Neither Snow Nor Rain…..The US Postal Service

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Neither Snow Nor Rain……The US Postal Service

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’. Herodotus

I grew up with this quote. It summons up visions of brave postal workers trudging through inclement weather conditions.  For more than a century,  it’s been synonymous with the tireless work the postal service does to make sure you get your junk mail, magazines, and birthday cards on time. 

This quote was inscribed in the NY Postal Building in Manhattan  in 1912. Architect William Mitchell Kendall was a classics scholar in both architecture and words. It comes from Herodotus, Book Eight of the Persian Wars. Herodotus was impressed with the fast travel of the Persian couriers.

When the Constitution established the postmaster-general position, the Founding Fathers were worried about how to get the new nation’s increasing volume of mail delivered. A system had been developed in the colonies, in which merchants, slaves and Native Americans would pass letters and parcels from person to person until they reached their destinations. That soon gave way to  mail carriers who traveled via horse and stagecoach and later locomotives and airplanes.

In January 1913, one Ohio couple took advantage of US Postal Service’s new parcel service to make a very special delivery: their infant son. The Beagues paid 15 cents for his stamps and an unknown amount to insure him for $50, then handed him over to the mailman, who dropped the boy off at his grandmother’s house about a mile away. People who mailed their children weren’t handing them over to a stranger. In rural areas, many families knew their mailman quite well.

It has always been  a system of trust. Today, though email and Amazon have replaced a lot of their job, it  is still our most trusted organization.

The 2020 election will definitely not look like any other election in American history.  A record number of states will allow for expanded early voting options including vote by mail.  Although mail balloting, sometimes known as absentee voting, has been around since  the Civil War, it has come under new scrutiny this year as Trump has claimed that this type of voting is open to fraud.  This is not true.

 What we should be worried about, is whether Trump’s Post Office can handle the influx of ballots with all the recent budget cuts. There are tight deadlines on when ballots must be received. Most require the ballot to be postmarked on or before Election Day and they must be received by the Board of Elections within 7 days of the election.  The mail is already backlogged. Imagine what it will look like with a hundred million mail in ballots.

Make sure you vote as early as possible. If you can, go to the post office instead of putting it in a blue box (which is as sanitary as anything else you touch), drive to the mail-in location, or drop it off the day of at your polling place. Don’t wait until the last minute. This year we need to work with the Postal Service,  like the  Founding Fathers did in the colonies to make sure letters got to their recipients. “We are Americans. We get the job done.” (I have to stop rewatching Hamilton).

Stay safe,

JAZ

Ten Hamilton Quotes

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Ten Hamilton Quotes

“ What (you might be asking) can a Broadway musical possibly add to the legacy of a Founding Father–a giant of our national life, a war hero, a scholar, a statesman? What’s one little play, or even one very big play, next to all that? 

But there is more than one way to change the world. To secure their freedom, the polyglot American colonists had to come together, and stick together, in the face of enormous adversity. To live in a new way, they first had to think and feel in a new way. It took guns and ships to win the American Revolution, but it also required pamphlets and speeches–and at least one play.” Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton -The Revolution

Watching Hamilton from my bedroom during a pandemic was very different than seeing it on Broadway.  Broadway will remain closed for the rest of the year. I can’t imagine what my mother who went to the theatre six nights a week after her kids grew up, would have done during this. She loved to be in the “room where it happened” and passed that love on to her family.  She certainly would have been enjoying all the “live theatre” on TV and would have loved this production.

 Hamilton was as innovative as it was traditional. It wasn’t a reinvention but a reminder of the character of the American people. It is a work that celebrates patriotism and diversity. Right now pride in America and optimism is at an all time low. When the world has turned upside down, you have to figure out what comes next. “Who will tell our story?”

Here are ten life quotes from Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda. 

“Talk less. Smile more.”

“I’m not throwing away my shot.”

“How on earth did you do that with the same 24 hours a day that everyone else gets?” 

“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see” 

“I’ll make the world safe and sound for you. You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you. We’ll give the world to you.” 

“We’re immigrants. We get the job done”

“Change requires hope.” 

“We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable.”

“I stop wasting time on tears. I live another fifty years. It’s not enough!”

“You have no control. Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” 

Stay safe,

JAZ

Dying Around Thanksgiving

Dying Around Thanksgiving

“There is no death. People only die when we forget them,” my mother explained shortly before she left me. “If you can remember me, I will be with you always.” Isabel Allende

My mother died the weekend before Thanksgiving. Now I always associate the planning for Thanksgiving with the helplessness I felt knowing that my mother was dying. I need a constructive way to get through the day.  It involves lighting a memorial candle,  going to temple and saying the prayer honoring the dead.  I do something she loved in nature or in culture and I talk to her in my head.

I was supposed to be ready when my mother died. She was ninety-one when she went into the hospital for the first time since the birth of her children. She had a long life.  “Who is the president?,” they ask to check her mental capacity. The correct answer was Bush. Her answer was “Don’t get me started.” I should have been ready, but I wasn’t.

When we lose a parent as an adult, we are supposed to be prepared for this normal life passage, or at least be  more ready to accept it when it does happen. We are expected to pick ourselves up, close the wound quickly and move on. We should not require so much time to “get over it.” This loss is expected and in the natural order of things.

Losing a parent is extremely difficult for most adult children if you have had a good relationship with your parent and even if you haven’t. (That is harder) My husband had left a couple of years before that so loss was becoming a theme in my life. My mother was my best friend and my support system throughout that time.

She was not religious.  But she went to temple one day a year to say the Prayer of Remembrance for her parents. When I was twelve I started offering to go with her. She replied that  she didn’t need company. She was going to say  “Yiska”.  It sounded very mysterious. Yizkor is the Jewish memorial prayer for the dead. The word means remember.

My mother  didn’t believe in celebrating death. She would say, “Do for people while they are alive.” She had stopped going to funerals  for her dying friends many years before. She must have done a lot because one hundred and fifty people who I did not know showed up for her memorial service and many spoke. They were her theatre community.  They were the people she had met and given theatre tickets to throughout her life. She opened their world or she shared their love for the arts right up to the end. They became her friends and ranged in age from thirty five to a hundred. 

My mother had requested that her ashes be spread over Lincoln Center and Broadway, so she did not miss anything. ‘When you come and visit me, see a play, ballet or an opera”, she said. None of us knew when we said yes, that it was illegal, but we did it.

I sit in temple feeling a weird kind of peace.  “Who is in the first seven days of mourning?”, asks the rabbi.   “Who is in the first eleven months of mourning?  Who is celebrating a yortzheit today?” I stand and say her name.  The ritual seems to help me. As we start the prayer, “yit gadal va yit gadash….  I struggle to keep up with the words in Aramaic. I have the same conversation with my mom every time I say the prayer.  “What are you doing in temple on such a beautiful day?” she asks.

I leave the temple thinking of  a conversation that I recently had with my children. “Can you get us Hamilton tickets in NY?” asks my son. “No,” I reply.  “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it already,“ said my daughter. “If Nana was alive, we would have seen it in preview, at the Public Theatre for half price,” he answered. My son said that he would try for the day of show ticket lottery when he is in New York. The legacy lives on. 

Happy Thanksgiving and Fly Safe Mom

JAZ