Friday, August 31, 2012

What's So Funny

Earlier this week I interviewed for a sales position at the L. L. Bean store during the upcoming holiday season. Assuming I was a shoo-in, I was virtually stunned when I was not hired, for reasons unknown. Until yesterday, when I got a call from a nice lady from Human Resources. She was calling to "debrief," and also to get some feedback about their hiring process. I gladly obliged, sharing with her my thoughts that the whole thing reminded me of the time I tried out for the popular TV game show called Password, back when I was in college. I didn't get picked then either, having been deemed "too serious" and "very knowledgeable, but not sympathetic to audiences." And that was when I was only 20, and much better-looking.

Illustration by Paul Dwyer
This time it turned out that the main reason I wasn't chosen to stand on my feet all day long behind a cash register was because I was considered to be "too funny." Confused, since I had been raised to believe that laughter is the best medicine, I researched the concept of humor online and learned that people can be considered "funny" in the following ways: by behaving in an unusual manner, by being in an unusual place or by being the wrong size. Naturally I am wondering which one of those applies to me, and hoping it was not the one about size.

Apparently my "great humor" was thought to be "possibly too much" for the customers and my co-workers. However, the nice lady suggested--no, insisted--that I come in next week to the corporate headquarters and interview for a different job, as it was also noted on my chart that I was a "great candidate." Of course I'm going, if for no other reason than to see what kind of positions they offer where a sense of humor is permitted.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pointless Political Analysis

Note the missing lips.
There are so many things I would not want to do for a living that it's impossible to list them all. But the top ten are easy: Soldier, beekeeper, prison guard, tax accountant, jockey, dog catcher, gynecologist, professional athlete, ballerina and politician. If I had to be any of them, I guess I would--except for the last. It seems to me that being a politician is about the worst job in the world.

Let's take a closer look: You have no privacy. You have total strangers dissecting every aspect of how you look, how you behave, who you are married to, and even how much you pay in taxes. The media whores -- dammit, I did it again, I mean hordes -- eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Imagine having the likes of Gloria Borger and James Carville ripping you to shreds on CNN! Or worse, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews! It sucks, plain and simple. So who wants such a job? The power-hungry, the insecure, and the bossy, obnoxious know-it-alls. That's who we get to choose from at election time; no wonder it's so tough.

Once you grok that the choices are limited to the imperfect, it's easier to relax and enjoy the show. Last night I watched a bit of the Republicans Trumpeting in Tampa, and it was appalling and amusing at the same time. Mike Huckabee, who was once fat and then lost a lot of weight when he ran for and didn't get the nomination four years ago is fat again. I also am pretty sure his eyebrows are painted on. Anyway, he didn't do the party any favors with his fire and brimstone, evoking God and the big A and all. He comes off like a circus barker and I am guessing he is in it for the power. Also saw Condoleezza Rice, and I wondered why she has never fixed that gap in her teeth and also why her name has two Zs when one would suffice. Anyway, she is definitely black and definitely female, so there goes the argument that the Republicans are bigots who are at war with women.

Next came Paul Ryan, the actual nominee for Veep, and he looked like a kid who had gotten lost on his way to a Boy Scout meeting. "Golly gee, let's win this thing, we can do better," seemed to be his message, a combination of insecurity and bossy know-it-allness. The most fascinating thing about him is the fact that when he smiles or frowns, his lips disappear entirely and turn into a line on his face. (See photo.) I wonder what that means. Must watch CNN to find out.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mitt Romney's Wife

I watched some of the Republican National Convention last night, and I'd like to talk about what really matters: Ann Romney, wife of the nominee, is 63, but she looked like a 25-year-old Miss America contestant while she was giving her speech, with camera close-ups dead-on center and unswerving. Then afterwards, when you saw her sitting in the audience with a side camera angle, it was like The Picture of Dorian Gray: her wrinkles were back! WTF? Did she have a pre-speech facelift that lasted only 45 minutes? Or maybe some last minute Botox injections? What was it? How did she do that? I want that. (But not if it hurts.)

Note to Self: Must Go Bear Hunting

This morning I went to an interview at L. L. Bean to be a "seasonal employee" at their Freeport store, just three miles from my home. I thought it would be a hoot and give me an up-close view of normal people, something I am not but hope to be someday. And even though I have been hired in the past by The Ronald McDonald House, The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, U.S. News & World Report, Time-Life Books, The Washington Times, The Oakland Tribune, The Deseret News, the Democratic National Committee, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, The Corcoran School of Art, the Salt Lake City Public Schools, and various bookstores and department stores and garden shops and summer camps, I was not deemed worthy to sell clothing and tote bags and chocolate-covered maple candies and cookies in the shape of boots and moose to tourists in search of a take-home trinket or two.

The interview process was run like a game show. There were eight contestants, and we were all competing against one another. We each had to answer the same questions, which was easy if you were the first but harder if you came last since there was basically only one answer to the question, and seven people had already said it by the time it got me. Then you had to sell something to the group--I got a pair of socks--and also work as a team member to solve a problem. I'm pretty sure I passed all that with flying colors. Where I fell down was in describing my outdoor expertise, especially since one lady had just returned from a weekend of bear hunting with her husband and another guy spent a week ocean kayaking with his bird-watching wife, and a young woman was in Greece picking olives on organic farms for three months, and suddenly my oil paintings and vegetable garden did not seem very impressive. And then they asked us to describe a time in the past when we had worked on a computer and had to also answer phones and deal with customers at the same time, and I had nothing. Nada. Never. And I guess now I never will, since they said they "would not be offering me a position in their retail store," but suggested I apply to work in their corporate offices. Feh--been there, done that, not doing that.

So once again I failed as one of the masses, something I desperately want to experience. Maybe in my next life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Drawing a Line

Ouch and yikes! Whatever was this lady thinking?
Two seemingly unrelated facts: Fact #1, whenever I inadvertently get ink on my skin--like if I drop a felt tip pen and it grazes my bare leg, or if I clumsily grab a Bic pen  and it makes a mark on my hand, I am on a tear to wash it off. It's bad enough that the once-pristine skin I arrived with as a baby has suffered so much abuse just by living, so I try  to treat it right by applying lotions and creams and salves and ointments as necessary. Fact #2, I fear pain. I also shun it, eschew it, and hide in closets from it, leaving even a nasty splinter just where it is until it works itself out, avoiding all injections unless I will die without them, and certainly only giving blood when it's immoral or illegal not to do so. These two facts combine to make me the opposite of a likely candidate for a tattoo, and may explain why I am stunned, repulsed, horrified and dismayed by their absurd rise in popularity lately.

