Friday, December 9, 2016

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Me.

Liz and Dick being outrageous on film, with George Segal as an innocent bystander.
I have always wanted to be one of those special people who read Virginia Woolf, although I'm a little frightened of her because she was quite insane and ended up drowning herself in a river, fully clothed and with a big rock in her coat pocket to weigh her down, a method of suicide that seems really unpleasant and pretty boring; at least in the ocean there are waves and currents to keep you interested until the end. But that's another subject altogether. Anyway, my friend Greg in Pittsburgh is one of those special people, for other reasons as well, and his favorite book is Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Solely on Greg's recommendation I have tried and tried to read it but have never gotten anywhere near the lighthouse, in fact I've barely arrived at page three.

I have danced around Virginia Woolf for most of my life. Naturally I saw the 1966 film adaptation starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and several stage productions of the play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. And I've done quite well reading books about books by Virginia Woolf. Right now I immersed again in an old favorite, The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1998 and became an Oscar-winning movie in 2002. It's all about Mrs. Dalloway, a novel by Virginia Woolf, and it makes me want to try to read the real thing. (Again.)

So this morning I went to my bookshelves and found a copy of Mrs. Dalloway, my third I think since I loaned the others over the years and never asked for them back. I am determined to read it all the way through this time, and then read To The Lighthouse, and then read all her other books; I already own two more I have tried and failed at, and I read in college that I hardly remember. This is my early New Year's resolution, and it's a relief to have that decided, at least: In 2017 I will be one of those special people who reads Virginia Woolf. Plus I might lose a few pounds and meditate daily and eliminate all red meat and a couple of other things. But Virginia Woolf is for sure.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Russian Hats

I hate those stupid caps!

Admit it, he could be a hat model.

I'm not sure who to tell and why it matters, but this blog is being closely followed by the Russians. Seriously. Like the other day I had 193 readers in the United States and 608 in Russia! And that's not uncommon, at least in the past few weeks, ever since Trump won the election. No, I am not making this up. What do the Russians want with me?

First of all, to be clear: I did not vote for Donald Trump. Not that it's any of your business but if you must know, I wrote in John Kasich. But I would have voted for him if write-ins were forbidden since I would never in a million years help put Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Secondly, I know very little about American history, believing that what's done is done and move on, and of course even less about Russian history. I loved the movie Reds, which took place in Moscow, (maybe, or at least some part of it) and those big eraser hats they all wore in Doctor Zhivago, made back when Julie Christie (or was it Faye Dunaway, I always confused those two) was a huge star. Russian hats are much more attractive than baseball caps which I hate (sorry Donald) and which are ubiquitous, especially in warm weather. I think Vladimir Putin is attractive on a purely physical level, certainly more manly than say Barack Obama who is downright girly, although my favorite world leader, hands-down, is Benjamin Netanyahu, who I find extremely sexy. (Let's remember, I am 70.)

So I wonder: Why are Russians reading The Daily Droid? If you have any ideas, let me know.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Singing the Palm Beach Blues

It's not called Worth Avenue for nothing!
If you ask me you can take your fancy trips around the world and your cruises to foreign lands and your winter holidays to warmer climes and flush them all down the toilet. None of them work because wherever you go, there you are: You aren't any thinner or healthier or younger, you haven't gotten better siblings or had your book published or sold any paintings. The dead people you once loved are still dead. All you've done is changed the scenery. Now if there were some magic land where when you arrive you are somebody else entirely, with a different set of memories and maybe even a new phone number, I'd be down for that. Otherwise, all the arranging and packing and schlepping and flying and car rentals and checking in and checking out and room service is just busy work.

I'm guessing the reason they say "travel is broadening" is because one tends to overeat on trips, seeing as how little else there is to do unless you zip line, which I don't, preferring not to lose a leg or in fact any limb at all to gangrene, or hot air balloon, which I won't, not wanting to burn to death after getting tangled up in electric wires. As for snorkeling or deep sea diving, I have not immersed myself in the ocean since I saw Jaws and no, I'm not kidding. So here I am at the beach with the luscious Atlantic just steps away and it does me little good, although it is fun to watch and hike alongside.

