Thursday, April 30, 2015

Guess Who's a Dishonest Dummy?

Hint: Not only does she funnel money from foreign governments into her own pockets (the dishonest part), but she's stupid too. Yesterday she proclaimed that the racial trouble in America stems from the fact that we have too high an incarceration rate, "especially now, when crime is at an all-time low." Duh. Any connection there, perhaps? (The dummy part.)

That's right, it's Hillary Clinton! Congratulations, you got it in one guess!

And there's more. That whole "the deck is stacked towards people at the top" business is really odd. Just who are those top people? Could it be Ma and Pa Clinton, who apparently passed along their outstanding values to their only child? At age 33, Chelsea Clinton absolutely had to have, and so got, a swanky Manhattan apartment for 11 million dollars. With a killer view and access to a private gym on the premises where she can sweat it out with other "people at the top," it also has 5-and-a-half bathrooms. Why is that? Can we surmise (dare we hope) that Chelsea and her husband both suffer from irritable bowel syndrome and thus need access to a toilet around every corner?

Come on people, wake up and smell the hummus! The elder Clinton, a.k.a. Granny, is NOT who we need at the helm as our ship of state sinks lower and lower on the global happiness scale. (We are currently at #17, edged out by Mexico, Israel and United Arab Emirates.) Surely we can do better than a former First Lady who stole $180,000 worth of hard goods from the White House upon her departure. (She gave back $120,000 of it, under duress from the authorities.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Comings and Goings

I'm simply too damn lazy to have a good time. This is a handicap, since I often complain about the lack of available good times here in Maine. But just now I had a eureka moment, and perhaps all will be well from now on.

What happened was I read an article in today's Wall Street Journal about a family, consisting of a mom and dad and two kids, who took a "gap year" from work and school and spent it traveling to 11 different countries. I just skimmed it but still I caught the word Cambodia, so we know they went far afield. Just thinking about their trip made me slightly nauseous.

Imagine: The packing, the unpacking, the laundry, the eating of strange foods, the sleeping in strange beds, if there are beds at all. The bugs, the weather. The bathrooms! The no toilet paper! The stomach aches, the headaches, the lack of one's own comfy bed and favorite pillow, for a whole year! Then there's the flying, the making of reservations, the catching of trains, the indignities of buses, the terror of taxis and perhaps even rickshaws for all I know.

This weekend my husband and I are going to Manhattan. I am bracing myself for the subways, crowded streets, blaring sirens and bad smells. The hundreds of bright yellow taxis jockeying for position before stopping dead in traffic as far as the eye can see. There will also be good food and good conversation with the friends we are meeting there, and at least a few hours sitting down inside a Broadway theater that will trigger warm feelings of nostalgia from my childhood. We'll try to see some sights, like that hole in the ground filled with water where the Twin Towers once stood. And maybe pop into the Met for a quick look at some classics.

At the very least I will enjoy one real bagel with everything and a slice of dynamite pizza. Then I will go home, happy I went but happier to leave. So I'd better stop complaining about Maine being dull and just enjoy the peace and quiet. (I wish my Muse would get back from her gap year already.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Wrong City Fell

Some of Baltimore's youth grieving over the fallen whoever he was by attacking a police car.
Too bad Baltimore didn't have that recent major earthquake instead of Kathmandhu, where the death toll is now hovering around 4,000. Then all the looters would have a much easier job!

Those diapers should help calm things down.
They wouldn't have to waste time destroying property as it would already be done for them. They could simply stroll into all the demolished storefronts and take everything they please. As for those cases of liquor you see them scurrying off with on the news, they could just lap up the stuff spilled on to the streets like feral animals. And they could rob all the dead people lying in the rubble, and maybe even get their hands on some of that foreign aid money that has started flowing in to help the victims. What a field day they could all have! 

It's all in the name of justice, of course, for that dead criminal, whatshisname? Freddy something. I'm not sure how petty looting deters the admittedly growing insanity of urban police killing young black men for seemingly little provocation, but it seems to be quite popular.

Monday, April 27, 2015

How Meg Ryan is Like a Brussels Sprout

Poor Meg
There is a certain level of society that has elevated food to a status symbol. Sadly, I inhabit that level. I say sadly because while I like having enough to eat, I dislike having it while others have none. There seems little to do about this besides donating to those charities promising to send food to the needy, and so I do this every so often to assuage my guilt. Otherwise, I keep pace with my peers by dining out frequently and cooking up a storm at home.

As for the status symbol part, lately I have noticed that the once-ignored and universally eschewed Brussels sprout has apparently gotten a new agent and is now the literal superstar of sides, showcased front and center on every menu from the crummiest diner to the snootiest restaurant, Maine to California. And the price extracted in the pursuit of its fame is downright criminal.

It's like what happened to Meg Ryan: Once she was adorable and genuine, perfect and pure and so very pretty, truly "America's sweetheart." Then she got her face "done" and now she's a total mess, so much so that she quit acting and hides from the public, spending her days indoors, likely baking cookies with her children and watching reruns of "Sleepless in Seattle." This is surely where the Brussels sprout is headed, although right now it is enjoying its day in the sun, ever-so Botoxed and lifted and tucked, sliced, diced and chopped in a myriad of creative ways.

