Thursday, October 16, 2014

Will the REAL Superhero Please Stand Up?

October 16, 2014

I’m sure I’m not the only person to mention that Thor has a hammer, Iron Man has a suit, Superman has all kinds of powers, and Batman has his gadgets…But Black Widow only has her brains and her athletic ability. 

Who is the REAL superhero?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Can I Get a Do-over?

October 13, 2014

I've decided I've lived my life backwards. I should have done what our high school valedictorian did.

After she graduated she worked itinerant jobs in California and various places, THEN she went to college and grad school, and then got a job.

If you’re not concerned with having a secure home and paying the rent, it actually makes more sense to travel while you’re young. Then you can spend your older years sitting behind a desk, resting your aching joints and paying off the credit card bills.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Critic With A Side of Crab

October 11, 2014

Who was the curmudgeon who only gave "The Hundred Foot Journey" two stars? (The movie, if you haven't seen it, is about two competing restaurants 100 feet apart, and the young man who wants to improve his chef skills by working at them both.)

Not only did I stay awake for the entire movie—which means the makers did something right; but I would see it again, which is even more rare.

Give that critic one star.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Scared Can You Get?

October 7, 2014

I keep reading books where the heroine gets into a dangerous situation, and gets scared, and her heart is pounding and her mouth is dry, and I wonder: Have any of the authors who write about it ever really been scared?

I mean really scared. The kind of scared where your heart isn’t beating fast; it’s beating one stroke at a time. Slam. Slam. And it’s not just your heart beating; after every slam you can actually feel the blood squirt from your heart into the blood vessels. Slam. Squirt. Slam. Squirt.

It’s actually an interesting feeling. Even standing petrified I thought, “Huh. I wouldn’t mind feeling this in a different situation.”

And then your heart tips over, and the blood spills out…Another weird sensation.

And then you realize that you can’t breathe. And the reason you can’t breathe is that your heart is no longer slamming in your chest, it has moved to your throat. Seriously, something the size of your fist is in your throat, and you can’t breathe. I’d heard the expression, “Her heart was in her mouth,” but I never knew it felt like that literally.

But before you choke completely, your heart shrinks and goes back where it belongs, and you can breathe again. And if you’re lucky, the danger goes away.

Anyway, I wonder if the authors who write so glibly about fear have ever really been afraid?

Sorry to give you 2 dark posts in a row. I don’t know what brought this on. Maybe writing about the Holocaust, and thinking of “Schindler’s List,” where someone is hiding from the Nazis who are rounding up everybody in the neighborhood to take them to the camps, and wondering if people in that situation felt like this. And then reading 2 books in a row where the heroine is afraid, and wondering how their reactions would have been described if the authors had ever really been afraid themselves.

Not Why, But How?

October 2, 2014

Holocaust Survivor Rose Beal died September 30, 2014. Rose used to speak to groups in Boise and the surrounding areas about her experiences in Nazi Germany, about the erosion of civil rights, about Kristallnacht, about being loaded up and taken away from her home to be sent to a concentration camp, her miraculous return home, and how she and her family finally made it to America. I heard her speak, and I took my daughter to hear her speak, so that the Holocaust would seem real to my daughter, instead of being some dim memory in the history books.

I wrote this story about ten years ago, after another Holocaust survivor died. Unlike Rose, she had actually been sent to a concentration camp; she survived, came to America, met her husband and made a life here.

I’ve never been satisfied with this story, but for what it’s worth, here it is.


Tova Nachmann died last night.

When she was a young woman, she moved to a foreign country, met a man, helped her husband with his business, and raised a family, like millions of other housewives. You’d never think that anything out of the ordinary had ever happened to her.

But Tova was a survivor—of the Holocaust.

I remember the night she showed me the scars on her back. I’d asked her why she never talked about what happened in the camp. Without a word she got up, lifted her shirt, and showed me the scars where she’d been whipped. How could you talk about something so painful?

There are some questions I can get answers to, by talking to survivors: What was it like, jammed all together on those bunks on hot summer nights? Did the heat and the mosquitoes nearly drive you insane? In the bitter cold winters, did your muscles cramp because you were huddled up so tightly, hugging your knees to your chest while trying to keep warm? How did women deal with personal and sanitary issues?

But some questions I can’t get the answers to, because the people who could answer them don’t dare. If they did, they would give themselves away, and spend what little remained of their lives in jail.

I wish one of them would write memoirs, to be published anonymously, or posthumously, that would answer these questions:

            How could you treat another human being that way? How could you throw a man into a cesspool and laugh while he drowned in a pool of excrement? How could you torture—slowly, methodically—so many people? Did it affect you at all? Did you mind at first? Did you mind at the end? How could you justify treating other people that way?

We know that many of these men escaped to other countries and went on to lead normal lives. They raised families and tended gardens and were friendly with the neighbors. How did they do it? How did they live with what they’d done? Did they just see it as a job they’d done, with no remorse and no regrets? Did they wonder why the rest of the world made such a big deal of it?

Or in hindsight, did it seem as horrific to them as it did to other people? Did it take on a dreamlike quality, something that happened to someone else or that happened in a nightmare? Did they say, “That couldn’t have been me, it was someone else who did that!”

And sometimes I feel the question rising in me like a tide, and then the whole world is keening a question to God, and the question isn’t, “Why, God, why?” but “How?—How?”