July Road Notes, Day 22: Too Slight a Twist, and then…Sizzle

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July 26, 2021, York, NE- The auto heating and cooling technician took a hard look under Elantra’s hood, then a hard glance at me, and went to work on the grizzled grey one, having set aside a few other projects, that I might go on towards home, by day’s end. It turned out to be a simple matter.

The day started tamely enough, with continental breakfast at the Super 8, Fairmont, MN and a serene drive through the prairie of western Minnesota, to Sioux Falls, with the INTENT of taking in the Queen City’s signature Falls Park, and heading on to Nebraska. Wouldn’t you know, though, that in checking the water level of Elantra’s radiator, I managed to not put it on as tightly as I thought?

The piper came calling, as I drove out of Falls Park, towards I-229. The radiator’s warning signal came dinging (not silently, like the “Check Engine” light, but earnestly. I managed to turn the blower off and found an auto body shop parking lot, let the receptionist know why I was there, and called AAA. An hour later, I had added water to the radiator, determined there were no leaks and Elantra was loaded onto the tow bed. Four hours after that, the good folks at Twelfth Street Auto Care, on the west side of Sioux Falls,had squeezed Elantra into their already impossible schedule, determined that SOMEONE had not tightened the radiator cap properly, and that there were no other problems with the grizz. Properly chagrined, I thanked all concerned, profusely, and headed out.

Now, back to Falls Park. It was discovered by early settlers, in the 1850s, though the Yankton Sioux people had long celebrated the beauty and bounty of the cascades along the Big Sioux River. https://www.siouxfalls.org/parks/parks/locations/falls-park

Here are some scenes of my meanderings that followed a fine picnic lunch.

Foreground, Falls Park, Sioux Falls
A view of the lower Falls, from an observation deck
Local volunteers clean up algae and debris
The upper Falls
Ruins of the Queen Bee Flour Mill, destroyed by fire, in 1956.
The bed of Big Sioux River

It is not the Big Sioux at its fullest flow, which suited the many families who came to visit, just fine. Falls Park is a marvelous place for whiling away hot summer days-at it is expected to hit 102, in Sioux Falls, on Wednesday.

Thanks to Alex and Josh, I won’t be there. Instead, on towards Nebraska I rolled, through Elk Point and Jefferson, taking care to give a little girl on her bike, a slow and wide berth. (Jefferson is still the type of town that many of us knew, growing up, where such activities were the norm.) Sioux City came next, along with a casino town, to tis south. In both cases, restaurants were shuttered, due to lack of staff ( a temporary, but still nettlesome issue). I finally hit upon an Applebee’s, in Fremont, NE, getting a satisfying meal, despite the laconic and distracted bar tender/server.

Yorkshire Inn, in this I-80 town, became my resting place for the evening. Tomorrow, it’s on to North Platte, Sterling, Denver and as far beyond as I can get by 7 p.m. MDT.

July Road Notes, Day 21: What Matters Most

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July 25, 2021, Fairmont, MN- The passing driver fairly screamed at me, through a closed car window, as I stood on the grassy median of the quiet secondary road, waiting for the traffic light to turn in my favour, as I brought breakfast back to my motel room. I could see his scrunched up face, long after his car had passed by. An old veteran, sitting outside the motel, witnessed the whole thing and muttered something about some people not having enough to do with themselves. Such was the morning in Hudson, Wisconsin, where “morning people” seemed to consist of the energetic truck stop counterman, the cheerful motel owners, said old veteran and yours truly. Everyone else I met was either strung out about something, or just not ready to wake up fully.

Once I got on the road again, it was with a plan to visit the Minnesota State Capitol, in St. Paul, then go to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis, and connect with a second cousin who lives in the area. I drove to the Capitol area, finding Minnesota has kept pace with its eastern neighbour, in terms of the majesty of its seat of government.

The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul
The Quadriga, or Progress of the State

https://www.mnhs.org/capitol/learn/art/8857

The above link describes the gilded copper figures shown above, and called The Quadriga. The four-horse chariot is driven by the male figure, who represents the State. The female figures represent Minnesota’s agriculture and industry. The four horses represent earth, fire, water and wind.

