Saturday, February 28, 2015

Smoking Is Stupid and So Are You

Just what are these people doing to themselves?
While the same can be said of everyone who lives and breathes, I am old enough to die of natural causes on any old day. And certainly of unnatural causes like surgery, especially if the anesthesiologist has a sneezing jag at an inopportune moment. I hope today is not that day for me as I have plans for later that I am looking forward to, but if it happens, I want to make sure that I have passed on my life lessons for my son and his future progeny.

There is only one lesson: All that matters is your health. The rest -- the friends and lovers, the finding of satisfying work, the expression of your innermost desires, the recognition by your peers for a job well done, the realization of personal goals and the exploitation of your god-given gifts -- is not worth a damn if you are sick.

The path to health is an easy one: Eat well. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep. Do not use drugs. Do not smoke cigarettes. I ignored all those rules in no particular order for many years, and now look at me: I'm a mess. I have high blood pressure and arthritis and my eyes are twirling inside their sockets. Okay, so it's just one eye and it's from being nearsighted, not from smoking. But anyway, smoking cigarettes certainly impacted my health negatively and I implore you to stop right this minute, whoever you are. It's just dumb.

So now I have said what I needed to say and I feel better. I am still confused about net neutrality which is all the rage right now. Supposedly it "passed," not sure by what or whom. But anyway, congratulations to everyone, I think it's a good thing.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dropping Acid vs. Cataract Surgery

1. The typical acid trip lasts about 12 hours. Cataracts are forever.
2. When you drop acid, both your eyeballs twirl around in your head. With cataract surgery, just the eye that was operated on twirls. No telling for how long, but still going strong on the second day post-op.
3. With acid, all colors are electric and fluorescent. With cataract surgery, browns turn purple and stainless steel undulates.
4. On acid you think you can do anything. After cataract surgery you truly believe you can do nothing. In both cases you are sort of right.
5. According to the Internet the current rate for a tab of acid is about $5.00, whereas cataract surgery starts at $2,500 per eye.
6. Acid makes you eat weird things like an entire bag of M&Ms. Cataract surgery makes you lose your appetite and thus is better for weight loss.
7. LSD inspired the Woodstock Generation to create groundbreaking music, art and literature. Cataract surgery helps that same generation read the directions on their medications.
8. On acid you think you have a third eye. With cataract surgery, you wish you did.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Not Called "Pizzaland"

              Gordon Studer
It has recently been brought to my attention just how bad the lion's share of pizza here in Maine really is. A friend of mine who lives here but is from "away" called seeking commiseration, shocked that he had been led astray by his coworkers, all Maine natives, to a place that allegedly made the best in all of Portland. Instead, to his utter dismay, and I quote, "It was the worst pizza of my life--worse than elementary school cafeteria pizza. It's crazy. It's insane!"

The poor Mainers, innocents all. Pity them, do not scorn them! They have never been to Brooklyn, that Mecca of the cheese pie where even a plain slice, dripping with oil, reaches as far down as your elbow before you fold it in half and cram it into your mouth, its rich tomato sauce and tangy mozzarella, adorned with a sprinkling of Parmesan and a smattering of crushed red peppers, defining the very dish. They know nothing of this, so they accept the doughy, pasty round circles piled high with irrelevant morsels of pineapple and bacon and turkey and cauliflower as "pizza."

Who among us is surprised? After all, Maine is not Italy. Nor is it even New York, Chicago or D.C. There is no neighborhood anywhere in Maine called "Little Italy." And while there are people here of Italian descent --there must be-- I have never met any. So when you come to Maine, America's "Vacationland," order lobster. It's best to stick with what they know.

The Day After

What you read on the Internet about almost anythung is oft a crock. take, for example, how you will feel after cataract surgery, which I had yesterday, excalty 24 gours ago tp be exact.

I cannot do anyhitng today. I can't drive. I can'r read, and i certainly cannot go out for a walk unless I want to walk into traffic. The operated eye is still very dilated, so is extremekmly light sensitive. The un-operated eye is still foggy from the cataract and my natural nearsigthedness, but i can;t wear my glasses vecause the opearted eye is no loger thT PRESCRIOTION AND IT;S ALL SCREWED UP QWHEN I PUT ON THE OLD GLASSE. I HAVE TO USE THREE DIFFERET KINDS OF DROPS IN MYEYES FOR THE NECT FIVE WEEKS, AND THEY SORT OF STING WHEN YOU PUT THEM IN AND OF COUARS ADD TO THE BLUFFRRINESS.

IT SICKCS. THE OPERATED EYE IS CLEARER and no longer nearsighted, but it;s no use tyo me until I get theother one done. And this is how itlooks wghen you try to write a blog post.

My advice is if your cataract is making you blid, fix it. if it is just mildley ablurry from time to time, leave it alo e, somethujng else willl kill you fisrt.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Truth About Cataract Surgery

First of all, having cataract surgery does not hurt. Not even a little. In fact, the whole experience was sort of fun, at least with the team of doctors I had. It felt like I had been abducted by aliens and brought aboard their spaceship for observation and study. That may have had to do with the enormous quantities of sedatives, tranquilizers and anesthetics being dumped, pumped and injected into my body through a variety of tubes, drips and needles. Whatever it was, it made me laugh.

It was quick, taking only about 15 minutes for the actual surgical procedure. Including all the preparations beforehand and recovery after, from start to finish I was in and out in an hour and a half, ready for a hearty breakfast at Denny's. (Okay so they are racists, but there it was and I hadn't eaten since last night, sue me.)

Two or three hours post-op is a different story. Your eye is slammed shut, still sleeping from all the drugs, they told me. It oozes ointment. You're woozy and sort of headachey. When your eye finally starts to open, things get even weirder. It's been super-dilated so things are blurry, and you have double or maybe triple vision and colors are just wrong, there's no other word for it.

