged on a most unlikely parcel.

After World War II, the City of Cambridge carved a string of lots along Grove Street, on the Belmont line, ostensibly for returning Vets. The suburbanish lots with golf course and Boston skyline views became immediately desirable. Seventy years later, the mid-century ranches are being replaced, one after another, with trophy houses. Except this one. A few years ago, someone with no taste and a paltry budget took a sizable house and expanded in the ugliest possible way.

I can’t tell if it’s a single family of multi-family house. I never see anyone come or go. I sometimes see a van in the parking-lot sized driveway. Rumor has it the structure is owned by a Chinese company that houses visiting staff there. I’m not interested in verifying the truth, since that rumor suits me just fine.

And what’s with the garage door to nowhere? Happy winter!

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Would You Rather be Happy or Be Right?

It’s been more than twenty years now since I heard Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie deliver a sermon at the Arlington Street Church in Boston titled ‘Would You Rather Be Happy or Be Right?’ The distinctions she laid out on that sunny Sunday morning have stayed with me ever since. Given Reverend Crawford Harvie’s generous perspective, and the Unitarian-Universalist penchant for relativism, she did not make a definitive claim in favor of one perspective over another. However, by questioning the absolutism inherent in the word ‘right,’ she leaned heavy in the direction of happiness.

At that time I was impressed, and confounded, by the duality between being happy and being right. They are not opposites. They do not reside in realms of mutual exclusivity. There’s not even any consistent correlation between them. I also realized that my own ideas of ‘right’ and ‘happy’ were more intertwined than Reverend Harvie Crawford described. Though I’d never thought about it before, I really can’t be happy, unless I feel I’m doing right.

I must digress to state that ‘right’ and ‘righteous’ are not the same thing. People who are righteous think they know the correct way to be, and they inflict it on others. People who strive to be right seek to be true to themselves. A few things in this world are universally ‘right,’ like the Golden Rule. But for many of us, there are myriad ideas and actions that are individually right for us every day—what color sweater to wear, whether to hold the door for the person behind us, eat meat, apply for that new job, lobby our representatives, partake in civil disobedience. In the main, when we do what we think is right, we will also be happy.

But over the past year, the confluence between doing what I think is right, and deriving happiness from it, has shrunk. Calling out our nation’s political discord, our irrefutable racism, and individual actions that thwart public health guidance, have caused a few longtime friends to turn away. I’ve never unfriended anyone, and can’t imagine what circumstances would compel me to cease the possibility of connection. But it only takes one side to shut down communication. I do not know whether or when we will speak again.

The connection between being happy and being right has never been so difficult. Deciding when and if to call out folks behaving badly in the realm of politics, race, or pandemic has shifted as I learned the uselessness—on both sides—of confrontation. Harping on other people doesn’t change their behavior or bring me happiness, so I’ve simply learned to walk in ever-wider circles of avoidance.

I do not solicit people’s opinions, racist memes, or travel stories. People just deliver them. And then seem wounded when I counter their facts, or fail to laugh at their joke, or remind them that crossing state lines to visit their eighty-year-old mother violated guidelines. People are continually dumbfounded for being called out—however gently—for stuff they know is wrong.

I wonder if perhaps this pandemic year marks the beginning of my shrinking relationship with this world. I’ve grown more patient, but less tolerant of baloney, even as the sheer volume of baloney we wallow in these days seems to expand logarithmically. I accept that some longtime friends may slip away as I continue to evolve. Because I am convinced that, ultimately, I must say and do what I think is right. Otherwise, I have no chance for happiness.

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Ditties from the Info Desk: Love and Radiation

They’re the most dependable ones. The cancer patients. Arriving at the same time each week, head wrapped in a turban or scarf, checking in before chemotherapy. Or worse, hobbling in daily for three, four, five weeks straight to receive radiation. One might think they’d be most irritated by the three screening questions I’m required to ask everyone who enters the building. No, they haven’t been outside of Massachusetts in the past two weeks; they’re too ill to go anywhere but here. No, they haven’t been around anyone who’s tested positive; they’re too vulnerable to see any one any way. No, they don’t have COVID symptoms; the nausea and aches of trying to expunge cancer are symptoms enough.

