Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dressing Up Death

This morning I read a news tidbit about a woman who is outraged because her son's ashes were returned to her in a Wal-Mart shopping bag. The funeral home director, in his own defense, explained that he had been asked to divide the ashes into four parts for family members to share, and was hard-pressed to find enough plastic bags, so he cut up a large one from Wal-Mart, being careful not to use the logo. But the woman, a regular shopper at the store, recognized the bag anyway.  She was devastated, claiming it was "disrespectful to her son's memory."

Now here is my question: Would she rather they had used a Neiman Marcus bag, or maybe a pretty blue Tiffany box? Was it the fact that Wal-Mart is a discount mill that bothered her, or was it perhaps the fact that her son died of a heart ailment at age 17? And really, dividing up the ashes so everyone could have some seems really rude to the dead person, in fact much worse than the Wal-Mart bag if you ask me.

My mother was cremated and her remains arrived, via UPS, in a paint can. Ditto my father. My sister and I transferred them into two nice porcelain urns, but we certainly kept them all together. In fact, now they are literally together, since one day my sister got angry remembering her abusive childhood, and so combined their ashes into one container, declaring, "Now they can fight for eternity!" But that's another story. The fact is, they were both pretty dead--they were ashes. I doubt I would have felt better if they showed up in nicer containers. This is something that not many of us truly understand. They should teach Death in grade school--okay, junior high--instead of algebra. Algebra is used by just a few people in later life, whereas death comes to everyone. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Holiday Entertainment for the Immature

It has recently come to my attention, not least of all via the hullabaloo over the sexually explicit performance by Miley Cyrus still causing ripples, that most people, usually men but also some rural and backwoods-raised women, are embarrassed by the whole subject of sexuality. They look away, hide their heads, avert their eyes, whatever, but cannot simply tackle the subject head on. In my mind this makes them no better than children, who titter and blush at the "dirty" words related to the subject. With the three-day Labor Day holiday upon us, take an opportunity to tailor your weekend activities to your personal level of maturity with this simple test: Look into a mirror and say each of the following words aloud. Score 0 if you do nothing in reaction, 1 point if you feel like giggling or actually do giggle, 2 if you can't say it at all, 3 if you blush and 4 if you feel aroused. Scores will be explained following the test.
Blue Balls

A score of 45-60 means you have serious problems regarding sexuality, and with adulthood, and may have gender issues; read Portnoy's Complaint and Tropic of Cancer, and then get some therapy.

A score of 30-45 indicates you are seriously pre-pubescent; pick up some vintage copies of Mad Magazine and subscribe to The Onion.

Under 15 means you're okay, just immature, so rent Dumb and Dumber. any of the Three Stooges or Marx Brothers movies, or possibly some Tom & Jerry cartoons. Or you could just watch regular TV.

And remember, if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, you know what to do.

Drive Slowly; School Is In

Illustration by Gordon Studer
School's back in most places, thank God, and we can send those pesky little rugrats inside again and get them out of our hair. After all, isn't that what school is for? It certainly can't be for teaching them anything, since they could learn a whole lot more spending a day of real life at home with Mom, learning how to cook, clean, write checks and shop for the family. Or at work with Dad, where they could learn how to schmooze with a team of coworkers, kiss up to the boss, attend meetings and maybe even do some real work. Instead, they are locked away in a minimum security prison for 7 or 8 hours each weekday. The younger ones are taught to sit still and suppress their natural boundless energy, and also color, which as we all know figures greatly in adult life, while the older ones are forced to memorize random facts that they will never need once they get out of there.

That being said, which is an annoying cliche but useful right now, I still remember a few of the things I learned in school:
1. The Three-Pronged Attack, which was important in the Civil War but may have been during the American Revolution.
2. X and Y--usually written as x and y--are important values in algebra.
3. President Lincoln freed the slaves, George Washington crossed the Delaware in a rowboat, and Ben Franklin invented electricity.
4. General Burgoyne did something quite impressive.
5. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Harriet Tubman were two different people.
6. Never split an infinitive if you can help it. Dangling participles are also bad.
7. Amoebas reproduce by binary fission.
8. A body in motion tends to stay in motion until interrupted by an outside force.
9. No two pieces of matter can occupy the same space at the same time.

After that I majored in art in college, and I do know a ton about all that. The bottom line: Be careful texting, there may be a school bus stopped right in front of you.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miley Cyrus is No Desi Arnaz

Desi Arnaz, a.k.a. Ricky Ricardo
I was going to let it pass, especially since I didn't see it. But today's Wall Street Journal has an op-ed thing about it, giving it gravitas, and so I feel compelled to weigh in on the whole "Miley Cyrus thing," which until now I've heard about and read about and seen on the news and tried to ignore but have failed.