I am excited to see how things look when my eye calms down and the new lens which was installed after the cloudy lens was removed starts functioning properly. The word on the street is that I will no longer need glasses, which I have worn since I was in 7th grade. This I gotta see.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Gloves

Last night I dreamed that my husband was sitting at the dining room table and opened the newspaper, which came wrapped in a plastic bag with a rubber band around it, threw the bag and the rubber band on the floor and glibly started reading the paper. I was pretty pissed off and said, "Where do you think you are, the Greyhound bus station?" Then he got mad at me and abruptly left the room, which was not really a room at all but merely a space inside my brain.

So when I woke up to minus 13 degrees I was already in a bad mood and concluded that Maine does not support life and I have to leave. Of course if you live where it's warm it gets really hot in the summer and that's pretty terrible too. Besides, yesterday I bought a pair of gloves that seem better than my last pair which offered almost no protection in severe temperatures despite being fleece-lined and suede on the outside and costing $100. The new ones are a cross between gloves and mittens -- I think of them as "glittens"-- and they seem to do the job.

Besides good gloves, eating oatmeal for breakfast is about the best thing you can do in this weather as it really does stick to your ribs and warm your insides for several hours.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Guest Blogger: C.S. LEWIS

"Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. 

"But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. 

"It is not a question of God "sending us" to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will be hell unless it is nipped in the bud. " 

–"The Great Divorce," 1945

Undies at the Oscars

Oscar Host Neil Patrick Harris and friend.
Judging from my Facebook news stream today, I am not the only highly intelligent person who sank to street level and watched last night's Oscar awards show. In my defense I will say that I had the remote within reach at all times and when necessary hit the mute button, like for most of the acceptance speeches and all of the musical numbers, and changed the channel during commercials and whenever the proceedings became unbearably embarrassing. This happened quite often, causing me to split my time between the Oscars and another debacle, "My 600-lb. Life." Both were disturbing for vastly different reasons, but only one of them made me want to puke. (Not telling which.)

Note to producers: I don't care whose designer dresses all those fake boobs are falling out of, just tell me who won. The show is too damn long and also ridiculously irrelevant to anyone but the people in the audience. It needs a complete overhaul, starting with the elimination of the "presenters," that parade of egos who strut out and do nothing but display their beautiful selves and read some silly lines from a teleprompter.

As for the host, who knew that Neil Patrick Harris had such a big one? I would have figured him for a teeny-weeny peeny, if one at all. Anyway, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Birdman!!!!!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What Is a Jew?

The recent return of anti-Semitism in Europe makes me think that people neither understand nor fully appreciate the Jewish people. This is not new, as we saw in Germany during the Third Reich. I'm here to help.

The first time this was brought to my attention was years ago when we were living in Salt Lake City. My son had brought over his new Ouija board, a birthday gift from my crazy Aunt Irene but that's another story, for a sleepover with a friend. Many of you may remember the Ouija board from those 15-minutes in childhood when it held some appeal. It involves moving a "plastic message indicator" around a game board imprinted with the letters of the alphabet, seeking answers to questions like, "Does Tommy know I like him? Who told him?" or "Will I ever be tall enough to slam dunk? How tall will I be?"

The boy's mother flipped out and summoned me on the double. When I arrived, she met me at the door and hissed that she would "have none of that Jewish devil stuff" in her home. She had obviously confused Jews from New York with gypsies from Transylvania. At the time I shrugged it off as simply a bad mood, since in her agitated state she had broken a nail and complained bitterly that her manicure was only two days old.

Over the years I have witnessed similar misunderstandings. As a teenage camp counselor I was responsible for a group of 12-year-olds. One of them, a naive girl who had never before been out of her small town, asked, "Do Jews really have horns?" Mistaking sarcasm for humor (a recurring problem of mine), I answered, "Yes, but we have them removed at birth." I let her feel a tiny bump on my head, confiding that it was the site of a former horn. What haunts me to this day is the possibility that somewhere in Indiana, a 62-year-old woman named Marion thinks all Jews are born with horns.  I'd like to clarify this right now: We most definitely do not have horns, although many of us play horns in orchestras.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to clarify a few other aspects of Judaism:
     1. To be what Grammy Hall would call "a real Jew," your parents or grandparents must live, die or spend half the year in Florida, preferably in a gated community with the word "Boca" in the name. There should be at least one relative named Pasha, Peska, Goldie, Itcha or Ben residing at the same address.
     2. While no adult Jewish males are in the NFL or NBA, many of them are in the AMA.
     3. Though many people convert to Judaism as adults, those folks can never become the aforementioned "real Jew," since that exalted status requires years of eating in Chinese restaurants during your formative years, having a nose job during adolescence and attending no less than a dozen bar mitzvahs before the onset of puberty.

So all those anti-Semites should just relax, since there aren't that many "real Jews" around. (Mostly they were born in or are currently residing in the Queens/ Long Island, NY area.) Besides, we are regular people with no extra body parts. And we have never relied on Ouija boards for answers to spiritual questions. For those we go directly to a psychiatrist, except on weekends and during the month of August when we are forced to rely solely on fortune cookies.

Words to Live By

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kids vs. Pets

The following statements have nothing to do with my personal experience. Instead my assertions have been culled from friends and movies. As it happens, my own kid is perfect, as are all my own pets. I never draw from my own life for fear of getting in trouble, so the following subjects are off limits: Mental illness, obesity, sex, disappointment, depression, loneliness, gays, horrible family members and pathetic losers.

Kids can be taught to empty the dishwasher.
Pets can be trained to do anything.

Kids go to school, so you have a long break from them on weekdays.
Pets are home-schooled and always around, which gets on your nerves.

Kids rarely attack strangers unprovoked.
Pets vomit anywhere, often with no warning.

Kids can drive you to the ER.
Pets do not need shoes.

Kids are born cute but eventually grow out of it.
Pets stay adorable, perhaps with a bit of grey around the muzzle.

Kids say the darndest things.
Pets will never tell you to "Go fuck yourself."

Kids can eventually give you grandchildren.
Pets cannot knock up their girlfriend in high school.

Kids sometimes inherit your worst habits.
Pets never do drugs or become alcoholics.