In truth, when a frequent flyer approaches, I cheat the questions. As the same dwindling woman whom I greeted at the hospital information desk the day before approaches, I lighten up. “You didn’t go down to Providence for a COVID dance party last night, did you?”

Cancer patients possess nobility, how they suffer bodily abuse in an attempt to stave off even worse. The crabby ones, angry at cancer’s arbitrary victimization, are easy to forgive. There but for the grace of god… But the stoics, the good-humored ones: they’re inspiration. I am lucky not to be among them; luckier still to witness their grace under duress. I can only hope, should their fate befall me, I confront cancer with such magnanimity.

I am particularly in awe of Helen and Rajiv. For in addition to their dignity, I am enthralled with their love.

Helen (the names are changed, but the story is true) is a classic, dignified WASP. The remnants of a sturdy frame and authoritative bearing shine through her radiated form. A crisp Yankee accent; elegant yet undistinguished clothes; a generous, if discreet, smile. Helen arrives every day of her five-week regimen with Rajiv, a tiny, shriveled Indian man so much smaller than his wife, one might assume he is the patient. Rajiv defers to Helen in every way, yet the sparkle in her eyes when she gazes upon him reveals mutual appreciation.

The effort of getting from car to information desk exhausts Helen. I settle her into a wheelchair and navigate her to radiation oncology. Rajiv is too frail to push her himself. We take separate elevators: three people cannot maintain the required six-foot distance. During the sixty seconds Helen and I are alone in our cab, she speaks of her husband. “What would I do without Rajiv? That man is my strength. He is my miracle.” Every day, her accolades are variations on the same theme. Every day, she iterates them as if fresh news. Every day, when our respective elevators arrive at the ground floor and the two lovers set eyes upon one another again, they beam as if their separation had been months, not moments.

After I deposit Helen at her therapy I wonder, briefly, how Rajiv got dispensation to attend his wife’s appointments during this era of ‘no visitors.’ Far be it from me to let a mere virus come between them. Then I speculate, at greater length, about the origins this lovely couple.

Helen once told me they’d been married 52 years. I do the math: 1968. The height of social non-conformity. Yet, I wonder what Helen’s family thought when their daughter—easy to envision turning about a sailboat or stepping off a tennis court—brought home this small, dark man, with his high, quiet voice and retiring manners. I wonder even further back: what brought them together in the first place? Perhaps their physical and cultural differences provided the metal of their union. Some couples dissolve under pressure; others get fused by it.

I will never know. It is impossible to know such intimacy in the time it takes to wheel a person to radiation. Actually, it is impossible to ever know the vines that tangle two souls into love. The miracle of lover lies beyond human determination. Yet, it only takes a moment to witness love in its purest form. And rejoice in those who have found it.

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January 6 Vocabulary Quiz

Which definition best describes what occurred at the US Capitol on January 6:

A. An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government

B. Needless or willful damage or violence

C. A sudden decisive exercise of force in politics especiallythe violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group

These are three definitions from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary of words that express various forms of unrest.

If you selected ‘B’ you are in agreement with The Boston Globe’s recent headline, which describes the actions of January 6 as ‘mayhem.’ (‘A’ is the definition of insurrection; ‘C’ is a coup.)

True, what happened on January 6 was willful damage and violence. But it was so much more. It was a revolt against civil authority. It was a sudden exercise of force in the service of altering an existing government by a small group. It was beyond mayhem. It was insurrection. It was an attempted coup.

Why would The Boston Globe, not exactly a right-wing rag, headline such a misleading word less than a month after the most serious attack on our Capitol? The answer, I fear, is the same old, same old. Giving a pass to white guys.

When Black or Brown people take to the street, we are accustomed to their ‘demonstrations’ being rebranded as ‘protests,’ even ‘riots.’ We use words that escalate, even criminalize, their action. No one would use the word ‘mayhem’ to describe the 100 nights of protest in Portland, OR after George Floyd was killed.

But when white people storm the Capitol and successfully shut down the national government, the terror/insurrection/sedition they incite is downplayed by the label ‘mayhem.’

Let’s be clear. Mayhem is fun with an edge. Mayhem is WWF. Mayhem is a comic character hawking Allstate Insurance during NFL games. Mayhem is letting “boys be boys,” with a wink and nod and an acknowledgement that their silly antics are ultimately harmless. After all, these boys are our future, and we’re still proud of them.

