Friday, June 30, 2017

Doctor, Heal Thyself

One morning last week I noticed a minor but painful, could-be-cancer lump that had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere. Since we were heading into a weekend, I called our family physician and described the situation to the nurse who answered the phone. After she consulted with the doc, she said they could "squeeze me in the following day before his first appointment," which meant I had to be there at 7:45 AM. I said fine.

As the day passed, things improved. By nighttime the lump had receded and I had forgotten about the appointment with the doctor. The next morning I slept late, then piddled around until about 8:30 when my husband returned from his morning workout and reminded me. "Oh crap!" I wailed, rushing to call the doctor's office. I explained that my condition had apparently fixed itself and I had just plain forgotten to come in. "I am so, so sorry," I said to the nurse. "No problem, he comes in early every day so there was no harm -- he wasn't inconvenienced at all."

Then yesterday I received a form letter in the mail from the physician's parent organization reprimanding me for my bad behavior. It was sent to remind me "just how valuable the doctor's time is" and inform me that "while it is inevitable that unforeseen circumstances may cause someone to miss an appointment," the next time it happens I will be charged the full price for an office visit ($128) unless I cancel within 24 hours. And while they would like to continue providing for my health care needs, if it happens a third time within an 18-month period, "it may be necessary for us to consider discharging you from the practice."

Duly chided, I threw the letter in the trash this morning, just before I opened today's Wall Street Journal and read that "the opioid addiction crisis in New England has surged 500% in the last seven years," due to doctors over-prescribing the drugs. "The amount of opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999, even though there has been no change in the amount of pain reported by Americans, the CDC said."

I'm considering mailing that article to my doctor and telling him to stop it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Black's, White's and Grey's Anatomies

I recently came across an incendiary article online that strongly suggested I "get over my white feelings" and start doing things to support the Black Lives Matter movement. According to this particular author, "Black lives matter more than white feelings." Let me say right here and now, that is a pretty racist statement with which I wholeheartedly disagree. Plus, I'm not even sure how to get over my white feelings, or which ones they might be.

Black or white? Hard to tell.
Like it or not, I am white. I was born white and have not done anything to change it (despite all those years back in high school spent at the Malibu Beach Club slathered with Coppertone and holding a cardboard, tin-foil covered triptych under my face, long before the invention SPF).  Since my parents were white, and their parents before them, I assume every single feeling I have is a "white" feeling. Exactly which ones should I jettison? Would  the one that made me choose the word  "jettison" instead of a lesser word like trash or dump have to go? You know, that whole fancy vocabulary thing?

Also, I actually like white people, although oddly enough my three favorite characters on Grey's Anatomy, a TV show I got hooked on while couch-bound following hip surgery a year ago, are all played by black actors -- actually four if you count Jackson (see photo) but he's only half-black with a dash of Seminole. Anyway, I'll bet none of them are members of Black Lives Matter, and if you asked them they'd likely say that Grey Lives matter much more.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Reading Trump Between the Lines

I finally have something in common with Donald Trump: anything and everything he does or says is deemed to be fundamentally wrong, which is exactly how my son feels about me! But that's another story; right now I want to discuss the fact that Trump is today being accused of sexually harassing an Irish reporter who was visiting the White House by telling her she "has a nice smile."

What a pig! Nice smile, my ass! "Nice smile" is obviously code for "I want to grab your pussy," who doesn't know that? Of course it could also mean, "I want to have sex with my own daughter" or "Rosie O'Donnell is a fat pig and Megyn Kelley menstruates all over the place." You just never know what that Liar-in-Chief is really saying.

The nerve of the man; does he think we are all idiots?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nobody Asked Me!

Once you get past the anxiety caused by all those ads for diseases you should ask your doctor about to see if this or that drug is right for you, watching TV can be quite amusing. Like this morning, I turned it on while I was changing the sheets, trying to stay current in case a van ran into a crowd of revelers or someone assassinated Rachel Maddow, when an  unseen narrator in a TV commercial for a product I can't recall intoned, "while 83% of Americans try to eat healthy every day, 90% of them don't get the daily nutrition they need." Or something like that. Then the news came on and I was told that "several surveys report 76% of Americans are sick and tired of the Russia story and don't care about it at all."

Nobody asked me either of those things, so I'm wondering if my answer would change anything. Or, what about me and my husband, because nobody asked him either. Anyway, I am definitely sick of the Russia story, so I'm one of that 76%. As for the other thing, I do try to eat healthy, but is it all for naught since I'm not getting the nutrition I need, or am I one of the 10% who do? Because if I'm one of the 83% who don't I'd rather have a chocolate-chip muffin for breakfast and skip the oatmeal and poached egg, at least for a couple of mornings. I mean if I'm not getting the nutrition anyway....

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Limited Vision of a Typical American

Yesterday in this space I wrote about the loss of my favorite pair of eyeglasses, a situation causing me great bereavement. In fact, by last night I was reduced to a sobbing wretch, and not only because I couldn't see very well all weekend but because the carelessness involved in losing my glasses might very well be an indication of a far greater loss, that of brain function: Could this be an early sign of Alzheimer's after all? ("Oh, woe is me, woe is me," she cries out, collapsing on bed and burying head in hands.)

