Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Hormone Free, Gluten Free, Paleo Friendly, Low Glycemic, Dairy Free, Best Sex of Your Life Diet

These days all the rage is to lose weight and look younger and have great sex and eat all you want and most of all, not harm the planet and avoid anything artificial and certainly don't pollute or hurt any animals in the process of becoming a better person. And above all else, eat Paleo. You know, like the cavemen did. Like those cavemen were so great, grunting at each other and inventing fire and scratching symbols into rocks with other rocks.

Through no fault of our own--actually it was my husband's fault since he joined CrossFit and ended up on some mailing list--we started receiving a magazine called Paleo Magazine: Modern Day Primal Living. It is a hoot and I suggest you run right out and get a copy to keep in the bathroom. All the ads for all the fattening foods just have the word Paleo in front of the foods, and then they are healthy. I mean really, what kind of a dummy would eat a regular brownie when he or she could eat a Paleo brownie?

The magazine tells you all about how to live a Paleo lifestyle. In a nutshell, and by the way nuts are very Paleo, this is how: You just say something about cave men or being primal or evolution or lacking gluten first, then eat it. Here are a few examples from ads in the magazine:

Delicious Paleo meals delivered right to your door, made with organic foods and primal integrity!

Release your Inner Caveman and evolve into your potential with our 100% Paleo diet-compliant Beef Jerky

Paleo Wraps: A convenient, tortilla alternative for your Paleo Lifestyle (shelf life nine months).

Primal Care Skin Balm is totally biologically compatible with your skin and has only two ingredients: Tallow from grass-fed buffalo and organic jojoba oil.

There are also ads for the following products: Paleo Eats; Paleo Simplified Energy Bar; Primal Pit Paste: The all-natural deodorant, killing the odor without killing your body; Caveman Cookies; Paleo Treats (not to be confused with Paleo Eats); Paleo Pasta; Steve's Paleogoods; Paleo Bread--Fulfills your craving for bread while living a Paleo lifestyle; Paleo People--Snacks you can evolve with; Paleo on the Go, delivering Gourmet Paleo Meals; and the Stone Age Diner.

Besides promoting a healthy, Paleo lifestyle, the magazine is also quite educational. For example, who knew cavemen used deodorant? I for one did not.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Some Memories Never Fade

Illustration by Gordon Studer
A long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy very far away, I lived in Berkeley, California. I rented a small house that I shared with a friend. In another house behind ours on the same property, our landlord lived with his wife and baby daughter. He was sort of a crazy dude about my age, who also worked as an auto mechanic. I can hardly remember anything about him, other than this one event that occupies quite a bit of real estate in my brain. It appears in multiple files under the letter "P," cropping up whenever I think about pornography, parenting, pot or policemen. As you can imagine, that can be several times a week in today's madcap society.

The guy--I don't even remember his name but somebody who reads this might--had a friend he wanted me to meet and invited me over to dinner for a "fix-up" one Friday night. When I arrived I was stunned to see a giant screen, the kind people used to show home movies on, set up at one end of the living room; projected onto it was a porno movie of the lowest caliber. I remember there was a plumber involved, and it was very explicit, showing all kinds of sodomy, etc. Despite that, nobody was looking at it. Besides me. I worried about the baby seeing those images. I asked my landlord's wife--I guess that would have made her my landlady--about it, and she said, "Oh, that's always on. Pete (or whatever is name was) finds it relaxing. It's like wallpaper; just ignore it."

My date arrived shortly after I did. He was a cop with the San Francisco police force who looked just like Robert Redford. I never much cared for Redford so that was not as big a deal to me as it might have been to some other women, but still, he wasn't ugly. And since I had never dated a cop it was sort of intriguing, at the same time being a major turn-off. I wondered what he would think of the pornographic wallpaper. Within minutes, after the introductions had been made, he offered everyone a joint of some "really good pot" and I realized he likely would not care. That was in 1982 and I still have not discarded that memory. But don't ask me what I did last weekend.

A Real Horror Show

When I was five I was called to the principal's office for a minor infraction. The night before the meeting, I quivered in fear. My mother told me to remember that nobody was any better than anyone, and that the principal was just another person, and that I should think of him sitting on the toilet, just like everyone else. I did. It worked! I've been doing that ever since, and have yet to meet anyone intimidating. Try it. Imagine the Pope, with his silken, embroidered robes, sitting on the toilet. Does he remove that pointy hat? Do his robes get all dirty from dragging on the floor? You see what happens.

Somehow, magically, ordinary people gain superstar status and are considered to be better than the rest of us. Many of them have bodyguards to protect them from the adoring masses. I am still stymied over the success of singer Justin Bieber, comedienne Joy Behar and late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien, three celebrities who seem to lack anything special besides a good publicist. But the biggest mystery to me is that according to a new poll out yesterday, "six percent of likely New York Democratic voters think Anthony Weiner has really strong moral character." Now that's scary.





Monday, July 29, 2013

What's For Lunch?

Gregory Hines, 1946-2003
About an hour ago I was happily driving along listening to music on my car radio when it ended rather abruptly and the news came on. Or rather, the "breaking news." The breaking news today was that Barack Obama was having lunch with Hillary Clinton. They were going to "catch up" since they have not seen each other in awhile. They were going to eat grilled chicken and pasta jambalaya.