Here is what I know: former child star Miley Cyrus has a vagina. She also has breasts, albeit teeny ones, and a tongue somewhat bigger than those breasts. She has always had them but now, being 20 years old, she understands that those regulation body parts are more valuable. In fact, she apparently thinks they make her pretty special, which is silly since every living woman is born with them, but still Miley decided to showcase hers on TV at some music awards show a few nights ago. This may have been a desperate attempt to deflect attention from her singing or dancing or whatever is her "talent." While she didn't actually exhibit her naked vagina, she did indicate she had one inside her skimpy outfit and hinted that she knew what things might fit inside it, and so her act has been deemed "disgusting" and "lewd" and "lascivious" and "shocking" by a parade of incensed journalists and critics. And now I am just one more in the line of people gossiping about her, making her richer and more popular and more likely to do all that stuff more often.

In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I've never heard or seen Miley perform; all I know is that she is the daughter of a country singer named Billy Ray Cyrus who I also have never heard or seen perform. What I'm wondering is if she has a mommy, because if she does, that's who has some "s'plaining to do," as Ricky Ricardo would say. I loved Ricky Ricardo, and he never once took his clothes off or did anything remotely tacky or gross or demeaning, at least not in public, but still he was a pretty sexy guy.

The End of Django

After watching the first two-thirds of the movie and thinking it was fabulous, I watched the conclusion of Django Unchained and now I'm really upset. What happens is that Django kills all the white people who done him wrong, and then a whole lot more of them who never done him at all. Then he and his wife, who he has finally rescued from her evil white masters, ride off into the sunset. The audience is certainly happy for both of them, since they suffered such hideous abuse as slaves, but still--I can't help feeling a tad skeptical that racial harmony is high on either of their bucket lists. The bottom line: Where Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, Django had a nightmare. God only knows where Quentin Tarantino fits in.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Comedy and Tragedy of Django

Thwarted in my search for a movie out in the world, last night I stayed home and watched Django Unchained, successfully purchased from Redbox. The opening credits seemed so sappy, with postcard images of mountains and clouds obviously colorized to death, and a soaring soundtrack befitting one of those bad John Wayne westerns from yesteryear, that I almost turned it off. Also, the story is about slavery, my least favorite subject after the Holocaust. (Yes, I know, bad things happened in the past, but can't we just move on?) But hey, what else was I doing, so I forged ahead.

My box of Whoppers at the ready, I steeled myself for Hollywood's trivialization of a serious subject, so I was delighted to see that not only is Oprah not in it, but Christoph Waltz is. The brilliant actor who played the evil SS officer in Inglorious Basterds owns the screen for much of the film, once again scaring the bejeezus out of us--although here he is kinder, gentler, and the only non-racist around. This movie turned out to be along the same lines of Basterds, only for blacks. The sweet revenge of all those Jewish Nazi killers is greatly surpassed by Django, played by Jamie Foxx. Pretty soon there are piles of dead white guys everywhere, each one deserving it of course, not only for calling everyone a nigger, but for torturing, whipping, disfiguring, demoralizing and humiliating any and every person of color.

When I saw The Help a few years back I thought they were slaves, but director Quentin Tarantino made those cleaning ladies look more like a branch of the Southhampton Junior League. These slaves are shackled, hung upside down, buried naked inside sweat boxes, eaten alive by dogs, branded with red-hot irons, forced to fight one another to the death--and those are the lucky ones. But disturbing as parts of the movie are, what with the fake but very convincing blood spurting, gushing, poring, sputtering, jettisoning, oozing and seeping from a variety of orifices from hundreds of people and their horses, it also contains some memorable comic scenes. One in particular involves the dumb-as-rocks Ku Klux Klansmen out for a midnight raid who can't see out of the eye holes in their hoods. They stop and have a debate over it, finally deciding to go hoodless this time but vowing to do a better job the next time they "go out to kill a bunch of niggers." It was Mel Brooks-funny, making all the terrifying scenes of torture where you have to cover your eyes and plug your ears worth it.

Incredible performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson added to the intensity. In fact, it was so intense that I had to stop the movie halfway so I could sleep without nightmares and will watch the conclusion this evening. I slept fine, but noticed that today I hate all white people.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Non-Movie Reviews

Feeling down, I decided to go see a movie today--there are several new ones out that seemed intriguing, and they happen to be playing right near my home. My first choice was Blue Jasmine, the latest offering from Woody Allen. Naturally I assumed it was a comedy, but a few reviews and an explanation of the plot convinced me that it's even worse than my own life, which sort of sucks right now and which is why I want to see a movie. You know, the whole escapism thing. But this Blue Jasmine is all about unhappy people having nervous breakdowns which I can see at home for free, so I nixed that idea pretty quick.

