Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: June, 2013

Superman

The New Superman movie came out this past week. Supposed to be a summer blockbuster – we’ll see! This is one I’ll check out in the theatre, since this kind of action adventure needs a big, big screen.

On the other hand, nobody will ever come close to Christopher Reeve as Superman. Many, many years ago, when the world was young, I was offered the opportunity to attend the world premiere of Superman II in Washington, DC. It was some kind of charity benefit, and all the stars were there. My ex, a book dealer, worked a deal with one of his customers for tickets. The client and his girlfriend and my ex and I sat two rows behind Mr. Reeve, and OMG, I have to say the big screen didn’t do that man justice. He was breathtakingly gorgeous in person. Needless to say, the girlfriend and I didn’t see much of the movie for drooling.

In homage to the real Man of Steel, who set an example of patience and fortitude in unbelievably difficult times, here is my vote for Superman.

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The Vatican Rag

I think Tom Lehrer had it right. This morning’s (6/13) paper featured a piece on the Vatican’s hysterical outburst about (shock) gay priests. Talk about missing the point completely.

My family law professor in law school was a Jesuit who was openly gay. He was also, being a Jesuit, willing to give his students the opportunity to ask questions and, more to the point, he was willing to answer questions. One of my classmates asked how he could reconcile being gay with the Catholic church’s position on homosexuality. The Jesuit pointed out that he’d taken a vow of celebacy when he entered the priesthood, and he honored that vow. His orientation was nobody’s business as long as he honored his vow, any more than another priest’s heterosexuality was anyone’s business as long as he remained celebate. He also explained that celebacy is a discipline practiced in many different religions for the same reason – it’s training in self-control and meditation as much as sacrifice.

We also had long discussions on the subjects of women priests (forget that as long as the church doesn’t realize it’s losing membership in droves) and married priests (more possible than the above but also remote). Gave me a great deal of respect for the Jesuits as an order, and makes me wonder what’s going to happen down the road.

Clinton

Dateline 6/12/13 – just to be sure. Bill Clinton has been named “Father of the Year”. Interesting, and I must admit that I approve.

Before you start sneering and pointing out that his morals (if he has any) are questionable, consider the facts. He was named “Father of the Year”, not Mr. Morality. Or Mr. Family Values. Further, a man (or a woman) should be judged by results, the work-product. Look at the kid. At no time has anyone ever said anything detrimental about Chelsea Clinton. She has not caused media frenzies by partying wildly (the Bush girls, the Bush boys, the Reagans, Carters and Kennedys). She has not fed the gossip-columns (except for her wedding). She has led a quiet, uneventful life.

And, considering today’s media, if there had been anything to report, it would have made the papers and the news. And considering her parents, there would have been no mercy. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, one must assume that she has grown into a civilized and mannerly young woman. And, res ipsa loquituur, the parents did a good job in raising a civilized and mannerly child. Whatever else is said about the parents, they did something right, and the accolade is merited. Well done.

Nature or Nurture?

We’re not talking child-rearing here. I don’t do kids. I have a confession:

Backstory: I spent 35 years as in-house counsel for life insurance companies. A huge part of my job involved dealing with fraud, consumer and agent-related. Most of the life insurance agents I dealt with had tried (or succeeded) to rip off unwary consumers for hundreds of thousands of dollars (I could write a book …) in many different unscrupulous ways. The companies I worked for shelled out a great deal of green to resolve these problems, since, by law, we were the ultimately responsible party. Suffice it to say that my take on life insurance agents was, in a word, jaundiced.

Momentary digression into a bit of insurance law. According to the common-law doctrine of “master and servant”, any malfeasance of the servant is attributable to, and the responsibility of, the master as long as the servant is acting on behalf of the master. (For “servant” read “agent”.) Many companies have ‘captive’ or dedicated agents, people who sell exclusively for that company. In law, those agents (whether employee or independent contractor – which is material for another day) are the agent of the company.

However, and it’s a big however, most major life insurance companies deal with brokers, people who work for a brokerage house. These are organizations which shop different companies and bring their clients to the best deal (supposedly). These sales folk are agents of the consumer – NOT the insurance company – in law. Try and convince a jury of that …

Back to subject at hand: anyway, for some reason I was having a pleasant lunch with the Executive Vice President of Marketing and Agency Services (nice guy, about 5 rungs above me on corporate ladder, but we got along) and made the comment that I’d never met a life insurance agent that I’d trust with my garbage, my dog or my daughter (assuming that I had any of these). This wonderfully patient guy pointed out to me that for all my career, the only agents I dealt with were the scum of the earth, which is the only reason they ever came to my attention. True. If they were respectable, the legal department never heard of them. After using a backhoe to get my foot out of my mouth, I agreed that I probably ought to broaden my world-view.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? Care to share?

Choices

If I had been able to choose any Father in the world, you would still have been my choice.

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Spots

You’ve seen the picture before, but who cares! This is Colonial Coach Eric. Eric to his friends, and unprintable epithets to my Mother, who didn’t much care for him. The feeling was, I believe, mutual.

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Eric has carved himself a permanent place in my memory. He could shed like nobody’s business. And being a Dalmatian, he cleverly shedded selectively. He would shed white hair on anything black, and he would shed black hair on anything light-colored. And for some reason, his hair must have had some kind of barb along the stem, because those hairs just won’t come off.

