Monday, September 30, 2013

More to the Story, or Frumpy Returns!

Just when I'd all but finished licking my wounds, this shows up--an invitation to a luncheon, not only in my honor but from Miss Debbie herself, the very one who called me on the phone just a few days ago and said, "Stay away--we don't want your kind!" (So much for my paltry understanding of human nature.) Anyway, I can't go, darn it, because that's the very day I had planned to do a worm count on our property, and after that to pick up all the dog poop and maybe move some of the rocks around. Otherwise I would definitely go.

Less Pie for Everyone

Illustration by Gordon Studer
The headline on the front page of today's Wall Street Journal says: "Government Heads Toward Shutdown." How great would that be? Imagine life without the constant yammering of all those partisan boobs, a.k.a. elected officials, who spend their days excoriating one another in public, apparently accomplishing little but gumming up the works. When they're not filibustering on Capitol Hill they're blowing hot air at reporters on CNN and Fox News, explaining why it's all the other guy's fault.

Admit it: it's embarrassing. No wonder Obama is hiding out in the recesses of his government-funded castle, perhaps playing video putt-putt games to calm his nerves. If the warring sides of our supposedly grown-up politicians can't overcome the debilitating brinkmanship that is the hallmark of the Obama administration, life will go on but we'll have to get by without certain amenities we have come to expect.

For example, the IRS will cancel all audit appointments. I know, I know, it's disappointing--but one of life's harsh realities is that sacrifices must be made for the common good. Another is that the Census Bureau will stop collecting data, so we won't know approximately how many people of what nationality are stuffed in the closets of how many crumbling domiciles in which dying cities today, as compared to ten years ago. Government surveillance of the flu and other diseases would cease, so we'll have to figure out all by ourselves if we're not feeling well. And the National Labor Relations Board would send home 1,600 of its 1,611 employees, leaving only 11 of them to answer the phones.

Admittedly it's pretty bleak, but thank God mail delivery will continue; I simply could not face Christmas without my holiday Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Old and the Limber

(FYI: I am done with Dumpy, Lumpy and Frumpy, the Freeport ladies, and I certainly hope they all stay away from here from now on.)

Sometime last week I agreed to have one of the original hips that has been with me since birth replaced with a fake one made of titanium or carbon steel or something shiny like that, not sure what it is, but I know that it will definitely trigger the alarms at airport security. At least that should be fun. Anyway, I am not doing it until after I wear this one out completely schlepping around Barcelona in December, so it's next year's problem. Of course I can always back out and maybe I will unless I can convince myself that it is not against God and nature to replace worn out body parts in your very own body. Seems wrong somehow. Also, I wish it would at least show--like if I am going under the knife, why not at least look better when I wake up, like maybe get a facelift? Is getting a new hip any less vain and self-indulgent?

This year alone, 300,000 Americans got new hips installed. Our kids can't read or do math, but the oldsters are running marathons. Go figure.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stickin' with Snooty

The Freeport Community Center's biddies have spoken: "We don't want your kind here." I got that message two days ago via a lackey of the Director herself--who by the way is a complete stranger I've never even seen. Now, wondering exactly what kind is my kind, I looked it up to see just what a kind is, and found: "A person or thing being of a particular character or class."

Aha! So it's not necessarily my being a right-leaning-liberal, pot-smoking, middle-class, wisecracking, sarcastic New York Jew like I feared. Instead, the sticking point could be my character, which is to say my unswerving allegiance to the truth at all costs, that deems me unfit company. Well, I'm used to that, believe me.

This whole brouhaha began when I wrote in a blog, which is to say a personal diary that answers to me (and Google) alone, that their ringleader was "snooty." Well guess what--she is snooty, and with good reason. In fact, Mabel has more class in her little pinky than the lot of them springing to her defense have in their lumpy bodies all squished together. She's rich and she doesn't try to hide it. It shows in her decidedly stylish attire, a rare thing here in the looming shadow of the L. L. Bean campus. She travels to exotic places and tells you all about it. Her house is stunning, filled with fine art and antiques, a jewel in the picture-perfect seaside village that could be named South Snootport. And by the way, there are worse epithets than "snooty." I looked that up too and found out it means "snobbish or exclusive." But I'm betting my firstborn that Mabel would rather be called snooty than dowdy, dumpy, frumpy or boring, none of which apply to her in the least but all of which aptly describe her outraged apologists.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rubbernecking in Freeport

