Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sticky Predicament

Four too few, six too many.....
Once upon a time, if you met someone at an event in another city and the two of you hit it off, chances are that would be that. Okay, you could send a card or a letter, or maybe even call, but that took guts, which were in shorter supply back then. But now you can just Google that person, or friend him on Facebook or email him and that person cannot run, cannot hide, cannot escape the all-seeing, all-knowing Interweb. And the more successful the person has been in the past, or the more prolific, the more you can uncover about what he does, who he knows and how he lives. It's certainly a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff, saving you from years of unnecessary interaction with someone who may actually be wrong for you as a friend.

But you meet people all the time, and even many you don't like one bit send you friend requests on Facebook. What should you do? You confirm. At least I confirm, as long as I know who the person is. It means nothing but it makes people feel good, and prosperous and popular, like that matters in the end which it does not, but few of us think about the end when we are safely ensconced in the middle.

It's tricky, though, because having too many Facebook friends is a turn-off. Like, just who the heck do you think you are with those thousands of friends--a rock star? Or worse, a politician? What you want is not too few, but not too many. Like prunes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why Flying Sucks

Okay, so it's a tired old subject, but it always delivers. Two days ago I flew the unfriendly skies and once again met Man's Folly head-on in the form of the TSA cops who keep us all safe from 4-ounce bottles of shampoo. In light of recent bombings in Boston, specifically those two crazed individuals who had eluded the law for years despite being on CIA and FBI watch lists, I was in no mood for their childish shenanigans implying that I might be a terrorist. But there I was anyway, stripping down to almost my skivvies, along with the rest of the traveling public.

The thing that bugged me the most, besides them "confiscating" and "discarding" the unopened bottle of water they found in my purse, was how seriously those folks go about their dumb business. The woman in charge of me fairly barked that she had to "inspect" what was in my hand--it was my boarding pass and they specifically had instructed me to hold onto it. Then she had to "clear some suspicious areas"--namely, feel the zipper on my cargo pants and fondle my breast underneath the piece of jewelry on the shirt covering it. She could see it was a decorative pin, but she had to feel it anyway. All this nonsense was performed after I had stood inside the giant x-ray machine holding my hands over my head and with both unshod feet squarely inside the big yellow footmarks, having my internal organs nuked. Naturally there was nary a smile on anyone's face; instead the mood was as somber as if I were about to unload a magazine of ammo into the crowd.

I offered to just take off all my clothes and in fact started to, which caused the lady to shriek, "that's not necessary!" Still, she never cracked a smile or let on that the whole business is ridiculous. Only I knew that deep inside my carry-on bag was a really big bottle of hair conditioner, way over the legal limit.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spongy Brain Syndrome

Scene outside the window in my mind.
Either I have seen too many movies for my own good, or my brain is too spongy. Whatever the cause, I now am stuck with certain scenes in my head that I'd do a lot better without. Like right now, I am relaxing in a seventh floor hotel room overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It's a lovely view, to say the least. But as I look out at the breaking waves and the beautiful golf course visible below, I am reminded of the tsunami scene in The Impossible where everything goes all to hell in a matter of seconds, and I keep expecting that to happen, even though there has not been an earthquake anywhere today to the best of my knowledge. But that's exactly what happened in the movie--nobody knew there had been a earthquake thousands of miles away, and then BOOM. (Those golfers don't stand a chance.) What's really dumb is that tsunamis don't really get higher than the third floor....

Similarly, every time I back my car out of my driveway I think of the scene in Adaptation where Chris Cooper backs out and crashes into a truck that's barreling along and loses his front teeth and also kills his wife and aunt and uncle. Cooper got an Oscar for his performance, and I get to see it again and again every time I back out of a driveway. I wonder if he does too.

Those were a couple of memorable scenes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Wait, Wait....Don't Tell Me

If it were not for the Internet, few of us would know 95% of what we know about the lives of others. Instead we would be blissfully ignorant, without a clue that insanity, hatred, bad taste, poor grammar, and stupid pet tricks are rampant among the masses. Imagine waking up in the morning and just having to make breakfast for yourself and your family, plus the cows and goats and chickens if you live on a farm, and not hear a word about bombs and terrorists. I want that life.

But I'm not living that life; I'm plugged in. Like Neo in the Matrix, I get up and log on and it starts--the barrage of extraneous information, like how to apply mascara so it doesn't streak in the rain, or where to get the best cheeseburger in Kansas City, or whose skeletal remains were found in a shallow grave 30 miles from nowhere overnight, or how the incensed mother of the bombers claims they were framed and that the whole thing was staged, complete with fake blood and the citizens of Boston all bit players.

There's so much I wish I didn't know. If you see me, please don't tell me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hoping for the Best

Some of the local fauna of Amelia Island.
I last visited Amelia Island 26 years ago. I am going again tomorrow, and staying at the very same hotel, which is apparently newly renovated and now offering Segway tours of the property. (Note to self: do not do that!) At the time I was three months pregnant and my father had just died, and what I remember most about that particular trip is crying. On the beach, in the hotel, at the pool, it was boo-hoo. While it was indeed a lovely setting in which to cry, I automatically think of the whole place as a bummer. This is unfair to the Amelia Island Chamber of Commerce, so I welcome the opportunity to revise my bad impression.

