Monday, September 18, 2017

The Broiler and figuring out where to go next.

I heard the news today, oh boy, the Saint Clair Broiler is closing down. 

The Broiler was around the corner from our first house, but we used to go there long before we lived there. They had great malts (Al Gore was a fan) and great grilled cheese sandwiches. It was one of the first places the kids could walk to on their own... with the summer mother's helper. Even after we moved to the 'burbs, it was still a place to meet my friends for a cup of coffee or to go to after something else. And after Ziggy had the poor form to leave the building, it was the place where I went to regroup. I wasn't regular enough to be recognized, but I was always welcome. I wasn't crazy about the recent updating, but I didn't go for the decor. It was about the place and the smell and the grilled cheese sandwiches. The last time I was there, the server was saying how the landlord wasn't taking care of the building and it was getting to be a problem. I worried after that...because I think I saw the handwriting on the wall. I just hoped I was wrong. 

But apparently not. Our beloved Broiler and its glorious neon sign will be leaving us too soon. And I will have to find another place to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and regroup. I am none too happy about this at all.

But, it's that time of year for new beginnings. School starts, new pencils are sharpened, New crayons are in the book bag. As the trees shuck their leaves, we can shuck some of our baggage without too many people noticing. It's a really natural starting-over point. 

And Jews all over the world get to do the year-in-review thing. Like I've said in other years around this  time, owning one's own behavior is a challenge for a lot of people. Owning up to one's own bad behavior can be even worse. Some people can make an entire career on not owning one's own behavior.

Unlike the wild party-hardy January 1st new years celebrations, this version is about introspection and growth. You can't have one without the other. Jewish or not, everyone should have a day when they take stock to decide what comes next. What worked and what didn't? If I could repair something in my own world, what would it be? What fight will I choose to make mine, and what fight will I abandon? 

These are never easy questions, and this year, especially, they may be exceptionally important. 

  • Do we continue to fight the White House and its minions, or do we lay that aside to focus on the elections to come? 
  • Do we stop fighting Congress about climate change and bring that fight to the local level where we can change things one municipality/county/state at a time? 
  • Do we continue to beat our breasts for things we cannot possibly control or change, or do we accept who we are and what we are as we begin the hard work to improve the world immediately around us?

These are not easy questions.  This isn't about running away or hiding. It's about changing the things we can change, then moving up the change ladder to bigger and better changes. 

My British grandmother used to chide me about being "penny-wise, pound-foolish," and she didn't mean my weight. She would to talk to me about how I spent my emotional and practical capital. 

"You can expend all your energy trying to change the whole world at once," she once told me after a particularly frustrating demonstration at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza in front of the UN, "or you can use up some of those pennies teaching the same thing to neighborhood children. One is a brick wall, the other is an investment in the future." Of course, I argued with her...but I recall knowing she was right. If we really wanted to change the world, old guys sitting in the UN didn't make for a useful target. We needed to be changing the world coming up behind us.

I once played "Teach Your Children Well," by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young for her, and she asked me to write out the lyrics. Years later, when my folks brought my grandparents to visit Ziggy and me in Poughkeepsie that first year we were married, she handed me a card, and inside was a cheque ...and the lyrics. I still have the card. She'd written, "In the event you ever need these."

If you want to change the whole world, you hafta start inside your heart and your home. Then, you get to step outside your front door. Look around your street, your neighborhood, your town, your state. What do you see? What works? What doesn't?

Now, what can you do to make something work better?

To those who observe the Yamim Nora'im: may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy new year. 

For everyone else, may you, too, be inscribed in the Book for Life for a happy and healthy new year. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Okay, people: step back. Look around. Figure out what you can fix. 

1 comment:

  1. This was very timely for me . Tom and I just got back from a "Small Sums" luncheon. I do believe that it is (Maybe) my most favorite charity in the twin cities
    It is a good example that a little can mean a lot to the right person . .