Kids can grow up to be Mark Zuckerberg and pay for your retirement.
Pets stay with you until the bitter end. (Yours or theirs.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Start Singing

"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."  So said the famed philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Have sadder words ever been spoken? And what is everyone so desperate about? Can't we all just relax, admit that nobody has any idea of why we're here or what we're supposed to do, then go have a milkshake and move on?

As for that song, we each need to do whatever it takes to get it out while we still can. For me it's writing this blog: It's not a song but merely individual notes, but maybe after many years they'll add up to a symphony, who knows. And my paintings -- they're part of it too. Anything and everything counts, except for spending all your time listening to other people singing.

Getting to Know You

Recently a friend of mine who runs a pet sitting service asked me to help write a survey to see if her clients are satisfied. I said, "Hey, if they pay the bill and hire you again, they are." Still, she remains eager for details, insisting it will be a helpful tool. Besides, she wants them to be happy. I wondered, should I do one about this blog?

Then this morning I received a "customer satisfaction" survey from my eye doctor wanting to know how I am feeling about my recent visit. All I had to do was drop everything and spend half an hour checking off boxes labelled "Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, Not Applicable. "

That did it! I decided I do need a survey, but with better choices that more closely approximate how people really think. So if you've got the time, I'd appreciate your feedback.

For each of the following statements choose the response that most closely describes your feelings:
Absolutely, I Love It!
I Could Care Less
I Hate You For Asking
I Forget
When Hell Freezes Over

Begin The Daily (Zen)Droid survey here:
1. Most blogs are valuable tools offering pithy insights into society's current values.
2. Reading The Daily (zen)Droid is the best thing I do all day.
3. The best post was the one suggesting Keith Olbermann should die.
4. I enjoy reading The Daily (zen) Droid and would recommend it to my friends.
5. The blog name should be changed to more accurately reflect its author's mission.
6. President Obama is the worst president in history.
7. People who leave their dogs locked inside cars in below-freezing temperature while they go shopping at L. L. Bean for warm clothing or go for lunch in a cozy restaurant should be shot or at the very least publicly mocked.
8. Hillary Clinton has a fat ass.
9. "Boyhood" should definitely win Best Everything.
10. I never liked Bill Cosby anyway.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Desperate for a diversion not of my own making, I opted for two hours watching a movie I'd never see if there weren't three feet of snow everywhere and more coming. Spy movies have never been my thing, but this one definitely puts a new spin on an old genre, dumbing it way down to comic-book level. (Think James Bond meets Archie and Jughead.)

It's worth your time if you enjoy a rousing, blood-spurting fight scene or two -- or three or four, or maybe more -- I pretty much lost count. And without giving anything away, you should know going in that many, many heads explode (quite colorfully, I might add) and one unlucky fellow is dissected in a most amazing way that you will long remember, possibly while trying to fall asleep tonight.

The action of "Kingsman: The Secret Service" revolves around a super-secret spy organization that exists to right the wrongs of the world. If it were real, they would surely go after ISIS. Alas it's Hollywood, and so they just go after one crazy billionaire. Played by a lisping Samuel L. Jackson in jeans, a baseball cap and love beads, he's bent on saving the world by ridding it of the humans he believes are a "virus" infecting our planet. Sound thinking, one might agree, but his methods are unsavory and require all but his chosen people to die in horrendous ways.

Enter the Kingsmen, a band of under-the-radar miracle workers in well-tailored suits who can each kill hundreds of bad guys yet remain unscathed, thanks to their ingenious weapons and excellent training at the Kingsman Institute. To help explain the convoluted plot, we meet the new recruits and watch them go through their paces. One in particular is a young tough from the wrong side of town but with a good heart and "natural abilities" who ends up being the best of the best and looking a lot like the young Matt Damon. Many others, including Michael Caine and Colin Firth, do not fare as well.

It's bloody. It's funny. In fact, at times it's bloody funny. If there's a lot of snow where you live and you want in from the cold, go see it.

America's Next Top Model?

Future Miss Dead America
Fashion models once represented the most beautiful members of our species. I have never minded seeing them, even if they do spark a twinge of jealousy from time to time. But in these days of political correctness gone amok, that is no longer the case. In recent weeks, with New York City's famed Fashion Week underway, I have read about two runway models who are less than perfect: one has Down's Syndrome and the other is paralyzed from the waist down, strutting her stuff on the catwalk using a walker.

Give me a break. I know there are people saddled with terrible burdens, and my heart goes out to them, often to a debilitating degree. But really, need they be paraded in front of us as icons? What's next --the hideously ugly? After all, ugly folks still wear clothes. Or the morbidly obese -- America's favorite downtrodden losers? Hey, here's one you never see: the old. Imagine a withered old lady with sagging skin and a dowager's hump crawling down the runway. How inspiring to our young people!

Sadly, seniors are the one group that nobody seems to think needs heralding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I'll Cry if I Want To

Lesley Gore, 1946-2015
Singer Lesley Gore died a couple of days ago. Brooklyn-born, Jewish, and 16 just like me, I related to her on many levels back when I was in high school. But she was a big star, with hit after hit on the radio. I can still hear her declaring,"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." Now she's left the party and I'm still here. Her death came as a shock and got me thinking about the passage of time.

Years ago, when my now-grown son was just a tot, our kitchen was a playground where we bonded over baking. I tried to think outside the box but on snow days or sick days, the classic chocolate-chip Toll House, originated in 1936, was our go-to cookie. They were easy to make and always came out perfectly, even the burned ones. Plus, licking the mixing bowl and all the spoons made clean-up delicious and fun.

Eventually the wizards at Toll House devised a time-saver: prepared dough stuffed into a plastic wrapper like a giant sausage, so all you had to do was slice and bake. The wonderful aroma still wafted through the house, and there was at the very least a knife to lick, but to be honest, the whole experience was drained of almost all fun and offered little in the way of mother-child bonding.

Now modern moms are so busy that even making the slice-and-bake variety apparently takes too long. So Toll House devised a frozen bar of unbaked dough, pre-scored into cookie-sized squares. Just open the bag, break off the squares and bake. Wafting aroma and fresh-baked cookies, sure. But fun: not any.

