Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Georgia On My Mind

Early this morning while you were still sleeping, the state of Georgia executed the only woman on its Death Row. They did it by lethal injection, the same way you might put down a sick animal. Only she wasn't a sick animal, she was the 47-year-old mother of three children who desperately wanted her to remain alive, even though her crime was convincing someone else to murder their father 18 years ago. The "someone else" was her lover at the time, and he willingly did the deed, driving the cuckolded spouse to a remote area and stabbing him multiple times. But get this: that guy got life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years, but for planning the crime, the wife lost her life.

Scary stuff, all of it. It seemed unlikely that the woman was a threat to the general population (or even the prison population) as she, like many others who are incarcerated for many years, found God and turned into a downright angel. Even the Pope, on his whirlwind American tour last week, asked for mercy in her case. You'd think he'd have some pull, but no dice, they went ahead and did it anyway.

There are several lessons here: First, if you hate your husband, just get a divorce. Second, if you're dating someone who asks you to kill their spouse, end the relationship immediately. And finally, if you live in Georgia, be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Wellness Community

How many things must one do in order to forget about ISIS and refugees and racism and homelessness and sick babies and drug addicts? Apparently there is no end to the list. My latest attempt at finding inner peace is the study of Taiji and Qigong, which are words not in my native tongue so I don't really know what they mean exactly but what it comes down to is an "internal" martial art.

I have now taken two classes in this discipline and all I can say is that while I am doing it I don't think about all those bad things. It's another one of those mindfulness tricks like meditation, making you focus on something specific so that your mind doesn't go off half-cocked on its own, thinking bad thoughts. I suppose golf or tennis lessons would be just as effective, but you get a lot less respect and are not considered t0 be part of the "wellness community," which certainly sounds like a community we would all want to join.

Anyway, by adding this new (to me, as it's been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years) form of mental and physical exercise to my acupuncture and meditation and daily probiotic and fish oil and walking, I am hoping to start feeling more relaxed very soon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Making a Living

Two weeks ago I had a severe dizzy spell that had me on the floor for several hours. Every time I picked my head up the world went spinning by, so I just laid there. Naturally once I got back on my feet, my thoughts immediately turned to what the heck might be wrong with me. So I called my family doctor, who else? He was stumped, which he readily admitted, but suggested I might have some inner ear disturbance and would possibly benefit from physical therapy. For my inner ear. Okay, whatever.

I managed to find someone who does "vestibular therapy," and made an appointment for several weeks in the future. The scheduler said my first visit would be a consultation to go over my symptoms. I said I lived half an hour's drive away and why not tell my symptoms ahead of time on the phone, then when I get there we could just get down to brass tacks, or whatever they use. She replied, "That's not how we do it." I decided a few days later after no recurring dizziness that I was not up for the consultation and cancelled the appointment.

This morning at 8AM (which I think is too early for anything less than a family emergency), I got a call from the physical therapy place. A nice lady wanted to "help me reschedule" my consultation. I said I didn't need any help and could do it all by myself, and definitely would when I want to. She then repeated herself, making me think it was a robo-call. After determining she was a real person and promising to call back someday, we hung up.

I related all this to my husband, saying it reminded me of a call from a telemarketer selling swampland in the Everglades. He said, "Well, it is a business, after all." I think most of us tend to forget that. Next time you see your doctor, keep in mind that your illnesses are how he feeds his family.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Guest Blogger: Mitch Rouda Talks Maine

The author.
My husband recently received an email from his friend Jim in Minneapolis who is planning a leaf-peeping trip to Maine this October. Seeking some pointers, Jim ended with, "And what do people do in Maine for fun?"  Following is Mitch's informative reply:

I live in Freeport, about 25 minutes up the coast past Portland. Nobody has any fun here.  People are closed, and tight. They have family over for Sunday dinner. They talk badly about people from “away.” But vacationers have a good time here.  The town I live in has 5,000 permanent residents, but 5 million (really) people come here from June til October . Wherever anyone goes in Maine they make a stop here, because downtown Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean's campus of stores, all open 24/7/365. In fact, the one thing everyone who lives here does for fun is go to Bean’s after Christmas dinner. 

Seriously, Portland is a very foodie town.  So is Camden. In the summer there is great ocean fishing and lake fishing. There are great places to hike along the water and in the mountains.  As you may know, the coast changes dramatically when you get past Portland, and becomes craggy, full of necks, and by the time you get to Acadia, about two hours past us, there are mountains on the coast crashing into the sea. There are islands flung out in the ocean where you can hike and eat lobster. Very picturesque.  

Speaking of which, there are a lot of lighthouses here and people like to take pictures in front of them. In the winter there is a shit ton of snow.  I like to go snowshoeing and there is some good skiing about two hours north of here, or west in New Hampshire. Other than that it gets dark early so it’s best to just do things like read or clean the basement. 

Oh, yeah, did I mention lobster?  People come here to eat it.  They pay up to $26 at an authentic Maine lobster shack for a classic dinner featuring scrawny, one-and-a-quarter pound lobsters.  At the supermarket you can get a 1.75 lobster for about eight bucks. Which explains why most Mainers have at least one very big pot.

The Real Me

I'm a tabby at heart.
Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn is child's play compared to what I've got going on. I've known about it for a long time but have kept it a secret, feeling trapped but with no options. But now I think maybe there is a possibility, what with all the  wild things going on these days in plastic surgery, to become my true self before I die. I even read about some Russian surgeon planning to do the first head transplant by 2017.