Here's what I have to say about that. I don't care, and it's none of my business, but I think it is tacky to serve Hillary pasta when she is obviously battling a weight problem. I also don't understand how that comes under the category of news, breaking or otherwise. Who needs to know that, besides the White House chef? Nobody, that's who. So what is news? Earthquakes, tornadoes, alien invasions, war, mass murder, epidemics, poison in the water, deaths of world leaders, the disappearance of Air Force One in flight, talking dogs. Certainly not lunch between any two people I can think of, unless of course it is me and Gregory Hines. Now that would be news. (He's dead.)

Politicians are not supposed to be celebrities. They are supposed to be civil servants. I hope they are not taking a long lunch, because Obama has a job and this is a work day.









Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's a Wonder Anyone Gets Along

Choose one from each of the following pairs. Give yourself two points for each correct answer, one point if you fall somewhere in the middle. Remember, there is only one right answer!

introvert, extrovert
good, evil
love, hate
Christian, Jew
black, white
rich, poor
young, old
tall, short
Republican, Democrat
pothead, drunk
fat, thin
manic, depressed
gay, straight
parent, childless
smart, stupid
dead, alive
married, single
New Yorker, everyone else
cat person, dog person
vegetarian, carnivore
leader, follower
religious zealot, atheist 




Friday, July 26, 2013

Weiner's Complaint?

I never read Portnoy's Complaint, much to my husband's dismay. He still bugs me to read it every now and then, especially since I am Jewish and I have a son, and the book sits right there on our bookshelves. I tell him I am not interested in the whining of some sexually frustrated Mama's boy, even if he is a Jew. I tell him, you know, just because I'm Jewish it doesn't mean I embrace the whole thing. Like, for example, I have never been to Israel and, despite urging by my friend David who moved there years ago and swears I would love it, I am simply not interested. It seems too hot, too dry, and too full of people wearing drapery as clothing. Basically, if I might add without incurring the Wrath of Khan, it's too Jewish.

Until quite recently I have been proud of my Jewish heritage. We're smart, creative and funny, and we hardly ever become criminals. (Okay, there was Son of Sam, but accidents do happen.) Let's face it, without Jews the world would be a pretty dull place, not to mention wracked with disease. Imagine: No Mel Brooks or Woody Allen! The entire score of West Side Story-- gone! Polio rampant! No E=MC squared, whatever that means! No Hershey's Kisses! And of course, try to get through even one day without uttering, "Oy!"

But now we have Anthony Weiner and I must say, he's dragging us down. In fact, I am downright embarrassed to even be a Jew these days. I can't imagine what is wrong with the man; perhaps it is akin to the complaint Philip Roth describes in his novel about Portnoy. I might have to read that book after all, but believe me, I won't like it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Be Sure to Read the Small Print

Illustration by Gordon Studer
Yesterday an FDA report was released saying, "there is adequate data to suggest that menthol use is likely associated with increased smoking initiation by younger people and that menthol smokers have a harder time quitting," so I suppose I could be sort of proud for giving them up seven years ago after smoking only menthol cigarettes since age17.

Now, staring me in the face is a full-page ad on the back of a magazine for Newport cigarettes. The big, bold orange headline says, "Newport pleasure!" above a photo of four attractive young people cavorting in the ocean with a beach ball. The two young women in bikinis and two young men in trunks all have beautiful bodies. Underneath are pictures of the four kinds of Newports that are available, all of which are deemed to be "Rich & Refreshing. The Perfect Menthol!" A line of almost invisible, teeny, tiny print at the bottom of the ad reads: "These cigarettes do not present a reduced risk of harm compared to other cigarettes."

Now that's what I call stretching the truth in advertising.




Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What About Us?

I just found out, sort of by accident while reading about something else, that there is an official term for people who are comfortable with their gender assigned at birth. If you are one of those people who does not want to alter your gender, you are cisgendered, which is the opposite of transgendered. This term exists so that transgendered people don't think they are in the wrong-- they're just another group of people.

Can political correctness get any more ridiculous? That's sort of like feeling sorry for people who can see just fine without glasses. Imagine the shame: they have perfect vision! No wonder they all run around in glasses with no prescription in them--they just want to be like everyone else. And what about this: I have always wanted better hair--smoother, and not frizzy in summer. Hey, don't laugh, I can't help it! It hurts--a lot--especially when I see those TV ads showing lustrous, silky hair. What about us, the ones with the frizzies? Are we ever given the respect we deserve? No, not at all. We are mocked, always mocked. We need a support group, and possibly our own public restroom.
 

Happy Friggin' Birthday, Again

Cakes are fattening, and at a certain point pose a fire hazard.
Birthdays are such a burden in a marriage. Not only do you get a year older, but if it's not your birthday you have to come up with a gift for your spouse. Why that is I'm not sure, since the celebrant did absolutely nothing of merit and was simply expelled from the birth canal many years ago, in this case more than half a century. Big deal, like he even had a choice. Plus the fact everyone hates getting older and would lie about their ages like we did years ago before that damned Internet made it impossible. It seems to me that birthdays should just come and go quietly without a peep, but thanks to Facebook that is also impossible, and Mitch being such a great guy, I'm betting he gets more than a few of those automatic "Happy Birthdays!" in his news stream tomorrow.

