Friday, July 31, 2015

Hillary Clinton in a Nutshell

The image above is an advertisement running on Facebook today. 
So you click on it and it says 
all you have to do to get your FREE pin is 
"Chip in $15.00." 

And that's Hillary in a nutshell. 
Don't believe a word she says.

How Dogs Ruin Scrabble

The last racks: The end game would not be pretty.
Back in the 1949 Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, singer Carol Channing belted out that "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." Well, I happen to have some diamonds and they have never done a damn thing for me. In fact, I couldn't care less if I ever see them again, although once I paid a plumber $210 to open up the bathroom sink drain and retrieve my wedding band, but that was mostly for sentimental reasons. Similarly, the thinking that "a dog is man's best friend" is way off. Actually, when awake, a dog is often a pain in the ass. Case in point: last night two dogs wrecked what would otherwise have been an enjoyable evening for two humans.

My brother-in-law came for dinner and brought his puggle, Leo. Knowing what I know about dogs and cats and dogs in general it was against my better judgement, but Neil didn't want to leave him home alone as a thunderstorm was in the forecast and we all know how well dogs handle those. (Who can blame them; they have no idea that thunder is just God bowling.)

Daisy, snoozing.
Things were fine after the initial freak-out by my cat Lurch who saw the beast and fled to his happy place hidden somewhere deep inside our house I have yet to discover. My other cat, Daisy, was raised with dogs and was bored by it all, barely opening one eye to inspect the intruder and then returning to her nap. After the early chaos, things settled down and Leo finally shut his trap. Dinner was cooked, served and eaten, and Neil and I got down to the real reason for the visit, our all-important Scrabble game. But before we had even counted out our tiles, two things happened: The storm arrived and the next-door neighbor lady ran outside, frantically calling for her dog who had apparently escaped and was now missing.

She shrieked "Shadow!" every 30 seconds non-stop for about the next 90 minutes, louder and louder to be heard over the storm. It was pretty pathetic, I must admit, but still quite annoying.  Making matters worse, each time she shouted "Shadow," Leo went nuts: Insane barking, running from open window to open window, racing from the front door to the back porch, rain pouring through the screens, thunder and lightning, clueless lady screaming "Shadow! Shadow! Shadow!" as if that would bring him back in a steady downpour, like he was just outside her front door, right? It was all so intense that I decided to write a short play about it. There are just two characters. Here's the opening scene:
       (Night. It's raining. A woman's voice can be heard offstage.)
LEO: Bark, bark, woof, arf, yip!
LEO: Woof, woof, arf, yip, yap, bark!!
        (Thunder almost drowns out the woman's voice. Almost)
NEIGHBOR: Shadow! SHADOW!!!!!!
LEO: Bark, bark, woof, arf, grrrrrr, yap!
LEO: Arf, arf, yip, yap, grrrrrr!
       (Loud thunder can be heard.)
LEO: Yip, bark, woof, woof arf!
NEIGHBOR: Shadow! SHADOW! Shadow!
LEO: Bark, bark, bark, woof, arf, yip, yap!
LEO: Bark, arf, yip, yap!
       (Intense thunder and lightning, with rain pouring in open windows.)
LEO: Bark, bark, bark, woof, arf!
LEO: Bark, bark, grrrrr, woof, arf, yip, yip!

Neil, who is hearing-impaired and so missed the calling of the dog's name due to the noise of the thunder, wondered aloud from time to time why Leo was barking so much. Meanwhile he was focused on the game and was gaining on me from the get-go. I was so distracted by all the dog commotion that I played quite poorly. Neil was clearly winning (342 to 274) but we called the game on our last turn, since he had all vowels and I had all consonants. Besides, I wanted Leo gone.

I have no idea if Shadow ever came home. I also don't know the neighbor lady's name as we have never met. She's only lived here for two years now.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

America, Land of the Odor Free?

Of all the things that are going right for me, my neighborhood is certainly near the top of the list. The houses are situated close enough to one another so that if you're in trouble someone will hear your screams but far enough away so nobody can see you walking around in your underwear. In our last house in Washington, D.C. the houses were chock-a-block, tight enough to hear the frustrated mother who lived behind us bellow, "Alexander, get in here right now!" or "Alexander, get up here this minute!" several times a day.  (I still check the news daily to see if Alexander has finally snapped and gone on a murderous rampage, shutting her up once and for all.)

Inspector delivering a Warning Letter.
Situated as we are on two wooded acres, we have our own forest primeval right outside the back door. The cats love it. And we can do whatever we want on our property, chopping down a tree here, planting a vegetable garden there. We can also barbecue without fear of punishment.

What's that, you ask? Who would get in trouble for barbecuing in their own backyard? You might if you live in Florida, where the following law is on the books: "Commercial barbecue cookers are not exempt from causing a nuisance odor. If a sufficient number of complaints, representing different households, are reported and an Inspector witnesses the problem, they can issue a Warning Letter."

According to the fine print of that particular law, the cooking odors released by your burgers, franks, chicken or whatever must be contained within your property. I'm not sure what happens if you continue barbecuing after you get the Warning Letter, but it can't be good. Thinking back, I see now that I should have sent one of those Letters to Alexander's mother back in D.C.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Time Marches On

69 versus 41: At least my bottom lip looks the same. (No matter what I do, I keep getting older!)

Such a Deal!

