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Friday, March 19, 2010

One Kindness Really Can Make a Difference


By Abby Reilly

It was the first warm weekend of the year and everyone was out and about in town. I was working at the bagel shop and the warm weather had brought in all kinds of customers. We were short-staffed and there was a line of customers to the door waiting for bagels and coffee.

It was one of the most stressful weeks I’d had in a very long time. My boyfriend had been admitted to the hospital earlier that week, and I had mid-terms and papers breathing down my neck. After class I would race to the hospital to visit Greg and then rush to work. I was working extra that weekend because my co-worker had to attend a funeral. I had to work doubles both Saturday and Sunday and I was physically and mentally exhausted.

The bagel shop was so busy that day we almost ran out of bagels. We close at 3 p.m. and I was trying to catch up on all the cleaning and work that had to be done before I left. I filled the whole sandwich bar and put covers on all the cream cheese containers. I mopped the floor, finished the dishes, and counted the tips. Around 2:45 two boys about my age strolled in and I thought to myself, can’t they eat somewhere else? We were closing in 15 minutes and I had just put everything away!

One ordered a sesame bagel toasted with bacon horseradish cream cheese and a medium coffee with cream and sugar. The other got a sesame bagel toasted with hummus, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and extra Swiss. I rang them out and told them to have a nice day and prayed that no one else would come in and bother me before we closed.

Five minutes later a couple more people straggled in last minute to grab some lunch, I was getting so annoyed. Then I saw the boy who had walked in earlier, the one who got the bagel with hummus and Swiss. I thought, dear God, what could he want now? He better not be complaining about something. He waited patiently in line and when it was his turn he said, “I just want you to know that I order that bagel often and that was the best I’ve ever had. I realize that you were closing soon but I just wanted to thank you for putting the extra effort into my lunch anyway!”

I stood there, completely surprised. “Thank you,” I said.

He walked out. His compliment gave me the extra energy I needed to finish my job and leave there with a smile. I was glad that someone had appreciated what I done so much. It gave me a boost of confidence and helped me go on with my day. All because some kid went out of his way to tell me he liked his sandwich.

I believe that a little kindness can go a long way and if everyone simply said thank you or complimented others more often the world would be a much better place.

Abby Rielly grew up in Kinderhook, New York. An art major at the University at Albany, State University of New York, she was inspired to write this story by her weekend job working at Bagel Tyme.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Callie, Again


By Dan Beauchamp

When our retriever Dexter died in September of 2008, shortly after we returned to Bisbee, Arizona, a town we had lived in for 10 years and then left and then moved back to, we vowed we wouldn't get another dog, at least not for a very long time. It wasn’t the trauma of his dying that got to us so much; it was the huge gap it left in our lives.

When he died I wrote about that gap.

The things we miss are in the absences, the gaps in our glances. We get out of the car and find ourselves looking and not finding him. We turn around at the pantry expecting him behind us and he isn’t there. We pull away from the house to visit friends or a restaurant and his solemn face is not at the door, watching, waiting, hoping.

The things we miss are in the silences, the shuddering sound as he shakes himself in the night, waking us up to go out; the bark at the door that announces his readiness for return; the sound of him slurping at the water bowl that goes on forever, the whimpering as he dreams.

The things we miss are in the loneliness: gone is his constant presence, his palpable joy that filled so many of our moments. Left is the empty room, the morning walk that is only exercise, the vacant porch without his regal watching. No longer will heads in a crowd turn, smiles break out, hands reach down as we three walk through the small farmer's market.

About nine months after Dexter died, Carole and I, one Saturday morning, walked to the Farmer's Market in Bisbee, a block behind our house, a weekly ritual for a lot of people in our small town of 6000.

Each time we did it, we had to pass through the small group of “rescue dogs and cats” at the stand of a local group called Border Animal Rescue (BAR) and each time we steeled ourselves to keep on walking. “Don’t look,” Carole would say, and mostly we didn’t.

This particular morning I did look and I noticed this small puppy under a chair, sort of cowering from a group of playful children trying to lead her around with a short leash. She seemed desperate.