The current Madonna of Vegetables
Last night, out to dinner with my husband, we ordered the poor thing in hopes that it would arrive still tasting like itself. But alas, no such luck; in place of the plump, juicy, nutty little morsels we love, we were served a mash of chopped greens awash in butter, adorned with bacon bits, with a hint of orange essence and a lump of runny blue cheese that one could disperse at will. If you closed your eyes and concentrated really hard you could pick up a hint of the original flavor of a Brussels sprout, but it wasn't really worth the trouble. Also, it looked bad. (See photo)

A couple at the next table was gorging on a huge bowl of something unrecognizable. We asked the waitress and she explained they were "truffle-oil-infused cheese fries topped with Parmesan cheese." I wanted to take a picture but Mitch thought that was rude.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why Bad Things Happen

So far I have been having a very nice Sunday, despite the fact that I can't see all that well and won't be able to really until after June 11 when they fix my botched cataract procedure--okay, not botched, it happens to 30% of patients--except for the knowledge that yesterday, at least 2,100 people were taken out by the hand of God in one fell swoop. Actually, several fell swoops, since the earthquake in Nepal also caused an avalanche and then a giant aftershock today.

So you don't believe in God, eh? Well then, Mother Nature is a bitch. Call it what you will, of those victims, some of them were surely innocent and did not deserve to die in that way. Perhaps among them were evil-doers the world is better off without, but now we'll never know.

As always when something like this happens, I am reminded of that high school English staple, Thornton Wilder's 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Bridge of San Luis Rey." Wilder wrote of a Franciscan monk who witnesses the tragic collapse of a rope bridge in Peru, and then spends years delving into the lives of the individual victims seeking a cosmic reason for their untimely deaths. The book is somewhat boring, even if you read it again long after high school as I did, so I'll just tell you the reason: There's no reason.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


My husband just returned from a business trip to Philadelphia, ironically the City of Brotherly Love, and recounted his confusion when he passed by a small brick building called the LGBTQ Support Center. I couldn't help him as I had no idea either, although I took a wild stab at "Q" for Queer, thinking Queen might be funnier but certainly less respectful. So off I went to the Internet, where I found scads of articles about the newest addition to that ubiquitous string of letters.

One astute essay went into stunning detail, describing the different categories of who you are having sex with, who you want to have sex with, what genitals you possess to use during the various sex acts, and how you feel about all of it in general. As we know, this information is key when meeting people, since if you don't know what's going into a woman's vagina or where a man is inserting his penis it's hard to really judge if they can do the job you need done, or even be a good friend. It's all about character, after all, and I know I am totally at a loss until I learn this about a person. So in the spirit of furthering world harmony, here is what all those letters mean:

Lesbian: female who does it with other females
Gay: male who does it with other males
Bisexual: both who do it with either males or females
Transgender: did not feel comfortable with his/her natural genitals so traded it in for the other kind
Queer: not really sure how he/she feels but does not want to be pigeonholed (don't ask)
Ally: is straight but loves and supports all of them equally
WhoTheFuckCares: most people

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So Much for McDreamy

Now she's alone, and with two kids to raise!
I do not watch TV shows with any regularity or commitment. It's a catch as catch can thing with me. If I'm changing the sheets on the bed or folding laundry in the bedroom I'll turn on the TV we keep in there in case of war and see if there are any disasters I need to know about. Sometimes it's tuned to a comedy or maybe the news. Lately it's been reruns of a popular hospital drama called Grey's Anatomy that has been mesmerizing its fans for the last ten years.  I have picked up bits here and there but don't recognize anyone but the two obvious leads who play married (to each other) surgeons.

One of them is an actor named Patrick Dempsey who hails from Maine and so his photo is often seen in our local papers. Following his mother's death from breast cancer a few years ago he initiated an annual biking fundraising event, or maybe it's a 10-K foot race, I'm not sure. Anyway, as the show's handsome Derek Shepherd, M.D., he was dubbed "McDreamy" by his rabid female fans.

For two weeks now I have seen promos about the upcoming "special episode" that "America can't afford to miss." Naturally I did, but then tonight after dinner I turned on the TV to watch Bill O'Reilly's amusing nightly trashing of Hillary Clinton and there was the tail end of Grey's Anatomy. With just 15 minutes left I thought, hey, I'll watch this if it's such a big deal. And what I saw was a beaten and bloodied McDreamy surrounded by beeping machinery, with tubes stuck up his nose and down his throat, dying a gruesome and horrific death. Then his wife tearfully pulled the plug and all the beeping stopped. The end.

I felt ripped off. All I have to say is "Derek, I hardly knew ye."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Paging Doctor Do-Little

Used car salesmen get a bad rap. As far as I know they are honest and trustworthy guys and gals looking to sell you a car which is what you want from them, after all. Unlike surgeons, who sell you surgeries you don't need. Sadly I have had numerous unwanted surgeries and have the scars to prove it. None were flawless, some were botched, and at least two were completely unnecessary. My advice is to avoid all surgery unless or until the doctor says, "You will surely die" without it.