Sure you’re crazy, I tell myself, but who isn’t? I mean, look at the terms: You’re born, you’re the center of attention, everyone makes a big fuss, takes care of your every need. You eat, sleep, grow, and get excited about things, like the snow and the circus and Halloween coming up. Life is great. In fact, you struggle against sleep each night because it’s so much fun just being awake. Then, one day, one minute, one second, you don’t know (although I can’t remember not knowing, there must have been a time), and the next minute you do: Everything ends! The whole shebang! And not just for yourself, but for everyone you know.

So you say, Okay, I can handle it, just tell me when. And they say, The funny thing is, nobody knows, it could be any day now. Of course, some people have been known to last a hundred years or more.

You go on, but it’s not the same, and life becomes the daily sweepstakes: Gee, I wonder who died today? Hey, here’s a list in the newspaper, these people think of everything! There’s even something called Life Insurance for after you go, except then it’s too late to do you any good. It’s enough to make anyone crazy. So they started having doctors for this sort of thing, this Awareness of Truth Syndrome that can cut you down in your prime. Psychiatrists, psychologists, witch doctors, priests, call them what you will, it all boils down to the same thing -- Here’s my life, Doc, what should I do with it? And what if I die before I do anything at all?

The only trouble is, Doc doesn’t know the answers any more than you do. He’s got the same terms, you see, there is no other plan available. There is only Plan A: Birth, Life, and Death, details varied and unspecified. So really, the shrinks just act like they know. But what a performance, people even pay to see it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

You Can Stick That Selfie Stick

The introduction of the "selfie" took non-communication one step further starting way back around the year 2000 when people began snapping their own portraits on MySpace. But the practice really took off on Facebook, peaking just a few years ago. What a great advance: Now that you could take your own photo, who needed anyone else? But still, out in public or on an excursion to someplace fabulous you likely would ask a passer-by for help if you wanted to capture the breathtaking drama of Niagara Falls, the incredible expanse of the Grand Canyon or the stunning breadth of Mt. Everest. Quelle drag -- you had to talk to a complete stranger!

Not anymore. Now there is the "selfie stick," a clumsy device apparently invented by Fred Flintstone that lets you extend your reach so you can completely avoid interacting with strangers (god forbid a million times you should talk to someone to whom you have not been properly introduced), which if you ask me is one of the very best parts of travel. And so, the world gets a little colder.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Watering the Lawn

We are all so wrapped up in our tiny little individual lives, we forget that we are each merely a blade of grass in the Great Lawn. And if one single blade of grass gets trampled on and dies, the Lawn is still intact, and green, and great, and in need of mowing. Nobody misses a blade of grass. If only I could remember this. But I forget, and take myself seriously, just like everyone else.

There exists a condition called postprandial hypotension and I can now add it to my ever-lengthening list of ills. Basically it is feeling dizzy after eating. The good news: it really does happen, mostly among woman and the elderly, so it's not just another example of me going nuts. (Plenty of other things are, but I won't go into those.)

Anyway, if you feel this way from time to time, relax. It's a real thing. Drink more water. Be a blade of grass.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Caspar Aside, Most Ghosts Are Not Friendly

Richard and me, pre-ghosting.
Wow, am I behind the times. I am just now finding out about a new concept in dating that is apparently becoming quite common. It's called "ghosting," and it means just disappearing without a trace. According to Wikipedia, "Ghosting is the act of cutting off all communication with a person whom you do not have any romantic feelings for — or whom you no longer have feelings for. What makes ghosting different than, say, just not talking to said person after dumping them, is that ghosting isn't something you announce. The cutoff just happens, and the person being ghosted is often left wondering, haunted by uncertainty and sending text messages into the ether in hopes of getting a response."

Yup, that's exactly what happened to me about three years ago, only I didn't know it! My closest friend Richard, a gay male, and I had been attached at the hip for about 15 years when we lived in the same city. Then when he moved across country we were attached by the telephone, talking several times a week at the least. There were visits in between, with each of us flying to see the other. Our last visit was great, and we spent four days together in Seattle, catching up on old memories and making new ones.

I returned home, and then nothing. Dead silence. No response to phone calls. Naturally I thought he died or was at the very least in a coma. I asked everyone we knew in common, but few people had kept in touch with him. I called and left messages. I cried. I was stumped, stymied and stunned. Finally, after learning he was alive and well, my best guess was that his new boyfriend had been threatened by our deep bond. Anyway, there I was thinking Richard had totally lost all his marbles, when all the while he was on the cutting-edge of a trend that is now sweeping the nation. How cool was he?

Maybe by now he really is dead, but that is no longer any concern of mine.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Mitch (and Neil)

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday. I know I should come up with something -- a gift or a card or a cake, something, anything -- to mark the occasion, but really the guy's got everything. Besides, we've been married for almost 29 years and I've pretty much sprung all the surprises already. So I am simply going to publish this old photograph of him and his twin brother sitting at the seashore many years ago. Isn't it adorable?

It's hard to tell who's who.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons

Rosanne Rosanna Danna was so right: It's always something. You're skipping along singing a song and a bus runs over you. Okay, not literally, but you get the point. Your back finally stops aching and you blow out your knee. The same day your kid gets into Harvard your best friend's son flips over his handlebars and ends up in the ICU. I could go on but why.