Someone should tell those moms to take the extra time with their kids because it's all over in a flash.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Seeing Clearly

Goldie meditating in India.
This morning I went for a pre-op appointment regarding my upcoming cataract surgery next week. To my dismay, the waiting room looked like the backlot for the movie "Cocoon." As one of the few people walking in there under their own power, I realized it's good to get this unappealing task behind me sooner rather than later, while I'm still ambulatory.

The fact is, every eye in every head will develop a cataract, which causes a clouding of the lens and blurry vision, as a natural occurrence on the path to old age and the inevitable you-know-what that follows. Still, most people are not bothered by them until they are well into their 70s or 80s. Mine are relatively new and not yet debilitating, but since they will only worsen over time, and since seeing clearly is my prime mission in life -- both optically and emotionally -- I'm going for it.

The waiting room was enormous, with at least fifty people there to meet with one of the five doctors in this top-notch medical group offering "Tomorrow's eyecare today." There was a free coffee staging area and bottles of water for the taking, a nice touch I thought, making the experience quite comfy and non-threatening. The only sour note was sounded over at the floor-to-ceiling magazine rack stocked with popular fashion magazines, all flashing cleavage-baring photos of Hollywood starlets like Scarlett Johansson, Cameron Diaz, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Aniston, each more glamorous than the other and all of them half the age of this particular assembled audience. (Talk about pouring salt into a wound....)

I opted for the only remaining copy of the AARP magazine, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances, and flipped to an article blurbed on the cover as "Goldie Hawn: Why She Is Better Than Ever!" This I gotta see, I thought, since Goldie is actually six months older than me and how could that be? Turns out she's heavy into meditation and mindfulness and all that deep breathing stuff I've been toying with of late, and she claims to feel happier than she ever has before. No word on whether or not she has had cataract surgery.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Get Out of Jail Free

Of all the skills I possess, and there are many, meditating is not among them. I hear it's quite good at achieving Nirvana and being at One With God. That would be nice, but all I'm really hoping for is to break out of the prison of my dependency on prescription drugs I take to control my sometimes alarmingly high blood pressure. To that end I have been reading books on the subject, and last week I created a "meditation room," tucked away from the rest of the house and complete with a statue of a tubby Buddha, a candle, some lovely art on the walls, a timer and a comfortable seat. All that's left is for me to get in there and stop thinking.

The whole thing is a bit frightening since whenever I'm completely alone with my thoughts, without the distraction of meowing cats, dastardly weather or the chatter of TV news, I usually feel more anxious, not less. But the experts say that is to be expected and one must work to get past that initial phase. If I make it, one reward will be the ability to escape the horrors of the world at no charge, instead of paying for a brief respite.

Example: For an upcoming trip to New York, I searched online for tickets to a Broadway show for myself, my husband and another couple we are meeting there. I was stunned to find that the bottom price of a ticket for one person, to occupy one seat for two hours on a Sunday afternoon, and not even what you would call a great seat, for a musical that has already been running for several years, is a whopping $169.00! Do the math for four people and you'll see that for the same money one of us could fly to Europe and bring back souvenirs for the others. So naturally I am excited to go sit in my little meditation closet for free and still "get away from it all."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Chicken Little for President

It starts with "Chicken Little" in kindergarten and worsens with age: the more horrible something is, the more we want to hear all about it. People love being frightened out of their wits, which explains the enormous popularity of scary movies, roller coasters and elective surgery. This is despite the fact that even a boring day on the planet is quite interesting, what with the sun rising in the morning, all the insects and animals running around doing their thing and 4.3 babies being born every second. All the while, our individual hearts are beating, our brains are computing and the whole digestion thing is going on. Admit it: ordinary life is pretty incredible.

Still people crave horror, and the bloodier the better. Taking advantage of this human trait as a way to sell advertising, the TV weather forecasters work tirelessly to outdo one another in predicting impending mayhem, often regardless of reality. They inhabit a dark and somber world where every drop of rain is described as dangerous precipitation bringing floods to low-lying areas, winds of any strength cause crippling power outages, pounding and drifting snow causes death and destruction and brutal temperatures cause frostbite in no time so stay inside.

My feeling is that if all that happens, thanks for the warning. But it rarely does, and when storms that were predicted to be life-altering blow out to sea, bringing instead a dusting on the tops of cars and a few bent-over trees, all those foolish prognosticators say nothing. There are no apologies for scaring the bejeezus out of us for the last week, they simply move on to the next impending apocalypse. That happened here in Maine today and I find that annoying.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

50 Shades of Stupidity

Actor James Gandolfini, who is not in the movie and is not even still alive, is sexier.

There are so many reasons I will not see this latest blockbuster movie raking in tons of dough for its lucky author I don't know where to start. Here are the top five:

1. I'm jealous. I self-published a novel many years ago, just like that lady did, and it went nowhere fast. So I'm pissed that she now has made more money than God on a piece of trash, at least by all accounts.

2. I have read several reviews of the film and according to reputable sources it is also trash, allegedly boring and annoying. I already have enough of that kind of thing in my own life.

3. Since my recent bout of diverticulitis I cannot eat popcorn and sitting through a dull movie that runs just over two hours without it is unthinkable.

4. I've never heard of the male lead (although I saw his picture and thought, "Meh") and thus my interest in seeing him, be he nude, dressed or in footie pajamas, is zero. If we were talking that French guy Richard Gere murdered in "Unfaithful" (Olivier Martinez) or James Gandolfini, even dead, I might reconsider.

5. I strive to remain outside the herd at all times and thus avoid being trampled to death like those poor people at the Wal-Mart every so often.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Woodstock Fallout

Every damn thing wrong with me -- all things that cause me pain and discomfort and ruin the quality of my life on a daily basis -- are apparently "the most common affliction of people over the age of 60." According to several reliable sources, including every medical website and a string of snooty specialists, my problems are as common as dirt.

