Saturday, March 30, 2013

Smiling Through Adversity

A Haitian smile is hard to beat.
It's crazy how we worry about things that never materialize. I think I'll stop doing that.

After several months of debating the wisdom of my decision to visit Haiti, fearing for my health and safety, I returned after one week there no worse for the wear. I did not contract malaria or cholera or dengue fever. In fact, not only did I return in perfect health, I never even saw a mosquito. (Today, back in Maine for just one day, I already got two bites.) I was neither robbed nor raped but instead enjoyed great companionship, was hugged a lot, and received more than a few kisses on the cheek. I met many Haitians, and even fell in love with a couple of them. And honestly, for what is billed as "The Poorest Nation in the Western Hemisphere," it was surprisingly upscale. Except for the noisy air conditioner in my hotel room that necessitated the nightly decision of being kept awake either by the ungodly clatter it emitted or by the oppressive heat that enveloped me when I turned it off for some peace and quiet, the whole place seemed pretty normal, if a tad hot. And while the menu is a little heavy on the rice and beans, the people seem a whole lot happier than they do here in the States. This is just a guess, but I don't think too many of them take antidepressants.

All in all, living in Haiti struck me as a far superior to living in Beverly Hills, for a lot of reasons. I'd rather die from cholera than a botched boob job any day.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Hopes for Haiti

Although I have not yet departed for Haiti, I'm already being confronted with a situation well outside my comfort zone, so I guess my life is beginning since "life begins just outside your comfort zone," at least according to a popular greeting card. Six weeks ago I was given a prescription for an anti-malaria drug which I began taking yesterday. Just one pill and I was sick: overcome with exhaustion, I all but passed out for several hours. I woke up to dizziness, chills, dry mouth, blurry vision and a headache. Who knows, maybe malaria is better.

Determined to avoid another bout of those onerous side effects, I tossed the pills, which was annoying since the 14 of them cost $90 bucks and insurance wouldn't pay. Anyway, this morning I called the doctor who prescribed them. And the doc who sent me to the doc who prescribed them. Each time I spent about 20 minutes on hold listening to elevator music, interrupted every so often by a recorded voice telling me how important my call was to them. Finally a receptionist answered, who passed me along to a nurse who said she would find a doctor who would call me back very soon. That was two hours ago. So far, nothing.

So off I go, armed not with anti-malaria pills but with hope: I hope the DEET I slather on won't poison me. I hope my plane doesn't crash, I hope I don't fall under a voodoo spell. I hope I don't get sick, I hope I don't get robbed, I hope I don't get lost, I hope my bus doesn't slide down a muddy hillside, I hope I make it back home so that I can tell my doctor he sucks and find a new one. I hope leaving this country for a week will improve my mood. I hope all the people I know who are currently unhappy will get happier in my absence. I hope it's not too hot there, I hope there's no earthquake, I hope it doesn't rain all the time. I hope I lose ten pounds. In fact, I am counting on it.

 Okay, now I'm really gone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jurassic Park, Here I Come

Illustration by Lila Prap
I've been working on a new book, a semi-autobiographical novel. It starts this way: "As Andrea Rouda awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, she found herself transformed in her bed into a giant dinosaur." Of course, Kafka had it easier, since cockroaches are so much smaller and Gregor Samsa could scurry around without breaking things. I've got my work cut out for me, that's for sure.

My transformation started a few years ago with my rejection of  Twitter. Until then, I was hip, I was cool, I was with it. I still knew what was what. New things did not scare me, I was ready for the challenge. (Internet-savvy and totally up-to-speed computer-wise from my early newspaper days at The Washington Star, little did I know way back then that those clunky big boxes were the precursors to my eventual downfall.) But Twitter left me cold. I tried it a few times and thought it dumb, meaningless, a waste of time, a flash in the pan. I sure was wrong, flash-in-the-pan wise, since, as everyone knows, Twitter now rules the universe with its mighty all-seeing, all-knowing #. (Hate the hashtag!)

After discarding many a birthday iPod (so tinny, so annoying stuck inside my ears) I was on my way to total obsolescence. Next I passed on getting a "smart phone," choosing to stick with my little AT&T flip phone. It's a beautiful thing: You call, it rings, we talk, that's good. My husband, a recognized digital guru, shakes his head in pity whenever he sees it. But the real problem is that I don't know what an "app" is. Not really. I do intellectually, but I'm stymied as to how someone can actually earn millions designing apps. I am scratching my head trying to come up with one I might want, even if I had somewhere to put it. Without a smart phone, I am heading nowhere fast.