My husband swears that every life has 50% happiness and 50% sadness, no matter who you are, from the richest king to the lowliest untouchable. Then again, Mitch is what is commonly called a "cockeyed optimist," so I wouldn't plan anything big based on his formula. A surer bet is that every life has the potential for happiness locked inside an internal storage room of the brain, if only we can find the key.

My latest key is drinking two tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice in 16 ounces of warm water first thing in the morning, followed by no food for 15 minutes. This little cocktail supposedly wakes up your liver and flushes out nasty toxins, and who wants those? As one of many bona fide nutritionists insists, "This simple yet powerful beverage stimulates your gastrointestinal tract—improving your body's ability to absorb nutrients all day and helping food pass through your system with ease." My friend Louise (who has been doing it for the past 18 months) swears, "It gets your engine started." She does look better than ever, I must admit.

I've been doing the lemon juice thing for the last five days and have not yet noticed anything different, but I intend to stay with it because these things take time. And if we are what we eat, which we are, of course, than the thought of warm lemon juice rolling around inside me first thing in the morning certainly sounds virtuous, much better than hot chocolate with marshmallows, a shot of tequila, or even a steaming cup of black coffee.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Secret Crush

Last weekend a very nice person I had dinner with and who I would have called a friend stormed off in a huff without so much as a "by your leave" because I admitted, or rather confessed, that I love George W. Bush, had voted for him twice, and deeply dislike Bill and Hillary Clinton. This friend, again no names, is a severe liberal, something I knew about him and yet I still liked him, so I felt as if he should know that about me too, instead of it being a dark secret.

Apparently some secrets must be kept. But now that it's out, let me add that while I usually marry younger men, I think W. looks pretty good for someone exactly my age.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How to Find a Lost Cat

I hate to think of what I would do if one of my two beloved cats went out and didn't return. It's safe to say it would involve plenty of sobbing, no eating, and a net loss of five or six pounds. Chances are those actions would not do the job and get the cat back. So it was with great awe that I heard how a dear friend found her wayward cat, Dillon, lost in the hills above Phoenix. 

Carol has always been fiercely devoted to her animals, including a dog, two horses and of course, the cat. When the latter went missing last month she sprang into action, and I don't mean just nailing one of those sad "Missing Kitty, Answers to Fluffy" signs to every telephone pole within a two-mile radius of her home and emailing the entire community in her Homeowner's Association. (She did that too.) No, she went the extra mile. Here's how she explained her ingenuous technique to me in an email:

" A search and rescue dog had followed his scent to a culvert and then lost it, but we never found any remains so I kept hoping, setting traps for him every night. I never gave up hope. Finally, after 20 days surviving in the wild, Dillon was spotted one evening by my neighbor and his dog near Hole 4 of a nearby golf course . They came to get me and I set up another trap under a bush with his favorite food, a towel with my scent on it and a tuna oil trail leading from the culvert he was hiding in directly to the trap. He was in it the next morning! We were thrilled and he was so happy to be home.  Success -- Dillon is back!"

I am now even more impressed by Carol than I already was, and that was a lot. Some people just don't take things lying down. Perhaps I'll come back as one of those in my next life.

Rubber Duckies' Lives Matter

We have a swimming pool at our shared vacation home in Rhinebeck, New York. It is there that I keep my two extra-large rubber duckies. They spend most of their time in my clothes closet, safe from forest predators and visiting children, while I am away. Then when I arrive I toss them in the pool and they spend their days and nights there, happily paddling about.

This morning when I went out to the pool I knew immediately that something was wrong. Then I understood: only one ducky was swimming around. I panicked. I suspected foul play. Then I realized that the missing ducky must have gotten stuck in the pool's filter. I rushed over, lifted the cover, and there he was, partially submerged and gasping for air, surrounded by many beetles and one tiny frog who happily hopped to freedom. Phew! That was close.

To me, rubber duckies' lives matter much more than the lives of stuffed animals. While I know in my heart that the lives of all inanimate children's toys should matter equally, I simply don't feel that way and you can't legislate feelings. Sure, teddy bears are cute but you can't take them swimming. I have several of those in Rhinebeck, and they just sit there on the guest beds looking cute, doing nothing day in and day out, whereas the duckies go in the bath and the shower, or even the ocean if you have them tied to you properly. I like them best. Sue me.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Value of Plain Talk

You've got to hand it to The Donald. He really does just say what people are already thinking but won't say because of their desperate desire to be liked, to be politically correct, to not stir up a fight. Trump doesn't  care, and oddly enough has still earned 8 billion dollars despite nobody liking him. It seems clear that plain talk has at the very least financial value.

Trump's latest foot-in-mouth moment that has the media foaming was when he said Senator John McCain "is not a war hero" just because he was captured by the Viet Cong and held in a Saigon prison for five years. I too have always wondered why someone who gets caught and survives is considered a hero, yet you never hear a word, congratulatory or otherwise, about the rest of the platoon who were quick-footed or smart enough to get away.

Donald Trump is certainly no diplomat. But then again, I am positive he is not a Muslim terrorist sympathizer like some people seem to be.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eating Bugs

I think I am not alone in saying that I hate bugs. Many people do. They ruin picnics, not to mention many other events that take place outdoors like weddings, kiddie birthday parties, graduations and funerals, and although funerals are pretty much ruined by the dead person, still, bugs can make the day even worse. In fact, I cannot think of one good thing to say about insects. Sure bees make honey but there is always sugar and what's the difference? (If you ask me, honey is too sticky anyway.)

