Monday, August 18, 2014

Is this paradise?

Where is your paradise, your Eden, the place where you feel most happy and content?

For some, it’s the beach. Sun, sand, and surf. What’s not to like? Unless you’re more of a woodsy person, where trees, trails, and terra firma do the trick.

In recent travels I’ve noticed claims to paradise in places that couldn’t be more different. Amsterdam is known as a paradise for high times. Cologne, Germany, has been called a knitting paradise (among other claims to favored things).

In Tulsa, Okla., Paradise is a chain of donut shops, which certainly is heavenly if you're Homer Simpson. And in Lee County, Florida, even the Sheriff’s Office buys into the hype with its tagline, “Working to Keep Paradise Safe.”

During the few days I spent in Florida, several people said to me: “Isn’t this paradise?” As I stood melting in the high heat and stifling humidity, I couldn't disagree. Actually, I couldn’t say anything; I was too busy trying to capture the few oxygen molecules reported to be in the air.

For a short stretch years ago I lived in New Hampshire, a place the locals claimed to be paradise. And it was for a few weeks in the summer, which was more like a mid-Atlantic spring. Then winter came, then winter II, then mud season. Locals were baffled when I scurried back to the Philadelphia area.

Paradise for some is a cruise vacation. For others, it’s Margaritaville. Some like camping under the stars, some won’t even “camp” in anything less than a four-star hotel.

Those seeking eternal paradise might want to visit Saginaw, Michigan. That’s where Paradise Funeral Chapel is now offering “Drive-Thru Viewing,” for those wishing to pay their final respects “in the privacy of their vehicle.”

The only thing I can figure is paradise must be like beauty – all in the eyes of the beholder.

Sing us out Coldplay:
Para-para-paradise, Para-para-paradise,
Whoa-oh-oh oh-oooh oh-oh-oh.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Working (un)smarter and harder

A few years ago, a friend expressed surprise over my ownership of a fax machine. “Gee, I haven’t used one of those in years? Does anyone still fax?”

Oh, yes, as I’m finding out. Government agencies. Medical offices. Some businesses. Sign this, send your approval, submit pages of paperwork.

It’s even truer as I try to help my elderly parents navigate bureaucratic systems from a thousand miles away.

My father does have a computer, and a scanner, and a fax, but he’s currently in the hospital without access.

My mother shuns most technology and only remembers the most basic functions of her mobile phone: answer calls; place calls.

Neither will check voice mail messages, and so my brother clears hundreds from their inbox whenever he visits.

Articles on the Internet portray a much different reality. Smartphones used for shopping, banking, making payments, getting tickets for events, displaying boarding passes.

Sometimes I even believe the hype, expecting the quick extinction of cash in my wallet, newspapers on the kitchen table, magazines at bedside, and mail by my friendly postal carrier Bob.

But this week I’ve been thrown back to the pre-smartphone, un-Web days. In trying to liaise between my parents and various medical, insurance, and municipal agencies, the phone and fax have become tools of the trade.

I even resorted to USPS Priority Mail service when a receiving fax machine hiccuped.

I'll admit I love the digital life, but can we please make it additive, and not a category killer to existing technologies?

It may be hard to believe, but even in an age of smarter-than-the-average-bear devices, it sometimes takes an old-fashioned fax to get things done.