Now it's official: I am prehistoric. Besides having no tattoos or piercings, except for those two in my ears that are totally tiny and symmetrical and through which you cannot drive a Buick, I also own no earphones. (They are called earbuds now, I know, but I still don't have any.) I don't have a Netflix account, I don't stream anything. I don't watch TV shows on Hulu. I don't want to watch movies intended to be projected onto a huge screen on something the size of my own palm. I won't read a book on a glowing screen made of plastic, no matter how portable it is. In fact, all I want to do, really, is go outside to my yard and eat leaves off the treetops and maybe grab some of those wild blackberries that grow way out in the back for dessert.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Slow Down

I saw the following online today: Underneath the headline, "Who has time for this?" was a photo of a plate full of bacon, eggs, toast and fruit. The caption read, "Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it's often hard to find healthy options that work with your family's busy schedule. Sam Talbot suggests homemade breakfast bars and smoothies as easy and portable ways to get the nutrients you need, and offers two great recipes to try here."

There's another possible solution, Sam: Get up earlier.

Why is everyone so busy? And what are they all doing? Is it helping? Besides, how long does it take to crack a couple of eggs, push down the toaster and fry up some bacon? Ten minutes, and another ten to eat it?

I am not busy at all. Today I have to pay some bills, go to the ATT store to fix my phone, buy sugar for an apple pie, bake the pie, and make salad to bring to dinner at six. (It is now nine in the morning.) Even people who have jobs--I'm not naming names but you know who you are--still have time to play Words With Friends. And the President of the United States of America is so not-busy that he often plays plays golf, while his wife The First Lady is so not-busy she appears on daytime TV talk shows--when she's not getting her hair done or posing for Vogue magazine or trying on designer clothes or handing out Oscars. Is that the "busy" we are talking about--manicures and pedicures, going to the gym, yoga class, playing golf and the like? It seems to me that no matter how busy you are, you could find the time to carefully prepare and then consume the very food that will keep you alive. Is there anything more important than that?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Parental Guidance Suggested

My trip to Haiti at the end of this week cannot come soon enough. Things are getting crazy around here, and a dose of poverty with a side of traveler's diarrhea might actually be refreshing. How could I say such a thing, you wonder?

After mistakenly leaving his old phone in a New York City cab, Mitch had to get an iPhone5. Unlike his last phone, this one has a woman inside. Her name is Siri. She's there to do his bidding. Testing her limits, Mitch asked her to blow him. She said, "I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Then he asked, "Are you pretty?" She said, "I can't answer that." He said, "Why can't you tell me if you're pretty?" She said, "Oh stop." He said, "I think you're pretty." She said, blushing, "Oh Mitch, stop." He said, "I have a crush on you." She said, "I don't understand 'I have a crush on you,' but I can search the web for it." He said, "Would you like to have dinner with me?" She said, "I found five dinner restaurants; two of them are fairly close to you." He said, "Would you go out with me?" She said, "This is about you, not me." Then he asked her something really gross, involving the words "suck" and "dick," and she texted back: "Oooh." Not sure if that was a yes or a no.

Anyway, I'm not worried because she sounds like an idiot. I mean really, who ever calls it a dinner restaurant?

Fat, Dumb and Rich

Well, it happened again. I woke up happy, read the paper and got bummed out. Not from war or political unrest, but from the breathtaking waste of money that goes on daily among the rich. This particular article has convinced me that we should tax the hell out of them. Maybe even break into their homes in the Hamptons and actually steal things. Not sure, that may be unconstitutional. Anyway, the rich must be saved from themselves before they sink even lower into a cesspool of stupidity, wherein their brains will turn to compete mush. Sadly, it might be too late for some of the richest, or the dumbest, or the fattest who are rich and dumb too.

Apparently there is a woman in New York City who charges $1,000 an hour to tell you not to eat cookies or ice cream or fudge, but instead to eat fiber and fruit and veggies. She sells "packages" of 10 visits for $10,000, and they are selling like hotcakes--or rather, like fiber crackers. A registered dietician, age 40, her clients love her because she is thin! And she has a beautiful office! It's all white, with touches of apple green, which is a very in color right now! And they can call her or text her right from their table at any restaurant they are in and she will tell them what to order, since they are so stupid they can't figure that out. (Oy.) Her published books explain it all, but still many people choose to see her, spending $600 for a half-hour consultation. After all, she's so pretty! And so thin! Well you are in luck--I will tell you how to lose weight and be healthy right here, right now, and for free:

DON'T Eat: Cakes, cookies, pies, candy, ice cream, pasta, pizza, noodles, gin and tonics, Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Slurpees, Chitos, Doritos, Fritos, dips, creamy sauces, French fries, canned soups and fast food. DO Eat: Fruits, nuts, vegetables, skinless chicken, eggs, lean meats, yams, beans, plain Greek yogurt, high-fiber breads and crackers and cereals, coffee, tea, dark chocolate in moderation, 6 oz. red wine a day.

If you are going out to a fancy restaurant, just send me a copy of their menu--most places post them online--and I will tell you what to order. Questions?  Email me at No charge.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Going Nowhere Fast

This means Om, whatever that means.
I don't know why it has taken me so long to find my true calling, but in my sixth decade of life on this earth I finally have. Born into a Jewish family, I ultimately rejected all of it, except of course the food; I'm no idiot. After being a groupie turned hippie turned phony New York intellectual turned California vegetarian, I moved back to D.C. and became a Working Mother Inside the Beltway. I rubbed elbows with politicians while worrying about my son's ear infections. My dreams were even busier than my waking hours. Admittedly, I was lost. It took a four-year stint--yesterday was the anniversary of our moving here--in the Maine Woods to find out I'm a Buddhist! Who knew?

