Monday, January 14, 2019

Cutting A Rug Isn't What It Used To Be


The idea was to go dancing some night. The subject of swing dancing had come up one evening with Zelda, a friend who likes to dance. (NOTE: Zelda is not her real name, not even close, but it keeps my friend at a respectable distance from this story. The only Zelda I’ve ever known was Aunt Zelda - my dad’s sister - who was a most unhappy woman whose default attitude was complaining.) I told her I thought it would be fun. At the time I assumed swing dancing was the same as jitterbugging. Which I used to be fairly decent at, but hadn’t attempted in a couple of years. No telling if my knees could still handle my inspired moves. Ballroom dancing, however, is an entirely different animal. I had seen that on TV, and even in person at a hotel in Louisville several years ago, where they were having regional finals. The men and women were dressed as though in an MGM musical, and their choreography was precise, inventive, and thoroughly unlike anything I was capable of. I was awed not only by their dance routine, but also by how much they must have spent on wardrobe. 
So Zelda and I headed to Kirkwood Station Brewing Company one Sunday night recently. There’s a large room on the left where young people go to hear blues and rock and whatever else is on tap, including their beers. Twice a month, the Southside Imperial Dance Club takes over. Neither Zelda nor I knew anything about them, or what kind of dancing they did. But from looking at their logo on their website, it sure looked like a jitterbug group to me. Talk about cutting a rug, this had to be the time and place, right?
A sparse crowd was in attendance. By sparse I mean there were more empty chairs than occupied ones. Maybe 40 or 50 people. The place holds a couple of hundred. I felt uncomfortable even before we sat down at a table next to a man who didn't dance the entire night, nor did he even smile or talk to anyone or acknowledge us. I know he was alive because I saw him blink. It wasn’t the sparseness of the venue that got to me, although that helped. It was a combination of the lighting and the music. To say the place was over-lit is like saying Forest Park has trees. Bright lightbulbs glowed overhead. Random spotlights beamed down from the ceiling. A stage up front was lit from behind by two blinding floodlights that could have provided security for a Walmart parking lot. How can you dance with so much light?, I wondered. It was worse than dancing outside. At least outside there are shadows. Here there were none. 
Then I noticed one of those mirrored balls hanging from the ceiling over the middle of the dance floor. I think they are called disco balls nowadays. This one wasn’t turning. There were no lights shining on it. It just hung there, dark and still, like a bat. The waitress came by in one of her infrequent trips to the tables. I asked her why the ball wasn’t being used.
“It makes them dizzy,” she said.
I wasn’t sure I heard right and asked her to repeat her answer. “It makes them dizzy. The little light reflections on the floor, going around and around, makes the dancers dizzy. They don’t like it.” She took a quick swipe at our table with a musty cloth and moved on. Zelda and I looked at each other and began laughing. 
But as bad as the lighting was, the music was worse. I don’t know what genre it was, or what decade it came from, or who the artists were. Neither one of us recognized any of the songs. The source of the music was from an old guy who sat on the stage with a laptop in front of him. All the music was on there. I had hoped for “live” music. I could have stayed home and listened to Spotify if I wanted unfamiliar tunes. We asked the music man to play something older, so we could swing dance. Like something by Benny Goodman, Chuck Berry, Count Basie, Bill Haley and the Comets, or even some decent rock we recognized.
“Don’t have any of that,” he said. “Got some on my other computer but that’s at home. Don’t think I got Benny Goodman though.”
In the meantime other couples got up on the floor, even women dancing with women. Shades of the Casa Loma Ballroom. And there were some good dancers. But with a few exceptions, they weren’t dressed like they were at a dance. More like they were going to dinner at Applebee’s or shopping at Sam’s Club. I was glad I hadn’t agonized over my wardrobe. But it all seemed to work, especially when just about everyone in the place got up on the floor to do one of those country dances where they all are in a line and do intricate steps and clap their hands. Zelda and I sat that one out. I tried it once, many years ago, and never did catch on. 
We did get some dancing in. Pretty smooth, if you ask me. Especially Zelda. She was even able to follow my thoroughly original and unpredictable moves. Jitterbugging kind of steps, turning and twirling and laughing and enjoying, if not the lights and music, just the idea of dancing. 
Dancing is one of those ancient and eternal activities that is its own fun and reward. I grew up with an affinity for MGM musicals, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Donald O’Connor, Judy and Mickey, and big bands. I love Broadway musicals like “42nd Street” with lots of tap-dancing. I loved “LaLa Land,” saw it twice just for the dancing. Which means swing dancing is in my DNA, and one of these nights we will find that special place with real “live” musicians and recognizable songs and a crowd that dresses up and, yes, even a mirrored ball  that won’t make anyone dizzy.



