Saturday, December 31, 2011

Better Than Obamacare

I received the following missive in an email from my cousin this morning, who got it from a friend of his. I don't know its author, but I wish it had been me. My health plan as President is starting to take shape:

"So you're a sick senior citizen and the government says there is no nursing home available for you-- what do you do? Our plan gives anyone 65 years or older a gun and 4 bullets; you are allowed to shoot four Congressmen. Of course, this means you will be sent to prison where you will get three meals a day, a roof over your head, central heating, air conditioning and all the health care you need! Need new teeth? No problem. Need glasses? That’s great. Need a new hip, knees, kidney, lungs or heart? They’re all covered. And, as an added bonus, your kids can come and visit you as often as they do now.
And who will be paying for all of this? It’s the same government that just told you they cannot afford for you to go into a home. Plus, because you are a prisoner, you don't have to pay any income taxes anymore. Is this a great country or what?"

Friday, December 30, 2011

FILM REVIEW: The Descendants

Remind me to get my affairs in order before I go water skiing again. Another George Clooney movie already generating Oscar buzz for Best Picture (oh please) and Best Actor (no way), "The Descendants" leaves you begging for less: less Clooney, less coma, less narrative voice-over, and most of all, less Hawaiian music. The thin plot about a family selling the last bit of pristine land in all of Hawaii to evil developers for a boatload of cash takes a backseat to the mother in a coma, post-accident, for just about the entire movie. She's seen clutching a couple of washcloths in her bony hands far too often, and her yellowing, sunken cheeks have so much screen time they probably had their own dressing room.

Clooney plays the absent workaholic father to two daughters he hardly knows, one still a little girl and the other a wise-to-the world, foul-mouthed teenager, but by the end they are all bosom buddies, snuggling on the couch and sharing chocolate chocolate-chip ice cream out of one bowl with one spoon (gross) after mom is safely out to sea, and I do mean out to sea. Along the way we are flashed a few lovely shots of Hawaii, but it's always the exact same spot so don't come expecting a travelogue. We also see actor Beau Bridges playing a hippie with long hair and a big paunch, and that mother in a coma in her hospital bed....oh, did I already mention her?

It could have been great. It could have been a contender, about family and the land and posterity. Instead it's a garden variety chick-flick about an extramarital affair with a real estate agent. There are some fine performances, notably by the youngsters, and one funny line which I can't remember but I know I laughed out loud. Other than that, unless you are a pre-med student planning on specializing in critical care, skip it.

In Case the World Doesn't End Next Week

A friend asked me, "Are you doing anything for New Year's?" The fact is, it's not really going to be a new year at all. It's all one day--sometimes it's dark outside, sometimes it's light.

With 6.984 billion people on the planet competing for air, water, food and shelter, it amazes me that some of them can be so concerned with how long their eyelashes are that they will ingest a drug to make them grow longer. Others get injections of strange substances into their faces to puff out the wrinkles that will inevitably grow deeper the longer they live. The most desperate undergo surgery to actually cut their skin off their faces, pull it tighter and sew it back on behind their ears. Gross. And yet they still get old and die, taut faces and all.

It also amazes me that anyone thinks it matters who is in the White House in the United States of America when there are so many other countries on the planet that matter even more. Evil dictators, stockpiled nuclear weapons, famine, drought, floods, mudslides and earthquakes, and who cares if it's Mitt or Newt or even Barack: it's always the same thing, this side hates that side, Congress stalls, the government threatens to shut down, the editorial writers take sides.

So few people live their lives. Instead, they wait them out and go on week-long vacations when they can enjoy themselves for a few hours, except for the part where their luggage gets lost or their plane is canceled or the hotel sucks. Or they stay home and take a "day off" here and there to "relax," spending the rest of the time complaining, complaining, complaining about high taxes and low interest rates, new wrinkles and old enemies, too little to do and not enough time to do it.

My non-New Year's resolution is to ignore the calendar, stop worrying about my personal fulfillment, and for god's sake, forget the cats already!  Life can end in an instant, like this one--or this one--or this one.