Cinching the deal is a book I am currently reading called, "Being Nobody, Going Nowhere." It's like the author met me and then came up with that title. I love it. It's teaching me how to just be, and be here, and be here now. And not worry. All good stuff. I might sound sarcastic but I am 100% serious. It's all about how the mind needs a rest just like the body. Imagine if you never got any sleep; you couldn't function. Well, according to this book's author, Ayya Khema--she's dead now--the same thing applies to the mind. Worry about the future or regrets about the past rob us of any chance for our minds to relax. At least they do me. Which is why my brain is so exhausted, with almost nothing to show for all its churning.

It's time to embrace my nobodyness. No joke, I'm getting one of those pillows and maybe even a little Shiva statue for my meditation room. What else am I doing? Nothing. Which according to this lady is just what I should be doing. I love this philosophy. Finally, there's something I just might excel at. (At which I just might excel, but who talks like that?)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hoping for the Best

One of my worst habits is reading the paper each morning. The news here at home is bleak and seems to worsen daily. Thanks to that "free healthcare" lauded in the cheesy bill of goods Obama hawked to get himself re-elected, medical costs are skyrocketing. Because of this, fewer young people are choosing to go to med school, so eventually getting an appointment with an MD will become almost impossible. Scared off by high insurance fees, the morass of reimbursements and increasing pressure from the government to get with their program, many doctors are abandoning the idea of private practice and joining hospitals as salaried employees, and we all know what that means: less time to see patients because of all the time spent at Head Nurse Nancy's birthday party or that wine and cheese thing up on the 6th floor for that retiring anesthesiologist.

And it's not just here that things suck; global rifts and tensions abound. Name a country and chances are there's a war going on or they're in financial distress or their evil dictator is stockpiling nuclear weapons or there's rioting in the streets or someone is imposing sanctions on them or they hate America. That last one is pretty common. (Hey, I don't write the news, I just report it.) Naturally all this unrest and negativity is a drag, further poisoning our own well with new sitcoms that somehow get written and manage to find sponsors, despite those inane laugh tracks-- like we're supposed to believe anyone is laughing anymore at anything. (Okay, "The Hangover" is still funny, even after repeated viewings; that chicken in the hotel room always cracks me up.)

Exactly one week from today I will leave the cozy but nonetheless boring confines of rural Maine and venture forth into a world fraught with unrest, disease, terror and despair. Luckily I will only be there a couple of hours, after which I will leave Boston and fly to Florida, do an overnight in a hotel, and then journey onward to my final destination: Haiti. Once safely off U.S. soil, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I'm looking forward to it, although I am packing a week's worth of power bars and a bottle of antibiotics just in case. It will be scary, but at least I won't be seeing those headlines in the Wall Street Journal every morning, so I might start to relax. I just hope Mitch remembers to water my plants.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Huffington Post Sinks Even Lower

It's hard to even spoof the Huffington Post. The online website must surely be staffed by insane, rabid chimpanzees who have been given steroids, are deprived of sleep and have had their scruples removed. (I personally worked directly under their Features Editor years ago and he never had any scruples back then, so it's no surprise.)

Every day they manage to sink to a new low. They take a perfectly normal thing--a picture, a situation--and attach some malicious, salacious or shocking headline to it just to get you to click and read the story, and it turns out to be nothing! Just some ordinary fluff about a perfectly boring thing that happened to your average Joe. Often it's less than nothing: it's noth. Here are some examples of how the sick and twisted Huffington Posters would caption the following normal photos to grab your attention:


You Won't believe What This Father/Son Duo Just Did!
No Rules at Interracial Teen Farm
Big House Cat Has to Be Put Down

Jodi and the Pope

There is a new Pope and yet things are exactly the same around our house; you'd think with all the fuss everyone made about the old one resigning and the voting and the black smoke and the white smoke and the bells that when they got a new one things would be different. But no. Maybe for the Catholics or the Argentinians, but here in my little corner of the world, it's business as usual; news makers come and news makers go, and little changes.

For the past few weeks, or maybe months, a young woman named Jodi Arias has been on trial for the multiple stabbing, after shooting and almost decapitating, of her boyfriend. That's pretty much all I've got. I have stumbled upon pictures of the twosome in the media, and I always turn away before any details permeate my brain and possibly show up in a bad dream. Yet there are people on Facebook who love it, watch it, discuss it as eagerly as back in the day when O.J. killed or did not kill his wife Nicole and her boyfriend or not boyfriend, Ron Goldman. Back then I was all ears and fairly glued to the TV. There was Mark Fuhrmann, the hunky cop who found the glove and was discredited for having once said the N-word. And Marcia Clark with her curly hair and sober attorney Chris Darden and outlandish Johnny Cochran with his rhyming antics, and Judge Ito and that moronic surfer-dude Kato...those were good times.