And who knows, we may get all dressed up, just like they did  at MGM.










Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Thanksgiving "You Can Go Home Again" Blues

This story takes place this past Thanksgiving, 2018. It begins on a train and ends in a bar.

It’s taken me almost a month to get around to finishing it. Better late….right?

That Wednesday morning I took Amtrak from St. Louis’ Gateway Station to Chicago to spend the holiday with my son, Gregg, who lives in Chicago, and my daughter, Holly, who was flying in from LA. All went smoothly, we connected in Chicago as planned, lucked out with mild weather, and spent a delicious and memorable Thanksgiving with two friends of Gregg - Keralee and Daniel. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, fine wine, and stimulating conversation. Highlight of the conversation was a response to the “what are you thankful for?” question. Daniel (our chef and turkey carver) went along with the usual “friends, family, health” response. Then he added “music.” For the next several minutes he talked about what music means to him, how it brings people together, its power and permanence. We all joined in, sort of a verbal jam session. A memorable conversation.



I’m getting to the blues part.

That Friday night the five of us met at a bar called The Lighthouse, on the north side in Rogers Park. It’s a small place, a long and narrow neighborhood tavern with cluttered walls and a well-worn bar and random stools that speak to friends and neighbors and conversations and tears and laughter and closing calls.


This Friday night was an open mic night. A small space in the corner worked as the “performance” area, with drums, a keyboard, a few spotlights, and a couple of microphones. We found stools near that area, the five of us. No sooner had I been handed a bottle of a local brew than an old white guy, with white beard, stepped to the mic and said he was going to sing the blues. Then he added, “Is there anybody here who plays blues piano?”

Four fingers pointed at me. As you may know, I play blues piano, as long as it doesn’t stray too far from the 1-4-5 chord progression. And in the key of C hopefully. Even though I hadn’t played out in years, I couldn’t resist - either the opportunity or the pressure. I went up to the keyboard. “What key?” I asked. “C” he said. A match made in heaven. So he sang a blues I’d never heard before but it didn’t matter. Blues is blues. Halfway through he ran out of lyrics, so I soloed for a couple of choruses and finished with glissando up the short keyboard. (Glissando is more of a classical piano term seldom found in blues but what the hell, it was The Lighthouse.)

I started to sit down when the next act came up. A trio - drums, bass, guitar. “Hey, man,” the guitar player said. “Stay here. We need a keyboard.” I pretended I was reluctant but actually couldn’t wait to start playing. Which we did. One number and an old black guy came up to the mic. I could tell this guy had some chops. Well dressed, hair dyed and slicked down, a look in his eyes that said, “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.” He led us through two or three tunes…I don’t remember exactly, kind of a blur…had the audience shouting for “more” and finished up with a dynamic version of a blues standard whose name I forget (again, kind of a blur).

With that, and another beer, the evening ended, at least for me and I grabbed an Uber back to the hotel.

There’s more blues to this story. Stay with me.

The next night, Saturday, I took the 7:00 train from Chicago, headed back to St. Louis. Sat by the window, looked out at the passing flatlands until the sun was gone and all I could see in the window was my reflection. Around midnight we neared St. Louis. As we sped down the Illinois side, I saw the Arch reflecting light across the river, and the glow of downtown. The train made an easy turn west and crossed the bridge. I saw the Mississippi, the barges, the dark stretch of shoreline that represents a sad commentary on our waterfront. It was almost a half-hour past midnight. I hadn’t had dinner. My plan was to go home, fix a couple of scrambled eggs, a cup of hot chocolate and go to bed. It had been a long day. But as we crossed over Broadway, I saw the lights of White Castle, then Broadway Oyster Bar, then BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. “Hmmmm, I wonder who’s playing at BB’s tonight?” I said to myself. When you’re on a train it’s okay to talk to yourself, especially if the seat next to you is empty. Since I had parked my car in the Amtrak lot and I was already downtown…

Cut to the last chorus of the blues.