I asked one young woman whose arms and neck were covered with all sorts of flowers, hearts, dragons, snakes and swords, done in that dark green and blue and magenta and black that look like the onset of gangrene, why she chose to go that route. Her puzzling explanation: She wanted to set herself apart from others, to be special and unique. "Hey lady," I wanted to shout, "did you forget you have a face?" Naturally I didn't--I just paid for my bottle of water and pack of gum--this was in a convenience store, where apparently every employee needs several tattoos just to be hired--and left, then rushed home and sprinkled some Neutrogena Light Sesame Oil onto my arms and legs as a reward for being bare.

Admittedly some young women with tattoos look good now, but when they get to be grannies...oy vay.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

All kidding aside, this book helps!
Long ago, in my twenties--another lifetime, it seems-- I was married to someone else. This person was not big into compassion. When I admitted to being depressed and needing to talk, his sole recommendation was, "Cheer up!" At the time I thought that was stupid, superficial and actually impossible advice to follow. But now, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, it turns out to be exactly what one should do. Go figure.

According to several unnamed experts, whenever you are feeling down you should engage in "self-compassion" by being optimistic. (Hey, why didn't I think of that?) Among the suggested activities is the simple act of changing all your computer passwords to boost your self-esteem with self-affirming messages that you will read many times a day. You are also supposed to calmly tell yourself, "Stop," when you have negative thoughts, send yourself a Valentine's Day card on any day you please, and make a list each night of the good and bad things that happened that day; "The good list should get longer, and the bad shorter." Another expert--this one with a name and the author of a book called "Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain"-- advises you hold a pencil horizontally in your mouth to activate the same muscles that are used when smiling. Here is my list of the good and bad things so far for today:

1. Read a dumb article in the Wall Street Journal

1. Had a great cup of coffee
2. Changed my computer password to "youareyoungthinandsexy"
3. Ordered several boxes of No. 2 yellow pencils
4. Cancelled subscription to Wall Street Journal

Monday, August 27, 2012

Political Parties Partying Hard

The Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Tampa, a day late because of a hurricane that narrowly missed it. Too bad, if you ask me; I guess God is a Republican after all. But if a tornado rips through the Democratic Convention city of Charlotte, North Carolina next week, my belief in Him will be restored. Who knows, I might even start going to church every Sunday morning. Trust me; I earned my disdain for these gargantuan political parties honestly. In 1979 I began a year-long stint working for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., culminating in the Big Moment: The 1980 Democratic National Convention.

My job as a graphic designer was to help create and produce all the printed propaganda that would be distributed during the four-day event, including a book about the party's history, the daily convention newsletter and various pamphlets and flyers about Jimmy Carter, the incumbent, and the party's platform. I was over the moon with excitement, especially since at the time I still wore the blinders put on me at birth by my parents and had no idea there was anything else to be but a Democrat. To say that the 1980 convention "opened my eyes" is not only hackneyed, it's true.

Six weeks before the big event, the whole staff moved up to New York City and set up shop directly across from Madison Square Garden at New York's Statler Hotel, a one-time grand dame slowly sliding into rat-trap status when we arrived. Like my innocence, the Statler is long gone, and I think that very Convention took both of us down. As the girlfriend of a married man high on the organizational chart, one of my toughest jobs at the Convention was to make myself scarce whenever his wife flew into town--fortunately a rare occurrence. (Hey, I'm not proud, but after all, I was not married, and besides, his wife didn't understand him.) I also had to troop around the Garden helping figure out where things would go and how many balloons might fall here vs. there, and help out in the printing office and go out to a lot of clubs late at night in the big black limo provided by the D.N.C. for staff use. My alliance with A Big Guy at the Convention gave me access to some of the back room wheeling and dealing, mostly involving the illegal printing of extra floor passes for Teddy Kennedy's people to pressure the delegates, a few of the fancy parties with rich donors and richer food, and the persistent and ongoing snorting of cocaine in restaurant bathrooms. (That last thing didn't get talked about too much.)

I found the whole mad scene depressing and decidedly unrelated to who would ultimately occupy the White House.  Always one to shield my eyes from roadside accidents and gruesome scenes in horror movies, I left my post after the opening night, suspecting that the drunken orgies were bound to worsen since all the hard work was over. With a last look at the crazy hats and jingoistic placards, bright lights and media whores--oops, I mean hordes-- and the insane posturing of little wigs hoping to grow into big wigs, I trained it back to Washington and an emergency shrink session to dissect my disappointment at the whole corrupt bacchanal. He shrugged and said, "I'm surprised you expected more," then suggested I read a book called "Men in Groups" by Lionel Tiger about male bonding. I didn't, but maybe I should.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dogs Are People Too

Last night my husband and I made the dubious choice of going out for ice cream. I say "dubious" for two reasons: one, because that is exactly what it was, and two, the word gets too little use and it's a good one. We live about two miles from one of those soft-serve custard stands that is open only in summer, and so we feel almost as if it is our civic duty to frequent the establishment just to keep it in business for all the tourists, or so we tell ourselves.

Anyway, we went and had our fill, and it would have been a lovely outing except for one thing, and that was an adorable dog who was with a threesome at the outdoor table next to ours. One of those Little Orphan Annie dogs with the curly hair, he sat at military attention, staring straight into his owner's eyes, hoping, praying for a drop of whatever delectable treat she and her two teenage sons were enjoying. He got none, of course, despite my purposely audible observation that he looked like such a good dog and where was his treat, etc., etc. It got me wondering about the time-worn adage, "A dog is man's best friend." Look around and see how they get treated, and then consider if you would treat your best friend that way.

Begin your investigation at any supermarket parking lot, where the insistent howls, yelps, moans and whines from all the "best friends" locked inside cars, each with a window left open of course, fill the air. (I find that sound haunting me as I walk the aisles.) I no longer have a dog of my own--or a best friend--but when I did, I never locked either of them in the car for even a moment. You can also find Man's Best Friend tied up outside of shops and restaurants, or dragging along in the summer heat behind bikers and joggers or trapped in cages at the vet's office where they've been parked for a few days or weeks while the family goes on vacation.

