Sunday, April 29, 2012


This morning's Wall Street Journal reports that symphonies nationwide are declaring bankruptcy.  To entice the next generation of concert-goers, who lean more towards rap and hip-hop than Mozart and Brahms, a few of the music directors are resorting to "flashy programming" like the Detroit Symphony's upcoming Kid Rock performance in May.  Such shenanigans suggest that perhaps local symphonies are going the way of the dinosaur; based on what we saw here in Portland last weekend, it might be best just to let them go. 

For more than two months, my husband and I had been looking forward to hearing the Portland Symphony perform the music of Queen. Having purchased the tickets on a cold day in January, I noted the date on our kitchen calendar in bright red ink. It made me happy to see it there--looming in the distance, a beacon lighting up the gloom of February and March. April would eventually come, bringing great music to warm our frozen souls. Finally, last Saturday night, it was time. 

A hush came over the audience at the Merrill Auditorium as the house lights dimmed. "Why are there guitars onstage," I whispered to Mitch. He shushed me, shrugging. In less than five minutes we knew why. We had been duped. The dream was over.  Instead of enjoying orchestral thrills and symphonic chills, we were horrified at the chaos unfolding onstage: A franchised pre-fab “total rock concert experience” starring a third-rate lounge singer trying desperately to summon his inner Freddie Mercury was not what we had paid $125 for, but it was what we got. Truly stunned, in the deepest sense of the word, we sat, mouths agape, transfixed by the antics of the over-the-hill has-been (if he ever was) "vocalist" and his noisy band as they tried to rally the white-haired bobble heads in the audience to get down and get funky.  A surprising number of patrons did as instructed and waved their arms overhead during the song, "We Are the Champions." Inspired by the lyrics, we fled within minutes and drove off in search of a pizza and a fresh carrot to dangle in front of our noses. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Moral Dilemma

I am so excited I am busting! I got this email today from Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. At first I was a bit skeptical, wondering why he would take the time out of his schedule to contact me directly, but you know those Chinese, or Koreans or whatever he is--they are nothing if not cordial. And he has such an honest face (see photo), and besides--why would he lie? Apparently I am about to become rich! Check out his letter to me—his English is sort of bad, but hey, nobody’s perfect:

“How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family. This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS has agreed to compensate them with the sum of $550,000 each and you have to indicate how much you lost in the hands of scammers. This includes if you have sent money with Western Union or Money Gram also every foreign contractors, inheritance, dating and lottery payment that have not received their payment, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international lottery payment that failed due to Government problems etc.

We found your name in our list and that is why we are contacting you, this have been agreed upon and have been signed to pay you the above amount.  You are advised to contact Mr. Billy Foster who is in charge of your payment through our paying center in Texas. Contact him immediately for more information on how to get your compensation of $550,000.00 payment from the United Nations. Therefore, you should send him your full name, telephone number and your correct home address, Contact Mr. Billy Foster immediately for your compensation payments. Contact Thanks and God bless you and your family. Hoping to hear from you as soon as you receive your compensation funds don’t neglect this I advice you. “

So the thing is, even though I have never lost any money to scammers, they have my name and I got this letter. Now I am wondering if it would be wrong for me to accept the money. I am also wondering if anyone, anywhere, ever believes this sort of thing for a second, and if they do, will they be voting in the upcoming presidential election.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What's News

Housing Prices Are Stirring and Bidding Wars Are Back! 
John Edwards Still on Trial for Being a Scumbag! 
Man Shoots Wife, Mistaking Her for a Hog!
Minneapolis Airport Evacuated After Bag Triggers Alarm! 
Teenage Boy Set on Fire!
Secret Service Agents Paid for Sex in El Salvador!
Fear in Alabama After Beating of White Man by Blacks!

Illustration by Jeff Jones
With so many stories to choose from, how does a managing editor know which one will grab the public's attention and please the advertisers who pay for all those newspapers, magazines, TV shows and websites? In the end, what's really new, and newsworthy? Based on my personal experience working inside several major newspapers, I can attest that "news" is made at daily meetings in cities nationwide where, over coffee and doughnuts, editors place their bets on the winning story and the only thing that really counts is the bottom line. Next thing you know, you and all your friends are having heated debates over whether the hog-mistaking wife-shooter should pay or how much the Secret Service guys actually did. And the more you talk about it, the bigger the story becomes, until before you know it that's all there is to talk about, and where you stand on these earth-shattering shooting stars that light up the sky for a week or two is crucial.

This phenomenon played out most recently with the Trayvon Martin Hoodie Murder and ensuing George Zimmerman Bail Debacle, but did not happen with the White Man Beaten by Black Mob or the Teenage Boy Set on Fire. (Who wants to hear about that? Too gruesome and way too incendiary, no pun intended.) Sadly, too often the truth of the matter plays almost no part in what makes a news story popular enough to hit the big time. I certainly hope I never become newsworthy for anything, ever, except maybe for winning the lottery. Until then, I'm laying low.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are You an Elephant or a Donkey?

I took an online news quiz and got most of the answers right but a couple wrong. One of the ones I got wrong was misidentifying the elephant as the symbol of whichever political party it is used to represent. I said it was Republican--or Democrat, I already forget-- and so got it wrong. I forget this bit of political detritus because--WTF? What do donkeys and elephants have to do with our system of electing leaders? Is it the braying and the trumpeting? The big ears? Just what, exactly?

 I never remember because it is so meaningless. Oh, maybe that's the connection.

"Paging Al Sharpton"

Following is a comment posted online in reference to a news article about Matthew Owens, the white Alabama citizen who was beaten to near-death by a group of about 20 African Americans last Saturday evening:


Just wondering where Al Sharpton stands on this one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Necessary Evil

Yesterday I went for a haircut. A seemingly innocuous activity, it is fraught with peril for some women. I am one of them.

