Unexpected Moments of Grace

This is Lea

I discovered a new artist today, quite by accident. Had made plans to spend time with a friend, and she suggested that we go see this jazz-infused folk artist who was playing at The Potter's House in Adams Morgan. Sure, I said. I wasn't expecting much. I just wanted to spend some time with Chanda.

Anyway, long story short, from the very first guitar strum I was mesmerized. It sounded so different from the way a folk guitar usually sounds (to me anyway). And then she opened her mouth to sing... what a beautiful voice.

I bought her cd on the spot and am listening to it as I twiddle around on this web site. Not as good as hearing her live, but still lovely. Check her out!


It's Snowing Blossoms

I was sitting in our conference room at lunch, talking, facing the large windows/sliding glass doors, when I noticed what looked like snow flurries gently dropping to the terrace outside.  Now the weather has been weird this year - hot, cold, hot, cold... - but it wasn't snowing outside.  The blossoms - I don't know what kind they were - were dropping, little by little.

I've seen this before.  In fact every year when I go see the cherry blossoms down by the Tidal Basin, I experience the same effect.  White and pink snow drifts on the ground.  So delicate.  So transient.

But I wasn't expecting to see it on the terrace of our office in the middle of our work day.

Jack Mormon Coffee



If you don't understand why this is funny, you see Mormons aren't supposed to drink coffee... and a Jack Mormon is someone who is nominally Mormon but not practicing, so... oh never mind. Tongue Out

Choosing Reform Over Money

By Paul Schwartzman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 10, 2007

When a government failure leads to injury or death, there is no shortage of lawyers willing to seek millions of dollars in damages on behalf of the victims or their survivors.

The family of David E. Rosenbaum, the slain New York Times reporter, took a different tack, setting aside a $20 million lawsuit in favor of a promise from the District to repair its emergency services agency.

Although the family has not dropped its claim against Howard University Hospital, the Rosenbaums' decision to seek a cure for society over personal enrichment is a tactic that is very rare, though not without precedent, lawyers and judges said.

Gregory Mize, a retired D.C. Superior Court judge who heard hundreds of civil suits in his career, said he could not recall presiding over a case in which a plaintiff had not sought monetary damages.

"It flies in the face of convention," said Mize, a judicial fellow with the National Center for State Courts. "Our legal culture thinks in terms of personal injuries -- you can't roll back the tape and make an injury go away. Money is the best way we have in the justice system to compensate people."

Mize called the Rosenbaums' decision "remarkable."

Peter Grenier, a personal injury lawyer who has won millions of dollars for clients suing governments, including the District, said he has never brought a case against an agency that did not involve a monetary claim.


Rosenbaum, 63, was killed 14 months ago after robbers beat him over the head with a metal pipe near his Northwest Washington home. When D.C. firefighters and emergency service workers found him, they mistakenly treated him as a drunk, failing to recognize his head wound.

A D.C. inspector general's report later blamed firefighters, emergency workers, police and hospital personnel for an "unacceptable chain of failure" and demanded improved training, communication and supervision.

Rosenbaum's family, according to legal experts, had the potential to win millions of dollars if it had pursued a negligence case. Under the terms of the settlement with the city, the city will establish a task force to examine the agency. A family member will sit on the panel.

In a telephone interview, Marcus Rosenbaum, the slain journalist's brother, said the family has never been interested in monetary damages as an end in itself.

"When you lose your brother, you don't see dollar signs and say, 'Oh boy I can really cash in on this,' " he said. "To me, the important thing was safety, changing the way things work in this city. I live here, and I want everyone in the city to feel safe."

However, Rosenbaum pointed out that, as part of the agreement, the family could reinstate the lawsuit at any time during the next year if it does not believe the District is making sufficient changes.


True Heroism

All I can say is this never woulda been me.  I'd be one of the many standing on the platform, horrified, but not risking my own life to help.


(CBS/AP) A quick-thinking commuter saved a teenager who apparently suffered a seizure and fell onto subway tracks in Upper Manhattan, by jumping onto the tracks himself and pushing them both between the rails, beneath the oncoming train.

