Thursday, May 31, 2012

Killing Time

Now that's a birthday cake!
I just learned that several popular restaurant chains, such as Chili's and Applebee's, are starting to employ a new system designed to make eating in a restaurant more like ordering fast food from the drive-thru lane. Besides making fatties feel right at home, this is a huge advancement for the Democratic party, eventually eliminating hundreds if not thousands of jobs for waiters and waitresses and freeing them up to receive welfare, food stamps and unemployment benefits. Through the magic of science, touch screens will be implanted at each table, allowing the diners to see the menu and then place their orders without human intervention. While waiting for their food, diners are then spared that outdated convention-- conversation--and instead may play games on the very same device. This will occupy the kids and allow the adults to focus on their own smart phones, writing emails or what have you. When the food arrives, it's eat up and pay right there by swiping a credit card. No waiting and you're out in a flash, on your way back home to your still-warm home computer.

The future seems so exciting, doesn't it? There will be so much more free time to spend playing video games and ignoring your family. I am sorry I will be dead for most of it. Perhaps in a few years even the President will be replaced by a computer, and all political decisions will be made electronically. You'll be able to vote from home, or maybe even while you're out to dinner.

My birthday is coming and my husband keeps asking me what I want, as if on that one day of the year I deserve something special, thus allowing him to live the other 364 days guilt-free. Sadly, what I want cannot be found in a store or the mall or online; in fact, nobody can give it to me but myself: Peace of mind, freedom from fear and those last 10 pounds gone. Some other things I'd like but can't have are: A cigarette, but only if I could smoke one without it making me cough, making me sick, giving me cancer or emphysema, leaving that awful taste in my mouth and filling me with remorse.  I'd like to look like Ingrid Bergman--not now but when she was alive. I'd like my dead dog Rufus back. Fresh cartilage in my right hip would be nice. But most of all I would like those restaurants to decide that dinner out is the last vestige of human interaction among families and decide to deep-six that technology forever.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Benefits of Forgetting

Back in my college days before I could afford an apartment in the city, I rode the L.I.R.R. into Manhattan with an army of businessmen off to make a buck, their faces buried in the Wall Street Journal's stock market news. Despite being flat broke and thus without a horse in that race, as a burgeoning newspaper designer I loved looking at it for its austere and no-nonsense approach to what was certainly very important information. For many years the paper contained no photographs, just pen and ink drawings of columnists punctuating the long rows of type separated by black rule lines. It gave me the impression that somewhere there existed a sober tribe of grown-ups in charge of the world's finances. I slept more peacefully knowing they were out there.

No more. Above the banner on today's front page of that same paper are color photographs of two celebrities--an actress who seems to be naked except for her dangling earrings and a basketball player in sunglasses--separated by the headline, "Why Twitter and Facebook are Starstruck," printed in a casual and fun typeface. Lower down on the page, a large color photograph shows the president putting the Presidential Medal of Freedom around the neck of folksinger Bob Dylan, now 71. Inside, in the section called "Personal Journal," it is suggested in a huge headline worthy of a declaration of war to "Drop the 'G' in Chilling," a hint to the contents of an article about "How Slang Teachers Help Students Talk the Talk."

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, and this may actually be one for Alzheimer's: Loss of memory of a time when life was more serious, less concerned with superficial fluff and celebrity gossip, less downright ridiculous--a time when you called your doctor's office and a nurse answered, when the Medal of Freedom went to people like Mother Teresa and twittering was something that birds did--long before Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal--might just be the ticket to having a nice day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Over the Hill and Sliding Down the Other Side

On my next birthday I will turn 66, which sounds pretty damn old to my ears, and yes, I can still hear. I got this way by waking up every morning and not dying, so now I am this age.

I still do almost all the things I did when I was young, just not the dumb things. Truth be told, I don't run anymore because of a bad hip caused by years of abuse --running-- but other than that things are pretty much the same. I still color my hair which I started doing at age 13 so it's not gray as far as I can tell, still wear size 8 jeans, still have all my teeth except for one way in the back that can only be seen if I laugh really hard, which happens less and less often these days so is not worth the thousands of dollars it costs for a fake implant. I still listen to rock music and eat pot brownies, mostly because smoking it is bad for the lungs and I still have two of them. In fact I have all my body parts and most of them work, including my brain. I can still spell words I never heard before, a skill that has gotten me exactly nowhere but which gives me immense pleasure anyway. Despite all this, society sees me as an old coot.