My usual routine is: Suffer through haircut and blow-drying, tell stylist it looks great, curse in the car on the way home where I get into the shower immediately and wash out all the "product" I asked not to have put in. Avoid all mirrors for at least three days. It's silly, really, but it happens so often that my husband is ready for it. Yesterday he called right after my appointment for a mood check. I said "I hate it." He said, "Well, you're not crying so it must not be too bad."

Since my early years, going to a hair salon has caused me more anxiety than going to the dentist since that's over and done with once you leave the office but the hair thing stays with you for months. One time when I was in 7th grade, my mother gave me a permanent and I missed three weeks of school. (That must have been when they studied all the wars.) After much reflection, I finally figured out that the underlying problem lies with the expectations of the people involved. For me, the haircut is a necessary evil, like giving the cats their flea medication or making a turkey at Thanksgiving. But for the stylist, my head is an opportunity--a blank canvas, offering the stylist a chance for self-expression. Thus, my carefully enunciated instructions are pushed aside once the stylist's inner Edward Scissorhands awakens. Yesterday was no exception. Looking at the bright side, at least one of us had fun.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Stranger

Some folks are cat people....
This morning, in my daily search for paying work, I stumbled upon the fact that there is a National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. I suppose that's a good thing, although it might be all the way to a bad thing. Seems like every time you turn around there's another reason to feel estranged from the person standing right next to you. For example, I am a high-performing, Brooklyn-born,  heterosexual, aging hippie Ashkenazi Jew pacifist, writer and artist. I am also a once-divorced and now remarried mother who dabbled in drugs in my youth and still eats the occasional pot brownie, does not smoke cigarettes or touch alcohol except for fine red wine, eschews organized religion and votes for the nuttiest candidate running. I live in rural Maine, hate TV, avoid all movies, eat anything but veal and hope Obama gets run out of office on a rail. I have three cats and am slowly starting to dislike all dogs except for pugs, boxers and bulldogs. I have high blood pressure, am very myopic and color my hair. Could we be friends?

I should tell you I'm Caucasian, through no fault of my own. I adore gay men but steer clear of gay women, although that's probably because Rosie O'Donnell makes them all look bad. I believe in God but not in Jesus and have never read the Bible, not even a little. I hate Oprah Winfrey, love both George Bushes and would vote for Hillary Clinton for president in a heartbeat. Are you still with me? I grew up in New York, lived in Berkeley, California for a time, then in Salt Lake City, and mostly Washington, D.C.-- until now. My favorite genre is comedy, my favorite food is black coffee and my favorite color is yellow for houses and black for clothing. I drive a Saab and I use the handicapped stall in public restrooms whenever possible, since it's so much bigger and nicer.

So I will not be attending the annual NLGJA convention because I doubt anyone there would even talk to me. You can see why.

I Love Me More Than Brangelina

Here is a picture of me you can have for free.
While I am completely and utterly in favor of gay marriage, and in fact almost any marriage between two people who love one another, I am unequivocally against the marriage of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who just this week announced their engagement. For starters they have like a dozen kids already, so naturally I thought they had married long ago. But recently their stunning news started creeping into my intentionally well-insulated life: At the surpermarket checkout the twosome is on all the magazine covers, except of course for O where, as usual, the cover shows Queen Oprah (not to be confused with Queen Latifah, although that's hard for obvious reasons) who this month is seen standing with her arm around herself at age 21. (Apparently Oprah's conceit springs from a bottomless well.) Then too, it's all over the Internet about Brad and Angie, so when I check my email it seeps into my consciousness; recently I even caught wind of it on the TV news. The word on the street is that their wedding pictures will go for very big bucks, considering some of their baby pictures sold to People, that bastion of sophistication, for $14 million.

Which leads to one question: Why can't people be their own superstars? Maybe Oprah is right: If we love ourselves as much as some people love Angie and Brad and the rest of the Hollywood elite, we'd all have more self-esteem and they'd all have fewer cars, swimming pools, houses and yachts. That would certainly impact our economic situation, at least as much--if not more--than Cash for Clunkers did.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Observing Earth Day

All you liberals out there who think the rich Republicans are heartless and insensitive, consider the following: Today is Earth Day, and the hardworking businessmen who advertised in today's New York Times are all over it. Here are some of the ways they suggest the holiday be observed:

A quarter-page ad for Circa Jewels shows a beautiful model holding an enormous diamond flower, signifying the earth, and sporting bright green eye shadow--get it, green. The words "It's Earth Day" are also in green. The copy touts the company's plan to save the planet, wherein you "recycle the diamonds and jewelry you no longer wear. Every diamond we buy from you is one less that has to be mined. Helping the environment has never been more beautiful."

Diamond mining in Sierra Leone
Macy's full-page ad in the A-section of the paper--the cost of which could probably feed a small village for a year--announces an Earth Day Giveaway! If you come in the store and trade in any empty cosmetics item, they will give you a free full-size, limited edition of their moisturizer called A Perfect World (SPF25) by a company called Origins. One of the ingredients is white tea, which shows where their head is at.

Tiffany takes the cake, of course, with a somber all-type message, only an eighth of a page but with a lot of white space so it gets your attention--the kind of dignified and understated and respectful ad you see from brokerage houses when one of their partners dies. It intones that Tiffany & Co. is "passionate about beauty, and about the source of it all, our precious natural resources." And they don't feel that way just on Earth Day but every day--in fact they go so far as to say they are "committed to obtaining the precious materials we need responsibly and without threatening the Earth's special places." To prove it, they invite you to learn more at

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Equal Inequality for All

More and more people are becoming obsessed with inequality in America, running around chanting the national mantra, "Life isn't fair." They complain that the selfish rich have too much of everything and the struggling poor have too little. To all of them I say "hogwash" and remind them that many of the poor have become rich themselves through perfectly legal channels that are encouraged and actually provided by our system of democracy. Besides, income is not the only disparity; personally I'd like to be taller, be part of a huge family and have gone to summer camp as a child. There's more, but I don't want to appear greedy.