Just weeks ago my own family physician sought to comfort me by saying that at least 50% of everyone who once frolicked in the mud at Woodstock now suffers from tinnitus, high blood pressure, arthritis, cataracts and diverticulitis (he didn't put it in those terms but that's how I heard it), as if knowing I am not alone in the slow, steady disintegration of my body makes it any better. Well, guess what -- it doesn't. In fact it makes it worse. Was it that bad acid they warned us about? Smoking too much pot? All the rain?

I wonder about the other 50%, the ones who are out running with all their original body parts, with earbuds instead of ringing in their ears, scarfing down salt at every opportunity and enjoying daily, undramatic visits to the bathroom. Were any of those people at Woodstock? Now that would be an interesting study.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Let Billy Joel Do It

Today I discovered, to my shock and awe, that I have absolutely no desire to learn to play the piano, despite the fact that I have been taking lessons for the last month. I finally understand why I quit when I was a kid! It wasn't because my piano teacher hit me on the knuckles with a ruler if I played the wrong note, it was because I didn't give a hoot about playing the piano.

This seems much more to my liking.

So much of our pain is caused by the childish refusal to accept who we are. "If only I were taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, more talented, better looking, richer, younger, then I'd be happy," we think.  "If I'd had more children. If I hadn't had children. If my parents hadn't screwed me up. If I hadn't been an orphan." It's neverending.

The sad truth is that whatever we have and whatever we are, it's never enough when we compare ourselves to others. And in these days of social media connecting each of us to every other person on the globe with a modem, what chance do we have of ever making the grade with our demanding inner demon who wants, wants and wants more? The answer is unplug. Stop comparing. Look inside. Be true to yourself. If you are not going to be you, then who is?

Because I have finally evolved to this point after 68 years, there shall be no more piano lessons for me. I still wish I wanted to play the piano, but I don't. I also have no desire to play the trombone. cello or drums, which is why I am not taking any lessons in those instruments. What I do wish is to be my best self, and playing the piano is simply not in my DNA.

There's No Snow in Heaven

I imagine Heaven as a wonderful place where it never snows. It's always perfect weather, with lots of clouds floating around you can grab onto and use as recliners, sofas or even beds; sleeping is a popular activity there. There are no meals since you never get hungry, so you never eat badly and thus you're never constipated. Naturally heartburn is unheard of.

The best thing about Heaven is that right when you arrive, all memories of your time in Life are erased, so you won't miss those people you left behind. You finally stop crying because your kids never call or your husband forgets your birthday or you treated your parents really shabbily in your 20s and then they died and it was too late to rectify things.

All kinds of games are popular in Heaven, much better ones than we have here in Life. You play for the joy of playing: there is no keeping score, nobody is better than anyone else, there are no champions or losers, only winners. And no football, which almost goes without saying.

Nobody smokes cigarettes or does heroin or any drugs at all because everyone loves themselves. A dead person wouldn't dream of harming his or her own body, making the very idea of voluntarily consuming poison unthinkable. That's probably the best thing about Heaven: you've arrived at your final destination and so you want to stay in great shape since we are talking Eternity. Also, there are no doctors -- most of them have either gone in the other direction, if you get my drift, and those who do make the cut are immediately transformed into gardeners or harpists.

There is music, of course, since every musician who ever lived and then died went straight to Heaven, even the ones who OD'd on something. You can just imagine the kind of concerts there are; they put Woodstock to shame.

There are no religions and everyone there plays nice. All those bad guys who were counting on going there and getting 72 virgins are nowhere to be seen. The word on the street is that they went straight south into the fiery pits of Hell.

Funny thing about Hell: Even though there are fires burning everywhere it snows constantly and there is absolutely no place to park, the sidewalks are very icy and treacherous, and there is no toilet paper to be found. Ditto snow shovels. It snows day in and day out, with the piles getting higher and higher, and your car gets stuck in deep ruts of snow, and you get to the point that you can't take one more day of it and then there's more, and a blizzard is forecast every third day, with new snow totals breaking records, and the bimbos on the weather channel wearing sexy dresses and 4-inch heels tell you how dangerously cold the frigid temperatures are and to stay indoors but watch out because roofs are collapsing. It's sort of like living in Boston, only without the great pizza.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Old Is Too Old?

You are born at age zero, and from then on you get older. At age one, two and three you are considered too adorable for words. Soon enough you are special just for pooping into a toilet. Then you're eight, nine and ten, still cute and interesting to adults, although by then they are starting to lose interest unless you are their own kin. By the time you're 15 and 16 you've got buying power and if you're a girl, your burgeoning sexuality is becoming your strongest ally.

The 20s and 30s are wrinkle-free and, but for tragic exceptions, mostly healthy years. In your 40s you are still invited to parties and people listen to what you have to say even if it's senseless pap. Then come the 50s, and if you're wealthy and successful and have had plastic surgery, you're still in demand. But if you're a regular person, maybe with a extra few rolls of fat around the middle or under the chin and thinning hair or worse -- none at all -- it's pretty much over in terms of your social acceptability. Basically, old people are meaningless to anyone but the people who need them for something, like babysitting.

At least here in America, aging is a no-no, which is odd because all it means is you have not died. Is that really such a crime? And exactly when does it become one? But take heart: You'll get to be special again if you live a long time, like actress Betty White who is 93 and considered very cool for simply breathing. So hang in there. Forget parties -- read "War and Peace." Take piano lessons. There's lots left to do even if nobody's watching.

My Wikipedia Entry

Andrea Rouda, b. 1946
What really slays me are those Wikipedia entries written by people who are not exactly household names but still have achieved a modicum of success in their chosen field and think they are really something. I know a few of those people personally who have puffed up their bios like Brian Williams but without the ten million dollar salary. I thought I'd take a crack at writing one about myself and try to stay humble:

Andrea Rouda, nee Schamis, is a female human being of Jewish heritage. She was born the old-fashioned way to two parents, a mother and a father, in Brooklyn, New York. She began her education at age five at Covert Elementary School in South Hempstead, NY and continued, with a year off working in an advertising agency, until graduating from New York University at age 22.