Then this morning, over coffee and oatmeal and some delightful strawberries from the Sunday morning farmer's market, while sitting in my lovely house on our two acres of Maine woods, I read about a landslide in China that swept through a remote mountain village and completely buried 62 homes. So far, rescuers have confirmed that 10 people are dead and 93 are missing. Despite the fact that authorities said "there was little chance of finding any survivors, citing the depth of the layer of fallen rock," an additional 15 people have been found alive.

Now, consider for a moment the plight of those 15 people: They have lost their homes and everything in them. Everything they ever owned or cared about is gone. Their friends and neighbors, and very likely some family members, are all dead. Their entire village, obliterated. Now that's what I call loss.

As for my glasses? What a fool I must be to care for even one second about something so piddling, superficial, and most of all, replaceable. How did I get to be this way? And how can I stop being this way? I must start immediately, lest I die while in this profoundly selfish state and go straight to Hell for Eternity, if there are such things.

Oh, and BTW -- I found my glasses.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Time Marches On

Missing: Have you seen these glasses?
Things really were better back in the good old days, and I'm counting yesterday as one of them. When I woke up yesterday morning I was in possession of my glasses, a light-as-a-feather pair of Silhouettes that cost well over $500 -- don't ask how much more. Unbreakable, with an anti-glare coating and progressive lenses, they weigh less than an ounce, I swear. And being rimless, they all but disappeared on my face. Then yesterday they disappeared for real.

Naturally, since my mother died of Alzheimer's, I looked for them everywhere a pair of glasses should not be: in the fridge, in the freezer, in the garbage, in the big bag of soil I was using to do some re-potting of plants. I zigzagged across our property several times, retracing my steps from garden to garage to side deck to screened porch, and back again. I looked under all the beds, even in rooms I had not entered for days. I opened every drawer in every table and bureau and ransacked the cushions on the couches and upholstered chairs. Alas, to no avail; they're gone.

And the funny thing is, this bothers me so much more than whether or not the Russians hacked our election or if Jared Kushner talked to some Russians or even if Donald Trump had sex with Vladimir Putin. All of that pales in comparison to losing those glasses with the lovely teal-colored temples that were lighter than air, that I had back in the old days.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Politics: A Family Affair

What's in your DNA?
It's all in the blood. Or maybe the DNA. All I know for sure is that families share diseases like kindergartners share colds. While my family certainly had its ailments, they were all different: A variety of cancers, a couple of strokes, and early-onset Alzheimer's keep me guessing about the eventual cause of my inevitable demise. But one friend of mine has been having an annual colonoscopy for years after colon cancer struck her mother, two aunts and several cousins, while another friend is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, following in her sister's footsteps.

Sadly, every one of my husband's blood relatives suffers from the same severely debilitating disease. By sheer luck, Mitch is the only one who did not get this gene, which even his own identical twin brother inherited. It's called by many names, but for our purposes here I will use the lay term: Rampant Liberalism (RL). It robs people of their senses, making them incapable of discerning truth from falsehood or understanding their own blindness to reality. They are resistant to any other way of thinking, approaching each political situation only after arming themselves with the nightly script from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow or the morning's instructions from the editors of the New York Times. They absorb misinformation from all the late-night comics who, lacking talent and imagination, simply distort all things Republican and mock President Trump for laughs.

My husband's nephew, a family member with an extreme case of RL who still possesses a keen intellect, was our only hope for stopping the disease. Could weekly applications of fair and balanced reporting one day save him, and his descendants, from an increasingly narrow-minded dotage? But then last week it became clear that his RL has worsened and he is now in the later stages of disease. He recently wrote on Facebook: "Every time Greta Van Susteren's ad comes on MSNBC I turn my tv off for a bit. JUST IN CASE my smart tv reports back, I want someone to know that even her ads lower ratings."

Besides his disturbingly incorrect usage of capital letters, his blatant unwillingness to entertain another point of view is the clearest indication his disease has metastasized. Another post stated, "If it takes updated guillotines to do it, the next Democratic president needs to crush the aristocracy and return the power and wealth it has stolen to the people." Obviously his irrational fear of capitalism has radicalized him, and he is now calling for chopping off the heads of the wealthy. Clearly, following his brother, several aunts and cousins, and even his own father, he is spiraling downward into a serious decline.

Our son shows all the signs of the disease but may in fact have a milder case, possibly tempered by my contribution to his genetic makeup. He is at least open-minded enough to acknowledge there might be another side to things. I hope for his sake that eventually a cure will be found, freeing him from the horror of RL's locked-in thinking that closes off fully half of life's possibilities.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Between the Ears

I often wonder what other people are really thinking. Like when their lips are moving and they are saying ordinary, expected things, like about the weather or their weekend plans or what they had for dinner last night, surely other things -- better things? -- remain unspoken. Of course this is not always true, and some people just have a vast nothingness between their ears. Personally I long for the vast nothingness, but it escapes me; there are always random thoughts bouncing inside my brain, and far too often they are of little import. Like right now, here's what I've got going on:

overpriced organic watermelon
dead 22-year-old
cats should speak English
too many bug bites
prunes work
another day
hummingbirds are freaky
I miss dead people (must re-read Our Town)
buy better shampoo
thank god for coffee
no blog post today

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Confounding World of Snowflakes

Years ago, sexual harassment meant the boss came up behind you and grabbed your derriere, or cornered you in a supply closet and tried to kiss you. This occurrence was fairly commonplace for any reasonably attractive woman dressed in the style of the day, which was basically miniskirts and knee-high boots. I had my share of unwanted attention from male superiors and co-workers alike, but I never sued anyone. I was never raped or traumatized in any way and, except for one time when I was 17 and had to call my father to rescue me, I always managed to handle the situation on my own.  

