Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Questions for Kathy Griffin

Were you bullied as a child?  
How does this photograph help a divided America heal?
 How low will you go in order to be famous?
Does the roar of the crowd compensate for your own self-hatred?
Do you think this photograph will win you more fans?
Are you capable of kindness?
Do you sincerely wish for President Trump to be decapitated?
 Exactly what is your talent?
Are your false eyelashes intended to make you look pretty?
Does anybody love you, and why?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don't Call Me

Surely we can all agree the human race is in trouble. I keep hoping for some master race from another planet, like the Overlords in Arthur C. Clark's Childhood's End only nicer, to come and save us, but it seems that Man (a shorthand term which includes women, girly men, dykes, transgenders and Bruce "Caitlyn" Jenner) is supposedly the most intelligent life form in the Universe, except maybe for the dolphins who aren't talking.

The leading cause of Man's growing stupidity is the dominance of the ubiquitous cell phone, which may or may not cause brain cancer. (The doctors can't decide because they all have cell phones too.) Tired of being under its thumb, metaphorically of course, yesterday I threw mine against the bathroom wall, which didn't seem to hurt it a bit. So then I threw it on the floor, and again it was perfectly fine, which enraged me enough to slam it against the porcelain sink, an action that mercifully smashed its screen and caused some digital-looking things to fly out of it. Then I tossed it into the kitchen garbage pail where, about 15 minutes later, I heard it ringing, insistently. So then I put it in the outside trash bin and if it's ringing now I can't hear it because later that afternoon they picked up our trash, even though it was a holiday, and it's now at the Freeport town dump.

Plain and simple, the phone was making me dumb, a worrisome situation I could no longer pretend wasn't happening. I was spending far too much time of each precious day of my life looking for it, despite thinking I always put it in the same place. Still, it wasn't there, or there, or even there, and I'd have to go through the house several times, then out to my car, then back into the house and look on the back porch or maybe it fell in the hot tub? So then I'd call my number to hear the ring, hoping the ringer was turned on. And then I'd be late for wherever it was I was heading when I discovered I didn't have my phone and couldn't possibly go without it because God forbid a million times what if my car broke down, which it never, ever has because it's an Audi and they don't, and before that it was a Saab and they don't either, at least not in the first three years which is how long I keep them.

Then when I finally found the phone I would spend too much time playing games on it. Actually just one game, that addictive Words With Friends that I play to keep from getting Alzheimer's like my mother had, but still it was keeping me from reading more books or scholarly articles on cancer research and meditating and who knows what else, perhaps perfecting my chocolate mousse skills which is something I have never made even once but might have by now if it weren't for constantly playing that damn Words With Friends.

So is your phone ruining your marriage, like all those couples you see in restaurants everywhere who sit down across the table from one another and take out their phones and never even look up until the food arrives? Is it making you dumber by never needing to know anything since you can just whip out your phone and Google it and end the discussion, not that there was one in the first place since everyone's looking at their Facebook feed?  Free at last, I feel better phoneless. Still, I keep looking skyward, hoping they'll come soon.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

These Extraordinary Times

Sometimes it's exhausting just to be alive in these extraordinary times. Today I went for a walk in the park with a friend, after which we stopped at a local pizza shop to replenish those spent calories. This place happened to be one of several claiming to have "the best pizza in Portland," so I was primed to be delighted and began salivating immediately.

I would have killed for a plain cheese pie, or maybe a white pie with ricotta and mozzarella and lots of oil dripping off it, so much oil that it runs down your elbow, like the kind they make down the street from my brother-in-law Eric's house in Brooklyn, and probably on every single street corner in Jersey City or Newark. 

But no, that's so ordinary, and these days food can't be ordinary and still be written up anywhere, thus even lowly pizza has to be competitive. And besides, what are we, mafiosa? So in the interest of remaining card-carrying, sophisticated pizza connoisseurs, we each dutifully chose a slice of pie topped with one of the following combinations: 
1. Asparagus, smoked Gouda, cilantro and chopped celery; 
2. Mashed potato, cauliflower, pancetta and goat cheese; 
3. Fresh tomato, Parmesan, basil and Brussels sprouts; 
4. Sausage, blue cheese and smoked eggplant.

It was depressing, I've got to say. Okay, sure -- it was better than going hungry and people are starving in Syria (or wherever they're starving these days), but still, it was depressing.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Trump's Hands Trump All

Based on the glowing recommendation of one of my dearest and most enlightened friends, I'm reading a book called The Four Agreements by a Mexican healer named Don Miguel Ruiz. It purports to be "A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom," and who doesn't want that? In plain English, the author tells you how to improve your life experience by simply incorporating these four crucial habits into your daily behavior: Be impeccable with your word; Don't take anything personally; Don't make assumptions; Always do your best.

I'm gonna try, but I'm not making any promises -- at least not while Trump is in office and the frenzied media continues to attack him like a pit bull mauls a toddler. See, now that's a perfect example of me making an assumption right there -- implying that all pit bulls eat babies and all reporters are the spawn of Satan. (The former statement is definitely unfair, and I especially apologize to my friend Judy who recently adopted an adorable pit bull that has not eaten any babies that I know of, at least not yet.)

What's irked me today is the media's current obsession with Trump's hands. Either he's not holding Melania's hand, instead "swatting it away," with his own, or else he's gripping the hand of the French president too hard in a "white-knuckle handshake," or simply shaking it for too long in a second handshake, or else his hands are just too damn tiny for him to be running the country, a narrative we heard plenty of during the campaign, mostly from Whoopie Goldberg who truly is Satan's spawn and don't try to convince me otherwise. (Uh oh, there I go again, not being impeccable with my word.)