Anyway, there's a decent-sized pool at this hotel and I can swim, so I guess I'll do that today since tomorrow I will be stuck inside a little tube hurtling across the sky (not wholly unlike Sandra Bullock in Gravity) which could come crashing down and end it all -- not to be a bummer but it could -- and if it doesn't, well then I'll land in Boston where it's cold and still have a two-hour drive back to Maine where it snowed yesterday.

But at least my cat will be there (if he survived five days without me) and I can paint, which somehow seems a better use of time than driving through downtown Palm Beach and gawking at the outrageous displays of wealth that make you, or at least me, flash on those malnourished children running barefoot around Haiti and India with distended tummies and skinny legs while these rich women with their toned arms and strappy, high-heeled wedge sandals they can hardly walk in, forget running, rid themselves of their excess cash up and down Worth Avenue (see photo), their Mercedes and Jaguars and Rolls Royces lining the street as they add yet another thousand-dollar pair of Jimmy Choo shoes to their already hideously bloated collection, making you wonder where's Bernie Sanders when you need him.

Friday, December 2, 2016

All My New Friends Are Doctors

It's not like I hadn't been told I'd be "a different person" after my hip replacement surgery, I just didn't realize how different. Now, four months later, I see that I am almost a stranger to my old self. For example, before my surgery I was starting to walk with a limp, and my hip hurt every night when I went to bed, and I had never seen one episode of Grey's Anatomy and in fact scoffed at the mere thought. That's all in the past. Today I walk without a limp, my hip never hurts, and I'm addicted to Grey's Anatomy. All these things are a result of my surgery. The first two are good, of course, but the third -- well, let's just say I'm not proud.

This is Dr. George O'Malley. I love him. He dies in Season 6 but I'm not there yet so he's still alive for me.

Stuck at home for almost six weeks, without the ability to drive or do more than a walk around the neighborhood for maybe ten minutes, otherwise lying around with an ice pack on my newly-installed hip, I tired of reading and couldn't comfortably get in the right position to paint and so took to channel surfing every afternoon. There was little on other than commercials aimed at old people, certainly not me, and some dumb talk shows, and that one station that shows reruns of Grey's Anatomy seemingly from morning til night. I settled on that and watched with a sneer, finding it sophomoric and stupid. Until I didn't.

Suddenly I cared very much about Dr. Bailey and Dr. Burke and Chief Webber and Cristina and Alex and George and even Meredith Grey, whose anatomy we are all caught up with although personally I think she is way too thin to be sexy which is what she is supposed to be. The trouble was I hardly knew who was sleeping with who and why. Then one day I realized: Hey, I can watch this all on Netflix, starting with Season 1, and find out!

Since then my life has been completely different. I'm free! I don't need to waste my time chit-chatting with real people; I can just stay home and catch up with all my TV friends at Seattle Grace Hospital. I am now halfway into Season 3 and there are 13 seasons with new ones still airing, so I'm set at least until the middle of next year. It's a good feeling.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thinking Outside the Box

The most interesting conversation I have had in at least a week was with the electrician who came to my house yesterday morning to fix some broken switches. A young man in his early 30s who lives way out in the hinterlands of Maine, Derrick was poised and articulate and brimming with ideas of how to live better in a world gone mad. He and his wife are home-schooling their three kids, and one thing they have taught them, besides all about history and math and geography and politics, is how to write in cursive, something that is no longer taught in public schools and will soon be obsolete.


Besides his proficiency in all things electric, having completed as many years of education to become certified as a journeyman electrician as a brain surgeon does, Derrick had a lot to say about the present state of the world and why he has chosen to live out in the woods, raising pigs and chickens and milk cows and farming much of the food his family consumes. I was envious of his children, thinking back to how little I learned during my normal suburban childhood, both from my parents and my teachers, that has been useful in any way. We talked long past his repair of my switches and finally broke off when his beeper alerted him to his next appointment. I paid him $100 for the work but secretly thought the conversation was worth much more.