Times certainly have changed. The lead story in today's Wall Street Journal concerns the forced ouster of Uber head Travis Kalanick from his own $70 billion company for sins related to being a bad guy. I read the article carefully but still never learned the details of those sins. Intrigued, I plunged into the veritable ocean of information on the subject available online. Turns out Uber's "bad culture" has several prongs, the worst being its male-dominated management team that regularly engages in sexual harassment of the company's female snowflakes -- oops, I mean employees.

One reported example of sexual harassment at Uber circa 2016 was a woman being alerted by a female co-worker that their male department manager had admitted he "could not look her in the eye" whenever she wore a sleeveless tank top at work. As I see it, she had three options: Never wear sleeveless tank tops at the office, not care if the guy looked her in the eye as long as she was paid for doing work she enjoyed, or quit the job at Uber.  She did none of those, instead choosing to stay put and blog about the horror of working there.

Do not wear this to work....
Another female Uber employee was upset because her male manager had sent her several chat messages inferring he would like to have sex with her. Rather than feeling flattered that he found her attractive while calmly rejecting his unrequited interest, she found his suggestion "vile and reprehensible" and filed a harassment claim with the HR department, then was upset when all they did was give the man "a stern talking-to." In my day, when women were not snowflakes but rather snowplows, the offended party would have personally delivered the "stern talking-to" to the offender, and in no uncertain terms.
.... at Uber.
My son, 29, explained recently that the term "snowflake" was born from the fact that "every one of them is unique." Others have suggested harsher definitions, inferring that today's young adults are as delicate as snowflakes and melt at the slightest touch. I am not endorsing either definition, just presenting the facts as I have heard them. And I'm shaking my head in bewilderment over today's young women who are so squeamish when it comes to sexual attention, but worship sexually explicit celebrities like Britney Spears and Beyonce, who performs half-naked and spits out lyrics like these:

I love your face You love the taste That sugar babe, it melts away
Can you lick my skittles That’s the sweetest in the middle Pink that’s the flavor Solve the riddle
When you’re thirsty and need love I give it up ’til I’m empty babe
Bringing work up on top of me I’mma let let you be the boss of me I know everything you want Give me that daddy long stroke
Ooh get a glimpse of this candy paint Don’t slip off when it drip off on top of ya right

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Bucket List Worth the Trip

The Lost City of Atlantis surely has no Starbucks or McDonald's.
My husband bugs me constantly to make a Bucket List. He is worried that since I am old (i.e., older than he is) I could die before I get to places on the planet I wish to visit. The thing he can't accept is that A, there are no longer places on this planet I wish to visit and B, even if I visit them I will still die and C, it's not worth the hassles of travel to end up somewhere you don't speak the language with a Starbucks outside your hotel window and a McDonald's down the block, where you might even be  blown to smithereens by a crazed radical Muslim (yes, everyone knows that most Muslims are very nice and peace-loving, I am talking about the bad ones who do all the bombing and mowing down of crowds with vans). 

The truth is I actually do have a bucket list but it's sadly unattainable. Still, I would willingly spend weeks packing with a smile on my face and never complain about the long flights and bad air and uncomfortable seats on the plane if I could end up at any of the following:

Grover's Corners
Jurassic Park
Mt. Everest
Emerald City
The Moon
1930s Manhattan
Palisades Amusement Park

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Just Unplug Me

A sad fact of life: Things that plug in often break down.
On March 14 of this year we bought a new refrigerator. I hated it then and have hated it every day since, and today it's hating me back. Actually it started hating me back before today but I wasn't paying attention, distracted as I was by living my life. Serving our guests some tepid ice cream the other night, I thought just the freezer was being cranky, but seeking breakfast this morning I suddenly understood that the whole dumb box is broken.

Okay, so it's not a dumb box, it's a so-called "smart" appliance outfitted with a digital strip along the top that usually reports the temperature, only today it says OFF, just in case we humans are too dumb to notice that the inside of the big box is warm and all the eggs, meats and dairy products have spoiled since the damn thing walked off the job two days ago.

At times like these I envy the pilgrims and pioneers and even the cavemen (and cavewomen and cavetransgenders, and of course the caveallies and cavequeers), who depended only on themselves and not the service department at Agren Appliance. For starters, they would probably not have more food on hand than they could eat in a day, so spoilage was not a problem, unless they killed a huge animal, at which point surely they would have put it on ice or buried it deep inside a root cellar or come up with some solution that did not plug in. Either way, they never had to sit around waiting for the appliance repairman, who by the way can't get here until Thursday afternoon between two and five because there are so many other people ahead of me with broken things that plug in needing fixing.