For example, my recent cataract surgery which I underwent to improve my vision (and keep from going blind) has not. It will in time, I am told, after I fix this one teeny, weeny problem that requires more surgery. This is not really devastating news, it's merely devastating, as I heard inklings about it before. Early on I was told (actually it was more like a mumble)  that I "might" need a small repair at some point. A few weeks later I heard that some patients "need a little tune-up after cataract surgery." Today, during an eye exam I scheduled to find out why the heck my vision was worse rather than better after going through all the crap I went through to avoid having my vision deteriorate, the nice man said "it's completely normal" and that "everyone needs this eventually after cataract surgery, it's just a matter of time."

Then I went home and researched it online and learned that only 20% of people who have cataract surgery develop this particular problem. Well guess what: I'm one of them. Making matters worse, the "fix" cannot take place until June 11 because my eyes need 90 days to heal from the last surgery. So I will just have to see worse for the next seven weeks.


Truth or Dare

It was painful, but worth it.
Aging is America's plague, one to be dodged like a bullet. But try as you might, it gets you in the end. Still, most people spend their later years pretending they just came in the morning mail. Why is this? What is so terrible about being old? Why is our age something we should hide? Why are there so many products promising to make us look younger? If we look younger, will be actually be younger? Will we live longer? Will we not die ever? These questions popped into mind after reading an article in today's Wall Street Journal suggesting that you can "appear younger at work" by lying about how old your children are.

But why stop there? Why not just lie about everything, like all our politicians do? What is so important about the truth? Does it matter if you tell it? Who cares anymore? As Hillary Clinton said concerning the death of four Americans in Benghazi during her tenure as Secretary of State, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" Then she got a concussion and now she's running for president, and lots of people are planning to vote for her! Certainly what I have to say about anything at all matters even less. For example, some of the following statements are true; I dare you to tell which ones:

I was born in a circus tent. 
I weigh 126 pounds.
My paternal grandparents were Russian aristocrats. 
I have a tattoo of Freddie Mercury on my back.
My mother was a Rockette. 
I know all the lyrics to every Beatles song.
I smoked for 40 years.
I used to be a Democrat.
As a young child I appeared in TV commercials.
I went to Harvard University but dropped out.
I am 62 years old.
I was kidnapped by a gypsy woman when I was four.
I dated John Travolta. 
I read "Ulysses" twice and hated it both times. 
My son is 27 and a genius. 
I had surgery for lung cancer but never had the disease.
I've never read "Ulysses."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

More Like Uncivilization

On the first of April I received a bill in the mail from our plow guy for his work in February. I put it with all the other bills from people who want money from us. Each would be paid in due time. Then on April 15th, despite it being Tax Day and only two weeks later, I got the same bill from the same plow guy with the words "SECOND NOTICE!!" scrawled on it.

Whatever happened to having thirty days to pay a bill? Now you have to fork over the dough as you leave the doctor or dentist or optometrist or whoever. It seems that average people are getting more and more grasping and less and less likeable every day. I blame the Democrats.

Why Suicide is Dumb

Don't worry, you'll get there eventually.
There is a story in the news today about a young artist who hanged herself from her fire escape, which meant her body could seen by passers-by on the street below. This is so sad. She was only 21, and obviously an extrovert! If she was depressed, she had options: She lived in Brooklyn and so could have gotten herself a toasted bialy with a shmear and a great cup of coffee in like two minutes and thought things through. Now she's dead and her name is on the Internet, where it will remain for about five minutes. Then that's it, she's gone.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2013, 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 12.8 minutes."

Except in cases of chronic pain or terminal illness, choosing to end your life is dumb. After all, each of us is guaranteed to have the death experience firsthand, so why not try something different until then? It's like this: Suppose you are planning to open a new Italian restaurant. Would you choose to eat pizza and pasta every night during the months leading up to it? Of course not, since you know you will be stuffing your face with all that jazz soon enough. Instead you might opt for Chinese, or maybe do a lot of cooking at home, or try Indian or Greek food for some variety -- anything but Italian.

Life and Death are like that. Death will happen soon enough, so it makes sense to stick around and try a lot of Life until it's over. The trick is developing a tough skin and finding a go-to painkiller for when things get dicey. I recommend meditation and/or physical exercise, a hot shower and a nice cup of tea, and a good book you've read several times already. Prescription drugs can help in more extreme cases. Most important is to keep in mind the fact that bad moods pass but suicide is forever.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The World's Worst Human?

Proud Molly

Who doesn't love Asian food?
There exists in the world a deranged woman named Molly Schuyler who is recognized as a champion "competitive eater." She has won fame and fortune and her own Wikipedia page by stuffing her 120-pound body with multiple 72-ounce steaks, mountains of hot dogs, piles of chicken wings, and just about anything else on the table. She is the mother of four and would likely eat her own children if there were a really good prize offered. Perhaps she could eat some of those starving kids in North Korea (see photo) and put them out of their misery. They look like they would go down real easy.

Molly going for the gold.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones. . .

....but names will never hurt me.