So I was stunned to learn that the practice of eating insects, which is called entomophagy, is a pretty big deal. A report issued in 2013 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated there are 1,900 edible insect species on Earth, hundreds of which are already part of the diet in many countries. It suggested that roughly two billion people eat a wide variety of insects regularly, both cooked and raw, and have been doing so since the dawn of man.

Apparently this is true not just in underdeveloped countries where they don't have Pizza Huts and Chipotles on every corner but even here in the United States. Today I saw the following items for sale in a hardware store in Rhinebeck, New York, right next to the gum and Tic Tacs. When I asked, the clerk said they are "pretty popular." Check them out:

Worm lollipops

White chocolate wafers with ants inside

Crunchy crickets

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Caitlyn: Silliest Thing Ever

Bruce "Call Me Caitlyn" Jenner recently accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for bravery, which he apparently earned for appearing in a bathing suit on the cover of Vanity Fair with his penis taped down to avoid a distracting bulge. How much more ridiculous can life get?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Amy with an odd tattoo and her creepy husband Blake.
Totally unfamiliar with British singer Amy Winehouse while she was alive, I went to see this film based solely on published, professional reviews I read praising the film to the skies. Besides, I like documentaries and almost always learn something. This one broke that mold, unless you count how to slowly commit suicide through the use of crack cocaine, alcohol and bulimia.

What the reviews don't share with the public is what a downer Amy is. A microscopic look at the rise and fall of a talented celebrity, something we have all seen before, it adds little to the genre. Much of the time the screen is filled with images of Winehouse singing or boozing or just hogging the camera, sometimes joking around with her friends, eventually chased by the unforgiving paparazzi and falling down drunk onstage. There are also too many close-ups of her numerous odd tattoos and unappetizing shots of sloppy kisses with her creepy boyfriend who later becomes her creepy husband, the man who turned her on to crack in the first place.

On the plus side, there is plenty of intimate footage of her performing. With a fabulous voice and an incredible singing style, Winehouse was truly one of the all-time greats, making her death at age 27 even more tragic. But the film sheds no light on her inner demons and we never understand why she was so driven to lose herself in drugs and drink despite deep friendships, an enduring love, and what appears to have been a steady rise to fame, fortune and formal recognition by her peers, with almost no stumbling blocks on the path other than those of her own making.

Her death finally comes after more than two hours, and when it does it's a relief. She's finally out of her pain and you get to leave.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Dirty Title Goes Here

Yesterday I wrote an innocuous post about how dogs live and called it "Doing It Doggy Style." It seemed like a good title at the time, but I was forgetting its other meaning. Not so my readers, who clicked with abandon. The post got far more readers much more quickly than all others I've written, except the one about the attractive young woman named Jodi Arias who stabbed her boyfriend 37 times after they had sex.

What is it with humans and their overriding interest in sex? Why would anyone want to read about doing it "doggy style" anyway? It's one thing to do it but quite another to read about other people doing it, in fact, in any style.

This is my main beef with pornography: Why do I care what other people are getting paid to do when I'm just sitting home alone watching them and earning nothing? But apparently that's just me. Pornography is a thriving multi-billion dollar industry, so I'm pretty sure a lot of folks like it.


Getting Into "Om"

The longer one lives, the greater one's wisdom. This is sad since many people die so young. Imagine how smart the world would be if our leaders lived longer, or if old people were given a shred of the respect they deserve. Instead, when someone like Bernie Sanders decides to run for office, the cry goes out, "He's too old!" Maybe he's smart, but so what; youth is everything in these superficial times.

But that's not what I'm talking about. Wisdom is. I am getting to the point where some of the things I deemed boring or silly when I was younger, busy earning a living, listening to acid rock and smoking pot, have become the crutches I use to support my crumbling interior. Prayer, meditation, yoga and that silly "Om" chant are effective tools for dispelling bad moods and extinguishing fear, both common situations we all experience every day and which are the root cause of every addiction: overeating, smoking, drugs, alcoholism, anxiety and depression. I include depression because I think it is addictive: the more depressed we allow ourselves to be the more depressed we become, deepening those ruts in our brains. And everyone knows, getting stuck in a rut is bad. You've got to work really hard to get out, and sometimes you might need to call for help.

Early this morning, feeling that tightening in my head that signals anxiety, I listened to a guided meditation on my cell phone by a psychologist and teacher of Western Buddhist practices named Tara Brach, whose podcasts are available for that very purpose. Sitting quietly, eyes closed, feeling safe, breathing in and out: Now that's a good time! She even got me to put my palms together and say "Om," along with the hundreds of people who were there with her in person.

Om has its own Wikipedia page, but roughly it means "the totality of sound, existence and consciousness." Saying it aloud felt good. Much better in fact than hearing the bleak news of the day delivered by those silly morning news teams. I think I'll try it again tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Doing It Doggy Style

Animals are definitely onto something. Pure and simple, they just know how to live.

You never see a dog or cat with a book in its paw. They don't cook, watch TV, go shopping, or engage in any of the frivolous pursuits we do, yet somehow they endure, and in relatively good spirits. There are no pet suicides, or at least none that you hear about. A lot of them actually seem quite happy to just lay about, or wait patiently while their master is in the supermarket or the bank. How do they do it, and why can't we, I wonder.

