Wills vs the TSA

Hi!  My name is Willie or Wills.  Mom sometimes calls me Wills after Prince William.  She says I have a royal attitude!  I think that’s a good thing.   Although I am a rescue, I think I am mostly Norwegian Forest Cat.  That means that my ancestors were working cats on the ships that sailed from Norway to Maine… they were the mariner mousers!  Yesterday was my birthday.  I am 14 in cat years, or 73 years in equivalent human years.  I guess I better get the app ready for joining AARC.  As a special birthday present Mom said I could write a blog today to tell you a little about myself.

I moved to Maine three years ago in January.  My first Mom (my current Mom’s Mom) was sick and had to move to a place where she could get lots of care and couldn’t take me.  Mom flew down from Maine to visit Mom (this is getting confusing) in Maryland and it was decided that I had to give up my bachelor pad and move to Maine.  We gathered up my medical records and a few “happy pills,” an airline approved carrier and a plane ticket.  Mom was really mad because my ticket was only $1 less than hers and I didn’t even get my own seat!  How fair is that?  I didn’t even have luggage!!

We spent a few days practicing in the carrier.  Mom thought that serving me meals in a carrier, and throwing my cat nip toys in there would make me happily run into the carrier when it was time to go to the airport.  What a dumb bunny Mom is!  She doesn’t understand cats at all.  We get through life by making our owners feel secure that we will do exactly what they want, and then at the critical moment we surprise them by exerting our independence!  It took three people an hour and a half to get me into that carrier.  They were yelling things like “we’re going to miss our flight” and “Damn it Willie, get in there!” getting really rough toward the end.  Anyway, the best was yet to come…

Mom slid her hand in the zippered opening and dropped in a treat (which was really a pill pocket – I’m no dumb cat).  I was so exhausted from playing with them for ninety minutes that I ate it.  We left my old apartment and headed for the airport.  I think we were speeding to make up time, but I was getting as furry inside my head as I was on the outside of my head, so I didn’t care!  We arrived at BWI with enough time to get to the gate but Mom was hustling!  We checked in at the counter with our tickets.  When they asked for a photo ID Mom provided my vet records with a color picture of me so they knew I was me, and not a terrorist cat.  The grumpy lady at the counter just handed it back to Mom and said, “I don’t need this.”  As we walked away from the counter, Mom mumbled something about people in Baltimore not having a sense of humor.

We got to the area for TSA security at BWI.  Mom and I got in a line with grey bins that went through a machine.  Everybody took off their shoes… I think Pepé le Pew was on our flight… I was choking and gagging at the smell!  YUCK-E-E-E!!!  Mom wasn’t quite sure what to do with my carrier.  A TSA agent came over and said, “Ma’am, you’re going to have to take the cat out of the carrier.  We can’t x-ray the carrier with the cat in it.”  Mom was picturing three people trying to get me in the carrier for ninety minutes and said, “No.  I can’t take the cat out of the carrier.”  Mr. TSA called over a supervisor.  Now, scroll back to the top of the page… is that not the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen?  What harm could I do?  I’m a cat for Pete’s sake (who’s Pete?).  I put my paws up against the mesh on the front of the carrier, “See, bare paws, I took my shoes off… so what’s your problem??”

We were escorted to a little room off to the side.  We were left with two female TSA agents.  “Ex-cuse-e-e-e Me!  I’m a boy!!  I demand a male agent!!”  Mom took me out of the carrier since we were in a tiny room and I couldn’t get away, ferocious man eating feline that I am.  Everyone expected me to start hissing and growling and fighting to get away.  My happy pill had taken effect and I just collapsed like a rag doll over Mom’s shoulder.

One of the Ms. TSA agents took the carrier out to x-ray it to be sure I wasn’t hiding a bomb in my cat nip toy and blankie.  The other one asked Mom to hold me up and away from her body.  She waved a magic wand over me… up one side and down the other.  Then, wait till you hear this… then she put the wand down and started to pat me all over.  Can you believe this horrendous abuse of power?  This woman is just grabbing at my fur and touching my handsome male self without being invited!!  I wanted so bad to fight this injustice, but my happy pill just left me hanging there with my head bobbing up and down and my body limp.