Last night I saw a new movie that perpetuates a couple of silly myths about aging. Ironically, I got in for three bucks less than my cradle-robbed husband for some reason I don't understand--I mean, does Warren Buffett get that senior discount too? Anyway, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" features several very fine actors who actually have a lot of wrinkles in real life, so the producers must have saved a bundle on make-up. The story centers on a group of British oldsters who emigrate to India instead of living out their meager, wrinkly lives in Great Britain, opting instead for one final and affordable adventure outside their comfort zones. Way outside.

The movie offers a fun look at India, but some of the plot is gag-worthy. For example, one myth is that women north of 70 still desperately want a boyfriend. This is poppycock, plain and simple. While I love my husband and hope he outlives me so I never have to face a single day without him, if he were to keel over tomorrow I would not be out bar-hopping, shopping for his replacement. In fact, I might even let myself go, put on a few pounds and walk around the house in a flowered shmatte without a bra. Another myth is that old people desperately want sex but can't have it. Wrong! The ones who still want it want it because they can have it, and the ones who can't have it don't want it anymore. (It's all got to do with hormones, look it up.) And speaking as someone who's been at it for like 40-plus years, sometimes enough is enough.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life Among the Savages

Ever since my grown son came home to roost for a few weeks, the balance of power has shifted and I am outnumbered by way more than just two to one. Things have gotten ridiculously male, and not just ordinary human-male but borderline ape-male. The two of them are bonding like never before over things like running in shoes or running barefoot. They are digging in the dirt and planting seeds and growing food for the coming apocalypse. They argue over the relative merits of Paleo eating versus Vegan. They are expanding muscles at every opportunity with push-ups and pull-ups and sit-ups and squats. They talk about bike wheels and gear ratios. This afternoon they let me go with them to buy a punching bag. Needless to say, they got it at Dick's.

When my son was little, I was the Chosen One. Naturally that phase ended, and who would wish otherwise, but what's going on now is simply beyond the pale--I can only imagine what it's like for mothers of more than one son. I can also only imagine what it's like to have a daughter, although I got a taste of it recently when my son's girlfriend was visiting. She and I lunched out at a lovely little salad place, then went to an art museum and actually discussed what we had seen afterwards. On the way home we browsed a few shops. She weighed in on a clothing decision, generously helping me choose this dress over that one. It was heaven.

She's gone now, and once again I am adrift, alone, in a sea of testosterone. I guess it's payback time for the early days when it was all-mommy, all the time. How nice for my husband.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What's God Got To Do With It?

Last Sunday morning, while visiting friends out of town, my husband and I accepted their gracious invitation to accompany them to church. I can say wholeheartedly that it was a completely pleasant experience and that everything was perfectly lovely, even though I did not understand much of what went on or what any of it had to do with God. For example, I have a hard time with the whole "Jesus died for our sins" thing, and apparently this is a basic tenet without which you're flying blind. I clearly lack the necessary belief structure required to get the most out of organized religion, which is  understandable given my personal history. When I was a kid I was exposed to a confusing array of rules and regulations, none of which were adequately explained to me.

My parents maintained a strictly kosher household, complete with two sets of silverware, two sets of dishes and two pounds of bacon in the freezer for emergencies. The eating of pork was strictly forbidden, unless we were in a Chinese restaurant where all bets were off, since apparently God does not look into Chinese restaurants. Makes sense. We had to walk the mile to temple on the Sabbath since driving during that 24-hour period was a sin, but bad weather, which included the threat of rain, made driving acceptable, and in high heels, quite welcome. During Passover we could not eat leavened bread for eight days, except for those bagels at the Pantry Diner early in the morning with my father, who made me promise not to tell anyone, ever. (He's dead now.) I went to Hebrew school for exactly one Sunday morning and complained bitterly afterwards. My parents agreed that I should be allowed to sleep in at least one day of the week and we never spoke of it again.

Today the Jews still have bar mitzvah ceremonies for boys turning 13, which is a signal they have become men. If you have seen a 13-year-old boy lately, you know how deeply ridiculous this is. There are also bat mitzvah parties for girls turning 13, which in certain communities--including greater Los Angeles, parts of New Jersey and all of Long Island--signifies they are now old enough for Botox. My husband wants us to go to temple every once in a while, but the last time I attended the rabbi was a woman and she was wearing leggings and leopard-skin fur clogs. As you can imagine, I haven't been back.

I do believe in God, but I pray alone, mostly at home and sometimes out in public when necessary, but never in Chinese restaurants. Why bother?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Nice Place to Visit . . .