See, I'm really a cat inside. I look mostly like a human female but I am a kitty at heart, in mind, in ambition, goals, relationships -- in fact the whole ball of wax. (And by the way, a ball of wax seems like it would be lots of fun to play with, especially if it were rolled in catnip.) Cats have it all over people, and it pains me to have been born the wrong species. All I really want to do all day is run around outside chasing things but not catching them, then come back inside and eat treats and yummy food prepared for me, then find a secret place to take a nice, long nap. And not have to answer any questions like, "What's wrong with you today?"

I need to get hold of Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon. He would love this.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Oh My Papa

Such a deal: The Body and Blood of Christ packed for take-out.

The Pope, the Pope, the Pope. Enough with the Pope already! To be honest, I just don't get it. The man was born the usual way and then elected, he did not arrive here via space ship as the Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ,  Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State,  servant of the Servants of God, which is his official title. (Pope is a nickname of sorts, meaning "papa.") And yet the minute they find the right guy, he puts on that pointy hat and that fancy dress and next thing you know people are lining up to catch a glimpse of him, even if it means standing out in all sorts of weather for hours and hours just to SEE him, forget having him touch them or bless them or look at them or acknowledge their presence in any way.

Last night, pulling my roasted chicken out of the oven as the wild scene in Madison Square Garden (complete with a huge gold statue of Christ on the cross hanging from the ceiling and hundreds of people chanting prayers and hundreds of the faithful lining up for their communion wafers) playing out on the TV in the next room, I voiced my confusion. My husband explained that, "It's like people going to see Elvis." I pointed out that there was only ONE Elvis and will never be another. (Many people have tried, but all have failed.) But when this particular pope dies there will be another one hired, and then throngs of the faithful will line up to see that guy, each one getting one of those wafers that "really are the body of Christ, they are not just symbols," I heard over and over again, available in regular, whole wheat, and now, gluten free.

And they say Mormons are weird.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Lobster for Dinner!

Sorry to be so late with this news, but the Pope's visit has of course grabbed all my attention. Anyway, The Daily Droid has just learned that today has been designated as "National Lobster Day" by a resolution of the United States Senate. Don't panic -- if you hurry there is still time to participate, at least at dinner tonight. Just drop whatever you're doing right now and run out to get your bibs, butter, paper plates, ears of corn, red and white checked tablecloths, nutcrackers (for the claws), tiny forks, a giant pot for boiling water and of course lobsters, and whatever else you need to properly kill and consume as many as you can in celebration of this great day. And you'd better have a good story ready when you get up to those Pearly Gates, because I'm pretty sure that God is a vegetarian.

On Cats and Bats

Recently I received a postcard from my vet's office saying that my cat Daisy was due for her annual rabies shot this month. Being a conscientious and dutiful pet owner, I called and made an appointment for today. I was just about to start the ordeal of getting Daisy into her carrier, something she despises and with good reason, since it never means anything fun will happen, when I stopped and thought about it for a minute. Daisy just turned 20 and barely sets even one paw outside these days. Just how the heck would she get rabies?

A quick Google search netted dozens of horror stories about older cats and reactions to rabies vaccines: This one died right away, that one got a horrible tumor and then died, another got deathly ill for months incurring hundreds of dollars in treatment, besides that's how vets make most of their money, it's a scam, blah, blah, blah. While some of it was nonsense, a lot of it sounded legitimate. What to do?

I called the vet's office and spoke with a technician who said it was true that my cat didn't actually need the vaccine at this point in her life but still, if a rabid bat entered our house and bit her she'd be toast. I said if a rabid bat came into our house my primary concern would not be about whether or not Daisy would get rabies -- after all, she's already outlived the average feline lifespan while I am actually hoping to go a few more years without foaming at the mouth. Also, a bat inside my house? I would have to move.

I postponed Daisy's appointment pending further deliberation, but now I'm wondering how bats get inside houses anyway.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's the Problem?

To make it easier for potential employers to reject my applications, I will include the following form along with my resume and ask them to check one or more, so at least I know the reason I can't get hired in Maine. It's quick and easy and I sure hope they'll do it!

We are not interested in hiring you because you:
  • Might be Jewish
  • Seem like a New Yorker
  • Are obviously from "Away"
  • Used big words in your cover letter
  • Look bad on Google
  • Are too damn old
  • Seem snooty

Old People Don't Eat Pancakes

IHOP courts old people with the wrong stuff.
I am such a better person now, yet have so much less value to society. My resumes go unanswered, I guess because the bigwigs do the math and figure I am too old to hire. But back when I got any and every job I wanted I was actually a much bigger risk, staying out until all hours and taking bizarre recreational drugs that messed up my thinking. Many was the day I'd show up at work on time but surely not as my sharpest self. Still, I was young and thus worth the investment to my various employers.

These days, after a good night's sleep I start the day with a tablespoon of fish oil, a glass of fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a probiotic. I meditate regularly, take Tai Chi classes and get daily exercise. Weekly acupuncture treatments help expel any negative energy bouncing around inside me, assuring that my chi is unblocked, which is definitely better than if it were blocked, since, according to many sources, "the unimpeded circulation of chi and a balance of its negative and positive forms in the body are held to be essential to good health."