At age 24 she married, moved to Washington, D.C., got a job as a graphic designer and bought a car. She then got a divorce, lost the car and began seeing a psychiatrist. Eventually she married business mogul Mitchell Rouda and had a child and a car of her own.

Over her lifetime she dabbled in many pursuits, mostly hair color and pets. She has had the following hair colors and animals:
Dark Brown
Brown with blond frosting
Blonde with brown highlights 
Several parakeets: Rocky, Max and Shakespeare
A boxer named Caesar
A grey tabby named Miranda
An orange tabby named Simon
A calico named Minnie
A grey and white domestic short hair named Donald 
A mutt named Mickey
A brown tabby named Daisy
A Persian/ragdoll named Gizmo
A Maine Coon named Big Lurch
A pug named Tank
A miniature schnauzer named Rufus

Rouda has undergone several surgeries, none life-threatening but all botched. She is severely myopic and has worn glasses since the age of 13. (For a time she wore contact lenses but found them uncomfortable.)  She currently resides in Freeport, Maine where she continues to dabble in hair color and keep cats. She is a writer, fine artist and excellent cook. Her cheesecake is to die for.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New England is Not for Sissies

It's surprising that the murder rate in Maine is not much, much higher. In 2014 there were just 25 homicides, and half of those were domestic disputes, with spouse shooting spouse. Good thing my husband is out of town so much because I personally can imagine going on a killing spree if it snows just one more day, which it surely will; in fact later this week another storm is predicted to dump more on the already sky-high piles of it surrounding our house. And then another after that. And this is only February and it's likely to snow until sometime in early April.

The thing is, it's hard to find anyone to actually shoot at since nobody goes outside, what with it being in the single digits most of the time. Also, I don't own a gun so that makes it even harder. Still, it's fun to fantasize, especially about killing our plow guy who is absolutely the worst but all the good ones were taken. (I see it as very Quentin Tarantino-esque, his spurting blood shooting up into the sky and landing artfully on the bright, white snow.) And when the weather gets nice and people do venture outdoors, they've all forgotten about the long months cooped up inside, knitting baby hats or whittling axe handles, and just go get some lobster and drag their boats out of storage and that's that -- winter over. Until next year when it's back. And it will be, before you know it.

The question I am currently grappling with is: Will I be here for it? I think not. I don't want to end up like Ethan Frome, my favorite fictional character from the novel of the same name. Here is how he is described early on: "There was something bleak and unapproachable in his face. And he was so stiffened and grizzled that I took him for an old man and was surprised to hear that he was not more than fifty-two. Guess he's been in Starkfield too many winters."

Ethan's fictional town was in Massachusetts, but that's just down the road a piece. Same thing. And I'm already older than he was, so who knows how grizzled I'll be if I stay here any longer. Looking in the mirror right now, it's evident I may have been here too many winters already.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Getting Ready for Fifty Shades of Grey

When it comes to literary pursuits, scum, trash and garbage win hands down over lofty prose about the glories of nature or the wonders of science. In addition to sex between two or more consenting adults, people also love reading about genitalia, and the odder the better. This would explain why my recent post entitled "Transgender Weirdness" got more hits than any I've written since 2013, when I lampooned Jodi Arias, the murderous young woman who slashed her boyfriend 27 times following their sexual encounter.

This fact troubles me about the human race. It's funny, too, since the very same species that goes berserk if you dare to park in a handicapped parking space without a permit will rubberneck greedily over a complete stranger's bizarre -- and fictional -- sexual appetites. The trend is unseemly, low, demeaning and mostly perplexing. I haven't a clue about why it should be, but it helps explain all those deviant priests given to molesting young boys. Clearly even the most pious among us likes to play in the dirt.

All this is prelude to the storm about to be unleashed in a few days when the movie version of "Fifty Shades of Grey" opens in theaters across the country, ironically the day before Valentine's Day. I have not read the book but since I'm not dead I know all about it: It's an erotic story brimming with explicit depictions of sadistic sex, an over-the-top global best-seller that spawned two sequels in quick succession from its can't-write-her-way-out-of-a paper-bag author. I'm sure her copious earnings help soothe an ego battered by the scathing reviews the book received; if not, the money from the movie should definitely do it. One thing can be said about her for sure: she certainly knows her target audience.

Ode to the Internet

                         Gordon Studer
No I did not watch last night's Grammy awards show. In fact, the only way I knew it was being broadcast was when one of my Facebook friends mentioned it in the little chat box while we were playing Words With Friends. I never watch those outlandish awards shows, the Oscars being the one exception since there still seems to be a glimmer of homage to the arts involved. But the others are all about who's wearing what wild and crazy outfit, and how loud and nutty they can make the production numbers. Besides, ever since Joan Rivers died the so-called "red carpet" has lost its appeal. (Oh grow up---you know you thought it but she said it!)

Ever since the birth of the Internet it's been a slow, steady downward slide for TV, that once-dominant time-waster of yore. Now even the weather reports are better online, with 10-day forecasts, hour by hour, for every city you can name. As for the news, ex-anchor Brian Williams hammered the last nail in that coffin with his outlandish storytelling floating to the surface, just like that dead body he allegedly saw during Hurricane Katrina. (It's over for those pretty-boys, that's clear.) But the Internet--now there's something you can trust. Sure there's a a lot of misinformation drifting around, but it's easily checked on several truth-telling websites. And just the enormous library of facts helps you separate fact from fiction.

This morning, determined to eventually kick my four-pills-a-day habit, I searched "best breakfast high blood pressure" and was presented with half a dozen websites, each showing a variety of menus calculated to lower my numbers. Just to compare I turned on the TV and was assaulted by commercials for a myriad of pills and potions all promising to do something good unless they kill you. I opted for a bowl of fruit with plain yogurt and chopped walnuts, then checked my BP stats and found them acceptable by most standards. Now I can't wait for lunch.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Transgender Weirdness

I want longer arms. And my hair is too wavy, I need it to be straighter. And my boobs have always been too big, I could go down a cup size for sure. And wouldn't it be nice to have blue eyes? And by the way, I wonder what it would be like to have a penis. At the very least I could pee in the woods without it being such a big deal.