“Winter” garden, east side of Minnesota State Capitol
Minnesota State Capitol, viewed from State Veteran’s Memorial
Cathedral of St. Paul

It was upon driving to the majestic Cathedral of St. Paul, some six blocks southeast of the Capitol, that I got a call from my cousin. She and family live on the St. Paul side of the Twin Cities, so my visit with them was moved up. What a delightful group! They met me at an area coffee house and spent about thirty-five minutes, before we all had to move on with our days. I’m ever grateful to be able to connect with far-flung family. D and her mate have each done well in life. Their daughters will follow suit, from all I noted this morning. Teenagers often go through periods of self-doubt (as do the rest of us), and their feelings deserve to be taken seriously, yet I see a very solid drive in both girls. This little unit is going to be just fine.

Gathering at a Caribou Coffee Shop (above and below)

From family reunion of sorts to honouring sacrifice, I drove to George Floyd Square, on Minneapolis’ south side. Parking well away from the square, I spent about an hour in prayer, listening and carefully contemplating the faces and descriptions of each shooting victim whose death is commemorated there. There was only concern and compassion being shown, by both those visiting and those who are tending the site.

The late John Lewis called for “Good trouble”.
Amanda Gorman had it nailed.

George Floyd Square, Minneapolis

Call it untidy, messy, or even inconvenient, if you will. I would say the events that led to this site’s establishment were very untidy, extremely messy and most inconvenient-for the people who have suffered, and, ultimately, for those who brought about their suffering.

Say Their Names Memorial Cemetery, 37th Street, south of Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis

A dedicated crew of volunteers was busy, at this collective memorial for African-American people of colour killed, under questionable or objectionable circumstances, over the past sixty-six years. One of the earliest such victims, Emmett Till, would have turned eighty years of age today. When he was killed, I was four years old, and he was fourteen. I barely remember, the very next day, one of my cousins mentioned that a “coloured boy”, not much older than he, had been killed by “some crazy people” in a place called Mississippi. I didn’t know who coloured people were, nor where Mississippi even was, but I knew it was wrong for one person to kill another. It was also strange to me that a child should have died. Death was for old people, like my paternal grandfather, who had recently passed away-and he was not all that old.

It is still strange, and I still regard such atrocities as crazy. It would be the same, were any group of people to be subjected to such treatment-regardless of age, or of “race”.

July Road Notes, Day 20: Majestic

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July 24, 2021, Hudson, WI- The clerk sighed as she noted that the bar code on the tag of the book had faded. The bookstore had been physically closed for nearly fifteen months, before the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, re-opened on July 1. The staff are re-tagging items, as time allows, but I was buying one of the outliers.

I could have sat and talked with my friend, Val, and her husband, Mark, had he returned from his morning exercise, but there was the re-visit to the House of Worship, and crossing the city of Chicago en route, so I left Mishawaka around 9 a.m., crossed into Central Time, and found that, mostly, Chicago had relatively light traffic. In the Windy City, that means the traffic flows at 15 MPH, there are few horns blaring and any complete stops are limited to twenty seconds or less.

I got to Wilmette at 11 a.m., a first! That left time for lunch, in the village center, for which I chose a lovely little brunch establishment called Hot Cakes Cafe. Many stand alone eateries in Wilmette are cash-only, as is Hot Cakes, so I stopped at an ATM first.

The House of Worship and Visitor Center were very popular, as usual, and there was a wedding photo shoot in progress, outside, which is not uncommon. I had to wait a bit for the bookstore to open, as it was still lunchtime when I arrived. Then came the finding, regarding the bar code, which simply led to the clerk punching in the number manually. That would not be a sustainable practice, over time, so the staff will have their work cut out for them, over the next few weeks.

The Temple, or Mashriqu’l-adhkar, as it is properly called, remains as stately as ever, and is increasingly a place of pride for the North Shore of Chicagoland. I have posted many photos of this sublime treasure, in the past, but here are a few from today’s pilgrimage.

Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, South Face
Courtyard, outside Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette (above and below)

After praying a while, in the temple itself, it was time to head north and west, into and across Wisconsin. The rolling hills and glacial moraines of the “Dairy State” passed easily by, until I came to the state capital, Madison. There are several people, in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, whom I could call on and see if they are up for a visit-and that was the original plan. Then came my medical appointment on July 29, and thus, the week shaved off this jaunt. The Wisconsin State Capitol, though, is majestic in its way. So, when I stopped at a convenient Panera Bread, for dinner, and saw the edifice shimmering in the late afternoon glow, it was time for another walkaround.

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, north view
Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, east view

I walked completely around the structure and its grounds, then determined it was time to head as far west as possible, before calling it a night. As it is a Saturday night in July, I found motels were booked pretty solidly-until I got here, on the Minnesota state line, and at Regency Inn and Suites was the perfect room.

Sunday’s business is to pay my respects to those who were killed in confrontations between police and civilians, over the past several years. In my case, I include both parties-as whoever misuses firepower, to get their own way, is at fault. Law and order are important-and being necessary for a society to function, must be based on equanimity of justice. So, I will go to the George Floyd Global Memorial-not because George lived a saintly life (he didn’t), but because his transgressions did not warrant his death.

I saw majestic sights today- the Chicago skyline, the Baha’i House of Worship and the Wisconsin State Capitol. Can we not strive towards being majestic in character?

July Road Notes, Day 17: Long Trails Winding

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July 21, 2021, Concord, NH- Sam sensed my solemn mood, and honoured my relative silence. It was partly due to where I had just been, and partly due to being a bit worn, by the full day I had just enjoyed. The effervescent young lady continued to make sure I was well-served, while engaging more cheerful patrons in banter and laughter. Thus went my third meal, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant. This one was in Augusta, Maine’s capital city, where I had just visited the gravesites of a paternal aunt and uncle, along with the as yet unmarked grave of their eldest son, in Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

I left Saugus, the town of my formative years, around 8 in the morning, heading up towards Maine, via I-95. It was a smooth enough drive, near the coastal regions of New Hampshire and southern Maine. I first stopped at Stonewall Kitchen, in York, to pick up gifts for the cousins I would visit first and for friends I will see on Friday evening. Next came the drive, past Portland and its exquisite Casco Bay, to Boothbay Harbor, home to a paternal cousin and his family. I hadn’t seen Tom in nearly 35 years, but had communicated with him recently, about a matter of mutual interest.

Tom and Jamie seem to be doing well, have wonderful children and grandchildren, and a lovely home.

View of one of Boothbay Harbor’s many coves

We talked of each other’s families, for about 1 1/2 hours, over lunch and photo albums. Both of our family branches have had their share of triumphs and tragedies. Both have had wondrous people enter their lives and share all they have-and then some. Tom and Jamie are solid people, who have served children, over the years, on paths similar to those that Penny and I took.

Extended family, Boothbay Harbor, ME

I left the family to their afternoon, which included a well-crafted blanket fort, that the little boys had made, as part of their imaginative use of the living room, and headed towards Augusta, where I would pay my respects to our departed aunt, uncle and cousin. A brief stop in Boothbay Harbor’s west side was in order, for ice cream and a few photos.

Boothbay Harbor
View of Harbormaster’s House, Boothbay Harbor

The drive to Augusta was fairly short, but it took stopping at two places to get directions to the cemetery, as my GPS was pulling its “You’re offline!” tantrum. Once there, I found a well-tended expanse of lawn, with year-by-year indicators of who is laid to rest, and where. I spent about twenty minutes at the gravesites of my family members.

Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Augusta

Almost on cue, after twenty minutes, a cold wind whipped up and the dark clouds gathered. I got into the Ninety-Nine, just outside the cemetery gates, just before the rain started. Samantha, the server, kept watch on the skies, as well as on us patrons, and noted after fifteen minutes that the sun was coming back out. She seemed quite intently watching over us all, which I like in a public servant.