All things considered, I am actually a better person today than ever before. And still, having through no fault of my own been born in 1946, I am considered too old. And even though that also may mean I am wise, all it gets me is a discount on pancakes at IHOP (and some other places). But guess what: Old people wouldn't touch a pancake. Only kids eat pancakes. Ironic, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This Year's Halloween Masks

Miss Smarty Pants

Gruesome Gramps
Doctor Demento
The Evil Queen
The Court Jester
The Doofus

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Great Democracy

To be politically correct this very minute, one must agree it would be fine to someday have a Muslim president lead us (even if it ends up being to slaughter), just so all the Muslims know we think they are a great bunch despite those few bad apples out there doing things we won't talk about here, or anywhere for that matter.

Also, to avoid being s scorned one must go forward with a pregnancy even if  early tests suggest the fetus has Down's syndrome and thus will arrive with terrible deficiencies requiring more money and extra care and much more patience than the ordinary baby, and causing tremendous sadness and depression in the parents. But since we all agree they are wonderful people and we Americans don't discriminate against anyone for any reason (except registered Republicans, who suck), thus terminating such a pregnancy is considered a heinous act of discrimination against a particular "lifestyle" and may someday soon even be illegal, so you older pregnant ladies had better save up for your home care helpers now, just in case.

Here in America we of course hire the handicapped and now we also bake wedding cakes for gays even if we don't want to. Don't worry about having your own opinions, because to be an American is no longer to be a free thinker acting on one's core beliefs but to bepoart of those huddled masses yearning to be free, but just yearning, since freedom has no place inside a flock. And a good American is an unswerving member of the flock, so quit that unnecessary "thinking" and just repeat the National Mantra, "Baa, baa, baa." Say that 50 times a day, every day, for the rest of your life. Oh, and vote for Hillary Clinton.

An Incredible Photograph

Sometimes the Internet really delivers. Yesterday I saw this stunning photo on my Facebook page and post it here in case you missed it. It was attributed to a photographer named Veselin Malinov, who "captured this amazing shot of enormous waves along the coast of Portugal." It's hard to believe the image is un-doctored and that waves can actually do that without killing the person taking the photo, but whatever the facts, it is pretty amazing.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Biggest Coward

"Anonymous" opines in secret, doubting his own intelligence.
Is there a greater coward in existence than the person who signs him or herself as "Anonymous" online? I doubt it. As the writer of a blog for the last eight years, I have run into this coward many times.

Surely there are a number of people who use this moniker, not just one, but they all share some traits. The number one characteristic of Anonymous is fear, followed closely by insecurity, stupidity and a lack of even the slightest belief in his or her own opinions. This explains why they refuse to come clean and claim them in public.

Say what you want about my beliefs and opinions, I don't give a hoot. Since I have reflected upon and chosen them carefully, I am not afraid for them to see the light of day. I welcome your scorn and a vibrant debate, as long as I know who I'm debating.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

16 Reasons to Hate Me: Go Ahead, Pick One

Whoever is attached to this foot is an idiot.

This morning I awoke to find that my brother-in-law, who is my husband's identical twin, called both me and my husband STUPID for having voted Republican in the past. This insult appeared on Facebook. What he really said was "STUPID REPUBLICANS" when talking about some candidate or other running for Clown-in-Chief. Nevertheless, since we are or at least have been in the past part of that group, I identified with the slur.

I found his use of the word both offensive and odd. After all, there are so many other reasons to declare me stupid, why limit it to my taste in political candidates? To make it easy, I offer below a host of opinions I hold that might deem me unworthy in your book, his book, or anyone else's:

My favorite pizza is anchovy and the crust has to be really thin.
I think Freddie Mercury had the best voice of any human who ever lived.
I find toenail polish classless and tacky.
I prefer Dijon mustard.
Rachel Maddow has less value than chewed gum stuck to the sole of my shoe.
I never eat ketchup and think anyone who does is moronic.
George Harrison is my favorite Beatle.
I think Hillary Clinton is a horrid, wrinkly bag of lying hot air.
I believe abortion should be legal but I also think it is murder.
My favorite colors are gray and yellow.
I hate the ballet and find opera boring.
Coffee should be black or else it is another drink.
I am a pacifist and think nobody should join the military.
I believe the next life is better than this one.
I love George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.
I think summer is the worst season.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Learning From Past Mistakes

Okay, so I fell off the wagon, or maybe I got back on, I'm never quite sure of that expression. Anyway, I went back to Facebook, mostly so I could post this blog and reach my former readers who, based on my blog stats, were not finding it. And I'm glad I did, since this morning I saw a question posted by a friend that was brilliant, and one of the best I have ever seen on that sometimes silly website. The question was this: "What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self?"

The answers were staggeringly on target, given that the questioner was my own son who is 27 and most of the respondents are his peers. They were all wise beyond their years, and made me see that despite their non-stop texting, tweeting and Tindering, many young adults today possess incredible powers of reasoning and great insight. I suggest that anyone reading this ask him or herself the same question, and then take their own advice starting right now.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Here's a challenge: Get through an entire day without lying. This means admitting that the reason you didn't make it to the meeting was you overslept, not that you got a flat tire. Or that those leather pants your best friend is wearing actually do make her look like a fat cow, just as she feared. Or that the dinner you were served is gross and inedible, not at all "Fabulous!" like you tell the waitress when she comes over to inquire as to how everything is. I can't speak for other cultures, but here in America, lying is our second-most favorite activity, right behind self-aggrandizement. Naturally, the two go hand-in hand.

Personally I've always found that making myself seem bigger, better or more interesting has had the opposite effect, and that most people respond negatively to anyone whose life experiences trump their own. Because of that I rarely tell anyone my true life story. But since today is a day for no lies, here goes: Wow, this is scary.