By 12:45, I was seated at the bar at BB’s, drinking one of the excellent 4 Hands brews. On the bandstand - a first-class professional bandstand - was Marquise Knox, one of St. Louis’ top blues guitar players, a young guy backed by a solid band.

The manager of BB’s, John May, sat next to me as we discussed life, love, loss and the blues. I hadn’t been to BB’s in many months, maybe a year or more. The bartender, Rob, who I hadn’t seen in a long time, poured me another beer, slid it over, said, “On the house. Good to see you. Welcome back.”

And so Thanksgiving weekend came to a close. I left BB’s at 2:30, giving thanks I had my kids, my friends, my music, and the blues.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Troubling Sound on a Sunday Morning

There are sounds that have become part of our collective memory. The rumble of thunder, birds brightly chirping, an airplane passing overhead, a knock on the door, a voice, a song, a dog’s bark. One sound, however, is irreparably changed for me.
It being a rainy Sunday morning today, my inclination was to either stay in bed until noon or sit by the fireplace, and read. But I told my friend George that I would meet him at Eliot Unitarian Chapel for eleven o’clock service. I’ve been dipping my toe, so to speak, into Eliot in my search for meaning or belonging or an alternative to Meet the Press. Maybe all three.
The sanctuary was full. George and I sat in the back row. He had knee surgery recently and needs the leg room. I like to look at all the people, like Eleanor Rigby. The service began. Piano solo, singing, readings, the children’s gathering, silent thought and remembrance, and then the sermon, by Reverend Gadon. She spoke of memory, of reviewing our lives, of reaching into our past to help define who we are today. She spoke about a people who have survived in spite of hatred and intolerance. This, in the shadow of the killings at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Her sermon was laced with warm humor and personal insights. She talks “with” people, not “at” them. 
Part way through Reverend Gadon’s sermon, a passing siren broke the mood. Seconds later, a second siren sped by. They were intrusive, dominant, sharpened by unknown events somewhere “out there.” Months ago, even weeks ago, I would have assumed they were going to a fire, a domestic dispute,  an auto accident or maybe even an attempted hold-up in some store. Not today. The sound of the siren uncovered something new in me. Possibly for many of the others in the congregation as well. It now carried a different message, a reminder and a warning.
Today it seemed possible there might just be another mass shooting somewhere, a nut with guns and lots of clips who had decided it was time to take action to get rid of evil in our community, our nation. Someone who realized that now it was safe to step out of the darkness and do something. Sitting in the sanctuary of the chapel, I couldn’t assume this was a “safe place.” I couldn’t assume that the many churches in Kirkwood on this Sunday morning were immune from this hatred. Perhaps the sound of the siren carried new meaning to them as well.
Reverend Gadon continued with her comments on life, unity, acceptance, and survival. With some effort I pulled myself back into the moment. She concluded on a note of hope. The service ended with warmth and uplifted spirits, people chatting and shaking hands and laughing. 
And yet…and yet…