I spent about an hour after dinner, walking about downtown Augusta. The city has made great strides in celebrating the Kennebec River and its own heritage, since I was last here, in the late 1970s. Here are some of the scenes, therein.

Olde Federal Building, Augusta, ME
Kennebec Riverwalk, Augusta
Old Fort Western, Augusta

Old Fort Western tells the story of early Augusta and its environs. https://www.augustamaine.gov/old_fort_western/292_years_of_maine___new_england_history.php.

It was closed, and I needed to make further progress westward, so as to not overload myself tomorrow, so after a brief visit to the grounds of Maine’s State Capitol, where I took a few photos, under the watchful eyes of the Capitol Police, onward it was.

Maine State House, Augusta
West entrance, Maine State House, Augusta

Along US 202, I passed through the fields and cities of central and southwest Maine: Winthrop, Lewiston, Auburn, Gray and Sanford, before crossing into New Hampshire, at Rochester, then over to this fair place- New Hampshire’s capital city, which has two motels, cityside. Thus, I stopped into my first Holiday Inn, in over thirty-five years. (I am usually one for the Mom & Pop establishments, but in New Hampshire, those are limited to resort areas.)

After looking around Concord a bit, tomorrow, the itinerary is to cross western New Hampshire, southern Vermont and New York’s southern tier.

July Road Notes, Day 8: Reconciliation

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July 12, 2021, Memphis- Over the years, I’ve been in places which have shaken my conscience and sense of justice: Wounded Knee, Silver Creek, Bosque Redondo, the Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem, Donjon de Jeanne d’Arc, the Concentration Camp at Berga. This morning’s visit to Greenwood District, on Tulsa’s North Side, had a very similar effect.

I began the morning in the Cathedral District, on the south side of Tulsa’s downtown. It is majestic, in a physical sense, with spires abounding-and not so much competing, as complementing one another. I present a few of these:

First United Methodist Church, Tulsa
Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa
First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa
No spires, but still impressive: Church of Christ, Scientist, Tulsa

One must eat and drink, so I looked a bit, in the Cathedral District, and found this gem:

Foolish Things Coffee House!

Interior of Foolish Things Coffee House

After giving downtown its due, I headed to the sacred area that drew me to Tulsa, in the first place: Greenwood Historic District.

The signature mural of Greenwood District
Greenwood Cultural Center

The whole point of Greenwood’s emergence, in the early Twentieth Century, was to promote the very self-sufficiency, among Black Americans, that capitalists claimed to want. Yet, Oklahoma Governor Robertson, and his minions, including the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, were complicit in the plan to put an end to “Black Wall Street”. All they needed was a spark. On May 31, 1921, it was reported that a black shoe shine man had brushed up against a white elevator operator, leading to allegations of attempted rape. Further, the founder of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, seeing a chance to destroy his competition, accused the Mann Brothers, who operated a highly successful grocery store, of fomenting a riot, when a group of black businessmen went to the Courthouse, to seek the shoe shine man’s release. The allegations of D.W. Gurley led to a white mob’s attack on black-owned businesses. These allegations were later shown to be false, and Gurley fled to California. Ironically, the Mann family had come to Greenwood from Sherman, Texas, which later itself endured an assault on black-owned businesses. National Guard General Charles Barrett, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Tribune, stoked white anger from behind the scenes. It is not verified, but there is circumstantial evidence that Barrett gave the go-ahead for the use of airplanes, which did fire on blacks who were trying to flee Greenwood.

Scene of Greenwood destruction, June 1, 1921

Dozens of Greenwood residents were killed, and most of the rest were rendered homeless, by the destruction. The bottom line, though, in all this is: Greenwood is coming back. The block which earned the title Black Wall Street is small, but vibrant.

Fountain, on grounds of Greenwood Cultural Center

The Vernon African Methodist Evangelical Church was a key gathering place in Greenwood, and is so again.

Mural, on south wall of Greenwood Open Air gathering space

Wanda J’s Restaurant is also a gathering place for the Greenwood community. It was closed for renovation today, but the sign says it’ll reopen tomorrow.