"Cluck, cluck, cluck--can you believe she said that?"
My blog numbers are waaaaaaaay up since yesterday, with everyone and their Aunt Tillie reading all about the whole to-do concerning me and the Incredibly Shocked Freeport Volunteer Ladies. If I had known how much they cared I would have written about them a lot sooner--hey, I could change the name of this blog to "Maine Style" and never run out of material. But I won't do that since it's a snooze, and with a very limited audience--after all, very few moose can read. But apparently hens can, and just in case Wendy, Deb, Melanie and the whole gaggle are reading this: "Hello girls! Now cluck, cluck, hurry and call each other on the phone to discuss this cluck, cluck latest affront to your clucking sensibilities."

To all my other loyal readers who expect at least a laugh or a pithy comment or two, I apologize and promise to return to my regular programming ASAP.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Great Poem (by somebody else)

by Charles Bukowski

I saw too many faces today
faces like balloons.

at times I felt like
lifting the skin
and asking,
"anybody under there?"

there are medical terms for
fear of height
fear of
enclosed spaces.

there are medical terms for
any number of

there must be a medical term
"too many people."

I’ve been stricken with
this malady
all my life:
there has always been
"too many people."

I saw too many faces
today, hundreds of

with eyes, ears, lips,
mouths, chins and so

I’ve been alone
for several hours

I feel that I am

which is the good part
but the problem
that I know I’m going to
have to go out there
among them

Life in a Small Town

It seems that nothing goes unnoticed here in the sleepy little town of Freeport, Maine, even this silly blog which my son calls my "diary." That lady I already don't like and who already told me she thought one of my blog posts was "not nice" has apparently emailed the link around to all the other ladies who congeal within the so-called Community Center, and they managed to find another post they found equally, if not more offensive; in fact, it was the icing on the cake! I'm guessing they drew straws and decided who should call me, and the unlucky loser just did, informing me that "we don't support that kind of thing" and "we have no need for your kind anymore." Those were her exact words. (Never mind that one week ago when I agreed to come in and help, she fairly gushed, "You are so fabulous--thank you for being you!")

The caller was one Miss Debbie D., who has the imposing title of Volunteer Coordinator at my last--and I do mean last--local volunteer effort, although the term coordinator is far from accurate. Miss Debbie, who is actually a human but somehow manages to look like she was drawn by Charles Schultz and lives somewhere in Lucy's neighborhood with the rest of the Peanuts gang, is always breathless and frazzled due to her unbelievably stressful job of lining up a bunch of ladies to come on time and hang around and gossip over coffee and donuts, ostensibly "raising money for the needy" by selling donated old household items. I am pretty sure that "firing" me today took it out of her, and surely she went home early.

Anyway, who knew I had so many unwanted readers? (This one is especially for them.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Not Always Funny

A friend I see from time to time emailed me today, asking if things are okay since my blogs have been "less than cheery" lately.  Which brings to mind the less than cheery reality that in this day and age, or at least in this neck of the woods--the neck being Maine and the woods being the world--when a neighbor suspects that you might not be well, she sends an email even though she lives down the block, a two-minute walk away. She doesn't call on the phone, or stop by with flowers or cookies, or stick a note in the door, or whatever. Mayberry it's not. This comes fast on the heels of another neighbor telling me that one of my blogs was "not nice," so I may be a tad sensitive.

Listen: If I were getting paid to pretend to be cheery, I could be cheery. Or if the world were a cheerier place, I could be cheery. Or if I did not need hip replacement surgery and could instead go for a run every morning like I did in the old days when I was much cheerier, I could be cheery. But none of those things are the case, and so, as the famous chef-slash-racist Paula Deen said tearfully on national TV, "I is what I is and I'm not gonna change." And FYI, in New York or DC, not being cheery is considered fairly normal behavior.

