"I cried for not having shoes till I saw a man with no legs."
... old Persian proverb
I am indebted to my brother Brandon "Bang" David Platt who contributed
material for this conversation.
Someone drove too fast through an intersection and hit my car, denting
the left rear fender. It's a hassle.
I had to get my car repaired.
I know of a woman whose house was cloven cleanly in two by a hundred
foot oak tree which was blown down and fell on it during a storm. The
then flooded her unprotected interior, ruining all her carpets,
furniture, and clothing, and destroying all her critical paperwork.
She had to get her house rebuilt and start her life all over again.
In perspective, my little fenderbender doesn't qualify for
the designation hassle anymore.
I've spent a lot of time in the sun - both as a surfer and as a
traveler in the
the Amazon jungle.
We've only relatively recently started understanding the effects of the
sun on our skin. I'm careful now to wear sunscreen, but I wasn't as
careful in my earlier years. During a routine annual physical
examination my doctor recommended I have some tiny spots of sun damage
on my face seen. I did, then had them removed entirely. The process
isn't painful, but immediately afterwards there were two open raw
patches each the size of a dime I couldn't hide on my face.
Given my appearance, I would have preferred not to be seen in public.
Nonetheless, I took myself to my favorite diner for
before work. As I was sipping coffee waiting for my Denver
omelet, a man sat down at the counter next to me.
I almost gasped out loud when I saw how disfigured he was. From the
looks of things, he had purple swellings and third degree burns all
over his face. Yet I noticed it was I not he who had difficulty with
his looks. The waitress came and took his order.
"Excuse me Sir" I said, unable to contain myself. "Please forgive me
for staring, but I couldn't help notice you. What happened to your
face? Were you burned?".
"Oh no" he said, quite pleasantly. "I was born this way. I was
kissed by angels. When I was a boy I felt self-conscious, but I
Given the way his face looked when he was a boy, he would have
preferred not to be seen in public but he's not self-conscious
In perspective, I had nothing worth hiding in public. Neither did he,
but in the scheme of things, what he had to contend with was
enormous compared to what I was contending with. Soon my
raw spots of sun damage cauterization would heal and disappear
entirely. He, on the other hand, would have his disfigurement for
life. And he had no embarrassment whatsoever about his
appearance, arduous to look at, which he regarded simply as lipstick on
his cheeks from angels' kisses, from baisers d'anges.
where I live is renowned for producing the best grapes in the world for
The first factor is its fertile soils. The second factor is the
semi-permanent drought during its growing season. The third factor is
its summer growing season temperatures which can reach a blistering one
hundred and ten degrees
and hotter. In dryness and heat, grapes become sweeter - as everyone
knows, dry grapes become raisins which are sweeter than grapes.
Sweeter grapes make
the best wine
When it gets really hot, people turn on air conditioners. If everyone
turns on their air conditioners all at once, sometimes a power failure
occurs in my area of the town of Napa when the system becomes
overloaded. Then, besides no air conditioning, there's also no electric
fans to ease the heat. If your water comes from a well driven by an
electric pump, there's no cool showers either. When the power's out,
perhaps for an hour or so, maybe once in the summer, there's respite by
going down to the local bowling alley which has its own generators to
run its air conditioners. You can chill there, quite
literally, bowling a frame or two while waiting for the power to come
In January of 2008 the power went out in
But not just for one area affecting a few thousand people in a town
like Napa. It went out for the entire country of nearly fifty million
people. It went out not just for one hour during the summer. Without
buying electricity from neighboring countries, without mandating the
mining industry generate its own power, without requesting the
population severely curtail energy use, it's said the power could go
out for three to five hours, randomly, rolling blackouts
(which they call load shedding) every day for the next five
years until new power stations come on line. That's the
optimistic scenario for summer. In winter when people turn
on heaters, it'll get worse.
In perspective, the inconvenience of an hour of no power in a village
can't compare to the inconvenience of five years of rolling blackouts
in an entire country. While I chill in the bowling alley,
entire livelihoods are lost when restaurants go out of business as
melted frozen food spoils in unpowered refridgerators, indeed as
lives are lost in unpowered hospital emergency rooms.