That was my clever attempt to alert you  to the fact that I have decided to change the name of this blog in hopes of getting more readers and thus maybe getting more popular and then maybe even tackling some serious subjects, like how much Hillary Clinton would suck as president. My role model is the Daily Kos, which was named after the second syllable of its founder's name which is Markos, so that would make mine Daily A, since my name is Andrea and the last syllable is just an "a" sound. That's just plain dumb.

He also says that "Kos" is a nickname, so I guess I could use my nickname which I don't really have. In high school they called me Andi, and my first husband called me AJ, both of which are merely meh. My second, or current husband, calls me Droid -- it's a long story -- and Daily Droid has a nice ring to it and so there it is. Besides, I am not feeling very "madcap" these days and haven't for quite some time, starting with the birth of ISIS and especially after my recent cataract surgery, both of which have sobered me up quite a bit.

So in the interest of mocking Daily Kos and writing more about politics as we enter the political Circus Season 2016, the new blog name will be effective immediately. Trust me, in time it will become quite unimportant and Call Me Madcap! will go the way of Roto-Rouda.

Leave Me Out of It

According to my blog statistics page, which is visible only to me or I would share it with everyone, right now two people in Croatia are reading one of my posts. This interests me on many levels, the main one being that I know nothing at all about Croatia -- not where it is, how the people live, what they eat or anything -- and so I cannot imagine why my thoughts are of interest to the average Croatian, if that's what they are called.

My husband enters the room and I ask him what he knows about the place. He says it is "formerly part of Yugoslavia." I demand more, and he says, "That's basically all I've got, you better Google it." Seeing my disappointment, he pushes himself and comes up with, "It's across the Adriatic from Italy, north of Greece, south of Rumania." (He's very good with geography.)

Does it matter? Should we know a lot of random stuff? Why? I can't come up with one reason besides "showing off," a popular activity I find to be almost as pointless as knowing where countries you will never visit or interact with in any way are located on a map. Yet so much of what goes on every day can be attributed to that very thing: Trying to impress other people with how smart we are, how much we have achieved, and how superior we are in every way.

I prefer doing the opposite. If you make it clear at the outset that you know next to nothing about a lot of things, you can just go about your business and let everyone else fight for the prize. (This is not recommended during job interviews or if you are running for political office.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

When In Maine, Have a Nosh

You want some of these. Trust me.
I recently heard a statistic from a Congressional Committee empowered to study such things that last year, more money was spent by Americans in restaurants than in supermarkets. That's pretty crazy, considering that what you cook at home is often way better and costs a mere fraction of what you settle for when you eat out.

I certainly do my fair share of restaurant dining, despite being a respectable cook myself and wary of consuming  too much salt, which is what restaurants use to excess to make everything so tasty. But Portland, Maine is nothing so much as a foodie town, winning countless national awards for its growing army of creative chefs, so it's tempting to give in and eat out.

I did so last night at a place called Nosh Kitchen Bar and was more than pleasantly surprised, especially since one rarely runs across Yiddish references here in America's whitest state. Truly an unassuming little place place you might drive by without a second glance, the menu at Nosh is surprisingly more substantial than its name implies. There's real food prepared here, not just snacky chips and dips, although a neighboring diner was seen eating a plate of mac and cheese with a sprinkling of Fritos on the top.

Like that particular offering, most of the selections are unique and unlikely to show up anywhere else, which is refreshing in today's Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Ahi Tuna Tacos and Goat Cheese Candied Walnuts Arugula Salad world. I won't bother to list menu items as they are available online, but if you lose a bet and have to come to Portland, make sure to stop by Nosh; it's located close to the town's only art museum so you'll likely be in the neighborhood. And get some French fries, either their famous "bacon dusted" variety (see photo) or regular. They are among the best I've ever had, and probably way too salty for my blood pressure. But life is short.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Get Ready for a Bumpy Ride

Like jalopies that eventually stop running and rust into oblivion, older people fall apart. It's just a fact of life: Bones decay, organs give out, eyes cloud over. By the time you are in your sixties everyone you know, including yourself, is having something repaired, replaced, tuned up or chopped off, either this week, next month, or whenever their health insurance will pay. Luckily we have car mechanics, oops I mean surgeons, to do the job and get us back on the road in no time.

This is great news, except that these skilled craftsmen are rarely honest in telling you how awful you will feel following their fix. To sell their services they insist it's all a piece of cake, promising you'll feel great right away, and in fact you may not even need anything more than a few Tylenol for pain. All I can say about that is, "Hah!"

Sure, go ahead and have that surgery and in time things will surely get better. But rest assured the docs will sugar-coat the whole experience, so read up beforehand about the Hell you will find yourself in afterwards.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stuck in a Rut

Almost everyone I know is stuck in some kind of a rut. It's hard to pull out of one you've wallowed in for years. For example, fat people may say they will diet, but still they reach for that sticky bun or bagel with their coffee each morning. Couch potatoes vow to start that exercise program tomorrow, but come tomorrow there they are, still on the couch. I feel for them, stuck in my own rut living here in Maine.

Despite interminable winters, nonexistent jobs and unfriendly natives, causing me to vow each year to leave before the next snowfall, when May comes around and my garden beckons, and the snow finally melts to reveal our two wooded acres where the cats can frolic without fear of being run over by a car, and the supermarket is within walking distance but still we live in the country, it's tough to climb out. In fact, each year I seem to sink deeper in.