I wasn't really born in Brooklyn. I was really born in Marrakesh, where my father was a dope smuggler and my mother sold figs and kumquats at a street market, the kind you see in that scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when Indie chases through the streets looking for Marion who is hidden inside a basket.  As for my being kidnapped at age four, I actually was, but not at Coney Island. It was at Disneyland in California, where our family moved after fleeing Marrakesh just in the nick of time. And really, I was five.

I grew up on a houseboat in Sausalito, then we moved to New York City so I could attend the Julliard School of Music to study the piano, being a child prodigy. After graduation and a few appearances at Carnegie Hall, I tired of that life and took a job waiting tables at Windows on the World, where I was working on September 11, 2001, the day the planes crashed into the Twin Towers. I escaped through a combination of quick thinking and a little-known secret stairway, and luckily without a scratch on me. My husband and son do not even know all of this and wow, will they be stunned. (I guess tonight I'll have a lot of explaining to do.)

But hey-- maybe I can get my own reality TV show out of this, or at least a really long article written about me on the front page of  The Arts section of The New York Times (whose motto is "All the News That's Fit to Print"), like the one about comedian Steve Rannazzisi in yesterday's paper. It jumped onto the second page and had two pictures and lots of quotes about how sorry he was for lying about a whole chunk of his life that never happened but got him lots of sympathy and made him seem heroic. His impassioned explanation --"I don't know why I said this." --  certainly helps us feel his pain and forgive him.

Boo-hoo and all that Steve, but I bet your phone is ringing off the hook today.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Carly v. Hillary: More Than Skin Deep

Carly, 61 and so smooth-skinned. I wonder how?
If you watched last night's televised 3-hour debate between the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination, congratulations. You obviously possess amazing staying power, incredible patience and deep determination, unless you have two broken legs and had little choice in the matter because the remote was beyond your reach. I have no broken legs at the moment and so I was able to watch the proceedings while doing chores around the house, keeping within earshot and returning to the TV whenever I heard wild applause or raucous laughter.

Finally, at the start of the third broadcast hour, I had finished cleaning the toilets and sweeping up cat litter and sat down and paid attention, and I was glad I did. It allowed me to absorb the final moments of Donald Trump's historic ascendancy to the top of the heap, to be followed immediately by his downward slide to the bottom. It's over for Donald. (Phew, that was close!)

Hillary, 68 and wrinkled. She better do something!
Now we have Carly "Smart As a Whip" Fiorina igniting all the pundits and columnists, each one racing around to get an interview, do a profile, and make her the new superstar of the GOP. She's got an answer for everything, and it's always a good one, delivered in a no-nonsense style that inspires confidence. Carly's one tough cookie who has survived breast cancer and the death of a child, and one can only imagine with glee how she would decimate Hillary "You Mean Wipe It With a Cloth?" Clinton in a one-on-one debate, should they each win their party's nomination. After all, who doesn't love a good cat fight?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pulling the Plug on Internetland

It's only been a few days but I already can see just how much of my time Facebook was consuming. Unlike a forest that can be replanted after it's been decimated by a fire or greedy developers, when Time is gone, it's gone. There are no seedlings that will grow it back. So suddenly having more of it is a good thing.

Still, I am not 100% free since the remainder of the gigantic and seemingly infinite Internet beckons. Though I struggle to resist, every morning I check my email, get directions, research my latest health scare or follow an intriguing headline -- or two or three -- down a rabbit hole with my  morning coffee. It's truly a vast Wonderland, but like Alice, most of the time I feel lost there.

I'm hoping to eventually quit Internetland entirely, if only to recapture the euphoria of authentic interactions in the real world formerly known as Wonderland. I remember it as being a pretty good time, involving the exercising of free will and the refreshing individuality of everyone you met. Most of all, there was some mystery to life: questions tantalizingly unanswered, hypotheses to be tested. No more; now with Wikipedia a click away, wondering lasts only until someone pulls out a cell phone, making modern life the opposite of Wonderland.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Don't Bring Me Down

What are friends for? I ask the question because I recently initiated the end of a friendship that was just no fun at all and I wonder if I were being too demanding. Maybe friends aren't supposed to be "fun." I'm confused. I felt the same way many years ago when I opted to divorce my first husband. I did so, with no regrets, but then I look around and see so many couples who don't like one another even a little who stayed together anyway, who are congratulated for celebrating their 40th anniversary, and shake my head.

Little kids on the playground call just about anyone of similar size and shape a friend. This goes on until junior high, when friends are people who laugh at your jokes and like the same movie stars. Friendships in high school are deeper, with bonds forged between people who are unhappy for the same reasons, dress alike, use the same drugs and perhaps belong to the same clubs. In college we choose our friends based on how much they mirror our behavior and how good we feel around them. This all makes perfect sense at the time.

Then comes adulthood and all bets are off. Everyone goes their own way. I have always been drawn to people who are funny. If someone makes me laugh, they are highly prized; almost all of my good friends could do stand-up comedy. This watermark served me well until I moved to Maine six years ago and found that nobody is funny here. And while my distant friends remain nurturing and wonderful, with occasional visits keeping the flame burning, still they are distant. So, wanting some friends in the flesh, I opted for "smart."

Smart people are great for conversation and alleviating loneliness. Also, if you don't want to go to the movies or dine out alone, they come in handy. But if they are too talkative -- about their own problems for example, going on and on and on about how much their life sucks -- and not at all funny about it, the relationship can slowly become a drag and eventually slide into being a downright bummer. Your friend brings you down instead of up. That can't be right. After all, I can bum myself out.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beware of Facebook

Last night I deleted my Facebook accounts, seeing them as drains on my already naturally shrinking brain cells. My remaining life is too short, at least if I die of natural causes, to fritter it away with that bullshit. But "deactivating" one's account is easier said than done.