Crossing the street in downtown Chicago is a contact sport.
Chicago is nothing if not noisy. The downtown is jammed with people and with normal city traffic compounded by ambulances, their sirens blaring, seemingly on every street, making one think there are either many sick and injured here or simply a lot of bored EMTs. Cops are everywhere--some left over from last weekend's NATO conference. On the whole they are a jolly bunch, much nicer than the ones we have in Maine, possibly because they actually have something to do. Many methods of transportation are visible at every turn: buses, trains, planes, taxis, boats, cars. There is shopping, shopping and more shopping, ranging from the tacky little souvenir shops to the elegant, high-end designer boutiques. Lots to eat and drink, with two Starbucks on every street. Admittedly Chicago has stunning architecture that begs to be photographed, which I have done for the last five days, but still it feels like the kind of city that could easily host an outbreak of the plague should that ever make a comeback. Going back to Maine tomorrow will be both a relief and a letdown.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Turning Off and Tuning Out

Money, money, money.... Facebook goes public. 57% of the deal....while $3.8 billion in shares....with a market value of $104 billion. Disco queen Donna Summer dies of lung cancer at age 63. John Edwards trial rests. Sears sees sales shrivel. Another Kennedy bites the dust. Financial collapse in Greece. George Zimmerman has a broken nose and lacerations....Romney defends his past.... the Dow falls for the fourth day in a row... U.S. debates apologizing for killing two dozen Pakistani predictions for unusually warm weather this summer will raise wildfire risks....Syrian activists...the North Koreans.....fall in Chinese loans poses economic threat.

It's little wonder I have high blood pressure.

Yesterday I had one of those all-day "events" that made me think I would, or at least could, drop dead at any moment. My blood pressure reading was off the charts. I took my pills, drank my water, sat quietly, breathed deeply, called doctors, got up and walked around, took more pills, laid in bed, got up again. But nothing could stop the tapes in my head, and that might just be what's causing it. So tomorrow morning at crack of dawn I will fly to Indiana and watch corn grow. Then it's on to Chicago where I plan to avoid the news and instead just do a lot of walking, eat good food, see art, take interesting photographs and hang with friends.

Daily Droid will be on hiatus until a week from today. Hopefully the Taliban and President Hollande and the anti-Putin activists and all those guys over at J. P. Morgan and Angela Merkel and Mark Zuckerberg and the Chinese activists and Karl Rove and the rest of the striving, narcissistic, over-achieving news makers will play nice until I return.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Black Is Not a Dirty Word

Seems like in today's touchy, overly sensitive, on the lookout for bullies society, the very act of noticing that someone is black makes you a racist. You should be color blind, or at least pretend to be. And when a black person does anything at all newsworthy, good or bad, like steal a car, win the lottery, drown in a backyard pool or go missing--the non-racist will not mention the person's skin color in the description of the incident. However, if a white person does those things it's okay to describe him as such, and in fact it's preferable because then everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and say see, it wasn't a black person who did it, except in the case of winning the lottery where the sentiment would be, it shouldn't have been a white person because whitey already has enough money and has caused poverty among black people for lo these many years, not counting Oprah and Beyonce and Jay-Z and Kanye West and Harry Belafonte and Denzel Washington and Halle Berry and Will Smith and Gayle King and Al Sharpton and Bill Cosby and Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee and all the basketball and football players and boxing champs, to name but a few.

I am perplexed by of all this. I personally have never enslaved anyone, white or black, Latino or Asian or Muslim or Jew or Native American or South Sudanese or Haitian or Tongan. I even let my cats run free. My parents, grandparents and great-grandparents also never enslaved anyone, although a couple of them fled Europe to avoid becoming enslaved themselves. What I have done is leave a comment on a recent online news story about an 11-year-old black girl who drowned after jumping into a pool on a dare. The story angle was that "Bullies Cause Death of Child." You see, she did not know how to swim. I noted that by her age, she should have known she couldn't swim, and since she was dumb enough to jump in anyway, it was simply natural selection at work. The online maddening crowd/Greek chorus tagged me as a racist, even though the girl's ethnicity had nothing at all to do with the story.

My bleeding-heart son (who doesn't vote) and my bleeding-heart husband (who sometimes votes Republican) each goes out of his way to avoid having any racist thoughts or uttering any racist statements.  They would never even call licorice "black," and in fact I think the reason they don't eat it is because they haven't figured out a politically correct way to do so. They may also find the title of this post to be incendiary. I think they are closet Democrats.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dinner With Barack: Click Here!

I would hate to have my job depend on my advertising for the position. I would also hate to have my job depend on gimmicks like selling "dinner with me" to raise the money in order to buy the advertising. Most of all, I would hope that after working somewhere for four years, people would know I am great at what I do and thus I would relax and not worry that some upstart would come and steal my job away. Actually, this is all true in my case. Having worked many places and always been a valued employee, I wonder why one would feel differently. The only job I ever got fired from was as a graphic designer at a cult-owned Washington, D. C. newspaper where I enticed one of the sheep into leaving the flock, and since he was quite high up in said flock, His Most Supreme High Mooniness dictated "off with her head!"-- only this is America and they talked him down and all that happened is I got fired.

