Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Riddance and Happy New Year

                    Gordon Studer
If you ask me, 2014 sucked. And not just for me personally, although I could certainly come up with a laundry list of crap I endured, starting with but not limited to several fractured ribs and extending to the misfortunes of friends and family who encountered financial ruin, random surgeries, minor strokes, cancer treatments, dead pets and general disheartenment.

Then too, things in the public sector went from bad to worse to abysmal, ending with throngs of protesters calling for "dead cops" and eventually getting some. Throw in a stalled Congress, an Ebola epidemic, wars everywhere, a rash of beheadings, a slew of dead celebrities and a couple of plane crashes, and that about sums up 2014.

So I am planning to "celebrate" the passing of this less than stellar year at home, quietly, with my husband and perhaps a glass of champagne. There might be a Scrabble game or even a few chocolate-chip cookies involved, we have yet to finalize our plans. At any rate, I am excited to wake up tomorrow to a brand new year, and one in which I will see things more clearly since I'm scheduled for cataract surgery in its very first month.

I'm hoping 2015 shines on all my friends, and that everyone who is sick gets better, that those who are broke win the lottery, and that Patsy and Tony get back to Maine this August.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Drug of Choice

My newest.
I gave up cigarettes seven years ago. I don't do recreational drugs. Oh sure, I used to smoke pot, but those days are long gone and now it just makes me dizzy and sort of depressed. I am not a compulsive eater or bulimic or anorexic. I hate shopping and still have just the one pair of jeans with paint stains and thin knees that I bought right when I moved to Maine, and that was years ago. I don't drink, unless you count a glass of red wine with dinner. I do not gamble, I am not a sex addict, compulsive exerciser, workaholic or yoga freak. I am basically going it alone, except for one thing that is becoming a problem I can no longer ignore: I am a pursaholic.

I understood the enormity of this problem last Saturday afternoon, when my husband and I drove downtown to see a movie. We had about an hour to kill, and I realized with a thrill that the theater was just a few blocks away from a leather goods store filled with handbags from floor to ceiling. Feeling anxious for no good reason besides life itself, I checked my watch and saw that I could run in, get a quick fix, and still make the movie but feel happier and more relaxed about everything.

I ransacked the shelves, inspecting and then rejecting bags for any infraction: Bad color, too big, not big enough, too many pockets, sticky zipper, shoulder strap too long, shoulder strap too short, ugly lining, a passing fad, an ostentatious logo, too much hardware or just "not me." (Price is never a concern, it's just got to feel right.) I was beginning to panic, the clock was ticking, and then I saw it: Classic black, great leather, good label with no visible logo, on the small side but big enough, and tasteful. I began to breathe easier and noticed the buzzing in my ears beginning to subside. "This one is perfect!" I cried, showing it to Mitch. He grabbed it, paid, and we were back in the car in 15 minutes.

I was exhilarated. I changed from my old purse into my new purse in time to see the coming attractions and ate a lot less popcorn than I might have otherwise. When I got home I avoided the closet where all the other purses, each formerly perfect at one time, lay in a pile.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Dream Government Could Only be Better

Members of my dream cabinet cavort on the White House lawn.
I personally know so many smart, savvy, cool women, it's a wonder none of them are challenging that old gasbag Hillary Clinton for president. Maybe it's because none of them are politicians. And who could blame them; it's such a bad job, nobody in what could be called their "right mind" would want it. The loss of privacy, the constant criticism, the need to get dressed decently every day and leave your house no matter the weather, and lastly, the necessity of attending so many meetings with so many other people make the whole thing a nightmare, at least from where I sit at noon on a Sunday, still in my furry slippers. Maybe I'll go somewhere today, and maybe I won't. Depends.

That means the citizens are stuck with whoever goes for it, and that's a group of odd ducks for sure. Still one can dream, and I dream of the following people running our government. (All of them are comfortable in the limelight, and quite at home being hounded by the press and adored or hated by the public. One of them could be president and the rest could make up the cabinet; surely they would do as good a job as many we have endured so far.)

Tommy Lee Jones
Benjamin Netanyahu
Fred Thompson
Britt Hume
Juan Williams
Condi Rice
Rush Limbaugh
Meryl Streep
Denzel Washington
Mitt Romney
Neil Cavuto
Helen Mirren
Charles Krauthammer

It sure would make for a fun primary season. Just imagine those debates!



Saturday, December 27, 2014

FILM REVIEW: "Foxcatcher"

Channing Tatum with his armpits and Steve Carell
I just saw a movie that made me hate wrestling even more than I hated wrestling before seeing it. I might have to say wrestling a few more times so you get the idea this movie is about wrestling, because I did not fully realize that beforehand and so was surprised that so much of the time I was watching beefy men in old-time bathing suits grappling and sweating on the floor. There is a lot of that. (There are no foxes, unless they meant it metaphorically.)

Besides the wrestling, Foxcatcher is mostly about a sick and twisted heir to a fortune. Based on a true story, it revolves around John DuPont, of the DuPonts, as in DuPont. At the time of the film (late 1980s) they were the richest family in America, although now that is likely not true and it might be the Kardashians. The usually comic Steve Carell has undone years of funniness by playing the lead, complete with bad teeth, a big nose and an odd gait reminiscent of the zombies in the graveyard dance in Michael Jackson's Thriller. (And by the way, Michael Jackson was Mr. Normal compared to this DuPont guy.)

The protagonist, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), is apparently nuts from the get-go. A former Olympic gold medal wrestler now down on his luck, he accepts a tempting offer to live and train at DuPont's Pennsylvania estate. While Mark is permanently bummed-out, his brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), married with two kids, is much cheerier. Also an Olympic gold medal wrestler, Dave eventually joins him as a trainer at DuPont's estate. For reasons we never fully understand, and with little fanfare, he ultimately is shot at close range by DuPont and dies in the snow. (Except for the fact that it really happened, it makes no sense.)

I tell you this so you for sure will not go see this movie, which is very disturbing while also being glacially slow and oddly boring, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever unless you are interested in how to lose 12 pounds in 90 minutes using a Schwinn Airdyne exercise bike. (Pedal really hard.) Also interesting was seeing an ancient Vanessa Redgrave as DuPont's old-as-the-hills mother. She was only around for a few minutes, but she did add some dignity to the proceedings.


Resolving to Resolve

                                    Gary Waters
Without a firm plan we are blown around like autumn leaves. Six years ago, or was it seven, my brother-in-law suffered a bike accident that put him in a coma, then rehab, then years of therapy. To help with his recovery from a traumatic brain injury, my husband and I moved to Maine from Washington, D.C., where I had lived for 30 years. And I only moved there because I married a guy, who I later divorced, who was in law school there.