Face it: Life is not fair and nobody ever told me it would, could or should be, except for Mrs. Hibberts, my son's nursery school teacher. But that was back in 1990, when every four-year-old in her class got exactly ten minutes on the tricycle and exactly five apple slices, three ginger snaps and one juice box at snack time. And even then, with all that ordained fairness, little Josh ran around biting the other kids and brainy Natty was already correcting everyone's grammar.

If life were fair, then all women would look like Victoria's Secret models and all men would know how to fix things and all family members would be supportive of one another. Every baby would be born healthy and smart and every four years we'd all unite behind one political candidate who offered the best of all possible worlds to all people. As we know, none of this is true. How great would it be if everyone would just play the hand they were dealt and stop blaming Mitt or Obama or fill-in-the-blank for their problems? Ditto solving them. Alas, no matter who wins in November, I'll still be 5 ft. 5 in. Sadly, by then I might be even shorter since, regardless of who's in the Oval Office, people shrink. (See photo.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Giant Pandas With Lung Disease

I love giving money to charity. It makes me feel good, not only about myself but about people in general, just knowing there are entire organizations set up specifically to help others in need. I usually choose diseases or research hospitals as the recipients since, let's face it, our health is the most important thing. This belief stems from my mother telling me that constantly at key points in my life, like when I did not get asked to the prom or I did not get accepted into Cornell or I did not get published in The New Yorker. (Years later they published my drawings, but by then I was really only concerned with being healthy, so it was no biggie.)

But I digress. Nowadays, giving to charity has an extra perk besides all those good feelings: free gifts! This has certainly muddied the waters, making it harder to decide just who should get my cash. Like yesterday, when I received a packet from the World Wildlife Fund and the American Lung Association in the same batch of junk mail. Normally I would go for the lung people, and not just because I personally have had lung issues myself but because it's a disease, after all, and I give to diseases. The lung people sent me a heartfelt letter and also included some of those return mailing labels. In the tugging-on-heartstrings department, they highlighted the fact that "lung disease is the number three killer in America," and "LUNG DISEASE IS THE LEADING KILLER OF INFANTS UNDER ONE YEAR OLD!" (Excluding abortions, natch.) That information was quite compelling and I rushed to get my checkbook.

But that World Wildlife pitch was nothing to sneeze at. They had included the mailing labels plus six lovely greeting cards with envelopes ("use them to remind your family and friends of your commitment to wildlife"), plus a handy wallet Tip Chart and a handy wallet 2012 Calendar, PLUS my choice of one of the following free gifts: a Golf Umbrella, a Zippered Weekend Bag and Cosmetics Pouch, or a Cooler Bag with 16 oz. aluminum Water Bottle. All I had to do is give them $16.00 to qualify for my gift! The weekend bag has a zippered inside pocket! The giant panda is facing an uncertain future! Rhinos and tigers are being driven towards extinction! The bottle is made of rugged aluminum and comes with its own carabiner! The sturdy nylon umbrella features a wooden handle and the panda logo!

Summing up: The wildlife people protect animals and preserve their habitats. But the infants with lung disease...what about them? So I sent the lung people a sizable check, because that's what charity is, and I sent the World Wildlife Fund Online Boutique $16.00 to get that cooler bag. (What's a carabiner?)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crime Wave Continues in Vacationland

Even though I sleep soundly at night ever since moving to Maine, trouble is afoot. The following crimes were reported in our local community newspaper, the Northern Forecaster:

Falmouth, 4/6 at 11:58 am: A man flagged down an officer on Route 1 to report his girlfriend had taken his handgun. The officer spoke to the woman, who admitted she had the gun and turned it over to the police.

Falmouth, 4/11 at 1:24 pm: A man who caused a disturbance in Walmart was asked by officers to leave the store. When officers arrived, the man was swearing and yelling at employees as he tried to return an item without a receipt. The man told police he spoke loudly because he is Jamaican and denied he had been yelling.

Yarmouth, 4/11 at 7:55 am: Police responding to a call about missing funds at the H & R Block office on Route 1 were told it could be a clerical error, not a theft.

Yarmouth, 4/11 at 2:53 pm: Police responding to a call about a prowler at Juniper East discovered the caller was unaware her brother had been upstairs taking a nap. Police found him watching TV and eating a snack while the caller had hidden in a downstairs closet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No Dinner With Barack

To those few remaining people who actually take the presidency seriously, I hate to burst your bubble but I just saw an ad on Facebook that said: "Enter to win a chance for Dinner with Barack!" The ad was sponsored by Citizens for Obama/Biden, so I guess they know about it. Seems sort of a childish way to go about getting re-elected, if you ask me, which nobody did, but if they did, that's what I'd say.

Now, as for that dinner--if dining with Tommy Lee Jones, Cher (my age exactly), Bruce Willis (who wouldn't), Mitt Romney (our next president), Ron Paul (nutty but principled), Big Bird (how hot is it inside that costume?), Denzel Washington (he went to high school with my husband), Caroline Kennedy, Benjamin Netanyahu (brilliant Jew), Hillary Clinton (what's Bill really like?), Mick Jagger (come on), Jackson Browne (a God), Jerry Seinfeld (oh please), Larry David, Susie Essman (she cracks me up), Bonnie Raitt, Richard Lewis (he's hysterical), Olivier Martinez (talk him out of marrying Halle Berry), Mark Zuckerberg (he would pay), Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Albert Brooks (funny and neurotic) Stevie Winwood, Michael Phelps (stroke tips), Joan Rivers (see her up close), Don DeLillo (have him autograph "White Noise"), Geraldo Rivera (high-five) or any member of the Philharmonic Orchestra (what a great life) were a possibility I might consider entering that contest; at least we'd have what to talk about. But unless you are about to purchase a Portuguese Water Dog puppy and are looking for training tips, dinner with Barack sounds pretty dull, wouldn't you agree?