Okay, sure, this is a problem that the homeless do not have. I understand that. I am grateful for having a home, and also for anesthesia and most especially Novocaine, or whatever they use these days, but still, it pisses me off that I just bought half a dozen yogurts and some really nice cheese and now they're all ruined.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ancestry Dot Com

A few weeks ago I sent away for one of those DNA kits that reveal your ancestry. Apparently with just a swab inside the cheek, suddenly everything makes sense. Once hazy self-doubts come sharply into focus, since finally knowing you are 10% of this and 40% of that nationality will answer so many questions. I saw on TV where one guy traded in his lederhosen for a kilt!

Anyway, I have to say I was pretty surprised with my results. I was expecting 50% Russian and 50% Polish, but here's what I really am:
40% French Roast
25% Greek Yogurt
15% Chinese Takeout 
 15% Italian Chianti
5% Swedish Fish

A Sticky Situation

Even though I voted for George W. Bush twice, and even though I wrote in John Kasich last election, I care about the planet and the environment and all that stuff. To that end, I am known to recycle with a vengeance. This means that every Sunday I collect the various small trash bins we have around our house and then, before dumping them into our big outdoor trash cans for pickup Monday morning, separate those things that can be recycled. I usually find empty tissue boxes, toilet paper rolls and plastic containers, but today, in our bedroom waste basket, I found a surprise: a folded dollar bill.

Knowing we are not wealthy enough to discard money, I retrieved it and upon unfolding it found a wadded piece of chewing gum inside. "Huh," I thought, "that's weird." Since I don't chew gum I approached my husband, who admitted that yes, he was familiar with it and would take full responsibility. (At least that.) As I howled in horror, and possibly even shrieked  a few times -- it's all a blur now -- Mitch offered up the following explanations:

"Something bad happened to that dollar."
"I didn't know you go through the garbage. If I did I never would have put it in there."
"I don't really know how it happened."
"I never thought you would see it."
"I put my gum on a piece of paper but then somehow it got onto the dollar."
"I think I found it like that in the middle of my car."

If any of you out there are in dire financial straits, you might want to give Mitch a call. Apparently he's throwing money away.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Enough Pride Already

I invited friends for dinner tonight but they couldn't make it because they had to go and be proud of their gayness at some event. They weren't sure where it was or when, but it was definitely for gays and for being proud, so they are coming to dinner tomorrow instead.

For reasons that escape me, all gay people are very proud of engaging in sex with people of their same gender. Fine, if that makes them proud, go for it. But does everyone else have to hear about it constantly, as if all gays are superheroes owing to their sexual orientation? It's just sex! It's not feeding starving children or ending war or structuring peace in the Middle East or solving climate change or ending famine or eradicating disease or solving homelessness or easing drug addiction or even finding a way for the Democrats to get along with the Republicans, it's about getting laid. Enough already.

Friday, June 16, 2017

God's Gift to Maine

By all accounts Maine is lovely, earning the title America's Vacationland. There's no traffic and hardly any crime, certainly none requiring the average dog-walker to carry a can of pepper spray at night, my standard M.O. back in D.C. (I had a Miniature Schnauzer -- can you blame me?) Maine's local chickens, a huge segment of  the population, lay local eggs, making for yummy breakfasts at all the local diners. And while it took a few winters to get used to the relentless blizzards and inopportune power outages, eventually (and with a set of decent snow tires) I came to love them, with those February trips to Florida as a nice bonus.

So apparently God looked down and saw that the people of Maine were relatively happy, each one of them in possession of a regulation pair of Bean Boots and yellow rain slicker, several down comforters and one of those YETI mugs to keep their drinks warm while they're out chopping wood for the cozy home fires, and thought, "What's wrong with this picture?" And then He realized, "They've got it too good down there. Here, take this!" And with a flick of His wrist He threw down a nest of Browntail Moths right in the middle of Vacationland. The rest is calamine lotion history.

They're here now. Right outside. Everywhere. There is no escape.

Last night I got approximately one hour of sleep, which is pretty miraculous considering that every inch of my body was on fire, and not in a good way. The microscopic hairs of the Browntail are swirling around Freeport, and they are invisible, and they are insidious, and many of them are all over my skin despite my copious showering and paying the tree mob for protection in advance and wearing long pants and long sleeves and neck scarves and hats and doing all the other stuff you are advised to do to guard against them.  

Still, they found me, and I itch. Incredibly. Beyond any reasonable itching anyone should be expected to tolerate, making me cry out, and quoting the stricken Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan, "Why me?" (I never understood why Nancy asked that question. If not her, then who? -- she was Tonya's biggest rival.)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sheltering in Place

Should I take a few shooting lessons?
Lately it's been hard to keep up with all the explosions and shootings taking place everywhere. In London, San Francisco, and most recently Alexandria, Virginia, people of all stripes are going nuts, and there's little reason to believe the growing chaos will end anytime soon. Up here in Maine, our little paradise remains unscathed by the madness, making me think that leaving the state -- or even my house -- is asking for trouble. So I opt for safety, staying close to home and painting pretty pictures that likely won't make me a dime, will never be seen by the public, or, after I run out of wall space, won't even get to hang on a wall. Instead most of them will run out the clock like poor Anne Frank, their inherent beauty hidden from sight inside a dark closet. (At least Anne left a trace, writing things like, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.")