Anyway, President Obama is continuing to clutch at straws. Once again he is hawking dinner with himself as a perk in exchange for your donation to his campaign to keep his job. He is raffling himself off! I wonder: will there be a teleprompter on the table?

Zooming In and Zooming Out

Lately I have given some thought to end-of-world scenarios, fueled by recent scholarly articles about solar storms that could come in the next year or two and knock out our entire power grid for a long time, or even forever. The mind boggles at such a thought, and several depressing things occur to me, not the least of which is that my hair will be eternally frizzy since it needs the force and heat of a dryer to blow it straight. Of course I could always wear hats, but even the lightest little cap gives me a headache after a while. Other things seem problematic too, like no more food or potable water for anyone, anywhere, leading to the eventual death of all living things.

Looking on the bright side, while impending doom for all mankind is admittedly pretty bad, it's beyond my control and thus I can go about my business and let someone else worry. Meanwhile, my still relatively new car smells like rotten eggs when I turn the motor off. This will require a trip to South Portland to the dealership, where I'll have to sit in that little room with the popcorn machine and the big TV overhead that's on way too loud and tuned to something awful, like drag racing or Jerry Springer, if that's still on the air, waiting for God knows how long until they fix it for I can just imagine how much. I guess if the solar storm came right then, while I was reading the complimentary copy of Highlights magazine, I could handle it. And I bet John Edwards would be all the way to ecstatic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's Not to Hate About Turning 66?

The beautiful actress Helen Mirren is almost 67!
This business about getting older each year is quite annoying. Mentally I stopped aging at about 27, but physically my given suit of armor continues to wear out, alerting me to the fact that it will someday cease operating altogether. It's nutty, and quite inappropriate if you ask me. My next birthday is less than a month away and I am not celebrating this one, that's for damn sure.

It's one thing to turn 65; that's a party! You are welcomed into Medicare, you get birthday cards from AARP, you get lots of jokey emails from friends about being old, over the hill, etc. But turning 66 is already nothing to laugh about. Nobody congratulates you for turning 66. They just whisper about it among themselves, somewhat surprised in my case since I still wear the same clothing I always wore, still puff the occasional pot pipe, still have all my brain cells, still cover the gray hair that's surely under there, and have not gotten morbidly obese. And despite listening to loud rock music in my car and sometimes hanging out with my son and his friends, who reportedly think I am "very cool for a mom," my body knows the truth and gives out every night, signalling bedtime if I can just drag it up the stairs and throw it onto the mattress like a sack of wet laundry. Good thing there's a bannister or else I'd have to sleep in the living room.

The thing is, were it not for the pain in my hip-- and all the other bones in my body--I'd think getting older is just fine: I know more about everything every day and care less about what others think of me, which is a heck of a good cocktail. And if I looked like Helen Mirren, I'd go gray too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Making Money

I have never made a dime off of blogging. This irks me. So this morning, when I read a "Tips and Quips" column for bloggers and it stated quite boldly that "earning money from your blog is easy-peasy," I took note. I read on and finally  concluded that in order to realize financial reward from my writing, I'll have to use phrases like  "tips & quips" instead of "helpful suggestions" and "easy-peasy" instead of "simple and straightforward." I have never been that sort of writer, and if I ever become that kind of writer I am hereby suggesting in advance, and in front of witnesses, that that my husband shoot me.

One of those tips concerning how to earn money off your blog is to post ads on it. I have tried this ploy before. In fact, one week I earned $2.38, but I was so nauseous and a little embarrassed by seeing the ads posted there that the financial reward had little positive impact. (Of course, how could it, since having $2.38 is not all that different from having absolutely nothing.) Anyway, I deplore and despise all advertising. When ads rear their ugly heads I look away, change the channel, press the mute button or whatever is necessary to blot out the inane bullshit dreamed up in those meetings of Coke-filled and coke-filled creative types. The things they say! The lies they tell! And besides, I can figure out for myself what shampoo to use or which car insurance to get, I certainly don't need advice from an imaginary talking gecko on either score.

Admittedly, I'm not much of a money-maker. I have had brief forays into success, but despite the initial rush of exhilaration, I always end up just as broke as at the outset. I assume this is simply who I am this time around.  Fortunately my husband is blessed with the ability to generate income just by opening his mouth and sharing his thoughts, so I am kept fed and clothed. Anyway, please excuse the ads on this post, I'll try anything twice.