FYI: I clicked the ad to see at least where the dinner would be held or what they would be serving, and learned that the deadline for the Dinner With Barack Contest has passed, but you can still support his campaign with your donation. They suggested I "do it today!" Needless to say, I didn't.

Hidden Costs of The American Dream

The big little truck in our driveway.
Right now I am waiting for the workers who swore they would be here at 8 AM. It is no longer 8 AM.Then suddenly they're here--them and their giant truck, even though they said it would be a little truck parked in our driveway for the next five days while our attic gets insulated at a cost high enough to feed a Third World Country for a year.

Naturally the cats run for cover as the two scary strangers say things like "we'll try to keep the dust down but you might want to take those paintings off the wall" and "we'll let you know when it's about to get really loud."

Three years ago we bought a very pretty house with high ceilings and clerestory windows and skylights and lots of glass. This glassiness is the very feature that transforms our primary living space into a terrarium in summer and a freezer in winter. Apparently the then-rookie architect of this gem fudged the attic insulation. He also installed recessed can lights everywhere, but neglected to insulate them, so when it's hot outside it's hot inside because the air shoots in from the roof through those very same can lights. And when it's cold outside it's cold inside because of the same situation. But then, this is the same guy who opted for wooden gutters because they looked good, even though gutters are for when it rains and wood tends to rot when wet.

You see the problem. All of this may explain why, when I run into that very same architect at the post office, now much older and wiser, he never makes eye contact and always scurries off like he's late for something important. (A refresher course in building basics?)

After three years of putting up with this bull@#*!, we finally hired someone to fix it. It's happening now and it's not pretty. The thing is, when you buy a house, which the clever folks in the home-building industry (who are in cahoots with Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Uncle Sam) have named "The American Dream," there are always hidden costs that come out of the woodwork like termites later on. In fact, exactly like termites, later on. Memo to young people: Rent, don't buy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Servicing the Secret Service

I guess when there's no news, the news makers make some. I just had my TV set on, volume high so I could hear, while I was in the shower. I have done this since the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks which kind of caught us off guard--Mitch on his way to the airport to catch a flight to LA, me just back from dropping our eighth-grader off at school--so I like to stay connected at vulnerable times. I consider being naked and wet one of those times.

So I was drying myself off when I heard a Breaking News Alert about the scandal involving nine or eleven members of the president's Secret Service. They were caught carousing and cavorting! There was partying and misconduct! The possibility of prostitutes in a foreign country was implied. Apparently this is bad and could indicate a possible breach of security with people in the know playing fast and loose with government secrets. (Funny how when the actual president--fill in the blank with one of many names--engaged in similar activities with call girls or interns or movie stars or mistresses, nobody worried about that.)

When I was single and living in DC I dated a Secret Service guy in the Carter administration. Despite our repeated misconduct he never told me one secret thing about our government, the President or even himself. (He's dead now, so at least my secrets are safe.)

What, Exactly, Do You Mean?

An old business partner of mine with a limited vocabulary just made up words willy-nilly to fill her sentences. Sometimes they were quite convincing, like when she said her daughter went to Boston Universary, it took me a while to realize that universary is not a word. Could be, but is not. But when she crowed that her aging mother had been appointed the head of battlement at her temple, I was stymied. I never knew what she meant with that one, but I doubted it was "a low wall on a tower with spaces for shooting." She did this so often that I finally had to end our association; it was either that or shoot myself.

I recently bought a dictionary to keep in the bathroom because, let's face it, sometimes I read in there. What I like to do with my bathroom dictionary is open it to a random page and see how many words I already know, don't know, never heard of, or fit me perfectly. Today I hit the jackpot on the page with the word personify at the top and--coincidentally-- found the following words that I feel anyone would agree do personify me: I can be perspicacious. Actually, let me amend that statement and say that perspicacity is my number one outstanding quality. I am also persuasive, perverse and often pesky, and have been know to pester. I am certainly pessimistic on occasion, at times petty, and nothing if not petulant.

Those are all words I already vaguely knew, although not 100%. But it's interesting to come upon words, at this late date, that I don't know at all, like dray, garnishee, virgule, seraph, traduce and halcyon. It certainly puts things in perspective.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Calling All Patriots

Normally our federal taxes are due on April 15th, but that was yesterday which was a Sunday, so you'd think they would be due today. But today is a holiday for some people in America, and so everyone gets to wait a day to pay their taxes tomorrow. This fact was told to us by our accountant, who lives in Maryland where it is not a holiday. Here in Maine, today is Patriot's Day. It is also a holiday in Massachusetts where it is called Patriots' Day, so I guess there are many more of them down there. Neither of these should be confused with Patriot Day, which is on September 11 and reminds us every year of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

Today's holiday commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening salvos of the American Revolutionary War which was fought from 1775 to 1783. You remember that, don't you? Paul Revere, "One if by land, two if by sea," etc. (There will be a short quiz after this blog post, and yes, this will all be on it.)

Some of the things that will happen today in celebration of America's getting out from under Great Britain's thumb, if a country can be said to have a thumb, are:
1. No mail delivery
2. The running of the Boston Marathon
3. Taxes are not due
4. No school
5. My husband's early morning workout at his gym was called the "Paul Revere"
6. Banks are closed

Not much of a celebration, but still-- it's a good day off for some.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quelque Choses to Think About

Last night I cooked a great dinner for friends. It was chicken with wine and vegetables, only it was called Coq Au Vin. Why? This is not France. Not only that, but the recipe was from the Whole Foods website, the American supermarket chain. Plus, the chicken was from right here in Maine and the wine was from New Zealand where I don't believe they even speak French; I think it's English. Yet when the recipe was given to me by my sister-in-law, I was told it was for coq au vin, which she pronounced Coco Van.  (I pronounce it Coke Oh Vawn.) It was tres bien, which means very good and is pronounced tray byen.

