Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OPTIMISTS, TAKE HEART! Some Things Are Getting Better

         I was in the San Fernando Valley, 101 Freeway,  when it struck me: here I am, stuck in a sea of cars, and the air is bright and clear—no smog and not a Smoky Pierre in sight.      

Years ago, the air would have been dark orange, virtually unbreathable. Without fanfare, Detroit silently cooperated with the once-denigrated Air Quality Controllers, who persuaded engineers to create cars without toxic emissions. Ta Da! . . . suddenly we could all breathe again. While they were at it, automotive geniuses improved lights, brakes, and Miles Per Gallon, so we now slurp up half the gas of yesterday. My old Cad got 14 MPG. My Prius gets 39 and Rob’s 43—and it’s no longer news.

Look at our local buses—all running smogless on Compressed Natural Gas.

Remember the days when airplane air was polluted and you couldn’t entertain at home without ash trays?  And restaurants and sports events were stinky with smoke? Who ponders this anymore? Mostly no one. Because we seldom see any smokers.

            L.A. Times columnist, Sandy Banks, reports another victory:  300 Americans imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit have been freed--thanks to DNA. Unlike fingerprints and eyewitness testimony, DNA is reliable.

            Rob will violently disagree with this, and so will a lot of you, but I’m secretly glad that Congress is hitting investors with stealth taxes. People with money were never paying their fair share. And now, without fanfare, more of us are.

            Thank heavens for I-phones with cameras—and those photos of a few savage policemen. We now have evidence about brutality we never believed could happen. 

            How many of you know that California now gets 25% of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources? Our own solar panels provide monthly gifts--electricity for free. I’ve seen more wind generators and solar panels sprout in the dessert . . . and it’s only getting better.  

            And how about newscasters who believe their viewers relish positive news? Two stations now end their broadcasts on a positive note:  “People Making a Difference,” and Steve Hartman’s “On the Road.”
            One last thing: When, thirty years ago, did you ever see a father and son hugging each other?  Or for that matter, any other two men? Surely these guys have made the world a better place.

My humorous books available at Maralys.Com.  Or on Amazon.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015



            I first saw him on Sixty Minutes—lawyer Bryan Stevenson in an abbreviated version of his appearance on the TV program, TED. It seems that Stevenson’s 18-minute talk on legal injustice inspired TED viewers to contribute over a million dollars to his Equal Justice Initiative. Yet Stevenson’s talk was not a plea for money—it was a passionate description of legal inequality in America, especially among blacks.  He said, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth. It’s justice.”

            Stevenson’s appearance on TED was no accident. One of the producers said, “If we’re thinking about doing a story on somebody, we talk to them, and we try to look at a video of them to see if they have passion.”  As the show evolved, the producers realized that yes . . . they wanted the personal stories—PLUS the big idea.

            Passion is obvious in Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg, when he speaks of “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” or Jack Kennedy’s plea for Americans to “think what you can do for your country,” or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” all words replayed constantly.

But think of THIS YEAR—when Dan Price, owner of Gravity Payments in Seattle,  spoke about the passion of his employees . . . and after sleepless nights decided to reduce his salary 90% and the company profits, too, so he could significantly raise all his employees. His decision made a new kind of history. But more important, it brought Dan Price a special kind of happiness. He has since heard from 100 other CEOs who applaud his move.     

Or consider Nick Hanauer, among the richest businessmen in America, who said, “The pitchforks are coming . . . The idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base . . . When workers have more money, businesses have more customers.” On the back of his beliefs, he campaigned for a $15.00 minimum wage in Washington State. To his amazement, a year later it happened.

My intention was to write about what happens when I’m passionate. Here is a story so mundane it shouldn’t be included--but I’ll tell it anyway. I’ve gotten only three traffic tickets in my life. Each time I believed I was right and the policeman was wrong. (This is not to say I’ve never deserved a ticket. I have. Just not these.) 

Each time, I went to court to plead my case. As I sat watching other drivers turned down by various judges I wondered why I’d made the effort. Yet three times I believed so strongly in my own circumstances that—even with the policeman sitting right there—the judge ruled in my favor.