This time I am not pregnant and I am well over my father's death, so it should be a lot better. Still, there will be a few of those "rubber chicken" dinners, since I am accompanying my husband on what is for him a business trip. Besides that, I am girding myself for the fact that Florida, while close, is not Haiti, which means it could be the same old, same old if I'm not careful, and that is just about the worst thing that can happen after you have endured the airport security lines and the creepy flight stuck inside an airborne cattle car for like five hours, and with a change of planes too. (Up and down twice in one day.) To pretend I am somewhere interesting and foreign, I will avoid all media, ingest only weird foods and strange drinks, and imagine that the people on the Segways are exotic animals with wheels for feet. At the very least, I don't need to get any shots.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Clearing the Air

I once asked a lawyer friend what modern would life would be like without so many of his ilk, and he said right out: "People would fight a lot less." If nothing else, lawyers sure do roil the waters.

They also obfuscate--one of my favorite words even though it means a bad thing--at every turn. Right now, as the lilylivered punk who callously wrecked so many lives last week recovers in the hospital, a crack team of defense lawyers is gearing up to keep his head from rolling. Since he could not afford his own lawyer one was assigned, and by all reports she is "tenacious and wise," with an admirable track record. One of the most experienced and successful public defenders in the country, Miriam Conrad heads the Federal Public Defender Office in Boston. FYI, this particular case is right up her alley; in 2001, she defended "shoe bomber" Richard Reid for trying to blow up a Paris-to-Miami jetliner.

I beseech Ms. Conrad to quit defending scumbags and instead let the younger of the two terrorist brothers receive the justice he deserves: to have a few of his own limbs blown off. This would be an appropriately updated version of the old "eye-for-an-eye" Code of Hammurabi, which dates back to 1772 BC. In fact, I say let him keep both his eyes and watch the whole thing. That sounds unduly cruel, I know--and he's such a good-looking young man! But many of those people he injured so severely, just because they showed up in Boston that day, are also young and good-looking. Where is their defense team?

Blah Blah Blah Ginger

Gary Larson's best cartoon.
I declare war on the following words: amazing, awesome, unbelievable, fantastic and brilliant. Unless of course whatever it is one is describing actually is any of those things, which is highly unlikely. Chances are if something were truly amazing, the person would not be hanging around Facebook saying how amazing it is but would instead be calling CNN or FOX or People magazine to arrange an interview and become the next big thing with an amazing story.

The English language is going to Hell in a handbasket, whatever that means. I guess a hand basket is a basket one holds in one's hands, like maybe the one Little Red Riding Hood took to Granny's house. I personally have never seen anyone carrying a handbasket, and if they had one, would they necessarily be on their way to Hell? Are there a lot of these baskets in Hell? Also, is hand basket one word or two?

I am streaming my consciousness here today because A, this is my blog and B, it doesn't matter if I have 212 readers one day and 89 the next, or if it's about something pithy and profound or dumb and annoying--nothing changes in my life. So maybe today will be an 89 day; big deal. My son has gone off to live alone in the woods of Northern Maine for several months and I am worried/excited/nervous about it. I hope he doesn't starve/get rickets/ meet up with an axe murderer, because let me tell you, he brought along an axe that could do the job.

I need more coffee.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Waiting for Spring

It's still winter where I live. Well, maybe not winter, but certainly not spring. There are no flowers yet, although I did see the tip of a yellow daffodil poking out of the ground yesterday. Waiting for warmer weather, I read. In case you missed it the first time I printed it in this space, here is a wonderful poem by Billy Collins: 

I Chop Some Parsley While Listening To Art Blakey's Version Of "Three Blind Mice"

And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Richie Havens, Free At Last

I never cared for him personally, not being much of a folkie, but still I'm surprised at the lack of news concerning the death of Richie Havens, a world-famous singer and songwriter who was as big as you can get back in the sixties. He opened Woodstock, for crying out loud. Seems like it might be somewhere in the news besides my morning Wall Street Journal, which means he must have died yesterday. Havens is most famous for his song, "Motherless Child," more popularly known as "Freedom."

How odd that a newspaper actually brought me some news.

Joke of the Day

A man in Scotland walks into a bar. 
He approaches a couple of women and asks, "Say, are you two ladies from Scotland?"
 One replies, "No, we're Wales."
"Oh, I'm sorry--are you two whales from Scotland?"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Print Is So Last Week

As a former magazine and newspaper art director, writer and illustrator, I have long bemoaned the coming obsolescence of print media. But guess what--it's no longer coming, it's here. The indisputable evidence arrived in my mail today in the form of The Week, a periodical that promises to deliver "All You Need to Know About Everything That Matters." The latest issue's cover photo is of several bloodied spectators at the scene of the Boston Marathon bombings (yawn), and carries the headline: Who did this? It goes on: "As a shocked city grieves, investigators hunt for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing."

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. But the funniest part is that the magazine is dated April 26, 2013, which is four days from today. Apparently they are quite confident that they're ahead of the curve. I can only hope that amid all the heads rolling around their editorial offices, someone notices my subscription cancellation.

How Will You Die?