Antiques Roadkill

In our society, the older you are the less you are worth. This is downright nutty as anyone who has ever sold antiques will tell you. So you gotta wonder why we place such a high value on youth when young people are in many ways inferior. Scientists who study such things report that the brain develops from back to front, and the part of the brain which controls reasoning and impulses--specifically the prefrontal cortex--is near the front of the brain and therefore develops last. Still, we nurture superstars who are relative toddlers, rewarding their childish antics with millions of dollars that they spend on God knows what. (Not hospice care, certainly.) The young fans who worship them are excused from criticism, being likewise still dumb, but the older ones who watch for reasons I cannot even guess are puzzling.

Einstein started the tongue thing years ago....
The latest in-your-face celebrity is Miley Cyrus, who is the new Brittany Spears, who was the new Lady Gaga, who was the new Madonna, who was the new Grace Slick, who was the new I forget, but you get the point. Young Miss Miley is shown on the current cover of Rolling Stone magazine, with her famous tongue sticking out, nude, in a swimming pool, proving what we all suspected: That underneath her clothing she is naked. (The harlot!) I guess that sells magazines, or at least Rolling Stone magazine, which ran the picture of another precocious 20-year-old, the surviving brother responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings, on its cover recently. Not sure, and don't quote me, but I bet anything the editor and art director are both older than 25, yet they made those questionable decisions.

What bugs me, since I'm no spring chicken myself, is that while many of them have lost their muscle tone and gotten fat, plenty of really cool and really smart "old" people walk among us. They too have tongues and are naked underneath their clothing. Often they do things of merit. To be fair, some of them can be idiotic morons just like the young folks, but on the whole they've got valuable wisdom to share. Maybe if we revered more of them instead of pushing them out of the way, things would be better all around.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Secret

Several years ago an Australian woman named Rhonda Byrne wrote a book which spawned a movie, and together the two made $300 million. More than 19 million copies of the book had been sold by the spring of 2007, earning $12 million, not counting the profits from 2 million DVDs. Today Rhonda is likely lolling on a South Seas island counting her lucre from the sale of her great idea. The book was called The Secret, and anyone who knows anything about anything knows that it's just a rehash of The Power of Positive Thinking, written 50 years ago by Norman Vincent Peale, with a dash of How to Win Friends and Influence People, written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie. The secret was that there really is a sucker born every minute, among them my old friend Nancy who bought the whole package and started attending weekly "Secret meetings," and talk-show diva Oprah Winfrey who helped popularize The Secret by giving it her blessing on TV and in her monthly magazine.

The "secret" was that if you think good things, good things will happen to you and if you think bad things, bad things will happen to you. I believe this to be a crock, however I would be all but penniless were it not for the generosity of my husband combined with the marital laws in this country, so what do I know? Who can think very good thoughts these days, what with all the horrors of everyday life and death and insane fanatics holed up in shopping malls for four days shooting random strangers, but hey, maybe it's time to turn it all around. Perhaps everyone should start thinking good things, and even write books that spawn movies that sell a lot of DVDs and end up lolling on some beach somewhere too. Yes, that's it, that is exactly what we should do.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Compare and Contrast: Janet Yellen & Me


A woman named Janet Yellen is being talked about as the next Federal Reserve Chairman, although in her case it would be Chairwoman. I have noticed her in news reports because you rarely ever see old ladies written about unless they were murdered in a senseless rampage, or are being held hostage by a terrorist, or are missing with Alzheimer's, yet here is this lady and she's none of those things but is still big news. I checked her out and learned that we have a lot in common:
1. We are both 67 years old.
2. We were both born in Brooklyn.
3. We both have one son.
4. We are both Jewish.
5. We are both "effective leaders" with a "sharp mind" who "clash with others" and "leave hard feelings" in the wake of "confrontations."

Yet we are also very different:
1. In 2012 she was named one of the "50 Most Influential People" by Bloomberg News; I can't get the neighbor's dogs to stop pooping on my lawn.
2. She respects the current administration and therefore President Obama, whereas I would cross the street to avoid bumping into him.
3. She has gone gray, while I color my hair.
4. She is being considered as the next leader of the Federal Reserve; I was passed over by L.L. Bean to sell duck boots to tourists.
 5. I think marijuana should be legalized, but I bet she does not. (Just guessing.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Bother Reading This

From now on I'm aiming for fewer readers instead of more. Then when I have no readers at all, I can say whatever I want without worry. This plan came to me after I recently met an acquaintance here in town who I particularly dislike and she mentioned that she read one of my blog posts and found it offensive. This made me feel two emotions: A, I was stunned that she reads my blog--I certainly would never read hers--and B, I was annoyed that she told me so. Relating this encounter to my husband and son, they said I should write a diary and not a blog, and that if it's online it's public, and yada, yada, yada. They suggested I keep it private and email it to a select few friends if I want readers.