Earlier this summer, on a particularly hot day, I took a walk with my neighbor and her "best friend." Polly had not brought a water bottle for herself and seemed fine, but the dog was clearly dehydrated after the first mile or so. I inquired about this, and Polly said, "Oh, he had a drink at home before we left. He's fine." (I gave him my water which he lapped up greedily.) I tell you, most dog owners give friendship a bad name.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Use Your Words, People

When I went to buy gas earlier I was in a pretty good mood. After all, nobody had shot at me, I had not been diagnosed with a disfiguring disease, and the number on the scale at my daily weigh-in was well below the danger zone. I had the radio on and one of my favorite songs was playing. I pulled up to the pump and turned off the engine, ready to jump out and pump, when I noticed that the driver facing me at the adjacent gas pump was just sitting there, head in hands, looking very upset. She made no move to get out and pump gas, and all of a sudden I thought she might be having a stroke or something, so I went over to investigate. It turned out to be someone I knew--not a friend really but certainly more than a casual acquaintance, as she had owned the cafe next door to my consignment shop where I had worked every day for almost a year, and I often had lunched at her place. "June, are you okay? Is anything wrong?" She was quite exasperated as she answered, "You pulled your car up so far I couldn't reach the pump. I was just waiting for you to pull back, but I was just waiting...."

I HATE THAT! It's like when you go into the supermarket and you are not paying attention to every single other person in the store and what their needs might be and you stop to get something off a shelf and inadvertently block someone who is trying to get past you, but they don't say anything like, "Excuse me, may I get past," or "Might I just scoot my cart by yours" or "I need to get by you" or ANY FUCKING THING AT ALL, they just stand there, pissed off and sighing, rolling their eyes, and then when you finally do notice, you have to APOLOGIZE like you committed a crime. What is the deal with that? As I always say in those situations, "Try works every time."

I think this is why there are so many random mass shootings lately.

Who You Calling Crazy?

Of all the murky issues facing us in today's complex world, mental health is perhaps the murkiest.  Take, for example, the case of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik. According to news reports, Anders was jailed for a maximum term last Friday when judges declared him "sane enough to answer for the murder of 77 people last year." You may recall that Anders stomped around an island where a political convention of sorts was taking place, "stalking his young victims dressed as a policeman, tricking them into thinking he was the help sent from the shore after the initial attack. He then shot them from close range before finishing them with a shot to the head." How nice. Sounds crazy to me, but not crazy enough to be called insane.

So who is? Mark David Chapman, another nut in the news, was just  denied parole for the seventh time. Chapman, in prison since 1980 for the murder of singer John Lennon, was first deemed insane, then deemed not insane at his insistence because he was following the will of God. In his first explanation after his arrest, Chapman stated, "I think I have some problems, and I don't know what some of them are."  Perhaps he could find a few of them in the comical song, "Officer Krupke" from the original Broadway hit musical,"West Side Story." Written by Stephen Sondheim, who obviously missed his true calling as a psychiatrist, a quick read of the lyrics might help every judge and jury member cut through some of the confusion:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, you gotta understand, it's just our bringin' upke that gets us out of hand--
our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks; golly Moses, naturally we're punks!

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset,we never had the love that every child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents--we're misunderstood, deep down inside us there is good!
There is good, there is good,
there is untapped good, like inside, the worst of us is good.

Dear kindly Judge, your Honor, my parents treat me rough--with all their marijuana, they won't give me a puff.
They didn't wanna have me, but somehow I was had... leapin' lizards, that's why I'm so bad.

Right! Officer Krupke,  you're really a square, this boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care. It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed; he's psychologically disturbed.

Hear ye, hear ye--in the opinion of this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home.   
Hey, I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived!   
My daddy beats my mommy, my mommy clobbers me, my grandpa is a Commie, my grandma pushes tea, my sister wears a mustache, my brother wears a dress-- goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess!

Yes, Officer Krupke, he shouldn't be here-- this boy don't need a couch, he needs a useful career.
Society's played him a terrible trick, and sociologically he's sick. 
In my opinion, this child does not need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

Dear kindly social worker, they tell me get a job, like be a soda jerker, which means I'd be a slob!
It's not I'm antisocial, I'm only anti-work--Gloryosky, that's why I'm a jerk.

Eek, Officer Krupke, you've done it again, this boy don't need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain't just a question of misunderstood, deep down inside, he's no good!

The trouble is he's lazy! The trouble is he drinks! The trouble is he's crazy! The trouble is he stinks! The trouble is he's growing! The trouble is he's grown! Krupke, we've got troubles of our own...

Thursday, August 23, 2012


These two deserve an Oscar just for looking dumpy.
Hope Springs is one of those cinematic gems that is panned by the critics, so it's yanked from the theaters before you ever see it, finding a second life on Netflix where it becomes the darling of the couch crowd. Big stars depict real people in real situations, and they do such a good job you forget they are big stars. It's funny, sad and profound all at once, with the added bonus of a great soundtrack that fills in the blanks left by a weak script.

A borderline "chick flick," it would benefit any married man to take a peek. If your marriage is good now, see it to make sure it doesn't derail. If it's already bad, you might find a few pointers for the price of admission that could get it back on track.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are two old pros who can effectively telegraph complicated emotions with a raised eyebrow or half a smirk. The only problem when they are both on screen is choosing who to watch. They play Kay and Arnold, a husband and wife sleepwalking through a dull marriage, both dying of boredom after 31 years of the same-old-same-old, and no sex for the last five. Funny guy Steve Carell plays the very serious shrink they pay $4,000 for a week-long retreat of Intensive Couples Therapy, and he does a sterling job at being totally humorless. The three of them portray such kind, endearing people that I wished I could have had them all over for dinner after the show. And the state of Maine looks so pretty that I spent a considerable amount of time trying to pinpoint just which town it was, until the final credits revealed that Maine was played by Connecticut. (Go figure.)

The only sour note was sounded at the concession stand, where they wanted $6.50 for a medium popcorn.