He's not getting this....
Yes, tomorrow is my husband's birthday. The only thing he wants is the same thing he always wants and never gets: a motorcycle. As usual I think of surprising him with one, and this year I even did some shopping around, but then I think how sad and ironic it would be if he were in a crash; how would I feel? On the one hand, if he died I would get quite a windfall from his life insurance policy, which pays double if the death is accidental. But what if he doesn't die and instead is simply maimed, or lingers in a vegetative state for years? Surely we can all agree that would be a total drag.

...or this.
So now I'm back to square one, wondering what to get for someone who already has everything. I could make a donation to his favorite charity, but let's face it, how much fun is that for the birthday boy? If it were winter I could get him a sweater--he does not own even one--but in summer, getting a sweater is a big fat drag and only spells delayed gratification. If he were a normal person I'd bake him a cheesecake or an apple pie, both of which are my specialty, but since he's committed to always "eating well," he'd likely take it as an insult.

I guess I'll do the usual out-to-dinner, bottle-of-fancy-wine and dumb-drugstore-greeting-cards and call it a day.




Monday, July 22, 2013

The Royal Pizza Face

The Duchess of Cambridge, who for some reason is still called Kate Middleton, is having her baby today. Or else she's already had it, since London is five hours later than we are. A giant pizza has been created in her honor by some important chef over there: a portrait, in tomato sauce, of the Prince and the Princess holding the Royal Baby. It's a plain pizza, with just red sauce and cheese. Further research led me to photos of the more detailed pizza that was made depicting the Royal Couple at their wedding last year, or whenever. That one had all sorts of vegetables and bits of ham and mushrooms and olives adding shading, and even though it was not flattering, still it was a pizza picture of the two of them. It made me suspect there is a mental illness afoot in Great Britain, possibly caused by something in the water, or maybe those greenish, hard-boiled eggs floating in giant jars of brine they have in all the pubs. How else to explain such things?

The estimated number of births worldwide is 252 per minute, or 4.2 births every second, yet only one of those babies will have its portrait in a pizza. It just doesn't seem fair. You'd think some other baby might be able to get like a big cupcake with its picture in frosting, or maybe peanut butter on bread--something. It just seems wrong that only one baby out of so many that are born should get the special honor of being depicted in food.

I asked my husband how he feels about all this and he said, dejectedly, "I haven't been doing my double-unders." I thought it was a British expression until he explained that double-unders are a CrossFit exercise he's not very good at that he was supposed to be practicing. (Sometimes Mitch can be so self-absorbed, it's not funny.)


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Preferences

Cartoon by Hilary B. Price
Around my house almost anything is fodder for an argument, or at the very least a heated discussion. Today it's how long to let the zucchini grow before picking it. Some say to let it get as big as a baseball bat, while others insist smaller is best, lest it lose its flavor and get too woody. Whatever, it's better than arguing over some other things, like for example the death of Trayvon Martin and the recent exoneration of George Zimmerman. This has been going on today in my Facebook news stream, which is a tiny reflection of how much it is still going on across the country.

People who are looking for evidence of racism can find it anywhere; Al Sharpton certainly does. It has been said that calling Trayvon by his first name only and George Zimmerman by both his first and last name is racist. This is nutty at best. But then, some people think that because Trayvon had a bag of Skittles in his pocket on that fateful night that he was a good boy, like if you eat Skittles you're some kind of a saint. This is ridiculous and may suggest that many people are dolts. Personally, I hate Skittles and have little empathy for people who eat them when they could be eating Mike and Ikes.

Here is where I stand on things:
1. George Zimmerman got away with murder, despite a jury trial. But so did OJ, and he killed two people.
2. Skittles have a shelf life of 72 weeks; Mike and Ikes can go six years.  Do the math.
3. Smaller zucchini taste better.

By the way, I asked my husband which candy he prefers--Skittles or Mike and Ikes-- and he said, "That's like asking which I like better, dog shit or cat shit."

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Monhegan Island Primer

Set a spell on the porch at The Island Inn...
I first went to Monhegan Island in 1970. I was 24 and living in Washington, D.C., and it seemed like the moon to me. It took forever to get there, involving a long car ride and then a ferry. There was no electricity so we used lanterns to walk around at night. It was downright spooky, but thrilling too, like going into the past or maybe a grade-B horror movie. There was also nothing whatsoever to do--no shops or movies-- but walk and read and paint, if you were so inclined, and of course drink summer drinks on the big lawn overlooking the water. I hiked the whole island several times over, straight through the middle and around the edge. It was great fun and I fell in love with the place, determined to go back and even spend a full year there.

I did return several times, each time making the long drive from Washington. And still, each time, I thought I might spend a year there, just to experience the frozen desolation of the long, forbidding winter. Then I moved to Maine, and now I can get to Monhegan in about three hours including the ferry ride, and I've only gone once because with Maine all around me it's less of a big deal, and I have my own personal frozen, desolate winter right here in South Freeport without packing anything or finding a pet sitter.

... or hike to the top of a stunning cliff....
Still, Monhegan is a magical place, and I'm excited that two of my dear friends will be spending a few days there this summer. It's changed a bit, though. The island got electricity in 1984 so the spookiness factor is gone, but a lantern is still a nice touch at night; certainly a flashlight. There are a few shops now, and lots of art galleries where you can spend those tourist dollars burning a hole in your pocket. I highly recommend purchasing a fish for your garden. It's not cheap but it's so worth it; since we got one our garden has been unbelievably productive and I can't help thinking it's the spirit of Monhegan doing it. (See photo below.) There are no restaurants to speak of, but the little market-cum-sandwich shop right behind the Island Inn is excellent, and the Inn itself is the premier place to stay, serving memorable gourmet food and amazing breakfasts, if you can afford it.

