Thank You Danny Dunn!

Thank you Danny Dunn!

Thank you Danny Dunn.  Thank you Scholastic Books.  Thank you Dad.

I’ve always loved to read.   Throughout elementary school, and especially in third grade, the best days were when the teacher handed out the scholastic books newsletter with an order form.  That year, I got two books. Both were, and likely remain, my favorite books of all time.  Do you remember the Danny Dunn series?  I owned Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine and Danny Dunn and the Anti-gravity machine.  In the first Danny Dunn cleverly creates a machine to do all his homework.  In the second, he creates, a machine to eliminate the gravity we are confined to.  They both capture, in my view, a powerful imagination and the will to innovate; albeit with a slight tinge of subversiveness.  I’m not so clever to have ever created any innovation so bold and exciting.  But, together they captured my love of innovation, and admittedly, a desire to challenge the rules.  I can see how they inspired, or at least portended, my future career in cutting edge of genetics/genomics.

Though the slim paper backs are long gone, I was able to harvest hard copies of each a decade ago and so Danny Dunn is now with me for life.  Could I ask for anything more? I don’t think so

Books That Inspired Me (To be a writer)

You ever meet someone who brags about not reading? Like, it’s some kind of badge of honor? “Yeah I haven’t touched a book since I finished coloring in those dinosaur pictures at school. Turns out, crayons are all the education you really need!”

Reading is not some punishment for getting bad grades, it’s a portal to a million different worlds. You can be a spaceship captain one minute, a knight the next, all without leaving your comfy chair (unless you’re one of those weirdos who reads on the treadmill – seriously, get a life!)

Now, me? I wouldn’t say I’m some bookworm who sleeps with a stack of novels on my nightstand. But I do appreciate a good story, fiction or otherwise. When I was a kid, my mum used to read me these ridiculous fairy tales. Talking animals? Glass slippers? Honestly, the nerve of those princesses expecting a prince to solve all their problems. But hey, they sparked my imagination, even if they did set some unrealistic expectations from and about footwear.

As I got older, I gravitated towards stuff that made me think. Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land – hilarious, existential, and a healthy dose of cynicism about humanity. Perfect for its time. Then there’s Dorothy Parker. Now, that gal could write circles around most people, even if you disagreed with half her stuff. Point is, she challenged your thinking, which is more than you can say for most of today’s reality TV “stars.”

But here’s the thing: reading isn’t just about Shakespeare or escaping to fictional galaxies. Sometimes it’s about learning something new. A good biography can teach you more about history than a dozen history textbooks. A well-written science book can open your eyes to the wonders of the universe (without all the bad CGI from those nature or science documentaries).

Look, I’m not saying everyone needs to turn into a book hermit. But next time you have a spare hour, ditch the mindless Youtube scrollings and pick up a book. Who knows, you might actually learn something, or at the very least, escape the crushing ennui of our own existence for a while. Consider joining a book club. And hey, if you find yourself completely lost in a good story, don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Just don’t miss your bus stop because you were busy saving the world with Captain Picard.

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The Meaning of Life

How did I happen to read that book?  I don’t remember anyone giving it to me or seeing it in the house, so most likely it was in a school library, maybe thoughtfully displayed by a librarian, or maybe just calling to me from a shelf. In any case it was not like anything I had read and it spoke powerfully to my own adolescent yearning to make sense of existence.
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Fear of the Other

I’m a white woman who for years worked in a public high school in New York’s inner city –  in fact in the infamous south Bronx of Fort Apache fame.

I usually carpooled to work with fellow teachers  but at times took the subway from my upper east-side Manhattan neighborhood .  As you may know on any New York subway platform you’ll find  a motley crew of subway-riders waiting for trains.  That was true at both ends of my trip,  although the Manhattan station had lots more white folks in business dress,  carrying the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal,  heading to or from the office.

On the Bronx platform the faces were mostly black or brown reflecting the demographics of the neighborhood,  with fewer business suits,  fewer newspapers under arms,  and more guys wearing hoodies.

Was I ever fearful?  No, but it’s the white guy with the MAGA hat I’d worry about now.