While I like Maine -- no crime, no traffic, no crowds, no blaring sirens -- I wonder where I would be today if Neil had not fallen off his bike out on Route 1 that August afternoon. It's odd that, having been born in Brooklyn because that's where my parents lived, who lived there because that's where their parents lived, I now spend a lot of energy trying to suppress my native New-Yorkiness in order to get anyone to speak to me at all, like our local postmistress, a pasty potato dumpling of a woman with a Maine accent so thick you could cut it with a clam knife.

Thus, with the new year approaching and with all my resolutions used up over the course of my lifetime--I already gave up smoking, lost weight, eat well and give to charity -- the only thing left to do is to make a plan. Take the bull by the horns, chart a course, steer my own ship, blah, blah, blah. You get the idea. I've got five days to come up with one, and so far I've got nothing beyond we're out of cat food so I am definitely going to the market before noon.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vegetable Soup to Die For


1/3 C. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped

1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
4 large Crimini mushrooms, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1/2 C. red kidney beans
1/3 C. red lentils
10 large cherry tomatoes, halved
water

salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. dill weed
1 Turkish Bay leaf
healthy dash of Sriracha sauce

1. Brown celery and onion in olive oil a few minutes
2. Add vegetables and water to cover
3. Add remaining spices
4. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour

The Day After

Photo by Terrence Rouda, 2014
Several people in my Facebook news stream have taken to posting photos of gifts they received for Christmas yesterday. This practice strikes me as odd at the very least, and incredibly self-indulgent and tone-deaf at most. Basically, who cares? Do we really need a close-up, suitable for framing, of your new fuzzy slippers or some silly word game still in its box?

However, sometimes we get a gift that actually is suitable for framing. Last night I got one of those from my nephew, an adventurous sort who travels the world more than anyone I know. I had admired his photos online a while back, and he thoughtfully had one enlarged poster-size and ready for display. (See above.) Owing to my all-but-simultaneous ingestion of eggnog, champagne and wine, I forget the locale; I'm thinking Tanzania, but I'll find out as soon as I can and make it right.

I was delighted that this year I received only one gift that went straight into the trash. The others were all the way to fabulous, including a lovely silver pendant on a silver chain, a very drinkable bottle of Chianti and two blooming  primroses in colorful pots.

Relieved that this most stressful holiday is over, I can now dedicate the coming week to dreaming up some New Year's resolutions. I might just write a blog post about that, if only to enrage an old friend of mine who thinks writing about the obvious is too plebeian. But then, since writing about the esoteric satisfies so few readers, it seems like the friendlier way to go.

The sun is shining this minute, a rare and precious thing after what feels like a month of dank, bleak, wet non-days. Unsure of how many more like this will show up this winter, I'm off.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Time I Outed Santa

The Jews are a lonely lot on Christmas: While our Christian friends are snuggled in front of a cozy fire, opening gifts and scarfing down plum pudding, we sit huddled together on wooden benches eating gefilte fish and reading aloud from the Torah.

Okay, not really, but that’s how it feels to me. Despite the growing commercialization of Hanukah, Christmas will always be top dog. And despite my own participation in the festivities, baking the occasional sugar cookie and mailing cards to distant friends, December 25 finds me bereft from dawn till dusk. There’s little to do but wait it out. Everything is closed except for the 7-11, and after the coffee and donuts and an hour scanning magazines that’s pretty much played.

Growing up Jewish in the 1950s, on a block filled with hard-core Catholics, our family was clearly in the minority. Nuns and priests visited the neighborhood often. Naturally in such an environment Christmas was a big deal, spawning an array of blinking lights, flashing rooftop reindeer and glowing candy canes worthy of a Fellini dream sequence. Among all the holiday glitz, two houses remained dark -- the Shreibman's across the street, and ours.

It may sound ordinary, but what set Willow Street apart was that Santa Claus, in the flesh, visited every house on Christmas Eve. Apparently our street was the rest stop on his round-the-world tour. He did the whole milk-and-cookies bit, leaving behind a gift for every child. He even came to our house, he being an all-inclusive, non-denominational Santa.

One snowy Christmas in my sixth year as I was hurrying to get home before dark after a spirited snowball fight, I noticed something odd at Joanne Rooney’s house. There was a light on in the garage, and there was a man dressed only in his long underwear! Boy, he must be cold, I thought. Then I noticed, hey, he looks like Mr. Rooney, but when did he get so fat? He was stuffing a pillow into his suit, and wait a minute, that suit looks familiar. The sack of toys, the white beard, the black boots-- Jew or no Jew, I knew Santa when I saw him. Joanne Rooney’s father was Santa Claus!

Still reeling from the recent discovery that my mother was the “Tooth Fairy,” I plopped down into a snowdrift to catch my breath, all the while watching Mr. Rooney complete his transformation into Old Saint Nick. Then I raced home and confronted my parents, demanding some fast answers about a certain Irishman and a red velvet suit. After some preliminary stalling they caved, explaining that Mr. Rooney was “helping” Santa. “Promise you won’t tell any of the other kids,” my mother begged, a haunted look of terror in her eyes. “Do you promise?”

The Willow Street Gang
“Yeah, sure, I promise,” I said, but that promise didn’t apply to my very best friend who lived right next door! Suzanne was French, and certainly could be trusted: since returning from a Thanksgiving visit to her grandparents in France, she had all but forgotten English anyway. Unfortunately her bilingual older sister overheard me, and before you could say “Anderson Cooper” the story hit the street.

Of course there were the usual skeptics who assumed I was just bitter about the Holocaust, but most of the kids conducted their own research, pulling at Santa’s beard and asking if Joanne could come out and play. The jig was definitely up.

Things were tense on Willow Street for many months. The Shreibmans packed up and moved to Florida, and I took to playing with the kids from my Hebrew school class. Eventually I was forgiven, mostly because there were no applicants for my position as “permanent ender” in jump rope, and Santa Rooney kept his appointed rounds the next year. But he never stopped at our house again, leaving a void I experience every Christmas Eve. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t say a word.




Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Not So Happy Holidays

My new shrink.
Around the holidays, my usual tendency towards sadness blossoms into a full-blown misery, causing me to once again consider seeing a professional problem-solver for help. I don't do this because, with rare exceptions, they never do much besides hand you the tissues. Still, there was a time in my youth when I believed, like kids believe in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, in the magic of psychotherapy. Those days are long gone, but I still remember some highlights.