It seems that humans need to be busy to justify being alive. I, for one, am always looking for something to do. Reading, writing, meditating, painting, exercising, cooking, playing games, filing my nails, almost anything will suffice besides just sitting and staring into space, like I saw a golden retriever doing today at the post office when I went to pick up my mail. He was in the passenger seat of a Volvo station wagon, and he seemed to have the patience of a saint. He didn't bark or even yawn, he just sat there, with the radio off, barely moving, and when I greeted him as I passed by his open window, he turned his head and looked at me for a split second and then went back to staring straight ahead.

I can't do that. When I have nothing to do, I find something: clean the rugs, wash the gunky condiment bottles in the fridge, alphabetize the bookshelves. Maybe that's why I have high blood pressure. From now on I will try staring into space.

Jumping on the GMO Bandwagon

Many people have a tendency to accept whatever kind of nonsense they hear if everyone else thinks it is so. For example, the whole "saving paper" thing, as if that will save the world. Yesterday morning, after I paid for a ton of groceries for a dinner party that evening, the checkout guy asked, "Would you like your receipt today?" Thinking it would be silly for him to mail it to me, I said, "Of course, why do you ask?"

He then explained that many customers at this particular upscale, trendy little market are no longer taking receipts, opting instead to save paper and ultimately save the planet from total destruction. I asked him if he was worried about Iran getting a nuclear bomb and he shrugged, not seeing the connection.

Another bandwagon that is almost overflowing already (so if you're hoping to jump on do it today) is Fear of GMOs. That stands for "genetically modified organisms," and the thinking is that they will kill you. This fear is quite widespread at local farmer's markets where almost every vendor displays a huge sign proclaiming proudly that their goods are 100% ORGANIC!!!!! NON GMO!!!!!   

The truth is it's the organic stuff that can kill you. As reported in today's Wall Street Journal: "A meta-analysis from Stanford University of papers published on the subject over a 50-year period concluded that there was no significant nutritional difference between conventionally and organically grown foods. However, organic produce is 10 times more likely to be recalled for bacterial contamination than conventionally grown food. That's a far worse track record than genetically modified food, which has never caused a health problem because of its modifications."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Film Review: ALL IS LOST

Things do not go well for Our Man out on the open seas.
For the past two nights I watched a movie that may be life-changing; only time will tell. "All is Lost" tells the story of a doomed sailboat adrift in the Indian Ocean with a lone sailor on board. Even though I watched it sitting on my completely dry couch in my land-locked living room, the tension from the very first scene freaked me out so much that I had to turn it off and pray for sleep. Next morning I woke up thinking about it and so last night I clicked "Resume Playing" and finished it off.

Since it was released in 2013 and has been reviewed to death by everyone and their uncle, I hardly need to add my two cents concerning its considerable merits as a piece of convincing film-making chicanery. Virtually mute throughout, the film's only actor, Robert Redford, does a good job as the victim of his own miscalculations, even if you can almost hear the director yelling through a bullhorn which emotions to display on his craggy face every second. And the production crew and photographers succeed in making you believe the unfolding disaster is actually occurring in the open ocean and not in a man-made water tank the size of three football fields in Mexico, the very same tank built to shoot parts of "Titanic" years ago. Still, we remember "it's only a movie."

The creeping horror comes as we watch Our Man (as he is listed in the final credits) engage in the timeless struggle of Man vs. Nature. His unflagging determination to undergo the severe discomfort of thirst, hunger and loss of vitality despite the certain brutal outcome, his refusal to let go of this thing called "life" despite how unpleasant it has become, makes one see the minor setbacks we all experience, from a splinter in the toe to a nagging toothache, in a new light. And his incredible ability to stay organized and not panic made me especially queasy, knowing I would not behave that way at all but would instead dissolve into a sobbing mess within the first five minutes and stay that way until I drowned.

This realization did not please me, and so this morning as I made my coffee I was careful to grind enough extra beans in case we lose power today. I ate a hearty breakfast and took all my healthy supplements in case I am swept away in a tsunami this afternoon and need my strength, even though I don't live all that close to the water and fair weather is predicted. But you never know. You've got to be ready. You've got to fight, or all will be lost.

Great movie, by the way. Haunting music, stunning footage of beautiful skies, amazing underwater photography of schools of fish. Worth repeated viewings. Take notes.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Big Shoes to Fill

He's silly. He's brash. He's a fool. He says whatever he thinks with no filter. And still, he's worth eight billion dollars and might even end up our next president. Of course I mean Donald Trump, who today is holding the top spot among Republican contenders for the 2016 presidential nomination.

How did this happen? And when? So many people are responsible for the downward slide of our political leaders, it's hard to know where to begin, and certainly there is no end in sight. Here are just a few of the most colorful past and present occupants of the political Clown Car:

Bill "Blue Dress" Clinton
Anthony "Here's My Weiner" Weiner
Hillary "Pants On Fire" Clinton
Marion "The Bitch Set Me Up" Barry
Gary "Catch Me if You Can" Hart
John "Love Child" Edwards
John F. "No Wonder My Back Hurts" Kennedy
Edward "Watch Out for the Bridge" Kennedy
Eliot "How Much Do I Owe You?" Spitzer
Sarah "There's Russia!" Palin
Spiro "What Taxes?" Agnew
Richard "I Am Not a Crook" Nixon

Friday, July 10, 2015

Strange But True

Somewhere deep in the jungles of darkest Africa there lives a small tribe of people unknown even to Anderson Cooper, although it is whispered that Brian Williams may have encountered them at one time. If you must know, I learned of them in a dream.