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

$119 million refrigerator magnet

 $10.00 watercolor 
 $1,600.00 pastel
When trying to comprehend large amounts of money, I start with a dollar and think about what I could buy with it. Then I move up to a five, a ten, a twenty, and so on. This helps put things in perspective. When I buy art, I consider the costs involved for the artist--price of paint, canvas, shipping, marketing, framing, etc., then imagine the value of the pleasure I will get from looking at the image every day. In the long run this method doesn't always pay off: One of the most expensive pieces of art in our home, a pastel still life that my husband and I fell in love with at an art fair, now gives me almost no pleasure--in fact, I actively dislike it--while the cheapest, an unsigned watercolor buried among a batch of others in a musty antique shop--cost me ten bucks and remains a favorite to this day.

Last week a painting sold at auction for $119 million. The painting, called The Scream, is not pretty but it is famous. It was painted by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1895, and the fact that he made four versions of the same image tells me, as an artist, that he was never quite satisfied with any of them. (And who could blame him, it's hideous--I certainly wouldn't hang it up in my house.) As auctioneer George Cole says to prime the pump at his auction hall in Rhinebeck, New York each month, "Just remember--the higher you bid, the more it's worth."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thanks, Mom

No matter what I think about it, Mother's Day happens. In fact, this year it happens tomorrow, and for the first time in a long while my one and only child is on the premises for the celebration, such as it is. If history is any teacher, the festivities will be brief and all but invisible. This is certainly my hope.  Actually, in the last day or two a rumor was floated about "breakfast in bed," but I am putting the kibosh on that since it surely signals the prone diner has the flu or a fever or consumption or worse and thus is unable to reach the dining room. Then there's the whole crumbs in the sheets, spilled juice and coffee on the duvet, etc. to deal with later. My own mother demanded the breakfast in bed treatment every year, along with the cards and the gifts and the flowers, I think because she wasn't ever truly convinced that having kids had been such a great idea, so for her, extra perks were necessary. This is one way I differ from her: My son surely knows by now that all I want for Mother's Day is his happiness.

Mothers are funny that way; they care so much more about their kids than non-mothers, including fathers, can comprehend. It's all biological, of course, and not a reflection of our deeper well of compassion or greater capacity for love. It's simply that we can't help it--kind of like how all Democrats think they're right about everything. Our kids are us, so we love them because we love ourselves--or should. So that diamond pendant that says "Mom" is just a waste of money, unless of course it's from Tiffany's and then it would cost way too much and cause severe guilt, not to mention there is no Tiffany's in Maine so one would have had to plan ahead and order it in advance and that is not happening around here, that's for damn sure, wouldn't that be nice--but anyway, I digress. What most moms want, and by that I mean me, is the assurance that bringing our kids into this world was a good thing for all concerned. A simple "Thanks, Mom" will suffice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Democratic Delusions

I have not read any of the details--in fact have studiously avoided them--but still the latest dastardly news concerning Mitt Romney has infiltrated the protective moat around my brain, forcing me to confront the heinous fact that the presumed Republican candidate for the presidency, now age 65, was once a bully. Despite his having once served as Governor of Massachusetts, been the leader of a large corporation and run the 2000 Winter Olympics, he may have, at one time in his youth, "held someone down." It is also alleged that he "called people names."  Add this to the fact that he once attached a dog carrier to the roof of his car in order to transport the family dog on a vacation, and it is quite clear that the man must not be elected president. We cannot have such a man in the White House!

Naturally, my source was of the Democratic persuasion, and were we not total strangers surrounded by other people in a small room, I might have ever so gently reminded her that, back in the day, several women came forward to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and another one accused him of rape, and that never seemed to matter the teeniest, weeniest little bit to his loyal minions.

What makes those Democrats tick? Is it just John Stewart, or is there something else?

Dick Clark is Gone

The so-called Baby Boomer generation is big, beginning with those born in 1946 and ending with those born in 1964. My husband and I, while both included, are separated by a gulf of 11 years. That makes me a Golden Boomer while he is part of Generation Jones. We may as well be from different planets. Those front-enders like myself are a different breed entirely, and being with one of my own is among the most comfortable experiences I ever have. This must be true for everyone, whatever their age. I was a senior in high school when president Kennedy was assassinated; my husband was then six years old. As a teenager I was intrigued by Bobby Rydell, mildly interested in Fabian, amused by Frankie Avalon and deeply in love with Dion and all three Belmonts. When we met, Mitch had never heard of those people. I have tried to educate him, but it's hard to explain how great they sounded on those little 45s when he came of age listening to Chicago and the Grateful Dead through headphones.