Finally, they put me back in my carrier and we were on our way.  When we got to my new home in Maine I met Misty the cat and two giant furry things Mom called dogs.  I had never met one of them before.  Oh well, maybe I can write again and share some more stories… have a pur-r-r-fect day!

Rim Walkers II ~ Oscar Hammerstein II

This is the second in a planned sporadic series of blogs in which I discuss people I call Rim Walkers.  Rim Walkers are those who live and work “out of the box.”  They are authentic souls who can only function when they are “walking their talk.”  Rim Walkers do not accept that anything is impossible.  They believe they just have not found the correct path to their desired goals, be they individual or social.  Rim Walkers are comfortable “living against the grain.”  They will stand up against the norm, make no apologies, and in hindsight, they will have moved society in a positive direction.  Rim Walkers move the world in a direction, and to a place, it didn’t know it needed to go.  Rim Walkers change the world.

My plan for the evening was to sit with my feet up and read.  I thought, “let me turn on the TV for a few minutes to unwind, then I’ll read.”  I poured myself a glass of ginger ale, plopped in the recliner, pushed back, and petted Willie (cat who had just jumped into my lap) with one hand while I scanned through a few channels with the remote in the other.  I stopped when I hit the New Hampshire PBS station (they were fund raising) to catch a few minutes of a show about Oscar Hammerstein II ~ Out of My Dreams.

I was stopped by comments about Hammerstein’s humanity being written into all of his lyrics.  They discussed the fact that when he saw injustice, he confronted it in word and action.  They said he used his work as a lyricist as an outlet for his social activism.  WHAT???  Oscar Hammerstein wrote fluffy little musicals containing songs with simple lyrics and dancing cowboys and girls in gingham dresses singing to the sunrise on a ranch in Oklahoma, World War II nurses trying to “wash that man out of their hair,” and an English widowed teacher who teaches the King of Siam to dance… 1, 2, 3…1, 2, 3…  He wrote great songs that years later we can remember the words to… he thoroughly entertained us… he provided great musicals for every theater from Broadway to the local high school or summer camp to entertain us with. But a social activist???  Get a grip!!!

This show proceeded to delve into the person behind the lyrics.  Hammerstein was a “sort of” former neighbor from Bucks County, Pennsylvania where I spent half of the years I have been alive on this earth.  I was captivated and invited to look beneath the surface of what I had determined since childhood, was fluffy song and dance theater.  What I discovered was, Oscar Hammerstein was so good at what he did, we never caught him doing it!

I saw South Pacific as a musical love story.  It is.  It also is a story about racism and interracial and intercultural relationships.  Without being overt, Hammerstein began to lay the groundwork for acceptance of all races and cultures.  Through the song “You’ve Got To Be Taught” Cable tells us:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Oscar Hammerstein used his lyrics to create memorable musicals that make us sing for weeks afterward, tap our feet, and feel good.  He also shares his philosophy of acceptance, child rearing and bringing families together.  These themes run through all of Hammerstein’s work.

In the King & I Yul Brenner plays a king with power and absolute authority (not to mention a male chauvinist).  The “King” was not unlike many of the world leaders in places much larger than the mythical Siam.  Here comes Deborah Kerr, a British widow who comes to Siam to teach his children and she has the audacity to challenge his thoughts, behaviors and authoritarian demeanor.  By the end of the musical she succeeds in softening the King, making him more liberal and more of a humanitarian.  He even learns to dance in the process.