...and don't forget one of these fabulous fishes!
What you do on Monhegan hasn't changed: hike, sit, drink, paint, and read. If I remember right, you'd better bring your own wine or Bloody Mary fixings. And a camera. And some sunscreen. And plenty of bug spray. And sun hats. And some Dramamine for the ferry ride--it takes 90 minutes and it goes rain or shine, and if it's bad weather you'd better be ready--this is not the QEII. And be on time, because if you miss it, that's it, there's not another for quite some time.

Did I mention the cliffs and the stunning ocean views? They're a ways up there, in fact I've read that the island has the highest cliffs on the eastern seaboard. Really, it's fabulous, but you'd better be ready; Monhegan is not for the faint of heart.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Still Waiting for the Future

When I saw the movie Blade Runner in 1982, I became excited about living long enough to get to that future world--the one where personal hovercrafts  fly to other planets and robots are a whole other species. I'm still waiting, but besides all the cell phones, everyday life seems stuck in the past.

Certainly some things have changed, but it happens so slowly we hardly notice, until one day all the female newscasters look like prostitutes, with their long hair draped suggestively over one eye and those big, sparkly earrings and tons of makeup and shiny, magenta blouses revealing deep cleavages and skirts slit up the leg, instead of the dignified librarians in tailored business suits of my childhood. Also, everyone is gay. Still, there are things in America where the needle has not budged since I was born, and that was almost two decades before the Beatles came and went.

For example, the racial animosity between blacks and whites is not only still around but seems to have gotten worse, despite all the laws enacted to end it and despite having a black man in the White House. Maybe that will just have to wait until Al Sharpton dies, or until they stop calling it the White House. Similarly, the open war between the Democrats and the Republicans is worse than ever, despite having a president who swore coming in to office that he would end the partisanship that runs rampant in the halls of Congress. And even though we all know what to eat in order to be healthy and certainly not to smoke cigarettes, McDonald's still boasts the trillions of burgers they have served and cigarettes are still quite popular, even at exorbitant prices. And speaking of the needle not budging, I still weigh 140, even though I have been dieting for the last 30 years.

Maybe tomorrow the future will get here. Whenever it shows up, I hope I'm thinner.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Read All About It!

Illustration by Gordon Studer
Yes, I know--it's all about selling magazines. Still, are there no limits? A photo of the surviving one of the two misguided, despicable, anti-American brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings occupies the latest cover of Rolling Stone, set to hit newsstands this Friday. In a glamor shot suitable for framing, which it surely will be by the legions of innocent teenyboppers who will all swoon, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looks downright adorable and more than a little bit like dead rocker Jim Morrison. Okay, he's handsome-- let's admit it. No matter; he is evil and thus it is unseemly to glorify him in any way, as this surely does.

Here's a better idea: If the editors at the once-popular magazine are hoping to get people talking about them again, they should print gory pictures of the mutated limbs blown off the perfectly nice people who were out for a day of fun when they ran afoul of this month's cover boy. Now that would get tongues wagging! And inside, they could write about the victims themselves, who are still trying to scrape their lives together after that horrific event. Of course that would be responsible journalism, and that's a thing of the past.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's All in Where You Sit

Sometimes evolution seems like a backwards ride, or at the very least like when you're on the subway and it's going forward but you're stuck in one of the seats facing backwards. It's a different view.

Last night at the Hannaford's, I made a new friend; his name is Redbox. (Don't ask how I know it's a male, it just is.) Since our first meeting I have received five emails from him, which I would normally hate except it has alerted me to the fact that this is how employed writers are spending their time these days. Once upon a time there were milkmen and egg men delivering the milk and the eggs to your door, and now they're gone but we have these writers filling our online mailboxes. Writing corporate emails that annoy strangers is most likely a damn good job in today's world.

The first email asked me to confirm my email address in order to become a member and get all the rest of the emails. Then came "Hi, welcome!" followed by "Thanks, here's a free gift," and then, "We got your returned tape, thanks," and lastly, my receipt. All that for my one rental at $1.26. Not bad. Or is it? I wonder how much that writer gets paid.



Film review: THE BAY

If you enjoy being grossed out by a movie, run right out and rent, or whatever you do now that Blockbuster is kaput, The Bay, a 2012 effort directed by Barry Levinson. His long list of impressive credits includes Rain Man, Wag the Dog, Diner and Good Morning, Vietnam. I enjoyed each one of those and never felt the slightest bit nauseous, so I went into this one with my eyes open and expecting a good time. All in all it was a genuine diversion, and for $1.26 at Red Box, really, what more can you ask? Still, a few disclaimers are only fair for you sensitive types:

Hard to tell if she's in the movie or just watching it.
There are giant cockroaches, hideous intestinal parasites crawling around inside dead fish stomachs, and a growing-- in both number and size--population of infected boils, festering sores, bleeding blisters and skin lesions. Add to that several instances of projectile vomiting and many dead bodies lying here and there, covered in any and all of the things on the preceding list, and you've got the movie. That being said, it's a pretty good yarn, all about how a small fishing town on Maryland's Eastern Shore is overcome with a plague of tiny monsters that live in the Chesapeake Bay. It becomes obvious on July 4th of all days, just as the 56th Annual Claridge Crab-eating contest is getting started.