Despite wishing to get my art in front of a wider audience, still I feel my seclusion to be a worthy endeavor; my absence from society likely does more good than my presence might. After all, I'm one less person out there pushing and pulling, grumbling and grabbing. Also, the chances of being struck by a stray bullet, crushed by a speeding van or impaled by flying shrapnel are greatly diminished by my sheltering in place. Still, questions taunt me: Could the madness eventually come to this corner of the world? Should I go out and get a gun while I still can? And maybe take some lessons in how to use it? Have things really come to this?

My husband, being my polar opposite in all things, feels differently. Brave to the point of recklessness, Mitch relishes being in the line of fire. Two days ago he left Maine and flew to Arkansas, then a day later went on to Wyoming, after which he stopped in Des Moines before proceeding to Chicago where he hung out for awhile before another plane deposited him in Boston early this morning where he rented a car and drove home to Portland. Fortunately he returned none the worse for wear as apparently he did not encounter anybody with a grudge along the way.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nothing is the New Something

Except for the worker bees among us, each new morning brings the same question: What should I do today? For those who are employed the question is answered for them, which is why so many people choose to work full time even if they don't need the money. This also explains the popularity of volunteering among retirees and women of the leisure class married to (or divorced from) men who bring home a paycheck. Part of it is the ongoing quest to amuse ourselves (a.k.a. pass the time), but the other part, almost bigger, is the need to tell other people what we did and have them find us interesting. Counter to this, honestly, some days all I want to do is stare into space.

Not for the whole day, of course -- there's always a cat to be fed and laundry to be washed -- but certainly for several hours at a stretch. Sadly, our society frowns upon this rejuvenating activity unless it is labeled meditation, and then it is applauded. Yet it's perfectly acceptable -- and in fact considered "cool" and "with it" -- to spend countless hours staring at a television or computer screen binge-watching episodes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, neither of which I have seen but have been urged to watch by almost everyone I know. This behavior, once berated as time-wasting, is now a popular activity fully condoned and embraced by the masses. Nobody finds it the least bit odd, and in fact it will likely net you a congratulatory high-five.

Clearly, absorbing the fictional thoughts of others is deemed more valuable than listening to your own inner voice. If you're clever, you can use this fact to your advantage: The next time you're trapped in a boring conversation with a compulsive talker and you desperately want out, just mention you spent the weekend "binge-staring at the wall." It'll stop them cold.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What's Your Bag?

Huge tote bag of an international fruit magnate?

I have recently decided to become cool, and possibly even a trendsetter. This is easier to do these days than back when you had to accomplish something of merit to earn a following. But now, with superficiality a religion in America and empty platitudes as widespread and respectable as soaring rhetoric used to be, it's easy-peasy.

Until now, otherwise ordinary people were forced to wear the right clothes or deliberately wear the wrong ones, have the correct number of tattoos and body piercings, and sport the strangest hair color to be at all noteworthy among their peers. But now, with fewer stores handing out bags for purchases, there's an even more obvious way to see who's not only saving the planet but is also cool: Tote bags imprinted with a logo or message allow the bearers to strut their stuff just by walking down the street. Virtual bumper stickers for people, today's totes allow you to broadcast your favorite cause, passion, political candidate or whatever, and the bigger the bag, the louder the message. Besides being a conversation starter, the modern tote can also serve as a status symbol if you choose wisely.

All of this came to my attention in an article in today's Wall Street Journal that includes a photo (shown above) of a woman on a Manhattan street telling the world that pineapples are her thing! She is also on her cell phone so right away you know she's important as hell. Does she own a chain of pineapple smoothie bars? Could she be an international pineapple importer? Has she figured out a way to convert pineapples into energy and thus reduce carbon emissions and ultimately end global warming? Her involvement is anybody's guess, but we know from the size of her tote bag that it's pretty damn big.

Dorky tote bag of a non-player?
Sadly, my own tote bags are pathetic. Every one of them is stamped with the name of a large supermarket chain or local grocery. This tells the world that I shop for food. How is that cool? (At least the one shown at left says I buy natural foods. That's something.) So today I am determined to go out and find a tote bag that will blow people away. Not sure what it will say, but it will be yuge.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Here Comes Pac-Man

My husband and I just returned from a mini-vacation in New York's Hudson Valley, surely one of God's favorite hangouts. As proof, the vegetation there is almost sarcastically lush, with flowers fairly bursting out of their buds and trees so ridiculously green, it's like He spray-painted them just to wow the tourists. We stayed at a lovely inn run by gracious hosts and the weather was perfect for three days straight. Things couldn't have been better. Well, maybe they could have.

Having owned a second home in the area for more than decade, then selling it 14 months ago since we were going there less and less, this was our first trip back. We arrived with the intention of visiting our favorite haunts from all those years gone by, but apparently that was not to be. What we found after such a relatively short time had passed was that the future steals the past like Pac-Man eats dots and snatches up Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde on the way, which is to say hungrily, stealthily, uncontrollably and before you know it. Following are just a few of our once-treasured experiences lost to the relentless future.

1. The Rhinebeck Department Store, a quaint, dimly lit, old-timey purveyor of timeless classic clothing at affordable prices had been remodeled. No longer the slightest bit quaint, instead it was now bright and bland, with can lights suspended overhead and the old wooden flooring replaced with that laminate impersonator, Pergo. Racks of clothing for sale at every boutique were offered at laughably high prices. "We updated," was the explanation from the sales clerk.