God may get some things right, like flowers and birds and the sky and the ocean and Yellowstone and Arches and the rainforests, but He sure does not know what to do when it comes to making people. Just ask Bruce Jenner, who was born a handsome jock but really always wanted to be a freakish matronly lady.

FILM REVIEW: The Search for General Tso

A small-town chef proudly displays her version....
If you live in the right place and have a sharp agent and good connections, and especially if your parents are already in the business, you can make a crummy movie and have it seen by millions. Often these "must-see" movies are nothing but trashy star vehicles with little to recommend them, yet people flock to the theaters anyway. That's not the case with independent films, many of which are seen only by a handful of film buffs on the festival circuit.

I had the good fortune of seeing one of those last night. The Search for General Tso was shown at a small art gallery here in Portland, and perhaps 100 lucky souls filled the tiny room, braving the frigid temperatures to sit on folding chairs and watch it projected off a computer onto one of those pull-down screens used in high-school science class. Besides being very funny, the film is informative concerning Chinese-American history, beautifully shot and amazingly well-edited. Throughout, charming animated graphics help tell the story in a wholly unique way.

Filmmaker Ian Cheney went off in search of the inventor of that ubiquitous chicken dish found on virtually every menu in every Chinese restaurant in America. We follow him to New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Taiwan, Arizona, Texas and many points in between, meeting an eclectic bunch along the way. Much of the fun comes from up-close interviews with regular folks (some sane and others quite batty) and "experts" including famous chefs and historians, none of whom have the answer but all of whom are willing to share their often hilarious opinions on who originally devised the dish. We meet one memorable character who has been collecting menus from Chinese restaurants for decades; he's obviously thrilled at this opportunity to show the world his treasure, carefully opening dozens of storage boxes stacked to the ceiling to do so.

.... of one of these.
After the screening the audience was treated to a Q&A session with Cheney and his producer, Amanda Murray. Both of them articulate and amusing, they shared stories of the film's inception and their trials of finding funding over the course of "from four to ten years," according to the director.

Hopefully someday Cheney will become successful enough for his films to be shown in real theaters around the world. Until then you can find this particular gem online at iTunes, or wait until it shows up on Netflix in May. Google it and see the trailer today!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How Silly Can You Get?

Silly baseball cap.
Last night I went out for dinner with my husband and son to a casual, affordable Portland restaurant on Munjoy Hill frequented by mostly locals. It's called Silly's, and they work hard to live up to the name, with plastic lunchboxes on each table holding the menus and brown paper napkins, an eclectic selection of odd dishes with silly names and descriptions, and an even sillier decor. But still it's a great place, and the food is dependably good, solidly American cuisine with strong Middle Eastern overtones.

"There's a lot of lamb on the menu," my carnivorous husband said with a smile when asked for his opinion. I opted for a Greek salad which turned out to be not quite Greek but merely Albanian or perhaps Serbian; still, it was tasty if wanting more feta cheese and a couple of green peppers. Our shared appetizer of fried pickles, accompanied by two delectable sauces, was beyond superb -- order those for sure. And the bar serves a mean Bloody Mary, chock full of stuff to eat besides the usual alcohol and tomato juice.

There's at lot to see while you're waiting for your food at Silly's in Portland.

Anyway, I like the place and one reason is the waitstaff, all chipper young people who are silly, each in their own way. Back when my son was a waiter he applied for a job there and instead of asking for a resume, they handed him a white paper plate and some art supplies and told him to decorate it. (He found that a bit too silly and did not work there.)

Among the staff on hand last night were several young women who were very up-to-the-minute and stylish, and quite attractive I thought. One in particular would have been a real standout except for two unfortunate balls of snot dripping from her nose. That was gross. Oh wait a minute, those were not balls of snot, they were balls of silver, and they were not going to go away when her cold was over. In fact she didn't have a cold at all, she had actually paid to have her nostrils pierced and have those balls installed permanently. (Or at least until she comes to her senses.)

Choosing to be ugly when you're born pretty: now that's silly.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Beware of Christians

Now I am not only afraid of radical Muslims, I am petrified of Christians who might commit barbaric acts against me in the name of Jesus. After all, Obama suggested they are just as bad as the "folks" who burned that guy alive last week.

I never did trust those nuns anyway. Just what they heck are they hiding under those outfits?

Captain Obvious

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Second in a Series: Extraordinary Ordinary People

 Mitch, right, befriending a homeless man in Boston.
Even though he leaves the garlic press clogged with dried garlic remains and has never cleaned it, not once in 28 years of marriage, and even though he belongs to a cult and is at this very moment brazenly driving to his morning CrossFit class in a mini-blizzard, I still believe that Mitch Rouda is the best hope for the Republican party in 2016. Of course he has a couple of skeletons in his closet --namely me and our son -- but neither of us has done jail time and we are both respectable citizens today, especially Zack.

Mitch graduated high school at 16 and attended an outstanding university. After that he traveled extensively, gaining tremendous perspective on how people live the world over. He has had a long and successful career running many businesses and managing enormous numbers of sometimes-pitiful employees, well preparing him to oversee that sorry bunch we call The Government. He has an incredible range of knowledge about current world events and history. He reads long and boring books that put me to sleep on page one. He sees the big picture. He is great at math and has a huge vocabulary, sometimes using words nobody has ever heard of. He is fair and balanced. He takes in all sides of an issue, digests what he has heard and then comes up with his own point of view. He does not simply parrot the pundits, like so many "real" politicians do.

Most important perhaps, Mitch is a great public speaker, combining humor with intelligence, and anyone who has seen him in action would agree that he can win over a crowd like nobody's business. He loves meeting people, and loves going to state fairs, and loves eating crappy food, so hitting the campaign trail would be no problem for him. He always upgrades to First Class when flying, so Air Force One would not intimidate him. He also has access to many other great minds, and his Cabinet would consist of others who are also smart, fair and politically savvy.