ON the right-hand side of my Facebook page--or sometimes on the left depending on how busy they are over there--is an ad for an app called "How Will You Die?" I never click on it because to be honest, I love a good surprise. Besides, it's awfully personal, don't you agree? When I was growing up, death was whispered about. You certainly could not say "cancer" out loud lest you come down with it yourself. Dignified people died in private, of various diseases. Surely there were still public deaths caused by murders and earthquakes and such, but mostly it was done under wraps.

Not anymore. Today death is all the rage, and what with all the surveillance cameras and new weaponry, the sky's the limit and we get to see it all! A casual glance at the morning paper illustrates a few of the nutty ways people are meeting their maker circa 2013:

Page One: Last week's Boston Marathon bombings left five dead, including the perp and the MIT cop.

Page 2: Five snowboarders were killed in a deadly avalanche in the Rockies. Driving the point home, the article states it was the "deadliest avalanche in 50 years" in Colorado, bringing the number of dead this ski season from avalanches to 24.

In Arizona, five people died in a crashed van during a pursuit by the U.S. Border Patrol agents. Which is not too bad, actually, when you consider that there were 22 people in the van at the time.

Page 3: An explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas killed 14.

Page 7: Two deaths in Indiana and one in Missouri were caused by flash flooding from heavy rains and melting snow in those states.

Page 12: We hit the jackpot for the week, with an earthquake that killed 186 at the top of the page. Below the fold we learn that fighting between Nigeria's military and Islamic extremists murdered at least 185, including civilians, using rocket-propelled grenades and machine-guns.

That's 423 dead and I have not even finished breakfast. I hope I don't die any of those ways, but if I had to choose I'd go with the explosion at the fertilizer plant. It seems like it would be over in a flash, whereas that avalanche probably was really cold for at least a few minutes at the very end.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Bunch of Know-nothings

Call a doctor for any erection that looks like these.
Almost too many years ago to admit, I made my solo art debut at a tony art gallery in Washington, DC's Georgetown neighborhood. It was there that I first understood that the public is rife with fools.

On display were my colored pencil drawings, many of them floral in nature. I had a certain technique--gimmick, you might say--of employing a particular template to create the leaves or fronds on plants. I used it again and again.

At the show's opening I cruised the crowd, filled with many strangers among my friends. I overheard two people I did not know discussing the relative merits of my work. One of them, a man, stated unequivocally that the drawings were quite erotic in nature, deeming my leaves phallic symbols.  I intervened, suggesting they might simply be leaves. The woman responded, laughingly, that they were "obviously penises."

So it is with the media, who today are all over the two Russian brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings. They were this, they were that. They felt this way, they felt that way. No really, they were definitely this and definitely that. But one of them is dead, and the other cannot speak! We all know nothing of their motives or personalities. And that's a fact.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Leaving Footprints

As the Boston police pulled out all the stops and chased a 19-year-old fugitive around town all day yesterday, finally cornering him in a suburban backyard and bringing the manhunt to a welcome end around midnight, I spent much of the day gluing beads onto a picture frame. Although some might see that as a waste of time, the process is quite therapeutic and the end result pleasing. At the very least I can look at it and hold it in my hand and say, "I did this today," which is more than one can say after a day spent shopping or biking or whatever. I can also take a picture of it, which I have done and posted here.

Today I will not make a beaded picture frame, but instead a big pot of chicken noodle soup with matzo balls. It's raining and chilly here, and my visiting son, who is about to leave on another adventure for several months, is exhibiting early signs of a cold. While making soup is certainly fun, after the chopping and the boiling and the mixing and the stirring, it's done and eaten, gone forever, leaving no evidence of my labor. Which is why I glue beads onto picture frames and throw paint on canvas or paste tiny pieces of paper onto tables and chairs, proving I was here once.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Bad Case of the Jitters

This morning, like every morning in South Freeport, all is quiet. You can hear the muffled toots of the early train from Boston passing through like it does twice a day. It's a place where chickens have the right of way, crossing the road for those mysterious reasons known only to them, without fear of being flattened by an 18-wheeler, or any wheeler for that matter. Any reasonable person would be relaxed. I would be, if only I could stay away from the TV, or not read the newspaper, or never turn on my computer. But since I do all three of those things every day, I now have what has been recently diagnosed by a likable fellow who I pay to hear my problems as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (Our health insurance plan does not cover Nervous Wreck.)

Apparently, unlike me and Bill Clinton, one is not really supposed to feel everyone else's pain. In my case, an overactive imagination has brought me to this sorry state. I wish I could turn it off, but the brain thinks what it wants to think despite our best intentions. For example, each time I walk through the village, a truly picturesque setting that could play any small New England seaside village in any movie, I am struck anew by its idyllic ambiance. As I pass the playground at the charming L'Ecole Francaise du Maine, a tony private school for folks who want to immerse their children in the French culture and language--don't ask me why--and hear the excited shrieks of the happy youngsters running around in their bright colors, I can't help but flash on the chaos that would ensue if a lone gunman went on a shooting spree right here in my little town.

I imagine the hungry media hordes flooding the town, with me an eyewitness being interviewed by the likes of Anderson Cooper and Soledad O'Brien. Who knows--if it were really bad, maybe Greta would come. (I like Greta, she seems so honest and trustworthy.) Naturally the thought freaks me out, but hey--it could happen....