Take A Look Around

Here are two facts that are unrelated, but I am wondering if they should be:
1. I recently had an old friend as a house guest for a few days (three-and-a-half, but who's counting).
2. Being an artist, I naturally have some of my work hanging on the walls of my home. Not all that many, actually, when you consider how many paintings I have completed and how many walls I have. But as a former owner of an art gallery, I also own a lot of great art done by other people, so I mostly have their works on display. Still, counting bathrooms, I have about 15 of my own paintings visible to anyone who comes in the house, and about another 15 visible in my art studio which is open to anyone who wants to take a look around. Also visible are many of my beaded works and some painted furniture, including about four chairs and perhaps six small tables. In fact, being in my house is sort of like looking at this page: it's pretty hard not to see the stuff unless you are blind.

Is it wrong to expect that a "friend" would, at some time during those three-and-a-half days, say something about my art? Like maybe even a phony platitude? Or perhaps a mild compliment? Or even an over-the-top compliment? Or even a, "Wow, you've been busy?" But this particular old friend said nothing, until one half-hour before she left, when I went to the trouble of bringing out a couple of my recent works to show her, one of which, shown here, is among my favorites. Here is what she said: "Is that supposed to be a cow? It looks like a pig." (I might have said the same to her, since she has put on so much weight since I last saw her.)

Anyway, all cattiness aside, I was hurt to say the least and stunned to say the most. My son says I am wrong to feel that way and that most people do not care about other people's hobbies. He says I had wrong expectations of the woman, since I already knew that she doesn't care about art. I say it doesn't matter if she cares about art, and that if she cares about me she should have made at least a cursory nod to how I spend almost 100% of my time.

I am still wondering: just what are friends for?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

Some questions have no answer. One of them is, "Which is the best Chuckles flavor?" I have been pondering this my whole life and have still not found out since nobody knows. My husband is little help, since he will declare a favorite one time and then the next time go with something else entirely.  Anyway, each color represents a flavor, something I realized once I reached adulthood. They all have assets and liabilities:

1. The Red is also known as Cherry, even though I never tasted a cherry that tasted like a red Chuckles candy. These are quite cheerful, and pretty much everyone's first choice until a more sophisticated palate is developed somewhere around the early teen years. The Red is instantly gratifying, and right away you feel like you are really living. But there is a letdown at the end, when it is obvious that it is overly sweet and somewhat cloying.
2. The Green is allegedly a spearmint flavor, and since I've never eaten a real spearmint I have no way of judging the accuracy, but I do know what I like, and I like the Greens. This is often my second favorite and has no real negatives, although the color is ugly and a tad depressing.
3. The Yellow is lemony and happy and fun. I love it, except I don't really like lemon-flavored anything and so that's a bummer. These are good for old people and those who are watching their weight, as they feel like they are healthier than the others.
4. The Orange, albeit the only one with a flavor and color that are the same word, is hateful and disgusting. I don't know of anyone who likes this color or flavor, except maybe around Halloween when exceptions may be made. It screams artificiality, since it is not even close to tasting like a real orange. I personally feel the Orange should be retired, and then each pack should have two of one of the others, which would be surprising and fun and add to the whole experience, sort of like the prize inside the Cracker Jack box.
5. The Black, or licorice, is fabulous. These are quite grown-up in both appearance and taste, and signify sophistication, maturity, and of course racial harmony. I probably would always go for this one first, except it's usually packed in the middle of the bunch and so I have to eat my way there and sometimes I might like another one better on the way, which is disturbing. Then too, sometimes I save it for last because I think it's the best, but by then I am too full to enjoy it.

I Have No Idea

One hears from time to time that America's students are falling way down in many areas, most notably science and math. Plainly put, our kids today are not only dumber than the Chinese, Asian and Indian kids, they're dumber than us grown-ups who were educated back when teachers were better teachers and schools were really good. I beg to differ. I know plenty of older folks with gaping holes in their heads, but nobody knows because nobody asks. For example, when was the last time you were tested on algebra, history or geography? In keeping with my new goal of admitting my ignorance, I will hereby prove it; the numbered map of America shown above will serve as my tool. Without further ado, I will list the numbers below and identify the states, or misidentify them as the case may be:

42. Washington
33. Oregon
31. California
43. South Dakota?
35. Duh
48. Duh
47. Colorado?
45. Idaho?
38. Utah
44. Colorado?
41. Minnesota? North Dakota?
39. Michigan?
40. Duh
37. Duh
34. Duh
46. Duh
28. Texas
18. Louisiana
25. Duh
24. Duh
29. Duh
32. Duh
30. Duh
21. Duh
27. Florida
23. Maine
14. Vermont
9. New Hampshire
6. Massachusetts
11. New York
2.  Pennsylvania

This is too hard, I am stopping now. How many do you know?

Don't Ask Me!

I have just spent four days with someone whose genetic makeup combined with her childhood experiences now require her to be right about everything all the time. It's been exhausting. As a result, my new personal goal is to be wrong about everything. Starting now, I will proudly assert my stupidity, ignorance and total cluelessness about politics, religion, the economy, international relations and anything else that might come up in a conversation between stodgy and didactic adults. I will pretend to know nothing even when I know something. I will play dumb when it comes to the upcoming election. This will be such a relief, since I really am dumb about the upcoming election.

For some people, being right is the most important thing there is. They have to be right about everything, and if they are proven wrong, all hell breaks loose until they find a way to justify their inadequacy. I don't get it--what's so wrong with being wrong, at least some of the time? Why does everyone have to be so smart? This question is just the tip of the iceberg, which consists of the following two gigantic questions:
1. Why do we have to be "happy" all the time?
2. How are we supposed to learn anything if we can't admit we don't know it yet?

From now on, when anyone asks me a question I will give the following answer: "I have no idea." That should cut way down on arguments and, in the long run, help lower my blood pressure.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Democratic Friend

We are hosting a Democrat in our home for a few days, and let me tell you, it's been quite an experience. Carol is a dear friend of long standing who has been living in the Washington, D. C. area for far too long. Outside the Beltway--and Maine is pretty far outside--there are people who actually feel differently than all the people she knows. Two of them are me and my husband, so lately it's been pretty noisy around here. Naturally she loves President Obama, hates Mitt Romney, despises Paul Ryan, loathes FOX News, still fumes over George W. Bush, defends MSNBC and drives a Volvo. She is against voter ID cards, an issue here in Maine at the moment, convinced it's just a Republican ploy to keep the poor and minorities from voting, since of course all Republicans are rich and evil fat cats who hate blacks, Hispanics and the assorted downtrodden. The worst part is that all those stubborn and relentless propaganda-spewing Democrats who dig in their heels and claim that the Republicans are blind to the truth do little to win me over to their way of thinking. Right now she and Mitch are going at it in the kitchen. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...