Friday, October 26, 2018

THOU SHALT NOT SQUANDER


At this stage in my life - admittedly a late stage - I am searching for meaning. Answers to those musical questions,  “What’s it all about, Alfie?,” or “Is That All There Is?”. I need more compelling guidelines for the time ahead than watching my salt and fat intake, eating plenty of fiber, staying off ladders, and being “mindful.”
So I’m reading a couple of books about this sort of thing. One of the books is by a Buddhist Zen master and best-selling author, fairly impressive credentials and certainly far above my limited literary abilities. The other book is a compilation of thoughts and quotes for each day of the year, from January 1 to December 31. As if you hadn’t figured that out. Admittedly I came across this book in the middle of the year, but I cheat occasionally and read something from an earlier month. Chronology is not essential to effectiveness. 
I came across a phrase or a quote, not sure which, that I find meaningful. In fact, it’s so meaningful that I wrote it on an index card and taped it to my office door. It says, “I will look upon this day as a gift, not to be squandered.” I like that thought. It usually helps me get out of bed in the morning. Usually, but not always. Sometimes I begin the worrying process as soon as I open my eyes. “What kind of worries?” you may ask. The usual culprits. The roof, the furnace, the screens, the yard, the woodpecker who arrived a few days ago, that pain in my lower back, that pain in my right shoulder (can I play tennis today?), my heart, my liver, my kidneys, my teeth. It’s a really long list, and with very little effort I could stay in bed until noon just running through all the possibilities that might befall me that day, or certainly tomorrow.
Most of the time, at least since I discovered that phrase, I simply say to myself, “I will look upon this day as a gift, not to be squandered.” And I’ll pop out of bed, throw on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, feed the dog, make coffee, decide on Shredded Wheat or Plenty O’Fiber (or whatever it’s called), and I am on my way to positive, constructive things. Recently I’ve added a 15-minute meditation to that morning ritual, guided by an app on my iPad. 
Not this morning though. I let Lexi out and heard the rhythmic drumming of the Kirkwood High School Marching Band in the distance. They were practicing for this weekend’s football clash. I like marching bands, so Lexi and I jumped into the car, even before coffee, and hurried over to the football field. Sure enough, the band was lined up, all three thousand of them (at least that’s how it seemed), in school clothes. Yes, uniforms are a necessity for a band. Just like The Music Man said.  
We listened for about ten minutes, then came home where I resumed the morning ritual. It was actually an energizing way to start my day. I don’t know what song they were playing, but I don’t think John Phillip Sousa is on the top ten list anymore. (Side note: I played trumpet in the Washington U. ROTC Marching Band in 1956, until I bumped into a tuba player and cut my lip on my braces. Mom put an end to that right away.)
Back to that phrase. Here’s the word that sticks with me. “Squandered.” An interesting choice, that word. It’s not one you come across frequently, if at all. I can’t remember the last time someone used that in a sentence. I know what it means, as I’m sure you do. “To use or spend extravagantly or wastefully.” Ben Franklin wrapped it up neatly with “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” Amen, Ben.
I’m not going to give you any advice. You wouldn’t take it anyway. All I can say is that this “don’t squander” concept seems to work for me. On most days anyway.
But you’ve spent enough time reading this article. Don’t squander any more of your time. Go do something that makes you, or somebody else, feel good. You have the gift.

Friday, October 12, 2018

An Evening with Pasta, Wine and a Lambo

(Originally published in the Fall issue, 2018 of County Living Magazine, in my Random Musings column)

A friend named Alan recently invited me to his home for an evening of “hanging out with the guys.” These were friends of his whose wives were enjoying a “Girls Night Out.” Sounded like a proper thing to do, even though “girls” seems like a risky term these days. 
“You don’t know these guys,” said Alan, “but you’ll fit right in. We’ll sit around the pool, have some wine, and some pasta dishes I made for dinner.” I accepted. I had nothing else going and I liked the idea of pool, wine and pasta. He asked everyone to bring a bottle of red. Alan's rather particular about having the right wine to go with one of his meals. It's an admirable trait, one that is foreign to me since I'm not into wines. Give me a Tito's vodka or a Knob Creek bourbon and I'm happy.
That evening I was the last one there, having stopped at Total Wine for a bottle of medium-priced rose’, a good choice for summer drinking, so I’ve been told. Besides, red wine gives me a migraine. From the moment I pulled into his driveway in my 2013 Hyundai Elantra, I knew I had no business being there. It’s that “car thing,” a big deal with guys that closely ties the size of their net worth to their car. Mine is clearly reflected by my shiny red Hyundai.
I parked behind a 2018 white Mercedes convertible. It’s the model that grabs my attention when it passes me on the road. The Mercedes was behind a sleek new Infiniti SUV. Which was behind a new Lexus sedan and a sporty BMW or an Audi - I confuse the two. Sitting by itself, away from everyone else so it wouldn’t get scratched, was a white Lamborghini. This is a show stopper. These beauties start at $200,000 and rapidly escalate from there. 