There was Dr. Claire, our one session my sole experience with a female shrink. I entered her office to find her stretched out on the couch—right away that shakes your confidence—her left leg encased in a cast from hip to ankle. Hardly something that would go unnoticed, I asked, as anyone might, “Oh, my goodness, what happened to your leg?” The esteemed doctor -- who had completed four years of med school and then three years of shrink school and who knows how long as an intern and all the rest, including undergoing full-blown analysis -- responded with, “What is your fantasy about my leg?”
"What's that?"
“I asked you what your fantasy is concerning what happened to my leg.”
“Gee, I guess I did hear you. Well, seeing as I just this minute got here and I haven’t even had time to take off my coat, let alone work up a halfway decent fantasy, I have nothing.”
“Go ahead, take your time.”
"You mean you want me to make up a pretend fantasy about what happened to you?”
“That’s right.”
“Why can’t you just tell me what happened? Or, better yet, don’t tell me. I was just being polite, I don’t know you well enough to give a hoot about your leg, if I may be honest with you. I mean we just met.”
“I seem to be picking up a certain amount of hostility, Andrea.”
          
Dr. Rich was okay for a while, although I must admit his name threw me. God, what's this guy going to charge, I wondered, but it was the standard outrageous sum and so we began our work together. Despite his being very short, often an issue for men, and working on a needlepoint pillowcase project during our sessions—it would eventually read “I Love My Schnauzer”-- I felt that he had good instincts and a sharp mind. I lasted with him several months, until an innocent remark ended our time together quite abruptly.
“Well, last night I went to a movie with a friend, and we were both a little bit stoned and having a good time, when—”     
“What do you mean by stoned?” Dr. Rich asked, dropping his crochet needles and giving me his full attention—a nice touch, I thought.
“You know, I was high. Feeling good. I can’t think of another word.”
“Andrea, I understand the condition you describe, but how had you gotten that way?”
As I explained that I had smoked some part of a marijuana cigarette, he flipped out and stood up, dropping his needlepoint and shaking his head. He said he never knew I had a drug problem. I explained that I had a drug problem about a week ago, but then my friend Jeffrey came through for me.
   
 Fast-forward to last year, when I saw a very nice lady who was almost helpful with my mood swings. She had a habit of writing little tidbits of advice on 3x5 index cards for me to tuck in my purse and get me through my day, the kind of things you might see on a Hallmark sympathy card. I finally quit when she wrote, "It is what it is!" and handed it to me as if it were the definitive explanation of The Meaning of Life. After her I saw one guy, one time, who was impressed by my art background and spent our whole session asking me how to promote his photography--he took pictures of dogs--and another guy who laughed at everything I said regardless of whether or not it was funny, and admitted he couldn't wait for our weekly sessions. He also stuttered.

So now I am going it alone. It's not quite as helpful but it's a lot cheaper.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yo-Yo Me

(FYI: The title of this post is pretty funny if you have heard of Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist. Otherwise it's just okay.)

The danger of finally losing weight and actually reaching your goal, thereby fitting into all your old "thin clothes," feeling great, looking better, and brimming with excitement over your achievement is that it will be very short-lived, replaced by eating whatever you want because now you can, and soon enough getting back into those "fat clothes" you fortunately did not give away, knowing this would happen. So then you start the process again, and maybe again, and there you are, tubby once more.

The trick is to reach your goal but not feel overly confident, in fact not feel good about yourself at all, and remain your own harshest critic, thus continuing to abstain from overeating and most especially those holiday cookies for no reason other than they are sitting there. Yesterday I grabbed a couple of those at the post office and they turned out to taste particularly bad, despite being cheerily decorated for the season. I tossed them out my car window on the way home, feeling remorse for the squirrel who would likely seize upon them excitedly and also find them lacking.

Right now I am at the bottom but starting back up again, yo-yo-eating-wise, and this post is my own wake-up call. I made it public because I am betting I am not alone. So Merry Christmas to all, and may your best gift be the one you give to yourself by not shoving food mindlessly down your one and only gullet.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

Joe at Woodstock, August 1969
Joe Cocker died last night. I guess to a lot of people that is not sad news, in fact maybe not newsworthy at all and certainly no big deal. But to some people, including me, it is, unless Death is better than Life, and in certain lights and on certain days it seems like it might be. At least when you're dead you don't have to worry about when and how you're going to die, if you see my point. Anyway, at the very least it is surely a pretty creative place, even more so today.



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Everyone Is Naked Underneath


Soaking in our hot tub this morning, my husband read aloud from the New York Times about vacationing at a nude resort in France; the author was not thrilled. I could relate: The last time I appeared nude in public was in a Brooklyn hospital, immediately after sliding out of the birth canal. If I could remember that far back, I was likely pretty steamed about it.

Since then I have consistently opted for clothing, saving nakedness for special occasions like showers, baths and intimate situations for invited guests only. Likewise, I have no interest whatsoever in seeing strangers in the altogether, especially given the state of the typical adult body these days. (Children are fine, up to a point.) As for a nude restaurant in a nude resort, there is no way I could eat surrounded by pasty, bloated bodies covered with moles, warts and scars as far as the eye could see. On the other hand, fabulously toned pecs and perky breasts would condemn eating anything beyond a glass of water and a few celery sticks as foolhardy.

The issue of whether to dress or not rarely presents itself, living as I do not in the South of France but in Maine; if there are any nude beaches here, I haven't heard about them. I say "rarely," because the topic does come up from time to time. My husband and I partake almost daily of the therapeutic waters in our Sundance Capri which dominates our outdoor deck, directly opposite our nearest neighbors and visible to the street. Mitch goes in naked and I wear a bathing suit. He scoffs at my modesty and I berate his exhibitionism. This exchange occurs not every time but almost every time we go in for a soak.

The idea of a nude beach is simply appalling to me, although less so than a nudist colony where all activities are done naked. What's the point? Sunburned breasts? Scaring strangers? Disturbing the peace? I just don't get it. You have no pockets; where's your cell phone? As for the hot tub, it seems unhealthy to have all those necessary anti-bacterial chemicals seeping into all my bodily orifices. My husband points out that the porous material of my bathing suit is not an impenetrable barrier and that seeping occurs regardless of my one-piece Jantzen. As for skinny-dipping in a lake or the ocean, just thinking of schools of jelly fish, clumps of seaweed, and all that other unidentified detritus sliding across my skin gives me the willies.

Don't get me wrong: in certain circumstances, nudity is the only solution. I just want the option to choose when, where, and with whom.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Poor Michelle!

Sometimes when I have nothing else pressing, I'll spend a few minutes trying to decide who is the worse person: Barack or Michelle. Today being Saturday, and with my back out of whack from a really dumb thing I did a few days ago (that does not bear going into) keeping me at home, I started thinking about that, and I decided that it's Michelle, hands down. In case you disagree, then perhaps you are not up to speed on her phony-baloney "Target shopping story," which she changes to fit any occasion.