That seems like a lot of trouble, and quite presumptuous; imagine getting this nonsense in an email! How annoying would that be?  So then I came up with the idea of having it just be dumb and boring so that nobody else will read it at all, thus making it my own personal diary except still online, with Gordon's illustrations or cartoons or whatever. Plus, I like going back months later and editing it, and besides I hardly ever write longhand anymore, I prefer typing. Thus I am starting the new plan with this very post.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Timing is Everything

Although the election is still 17 months away, someone named Eliot Cutler has announced he is running for governor here in Maine. Once again, the Independent candidate will reprise his role as a spoiler in the three-way race in 2014. When I heard him speak the last time at a neighbor's casual backyard "meet and greet," the most interesting thing I learned was the recipe for the delightfully spicy guacamole, and that wasn't even from him. (What set it apart was a healthy infusion of freshly chopped cilantro---who knew?)

As usual, I wonder what inner mechanism makes all those politicians who lost come back for more. Are they older and wiser, or just older? More determined to do good, or just more desperate to repair a wounded ego? Whatever the reason, it seems awfully early to start the droning. If only they showed up a month or two before Election Day, brimming with fresh ideas, maybe more people would pay attention.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brain Drain

My mother died of early-onset Alzheimer's at age 62. I was 34 at the time, and since then I have kept up with all the latest findings on the disease. One thing that seems clear is that, like any other body part, when it comes to the brain it's use it or lose it. To that end I am a nut about crossword puzzles and word games and reading and writing, believing that continually stretching my brain will keep it from crumbling, or at the very least, I'll notice if it starts to go. I believe that playing Words With Friends is therapeutic. Ditto Scrabble. I don't feel guilty since all I'm doing is taking my medicine, which just happens to be fun. Every Sunday when the New York Times arrives, I do the crossword in the magazine. Like a good girl. I am not wasting my time, I am avoiding dementia.

So the other day when I got an invitation from a friend to play Candy Crush Saga, a Facebook game I have studiously avoided thus far, I was unsure how to react. It's a quandary, since one of my dearest old friends plays it with gusto, and so if it's good enough for her, maybe it's good enough. I said to myself, "Hey, she's asking me to play, she's my pal, she's no dummy, I'll give it a try." So I did. And I gotta say, it seemed like if I played that game regularly it would actually bring on Alzheimer's. I had no idea what the goal of the game was, nor did I know even how to start, but that mattered not at all since suddenly I had won the top spot over three of my friends who have all been playing for months. There were lots of flashing lights and numbers coming at me, and little cartoon people, and it all had to do with brightly-colored, throbbing pieces of candy, like jelly beans and suckers. Anyway, since there is no way playing Candy Crush Saga could be considered therapeutic I will resist, although I'm sure it is one hell of a fun time-waster.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding Purpose

Sometimes Buddhist monks just wanna have fun....
I'm guessing most of us were taught to believe that life should be fun and that recreation is our God-given right, and thus a lofty goal. This surely explains why there are 649 roller coasters in America. At an average cost of $15 million each to construct, these feats of engineering serve no purpose other than to thrill the rider for approximately three minutes. And when they are not on roller coasters, or waiting in line to get on one, many of the people who might otherwise be saving the world or feeding the poor or finding a cure for cancer are instead playing Candy Crush and Words With Friends and Farmville on their iPhone toys. This is a shame, since our world is riddled with horrendous problems, none of which the iPhone can solve despite the fact that it's now available in fun colors and an unbreakable plastic case with a fingerprint recognition locking device.