Look around.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vote for Me, Just for Fun

I've heard it said by those bemoaning the poor pickings among Republican presidential candidates that what this country needs is an "Iron Lady," a term given to strong-willed female heads of government the world over. Since Michele Bachmann is the only female in the race and she wears ridiculously clown-like false eyelashes which have no purpose other than attracting a mate and she's already married, she does not fit the bill. Thus, due in part to my husband's deep-seated belief that I should be president, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring.

I know what you're thinking: "But Andrea, you are totally ignorant of history, American and otherwise!" I raised that very same objection, but Mitch insisted that it's not a requirement of the job. I also reminded him that I always lose at Risk, and again he scoffed, assuring me I'd be much more careful about where I placed my armies if they were real people instead of those little pink plastic pieces. (I am always pink.) And so, with decision time drawing near, I hereby present my platform:

As president, I will lower taxes and provide affordable health care for every citizen--don't ask how. I will improve all the schools, raise the pay for teachers, and of course bail out all failing banks and pay everyone's mortgages. I will improve the quality of life by ending illegal immigration and raising the minimum wage, while at the same time extending unemployment benefits through eternity, even though I will create so many jobs it's not funny and everyone who wants one will have one. While I'm at it, I will also end hunger and despair and get Conan O'Brien off TV once and for all. (Remember Keith Olbermann?)

During my administration, nobody will suffer the heartbreak of psoriasis; in fact, all skin disorders will be outlawed entirely. To compensate for their low self-esteem in our image-based culture, the obese will receive monthly discount coupons good at all fast-food restaurants. The terms "senior citizens," "seniors," and "aging boomers" will be prohibited by law, replaced with the terms "grown-ups," "wise folks," and "cool dudes." The voting age will be raised to 21, the driving age will be raised to 22, and all those grown-ups, wise folks and cool dudes who can no longer see over the steering wheel will lose their licenses.

No new snack foods will be brought to market during my term. Anyone caught eating Fritos, Doritos, Bugles, Cheetos, Cheezits, Combos, Pringles, Sno-Balls, Devil Dogs (sorry Melva), Twizzlers and Mike & Ike's will suffer the consequences. All movie theaters will cease and desist from selling food or drink. (FYI, there will be absolutely no talking once the opening credits have begun. ) Anyone can marry anyone but divorce will be against the law. Catholic priests will be required to have lawn signs declaring they are Catholic priests. Naturally--this almost goes without saying--marijuana will be legal to smoke, sell, grow, eat, or what have you, and anyone caught puffing a nicotine cigarette will be publicly scorned on a new TV show called, "No Kidding--You Still Smoke?"

I promise that on my Inauguration Day, all Coca-Cola manufacturing plants will cease production, the American Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a Super Safeway will open in downtown Detroit. The next day, Air Force One will be retired to the Air & Space Museum in Washington, D. C. and the decoy Air Force One will be installed as a ride at Disney World in Orlando.  As to our foreign policy, a simple rule will apply, much like you see at work in bakeries and delis all over the country: Take A Number. (Details TBA.) How will I accomplish all this, you wonder?  Through hope and change: I am hoping that everything bad will change for the better after I take office.

Don't laugh--it worked for Obama. See you at the polls...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa is So Over

Why do people answer "fine" when asked how they're doing, even if they have just been diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer or lost all their savings in a bad investment? Maybe if honest answers were allowed in our Smiley Face world, fewer than the 10% of Americans currently taking antidepressants would need to do so. Instead, we're taught that our feelings of sadness are signs of debilitating depression, when they're just sane responses to insane situations.

The tendency to hide the awful truth of our lives seems much more intense this time of year, when you are supposed to be happy and jolly and full of good cheer, and if you're not, well then mister, you are pretty fucking weird. Waiting on the deli line at the supermarket this afternoon, the customer ahead of me, a complete stranger, started up an innocuous friendly conversation to while away the moments waiting for service. Eventually he asked, "So did you have a very Merry Christmas? " Remembering the more dismal aspects of the day, I answered, "No, it was not really merry at all, to tell you the truth." Suddenly it was as if I had just opened up a vial of anthrax. He turned away, took a few steps forward and began studying the contents of the deli case as if the butcher were going to spring a pop quiz. No more chitchat, in fact the man turned downright gloomy. I kicked myself, wishing I had said instead, "It was fabulous! My husband and I went to Sandals Jamaica where we basked in the seductive warmth of the ever-present sunshine, sipping exotic tropical drinks and gazing out at the endless expanse of aquamarine sea."

