Monday, February 16, 2015

Winter of Our Discontent

     Shakespeare had it right; winter breeds discontentment. Here in New England it has bred a form of malady combining boredom with depression.  Glorious, is it not? Let’s go with Not.

     I never believed that I would live through another winter like the one I enjoyed in 1978.  As a small child, I played blissfully in the snow and enjoyed staying home away from schoolwork.  I recall picking up my head, gazing out the window at the snow storm and going back to sleep.  It was blissful knowing that my biggest concern would be making sure my feet and hands stayed relatively dry as I formed perfect snowballs for our growing fort outside.  That was glorious. 

     The blizzard of 2015 isn’t creating the same memories.  For one, I’m an adult working and struggling to get into my office in Cambridge, MA.  We Rhode Islanders have had approximately 4 feet of snow fall on us.  However, our Massachusetts brethren have had 7 feet of snow.  They are at the deep end of the pool while we can be moderately comfortable in the shallow end.  Of course, we are all freezing equally. 

     For me, the worst part of this winter is dealing with the MBTA and the ongoing issues with all their trains. While I believe the CEO was scapegoated for the sins of the organization (most of the issues and maladies of the organization existed prior to her employment), I don’t see her stepping down as changing any of the issues at hand.  First off, the MBTA needs to replace the engines on several of the commuter lines as well as the inner city trains.  You can only do so much to repair old technology.  It’s becoming the equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. Second, they need to retrofit several of the stations.  I have repeatedly sent notes to the MBTA through Twitter (they often respond) regarding the horrendous conditions at the South Attleboro MA station.  My understanding is that there is some sort of question over who is responsible for stations on the commuter lines.  The tracks are shared by Amtrak as well as being housed on town/city lands.  From what I have gathered, South Attleboro is being told that the maintenance and repair of their station is in their hands.  However, the MBTA and Amtrak also have a stake in the property.  If this argument stands, then why did the city of Attleboro retrofit their station and update the location completely?  While I did put a bug in the ear of a young Channel 10 reporter and advise her to chase the story, I don’t see much activity in place to change anything.  Of course, the MBTA will more than likely raise the rates (again) for the commuter rail services.  Pathetic.

Friday, January 30, 2015


           I receive job listings via email from an electronic Brown University job board that includes work from all over the state of Rhode Island.  It’s something I signed up for more than a year ago while looking for full time work.  Here is the one thing I have noticed about it: most of the positions are listed as part time.  However, the descriptions are clearly describing a full time post, but offer very low pay and no benefits.

            I find this deplorable.  It is obvious that some organizations and corporations are seeking people willing to work for pittance. They are taking advantage of the “sellers market” concept by doing this.  What has happened to our country that this is an acceptable practice? 

            The state of Rhode Island has very few full time paying positions available in any field.  However, I sincerely doubt that Brown students are considering applying for the jobs posted on that board upon graduation.  Any college student in the state would be less than excited about applying for a part time position that offers so little.  This is especially true if one has had to take out numerous loans to pay for the education.  For a state with a large number of higher-education intuitions it is often noted that the students don’t lay down roots here. Gee, I wonder why?

According to the government statistics, our state unemployment rate was 7.4% as of October 2014.  I suspect that it was even higher.  Why? Simple – the numbers reflect the people collecting unemployment, but just because the government financial support ends doesn’t mean that people have secured employment.  It just means that they can no longer collect funds through unemployment. 

Rhode Island has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country.  Our state is very small and it has become necessary for those who live here to seek full time employment opportunities in different states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.  With opportunities presenting success elsewhere and the positions in the state offering incredibly low pay, how is financial recovery and growth even in sight?


