Archive for September, 2013

The proprietor of the gelateria washed the windows this morning. It is a lazy kind of morning and he and I were sitting inside the gelateria at my favorite table talking and suddenly he got up and said, “I should make myself useful. I think I’ll wash the windows.” They needed it, badly. I had been aware of how seriously they needed attention and assumed he had a window cleaning service that came by regularly, and that it was about time, or past time, for them to appear. I hadn’t told him of my concern about his dirty windows reflecting badly on his business. Cleaning windows is a science. I don’t know if any school has a course on window washing in its science department, but they should. I have watched the window cleaners that service our building and, from my window, the building behind mine. The science is in how the water is applied, not too much that it lays on the window ledge and forbid that it drip down the building like the water feature at the Central Library when it is being turned off and slowly stops the flow down the side but there is still some water slipping over the edge. But there needs to be enough water applied that it doesn’t completely dry, particularly in the heat of summer, before the squeegee is applied. The squeegee must be held properly and moved across the window at the correct angle. If careful attention is not given to these matters, a streak of water will be left behind requiring a second pass, which invariably will leave another streak that cannot be corrected because by this time the water has dried. Professional window washers know the correct way to hold, and move the squeegee at the right angle, but it’s not the same every time. It depends on which section of the window is being squeegeed. The edges require careful attention to keep from leaving a bead of water along the edge of the window next to the frame. For the main expanse of the window, a waving motion of the squeegee across the window beginning with the top of the window moving down with the squeegee angled just so, keeps clearing the water from the glass so it runs down the window. With the last pass across the bottom the window, without pausing the sweeping motion of his hand holding the squeeze, he completes his swipe and, continuing the motion, tucks the squeegee into a scabbard on his belt. The size and shape of the window also informs the squeegee holder the correct way to move the squeegee to remove the water without having to make a second pass or, please don’t let it happen, have to apply more water. Small square panes, long skinny panes, huge expansive panes all require a different technique. I watched as Jonathan retrieved his bucket of water from the back of the store, brought out a ladder, moved the sidewalk tables and chairs away from the windows and proceeded to tackle the grime and splatters that always appear when rain hits dirty windows. He did fast work of it. But I was sitting inside and could easily see the streaks. I thought about telling him about them, then changed my mind. Then I changed my mind again and told him, pointing out where the streaks were. He wasn’t through with his window-washing strategy he told me. His is a two-phase plan. After finishing with water and squeegee on the outside and a damp cloth on the inside to eliminate water on the inside sill, he went back to the back of the shop and came out with, you guessed it, Windex and paper towels and went to work once again. As he was working, at one point I said, “I feel guilty watching you work and not offering to help.” His reply was a quote from his dad, “Once you retire you’ve earned the right to sit and supervise.” I must say now that he’s done, not only do the windows look better but everything inside looks better as well. It’s brighter and more pleasing to be here. Before the windows were cleaned, my vision of the street outside was becoming increasingly dim. It often takes a second party to “clean the window” so one can find the beauty that’s been there all along. Clear vision of the world brings beauty to the soul.

Your Drama Adds Value

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Life’s designs take on the hues of a colorful drama at the gelateria, a warm inviting urban coffee shop with the usual variety of speciality coffees. Of course, being a gelateria it specializes in Italian ice cream as well. It has a few stuffed chairs and conversation is available around a “tavolini” (Italian – small table), of which there are five. I commandeer a tavolini most mornings. While occupied with reading or writing, I observe the drama around me. One of the definitions of “drama” is “any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results.”

It was at the gelateria, that I had a late night conversation with a couple of friends recently discussing life choices, job decisions and organizational ethics, structure, and processes–one an emerging educator, the other still searching. I remember being young and filled with idealism and energy. By the time I was their age, I had a graduate degree and had already nailed down my niche in the professional world with three years into my career. However, contemporary youth culture has stretched farther into the lifecycle. Taking on the responsibility for and trappings of being adult has pushed further into life than was acceptable when I young. I married late as a twenty-seven-year-old, which today, in some circles, would be early. It seemed these young, barely thirty-somethings, were still searching for life, waiting for it to settle down and be what they envisioned, instead of living it.

Around 11:30 AM on Labor Day, a couple enter the gelateria and order drinks, she a specialty coffee and he an iced drink. They sit across a corner of a table from each other. He sits with his arms on the table, wrists crossed, and looks off to the side with a sadness dripping from his face. She is watching him closely, her eyes never wavering. He’s not looking at her and she gently places her hand on his arm. He turns his sad eyes and looks at her. She slides her hand on his arm to his hand. He wraps his fingers around her hand and looks with deep appreciation into her eyes. Gradually they engage in conversation and he begins talking. After a few minutes, a smile comes as he talks. She gives an occasional affirmative response. A piece of life’s design is taking shape in the gelateria on Washington Avenue.

Some people might call these vignettes drama, and in a very significant way, they are. Life is a colorful drama, a story enacted sometimes for private audiences and at other times for the world, events of vivid, emotional, sometimes conflicting interest. These dramas are filled with a delightfully evolving kaleidoscope of colorful lives that weave in and out of each other. Each of us contribute to and find value in these dramas making life’s designs beautiful, sometimes heroic, often unsettling, but always colorful. These are our lives.