Mural on berm of overpass, Greenwood District

After walking around Greenwood District, I paused to watch several children who had climbed up the overpass berm, and were now helping each other down, flip-flops and all, under their father’s watchful eyes. When the kids had descended, I noted this mural, of jazz musicians.

Tulsa, and Greenwood, are still here and the city is making amends. Reparations for the families of the victims are actually being discussed. Reconciliation Park, and Street, are set aside, to remind everyone that, when one group prospers, all may prosper.

The Second Half

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July 1, 2021- The first six months of this year have produced some rather significant changes in my world. Chief among them was Mother’s changing her residence-thankfully of her own accord-after 66 years in the same house. With all of us pitching in, the gargantuan task was broken into a hundred fairly manageable pieces. Now, Mom is happily ensconced in a small, comfortable apartment, with her basic security set.

The other changes are more internal. I have jettisoned a few personal demons that, while not interfering in my life very much, did cause a certain tension to arise, unnecessarily, between me and certain people in the wider community. I have already noticed how much more relaxed things are, when I am in my favourite places around town.

There were, as always, journeys during the period January-June. One was not planned-but going to Massachusetts in May was never in question. Going to Carson City was a year overdue- one of my best friends, and her blessed children and grandchildren are like family to me.

The second half of 2021 will be similar, with most of July being on the road-again largely making up for the lost contacts of the pandemic year. I’m not worried about a variant-the masks and hand sanitizer will be with me, and I have been fully vaccinated. Variants will be around for decades to come, as they are with Ebola-and influenza. Life cannot and should not stop. August and September will mostly find me here in Prescott, save for a memorial hike on the Navajo Nation, on August 16 and a four-day visit to southern California, September 17-21.

In mid-August, I will determine the prudence of going to Europe, for four weeks in October, and plan accordingly, Much depends on any lingering quarantines at that time. November and December will again be Southwest-centric, with my serving as host, around Thanksgiving, hopefully attending a resumed Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, around Christmas, and making a journey to southern New Mexico for a few days thereafter.

There will also be visits, at least once a month, to the Baha’i friends living along the Colorado River, in western Arizona, and always an eye towards getting up to Navajo and Hopi, as those areas open back up. The Red Cross is also opening its programs and services to in-person situations and meetings, starting within a few weeks, and I will remain open to helping in the schools, for special substituting activities.

Thus, the second half of this year will mirror, and expand upon, the first.

Surrogacy Reflects Reality

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June 27, 2021, Carson City- Among other matters that occupied the three of us (my spiritual sister, my surrogate grandniece and me) were the little one’s umpteenth visit to Carson City Railroad Museum, a comparison of Three-Story Park with Mills Park, in terms of the playground’s quality and cleaning out “Mema’s” car. We also returned some items to her cousin, enjoyed smoothies from Keva Juice, Italian dishes at the local Olive Garden and ice cream treats from Chocolate Nugget (near Virginia City).

Right alongside my biological family, this energetic bunch has my heart and soul. I have visited them, each year since 2012 (except 2020). Before that I knew the family in Arizona and bonded with them, even during the time that they had moved to Nevada, while Penny, Aram and I were busy in various parts of Arizona. B was born in 2011, and has since been joined by a sibling, who is every bit as delightful.

There is a separate group of cousins, not far from B and K. This group would also occupy a lot of my time, were I to be in this part of the country more often. They are a blended bunch, with every one of them treasured by Grandma, who does her level best to give them an actual home.

Surrogacy is a relative term-no pun intended. I am seeing just how strong a bond there is, blood or no blood, when the application of love is made. Oh, and this very busy day was capped, by one of the longest series of UNO hands, that I have ever joined. The last hand took over an hour to complete.

A Working Solstice

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June 21, 2021- It was not so much a working day for me, but a relative handful of mechanics performed maintenance on Elantra Thirteen, replacing brake pads and rotors, aligning the wheels and performing the usual oil & lube. It was an all-day affair, leading to a few other errands being postponed, and a Zoom call set aside. That’s okay, E13 does a lot of work for me, both here and elsewhere, so the day was hers.