But really, enough already with the hands! An actual headline in today's Wall Street Journal says, "Trump and Macron's Handshakes Grab the Spotlight in Brussels." Really? With all the shit going down in the world, could that be true? If so, get me my pills. See, I'm taking this all too personally. Why can't I just let idiots be idiots? (Oops, sorry.) As for always doing my best, this post is clearly not an example of that. But all I said was that I would try.

Anyway, read the book. You might do better.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I'm Not Pinterested

The ultimate catalog and bathroom reader!
This morning, as I was standing at the stove stirring walnuts into my oatmeal, my husband shared a story he was reading in the Wall Street Journal. It was about Snapchat, the online messaging app wherein sent photos and videos disappear seconds after they are seen by the recipient. Apparently teens and twenty-somethings are heavy into it. This has led to some of them "obsessively cultivating Snapstreaks," which occur when messages between two people are exchanged for three consecutive days, earning them a little flame emoji.

There are so many things wrong with the preceding paragraph, it's hard to know where to start. First of all, it's far better to add the walnuts after the oatmeal is done. If you add them during cooking, they invariably get too soft. I learned this today. Second, who the heck needs to have a message disappear besides Hillary Clinton and John Podesta and every other snarky politician who ever garnered votes, and surely they've got better methods? But for regular folks, if it's so damn secret or so damn important just say it in person, or at least on the phone.

And last and perhaps most important, what's with all the emojis? They are replacing normal conversation and turning us all into drooling automatons. On the plus side, after North Korea bombs us back to the Stone Age and we're surrounded by rubble and have lost all our vocabulary along with our hair and teeth, we'll still be able to communicate, sort of like those hieroglyphics the cavemen used. (Don't get me wrong; I use them frequently; that big yellow "thumbs up" is my go-to answer for everything these days.)

Another modern menace besides Twitter that I completely reject, misunderstand and just plain abhor is Pinterest, wherein you get yourself a page online and "pin" things you are interested in onto it, so that everyone in the entire world can see just what floats your boat. Why anyone needs this remains a mystery to me, when you could just tell them about it. Why do strangers have to know that you like a particular bedspread or watermelon smoothie recipe or brand of diapers or, in fact, anything at all unless it's the answer to world peace or ending hunger or curing cancer? Now those would be worth pinning!

Pinterest calls itself "the world's catalog of ideas." What, they never heard of Hammacher Schlemmer?


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Virginia Wolff's Meditation Class

1. Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your back straight, preferably in a hard chair like the little wooden ones back in grade school when your whole life stretched ahead of you and you never gave a thought to being here now, you just were, and pretty happy about it for the most part, especially on summer evenings out catching fireflies in jelly jars with holes punched in the lids, and barring toxic parents like my friend Eric had, causing him to "accidentally" hang himself from the bathroom shower rod when he was six, his final act of defiance against his overbearing mother who discovered him in her see-through negligee, still clutching her breakfast martini, its two little pearl onions and one olive bobbling as she ran shrieking out into the street, unsteady on her pink, feathered high-heeled bedroom slippers.

Try not to think about Eric's mother's bedroom slippers.

2. Breathe in as you normally do, without forcing it to be special or different in any way. Then breathe out, again doing it naturally. Now think only about your breath -- in and out, in and out -- paying attention only to the air as it enters your nostrils and fills your lungs or maybe even your belly, and if any thoughts come to mind, like of the 22 young people attending a musical concert whose innocence was stolen forever (along with their lives) by a misguided, impressionable home-grown terrorist in Manchester, England, with scores more suffering in area hospitals, each in various states of trauma and possibly near death themselves, just push them away and return to thinking only of your breathing, in and then out, in and then out, like a plant or an amoeba.

3. Continue sitting and keep breathing without thoughts of the time you were kidnapped, or rejected by Cornell and five other colleges and ended up going to a lesser school where you met that handsome scoundrel with so much promise you married who eventually became an alcoholic and told you about his tawdry affair (and aren't they always tawdry) with a 19-year-old waitress for as long as you can, until you have to go to the bathroom or answer a persistent knocking at the front door, or the cat jumps up onto your lap and starts that weird kneading thing that even all the animal experts don't fully understand, or perhaps you remember you've got a dental appointment where maybe today they will say that the tooth that's been a source of worry for years will have to go.

4. Do it all again tomorrow, and the day after and the day after that and the day after that, extending the length of time you do it each day so that ultimately you find you are wasting less of your precious mental energy on meaningless trivia like President Trump and whether or not his wife likes him or secretly finds him repugnant, as if the state of their marriage has anything at all to do with you or anyone else in the world but those two, or if the Russians actually caused Hillary to lose the election which of course she managed to do all by herself, being so repugnant not only to her own husband but even to many in her own party, and instead give your brain a free mental vacation every day for the rest of your life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cher's Good Genes

Cher last year at 70 with her mother, age 90.
Cher turned 71 two days ago and she still looks fabulous. Okay, sure, she's had some help from plastic surgeons and she wears those crazy wigs and scanty costumes, but hey, could most average women wear those extremely revealing costumes without looking sad and pathetic? NO. And Cher does not look sad or pathetic, she looks fabulous. Admit it, she looks a whole lot better than you and your wife and all your girlfriends.