Justice for the Capitol attack will only come when everyone involved, directly and indirectly, is held to account. Not because of the color of their skin. Because of the gravity of their acts. We the People have to keep the pressure on, because everyone in a position of influence and power, from Congress down to The Boston Globe, will find reason to backpedal the trespasses of these white attackers (who were disproportionately law enforcement officers and veterans as well). They will cast them as benign figures. Let’s be clear and insistent. Let’s call them out for what they are: domestic terrorists. Let’s call then out for what they did: sedition.

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Everyone’s a Little Bit Nazi

When this ‘Lefties are Nazi’s’ post appeared on my Facebook wall, I realized that extreme labels, stripped of their actual definition, retain only the power to divide and offend. I cannot provide any reasoning to this conflagration of errant history and twisted tongue. Instead, I offer this parody, based on “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” from Avenue Q. Enjoy!

(Note: I posted an audio/video link of the parody on You Tube, which was removed for violating hate speech. Such is fate when humorless algorithms determine content. I appealed the removal, so perhaps my rendition will see the light. Still, I suppose a song that promotes communication and love actually does violate the ‘community standards’ under which we live these days. In the meantime, if you would like to ‘hear’ the song, let me know and I forward the .mp3 file.)

Everyone’s a Little Bit Nazi

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi, its true

Even though we wrap our hatred in red white and blue

Look around and you will find

People crushing each other’s spine

To climb to the top of the higher-archy

To take all the goodies I can get for me.

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi, don’t you see

Pundits on the left just cancel anything they disagree…with

No racial jokes, no ethnic slurs

Every gender pronoun mistake deserves

A damning rant on your Facebook wall

To prove you’re the most woke bloke of all.

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi, I know

People on the right, their skin’s so white it glows

God and guns and traditions endure

To maintain a nation that’s pure

But if you betray one shadow of doubt

They will quickly snuff you out.

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi, today

But no will admit they’re Nazi, no way

When we spew that label of hate

We lose our chance to communicate

It’s easier to inflict that word

Then actually let someone be heard.

——

And listen. And be heard…in return.

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi, in our land

Everyone’s afraid to reach out…or up…or down…or over…and take someone’s hand

But one thing I know for certain.

Folks screaming ‘Nazi!’ are the one’s most hurtin’

So if someone throws slander at you

Take a moment to admit: ‘it’s a tiny bit true’

Then turn the tables and try to hear

The cry of person who’s lost in fear

Dominance is wired in our DNA

Doesn’t mean we have to act that way

Don’t forget the crimes of the Nazi regime

Or trivialize them to a meme

Consciously we can rise above

And choose to act in the spirit of love

——

Everyone’s a little bit Nazi. Just sayin’

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Come for the Activism; Stay for the Art

Steve McQueen. Not the bad-boy race car driver from The Great Escape, idolized by all guys over sixty for nabbing Ali MacGraw. The other Steve McQueen (officially Sir Steven Rodney McQueen CBE). The twenty-first century British filmmaker of Grenadian and Trinidadian descent who’s the polar opposite of last millennium Steve. Where American Steve McQueen is all frenzied pursuit, British Steve McQueen delivers deep stillness. His camera sits patient, documenting a passive black face so long, the inner rage rises through the skin and pierces our soul.

It was a no-brainer for me to hit ‘Play’ on Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s quintet of films about Caribbean immigrants in London during the 60’s and 70’s. The series got great reviews and aligns with my current anything-but-white-guy media jag. In the evening, my eyes are too tired for serious reading. I just want to watch.

Episode One, Mangrove, based on the real events of London police harassing a Trinidadian man uppity enough to open a restaurant in Notting Hill in the late 1960’s, is a full feature film. The riveting drama culminates in court room tension that feels both more genuine and more unsettling than Netflix’s recent The Trial of the Chicago 7. Devoid of Aaron Sorkin’s polished Hollywood, Mangrove is more authentic. Yet the scene that resonated in my head the following morning was a lingering image of restaurant debris, strewn across a floor beneath the soundtrack of a police raid. Mr. McQueen does not always show the violence. He makes us feel it.

