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Archive for June, 2011

The Short, Sad Life of Christian Choate

Christian Choate                 Riley Choate

It’s a good thing I can usually control myself because I’m not sure what I’d do if I ever came across aliens like Riley Choate and Christina Kubina, the father and stepmother of Christian Choate.

The details of this child’s life are enough to make me cry, and I don’t cry easily. The pair are accused of locking Christian in a five foot high dog cage the last year of his life, beating him and of denying him food and water. He wasn’t in school because Kubina, was claiming to have home-schooled him and assigned essays like:

“Why do you want to play with your peter?”

“Why do you want to see your mother?”

“Why can’t you let go of the past?”

“What does it mean to be part of a family?”

His answers in documents obtained by the Indiana Department of Children’s Services spoke of his despair. He wondered why nobody liked him and of how he wanted to be liked by his family. He wondered when someone was going to check on him and give him food and something to drink, and he wrote of a desire to die.

Although he had a sister, Christina, their father threatened to harm her if she ever told anyone, so it would be years before she did.

One night in April 2009, Christian vomited after being let out of his cage, so his father beat him unconscious and put him back in. His died during the night, and his sister discovered his lifeless body the next morning.  He was only thirteen.  Their father put him in a shallow grave behind the house, covered it with a thin layer of concrete, put a slab of wood over it and moved the family to Kentucky where Christiana wasn’t allowed to go to school or use the phone.

Two years later, Christian’s biological mother awoke and called the police because she hadn’t heard from her son in a while. This prompted an investigation and Christina told about what happened to her brother. Authorities were led to Riley who led them to the grave and admitted to burying the boy but not to killing him.

Riley Choate and Christina Kubina have been charged with murder, battery, neglect of a dependent,confinement,  moving a body from a death scene and failure to notify authorities of a death.

Apparently, the Indiana Department of Children’s Services knew about this family. Neighbors had called in as early as 1999, yet the caseworkers found no evidence of abuse. They should be fined and fired.

Yet this calls for the need for reform on behalf of all the Christian Choate’s out there to see that this stops happening.  The school districts should set up a task force to make surprise visits to the houses of kids who are being home schooled and others that have fallen off the radar.

Either way, it’s a good thing I am not going to be working in the jail these two are going to because I would want to do things to them that would cause me to get sent there myself. The only consolation is that they will be going there and that felons don’t tend to take too kindly to child abusers.

It’s the least we could do for a boy who only wanted to be loved.

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The Art of Writing

Someone once asked how I approach writing.  “My first step,” I then said, “is to panic.”  And I stick by it. 

I finally have come up with the other steps for prose, music, recipes or whatever, so I’d like to answer that guy now, wherever he is.

Step 1:  Pick a crazy topic that makes you smile.  Then treat yourself to a shopping expedition just for thinking of it.  Peruse the store justifying every potential purchase, especially the tea ceremony outfit you want to buy if you ever are invited for tea with the Emperor of Japan. 

Step 2:  Come home and turn on the Internet and browse sites like TMZ to see “Who’s all Grown Up” and see how many celebrities’ names your can guess.  Reward yourself with something to eat.

Step 3:  Go to your blog site to see how many hits you’ve had.  Contact the site administrators by separate email to complain about today’s spammers. 

Step 4:  Try on the tea ceremony outfit.

Step 5:  Go out for a brief jaunt.  If you have the dogs, all the better because they might need it.  Engage in small talk with people on your way out.  Ask them about foods from their country of origin, if need be.    

Step 6:  Come home and be amazed at how much time has gone by.  Sort clothes and do the dishes.  Write that piece.

Step 7:  With fingers flying over the keyboard, marvel at your brilliance.  Reread it and wonder if you shouldn’t chuck it all and go off on a retreat. 

Step 8:  Edit the fifty words you have before adding fifty more.  Edit that. 

Step 9:  Post it somewhere and change “the” for “a” at regular intervals.

Step 10:  Email your work to everyone you know and try on another outfit.

Y’all Pray for Delta’s Stockholders Now, Hear?

Saudi Arabia never was on my list of the top ten places to visit mainly because theydon’t have any kosher meat or bakeries over there.  So finding rugelach or kosher shish kabob would be nearly impossible.  Unless I wanted to smuggle some in.  I’d also probably wind up getting thrown in jail either for that or for looking suspicious or Semitic in the wrong way.

I used to work with someone from that country, who in a PR push said that they were hospitable to their Jews, though I didn’t think there were any.  Judging by their lack of synagogues, kosher bakeries and Federation fundraisers, and it doesn’t look like they’re interested in changing their demographics, either.

And so it will be now that Delta Airlines has partnered with Saudi Arabian Airlines and allowing the following stipulations.  In addition to the baggage limit when flying there, none of the following items will be allowed on board:

Stars of David

Anything in Hebrew

Jewish Prayer books

Prayer Shawls

Yarmulkes

Rugelach

Sponge Cake

Crosses

Priests Collars

Catechism Books and

Holy Anointing Oil

Delta, an American company based in Atlanta, is going to comply.  Who they do business with is their business, and who I buy my tickets from is mine, the same for the rest of the people in a country that has prietes, rabbis and ministers by the dozens and a Christmas tree on the White House every year.