This morning when I opened the lid of my laptop computer to check for any email at my AOL account, a message popped up square in the middle of the screen urging me to enter my Facebook password into my computer's System Preferences. I clicked "cancel" and it popped up again. I had to click "cancel"  five more times before the message disappeared. Half an hour later the very same thing happened when I logged back on to visit another website. It continues to happen each time; I can only wonder for how long.

The fact that Facebook has the tools and power to harass me while I attempt do other things on my computer is  outrageous, scary, alarming, insidious and a royal pain in the butt. We should all be on the lookout for who and what is really behind that website, and why they make it so hard to leave.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Funnier Than the Last Post

Great bath, but then what?
Okay, I'm feeling funnier now that I've had my oatmeal and my Jansal Valley Dried Pitted Plums, "Handpicked from the World's Finest Farms." (I used to eat prunes but they make you sound so old, so I decided to splurge and spend the extra bucks on the dried plums which instead make you sound like a veritable connoisseur instead of some dumb cluck battling constipation.)

And while we're on the subject of being old, which I am not in real life since I still "hang out" and "smoke pot" but on paper I am totally, I have a question about those walk-in bathtubs that are always being advertised, at least on my Facebook page since apparently those folks have access to my real information despite my having entered my birth date as 1905 which would make make me 110 and anyone knows that someone that age would never have a Facebook account. So the question is, I understand about how you get in through the little door so you don't have to climb over the edge of the tub if you have arthritis or some other problem with your legs, but what do you do after the bath? Do you just sit there naked waiting for all the water to drain out, getting colder and colder by the minute? Do you drape a towel over yourself while you wait? If so, how good is that for an old person? I just don't get it and I hope I never have to find out.

I guess this post turned out to be depressing too.

A Writer's Lament

By the time you get to a certain age, most people are just not that much fun to hang around with anymore. Unlike back in college when you yukked it up with everyone you sat next to in class or bumped into at the library or met at a party or the local pizza joint or in your dorm, now everyone has their own steamer trunk full of tragedy that they lug around, and if you show the slightest interest they open it up and dump out the contents and suddenly you are dealing not only with your own dirty laundry but a whole new pile belonging to somebody else.

Most of the time you listen because really, what else can you do? I certainly try to help, offering soothing bromides and suggestions, hoping for a quick recovery and maybe even a few minutes of a good time. Depending on who the person is and the magnitude of their problems, an evening -- or a friendship -- may be salvaged. Sometimes not.

Anyway, as you can tell by the fact that you're not laughing, this is not a funny post. That's because The Truth is not always a laugh riot. Apparently that's what's wrong with my latest work in progress, a novel about a family torn asunder by events beyond their control, at least according to three different people I have asked to read it thus far. They all say what a great writer I am, blah blah blah, but it's too dark and maybe depressing and they wonder where's that sardonic humor I'm usually so good at?

Hey, if you find it, tell it to call home.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Waste of Time Quiz

You know those quizzes that seem ubiquitous on the Internet lately, the ones that you do when you are at rock bottom and have absolutely nothing better to do, that tell you things you don't need to know about yourself, like "If You Were a Movie What Genre Would You Be?" or "In What Century Should You Really Have Been Born?" Well, I've always been amazed at how wrong they are, so I've taken a couple of them over again with different responses, and guess what? The answer turned out to be the same the second time too.

That got me thinking, if they can do it I can too, and so after much work, I have come up with my own Waste of Time Quiz and present it to you here. Simply choose one answer from each of the following groups of questions to find out "What Disease Would You Be on Another Planet?"

1. On a Friday night after a tough work week, your favorite way to unwind is:
a. Use my Shopvac
b. Stand on a bridge overpass and drop rocks on passing cars
c. Listen to old Bing Crosby records

2. Your best friend dies in a plane crash and you're asked to present the eulogy. You say:
a. "I never liked that bitch anyway, I'm glad she's gone."
b. "I would but I'm having all my wisdom teeth pulled that day."
c.  "I may have other plans, can I get back to you?"

3. There's a big snowstorm coming and you need to prepare for days without power. You lay in a supply of:
a. Jumbo marshmallows
b. Latex gloves
c. Calamine lotion and cotton balls

4. Your neighbors ask you to pick up their papers and water their flowers while they are away. You tell them:
a. "That is the funniest thing I have heard all week."
b. "Not if I can help it."
c. "I broke both my ankles and can't walk until the day you get home."

5. You win the 286 Million Dollar lottery! What's the first thing you do with the money?
a. Get an anchovy pizza with extra anchovies.
b. Give it all away in five dollar bills to people on the street.
c. Get a tummy tuck, face lift, nose job, breast implants, a Porsche, a Jaguar, a house in Laurel Canyon with an infinity edge swimming pool, a house in Provence with a grape orchard, several original Jackson Pollocks, a yacht, a sailboat with crew, a house facing the ocean in the Hamptons, box seats at Wrigley Field and a 22-room New York apartment at The Dakota.

Answer regardless of answers: You would be Lupus on Mars.

On This Date

This is what 20 looks like.
Today being September 11, I would like to take a moment to pause and reflect on something that happened 20 years ago today. Yes, I know that "It" happened 14 years ago -- that thing with the planes. But I'm talking about something else, something of little import to anyone but me, which is certainly allowed here, on my blog, since this is, as I just said, my blog, written by me. (That is the best part of having a blog; you should try it.)