Fearing more angina, I waited a few days before I attempted the second film, Lover’s Rock. No need for such worry. This delightful, affective film follows several loose stories about preparations and enactment of a house dance party in the 1970’s. The sound track is amazing, the camera work perfectly jittery. We are at the dance; from awkward first steps to joyous frenzy to tedious exhaustion. The young lovers who meet within the soundtrack are poignant and potentially tragic as any Romeo and Juliet. And though the reality of threats from within and without—sexual predators and thugs down the block—are never far away, the film has a rosy luster that speaks to every individual’s search for respite, for joy.

Red, White, and Blue. Back to a plot based on a true story: a Black police officer’s desire to reform the London Metropolitan Police from within, even as he suffers a father’s wrath and his community’s rejection for signing up with the enemy. Four hours into Small Axe I’m guilt-stricken by the sick consolation that the United States is not the only homeland of racial hatred, discrimination, and violence. Brutal systems of racial injustice exist everywhere. But Steve McQueen makes them real, personal, in his constant close-ups. Officer Leroy Logan’s matte, dark chocolate skin absorbs light, sucks us into his isolation. While his father’s lacquered black complexion refracts his anger at the endless oppression like a light saber brandished at warp speed.

Alex Wheatle picks up where Officer Logan left off: a young Black man entering prison. But the story of a total orphan abused by the supposed benevolent social system takes a welcome, positive spin. Perhaps because Mr. McQueen believes in the transformative power of Rastafarian, perhaps because hope wins out in the end, perhaps because this too, is based on a true story, which has a happy ending.

By now I realize that the films after Mangrove, are quite different than the initial offering. Shorter, more particular slices of life in Black London. The final film, Education, is similar in length and scope to two, three, and four. It’s also based on real events: an unofficial policy within London schools to transfer disproportionate numbers to Black students to ‘sub-normal’ schools. However, the plot and characters were created in service to the message, and the result is a bit preachy, almost documentary in style. Although I hear the message, Education does not rouse the empathic anger the other films evoke. Yet once again, Mr. McQueen’s most profound messaging comes from his camera’s stillness. The slow pan of a classroom of ‘sub-normal’ students: some jittery; some passive; our hero Kingsley bored to fatigue; while a pathetically useless teacher strums and drones a tortured version of ‘House of the Rising Sun.’ It’s an excruciating scene, minutes long. As the teacher warbles verse after verse of a song we all know, I found myself counting toward the end, wanting it to be over, yet unable to stop watching the tedious visualization of human potential lost. When the song finally comes to the end, and I breath a first sigh of relief, the teacher starts all over again. I gasp at the prospect of enduring it all again. While the children, unperturbed by this peculiar torture, submit in order to survive.

Watch Small Axe. All of the films. In order. Watch how human potential can be crushed. See it thrive anew.

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On the Inauguration of ’46: Heeding the Words of ‘2

“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.”

On this day of our nation’s rockiest Presidential Inauguration, I turn my thoughts to John Adams.

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”

George Washington served as our first President for eight years, so popular he could have continued on forever, yet he established the precedent of two terms and a graceful hand-off to his Vice-President. Four years after the first Number Two became the second Number One, John Adams had a far more distasteful task: to turn over the reins of an office he fought for and desired to his bitterest opponent: Thomas Jefferson.

“The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

If John Adams had a seditious bone in his body, he might have scripted an early version of ‘45’s playbook. Thankfully for us, he did not. In 1801, conducting a peaceful transition of power between ideological opposites was truly revolutionary.

“Power always sincerely, conscientiously…believes itself right. Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak.”

Among our Founding Fathers, John Adams cuts a peculiar figure. Short and stout, overbearing and righteous. (Adams bowed to Jefferson becoming President, but he did not attend the Inauguration and the two men remained bitter rivals. Adams’ last words are reported to be, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” when in fact, both men died on the same day, July 4, 1826.) Adams was unemotional, rational beyond bending, yet as devoted to his wife Abigail and their children as to his pursuit of freedom. One of the least wealthy Founding Fathers, John Adams lived a life of equality (he was an abolitionist who never owned slaves) even as his Federalist leanings and distrust of majority whim make him a potential poster child of today’s educated elite.

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.”