A few days ago Cher performed at the televised Billboard Music Awards where she received the Icon Award, surely nothing to sneeze at, and performed two of her biggest hits. She sounded great and looked even better, which is why it was shocking to see the hateful comments online, thousands of them, saying "the old granny should just go to the glue factory," and so many more with similarly crude sentiments.

The comments were of course posted by young people, most of whom were surely sitting in their underwear in their parents' basement taking a break from playing Game of Thrones to post their hateful screeds. Still, I was saddened to see how much this wonderful, funny, incredibly talented Oscar-winning actress (Best Actress, Moonstruck), singer, dancer, and graciously supportive mother to her daughter-turned-son (Chaz Bono), who gave us so much music that percolates throughout our culture every day, is openly despised by the maddening crowd.

Young people hate the old, that's for sure. I suppose fear is the fuel, since each and every one of them knows that's their future. Some people fear it so much they avoid it altogether with a bullet to the head sometime during middle age. Not me, I'm sort of looking forward to it. My paintings just keep getting better and better, and since the outside world keeps getting worse and worse, I won't mind staying inside all the time if it comes to that.

Until then, I will enjoy the fact that Cher is actually older than me and is still hot. And her mother isn't bad either, and she's 90!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Feed Me, Seymour

The Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post at today's morning news meeting.
Just in case you still think that following the "news" is a valuable pursuit, and that the people who get paid to report the "news" are worthy individuals deserving of our respect, let's take a look at one political story circulating around the web today, and even onto TV, as if that's any better but some older folks might find it more trustworthy.

Here's the scoop: When they got off the plane in Israel this morning and strode down the tarmac towards the waiting reporters, President Trump reached his hand out to the First Lady and she didn't take it. This was reported by the salivating media hounds, always as hungry as the Audrey Two in Little Shop of Horrors and growing just as wildly out of control, as Melania having "appeared to slap it away."

Okay, let's say she didn't take his hand for whatever reason, a reason nobody will ever know except maybe Melania's shrink if she has one, and good Lord I hope she does. What could this "slapping away" mean to each of us personally, and to the country as a whole, and to Donald Trump's presidency, or his effectiveness as an ambassador in Israel hoping to broker a peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, or even to their son Barron back home? 

This is important so I'll give you a few minutes to come up with an answer. Take your time.....

Another Unfriending Explained

I recently "unfriended" someone on Facebook who I have know in real life for 47 years. I do this unpleasant unfriending thing rarely but when it's needed, sort of like defrosting the freezer, only when I realize that there is absolutely never any communication between me and that particular person, either on or off Facebook. And can you blame me?

Picture it: Every day I post my blog, and a few of my friends read it and make some sort of comment every so often. I'm not asking for constantly (like those few who do and I treasure them), but at least spit out some sort of response once in a blue moon, or even just once, forget the blue moon.

I also use Facebook to post images of my latest paintings, hoping for feedback so I can improve, or God forbid a million times, feel good about myself! These too usually get a few comments from my true friends, but from those false friends -- nothing. Ever. (How mean can you be?) Well guess what: Screw you if you can't find the time to give me a pat on the back once a year but still manage to post snarky comments about Donald Trump and pictures of your own wonderful life, complete with your fussy dinner party table settings with their Martha Stewart centerpieces and your so-adorable grandchildren and all the rest of your whole yada, yada, fucking yada. You're fired!

In the most recent instance of this unpleasant but ultimately satisfying occurrence, the friend in question messaged my husband on Facebook to ask if he knew why I unfriended her. Ha! The very fact that she didn't pick up the damn phone or write an email and ask me herself is the very reason why. Come on people: try to be at least a little friendly with your so-called "friends."

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Maine is Made for Do-It-Yourselfers

Ever since we moved to Maine eight years ago, my husband and I have been increasingly amazed by the service professionals doing business here. They certainly set a new standard, one with no word I can think of but a few that come close: Abysmal, lamentable and laughable all give you an idea. Whatever you call it, the low level of professionalism gives lie to Governor LePage's new slogan, "Maine: Open for Business." The sad truth is it's pretty hard to get anything done around these parts unless you do it yourself.


For example, seeking to have the exterior of our home painted I called three house painters who ran ads in the pennysaver over a week ago. I left messages for two of them on their voicemail; neither has called back. The third one (Brett Hall of Hall Painting for you locals) actually answered his phone and was quite an agreeable chap. After a friendly conversation we agreed on this morning at eleven for Brett to come by and take a look-see. Having been burned before by other workmen -- we've gotten estimates, given the okay, and then never heard a peep ever again -- I attempted to pin down the parameters of his visit. "Rain or shine, I'll be there," he promised.

Fools that we are, we waited. We called his cell. We waited some more and called some more. Finally I left a plaintive message saying I was disappointed. He never called back. This is typical Maine behavior, honed to perfection by plumbers, electricians, carpenters, snow plow operators and lawn care companies. Really, the only things you can count on getting in Maine are bug bites, lobsters and sunburn in summer and snow in winter. So I guess we'll be painting our house.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Return of Will & Grace

What if the new Will and Grace simply Can't and Won't?
Rumor has it that Will & Grace, the popular TV sitcom that ran for eight seasons starting in 1998, is set to come back later this year. While this is delightful news for rabid fans of the show, this particular rabid fan wonders how it could possibly be at all funny today, since the two sources of laughs -- homosexuality (Will) and Jewishness (Grace) -- are no longer politically correct fodder for humor.