I can't wait until December.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Do Happy Sheep Make Warmer Sweaters?

Despite the tanking economy, with pundits and politicians bemoaning the Jobless like they once bemoaned the Homeless, for some people money is no object. Today I walked around one of those artsy craft fairs that dot the countryside in late summer and early fall. This one was a two-day affair held on the grounds of the local Audubon Society, so the setting was bucolic and conducive to spending. There were the usual tents, each containing a smiling artist desperate to sell, surrounded by the fruits of his or her labor, or to put it more accurately, hobby. Of course, there was not one thing for sale that I or anyone else needed, just things that might be fun, for a few minutes, to have.

One guy carved strange, human faces into wooden tree trunks, ostensibly to be used as garden decor. They were truly bizarre, and cost between $500 and $800. I asked the artist how long they would last, what with bugs and mildew and rain and snow, since it was after all still a tree trunk and a dead one to boot, and he looked me over carefully before answering, "About 20 years." I'm pretty sure that if I were younger he might have said 30 or 40 years, depending.

There were those stained-glass window hangers depicting turtles and hummingbirds. There were odd rag dolls made out of fabric and feathers, and lots of hand-woven scarves and rugs and place mats, and some lovely cherry dining room chairs that cost $2,000 each. At least eight different jewelers made silver pendants displayed artfully draped over rocks that all, coincidentally, looked exactly alike and cost the same amount. But the most memorable was one woman who made sweaters. They were quite lovely, knitted by hand in bright colors and with interesting and unusual buttons. I admired one in particular, but then said to my friend, "Uh-oh, it's $400!" The weaver overheard me and asked, "Is that a lot or a little?" I said it seemed like a lot, especially since I already own plenty of sweaters, and not one of them had cost anywhere near that much. She then said, too snootily to ever have me as a customer, that many people actually ask how she can sell her things for so little. "After all," she added, "I raised the fibers myself in a positive home environment."

Honestly, I don't really care how happy or well-fed my clothes were before I got them. I'd buy a sweater made from a depressed sheep if it fit well and kept me warm. As I walked away, the sweater lady said, "If you ever have $400, come back and see me." Somehow I doubt I will.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What Drought?

I hear there is a drought that is threatening farmers who live out there to the left of me. Crops are dying. Corn stalks are earless.  Every so often I catch a glimpse of a news story about it. But here in Maine, where I wake up daily to the sound of rain and the smell of mildew and the itching of new mosquito bites I got in the night, it's hard to care. It rains here all the time. And I mean all the time. Like now, of course, since this is a time.

Maine is called "America's Vacationland," and I wonder why. My friends Patsy and Tony return each year to a lovely beach not far from where I live. They stay for a few weeks, and I always feel as if I should apologize because it's always raining when they're here, like it's my fault or something. Which it is not, but still I feel bad, like as a full-time resident I should have some sort of pull to make it stop.

The humidity in Maine is relentless. When it's winter, it turns into snow--lovely, fluffy, fun snow. Snowmen, snowballs, snowshoeing. Hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, warm socks. But in summer, when it's hot, it's just rain. It's always heavy, coming down in torrents, in sheets, in cats and dogs. The doors swell and can neither be opened nor closed. Ditto dresser drawers, kitchen cupboards and windows. Everything is sticky. Gardens rot, flowers droop under the weight of the water, mosquitoes multiply. Puddles, mud, soggy newspapers at the end of the driveway. The brain bulges with mildew and mustiness. Crispness no longer exists as a condition, affecting crackers, cereal and cotton. The wardrobe consists of yellow slickers, umbrellas and galoshes, called Wellies up here. The cats can't go out, so the litter boxes fill, and the humidity combined with that particular odor makes one consider the alternatives. Like maybe not having pets. Or moving to Arizona.

Fueling my discomfort are imbedded memories of an incredible and strange movie directed by the great Peter Weir that I saw many years ago called "The Last Wave," wherein it started raining and never stopped and the world ended that way. Great movie. (Bad ending.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Russian Riot

Three members of the Russian punk band "Pussy Riot" have been sentenced to two years in jail for the crime of hooliganism. Who woulda thunk it? Seems to me, if you're of the "let the punishment fit the crime" school of thought, a slap on the wrist with a wet noodle would have sufficed. Whatever silly thing they did that turned them into hooligans--something about mocking Vladimir Putin inside a Cathedral--must have been fairly innocuous; after all, hooliganism rarely results in death or disfigurement, usually causing only embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance or perhaps a keyed car. But that's the Russians for you--my parents always said they were bad dudes.

Growing up as I did during the Cold War era, I learned that the Ruskies were our mortal enemies. Over dinner, my sister and I were taught the basics every Jewish child needed to know: Hate the Germans, fear the Russians, Santa's a fake and don't eat pork. I would ask what was so bad about the Russians, and couldn't there be a nice little Russian girl name Svetlana somewhere just like me-- only wearing a babushka and picking potatoes-- that I could play with, and they always said, "No! The Russians are bad! Russia is a terrible place to live--it's cold all the time and there are bread lines and the police will lock you up for doing the least little thing." Secretly I scoffed at this, thinking my parents were crazy, but who could blame them after surviving Hitler's reign. Still, those Russian nesting dolls were so cute and I loved all the pretty buildings with those swirly tops. "But you guys love vodka," I pointed out helpfully--surely there was something good about Russia. "Nyet!" they insisted.

And so here we are, all these years later, my mother and father dead and gone, and these three misguided and spunky young Russian women have already been in jail for five months for the crime of "undermining social order," causing many citizens across Europe to stage protests on their behalf. Even President Obama is pissed, and he never gets mad at anyone except a Republican. Who knows--maybe my parents were right about Russia, and maybe about  some other things too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Who Says It's All Good?