Then there's Jobs, about Steve Jobs, the brilliant but dead CEO of Apple. It stars Ashton Kutcher, who all I know about is that he does TV commercials for cameras and was married to Demi Moore. But hey, I always liked Steve Jobs, so I read a bit about it and it turns out that most of the people who saw it say it sucks, is the poor man's Social Network, and is only worth seeing if you are a fan of Ashton Kutcher. I am not.

The last option is Elysium, starring Matt Damon in a futuristic, violent, dumb and boring tale about another planet where are all the rich people have gone, leaving only deadbeats on Earth. For reasons of plot development, only Matt can save everyone from the evil High Priestess of Elysium, played by poor Jodie Foster who seems never to have fully recovered from that whole "shooting Ronald Reagan because I love Jodie" thing. So now I'm not going to a movie after all, until or unless I get really desperate, which must be why they make movies in the first place.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Netflix is the New Alzheimer's

It's tough staying current with my generation. For example, I have not seen even one episode of Orange is the New Black. Or House of Cards. Yes, I know--Kevin Spacey is fabulous. I definitely must watch both of those. Then when I'm done, I'll watch The Wire, Homeland, Mad Men, Downtown Abbey, Arrested Development, Entourage, The Big C, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Weeds and Breaking Bad. And if I'm still alive, I'll fill in with The West Wing, Twin Peaks, Grey's Anatomy, Dexter, Monk, Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives and 30 Rock. (Thankfully I succumbed to The Sopranos and Lost some years back, so I'll have a few minutes for meals and bathroom breaks.)  

Part of my problem is that the local Blockbuster closed several months ago. Then I tried Redbox and it ate my credit card and didn't even give me a DVD. But the real issue, I've been told, is that I still I don't have Netflix so I'm not capable of streaming anything, however one does that. It's all so confusing, but I'm guessing that when I get to the nursing home I'll have plenty of time to catch up.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Smart Phones Aren't

I still have one of these cast-offs....
I hate myself for several reasons. Not all the time, of course, but every so often, like when I'm driving to the periodontist and remember all those nights over the preceding three months since my last appointment that I fell into bed without flossing. Or when I yell at my cat for being out of her mind with the constant going in and going out, but then remember she is 19 and can't help it. But mostly it's for owning a cell phone, which in reality owns me. I need it when I drive in case I have a flat tire or a heart attack, and will go back to retrieve it if I have left it at home. I freak out when I can't find it, which freaks me out even more.

My husband, who recently married his iPhone in a small, private ceremony and would definitely save it in a fire before me, says I am living in the Dark Ages and that I am the only person he knows who does not have a "smart phone." I think he finds this embarrassing. He says he knows people who have the lesser but still respectable Android, but nobody at all who still has what I have, which is an old-fashioned flip-phone. He says I cannot text properly. I say they should be called dumb phones, and that I am the smart one, and that texting causes nothing but death and neck aches--a condition officially known as "text neck"-- and are responsible for the lessening quality of interpersonal relationships, ours included.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thank You for Being a Friend

One of the best things about being human is the fact that we are born in possession of a huge array of emotions. These translate into "feelings," the outward expression of which skitter across our faces every second of our lives. Some people can hide them; these people are known as "poker-faced" or "con artists." Alas, I am not one of those, and so everything I am thinking and feeling shows. For this reason I have very few friends, since I am quite picky and only truly like people who are considerate, intelligent, funny and interested in personal growth. Also, they have to "get me." Naturally, it's slim pickin's out there...

There was a time when I had scores of friends, many of whom did not meet my standards, and thus many of whom I did not really like--heck, I was even married to one once. But I was never alone, and so hardly ever had to confront my inner demons. This makes for a happy life, if you can pull it off. But the older I get the less I can settle, and so these days I am often alone. On the plus side, I really do like my friends. One of my very favorites is coming to visit soon, and I am quite excited about it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Traveling in Place

If you always behaved as if you were in a foreign country, life would be so much more interesting. For example, the Dutchess County Fair is happening now, just ten miles away as the crow flies, and it's a big deal around these parts. There are the usual kiddie rides and pie contests and pig races, with demonstrations of sheep-shearing and horse grooming at certain hours. The biggest pumpkins and the prettiest chickens will be on display, and probably goats, cows, sheep and turkeys raised by earnest young 4-H'ers too. If we get hungry, there's sure to be plenty of sno-cones and funnel cake and french fries and pizza and those aromatic and scary-looking kielbasa, which you hardly see anywhere else except maybe Poland.

Mitch and I don't really want to go but we're going anyway, since it's a spectacle that only happens once a year and we've never been around when it's going on. If we were traveling in Germany or France or any other foreign country, we'd jump at the chance to see some local color and come home brimming with stories and photos. Funny how we all marvel at any old thing when we pack our bags and pay a fortune to fly across an ocean to another continent, but when it's right in our own backyard it's a big yawn.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gone Swimmin'

Yesterday we drove five hours so that today we could be at our other house. Yes, we have two houses, but it's not like it sounds--this one has its problems, believe me. It's very old and the kitchen needs updating, like to this century.  There's a hole in the bathroom floor that I think leads to China and most of the windows need to be propped open with sticks. It's also "shared" with friends who, if they are not in the middle of negotiations with the producers of that reality TV show about hoarding, should be. They come here more often and are unfamiliar with the concept of garbage, hence there are things in the fridge wrapped in aluminum foil that are best left undisturbed. But it does have a really nice heated pool, and that makes up for everything.

