May 2007


A Day at an Orphanage in Tijuana


A caravan of vans sets out from St. Monica's Church early one Saturday morning last month, for the El Hogar orphanage in Tijuana—a parish affiliation for the past 20 years. And we're on board.

We have been meaning to make one of these scheduled quarterly trips for a few years now, but something always seems to crop up or get in the way. Like our own lives; with their attendant commitments. Like the day-to-day hassles on one side, and those "can't-miss" entertainment events on the other. But finally, here we are. Somewhere in Tijuana. And this is no Disneyland; no Universal Studio tour. And yes, of course... "we're not in Kansas anymore."

On unpaved streets with no names, dotted by hovels and shacks that people call home, and with stray dogs of mangled fur—and ribs exposed—wandering in search of food, the poverty and squalor have a physicality all their own. It hits you in the face in that same kind of way, that a heat wave does when you step outside from an air-conditioned room. We knew we would be in for some unsettling sights; we didn't expect to have to pause to catch our breath.

Approaching the front gate of the orphanage therefore, we further braced ourselves for what might next be in store. But from the time we stepped across that threshold, until our departure some six hours later, it would be one of the more uplifting experiences of our lives; unforgettable on so many levels, large and small.

It was a day of simple games from a simpler time and place.

We got down and dirty and played Dodge Ball and Kick Ball with many of the older kids. Pieces of broken plywood served as bases, and anything hit in the area where the laundry was hanging, was still in play!

In the absence of high tech in their lives, some of the younger boys, played a game of the lowest tech —marbles!

This is a game we hadn't seen since our childhood days on the streets of the Lower East Side, when we had holes in the knees of our dungarees, and our mothers were calling us out of tenement windows to come home for supper.

For the still younger set, there were arts and crafts— brightly colored mugs with joyful themes.

It was a day of music.

They entertained us with a 40 minute recital (the theme from Titanic and "Memories" from Cats, included) on piano, keyboard, guitar and flute. They are all seemingly schooled to varying degrees, in the world of music.

It was a day of spiritual resonance, what with a mass in a "toy" church nearby, with hand-painted —now faded—folk art windows. And all to the accompaniment of the voices of angels, singing in their mother tongue.

It was a day of the sharing of food among the masses.

In lieu of fishes and loaves, there are barbequed burgers and franks. And all the while the starving dogs gather, outside the gate looking in. And we could not help but contemplate the question: can one ever attend to the animals when children are so in need? The answer, at least on this day, was yes. There was enough for all.

It was a day of cultural observation and inevitable comparisons.

By way of illustration: during the whole time we were there, we did not see even ONE of the 60 kids on the premises — ranging in ages from two to about 18—act up or misbehave in any way. Could the same be assumed of any gathering of 60 middle class American kids? For whom a hardship is often defined as, not getting the latest video game sensation for Christmas?

And of course, it was a day of thanksgiving: "There but for the grace of God—or the fickleness of fate—go I."

In short, it is clear, that the joy of this day, would come from nothing we brought through that rusty gate… but from everything these kids and their caretakers, provided on the other side.

A little too saccharine a sentiment?  You had to be there.


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What Took Them So Long?


"Her life story will no doubt be turned into a bad movie"

—March 2007 Muse-Letter



POSTED: 9:43 p.m. EDT, March 16, 2007 CNN

"Anna Nicole Smith movie in the works"


"LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Filming will begin in Los Angeles early next month on a motion picture about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, CNN has learned.
Producer Jack Nasser of All-Media Productions told CNN on Friday that his company is in the process of casting the lead role in the film, which could be released as early as June."

He told CNN the untitled Smith biopic is intended for a theatrical release..."


Is it too early be talking about the 2007 Oscar for Best Picture? Because, seriously, how can this one miss?

Remember folks you heard it here first: Oscar winner! And as Larry King used to say in his bygone USA Today columns—that had the depth of a sneeze— "You'll thank me later."


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Another "Walking Poem"


A reader casually mentioned last month, that many of our poems seem to be inspired by observations we have made while on a walk. And while we hadn’t noticed that before, there's probably a great deal of truth to it.

Case in point, another still "walking poem."


The Death of a Snail

I crushed a snail underfoot. I said "Sorry."
I was walking the dog — so small and all —
who in God's name could see it?
It happened almost as I stepped out the door.
The dog was straining at the leash to go pee.

Snails are sometimes on that path, I know.
But usually only after a downpour.
This time, it was merely, a morning mist.
So the scene, so to speak, was missing from some sense
of muscle memory or reality. Sort of like

when collateral damage occurs in a skirmish;
something short of what is called war.
Sorry, sometimes, civilians get hurt. It happens.
Who'd expect that they'd be in that place at that time?
You would think they would put out feelers to see if it's safe.

I crushed a village under force. I said "Sorry."
I was taking the platoon out — so small and all
who in God's name could see it?
It happened almost as I stepped out of camp.
The dog was straining at the leash to go pee.                                 

Ron Vazzano


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Looking Back at Look, Looking Ahead


In the process of a very moving experience (to a new house) we began unearthing all the stuff  we have been collecting and amassing all these years. That this STUFF has reached unmanageable proportions, is in itself, one of the reasons for the move. Anyway… from out of the catacombs of one of the closets, we exhumed an old copy of Look magazine.

For the uninitiated (i.e. those under 40)  Look was, to quote Wikipedia:

"A weekly, general-interest magazine published in the U.S from 1937 to1971 with more of an emphasis on photographs than articles."