Yet in the ribald election of 1800, wealthy, slave-owning Jefferson successfully portrayed himself as the champion of the little man. Perhaps the earliest example of American voters selecting a leader based on what he says, rather than what he does.

“Power must never be trusted without a check.”

So today, as Joe Biden becomes our 46th President despite ten weeks of false claims of election fraud, an attempted judicial coup, and violent sedition, let us give thanks to John Adams for his courage and humility. To turn power over to a rival because we are:

 “A government of laws, and not of men.”

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Sons of Liberty

September 10, 2020

Cambridge, MA

A chilly drizzle sprinkles discomfort over our Black Lives Matter evening vigil. The number of people taking a knee since late May has shriveled to five. My meditation wanders from the horror of Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pinching George Floyd’s neck to whether—or why—we should keep this going. Gone are the halcyon summer days with dozens of kneelers, a parade of encouraging car horns, accolades from people of color, spontaneous applause. Summer’s collective energy has morphed into quiet persistence. The few souls who remain have incorporated 8:46 of public silence into our daily routine.

Our vigil might be the smallest in the Boston area, but it also might be the longest lasting. We bear witness every night. Because keeping injustice in the public eye is one small compass point in the spectrum of change. We don’t know which passersby we might influence. We are not supposed to know. We witness because it is the right thing for us to do. For our own fortitude. And because we trust that seeds of change germinate from bearing witness.

An elderly couple, a female couple, and me. All regulars. Not exactly friends, though each night our after-vigil conversations (masked and socially distanced) grow longer, more personal. During a pandemic in which prudence requires we remain apart from most everyone, I welcome our shared meditation, our after-knee encouragements. I doubt I would kneel alone, but as long as one or more neighbors come to the guardrail, I will join them.

A pick-up truck stops along the curb: very big; very new. It’s not uncommon for people to pull over; the odd intersection of one-ways where Huron Ave meets Fountain Terrace requires some people to double check reference points. The driver rolls down his window. Also not uncommon. People sometimes feel the need to talk with us, though we generally remain silent in response. He unloads venom in words I don’t print in this blog. Unusual, but not unique. Hecklers are emboldened when our numbers are small and their vehicles so protective. We don’t enjoy being yelled at, but there’s no actual threat. The driver remains in his seat of horsepower, and as soon as my timer sounds, 8:46 complete, he revs away.

I watch him roar off and I ponder our futile non-interaction. What if the driver remained? What if we talked? Really talked. Could we transcend our stereotypical roles of affluent elite and angry young man? Is there any connection, however slender, to begin to bridge the chasm between us?

That event actually happened. And it inspired me to conceive a different ending. To prompt the kneeler to speak up. To prompt the heckler out of his truck. To sit them down on a porch and drink a few beers. To stop seeing each other as ideological opposites, but as actual human beings. To seek out common ground.

The result is Sons of Liberty, an 80-minute, adult-themed, two-person play that takes place on a front porch in real time. Peter, an intellectually obtuse engineer, cajoles reluctant Daryl, an army vet and postal carrier, to his porch. They exchange predictable tropes of right versus left, educated elite versus working class bloke, until commonalities—the New England Patriots, the residue of divorce—scratch their antitheses. As their conversation ranges from political rant to personal revelation, the men oscillate between mutual distrust and reluctant acknowledgement. Their connection fuses when they discover related heroes. Daryl is a Revolutionary War reenactor in the thrall of fiery Sam Adams, while Peter is a student of Samuel’s hyper-rational cousin, John. The ability of two Founding Fathers with such disparate temperaments to collaborate toward a shared objective offers guidance for these two men to become, if not quite friends, mutually respectful citizens.

Since September 10, I have written several drafts of Sons of Liberty, workshopped the play with two sets of Boston-area actors, and shared it with a number of local and national theater groups. I am currently seeking opportunities for virtual readings or workshops, with an eye toward an actual live staging (someday soon?). The script is available on the National New Play Network, though I am also happy to share a .pdf directly.

Please contact me if you’re interested in reading Sons of Liberty, or if you know anyone or any group that might be interested in developing this play, prescient to this moment in our history.

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What We Allow, We Enable

This is the letter I sent to my Representative and Senators regarding the Capitol insurrection on January 6. Feel free to use any or all portions with which you concur in reaching out to your own elected officials.