I'm going in now and will not be coming out until Saturday, weather permitting.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Falling Apart at the Seams

I want a face lift. I also want a boob job and a neck reduction or whatever it's called. An eye job would be nice too, and maybe while they are lifting my lids, they could cut the cornea and do the laser thing so I could also see without glasses. I have a few varicose veins on my otherwise great legs, but still I find them unsightly so I don't wear shorts, which is a shame. But the rest of me is drooping and nothing is anywhere near where it started out, and it's a bummer.

I got to thinking all this today during my quarterly periodontal appointment where I go to keep my gums from receding up into my brain or down into my throat. Today I got a pat on the head for doing good home care, since some of my formerly "deep pockets" are now less so. Still, the dentist admitted that we all fall apart eventually, and since he is a few years my junior he  looks to me as sort of a role model, and that I am holding it together pretty well. That was the best part of my day.

After that I went to get a haircut and endured the idle chatter with the stylist----she got a bunny since I saw her last, so she talked about that today instead of her chickens. It was a nice change of pace; the chickens and the coop and the eggs were kind of played. Also, she gives a great haircut, so I just shut up and take whatever she dishes out. At least when you get a face lift and an eye job you are out cold--no chitchat required. I may find the nerve to go forward and if I do, I will certainly document every last stitch. It sure seems like a lot more fun than getting a new hip.

A Mensch in the White House

With 2016 just around the corner two towns over, then turn right, go two blocks, bear left, cross two bridges and make a hard left, today's paper brings the silly news that Joe Biden is planning to run. (You remember Joe, our current vice-president?) Apparently he thinks he can beat Hillary Clinton and get the Democratic nomination, in part because everyone else in his party will defer to her. After all, Hillary is magic--she has those great bags under her eyes and those huge ankles, not mention an unending supply of mannish pantsuits; how Joe thinks he can beat her is a mystery. Anyway, my husband thinks I would make a great president, so even though I'm not really "the type," being as I am against graft, corruption, kickbacks and of course pork, I might just go for it. Thus, I am laying out my platform early, starting with a few basics here:

1. Under my administration, everyone will be healthy. All fast-food restaurants and drinking establishments will be converted to health food restaurants, chicken noodle soup shops, medical marijuana dispensaries and CrossFit gyms. Sweets and cigarettes will be outlawed. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer will all but disappear since everyone will simply take care of themselves, thus saving billions of dollars and allowing us to pay off our national debt.

2. After I am elected, nobody will want to come to America and all the illegals who are already here will want to leave as soon as possible. Problem solved.

3. My entire cabinet  will consist of Joel Osteen as Secretary of Everything. Working closely with God, he will assure that all citizens live the life of victory and abundance that He intended for them. Naturally, this will put the kibosh on natural disasters, eliminating the need for FEMA.

4. Public utterance of the following cliches will be outlawed: the N-word, it is what it is, the end of the day, Justin Bieber, for all intents and purposes, that being said, all Kardashians, as luck would have it, baby boomer, stay the course, Taylor Swift, I hear you, my way or the highway, Whoopie Goldberg, have a nice day, have a nice night, have a good one, what goes around comes around, it's all good, when you have lemons make lemonade, and let's not go there. Anyone saying these things will be forced to eat their words.

5. English will be the official language and all citizens will be required to show mastery of the apostrophe before getting a marriage, driver's, boating, hunting or artistic license.

Friday, August 16, 2013

In Bookstores Soon

I'm home sick today with a cold. I might even have a fever, so chalk this up to delirium, but I have a great idea for a novel and I plan on starting it as soon as I can get out of bed and sit up at the computer for eight hours a day for 30 days straight. Following is a condensed version of the the plot, and it is sure to be a best-seller, I am not kidding:
Liam Neeson as Spark Lively

It was a dark and stormy night....wait, that's not it. Oh, now I remember--a beautiful young woman named Merry Evermore goes to close up her just-dead mother's house on Last Hope, a tiny island off the coast of Maine, or maybe Canada. After a few weeks spent sifting through her mother's belongings, Merry realizes the house has a ghost. It turns out to be a really hot guy who, when alive, was Shoulder Broadmore, a local carpenter who died mysteriously while renovating Merry's mother's house. They fall in love. Meanwhile, a ferryman named Spark Lively, skipper of the Missing Maiden, is also very attractive--he will be played by the young Liam Neeson (see photo) in the movie version--and since she can't have sex with a ghost, Merry starts sleeping with Spark, who is married. His wife Tinker has been a paraplegic since a tragic and unusual fishing accident years ago, and so Spark is delighted to find someone he can have sex with. They do so often, until one day Shoulder hovers in, catching them in flagrante delicto. He demands Merry choose between them, since he's "just not that kind of ghost."