First she said it was funny that when she went on an undercover shopping expedition to Target, nobody recognized her and the only person who spoke to her was a lady who asked her to reach a high shelf and get her some detergent. Michelle thought that was nice--after all, the lady was short and Michelle is tall, and she got a chance to be a normal person and help someone. At least that's what she said on David Letterman's TV show back in 2012. But recently she told the same story to People Magazine and tweaked it into a racist experience: The only way the person saw her was as someone who could help her, or maybe worked there. Imagine her shame!

Google it for the details; you get the idea.


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Great Time To Be a Screenwriter

The closing scene from my new screwball comedy.
All those politically correct Democrats out in Hollywood, except for the bigwigs at Sony Pictures who mocked our black president in their emails and are likely emptying out their desks right now, are simply appalled that America is "kowtowing" to North Korea by cancelling the opening of some "screwball comedy" about the planned assassination of their leader. Couple of things:

1. If Sony went ahead and released the movie and theater owners were dumb enough to show it, how many people would be dumb enough to risk life and limb to go see it? (Can you spell A-U-R-O-R-A?)
2. How does it further world peace for us to make fun of other countries, even if their evil dictators are evil dictators?

Three years ago I wrote a supposed-to-be funny post saying that with all the wonderful people who had been killed by crazy nuts, it was a shame that Keith Olbermann still walked among us. Oy vay...what a firestorm ensued. I was scum! I was a kook, not funny, and despicable for even joking about such a thing! Couple of things:
1. Keith Olbermann could never be "assassinated" since he is not not important enough. He could simply be killed.
2. Making a movie about two CIA agents assigned to assassinate Kim Jong-un seems about a zillion times worse than my silly blog post, but the same liberal Democrats who flipped out when I wrote it are now wringing their hands over how American creativity must not be silenced by terrorists.

Emboldened by the current miasma pervading the entertainment industry, I am working feverishly to finish my new screenplay wherein Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton get trapped inside an elevator aboard a Carnival Cruise ship that bursts into flames and then sinks to the ocean floor, coming to rest right next to the hull of the rusted Titanic. Naturally they die, as does everyone else aboard the "Clinton/Warren in 2016" fundraising cruise. It's quite funny and offends no foreigners, although I think Bill and Chelsea will be upset. (Maybe not Bill so much.) I am pitching it to Sony Pictures next week, as they likely will not be getting many new scripts to consider.




Thursday, December 18, 2014

It's Too Late, Johnny

Johnny at 80: not sexy.
Maine being basically off the grid, I usually jump at the chance when a "big name" entertainer decides to come here. After all, it's not every day, like it is in DC or New York, that a giant of the industry visits America's Vacationland. So I get tickets to see them all, even if the performer was never a true favorite of mine, just to feel like less of an outsider. But I have to draw the line at Johnny Mathis, who is scheduled to appear here next May in what is being billed as "A Night to Remember." (I hope he remembers to come.)

When I was in high school I adored Johnny. What girl didn't? With his beautiful face and incredibly velvety voice, his tender love songs went straight to my heart. Then sometime in college I learned the truth: He wasn't singing to me at all, or in fact to any girl. Johnny was gay!

Of course I forgave him and moved on. But now he's back, and besides being gay he is 80, and that is simply unforgivable. I am certainly not interested in hearing some old, gay guy croon "Chances Are" and "A Certain Smile." He's 80!!!!! How embarrassing.

My Age Exactly

                             Roz Chast
Here in Maine it's hard to find friends. That's because the people who choose to live on the cusp of society aren't all that social. Most women my age are busy knitting caps for their grandkids, and the men would rather go out hunting or fishing than sit around and chat over a glass of wine or a beer, which is a pretty popular activity back where I come from. So instead of passing the time with friends or getting paid to make more money for someone else, I embark on volunteer assignments. My latest one at a hospital has taken me into the world of the sick. This is a double-edged sword, since while I feel sorry for people with serious health problems I am simultaneously glad that mine are not so bad after all.

One place I work is in the radiology department. When a patient arrives for an appointment, he/she is first identified by date of birth date rather than name, since this is how most computers store personal information these days. Being pretty good at math, I do the calculations in my head and instantly know where they are in relation to my age. Sometimes this is quite disheartening, like when someone ten years younger looks ten years older, causing me to consider sticking my head in an oven, just as soon as I can find an oven.

A few days ago a great-looking woman with long, red hair and a dynamite figure, dressed stylishly, arrived at the front desk. She gave her birth date and I was stunned to realize that she had eight years on me, which would make her 76. I jokingly said, "I think you got your birth date wrong." She smiled and said that really she is that old, and for some reason she looks young and always has, even with her original face. "My God, I'm almost 80," she exclaimed. "It seems like just yesterday I was playing in the sandbox."

That lady made my day. Maybe age really is just a number.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Loners Anonymous Winter Meeting

                    Gordon Studer
It's been quite a long time since our last Loners Anonymous meeting. I think today is a perfect day for one, since it is grey and dreary outside with a steady downpour, the kind of day nobody wants any part of. That suits us just fine, since we all really enjoy staying at home, alone, doing "our thing."

None of us is ever quite sure how many are in attendance, but based on some conversations I have overheard lately, it seems as if our group is growing. I'm pretty sure my next-door neighbor belongs since she moved in over a year ago and I still haven't met her, although I have seen her from a distance. (Whenever she sees me outside she scurries in the opposite direction, a sure sign.)

Our meetings are low-key, of course, and don't require much in the way of refreshments, or any preparations at all, really. In fact, I have written this post during today's meeting and did not catch any flak for doing so. That's one of the perks of membership. Another is that you can talk for as long as you want on any subject and nobody tries to hurry you up or steal your thunder. The spotlight is always on you!

I love this group.

Open Letter to Jeb Bush

Dear Jeb:

I heard yesterday that you are considering running for president in 2016. As someone who likes you a lot and thinks you would do a great job, I beg you: Don't do it!

Right now you have a nice life, with a wonderful wife, great kids, and even two adorable grandchildren. Your parents are still alive but certainly not for long; why not enjoy them while you can? Hang out with them at one of their nice homes. Or heck, why not go skydiving with your Dad? Or maybe clear some brush down in Crawford with your brother, that sounds like a good time too.