You know the plot: It's Jaws plus a dash of A Civil Action, a few scenes from Silkwood and a smattering of Night of the Living Dead. At times it's hard to watch but mostly it's hard not to, as the town's evil mayor pretends all is well just so he can keep the tourists coming in. He's also got more than a little interest in the chicken processing plant just down the road that is dumping chicken poop and feed fertilizer directly into the bay by the truckload. People die all over the place, like at the bus stop or on the dock or just by the side of the road. Chaos reigns, and all because some government bureaucrat screwed up. Ultimately the town of Claridge is virtually quarantined forever, with Uncle Sam playing a big part in keeping the truth a secret.

The movie is shot in a faux-documentary style that feels so real it just might be, causing me to think that my days swimming in or boating on the Chesapeake are over. Coincidentally, this morning's mail included a fundraising letter from the Save the Bay Foundation, one of the charities I supported during the 30 years I lived in D.C. and played in the bay. I burned it. You can't be too careful.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Always Something with the Jews

My parents and grandparents spent so much time observing Jewish holidays, it's a wonder anything ever got done around our house. Naturally, being held hostage all during my childhood I had to observe them too; I suspect the reason I know so little about history is because of all the school I missed growing up.  If it wasn't Purim it was Passover, or else it was Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashonah or Shavuot or Simchat Torah or Hanukkah, or maybe Sukkot. Each of these had their special quirky goings-on, which allowed me plenty of time to hang out at home and plot my eventual escape.

Still, with all the holidays we did observe, I never once heard of  Tisha B'Av, which is supposedly today. The only way I know of it now is because I was checking my blog stats and someone from a website called "Creative Jewish Mom" clicked on my blog, and so I went there to see what that was and found out about this holiday. It's to commemorate how much the Jews have been persecuted, which certainly sounds like a good time. You fast for 25 hours, and you can't bathe, and no applying of oils or lotions or wearing of leather shoes, and no marital relations on this particular holiday. That may have been why my parents let Tisha B'Av slide; they were good Jews but they weren't insane.

Religions the world over sure are nutty. If only I could figure out what purpose they serve and how they have anything to do with God or spirituality, I might join in on some of the festivities. Until then, I'm sitting them out and shaking my head in wonder.

Be Careful What You Read

I finally finished reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and now I am petrified that I will just go and hang myself in the woods or crawl into a hole in the basement or have some unwanted shock treatments. The book was a big downer, and even though the author was gifted with an incredible way of seeing things and finding just the exact words to describe them, still I am sorry I ever pulled it down from the dusty shelf where it sat undisturbed for years.  Now I'm disturbed.

The Bell Jar starts out as a pretty funny and lighthearted account of a young college student's summer internship at a glamorous New York fashion magazine, although if you know anything about literature going in, you know that Plath eventually committed suicide by sticking her head in an oven. And even if you don't, the book jacket helpfully points out that she died at 31, so you know something is not kosher from the get-go. Soon enough, however, after a few posh parties and fancy book luncheons, we are deep into Sylvia's  psychotic breakdown and confinement in a mental asylum, complete with forbidding nurses in starched white uniforms and crazy barefoot patients with unwashed hair and wild eyes and clanking food trays and cold tile floors and sterile machines that jolt your head with electricity like Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory. It's all there in black and white, as they say, and quite realistically wrought, so if you've never gone crazy and want to know what it's like, this is the ticket.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Jury of Whose Peers?

I have no intention of committing any crimes in my life, but if I ever find myself at the mercy of a jury, I would hope it includes an even dozen deciding my fate. A mix of genders and ages, a Jew or two, and an artist would be a nice touch. You know--my peers. Unlike the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin/ George Zimmerman case that was apparently reached by Six Complacent Ladies, five of them white and the other something more exotic but not all the way to black.

Okay, fine, so maybe George didn't set out to kill anyone, but still there was the young dead boy at the end of it all, so it seems like the jury could have sent him to jail for a couple of weeks at least, instead of letting him off the hook totally. (I'm betting none of them ever saw "Twelve Angry Men.")

Saturday, July 13, 2013

People Are Funny

Just down the road from where I live sits the South Freeport Cemetery. When I first moved here four years ago, I walked my dog Rufus through there every day. It's a lovely spot, and is kept up by a caretaker who lives directly adjacent to it. He's out there daily, weather permitting, mowing the grass or hauling away dead trees or restoring the paths after the harsh winter and mud season have taken their toll. Like most Mainers he was reticent at first, but with me and Rufus passing by so often, we got to talking and he told me his name was Phil. That was about the only personal information I had, although I learned from a neighbor that he has a wife, and one day I met his visiting granddaughter playing in his front yard.

Two years later Rufus died and Phil got a puppy of his own who I swore possessed the spirit of Rufus. The dog seemed to recognize me from a former life, and the three of us bonded over Milk-Bones. I made sure to always have some treats in my pocket for Biscuit--that's the dog. Approaching their house on my daily walk, I would often see Phil run up the front steps and let Biscuit out to greet me. We'd chat about this and that for about ten minutes and I would continue on. Sometimes I'd leave dog treats in the mailbox when I passed by and the house was dark. It was all quite Mayberry-ish.

