Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Starbucks Diversity Training and other Important Matters

Ducks in a row
Today's the day! Starbucks is closing for the afternoon. If you work there you'll be training up, as they say at Relationship-Wise.com, a group of people who simply hate sexual harassment. 

And for those of us who just want a cup of late afternoon Joe, it won't hurt you any to miss it.
You'll sleep better, maybe.  

Let's get on with the show.

Muir Woods Or Bust

About a month ago, when those of us who suffer the long Chicago winters woke up to birds singing, temperatures in the 70’s, and sunny, sunny skies, I took to lubing up my bicycle and filling the tires. Time, finally, to ride to work.  

Spring is a big deal for Chicagoans battling W-PTSD, Weather Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We immediately mistrust everything, especially our perceptions about reality. Is it really going to stay warm? Or is this merely a temporary drop in temp.  We become hyper-aware, check our weather apps again and again, seeking out abrupt changes that will make us wish we wore a sweater, or sorry we forgot our snow boots (in April). 

But on this day strangers smile at one another on the street, whispering, Finally! The exclamation is like sharing a secret-- no explanation, no more words necessary. It is finally warm. We are healed.

So I ride my bike to work.

The bike path runs parallel to the Chicago river, and at the underpass are ducklings and geese greeting one another in the water. Soon we'll see occasional canoes and kayaks, kids rowing hard. I stop my bike to gaze into the water and see a styrofoam hamburger container, the kind you might get at a take-out place.  It is floating out there on the river like a boat. A misplaced bit of garbage that might be in the river, might travel downstream until it hits the Gulf of Mexico. 

This bothers me a lot, seeing that styrofoam box in the river, knowing it isn’t biodegradable. And it hurts my need for order, beauty.  About a yard away is a goose (not shown), a beautiful creature, sitting proudly in the water. He is staring at me as if to say,  I didn’t make this mess. You guys did.

floating burger in a box
That's when I remembered the book I promised to review ages ago, MUIR WOODS OR BUST, a very nice little paperback, good for the beach and apropos to our discussion about garbage in a river. 

Because this is about me, I have to confess, that cringe is not my thing. I still remember the earwig in a Star Trek movie, avoid anything that makes my stomach turn, which means skipping most futuristic television, and some really good movies. So the fact that I kept reading MUIR WOODS, knowing full well that there might be more cringe material after reading about the stink bugs that have invaded the homes of our author's little neighborhood, probably because of polution, tells all. 
 IAN WOOLLEN’s  Muir Woods kept me reading! Having a low bar for novels, that's all that is required, no need for psychological import. Muir Woods,  despite the stink bugs and that the protagonist is a therapist, kept me reading. You’re all psychologically astute, so whatever you’re thinking about my not liking books about therapists is probably correct. 

But this is about a marriage and family therapist, and realistic, too, he's such a humanist, not an every day therapist, and there are only so many of those. This therapist is depressed, aging, a scholar who has recently has lost his spouse, a rabid environmentalist. He misses her desperately, converses with her, imagines her while he drives, sees her in the rearview mirror (or am I making that up?). He sees her watch him play poker on poker night, and this alone is good story, as is the story about their son, a seemingly lost soul, a gamer/game programmer, who stares at a screen during his waking hours.

Who doesn’t fear that this is the future of all young sons?

It is futuristic, in that way. The world will be designed at the pleasure of talented children, and could be colorful, if our boy has any color to him, but he won't, not until he meets someone, he'll be a mourner and a downer, glued to a chair, programming the perfect game. But he meets someone! For our author is a romantic, and this makes the story so much happier, just plain better, for you do have to wonder if they will make it as a couple. And isn't that what all couples therapists are wondering most of the time?

So despite the cringe, the environmental blights, the dim, dreary, catastrophic events, and the  
air, if there is any, that just feels bad, this is a book about people getting help from random events. Ian has woven them all together, masterfully. There’s so much plot, so much really good fanciful plot, so much story, well, eventually I did finish it and here we are, in the middle of a review. Were it not for the plot, there would be no review, you see, for we therapists, you see, are in it for the story, and might not deign to review a book with little story.

And even better, there's a satisfying ending, tying together many diverse and engaging characters. 

Where could Mr. Woollen have possibly have come up with great plot and so many weird, diverse, engaging characters (that I haven't the strength or time to describe)? 

One suspects Ian is a therapist, or worse, had one for a mother or a father, or heaven forbid, both. He could be an ACOT, Adult Child of a Therapist, or maybe just somebody like me, with all that education under his belt, who just likes to write.

Sure, check this one out. And no littering, okay? See to it that our rivers, our world is habitable.