To quote us:

"It was the Avis to Life magazine’s Hertz; the Salieri to Life's Mozart."

Ah, but this was not just any copy of Look. This was a special January 16, 1962 issue entitled: The Next 25 Years. Subtitled: How We Will:  Live, Work, Dress, Travel. Play, Eat. And by the way, its circulation at the time, was a mere 7,000,000 copies weekly!


This was a fun re-discovery, because we have always enjoyed looking back on predictions. We guess it boils down to five basic reasons:

1.   So Many Are So Wrong—some, amusingly so.
  •   This one is right out of The Jetson's:
Flying Outboard Boats:

"Future boats will only faintly resemble today's pleasure vehicles" says the Scott Division of the McCulloch Corp. "They will be able to travel through air, on and under the water and double as camping shelters.

But, you gotta' watch out for when pigs fly. They could cause an accident.

  •   And for you New Age types out there, this is really cool:
Mood Conditioning: "We are now accustomed to air conditioning…scientists foresee new environment controls. These may include the addition of negative ions in the air to make us learn faster and better, perhaps speed healing after surgery."

Wouldn't positive ions work better? Just asking.

  •   Dr. Krafft Ehricke (of General/Dynamics/Astronautics) had this to say:

"During this decade, NASA hopes to land a man on the moon. This will happen in 1968."

Right on Doc! Only off by a year. But then, eschewing that old saw, "Quit while you're ahead," he goes on

"Within 25 years, a spaceship twice the weight of a jetliner will carry three or four men to Mars (a relatively hospitable planet), along with food and oxygen for several months and fuel to get home."



2.   The Unintended Ironies

  •   Right time :-) Wrong place :-( This was predicted in an area labeled Home Study:

    "Scaled down TV, radio and tape machines will help make this new education widely available..."

    "…a pocket-sized, battery operated color-TV receiver combined with a stereo radio set will fit in a case only slightly larger than the shirt pocket transistor radio of today."

It's called an iPod …it's called a cell phone.And no, they will NOT be used for studying. They will be annoyingly used in public for diversion. Often while in the process of driving what we still call— cars.

The same thing, by the way, was once predicted for Television; that it would be used as an implement for studying and learning. (Forbes 1946)

One thing that we have never seen predicted anywhere, was the dumbing down of the culture; that our appetite for pure unadulterated escapism and entertainment would become insatiable. That people would be voted off an island! Or fired! Or otherwise humiliated. Right on the air.

New electronic devices are always predicted to become aids for educational and intellectual advancement. Yeah, right.

  •   And you wonder why the Feminist Movement was born?

    In a section entitled For Your Home, there was this stultifying piece that speaks volumes to a sociological mindset, that one would have associated with the 1860's, and surely not a time as recent as the "hip" 1960's.

Sudden Dinners:

"A husband's announcement that he is bringing five business friends home in 25 minutes will pose no problem for his wife. Her push-button combined freezer-oven... will need only her index finger touch. ... a complete meal will be ready for serving in 18 minutes. In the seven minutes left, she sets the tables and prepares beverages. Dirty dishes? An ultrasonic dishwasher cleans them in seconds."

  •   Look could not foresee its own irrelevance and subsequent demise just about 10 years after   this heralded 25th anniversary,  "prediction edition."

      It reminded us of our reaction years ago when we heard that clairvoyant Jeane Dixon had died:   Couldn't she see it coming?


3.   The "Wow" FactorWhen they are right on, they can make the hair on the arms stand up:

  •   Creation:

J. Robert Moskin: (Look Senior Editor) wrote this:

"In 25 years, it is likely that man will create life in a test tube."

"That is the great scientific revolution of the era immediately ahead of us. It overshadows even the more publicized race into space."

  •   The Cold War: by just two years!

David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel:

"The image of the world in 1987 as traced in my imagination; The Cold War will be a thing of the past."


4.   The "Eerie" Factor: people speaking and being spoken about, regarding a future they won't see.

  •   From John F. Kennedy, who would be assassinated in less than two years:

"There will be risk and burden and hardship; for the challenges of the sixties, the constant threats to freedom, the opportunities for chaos and crisis."

  •   From Martin Luther King who had six more years to live:

"I hope that world peace will have become secure, not only because a balance of terror will have paralyzed mankind, but because most of the world's people will have realized that nonviolence in the nuclear age was life's last chance."

One cannot help but be struck by his use of the word "terror" which is just not a word that was used or considered much in that era.

And certainly no one (not even Ben-Gurion) was talking about the Middle East back then.

  •   On Marilyn Monroe, who would be dead in eight months:

"A glamorous woman who could still be in the limelight in 1987."

And from Marilyn herself:

"I've been on a calendar, but never on time."

She was fired during the filming of her last movie later that year, for being chronically late or absent from the set. She would be dead by that August.


5.   To See What Was Conspicuous By Its Absence:

The most astounding thing to us, has always been the complete absence of any long past predictions regarding the role that technology, specifically in the form of computers, would play in our every day lives. Not to mention the invention of the Internet, which was not on anyone's radar!  (Even Leonardo DaVinci missed this one, come to think of it.)

Ultimately, and by extension, it makes one wonder what else lies out there awaiting discovery, that no one can now envision, just a few decades down the line? Or how about the things of which we now speak with such conviction, that will be shown to be utter folly, 40, 50 years hence? Or what is to become of the rites, rituals, passages and institutions that many of us hold so dear?

To quote Thomas "Fats" Waller:

One never know; do one.


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