This isn’t just a Rhode Island issue; it’s an American issue. I don’t understand how employers justify a course of action that will ultimately ruin the country.  If  the American people cannot survive, never mind thrive, with one full time position that offers the opportunity to feed, house, clothe and care for ourselves and our families; are compelled to take multiple low paying positions that offer no benefits and are forced to purchase said benefits due to government regulations; are unable to educate our children due to the destruction of the public school system and elevated cost of higher-education,  how can our country grow? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Year, New Goals

        Happy 2015 everyone! While the new year has been in full swing for the past 2 weeks, I’ve been spending a great deal of time fighting off another head cold.  This has caused me to delay my writing.  I know, I know, I need a strict editor with a deadline.  I’ll do my best to make up for this delay.

As with most of us, I am greeting 2015 with a new outlook and a distinct group of goals that may look familiar.  First off, I plan to focus on my health and fitness.  While it may take a bit of time, this begins with getting rid of this cold 100%.  A leaky face isn’t a pretty thing.

My goal for 2015 is to be my physical best.  This isn’t the same thing as loosing a certain of weight (although, I do admit that is part of it).  I want to continue with my Pilates and boot camp routines adjusting them as my teachers changed venues.  Of course, my schedule has changed as well.  Now that I am a commuter, it’s more difficult to get in the groove of things.  I get very tired and am still in the process of adjusting to this time change.  However, I won’t let this prevent me from doing these fabulous physical activities. 

Second, I’d like to explore more and travel is a big new focus for me. Part of my plan is to save funds to travel by curtailing my usual foot ware purchases. Yes, I love shoes and have a tendency to own more than my fair share of them. I have an addiction to John Fluevog kicks and I won’t give that up!  However, I don’t need to own so many shoes and wear them infrequently.  I’d rather wear the ones I currently own and travel with them.  Better to have my shoes walk on new streets than stay in boxes in the closet.

Third, I plan on writing frequently and hopefully creating valuable essays worthy of a reader’s attention.  Only you can all tell me if I accomplish that goal, so I will check in with you all at the end of the year for a wrap up.  Hopefully, some of you will post a remark or two on this blog. 

Meanwhile, tell me what your goals are for 2015. I’d love to hear what everyone is plotting and planning.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas in a Little City

    There is something sweet about a little city during the holidays.  Decorations are all over the main portion of down town, the park is a winter wonderland filled with Christmas trees all a glow with multi-colored strings of lights and Santa Claus makes his annual appearance to greet the kids.   There is a special feeling in the air around this time.  People seem to smile more, be friendlier and generally kinder.  Perhaps it’s all of the holiday good will and tidings of joy spread through music and movies.  Or maybe it’s fueled by the scents coming out of the local bakeries as they create decadent sweets for holiday consumption. Whatever it cause, it is nice to have more good and happy things surrounding us as the holiday approaches.

      Life here is a short one.  There is enough evil in the world to keep the media humming along for an eternity.  Right now, I’m thankful for the brief reprise of this in my little city where the local folk are all pleasantly getting along as we prepare for St. Nick’s arrival.

      It’s hard to imagine that another year is about to pass. Time is truly fleeting.  As we get ready to leave 2014 behind, look towards the future with all the possibilities it brings. My personal goal for 2015 is to write a great deal more as my blog submissions have waned a bit the past 2 months. 

No matter what you celebrate, I wish you all a very happy holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Peace, Love & Joy to you all.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Media Feeding Frenzy

            I’ve been watching a great deal of television over the past week while fighting off a bad bout of bronchitis. (There’s a tongue twister for you.) My favorite shows have been on PBS and are mostly documentaries.  The latest series from Ken Burns on the Roosevelts has been captivating.  The subject has been so interesting that I watched Hyde Park on the Hudson on demand as well.

            While it can be said that we don’t have true royals in America, we do have families akin to the aristocracy.  Families such as the Roosevelts, Vanderbelts, Astors, Kennedys and even the Hiltons have captured the imagination of our culture.  What I have found most interesting is the way the media has or has not documented behaviors or images of these families.

            Specifically, I find it telling that the journalists of the depression era chose not to show the American public that FDR suffered a loss of his mobility after fighting polio.  His legs were in braces; he was not able to walk and often had to be carried by a trusted bodyguard to move from one area to another.  Can you imagine if this were the case today?

