Saturday, April 22, 2017

Have You Ever.....

The following list of items appeared in my Facebook news stream this morning. The list was a quiz or survey of one's experiences, and it had already been filled in by my friend Rick G. It was accompanied by the cryptic instruction, "Copy and paste if you're not weak," making me think the whole thing was somehow related to how brave you have been over the course of your life. What I found odd was the inclusion of "Been to Canada," like that's a thing worthy of note in one's curriculum vitae.

While I have no intention of filling out this survey, certainly not on Facebook or even here in the privacy of  my own blog, I will say proudly that not only have I been to Canada on four or five or maybe even six separate occasions, I once drove straight across that country, from Quebec to Vancouver, in the dead of winter over a three-week period, accompanied by a friend and his German Shepherd. So I guess that's something.

Pets right now


Shot a gun
Quit a job
Been on TV

Been to an island
100 mph in a car
120 mph in a car
140 mph in a car
Hit a deer
Someone cried over you
Fallen in love
Watched someone give birth
Watched someone die
Been to Canada
Ridden in an ambulance
Visited Las Vegas
Sang karaoke
Been downhill skiing

Ice skating
Gone surfing
Ridden on a motorcycle
Ridden on a horse
Almost died 
Been punched
Been in a hospital 
Ridden in the back of a police car

Friday, April 21, 2017

Forget Hell, Just Go to Starbucks

I have long suspected, like many other observant people, that where we all live right now is actually Hell. The evidence is everywhere; just look around. Read the newspaper, or take a stroll through the pediatric cancer ward at a nearby hospital. But if you still can't appreciate the gargantuan scope of the horrors strangling joy out of our daily lives, just walk into a Starbucks and check out what they are now cramming down the throats of the unsuspecting cretins waiting on long lines for their "coffee."

The latest offering of Satan, Inc. is called The Unicorn Frappuccino, a gooey, sticky, sweet and sour, pink and purple mess of liquid sugar and dairy product topped with whipped cream and even more sugar, only sparkly; Starbucks says those are "fairy powders." Besides all the "magic, rainbows, and smiles," the instantly in-demand drink contains mostly sugar and 410 calories with not even a hint of coffee in it.

Customers are clamoring for the limited-edition Unicorn Frappuccino because it changes colors while you drink it. What fun! Especially for grown-ups, who have damaged their God-given once-perfect brains playing video games and snorting meth. As for price, "Magic can be yours for under $5," say the Devil's reps, which of course means they cost $4.95.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

7 Ways to Sound Smarter

Writing was once a high calling. Just think of Shakespeare, and Hemingway, Sartre, Camus, Dostoevsky, Wharton, Melville. And the modern masters, like DeLillo, Heller, Roth, Tyler -- the list is long. But somewhere along the way the art of writing became something everyone can do, and for almost no pay! All the ads for writing jobs on the Internet offer little compensation (1/7 of a penny per word), and boast that "no experience is necessary" for you to produce the pap they're looking for.

Still, there are a few tricks involved in creating what passes for acceptable discourse. The most popular one is organizing your nonsense into a numbered list, making it sound like you have scoured the world and come up with the only "8 Ways to Save Your Marriage." Or the "6 Things to Do Right Now to Be Happy." Without the number in front of the words, few would bother to read "Ways to Save Your Marriage." Ah, but with that magic number in front, they'll think, "Hey, this guy (or gal, as many female experts call themselves) really knows some stuff!"

Anyway, below are those "7 Ways" you came for. (They also work in conversation.)
1. Place a number in front of a list of things, no matter how dumb they are.
2. Use uncommon words that most of your readers (and even you) don't know, like effable and dactylion.
3. Try to mention kale, at least in passing.
4. Hint at an exciting professional past: "Back in my White House days, after I returned from the Geneva Convention...."
5. Break grammatical rules: "In order to actionize your plans....."
6. Cite esoteric evidence: "A 2012 study conducted by the Institute of Myopedic Familial Genetics suggests...."
7. Include trending words and phrases to appear current. In other words, stay woke.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Oh Bill, How Could You?

I write this blog because I have no choice. Writing is what I do, and in the absence of anyone assigning me a story for money I still do it, but for fun. Sadly, the longer I go without churning out boring crap for newspapers and the Internet, the less interest I have in doing so. And so I write about whatever strikes my fancy, and right now it's Bill O'Reilly getting kicked off of FOX for allegedly making lewd comments to the scantily clad, cleavage-bearing, spike-heel-wearing news babes pretending to be all business talking about important subjects, their dangling earrings often causing a sparkly distraction from the growing death count in one foreign country or another.

Anyway, poor Bill. He worked hard to make FOX the number one cable network for the last fifteen years, but now he's kicked to the side of the road like so much trash after too many sponsors started heading for the hills, the hills being CNN. He simply had to go.