Finally, we have been wanting to move back to D.C., and having the White House ready and furnished would make the transition so much easier. As First Lady I would continue Michelle Obama's half-assed attempt at stopping the obesity epidemic, only I would do a full-assed job of it; in no time every American woman (and many illegals) would be wearing a size 10 and every man would have a flat stomach. (Paunches would be taxed, greatly reducing the federal deficit.)

Last but not least important in these ethnically-charged times, Mitch would be our first Jewish president, a fact underscored by his campaign slogan: "ROUDA: The Final Solution!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Modern Life: The Cliff Notes Version

      Gordon Studer
I can tell by how few people have read today's earlier post that literature is dead. Nobody wants to read anything longer than a tweet these days. So here's a shortened version of the story I posted this morning:

After Helen's husband of 24 years died in a car accident, she was sad but at the same time felt that a new chapter of life lay ahead. At 52, she assumed there was plenty of time for more adventures and maybe even a new relationship. She wasn't in much of a hurry, which was too bad, because only five months later she was killed driving over a bridge in an explosion caused by terrorists.

You never know when your number is up.

Modern Life (A Short Story)

              Gordon Studer
When Helen got the call that Frank’s car had swerved off the highway and landed in a ravine, killing him instantly, the first thought she had was that she could finally wear that little black dress she bought months ago that was hanging in her closet with the price tag still on it.

Frank didn’t like to go out much, preferring instead to stay home watching TV, or rather, falling asleep in front of it, and so there had been little opportunity to dress up. The second thought she had was that she would never again have to endure having sex with him, and that made up for the sadness that slowly enveloped her, thinking of all the things she would now have to do alone. After 24 years of marriage, it would be an adjustment.

That was five months ago, and since then she had sold their house in the suburbs and moved into a condo in the bustling downtown Lake District, hoping to meet new people and maybe even a new man. At 52, she was still young enough to consider starting over. Being childless, she was without the distraction of grandchildren and would remain so unless she met a man who had some. Not that she wanted any, but it did seem to fill up the time for so many of her friends.

The morning of the explosion, Helen was just finishing up the few dishes from her breakfast when her best friend Ida called and invited her to lunch at the museum. A guest lecturer was scheduled to give a talk on Jackson Pollock, and that sounded promising according to Ida. Afterwards they could get a jump on their Christmas shopping, since it was already mid-October and none too early.  Helen agreed, and they decided to meet on the front steps of the museum at noon.

With several hours to kill until she would meet Ida, Helen searched for things to do. She did a load of laundry, changed the sheets on her bed and paid a few bills. Suddenly she thought of calling her sister in Cleveland. They were not especially close but still, since Frank’s death she had tried to fill the void any way she could, and family seemed like one way to go.  Marilyn was older by three years, but she seemed younger in many ways. Much less serious than Helen, she had always been a “party girl” in her youth, and never really outgrew the tendency. Now almost 55, married and the mother of two teenagers, Marilyn still liked to “go out with the girls” for drinks and dancing. Helen found this behavior childish but held her tongue.

It seemed like forever until Marilyn finally answered, obviously out of breath. She explained that she had been outside, hosing down the driveway after a big storm the night before had littered it with broken limbs and piles of leaves. “I almost didn’t hear the phone,” she explained with a little laugh. “Sorry. Anyway, how are you holding up?”

     “I’m fine, I guess. Not too much to report.”

     “Helen, you have got to get out there and start doing! You can’t just mope around, life goes on you know.”

     “Marilyn, it’s only been five months. Technically one mourns for a year.”

     “Who are you, Jane Eyre? This is modern life, nowadays people get back on the horse right away.”

     “Back on the horse? What horse? Where do you get these expressions?”

     “All I’m saying is that life is to be lived, and today is a day of your life so live it!”

     “You'll be glad to hear I am meeting Ida at noon at the museum. There’s some sort of art lecture. And we’re having lunch too. I’m not just sitting at home moping, really I’m not. Please don’t worry about me. Actually I called to see how you all are doing.”

     “A lecture with Ida is not exactly what I had in mind. Anyway, we’re all fine. Lucy has a stomach bug but I think it’s really fear of the SATs coming up.  Bill is out of town as usual, and Bill Jr. spends every waking minute playing sports--if it's not soccer it's football, if it's not football it's lacrosse. I just pray he doesn’t get a concussion. All of his friends have had at least one and I’m telling you, they are quite a sorry bunch.”

     “Well at least they keep you busy,” Helen said, thinking to herself how glad she was that she never had kids.

     “We haven’t seen you in ages.  Not since the funeral, really. I guess you’ll come here for Christmas this year, right?”

     “Well, if I’m invited, certainly.” Actually, Helen hated flying and dreaded making the trip. But still, she imagined herself sitting at home alone instead of out for Chinese food with Frank on Christmas Eve and at the movies on Christmas Day and decided she'd just take a few extra sedatives and get through it somehow.

     “Of course you’re invited, silly! In fact, when you're here I'll introduce you to our handsome new neighbor, he's divorced and definitely interested."
     "Oh Marilyn, really, don't you think it's too soon?"
     "Honey, better too soon than too late! Anyway, I’ve got to get going -- I left the hose running and the dogs are soaking wet out there. Let me call you back later in the week. And really, I hope by our next conversation you have something exciting to tell me about.”

      “Honestly, I’ve got the rest of my life for excitement. Right now all I want is to feel like I can stand on my own two feet and take care of myself.”

    “Of course. I understand, I guess. You’re just not ready to live it up yet.”

   “Exactly. Thanks for understanding. Anyway, give my love to everyone.”

After they hung up at there was little to do around the house so Helen decided to leave early and spend some time window-shopping downtown before meeting Ida. She had to admit she was excited about meeting Marilyn's handsome neighbor. She would certainly bring the little black dress, still unworn (Ida had insisted it was too sexy for Frank’s funeral), its dangling price tag a constant reminder to get a life!

It happened at 10:42 EST, just as Helen was driving across the top span of the bridge. According to the news reports there had been two bombs, one at each end. Early estimates claimed at least 75 people were dead and hundreds more injured. 

Helen never did get to wear that little black dress. “Save it for something special,” Ida had said.