That would have been a far better answer, and what am I here for if not to brighten the lives of others? After all, this is the season of joy, despite what happened in Dallas on Christmas morning, when a man dressed as Santa pulled out two handguns and killed six of his relatives before killing himself. (One news report said there were still unopened presents lying about; who knows, perhaps one of those was the very gift he was hoping for!)

All kidding aside, families are not exactly the happy havens our government would have us believe. Mothers regularly kill their children. Husbands frequently murder their wives and their children. Estranged fathers kidnap their estranged children. Children conspire to murder their sleeping parents, or hire other people to do the job for them.  Instead of having such a focus on the family, we should teach our children to be strong individuals, to openly discuss their feelings instead of swallowing them with pills, and definitely to steer clear of anyone dressed in a Santa suit, ever, under any circumstances.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


With Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and Easter his death and resurrection, one very inventive friend of mine came up with the ultimate iconic holiday symbol, of which I was the lucky recipient: The Peepmas Tree. It requires no electricity, no ornaments, just Peeps and toothpicks. It is naturally somewhat on the small side, so the gifts would have to be laid out somewhere else, like maybe under the mistlepumpkin.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Who You Callin' Santa?

A recurring seasonal neurosis stems from one of the darkest stains on my otherwise happy childhood: I outed Santa Claus.

We Jews are a lonely lot on Christmas: While our Christian friends are snuggled in front of a cozy fire, opening gifts and scarfing down plum pudding—my first husband was one of them so I know this for a fact—we sit huddled together on wooden benches, eating gefilte fish and reading aloud from the Torah.

Okay, not really, but that’s how it feels to me. Despite the growing commercialization of Hannukah, Christmas will always be Numero Uno the world over. And despite my own participation in the festivities, baking the occasional sugar cookie and mailing cards to distant friends, December 25th still finds me bereft from dawn till dusk. There’s little to do but wait it out. Everything is closed except for the 7-11, and believe me, after the coffee and donuts and an hour or two skimming through magazines, that’s pretty much played. As for TV, how many times can you watch Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed discover that “It’s a Wonderful Life” after all?

Growing up in the New York City suburbs in the late fifties, in the shadow of St. Agnes Cathedral, ours was one of only two Jewish families living on a street full of hardened Catholics. Holidays of any sort ignited full-blown block parties involving anyone who owned a Tupperware container. Naturally in such an environment Christmas was a big deal, spawning an array of blinking colored lights, glowing rooftop reindeer and giant candy canes worthy of a Fellini dream sequence. Among all the holiday glitz on Willow Street, two houses remained dark: ours and the Shreibmans, who lived across the street. It may sound silly, but what made Willow Street special was that Santa Claus, in the flesh, visited every house on Christmas Eve. (Apparently our street was one of several rest stops on his global tour.) He did the whole milk-and-cookies bit, leaving behind a gift for every child. He even came to our house, he being an all-inclusive, non-denominational Santa.

One snowy Christmas in my sixth year, as I was hurrying to get home before dark after a spirited snowball fight, I noticed something odd over at Joanne Rooney’s house: There was a light on in the garage, and there was a man dressed only in his long underwear! Boy, he must be cold, I thought. Then I noticed, hey, that guy looks sort of like Mr. Rooney, but when did he get so fat? He was stuffing a pillow into his suit--and wait a minute, that suit looks familiar. The sack of toys, the white beard, the black boots-- Jew or no Jew, I knew Santa when I saw him. Joanne Rooney’s father was Santa Claus!

Still reeling from the recent shock of learning that my mother was the “Tooth Fairy,” I plopped down into a snowdrift to catch my breath, all the while watching Mr. Rooney complete his transformation into Old Saint Nick. Then, bursting with the news, I raced home and confronted my parents, demanding some fast answers about a certain Irishman and a red velvet suit. After some preliminary stalling, they caved, explaining that Mr. Rooney was “helping” Santa. “Promise me you won’t tell any of the other kids,” my mother begged, a haunted look of terror in her eyes. “Promise!”