January 10, 2020

Dear Senators Markey and Warren,

Dear Representative Clark,

What we allow, we enable.

We allowed domestic terrorists to storm our Capitol. We allowed them to disrupt a peaceful government process. We allowed them to enter, deface, and ransack out nation’s most prominent public symbol.

It is only dumb luck for us that they were so disorganized. They had no real plan. The next time we allow such a breach, the terrorists may not be so aimless. Insurrection could result in actual coup.

Therefore, we must act now so we never enable them again. We must make clear—this week, before any subsequent events (already advertised for January 17) take place—that every person and organization involved in this terrorism will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law:

1. Remove Donald Trump from office. He committed treason by inciting this violence. Voluntary resignation, the 25th Amendment, impeachment: whatever method is required.

2. Identify, arrest, and try to the fullest extent of law every person who forcibly entered the Capitol.

3. Identify every person from the Executive branch, member of Congress, elected official, self-appointed leader, financial supporter, and media influencer who championed this insurrection. Make public their involvement. Arrest and try to the fullest extent of law.

4. Formally censure all members of the House of Representatives and Senate who voted to sustain objections against the electoral college results, even after the insurrection was over and government resumed. They misused their power of this valid Constitutional check. Their ongoing insistence of unproven claims of election irregularity fuel further lawlessness. They are complicit in what happened, and will be complicit in any further illegal behavior.

5. Investigate why law enforcement branches frequently utilized to check large protests were ‘called off’ from this one. The scale and intent of this demonstration, turned insurrection, was well-advertised in advance, yet the law enforcement response was tepid. Any complaisance between an arm of law enforcement and these terrorists should be investigated, made public, and tried to the full extent of the law.

6. With regards to the Capitol Police, I suggest a different tact. Here we have an opportunity to move beyond public shaming and convicting insurgents. Here we have an opportunity to redefine policing that is strong yet just. Since the Capitol Police are part of the Federal Government, I suggest that Congress develop a model policing program, formulated to include the full range police tools with an emphasis on non-violent response, applied equitably across all citizens. I suggest that all current members of the Capitol Police be terminated, then given the option of reapply to the force, along with other citizens who demonstrate capacity to practice equitable policing. The reconstituted Capitol Police should be trained to protect our Capitol in a manner applied equally to all citizens, regardless of race, gender, economic strata, or political persuasion. It is important that citizens can convene at our Capitol, make their concerns known, and protest. It is equally important that no one be allowed to breach the Capitol and disrupt government process. The Capitol Police need to ensure and accommodate peaceful protest for all citizens, yet stand fast against anyone who attempts to invade. Recreating the Capitol Police is a perfectly scaled ‘pilot’ for overdue police reform throughout the nation. It could offer one positive result of January 6th’s seditious violence.

What we allow, we enable.

We must act now to make clear the violence of January 6 will not be tolerated. And then use the horror of that day to move from our current divisions toward our Founders’ vision: a more perfect union.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your action on each of these six points.

Sincerely,

Paul E. Fallon

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Ditties from the Info Desk: Seeking the Vaccine

A tall elderly man approaches the desk. Patrician in bearing, not a millimeter lost to the gravity of age.

“I’d like to find out how to get the vaccine.”

“Do you work at the hospital, sir?”

“No, but I’m seventy-five.”

“At this time, the hospital administers vaccines to health-care workers according to the governor’s priorities.”

“But I’d like to get one.”

“I suggest you review the guidelines to find your priority. Perhaps you can contact your physician.”

The gentleman gives me a look I’ve seen before, though usually from immigrants or non-English speakers, folks unfamiliar with American culture. A bafflement, an incomprehension of a world that mistreats him. He opens his mouth. I sense that he wants to protest, to argue, to have his way. But he can’t voice the injustice to me: another aging, albeit less distinguished looking, white guy. Besides, pubic displays of anger are likely not his style. The man turns and leaves. Withholding a polite, ‘thank you” is the extent of visible protest. But I feel his brain spin in disbelief. He is accustomed to being the first in line.

——————–

I staff the information desk at my local hospital a few days a week. The parade of people who enter a hospital provide fascinating glimpses into the vagaries of human experience. I occasionally share vignettes with my readers, stripped of identifying markers, which illustrate and sometimes delight.

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