That evening I attended a small dinner in my neighborhood attended by six women including me. All of us were college graduates. The food prepared by our gracious hostess was delicious but the conversation was almost non-existent. There was chit-chat about people known in common, various recipes for cake, the merits of taking Vitamin D versus calcium, and news of an upcoming holiday bazaar. Nobody mentioned politics or anything happening outside of our little town. A newcomer to the group, I was never asked one question by anyone there. When I could politely excuse myself, I went home and played with my cat, then went to bed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tired of Trivial Pursuits


Confession time: I don't care even a teeny bit who is named the Secretary of Commerce or the Head of the Schools or the Most Esteemed Leader of the Department of This, That and The Other, and I'm not sure most other people do either, except perhaps my husband's nephews Frick and Frack, whose entire lives seem to revolve around every last thing The Donald does, says, thinks, eats and tweets. But they are a couple of rare birds; most normal people just want to pay their bills on time, not get cancer and possibly even have some fun, without keeping tabs on each and every appointment made by the president-elect like a couple of schoolgirls discussing their latest Hollywood crush.

Still, the members of the media, not ready to be weaned from the Trump-news teat, continue to stuff our faces with every crumb they can scrape off the floor of Trump Tower. Yesterday I read about a "woman of color" who was appointed as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Come on --that's not even a Cabinet position! Who cares what color she is?

Really, who cares about any of it? Can't we move on and at least wait for the barrage of meaningless trivia that will bombard us about the coming Inauguration ceremony? Like who, if anyone, will design Melania's dress for the Inaugural Ball or will she have to get it off the rack at Macy's? You know, important things like that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chasing the Young and Stupid

Pity those poor executives over at Phillip Morris USA, makers of Marlboro cigarettes. They have a "millennial problem," since 85% of young adults these days don't smoke. What to do, what to do? First, they've got to ignore the following facts:  

1. The main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer is cigarette smoking, which accounts for 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively.

2. From 2005 to 2010, an average of 130,659 Americans died of smoking-attributable lung cancer each year. An estimated 158,080 more will die from it by the end of 2016. 

3. Nonsmokers have a 20 to 30% greater chance of developing lung cancer when exposed to secondhand smoke. Such exposure causes approximately 7,330 deaths annually.

"What, me worry?"
Done! In fact, an article in today's Wall Street Journal celebrates the fact that Marlboro cigarettes are on the rise again, after a long decline. Since most of the smoking baby boomers are either already dead or on the way, dragging those oxygen tanks around airports and train stations as punishment for years of self-abuse, the target audience is millennials and they have finally been reached! The problem was that young people couldn't relate to that old cowboy image of the Marlboro Reds, so some brilliant marketing execs came up with a "bold, modern take" on the packaging (of the poison). They switched the color of the box to black and voila! -- the new kids ate it up. Marlboro Blacks are now that generation's top choice in coffin nails, responding to the trendy images of tattoos, black jeans and motorcycles in all advertising and direct mail pieces.

Whew, that's a relief, because God forbid a million times the makers of Marlboros should go out of business. Quite the contrary, the new branding has helped Marlboro reach an all-time high of the market share. Marketing executives eager to make money off of the addiction abound: For example, in the city of Atlanta they are pushing the product by dispensing coupons for $1 packs at popular underground dance clubs and neighborhood taverns frequented by their target audience. "It's making Marlboro relevant again," said one elated business analyst who apparently lacks a soul.

The ubiquitous tobacco company suffered a setback years ago when several of their top spokesmen, handsome models like Wayne McLaren who appeared as the hunky, sexy, tough "Marlboro Man" living out on the range, wild and free, began suffering from lung disease and making commercials about the dangers of smoking. According to Wikipedia, "In one such TV spot, images of the handsome young Wayne McLaren in a Stetson hat are juxtaposed with shots of his withered form in a hospital bed just prior to his death." And as recently as 2014,  Eric Lawson, another television actor who appeared in Marlboro advertisements between 1978 to 1981, died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at the age of 72. Like McLaren, Lawson had started smoking early and then later publicized the dangers of smoking in an anti-smoking commercial, which apparently impacted lots of potential smokers but no cigarette producers or tobacco farmers.

So now all those fresh-faced millennials who think the new Marlboro Black box is "cool" are slowly destroying their still-pink and healthy young lungs, unaware or simply uncaring that another, entirely different kind of black box awaits them years from now.