Then a few months ago--abruptly--things changed. Coming around the corner these days, I can see Phil scurry away whenever he sees me approaching. He'll grab the dog and go inside, or duck into the garage, or the two of them will run up into the woods behind the house, obviously avoiding me. I have no idea why and would never dare ask--that's just not done around here. And while it doesn't really matter, still it's sad, because I bet that dog misses me.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Birth of a Vegetarian

With friends from away coming this weekend, my husband was eager to plan some fun activities that would say "Maine." The visitors live somewhere in the middle of the country like Indiana and have no ocean, so water will figure heavily in the proceedings. A high point for everyone but me is a four-hour fishing expedition aboard a chartered boat pushing off at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. I begged off, seeing as how I shy away from mass killings of a weaker species. It's a little quirk I have.

Sadly, trans-mermaid surgery is not covered by my insurance.
My husband, trying to get me to go along, informed me that they would not be keeping the fish; it would strictly be "catch and release." So what that means is that some little fishy who is happily swimming around in the sea on what is forecast to be a lovely Saturday will suddenly have a sharp hook from out of nowhere come piercing into his cheek, causing much bleeding and terror. Then, hanging from that hook, Little Fishy will be pulled out of the water and dropped onto a hard wooden deck where he will flop around for a few minutes, trying to breathe, while a group of giants pass him around and have pictures taken with him. Finally the hook will be removed and L.F. will be returned to the comforts of the deep, except now he's got a big gash inside his mouth for days. Nice.

After the fishing expedition, the visitors want to go eat lobster. Specifically, live lobsters that will be dropped into buckets of boiling water and then cracked into pieces for their flesh. (I don't eat lobster for the same reason I don't go fishing: I am not a murderess.)

So I was thinking about all this on my walk this morning, and while not going all the way to holier than thou, I did feel a tad superior that I don't kill creatures that are way smaller than me and way stupider too. Then I flashed on the fact that I eat sushi and tuna salad and halibut and hake and haddock and blackened grouper and red snapper and mahi mahi and swordfish and scallops and shrimp cocktail and mussels and anchovies and herring and crab cakes and realized that I am a big, fat hypocrite! Immediately after that thought I experienced severe heart palpitations and felt dizzy and faint enough to almost black out, so I stopped walking and leaned up against a tree and took one of the pills I carry for such situations owing to my unpredictable high blood pressure that strikes without warning.

And so, a vegetarian is born.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Preaching to the Choir

There is so much to-do over immigration and health care and climate change and the economy that few headlines touch on the true horrors of the day. Still, they're out there if you look carefully. This morning's Wall Street Journal reports on a situation in San Francisco that is but the tip of a huge iceberg causing a gash in the fabric of society that will bring us down as surely as The Titanic. It may take a while, but the levels are rising in those water-tight chambers, minute by minute.

A restaurant called Bacon Bacon has incurred the wrath of neighbors who abhor the smells emanating from the house of slaughtered pigs, so the health department has shut it down temporarily. The local foodies are distraught, with petitions circulating in support of the place. One young man who sports the restaurant's logo as a tattoo is quoted as being "devastated" at the thought that the closure might be permanent.

A great gift if you hate your Dad!
The shop sells bacon, every which way. A favorite is the "bacon bouquet," which consists of strips of bacon drizzled with maple syrup and served in a paper bag. This got me Googling, and I found more recipes for bacon bouquets, including one where you twirl the bacon to look like real rosebuds, fry those babies up and then stick them on plastic flower stems. (See photo) Apparently those were a big hit on Father's Day. Further research led me to a recipe for Strawberry Chocolate Nachos with whipped cream on top, starring baked cinnamon cookies as the corn chips.

America now ranks 27th out of 34 developed countries in terms of overall health. And while we are actually living longer, we are much sicker during those additional final years, with diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In most cases, poor eating is why. Have we all gone mad?

If you're not sure where you fit in this whole food-as-fun picture, take my Nude Eating Challenge: Strip down, stand in front of a full-length mirror, take a good look and then stuff yourself silly. It's a great way to kick-start a diet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bullshit 101

Brian never lies. But dogs don't really talk.
Despite the fact that I never say what I really think about my son's girlfriends, my relatives, or sex, I am constantly being called on the carpet for being too honest. Apparently I'm too direct. I always "speak my mind," which makes me "a piece of work." This puzzles me, because I wonder what I'm supposed to be saying if it's not what I'm thinking. It also makes me wonder just what everyone else is saying if it's not the truth; is there a conversation crib sheet I never got? Somehow the creators of TV's Family Guy are able to say incredibly shocking truths by having a dog or a baby deliver the zingers. I wish I had one of those.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Funny Funerals

When I was growing up, somebody in my family was always dying. This was because my grandfather was one of 13 sublings, and every one of them lived long enough to marry and multiply. By the time I showed up there were so many first cousins and second cousins and cousins once-removed, it seemed like everyone in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island was a relative. Naturally there were the usual deaths caused by accidents and illness, and one case of starvation long before anorexia was a household word. Funerals were commonplace, but several stick out in my memory.