Thank god for Lorazepam.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

America the Violent

It's now been three days since the Boston bombings, and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel. Waking up this morning, it was not the first thing I thought of. Apparently life goes on, at least for all of us who weren't there. Soon enough we'll forget it completely and move on, no doubt distracted by newer and even more deadly disasters, until next year's Boston Marathon when we say, "Oh yeah, remember last year when there were those horrible bombs?" Just like we forgot the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Aurora movie theater, and Oklahoma City, and the Gabby Giffords thing, and the several colleges--their names escape me now--where a lone gunman ran loose, killing randomly, for hours. And of course, Columbine.

Face it: America's a violent place. There are lots of murders all the time, like in Detroit and Chicago and DC. And anyone can get a gun, it's easy as pie. Actually, it's easier than pie, since baking a pie takes a couple of hours and buying a gun, at least when it's a private sale or at a gun show, can be accomplished in as little as five or ten minutes. And about those background checks many are clamoring for: I'm confused as to how that would even help, since not all psychopaths have a record of wrongdoing that would raise a red flag. Besides, we now have fresh proof of that new adage, "Guns don't kill people, bombs do."

So I stay holed up here in Maine, and avoid walks in the woods during hunting season. Sure it's boring sometimes, but there are no bullets grazing my forehead, and that makes it nice.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Evils of the Net

Just like I never had any intention of doing any harm to that most obnoxious of all newscasters, Keith Olbermann, who is now grazing in the fields over at the Glue Factory, I am not going to do anything to hurt anyone, even if I knew how, over at the offices of Facebook. But instead of all those poor folks at the Boston Marathon getting bomb-blasted two days ago, I'm simply thinking out loud here, but maybe...it would be okay if...well, I'll just stop there before I say something I'll regret later.

So I am still on Facebook because I am still addicted to playing Words With Friends, and so I still see those annoying ads on the right side of the page. Today, for the first time ever, I clicked on one! It was for a video game called The Great Gatsby, and since I am a writer and since that is my favorite book, with Ethan Frome a close second, I was naturally incensed at the idea of the greatest novel ever written at least in this country being abused for such a trivial pursuit, and I wondered exactly how they did it. And guess what? There was no such game. My click took me to some gaming website, and I searched all over it repeatedly, and there was never any Great Gatsby game. Now my cookies are all over the place and I will probably start getting phone calls in the middle of the night about video games.

Damn Facebook!

Say What You Mean, Dagmar

JC started the whole "fingers crossed" thing.
Last month I traveled to Haiti. In preparation, I received several inoculations to protect myself against disease. I started taking malaria pills beforehand but they made me sick, so I went ahead without them, relying instead on good old-fashioned insect repellent. I returned in perfect health and feeling empowered to battle our normal, non-life-threatening skeeters here at home.

Which is why it was so funny, nay downright hysterical, when an old friend and neighbor who recently moved away used the lowly mosquito as the reason my husband and I surely could not come for a visit--just two hours north. "They're really bad here, you wouldn't like it," were her exact words. And lest I think it's a temporary problem, she explained helpfully, "They're here until at least the end of June." Then she made it all better by saying that if she were ever in our neck of the woods, she might call and maybe we could get together.

Honesty is the best policy in all things, except of course when it's related to how much you dislike your son's girlfriend. Other than that, please uncross your fingers and tell me outright that you are sick of me and my opinions, or whatever it is--but don't say it's because the bugs are biting.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


It's bad enough. Really. Just the plain fact that two bombs were exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line is sufficient to bum us all out, so do we really need the constant updates from the doctors on the shrapnel embedded in the soft tissue, or the ten amputations that happened on the spot, or the nine different people who will need to undergo five more surgeries this week, or that the dead little boy's sister lost her leg, or that those two brothers watching the race each lost one of theirs? All the while, as we hear the horror, the crawl at the bottom of the screen ironically reports that an earthquake in Iran killed 40 people, which apparently is no big deal.

You get my point. The media is out of control. They are sick with frenzy, foaming at the mouth, and climbing all over each other to deliver the gory details of yesterday's horrendous event. They think we can't get our fill, but based on my conversations with four or five different friends today, we've all heard enough. Just go find the person or persons responsible, and when there's some news about that, let us know. Until then, shut up already.

Raising the False Flag

Just 24 hours ago, thousands of people were all excited to run in or simply watch the Boston Marathon up close. Now three of those people are dead, and many others are being treated in area hospitals. At least one runner went from top physical condition to having no legs at all. In an instant, his life was destroyed, at least temporarily. Nobody knows who did it, but there is plenty of speculation involving all the usual suspects. One in particular is a  young Saudi national; could he be that missing 20th Bomber? But the darkest suggestion by far is that the whole thing was an inside job, a.k.a. "false flag attack," orchestrated by our very own government to keep us in line.

Those nutty conspiracy theorists are at it again! What has me stymied is how anyone who believes that could remain in this country. While I disdain much of what goes on here, including but not limited to the unceasing commercialism, the empty rhetoric of our politicians, the growing stupidity of our youth and the hideous girth of the citizenry, I have never suspected that the guys at the top were out to murder me. If I ever do, I am outta here, and quick.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's All in How You See It

Are you sad? Lonely? Friendless? Always tired? Do you hate yourself? If you can answer yes to one or more of those questions, there's good news afoot: Mental illness is an illness, just like cancer, an arthritic hip or herpes. And just like complaining about them won't help any of those conditions, it won't help depression. Instead, opt for a cure; there are many now available.