I could own at least twenty Elantra’s for the price of one Lamborghini. Why, I wondered, would someone pay that much for a car to drive in a state where the maximum speed limit is 70 mph? The answer, of course, is because they can. 
As we sat around the pool - actually, next to it, on a patio; no one went swimming - a big, entertaining guy named named Bob asked a perfectly sun-tanned guy with a full head of beautifully-styled white hair a question I’ve never heard before. “Steve, how do you like your Lambo?”
Lambo! At first I wasn’t sure what a Lambo was. I started to laugh but realized it was a serious question. About what, I had no idea. “What’s not to like in a “Lambo?”, I almost said, always tempted to go for the cheap laugh. Steve casually said, “It’s a lot of fun.” Two or three hundred thousand dollars worth of fun on four wheels??? I don’t know what passes for fun in a Lambo but it sure isn’t going to Home Depot for a can of Rust-Oleum. 
And so the night progressed. The group was easy to be with. Lots of laughs, a relaxing banter, jokes both good and bad, golf stories. And I felt included - except for the golf. Never touch the stuff. After a delicious dinner of four different pastas prepared by Alan and a salad and a little more banter and wine, I was the first to say goodnight. I didn’t want them to see that pitiful little car I was driving. It didn’t work. They all decided it was time to leave. So there I was, trapped in the driveway while they climbed into their chariots and began to pull out. 

Look, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to spend a pile on a vehicle. If I had the money, I’d probably go for something that gets people to stare with envy and, as Mose Allison sings it, “makes little girls talk out of their heads.” The language of cars belongs to guys. I never heard women talk about their “Caddy” or a “Jag” or especially a Lambo. Of course that may change with the changing times. Along with “girls night out.”
One thing I regret - not asking Steve if he’d take me for a ride. Even to Home Depot. It’s probably as close to riding in a Lambo I’ll ever get.

(NOTE: Since this article ran in the Fall issue of County Living Magazine, I received an email from Steve. He offered to take me for a ride. To Costco. Fine by me. I like Costco better than Home Depot anyway.)




Saturday, September 15, 2018

Boy, did someone put me on the wrong mailing list. I'm flattered to be included, but I don't come close to qualifying for what they're selling. Here's what I'm talking about - a brochure that arrived in the mail recently from Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Truth be told, I can just about afford One sea, much less Seven. I've received brochures from other cruise lines before, some of them with offerings within reach, but this one showed me that I know less about the world, and about how the well-heeled travel.


Here's a sampling of their "Exotic Hideaways" for 2019. Some of these places are unfamiliar to me. Maybe you've heard of them, maybe you've even been to them. If so, I salute you for your spirit of adventure.

Let's start with their top of the line. It's 19 nights (I guess that rounds out to 20 days) on the Seven Seas Mariner from Bali to Sydney. Highlights are the Timor Sea  (never heard of it), several stops in Australia - Broome, Exmouth, Perth, Penneshaw (aka Kangaroo Island!!). I forgot to mention - it starts in Bali. That's an island in Indonesia. So, figure it out. 19 nights in the Mariner Suite for $35,000. Or, if you're having trouble making ends meet, get the Penthouse suite for $29,000. The Mariner figures to be  roughly $1800 a night. Meals included. And clean sheets. And French wines. Still. $1800 a night is more expensive than most New York hotels (regular rooms with a king bed and 2 sets of towels, anyway).




Not interested in Australia? No problem. Try their Singapore to Bangkok voyage, starting  at $16,000 for 16 nights, and going up to $28,000. By the way, that's for the Mariner Suite, which is 900 square feet. The Regent Suite, should you need more space, is 4500 square feet. That's bigger than my house! I'm sure you could play pickle ball in your room if you get bored. On this cruise, you visit Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and cruise the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
These sound like locations for a Tom Cruise movie.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I should mention there are several amenities included with these cruises. A sampling: Unlimited shore excursions. Unlimited beverages, including fine wines and booze. In-suite mini-bar, replenished daily. Just in case you're trying to escape your personal problems. Like how to pay for this if the market tanks while you're at sea. And maybe the crowning jewel - unlimited WiFi. So you can stay in your 4000 square foot cabin and watch YouTube all day while the South China Sea glides by outside your window.

I've got to be honest with you. If I had bought a load of Microsoft or Apple 20 years ago, I'd probably be sending in my registration right now. Doesn't matter which cruise. They all look appealing. In fact, I'd probably book two or three cruises for 2019. Only problem would be what to do with my dog. I couldn't leave her for that long. But maybe...maybe...a cabin for two? Unlimited Milk Bones? A frisbee to play with in my very large cabin? That might just work.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Wallet That Wouldn't Die

You can file this story either under "Dumb Moves" or "Hope for Humanity." Maybe both. Your call.