One was for my cousin Martin, who at 24 had finished his years in the service and was flying home in an Air Force jet when it crashed into a field. Naturally he was given a military funeral complete with a 21-gun salute. As each shot rang out, his mother, my aunt (whose name escapes me now but it might have been) Lucille, threw herself, literally, on the casket as it was being lowered into the ground. The uniformed soldiers gently lifted her off each time, and the gun would be fired again, and Aunt Lucille, or maybe it was Sylvia, would hurl herself back onto the casket and shout out her dead son's name like she just thought of it. I was about 16 at the time, and quite impressionable. I stood next to my father, who with each gunshot muttered under his breath, "Oy vay, here she goes again." By about the 15th gunshot, this became quite comical, and my father and I had to work hard to suppress our squeals. Just in case anyone wonders where I got my quirky sense of humor.

Uncle Manny, my father's older brother who I loved dearly even though he was a scoundrel with dubious business associates who fought with my father over money and allegedly once literally tore the shirt off his back--my father's not his own--was, of all things, a Boy Scout leader until the day he died. At his funeral service somewhere in Brooklyn, the family of mourners sat around while the rabbi tried to console us. Suddenly a troop of about a dozen middle-aged, pot-bellied, balding men dressed in the summer uniform of olive green shorts, each holding a flag and adorned with several merit badges and a neck bandana, marched into the tiny chapel and recited a litany of Boy Scout incantations, stunning everyone. It was a wild scene, and again, funny as hell.

But nothing could top my dear grandfather's funeral, at which the wrong body was laid out in the casket at the front of the funeral hall. Fortunately I caught this mistake when I peered in to say goodbye to him and he looked half his age, which was 78. Simultaneously I heard the screams from the next chapel: "Oy, Morty, you look so much older in death!" (Apparently we had Morty and they had Gramps.)

Moral of the story: When you bury your loved ones, double check they're really in there.

Not Hungry in America

This morning I thought I'd have some almond butter with a banana for breakfast. It's considered to be quite healthy, much more beneficial than peanut butter for reasons I won't pretend to understand. But I've read it often enough and so I buy the stuff in hopes of living forever. (Not consciously of course, but I'm guessing that's the root of my decision.)

Right now we have two different brands of almond butter in the cupboard. One is in a plastic tub, having been ground from almonds right there in the market in that big machine in the bulk food aisle. It's 100% almonds with nothing added, and starts out with the consistency of wet cement. Within days, sometimes hours, it turns into a block of dry cement, making it challenging to eat. The other is in a glass jar, and while still "all-natural" and "organic," it needs no stirring. It is in fact as loose as a goose and looks a lot like turkey gravy. It calls for a piece of bread, not a banana. In an attempt to come up with something I can use, I combine the two kinds and create a gloppy mess with some pebbly lumps.

My quandary reminds me of the saying, "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink." I flash on all the poor people who have no almond butter at all and tell myself to be thankful for my bounty. Still, both brands seem inedible. This is because I grew up in America, in a middle-class home with too many choices and not enough suffering. I'm sorry about that, but still, here I am and it's too late for me now. I can feel sorry for all the hungry people, but I can't be one for too long; once a year on Yom Kippur is about all I can take, and even then I usually cave before sunset.

I guess I'll have eggs.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Almighty Lobster Roll

This one at least has some celery and chives. That's something.
Last week a friend from Utah came for a visit. Debbie is great for a lot of reasons, but one thing she said secured her spot on my Top 10 List of Unique Individuals: She questioned the attributes of the almighty lobster roll, ruling as it does all of New England cuisine like the great and powerful Oz in the Emerald City. Debbie wanted one right off the bat, saying essentially, "when in Maine," so I took her to a nearby shack with a great reputation and long lines of tourists. After a bite she asked, "What's the big deal--isn't it just pieces of lobster in a hot dog bun?" The answer is yes, Debbie, yes, yes, yes---that is exactly what it is! And yet, such a mundane item can cost an arm and a leg in these parts--certainly an arm and a claw.

I don't eat lobster, finding it tasteless, often rubbery and always bland. These qualities explain why it is always served with bowls of melted butter for dipping or pre-swathed in mayonnaise. Visitors come seeking the best lobster roll, sort of like when you go to Ireland you've got to kiss the Blarney Stone--which by the way I did not do because first of all you have to wait in line and second you have to hang upside down to do it. It didn't seem worth either of those. And while eating a lobster roll is a lot easier than kissing the Blarney Stone, and more nutritious, to me the experience is just as vacuous.

Here in Freeport, the superstar sandwich costs about $14, and that's even without celery. For that same money you could have a nice pair of fleece socks, which will last a lot longer.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Tyranny of the Sun

I hate so-called "nice" days. First of all, sez who? Today for example is considered to be a nice day where I live. It is currently 85 degrees, bright blue sky with not a cloud in sight. Over everything, dominating, is a hot, bright, unrelenting sun, the kind that makes you sweat and burns tender skin and causes deadly cancers. That sun. That same sun that everyone loves so much, celebrating it constantly in song. They even named a day after it; notice there is no Clouday or Rainday but there is a Sunday, a.k.a. The Lords' Day, it's so fantastic. Well guess what: I don't like it one bit. I don't like bugs, I don't like sunburn, I don't like the greasy stuff you have to spray or slather on to keep from burning or getting cancer. So there. So I stay inside on these "nice" days.

My idea of a nice day is slightly overcast, sky more gray than blue, letting the colors of the flowers really pop instead of getting washed out by the sun's glare. I like a breeze, and maybe a crisp 58 to 65 degrees. I want to need a sweater with me, and have gloves and a scarf at the ready. Sue me.