Oscar had notable neighbors.  He was friends and neighbors with both James Michener and Pearl S. Buck.  James Michener’s novel “Tales of the South Pacific” was the basis for Hammerstein’s musical “South Pacific.”  They were both, along with neighbor Pearl Buck, committed to racial and cultural equity.  In 1954, James Michener married Mari Sabusawa, a Japanese American who, with her family, was confined to an internment camp in Colorado.  The same year South Pacific debuted, Pearl Buck founded Welcome House which was committed to finding adoptive families for Asian and Asian American children, many of whom were  abandoned by American servicemen.  These children were considered “half-breeds” or “hybrids” and were not accepted in either Asian or American culture.  Buck devoted her life to finding loving homes for biracial and cross cultural children.  Michener himself adopted two biracial children through Welcome House.  Two of Hammerstein’s grandchildren were adopted through Welcome House.

An interesting side note, Oscar Hammerstein II was writing until his death from stomach cancer in 1960, just prior to The Sound of Music opening on Broadway.  The last song he wrote before he died was Edelweiss.  Many people, myself included, thought that was the Austrian national anthem or an authentic folk song of Austria.  Now that is a convincing story teller.

I am grateful for not getting my reading done this evening!  I have learned new things about former neighbors and their roles in presenting a new cultural identity for American in a period of history where these ideas were not, when blatantly thrown in your face, accepted.  Hammerstein, Michener and Buck all laid the groundwork for ideological changes that are still evolving.  They are all Rim Walkers.

As the program finished I jumped on the computer realizing that the national touring cast of South Pacific will be in Portland next week.  I’ll be putting aside my green beer and Irish music for the evening and enjoying a performance of South Pacific to see the production with new eyes.

Photo of Oscar Hammerstein II from Wikipedia.com

Lent: To Give or To Give Up??

It is Lent.  For those who grew up in a culture where Lent meant giving up that which you loved the best – sweets, perhaps a favorite cocktail, video games, shopping for your favorite guilty pleasure, or, these days, an electronic toy.

The custom of “giving it up for Lent” dates back to the middle ages when Ash Wednesday would mark the beginning of Lent and a period of sacrifice ending on Easter Sunday.  For many, “giving it up for Lent” is only slightly more successful than a new year’s resolution.  For others who were not raised with this predominantly Catholic tradition, Lent passes eating no guilt cheeseburgers on Friday with friends who are chomping away on a McFish sandwich.  In addition to the sacrifice of choice, in the Catholic church there is to be no meat consumed on Fridays.

Last Sunday, columnist Bill Nemitz wrote an article for the Maine Sunday Telegram about a program at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  Rev. Timothy Boggs explained their congregation’s approach to Lent, a “Compassionate Cross.”  At St. Alban’s, they are asked to give rather than give up.  Right inside the door to the church is a large cross.  The cross is covered with colored index cards.  On each of the colored cards is the name of a local social service agency.  Additionally, there is a wish list for that agency.  Perhaps they need office supplies or kitchen equipment, perhaps they need a volunteer for outreach work, or perhaps they need a driver with a car to provide transportation.  The colored cards are also presented online.

Trying to visualize the cross with all of the multicolored cards attached made me think of the Christmas tree we had set up at work.  Tied to the tree as ornaments were mittens made of construction paper which contained the age and gender of someone with a “most needed” item for Christmas.  Employees took the mittens from the tree, purchased the requested items, wrapped them and they were confidentially delivered to neighbors in need.  So it is with the cards on the cross.

A contact person in the congregation called every agency they could locate, described their plan and asked them to share their wish list.  This is a win-win situation for all involved.  Rather than giving up desserts for Lent, this congregation is asked to give of themselves to a community in need.  It goes beyond writing a check to a local charity.  It asks that they contact the agency, learn about what they do and what they need, and how they can come face to face and form a relationship with agencies and members of their community.  All humans crave “belonging.”  The Compassionate Cross opens the door to enlarge their definition of community and lend a hand to neighbors and agencies that are less and less able to meet community needs each budget cycle.  This is a plan that could easily work regardless of denomination or spiritual ideology.  It’s called humanity.

If you feel the need to “step away from the cheesecake” by all means do so.  Put down the fork, reach out to your neighbor and make a sacrifice for Lent that really matters.  Better yet, make it a part of your lifestyle…

Have any of you seen, or heard of, an alternative to the traditional Lenten sacrifices?