Lots of people have lots of problems, and solutions await those who are motivated. Fat people go on diets. Handicapped people use crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs. Yet many people who suffer from ongoing depression think nothing of staying that way forever, thus placing a heavy burden on all those around them to make a difference in their lives. To change your perspective and see things in a better light, call a shrink, a priest, a teacher or whatever, but get some therapy.

How to Do Anything

Surely all sports fans remember Cal Ripken, Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles. While he played great baseball for 21 years, he is best known for breaking Lou Gehrig's long-standing record for consecutive games played. (That's a lot better than Lou Gehrig himself, who is best remembered for the horrifying disease he contracted and which was named for him.) Anyway, besides whatever else Ripken accomplished on the diamond over the years, the fact that he showed up for  2,632 consecutive games made him a superstar, with fans naming his record-breaking game the "Most Memorable Moment" in Major League Baseball history.

Explaining his own success in the movie industry, Woody Allen said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Since I've written this blog every day for six years with few exceptions, even when I've apparently had absolutely nothing of merit to say, I guess I'm 80% successful--at least as a blogger, which is not saying much but is saying something. If I could just apply that same perseverance to dieting, I'd be a lot thinner by now.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Filling Time or Killing Time?

If only I had a passel of grandchildren I'd have what to do with myself. A full-time job or a burning devotion to a cause would accomplish the same thing; alas, I have neither. What I do have is a husband who works hard enough to cover expenses, so I'm all set, except for one thing: filling my days with meaningful, absorbing, beneficial and, if I'm lucky, enjoyable activities, so at the end I won't feel like I was simply killing time.

At a certain age, the options narrow. The world is no longer your oyster, it's more like your empty clam shell. If you've got the money, there's always travel. I tried this recently and while I certainly enjoyed myself, I also experienced the nagging feeling that I'm too jaded to run around with a bunch of instant friends who soon enough would be strangers again, in a foreign land in which I play no part. On the plus side, if life is one big fishing expedition I did manage to land one or two keepers among all the minnows I had to toss back, and it's possible there's more travel ahead, if only to see them again. That's at least something.

Still, here I am back home with me, and we're facing the same quandary. And while a new dawn offers the hope of change, so far nothing has: The newspaper showed up at the end of the driveway, I made some coffee and fed the cats, and with no outstanding lottery tickets, that won't happen. I wonder if other people feel this way, especially the ones with grandchildren.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pay What You Weigh

Imagine if you had to step on a scale at the box office and pay extra for a seat at the movies, a ball game or the theater. It's possible that if being fat led directly to being poor--or worse, embarrassed in public by having your weight announced aloud--obesity would be avoided at all costs, no pun intended.

According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, many of the natives of the tiny Pacific Island of Samoa are obese. That fact has recently prompted Samoa Air to base its passenger's fares on their weight. I think that's a great idea, and long overdue. After all, our capitalist society is based on making money, having money and spending money, so why not use that driver to fuel a more healthful society?  Of course most people would freak out at this, citing personal freedoms, the right to choose, etc., instead of admitting it's because pizza and cookies and ice cream are irresistible.

Certainly nobody chooses to be fat, it's just that it's so hard to not be unless you really work at it, and most people, especially fat ones, don't want to work that hard. I count myself among those very people--I'm still trying to lose the same flabby ten pounds I've been toting for the last five years, or is it the same five pounds for the last ten years. I do okay until there's Key Lime Pie on the dessert menu. Lately, it's been very popular in area restaurants.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Notes on Achieving Success

Painting by Mark Grotjahn
Re art:
Make it ugly. Aim for disgusting. Include half-eaten faces, spiders, dripping blood and severed limbs here and there. Think "The Scream" meets Keith Haring. Add Elmer's glue and cut paper to paint. Make it look like someone threw up on canvas.

Re writing: 
Eliminate all subject matter. No punctuation or wrong punctuation, bad spelling. Try for a lot of typos. Write about sick and twisted perverts having sex, or vampires.

Re blog:
It doesn't matter, it's a blog.

Here Comes Summer

Illustration by Gordon Studer
Summer's coming and I don't like it one bit. Okay, it's not snowing anymore, and that's a good thing. Still, unlike October which ushers in the festivities of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Year's, we are entering a bleak time of year filled with holidays that are not fun at all. The best we can do is hunker down under a mattress and wait it out.

Things start going south in just four days when we have to pay our government for the right to live here or else get beaten up by their goons. It's a lot like the Mafia except it affects everyone, not just Italians in New Jersey. And it's not just the Feds; everyone wants a piece of you. For example, despite having shelled out a boatload of cash to Uncle Sam over the last year, we learned that we still owe the state of Illinois three dollars for having driven through there a few times. (Just kidding, it was more than a few times.) Good thing we have an accountant; I shudder to think of the consequences had that debt gone undiscovered.