“Yeah, sure, I promise,” I said, but that promise didn’t apply to my very best friend who lived right next door. Suzanne was French, and certainly could be trusted: since returning from a Thanksgiving visit to her grandparents in France, she had all but forgotten English anyway. Unfortunately her older sister, who at age seven was fluent in both languages, overheard me, and before you could say “Geraldo Rivera,” the story hit the street.

Of course there were the usual skeptics who assumed I was just bitter about the Holocaust, but most of the kids conducted their own research, pulling at Santa’s beard and asking him if Joanne could come out and play. The jig was definitely up.

Things were tense on Willow Street for many months. The Shreibmans soon fled to friendlier waters in Boca Raton, and I took to playing with my friends from school. Eventually I was forgiven, mostly because there were no applicants for my position as permanent-ender in jump rope.

Santa Rooney kept his appointed rounds the next year, but he never stopped at our house again, leaving a void I experience anew every Christmas Eve. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t say a word.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Keeping Guns Off the Streets

Following is an entry in the Police Beat column of The Northern Forecaster, a local community newspaper:

"12/11 at 10:28 AM: Police responded to a call to Presumpscot River Park where the caller's dog had just unearthed a rifle wrapped in a blanket left in the park. Police took custody of the .22 rifle and scope, which was not loaded, and did a trace on it. The gun was sold in Milwaukee, Wis. in 1988, but there was no record of the owner. The gun will remain in Falmouth for a year, after which the police will destroy it."

We will certainly all breathe a little easier then.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Silver Lining

This afternoon I drove by Whole Foods, which I don't do all that often, and decided to stop in for some fruit. Being clueless and Jewish, two usually independent conditions that merge into one at this time of year, I had forgotten that Christmas is soon, like tomorrow or the next day, and by the time I noticed that things were awry I was already in a double line of cars snaking into the parking lot and couldn't turn around if I tried. I was stuck. Hoping to get out in a hurry since after all I just needed a few things and could use the express line, I waited half a lifetime and finally got a parking space, although the Taurus coming down the row towards me still thinks it was hers. Sorry, but I got there first, and anyway she got one soon enough, I could see. Despite that, I felt dirty somehow.

Entering the store was like crossing the River Styx. Some of the people were barely moving at all. (You know there's something wrong when even the fruit and vegetable aisles are at a standstill.) It was maddening, and all I wanted was a couple of grapefruits and some blueberries, which by the way were mushy which they sometimes can be and so instead I got strawberries, but nonetheless, I wanted to find the manager and explain, "Look, I shouldn't be here, I am not even a Christian! Don't you have a line for Jews?" Then I saw some lady buying bags of potatoes and muttering "latkes" under her breath, remembered it was Hannukah too and kissed my religious pardon goodbye.

The checkout lines looked like Black Friday at Walmart. By then I was plotzing (Yiddish for busting a gut) and felt a conniption fit in the offing, when a woman on the next line clapped her hands together, all but jumped up and down and happily cried to her young daughter, "Look at this! Isn't it exciting?" The grumpy adolescent daughter, rolling her eyes of course, asked "what's so damn exciting about it?" She replied: "People are out spending money! It's good for the economy! It's America in action! It's what makes this country great!"

I envied the woman's optimism and cheerful demeanor, which should come in handy over the next few years with that daughter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Square Hamburgers

It's a good thing I can cook, because it's gotten to where I can barely eat in a restaurant anymore. The whole experience is so annoying that by the time my almost-cold, mediocre food is plunked down by an overworked and underpaid server, I'm usually drunk and have lost my appetite. The one exception is sushi, which I still go out for since it cannot be underdone or overdone and is supposed to be cold anyway. (I still get drunk, though.)

