Monday, September 26, 2016

From Maine to California

With many of the tourists finally cleared out, things have been pretty quiet in our little town of Freeport. Actually things are always quiet here, as they are in the entire state of Maine, which is why I stay put despite the depressing lack of even one Jewish deli. (Just forget about sinking your teeth into a real bagel, and don't even think about lox or pastrami.) On the plus side we've had no shootings, no riots and not even one exploding dumpster. And of course there's all that lobster. It's quite nice, even though things can get boring until the snows come, which should be any day now.

My big excitement last week was driving twelve miles to Brunswick for a haircut, my first solo outing after hip surgery last month. It sounds silly but it was a pretty big deal to me, having spent the last seven weeks all but housebound watching Grey's Anatomy on Netflix and taking walks around the neighborhood. Two hours with Denise was just what I needed. Besides styling and coloring my hair exactly how I like it, she radiates an unruffled calm like few people I have ever known. As she snipped away my dead ends, she told me about her recent trip with her husband to Los Angeles.

It started out with appallingly long lines at the airport car rental office, insufferable for a couple of Mainers accustomed to no lines anywhere, for anything, except maybe an ice cream cone in mid-August at the Classic Custard out on Route 1. After waiting two hours on two different lines they finally got a car, not the one they had reserved but the only one available. They piled their luggage in and took off, immediately encountering that famous LA freeway traffic. Once again they were stunned, wondering if some sort of calamity had occurred. But no, it was just a normal Thursday evening.

Wrapping bits of tin foil into my hair for blond highlights, Denise went on to describe their day in Venice Beach as "disappointing." There were only three guys working out in front of the storied Muscle Beach gym and none of them were even remotely built. As for those zany tattooed roller skaters she had seen pictured in National Geographic and in every single travel magazine, there were none in evidence. Mostly what was in evidence were piles of trash along the boardwalk and homeless people slumped in doorways. And trinket shops.

Not going in for all the Hollywood hype they avoided Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. (Having been to those places myself years ago I assured her that was a smart decision.) Instead they spent a day at Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park in Buena Vista with rides, shows and a variety of other wholesome attractions. Denise reported all of this in her usual even tone, assuring me as she led me over to the shampoo sink that California was fun but four days were quite enough. I'm thinking she won't be going back anytime soon.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


My mother with her parents, long ago and far away.
It's that time again. I already have several pumpkins and yesterday I saw a huge display of Halloween candy and costumes in the supermarket. That got me thinking about ghosts.

My grandfather.
My maternal grandfather was the coolest person I ever met. He was the oldest of 13 children. They all survived the Hitler years and came safely to this country from Poland. Some of them may have died before I was old enough to know them, or maybe they lived far away, but the others were always around, showing up for all the Jewish holidays, wedding and funerals. Occasionally I am reminded of them, and although they loomed large during my childhood, they left very little imprint. Here's what I recall:

Aunt Harriet was a loon. She never married, living alone somewhere in Brooklyn and commuting by subway to her job as office manager for an accounting firm in lower Manhattan. She collected (stole) rubber bands and red and blue colored pencils from her office, which she then distributed as gifts to all of the cousins at Hanukah. She did this every year, as if we needed more by then. The pencils were held together with the rubber bands. She often wore a hat with a giant rhinestone flower on it and a veil that came halfway down her face, keeping it on even indoors like some sort of fading movie star.

Uncle Ruby was the coolest of all the uncles. He was very short, had a gold tooth in front and was a snappy dresser. Many of his suits were striped. He always seemed ready to break into a soft-shoe dance routine like the actor James Cagney or maybe Mickey Rooney. His wife, Aunt Rose, was stone-faced, half a foot taller and a total bitch. Nobody like her, including Uncle Ruby. He was very affectionate and always had funny stories to tell, whereas Rose was most comfortable scolding someone or discussing the latest cancer victim; there was always at least one in the family.

Ghostly Aunt Rose
Aunt Sylvia was "the baby," although she never looked like anything but an old lady to me. She was sweet and sort of dumb. Her husband was Uncle Lefty, and although he had a different real name, that's what everyone called him. He may have been smart but I always thought he was a simpleton, possibly because he allowed people to call him "Lefty." Aunt Sylvia smiled a lot and did little more to distinguish herself. In conversation, my mother always called her "a saint."

Uncle Benny was a fast-talker and most likely a gambler. He definitely did something illegal and was always very well-dressed. His wife was very hip, very good-looking and all the cousins loved her. A true favorite at holiday gatherings, Ethel wore her bleached blonde hair in some sort of upswept style with a colorful scarf worked into it. She was slightly foreign, like from another country, maybe Mongolia or someplace with gypsies, but I never knew where. I adored her and thus was always a gypsy at Halloween, inspired by Aunt Ethel.

Uncle Morris and the twins, Aunt Beverly and the other one, possibly Lucille -- I never remembered her name but I think she was one of the cancer victims --  weren't around much. I'm thinking they lived in California. Of course they're all dead now, as are my parents. I wish ghosts were real; I'd love to hang out with them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The High Cost of Supplies

Last month I spent 36 hours at Portland's Maine Medical Center, considered to be one of the best hospitals around these parts, some might even argue the best. When the bill detailing the charges for that blurry day-and-a-half showed up, I found it oddly mysterious. It certainly does not call a spade "a spade," and leaves me wondering about the difference between "Medications" and "Physical Medicine." And just what were those "Miscellaneous Professional Services"? Could that be when the nurse helped me to the bathroom or brought me an extra blanket?