            The media frenzy around photographing this type of event would be deplorable.  There would probably be incentives thrown at employees by media giants to capture the image.  Never mind that this was the President of the United States.  In today’s climate, everyone is fare game.

            It makes me wonder what happened to our society to have this become the norm?  When the price of fame – be it political fame or entertainment based or just due to extreme wealth – is a lack of privacy.  I wonder.  Yes, some people in those categories behave horribly and in those instances, I understand having the media focus on them.  If someone is embezzling, violent or unfaithful it’s horrible.  Still, the question remains – should this be exposed to the public?


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ambien Man

            I read an article sent out by the Today Show on Face Book regarding the sleep aid Ambien.  It highlighted the odd behavior patterns people display while asleep who take the drug.  The woman who was the focus of the piece would sleep walk, eat, and shop online all while under the influence of Ambien.  These behaviors presented while she was in a different state of consciousness.  Disturbing enough but it gets worse, for she didn’t recall any of these actions in the morning. 

            Several years ago, I have had personal experience with Ambien.  A man I was seeing at the time was taking the drug.  It slowly became clear to me that I was involved with two different men: one pre-Ambien and one post-Ambien. 

            In the early stages of the relationship, what we call a “honeymoon phase,” things were close to perfect.  Naturally this changes over time.  However, I began to grow confused by his conduct as he frequently displayed contrasting behavior.  A clear picture began to emerge one evening when I spent the night.  He decided we should watch a movie in bed.  I watched as he made popcorn in the kitchen, went over to a cabinet, popped a pill in his mouth, swallowed the remains of a glass of wine and made his way to the bedroom.  We were in the bed with the popcorn conversing when he nodded off for a moment and then popped open wide-awake.  It was like a computer rebooting itself.  After this, he started to talk differently.  His tone and attitude completely changed.  Suddenly, he was open, confessing that he was “crazy about me” and that I should consider “moving in with him.”  It was so unlike him – he was generally guarded emotionally and didn’t share what he was thinking.  I questioned him cautiously at that point.  I asked the one question I thought would answer all of this; “Did you take an Ambien?”  His response was yes that he had taken one before the movie started, noting that I was in the room when he had done so.  I asked him why and he stated that it takes a while to work.  Clearly, he was wrong. 

            The drug Ambien took away his guarded behavior.  He spoke openly and freely about his feelings toward me as well as life in general.  Additionally, he became an insatiable lover who focused on my needs.  He made sure these were met before he completely passed out.  I must admit, this side effect was a well-received pleasure for me. 

            The problem was when morning came he didn’t remember any of this.  He would accuse me of making up stories when I told him things he had said and done the night before.  Sadly he returned to his normal state of guarded, defensive behavior with the sunrise.  I began to recognize that I preferred the Ambien man to the Awake guy.  Ambien man was a dream: sweet, giving and emotionally available.  Awake guy turned out to be a self-absorbed, arrogant ass.  It was a twisted play on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde minus murder.  Eventually, I ended the relationship. 

Although doctors state Ambien is for short-term use it appears to be an easy drug to become addicted to.  As in the story from Today, people can switch doctors to extend the use of sleep aids.  I have not been Mr. Ambien Man’s life for quite some time and I have no idea if he continued to use the drug.  Clearly this powerful sleep aid has many odd effects on the human body and should be studied further.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Proud Feminist

       This entry is overdue, as I must give credit to Emma Watson on her moving and poignant speech at the UN on gender equality in September.  Her involvement in the HeForShe Campaign highlights my discussion on this matter in a previous entry in Tales of a Little City titled A Woman’s Place posted on September 2, 2014.  I am proud to see a strong young woman give a voice to the Feminist movement.

        I think the fact that a young intelligent woman as Watson is aware and open to speaking up says a great deal about her character.  It was wonderful to read the outpouring of support from others, both male and female, to her speech.  Instead of repeating all she stated, I am happy to provide the link to her speech from the official United Nations youtube site. Watch her, applaud her efforts and pray that things actually change.