So what happened all those years ago, back in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the birth of my cat, Daisy Rouda. She still lives today; were she human, she would be 96. Since the average lifespan of a cat is between 12 to 15 years, the fact that Daisy is still with us is a testament to my loving care and incredible attention to a creature that weighs not quite seven pounds, that cannot talk and yet communicates her every need, that does nothing of value for anyone and still is without a doubt my strongest ally and staunchest supporter.

I would bake her a cake but she doesn't like cake. So to celebrate I gave her and our other cat each an extra half a can of Fancy Feast for breakfast. Lurch gobbled his food voraciously and then promptly threw it all up on the dining room table. Daisy nibbled her portion delicately and then went to a private corner to clean her paws.

She is one classy kitty.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Words With Jewish Friends

Say what you will about the boisterous Donald Trump, he's incredibly energetic and enthusiastic, certainly in comparison to that sleepy Disney cartoon we now have flying around representing us to foreign leaders. As Trump shouted at a rally in Washington D.C. yesterday afternoon, if we elect him as president, "We will stop being losers and will start winning. We will win so much," he continued, "we will get bored with winning." He underscored this prophesy with the promise, "We will start winning bigly." But come on -- is bigly even a legitimate word?

I checked it out and it is. I was stunned. Never in my long life had I ever heard anyone use it. Still, it's apparently acceptable in common parlance, and most importantly to me, on the popular game Words With Friends, the only place I really care if words are acceptable or not. Acceptable words are funny things. Just groups of letters strung together, yet some are deemed bad and some are deemed good.

We all know the Ones We Cannot Say, led by the great and powerful "N-Word." White people may not even whisper that word, although black people may sing it, rap it, shout it, wear it and use it as a mantra for all I know. Fine by me, I have no need for it, and it certainly won't fly in a game of Words With Friends where they maintain very high standards. For example, FAG is not permitted even though it has quite a few meanings, some quite colorful, besides the one they don't like. But here's what bugs me: SHEENIE is allowed. The given definition on the website is "disparaging and offensive slang for a Jew." GOY is also allowed, the given definition being, "a disparaging term used by a Jew by someone who is not Jewish."

Go figure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

My Own Reality Show

A friend of mine recently started her own YouTube channel where she recounts amusing anecdotes, naturally starring her, in a personable, chatty style. Since she is very adorable and fun to look at, she might even get a following, who knows? I am not sure why one does this, but it got me thinking, what if I had my own reality YouTube show?

Some of the episodes might be real yawners, but some might grab the attention of some psychopath out there somewhere who would find out where I live, board a bus, get a gun and come here and shoot me in the head. Oops, sorry, that just slipped out, what I meant to say was that it might get the attention of someone who would then contact me and ask me to star in a reality TV show, and then publish my novel and turn it into a hit movie starring Bradley Cooper, Jack Black, Emma Stone, Channing Tatum, Jennifer Lawrence, Helen Mirren and of course Morgan Freeman. Not saying it definitely would, but as my father always said, "It could happen."

#1: Daisy and the oriental carpet.
Since what else am I doing, here are some episodes in the pipeline for Season One:

1. Daisy's Birthday. Daisy the cat turns 20! On her big day she is even more finicky than ever, rejecting her special tuna cake breakfast. After a few bites, she throws up on the oriental rug that is currently valued for insurance purposes at $4,000. I spend much of the episode cleaning the rug.

2. The Explosion. I put two eggs in a pot to boil for some egg salad, then go take a quick shower. The shower lasts longer than expected, and then I take a phone call upstairs and forget about the boiling eggs. When I return to the kitchen I find that the water has boiled out, the eggs have popped open and there is egg all over the place. I spend much of the episode cleaning the kitchen walls and ceiling.

#2: After the shower.
3. The Dead Body. Big Lurch the cat brings a dead mouse to the back door as a gift to me. I freak out and try to figure out how to dispose of it without getting sick to my stomach. Finally I put on garden gloves and get about ten plastic bags and, screaming all the while, pick up the dead mouse and wrap it in the plastic bags and throw it in the trash. I spend the rest of the episode washing my hands.

4. Travis the Plumber. The dishwasher breaks and there is water all over the kitchen floor. I call the plumber and until he arrives I mop up the water. The plumber adds some interest to the show, which until now has just been watching me and the cats. The plumber, Travis, is very talkative and quite a character. He is a true Mainer with a classic accent and says things like "Wicked good" in all sincerity. He is a recurring character in the series as a lot of things break in a house as old as ours.

#4: Calling the plumber.
5. A Gay Party. Mitch, my husband, calls from Chicago to say he has missed his connecting flight and will not be home until the next day. This news allows me to put off cooking the meal I had planned and instead have popcorn and Chianti for dinner. I watch Isaac Mizrahi on QVC, which is definitely the funniest show on TV.

6. A Work in Progress. I wake up in the morning, drink my lemon juice in warm water, make coffee and feed the cats. Then I sit down and check my email, play a few word games online, and get to work on my newest novel. I might even read some of it aloud just to be tantalizing.