2. Williams Lumber, a combination general store-hardware-clothing-shoe-gardening-housewares-candy shop -- think Home Depot with heart -- where I spent countless happy hours lost among the endless aisles was a shadow of its former self, having suffered a collapsed roof during a brutal snowstorm last winter. Fully half the place was shuttered with that much of the merchandise missing, and the stuff that was still there had been crammed into all the wrong places. We took a quick tour and left feeling cheated.

3. Max's Barbecue, the scene of many fun dinners with friends and family, was just plain out of business, leaving no trace save for a faded M visible from the old sign out front.

4. The Stop & Shop, a favorite supermarket where we loaded up our carts with all the fixings each Thanksgiving, had closed down and reopened as TOPS, part of a mega-chain of nationwide markets. I don't care what their reasons were, I just know that even saying, "I'm going to the Stop & Shop" was fun.

5. Del's Burgers, a roadside operation selling the best burger I personally have ever had anywhere, along with some great fries and a perfectly respectable Greek salad, was still standing but not open for business. A sign declared it would be "Opening Soon." We wondered when that might be since it's a seasonal business and we're already well into June, and we clearly remembered going there shortly after the last snows fell.

6. The Schultzville Store was the biggest disappointment. The local Mom and Pop grocery store just about a mile from our old house was truly a historical landmark we visited daily when we were in town. Besides its great in-house deli and classic bacon, eggs, toast and hash browns breakfasts, it was chockablock with tacky home decor items including tasseled pillows, ashtrays, doll houses and wall plaques, many of them declaring, "Home is Where the Heart Is" and "The Best Part of L-U-V is U," as well as all those necessary items you always run out of but suddenly and desperately need, like mayo, paper towels, milk and matches. The place had changed hands and was now bland and virtually empty, retaining none of its earlier charm or, for that matter, groceries. The new owner, busy behind the counter making sandwiches, obviously lacked a soul and, as I learned that day, a decent tuna salad recipe.

7. Arielle, a lovely and convincingly French bistro with a rustic, country-house feel where we had celebrated several anniversaries nestled comfortably among its red velvet banquettes, sheer lace curtains and faux, gold-framed Renoirs and Monets was now Cinnamon, a minimalist Indian restaurant with vinyl tables, hard chairs and not a speck of art on the walls. (At least the food was good.)

8. The Rhinebeck Drug Store. Gone. Space to lease. Need something? There's a shiny, heartless CVS down the block.

Which is all a very long-winded way to say you truly can't go home again, so pay attention to the small stuff and be sure to savor whatever it is you value while you still can.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Color Me Stupid

Will a different color look this nice in the snow? And if it doesn't matter, why do I care?
The problem with finally attaining enlightenment and understanding that nothing really matters besides the direct experience of being in the moment is that after that, nothing really matters -- except of course the direct experience of being in the moment. This exalted state obviously blots out the petty problems that occupy most of us, which is to say all of them. Things like what color to paint our house, a question that is currently absorbing both my husband and me when we're not busy wasting our lives on all this Trump and Comey crap, which by the way also doesn't matter since we are all blades of grass.

Enlightened or not, right now our house needs painting. The harsh Maine winters have taken their toll, leaving a legacy of peeling paint. So the question arises: while we're at it, do we change the color or not? Right now it is a fabulous color, a transcendent color, a splendid color, and one that thrills me each time I turn onto the street and see it before me in the distance. The only problem is that our next door neighbor also found it to be fabulous, transcendent and splendid and so she painted her house the exact same color, which pisses us off to high heaven on a daily basis, more so in winter when all the trees are bare and we can see it clearly, as opposed to summer when it disappears and we mercifully can forget.

Don't get me wrong, we like this particular neighbor very much and realize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but still, it's annoying. And a quick drive through the neighborhood shows that lots of other people also liked her house, and so, sincerely flattering her, they did the same thing. And now, well, let's just say there are plenty of splendid, transcendent beige houses around here.

We are thinking something in the purple family. Not exactly lilac -- that seems so old-ladyish, and even though I am becoming one (and some people think I already am one, like my son, but let's not go there), I don't yet identify with them. No, it's more of a mauve. Actually we've chosen one called Beguiling Mauve which is a bad name I know and makes it sound sort of like a whore house. And it might be just a tad too purple, but if we go grayer, will it just be another one of those gray houses we see everywhere there isn't a beige house?

The search continues.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Choose Happiness

“You cannot control the behavior of others, but you can always choose how you respond to it.” -Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

The preceding quote was posted on Facebook by Diane M., one of my most enlightened friends. It makes sense that I first encountered Diane in a Tai Chi class as opposed to, say, stoned at a Dead concert or drunk at an Irish bar in the Old Port. Thankfully I have found people who actively and actually improve the quality of my life rather than diminish it, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Despite all my bellyaching about the rapidly declining quality of most Homo sapiens, still I do count my blessings for those few who have crossed my path without depressing the hell out of me. As for all the others, I try to steer clear as much as possible, usually as soon as I realize they negatively impact my mental health and undermine my fragile happiness. Like the quote above says, you can choose how to respond to bad behavior! Finally, at the ripe old age of you-know-what, I understand that the best response to the bad behavior of others is to run like the wind in the other direction.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Snake Pit in 2020

Me on my first day in office.....
According to a report in today's Washington Post, which considering the source may or may not be true, just about everyone who's anyone is planning to throw his or her hat or other article of clothing -- God knows what will be acceptable by then, perhaps a thong? -- into the 2020 presidential ring, convinced as they all are that the election of Donald Trump clearly indicates that anything goes. (This may be the worst thing Donald Trump has accomplished thus far.)