Not that it matters, but he's never had Sen-Sen, that oddly sinful anise candy that somehow made you feel like a grown-up. Maybe it was the packaging, which was --and still is--reminiscent of condoms. Whatever the reason, seeing it today brings me right back to my youth. One time I gave some to Mitch and he spit it right out. I was almost insulted. But nothing illustrates the cultural chasm between us more than Dick Clark's long-running TV show, "American Bandstand." The burning question of who was better--Kenny and Arlene or Justine and Bob--filled long hours talking on the pink princess phone in my bedroom. (See photo)

Dick Clark died recently, sparking commentary about how New Year's Eve would never be the same without his annual TV coverage of the ball-dropping-in-Times Square mob scene. But for us Golden Boomers, Dick was all about a cool dance party in Philadelphia held every weekday afternoon. I still say, "It's got a good beat and you can dance to it" when I hear a new song that I like, but few people around me know what the heck I'm talking about.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Matrix

Hey, here's an idea: If everyone stopped trying to be so damn happy, maybe we'd all feel better! Perhaps if we lowered our expectations and decided that life is to be lived whatever the heck it feels like, we would all instantly qualify as successful despite being miserable, suicidal, poor, diseased, lonely and depressed. Heck, I'll even throw in fat. Every one of us who is alive right now is fulfilling their function of breathing in and out, and thus is doing one heck of a great job at living. If I could just get this idea across to the millions of people who are currently miserable, suicidal, poor, diseased, lonely, depressed and fat, I could hit the big time. I could be the white Oprah! But wait-- that's wrong thinking. Happiness is not a goal. Living is breathing. I am breathing, I am living, I am life, this is what it is.

See, now I feel better about feeling bad because that's normal. I'm perfect. Try it.

Gays May Sleep Better, but What About Us?

I never knew the President reads my blog, but obviously he read the one I posted two days ago ("Do the Right Thing") about his wimpy stance on gay marriage, finally decided that supporting it really was the right thing to do. Okay, fine. Now what--will every gay person vote for him in November? If so, I guess he's got the election in the bag, since the opposition clearly feels otherwise. But how much does it matter, really, with so many other looming problems brewing? While all those gays are out getting married, those problems will continue to fester and eventually erupt. Task forces will be named; headlines will be written. Must we wait for disaster to strike before we right these egregious wrongs? Following are just a few issues, none of them having to do with sexuality, that kept me up last night, to the point where at three in the morning I went down to the kitchen and heated some milk, having heard that warm milk is soporific. It was, despite the scientific evidence against it, especially after I tossed in those two Lorazipams. Okay, and two Fig Newtons. Anyway, something must be done about the following egregious problems corroding our society:

1. The rules regarding handicapped bathrooms must be clarified. Signs should be posted inside all public restrooms stating that in the absence of a handicapped person, any able-bodied person may enter that particular extra-large, much better, New-York-City-studio-apartment-sized stall.This is especially true when a long line of people who desperately have to pee has formed, and yet still, those law-abiding, politically correct citizens stand there, legs crossed, fearful of the wrath of an angry God or inbound wheelchair.
2. Speed limit signs on all roads are currently meaningless. When we travel a road that says "SPEED LIMIT 65," my husband, responding to an internal radar device only men hear, interprets that to mean he can reach 78 mph and that he will be ticketed only if he reaches 80 mph.  All the cars passing me when I drive 65 seem to prove him right. So I believe that our road signs need to be changed to reflect reality, otherwise, to use a mixed metaphor, we are flying blind. Not counting the distribution of those annoying orange cones and barrels on roads where no work seems underway, which is surely a full-time job for many employees, what else is the Department of Transportation doing anyway? They've got time, believe me.
3. Mothers Day and Fathers Day are bad news, plain and simple. First of all, many perfectly wonderful moms and dads are already dead, so what the heck? Secondly, many of the living ones are child abusers, and it's hard to shop for them. Third, the whole scam is all about advertisers selling things and restaurants having Early Bird specials and forcing innocent people to eat Blooming Onions and buy roses. We need to put an end to meaningless holidays that only make people feel bad--especially the orphans, remember them? Seriously. My own mother died in 1981 so I've got nothing but a lump in my throat for a few days before, the day of, and the whole next day. (Thanks a lot, Hallmark.) And my son always feels guilty and never knows what to do about the whole situation. I know he loves me so I tell him to ignore it, but still he worries when he sees all the advertising for flowers, candy, cards, jewelry, and more. The president could put an end to this fiasco right now, and should.