But those are relatively unimportant ruts. Some that are more important have to do with the upcoming presidential election, whereby lazy Democrats deeply embedded in the muddiest of all ruts are blindly backing Hillary Clinton, a poor choice for president if ever there were one. For example, she lies. Then too, she cheats. And obfuscates. And sometimes she's downright ridiculous.

Yesterday she told a group of young people that in America, "the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top." She pretends to think that sucks. However, let's examine her own lifestyle: She earns between $200,000 and $300,000 for each speaking engagement, yet, by routing those exorbitant speaking fees through her own Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton "foundation,' she ensures that the money will not be taxed before she uses it for travel, meals and promotional events. Pretty slick, huh -- make a ton of dough and don't pay taxes on it?

Poor Hillary is also in a rut, griping about poverty while living the high life. Isn't it time all of us tried something new? Especially you Democrats: Try thinking outside the box for once. Better yet, try thinking.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Earth is So Played

I am so done with Earth. 

If another planet that could support human life 
were discovered 
I would go in a heartbeat, 
although I do hate long flights. 
But maybe by the time it is discovered, interplanetary travel will happen 
in the blink of an eye. 

Of course I will likely be dead by then so it's stupid to count on. 
Anyway, I could just bring a lot of sedatives 
and a stack of old crossword puzzles 
from the New York Times.
If there still is a New York Times by then. 

I would miss some things about Earth, certainly, 
but if the new place 
had its own strange things to interest me 
I'd be fine. 

Still, some things we have here are hard to top, like:
trees, flowers, clouds
the ocean
vegetables and coffee.

I would happily leave behind all of these:
cats lying dead on the side of the road,
dogs in parked cars in summer,
prescription drugs,
All-You-Can-Eat salad bars,
trashy bestsellers
and cell phones.

What I Might Have Said

I just got a call from this guy.
It is neither snowing nor raining nor freezing so I have to get out there and go for a walk before I lose the impetus, which means I won't be writing a post this morning. Here are some of the ideas I was toying with if I were going to write one, so you can just use your imagination:

1. How last year our doofus government wasted $190,000 to study worm-digested compost, $856,000 training mountain lions to use treadmills, $10,000 for a children's theater production of "Zombie in Love," $46,000 for a snowmobile competition and $414,000 updating an Army recruiting video game already $25 million over budget, and thus I am reluctant to mail in my taxes which are due tomorrow.

2. How living in the past is not living at all, and posting photos of yourself online when you you were younger and better-looking contributes to the fantasy land where most average people live.

3. Describing a nightmare I had last night that involved a vicious, wild animal loose inside my home and me sneaking from room to room to get away from it.

4. A review of an old movie ("Moonstruck") I recently watched on Netflix starring Cher when she was stunningly beautiful, back before all her freakish plastic surgery.

5. How robots are making more phone calls these days and they are just as rude as humans. One of them called a few minutes ago to remind me of an upcoming appointment, and it is not even 8:30 in the morning! That is simply too early to be bothering someone at home, especially if you are not a real person.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Concentration is Consecration

Here's my dilemma: I really want a new handbag but I have about 15 of them already, piled on a shelf in my closet. Each one has had its day, but now none of them make me happy. My hope is that the next one will fulfill that empty place inside and keep me from eating half a tub of ice cream before dumping the other half down the garbage disposal, but I doubt it. I want, I need, I must have . . . something. Or else why am I so frequently sad, despite having full use of all four limbs and a functioning brain? Why else am I desperately hunting for a new house that will cost a fortune in a city crowded with grasping politicians and violent criminals and road- and artery-clogging traffic when I presently live in a virtual paradise that Henry David Thoreau would envy?

You have likely guessed that what I want, need and must have is peace of mind. Too bad that's not for sale, certainly not on the Internet which is where you shop when you live in rural Maine. So, always seeking, I am reading yet another book on meditation. This one, aptly titled "Meditation," claims that it is the only path to inner peace, self-actualization, a calm and quiet and productive mind free of depression, anger and anxiety and a robust body radiating health and energy.

Stressing the importance of having a mantra and repeating it as often as you can, author Eknath Easwaran insists you choose one carefully since you musn't change it or it won't work as well. The mantra will totally determine what happens to you and in what direction your spirit turns. Like if you say "Jesus" or "Hail Mary" over and over you will become Catholic in your ideals. No thank you. I'm sort of leaning towards a "Hare Rama, Hare Krishna, Rama Rama, Krishna Krishna" kind of thing since that's my favorite song by dead Beatle George Harrison, but I worry that by concentrating on it constantly my spirit may become too Liverpudlian.

Honestly, I find the whole meditation thing slightly scary. After all, hanging out in one's subconscious is not exactly a walk in the park. And I'm not sure I even believe in all of it; how can repeating a word or phrase in my mind make my life better, eliminating all fear and need for Ben and Jerry, at the same time opening my heart to give and receive unconditional love? But it's worth a try since all I've got now is an empty bag of tricks, none of which have worked since natural childbirth 27 years ago. That was truly a stupendous experience but it never happened again -- God's choice not mine -- and since then it's been the same old, same old.