Immediately after the horror of April 15, Mother's Day looms. Along with a steady barrage of ads for pearl necklaces, red roses, chocolate truffles, cell phones and The Olive Garden come memories of all those mothers long dead. Naturally tears, recrimination and guilt play a big part in the celebrations. Cheesy greeting cards for "The World's Greatest Mom" are distributed to the worthy, or so I hear. A month later comes Father's Day, a lesser day for sure but still a heyday for merchants hawking golf attire, beer mugs, electric shavers and boxer shorts imprinted with the words "#1 Dad." Again, the greeting cards, the restaurants, the memories. Then suddenly it's Memorial Day, a somber holiday honoring dead warriors from past battles that kicks off a summer of bug bites, sunburn and accidental drownings with the traditional traffic jams and highway deaths, followed by Fourth of July fireworks in the middle and Labor Day at the end, both highlighted by more of the same.

I do love anchovy pizza and piano music any time of year.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Right to Bare Arms

 How and when did this happen?
I'm no expert but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that guns definitely kill people. Many otherwise intelligent folks, including leading politicians and backwoods types, insist that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," but I'm pretty sure it's the gun in certain situations. Like when someone shoots a bullet directly at another person's head and that person drops to the floor bleeding and subsequently dies, my money's on the gun.

Anyway, I ask all those NRA gun-toters who are so bent on everyone's alleged "Constitutional right to bear arms," what if our forefathers simply spelled it wrong and were actually talking about the right to go sleeveless in summer? Certainly that is something many people want, although not everyone should be permitted to do so--not without at least a background check to determine how their arms got that way and who is ultimately responsible. I say let's do something to limit this popular and often nauseating trend, as summer is fast approaching. After all, what's a government for if it doesn't protect its citizenry?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'll Never Tell

A recent post in this space earned me the following comment from a reader: "TMI!" Surprised, since I rarely divulge anything personal to anyone, let alone strangers on the Internet, I read over the offending few paragraphs closely to see what might have been the cause of concern. The only things that were remotely personal were my saying that I had written in the past about smoking pot and baking marijuana brownies, thus admitting to both, and the fact that my husband is 11 years younger and is still "a hot guy." TMI? If that still means "too much unpleasant, private information I didn't need to know," I'm confused.

Three things: First, this is a blog, and it's my blog, so we are starting there. Next, the number of people who have seen me either smoke pot or eat marijuana brownies in the past would be way more than 3.5 million if we are counting Woodstock attendees, so it's not like it's a secret. And last, anyone who has met my husband or even seen him from a distance knows he is sort of "a hunk," the result of a diligent workout routine, careful diet and natural good looks--sorry, but also no secret. So what, exactly, did I divulge that was so personal that would cause someone to shout "TMI!"?

Not sure, but let me state clearly and for the record: Relax--anything I divulge here is so impersonal as to be written by someone else. I might tell a lot of stories, but none of the ones that matter are ever heard by more than a select few, if anyone at all. And perhaps the greatest thing about the human brain is that, at least up til now, nobody can see inside it, so contrary to the popular saying, "You're reading my mind," nobody can.

What Are Unfriends For?

Of all the bad things Facebook hath wrought, the degradation of the concept of friendship tops the list. This morning, having awoken in a sour mood owing to my brother-in-law's recent accident and a particularly obnoxious waitress at dinner out with my family last night, I took a bold step and "unfriended" those Facebook "friends" I cannot count on for anything. Naturally this leaves me woefully depleted in the Friends department, a statistic which, oddly enough, pops up when you search someone's name, as if that very fact is the most important thing about them. I suppose it's better than if it said Weight 139, but just barely.

Amassing tons of friends on Facebook is now a real goal for many people! What really irks me is when someone I have never met in the flesh becomes my "friend," or worse, two "friends" of mine who have never met become "friends" with one another because they both know me. This is quite common.

I want so much to hone my list to those people who would give me blood but I am addicted to playing Words With Friends, and while a couple of my opponents might actually come through with a pint, I'd rather bleed to death and play the game than not play at all. Still, seeking honesty in all my relationships, and armed with a cold heart that has grown colder thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, I went through my Friends list and deleted anyone who A, I have never met or B, presents themselves falsely (is full of crap) or C, has not posted in months or D, refers to people as "my peeps."

I feel better.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Non Sequitur

I will spare you the details, but let it suffice that I recently loaned someone money and learned the truth of the adage, "neither a borrower nor a lender be." Having never been a borrower I can't speak from experience, but if it's as unsatisfying as being a lender, I'll certainly never do it. The problem is this: One wants to feel appreciated, one wants to be thanked appropriately, and one wants to be repaid pronto. (None of this applies to relatives, by the way, so any of my kin out there reading this, relax and fugggedaboutit.) If one of those conditions--or God forbid all three--are missing, you are left feeling like you actually did something bad even though you did something good, which is crazy. Maybe it's got to do with the balance of power and having the upper hand or having no hand at all, or feeling inferior or superior, who knows, not sure, but it's a bad business all around.