Personally, I am sick and tired of recreating. I've done it to death, and by the time you are in your sixth decade, which I am, having fun is just not all that much fun. In fact, it's boring. What we crave at this stage of life, especially if we are retired or just plain unemployed, is Purpose and Meaning and a Reason To Get Up In The Morning. I'm still searching for those. I'm not sure where to look anymore, although I won't be checking atop the world's tallest coaster, the 456-feet high Kingda Ka at Six Flags Adventure in New Jersey, the thrill of which is reported to last 28 seconds. I've got lots more time to fill than that.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Words of Wisdom from a Dead Guy

If only more people could follow the preceding advice given by Steve Jobs, things would be so much better in our society. But far too few do. In fact, if you even try you are branded a "kook" by the rest of the sheep-like people (sheeple) who comprise the ever-increasing bulk of America. I have been branded "a piece of work" or an "oddball" ever since I can remember, and to be honest, I'm sort of tired of hearing it by now.

While I witness individual instances almost daily, my last sighting of a flock of sheeple occurred over a year ago, while I was in Haiti. Our tour group of 12 women had gathered for an informal meeting in the hotel's lounge area. Drinks were offered; I ordered a Pastis. Someone asked what that was, and I explained. Then she ordered one. Next thing you know, everyone there was drinking Pastis, although one or two had it on the rocks, again per my suggestion. It was pretty weird, and I was congratulated for "starting a trend." The next night in the hotel bar, Pastis was again quite popular in our group. I think I was supposed to be flattered, but instead I was appalled--didn't even one of those women have their own favorite drink by the age of 50-ish? Naturally I said nothing, since unbridled honesty is always a one-way ticket to Palookaville, and I was already in Haiti--being in both at the same time seemed unduly daunting. Anyway, Steve Jobs got it right--maybe each of us should try a little harder to follow our own private GPS.

Relaxed and Loving it

Talk about dodging a bullet: Yesterday someone went on a shooting spree in Washington, D.C. and killed a dozen random people, just two blocks away from where I once lived. If there were no guns, the killer would have had to use something else--a spear, or maybe rocks or some really hard apples--and probably nobody would have died. Let's face it: Guns are a bad business. It would be nice if they could all be rounded up and destroyed, but it's too late now. Sadly, like Twitter and Miley Cyrus, guns are here to stay.

I lived in D.C. for 30 years. I saw great theater and ate at fabulous restaurants. There were lots of good jobs for the taking, and freelance writing assignments crawled out of the woodwork. Throw in the annual display of Cherry Blossoms, the world-class museums, the Library of Congress, and blah, blah, blah---it's a great city. Except I saw friends murdered and raped, got mugged myself and had my car stolen, and generally held my breath every time I went outside, and that was in a good year, unlike 2002 when those Beltway Snipers ruled the streets for 21 days.

And it's not just in Washington but in every city: It's a jungle out there. These days all you city folks can do is stay low to the ground and keep your heads down. Or you could move to Maine. I'm not sure why, but there are hardly any deranged psychopaths living up here. In fact, the Maine crime rate is far lower than the national crime rate, earning it the title "safest state" in 2013. So snicker all you want about the cold weather and Governor Paul LePage--I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief and staying put.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why Does Anyone Do Anything?

Illustration by Gordon Studer
I got an email from a friend today saying he was confused--he thought I had said that I wasn't going to write this blog anymore, and here it was again, and what the heck is going on? Here's the thing: writing a blog is sort of like doing nothing. It doesn't make me any money and it doesn't cost me any money. People don't leave comments, so there's no give and take with an audience. And while I do hear from a couple of people every so often, and I appreciate those people very much, aside from Tedinski and David, and an occasional peep from Mel or Diane, it's a black hole out there.

I still don't know why I do it, but why does anyone do anything? Old habits die hard, which would explain why Shakespeare wrote the same play over and over, only with different characters dying from different causes. If I stop writing this blog, then I've got nothing, whereas if I continue writing this blog, I've got this blog I write. And I can say and do whatever I want, and it's just about the only place where that is true. So it matters not if anyone reads it--my life doesn't change either way. (That's the worst part. The best part is that I get to read it, and sometimes I find a typo to fix, and that's always fun.) And I can do things like right in the middle of it say, "Paul is dead now," or whatever the heck I want, and nobody can stop me. And I get to show off my friend Gordon's illustrations, which are awesome. For that alone you should thank me.

Love Fades

Daisy suspects something...
Is it possible to divorce your cat? Because if it is, I definitely want to. Like many a marriage, ours has gone downhill after 18 years together, and the spunky kitty that once brightened my days is now responsible for--and I'm just guessing here--my annoyingly high blood pressure.