My desire to stay home and fend for myself is uncommon these days: Despite the wild success of celebrity chefs on TV, eating out has become a national pastime, denigrating man's necessary consumption of nutrition to a hobby. Today's Wall Street Journal details the "burger wars" currently underway between the Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's restaurant chains. Apparently Wendy's is set to best the other two, and all because they made some itty-bitty changes to entice the customers at their 5,883 outlets in the U.S. For example, they figured out--God knows how--that people didn't like those square-shaped burgers--they looked too processed--so they now have "softened the edges" without having to change the meat, or how processed it is, at all. Now people like them better. In fact, a young software engineer in downtown Chicago gave it the thumbs-up, saying it was "more like a normal burger, not like a fast food burger." Hey buddy, here's a news flash: Fast food burgers come in all shapes and sizes!

Over at the Olive Garden, a place to be avoided at all costs until you've lost your taste buds or wear dentures, executives are busy trying to second-guess the customers. Thanks to intense focus groups and customer questionnaires, the pasta is always "served soft," unlike it is in Italy. Also, they usually throw a little meat or fish on top because "Americans tend to think that adding protein makes the meal more nutritious." (Those nutty Americans!) The chain's president readily admits that their food is not authentic, but merely "Italian inspired." Besides, the Olive Garden's meat and potatoes, if you follow me, is the unlimited soup, breadsticks and salad lunch special; at $6.95, what's not to like?

What I really miss is the Horn & Hardart Automat in New York City, which offered cafeteria food extraordinaire. Moving your tray along the metal counter, you got to see exactly what you were getting, which is always a nice feature of dining out. Missing were all those surprises based on rapturous and exalted menu descriptions, causing you to ask your server when the food arrives, "What is this supposed to be?" Gone were the striving chefs-in-training artfully spelling out your name in baby fingerling potatoes around the edge of the plate. As an added bonus, your dinner stayed really hot due to warming trays and heat lamps. For dessert you got to put your nickels into the little slots next to your chosen item, which might have been blueberry pie or a chocolate-covered cupcake with colorful sprinkles on top. Until that place makes a comeback, I'll be in my kitchen cooking up some grub.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Letter

Some people are so self-absorbed that they send out letters at Christmas detailing the past year of their lives. Like we care. (Anyone who does care already knows what happened to you.) I have gotten such letters from adventurous types detailing their climbing expeditions in foreign lands and from stay-at-homers describing every contraction leading up to their new baby. They are equally noxious, although the former might pass along a nugget of information that makes the reading worthwhile. These letters have fallen off in recent years, mostly due to my continual purging of selfish friends. However, one or two still sneak in, and today's mail brought a new low in such matters, wherein the purchase of a van and the joining of the local Y were both deemed worthy of sharing with everyone on their holiday list; for that, the sender must be mocked. I have never written such a letter, but if I did, it might look like this:

Dear Friends, Co-workers, Neighbors and Passers-By,
     Like all the others before it, this year was spent battling existential despair, wondering what I'm supposed to be doing with my time here on Earth. Fortunately I endured less than 1% of 2011 in a shopping mall, and that was only because Mitch had to go to the Apple store for a computer repair, and it's at Maine Mall. We got out of there fast but not without a stop at Auntie Anne's pretzels. I got a plain one, doing the least amount of dietary damage.
     Our dog Rufus died last February, which was without a doubt among the most depressing events of my life, mostly because he did not really die but rather was put to death by our vet, who was only following our orders. Okay, he had diabetes and was headed for a downward spiral leading nowhere fast, but still, it sucked having to coax him into the car under the pretense of "a ride" and ending up...well, you see where I'm going with this. We keep his ashes in an urn on a shelf next to those of our other dead dog, who at least died a natural death. Well, in reality his vet also killed him with anesthesia, but unintentionally--sort of like what happened to Michael Jackson. But I digress.
     I have had several periodontal cleanings--I go every three months just to be safe--and can happily say that my worst gum pockets have receded thanks to that Oral-B electric toothbrush and twice-daily flossing. Sadly, that is really my proudest achievement this year.
     As Maine was spared tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and mudslides, it's been pretty quiet around here, however, we did lose power at least five or six times during the year owing to wind, rain or what have you, prompting me to stock up on candles and batteries. (I might need a new flashlight since our big one seems dim despite the new batteries.)
     Happily I got a note from my doctor a few weeks ago that said, "Your recent pap test was normal," and now I'm waiting for the results of my annual mammogram last week, so keep your fingers crossed! 
     Mid-year, Mitch and I became obsessed with watching "LOST" and so have not seen many people of late. The good news is we are in the middle of Season 5 and there are only six seasons, so we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps in 2012 we won't get started on anything else and maybe will learn a new language.