That being said, I was sad to read about the death of Annette Funicello, the former superstar who catapulted to fame and fortune on the back of Mickey Mouse during the 1950s and 60s. I personally never liked Annette--her eyebrows were just too damn heavy, and when she went on to star in all those beach party movies, her breasts were ridiculously pointy and torpedo-like. But it was fun saying her name--we called her Annette Fullofjello--and I was sorry she suffered from such a debilitating illness for the last part of her life. She seemed like she was a very sweet woman in her later years, quite pretty in fact with perfectly normal eyebrows, and I bet if I had loaned her money she would have been really nice about it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gearing Up for Old Age

Old guy blading in Florida. He's obviously confused.
A 17-year-old girl has gotten a million dollar contract to write three books for Random House after her first one, which she self-published online, got 19 million hits, or something like that. Anyway, according to the famed publishing company, the author is a hit because "she is a teenager writing for teenagers, and so she has an authentic voice." And therein lies my problem: While I am actually an old lady, I don't write like one. Old ladies do not say things like "fuck" and "WTF?" and "effing this" and "effing that." They don't talk about smoking pot or baking marijuana brownies. When they do it at all, they write about arthritis medicines and compression stockings and diabetes and shit like that.

I suppose can't find my voice because I am floating, adrift between generations. This is all because my husband is 11 years younger than I, and he is still a hot guy. He is not old at all. I am, but nobody notices when I stand next to Mitch. The last time I felt truly anchored in my generation was at Woodstock, and that was in 1969. Just two weeks ago I was the oldest person in a tour group, traveling with women ten and twenty years my junior, and I totally forgot to act my age! In fact, I found a few of them quite fuddy-duddyish, and besides my best friend who came with me on the trip, I related most to our tour guide, a kindred spirit almost three decades my junior.

I guess if I want my new novel, which is almost sort of nearing not-quite-completion, to attract readers, I should aim at my own demographic for that "authentic voice." I'll have to make all the characters a lot older, and replace all the sex scenes with Alzheimer support group meetings, and change the setting to a nursing home. And finish it damn quick, God knows.

A Public Apology

It never pays to say what you mean. You have simply got to edit everything or someone is bound to be offended. Sadly, most people do not want to hear the truth, or even anything that sat next to the truth in grade school. The problem is that I am such a bad liar, and the truth seeps out even when I am trying to hold it in. But I can change, and I will start today, right now in fact. I will rewrite the preceding paragraph so that it is more user friendly to any reader who might find it hurtful:

I love all my friends. They are the kindest, sweetest and most intelligent people on Earth. I am so lucky to have them as friends, especially since none of them have any faults at all. I am the one with all the faults, in fact I suck. I am mean and hateful and sarcastic and certainly undeserving of their friendship, or any friendship for that matter. I am so sorry I ever said one bad thing to anyone. Sometimes I am sorry I was ever born.

How's that?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Playing God

Perhaps you've seen those TV ads for Christian Mingle.com, a dating service for religious types, that end with the tag line, "Find God's match for you." Who knew God was trolling the Internet? Anyway, I figure if He can be in the matchmaking business, it's certainly not beneath me.

Keeping that in mind, I have introduced two dear friends with the hope that a spark will ignite and they will like one another as much as I like each of them individually, and run off into the sunset and find eternal bliss together, or at least have a nice evening. This action on my part, called a "fix-up," which is dumb since it implies that both parties are broken and that's not the case at all, is not without peril, and brings several key questions to mind: What if they hate each other? Okay, hate is admittedly a strong word, but what if she likes him and he doesn't like her? Or what if he likes her and she doesn't like him? Or she likes him, but not that way? What if they like each other and talk about me and discover that what they have most in common is that neither of them likes me very much at all?

I was only trying to help.

Empathy Sucks

I am fine. Nothing hurts me at the moment, I'm well-fed and clothed, and I don't need surgery, at least not today. I guess you could say I'm "happy." Except I'm miserable: I feel dizzy whenever I try to sit up, and feel nauseous constantly, and haven't eaten in two days so I'm hungry too. Worst of all, I can hardly hear, and I can't remember why or how I got in this hospital bed. Oh wait, that's not me, that's my brother-in-law, who suffered a fall two days ago and cracked his skull and now has blood in his brain. No wonder he feels so bad. What's my excuse?

Apparently I am suffering from a severe case of empathy, which is defined as "the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another." In fact, my husband has it too. I sure wish something fabulous would happen to someone close to us so we could get some relief. If you have any good news to share, email me at andreajrouda@aol.com.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hey God, Lay Off!

Neil has the beard.
In the "You Never Know" department, which has always been my favorite department but now not so much, yesterday I hopped aboard a time machine and went back to the year 2008-- and not to a good place.

Exactly four years and two weeks ago but who's counting, my husband and I moved to Maine after his identical twin Neil had a bike accident that put him in a coma for six weeks, then a rehab hospital for several months, followed by years of therapy for a traumatic brain injury and a host of related ills. It has been a long road back, but ultimately Neil has made an all but complete recovery, one in which he can drive, purchase and renovate a new home, get a puppy and enjoy social engagements with friends and family, although working again in his former profession was deemed out of the question and he's not that good at the movies or a play. Nevertheless, he escaped the jaws of death to live fully and eat pizza, even if he doesn't always remember he ordered it and can't really taste it. Things were bubbling along just fine.

Then along comes yesterday. Neil was attending a high-school fundraising auction--he has two teenagers--when, by all accounts, he simply fell straight backwards onto the hard wooden floor in the cafeteria and cracked the back of his skull. There was blood. People screamed, an ambulance was called, and presto, he's back in the very same hospital room where he lay comatose four years ago. And so were all of us, huddled around him lying still in his neck brace under a pile of blankets attached to many machines and surrounded by doctors and nurses and interns.