Early contenders include America's favorite narcissist Oprah Winfrey, actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, rich guys Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban, and senior citizens Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders (they should live so long).

I want to state here and now, unequivocally and for the record, that I for one am NOT planning to run for president in 2020. In fact, I would rather do anything else. I will sweep streets in Calcutta. I will neuter cattle. I will give tours of Auschwitz. I'll be a rabbi in Palestine. Heck, I'll teach sixth grade in the Salt Lake City Public Schools.....whatever. Just don't make me be the leader of the free world.

What A Difference A Decade Makes

If you ask me, birthdays are bummers unless you are age six or under and don't yet understand that cake and ice cream create fat cells in your body that will haunt you later on, and all that new stuff will amuse you for a very short time and then it's back to normal only you're getting less adorable every day.

Yesterday was my birthday and I made it through relatively unscathed. I say relatively because the day started with a freak accident whereby I got my wrist slammed between the stainless steel legs of a folding chair -- don't ask -- causing me severe pain and bruising (and screaming and sobbing), and so now I begin my 71st year on Earth with no left hand to speak of. But after that it was smooth sailing. I did not receive even one automated "Happy Birthday" on Facebook, which is a personal best. I did get some flowers, dinner out with my husband and son, several greeting cards that came in the real mail, and even an anonymous gift of a potted plant left at my front door. (So far it has not exploded.)

So here I am today: No longer just 70, which was bad enough, now I am "in my 70s," which sounds a heck of a lot worse and actually is a lot worse in the long run, and by the way I can forget going on any of those anymore. Still, if we just met you might think I'm old, but if you already know me, you get that in my heart I'm still only in my 60s. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Life Could Be A Dream

Everyone dies. Get that through your head.
This morning over coffee, through the magic of Facebook, I learned of a particular death that blew my mind and breaks my heart. The son of one of my best friends from grade school, high school, and onward until right now -- a young man in his thirties, father of two small children, literally in the prime of life -- suffered a sudden heart attack and died yesterday, and I have no words to comfort her.

It was easy back in the day to help her get through a breakup with this guy or that guy: "Oh forget him, another one will come along and he'll be much better." And it always turned out to be true. Not this time. This time my mind's a blank. I have nothing prepared since this is not the way things are supposed to go.

Today I'm sad for her, and sad for me too: I have my own son. He could die. Then what? If only we could get it through our heads that everyone dies -- at any time, at any age -- and not be stunned, shocked and outraged when someone close to us who isn't supposed to actually does, life could be a dream.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

What Is There To Do?

Alex grins atop El Capitan after his histroic feat.
Yesterday, a 31-year-old "adventure rock climber" named Alex Honnold climbed to the top of Yosemite National Park's famed El Capitan, a 3,000-foot sheer mountain wall, without the aid of ropes or gear of any kind, thereby setting a world record. Somehow he did it using just his own hands and feet, which makes me feel really old and tired and stupid and pathetic considering I am reluctant to even go for a walk around the neighborhood this morning because I had friends over last night and may have had too much to drink. I wonder what Alex was doing the night before his climb. Probably not downing Manhattans.

Still, I'd like to ask Alex: So what? So you climbed to the top of a mountain and did not die doing it. Is this what things have come to? Pulling off stunts to get in the news? Does the world offer so little that you have devoted your life to making solo ascents of mountains all over the world? I am simply asking because I don't see the value in it.

Okay, so now I'm going for a walk.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Film Review: THE ROAD

There's not much in the way of perks on this vacation.
Are you sick and tired of all the political bullshit dominating the news? Does the fact that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner got a ten million dollar graduation gift from his father make you reach for the Pepto-Bismol? Do you wish Hillary Clinton would just shut her trap and stay home baking cookies for her grandchildren? If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions you may be in need of a vacation from reality, and I've got the perfect one. Dim the lights, get comfortable, and watch The Road from beginning to end. I guarantee when it's over you'll kiss the ground beneath your feet and declare, "All's right with the world!" Last night I took that very vacation and this morning my coffee never tasted so good and the sky never looked so blue.

First released in 2009, The Road stars Viggo Mortenson as a nameless Man, loving father to his young son. The two are survivors clinging to one another following an apocalyptic event that is never explained but obviously was literally the last straw. There once was a beautiful wife and mother (Charlize Theron) who we see in flashbacks, but she opted out early. Imploring her husband to shoot her and their son and then himself rather than fight and die in such horror, she explains, "Many other families are doing it." But the Man opts for life, holding out for better days somewhere down that eponymous road.

In this bleak future there are few people or animals or rivers or lakes or trees or crops to speak of. There's only Death, represented as grey skies, abandoned shacks, dilapidated buildings and roving "bad guys" armed with rifles out hunting protein. The Man and his boy are headed south hoping to find better weather, not that there is better weather anywhere since everything is covered with nuclear ash, or something very much like it. The whole business is accompanied by gloomy, maniacal music perfect for slitting your wrists, if you are so inclined.

