Wednesday, October 11, 2017

ATA



Thank you Madeleine, for your beautiful piece about Ata’s departure.

I will now add my own eulogy.

Just in case, here is a brief explanation: Our mother died in the Netherlands about four weeks ago. The weeks that followed were enormously hectic. There was a funeral to organize, obituaries, real estate transactions, dealings with banks, packing, dispatching, all of this in a land six thousand miles away from my home and my office. I have now finally returned home, exhausted. The flight to Los Angeles alone took over thirteen hours, before connecting to Sacramento. Writing and posting a brief eulogy for my mother for the blog was something I simply couldn’t get to until now.

This essay is basically a description of what happened, along with some musings about families and life.

But first, a brief comment about my “feelings:” Since Ata’s death on September 15, just two days shy of her 104th birthday, I have felt curiously numb rather than devastated. This is possibly due to how very busy I have been ever since. Read more...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ata is gone

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I usually skyped with Ata on Tuesday mornings. My 103 year old mother and I established this routine, since she lived in the Netherlands and I live on the other side of the ocean, in Boston, Massachusetts.

During what turned out to be the last skype conversation we had, we talked for quite a while about her upcoming 104th birthday and about more ‘philosophical’ subjects. She always had ‘big’ questions, whether the universe is infinite and how bees know how to find their way back to the hive. As she got older, Ata’s curiosity about the world had only increased. Her eyesight had deteriorated and she could only see blobs, but her photographer’s eye amply filled the blanks. A black blob in the sky turned into a beautiful phoenix, the clouds were angels floating by. A flock of birds were there to carry a message to her mother, who died at age 98.

The less she could see, the stronger her imagination became. She could no longer read about science or world events, but kept asking herself those big questions, marveling at the world as if she was just discovering it. She had turned her mind into a kind of perpetual mobile, which did not require outside sources for input, since she could no longer rely on them, other than talk to us and her numerous friends.

Both my brother Tom and my twin sister Juliette were going to fly over to celebrate her birthday. In fact, Tom was already sitting in an airplane. I had just returned from another trip a week before and felt I could wait till November to visit. We liked to ‘stagger’ our visits, so Ata would have more time with her three children. Read more...

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Kauai

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It’s not easy to be on vacation in Kauai, especially when you are used to a wintery life in Boston, Massachusetts. It is one of those experiences that makes your dulled senses wake up with a jolt. The minute my husband and I step out of the airport in Lihue after a 14-hour journey, we are bombarded with the dizzying scent of tropical vegetation and the sounds and colors of a world that for us, only exists on postcards.

We pick up our rental car, a Jeep of course, so we can take off the roof and fry in the sun as we cruise over the island. It takes us another hour to get to the North Shore, where we will be staying in a rented condo in a resort-type area called Princeville. On the way there, we drive through a grove where the scent of rain, jungle and guava makes our head spin - we never knew anything could smell so good.

We fumble in the dark, as we key in the door code and after several tries manage to enter the apartment. We open the sliding doors to the balcony and step out onto what feels like the bow of a ship. Surrounded by the sound of the surf under a star studded sky, we try to absorb our new surroundings in a jetlagged stupor. A few geckos scurry away under the furniture as we turn on the light. Read more...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Game of Thrones:Metaphor for America Anno 2017



 By now, I am no longer the only one who sees a parallel between the Game of Thrones’ White Walkers and Donald Trump’s “base.” But the analogy occurred to me quite some time ago, so I still claim originality.

The epiphany hit me several weeks ago. The analogy fits. I suddenly realized that Game of Thrones is about the titanic struggle between the resurgent forces of neo-fascism in America, and the rest of us.

In this show, the greatest threat of all are the White Walkers. I suddenly realized that these represent the Trump base!

Think about it: On August 12, we saw the Trump base in action again. A group of white supremacist-KKK-David Duke-following-confederate-flag-waving neo-Nazis held a violent demonstration, murdering an innocent young woman and hurting many others. Read more...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Overseas Travel: Fun, with some Pain



 My wife Anita and I go to Italy a lot, usually by way of Holland and France. My mother (now 104 years old) lives in Holland, so each year we first spend a couple of weeks with her and then we travel South. We feel that pound for pound, Italy has more to offer tourists than any other country, closely followed by France.

Intercontinental travel gets harder with age. But we haven’t thrown in the towel yet by just going on cruises and organized tours. We still run around Europe independently by car, by train and by airplane. This usually leads to some unsettling experiences.

The last time we flew to Rome from Holland, we had our first “interesting” experience immediately upon landing at Fumicino airport late in the evening:

After deplaning, we both hit the first toilet we could find, a fairly common practice. Then, we proceeded towards baggage claim. Only AFTER we were outside the security area did we realize that Anita - who is diabetic - had inadvertently left her insulin pack in the bathroom which she had just visited. Read more...

Friday, August 18, 2017

American Fascism, Donald Trump and the Slippery Slope



 No day goes by without one more outlandish behavior by our non-President. Howard Dean said it well the other day: Currently, America does not have a functioning president. There is guy who got elected to the White House by accident. No rational person seriously views him as a real President. He is something else - a celebrity, an actor, an oddity, something else. We and the rest of the world have to live with this for the foreseeable future, but this country is now essentially without a functioning president.

A good illustration of this is the flap about Charlottesville: A group of racist Nazi white-supremacist KKK fascists held a rally, they were confronted by a group that opposes racism, violence ensued, the fascists murdered a young woman.

Then, Trump argued in front of the entire planet that both “sides” were equally at fault. Read more...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea



We just returned from a three-week Hawaiian vacation and I am happy to resume blogging.

When starting up again, the first question is, what shall I write about? The choice is always between something fun, like a travel story, or something grisly, like Trump or North Korea.

Unfortunately, I have to select the latter, since our blog is primarily about current affairs. So right now, I am going to talk about the most important issue in the world today. Next time I’ll tell you about some of our funny experiences on our recent trips. The most important thing in the world today is the face-off between two lunatics - Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I am not engaging in moral equivalency between the US and North Korea, or between the two countries’ regimes. The US, despite its unhinged President, remains a functioning democracy. North Korea is an indescribably totalitarian, militarized insane asylum. Read more...