For just a moment I caught her dark, mournful eyes---eyes that had seen too much in her short five months of life, as we found out later.

I turned to Carole and said, "We're screwed. I think I've just seen our next dog."

Three days latter we brought her home. She was spooked, anxious, suspicious and fearful. We picked her up at the auto repair shop owned by our mayor and his wife, Jack and Pat Porter where she was to be dropped off by the BAR volunteers. Callie tried to hide from the four or five of us waiting to see how she was. She was trembling constantly.

The BAR folks warned us that she would be a problem. She had been raised in a "hoarder" house in Douglas with as many as 20 or 30 dogs at a time. She likely never had a moment when she felt secure and safe. And then she was adopted by an older man who abused her and BAR took her back.

The first times we tried to pick her up and hold her she peed.

Callie was a year old yesterday. She's still “nervous in the service” as we used to say in the Army, but she has grown from 15 pounds to almost 40. She's happy, playful. She’s a little manic and when she isn’t adequately walked and exercised, she starts this tail chasing number.

A good part of life is simply abiding with those you love, and we love the most those who are close to us, our wives or husbands, our partners, our children, and, yes, our dogs or cats. We move over in our self-preoccupations and make space for them and they do the same, and our worlds expand and grow more delightful and complicated. Life itself is life together.
Callie can be a pain in the ass from time to time, but she could tell you a thing or two about me too, if she could talk.
And so we abide with each other and we turn and find each other, and really, what else is there?
The things we miss about Dexter we still miss.
Sometimes I find Carole reading about Dexter with tears, and I am briefly sad, too. But now, when we turn, we see Callie, part retriever, part Australian shepherd or Border Collie, and totally tubular joy.The remedy for border collies is to get them tons of exercise and to try and stay ahead of their startling intelligence. So I’m pretty sure that my walking life is about to expand sharply.

A good part of life is simply abiding with those you love, and we love the most those who are close to us, our wives or husbands, our partners, our children, and, yes, our dogs or cats. We move over in our self-preoccupations and make space for them and they do the same, and our worlds expand and grow more delightful and complicated. Life itself is life together.

Callie can be a pain in the ass from time to time, but she could tell you a thing or two about me too, if she could talk.

And so we abide with each other and we turn and find each other, and really, what else is there?

The things we miss about Dexter we still miss.

Sometimes I find Carole reading about Dexter with tears, and I am briefly sad, too. But now, when we turn, we see Callie, part retriever, part Australian shepherd or Border Collie, and totally tubular joy.

Writer Dan Beauchamp, who holds a Ph.D. in Health Policy, lives in Bisbee, Arizona with his wife Carole. He formerly held several high-level positions in health policy in state government. This piece first appeared in his blog, Tales of Copper City, at http://www.talesofcoppercity.com/talesofcoppercity/

Saturday, March 06, 2010

My Mother is the Woman Who Raised Me


By Jenna Brown

One of them was 14, the other 26. One had made a “mistake,” the other had tried for years to make a baby, without success. One of them I rarely think about, the other is my entire world. She left Buffalo at 4 a.m. one day just to be in Albany when I woke up; she stood outside my dorm room window with a homemade cookie cake and a bunch of balloons. It was my freshman year in college, and she didn’t want to miss a single birthday. She’s the absolute best, the greatest Mom there is. And no, she didn’t give birth to me, but she’s given me everything else.

As my eighteenth birthday drew near, people drove me nuts with all of their questions, silly excitement, and their narrow one-way thinking. “Are you going to go find her?” they would ask. “Don’t you want to know if you have brothers or sisters?” “Do you think you have the same eyes? Ears? Same hair color?”

No, I don’t want to find her. No, I’m not interested in knowing if I have siblings. And who cares if I look like her? I had never considered any of these questions, because I already had everything that I could ever want. I didn’t feel lost or abandoned; in contrast, I felt happy, complete, loved, and very very lucky.

I often wonder why other people feel the need to be so involved in my parentage. I have never understood why it was so hard for other people to grasp the concept that my mother for the past twenty years IS my mother. How dare they ask me to talk about my adoption and then insert terms such as my ‘real mother’ and my ‘current mother’ into my story. How dare they suggest that my ‘real mother’ is my birth mother.