Through cunning and stealth, they remain hidden from the invading hordes of photographers from National Geographic and The Travel Channel. They do not take antidepressants, having found something better that grows in the wild and is free for the picking. They live without benefit of vitamins and CAT scans, egg salad and pizza, planes, trains and automobiles, Starbucks, Sam's Club and Planet Fitness.

They do not become plumbers or politicians, manicurists or divorce lawyers. They have never paid ten bucks for a so-so movie and six bucks for a bag of stale popcorn, only to have the people sitting behind them talk all the way through it. They don't get tattoos to look different from one another, counting on their own faces to do that job. Not one of them is tubby, chubby, heavy, plump, obese or just plain fat. In fact these words do not exist in their language, which is said to sound a lot like French and contains 57 words meaning "happiness" and 36 meaning "fulfillment."

They remain completely uncivilized, somehow surviving without antifreeze, probiotics, roller coasters and Pop-Tarts. Incredibly, they cut their own hair. They let animals roam free, even the dogs. Most importantly, they do not stand idly by, dumbfounded, as Donald Trump gains in the polls.

You've got to hand it to them.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Pay Attention to the Good Times

Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed in the morning. 
Still, we do. 
After all, you never know. 
Maybe today.
If only. 

If only my foot didn't hurt so damn much. 
If only I could go for a walk.
Those were the good old days. 
Who knew?

So I cry.

Then I remember all the people who can never go for a walk and regret complaining.
Friends I have known stuck in wheelchairs.
What a fool I've been.
Sadly, that does not change things for me. 
I still can't go for a walk only now it's worse because I'm depressed,
thinking of all the people who never could. 

"I cried because I had plantar fasciitis in my foot.
Then I met a man who had it in both feet."
(I still have it in mine though.)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Down East High Style

Forget style in this colorful L. L Bean trash-bag.
I can remember reading those fashion DOs and DON'Ts in magazines like Glamour and Seventeen back when I was in high school. But just this morning I read one online and saw that those rules are still popular among that segment of society that believes what you wear matters. Usually those people live in big cities where the competition for jobs and sexual partners is fierce, and the right heel height paired with the wrong skirt length can make or break you forever. Here in Maine, with far fewer people and many of them cousins, it's easier to find and snag a partner no matter how bad you look. As for jobs, there aren't any so no worries. Still, we Mainers do have our own fashion DOs and DONT's, and they are much simpler:

DO mix and match anything from L.L Bean with anything else from  L. L. Bean. This includes boots, shoes, socks, sandals, sandals with socks, shorts, skirts, pants, pants with elastic waists, hats, fleece vests, bulky sweaters, mittens, scarves, down jackets and colorful slickers and windbreakers.

DON'T wear high heels, ever.

DO let your hair go gray if you are female and grow a bushy beard if you are male.

DON'T wear perfume or cologne, instead letting the natural odor of sea life permeate your entire being.

DO put on an extra 15 to 50 pounds for that comfy, down-home look.

DON'T wear makeup. This includes lipstick.

DO sport tattoos and facial piercings specifically aimed at garnering attention by grossing people out.

So, as you can see, being "in style" in Maine is easy-peasy. Just add a lobster bib and you're done!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sick of Racism

Who's that old white guy in the back?
I hope the title of this post is not considered racist. After all, I might be implying that I am sick of races, which might mean I am sick of black people, who we know are the race everyone means when the term "racism" is bandied about. And god forbid I should say that I am sick of certain black people, namely Barack Hussein Obama. Just by printing his middle name I am immediately a racist since we all know that nice people never remind any of us that our president has that weird middle name like many foreign terrorists. But I digress.

The latest victim in the growing Race War is poor Paula Deen, who posted some silly photo of herself and her son online posing in costume as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Her son, attempting to look Cuban, darkened his skin with makeup. This has caused many of the moronic, overarching liberals to go absolutely wild! (You know them, the ones who hire black "cleaning ladies" and Hispanic nannies to clean their toilets and raise their kids.)

Here are a few facts:
1. There actually are people of different races and they have different skin colors. If you want to dress up as a comedic rapist this Halloween, say to pick one at random Bill Cosby, you would need to paint your skin black or nobody would get it.
2. Paula Dean has enough trouble.

Jesus Saves in Several Ways

So last week I came down with a really nasty case of plantar fasciitis. It sucks. It's the worst. I want it to die, along with all insects. Anyway, I went online and read every single word I could find on the subject, and learned that I could spend a fortune on treatments and doctors and special shoes and socks and still not get one lick better. I also learned it could last weeks or months or years, with no rhyme or reason to the duration of the ailment.

I tried orthotics and ibuprofen and yoga and acupuncture and foot exercises before getting out of bed in the morning. Hot tubs and foot soaks in epsom salts and frozen water bottles and rolling a tennis ball under my foot. I also cried a lot.

Then last night I spoke with my sister on the phone. She is a born-again something, I'm not sure what but Jesus is her savior. Anyway, she said she would pray for me. And this morning my foot is perfectly fine.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rhymes With Rich

Queen Hillary
Ask any Hillary Clinton supporter why she would make a good president and chances are they will come up empty. Then ask why they like her and set your stopwatch to see how soon they cough up, "Well, she's better than George Bush!" The awful truth is that Hillary has nothing to recommend her to that once-high office, brought down low by her very own husband who was busy having oral sex in the Oval Office, or was it anal sex in the Oral Office? Oh, who besides Monica can remember...