Somehow speaking French is thought to be quite cool and makes one appear very sophisticated, but often I have trouble with the pronunciation. And oddly enough, one of the most common foods in America is French fries, which you would think we would call by its French name, pommes frites (pronounced pum freetz), but we do not. It's so hard to keep up.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friendship 101

Friendship is highly overrated. What's it for, anyway? To pass the time? Everyone has their own expectations about friendship. These are mine:

Level One friends, of which there are many, are great for playing bridge, going shopping, choosing curtains, eating in restaurants, seeing movies and concerts and gossiping about other friends, which may actually include you if you are not present at the time of the gossiping. They fake a laugh even when your jokes are not funny.

Level Two friends are great for picking you up at the airport, dropping you off at the train station, cooking you dinner and eating your cooking, and consoling you when your dog dies. They seem happy about your successes but may actually harbor feelings of jealousy. They force a smile or roll their eyes when your jokes fall flat.

Then there is Level Three. Level Three friends are rare indeed. They drive you to chemo treatments, keep your darkest secrets and support your fledgling business ventures. They lend you money without making you feel guilty for asking. They console you when a human being, like your spouse or your parents, is sick or dying. They willingly share details about their own lives. They tell you when you look stupid or need to lose weight. They only laugh at your jokes if they are funny, and when they are not funny they say, "I don't get it." They are happy for your successes. These people are often family members. One hopes a spouse is a Level Three friend, although in certain cases they are excused if you find them very attractive or they make a lot of money and thus enhance your life in those ways.

The bottom line: Be comfortable alone. Even Level Three friends die.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Two Scary Days

Today is Friday the 13th and I forgot to worry about it, probably because I was too busy worrying about our taxes due on the 15th, when once again the government will take a giant chunk of money to buy something stupid. It could be anything, like one of these:
1. Fuel for Air Force One ($179,750 per hour of flight)
2. Las Vegas junket for government employees ($850,00)
3. Commissioned portraits of government officials ($50,000 each)
4. Re-sanding of beaches, even as the new sand washes away ($3 billion)
5. Team-building using new bikes for 24 government employees ($75,000)
6. Decorating an airplane ($500,000)

I wish I knew.

Gag Me With a

According to the Urban Dictionary, the phrase "gag me with a spoon" is archaic and usage today is considered to be silly. Well, excuse my French but fuck Urban Dictionary. They claim it comes from Valspeak, which is Valley Girl talk from somewhere in California, but I grew up in New York and have been saying it ever since my mother first chased after me with a spoonful of Pepto-Bismol. Besides, I find the term quite fitting in certain nauseating situations, most especially in reference to many of the posts on Facebook, where everyone is so gushingly sweet and oozing insincerity, saying insipid things like "that would be so fun" and "you look so beautiful," even when the picture shows a woman who looks like a beached whale with a mustache. The absolute worst is when somebody announces they are pregnant: Look out! All the well-wishers practically jam the Internet in order to post their "Congratulations!" or "Congrats!" or "congrats, you two!" The other day I saw like 65 of those after one such announcement and it made me feel quite gag me with a spoon-ish.

Perhaps Facebook is not exactly my element, but then where is my element? Hopefully not swimming with the sharks at Huffington Post. Over there they are the complete opposite--hateful and snide and racist, jumping down the throats of anyone who dares to disagree with them. That's not where I want to be either.

Maybe I should start my own website for people who are not overly sweet and have an edge, but still give to charity and make soup. It will be a place where one can say something sarcastic, but everyone else will understand it's all in good fun and thus will smile knowingly and shrug it off. Some days I might not go at all, and other days I might go several times in one day just to read the hysterical jokes--funny ones, not that crap like on The Onion.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fueling the Presidency

The President of the United States is running for the presidency of the United States. To that end, he is accepting donations to his campaign from his liberal supporters, those down-to-earth huddled masses who include the poor, the downtrodden, the working men and women and the unemployed on welfare, all those hating Mitt Romney because he's not only rich, but too rich.

Before you mail in your check to Obama's re-election campaign, consider this: In order to continue to lead his flock, he will travel the country making more of those (empty) promises in more of those erudite speeches written by twenty-something Harvard grads. In order to shake hands with farmers and eat lobster with fishermen, stopping at Town Halls along the way to kiss babies and thrill women with a hug, he will fly in luxury, at a cost of  $179,750 per hour, aboard Air Force One. (Talk about pain at the pump!) That cost is paid for partly by those donations to his campaign; the rest is paid by our taxes.

With 4,000 square feet of space on three levels, a private suite with an office, conference room and bath, a medical suite that can serve as an operating room and a kitchen that can provide food for 100, the accommodations are certainly comfy enough for Our Fearless Leader. This is not coach. Did I mention there were two planes; the decoy of course, in case some wacko thinks this extravagance is just plain wrong in today's poor economy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Bad

I am so out of the loop, I never even heard of Nopalea before today. It's a damn good thing I decided to turn on the TV this morning while I was making my bed, since early mornings are the best time to catch the most important products being advertised on those channels you usually never get to. Funny, you'd think a revolutionary wonder drug would make the national news, or at least the "Today" show. Anyway, this morning I learned about this miraculous juice--actually it's a wellness beverage-- called Nopalea, which apparently does whatever the heck you need it to do in approximately three weeks. You just drink it daily and it cures your arthritis by eliminating all inflammation, which we know causes every problem in your body once you reach retirement age and quit working and stay home and are finally able to actually see these ads on TV. It also eliminates depression, cures acne, eradicates all pain in your spine and neck, improves your golf game and gives you a reason to go on living.

