Thursday, November 23, 2017

Conflicted Holiday Wishes

Today is Thanksgiving and I am trying to turn my back on it since it is a holiday fraught with political incorrectness. Just look what we did to the Indians, I mean native Americans! So, in protest, I am not assembling a dining-room full of white people to gorge on roasted turkey and all the rest. I feel liberated! I am my own person, at last.

Still, with 70 years of roasted turkey on Thanksgiving installed in my memory bank -- in fact, not only installed but deeply ingrained and responsible for a rut in my Third Thursday in November brain cells -- I am roasting a chicken. And while I am not making any stuffing or gravy or pies or cranberry sauce, I will be sticking some yams around the chicken. And some other vegetables, like a few Brussels sprouts and carrots and cauliflower. Who could that hurt?

After all, I have never even met an Indian and certainly wish them no harm. And we are, every one of us, creatures of habit. I understand this fact and I'm okay with it. Maybe in my next life I will have better habits.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How People Are Like Avocados

Interesting, but still trash.
One of the positive aspects of a heart attack, and I've noticed a few, is that it's a mind-altering, life-changing, eye-opening event. Afterward you see things so much more clearly, things you skated right over before. In the Live for Today Department, a heart attack cuts through the fog of complacency that most of us inhabit until something wakes us up and shakes us free.

Take, for example, the common avocado. Usually I'll just grab one, slice through the hard shell of skin and toss it in the trash along with the pit, then eat the delicious and nutritious flesh, never appreciating the amazingly well-constructed package that might have been designed by an MIT grad student. But last night, fixing some guacamole, I actually looked at the whole thing and deemed it worthy of the photo shown above. It reminded me of how often I skim along the surface of things, including people, rarely plumbing the depths to understand their inner workings.

The night of my heart attack, my husband and I were at the rented vacation home of out-of-town friends who were visiting Maine. We had spent the preceding day together and had planned a fun weekend. After a genial dinner the four of us talked around a cozy fire, then retired for the night. Only I didn't retire, I stayed up -- busy having a heart attack. By dawn it was clear that if I wasn't dead yet, I certainly wished I were. We departed hurriedly, our hosts helping me into the car while my husband scrambled to gather up our belongings. Things, for me, went from bad to worse in short order.

Those people (formerly known as "my friends") never called (or emailed or texted) to see how I was doing, despite learning that I had suffered a heart attack, undergone surgery, and spent four days in the hospital. Still haven't, by the way. That puzzled me for a long while: How can people be so mean, especially on the heels of being so nice? It also pissed me off to high Heaven since these two are church-going, God-loving Christians who frequently do foreign missionary work for the disadvantaged.

Since anger is the last thing you want coursing through your body following a heart attack, I put a lid on it. I began to understand that many people are just like avocados: They have that hard outer shell, a pit in the middle containing all the mechanics, and some nourishing good stuff in between. Sometimes, even though they look great on the outside, you come to find out that even their good stuff is rotten and you have to trash the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Surviving Sexual Misconduct

This man is obviously a sexual predator.
The latest trend among women you never heard of in Hollywood is claiming they were sexually harassed years ago by an unattractive man in a powerful position. We never hear about all the other ones -- the hot guys who propositioned them that they happily slept with and eventually went on to marry and, not long after, divorce. Not one former starlet has come forward with an accusation against a waiter, janitor or parking-lot attendant; it's always the head of a movie studio or someone else with considerable clout who did the nasty deed, which in many cases was little more than casting an appreciative eye at a plunging neckline or asking a woman on a date in a "suggestive manner."

I heard a really good one yesterday: Some un-famous woman claimed that long ago, actor Dustin Hoffman "used explicit language" in front of her. This reminded me of when I met Hoffman almost fifty years ago in a Manhattan coffee shop, when I was a student at NYU. We were sitting elbow to elbow at the counter when I accidentally knocked over my coffee and it spilled onto him, and I recall he muttered the word "Fuck." That was pretty damned explicit if you ask me! Exactly what was he suggesting? Despite that, I apologized. We started talking and by the time our checks arrived, Dusty -- he asked me to call him that -- had invited me to his home a few blocks away. This occurred before he was famous and was still only another aspiring actor. He was too short for me, so I declined. (God knows what would have happened had he been taller.)

Since then I have had my share of unwanted advances. In fact if I had just one thin dime for every time I was the victim of today's all-inclusive definition of "sexual misconduct" I'd be writing this blog on the sun-drenched terrace of my 28-room villa in Tuscany.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Wisdom of the Aged

Last night I had a long phone call with my dear friend Gloria, who is possibly my favorite person on the planet. Just hearing her voice on the other end of the line enhances my mood a hundredfold. She is upbeat, funny and always sees the bright side of things. I've known her my whole life, as she was my mother's best friend from the time the two of them were teenagers. Since my mother died at age 62, Gloria has been the only mother I've had for the past several decades. She is 97.