So, what do you think? Would you watch?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting In Touch with Your Rubber Soul

At the start of another bruisingly hot day here in Maine, where it just is not supposed to be this hot, a host of complaints are jostling for position at the forefront of my brain, each wanting to be the first one I notice and verbalize, thus pushing it out into the world and giving it validity. Since I am alone in my house this morning there is nobody to listen, so they're just stuck in there, rumbling around and making each other and me more miserable every second. This is where meditation helps. It silences the voices (not that I hear voices inside my head, don't get me wrong it's just an analogy), at least for the 15 minutes or so that I do it. It's magical, really, you must try it sometime if you haven't already.

The sad thing is that it has taken me so very long to fully acknowledge and understand what a boon meditation can be and would have been during my Turbulent Years. I blame this oversight on the Beatles.

Starting out Paul was my favorite, his mindless, happy love songs making me think that finding a boyfriend and an eventual mate was all-important. I wasted so many years doing that. Then I got sick of all his "silly love songs" (Paul's words, not mine) and graduated to John. That's when it seemed clear that drugs and acid were the way to go, after all, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was clearly not about about jewelry. I did as instructed and had lots of fun, heard great music and experienced an occasional profound insight here and there depending on the quality of the drug I had ingested. I was happy with John as my mentor. When in 1980 he was killed by a crazed fan, I was bereft and left floundering.

With no choice -- Ringo offered little, except that one incredible drum solo in "Carry That Weight -- I came around to George, who had recognized early on the wisdom of the mantra and all that other Buddhist stuff. ("Hare Krishna, hare Krishna, hare hare, Krishna Krishna," etc., etc.) By then he was a solo act and I started paying close attention to his lyrics. He became a teacher of sorts. Then he died of cancer in 2001 and that was that; suddenly I was on my own.

If only I hadn't wasted so much time on Paul and John in my teens and 20s, I might be farther along. But at least now I am firmly on the path, thanks to my own flexible rubber soul.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Lucky Sevens

Today being Labor Day I committed to doing as little as possible, assuming that was the best way to celebrate. My indolence included not writing a blog post, but in the interest of being the Cal Ripken, Jr. of blogging, here I am after all.

Cal, a former Baltimore Oriole, was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 for going to work every day. He played in 2,632 consecutive games without a miss. In a freaky coincidence, I started blogging in 2007 and have done so almost every day, except when I was in Haiti two years ago and had no access to a computer.  And get this: Labor Day was started in 1887, there's another 7! This gets weirder and weirder.

And that's today's post.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Keep Searching

Class photo.
Many people spend a lot of their time wondering about their purpose, asking themselves questions like, "Why am I here?" and "What should I do with my life?" While I admire those people and respect their desire to find their life's true calling, I have no such mechanism driving me. I honestly and truly just want to have a nice day, not suffer, cause no suffering, help those who are suffering, and somehow get through this minefield called Life without getting blown to bits or really fat.

I can't help it, that's all I've got. I'm not stupid by any means, but I have always believed that we are here "just because" and that we're all one organism. I am a blade of grass in a giant lawn, like maybe an 18,000-hole golf course. Each blade has no purpose beyond remaining healthy and green and being the best blade of grass it can be. Its death matters little to the overall look and purpose of the lawn. The lawn is jeopardized only by the death of many, many blades of grass, like those 230,000 people in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami or the 316,000 lost in the 2010 Haiti earthquake, or what's happening in our backyard right now. (It's not pretty.)

But to all those on the quest, I envy you, applaud your mission and am happy to offer you water on your way.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Think Happy Thoughts?

Barring nuclear war or your winning of the lottery (had you purchased a ticket), the so-called "news" is literal poison for your brain. "Don't drink it in anymore," I tell myself daily. And I try, believe me, I try: The growing pile of home-delivered newspapers remains unread before filling the recycling bin, and the hulking TV, in the den with the litter box, is merely a conduit for old Netflix movies and weather reports when skies look  threatening. Still the sorry mess seeps in via Facebook, where I log on to play Words With Friends and to post this very blog. Even though I stop by for just moments,  it's enough to zap me.

This morning I learned from the "Trending" list on the right side of my home page that a young woman survived a violent sexual attack in her own home after being stabbed 17 times, and another woman was found buried in a shallow grave after having been at a party and gone missing for four days, during which she had been murdered and stuffed in a closet in the party house.

On a purely personal level, I'm pissed. I had been having a disturbing dream, a toxic brew likely concocted from news stories such as the two mentioned above, and even though it is delicious sleeping weather, finally, here in Maine, with temps in the low 50s, and even though it is a Saturday and I have nowhere to be and nothing to do, I struggled awake to escape the horror show inside my head, only to stumble onto more of the same when I had hoped to see what's up with my son and perhaps take a turn at Scrabble.

Why do they insist on telling us these things? What purpose does it serve? Discuss.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Political Debate Circa 2015

Talking about politics is like jumping into a river. While wise people steer clear of the rocks, others recklessly head into the roiling whitewater, spewing their long-winded opinions on unsuspecting Facebookers who are just looking for a little distraction from their mundane lives. These conversations, aptly called "streams," can go on for a day or more, filled with nonsense, hate and misinformation. I usually delete them without reading more than the first couple of comments, but enough to get a general idea. Lately they look pretty much like this:

Opening Salvo (OS): That jerk Donald Trump is a total asshole. The Repugnicans have lost it, they have no chance of winning with that clown! Can anyone think of one good thing to say about the guy?

First Responder (FR): At least he's not a liar like Hillary Cankles!

Second Responder (SR): What do her fat ankles have to do with it? Besides, Trump's hair is a joke, do we have to see that silly mop for four years?