No, I'm not going there, although if Hillary wins and Bill is back inside, he surely will, and with abandon this time. Instead I am simply questioning the Democratic voters who insist she would be good at the job because she is a woman and because she, well, as Secretary of State she did a lot of traveling, and then when she was a Senator she....

A few (three or four) people I actually like and respect are in Hillary's corner, but only because they hate Republicans, and really, you can't blame them. But that's simply not a good enough reason to have a shrill and dishonest shrew holding all the face cards and making things here even worse than they already are, which is abysmal. Following are a few indications of how we rank globally with other nations:
     #115 (out of 200 countries) in Linguistic Diversity
     #26 for Child Well-Being
     #34 for Life Expectancy
     #19 for National Satisfaction
     #2 (out of 14 countries, 1 being the dumbest) in General Ignorance

In fact, America is first in only two things: The number of prisoners and the number of super-rich citizens. The super-rich are defined as having a net worth of over $50 million. Combined, Bill and Hillary are worth $102.5 million. So, unless or until they are incarcerated, I suppose we should be grateful they are at the top in something.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Feet Don't Fail Me Now

One good thing about bad things happening to you is that you get smarter. I am not going all the way to "that which doesn't kill me makes me stronger," since stronger and smarter are two entirely different things. Besides, if something nearly kills you but you survive, you could be a whole lot weaker afterwards, like say a shark attack took off a few limbs and you lived. But you would be smarter about shark attacks, that's for sure. An expert, even.

And so today I am now an expert on something entirely new: plantar fasciitus, a nasty little foot problem that has struck me down in my post-prime. After hours and hours of scholastic research spanning two days, followed by controlled experiments with various treatments and exercises, and a touch of acupuncture, I am ready to present my freshly-mined expertise:

1. Plantar fasciitus hurts like a mother#%@*er, especially first thing in the morning when you get out of bed and try to stand up without screaming. This is all but impossible so warn your sleeping partner if you still have one, since this also puts you in a foul mood that is unpleasant for those around you. To avoid divorce, stretch your foot back and forth and around in circles for ten minutes while you are still in bed before you attempt to stand.
2. A frozen 12 oz. plastic water bottle is the best way to loosen the tightened muscles in the affected foot. In a seated position, and with a sock on the foot in question, roll the bottle back and forth, pressing down on it hard for 10 minutes, four times a day.
3. All the stuff you can buy on the Internet -- the socks, the fancy orthotic inserts, those special roly-poly sneakers, the night guards, the tapes, the topical creams -- might just be a lot of expensive hooey. (You know the medical industry, "hooey" is its middle name.) I bought a pair of gel orthotics and stuck them inside my shoes and they just make the pain worse. I am not a doctor, but worse pain seems like a bad sign.
4. Much of what I have read suggests that one stricken with this condition should never walk barefoot, but walking barefoot hurts the least, so WTF? Besides, what would a caveman do?

This unfortunate condition affects 10% of adults in this country, most of whom vent their pain and frustration online in the comments sections following articles on how to fix it. The typical sufferer has bought all the stuff and reports that none of it works and they've been suffering for years. Since plantar fasciitus can last for days, weeks, months or years, I am choosing the days option and buying as little as possible.