Maybe I'm getting too old to care about the lives of total strangers who are criminally insane. Heck, I don't even care about the new Pope. What's wrong with me?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fat and Skinny Gays

Since the sequester began, our government has opted to spend one and a half million dollars on a study to ascertain why lesbians are fatter than gay men. Apparently, 75% of all lesbians are obese while gay men are by far thinner than the heterosexual male population, which is full of fatties as we all know. People are actually studying this right now, and trying to figure out why and if gender plays a part.

I think I know the answer, but I certainly won't say it here for free. I wonder just who in the Obama administration I should contact to get in on that deal.

Rhoda is Dying, and So Are You

 Harper as Rhoda: Funny, sexy, still breathing.
The actress who played the wise-cracking, funny and beloved Rhoda Morgenstern on TV's "Mary Tyler Moore Show" years ago is back in the news, but not for a good thing. She's dying, and like any minute now. Diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, Valerie Harper was told eight months ago that she could be dead in as little as three months. So she's due. But aren't we all. Death has long been one of my favorite subjects, mostly because it happens to everyone, yet it remains shrouded in mystery. Name a famous person who embodies talent, success, and having it all: They'll die too. So why can't we all be grown-ups about it and face the truth, instead of pretending we have unlimited time to squander at salad bars in shopping malls across the country?

Harper is 73 now, and looks ten years younger. She's perky and breezy on the subject of her impending demise, and when you hear her speak of it--she has done a round of interviews since the news went public--it's hard to believe she really feels that way--full of enthusiasm for living well and dying well too, advising all of us who have yet to be diagnosed that we should embrace the moment, not miss our life, blah blah--you know it all already. Still, it's good to remember and think about fully: you will die and so will everyone else you know. Look around. See that person sitting over there? Dead someday. And that one over there? Also dead someday.

Many people fear death, which is dumb since it's ahead of us for our entire lives, poisoning the well so to speak. To them I say, take Valerie's advice and get over it.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Death by Soda

I am so annoyed. My husband is on a business trip in New York City. He wanted me to go with him, since he had a perfectly nice hotel room in mid-town paid for by the client. I could have looked up some old friends and taken in a few of the sights, maybe a museum or two. But I declined, since that ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces was to go into effect today. What a drag--I'd have to keep going back to get more Cokes or Slurpees or Sprites or whatever, and that seemed like a big time waster. Then I read in today's paper that the ban was overturned by a New York state supreme court justice. So I could have had one of those jumbo buckets of sludge after all!

Mayor Bloomberg is totally pissed too. "People are dying every day," he said at a news conference last night. "This is not a joke. This is about real lives." Tell me about it. Now I'm stuck here in boring Maine when I could have been downing large sodas all over the Big Apple. And Bloomberg is wrong, by the way, "people" are not dying--one person died, a lady in New Zealand, and that was back in 2010. The 30-year-old woman suffered a heart attack that was attributed to her habit of drinking more than two gallons of Coke a day, which she did for a really long time. At the time of her death she had already lost most of her teeth, and no doubt all of her sense of humor, so she would not have enjoyed this blog post at all, since I'm just kidding; I actually think soda is gross and disgusting and that Coca-Cola is made by the Devil.

I have never personally consumed a Coke, although I may have swallowed a few sips of it to cure nausea when I was a child; we kept a bottle in the cupboard, flat and warm, for that very reason. All sodas were forbidden in our house when I was growing up. It might have been a kosher thing. Whatever the reason, we drank seltzer only, a 12-bottle case of which was delivered each week by--who else?--the Seltzer Man. He came without fail, just like the Milk Man and the guy who brought the eggs, who at least had a name: it was Artie the Egg Man. I think Artie and my mother were fooling around, but that's another story for another time. In her later years my mother got hooked on Fresca, a carbonated beverage that tasted like windshield wiper fluid with a dash of lime. Or lemon, those two are pretty close. She drank it often, and I'm pretty sure that's how she got Alzheimer's.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Facebook Fantasy World

In Facebook World, we air our disparate concerns with no thought of anyone else: 
Bananas represent slavery in the Third World. 
Drink smoothies to be healthy. 
Update your status to respect those who died of cancer. 
Woo hoo--I'm a Grandma--again!
Check out my new manicure, white dots on blue polish!!!!!!!
Those Republicans suck.
Watch this great video of dancing bunnies, you'll love it!
Fewer households own guns.
Pema Chodron this, Pema Chodron that...
Here's what I cooked for dinner last night. Yummy!!!!
My son's in surgery, he has a broken foot. :(
My cat died.
Here's me and my wife at a ball game.
I got a new puppy, isn't he cute?
 I did 75 burpees yesterday.
I love Michelle's new bangs, don't you?
Read my blog, it's funny. (Trust me.)

When really we should all be concerned that the new 28-year-old leader of North Korea, whose brain will not be fully formed for another two years, hates America and is eager to test his new nuclear toys.