There are many expressions that enter the lexicon that mean absolutely nothing but become very popular anyway. Sadly, even though I am sequestered in my art studio most of the time and thus remain safe from contamination, these phrases enter my household through my husband's mouth. Lately, no matter what the situation, Mitch will end a discussion with those three little words, "It's all good." He says this even when it's not all good, and even when the it part is unclear, leaving me to ask, "What's all good?" Often he has no specifics, and will simply reiterate the offending statement. Since "It's all good" has replaced "It is what it is," I suppose I should be happy that at least we have some new nonsense around here. But still, I worry that this widespread insistence that everything be good belies some inherent truths, i.e., war, death, famine, global warming, drought, floods, tornadoes, the resurgence of polio in the Third World and the alarming number of cases of West Nile virus in Dallas.

Not to be a stickler, but in some places and in some cases, it's all bad. Somehow I don't see that phrase catching on. (Smiley face!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thank You, Shirley

I have spent the past week reading the collected works of Shirley Jackson, an author best known for her short story "The Lottery," which anyone who attended high school in this country has certainly read and remembers well. It was creepy and odd and unbelievable, yet we all knew what it meant and understood its inherent truths. (The Holocaust, after all, did happen.) I was surprised to find out that Jackson's other stories are even creepier than the one that made her famous, and it made me wonder how she ever got her work published.

I write and think in a manner that is similar to Jackson, something I never grasped before but found out this week as I read each one in the collection of 26 stories. They sounded like me. But I wrote a story that was similarly creepy earlier this year--in fact, funny thing, I titled it "The Creep"--and it was rejected by every magazine I submitted it to for being too, well, too creepy. I guess back in the 1940s, when Jackson lived and wrote and was published in several popular magazines of the day, it was acceptable to hint at mankind's sinister underbelly. But nowadays, what with people having 789 friends on Facebook and 1,257 followers on Twitter and all the smiley faces and the ecstatic online declarations--"I played my best golf game ever!" or "My sweetie and I celebrated 26 years of blissful marriage!" or "I love my kids, they are simply the best!"-- creepiness has been devalued as a feeling worth sharing.

These days, happiness rules, and admitting to unhappiness is deemed too disturbing. But if you ever tire of "having a nice day" and want to explore the down side of life, read these stories. They describe in detail the unraveling of complacency; the craziness, disassociation, and awfulness of feeling apart from an unfeeling society, that each one of us has surely felt at one time or another.

Pretty Lesbians Are Allowed

Ellen DeGeneres looking great!
Long ago, before I knew much about anything, I thought that women became lesbians because men never asked them out. This wrong thinking arose from the fact that many, if not most, of them back in the day were unattractive, overweight and unfeminine, often with slight mustaches and bad hair. They paid no attention to style, fashion or how they looked. Their whole attitude fairly screamed, "Men hate me so I hate men and here's what I'm doing about it!"

Times sure have changed. Many beautiful women today are lesbians, and they pay a lot of attention to their looks. Most notably in the entertainment world, comedian Ellen DeGeneres is now a spokeswoman for the CoverGirl Simply Ageless makeup line, appearing in print ads and commercials selling lipstick, mascara and foundation. Besides being talented and endearing, Ellen is actually quite pretty, and her wife Portia is also a looker. So now it's okay to be pretty and be a lesbian. You can dress well and be a lesbian too. (I guess Rosie O'Donnell never got that memo.) 

Still, there remains a large group of unattractive women, many of them heterosexual and many of them with mustaches, who  are ignored by the male population and thus hate men. They may or may not be lesbians. They eschew makeup, designer clothing, hair salons--in fact, any attempt to be attractive at all, as if caring about your looks is a bad thing. Yesterday I got involved in an online spat with one of them. The initial argument erupted over her shock and dismay that an interviewer had dared ask Hillary Clinton to name her favorite clothing designer. Mrs. Clinton had allegedly answered, "Would you ask a man that question?" Whether or not she actually said that is moot; what is important is that a group of women on Facebook were incensed! Their leader, who judging from her profile picture was clearly in the I-don't-care-how-I-look group, was literally repulsed by the very question, calling it, "sexist, irrelevant, insulting, demeaning, something best left to the 20th, if not the 19th, century."

Oh please. It is a known fact that Hillary spends a fortune on frocks at several high-end couture houses in New York City. She fusses with her hair like a schoolgirl and bedecks herself with jewels and ruffles like a Hollywood starlet trying to catch the attention of the paparazzi. Obviously, Hillary cares how she looks... so what century is she living in?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just Desserts?

I don't care one bit about Jerry Sandusky. I never heard of him before and I am tired of hearing about him now. I know he abused young boys in showers or something like that, at Penn State or someplace like that, a long time ago or maybe more recently. He is now old and maybe in jail or going to jail soon. This matters to me not one iota, and I am not sure why it matters to anyone other than Mrs. Sandusky, the Sandusky offspring, and of course his young victims. He was only an assistant football coach, after all! Yet it is in the news almost daily, with every new speck of dirt regarding his past indiscretions announced as if we need to know. (He did it on an airplane! He maybe even had nude photos of young boys!)  Okay, he sucks, I get it--enough already with Sandusky.

But some celebrities actually do matter. Those empowered to make or break laws impacting hundreds of thousands of people matter more than a guy who trains big lugs to fight over a little ball in the middle of a stadium, if you ask me. One of those powerful people is Chris Christie, an intelligent lawyer with a winning personality and sharply-honed political instincts who is the current Governor of New Jersey. It has just been announced that he will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming Republican National Convention and is thus out and about on the Romney campaign trail in addition to holding his own important office back home. He is also married and raising four children! It sounds to me--speaking as someone with no political office or even a job flipping burgers, in fact with nowhere special to go and nothing important to do on most days, leaving me lots of time to eat--like Governor Christie has a really busy life. And he is not just tubby or chubby or heavy or overweight or big or hefty or plump, he is someone whose enormous girth assaults you, making it the first thing you notice and the last thing you remember about him. Just when does he find the time to eat so much to stay that fat? I asked my husband this question, and he said, "I guess he always has dessert."

I guess so.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Testing, Testing

It's no wonder our health care costs are sky high. Diagnostic tests are quite popular these days: X-rays, sonograms, ultrasounds, mammograms, bone density, EEGs, EKGs, blood tests, angiography, stress tests, cystoscopy, colonoscopy, hysteroscopy, CT scans, smears, biopsies--name a body part, and chances are there's a test to see if it works at all, if it works correctly, if it's on the brink of failure or if you're already dead.