Cameron Hollopeter, 19, of Littleton, Mass., fell onto the tracks at Broadway’s 137th Street station Tuesday. Another subway passenger, 50-year-old Wesley Autrey of Manhattan, was standing on the platform with his two daughters whom he was taking home so he could go to his construction job.

When Autrey saw Hollopeter fall, he quickly took action and left his daughters to jump on the tracks to bring the man to safety as an oncoming train approached.

"I didn't want the man's body to get run over,” Autrey said. “Plus, I was with my daughters and I didn't want them to see that."

Autrey jumped down onto the tracks and initially tried to pull Hollopeter up to the platform but had to decide whether he could get him up in time to avoid both of them getting hit.

"I was trying to pull him up, but his weight [was too much] plus he was fighting against me — he didn't know who I was,” Autrey told CBS station WCBS-TV.

Autrey said the man was still moving violently from the seizure, so he pulled him into the center of the tracks — away from the high-voltage third rail — and laid on top of him. "The only thing that popped up in my mind was, 'OK, well, go for the gutter,'" Autrey said. "So I dove in, I pinned him down and once the first car ran over us, my thing with him was to keep him still."

The subway trough between the rails, which is used for drainage, is typically about 12 inches deep but can be as shallow as 8 or as deep as 24, a New York City Transit spokesman said.

The train's operator saw someone on the tracks and put the emergency brakes on. Two cars of the train passed over the men — with about 2 inches to spare, Autrey said — before it came to a stop.

Autrey's daughters thought the train had killed their father and the teen, but were relieved to hear their father shout up from under the train that the two were fine.

Hollopeter, a student at the New York Film Academy, was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition with only minor injuries.

Hollopeter's stepmother, Rachel Hollopeter, said Autrey was "an angel."

"He was so heroic," she said early Wednesday in a telephone interview. "If he wasn't there, this would be a whole different call."

Onlooker Patricia Brown said Autrey, a Vietnam War veteran, "needs to be recognized as a hero." Others cheered him and hugged him outside the train station.

Leaves of Flame

Living so far south here in DC, the leaves are just starting to turn. But here and there is a single tree who for whatever reason is bright red even tho its neighbors are still green. Each afternoon as I've walked home from work I've been struck by the beauty of these trees. I mean just amazed. 

Monday I had to stop in front of this one bright red tree, sitting in the front yard of a brick row house painted dull grey. The yard was all paved over; there was nothing living in that courtyard except for the flaming tree. The contrast was spectacular. 

And then today, as I took a different route home, I saw another tree basking in the afternoon sun, where the red-orange leaves seemed to be glowing from within. Beckoning. 

I thought of Moses and the burning bush. Surely when confronted with that kind of surreal beauty people must have felt the undeniable presence of the Divine.

What does Dracula have to do with the Autumn Equinox?

Today we celebrated the Autumn Equinox at church. A small group of us had planned out what we would say, what the ritual would be, etc. all nice nice. We held it outside in the courtyard at sunset where the birds kick up a storm of chatter for about half an hour every day, and we reflected on the loveliness of nature. We lit our chalice. We cast a circle to create a sacred space. And then came time for the serious part of our worship, a guided reflection on the meaning of Autumn and how that impacts our lives.

Just as we were starting a stranger invited himself into our circle, squeezing himself on a bench between two of our party and reeking of alcohol. I mean I was never closer than a yard from him and I could smell the fumes.

So the guy in charge of the led reflection tries to continue. He talks about the differences between the words Fall and Autumn and where they originate, from Germany and Italy respectively. And the drunk dude interupts him more than once to ask how Count Dracula fits into all this. By this time I am watching with horrified amusement. I did not mind him joining our circle (our church is named "All Souls" after all) but none of us can understand the connection between what Marc had been saying and Count Dracula, and it seemed that our precious worship was being totally derailed. Marc handles the situation very well, asking him to refrain from questions until we finish our reflection, and promising to talk with him about the Count afterwards. After a while, the guy gets bored and leaves.

As we were finishing up, Dan, who is a regular member of these earth-based worship services, comes in harriedly to join us. He apologizes for being late, talks about the stresses in his life - too much to do in too little time - and then almost as an aside starts talking about how a friend of his has a big birthday coming up and he really wants to get him this rare movie that's out of print because he's a big fan. What is the movie about? Count Dracula!