Goldstone National Park

I've tried to ignore politics ever since my guy lost, but despite my best efforts to remain ignorant, little snippets of news seep in. Today, for example, I tuned in to the Weather Channel for the "Local on the 8's" segment and learned that as part of the belt-tightening we'll all have to do in order to pay off our million-trillion-dollar debt to everyone else in the world, the president has opted to close the bathrooms in Yellowstone National Park. From now on we'll have to remember to "go" before we go, or eventually they'll have to change the name of the park.

The other thing I learned is that Senator Rand Paul's recent 13-hour filibuster got Obama to agree that killing Americans on American soil with remote control missiles, a.k.a. drones, something that actually happened in the not-too-distant past, is not nice and he won't do it anymore. That is a great relief, and makes me think perhaps I have judged the president too harshly; maybe he's not so bad after all. Still, it's a shame about the bathrooms. Having been to Yellowstone several times, I remember they came in quite handy on those long hikes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blind as a Snake?

I've barely been awake an hour and I'm already freaked out about two things. That's a record, even for me. First and worst, I discovered a recently-shed snakeskin lying on the kitchen floor. Second, when I screamed about it and called my husband to share in my disgust and horror, he scoffed, picking it up and saying, "It's not a snakeskin, it's a piece of dust." As he brought it closer and was able to actually see the thing, he then flung it away and shouted in agreement that yes indeed, it was a snakeskin.

Not sure which is more disturbing: The fact that a larger-than-the-skin-we-found snake is slithering around our house, or that my husband is blind as a bat and refuses to wear glasses. Okay, so he wears glasses sometimes, the drugstore kind, in fact there are like 42 pairs of them all over the house. In every drawer, in his briefcase, in the car, in my purse. Just never on his face. Which is where most people who need glasses keep them.

Mitch assured me it's just a garden snake, which makes me feel the tiniest bit better. But what about his eyesight?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's Time for a Papal Makeover

That hat must weigh a ton.
Today's Wall Street Journal poses the question to six journalists: What to look for in a new Pope? Writer Peggy Noonan, who obviously came up empty, thinks that he should be someone who smiles a lot, holds his head up and has a lot of joy, and, "not come forward with the sad, bent posture of one who knows the world is in ruins and only the facades remain." (Had a bad day, Peggy?) He should also do a lot of housecleaning, not simply dusting the actual Vatican but throwing out all the sexually deviant priests and cardinals and whatever other perverts are hiding under all those cloaks and robes. Other people say other things. The article concludes by inviting readers to share their own hopes, and promises to print a few of the responses in the coming days.

It's called the Style Bible, after all.
Hmm, what do I want from the new Pope? Since I, like many people, have never for even a split-second thought about the Pope--until of course you see him in those ballet slippers and the hats--I have no answer and will not be writing anything to that esteemed paper. But just between you and me, I'm thinking a general makeover is in order for his Holiness.

If he wants to be taken seriously by the next generation, or any generation really, he's got to ditch that outlandish attire. For one thing, it's high time he retired the giant hats; they serve no purpose, and they certainly can't be any fun to wear, forget sitting behind in the movies. (In fact, they may be major contributors to his being "bent over" in the first place; those things look heavy.) And what's with the embroidered robes? Why dress like that? This is 2013, and the man lives in Italy for god's sake--no pun intended--the undisputed seat of high fashion. Why not get some hand-made Italian suits and a couple dozen pairs of Ferragamo loafers? He can afford it, that's for sure. And here's a tip: A subscription to GQ could only help.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Days of Future Past

The newest smash hit book series that will be grabbing all of us soon at the movies is called "Wool." It's about a post-apocalyptic society where the survivors live in an underground silo. Their lives are a living hell. Outside the silo is certain death. Anyway, post-apocalyptic things are quite popular. Another crowd-pleaser from a few years back was "The Hunger Games," also set in a future that looked like the past. Apparently people love to imagine us all getting blown to smithereens by some unknown force like Kim Jong Un. The survivors are often dressed in animal skins and still have plenty to eat, and nobody needs a root canal or has a hernia or high blood pressure. It's interesting that disease seems to vanish along with all of our modern conveniences in these stories. That makes it easier.

Another March day in Maine.....
Here in Maine, it snowed again last night. Now the streets and roads and footpaths are covered with more of the stuff, making walking difficult if not hazardous. Which means that my Cabin Fever will return today. In an effort to use my time indoors wisely, I am going to try to come up with an idea for a blockbuster novel that will spell financial freedom for me and my progeny, if I ever have any, beside the one I already have that is. I've got the time and I've got the inclination. Now all I need is an idea. I'm thinking maybe my survivors will all live in underwater canyons and feed off of plankton and brine fish. I just need to work out how everyone can breathe underwater and not drown. Possibly the explosion caused people to develop gills. A minor point. Another idea is about how it snows all the time and people are forced to stay indoors, tormenting one another and themselves. They start talking to their pets who become ever more demanding. They make a lot of vegetable soup and play computer games and lose muscle tone from lack of outdoor activity. I'm thinking of calling it "Cotton," you know, playing off the white of the snow. But that's just the working title.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