The original, obviously gay, Jack
Back in the days when the show was nominated for 83 Emmy Awards, winning 16 of them, being gay was still in the closet. It was edgy, shocking, and anything but mainstream. You could tell a gay man from a straight man by the way he walked or talked or if he showed up in pink sneakers or loved Judy Garland, whereas now everyone and their mother could be gay and you can't even tell a man from a woman, much less care. Once gays gave up their alternative lifestyle and opted for regular, boring old-fashioned marriage, they stopped being the slightest bit interesting. As for Jew jokes, oy, don't go there.

Another potential downer is the fact that the characters are all older now, and how funny is that? Aging has never been a laugh riot, unless it was Joan Rivers doing it. But with the four characters in their late forties and even late fifties, now what? Could they possibly all still be single? Could Will (54) and Grace (48) share an apartment? How can the lovely Karen (58) even be alive after so many years popping pills and downing bottles of gin and vodka? Will there be jokes about how "girlie" Jack (46) is? Will we watch Grace go on lots of boring dates with senior citizens, or will she just sit at home and bore the audience with her sophomoric, anti-Trump screeds?

I think I'll stick with the reruns.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Joy of Anonymity

On the day after a bad day, and there are plenty of those, thoughts scramble inside my head like those rats on the Titanic, desperately seeking higher ground, something positive to contradict the blanketing gloom responsible for those high numbers displayed on my blood pressure monitor. (Yesterday I hit 213/100, a new personal best.)

I've tried cheering myself up with the usual upbeat bromides -- your stomach is not in a bag hanging from your belt, there are no pit bulls living in the neighborhood, Hillary Clinton lost the election -- but still I can find myself feeling anxious for no apparent reason. But then this morning, with my BP numbers inching up, up up, I thought of a new one and now I feel better, and here it is: At least I'm not famous!

Imagine the horror. Every single thing you do is photographed and then dissected by the media, that gaggle of muckraking, bloodsucking leeches, and that's being kind. How you look, where you live, what you eat, how much you spend, the clothes you wear, those bags under your eyes, your sagging neck, your relationships, your tawdry past (if you had one), your drug and alcohol consumption (if there is any), the time you slept with your best friend's husband (if you ever did), your decreasing breast perkiness, your expanding waistline, and of course your political leanings. Whatever it is, it's not good in someone's estimation. Or else it's really good, good enough to sell papers, get more clicks, earn higher ratings, tweet about, or somehow turn into cash for some stranger striving to be famous on your dime.

So thank you God, for making me a complete nobody. I'm feeling better already.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spinning Your Way to Sanity

TODAY I PLUNKED DOWN TEN BUCKS in the interest of my husband's sanity. Mitch works really hard and travels so often I barely know what city he's in or when he's coming home, which as you can imagine makes it really hard to have an affair, lol. (Isn't that what you do: say something hateful and then follow it with "lol" and then it's all okay?)

Mitch seems pleased with his new Spinner.
The thing is, I needed some new workout pants, having ripped mine this morning when I was switching the storm door with the screen door since suddenly it's frickin' 88 degrees here (never mind that last night it was freezing), and besides, isn't that's man's work? Anyway, as I approached Olympia Sports I saw three big signs in the store windows all proclaiming the exciting news: "The Spinners Are Here!"

At first I thought they meant the actual Spinners, that great soul group of the 70s who sang my all-time favorite dance song (Working My Way Back to You), but then I realized that at least some of them would be dead by now, and besides, why would five cool black guys be appearing at a sporting goods store in Maine of all places? So I inquired and found out that once again I am out of the loop. Turns out Spinners are toys, and they are the latest thing. In fact, they're a full-blown craze! Kids either collect them or trade them, teachers either hate them or love them, and parents either sing their praises or banish them from the kingdom.

A Spinner is a small, 3-pronged plastic thing that looks sort of like an IUD but don't try using it for that. What you do with a Spinner is spin it between your thumb and forefinger and just watch it go, and that calms you down. Or it's supposed to. Called a "fidget" toy, it was originally designed to help kids in the classroom with ADHD. Then it went mainstream, and now all kinds of kids want them, and many adults do too.

But hey, fidget is my husband's middle name! (Not really, it's actually Bruce.) So I bought one for him and I have high hopes. Who knows, maybe it will help him relax, if it doesn't drive him crazy. And I might even get one for myself since this morning my blood pressure numbers were sky-high.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Stay Young and Keep Your Mouth Shut

Determined to stop aging, this morning I awoke committed to upping my daily exercise regimen, having read last night that it's the one thing that can impact longevity in a positive way. So, being no dummy after living in Maine for the last eight springs, I sprayed myself from head to toe with DEET and strapped on my walking gear: thick socks, duck boots, neck scarf, woolen cap, goggles and mesh bug suit. Striding out into the warm morning, I was sweating by the time I reached the end of my driveway.

Just kidding, although not about the neck scarf and the woolen cap. And instead of goggles I wore my giant wraparound sunglasses. It is, after all, Bug Season in Vacationland, and one can't be too lax about one's preparations if one hopes to sleep soundly anytime between now and October. (The itching makes it hard.)

This morning's outing was all but ruined by the constant bombardment of Midgees, a.k.a. no-see-ums, even though I could plainly see them and certainly feel them as they penetrated my eyeballs, nostrils and mouth, the latter when I stupidly opened it to greet passing neighbors. That was dumb of me, and a clear sign of someone from "away" since the natives know better. (Obviously the reason Mainers are so taciturn is because they don't want to swallow any bugs.)