Simultaneously, Hurricane Dotty has been churning up the waters around the island, causing the townsfolk to stock up on milk and toilet paper. Dotty arrives with a vengeance, knocking out all power on Last Hope. The Missing Maiden is swept out to sea, stranding the few survivors of the storm. No dummies, they realize they have no food left and no way of getting help. Someone suggests they eat the dead bodies that are littering some of the island's windswept cliffs, but that is deemed impossible since they have likely spoiled by now. It remains unclear whether or not anyone gets eaten, but eventually lots of bones litter the beaches, especially the area around Windswept Cliffs. In addition, most people have packed on a few pounds and are quite robust by the time help arrives months later.

The Windswept Cliffs of Last Hope
Then something else bad happens and something else bad happens. Finally Merry, who being a vegan refused to eat human flesh, dies of starvation. Fortunately there's a Shoulder to cry on. The two of them convince Spark, who sees dead people, to remodel Merry's mother's house into an inn, which they name the Ghost House--sort of a play on guest house. It's a big success since Last Hope became a major destination after the Huffington Post got wind of the whole "cannibalism thing." The vacationers who visit love the idea of invisible innkeepers, since surely the most annoying part of staying at an inn is the constant chatter of the innkeepers. One of the guests is a famous doctor who cures Tinker of her spinal cord injury, and so she and Spark are happy again and often hang out playing Twister and Parcheesi with Merry and Shoulder.

I am thinking I might call it Ghost House, or maybe Merry Evermore. Not sure yet, but either way, remember: You read it here first.

Only God Can Make a Crocodile

Oprah wanted this one: $38,000
Tom Ford designed: $91,5000
Imagine you are a crocodile. You were born in the Everglades, which is a really nice neighborhood, if a tad hot. A curious sort with a touch of wanderlust, you vacation in the Dominican Republic. You are happily living the good life, and can expect to be around for about 50 years, although if you take care of yourself you may last longer, like 70 or 80 years. Some hearty crocs even make it to 100! Life is good.

The trouble is, your skin is so pretty that humans like to wear it, since their own skin is not all that attractive. In fact, you've heard stories of actual concentration camps full of crocodiles where they are born and raised in captivity, then killed for their skins! So you are careful to keep a low profile. But one sunny day you let your guard down and are basking in the sun and chomping on some fish when suddenly somebody stabs you with a spear and drags you into a boat, and next thing you know you are a handbag that costs $38,000 in some fancy boutique, or maybe even $55,000 because it was designed by a celebrity. Then again, you could end up as a really swanky t-shirt for $91,500 and live in a New York City penthouse.

I suppose those are all better outcomes than just becoming a few dozen pairs of $500 shoes, but still, it would be so much better to be left alone to live out life naturally, raising your young, eating fish and swimming.
Designed by God: Free

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Another Pol Off to Prison

Just in case I was tempted to cave in and pay that damn Tea Party the hundred dollars my husband pledged several months ago to get them off the phone--obviously he'd had too much to drink at dinner that night--along comes Jesse Jackson Jr. to remind me that giving money to a politician is the same as lighting a match to it. The former congressman and still son of the Reverend Jesse Jackson is going off to prison with his head hung low, his tail between his legs and his wrist bare of that $43,350 gold-plated Rolex some poor shlep from the Chicago slums helped pay for. As we say in Yiddish, Jackson's theft of $750,000 from campaign funds is a shonda.

As for the blankety-blank Tea Party, they should just get over it already. They've been having a cow over Mitch's drunken (I'm convinced) phone pledge, and have since sent us no less than five dunning letters, each one shriller than the last, talking about how we have to defeat Obama and kick those lousy Dems out of the White House, etc. But what they'd likely do with our money is pay for the printing and mailing of more letters to more people who also haven't sent in their money. Besides, anything that has anything to do with Sarah Palin makes me sick--heck, I even hate wearing glasses anymore. The bottom line: Mitch makes the money, but I pay the bills.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Down and Out in Freeport, Maine

Well, I'm unemployed again. Turns out that column I've been writing for $35 was actually earning me $20. I found this out when I delved further into my "missing paychecks" with the billing lady at the newspaper. After a flurry of emails, wherein my editor explained that the pay is nominal -- which means trifling, in name only, minimal, less than its true value and just for the sake of appearances -- I decided that running around town looking for news and taking photos and spending hours writing it up, all the while thinking it meant something when it actually means nothing, is likely why I have been eating so much ice cream lately. So I am forfeiting that juicy annual salary of $1,040 and will instead use my free time to reclaim my vanishing self-esteem and get back to my fighting weight.