So in case Obama thinks he's got the election in the bag now that he gave the thumbs-up to gay marriage, he better think again. Not everyone is happy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where Canned Chicken is King

Most likely, if you are old enough, you have had the dire experience of discovering a hornet's nest or bee hive while happily poking around in your garden or painting your porch; under the eaves is a common area for them to homestead. Finding a world of activity that poses a threat, yet is treacherous to remove so you just leave it there, knowing it's there, steering clear and trying not to bother them, is always a shock, and a bad one at that. It's best to just look away, go about your business and try to forget what you've seen.

I had this experience recently, only it wasn't bees or wasps or a nest of carpenter ants that I found, it was people. My accidental foray into the land of smiley faces and !!!!! and Mouthwatering Mondays occurred while I was stupidly wandering the Internet without a map and fell upon a recipe for Frito Salad. I couldn't believe that grown adults eat that way. Delving further, I found that it was actually among the healthiest recipes out there, and truly the tip of an iceberg. America isn't the fattest nation for lack of trying. There are hundreds of food blogs celebrating things like Chunky Chicken Enchilada Dip ("I use canned chicken and nobody can tell!") and Taco Surprise and Creamy Potato Soup. Many of the recipes feature copious amounts of cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, bacon, butter, flour, tacos, chips and tortillas. They receive accolades from scads of people in the comments section, who write things like "Yum!" and "this sounds so yummy delicious!!" and "fabulous!!!!" Scariest are things like "My two-year old can't get enough of this! :-)"

I was stunned, literally. Somehow I thought that everyone was, if not already on the healthy eating bus at least buying a ticket and trying to board. After all, the First Lady is all over this, what with the revamping of school lunches and the whole "get moving an hour a day" business. Plus, I live with a rabid health nut who steers clear of  all processed foods, and our visiting son has been known to call a bowl of steamed spinach and alfalfa sprouts "breakfast." I grew up never having a sip of soda in a household managed by a skinny mother who was a vegetarian and possible anorexic, alongside my fat sister who got that way by sneaking food on the outside. So to discover a world where people happily eat bad stuff and unabashedly call it good is a shock from which I am still recovering.

Don't get me wrong: I've been known to eat whipped cream straight from the aerosol can, and chocolate chip cookies are not long for this world if I'm alone with them. But I always feel guilty about it, and I assumed everyone else did too. Apparently not. Now that I know how to find it, I keep going back to that hornet's nest under the eaves. I've got to look away. It's fascinating, but hideous.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do the Right Thing

Illustration by Danny Hellman
Imagine you are the current president of the United States. Secretly you support a particular issue--say gay marriage to pick something at random -- but you fear that by condoning it you will turn off many people you actually disagree with but who still control a lot of votes. This is a problem. You really want to make a difference, and your opponent is clearly against the hypothetical issue in question, so you know if he wins the election you will have lost this opportunity to right a wrong. But you also really want to get re-elected so you can continue to fly around the world for free in your own fancy private jet, eat fabulous foods cooked by celebrity chefs for free, throw big parties at your house and invite anyone you want, never have to look for parking, meet tons of Hollywood celebrities and have them think you are cool, play a lot of golf whenever and wherever you damn well please, dress your wife in fancy designer dresses at no cost to you, never carry a wallet and go to Martha's Vineyard a couple more times on the taxpayer's dime. Oy, such a dilemma!

Suddenly the time of re-election is drawing nigh and the people are clamoring for an answer. You would do one of the following:
1. Change the law while you still have the power to do so. Feel good about yourself and confident that you made the right decision, knowing that if you did nothing else of merit during your entire administration, at least you did that.
2. Start dangling the promise of changing the law in front of the voters, saying things like "our work is not finished" and "things will get better in 2013," hoping that they will bring you back for a second chance to do it, even though you have had over three years to do it and you haven't done it.
3. Send your lackey, the vice-president, on a speaking tour to clarify that you really, really are in favor of it and that you really, really will make it legal in 2013, right after they re-elect you.

This is American politics at its worst and most obvious.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Stamp Out Frito Salad

The World Wide Web is sometimes awesome, often scary and always interesting. It's also a great place for cowards to feel better about themselves. They can hide behind false names and false photos and confront people they would otherwise never meet. This happens from time to time right here on my blog in the comments feature. Just today I received another anonymous comment that infers I suck. Meanie Anonymous doesn't sign his or her name and enter into a dialog; it's more of a hit and run situation. This is a shame, since the opportunity exists to really change people's minds, even mine. In order to take full advantage of that opportunity whenever I pick an Internet fight, I always sign my real name.