Now here's Easwaran promising that if I follow his "Simple 8-point program for translating spiritual ideals into daily life," I will feel that same excitement again. Okay, I'm in. I just have to choose my mantra and get started, and soon enough I will be a better person, and who doesn't want that? "Om mani padme hum" has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It says that whatever our humble beginnings and whatever mistakes we have made in the past, we can purify our hearts and come to dwell in spiritual illumination. That sounds good to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Read It and Weep

I just read an essay on the op-ed page of today's Wall Street Journal that totally ruined my day. Maybe I can salvage some of it later, but right now is certainly shot. The title of the piece is "Paralyzed from the Neck Down," so you can just imagine how cheery it is. The writer, Anthony Weller, suffers from a debilitating form of progressive multiple sclerosis which started ten years ago. He is now unable to do anything with his body, but he can still think and talk, and then dictate his thoughts.

I won't say more since I don't want this essay to bum you out, but I will say that if you can scratch an itch, fry an egg, pet your dog, go for a walk, ride a bike, take a shower, make a phone call, scroll your Facebook page, or whatever, quit your damn bellyaching and get out there and live your life.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Power of the Written Word

A favorite novel of mine has long been "The Sweet Hereafter" by Russell Banks. I have read it literally countless times since its publication in 1992, and over the years have purchased many copies which I've lent to friends and then they keep it, so I buy a new one. Banks makes sentences so achingly beautiful you are compelled to read them over and over just for the sheer thrill. His words are so rich in imagery and so gripping in detail, often pinpointing exactly how you have felt sometime in your own life that it's uncanny, but never unsettling.

I knew that a movie based on the book existed but I had never seen it and always wanted to. Then yesterday afternoon, after a conversation with a friend about the book, she suddenly realized that she owned the DVD and later loaned it to me. I was excited: Finally I would see this haunting story on film, and one that had gotten rave reviews and been nominated for and won several prestigious film awards. I put the cats out, made a fresh pot of coffee, dimmed the lights and settled in for a good time.

I knew from the first moment of the dark and somber opening credits that went on way too long, accompanied by depressing funeral-dirge music, that I already HATED THIS MOVIE and likely would continue to do so. I had to pause it at least four times to keep from throwing rotten tomatoes at the screen -- there were some languishing in the kitchen -- but I hung in there and watched it all the way through in case things improved. They didn't.

It's funny and interesting and also sort of shocking that a wonderful book with an unforgettable story can be adapted by a talented filmmaker and end up as something wholly other, and not wonderful at all. Actually, when you stop and think about it, it's quite an accomplishment. The written words were unsentimental and authentic, but the visuals came off as sappy and unbelievable.

Anyway, at least I got to cross that off my bucket list. Today I will read the book again just to get that other mess out of my head.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Eyes Have It

Weeks ago I ordered and paid for a pair of eyeglasses from the Yarmouth location of a business called Maine Optometry. I need them bad because ever since I had cataract surgery to fix my eyes (which never bothered me but supposedly would soon enough), I have not been able to see worth a damn.

It's been longer than promised and so I called to see what's taking so long and was told the frames were on back order, a piece of information I could have used when I chose them as I didn't like them all that much to begin with and would certainly have chosen another pair to get them sooner. But then they said they would be ready in a day or two and delivered by courier to the Brunswick location on Thursday (that's today) and would get to the Yarmouth store by courier on Friday, but I could drive over to Brunswick and get them if I were really desperate.

"You mean like if I want to see anything? In that case I'm really desperate."

So today I called the Brunswick office and they said they do not have the glasses because they never have a courier on Thursdays and what were those people in Yarmouth thinking. I asked when they might be getting them and they said tomorrow, maybe. Then I asked when they would get to the Yarmouth location and they said next Wednesday, explaining, "We don't have a courier every day."

"Yeah, but next Wednesday? Really? It's only like 15 miles."

"Unless we get them in later today, we'll call you and let you know."

"But you just said you never have a courier on Thursdays."

"Well they might come in the mail, we never know. Did you use your own frames? Because if you used your own frames they will come in the mail but if not, they will come by courier."

Don't Eat That!

 "The Joy of Cooking" recipe continues below. . .
When it comes to eating, Hummus is my middle name. Until today, when I might have to change it to Listeria. Apparently Sabra, purveyors of my favorite store-bought brand of hummus, has just recalled 3,000 cases of their Classic Hummus due to some of it being tainted with the dreaded listeria bug. 

This is bad news, since  according to the Food and Drug Administration, "Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems."  The warning continues, "Although some people may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, the bug can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women." (Not to be too nit-picky, but who else would have miscarriages or stillbirths but pregnant women?)
Anyway, if this morning you woke up and smelled the hummus and it's the bad kind, throw it out. Besides, it's so easy to make your own, and it tastes even better. I've been using the recipe from The Joy of Cooking forever, and there's never a speck leftover. Try it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Celebrating My Youngest Oldest Friend

Hard to believe some little people call her "Grandma."
Retirement be damned: How can I not write a special post about a special lady whose birthday is today? My friend Melva made my life a lot brighter (and continues to do so) starting back in junior high and through our senior year. We shopped, we talked, we laughed, we mocked, we grew up. Her mother was a hoot, too, and spending time at her house was always a treat. But like everyone, after graduation we went our separate ways and lived long and complicated lives without each other. Then Facebook reunited us about six or seven years ago, and for that I shall forever remain indebted to Mark Zuckerberg.