Someone should pray for Delta’s stockholders and soon.

Pepper and the Space Queens

A while back, I bought some pepper spray in case a suspicious person, place or thing showed up while walking my dogs, Bitsy Boo and Mookie Moo.  Since then I have used it on two hostile pit bulls and one hostile aunt of a boy in the hood.

I met the boy in my pre-pepper spray days and knew him to be kind, smart and affable.  The problem was that he came from a family of alcoholics and drug users, including his mother who was taken away for drugs, so the county placed him with his father, a meth addict.  When the county messes up, they don’t fool around.

As a one-time teacher, I became concerned when he told me he didn’t think he was very smart and I noticed he was withdrawing from the other kids.  So I mentioned it to his father and told him I could get counseling referrals if he wanted because I know how hard it is being without a mother and all.  He said they’d already gone for counseling but it hadn’t worked, thanked me and started filling me in on his carnal expertise before driving off.  Thank you very much.

Two weeks later, I see the boy’s crazy aunt prancing around my building as I am taking my dogs out for their afternoon constitution.  Her hair is long and stringy, her skin is pink and puffy and her clothes don’t match.  She needs a makeover, but I keep my opinions to myself as I descend the back steps.

I open the gate and hear:  “You said my nephew has problems,” which is already a misquote, but I keep any corrections to myself as well because I don’t think she is interested in hearing them.

Not wanting to be on the same sidewalk with her let alone the same planet, I keep walking and lay my hands on pepper.  For a while, it was just me, the spray and the dogs who have no idea what it going on because their main goals are finding food, chasing animals and other dog-like activities.

I walk to the end of the building and see her friend who is yelling at me to mind my own business.  One thing is clear:  They are both higher than a NASA space shuttle.

A neighbor pokes his head through the gates of the garage and tells them to bugger off.  The mail lady stops sorting the mail and starts yelling at them as well.

Being lost in the ozone, the friend comes after me like a B-level boxer.  The power surges through my veins, and I pull out my beloved pepper and let her have it squarely on the jaw.

I realize that this isn’t what the manufacturers had in mind because she didn’t even flinch, swear or say “ouch,” so I thought the canister had expired.

But it was because of some technical glitches on my end.  I didn’t know that it is better to shake it every-so-often, and I thought that hitting anywhere on the old epiderm would be as good as the eyes or nasal region.  The lady at the store told me that a person’s skin would turn black from the stuff, so I waited for her skin to change color, but it never did.

But something must have worked because, they walked down the street, never to be seen or heard from in these parts again.

As for me, I learned some things from this.  One is that properly used pepper spray can be a real friend at times, that some neighbors do care about one another, and that some mail carriers do more than deliver the mail and deserve a twenty-dollar tip at Christmas rather than the popcorn kit I gave last year.

But most important I learned the art of perusing any directions beforehand and of not listening to every base salary sales clerk in a sporting goods store.

Thinking Ahead

I was going to write about my sometimes nemesis and sidekick, pepper spray. But life got in the way and something else came up.

While procrastinating and scrolling down the social networking site Meetup, I came across a celebration of life for someone named Gary Mogil.

I didn’t know him personally, we’d never met, but I had seen his picture on that site. In it, he is wearing a hat, holding a morsel of food and smiling. I sensed that he wasn’t my type and that if we met and wouldn’t have been someone I’d want to hang out with.

At first I wasn’t sure what the invitation meant. But it turns out that it was a celebration of his life because he’d died suddenly and quite young. I searched on google and learned that he was a liberal (no one’s perfect), a lawyer (hopefully, a nice one) and only 62.

I read what his friends wrote, a nice guy, the life of the party, I’m going to miss your daily email.

I think that there is a higher power and that there are reasons for everything, but I still cried anyway over a young life and I might have cast him aside over not being my type and reminded myself of that age-old lesson. No one lives forever, but we can still be kind because you just never know. Though it is so damned sobering that we’d best hurry along and forget like the disheveled homeless man begging on the corner.

I am ashamed to admit that I did the same thing to my closest friend from high school. Karen and I remained in touch for a while after graduation a year apart, but life took us in different directions. She married and had kids and I did not, and we began to drift like two small boats being carried out by the current. And the phone calls became less and less to the point where I thought that maybe she just didn’t care.

When I moved out west, she sent me a letter telling me how much she missed me and how she thought of me every day while drinking her morning coffee out of the black and white mug I’d given her with the word “coffee” written in different languages.

The goofball I was dating told me to just ignore the letter, and thinking that I would show her, I took that awful advice. Years later I began thinking about her and looked for her online, and it was then that I came across her obituary.

I somehow got a hold of her mother and husband and learned that she died from allergies about two years earlier. Her husband said that they wondered what happened to me. He said that he knew that she wasn’t always so easy but that she meant well and that her daughter was difficult to raise and that Karen somehow got distracted.

I wish I could hold her and her that I love her, but all I can do now is try and make it up to her.  On the anniversary of her death, I go to synagogue and say Kaddish for her, make a donation in her memory and make sure her mother gets a card. I wasn’t the friend I could have been to her in the second half of her life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be idle now.

