DONKEYS' ADVOCATES GO FROM SENSITIVE TO ABSURD

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Not to be unduly argumentative, but this one's for my donkey basketball correspondents (Readers Write column, Sunday). By the way, I cherish your right to write; that's why your letters ran there and this is here.

Also, I'm not one who's even a tick insensitive about animals being ill-treated. Injured or tormented creatures, wild or domesticated, leave me about as soppy as anyone with normal sensibilities. I just think you've gone overboard about donkeys.

So here are some concepts that seem logical by applying the emotional baggage you dragged out about animals having, as one of you wrote about our debated donkeys, "the right to simply be left alone, to graze and enjoy the open air and green pastures as nature intended."

How pastoral, what a lovely image . . . cut us a break.

By that logic, we ought to set all our dogs free so they can form packs and forage about indiscriminately -- as Nature no doubt intended.

Free our felines. That might help stabilize the population of parakeets and finches and other birds that we ought to set free, too. Cats like to hunt, and birds like to fly. There'll be a nasty shake-out while Nature establishes the right balance of cats per square mile, but heck,let's give 'em the challenges and rewards Nature wanted them to have.

How about putting a stop to feeding birds during the winter, too? All we do is give them a false sense of security and let them overpopulate our neighborhoods.

Let's stop the Preakness and Derby and Belmont and every other race around and close all the stables and breeding grounds. Those horses were meant to be out there on the Plains or in the hills, manes and tails a-blowin' in the wind.

You think sheep like having their coats clipped? You think cows really like being milked by stainless steel machines?

Fishing -- yuk. Clams -- wedig the critters out of bed, with machines. Crabbing -- we steam 'emto death so we can eat them. Plants often die so we can have salad. Talk about inhumanity. Where does all of this stop?

One of the other people who responded to my donkey basketball "Scene" a couple Wednesdays ago said he knew of a donkey troupe owner. And he remembered something that owner said:

His donkeys had provided pleasure for thousands of people and in the process had bought the man his home and sent his kids through college. Having gotten into the business at alland, then, deriving from it benefits like that, he said, was it really logical that he would abuse the animals he virtually lived with for days on end?

OF MICE AND GRADUATES

It's been 10 years since someone let loose a green-and-white laboratory mouse on the Atholton HighSchool auditorium stage during my graduation.

To tell the truth, the scurrying, two-toned rodent is practically the only thing I do remember about that night. That and the fact that the students who looked like extras from the movie "Animal House" were the ones who received the loudest hoots and hollers from the audience when their names were announced.

I can recall that millionairess-to-be Oprah Winfreyspoke at my older brother's graduation in 1979 and that WJZ-TV's Al Sanders uttered words of wisdom to my younger brother's class in 1984. But the name of my commencement speaker escapes me.

No offense, Mr. What-ever-your-name-is. But you'll be glad to know that I ended up graduating from college, and after a poverty-stricken, three-year period of depressing, dead-end jobs from Hell, I finally landed a semi-respectable newspaper job.

We were an intellectual bunch, Atholton's class of 1981. Just take a glance at the choice in our yearbook for favorite movie of the year: "Friday the 13th Part II."

But you really can't blame us for our predisposition to violence. I mean, look who our authority figures were. Our principal's name was Dr. Butcher and our guidance counselor was Mrs. Bonebreak.

We picked Bo Derek as favorite actress. This Bo might not have known Shakespeare, but she converted many a Deadhead into classical music fans with her stellar performance in the scene from "10" where Ravel's "Bolero" played in the background. Other student favorites were Alan Alda for best male actor, "General Hospital" and "M*A*S*H" for top TV shows, AC/DC for best rock band and "punk rock" as biggest fad.

One of my most embarrassing -- and moist -- days in high school occurred during Mrs. Fletcher's chemistry class. Being the young Einstein I was, I somehowhooked up the Bunsen burner tube to the water faucet knob instead ofthe gas knob. Mrs. Fletcher didn't even crack a smile as she wiped the water from her face with the sleeve of her lab coat.

And whileI'm reminiscing, now is probably the time to confess to a crime I committed as a senior. The guilt has been eating away at me for years.

I stole a book from the school library. Actually, I didn't really want the whole book, just the library card. Greg Hawkes, the keyboardplayer from the rock group The Cars and an Atholton grad from the early 1970s, had checked out the book a decade earlier and I thought his autograph would make a cool souvenir.

The title of the book was "Gods, Demons and Others." I don't know why Hawkes had checked it out, but I can assure you that I'm no chicken-bone-carrying devil worshiper. I just happened to be browsing through the religious section fora book report for Mr. Webster's World Religions class.

Since Juneis right around the corner, I'd like to wish the class of '91 the best of luck. Whatever you decide to do, give it your all -- and remember to sponge off your parents for as long as humanly possible.

Andif things get somewhat boring during your graduation extravaganza atMerriweather Post Pavilion, it's amazing how the memory of a little white rodent streaked with green food coloring stays with you over the years.

THE COST OF INNER PEACE

I had to smile when I saw an ad in the paper a while ago announcing "Free Introductory Lectures on Transcendental Meditation."

About a month ago I attended one of theselectures at the Howard County Library in Columbia. Three articulate,intelligent practitioners and teachers of TM told the assembled group of 20 people how TM could change our lives.

My interest increased as I heard how practicing TM for minutes a day could help me reducestress, think clearly and have more energy, happiness, self-esteem and inner peace.

I heard about TM's medical benefits, including slowing the aging process and reducing hospitalizations. During the talk, the teachers occasionally held aloft thick books that which they said contained scientific studies documenting the rewards of TM.

After listening to an hour's worth of TM's virtues, I was ready to take the next step: TM teachers announced another informational meeting for those who were interested in learning more about TM.

I wrote down the place and time. The TM teachers then explained the steps a person must go through -- including attending lectures and one-on-one teaching and interview sessions -- before being qualified to practice TM.

And it only costs $600.

When the TM teachers announced this fee at the end of the lecture, I realized that I would have to do without a clear mind, energy, harmonious relationships and happiness.

My point: TM teachers at introductory lectures should come right out and say there is a price to pay if you want to learn TM from them. I guess I was a little taken aback because they spoke of TM as almost aspiritual force in their lives.

They enticed people by telling them of its benefits -- which I didn't think you could put a price on -- and then asked for cash in exchange for spirituality and inner peace.

That's why I smiled when I saw the newspaper ad for TM lectures, with no mention of cost. In fairness, I must mention that at the lecture I went to, the TM teachers did offer us a deal. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the TM program, was offering a limited $300 half-price special to join up.

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