Over the years, passion has served me well. But this riff isn’t about me. It’s about how, in the end, passion carries the day. If you REALLY care about something, tell others. Tell the world. One passionate person is worth a thousand who don’t care enough to make a squeak.     

All my books are available on Maralys.com. (Or on Amazon).  I'm pretty passionate about most of them.

Monday, April 6, 2015



            For a small drone, the machine kicked up a mighty wind.  A few days ago, six of us sat mesmerized as it zoomed around my son’s family room like an angry hornet, lights flashing, four propellers creating a miniature hurricane, more breeze than anyone expected.

What I should have expected  was that eventually it would hit me. Like others, I kept ducking. Then . . . Clunk. The spinning, futuristic toy came to a sudden stop against my upper lip.  A nasty surprise.  And this from my son, Chris, who, in addition to being a surgeon is reputedly a good pilot.       

“But of course,” my husband muttered,  “it had to be you.” 

As Chris’ wife, Betty-Jo, handed me a damp towel for the few drops of blood the drone released, I suddenly remembered.  Oh, yeah . . .  I’ve got this history. 

Over the years I’ve noticed other people acquire reputations they relish. Whereas I’d like to be famous as a writer, around my family I’m known mainly as a target.   

It all started innocently enough, years ago, when I stood near a railing at Brandon’s ice hockey game. First grandson, first time I’d ever attended a game—and to add to my uncanny luck, other family members stood beside me. But only I was singled out by the puck that sailed skyward off the ice, cleared the railing and smacked my upper arm. It hurt like crazy. Still, I felt lucky. It could have been my head. It was Chris, standing next to me, who noted, “Of course, Mom, you were the one that got nailed.” How he recognized this tendency so early is difficult to imagine. But let’s just say his observation was predictive of future events.

Once another grandson, Dane, became fully invested in volleyball, Rob and I attended most of his matches. The Anaheim Sports Arena contains some twenty volleyball courts. Unlike other spectators, I’ve been hit by balls flying out of at least ten of them. Balls from courts behind me clunk against the net and find my back. Balls from warm-up smashes in front of me careen off my forehead. Balls from near-empty courts seek me out as I head for the cafeteria--and one managed to knock off my glasses. For that matter, my glasses alone have taken hits and flown off my face at least three times.

Other spectators began to notice. “You do seem to have a bulls eye painted on your body,” a team mother said. Her husband added, “You know, Maralys, you really need to wear a helmet.” Another mother said, “Don’t sit by her—she gets hit every time.”

Once, in the Anaheim arena, as I was headed for the Ladies Room, a ball from a nearby court followed me down a narrow hall and brushed me as I entered the rest room.

The most spectacular moment actually occurred in a high school gymnasium. Like other spectators, I was sitting quietly in the bleachers when it happened. A volleyball from the court in front of us sailed down the length of the gymnasium, hit a wall at the far end and rebounded, flying like a homing pigeon straight for my head. Dozens of other heads were available, of course, but obviously none qualified.

My family finds all this amusing, as though it’s somehow my fault. They weren’t surprised when we were walking together across a soccer field and an errant ball bounced off my ankle. But even our guffawing males didn’t witness the ultimate in heat-seeking missiles.     

That came when, with my granddaughter Christy up in Oakland, I visited a tiny tots birthday party. Like grasshoppers, some dozen three-year-olds cavorted and frolicked across a modest living room, chasing small toys and piƱata candies. Among the objects on the floor was a tiny ball. To my astonishment, a miniature boy took a mighty swing with his miniature toe, caught the ball just right, and sent it cascading into my cheek.  

The father sitting beside me exclaimed, “Oh!  Are you all right?” 

He probably didn’t believe me when I said, “Well, that was certainly the smallest of my assailants. You wouldn’t know this, of course, but I’m famous for getting hit by flying balls. In fact, I’m verging on a national reputation.”   

We both laughed.

At the time I thought the little boy had achieved top billing. But that was before Chris brought home a drone. While I admire him as a pilot, when it comes to flying a drone, he’s a menace. But for me a high point. What he did with his newest toy was add a star to my celebrity as a target.