I could never call my birth mother my ‘real mother;’ she was my mother for the nine months that she carried me, but Kymm Brown, the woman I call "Mom," she’s the one who taught me to walk and to read. She’s the one who helped me repaint my room, who stayed up late talking about anything I wanted to discuss, and she’s the one who came to all of my Winterguard competitions. She’s taught me what love is. She’s taught me how to drive, how to recover from a breakup, and how to cook lasagna florentine. My birth mother could never have given me any of that – after all, she was only 14 years old.

My mom right now is my mother and the only mother I have and will ever know. Honestly, in my mind, she IS the person who gave birth to me…we even have the same beauty mark in the exact same spot to “prove it.” So to those doubters, I say, stop asking me your questions, and stop pushing me to meet my real mother. My mother is the woman who raised me, the one who calls me her “miracle baby,” the woman I call on the phone at least twice a day. She may not have given birth to me, but she’s given me everything else I need.

Jenna Brown, pictured here with her mother, is a junior at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is an English major and this is her first published writing. She spent years doing Winterguard dancing and her mom was at every competition.

Monday, March 01, 2010

AND HOW EXACTLY DOES THE BAND PLAY ON?


By Everett Betzinger

The stage is dimly lit, and fog is lifting throughout the floorboards. Two clear neon blue turntables are connected to marshal tube amps. My friend Stilts already has vinyls spinning. A Korg mini synthesizer sits off to the side of the stage. I hear a base drum kick in -- one two three four, one two three four and one. The lead synthesizer comes into a four-beat riff just slightly on and off from the base drum rhythm. What a rhythm; in a few more bars I will come in with a lead guitar riff, it will add even more color to a futuristic line.

The band is myself on guitar, Stilts working turntables and back beats, Lord Spango on drums. Fink is on base and Adam on synthesizer/keys. The music we play attracts a mixture of dread-locked renegade hippies, students and ravers.

Stilts has big dreams of going solo as a DJ in New York City. What a moron; with his drug problems the only place I see him going is six feet under. I stand onstage, resting my weight on my heels as I’m getting into the song. I hear Stilts trying to play over the rest of the band. Resisting what I know to be true, I glance over my shoulder towards him and see a bottle of Johnny Walker Black on the floor confirming my suspicions. All I can feel is anger, blood rising into my face and adrenaline shooting through my body like a geyser.

In the crowd tonight is a big-time promoter who could give us the break we need. Why the hell is Stilts doing this? Before the show started we told him to keep his shit in line. It seems the emptier the bottle, though, the bigger his ego gets. What the hell is going through his twisted mind? Does he think showing off and upstaging everyone will help his solo career? I have had to put him in check on several private occasions, almost smashing my guitar over his head. Never have I done anything to publicly humiliate Stilts, but tonight he is testing my self-control, big time.

The crowd gets wilder as Spango drives a hard up-tempo beat. Moshe pits start to form within the crowd; heads are banging. The anger I am feeling towards Stilts moves into my hands; up and down my pick slides over the strings. I’m fed up with Stilts, but now the music and energy from the crowd is carrying me away. I love this intensity; I compress my effects pedal. Stilts looks up from underneath his hat. I can see his glazed eyes peering at me through the fog.

My hand slides down the neck creating a pulsating vibration of sound; it blares throughout the packed venue. Stilts will not stop overplaying me. Suddenly, I snap. I can’t take it any longer. My hand reaches for the input cable. Taking three steps in his direction, I send the fender Stratocaster traveling through the air and it explodes into the turntable and narrowly escapes Stilts’ head.

I turn away, and moments later, I feel myself crashing to the floor. Someone must have tackled me. Disoriented, I look up. Stilts has his hat pulled lower. As I lie bruised and battered on the concrete floor, I realize something funny. Despite the chaos, the band is still playing. I begin laughing to myself at the resilience of our band. It really makes me proud. We are one hell of a band!

Everett Betzinger, a long-time rock musician who grew up in Troy, New York, is now a junior at the University at Albany, SUNY. This is his first published writing.