Gloria lives in a charmingly decorated two-bedroom condo in a Phoenix retirement community and enjoys a full and active life. She drives herself to the gym early most mornings, "before it gets too hot," and plays Bingo and card games with friends several times a week. She also enjoys dining out with her sister and brother-in-law, both in their nineties, and relaxes most weekends with her daughter and son-in-law who live nearby.

At the urging of her son, a 70-something film writer in LA who looks like he's in his fifties, Gloria became a vegetarian about 15 years ago. She attributes her longevity and extremely good health to what she eats and more likely to what she doesn't eat. I've always been a skeptic, but since several cardiologists have recommended I switch to a vegetarian diet following my heart attack seven weeks ago, I'm moving, slowly but surely, in that direction.

I asked Gloria what she knew about dentures, since a friend of mine with a boatload of dental issues is considering that option. (I was pretty sure Gloria still had her original teeth, but you never know.) She replied that she did not have dentures but would certainly consider looking into the possibility "sometime down the road."

At 97 she still sees a long road ahead (involving possible new teeth) whereas I, at 71, see only the rest stops. So, with the hope that becoming a vegetarian will make me not only healthier but also more optimistic, I'm heightening my resolve. And best of all, I won't have to mess with a dead turkey this Thanksgiving. (That always freaked me out.)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Remembering Mary Jo Kopechne

People in high places are calling for Roy Moore to resign should he win his senate race, since "he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the U.S. Senate." (Gee, who knew they even had any?)

Call me crazy, but I would rather endure being kissed by then-comedian, now Senator Al Franken, tongue and all -- yuk, by the way -- than be trapped inside a car and left to drown at the bottom of the ocean by Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Spare Me the Details

On some mornings I wake up and walk outside for the newspaper and revel in the surrounding beauty of nature and feel happy just to be alive. On others, like when it's raining or snowing or otherwise inclement, I stay cozy and instead log on to my computer and within seconds feel embarrassed by my species. (Surely being a frog or a squirrel or a bird or just about anything else must be better.) Today I experienced both sensations simultaneously.

The short walk to the end of our driveway made me gasp at the beauty of nature. A powerful wind filled the air with fallen leaves, creating a veritable weather condition: It was leafing! Bright orange pumpkins, some half-rotted by now but still intact and inherently joyful, dotted the lawns and doorsteps of my neighbors in every direction. Impossibly fluffy clouds skittered by in a sky so blue it looked fake, like the one in The Truman Show. I rated the day an A+.

Then I opened the paper and saw, on the front page above the fold, a photo of Al Franken, former "Saturday Night Live" jester who years later became a more respectable fool in the United States Senate. Suddenly he has joined the coterie of famous men accused of "sexual misconduct," a term so loosely applied it includes anyone who ever cast an appreciative glance at a member of the opposite sex, or even of the same sex. Instantly my mood soured.

It seems that years ago Al Franken stuck his tongue in some woman's mouth and she didn't want him to. I wonder, is there any woman alive who didn't suffer that indignity? When Steven Turkowitz did that to me in the 11th grade I bit his tongue and trust me, he was sorry. (There was blood.) I didn't "report" him to anyone, but he reported me to the whole school and for weeks after boys would ask if I would bite their tongue. (I always declined.)

Anyway, don't we humans have bigger fish to fry? Like certain death for all of us, with maybe cancer or crippling diseases on the way to it, and still no power for the citizens in fully half of Puerto Rico? Do we really need a Senate investigation into whether or not Al Franken was once a moron and possibly still is? I'm going out for a walk among the pumpkins and I suggest you do the same.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dumb Jocks

Three Stupid Guys
There are a lot of really stupid people in the world, and for them I feel truly sorry. It's hard to know the causes in many cases: Is it genetic? A birth defect? An accident that caused swelling of the brain and loss of intellectual capability? Did they not pay attention in school, or even worse, did they not even attend school and thus were denied even the basics? Lack of nutrition during the formative years? The possible causes are endless. However, none of those was the cause of the stupidity of three freshmen UCLA basketball players who, along with their whole team, were on a marketing trip to China and were caught on videotape (duh) shoplifting. Sunglasses, I think it was.

Obviously, shoplifting anywhere is dumb, unless it's for milk and you are destitute and you just gave birth but you are starving yourself and so are not producing milk and you need it for your newborn, but in a country known to pull out one's fingernails as a form of torture, it's downright moronic. Sure, times have changed, but according to the website of The International Society for Human Rights, "Torture is widely used and systematically implemented by the Chinese authorities, despite torture being officially forbidden." Nevertheless, these three bona fide college students considered shoplifting in China to be a worthy endeavor.

Fortunately President Trump was also in China last week hanging out with that country's leader and intervened on behalf of the scofflaws. (See, he's good for something after all.) Everyone knows that playing football can cause brain damage, but might the same be true of basketball? Someone should definitely look into that.