Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Honey, I think God is calling me to New York..."


SUPERSTAR
 Reason number 6,117 to relocate to the Big Apple:  I'm a rock star there.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit; let me explain.

For several years I have been organizing and hosting bi-annual health fairs and "Saturday Clinics" at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy in Buffalo, New York, my home-sweet-home.  Buffalo has the dubious distinction of being the second poorest city in the nation...there we go again, second place.  St. Luke's is in the poorest neighborhood in the city, and health care is a low priority for folks looking for food, clothes and shelter.  My job has been to bring the resources to them, and I've been privileged to do it for some time now.

Over a year ago a couple o' big city folk came to my little health fair to observe - though it was unclear just why.  They flew in from NYC and actually jumped right in, getting screened for diabetes, osteoporosis, thyroid disease.  They flew home later that day, and little did I know the impact our event would have on the future of diabetic education and care in New York...

Funded by state to promote diabetic education, the group (Institute for Leadership) formulated a program called "Faith Fights Diabetes" encouraging churches, synagogues and mosques to train and equip leaders to present diabetic education and support, based on a program from Seton Health.  The leadership training, they state, was based on...little old me. 

Fast forward:  In early December they flew my beloved and I to LaGuardia, put us up in a swank little botique hotel in the fashion district, wined and dined us, and treated us to a wonderful holiday diversion.  We were treated like celebrities.  Dinner at Carmine's with the program director and president was amazing, the company entrancing - the president, Rev. Faulkner, told a wonderful story of how he lured his wife from Virginia, her home, to Times Square (when Times Square was not the Disney production it is now...); he reported, "I told her, honey, I think God is calling me to New York."  My eyes lit up, and I turned to my bride, who quickly retorted, "Don't even try it."  Foiled again.

The trip was capped with an award ceremony where the graduates of the Community Health Worker Program received the "David P. Marciniak Defy Diabetes Award", to be given yearly to all the graduates of the program...not kidding!  They also presented a nifty plaque to me for my service to the community, and gave me time to address the group.  Here's the jist of what I said:

"I feel like an explorer who has happened on a lost tribe, and the tribe believes that I am their god, and start feeding me grapes and waving palm leaves to keep me cool.  But I fear that the tribe will inevitably realize I am just Dave, and will subsequently put me in a pot and cook me...(insert laughter - it worked)

When our father Abraham was called from his home he did not have a map, a written manual, a power-point or GPS to lead the way.  He believed that God would fulfill his promise, and went by faith.  He was just Abraham, but he responded to extraordinary circumstances with faith and was righteous because of his great faith.  I am just Dave.  You are just Franco, just Sarah, just Matilda, just Virginia.  But God is calling you and I to go forth in faith, to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and to make a difference in their lives.  You are called to be extraordinary in a very ordinary world.  Your faith, your trust, your obedience, will be honored by our God as righteousness.  Don't shrink from this challenge.  Just as Abraham responded in faith, you too must go forth trusting in God's goodness, and he will reward you for your faith and trust." 

The next day we flew home.  Everything here was the same; there were dishes to do, work was piled up, and the bills were screaming to be paid.  Dinner needed cooking, laundry needed washing, and snow was piling on the driveway. 

I was just Dave again...thankfully un-cooked.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thanks, Steve.

Technology is like infatuating love.  One moment we are enamored, amazed, confused, and totally enveloped in its charms.  Our thoughts and desires are irrationally lured to it.  But, like a childhood crush, the feeling is fleeting: all too soon the pedestal is upturned and we are reminded again that we are unsophisticated rubes in a manipulative game we cannot hope to win. 

Best Buy knows this.  Damn them.

I spent gads of money at Best Buy this year and remain a technological infant.  My sons play games on systems that I suspect they may be using to infect the Iranian nuclear program while I type on a keyboard where the control button has long since disappeared.  There are sugary fingerprints obscuring my monitor and the number lock button sticks from the time Teresa spilled apple juice on it.  My parents watch Chumlee of "Pawn Stars" on their 52" flat screen high-definition television while I gaze on Giada DeLaurentis on a six-thousand pound 27" monstrosity that is shaded pink on the left side of the screen.  That's the side my father dropped it on while getting it ready for donation to me.  He didn't need it after getting that big ol' flat screen. 

Please don't misinterpret my lament; I don't fashion myself a technological "Job" scraping my running sores with pot shards as I wallow in ashes.  No, I am not oppressed...in some ways, I feel a sense of freedom from an endless cycle of "new and obsolete".  I am quite pleased at my ability to save pictures, surf, and type my silly essays whether in the kitchen, the den, or hiding from the kids behind the garage.  I have a router that is far too large for my needs and am not entirely sure that I don't provide internet service for several blocks.  And most of all, I have my favorite toy, my piece de resistance, my equivalent to Gollum's "precioussss":  my little iPod. 

Oh, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

Ella Fitzgerald.  Chet Baker.  Miles Davis.  Billie Holiday.  Mel Torme.  Duke Ellington.  Nancy Wilson.  Sonny Rollins.  Frank Sinatra.  Dinah Washington.  Sarah Vaughn.  The list goes on.  They did not exist in my childhood; they were hidden away on vinyl, gathering dust in someone's collection, sleeping in a record label's vault.  While we bought Barry Manilow and Twisted Sister and got physical with Olivia Newton John the legends slipped into obscurity.  They waited, quietly while my tastes matured.  I threw off childish ways (Kiss, Madonna, and yes, Tears for Fears) and searched for music to match my "adult" taste - and found none.  Rap and Hip Hop give me a rash.  Country (especially the modern hip country) makes me burp bile.  Pop music is like Bounty paper towels - good for the moment but quickly thrown away. 

Steve Jobs, Apple and iTunes changed all that.  An entire universe of music was suddenly mine (mostly for 99 cents, too).  I "discovered" jazz much like Columbus discovered America.  It was already there, already loved by the people who lived there, but new and exciting and wonderful to a boy who suffered Boy George and Rick Astley. 

This past summer I was sitting at a little club in San Antonio along the river, and a trio of old men played jazz standards as we drank in our cocktails and the warm, humid night.  They were taking requests; I asked for Coltrane and Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood".  He smiled, lifted his sax, and played a song that clearly was an old friend.  Now it was my friend, too. 

Ain't technology grand?