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Fears, Phobias and FOMO

Fears, Phobias & FOMO

Fears? Hmmm. Phobias? Double Hmmm. I’ve scanned through the decades of my life and come up short.  Discrete memories of discomfort are vivid, but they remain in their specific time and space, like my discomfort riding at over night camp.  To be sure I have dislikes, like severe turbulence, but fortunately they have yet to rise to the level of fear, or phobia. I admit to some modicum of the classic female ‘fear of failure’, but that too is not quite genuine. In scouring my trove of memories, as one might search for a lost tiny gem in a musty attic, I’ve come up short; that is blank. Alas, I can’t lay claim to a fear or a phobia. But I do have FOMO!  Is this a phobia?

A Glass Menagerie from the Five and Dime

The Five and Dime

When I was a kid there were two stores In my neighborhood we called the “five-and-dimes”.  One was Woolworth which of course was a national chain,  and the other was Fishers which I think was just a local store,  Yet to my child’s sensibility they were grand emporiums selling priceless treasures,  and I remember shopping there with my grandmother.

She and my grandfather lived about a hour away by car and we’d often visit back and forth.  But after my grandfather died,  although she had a license,  my grandmother was nervous about driving long distances alone,  and so to visit us she came by bus.  And I remember waiting for her at the bus stop which was on the same block as Fishers,  and when she got off the bus we’d go into the store together and I’d pick out a little glass animal to add to my prized collection.

And although it was almost a lifetime ago,  I still remember how grown up I felt shopping for my glass menagerie in that local five-and-dime.

And I remember how proud I felt to be shopping there with you,  Grandma.

– Dana Susan Lehrman

Fear of Dogs

Not all kids, or adults for that matter, love dogs. Can’t there be a few dog-free public spaces where a young girl can ride her bike or play or simply take a walk and feel safe?
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Fear and Frothing In Las Vegas – My Rant On Phobias

 

Alright, settle down everyone, I am here to dismantle the dramatics of our everyday anxieties. We all have fears, that much is a given. From the perfectly reasonable (stepping off a skyscraper) to the downright debilitating (spontaneous human combustion, a fear of mine, I haven’t slept well with since I first dreamed about it back during the almost Y2K non-catastrophe.) But somewhere between the healthy dose of caution and waking up screaming because the crack on your ceiling looks a bit like an arachnid lies the land of phobias.

Now, phobias are a funny bunch. You’ve got your run-of-the-mill arachnophobes like me, who would run away from a surprise spider. Then there’s the claustrophobics who are convinced a trip in an elevator is basically a one-way ticket to purgatory.

Don’t even get me started on the germaphobes – a bunch of walking anti-bacterial wipes who think a handshake is a biohazard suit malfunction. (Becoming Mister Monk is a personal fear of mine.)

Look, I get it. Some fears are primal. The fear of heights? Makes sense, gravity’s a bitch. But the fear of clowns? Come on, clowns are just sadistic and mean spirited children wearing face paint. And don’t even try to tell me you’re scared of flying. It’s statistically the safest mode of transport (unless, of course, you’re sharing a plane with a germaphobe dressed as a clown carrying a spider).

Now, some of you will argue that you’ve tried to overcome these phobias. You booked that therapy session with Dr. Feelgood, the one whose office overlooks a 40-story drop. Or you signed up for that skydiving course, only to spend the entire time composing your funeral eulogy in your head. Here’s the thing, folks – sometimes these phobias have more entertainment value than any actual hindrance. Imagine the story you’ll have at the next work function! “Oh yeah, I can’t go to the office picnic because there might be a rogue butterfly.” Hilarious.

But hey, if you’re genuinely petrified of pigeons or public speaking, then by all means seek help but there’s a difference between a healthy dose of caution and letting the fear win every single time. Just a word of advice – if your therapist’s treatment involves exposure therapy and a trip to the zoo, politely decline and find a new shrink. No one needs that kind of emotional scarring.

Look, at the end of the day, fears and phobias are a part of life. They’re what make us human, what makes us buy ten bottles of Pine-sol and twelve bottles of Pinot Noir every year. But I suggest you do not let any fear or fears be the punchline of your own existence.

I suggest you embrace the absurdity, write a self-help book titled “How to Stop Being Scared of Your Own Shadow” and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself laughing all the way back into therapy? Or at least laughing until you cry, which, by the way, is a wonderful and healthy start!

 

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