And let's remember, the press will destroy you no matter what. You could be Jesus Christ risen from the dead, but if you're not a Democrat you are dirt! They are already salivating over the possibility of sinking their fangs into another Bush. (I recently heard several of them saying that you had "put on a lot of weight.") And too, there's Hillary and Bill--nobody can accuse either one of them of playing fair. Do you want to walk around with a target on your back?

Please Jeb, just live out your nice life as a happy family man with tons of money. And tell George and Laura we still miss them and think of them often.

Love, Andrea (and Mitch, I'm sure he would agree)

P.S.: You have porked up quite a bit if I may say, and those campaign stops at all the state fairs with the barbecued ribs and all the rest won't help. How is your cholesterol these days?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Life in a Small Town

Bah, humbug!
At the little post office in my little town, there is a lovely tradition dating back many years. Beginning on December 10 and until New Year's Day, the locals supply sweet treats for all, leaving them on the table in the lobby, such as it is. There are two deliveries each day, one first thing in the morning and the other after lunch. So if you're a sugar freak you can partake twice a day, adding to those extra holiday pounds for free. The sign-up sheet appears around the end of November, with people choosing when they want to bring in their goodies.

I must admit that this adds a bit of excitement to picking up the mail. In fact my husband frequently offers to do the chore at this time, and not so much the rest of the year. There are homemade cookies and breads and cakes. There are frosted things and sprinkled things, and candies of all types. Yesterday there was a bowl of handmade peanut brittle. Last week someone outran the pack with dozens of walnut-banana mini-cupcakes, arranged artfully on a platter and with a stack of napkins imprinted with images of Santa at the ready.

Most days I look away, or brace myself, take a sniff and then pass it all by. But today I went in sort of hungry, having had an early breakfast and busy morning, and was ready to indulge. I was dismayed to find a tin of those ubiquitous Danish cookies, the kind you can get in the CVS all year for $5.99. There they sat, still in the original tin without so much as a red ribbon or shred of silvery tinsel nearby. Whoever brought that deserves a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking this year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Where Are All the Good Muslims?

Where are all the nice Muslims hanging out? My husband is always telling me not to judge an entire group because of a rotten few, and that most Muslims are wonderful people, there is just this one little nutty faction. Like the guy who took hostage 16 innocent people in Sydney, Australia last night, random shoppers who happened to be in a chocolate shop. Then suddenly they're in some horror movie with a guy in a turban muttering "Get me an ISIS flag, or else."

Where are all the good and decent Muslim leaders and why don't they speak out against this tiny little fraction of radical beheaders who believe in the same religion they do? I am just looking for one.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

FILM REVIEW: "Nightcrawler"

Jake and his creepy eyeballs.
About the only thing this film gets right, besides the stunning cinematography that almost makes seeing it worthwhile--I said almost-- is the title. Never has the word "crawler" been used more appropriately, bringing to mind all sorts of creepy, unsavory, slimy things of the night. Sadly, Jake Gyllenhaal does a bang-up job as Louis Bloom, a repulsive insect. I may never like him again, which is sad because I always counted him among my favorite actors. But in this film he's a sociopathic, half-demented weirdo with no redeeming qualities, and that's being kind.

As a petty thief looking for a career, our hero stumbles onto a late-night car crash and is fascinated by the news photographers who show up to film the grisly scene. Watching them, he gets the idea that he could to the same thing himself. And so, being a self-described "quick learner," next thing you know he's got himself a cheap camcorder and is scurrying around L.A. looking for tragedy to record and sell to the local news.

There are so many loopholes in the script it's a wonder I didn't fall through one and end up in John Malkovich's brain. For example, how does Lou pay the rent for his crummy apartment? How come he doesn't know a soul? And just what rock did he crawl out from under? (We are given no background information on him, other than his name.) But the question you will ask yourself continually is what the heck is wrong with his eyeballs? They bulge out in a monstrous way, and you're stuck watching the whites of his eyes, complete with little red veins, in every close-up. Are they fake? Is it Halloween again? What's going on? And why are the L. A. police so slow to show up for everything? Lou beats them to the crime scene every time, despite the fact that he's listening to their police radio and hearing alerts the same time they do. Are they all out getting donuts?

Bloom thinks nothing of killing people, be they friend or foe, to get ahead, or using extortion as a path to sexual gratification. The object of his affection is Nina, played by Rene Russo looking haggard and quite unattractive, in part due to about a pound of blue eye shadow apparently applied with a palette knife. (Again with the eyes!) Nina, another creepy crawler, is an unsavory TV news director who wants videos of the goriest, most heinous things out there to increase her station's ratings. Bloom is her man. Together they work their black magic; Bloom's wallet grows fatter as Nina's ratings rise.

Halfway through, my husband, a major rubbernecker who likes to see gore as much as the next guy, whispered to me that "this is so dumb" and that he could "leave at any time." I promised him that things would improve, having heard that Gyllenhaal was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Sadly, things went from bad to worse. Now, besides all the negative images in my head, my husband was once again proven right. I hate that.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lazy Thinking

Future hard-working American?
There is an ad for a robotic vacuum cleaner in today's Wall Street Journal. It claims that for a mere $699.95 you can get a device that moves 50% more dirt than the last model, and without even getting up off your ass. It can be programmed to clean up to seven times a week, on hardwood floors or carpets, and every one of those times you can just lie there like a lox. Or else you can go to the gym while the Superior Suction Room to Room Roomba 880 does your work for you and exercise without even accomplishing anything else at the same time.

I find the very existence of this item a sure sign that things are going downhill fast for Mankind. Another sure sign is that law students at Harvard University "traumatized" by the non-punishment of the white cops in the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, who were out chanting "I can't breathe" and bouncing signs in the air saying "Black lives matter" instead of studying for their finals, are being allowed to take those exams at a later date. Seriously -- they were just too upset to study.

Seems to me that if black lives matter so much, one would be motivated to study extra hard and extra long and get that law degree even sooner, and then go out and defend some of them who have been wrongly accused and jailed. I don't know why, but the whole thing smacks of the Roomba 880.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Call It a Government Shutup


I have not checked the news yet this morning to see if there was a government shutdown last night. As I headed to bed, the bulldogs and bitches were all snarling and growling at one another on Capitol Hill, unable to pass this or that law to keep things running.