Third Responder (TR): Stick to the issues, you two. Everyone knows that the GOP hates blacks, loves guns, and serves only the rich. We need Hillary to protect the middle class and make sure all the immigrants get a fair shake. She will continue the fine work that Obama has done so far.

FR: Fine work! Ha! Obama has screwed up the whole country and made race a much bigger issue. There are dead white cops everywhere to prove it.

SR: Who cares about dead cops, how about the 3,000 people George W. Bush had killed on 9/11 so he could go into Iran and avenge his daddy!"

New Person (NP): You folks are all missing the point. What this country needs is a strong leader who can get us back on track, fix our tax code and make America great again. Trump is the only one with the balls to do that!

FR: I'm pretty sure Hillary had the tranny surgery and now has balls. And Bush went into Iraq, you moron.

OS: Yeah, well Trump is a blankety-blanking assholic goofball, and blah blah blah reality tv show host and Trump Tower and besides, he raped his first wife! What about that?

NP: He did not rape her, and besides I think it was the second wife you no-nothing nitwit. Anyway, Rubio and Biden woof woof, arf, grrrrrr and growl. The Democrats are all sheep and Obama is baaa-baaaa-booooooooriiing! 

SR: If you ask me, Rubio, Rand Paul and Chris Christie should all just blah blah and yada yada and leave the stage for the da da das. The illegal aliens should all be allowed to blankety-blank their anchor babies at the fence and storm the border.

TR: Nobody asked you. At least Christie hugged Obama! He is willing to work across the aisle, and you moronic idiots can't even see how that would help the country. 
OS: Chris Christie is too fat and that's that. Dum da dum da dum, illegal aliens, bop, bleep, bloop and blooooppy. Higher taxes, unemployment, yip yip yap.

NP: Bark bark, grrrrrrrr, woof arf arf., ...Blah blah and arrrrrrrggh.

FR: Hillary yada yada yada, Trump blah blah, and what about Craky Fiorina?

TR: You can't even spell rite. Anyway, Bill Clinton raped women and he was a great president!

See you at the polls in 2016, where all these folks will be voting too.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Horror In Northern Maine

Stay away.
There really is some good in everything. I found this out for sure yesterday when I visited Bangor, Maine, a town with little to recommend it. The good part is that I, unlike author Stephen King, am not one of its roughly 33,000 permanent residents; I got to leave right after lunch.

I had gone on the two-hour drive to that dismal city with a friend who needed to retrieve something that was stored there. Our plan was to complete her errand, have a yummy lunch and then drive the two hours back to Freeport. Easier said than done, since our restaurant choices were extremely limited. Many establishments were shuttered and others were little more than walk-in/walk-out sandwich shops. We might have asked one of the locals for a suggestion but the only people we saw were either lying on benches or slumped over in doorways, apparently drunk and/or high, and I don't mean on life. So we drove around and around and up and down the city streets until finally we spotted a beacon ahead: A sign boasting "Bagel Central," with some Hebrew writing underneath. Two Jewish girls, we high-five'd each other and went inside. Right away I was plotzing as their menu fairly screamed, "WE HAVE BIALYS!"

For the uninitiated, bialys are heavenly baked morsels in the bagel family, but with much more personality. A positive bialy ID requires not a hole in the middle but just a slight depression, filled with tiny bits of burnt onion and garlic. They are rarely found outside of New York's five boroughs, yet there we were in northern Maine and they insisted they had them, and that they were made right there on the premises. Naturally we each ordered one, toasted with a shmear, and let me tell you, calling those things they handed us "bialys" was like calling a tray of Ritz crackers smothered in ketchup "a pizza."

The lady at the next table was engrossed in Stephen King's latest novel. She looked somewhat normal, but most of the other patrons seemed straight out of "The Shining." Anyway, now I know where he gets his inspiration: He just wakes up, gets dressed and walks outside.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

About Me (Not)

If Mountains Could Move

Note to Everyone: Who gives a shit about you? I mean really, how many times a day do I see those two words, "About Me," online, on a website, on a blog, and think, oh shut up and tell me something we can all use. Why do I have to hear all about you? Why do I need to know where you went to college or if you went to college or what you had for dinner last night, complete with photos? And speaking of, enough with the selfies and the pictures of your weekend camping trip and your kid's hockey award and your grandchild's birthday party and you, you, you. Enough!

Just sayin'.

How I Spent My Vacation

Official 9/11 hoodie.
Tourists are complaining that at the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, water misters have been set up to help cool the visitors waiting in long lines, sometimes for hours, because it's been so hot there. The whiners say the misters are reminiscent of the gas showers that the Jews (and others) were forced to take. They say it is insensitive. Seems to me that if you are visiting a former death camp but don't want to be reminded of how people there died, you might want to reconsider how you spend your afternoon.

Crazy as it sounds, memorials to horror are quite popular; people "on vacation" have been flocking to them for years. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum gift shop, where you can buy a key ring to remind you of the 2,753 people who went to work one day and then had airplanes crash into them, causing many to jump to their deaths rather than be burned alive, is always overflowing with tourists.

Here's a thought: Some savvy developer could make a mint on some other places that might be fun to visit, like the Clutter home in Holcomb, Kansas, site of the massacre of a family of four that inspired Truman Capote's masterpiece, "In Cold Blood," Jeffrey Dahmer's Milwaukee apartment where he murdered and dismembered a host of victims between 1978 and 1991, and Jonestown in Guyana, South America, where 909 people committed mass suicide by drinking a poisoned brew made of grape Kool-Aid. (It might have been even more but grape is the worst flavor. )