It sucks, I tell you. God in his infinite wisdom? WTF? Anyway, if you are reading this and you are not in a hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding in your brain, thank your lucky stars and have a great day. You never know where you'll end up tonight.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Today's the Day

Mary, me, Joyce and Nancy, circa 1982.
Today might be the day. In fact, it had better be since who knows how many are left? This one day is already here, with me in it. I better do that thing right now, that thing I've been planning to do forever, that thing that will make me happy and fulfilled. In fact I would go and do it, if only I could remember what it is. I knew once, but then I looked away for a minute, and now all these years later I am completely mystified as to what the heck I ever set out to do or be. Everything sharply in focus so many years ago is now a blur, and all my once best friends are complete strangers. (See photo.)

Exactly two weeks ago today I went to Haiti, hoping a giant leap outside my comfort zone might land me closer to my goal. One week ago I came back, apparently to the exact same place, and although several seeds were planted, I still don't know. So I gobble up books about how to get where you're going, and marvel at others who claim to have already arrived, but still I'm clueless. It's frustrating since time is running out, and not just for me. (The eroding planet, the crazy dictators, poverty, disease, etc.)

I will now go wash the kitchen floor. And while that won't make my whole life worth living, at least it will make me feel better about the kitchen floor, at least for this one day. By tomorrow it will look just as dirty. Black is so wrong for a kitchen floor.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'm No Party Animal

Illustration by Gordon Studer
Considering the possibility of another visit to Haiti sometime in the distant future, I've been doing some reading and recently came across a description of a certain street carnival that sounded like it might be fun, until the very last line that promised the festive proceedings would eventually evolve into "a rum-soaked evening where everyone parties til dawn."  Hmm, maybe not such fun after all, at least not to me. While I like a good party, I have never been prone to partying, be it til dawn, dusk, mid-morning or whenever.

It all got me wondering what the word even means, so I looked it up and found that the verb to party means, "to enjoy oneself thoroughly and without restraint; indulge in pleasure." Aha! No wonder. Indulgence is certainly not something I engage in publicly, but rather in the privacy of my own home, either alone or with a chosen few. What's more, I certainly don't want to be around total strangers abandoning all restraint--think The Who concert--which is why I've never made it to Mardi Gras, although I do like New Orleans. As for the rum-soaking, that's also a no, although a substitution beverage can help me unwind enough to hang around for a little while.

I don't know how or why I'm no party animal, but here I be and I won't apologize. As the late, great Janis Joplin said sometime before she overdosed on booze and pills, "Never compromise yourself--you're all you've got."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Haiti Today, Maine Tomorrow

"Happy Orphan with Sewer Garbage"
A few friends have asked me, "How was Haiti?" They suggest I write about it. The thing is that for me, Haiti is so last week. Remember--all we have is now, and right now I am in Maine, and it's still cold--in fact it's going down to 20 degrees tonight. Whereas Haiti was so hot, but that hot feeling is totally gone. Like all the other stuff, which is sort of sad, really.  Anyway, this blog is supposed to be funny, and I can say for sure that while Haiti is many things, funny is not one of them. (Some not funny things: lots of garbage in open sewers, rubble in the streets, houses half gone to ruin, hundreds of orphans.) Besides, the places we visit are colored by our unique personal experiences, so it's impossible to tell anyone anything about anywhere, really.

For example, I spent the week with my dearest friend, met a few special people who scored a 10 on the Rouda Likeability Scale--which hardly ever happens--and learned a new art form I plan to pursue. So of course, for me, Haiti was great! Besides, that was then. Still, before I forget, here are some things I noticed that are worth mentioning:
1. My high blood pressure was gone. I felt great physically. Much better than here.
2. The people all seemed happier there.
3. My flight to Haiti from Florida was half as long as the one from Maine to Florida. It's so close to the States, yet so foreign.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Please, No Pictures!

Hey, there I am somewhere else!
My recent trip to Haiti was a first in several ways: First visit to somewhere with no McDonald's or Starbucks, which was quite refreshing although honestly I could have used a skim latte on several weary afternoons. Another first was being part of a tour, which involved traveling on a bus with a group of like-minded individuals. Usually I travel with just my husband and we wander around discovering things, often not even knowing where the heck we we are. While that's fun, this particular tour provided several benefits, like safety, instant friends, and a whole lot of knowledge about local history and politics I never would have gotten otherwise, since our outstanding Haitian guide was not only quite chatty but smart. It also afforded me a microscopic view of the behavior of the typical U.S. citizen abroad, a species known to scientists as groupus photographus Americanus.

A burning need to capture a beautiful moment on film, usually with a bunch of bedraggled women in front of it, was in evidence last week. Had I participated fully, there would now be roughly 1,000 photographs in which I appear circulating the globe. Instead, after about the third one I begged off, claiming it was against my religion, or that I was wanted by the FBI, or that I was simply too tired to get off the bus and stand and wave at the camera. (One of the rare ones that snagged me is shown above.)

The silliest thing about travel pictures is that often the best moments are never captured on film, yet they remain seared into our memory anyway. Once back home, though we may organize our photos and show them off proudly to our friends, a fleeting undocumented moment will stick out forever. Over time it might be all we remember, regardless of the scores of pictures taken in front of this particular wall or inside that particular restaurant. If I suffer a brain injury all will be lost, but until then, I'm set.