Saying this film is grim is like saying Hitler found the Jews annoying. To give you an idea, my favorite scene in the Bleakness Department is when the Man uncovers a hidden cache of naked, skinny, starving, half-demented, wounded, moaning and groaning humans locked in the basement of what looks like an abandoned house from the outside but is really the local barbecue joint for the band of survivors scouring the countryside for food, i.e. people still breathing. That bunch in the basement are like so many chickens in the freezer. Several large Weber grills are in the yard, awaiting the dinner hour. (Yum.)

And more like that. The Road was adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. According to reviews, the book is much more gruesome than the film in its depiction of cannibalism, so if that's your thing you may want to pick up a copy. And be sure to have that Pepto-Bismol handy.


Friday, June 2, 2017

More Questions for Kathy Griffin

Would you like to see someone holding up a replica of your bloody, severed head?
Did you think President Trump's son would find your photo a laugh riot?
How many people do you think will be carrying Trump's severed head next Halloween?
Did you expect CNN to applaud your cutting-edge sense of humor?
Are you hoping this stunt will get you invited to fancy parties in the Hamptons? 
Did you seek anyone's advice before going forward with this photo?
Do you think crying about it in public will make people like you again, if they ever did?
Do you really believe that the public's outrage is only because you are female? 
Are you actually secretly ecstatic over all the publicity you are getting?
What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Jared Kushner, Hillary Clinton and Me

Just so you can relax, there's nothing here having anything to do with either Jared Kushner or Hillary Clinton. The title of this post was intended to prove a point to myself, which is where the "Me" comes in. The point is this: Ordinary people, even intelligent ones like my friends who read this blog, are drawn to celebrities like moths to a flame. (Excuse the hackneyed metaphor but it fits perfectly here.)

A couple of days ago I wrote about the evil one, Kathy Griffin, and her bloody, decapitated head of Donald Trump stunt, and my clicks went through the roof, despite her being a mediocre-at-best comic with little to teach any of us (except maybe to think before we act). I was sort of surprised at the amount of interest despite knowing this to be true in my heart: celebrities own us. Still, one can hope that maybe someday, average people will care about average people, thereby diminishing the power of those empty-headed celebs.

So, here come the questions: What is the draw? Why do we care about people we have never met and will never know? How do their shenanigans help any of us advance to a higher consciousness or find peace of mind, and isn't that what we all want? Has knowing the latest Hollywood gossip ever resulted in finding a better job with a higher salary, having more toned abs, or affording a house on the Riviera? Is living vicariously still living?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Different Strokes

Besides the bugs in summer and the snow in winter, living in Maine is as easy as whoopie pie. But there is one thing that's not so easy here, and that's finding someone reliable to paint your house.  I'm talking about the exterior; the inside is no problem, with scores of college graduates armed with ladders and brushes ready and able to do that job. But the outside, now that's a different story. The last time we had our plow guy paint the house, with somewhat dire results, so this time we agreed to find a pro.

After calling advertised painters for three weeks and getting no response from any of them, except for the one who said he would take a look "Sunday at 11" but never showed up, yesterday I finally (and miraculously) had two painters agree to come by and work up an estimate.

The first was one of those "immigrants" who are so much in the news these days. Mr. Sanchez, a young man who has been in this country for a dozen years now, showed up bright and early as he had promised. He was extremely polite and personable. I liked him right away, even before he displayed his professionalism as we walked around the perimeter of the house and he asked detailed questions about how we wanted this or that situation handled. He then went back to his truck where his black Labrador was smiling patiently in the driver's seat to write up an estimate for the job. I thanked him for coming and we shook hands on the agreement that I would let him know by Friday whether or not he was hired.

Two hours later I returned from an errand and was surprised to find the second painter in my driveway at a not-agreed-upon hour. Leaning against his truck, his arms folded and with a disgusted look on his face, I understood him to be a native from the fact that he didn't bother to look at me or greet me in any way. "Hey there," I called out as I approached him, trying to sound country-ish and not like I had been born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, attended New York University and lived in Washington D.C. before arriving here, information which turns a lot of these Mainers right off. No matter; I could tell the guy hated me immediately simply for the shiny red Audi I had arrived in and parked next to his dilapidated truck.

He didn't return my friendly "Hey there," instead asking, "What's your budget?" Flustered, I said I had no idea and thought that's what he was supposed to tell me. He then spewed out in a booming voice how much our charming, historic house sucks, with its original windows that would be hard to paint, and the old wooden boards with their uneven nooks and crannies that would require a lot of sanding and scraping, making it not just a paint job but a complete "renovation," and did we ever consider new windows and aluminum siding for our more than 200-year-old house? As he put it so colorfully, "What kind of result are you looking for? I mean, do you want a beat-up old VW or a brand new Audi?" (Aha! I knew my car had bugged him!) 

After that, things went steadily downhill. I could describe his slovenly manner, his giant gold hoop earring, the do-rag covering his shaggy, graying hippie-length hair, his three-day stubble and his enormous pot belly, but I won't. Handing me his business card, he said, "Call me when you figure out what you want." Thinking to myself, "I want Mr. Sanchez," I muttered, "Sure thing," went inside and fixed myself a grilled-cheese sandwich. (Those are so good.)