Last week I went to see an orthopedic surgeon for my bad hip. He suggested I have a test which I declined, thank you very much, because it sounded like A, it would hurt and B, it might not show anything at all and thus be a total waste of money except for all the people who would make money from it, like the radiologist and the technician and the doctor himself, and C, because it would hurt. Then this morning I went to see a gynecologist for a routine checkup and she suggested a couple of tests that I should have just to make sure--after all, you never know, and what if? I rejected one of them because it sounded like A, it would hurt and B, there was another way to get the same information that wouldn't hurt. The doctor herself readily agreed on both counts but sold me on the other test that involves an ultrasound machine and a technician and will cost my insurance company lots of money, which I will undergo because A, it won't hurt and B, what if?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What the Democrats Think Romney Thinks

I am rich and handsome and have led a charmed life. The only thing left for me is to be President of the United States. My platform will be to kill all the old people, starve all the poor, stop paying teachers a living wage and deny health insurance to anyone who makes less than a million dollars a year. I hate all Jews and black people, and will make sure that no more foreigners enter the country except the ones I want to cut my lawn and clean my toilets. Gay people cannot marry and in fact, homosexuality is disgusting and should be illegal. Everyone who wants one should have a gun and shooting at the least provocation will not only be tolerated but expected. Birth control is sacrilegious and no abortions will be allowed under any circumstances. The only people who will pay taxes will be those who cannot afford it, and all the rich people, like me, will never pay a dime.

Gosh, I hope I win!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Finally Footloose

Sometimes I wish I were young, with all my life ahead of me. Then I reflect on what it is to be young these days, and I am relieved that I have my memories, not to mention two feet that still work.

Consider the shoe at right: those boots were definitely not made for walking. But young women today wear such things. I see them hobbling around the streets of Portland, and believe me, that's tough since much of the city has brick and cobblestone sidewalks-- picturesque, yes, but difficult enough to maneuver even in flats on a rainy or snowy day. Yet modern young women are undaunted, often holding on to one another, or their dates, taking baby steps to their next fun destination. Ah, fashion!

What is it that makes people want to look like everyone else, wear what everyone else is wearing, talk like everyone else, and think like everyone else? I admit that I did too for a time. I can remember walking around London alone in a pair of high-heeled boots just to look good, and boy did my feet hurt when I got back to my room. I finally changed into a pair of sneakers and toured the city, figuring that since I didn't know a soul in all of Europe it wouldn't matter if I looked like a schlep. That was in 1976. Now that I'm a "senior" I can look schleppy all the time if I choose, since few people are looking at me anymore. That's just one of the perks of getting older. There are so many more, but I forget. (Not really, but I couldn't resist.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Totally Hip

Even though I still have no idea what I am supposed to be doing here, I've now been around long enough for one of my body parts to wear out. In the past, I'd  simply have to live with the slow disintegration of my hip, or--as the doctor put it--"just limp to death." But in the year 2012 I can go out and get a brand new one. So why aren't I happier about it?

This morning I went to see "the best hip guy in Maine," which I know isn't saying much but he swears that tons of people fly here from all over the country to see him. Anyway, as you can already tell he is pretty funny. As I bombarded him with questions regarding success rates, pain, recovery times, and most of all, the likelihood of a flesh-eating virus eating away at my body following the procedure, he noted drily, "You may have some issues I can't help you with." Ha! After he stopped laughing, he pointed out that the miracle of hip replacement is so commonplace these days that everyone forgets it is basically a miracle. And since there have been no burning bushes in my yard and I have yet to see God or be directed to translate any tablets or go forth and multiply, this hip surgery is maybe the closest I will come, miracle-wise.

Still, it seems wrong and even a tad selfish to get a brand new fake hip installed just for fun, which is really what it would be for. My brave friend Amy is days away from getting a new kidney so she can go on living well, but somehow my hip seems more frivolous than her kidney. On the other hand, a new kidney requires a donor while a hip just requires a part from a factory, no doubt in China, which looks just like it fell off one of those Dyson rolling-ball vacuum cleaners you see advertised on TV all the time. Who of them might be mine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blaming Mitt

That dead lady's husband in the anti-Romney ad has it exactly right: Mitt doesn't care! As he explains in the commercial, which Obama knew nothing about of course since he surely never turns on the TV, the guy's wife died-- okay so she got cancer four years after he lost his job because the steel plant where he worked was losing money and the decision was made to close it, but still--you'd think they would have kept it open just so people could get health insurance. But no-- Romney closed it, out of some misguided allegiance to the investors of Bain Capital where he worked as CEO. Heartless! And now I understand it all too well, because I have recently put on five stubborn pounds and it's all Mitt Romney's fault.

During his years at Bain Capital, Romney also invested in Dunkin' Donuts, Burger King and Domino's Pizza. I have eaten at all those places, all too often in fact, and in the course of doing so I am certain my fat cells grew exponentially. Plus, here in New England there is a Dunkin' Donuts like every few blocks--there is one just 1.3 miles from my house!-- and while I usually only get coffee I have been known to break down and get a glazed stick, or sometimes a plain old-fashioned. Believe me, those just get my carb-cravings started, and before I know it I am eating badly for the rest of the day. But does Mitt care? I am sure he doesn't care one whit that my favorite jeans are now so tight they seem to be cutting off my circulation, or that the little black cocktail dress I bought last winter is now too little.

At least Michelle Obama got potatoes off the menu at elementary schools, or tried. (Screw those potato farmers, they should grow spinach instead.) Thanks for nothing, Mitt!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blogging to the Top

We saw that Julia Childs movie last night--the one where a young woman spends a year of her life cooking every dish in her cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," blogs about it daily, gets lots of readers and then a book contract and then the very movie we were watching was made from it. It was wild---her life was just like mine, except the complete opposite: She wrote her blog for a year and I've been writing mine for five, and she had scads of readers and got tons of comments and made a fortune whereas I have few readers and get hardly any comments and have made not one thin dime. So I thought, okay, maybe I will follow her lead and get a weird job for a year and blog about it and then I can have a book and a movie too! So I went on Craiglist for a few ideas.