When did it happen and why is the question we ask ourselves when relationships sour. With Daisy and me it started about a year ago, maybe more. My once sweet and affectionate soul mate is now always cranky and demanding, and usually screeching. She cries often, perhaps from arthritis but maybe just from years of disappointment; sometimes I can actually make out the words, "Is that all there is?" She spends her days wanting to go in or out, depending on whether she is in or out. She eats a lot, yet always wants treats. She's basically a pain in the ass.

Complicating matters is the fact that my other cat, a fluffy and feisty four-year-old named Big Lurch, is fabulous. He is incredibly dignified, and very handsome, and hardly ever makes a sound. I like him so much better than Daisy but I can't let her know; it would break her heart. Even worse, Lurch and I are sleeping together, something I used to do with Daisy until she stopped coming upstairs. I think she suspects. I suppose I should feel guilty, but I don't--I'm just tired of all the sneaking around. I don't know how much longer I can carry on this charade.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Want More Out of Life

It seems the older I get, the more I'm disappointed. One recent letdown arrived in the form of an email describing the grim details of my upcoming 50th high-school reunion, which until then I had planned on attending. You'd think that for those of us who are still alive, and with the means to travel and the ability to still walk, the doings would be pretty special. However, this is what is on the docket for the three-day event:

Friday night: A pizza party in the school gymnasium, no alcohol permitted on school grounds. Even though we are all 67 years old and some of us could die any minute, and that could be our last party.
Saturday: A walk around town, maybe with a town historian if there is such a person, to see the sights, of which there are none.
Saturday night: Cocktails and a buffet dinner at the local Best Western hotel.
Sunday morning: Nothing, but you are invited to have brunch with your friends on your own anywhere you like.

It went on: There might be pictures from the old days arranged in fancy frames in the gym, if somebody donates the frames. You maybe can have your picture taken in a 1964 model car, if someone has such a car and gets it there. There might be a golf game on Saturday if enough people are interested and want to play. Maybe that sounds good to someone, but not to me. Call me madcap, but I think after 50 years, we all deserve more fun than that.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Real 9/11

It's back. September 11. It's a sad day, and certainly deserving of mention. So despite my proclamation of silence earlier this week, I have to chime in with a few words to commemorate the occasion. Let's hope that nothing else bad ever happens on any other September 11--that would be dreadful and confusing. Imagine the TV news shows trying to come up with a logo for the story: Son of 9/11? 9/11 Two?

Something else: My cat Daisy will be 18 years old on 9/11. In cat years that is ancient, old enough to make people's voices go up an octave and say things like, "I had an old cat once who lived to be 16." While Daisy still has all her teeth and a hearty appetite, and even runs around outside for a bit every day, she is mostly out of her mind. She cries a lot, a mournful wailing which would be chilling were it not so damn annoying. She sits in the same spot pretty much all the time, unless she's at the door wanting to go outside and come back inside for no reason except to get me up out of my chair. Anyway, I  wish her a happy birthday.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Suspension of Service

It has recently come to my attention that my particular life sucks. This is due in part to the luck of the draw, which I completely lack and always have, and the current state of affairs in America, which are degenerating every second thanks to the baboons running our government, and I do mean baboons. Because of these two separate but indisputable facts, I feel I am no longer fit to write a humor blog, or in fact any blog at all. Until such time as I have something amusing to say about anything, I am suspending publication of said blog. My hope is that said baboons will not bring about World War Three and thus I will be back soon. Until then, I hope things are going better for  you than they are for me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Looking Forward

Both of my parents died in the very town where I grew up. My mother was just 62; my father 70. Their individual deaths were sad and painful for all concerned, and I certainly won't bum you out with the depressing details. The important thing is this: I have not returned to that town since 1986, and I have no intention of ever doing so. Which is why I was saddened and surprised to learn that my 50th High School reunion will be held right there, at the very same school in the very same town.

Surprised because this town is not Beverly Hills or Las Vegas or Miami Beach. It's not San Francisco or Los Angeles or Philadelphia, or even Chicago or St. Louis or Minneapolis. It's nowhere you ever heard of. What it does have going for it is the fact that it's just 25 miles from Manhattan, city of my birth and arguably the World's Greatest City. I go there often, and would certainly jump at the chance to attend my high-school reunion were it held there. But going back to that small town to have pizza and go bowling with a group of strangers who are all now 67 years old is not appealing, it's saddening, especially since there likely would be several people it would be fun to chat with, albeit superficially, for a few minutes.

