Neighborhoods: The Microcosm of Nations


Along about 1958, my small hometown’s city fathers wound up green-lighting a land developer’s proposed, subdivision housing project. It is unclear whether or not all the involved parties knew this but, that region’s acreage was (and still is) prone to flooding.

By 1961, my father and mother were hoping to flee our slumlord’s (literal) rat trap, two story hovel… one heated by a poorly maintained, coal fired, carbon monoxide spewing furnace… the likely cause of our family of four’s chronic, debilitating, flu-like symptoms. Indeed… our very lives were at stake.

It’s easy to see how my parents had so easily gotten suckered into signing on the dotted lines of a 30 year mortgage. And so, by June of that same year, we had moved into our new, three bedroom ranch… located smack dab at the bottom of that aforementioned, flood prone, subdivision gully. As things turned out… we’d have been far better off buying a houseboat.

By 1968, our entire neighborhood wound up becoming one of Michigan’s lesser known (not so great) lakes… its (fortunately temporary) shoreline stopping at the first step of our two steps high front porch. While only our cellar had flooded, our next-door neighbors to the east had not been so lucky. Their basement, living room and kitchen had been inundated.

The obvious moral to the story: Never make major purchases in haste.

Of course… there’s also a secondary lesson to be learned. And that begins where my above story leaves off…

Subsequent to that nearly biblical magnitude flood, my Dad had figured out how to keep future floodwaters at bay… i.e., by caulking basement windows and encasing them in window wells… by forming a two foot high, clay berm along our eastern property line. While lacking aesthetics, his practical solutions not only worked but have continued to do so… outliving him by 30 years (and still counting).

Regrettably, our neighbors had opted to turn the task over to the professionals, whose “prettier” approach to floodwater management proved nowhere near as reliable as my amateur Dad’s strategy.

There were more floods to come, too… sometimes requiring our neighbor’s patriarch… sans permission… to chop into my Dad’s defensive lines with a shovel to save his home. To put it mildly, my father was PO’d. Had any of their flood water entered and damaged our home, there’d have been hell to pay. Fortunately, that hadn’t happened… BUT… nonetheless… over the years, several adrenaline surging, heated verbal exchanges did ensue.

Fortunately, my folks did understand that our neighbors were only trying to protect their own property. But, what Dad could never fathom is why they’d not shore up their property more effectively… instead of endangering both of our homes.

By 1988, with floodwaters threatening, once again, our neighbor, with shovel in hand, cut across our property line. Of course, by then, with my 75-year-old father’s health rapidly failing, he just didn’t have much fight left in him. With the sound of the pouring rain on the roof, my heart sank at the sight of my father seated at our dining room table… cradling his head in his arms… the personification of despair. All he had wanted out of life was to secure a good life for his loved ones.

Although I hadn’t known it at the time, Dad had been mere days away from his oneway ambulance trip to the hospital… his too little / too late, ill-fated surgery… his death.

I can only hope that ugly, irreconcilable neighborhood war had not been the final fade to black scene within his mind.

So… what does any of this really mean? Well… here’s where that aforementioned, secondary lesson starts to unfold… starting with several questions…

Are not interfamily conflicts a microcosm of the international variety? Is it not our survival instincts and our territoriality what sparks battles between neighbors and nations? Does not the malfeasance and/or ignorance of leaders also trigger corrupt and stupid wars at both of those societal levels… and the others in between?

But… on a more positive note…

Are there not also a few kindhearted, courageous people out there who’ll meet their adversaries more than half way… oh… say… by extending the olive branch?

It might be of interest to you when I mention that my family’s longtime foes wound up making that peaceful gesture. Totally taking me by surprise… 15 years ago… they showed they cared enough about my well-being to pay their respects at my Mom’a memorial service.

In all honesty… long before that moment… I had grown weary of feeling “duty bound” to my folks… to… in their memory… continue slogging through all that metaphorical, stormwater muck… drowning in the oceans of figurative, bad blood which had persisted, interminably, between next-door neighbors.

Folks, I had been wrong, Wrong, WRONG and quite the fool to ever deem it too late to fill the miles deep emotional chasm between us… one that had run miles deeper than those paltry six inch deep trenches, which my neighbor had sliced into my father’s property line berm.

My neighbors and I are now good friends. I thoroughly enjoy their company and treasure our conversations. Their nonagenarian status affords them a wealth of life experiences and a robust philosophy of life. I find all I’ve learned from them refreshing, enriching and inspiring. My only regret is that my family… that I had not made peace with them half a century sooner.

As for my final Q…

Is not an amicable resolution to erroneously perceived, irreconcilable differences within a neighborhood also a microcosm of all the good that could happen upon our world stage? We can only hope that is true… that my wonderful friends and neighbors… are a microcosm of any and all bold, kindhearted, peace seeking leaders, spanning our entire globe.



The Hot Tub: A Microcosm Of Planet Earth


When it comes down to the new DC régime’s pecking order, Mike Pence is Number 2.

Shortly after his boss had withdrawn America from the Paris Agreement, Mr. P publicly commented on issues of the environment. And one almost felt sorry for the li’l guy because he seemed to be genuinely mystified when he said…

“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world. It’s long been a goal of the liberal left in this country to advance a climate change agenda.”

Now Mr. P, there really is a reason and it is… or should be… nonpartisan. But let’s ease into this slowly. We lefties do realize that righties feel flummoxed by science. Nonetheless, you guys simply need to open up your minds… maybe just a tad? Meet us at least half way? OK?

Perhaps you’d gain a better understanding were this environmental stuff to hit home a bit more? And here’s where being a wallowing in wealth type of guy could actually come in handy. I mean, somewhere within your posh mansion, we would find a family sized hot tub, right?

Now let’s say you’ve worked up a profuse sweat from gutting government of all ethics and laying waste to our economy and ecology. Come the weekend would you not want to kick back and relax… to take a dip into all that warm bubbling water?

Perhaps, from time to time, even your wife Karen and your three kids, Audrey, Charlotte and Michael Jr. all hop in to join you?

Now let’s say on one particular weekend, you suddenly come down with a really nasty case of diarrhea… and by that I mean you’re, literally, unable to contain yourself. Under those circumstances, would you hop into the hot tub anyway? Expect your family to smile, say nothing and even remain soaking in the no longer clean water with you?

Of course not! You’re too refined to expect that, right?

Don’t you get it, Mr. P.? In this make-believe scenario, your hot tub is a microcosm of our climate change, warmed up planet… the fouled water analogous to our contaminated seven seas. You represent all of the world’s polluters who your admin enables… your family is akin to the family of man… all seven plus billion of us.

The obvious difference, here, is your spouse and offspring can easily make their escape.

However… on the grander scale, where in our vast universe would seven+ billion people run to?

Mr. P, are you beginning to see the big picture, now?

Decent, considerate folks… and yes you’re right… we’re mostly on the left… do understand that planet Earth is the only home we have. If we render our world utterly uninhabitable… shoot (oo = i) all over the place, as it were… there’s no other known, nearby, earthlike planet, within our vast universe, where humankind can seek refuge.