Reading for Pleasure

In the quest for life's meaning and the path to happiness, fame and success are apparently not the answer; the actor James Gandolfini who recently died of a heart attack at age 51 proved that anew. He had everything in terms of material goods, received awards and accolades for his extreme talent, but still was addicted to food, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and allegedly heroin. And now that he's gone, we can't even ask him why.

The best-seller, Stumbling On Happiness, has been my husband's bedside book for the last last few months; he reads just a couple of pages each night before falling asleep. Now he's finally finished it and seems no happier. I asked him what he learned and he said the following: "Don't trust your memories or your conjecture about the future. Your imagination can be wrong. The brain stores shreds of memories and fills in the blanks with inaccurate information." Bottom line: Great title, but yet the book doesn't quite deliver the goods.

Usually reading is fun, but right now I am in the final stages of an old novel called The Bell Jar, wherein the author considers how to commit suicide every which way. It's bleak, I tell you, but yet I still like reading it because it makes me see that although I have been deeply unhappy at times in my life, I have never been anywhere near the deep unhappiness of Sylvia Plath. Absolutely nothing made her happy, including her own wild success as a writer, her marriage to a very successful poet, and her two perfect children born with all their body parts in working order, a miracle we commonly take for granted. So she stuck her head in the oven, an ungraceful exit if you ask me.

Even though her book is bumming me out, I still like reading it. But after this, to clear my brain palate, I'm going back to a sure-fire favorite, Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. That's always a good time.


Friday, July 5, 2013

How to Eat a Mallomar

I JUST FOUND OUT TODAY THAT ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS HAS NO IDEA WHAT A MALLOMAR IS. THIS IS STUNNING NEWS.

She grew up in Utah so maybe that explains it. 
Whatever, she now has heard of them, but she has no idea how to eat one. 
There are many ways, I suppose, but I think the best one is this:

1. Bite into the chocolate covering carefully, cracking it. 
2. Eat off little pieces of the chocolate until just the marshmallow mound remains.
3. Suck on that, or swallow it whole, or do whatever you want.
4. Save the little graham cracker cookie on the bottom for last.

It's Not Bacon

The French chef Georges Auguste Escoffier invented Melba toast. It's not what you would call a popular food, at least not these days, but I do like Melba toast and was surprised to hear that someone actually "invented" it. It's a hard piece of dry toast; I would have guessed it just happened when someone dropped a piece of already toasted bread back into their campfire. I also had never heard of the chef until about ten minutes ago when I saw an ad online about becoming an escoffier, and not knowing the word I looked it up and of course am now an expert on the subject. (God bless Wikipedia.)

I haven't eaten Melba toast in at least 20 years. It was a staple of my teenage diet years, along with half a cantaloupe filled with a scoop of cottage cheese. I only really started to like it because my mother's middle name was Melba and so she stocked it, keeping it in the cupboard alongside the Mallomars she craved constantly. She was skinny, so the Mallomars were fine for her, but I stuck to that dry Melba toast. My first mother-in-law, who was a great cook deserving of her very own Wikipedia page, often made it from scratch, starting with a loaf of Pepperidge Farm white bread. She served it with tuna salad she made by first grilling a tuna steak. She was something.

Melba toast is still sold in stores, but I can't remember the last time I saw anyone eating it. As my husband says, "It's hard, it's bland--what's to like?" It's sad, really. Imagine it sitting on the shelf in the market watching everyone pass by with their carts full of all the other, more interesting crackers: Ritz! Triscuits! Wheat Thins! Saltines! I may have to buy a box today.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

About a Crow

This morning I was hoping to sleep late, but one of God's creatures had other ideas. A crow parked in the woods just outside my bedroom window started shouting, and kept it up for about 20 minutes. I woke up at the first angry caw and tried to dim the racket with a pillow over my head, hoping he would stop and I could return to my technicolor dream. Those are rare. Anyway, he didn't. Finally, even though it was only about five after the crack of dawn, I got out of bed. As soon as I did, the crow was quiet. I never heard from him again, but by then I was wide awake and there was no possibility of falling back asleep.

I guess it was fitting that I was awakened in that manner, today being Franz Kafka's birthday. He wrote often about alienation and mystical transformation. Kafka's most famous work, The Metamorphosis, begins: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature." I was quite happy that hadn't happened to me and went outside to feed the fish. Still, I wondered about that crow.






Monday, July 1, 2013

And He Can Cook!


Mitch Rouda’s Bok Choy & Red Pepper Stir-fry

3 baby bok choy (or use 2 medium bok choy or 1 large bok choy)
1 red or orange pepper, sliced thin crosswise
½ red onion, sliced thin
5 garlic cloves
2 TBS Sesame oil
1 TBS Olive oil
2 TBS Soy sauce
1 tsp Oriental crushed Chili/garlic sauce

Slice garlic cloves very thin

Add about 1 TBS sesame oil to hot wok and fry garlic slices til crispy;
remove and set aside

Wipe the wok clean with a paper towel

Add 1 TBS sesame oil plus 1 TBS olive oil.  Use medium-high flame  
When oil is hot but before it is smoking, add the onions and peppers  

Stir-fry 5-10 minutes or until tender

Add the bok choy and 2-3 TBS soy sauce
Stir constantly til bok choy is wilted

Add 1 TSP chili/garlic sauce; keep stirring
Top with the garlic chips and serve