Still, despite the buggy annoyances I did my brisk two miles and came home and took a probiotic and ate herring and oatmeal and walnuts and blueberries, and soon I will go off to the gym and work out with my personal trainer, so I'm hoping I won't get any older today. Sarah DeRemer Clark, who died in 1999 at age 119 and hold's the record as the oldest American ever, credited her longevity to "not letting anything faze her," so I'll be damned if those bugs are going to get me upset. Tomorrow morning I'll be out there again, and I won't say hello to anyone if I can help it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Counting to 100

Two days ago I met an interesting woman at a basket-making workshop. Admittedly, any adult who signs up for a basket-making workshop these days is automatically interesting, but this particular woman stood out for her radiant glow. Her name was Darlene, and she told me about herself as we waited for the session  to begin.

Darlene is 76 years old and has been married for 56 of them. She started making baskets 30 years ago, finding the activity to be soothing and "like meditation."

She has 7 children, 17 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, and all of them live within 1 hour of her and receive her baskets as Christmas gifts. She has been a vegetarian since she was about 12, and a vegan for the last 5 years. She eats no sweets or breads of any kind, although she had some ice cream about 3 years ago at a birthday party.

Next month Darlene and a friend of hers, also 76, are taking a 10-mile canoe trip down the 65-mile long Allagash River that will include 4 miles of whitewater. Last year they both hiked 34 miles up a mountain in Alaska, I forget which one.

Darlene has weighed 132 pounds all her adult life. She walks 3 miles, 4 days a week and has for the last 20 years. She takes no medications, does not wear glasses, has only original body parts and most amazing, all her original 32 teeth. She says the first thing on her bucket list is living to be 100, "at the very least."


Monday, May 15, 2017

God'll Getcha

An old friend of mine, a father of three with many outstanding qualities far too numerous to list here, had the unfortunate character flaw, likely as a result of faulty upbringing, of bigotry. He was unabashedly vocal in his dislike of gays and his disrespect of African-Americans, sometimes shockingly so. So it was ironic to the max when his only son came out at age 16 and both of his lily-white daughters married black men, giving him several mixed-race grandchildren. One was tempted to say, or at least think, "Ha, God fixed his wagon!"

Similarly, years ago a dear friend of mine developed cancer and needed chemotherapy three times a week. Her working husband could only handle the weekend visit, and so friends volunteered for the two weekdays. I drove her every Wednesday, welcoming the chance to lighten her treatment time with jokes and crossword puzzles. When I mentioned this in passing to another good friend of mine, she was literally aghast at the thought of doing such a thing. I asked, "What would you do if I got cancer and needed your help?" In a heartbeat she replied, "If you got cancer I would never call you again." Sadly, since making that statement her sister, husband and now she herself have gotten cancer and required chemotherapy.

So I'm wondering what terrible thing I did or said or thought, either as a child or in another life, that has delivered me such dysfunctional family relationships, each one fraught with anger, sadness and depression and devoid of all joy. Musta been something really bad.

Hello to My Russian Friends

I did not vote for Donald Trump but I must say, he has good taste in friends. Those Russians sure do like reading my blog, and how can that be a bad thing? My stats are sky-high and climbing, with over 700 Ruskies clicking over the last two days. It's puzzling since I've never written anything that might be of interest to them, but I guess just the mention of the word "Russia" in a recent post caught their attention. (My husband suspects it's "non-human traffic" and not actual people, but I prefer thinking otherwise.)

Here in Maine there is nothing remotely Russian, unless you count the snow. There are no Russian restaurants, and I can't remember ever seeing a samovar, although there must be one somewhere since there are several tea rooms. Of course there is borscht for sale in all the supermarkets and it's easy enough to find those Matryoshkas (see photo) in toy stores and probably the Walmart. (I once had a set of those, but darned if I know where they are now.)

FYI, Russia is a huge country covering 1/7th of the globe and spanning 11 times zones! Who even knew there were 11 time zones?


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Russian Ramblings

Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman lunching at The Russian Tea Room.
According to statistical data (and what's more important than that these days?), this blog is being read by more Russians than ever before. Last week 414 of those blankety-blank Commies read my musings, and for what reason I wonder? Damn Ruskies, who do they think they are coming over here and doing whatever the heck they want in our country? With the exception of that shred of a pittance of an iota of a possibility that they might have caused Hillary Clinton to lose the election, they spell trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool. Oh wait, that's something else entirely; never mind.

Anyway, I've never met a Russian I didn't like. That's because I've never met a Russian. So I am confused by all the hand-wringing and hair-pulling because our President has talked, and possibly even consorted, with some of them. Considering that all of us inhabit the same planet, it seems to me we should have the leaders of the world's second most powerful country over to dinner, or at least lunch or brunch or cocktails, every so often. Who knows, maybe even exchange a few Christmas gifts -- anything to avoid Armageddon.

For those Russians reading this now, and my stats say there are 66 of you, I'd like to say I adore those furry hats you guys wear in the winter, and I also love drinking White Russians, although they are quite high in calories so I don't make a habit of it. And who doesn't like The Russian Tea Room in New York city, locale of perhaps the funniest scene in Tootsie that featured the wonderful director, producer and actor, my hero Sydney Pollack? Sadly, Sydney died in 2008. I miss him so.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Before Was Better

Before the Internet, people called you on the phone to wish you a happy birthday. They may also have sent a birthday card in the regular, old-fashioned mail. You might get three or four cards a day for a few days before and after your birthday, and even a couple of presents from friends who lived far away. It was fun -- a lot more fun than the "Happy Birthday!" messages that show up on Facebook after people who couldn't care less clicked a reminder button that sent the message automatically.