Fortunately I will not have to pay the entire bill, having health insurance, but still part of it falls into my lap, or actually my husband's lap since he makes the real money around here. (I'm still waiting for the lousy $87.50, after the gallery's cut, from the sale of my last painting.) The hospital's Mystery Charges are listed below, leaving me to guess exactly what cost what:
One of the "supplies."

Surgical Fee for Total Hip Arthoplasty: $2,989.00
Miscellaneous Professional Services: $652.50
Recovery Room: $544.50
Medications: $439.56
Pharmacy Service: $349.29
Pharmacy Service: $1,019.43
Physical Medicine: $619.00
X-Ray: $183.00
Laboratory Service: $140.00
Semi-private Room: $1,775.00
Operating Room Service: $4,686.00
Supplies: $16,960.00
Supplies: $1,612.71
Anesthesia Service: $1,015.00 

Funny thing is, I was only charged for a semi-private room but I actually had a private room; who knows what that would have cost! This got me wondering if there were any other errors, but I'm not going down that road. My new hip (see photo) seems to work and that's that.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Me Myself and I

Looking at pictures on Facebook of so many people, some of them actual friends of mine, out partying and having fun, naturally I wonder what's wrong with me since I do almost none of that, spending most of my time alone when my husband is out of town (which he is quite often), reading books on meditation or trying and failing to really meditate, doing laundry and shopping for groceries, cleaning the house when it's absolutely necessary, watching the chaos of the outside world on television, making art almost nobody will ever see, writing this blog or some silly little thing for pay or weeping about the fact that I spend so much of my time alone.

But then I remember that really I'm all I've got in the end and so it's important to develop a good relationship with myself, and that while having fun with others is all fine and good, enjoying my own company is better.

And then I feel better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How Not to Get Shot by a Cop

Sad but true, another black man has been shot in the street, this time by a member of the Charlotte, North Carolina police force who happened to be black as well. The dead man was allegedly holding a gun and pointing it at the cop, refusing to put it down after several requests. His family says he was holding a book, not a gun, yet no book was found in the aftermath of the shooting.

I do not mean to make light of such a serious subject, merely to pass along some learned wisdom. I have never been shot by a cop and I think it's because I have always followed these two rules:
1. Never point a gun at a cop.
2. Do not buy books shaped like guns.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The White House Glue Factory

Besides the fact that I cannot correctly fill in all the states on a map of America and have no idea which Middle Eastern countries, if any, we are still friends with, I could never be President. One big stumbling block is that I lack the drive; my "get up and go" got up and went --  years ago. And all that shaking hands with strangers is out of the question; too many germs.

But the real trouble is age. Between my vacillating blood pressure and my fake titanium hip, plus that nightly dose of Miralax, I'm just too damned old, something my son (who I am no longer speaking to) took to reminding me of far too often. Still, being the same age as Donald Trump and just a year older than Hillary, if I wanted to run, I could. This despite the fact that most businesses in the private sector and many government agencies demand retirement at sixty-five. The Constitution has no such end date, stating only that a candidate for president be at least thirty-five. The two currently vying for the job as Leader of the Free World are both several years older.

Considering that by the time the average person enters their sixth decade their memories are weakening, arteries are hardening and various internal organs and external body parts have begun to deteriorate, I personally would sleep better at night if someone more vigorous than I were at the helm. (Also if my husband didn't snore, but that's another blog post.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Try Being Nice

I woke up this morning still alive and for that I am truly grateful. After the necessary intake of coffee, orange juice and fish oil I turned on my computer and found that a total stranger had sent me a message. Understanding that to read it involved risk, I decided to go for it and was immediately sorry. It concerned a review I had posted online for the movie Sully. I hadn't much cared for the film and said so. As anyone who has ever read one of my movie reviews can attest, they don't follow the formula of who's in it, what's the plot, who directed, blah, blah, blah; there are plenty of those out there already. Instead I report what, for me, stood out, and do it in a stream of consciousness sort of way.

Many people have told me they find my reviews helpful, telling them what they want to know without telling too much. But this particular guy wrote: "No offense, but that was a shitty review." I responded by saying that I did take offense, and wondered why he couldn't simply have written, "I don't agree, I enjoyed the film very much. Sorry you didn't." Or something like that. Why resort to nasty gutter talk so quickly?

It's funny when people start out by saying "No offense," and then go on to say something offensive, as if by saying "No offense" first you will actually not take offense. It doesn't work. For example: "No offense but you are stupid." "No offense but that dress makes you look like a whale." "No offense but that is one ugly baby you've got there." 

People are in so much pain, I'm guessing. That's why they plant bombs in dumpsters on the streets of a big city, and stab people at random in a shopping mall, and tell complete strangers they suck, as if hurting others will somehow alleviate their own pain. Of course it doesn't work. The next time you're angry at someone, try being nicer to yourself. Go for a run or eat a bowl of oatmeal. Just don't lash out at someone else and expect to feel better. Hurting other living things is never a good course of action, unless it's a mosquito and then all bets are off.