What's in Your Wallet?

Even sans wig and makeup, Oprah carries the black card.
"I'm in a store and the person doesn't obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am." That's what Oprah Winfrey said about the recent to-do concerning a boutique in Switzerland where the sales clerk tried to steer her away from a $38,000 handbag she had asked to see. Well call me stupid, but I had absolutely no idea that racism had gotten so bad in this country that black people have to carry a card identifying them as such. It's silly, really, since you can usually tell right off they are black just by looking at them, but I guess it's for people who are light-skinned or of mixed race. Anyway, no wonder Oprah is upset, since she is black and the sales clerk should have been able to see that, even without seeing her card. In fact, it's a miracle that she didn't complain about that instead of the stupid handbag.  

Oh well, "black card" or not, she earned $77 million last year, and that's pretty darned good for someone with no recognizable talent, no matter what's in their wallet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Having Cats

Early this morning, like around five, one of my two cats came into the bedroom and started wailing. Since I speak Cat, I understood her to be saying, "Get up and feed me. Now." I told her, in as loving a way possible, to shut the fuck up. An hour later she was back, more insistent this time, reminding me that she is 19 and does not have too much time left in this particular life. I threw a pillow at her. Finally at 6:45 I got out of bed, went downstairs to the kitchen and fed the damn cat. She took like two licks of the stuff, then stood at the back door like she was Princess Diana and I was one of the palace guards. (I would say Princess Kate, but she seems more down to earth and probably opens her own doors.) Groggily, I let Daisy out. Five minutes later, while I was cleaning her litter box, always a pleasant way to start the day, she was back.

Naturally I let her in. Talk about adding insult to injury, she went to the clean litter box and peed in it. This is annoying at best, since she was just outside in God's Green Toilet and could have gone anywhere, instead of inside our home. In fact, both my cats prefer indoor plumbing, and after being outside for hours come back inside and use the litter box and foul up the house. They understand this, since a cat's sense of smell is said to be 14 times stronger than a human's, and so they do it purposefully. Anyway, after using the facilities she went back to the door. I let her out. Then about four minutes later, while I was desperately making myself coffee, she was back. I let her in. Now she's sitting at the door looking outside, swishing and slapping her tail on the floor in obvious displeasure, like when the hell am I gonna drop whatever it is I'm doing to let her out.

Not sure how this is fun.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm My Own Charity

Illustration by Gordon Studer
I finally landed a writing job here in Maine after trying for four years. Back in D.C. I wrote for the Washington Post and the Northwest Current and The Radio & Television News Directors Association, but here in Maine I seem to be less valuable, being from away. So I started writing this blog just so I could keep writing. Then I landed my "job," writing a weekly local news column for which I would be paid $35. When I wrote my humor column in Salt Lake City I got paid $50 per column, and that was like fifteen years ago, but whatever--this is Maine, where there are only a million people in the whole state.

So I write my column happily and in fact have written five already, or is it six, and have received one check and one check only. That's all. My editor said they pay every two weeks and that a check was sent or is coming tomorrow, but that was last week or the week before and still no check. It sucks when you accept a position that pays $35 and then you don't even get that.

I know, it's only money and hardly any to boot. I keep telling myself that I should be glad I don't have cancer or heart disease or diabetes or something even worse, like Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, that weird thing where your bones turn to stone. And I do have all four limbs in working order and I am glad about that--- I mean, who wouldn't be? But maybe soon I will stop writing that column because low pay is different from no pay, and it is demeaning to work for free; after all, even cleaning ladies get paid, and that's in addition to the immediate gratification of the gleaming toilet bowls and sparkling kitchen appliances. Anyway, if you want to send me some spare change for reading this blog, not to mention seeing those great illustrations by Gordon Studer, email me and I'll tell you where to send it. And the best part is that you don't really have to, you can just say you did.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Not-Your-Birthday, Whitney Houston

I read that Whitney Houston would have been 50 years old today if she had not "passed away" two years ago. It also said that "the world was devastated when she passed away." What's with all the passing away? Passed what? Away from where? I guess passed away means she died drunk and stoned in a hotel bathroom from too much booze and too many pills, or was it cocaine, I forget. These euphemisms are driving me nuts. And I was not devastated, in fact I didn't much care at all and still don't, sorry. Hey, I wasn't even devastated when my own mommy died, and I loved her very much. And as for the world being devastated--I looked up the word thinking maybe I didn't know its true meaning, and found it defined as: "to lay waste; render desolate. destroy, sack, despoil, raze, ruin, level.