Without a doubt, childhood friends are the best. You meet them when you are still an authentic person, not some snooty, phony, superficial grown-up stuffing the real you down into a hidden place somewhere underneath your pancreas. And when you finally reunite, those two authentic little people rush out, thrilled to be kids again. (As an activity, reminiscing simply can't be beat.)

For one thing, Melva "gets" me, and that's a rare thing. And for another, she's the original Benjamin Button: she absolutely never ages, which is nice to see in one of your contemporaries. Here's to growing another year younger, Mel!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Squirrels in the Ceiling

While I've heard of "bats in the belfry" all my life, and have actually been accused of having some from time to time, never had I heard of "squirrels in the ceiling" until recently. Unlike the bats they are not metaphorical and can be quite annoying.

Just what goes on here when we are gone?
It's not news that an old house in the country can be a challenge. Last year we had two non-metaphorical bats in the mud room -- it's more like a den, really, and not a belfry at all, but still, there were the bats. To be honest, I wasn't there when they barged in and only heard about the horror of it, in excruciating detail, from our housemates who were held hostage by them for several hours. But that's another story, and not even mine. Right now the squirrel or squirrels -- Mitch insists only one remains but I am pretty sure I hear two sets of feet -- running around above the ceiling in the dining room, despite the $900 paid to an exterminator (adding insult to injury) are pissing me off.

I have so many questions for them. Like why are they inside on a day like this? The sun is shining, they should go outside and get some fresh air, after all they've been cooped up in here for months. There are woods and deer and tons of black walnuts outside. What is so interesting above our dining room? And yet there they remain, scratching, scratching, always the scratching. And the random black walnuts that drop from the pockets of jackets hanging in the closet, or nestled among the towels on the bathroom shelf, or hidden under a bed pillow, letting us know the critters don't just stay in the walls but come out and have their run of the place when we are gone, are driving me crazy.

One can safely surmise that squirrels in the ceiling, if left unchecked, may eventually lead to bats in the belfry.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Waiting for Spring

My friend Carrie, who lives in southern Maryland, keeps posting cheery photos of blooming flowers on her Facebook page. While I love Carrie and I love her photos, of daffodils and crocus and even other things, to be honest I am sick of seeing them since where I am, which is right now 90 miles north of New York City, it is snowing. Yes, it is snowing. On Easter. There are no bunnies in our yard, since they are likely holed up inside the barn under some straw, shivering.

Okay, so it's not a blizzard and will not pile up into high drifts. I will not be making a snowman later. Still, it is snowing and has been for several hours. It's quite cold and I am wearing two scarves and my quilted down parka inside my house, despite having the heat turned on and two space heaters as well. Just when is this global warming thing supposed to start?

Happy Easter, I Suppose

Today is Easter. I am not sure what all the Christians are doing today, but I hear both ham and eggs are involved. All I know about the holiday for sure is that everything is closed, including shops of all type and supermarkets. Days like today I almost miss being in Maine since L. L. Bean is always open; at the very least you can get some snacks, not to mention a rifle or a kayak.

Organized religion has never been my thing. Ditto disorganized religion. I am just not what you would call a "group person." Especially when the groups in question tend to kill people who are not in their particular group, and let's face it, religious groups are pretty much famous for that.

Growing up in a Jewish household, there was little talk of God around our table. Mostly it was "please pass the kugel" and "those lousy Germans." So excuse me for having so little sympathy for those folks who believe they can contact God by going inside one of those buildings, which were built by regular people after all, that dot the countryside. Anyway, if you are one of those folks I hope today meets all your expectations.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Weekend in the Country, Stephen King Style

It is 7:30 in the morning and my husband is noisily exterminating ladybugs with his Shopvac. Everyone thinks of ladybugs as so cute, adorning such things as baby quilts, knee sox and Vera Bradley quilted bags. At our house they adorn just about every surface, including outside and inside all light fixtures, around doors and windows, on the toaster, inside the microwave and even on the top of my head as I write this. As soon as Mitch clears away a cluster, more of them show up. What fun!

Sadly, while he was distracted by the vacuuming, and having begun preparation of the morning coffee, Mitch neglected to put the glass carafe in place and so the coffee came streaming onto the newly installed white tile counter and bright white cabinets, all just painted and cleaned by a professional service, and dripped onto the newly installed wood floor where it settled in an oozy, black puddle of mucky grounds. And kept coming until paper towels and said carafe could be found, but of course they could not since "someone" had moved them. (We share this place.)

Arriving late last night in a driving downpour for a supposedly relaxing getaway at our vacation house in upstate New York, I'm pretty sure we made a wrong turn somewhere around Claverack and ended up in The Twilight Zone. Besides the ladybugs there are squirrels living in the walls and floorboards. This has been true since early fall, when we discovered black walnuts hidden all over the house, sort of like an Easter egg hunt for the criminally insane. Naturally we called ORKIN to come and work their magic; it cost nearly a thousand dollars, but they did make the nuts disappear. Unfortunately better magic, which would include getting rid of the actual squirrels, costs more.