Whilst ensconced in the waiting area at the shop, I received a call from the Dermatology Center, and my procedure is scheduled for July 29. In the meantime, I will continue to dress the area, with essential oils and Life Wave patches. This also addresses the whole matter of my going where I feel called next month, at least leaving myself sufficient time to return to Home Base, by July 28.

Dallas, Tulsa and Sarcoxie will now, hopefully, be followed by Crossville, Knoxville, Harrisonburg, Oley (maybe Paoli and Exton, if the family schedules permit), Elmont, the North Shore, the resting place in Maine-of a cousin who passed away recently, Mishawaka, Wilmette, Minneapolis-and any part of Colorado that happens to be en route back to Home Base.

Back here around 3:50, I got my bearings, rested a bit and juiced a bunch of wheatgrass, after eating a dinner salad and hummus on a rye cracker. Today is actually the day after Solstice, and I’ve gotten well into my summer salad for dinner regimen, but I am very much enamoured of the 21st day of June being the First Day of Summer.

As I listen to an original jazz tune called “Tales of A Courtesan”, by the Japanese-American composer, Toshiko Ariyoshi, it’s a comfort to know that we each have our strengths and can share a unique view of one or more elements of life.

Just So Much Skin in The Game

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June 15, 2021- After reading my horoscope, which said not to make financial decisions today, I spent a delightful morning at Phippen Museum of Western Art, on Prescott’s north side, with my hiking buddy. Given that it was too hot for any outside activity, enjoying various paintings, sculptures and Native American handicrafts was a fine way to appreciate the Southwest. It also gave A.K. a possible outlet for creativity, during the rest of the hot weather. The Phippen offers affordable painting classes, once a week.

I have no qualms about sharing time and energy, as these imply that the other people involved will invest the same. Money, as I’ve said before, is a different matter. People often throw out- “The more you give, the more you get”, in a guilt-mongering manner. I have said, more times than I have cared to, that my fair share of coin goes to those in need. So, I set a hard and fast limit on the amount going towards a socioeconomic development project in another country. This generated a sarcastic comment, that I have such “an elevated sense of brotherhood”. I actually view that as a compliment. What I am not doing for one person, in perpetuity, is balanced by what I am doing for others. I want to see just how much the individual will pull himself together, working with others to build a communal dream. I will “beseech God to guide him”-as Baha’u’llah teaches us.

My parents gave us only so much, in the way of financial and material assistance, and I believe each of us are the better for it.

Breaking A Small Logjam

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June 13, 2021- Every so often, I find myself with nothing to say, at a given moment. On a quiet routine day, such as today, rest takes priority, especially with one very active, at times frenetic week gone and a slightly quieter one ahead. Indeed, a Christian friend, at breakfast this morning, extolled the virtues of not working on the Sabbath of one’s Faith. We Baha’is are, unofficially, given Friday as a day of rest, yet statutes and the present course of the wider society make that sometimes problematic. Still, when I am tired, I take the time to rest.

Nonetheless, life goes on and commentary with it. A small fire broke out today in Cornville, about an hour northeast of here. I may pull a shift, or two, this week, at any shelter that opens in consequence to that fire. There are other matters to which I must attend-some maintenance on the Elantra, a few meetings to host and to attend, and the long overdue resolution of a personal health issue. Fires, and other social emergencies are never convenient, nor are most personal matters. Somehow, action is required on each one-and so on I go, along with anyone else who can make the time.

As for an ongoing flow of conversation, as to why the Federal and state governments move so slowly, if at all, on matters of concern to Joe Citizen, I give you the fact that each person in said governments has to deal with the same logjams of overwork and scheduling rest. There is a conflict in perception, between those who ARE rested and ready for action and those who are running on fumes. Some of us are just slow moving, overly meticulous (Obsessive Compulsive) and prone to overthinking. Others, myself included, take action on matters that present themselves, in as expeditious a manner as possible-giving deferred attention to things that are synchronous to what has our attention at the moment. (For example, a barrage of Instant Messages coming at a time when I am engaged in helping feed two dozen people.)

Each of us is important. None of us is as important as we sometimes want the world to think.