Dan was utterly befuddled when the entire group burst into laughter.

Is it just a coincidence? Some would say so. All I know is that the message that I got from our drunk visitor was to loosen up, not take things so seriously, to LAUGH, and to look for blessings in unusual places.

Beauty in Baltimore

American Visionary Museum in Baltimore, MD

Took a day trip to Baltimore today with my friend Carol in order to see the RACE/CLASS/GENDER does not equal CHARACTER exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum. We took the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on the way up, which is far more scenic than I-95. (It's owned by the National Park Service.) At one point the trees grew especially close to the road, giving us a cozy feel. The grey, rainy skies made the spring green leaves look even more verdant. Interspersed were trees of a redder hue. And here and there the punctuation of dogwood trees in full bloom, their shocking white blossoms like a swarm of moths with their wings lifted up towards heaven. I love dogwood blossoms! Carol and I talked about how we both liked dogwood blossoms even more than the delicate cherry blossoms that DC is so famous for. Even tho I've traveled through it many times on my way between New York and DC, I've actually never visited Baltimore before. It's charming. I definitely want to visit again. The American Visionary Art Museum displays works by artists who have not been formally trained. No oil paints or marble sculptures here. While we saw a variety of media used, mirrors seemed to be a recurring theme. Appropriate for an exhibit on race and identity. The exhibit itself was poignant and at times heartbreaking. It runs until Sept 3rd.

Spring in DC

Cherry blossoms in the Tidal Basin

Today, Miles and I went down to the tidal basin to see the cherry blossoms. They were already past their peak, the pinkish white blossoms covering the ground like a recent snow storm, but there was still plenty of white/pink of the trees, and the hint of green sprouting on the branches was beautiful in and of itself. Nobody does Spring like DC. Honestly, I never appreciated Spring until I moved here. There are no real seasons in coastal California, unless you count the rain and the Santa Ana winds as seasons. In New York, spring was a muddy mess - a brief transition from icy winter to sweltering summer - there might be a few blooms but they were often obliterated by a tardy snow storm. But DC: first the crocuses start to appear, followed by the daffodils. Then the trees take over with the delicate cherry blossoms and big bold magnolias. Then the ground answers back with tulips. Then the dogwood trees command attention. And finally the azaleas. I never thought much of azaleas until I saw big huge bushes of them in bloom, all in different colors, in DC. Spring in DC lasts for weeks and weeks, in wave after wave of color.

Online Good Samaritans

Saw this article online and had to pass it on.


By Andrew Ryan, Associated Press Writer Sun Apr 2, 7:08 AM ET

Maureen Silliman felt her empty pocket and gulped: Her new $300 iPod must have bounced out as she ran to catch a train. While she sobbed, her boyfriend suggested a message on the lost-and-found section of Craigslist, an online bazaar of classified ads.

"No," the 24-year-old Silliman said. "Nobody would ever turn in an iPod."

Her boyfriend posted the message anyway. Within 24 hours, Silliman's iPod was back.

In an increasingly cynical world, there are still places where people try to do the right thing. Everyday on Internet message boards, honest folks post notes about valuables they found: cash, bank cards, diamond bracelets, engagement rings, wedding bands, digital cameras, and even a cockatoo valued at $1,200.

In turn, when there is no place left to look for something missing, the desperate sometimes take the longest of longshots and look online themselves.

Occasionally, it works for both sides. People such as Silliman get back their iPod, still loaded with Radio Head and Broken Social Scene.

The impulse to be honest doesn't surprise Lawrence M. Hinman, the director of The Values Institute at the University of San Diego.

"I think we perceive ourselves as being much worse than we actually are," Hinman said. "There are people who live lives of quiet honesty."

Take Monique Peddle, 48, in Hollywood, Fla., who posted a note online when she found a diamond studded gold bracelet that she could have just as easily slipped quietly in her pocket. Or Blake Facente, 30, who also turned to Craigslist when he discovered a Dell Inspiron laptop leaning against his building in San Francisco.

The same for Agnes Satoorian, 27, who climbed into a cab in Boston last month and found a pricey digital camera that another rider had left behind.

"I know that pain," said Satoorian, who had recently lost her own camera loaded with sentimental pictures. "I decided I would try to make it right for someone."


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