It concerns a wallet. My wallet. A couple Saturday's ago I went to the movie with friend Harry. Afternoon movie at Chesterfield Mall, aka The Land of Empty Stores. After the movie, as we walked to the parking lot, we decided to meet at Barnes and Noble, about a half mile down the road, for coffee and some stimulating conversation. We're good at that. Harry went to his car, I went to mine. I had put my iPhone in the same pocket as my keys and my wallet, which makes for a very crowded pocket. Don't ask why everything was stuffed in one side. That's just how I did it. When I got to my car I couldn't get my keys out, so I put my wallet on top of my car, got the keys, jumped into the car and pulled out. 

Yep, you guessed it. Wallet on top of the car. I got to B&N, met Harry inside, and realized I didn't have my wallet. "I left it in the car," I told him and went out to my car. Totally wrong. That's when I realized I had left it on top of the car. So I sped back the 1/2 mile to the Mall, found the parking spot where I had been, looked around. No wallet. "I'll just check at the Cheesecake Factory," I thought. Someone found it and turned it in there (it being one of the few open businesses). As I drove down the row to the Factory, my cell phone rang. A woman. A stranger. "Are you Gerry Mandel?" I told her I indeed was. "I have your wallet," she said. "I found it on the road." She was across from B&N, at Trader Joe's, actually at Smashburger, which I had no idea where that was..or even what it was. "Stay there," I told her. "I'll be there in 3 minutes."

And I was. We found each other - she in a blue car, me in a red car. She handed me my "stuff" - the wallet and a handful of cards, id's, photos, etc etc. She explained she had picked up what she could from the road, a dangerous proposition since the cars move quickly along that stretch of highway. "I couldn't find your driver's license, or any other credit cards," she said. Turns out she was from Michigan, just visiting, and had seen my wallet in the road. And endangered her own life by picking up the contents. She even handed me the  $20 bill I had. I tried to give it to her. I would've made it a ten, but didn't have anything smaller. She refused it. "Pay it forward," she said. She walked into Smashburger and I got in my car and headed back up the road.

Hang in there. It gets better.
I parked along side the road near the area where she said she had found the wallet. I put on my blinkers and started scouring the median and roadside. Which had to be a pretty pathetic sight. This old guy walking up and down the road, looking for who knows what as drivers flew by, probably thinking that poor old coot oughta be in a home. Back and forth I walked...until I saw a plastic card in the middle of the road. I retrieved it, in between the cars and pickups. My driver's license! Now all I needed was my MasterCard, the one I use to charge everything so I can get a free airplane ticket to somewhere I may want to go someday.

That's when a Chesterfield cop pulled up behind my car. "Great," I thought. "They'll tell me I can't be wandering around on the median, or can't be parked on the side." A young woman officer walked over to me. I gave her my most sincere and helpless smile and a slight wave. "Hi. Do I have to move my car?" I said, assuming a negative outcome.

"We got a call at the station," she said. "Someone reported they'd seen a wallet in the road. I'm here to help you." I could have hugged her. But I'm sure it would've been taken the wrong way. She spent about ten minutes walking around with me. Then she said, "If you can't find it soon, I suggest you call the credit card company and cancel it." She said it nicely and she was right. But canceling a card creates its own problems. "I'll just look a couple more minutes," I said. She said "okay" and "be careful." And left.
By then, Harry had joined me in the hunt. Nice to have company on the median. I told him thanks but I think I'll wrap it up, get a new card. 

I had almost given up when two young women who had just gotten off work at the Cheesecake Factory were walking along the road, across from the median where I was. They saw me looking. One of them held up a card. "What's your name?" she shouted. I told her. I spelled it. I said "MasterCard." "This is yours," she said, crossed the road and handed it to me. I could have hugged her, but...well, you know. I thanked her profusely and offered her the twenty dollar bill. She took it. Hesitantly, but took it. For her and her friend. I had paid it forward, I guess.

So that's my story. Good people still abound in our society. There still exists a strong element of morality, of doing what is right, even though it may be inconvenient or even dangerous. You don't hear much about these people, but they are there. More than we realize. Small acts of concern and compassion that help define us as human, even when evidence occasionally leads us to different conclusions. I don't know the names of any of these people who helped me. What I do know is they have renewed my faith in the goodness of people. Maybe not everybody, certainly, but enough to help us get through the rough spots. A belated "thank you" to those beautiful strangers.