I always plan on being kinder, better, more compassionate – next time.

Why Some People Are Single

My newest rule of survival is that any man over 55 that hasn’t been married or in a relationship probably has a good reason why. However, informal research (or the kind where I randomly ask people) has shown that their reasons fall into one of these categories.  They are:

1.) Men who hate women,

2.)  Men who are narcissists and therefore don’t know that women exist,

3.) Men who think they are gorgeous and that women are accessories like great whitewall tires,

4.) Men who turn senile early and think they are gorgeous and

5.) Those who are attached to their mothers.

Let’s take two choice specimens. Bachelor Number One, the Narcissist, is the kind that keeps dating sites afloat with his monthly memberships. Although he has enough hair sprouting from his ears and nostrils to fashion a small wig, he still describes himself as being handsome, debonair and a good catch, too.

His explanation for his bachelor state is that he hasn’t found the right one. But methinks otherwise. After all, we all have warts, bunions and spider veins,  and the “right one” is a relative term. No, he hasn’t found the right one because he isn’t the right one.

I perused his profile, and there’s enough talk of candlelit dinners and waves rushing against the shore to even give best-selling romance novelist, Barbara Cartland, an insulin spike. He talks about being totally in love (insulin-o-meter on the rise) looking for a woman who is as beautiful on the inside as on the outside (insulin-o-meter reaching mid-level heights) and holding hands at the beach while gazing into each other’s eyes (insulin-o-meter busted).

Alas, he is the kind who would get hypothermia after spending an evening at the beach and need some bed rest after all that ocean air. He is nice enough when he gets his own way, but will often resort to swearing and screaming when he doesn’t. A catch he is not.

Unlike his counterpart, Bachelor Number Two does not hate women, although he wouldn’t write about the waves at the ocean unless it was for a marine biology class. In fact, he not only steers clear of dating sites but couldn’t even name one on Jeopardy. So nothing about frolicking in the sand, holding hands and laughing at the beach for this one. That’s because he’s already taken, by mama.

The Mama’s Boy knows that there are women roaming the planet and has seen the “His” and “Hers” signs on public restrooms, but that’s about it. Because he’s already been spoken for in heart and soul, he will let himself go style-wise and grooming-wise.  A nice man he usually is, but he can also set a woman’s teeth on edge.  

Bachelor Number Three, the Clueless One, approaches every date as if he were a CIA agent.  He will pose personal questions and pursue his object of desire relentlessly, even if she shows about as much interest in him as an artichoke.

One Clueless One used to leave notes on women’s cars in the parking lot at work asking for dates even after they expressed no interest in him in person.  Needless to say, he wasn’t long for the job.  Another inquires about the longest relationship fifteen minutes into the first date, and a third presents a monologue about himself.  An artichoke would be a better match.      

They may have something to do with how over 50% of the population came to be single.

To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise, That is the Question

 

Never known as the most conventional of places, California has long been home to many things, Arnold, the Haight-Ashbury movement and many bead and head shops. Most recently, it’s been home to a movement to ban male circumcision in San Francisco. “It’s barbaric!” the founders of the movement claim. “Let the lads decide for themselves when they are adults!”

If that were the case, then many men would probably rather commit harry carry. Started by Lloyd Schofield, the movement is the latest tact in a string of anti-Semitic assaults, as other ways have backfired.

“No one has the right to cut off another part of another person’s body without their consent,” said Matthew Hess, one of the supporters of the movement, and the author of a virulently anti-Semitic comic, “Foreskin Man.” The comic features a dark-haired villain, named “Monster Mohel,” and the save-the-world hero, the fair-haired and muscular, “Foreskin Man.”

Had Schofield et al done their homework, they would have known that practice has been around for four thousand years and hasn’t hurt us Jews one bit, as we have excelled in science, medicine and literature without anyone ever complaining about that owie. My great-great grandfather, Velvel Koragodsky, fathered eleven children. His grandson, Yakir, four. My own father had two, and as we were girls, he would sometimes go outside and kick a football around with the boy who lived next door, so it didn’t appear to have hurt him much, either.

I’ve also met men who converted to Judaism. One lives in Israel and has six children and seven grandchildren and said he has nothing to complain about family-wise. The other already circumcised, chose to redo himself, which he later admitted wasn’t the smartest idea. It didn’t negatively impact either one a bit even as adults.

Lo and behold, research has shown that it is actually healthier. A study found that Jewish women have less cervical cancer than other woman, and it’s because of that. There is also less opportunity for infection, and according to one man not having that extra baggage makes him a better partner. Also, there has to be a reason as to why Jewish men seldom rape. My theory is that there is more fun in the seduction, though others say that the memory never completely fades and that circumcised men are in better control of themselves.

So Schoefield and his goose stepping crew are going to have to try something else. Maybe they can try turning Friday night Sabbath candle lighting into a city-ordinance fire hazard or go after the non-dairy butter used in kosher bakeries. If they want to go international, they can fly to Afghanistan and start their movement over there, since Muslim men also have the same procedure. I’d love to hear what happens to them once they do.

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