50 Shades of Distracted Driving

What is this world coming to? Or rather, to what is this world coming? Today I ran into a friend who I consider to be intelligent, erudite and well-read, someone I respect and admire and yes, even learn from. (From whom I learn? Grammar is so annoying sometimes.) She abashedly--I assume you can do something abashedly since you can do something unabashedly, but am not 100% sure, kind of like the whole "disgruntled/gruntled" thing--anyway, she abashedly admitted as to how she's recently been listening to Fifty Shades of Grey on her car radio driving to and from work. Several things came to mind immediately:
1. Oh please.
2. Gag me with a spoon.
3. How can you listen to an erotic novel full of detailed sex scenes while you're driving? I mean, wouldn't that be sort of distracting? Especially here in Maine, what with all the water and the bridges and the harbors at every turn; anything could happen. (See photo.)

Anyway, she knows who she is and I certainly will not name her here, and she barely reads this ever so she'll never know how disappointed I am in her. But hey, the author of those trashy novels, three of which led the New York Times bestseller list when last I looked, should be commended for roping in a member of the (until now) intelligentsia.

With Friends Like These...

The older I get, the fewer friends I have. (No, it's not because they are dying off; I've only lost two close friends to Death so far.) It's a mystery to me, but not such a terrible turn of events. Friends do sap one's time and energy, and often for no good reason. When I think back to how many hours I wasted and how many pounds I added sitting in my friend Mary's car outside of Montgomery Donuts in Bethesda back in the 70s and 80s, I'm stunned. It was always her idea, and since she was skinny it was no problem for her to chow down on several of the tasty gems, literally the best donuts I have ever had except for those honey-wheats at the old Chock Full o'Nuts in New York City. Anyway, we were having such a good time doing absolutely nothing, and we were, after all, best friends!

Today, much older and wiser, and thankfully thinner, I don't hang out much with people who add little of value. My friends now are all people I respect, admire, and learn from. And the ones who don't much like me, and vice versa, fall away naturally with almost no effort  on either side. That's a good thing.

Still, I wonder whatever happened to Mary, and who she's force-feeding today.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Let's Try "L'Chaim"

It's a well-known fact among my closest associates: I can't smoke pot anymore. (Something to do with my blood pressure.) Since I quit cigarettes six years ago, won't mess with those antidepressants you see advertised that cause horrible things even worse than depression, am immune to the effects of caffeine and find stuffing myself with high-calorie treats nauseating, I am without buffers. This is not a good situation. Admit it: Life is tough without some sort of buffer.

Take, for example, that young Brooklyn couple on the way to the hospital, full of excitement with the promise of a new baby arriving in minutes, and they're killed in a car crash. The driver responsible lives, flees, and remains at large. I'm still crying over that one, and I didn't even know them.

Like Dr. Scott Peck wrote, "Life is difficult," and there's nothing like a good Chianti to brighten things up. (That last part is mine.) So I am now going with a glass of wine mid-day. After all, they drink at lunch in Italy, and nobody looks askance. Let's see if that helps.

Just Go Without Me

The Future is coming, but I'm not going--not if I have to have an "app" to get there. (At the very least, couldn't it be called an application? What's the hurry?) For starters, I have a dumb phone, and I like it just fine. It rings when someone wants to talk to me. But without an iPhone, it's clear that I am slipping further and further behind. My husband is literally flabbergasted that I don't have one, which I quite enjoy watching since hardly anyone gets flabbergasted in these sophisticated times.

This morning's paper has an article about a woman who quit her job as a nurse and now makes a lot more money selling clothing online through an iPhone app. "Now I make better money faster," she says. The heck with sick people. In fact, sick people be damned, The Future has no room for them. It belongs to the young and the strong and the digitally connected. I am none of those things. I tweeted a few times and was bored, but at least I understood the concept. But then the # hashtag showed up. Huh? My son, 25 and extremely digital, explained it to me several times. Sort of like football, I still don't get it: Why would I want to know what everyone else is saying about anything, except maybe a tornado headed my way?

Despite all our advances, like cars that tell you where to go and robots that defuse bombs  and vacuum your living room and frozen sperm you can use later, there's a deadly new superbug--even worse than the last one, which was really bad--on the rise in U.S. hospitals that cannot be stopped! Once it enters your bloodstream, there's a 50% chance you will die. Funny thing: it's spread by hospital workers not washing their hands between patients. I guess there's no app for personal hygiene. Someone should work on that.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Airing Dirty Laundry

The possible jacket cover for my blockbuster novel.
What a dilemma. I've been working on a novel loosely based on my family's dirty laundry, and there's quite a pile of it, let me tell you. But I don't want to embarrass any of the people who are still living, and so I thought maybe I should come up with a pseudonym under which to publish--one that totally hides my identity but somehow lets people know it's me. Because if nobody knows I wrote it, I won't get any of the credit, and where's the fun in that? Plus, if it goes to film and becomes a smash hit starring that new Jennifer Lawrence girl who fell on the stairs when she went up to claim her Oscar-- my cousin Brian who knows all about movies says she is great, even though I don't get it--then once again, I would have to remain anonymous. So far I have come up with Andrea Bouda, Adrienne Doodah, Sandra Mooda and Alexandria Hooha, admittedly all decent enough, but still I worry people might guess my real name. So I'm just not going to bother, even though, in the dysfunctional department, my family is definitely in the top 1%. Here are just a few of the characters:

