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Archive for February, 2010

The Orlando Sentinel used to run a human interest series. I think it was called something like “Knock on Any Door.” They would do just that and talk to whomever answered. The theory was that every person has a story and they would find one behind any door, and they did. I don’t knock on strange doors but do encounter amazing stories just talking to strangers when I am out and about. This morning I “knocked on the right door.”

I needed a courtesy ride when I dropped by car off for service. The driver was a trim man with white hair, but young countenance. I detected only the slightest accent, the kind you aren’t quite sure is there, but I had to ask. Not “Where are you from?” but “Do you speak another language?” No one has ever seemed offended by the latter question, as they can be by the first. His answer was that he emigrated from the Czech Republic in 1972 after the Russians invaded.

As a young teen had taught himself perfect English mostly by talking with Americans and listening to news on TV. “The news,” he said, “because generally the speech was more precise.” He learned to say many words before he knew the meaning.

I had come in contact with many non-English speakers when I worked for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at the local school board and talked with foreign language teachers. He reinforced what they said: total immersion is quickest way to learn another language. The driver immersed himself in the new language until he now speaks better than many native borns.

This was admirable enough, but then I learned he actually left the Czech Republic in 1968 and fled to Austria. You guessed it; he learned German and spoke that language for four years before coming to America and beginning anew.

There are many lessons here, I think, but on a human level I am totally in awe of one who devotes himself to becoming a part of the country in which he chooses to live. My guess is the driver is immersed not only in our language, but our culture. I’m glad I asked that simple question. Wonder what I would find if I started knocking on doors. . .

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Continuing my year of new things in the new year in lieu of resolutions, I give you Buddy the gecko, native to New Caledonia. Though I am partial to reptiles, having lizards crawl on me has been a long standing no-no. But this is a new year and Buddy, the neighbor kids’ pet molted yesterday was so soft.  He did  not appear threatening.  With instructions worthy of Jack Hannah the oldest put the gecko on back of my hand.

Later we let him play on a tree truck (which they assured me he loved). Buddy is hand raised and doesn’t care too much for grass, though. Once he touched the lawn he just stared at me as I sat cross legged, then inched closer.

“He’s going to jump on me, ” I said.

He moved forward again and then leaped onto my knee, all the time staring at me with his unblinking eyes. To be fair, he has no eyelids.

“He likes you,” the kids assured me, “We’ve never seen him do that with anyone.”

Considering I had brushed with mint toothpaste to encourage nose kisses from the cats, it didn’t seem a good idea to get in Buddy’s face.  So we let him play on the tree trunk a while and then his outing was over. Let’s hope he enjoyed it as much as the kids and I.

Buddy, Gold Crested Gecko (dalmatian harlequin)

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Look closely. That is a Super Bowl ring on my finger. I thought Super Bowl week would be an appropriate time to post. This picture was taken in 1992 at the Family Circle Women’s Tennis Tournament in Hilton Head, S.C.

Joe Theismann ignored the staff of mature ladies assigned to assure only those with proper ID entered our company box and sat himself down among us, grumbling about the ladies advanced ages and lack of authority.  Announcing who he was and showing his Super Bowl ring, Theismann chose a seat by the loveliest Southern cutie in our box. Let’s call her Nina. Nina quickly charmed him into letting her try on his ring. Southern cuties share, so she passed it to the woman beside her, who passed it to the next. Theismann began to show a little impatience at the thought of that beautiful, very heavy ring dropping through the stands and asked for it back. But it would not have been polite to leave anyone out, so the ring continued to pass throughout the stand.  I was able to wear it just long enough to get a picture. All the ladies in our company box had to have a turn, even the mature ones.

In fact it may have lingered a little bit longer on their fingers.

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I’m beginning to feel I am frittering (or twittering) my life away and missing the real parts, like this blog. Yes, real! This page is my anchor and never far from my heart, but don’t we all slight the important things and people sometimes? Recently I’ve been taking part in actual physical interaction with three-dimensional human beings, yet feeling the guilt of slighting the also-real connections here at my fingertips. You know what I mean. I know you do. You are the ones who don’t dismiss the crazy thoughts that pop into my head during the day. You have them too. You don’t blow me off as the crazy lady with the cats. We are all digging for those special thoughts and being patient with each other as we try the lesser ones on for size.

We are American Idol without Simon Cowell. We deal not in music, but words and we all hold them dear and respect each others’ forays into new arrangements that bring out our spirits. I suspect you feel this way or you wouldn’t be here. And I hope you’ll keep coming because I may not have been writing a lot here lately, but I’m filling a notebook with fragments. Some have promise, some belong in the trash, others are lost to my illegible hand. Somewhere in there, though, I hope is a thought worthy of expansion and worthy of your time. Thanks for hanging in there and sharing your thoughts with me. Even in the winter funk many of you are tickling my funny bone and touching my heart. This is a good, real place to be. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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