Happy holidays to all of you!
Love from Mitch, Andrea, Daisy, Gizmo and Big Lurch

Modern Music

Nat King Cole
Despite the Medicare card stuffed in my wallet, I have not yet downgraded into fuddy-duddyism. In fact, many people half my age are twice as boring. I still get down, hang loose and party. In fact, some readers might be shocked to know that I occasionally consume pot brownies, a safer way to go than smoking it and much better for you than drinking bourbon, vodka, scotch, gin, tequila and all the rest of that hooey to relax.

Despite all that, I simply cannot understand the success of some of today's popular artists, most notably rap singers, whose music contains lyrics like: "Who dat who dat, the nigga you been waitin for. I mean the shit was all bad just a week ago. Rappers is bull shittin'. Fuck it, I ain’t hatin' though, cuz now a nigga hot enough to fuck with one of satin’s hoes and she can't tell the difference."

These deep thoughts are contained within a song called "Who Dat" by a rapper named J. Cole, recently deemed one of the Best New Artists of 2011 by BET. He is quite successful and, at the age of 26, most likely could buy and sell you and me several times over. An interesting tidbit about him is that he graduated college magna cum laude, so he obviously is no dummy and can probably speak proper English. Nevertheless, he relates to his adoring public by spitting dirty words at them. This is how I know I am old: I still miss Frank Sinatra, yearn for Bing Crosby and swoon over Dean Martin. Perry Como gives me a thrill. And hearing Nat King Cole's voice always brings tears to my eyes. What I mean is, shit, that nigga could sing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Retired baseball player Barry Bonds lied to a judge about taking steroids. That's a no-no, and to prove it, his punishment is that Barry has to stay at home for a whole month! But since he has earned $188 million during his career-- which turns out to have been fueled by the illegal substance-- I'm betting he has a pretty comfy crib. (I wonder if he's allowed to order takeout.)

On the other hand, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who engaged in dirty politics like they all do but got caught, has to go to prison for fourteen years, and will not even be eligible for parole for more than 11 years. I'm pretty sure he won't be ordering Chinese.

The disparity of their punishments seems unfair, especially when you consider that O. J. Simpson went free despite killing two human beings, but is now serving a 33-year prison term for breaking into a motel room and stealing back some of his own sports memorabilia. And Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal physician who was following the orders of his superstar client and administered too much of a potent drug, will be behind bars in an overcrowded county jail for four years.

This is one nutty country we live in.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Republican Debate. Yawn.

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights of the most recent debate between the candidates for the GOP nomination. They all wore ties except Michele Bachmann. She wore a lot of makeup and her hair up. These are the ties they wore:

Red: Rick Perry, Newt, Ron Paul
Blue: Jon Huntsman
Striped red and white: Rick Santorum
White dots on blue: Mitt Romney

Neil Cavuto--true he's only a moderator but still his mommy is watching--obviously got dressed in the dark, which is the only explanation for the tie/shirt/jacket thing he has going on. (It's a blue tie, BTW.)

Jon Huntsman looks like a lady. I'm sorry but he does, I'm pretty sure he's a cross-dresser. Not gay, but likes to wear pantyhose.

Rick Santorum has a "Made in the USA" plan. He looks about 15--he can't seriously think he could be elected, can he? He is promising to repeal every Obama regulation passed in the last three years--talk about a giant step backwards.

Mitt uses his hands too much. So does Newt; in fact I suspect they both use the same hand coach. Anyway, they are the only serious candidates and thus are not all that funny.

Hey--just in case you fell off a turnip truck yesterday, Rick Perry has been Governor of Texas for 11 years, a fact he reminds us of quite often.