Aunt Ilene: The manipulating matriarch who buys herself furs, diamonds, fast cars and fine collectibles, subsists on ice cream and cake, and hates everyone except for her dead brother Teddie and her dead housemaid Hester. She dotes on her thousand-dollar cats, showering them with affection but, oddly enough, never cleaning their litter box. She only eats off of paper plates, despite owning many sets of fine bone china she keeps hidden away for "company," even though there is never any company because she has no friends and her family hates her. (She had a friend once, a kindly woman named Mona who died under suspicious circumstances in Ilene's horse barn.)

Cousin Luanne: Ilene's horribly selfish daughter who may or may not have been adopted as she was found in a basket on the front stoop in infancy. After a spoiled childhood, she moves to a remote island and never returns, until the death of her "parents" when she swoops in and raids the family estate, taking everything--remember all the furs and jewelry and fine collectibles?-- she can fit into her VW bus, and changing her mother's will while Ilene is lying in a coma so that none of the money goes to her sweet and loving brother, Ryan, who donated a kidney at the end to save his father and a lung to save his mother, but they died anyway. Luanne didn't care.

Saltah and Peppa: Sisters from the old country, each one shorter than the other, who are trapped in a love-hate relationship on Queens Boulevard. Saltah, a mean-spirited and critical witch, is a great cook, and so people flock to her meager two-room apartment for her brisket, coleslaw, stuffed turkey, ruggelah, kreplach, matzoh ball soup, gefilte fish, roasted chicken, let's not forget the noodle kugel and the kasha varnishkes and the potato pancakes at Hanukkah, and those unbelievable sugar cookies and of course the apple cake, but Peppa is the angelic one who everyone really likes better and always has those fruity jelly candies in a silver dish with a cut-glass domed top on the coffee table, but she can hardly boil water. They battle each Passover for seder attendees. Saltah always wins.

Hinda: A born-again, hippie lunatic who despises anyone who is thinner, richer, or smarter than she is, which is everyone in the world, most especially her younger sister Mandrea. Hinda goes from job to job, working as a manicurist, telephone operator, telemarketer, school bus driver, taxi driver, sales clerk, prison guard and shoe shine girl in Grand Central Station. She gives away all her wages to charity while she steals money for drugs from her mother's purse, father's pants pockets and sister's offshore bank accounts.

You get the idea. It would have been great, though.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Friend Remembers: Van Cliburn's Piano

I'm sick of complaining. Yes, there is much to complain about; it's a never-ending fount, a constant source of material, a deep well from which to draw. Enough already. But then, what--sappy vignettes about the beauty of the sunset, the loveliness of a full moon, a baby's first steps? Gag. Besides, there is so much of that out there already. One rarely encounters anything fresh except in science journals, which are mostly incomprehensible to the lay person. Which is why I am using this space to reprint an article written by a wonderful and talented friend of mine, Patricia Dane Rogers. The former Washington Post reporter recently recounted a childhood memory which was printed in that esteemed paper just a few days ago, on the occasion of the death of the famed pianist Van Cliburn. In case you missed it, here it is; a true story and one unlike any other. As usual, Patsy writes eloquently. Enjoy!

"It was midnight in our New York apartment. My father was in the next room, dying of cancer, when suddenly I heard the magical sounds of Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto coming from the living room. That’s where I found the great Van Cliburn, playing our rental piano in the dark, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. This wasn’t his first visit. He had come by the night before in white tie and tails, just so he could serenade my father.

My parents, who were serious music lovers, had met him at our family doctor’s office soon after he’d won the Tchaikovsky medal in the spring of 1958. They knew each other socially, which is why, the following winter, when it became clear to him that my father was dying, Cliburn asked whether they owned a piano. When they said no, he told them if they rented one, he would come and play. He was going to be on the road a few weeks but planned to be home around Valentine’s Day. Beside themselves with expectations, they gave him the address and a key to the apartment and made a date.

I have no idea how they got that enormous Steinway into our tiny 10th-floor pied-a-terre, but Cliburn, fresh from a more formal concert, arrived at the appointed hour and began to play. The audience included my father, in his bed, my mother, me and a handful of awestruck classmates on the living room floor and, unbeknownst to us until she burst into the room in her bathrobe, our next-door neighbor, the widow of theater impresario Lee Shubert. (A former showgirl, she had been listening to the music through her bedroom closet with a champagne glass to her ear.) I don’t know how any of us got through the next day with our feet on the ground, but somehow, we just did.

For his second visit, which was unannounced and unexpected, Cliburn let himself in after we had gone to bed. He accompanied himself, so to speak, humming the orchestral parts of that signature Rachmaninoff. He stayed until the sun came up, ending with Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which he sang as well as played. I’d like to think my father heard, but he never woke up again to say.