Before cell phones, you had to be home to get a phone call. And if you were out and wanted to call someone, you had to find a pay phone. You couldn't talk on the phone in an elevator or a grocery store, or on an airplane or train or bus, or in the waiting room at the doctor's, making everyone around you hate your guts and hope your head explodes. 

Before Facebook, you kind of sort of knew that there were loony tunes and hideously mean people out there in the world, but you didn't have to interact with them on a daily basis unless they were family members, and even then not if you could help it.

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor
Before Google, everyone you ever met or might meet or who might hire you wouldn't know all your past mistakes. You could maintain a shred of dignity, living without fear that nude photos  of you taken by a jilted boyfriend 20 years ago when you had one drink too many would suddenly be everywhere. And you never had to know who was gay and who wasn't, thus allowing you to dream about Montgomery Clift all you wanted, believing if only you could meet him you might have a chance.

Before Google Earth, lunatics couldn't find out exactly where you live and come to your front door with a shotgun, or even a box of chocolates, uninvited.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Ordinary life and just plain reality -- the mundane business of being alive with its repetitive cycle of eating, breathing and eliminating waste -- must seem pretty damn boring to so many of us for having spawned so many ways around it. Avoiding, forgetting and escaping reality are growing in popularity and are now wildly out of control, done by almost everyone in America except those religious freaks who sit around and pray all day long, and what the heck do you think they're doing? Binge-praying, that's what.

Escape comes in many forms, and putting the word "binge" in front of any activity has somehow elevated it to being cool. Abuse of food, drugs and alcohol lead the pack, followed closely by inhaling poison (smoking cigarettes), obsessive exercise and self-cutting, clearly the most bizarre path to excitement. Most sexaholics and workaholics think what they do is perfectly fine, despite the inherent potential for contracting awful and potentially fatal diseases and ruining any pre-existing relationships. Gamblers and shopaholics seem like innocuous fun-lovers in comparison, until the last dollar is spent and they end up destitute and friendless.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything, take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy"
                                           Lyrics of "Dear Mr. Fantasy" by Jim Capaldi

I'm thinking all this after reading a couple of movie reviews of just-released films that are apparently really bad. One of them stars Amy Schumer, that piggy, foul-mouthed  champion of fat women everywhere who poses seductively in negligees for magazine covers. Her new film is Snatched, wherein she shares star billing with Goldie Hawn, a.k.a. Kate Hudson's mother. Goldie is now 71 and the bloom is off the rose for sure, but she's apparently over her Buddhist meditation phase and looking to get back in the game. The film has already been severely panned by many professional critics, with Variety tagging it, "an aggressively cartoonish mother-daughter vacation-from-hell comedy that never strays far from the fractious, one-note surface."

But bad reviews won't prevent millions of people from paying about ten bucks a head to see it. After all, a movie offers two whole hours during which you can forget your troubles and, better yet, the fact that all of us are going to die. Throw in soda, popcorn and candy, all of which when consumed in the dark have zero calories, and it's a veritable mini-vacation, and with no packing.

Hey, if that's your thing I say go for it. Personally, I'll stick with just being: You can do it anywhere, you don't need tickets, and best of all, it's free.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cats vs. People

Big Lurch
Right now the person I feel closest to is not even a person, he's a cat, so immediately you know we don't talk. This annoys me no end, and I've attempted to get him to speak my language since he obviously has vocal cords and has no problem using them when he wants something, which is pretty much all the time, but no dice. Still, I'm not complaining. I like it when Lurch (he's more of a Fluffy but he came already named) communicates a need and I can take care of whatever it is.

In fact, it's pretty incredible to be able to understand a member of another species. My real problem is the inability to understand members of my own species, even though most of them talk. This happens at least 85% of the time, making me less eager to answer the phone or even leave my home. Naturally attending parties is out of the question.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not one of those agoraphobics you hear about, although I totally get what they're doing. I do leave my home, certainly once every day and more than that on other days. And I go on trips, too many for my taste but my poor husband suffers from wanderlust and his needs must be considered too. On those occasions I spend days, sometimes weeks, out there in the world, adrift in the sea of humanity where anything could happen but thankfully usually doesn't, at least not to me.

Man With a Big Tattoo
At least not anymore. Years ago, gigantic things happened to me with alarming frequency. Now everything is much calmer and I can happily pass entire days with just my cat and my paints. I do go to a gym three times a week to work out with a personal trainer so my body doesn't disintegrate. My latest painting, shown at right, is of my trainer, a young man named Noah who has a wild tattoo I found fascinating on someone otherwise so intelligent.

Noah aside, I remain suspicious of tattooed people. Getting one costs a bundle and a big chunk of time, it's clearly a painful process, and afterwards there they are, always. They never go away. You often see people covered with them from head to toe, on the neck and both arms and legs, who look downright idiotic. Those folks are a perfect example of me not understanding my own species. You will never see a cat with a tattoo, and you can take that to the bank.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Evidence of Devolution

I don't think it's a stretch to say that humans are getting dumber every day. I mean come on, look at who's president. But far worse than our collective decision that a former reality TV star who made it big in real estate was better than a lying, cheating harridan spewing empty platitudes is the steady erosion of common sense among the masses, many of whom have money to spare that they squander on senseless crap.