Made from the juice of the nopal cactus, which survives the heat of the desert somewhere in Mexico so it must be pretty tough, it does all this or your money back. In fact, forget money for a while--they'll send your first $40 bottle for free if you commit to taking the Nopalea Challenge, which is basically drinking the stuff. All you pay is shipping and handling and your life will never be the same. Who knew? And former fashion model Cheryl Tiegs is hawking it, so it must be great. Several ordinary people from all walks of life appear on the commercial as well, and each one claims that drinking the stuff changed everything that was bad in their lives to good, and you certainly can't beat that. Personally I will not be getting any Nopalea, but still I am glad to know about it in case I ever go on Jeopardy! and pick Mexican Desert Trivia for $200 and get the question, "The fruit of this prickly cactus is potable."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Friendship

Everyone thinks the same thoughts over and over and over, and what's worse, they say them out loud, often at cocktail parties. That would certainly explain the wild, downright out-of-proportion success of the Harry Potter books, none of which I have read but, being a sighted and hearing person on planet Earth, know contain wizards, potions, witches, goblins, cauldrons, mean boarding school headmistresses with warts, toads, flying humans and chambers of deadly secrets--all the dark and dismal doings that don't happen in real life--and thus offer escape from those same thoughts I mentioned at the outset. I mean, come on: a theme park at Disney World?

Anyway, I try to think new things and then I discover that the thing I thought was new has already been thought. Or else I think new thoughts that cannot become reality, like my fabulous, must-have Dream Machine, which I have written about before in this space. In a nutshell, you hook it up to your head when you go to sleep and it records your dreams, which you can then watch on a DVD the next morning! How cool would that be? (If you have a PhD in physics, call me.) Or I think thoughts that are too awful to repeat, like Barack "If I had a son he would look just like Trayvon" Obama was behind the whole Zimmerman-Martin thing so he could rally the African Americans to vote for him in November, since many of them may have forgotten by now that he is black. Well, half black. Stuff like that.

However, one new thought I clearly understand today is that friendships exist to offer relief from the burdens of life; some last a lifetime and others are over in a flash, and neither is of lesser or greater value. The short ones were not failures because they ended, they were just short ones-- and that's that.

The More Things Change.....

There is an awful lot of grumbling among the younger generations about the Internet sucking the life out of them and ruining their brains. Still louder grumbling focuses on how Facebook is depleting their inherited world of meaningful relationships. They do this grumbling on the Internet, most often on Facebook. I find this odd, not to mention duplicitous since, in fact, the younger generations are the ones responsible for all the new billionaires. Two more surfaced this morning on the front page of my newspaper, both in their twenties and now in possession of more money than God, because of an iPhone app called Instagram that offers a "fun way to share photos" and even "give them the look of an old Polaroid." (Hahahahaha, that just cracks me up!) 

Anyway, I wonder why, if these young people don't like the way things are going, they keep walking in the same direction. As somebody once said, and I wish I could remember who, "Don't start down any path that leads to a place you don't want to end up." Or something like that.

Although I frequent the Internet and both halves of my split personality have Facebook accounts, I desperately cling to life as it once was: My simple phone is for calling people. I use a camera to take photographs. I do not own headphones or earbuds or whatever they are called this minute and instead listen to music when I am sitting down, usually indoors unless I'm at Tanglewood, and doing nothing else. I eat oatmeal for breakfast. The simple life is still out there, you just have to push all those newfangled gadgets aside. A good pair of blinders helps.

Monday, April 9, 2012

This Message May Be Recorded

The other day I had a problem with my cell phone and called the AT & T technical support line. A nice man who identified himself as Sherman said he could help. After a few minutes, I said that his accent, which had a sort of Asian-Chinesey-Jamaican lilt to it, was intriguing and I wondered where he was from. Sherman laughed and said, "Oh, we are not permitted to tell you that. All I can say is that I am working offshore to help you solve your problem." When I asked what harm there could possibly be in my knowing what country he was from, he said, "All I can say is that I am working offshore to help you solve your problem."

This morning I received a phone call from a particular robot who calls here frequently. The woman's voice chided, for what seemed like the 800th time, "This is your second and final notice! There is nothing wrong with your account, but it is urgent that you contact us regarding your current interest rates......" I muttered the usual obscenities into the phone before hanging up, hoping that when the QC execs review the tapes "for training purposes" they might follow my suggestion about how to handle the telephone vis-a-vis their butts. Meanwhile, those thoughtful folks over at VISA know how much we all hate the robot. For holders of their premium Sapphire credit card, a real person answers the phone when you call with questions or concerns. Nice touch, if you ask me, bringing back memories of my childhood, when many people were actually human.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

All I Know About Easter

Jesus Christ walked among us and was killed and then came back from the dead on the day now called Easter. This miracle is celebrated worldwide by Christians going to church and listening to priests, many of whom are pedophiles or at least pedophile apologizers, lecture in a foreign language about how to get to into the Kingdom of Heaven. (I am just guessing here as I have never been to Easter services.)

After church, there may or may not be a parade, in which women wear new hats called "Easter bonnets." Then, parents hide Easter baskets full of chocolate eggs and chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps and jelly beans all nestled among crinkly multi-colored strips of paper reminiscent of bird's nest fixings. The children run around looking for the baskets. The White House has a giant Easter Egg Hunt, although with the First Lady on her high horse about nutrition, they are probably hiding real eggs and not chocolate ones on the White House lawn. For most families the day culminates in a big dinner, called Easter dinner, which is built around either ham or lamb. If it's lamb, there may also be mint jelly as a garnish. In some families, the kids decorate hard-boiled eggs by dying them. This is the best part of Easter, by the way, and something I did with my own son for many years, despite us being Jewish. Hey, I wanted to expose him to all religions!

First thing this morning my son called and related the episode of "South Park" in which they explained those very tall, very strange hats worn by the Pope by saying that the first pope was actually Peter Rabbit. I totally buy that.

Check the Diploma

My health insurance company finally approved my "cancer cream," and yesterday I picked it up at the pharmacy. The instructions say to apply it Monday through Friday for six weeks, and it is packaged in single dose applications. There are a total of 24 doses in the package. I did the math. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday is five days, times six weeks, equals 30 doses. I was short six, more than a week's worth! This is cancer. I called the pharmacy:

Me: I believe there is an error in my prescription. I should have enough for 30 doses and I only have 24.
Pharmacist: Your doctor specifically ordered 24 doses, it says so right on the package.
Me: But the instructions say to apply it Monday through Friday for six weeks. Who wrote that?
Pharmacist: Your doctor.