Half a century, nearly a lifetime later, I still think it was the most perfect of exits imaginable."

Fear of Florida

Franklin Delano Roosevelt must have been a heck of a great guy to get elected as president four times, but still, he was so wrong about one thing in particular. His famous assertion that "there is nothing to fear but fear itself," elaborating further about a "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror," seems so naive in light of certain developments, including but not limited to terrorist attacks, tsunamis and Sarah Palin holding public office. These days, just when we adjust to the ordinary, run-of-the-mill horrors we might encounter at any moment, a newer, more horrible one shows up.

Like my old shrink always said, even though phobias are considered to be a mental disorder, having rational fears is not a bad thing. My fear of bee stings--I could die--is quite respectable. But scanning a list of recognized phobias, some of them do seem a tad nutty, like leukophobia, the fear of the color white, genuphobia, the fear of knees, and ephibiphobia, the fear of teenagers. (Okay, so that last one isn't all that crazy.)

Now I have a new fear that has not yet been named but certainly should be: Fear of going to bed and while you are sleeping having your entire bedroom swallowed up by a sinkhole. This is exactly what happened in suburban Tampa just last week, killing a 36-year-old landscaper named Jeff Bush. That is surely not what people mean when they say they hope to die at home in their own bed.

Surprisingly, the risk of sinkholes is fairly routine in Florida. Added to the movie "Jaws," the 1.2 million alligators in the canals and those ubiquitous, miniature crates of orange gumballs that say, "Greetings from Florida!" for sale everywhere, it's a wonder Disney World is still the world's most-visited entertainment resort. Now that's scary.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Naked Truth

Last week, lots of people tuned in to the Oscars telecast. If you did not, you missed a pretty funny bit: a song called "We Saw Your Boobs," in which many Hollywood starlets who have bared their breasts in the movies were cited. While certainly not side-splitting, it was amusing and lighthearted in spirit. As someone in possession of two breasts myself, I was not at all offended, however, many other women were, among them former film star Jane Fonda. She demanded to know why there was no similar outing of all the actors who have shown their penises in films, and cited the song as a putdown of women; nay, a hateful slur against all womankind! Many other women have since voiced their agreement.

I started thinking about her complaint, and could not come up with one legitimate, non-porn movie in which I saw an actor's penis. Not even in "The Full Monty," which was all about men and their nakedness as a source of income for a group of five impoverished British blokes. I decided this is because breasts are more attractive body parts than penises, and more people will pay to see them. But is there another reason?

When I was an art student at NYU in the late 1960s, our life drawing class always had live nude models of both sexes. One day the professor announced that a new law had been passed in the state, and that male models would no longer be permitted to pose nude, but would have to cover their genitalia. Females could still pose completely nude. I found that odd, and almost all the way to offensive, but nobody raised an eyebrow. In class the next day, our male model came out wearing a bright red bow tied around his penis. I wonder what Jane would say to that.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Taken By a Photograph

Daisy, circa 1995
This morning I went looking for a specific old photo of a friend, and so I made the mistake of wading through all my prehistoric photo albums, back from when you got prints of pictures and kept them in leather albums with pages covered in plastic. You know--back in the Dinosaur Age. That was one mistake I won't make again in a hurry. Everyone looked so young and beautiful and smooth. Lots of dead people were alive and smiling; in fact, almost everyone was smiling. My son was hugging me. My hair was long and lustrous and blonde, and then black, and then red, and then blonde again, and of course streaked and frosted and in a ponytail or braids, and I had bangs or I didn't, but it was definitely there, front and center. (I still have hair, but it's old too, so I keep it short and quiet.)

Daisy today, crankier.
Even just a few years ago, I looked younger. Oh right, just a few years ago I was younger. Oddly enough, the snapshot I found of my cat Daisy, who is now 18, as a teeny kitten, was striking in that she looks exactly the same today, only bigger. And yes, crankier. But still a beauty.

I hope I come back as a cat in my next life.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Can You Run in Those?

I saw a picture of a shoe the other day that made me gasp in horror. (See photo.) It's called a 7" Ballet Shoe High Heel, and it's real. You can buy a pair anywhere, and lots of women do. I find that scary. Okay, so I read Ms. Magazine maybe twice and was never what you would call a feminist-- I needed my bra-- but really, is this necessary?

Here's what I don't get. Women teeter around on high heels, trying to make themselves look taller or to make their legs look thinner or in some way appear sexier to men. The goal is to get a man. Then they get the man and they marry the man and then they are the wife and they start wearing sneakers all the time and the husbands leer at the women wearing the high heels. And half the time, they actually abandon the wife in the sneakers for the sexy woman in the high heels. Perhaps if manufacturers stopped making high heels, the divorce rate would plummet. And women would have fewer bunions and less foot pain and lower back pain. Who knows, it could really turn things around for society in general; you know, level the playing field. 

Those shoes just seem wrong somehow.