If you don't agree, just check out the latest fashionable jeans shown below. Marketed specifically towards our current crop of young people -- you know, the ones who will be running the show when the last  boomers are gone -- they are being offered for sale this very minute at Nordstrom's, that once esteemed but now fallen idol of the upper classes.

Baked-in fake mud makes guys look hard-working despite playing video games and drinking brewskies all day. $425

For the ladies, plastic panels sewn over the knee holes let new Moms look "edgy" while keeping the baby throw-up out. $95

Monday, May 8, 2017

Film Review: OKLAHOMA CITY

My name is Andrea and I'm a Caucasian. It's just me and my husband and son, and all of us are white. And my parents and sister too, and aunts and uncle and cousins. There are no black people in my family and never have been, as far back as I can trace. No Latinos or Asians either. And unlike Elizabeth Warren, I have no native American ancestors.

The awful truth is: I am not diverse. I never felt bad about this growing up, back when it was perfectly acceptable, but then somewhere along the way it became a liability, and now it's a full-blown shonda. (Oh well, at least I'm a Jew. That surely counts for something.)

What's got me thinking like this is the just-released documentary Oklahoma City, which I recently saw on Netflix and which blew my mind. It shows in riveting detail the events leading to the 1995 bombing and resulting death of 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, caused by a young white man named Timothy McVeigh. At the time I was busy raising my son, concentrating my efforts on making Halloween costumes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and correctly identifying each of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so I missed a lot. (I admit to paying little attention to world news until September 11, 2001, after which I became addicted to it.) This film fills in all the blanks regarding the roots of today's anti-government sentiments, in case, like me, you've wondered how the heck we got where we are today.

With incredible historic footage of all the events, Oklahoma City describes the path leading from McVeigh's growing fear and mistrust of the government and ending in his horrific extremist act. Beginning with the FBI's 1992 siege on Ruby Ridge, the Idaho home of Randy Weaver, an off-the-grid gun owner who caught the attention of the authorities, one can understand how the impressionable McVeigh saw the cops as the bad guys. After an 11-day standoff, Weaver's 14-year-old son, his wife and the family dog were all dead, as well as a deputy U.S. Marshal. Then came the 1993 conflagration at Waco, Texas wherein 76 people, 20 of them children, were killed by our government -- Bill Clinton was top dog at the time -- for owning lots of guns and retreating from normal society. All of the dead were white, which may or may not have added to their purported crimes, who knows.

Running 102 minutes, Oklahoma City flies by. It's one heck of a nail-biter and a great history lesson too. And hey, if you've got any guns, you might want to get rid of them. And if you're white, or weirdly religious, just stop it right now.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to Be A Friendly Ghost

Caspar the Friendly Ghost is all but dead these days.
My best friend, who also was my maternal grandfather, died 49 years ago. I was alone with him at the time, and his almost-last words were, "Every time you find money on the street, that's me saying hello to you from Heaven." His actual last words were, "I'm thirsty, can you get me some water." I went for the water and when I returned after just moments, he was dead.

That fairly traumatic event in my life may be the cause of my never being thirsty and thus rarely drinking water, and stopping to pick up change in the street no matter how risky it is to do so. Like just the other day I saw a nickel lying in the middle of a highly-trafficked boulevard. Despite a big truck barreling towards me, and much to my husband's horror, I stopped to grab the coin while mentally saying "Hi" to my grandfather. Hey, keeping the dead alive is no easy task.

Another of my dearest friends died ten years ago, leaving a giant hole in my life as well as my heart. I remember so much about her, but the thing that sticks out most is that she loved Rolos, those chocolate and caramel candies that come rolled in a paper wrapper. Noreen always had a pack stashed somewhere. Personally I was lukewarm about them, far preferring those wildly colorful Chuckles, each with its own flavor, to the somber, monochromatic Rolos, but just three days before her death Noreen and I exchanged packs of Rolos for Christmas. Since then I have become an avid Rolo fan and almost always buy a pack or two at the supermarket checkout counter. Somehow it makes me feel closer to Noreen, and since she can't buy them wherever she is, I do it for her.

Many other dead people populate my thoughts and dreams from time to time, but those two both left particularly strong markers and so they live on more vibrantly, not only in my brain but in my conversation. And here I am writing about them! It's obvious: if you want to be remembered after you die, make sure to do or say something truly unique on your way out.




Friday, May 5, 2017

Is Nothing Sacred?

A staple in these unsettling times: Pepto-Bismol
I don't vomit, having sworn off that repulsive  activity after a rough night back in 1956 when I contracted something called the Asian Flu. That did it. My mother told me it was mind over matter and since then I've had no more of that. (An annual flu shot helps.) But this morning I saw something online that made me nauseous and feel like I might throw up. I quickly turned off my computer and tried to erase it from my mind with a brisk walk outside in the fresh air.

It was this: Some middling TV actor and his who-is-she wife are having a baby, news they opted to share with the entire world on social media, like that's so damn special and there isn't an entire industry aborting 3,000 babies a day in the United States alone and 125,000 worldwide. The misguided, not-famous-enough-for-us-to-care couple did this by posting a series of photos of the father down on one knee, kissing the protruding stomach of the mother. Thankfully she was not naked but wore some diaphanous gown straight from Tinkerbell's closet, if Tink had a closet and wore gowns.