I could become a Trackless Train Driver at Maine Mall. How wacky would that be! The ad says, "The train is an electric powered unit that requires attention to detail and excellent driving to operate." The requirements for the position include being good with children, having a clean driving record with no major traffic violations, an associates degree or equivalent, and a positive attitude. I nailed all the requirements except that last one, and while I could fake it for the interview, I wondered if my real attitude would ultimately surface, like in the first few hours of driving the train through the crowds of overweight shoppers out wasting their time and money buying useless crap and stuffing their fat faces with empty calories at the food court. I thought it might, so I moved on.

I could become one of the first Wine Consultants in Maine to represent a certified Napa winery. "Now that the laws have passed you can get started on the ground floor! Wine Consultants serve wine and conduct guided private in-home wine tastings. Partner with our winery now and be trained for our holiday selling season - earn trips to Napa and Montego Bay, Jamaica." That sounded quirky enough, but then I imagined total strangers getting drunk in my house, maybe even passing out or God forbid a million times, throwing up. And the whole "holiday selling season" turned me off since I think that's a bunch of bull, using Jesus as a tool to make money. And I hate flying and I know for a fact there is no train to Jamaica, except of course on the Long Island Railroad, so I rejected that one too.

Then a light bulb fairly exploded in my head: I could get a job just three miles from my house, at L. L. Bean! I could see Americans up close and personal! I could have funny, quirky, wacky experiences with customers from all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico-- right in my own backyard! I could learn what makes people tick, and how to use modern cash registers, and every day I could write about what the most popular items are and who buys guns and how abusive people are with their kids and how many Bean Boots sell per week. Maybe it could be a documentary. Next stop Sundance, or maybe Cannes--who knows? Of course, I would have to wear that awful green staff shirt with the Bean logo, and green is not my best color.

Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Note to Self: Don't Be a Windbag

These toys are made out of windbags. Cute, aren't they?
There is a certain type of writer that is female, usually a mother, who recounts the simpler things in daily life, striving to connect with her readers through their commonality. I hope never to be this type of writer, and if I am or have been in the past, just shoot me. (Not really, it's an expression, but these days, what with easy gun availability and people going off half-cocked, perhaps it should be retired. I'll use it today but never again.)

In our town there is a local newspaper, like local newspapers across the country, chock full of classified advertising and various announcements and notices about things like the Chamber of Commerce or the new school crossing guard. To fill up the space between those ads, local writers are awarded a certain number of column inches in which they may write about anything. Some are political, while others are about lifestyle and family. Years ago I wrote one of those columns for a newspaper in Salt Lake City. It was fun and funny, and full of antics, since at the time my son was young and antic-prone. Now he is grown and there are few if any antics around our house, unless you count the cats or my husband when he gets drunk, a rare occurrence.

Humor is always a good thing, I think, but the local paper here in Maine does not have a humorist; instead they have a lady who aims for being amusing. Her column is named "No Sugar Added," which implies that she is sweet enough all by herself, or something like that, not sure. One of her recent columns was about how socks get lost in the wash and isn't that frustrating and ditto Tupperware lids disappearing in the back of the cupboard. Oh please.

This blog exists to hone my writing and maybe even make a point. Sometimes, on a good day, it's funny; I know it makes me laugh, although not yet in this particular column. I hope I never sink to the level of writing about how socks disappear in the wash, and if I do it had better be wildly hysterical, like Jerry Seinfeld's old stand-up bit on the subject that he did on the Tonight Show back when I was in college. That's how old that bit is. Anyway, if a post ever sucks really bad, I hope someone will tell me.

Shooting Your Mouth Off Hurts Too

Yesterday I threw caution to the wind and left a comment online following a news story. I know this is risky behavior, but hey-- I've done worse in the past. Knowing I wouldn't end up pregnant or in the ER, I went forward. The article headline said "Hillary Clinton swarmed by bees in Malawi." I clicked on the story right away because of my own severe bee allergy and I wanted to see if she was okay. After all, Hillary is just about my age, and except for her recent decision to mimic the TV news babes with the long hair and the big earrings and the shiny blouses, I relate to her on a personal level. So I read the article and it turned out that she was not stung, in fact was not even near a bee. The bees showed up at the airport where she was boarding a plane, and her handlers hurried Clinton inside so she would not get stung.

As a reader who had fallen for their trap, I was annoyed. First of all, there was no news whatsoever. A truer headline would have been, "Bees come to Malawi airport where Hillary Clinton was," but how many people would have clicked on that? And on the Internet, clicks are money.  To register my dismay, I wrote the following: So Clinton was not stung even by one bee, yet they chose a headline to suggest she was. Those editors at AOL are too much! This elicited the following comment from a reader who called himself Bite: Who gives a crap douchebag???? Enjoy your mindless crap and leave the rest of us alone!

Really, was that necessary? Am I a douchebag? Was my comment really mindless crap? And why are strangers so mean to each other? I must add that my comment got 274 "thumbs up" responses, so other readers must have felt wronged also. That's nice, but still--I worry about Bite. What's he so pissed about? Is he the next rampaging shooter? Also, it was Yahoo, not AOL. (This time.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tightening Up the Borscht Belt

I read recently in the New York Times that the Catskills are being re-branded. Apparently their outdated Borscht Belt image is detrimental, bringing to mind not soaring mountains made by God on the third day, where one can hike, ski, fish, hunt and camp, but instead clumps of old Jews shvitzing in Adirondack chairs. Who knew mountains could get a bad reputation? So before every hotel, motel, and restaurant in the area goes bankrupt, a public relations firm has been hired and is sponsoring a slogan contest to "rethink possible."  So far there have been 3,714 entrants, but nothing too compelling has surfaced.

The problem, of course, is that nobody is being honest. They've said things like "The Catskills: Always in Season" or "The Catskills: Peaks of Perfection" or "Find Yourself in the Catskills." Yawn, and not really the point anyway. I believe any one of my suggestions is superior and gets the deed done:
1. The Catskills: Shorter Lift Lines (Jews Don't Ski)
2. The Catskills: Sunrise With a Shmear
3. The Catskills: Just Like Manhattan, Only Higher
4. The Catskills: Jews Are People Too
5. The Catskills: What's Not to Love?