See, I knew that New Jersey School of Medicine and Dentistry was bad news.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Updating Jewish History: Lose the Frogs

Last night, by force of habit, we had a Passover seder at our house. Finally, after reciting the same story year after year, there was something new: Instead of reading from a haggadah, the book of prayers and stories  recounting the history of the Jews in an orderly fashion, our leader--who is nothing if not plugged in--used an iPad. (Oy vay, see photo.)

Overall things weren't very different, although our chicken soup got a tad cold waiting for the Passover program to upload. Then, as usual, we heard about the trials of the Jews lo these many years, but with a modern twist. I especially appreciated the updating of The 10 Plagues, which in olden days included visitations of lice and boils and frogs upon the mean Egyptians, to include the more common tsunamis and tornadoes and earthquakes. It's true, there have been few frog storms in my lifetime, and if we Jews want to stay current and avoid being trampled to death by the ever-growing Mormons, we'd better drop that whole frog shtick.

The iPad version of Passover blatantly condoned the addition of an orange to the 5,000-year-old seder plate, the centerpiece of the table which carries the symbols of our history: a shank bone, bitter herbs, a roasted egg, charoset (Google it) and a bitter vegetable. The orange has something to do with women now being included in the upper echelons of the religion. I personally frown upon this Rachel Maddowesque development, as the last time I attended an event led by a female rabbi she was wearing black leggings and leopard-skin clogs. I miss the old days, when rabbis were old and wore black and had long beards. It was also nice when my grandmother did all the cooking, which she did handily for the 25 or so relatives crammed around our dining room table.

Last night it was a small gathering--just me and Mitch. Although it was sort of sad, at least we got to drink steadily during the proceedings instead of being limited to just four little thimble-sized cups of wine. And the wine, an '07 Stag's Leap S.L.V., was such an upgrade from the grape-juicy Manischewitz of our youth that by the end of the dinner we were both certifiably drunk and could hardly remember the names of all those dead relatives. (Thank you, Joel, it was a bottle for the ages!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Penis Envy

In college, where I majored in fine art, I had a painting professor who taught me a lot about light and shadow and the relationship of color, value, shape and texture, much of which comes flooding to mind to this day whenever I approach a blank canvas. My brain being comprised mostly of Velcro, some of his other lessons also stuck, which is why I often think of the word "penis" before I start a new painting.

Early in the semester of Introduction to Life Drawing, our professor was appalled by a recurring problem whenever we worked from live nude models. When the model was female, all was well, but when a male posed for us, most of the students drew a sketchy, blurry mess where the genitalia should have been. Sensing a puritanical strain coursing throughout the classroom, Professor Kaupelis decided we must overcome our collective shyness over a simple body part, and thus instituted the following practice at the start of class: Each of us had to stand up and say our name followed by "penis." Two girls dropped the class immediately, but the rest of us became quite comfortable with the word; nevertheless, this practice continued for the entire semester. Several of the more precocious students embraced the subject wholeheartedly and devoted entire paintings to the organ in question, realistically depicting it down to the last pubic hair. I was not one of those, but I applauded their boldness.

All these years later, I can paint the hell out of a penis. (Maybe if my history teachers had employed some similar tricks I could remember which countries fought in what wars, and why. Alas, not.) Anyway, uttering the word PENIS outside of a doctor's office still turns most adults, male and female, into quivering, tittering, snickering masses of adolescent jelly, for reasons I cannot fathom.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Book I Won't Read, and Why

In my ongoing quest for paying work, I found the following ad on Craigslist, listed under the category of Artists:

Lingering in the Woods is a Viking Fantasy Story. In the untamed wilds of ancient Finland, Chrigle is a young new shaman with a demanding chieftain. He is charged to provide safety over his tribe's hunters and has much to prove. With only his Spirit Guide to consult, Chrigle must protect the hunters from the ravages of the forest and lead his chieftain and tribe across unfamiliar land, which brims with unknown dangers. His burden grows as a witch with her own motives plies him with a curse and an aggrieved demon seeks his demise. Using spiritual powers, Chrigle must find a way to protect his people, save a tortured soul, and survive the onslaught of a demonic attack, but the price of righteousness may be too high. In this fantasy of Finnish lore, what begins as a journey for Chrigle to win his place among the tribe quickly turns into a test of will and sacrifice. Can Chrigle save the soul of a demon's spawn in order to protect his tribe and save himself from exile?

Naturally, after digesting this claptrap I was brimming with questions, among them:
1. Since I live in America in the year 2012, what do I care about the untamed wilds of ancient Finland, or even the tamed wilds of modern Finland for that matter ?
2. Why would Chrigle even try to save the soul of a demon's spawn? I mean, wouldn't that also be a demon?
3. What am I supposed to do about any of this?

And so, as yet another day passes without my earning a dime, I guess I should buy this book to help some other starving artist pay the rent. However, while I am definitely interested in learning how to survive a nuclear winter and ditto another four years of Obama, I don't give a hoot about saving my tribe from exile in the ravaged forests of an unfamiliar land. And considering that my Spirit Guide drowned in the Washington Hilton swimming pool 13 years ago, my demanding chieftain is often out of town on business, and the only witch I know isn't even speaking to me anymore, none of this even applies to me.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Truth of the Matter

I wish I could be one of those people who gives everything a positive spin. Maybe in my next life. In this one, I am stuck being realistic--to a fault, some would say, like my husband. Contrary to what he believes, I don't see the glass as half-empty--I simply see it as bigger than necessary. For example, yesterday I went to the dermatologist. For over a week now I have worried about the scheduled procedure to excise my recently diagnosed skin cancer: The pain during, the pain after, the yukky wound, the growing scab, the resulting scar--it all sounded bad. But at the end of all that, I would be cancer-free!

