Thursday, January 31, 2008

Every Day

At the end of every day , look to find in it the moment for which it was created.

Paul Kovacs Sphere: Related Content

A Beautiful Story From "cast me forth into the sea, so shall the sea be calm unto you"
Sunday, August 12, 2007a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom The Cab Ride. By Author Unknown
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, and then drive away. But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated".
"Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.
"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice".
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.
"Nothing," I said.
"You have to make a living," she answered.
"There are other passengers," I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Semi-random thoughts by Paul Kovacs

The best political system can be undermined. A law well concieved is easily subverted. One can not advocate a political system and neglect the quality of the individual.
In Nazi Germany, obedience to law became a vice, when the law of the land was manifestly wicked. Although fascist Italy copied verbatim Nazi Germany's laws, the readiness of millions of Italians to ignore the law was a saving virtue.
Without G-d , intellect becomes an anesthetic for the conscience. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, January 28, 2008

My favorite links

Just as I reach beyond my geographic limitations to enjoy world art and music, I try to reach past my limitations in time, and enjoy literature and entertainment from the past. In This spirit, I am sharing internet sites that have enriched my life Sphere: Related Content


Freedom is knowing what is right and doing it.
There is no choice in the land of the free.

Paul Kovacs Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The world listens to us. Do we hear them?

My parents told me a story that they were sight seeing in Ljubjana, Slovenia. A young man was performing some James Taylor on guitar, with an accent that made them feel like they were back in the USA. Adding some coins to his guitar case, they complimented him on his singing, and found that he spoke no English. He had mastered his repertoire of songs perfectly but did not understand what he himself was singing.
When I moved to Italy in 1973, "You're so Vain" was at the top of the charts in Italy and the USA. I was very fond of the song and enjoyed the transcontinental continuity. On further thought, I wondered why I never heard Italian Hits (sucessi) in Boston. When I went to bars( which were family friendly) I fed and watched the jukebox and wrote down the names of Italian songs and groups I liked. To this day, I still listen to Lucio Battisti, Mia Martini, and Le Orme (which reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd). I extended my discovery of international music around the globe, with particular attention to the former East Germany and the former Soviet Union
A lot of these groups can be seen on you tube. The internet makes the purchase of their music far easier than when I was young. Like the young man my parents met in Ljubjana , I am concerned not only with the meaning of words but the quality of the human voice as a musical instrument.
When I was a child and my parents brought me to the beach, I always wondered if someone on the other side was looking back at me. When I put DDT (Russia) or the Puhdys ( East Germany) on my headphones, I can now say truthfully that someone is looking back. Sphere: Related Content


I walked through a hall of mirrors
And didn't see anyone I knew. Sphere: Related Content


Words are a flat map of a world that is round. Sphere: Related Content


Whenever I heard the word "disillusionment", it has always had pejorative connotations. (He became disillusioned with communism"). Although I have left people and ideas with which I became disillusioned, in other cases I became a more steadfast friend or believer. Divesting myself of false perceptions has generally been a good thing in my life. In the English that I speak with others, disillusionment remains negative, but in the silent language of my thoughts , it is uttered as often with joy as with despair Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Opening Post

I chose the name Rudi Stettner in honour of my great uncle Rudolf, who was a German Jewish journalist murdered by the Nazis. He was born in Stettin, which was then German but is now Polish. To me he was always a saint, larger than life, since he was willing to risk his life to seek and speak the truth.
I a middle aged married orthodox Jew living in Crown Heights , Brooklyn. I want to speak my heart about living right and surviving in the city. A pen name gives me the cover necessary to venture my honest feelings and observations. If you were my neighbour, I might be reserved in sharing stories from my life, but on a bus ride to Boston,for example, I might be more candid. This blog is my seat on the Greyhound bus, with the reflections on the window competing with the outside view. You are welcome to sit beside me and share some views, or change your seat for some solitude. Sphere: Related Content