So many lawmakers, such little progress! All they do is yap into the camera at reporters about how bad the other side is, and yap at one another in the halls of Congress about the very same thing. As for the Yapper-in-Chief, he sure has screwed things up: According to several polls conducted by a variety of organizations of all political stripes, the majority of Americans believe that the Affordable Care Act has hurt health care rather than helped, and pretty much everyone agrees that race relations have worsened under Obama. Add to that the fact that a sizable portion of the world wants us dead, and you can see why a government shutdown might be just what the doctor ordered.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thank You, Zack and Ralph

Sometimes it's hard to do the right thing. Like me, today. It's raining and cold and dark despite it being daytime. (Here in Maine we haven't seen the sun all week.) It's downright dreary outside and I want to stay in bed, certainly not drive downtown and spend four hours comforting the parents of sick children in a hospital. Yet that is what I have committed to do once a week for at least six months. It hasn't even been one month and I'm already starting to concoct excuses in my mind. (My garage door is frozen and my car is trapped inside? I forgot I'm having root canal this morning? I ate some bad shellfish last night?)

But then I saw this thing my son posted on his Facebook page and it snapped me out of it. I have no memory of who Ralph Waldo Emerson is or was, and cannot think of one thing he ever wrote, but today, after the sick children but before the hot tea in front of the warm fire, I will stop at a bookstore and find something by him. He obviously had the clues.

Sometimes my son -- and let's not forget Ralph -- can be so on target.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pity the Poor Terrorists?

Decent Americans, who are nothing if not all "touchy-feely" when it comes to foreigners, especially illegal ones, are buzzing over the recently-released report detailing how our CIA agents mistreated terrorist prisoners in an effort to get information about what plans were afoot to murder, maim and torture more Americans. People are shocked that the detainees were slapped, and yelled at by several people all at once, and dragged back and forth down a long hallway, barefoot no less, and even slammed against the wall in some cases!

I guess I am not a decent American because I don't give a crap. I say hurt them and hurt them bad if it makes them talk. And if they won't talk, then just haul them up to a high floor and throw them out of a burning building, maybe one as tall as the World Trade Center used to be. Or take a whole bunch of them over to an abandoned office building scheduled for demolition and sit them at desks and give them some filing work to do, and maybe some coffee and donuts to sweeten the deal, and then crash an airplane into their heads. (One of them could be the pilot.)

I suppose this is why I have never run for public office.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't Quote Me

England's Prince William has been visiting America. He became a prince just by being born, not by doing anything special. He was a regular embryo like any other, but when he went through the birth canal of the bona fide Princess of Wales, that did it, even though she had divorced the Prince of Wales and was fooling around with an Arab at the time of her death. William brought along his wife, Kate, who because she married him is now a princess. As far as I can tell, being a princess involves wearing fancy clothing and having lots of people take your picture and quote you even when you say little of value.

Fame is a strange thing. It requires almost nothing to become famous in some instances, and a lifetime of work in others. Either way, it usually brings fortune, which is why you often hear the terms "fame" and "fortune" uttered together. My problem is that I have never wanted fame but I would not mind having fortune. Indifference has kept me from achieving either and the clock is running out, so I have downgraded my goal to weighing 133 pounds, which was the number on the scale the day I got pregnant with my only child, 27 years ago.

Naturally I put on weight during my pregnancy, and eventually lost it all again, except for a little. Over the ensuing years that number--133-- took on great significance, representing my youth. This morning I weighed 134. Closing in on it as I am, I realized that I would rather reach my goal weight than be a 140-pound princess with fancy clothes and lots of people taking my picture.

My advanced age surely has something to do with this. Today's youth are so obsessed with fame, seeing it as a goal in itself, that it is likely a trait that has evolved in humans during this century.

Beware of The Neighbors

                                  Gordon Studer
Even though my husband and I live in what is surely the best home we will ever occupy, set on two acres of beautiful woods in which our cats can ramble, and with a generous vegetable garden and several blooming flower beds and fruit trees, we are considering moving, and here's why: It's boring. Nothing ever happens in Freeport, Maine, unless you count a boot sale at L. L. Bean's as something. And the neighbors: yawn city.

I might be spoiled, since I've had some wild neighbors in the past. Most memorable were Billy and Sis, teenagers who lived next door when I was a toddler. Sis was our baby-sitter and I liked her quite a bit. Her parents were nice enough, but she and her brother fought constantly, screaming and name-calling at all hours. Then one relatively calm Sunday afternoon, Billy shot Sis dead. In the garage. With a rifle. I can still hear my grandfather mumbling, "Oy vey is meir, Gut in Himmel," which loosely translated meant, "For this I left Brooklyn?"

In need of a new baby-sitter, we moved. Our new neighbors were three agoraphobic spinster sisters my mother dubbed The Witches Next Door. They hated us, and with good reason. After all, I was a child. And my sister was also a child. Adding insult to injury, we got a dog. Having tolerated our bicycles in the front yard and a kiddie pool in the back, the dog was the final straw. The Witches sprang into action, sprinkling toxic pesticides and bits of meat on their lawn adjacent to our driveway. Caesar spent a month at the vet's. Once back home he was never the same, refusing to go outside. (This was a drag, which you know if you've ever tried getting a boxer to use a litter box.)

Directly across the street lived a childless couple who I suspected at one time had kids but had led them into the forest to be eaten by wolves, or possibly had eaten them themselves. One Halloween, in response to a group of us excitedly ringing their doorbell and shouting, "Trick or treat," the old man stormed out brandishing a rifle and shouting obscenities. He was not in costume.

In adulthood I've coexisted with the hideous paint job (fluorescent yellow with blood-red trim) visible from every one of my windows, the one neighbor's wife fooling around with another one's husband (and can I tell you everything?) situation, the teenagers playing basketball long into the night (thump, thump, thump) directly across the street, except when they were busy gunning their ear-splitting jalopies past my bedroom window, and the nagging mother who lived behind us constantly shouting, "Alexander, get in here right now!" (We always wondered where Alexander was and why he had to get in there.)

"Oh, lighten up," you're thinking. "Move to the country." Well, we did, and it's kind of like living in a cemetery. Nothing happens, except for a few dog-walkers passing by several times a day like the Gestapo on patrol. It's become obvious we need more. Or at least different.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Forget Your Troubles


The Internet is awash in useless information concerning people I don't know, and most other people don't know either. This seems to be a big waste. For example, Tom Hanks suffers from Type 2 diabetes. And this affects me how? I don't even want to know what diseases people I know suffer from. Better stated, I don't even want to know from which diseases people I know suffer. In fact I am sick of my own suffering and want to consider some happy stuff for a change. You should too.

That's it.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Smoking Messes Up Everything

Every day I walk out to the end of my driveway to get the newspaper. I'm not sure why I do this since I already know all the news. Still, there are essays and photos and puzzles and other fun stuff to be had , and it makes me feel connected to the broader world. Usually the act of getting the paper takes under one minute to make the approximately 160-foot round trip. Not today.