The Exhibitionists: Yuk.
What I want to know is why. Why they needed to share that private moment with the entire world. A world that includes ISIS and all their followers, racists, rapists, serial murderers, gang members, surly teens, cheating politicians, cops and robbers and everyone else with access to the Internet, which is to say everyone else. Will they also stream the birth live online? Will we get to see her bleeding and cracked nipples when she starts to breastfeed? And what if the baby is premature? Will we see pictures of it in the NICU with wires coming out of every orifice? Where, exactly, will it end?

Something is seriously wrong in a society where women keep their age, weight and shoe size locked in a vault but swim naked in public when they are nine months pregnant. This has nothing at all to do with prudishness, rather a desire to have some things remain special, to be enjoyed only by a chosen few. These days you gotta wonder: is nothing sacred?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hillary Is Not Fat Enough

SRI YANTRA
This blog gets the most readers when I write a post about fat people or Hillary Clinton. So it stands to reason it would get lots of clicks if I write about how fat Hillary Clinton is getting. Too bad that's such a boring subject now that she's not out there scamming the public daily. Besides, it's hard to tell just how fat she really is under those maternity style jackets and baggy pants she wears. Also, to be fair she is simply not fat enough to be worthy of note. (She is, however, an untrustworthy crook; just ask the Haitians.)

Instead of not-fat-enough Hillary Clinton I will discuss National Orange Juice Day, which is celebrated today in this country. Funny thing: I woke up this morning with the thought in my head: "I want orange juice." I say it's funny because I rarely drink the stuff, it being full of excess sugar and so the actual fruit is healthier, but I do stock it and have a few sips when I feel poorly or need an energy boost. So I chalked it up to morning sluggishness caused by a bad dream and grumbled my way downstairs to the fridge and got some. Imagine my surprise when I learned soon after that today is National Orange Juice Day! Now more than ever, I'm pretty sure I'm psychic.

Having celebrated the holiday to the best of my capability, I am now free to do whatever the heck I want to do since I decided not to take that job working in a garden shop. If I follow the advice of a dear friend of mine, I would spend a chunk of my day staring at a mandala he gave me called the Sri Yantra while repeating the mantra, "Aum Gum Shreem Maha Lakshmi-yei Namaha" 108 times. Supposedly if I do that for the next 40 days I will "noticeably witness transformation."

Despite all sorts of reputable studies (including one from Harvard University) that offer compelling evidence that the staring and reciting thing works, still I think I won't do that. Instead I will spend the next 40 days staring at a photo of my naked body taped to the refrigerator and repeat 108 times, "God You're Getting Fat You Gross Pig" and hope to witness a different sort of transformation that will get me into all those clothes in my closet I can't wear anymore.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Not Being There

Being a semi-reclusive artist who can pass a whole week spending less than a dollar a day, I spare no expense when it comes to something I really want. Most recently I really wanted to see British musician Steve Winwood perform live, repeating an experience I had twenty years ago that still hovers near the top of my 10 Greatest Live Performances list. To that end, last weekend my husband and I flew from our home in Maine to Washington, D.C. to see his act at the Warner Theater on Monday night.

Naturally we purchased stellar seats -- 8th row orchestra, smack dab in the middle. Okay, yes, I admit our outing did not come cheap and we could have used that money instead to feed a family of ten starving Africans, or starving people of any nationality, for six months. But we didn't. We used it to see Stevie, which is what I still call him, having become a fan back in his early days when he went by that name.

So you can imagine how annoying it was to finally be sitting there (having first visited with the friends who graciously hosted us and then driven into the city and found a parking space for our rental car), so close to the stage we could see all five band members sweat, and have two people seated directly in front of us holding their cell phones up and filming the concert, then uploading it to YouTube or streaming it live on Facebook or whatever the fuck they were doing, for pretty much the whole time. These two cretins, one male and one female, actually watched 90% of the proceedings on their cell phones, despite the fact that the band played their hearts out within spitting distance of them.

Looking around the theater, I saw countless others doing the same thing. Besides being distracting, the glow of the cell phones commanding my attention despite my futile attempts to look away, it was a depressing reminder that so many people are such fools, a fact I try hard to forget but which seems all but impossible to do these days. The most amazing thing is that both of those cell phone people in front of me had also paid $150 (plus a $13 fee if purchased online) for the squandered opportunity to witness greatness firsthand, choosing instead to boast online that they were there.

Except they weren't.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Smoke Pot

Guess what: I don't need to know every last horrible thing that happens all over the world that has absolutely no impact on my life in any way. I bet this is true for you too. Somebody should tell all those money-grubbing, I mean well-meaning editors of all the news outlets to stop passing along every tidbit of detritus that comes their way just to get more clicks or viewers or advertisers. It's downright depressing and helps nobody.

For example, just now when I logged on to my computer, a story popped up about a missing 16-month-old toddler in Illinois who was finally found under a  couch in her home. Dead, of course. (Gee, and her parents had looked everywhere for her, imagine that.) There was a picture, suitable for framing, of the deceased, who was quite cute while alive. But now she's dead, smushed to death no doubt since "the couch was flush to the floor and had no legs." So I guess she had not crawled under it. Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser. Anyway, what are we supposed to do with that information? How can we use it? Obvious answer: We can't.

This annoys me especially today, since in just about five hours I will be at a Steve Winwood concert at the Warner Theater in Washington, DC, where I flew two days ago just to hear him play. Now I have these random dead-little-girl thoughts stuck in my head that must be cleared out in order to enjoy myself. Those tickets were not cheap, believe me.

I guess that's where the marijuana comes in.