Friday, July 3, 2015

My Yiddishe Granny

My grandparents, Sarah and Irving Keller, with my mother, a long time ago.
Today marks the 47th anniversary of my grandfather's death. I remember it well because I was with him at the time, the only person present as the rest of the family were all out at a wedding and I opted to keep him company since he was ill with lung cancer and not feeling well that day. Thinking of him, a true saint who walked among mere mortals, I was reminded of his wife, the devil incarnate. They say opposites attract, and I guess that was true for those two.
           I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and that's being kind, believe me. The leader of the pack was my grandmother, whose patchwork rules were directly responsible for my mother’s closet bacon addiction. While Hitler was busy going after those six million Jews, my grandmother somehow managed to escape. Arriving in New York City from Poland as a young girl, Sarah never learned to read or write English. Yiddish remained her chosen language, and even if I didn’t know what she was saying half the time, her inflections got the point across.
Sarah was unpredictable, vacillating wildly between her old-world morality and her desire to see me safely married. When I didn’t have a date on a Saturday night, common enough to be called a pattern, she’d sympathetically pat me on the head and advise me to  “let the boys kiss you and touch you whenever they want.” But if I went on two dates in a row, she’d scream to my mother, “What is she, a floozy?”
Nothing escaped her critical eye. No fashion plate in her frumpy cotton housecoats, stockings held up at the knees with rubber bands, nevertheless she always had something to say about what I was wearing. The first time she saw me in something new, it was, “Another outfit? What, is your father made of money?” The very next time she saw it: “Again you’re wearing that schmatta?” Concerning makeup: “Go, put on some lipstick, you’ll never get married.” But if I did put on lipstick, and maybe, God forbid a million times, eyeliner and mascara, she’d shriek, “Like that you’re going out? All of a sudden you’re Elizabeth Taylor?”
My food addiction is directly traceable to her sugar cookies, for a dozen of which which this very instant I would join ISIS. There were many nights when I’d sneak downstairs to the kitchen to gorge on those cookies, which she baked literally by the hundreds and brought to us unceremoniously packaged in a large brown-paper grocery bag filled to the top. Who could tell if eight, ten, or maybe twelve were missing? Granny, that's who. Somehow I was urged to eat, eat, eat, but yet not get fat, fat, fat. One minute she might say, “Enough already, stop with the cookies,” and ten minutes later she’d implore me to “eat something, look at you, you’re skin and bones.” (I have since performed this service for myself on a daily basis.)
Her reputation as a cook spanned two continents. There was a waiting list for her Passover seders, which were attended by no less than 25 people on both nights. Julia Child couldn’t have drawn a bigger crowd. (It was the matzo balls that kept them coming: Perfect spheres, they were dense but at the same time, light. How did she do it?) When she finally died, her funeral was attended by scores of people, each one desperately seeking the recipe for one of her famous dishes. As the rabbi fabricated stories about what a wonderful, loving person she had been, he could barely be heard over the frantic cries of the mourners:
Oy vey, Gut in himmel, I’ll never have her apple cake again.”
“Apple cake, shmapple cake -- did you ever taste her cheese blintzes?”  
 “Blintzes, forgetaboutit—I’d kill for her pot roast!”
It went on like that, young and old alike commiserating over the eternal loss of their favorite foods. Sarah was most noticeably missed at the gathering following her funeral, the first family affair that had to be catered.
But while cooking was Sarah’s heart and soul, human relations were her Achilles heel. In a nutshell, she disliked everybody and everybody disliked her. “Zust nor voxen a trolley car in boch!” which meant something like “A trolley car should grow in your stomach,” was her favorite insult, hurled daily at anyone from the butcher to the mailman to her brother-in-law. 
    She divided the world into three groups: those who should Live and Be Well, those who should Only Drop Dead, and those who should Rest in Peace. These phrases actually became part of a person’s name, and chances are they stayed that way for a lifetime. You never heard her utter just a name. For example, if she liked the person: “Uncle Benny, he should live and be well, is coming for dinner.” Defying logic, the phrase would remain positive, even if she was angry with him, as in, “Uncle Benny, he should live and be well, should burn in hell forever!” More amazing was the fact that even when she hated someone she could still acknowledge their inherent goodness, as in, “Peska, she should only drop dead, is a saint.” (Peska, by the way, was my grandmother’s sister, a fact I didn’t fully comprehend until well into my teens, since the most negative of insults always accompanied her name.)
          In the case of a corpse it was anything goes, as long as it remained undisturbed, as in, “Charlie, he should rest in peace, was a cheap son-of-a-bitch bastard.”
    Death was a big topic with her. When speaking about the unspeakable, she would open with, “God forbid a million times, it should never happen, if I die.” I would always remind her that death was not an “iffy” thing, but it seemed to have no effect. And since my grandfather was one of thirteen children, the chances were pretty good that one of our zillion relatives was at death’s door, or at least the front curb, at all times. When Sarah called each morning for her daily family briefing, my mother would usually answer the phone with, “So, who died?” Sarah always came through with the suspected tumor, confirmed diagnosis, or actual demise of someone remotely related to someone related to us.
          For my grandmother to actually like you, you had to be one of three things—Jewish, rich, or a doctor. Obviously, all three in one person represented nirvana. When, in college, I started dating a non-Jew, she was miserable, wailing, “Oy vey, I should only drop dead!” However, upon learning his parents had money, her cry changed to, “Oy vey, what a doll, I could eat him up.” I eventually married the guy, causing Sarah to plead, “You couldn’t wait a minute, maybe you’ll meet a doctor?” Years later, overjoyed at my divorce, her only comment was, “God willing, I should live so long, next time you’ll marry a Jew.” 
          She didn't, but I took her advice. I figured it couldn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Does Twitter Cause Autism?

These days many people believe that vaccines cause autism in children. Besides having had every vaccine available as a child and more as an adult for travels to other countries, I know next to nothing about the subject and have little of merit to contribute. What I do know is that a friend of ours recently moved to a foreign country where there is typhoid fever, for which there is a vaccine but it's optional. She decided against getting it. A month after she arrived she contracted the disease. Four months later she died. She was 45.

So all I know for sure is that vaccines do save lives and not getting one in a disease-ridden environment may result in death. Still, the battle rages on, with celebrities like Jim Carrey, Kirstie Alley and Bill Maher tweeting their opinions online.  Just to be safe, I'm staying away from Twitter.

The Dreaded C-Word

Whispering is required when discussing cancer.
It's amazing how one little word can upset your whole day, and maybe even your whole week, month, year or life. Yesterday I went to a physician to check out a recent health blip, expecting to hear it was nothing to worry about. Instead I was told a diagnostic test was needed to rule out the possibility of it being cancer. Now clearly the doctor did not say it was cancer, only that she wanted to rule out it being cancer. Still, all I heard was the word cancer, and that it could be cancer, and there went my whole evening. And of course my husband's too, since one of the unspoken marriage vows is "Your bad mood will immediately become my bad mood."

Medical researchers got HIV and AIDS under control pretty fast, considering. And although great inroads have been made in many kinds of cancer, still the word is synonymous with "I'm dead meat" for most of us. This is silly since even as more people are diagnosed with the disease daily, the cure rates are rising. Or so I tell myself.

Anyway, what's important is that if you were not told yesterday that you might have cancer and you are in reasonably good shape and health, I suggest you quit your bellyaching about whatever petty problem is currently dominating your amygdala and go out and have a great day.