Look around. There are still buildings standing and cities operating. The world was not devastated. Maybe the tabloids were devastated because they lost one of their favorite cover girls. Anyway, give me a break, she did die and so it's stupid to say how old she would be if she lived. Like, if he had not died, Elvis Presley would be 78 today. George Harrison would be 70. Gregory Hines would be 67. Marilyn Monroe would be 87. Abraham Lincoln would be 204. See how silly this is?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Won't You Please Help?

Forgive me for asking, but have you given anything to charity lately? No? Well, perhaps you should. Really, you should. And not only that, I think you should give to the charity I support. I happen to have one that means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to you, because I have your email address, and I met you once, and if I recall we went to grade school together, and so I think you should give your money to my favorite charity, which happens to be one where we teach poor Haitian children how to craft paper-mache bowls in Haiti, where as you know they are very poor. But still, they sell a lot of paper-mache bowls to tourists, and not just bowls but also masks, and remember they had an earthquake and several bad hurricanes, and their evil dictator took all the money, and what kind of a heartless person could ever say "No" to Haitian children, besides their very own President?

Yes, I know--there are thousands of little children dying of leukemia and all sorts of other horrible cancers, languishing in hospitals in our very own country. Others were born with diseases like spina bifida and cerebral palsy, or missing a skull, liver or kidney, or with a heart defect or a deformed upper lip or only half a face, and some of them live in other countries besides Haiti, but still--I was thinking you should send your extra cash to my charity so the kids in Haiti can have art supplies and learn the skills necessary to make the bowls and the masks for the tourists, and grow up to be artists and earn money for their families.

It's in Haiti, did I mention that? And what kind of a monster could say no to Haiti? And so I will ask you for money over and over, again and again and again and AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN, UNTIL YOU GET SO PISSED OFF YOU WILL WRITE ME A CHECK JUST TO MAKE ME STOP, and then write this blog post so you won't ever ask again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Just in case you believe, as I once did, that you are safe  inside the steel casing of your hefty automobile, I'd like to point out that unless you've got an M1 Abrams battle tank parked in your garage, you probably aren't. Today I had what was so much less than a "fender-bender" there is not even a term for it, yet the estimate for repairs came to $1,198.20. It was a little bit like I sneezed and the car was totaled.

What happened was this: I got into my car, turned on the ignition and slowly began backing out of my parking space when I heard a loud groan coming from the vicinity of the left front wheel. Naturally I jumped out to see what had made the noise, expecting to see nothing, and instead saw that fully half of the front bumper was hanging off the car. The eroding remains of a cement curb nearby looked guilty. When I inspected further by actually touching the wounded vehicle, even more of it came off. It was sort of like stripping old wallpaper.

It turns out the $30,000 Saab I always thought was so safe and substantial is made out of the same stuff they use to make Legos. It is disheartening.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Turning the Page

The sad news of the day is that the Washington Post, once one of the leading newspapers in the world, is now the newest bauble of Jeff Bezos, the 49-year-old billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon. Like newspapers everywhere, the Post has realized dwindling profits for the last few years, and its longtime owners, the Graham family, certainly no dummies, decided to sell. And while I am an ardent supporter of Amazon as a source of books and the occasional garden clog, still, the fact that Bezos bought it sticks in my craw.

I lived in Washington for 30 years, and for me and many of my artist and writer friends, the Post was a beneficent client with really deep pockets. It was also a stage where you could strut your stuff and know it would be seen and appreciated. It was smart and interesting and funny. And in the bleakest of times, it could be a reason to get up in the morning.

I can't imagine what Jeff will make out of his newest toy, but something tells me that whatever it is, you'll need to plug it in.

Carpe Another Diem

These onion rings are to die for, but not literally.
This morning I received a phone call asking me to pitch in as a volunteer because their regular person had a stroke. Mabel is an older lady (she told me she was 73 but I guess she meant she was once) who runs everything around these parts: Estate sales, church fairs, local elections, school fundraisers, whatever--there's Mabel smack dab in the middle of it.

South Freeport is a small town, and I'm never in the middle of anything and never will be since I'm from New York and it shows. I'm also a Jew and that shows too, but still I've got a firm grip on the edge of things since I write a news column for one of the local weeklies and had an art gallery in town and then a consignment shop, and so all that combined with the New York Jew thing makes me less than invisible, which I might be otherwise. In fact, since Mabel runs the place and I've had a lunchtime audience with her two times, I guess that makes me someone, although she may have just wanted to see a New York Jew up close.

Anyway, while I never loved Mabel because she's kind of haughty, I've also always thought she's pretty cool-- dressing fabulously like someone decades younger and traveling the world to exotic places with her equally cool  husband who is apparently quite wealthy. Together they live in a lovely old house right in the middle of town--natch--that commands the single best view of the harbor and the outlying islands of the Casco Bay. They say she will be fine, and that's good news.