It’s been many years, but I still have clothes and bedding that sports Dalmatian hair. One way to immortality.

Ice

Back when I was in Pony Club and later when I took the BHSI course in England – many, many years ago – we were taught very loudly and in three languages that you never, ever, ever, put cold water on a hot horse (weather or hot-from-work). This in spite of the fact that when we brought the horses home hot and muddy from hunting we turned the ice-cold hosepipe on them with no problems at all … oh well.

With the advent of the Atlanta Olympics, it was discovered that you can cool a horse out much more thoroughly with properly handled ice baths. (This is a discussion for another time) So when I started my illustrious (and short-lived) career as a 3-day groom, I learned a lot about ice. You have to have a lot of it. And most of it goes down your shirt, your shorts and your sneakers. And if the person washing the other side of the horse isn’t careful (helps cool faster if two of you are washing and scraping, one each side or two sponges and two scrapers if you are fortunate enough to have an entourage) you get it in the face too.

But it’s worth it to watch that temperature drop quickly enough that you’re cleared for Phase D (old format) or to go back to the barn.

Twinkle Toes

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Just a repeat from the archives, but Moses was such a pretty mover (among his many other talents).

Eventing? I Don’t Think So.

Cameo was a hunter. She was gorgeous, sweet and moved like spring sunshine. She came to me at age 15, having not worked out as a racehorse (although she was royally bred, she earned enough in 2 years on the track to about cover one month’s training fees), an amateur-owner hunter (she was too much horse for the amateur and not fancy enough for the big-name pro), and a broodmare (trouble carrying to term). She was the kindest horse I have ever ridden and she took good care of me.

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There was only one problem – I wanted to event. I discovered she would have nothing to do with jumping in the great outdoors when I tried to get her over a 2-foot log in the field, a coop in the fence line, and a couple of other things. The answer was a resounding “hell no”. And this was a mare who would pack me over 3’6″ fences in the ring with no guidance.

Since I wasn’t quite ready for the jumpers, we decided to try the adult medal classes, since they have semi-jumper classes. She did fine at home, schooling, even weird distances and difficult turns. So at the next show, we entered the medal. We’d won both of the regular over fences classes beforehand. So there we go, into the ring and make our circle. We head to the first fence with her usual lovely rhythm and sail over it. She fixes on the next, a perfect 6 strides away, but our next fence is a 180-degree rollback to the last fence. Her ears twitch and her tail swishes. Next, we go backwards (she thinks) up the diagonal and I ask her to halt in the middle of the line. By this time her ears are flat back on her head. Then we trot over the “out” fence, and her tail is going like a helicopter and she’s grinding her teeth. I swear if she could have figured out how to stamp her feet, she would have. As it was, you could hear her swearing about idiot riders who didn’t know where they were going and interfered with knowledgeable mare’s previous training and didn’t the idiot rider know that she knew better than to pull out of a line and what on earth was I thinking and I was making her look foolish and so on and so on …

By the time we left the ring, I was trying not to fall off from laughing so hard, my trainer was rolling around holding his sides, and the judge was in stitches, crying on his judging card … and we promised Cameo that she wouldn’t have to do another medal class.

Sometimes you just have to let the horse tell you what to do.

Buffalo, Texas? Forget it.

Many years ago, I acted as groom for a friend who was doing a three-day event. If you’ve never done a proper three-day, grooming for the speed and endurance is unlike anything you’ve ever done with horses. It requires the organizational skills of an Army quartermaster, the tracking ability of a blood-hound, the stamina of a marathon runner, and lots and lots of ice. (More on the ice in another post. This one’s about Texas.)

Anyway, I was feeling like the “compleat” three-day groom (this was our team’s 3rd 3-day) and I figured I had everything figured out. I figured wrong.

To begin with, Buffalo, Texas, (why in heaven’s name anyone ran a 3-day in Buffalo was beyond me, except that the footing was excellent) is not a major cosmopolitan area. It’s 135 miles SE of Dallas, and 135 miles NE of Houston, and getting there is a trick, because if you sneeze, you miss the exit. Then, you drive miles and miles to get to the showgrounds. Which, I will admit, were civilized. Except:

Once we had permission to unload, the first thing they warned the grooms was about the white, sandy patches in the grass. “Keep your horse away from them – fire ant hills”. OK. Then, and oh by the way, when you walk the cross country courses, stomp your feet and the rattlesnakes will not bother you. Oh, and by the way, when you walk near the woods in the evening, be careful because the wild pigs will go after your little dogs. This was pushing it for big-city girl.

Then, during steeplechase, we noticed a flock of vultures circling over the steeplechase track. Comforting. We also noticed long-handled brooms at every jump on cross-country – to chase the rattlesnakes off the jumps (they apparently liked to sun themselves on the jumps while not in use …).

Then, that evening, as we drove the (it seemed) half a million miles through a bull pasture in the dark to the shed where they were holding the competitors’ party (granted the food was delicious) (and I kid you not, we drove through a bull pasture) two bobcats ran across our path in the headlights.

The final straw was the next morning. As I was getting ready to fill all my buckets and prep for the jog, someone ran a backhoe over the water main, and we had to dip water out of the pond. After (yes after) I’d just done that, they warned over the loudspeaker to beware of the water moccasins in the pond.

Sorry, but I am NOT going back to East Texas – or at least Buffalo. Ever. Again.