Today was a challenge since the driveway was covered in two inches of ice. The hard crust could be cracked with a combination of deep commitment and a strong downward thrust of a heavy boot, making each step take quite a bit of time as the boot then had to be extricated from its deep imprint, and the next step carefully located so as to not wander off course.

Perhaps a less timid soul, or one who had not cracked two ribs last February by slipping on the ice and thus spending a month as a virtual invalid, might have just run out there cavalierly. But not me. I studied the situation from all angles. I considered driving down there to grab it from the safety of my car, which is what I did yesterday, but my husband was still asleep and I was afraid the noise of the garage door opening would wake him. (It was after all not yet six in the morning and he does need his rest.)

I finally arrived at a method involving a metal snow shovel as a tool to aid in my trek down the path, and eventually achieved my goal. Getting back was easier as it was uphill. While the whole thing did not make me appreciate the paper any more than usual, it did make me aware of how much I take for granted in life because of my reasonably good health.

Moral of the story: Anyone who smokes cigarettes should stop immediately.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Necessary Prejudices

When it comes to being prejudiced, I don't care a whit about skin color, religious affiliation or political leanings. They say so little: Skin color is not a choice, and the other two are just silly affectations of insecure people who want to be included. What really counts are the choices one makes that define him or her. Therefore, I base my prejudices on noxious behaviors within someone's control but they choose to do them anyway. I try to not invite any of the following offenders into my home:

Women with puffy lips from injections of chemicals.
Folks with "sleeve" tattoos covering both arms from the neck to the wrist.
Piercings that make jewelry look like snot dripping out of both nostrils.
People who swear that their pit bulls are the sweetest dogs ever.
Holocaust deniers.
Men or women who overuse cologne or perfume that I can smell.
Women who wear hosiery under pants with open-toed shoes or sandals.
People with unwashed hair, unless the person is homeless.
Obese people in shorts eating ice cream or funnel cake in public.
Old men with ponytails or, worse, braids, except American Indians.
Someone who avoids eye contact during conversation.
People who never ask one thing about you in conversation.
People who think "Redskins" is a slur but didn't care for the last 77 years.
Meter maids.

Friday, December 5, 2014

White Cops Kill Another Black Guy

NYPD's finest murder a man on the street for selling cigarettes.
The great and powerful FDR, a man who ruled before my time so I have no personal experience of him and only know what I have heard, was way off the mark with that whole, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" crap. We have plenty to fear, let's face it. Besides the obvious, like those pizza deals that come with a giant chocolate-chip cookie as big as the pizza itself and a side order of cheese-stuffed breadsticks, all of which you are encouraged to feed your kids and then wonder why they are doing so poorly in school, there's the whole racial unrest in this country which has worsened since our first black president took office and distanced himself from his people by playing golf on Martha's Vineyard at every opportunity.

As usual, like since the beginning of time, brutal cops attack people of color for the slightest provocation. This in turn has caused African-Americans to feel even more paranoid than usual and people of all colors to take to the streets in protest. Demonstrations in all our big cities reflect the recent injustice done in the case of Eric Garner, the black man who was killed by a gang of five cops who attacked him like a pack of hungry wolves. Even with a video of the heinous deed leaving no doubt as to what transpired, a secret grand jury deliberated for many weeks and finally concluded "no problem," letting all the cops walk free and further incensing the general population.

There are no demonstrations taking place here in Portland because A, it's not a big city and B, there are no black people in Maine, or at least not enough to form a group. This fact is good and bad--good because there will be no burning and looting come the Revolution, and bad because the city is so white bread, there is little energy, bounce, or humor anywhere, and certainly nowhere to get a decent plate of soul food.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

This is What 68 Looks Like

Every time I post a picture of myself on my Facebook page that was taken 20 or 30 years ago, people LOVE it! Then when I post a photo of me now, at 68, it never fails that someone will say, "Too bad there is no dislike button, lol." (Today it was my dear brother-in-law.) Or they will just come out and say, "NO, not this one," like my old friend Bill did a year ago, the day before I un-friended him. And my sister, who is older than me, said just last week. But hey, this is what I looked like this morning at about 9:30. In 2014. At the age I am now. Without makeup. Sorry. (Really, really sorry.)

Aging happens. Get over it.

Lady Gaga and the R Word


At least it didn't dampen her spirit.
Divulging that one was raped in the distant past is apparently all the rage. Yesterday Lady Gaga vomited up her dark secret on Howard Stern's radio talk show. (Thank you for that Lady; my life is so much richer now.) Fortunately the experience did not impact her flair for showmanship or make her ashamed of her body. (See photo.)

I may or may not have been raped somewhere in my past, but that's my business. I sure as heck am not talking about it, even if it was by Bill Cosby or anyone else famous. What's the point? Just because the Internet exists and everyone with a decent connection can know every private detail of every private life, that doesn't mean you must spill your guts to a hungry public eager to lap up your entrails.

As for rape, it's a sticky wicket. Years ago I worked with a woman named Beth. She was the drab office manager in a wildly creative studio full of designers and photographers, and was often overlooked when you wanted to have any fun. One day Beth asked me to lunch and I complied, mostly out of pity. We went to a nearby bistro, and as soon as we sat down and ordered our food she told me she had been raped many years earlier. The story filled our lunch hour. Stunned, I was of course sympathetic and consoling, until, as we were waiting for the check, she said, "And then it happened again two years later, in the very same parking garage!" That's when I thought that maybe her rape story was just that--a story, calculated to make her seem more interesting. Or perhaps she had re-created the circumstances to make her life more exciting.

Certainly I am not suggesting that is true for most rape cases, but it might help explain why so many celebrities choose to "come forward" with their dark secrets. And for those with flagging careers, a heartfelt, "I was raped as a teen" confession gets them back in the news, which is where every celebrity wants to be all the time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hoping for Nothing


This time of year everyone is running around buying things. There was Black Friday followed by Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. And every single minute of every single day leading up to Christmas. What does everyone want anyway?

All I want is to write like Don DeLillo. There is simply nobody like him. He tackles very serious subjects while making you laugh out loud. And then he says things that just pop into his mind that have nothing to do with anything and sticks it right on the page anyway. That is now my goal--to write like Don DeLillo. That, and to lose two pounds by December 31.

Should one have bigger goals? Are there bigger goals to be had? I don't see anyone achieving much of anything anywhere, certainly not in the government sector. There, all the talk is of blocking other people's goals and shutting down the whole business.

I had more concrete goals once, a long time ago. But then I met them and nothing changed, except for needing new goals. So I stopped having them. The trick is to be at peace with no goals. In fact, that is my new goal.