I thought about all this on my morning walk and decided once again that one never knows and thus must seize the day. To that end, I think when I go to lunch with my friends today I should order those incredibly delicious onion rings that I never let myself eat because they are too fattening. But then again, since eating badly contributes to strokes, I'm not sure if seizing the day would be to eat them or to not eat them. I hope I figure it out soon-- I'm meeting them in an hour.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Waiting for a Spark

Painting by Faith Te
I used to know things; now the world is leaving me behind and I can't seem to catch up. I would add "no matter how hard I try," but I don't try at all. I am clueless concerning Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, today's criminals. Hardly Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler, still they both are in hot water over things having to do with data and secrets and government espionage, but I'm not sure what. And I know even less about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downtown Abbey and Game of Thrones, whatever that is. Also, what is a bitcoin, where can I get one and how many of them equal a dollar? Where is the stock market? What is the difference between The Dow and NASDAQ?

I often wonder how non-artists spend their time. In fact, wondering that is one of the major things I do lately, since my Muse has been on vacation for months and without Her, there is little I find interesting or absorbing, despite the fact that there is so much that other people enjoy. Take kayaking, which is quite popular here in Maine: I've done it in the past and thought it was okay, but just okay. I mean, you're stuck inside a teeny boat and moving your arms and paddling and watching the scenery, but when you're finished, what do you have to show for it? Throw in the bugs and the sunburn and the possibility of drowning and it's just not all that appealing. (Lest you think I am some kind of freak, bear in mind that the writer Fran Liebowitz once said that the outdoors is what she passes through going from her apartment to a waiting taxi. I'm not that bad.)

I am reading Ethan Frome for like the 50th time and it keeps me grounded. My goal in life, at least today, is to write the same story in modern times, replacing the sled with a motorcycle and making Zeena anorexic. How great would that be?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Caste System

There is a particular woman I run into regularly on my walks around our miniature town. We first met several months ago, brought together by her overly-friendly dog Toby. After I gave him a treat he was my best friend, and his owner and I had a lengthy conversation regarding him and dogs in general, eventually sliding into a sidebar about her painful medical condition called frozen shoulder. She said she had trouble walking Toby because of the shoulder. I offered my services, no charge of course, being dogless and yet still out walking every day, and passing right near her house. She was receptive to that, and we blabbed for another 40 minutes, shivering out in the cold February air. She was nice enough for a Mainer, and we seemed to like each other. Numbers were exchanged. Then emails were exchanged, and ultimately we made a date for another walk with Toby.

Our second "date" was fun, I guess, if you like having someone talk at you for 50 minutes and never ask you one thing about yourself. We also went to her house, which turned out to be a Martha Stewart-ish mansion on a hill with wraparound porches overlooking the water that was about a zillion times better in every way than my humble abode. It was clear by the two Jaguars parked in her driveway and her son's private schools and her husband's business acumen and their boat docked in the harbor and blah, blah, blah that we live in two different worlds.

Today when I met her on my walk, we both smiled and slowed down enough to say hi and nice day. No stopping this time, and even though Toby's tail was wagging furiously, hers was not. I'm guessing that by now she's driven by my house and knows it could never work between us.

Friday, August 2, 2013

At the End of the Day

This morning I went on a walk around town and thought some terrible things. It all started when I thought of calling my friend Sarah to see if she wanted to have lunch, something we promised we would do but never did. But then I remembered that she shot herself in the head a year ago, and I wondered if she were any happier now.  The last time I saw her was in the Hannaford's supermarket, right in front of the poultry section at the end of the ethnic foods aisle. We stood and talked for quite a while, causing a bit of a traffic jam and making people go around us. Finally we agreed that we had to get together for lunch and went our separate ways, each shouting out, "Call me!" That was about a week before she decided she had had quite enough of everything.

I don't flatter myself by thinking that if I had called her and if we had met for lunch that Sarah would still be here today, but let's face it--she might. Every little thing touches every other other little thing in ways we cannot imagine, so who knows? We never know when the last time we saw someone really was the last time. Or when that innocuous straw that fluttered by, looking just like all the others, is the very one that will break the camel's back. We never know a lot of things, but still we go through each day acting like we know it all.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Rotting of a Big Apple

I try, believe me, I try, but I have so little to work with, it's no wonder I remain depressed and downhearted about the future of mankind. Anthony Weiner, he of the small brain and big dick, is now leading in the polls in the race for Mayor of New York City. This is appalling, to say the least. Hello voters--your kids are watching! Electing such a lowly worm would surely be a putrid example of how to succeed in politics, wouldn't you agree?

Once again I implore every thinking adult to watch the movie Idiocracy. Therein lies the future of mankind, and every day it gets closer to reality. In fact, in New York City, city of my birth, it's already there--New Yorkers always were ahead of the curve. But if their next mayor turns out to be someone who texts pictures of his wee-wee to strangers over his iPhone, I don't care how great their pizza is--I won't go back. (I'll miss you, Diane!)