And that's why I'm not going to my high-school reunion. But since we each need something special to look forward to in order to keep a spring in our step, I am going to Barcelona and Marseilles in December, and that's a pretty nice carrot to have dangling.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What's Wrong With Me?

I went to L. L. Bean today to buy a pair of jeans. The very same L. L. Bean that did not hire me to be a sales clerk, to sell jeans and boots and socks and sweaters to people just like me who come to buy. (Yes, I am still bitter.)

Upon entering the store, the first clerk I encountered was fatter than any person I have seen outside of a TV show. She must have weighed 350 pounds, and was severely unkempt and if I may say, quite unattractive. She was hired: I was not. Then when I checked out, the girl at the cash register had one arm--not that there's anything wrong with that. She was actually quite a pretty girl, about 25, but still she definitely had just the one arm; the other one ended in a stump at the elbow and was not useful to either of us. She had to take my credit card, ring up the sale and bag the merchandise. Naturally this took her somewhat longer than a person with two arms, like me to pick someone at random. Again, I was not hired and she was.

So now I am of course once again wondering what it was that kept me from being hired as a simple sales clerk, in possession of all limbs and quite presentable, and having been hired as Art Director at several newspapers, one in California, and a designer at numerous small studios and large corporations back in Washington, D.C. Go figure.

Drop That Donut!

Not more than anything, but almost more than anything, I love donuts. If I could, I would have a doughnut for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Well, to be honest I would have two or three for breakfast, and maybe two more for lunch and who knows, three for dinner if that's all I were having. Here in Freeport there is a place that is supposedly god's gift to doughnuts called Frosty's. It's not a new place, in fact it's an old, established leader in the doughnut world, but it's new here in Freeport. Anyway, I am always tempted to try one, since I pass by it almost daily, but I never have gone in. And here's why: because donuts make you fat, and being fat is gross. Besides ugly, fat is unhealthy. When you're fat, you can't breathe, surgeons won't operate on you even if you need the surgery, and nothing fits.

Yes, I know it is politically incorrect to say this. I know all about those fat-acceptance groups who claim that fat is beautiful and that fat people are targets of discrimination, and I want to say right here and now that it's a crime to take the only body God gave you and wreck it by stuffing candy and cookies and ice cream and doughnuts and all the rest of that sugary, salty, crunchy, oh-so-tasty junk food down your gullet like a Christmas goose, and that's the truth.

I am simply stunned when I see photos of formerly handsome and beautiful people who have gone this route. Sue me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tony vs. Rhoda

James Gandolfini made Tony Soprano lovable.
Last March I wrote a post entitled "Rhoda Is Dying and So Are You." It was about actress Valerie Harper, who announced at age 73 that she had just three months to live, or so she had been told eight months earlier by her doctors. An inoperable brain tumor was the culprit. She gave interviews on all the TV talk shows, appeared on the  covers of many magazines--the whole bit. Then she did not die in three months, which is certainly good if a tad embarrassing. Now today I hear she is going to be on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, which begins on September 16, so I guess she is planning to be around for at least twelve more days.

Now don't get me wrong--I loved Rhoda and I hate brain tumors. But really, if Valerie just wanted to reignite her flagging career, it seems she could have done it without the sob story. And PS, when actor James Gandolfini dropped dead out of nowhere at age 51 there was no warm-up, he just up and died. That's what I call class.

At One with the Universe

My son, with more than two-thirds of his life ahead of him, or maybe three-quarters God willing, is fearful of making the wrong career choice. I can't blame him. As America is perched on the brink of yet another war in another foreign land where people run around in curtains and flip-flops hurling rocks and firebombs in the streets to release their frustrations over the fact that there isn't really more to life, I too am considering employment possibilities. It's even slimmer pickings for people my age; after all, it's way too late for me to become a brain surgeon. And while I don't really know what I want to do, I am clear on what I don't want:
     1. I refuse to take a job that requires me to attend meetings of more than three people. Nothing gets done. There is just a lot of settling in, passing out of papers that will then be collected back at the end, pouring of coffee, choosing of donuts or maybe energy bars, and chitchat.
     2. I refuse to fill out an application detailing where I went to high school, college, etc. How can that matter now? As for listing my last six employers and their addresses and phone numbers, that's just silly: My last six employers have likely been dead for years.
     3. I cannot write for a website that requires me to submit ten articles of 600 words each every week, and get paid $5 per article. Do the math: 6,000 words for $50 is like basically nothing per word, or roughly less than a pittance.