Political Correctness Runs Amok

I have never had the slightest problem with gay men. In fact, I usually prefer gay men to the other kind. Some of my best friends, not to mention closest relatives, are gay men. Since day one, gay men have been a part of my life. My parents were friends with many gay men and I grew up thinking they were just the same as any other men, only with better taste. I have dated gay men, fallen in love with a couple and tried, to no avail, to convert one. Got it?

So a friend of mine recently posted a video on Facebook of two men dancing the tango and I thought they looked stupid. Neither one of them was in a flouncy dress and high heels, which always makes the tango more appealing. They both wore suits; there was no flowing, flouncing anything. It was boring. If one of them had worn a red chiffon dress with those flouncy layers and big hoop earrings and had his hair in a bun, that would have worked for me.

I commented, speaking to my friend who posted the video, "wish I could enjoy watching two men dance together, but alas...I cannot." Someone I don't know wrote, "You really should see someone about that problem Andrea, it's kind of silly." I responded that it's not a problem for me, and she wrote back, "prejudice blinds."

Three things sprang to mind: First, it is neither silly nor a problem. It certainly does not impact my life in any way that could under any circumstances be construed as problematic. I suppose it would be a problem if I were abducted by terrorists who sat me down in front of a video and shouted, "You must enjoy watching these two men in plain suits dance together or we will kill you!" Now that would be a problem. Or if it happened more often, like if every morning when I went out to get the paper at the end of my driveway there were two men dancing the tango in the street right in front of my house and I did not enjoy seeing them, that would certainly present me with a problem. I would definitely work on it. But it is not problem as it stands right now, in and of itself. Second, what am I being blinded to--more men dancing together? Oy, that should be my only problem. And third, please don't call me Andrea if we have never met and you are insulting me.

The bottom line: What has happened to people having their own opinions? If someone doesn't like the idea of two men having sex, that's their business. People can dislike it in their own head without trying to prevent it from happening. Their private dislike of it does not necessarily mean it is wrong thinking. Whatever happened to the individual? Is it Group Think or nothing?

I like anchovy pizza and the color yellow. I prefer almond butter over peanut. I abhor German shepherd dogs but adore boxers and pugs. I still love George W. Bush and wish I could have him and Laura over for brunch. I think the actor (who I never heard of) recently chosen by People magazine as this year's "Sexiest Man Alive" is butt-ugly. And dammit, I don't enjoy watching two men dancing the tango.  Should I make an appointment with a psychiatrist, or even a psychologist or LCSW, about any of it? 

Now that would be silly.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Comparative Religion 101


The 2009 Christmas tree arriving at Rockefeller Center in NYC.
Today I saw a sign in the city hospital where I have begun doing volunteer work that proclaimed "23 Jolly Days Until Christmas!" It did not mention how many days, jolly or otherwise, until Hanukah, or Kwaanza, possibly because the sign-maker didn't know how to spell them. Whatever the reason, they both certainly take a back seat to the big day, what with Santa and decorations and sugar cookies and elves and candy canes and the North Pole. Exactly what do the Jews have to offer--some lamp oil lasted for eight days? What oil? Lasted for what reason? And as for Kwaanza, I've got nothing.

Face it: The Christians have much better PR than anyone else, which is how they struck that deal with Rockefeller Center back in 1933. The Mormons are also doing quite well, still considered the fastest-growing religious cult in America, if not the world. But the Jews are trailing far behind, which is sad because, speaking from experience, it's fun to be a Jew. There are so many books lying around the house, and the food is outstanding, with lots of Chinese take-out on the weekends. As a rule the men are quite affectionate and loving and actually in touch with their feelings, possibly from all that psychotherapy. And of course the lack of football players speaks well for any group; ditto the preponderance of brilliant scientists and creative geniuses.

Still, a lot of people dislike us, which is too bad, although we've got it better than the Muslims. They might as well lay low for awhile since these days the only converts they're getting are lunatics.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's All a Crock

Pity me. I am such a cynic. I never believe anything. I always think things are set-ups, rigged, fake, phoney and bullshit. It's a drag, I tell you, but seemingly beyond my control. Take for example a video I just saw online wherein the actor Michael Douglas supposedly "surprises" his 98-year-old dad, Kirk Douglas, by sneaking up behind him on a TV talk show. What fun!

First of all, who in their right mind would sneak up behind a 98-year-old? That is asking for trouble even with a healthy person that age, but when the 98-year-old in question suffered a severe stroke years ago and looks not quite as good as death warmed over, it's foolhardy at best. So here comes Michael, walking on his tippy-toes in the background, and the interviewer asks Kirk, "How is your son Michael?" And Kirk answers, "I never know where he is. I never know where he'll turn up."

Oh please. What kind of an answer is that? She did not ask where is Michael, she asked how is Michael. Then the interviewer says, "Look behind you," and Kirk does and laughs and says, "Oh where did you come from?" But he's not surprised in the least, which explains why he did not keel over, dead.

I suppose the good news is that Kirk can still follow a script.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Keeping Up With the Times

Michel Kors designer logo with attached belt.
Yesterday afternoon I braved the throngs at a shopping mall -- there are only two in all of Maine and one is half an hour's drive from my home-- during what has now become the "extended Black Friday weekend." A particular need triggered the rare family outing, but I was more than happy to go since I had a deep longing for one of those buttery, soft pretzels you can only find there. I never got one but still it was quite a trip, and as an added bonus, nobody got shot while we were there.

Besides the overwhelming array of affordable "goods" from Manila, Sri Lanka, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines, there was a lot of unaffordable stuff from New York designers. One in particular, Michael Kors, has taken the designer logo to the next level, with shoes, watches, belts and handbags adorned with his name in chunky brass letters almost as big as the item itself. (In Yiddish that is known as chutzpah.)

Passing through the cosmetics department of Macy's, a woman wearing six-inch heels, lots of jewelry and what looked like a doctor's white coat imprinted with the word CLINIQUE in bright red letters stopped me and asked if I had 30 minutes to spare for a "total skin makeover at no cost." I replied that what I really needed was a facelift and if she could do that in the same time frame I'd pay full price. She did not laugh and I kept going.

Over at the AT & T store the future was clearly in evidence. There were fully waterproof phones you could wear on your wrist, in case you need to check your email while doing the dishes. There were maxi-tablets and mini-tablets and several sizes in-between, and posters showing a computer you wear on your face like goggles, allowing you to see a movie or search the Internet and get a migraine at the same time. I asked to see that one but was told it's not here yet but would be coming from Samsung, a South Korean multinational conglomerate company headquartered in Seoul. "All the really cool stuff comes from Samsung," he said. Who knew?

Next time I am definitely getting one of those pretzels, one of the few things you can find at a mall without someone's name on it.