One thing I like to do is try to convince others to eat more healthily and not get too fat, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, diverticulitis and all sorts of other problems. Today I stumbled upon a recipe, written by the mother of a young child living in Utah, for something she calls Frito Salad. Right away you know there is a problem: Fritos and salad were never intended to marry. The combining of canned corn with lots of cheese and mayonnaise, then topping it all with Fritos and calling it a salad when it is actually the unappetizing mess you see pictured here is taking artistic license too far, in my humble opinion. I left a comment for the recipe's author saying that "this looks like something my dog threw up," which is mean I know but at least I did sign my real name. I think everyone who reads this blog today and agrees with my assessment of how it looks should go directly to and suggest the woman stop feeding this junk to her husband and child. (They don't even like it; she says quite candidly that there are always leftovers, and that she makes them eat it again the next day!)

Adding your voice would be taking one small step for man and a giant leap for all mankind. There are only so many meals in a lifetime; make sure Frito Salad is not one of yours.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Born Too Late

Dolly Parton and her breasts.
As a friend of mine pointed out recently, there must be one heck of an ad agency in charge of the bullying account. Bullying is big! Today it commands the respect of our government, all the way to the president. (Last October Obama released an anti-bullying video in which he lamented the deaths of teenagers who were bullied for being gay and took their own lives.)

 There are books about it--3,028 in paperback, 805 hard cover and 702 for Kindle to be exact. TV shows condemn it and national organizations work to stamp it out. In 2006, National Bullying Prevention Month was inaugurated.This was not always true; in the old days, bullying was compulsory for any self-respecting young man and nobody took it too seriously. Kids who got picked on were on their own and guess what--we survived.

I speak from experience. When I was in the 4th grade, my breasts showed up. By 5th grade I was wearing a C-cup, and by the time I entered junior high I could have understudied for Dolly Parton in "9 to 5." (See photo) Naturally, the prepubescent and already pubescent boys had a grand old time: hooting and hollering, calling me names, and doing their favorite thing, which was chasing me home from school like the prey in a foxhunt, pushing me down on the ground and snapping the back of my bra. In the school halls, the most obnoxious among them would shout "Here they come!" as I approached. I was often asked if I needed help carrying them.

The teachers did nothing, except for the male teachers who leered. There were no special meetings called. My mother told me to get over it and focus on a time, a few years later, when those same boys would beg me for a date. Nobody called it bullying. I did not commit suicide, threaten suicide, or even contemplate suicide. What I did was hate those boys and hunch over a lot.

Today the treatment I received would be called bullying. There would be closed-door meetings and seminars on how to stop the adolescent boys from tormenting the (big-breasted) adolescent girls. There would be posters and an ad campaign. I would stay home from school. I might make a tearful video and post it on YouTube. My parents would get a lawyer and sue somebody, possibly the school and the parents of the bullying boys. They would win a big settlement that would pay for my breast reduction surgery. Today I would have better posture and fewer backaches.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Family Misfortunes

We all get some good stuff and some bad stuff at birth. Intelligence, beauty, personality, health and talent are randomly distributed among the population, and thus randomly passed on genetically. Other things that shape our lives, besides our own free will, are family wealth, dynamics and members. If you actually enjoy being a part of your particular family, give yourself 1000 Life Points and a gold star and consider yourself one of God's chosen few. I personally did quite poorly in that department. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd rate my family a 3, and that's on a good day, and have spent all my life wishing it had been otherwise. Naturally there are a few gems among the muck and mud--a cousin here, an uncle there--but taken as a whole, my family has been neither my long nor strong suit.

Now, as the unfolding dramas of my few remaining family members continue to play out, with weary soldiers lining up for another battle, I'm wondering if I might make some money off the whole lot of them with a gigantic, juicy novel, after which I could cash out and flee to Mexico, since what I did get at birth was talent, and I can write like the dickens when I want. It would have to be a fantasy of course, since if I told a straightforward account of my relatives and their twisted souls and floundering fortunes, any sane reader would toss it aside in disgust muttering, "How preposterous, that would never happen!" For now, I'll just go make some lunch. I may vacuum.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Don't Tell Me

A phone call from my ex-husband this morning crystallized three facts for me:
1. Everyone has problems. (See photo)
2. They like to describe those problems in stunning detail.
3. I no longer want to hear about them.

At this late stage in my life--eligible for Medicare--I am starting to understand the reason for psychiatrists and psychologists to exist. Go tell them your problems. Yes, it'll cost you, but I can't do it anymore. Sorry, but the doctor is Out. I am still up for a good conversation--you pick the topic--or a rousing board game, or let's go out to eat or go hiking or biking or whatever. But those one-sided monologues concerning the slings and arrows of your outrageous fortunes are no longer invited. I'd much rather argue over politics.