One of Mr. O'Reilly's most reported transgressions was calling an attractive African-American woman who worked at the news organization and who wishes to remain anonymous, "Hot Chocolate." That must have been so terrible for her! I hope by now she has found a good therapist to help deal with that trauma. It will likely take years before she is able to even look at a cup of hot chocolate again, let alone drink one. How sad for her, especially during the cold winter months and on camping trips.

Hot Tub Interruptus

Early one morning, just about to step onto our side deck for a soak in the hot tub, I narrowly avoided squashing a little bird lying right outside the door, obviously dead already. Laid out beautifully as if by a funeral director with nary a feather out of place, his delicate feet stretched out behind him, pointed like a ballerina, and his pudgy brown body was topped by a tiny head sprouting a crown of white tufts. I could tell by his wide-eyed stare that his last moments had not been pleasant. "Oh great," I thought, "a present from Lurch and it's not even my birthday."

The dead birds, mice and chipmunks are the worst part of owning a cat. While they don't arrive in a steady stream, the murders occur often enough for me to feel guilty about it. After all, I am a willing accomplice, no less than Hitler's willing executioners, without whom there would have been no Holocaust. Usually I shriek and call for my husband to come up with the "final solution." Mitch cares not a whit, mindlessly stuffing the deceased inside a plastic bag and tossing it in the outside trash can. But he was out of town and would not return until late that night. The thought of leaving the birdie (that's what he was, a little birdie) lying out there all day was too much for me, so I went to the Internet for some ideas.

I rejected putting him in the freezer until trash pick-up day a week away. That was not going to happen. My only other option was burial, which seemed a tad excessive. But then I thought, why not? Who among us does not deserve a proper farewell? It was bad enough there were no friends or family members present --his, not mine -- and of course I had no way of notifying them, but at least I could usher the little guy out with a shred of dignity.

He ended up wrapped inside the editorial page from the New York Times (for the aforementioned dignity), which I then put inside an empty Lego box for a toy motorcycle (just for fun). In the woods behind our house I dug a hole about a foot-and-a-half down and carefully inserted his casket, then dragged a log over top of it to keep away any grave robbers. After shedding a few tears and repeating my mantra several times over the grave site I went in the house, washed my hands, grabbed a towel, and took that hot tub soak I'd headed out for a few hours earlier.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Hate Eating Out

Those were the good old days.
The decision to have a meal at a restaurant is often made lightly, and it shouldn't be as there is always the potential for dire results. For example, you could die from food poisoning. Or almost as bad, run into someone you told a month ago that you were moving to China. (Who would do that?) But sometimes dinner out is unavoidable. You may be on a vacation or business trip and thus have no choice. Or you might just be facing a bare cupboard and lack the energy to go shopping for food. Then there are the special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. Whatever the reason, the practice of eating out has spread like wildfire. In 2016, statistics showed that Americans spent more at bars and restaurants ($54.857 billion) than they did on groceries ($52.503 billion).

That very fact might account for the lousy experiences we all tolerate. Like this one, for instance, at one of our favorite haunts: We arrived at the half-empty restaurant, were quickly seated, and then were completely ignored for the next fifteen minutes but who's counting. This fairly common circumstance always makes me crazy, creating the "perfect storm" out of my worst personality flaw (impatience) and my biggest gripe about dining out (poor service). I can deal with bad food since most people can't cook and besides, cooking for a crowd is tough, so I lower my expectations beforehand, seeking only enough calories to support life.

Still, it's nice to be noticed when you get there, and treated with a modicum of respect. A scintilla, a shred, a crumb, if you will, of respect would be so nice. And maybe some water, and a menu. And a smile perhaps, from someone. Anyone. And let's remember, I'm hungry; that doesn't help matters.

My son, a former waiter, is always quick to point out that all the servers are very busy taking care of other people. That never makes me feel any better; in fact, it makes me feel worse. When do I get to be one of the "other people"? To that end I have been known to crane my neck, raise an eyebrow, and even wave -- you heard me -- after waiting a ridiculously long time, all actions considered to be outrageously poor form. You're just supposed to sit there and take it, but still leave a big tip at the end of your meal, if you ever get one.

This is why I hate eating out.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Blare of the Peepers

Except for the snow tires that are still on my car, all signs of winter are finally gone here in Maine. This is nice since April is more than half over. The warm weather of the past two days melted the remaining snow, revealing the horror of what lay beneath: piles of fallen leaves caught by surprise during last October's snowfall. So even though it's spring, raking leaves was the weekend activity at our house. My husband did manage to stick a few peas in the ground, but mostly we played catch-up with the seasons.

No matter; I still find living in Maine to be superior to living in a normal place. Sure, the world outside has its charms, too numerous to mention and besides you know them all, but despite that, coming home after a trip is always a thrill. It's so quiet here! With few distractions you can focus on just being alive, whereas in so many other places the focus is more on staying alive.

Last night, driving home from dinner at a nearby restaurant, we pulled over alongside a neighborhood pond to listen to the otherworldly singing of the spring peepers. It was almost cacophonous. Now that's the kind of noise I like.