My dear friend Jackie drove me to the dreaded appointment, since who knew what shape I would be in afterwards--when it comes to medical stuff, you never know. And this particular doctor graduated from The New Jersey School of Medicine and Dentistry, which I did not find all that comforting. (I grew up in New York--sue me.) As it turned out, the doctor explained that my particular cancer was shallow and could be treated with a topical chemotherapy drug in cream form, applied daily for six weeks. He advised that course of action because of the unattractive scar that would result from other procedures such as excision, curettage or freezing, and insisted it would do the trick with little fuss. A "glass is half-full" person would have been thrilled.

Instead, I left there feeling just as worried as before--maybe more. Cancer cream? Who ever heard of curing cancer with a cream? What am I, an idiot? This is not poison ivy, after all. And what if it doesn't work? The doctor himself said it doesn't work on everyone. What if I don't apply enough of the cream and some cancer cells remain? At least if they cut it out it would be gone. And suddenly I'm my own doctor? He probably just wasn't in the mood to do that whole gross procedure, after all it was already 3:30 in the afternoon and he had been working since 8 am, and I already told him I was big baby. Anyway, I went to the pharmacy to get the cream and they said it had to be approved by my health insurance first because it's so expensive, so now I am waiting. Today I still have skin cancer--and that's a fact.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Grabbing the Brass Ring

3-D painting by Janet Boyd
My husband often suggests we hire a cleaning lady to alleviate my household chores. My usual response is, "I would rather die." Despite the fabulous cooking and baking and cleaning and child-rearing portrayed in that movie, "The Help," I have never found help to be any help at all. When I had a new baby I hired someone to help, and the two of us sat around drinking coffee and talking most of the time. For a short while I had some hired help when my son was in elementary school and I was working part-time, and usually after the nice lady left I went around the house looking for all the things she had moved and put back in the wrong place. Besides, I find the whole concept of paying someone to clean my dirt appalling. However, after searching for jobs online in editing and writing for many years, I finally understand how to put things in a positive light, and am now considering placing the following ad on Craigslist in search of some help around the house:

Rare Internship in Home Maintenance
Don't miss this rare opportunity to live and work by the water in lovely Freeport, Maine! Now you too can have a shot at The American Dream: Home ownership without the mortgage! Every day (some weekends and nights required) you can rule the roost, cleaning a three-story, 10-room domain. Included are three bathrooms--all with toilets, one with shower, one with tub--awaiting your special touch to make them sparkle! Feel free to improvise; all necessary supplies will be on hand, after you have purchased them at the store of your choice. (All items reimbursable with receipts.) 

So go ahead and grab the brass ring! Among the challenges are a fabulous, professional stove top with six burners that seem to manufacture grime and grease! Wash and sweep beautiful hardwood and ceramic tile floors covered with sand, mud and animal fur! As an added perk, the home boasts three adorable cats, offering you the ongoing opportunity to interact with several litter boxes on a daily and never-ending basis: Scoop cat turds, wash the boxes and implements, constantly haul 28-pound boxes of litter in from the store, adding muscles as you go--in fact, do whatever the hell you wish! Vacuum, dust--the sky's the limit!

Unfortunately at this time we are unable to offer any pay, but for the right candidate this can grow into a permanent position and at a later date there may definitely be a small stipend. Don't miss this rare opportunity to live and work by the water in beautiful, rural Maine! (Water not visible from home, Whoopie Pies not included.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Shut Up, Al!

The Reverend Al Sharpton should just go dig a big hole and jump in, lie down, fold his hands over his now-too-skinny self and wait for the hordes of people who will surely come forward to throw the dirt on top and silence him once and for all. The so-called activist does nothing but make things worse for his people, and by that I mean people of color, and by that I mean black folks, and by that I mean African Americans or whatever term is considered okay to use this very minute to make sure nobody thinks you are a racist.

Just what do we mean by the word reverend? Something that is revered, something we stand in awe of, something worthy of adoration. Really? Al Sharpton? The college dropout and former tax scofflaw who told Michael Jackson's children, "Wasn't nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with." Well Al, here's a news flash: there was something strange about their daddy-- just check the old photos. And there's something strange about you. Claiming to stand for equality, you hate whitey and spend your waking hours scouring the planet for proof of racial discrimination. (Maybe if you would just shut your big mouth, decent people of all colors could figure out how to get along.)

Beginning in 1984, when Bernhard Goetz felt threatened on a New York City subway and shot his four black assailants, Al has been there--fanning the flames of racial hatred. He was there fanning the flames in 1987 when 15-year-old Tawana Brawley told her wild tale about rape and abuse by six whites who turned out to be imaginary. Since then he's been riding the coattails of every situation in which a black person is involved in a crime, as long as the perp is white. In the current case involving murdered teenager Trayvon Martin ("Justice for Trayvon" hooded sweatshirts available in sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, and XXXL), Al is playing judge, jury and policeman all in one, having convicted shooter George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, so I guess Al is widening his net. In that spirit, he has now decided that the entire town of Sanford, Florida, the site of the incident, is culpable, and is calling for "economic sanctions" against the town's merchants until, one supposes, George Zimmerman hangs from a tree.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What's Black and White and Dead All Over

We didn't get our regular newspaper delivered today, for an unknown reason, and the interesting thing is, I didn't care. In days gone by, reading the Sunday New York Times was the reason to have Sundays at all. And of course doing the crossword puzzle in the Magazine section, an activity I began back in junior high and did faithfully until last weekend, was one of my major raisons d'etre. (I took four years of French, sue me.) But now, what with the Internet splashing the latest news all over the place every few minutes, I already know everything that's happened both here and abroad, and certainly more than what the paper says since it was printed last night. As for that crossword puzzle--I hate to say it, but playing Words With Friends online is much more stimulating to my brain, and after all that's what it's about, right? I mean I don't fill in all the blanks just to impress myself with how much I know.

Sad but true: Newspapers are almost gone. Oh well, more trees for everyone. Still, I would like to know where my paper is....