So I remain unemployed. I read and paint and write. I walk. These are all good things, but in a capitalist society where money is the measure of success, I am a failure. This can be disheartening. The only positive spin is that I am able to relate to the universe of the downtrodden masses who are also unemployed. If you look at it in a certain way, that makes me at one with the universe. That's at least something. Now if I just throw in a few yoga classes, I'm downright enlightened.

Monday, September 2, 2013

And the Oscar Goes to....

Cate Blanchett contemplating a nervous breakdown....
People sure do different things with their given lives. Today, after five attempts in the past, or maybe four, former Olympian Diana Nyad achieved her (odd) dream and swam 110 miles from Cuba to Miami, without benefit of a shark cage. You just gotta ask: So? And also: Why? And perhaps, This helps anybody how?

Then I saw the new Woody Allen movie, Blue Jasmine. It contains proof that Woody's still got it, even though he is old and tired. More important, his latest leading lady, Cate Blanchett, is possibly the greatest actress who has ever lived. At least that's how I still feel two hours later. Together they tell a story, and it's fiction, and one can also ask "so?" and "why?"-- but somehow watching the film impacts one in mysterious ways, much more so than some lady swimming really far, even if she is 64. Shot lovingly in living color in the cities of San Francisco and Manhattan, both of which look ultra-glorious and foreign, Blue Jasmine is a tragicomedy about a Bernie Madoff-like swindler and his wife who go from riches to rags--and worse. It's about how money isn't everything unless you have a lot of it, and then it's the only thing.

The usual unusual characters that populate any Woody Allen film fill the screen, giving it their all. Superstar Alec Baldwin plays the bad guy with great reserve; in a welcome departure from the norm he does not steal any scenes, and instead is the foil for a number of people you've likely never heard of. But the true star is the script, which is full of pithy lines that will stick in your head long after it's over. This one made me laugh out loud, even though it came at a serious moment in the story: "Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown--there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming."

That is so true.

Rejecting the Good Old Days

My millionth high school reunion is scheduled for next May and I was planning to go, really I was, until I realized something important: I don't want to. This is unfortunate since it's traditionally a great motivator for weight loss; heck, I could lose 15 pounds by then if I put my mind to it. Also, there are a few people who will be there that I actually like, and when I say "a few" I mean three. But really, I can see Diane, Rick and Melva anytime, without flying to New York and driving out to Long Island and getting a hotel room to attend a dinner in some cavernous restaurant and make chitchat with the other 300 I never even talked to back when we were all so much better looking.

Besides the dreary prospect of that rubber chicken dinner and an oldies band playing hits from the 60s, there's the inevitable sadness over lost youth reflected in every Botoxed face and protruding paunch. Added to all that is the fact that my high school flame wasn't even in my graduating class, so he won't be in attendance even if he is still alive.

If only there were such a thing as a Future Reunion! Instead of looking back, I'd jump at the chance to meet those people I have yet to meet who might offer the possibility of friendship, good times, or even just a meaningful conversation. Put me down for that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Wagging the Syrian Dog

I write this blog daily so I know I woke up this morning, am still alive, and not in surgery or the ER or a coma. Some people read it every day too, and I appreciate that. For all I know their reasons are similar, although some might do it in search of a laugh, or perhaps to see if I say anything outrageous like that I hate Obama because he is black, which of course I never would say because I don't feel that way. In fact, the only thing I actually like about Obama is that he is black. I'm proud that we elected a black president, I just wish he were doing a better job. And now he seems to be doing even worse than usual, perching us on the brink of a brand new war with Syria. So while today's blog post is really just about today's blog post and that's it, let's all keep our fingers crossed--or pray if that works for you--that some of Obama's hundreds of consultants will talk him down from the ledge.