So we called ORKIN again and they came last week, leaving a note on the kitchen table -- also covered with ladybugs -- that says, "Performed a thorough inspection and found two holes that were not found on the original inspection because the foundation was covered with snow. Captured and removed one red squirrel from multi-catch trap by back door. We will be back on Monday to rewire and rebait them." So now we have several little prison boxes around the perimeter of our house with freaked-out squirrels inside, rattling the bars and squeaking, "Guard! Guard!" in their little squeaky language. If only I could tell them to relax, they are in a Catch and Release program and not on Death Row, I'd feel better and so would they.

The imprisoned rodents go nicely with the three dead fish we found first thing this morning floating on the top of the lovely little pond right outside the kitchen window, naturally covered with ladybugs. This is the saddest of all as we had come to think of them as our pets, feeding them and naming them. (The fish, not the ladybugs.) Now we have a lot to do to get this place in shape since friends are coming for dinner and the husband told me emphatically that his wife does not like fish, dead or alive. (We're having chicken.)

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Unbearable Dumbness of Being Cool

Recently I told someone my email address and got a laugh in return, followed by a sneer and snide, "You're kidding -- you still use AOL? That's so dumb." I shrugged it off, assuming the person was out of his mind, my go-to stance whenever my intelligence is challenged. After all, I happen to know my IQ and it's up there, let me tell you. Besides, what's the big deal about how you get your email? How could that say anything about anyone?

Then this morning I read a review in the New York Times of two new TV shows about 20-somethings living in Manhattan and came upon the following sentence: "Both 'Hindsight' and 'Younger' also joke about the uncoolness of using AOL email." To say I was stunned is not an overstatement. I mean, both shows use the same line? I bet some heads rolled after that, and I don't mean because of ISIS.

With the world in chaos as crazy religious groups continue their slaughter of innocents --the latest being 147 dead Christian college students in Kenya yesterday -- there remains a subset of people, a.k.a.morons (and my apologies to all authentic morons), who still think "being cool" matters. And, even worse, that one way to actually achieve that exalted status is through your email server.

Come on people, wake up and smell the hummus! (In fact throw it away, since these days it might be poisoned.) Coolness is history. What matters now is staying alive, dodging those bullets and hoping your airline pilot took his meds on the morning of your next flight.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Godmother

In a country with 318.9 million people, I can't help but be amazed that there is not one other person in the Democratic party planning to run for president. For some reason, nobody is willing to challenge that lying, puffy-faced, imperious, indignant harlequin with a string of scandals in her past. You know, the woman who just recently "wiped her server clean" of all emails?

While the Republican opposition has a boatload of hopefuls falling all over each other to throw their hats in the ring, which seems quite reasonable in a democracy, among the so-called "Democrats," there is only Queen Hillary.

I wonder why this is. Gosh, don't you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My 135-lb-Life

There is a TV show on these days that offers a fascinating look into the inherently weak nature of Man. It is called "My 600-lb-Life." It's one of those reality shows where we get to watch others as they go about their daily lives like everything is just normal, except for the cameramen and the bright lights and lots of trucks with gear and probably a catering crew and some make-up people. Anyway, this particular show will scare the bejeesus out of you because of the "There but for the grace of God go I" principle.

These are people who make the run-of-the-mill morbidly obese you see at the mall food courts seem underweight. They are truly freaks, they are hideous, they have taken the body they arrived in at birth and totally destroyed it by stuffing huge quantities of food into it for a lifetime. Then suddenly they hit 600 pounds and freak out, Oh my God I am fat!!!!!!!! How come they did not notice that at 375 pounds? Or 400? Or 450? Or 500? Or 536? How about 569?

Anyway, I could be those people. Today I definitely used food as a drug, and I notice I have been doing a lot of that lately. Okay, so my number on the scale is smaller. A lot smaller. A TON smaller. But if I keep doing it I could balloon up in a flash.

What is wrong with us? Why do we all need drugs and smokes and liquor and pills and cream pies and whatever? How come we don't like life just plain? Why aren't the flowers and the sky and the bunnies and the rest of the critters and the oceans and the mountains enough? It's a puzzle and I'm open to answers.

The Final Solution

This morning I microwaved my cats. I just could not take them anymore. My entire life had become nothing more than feeding them, changing the litter, scooping the litter, buying the food and the litter, taking them to the vet, giving them flea medications and having them cry constantly to either be let in or let out. Then there was the cost of pet sitters anytime we wanted to go anywhere, which we hardly ever do because it's hard to find any pet sitters.

A whole other problem was how much pet hair was everywhere, including in my mouth every time I ate. And forget going to the bathroom alone, I always had an animal sitting on my lap doing that weird kneading thing which totally freaks me out. And all my clothes are ruined, with little pulled threads poking out of everything from their damn claws. And I have not slept past 5:30 in the morning for a million years, what with the whining and the jumping on my chest and pulling at my hair and licking my face, and that's not even counting all the times my husband does that.