The glamour days of flying are over.  It is more like preparing for a trip to hades.

First, you must present your papers.   Then all personal belongings are all taken away from you – purse, laptop, shoes, jacket,  billfold, cell phone, magazine, change, teddy bear, keys, cap – and placed in an institutional bin and conveyed to inspection via x-ray.  Depending on the airport, you will be directed to go through a metal detector or advanced imaging technology which means that someone will see an image of your body that reveals every bulge, sag and curve of your naked image.  It is all very anonymous, we are told.  If you set off the metal detector, you will have to undergo a pat down or you may be randomly chosen for a pat down.  You pray that you are spared the humiliation of setting off the metal detector and slowing down the line.  Once you are cleared, you and the other refugees scramble to collect your stuff, put your shoes and jacket back on and regain your dignity.  All of this is carefully choreographed by the Transportation Security Administration, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.



Maybe I’ve watched too many classic black and white movies from the 1940s, but it seems that flying was more civilized back then.  In the airport scenes the men wore a coat and tie; the women chose  to travel in tailored dresses or smartly cut suits and  hats and sexy high-heeled pumps.  (Think Joan Crawford style.)  Passengers walked openly from the terminal to the waiting plane with its propellers revving up in anticipation of the long flight.  Yes, it was Hollywood’s version of flying, but it is still a nice illusion in black and white.

Who can forget that final scene in Casablanca at the airport?  It’s dark.  Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is dressed for travel in a skirt, jacket, white blouse and hat that reflect the uncertainty and tension of the departure.  Her eyes are brimmed with tears.  Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is noble in his overcoat and fedora as he puts principle above love and makes sure she boards the plane with her husband, Victor (Paul Henreid).  When the plane is safely airborne, he and Captain Renault(Claude Rains ) walk away into the night.  Rick and Ilsa will always have Paris – in black and white, of course.I realize the TSA and the government only want to keep us safe, and I appreciate that.  For my next trip I think I WILL fly…well, maybe another time.

Run for your life!

By this time next year the final avalanche of red, white and blue balloons and confetti will have fallen in Charlotte, NorthCarolina and in Tampa, Florida.  The delegates from every state will cheer wildly as the candidates embrace and raise their joined hands high as their proud families gather around them on the stage.  We will all have watched it on television.  The candidates will then be off and running for president and vice-president of the United States.I have been running for years…not for any office but for my well-being and sanity.  Granted I don’t run as fast as I used to, and some days it is more of a fast jog that a run.  Running is a mostly a solitary form of exercise and that suits me.  I put on my old-fashioned Sony headphones with the antenna and take off toward the bay or the park.  Depending on my mood, I listen to either classical via  National Public Radio or a local country and western radio station.  On good days I make it to the public library and back.  Running releases tension and sometimes even inspires my creative side with a new idea or solution.  It is not for everyone.   If I don’t run fairly regularly, at least three  times a week, I become a rather cranky crone.  I know that someday I will have to slow down to a walk, but in the meantime I will keep moving.

Run for your life!  Election 2012 is coming and the campaigns and debates have just started.   See you at the voting booth!


 Maybe it was the heat of August, but as I was out running one morning  last week I thought of cremation.  And when I think of cremation I am reminded of the San Francisco Columbarium that I visited several years ago.  As part of a post-graduate technical writing class I had taken, I had written a piece about cremation versus burial and had mentioned the San Francisco Columbarium in it.  I managed to shock my younger fellow students with the clever title of “The Tomb or The Torch?” 

San Francisco Columbarium

The San Francisco Landmarks website describes it this way:

Columbaria, first built by the classical Romans, are buildings which contain cremated remains. The word is derived from the Latin columbawhich means dovecote.

The San Francisco Columbarium, containing over five thousand niches, was designed by British architect Bernard J. Cahill and opened in 1898 in what was then the 167-acre Odd Fellows Cemetery. In 1910, San Francisco passed a law prohibiting cremations, and the crematory was demolished. Later all bodies in the cemetery were relocated outside the city. The Columbarium survived but from 1934 to 1979 it was abandoned to raccoons and birds, mushrooms and fungus.  The Neptune Society acquired the building in 1979 and over the years has performed a dazzling restoration.”

Inside the San Francisco Columbarium

It is an incredible place full of beauty and surprises around every curve.  The dome,  stained glass and marble floors presents a cross between a cathedral and a museum with a quiet sense of  reverence, mystery and art.  The rounded walls blend with the dome which is capped with stained glass.  The rotunda gives it a feeling of infinity, but  the small alcoves gives one a sense of intimacy.  The settings seem so much more personal than a mausoleum or a cemetery.  Each niche is like a compact memorial.  In some niches the urn is sealed inside with only the name and life dates on a plaque.  Others have a glass front with the urn and a few personal mementos visible –  passport,  picture,  locket,  teddy bear,  rosary,  lock of hair,  good luck charm – to reflect the life departed life of the ashes that now reside there forever. 

Check out the San Francisco Landmarks website and click on the photos there for a closer view of the ones I posted here. 

Cremation makes sense to me, but I just don’t know what I want done with my ashes.  The San Francisco Columbarium is too far away.  Composting would be practical but quite undignified.  I see no reason to have them kept around the house like some odd vase that nobody can find the right spot for but will feel obligated to keep.   To bury them seems to defeat the purpose of cremation.  So scattering seem the best solution.  But where?  I’ll have to be creative.