Cavuto keeps saying, "Congresswoman Bachmann. Congresswoman Bachmann," every time he asks her a question. Does he really have to say that each time, like she's his Aunt or something?

Lady Huntsman wants to project "values of goodness," but he keeps talking past his time limit. He got two dings and kept going. Is that goodness?

I hate Governor Perry. Why? Just because. (And I am allowed to vote, so that just goes to show you: Be afraid.... be very afraid.)

Lady Huntsman says, quite emphatically, "the American people are getting screwed." That's Mormon talk for ya...

Aunt Michele says, "As president, I will stand on the side of truth." Well then, I say we swear her in right now.

Final Thoughts:
Lady Huntsman says, "We need to be who we are."
Young Santorum says, "We have to fight the good fight!"
Odd Ron Paul sums it up with, "There are some things that are below the belt."

What a bunch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I just saw one of the worst movies ever and I'm betting none of you saw it, because surely it was a flop in the theaters five years ago and now it's even worse on TV, edited to fit in commercials for flooded basements and personal injury lawyers. I should be ashamed to admit that I watched it all, having no other pressing diversion but online Scrabble. I had just finished painting the living room, and there was that big old TV sitting there, and watching the news seemed too depressing, so I just kept clicking until I came to a movie on Channel 217 that was just starting, which is always a bonus since then you don't have to try to figure out what's happening. Plus it starred Steve Carell who is a riot on the "The Office," everyone would agree.

But it also starred Morgan Freeman--is there any movie he is not in?-- who I know is quite popular but who makes me ill. He plays God in Evan Almighty. One morning God shows up on Steve Carell's front lawn--he's Evan-- and tells him to build an ark because there will be a flood on a certain date. Next thing you know Evan's beard grows quite long and he can't shave it despite several attempts; eventually it turns white. His alarm clock goes off every morning at 6:14, leading him to read Genesis 6:14 which is the passage in the Bible about building an ark. Lumber is mysteriously delivered to his home. God sends Evan a special robe to wear and before you can say "Here's your hat, what's your hurry," hundreds of animals -- in pairs naturally -- arrive in his backyard, which luckily is about the size of Texas even though it's supposed to be in suburban Virginia. I mean, we are talking elephants and lions and tigers and bears; think San Diego Zoo plus the African savanna.

For sub-plot, as if you needed more, there is politics: Evan is a newly elected congressman under the wing of an evil fat cat played by John Goodman who is skimming money off of federally-funded projects, one of which is a dam that bursts and causes the very flood that threatens to drown everyone. Luckily they have this handy ark to save them. Also, thanks to the whole ark-building project, which we see in quick slapstick shots of monkeys using hammers and giraffes reaching the tall spots, Evan finally spends quality time with his wife and three kids, which turns out to be the reason for the whole thing, Evan having prayed to make his family life happier.

It's not funny, it's not believable, and it also features the annoyingly horrible Wanda Sykes, just so there's a black lesbian on board. (Every boat's gotta have one of those.) The ending credits were the most creative part, which tells you that at least they all knew it was bad and desperately tried to make up for it in the last four minutes.

In the final scene God writes the letters A, R, and K in the sand and Evan finally gets it: Act of Random Kindness! Oh please. My ARK for today is writing this review.

Wish I'd Said That!

Monday, December 12, 2011

For My Next Act...

I am still trying to find myself, but I've been at it for many years and the truth is, I'm running out of places to look. What's worse, I'm not so sure I would recognize myself even if I found myself, since I've been wrong so many times before about who I am. But I guess that's a pretty common problem; these days, so many people are undiagnosed schizophrenics that it's not even considered odd. I just saw a TV commercial for a home pregnancy kit where a woman declares, "Your body can tell you're pregnant even before you can." Like, duh...isn't everyone cut off from their own brain?

In fact, I would settle for just a plain old split personality instead of the multiples I contend with daily. I know, I know--the mind and the body are separate. But come on, how separate are they really? Mine are very closely related, and in fact I never leave home without both. My husband says flatly, "Without a doubt: You are not your body." Well then who are you, I ask him. Your spirit, he says, making me think that perhaps I should have given that Jehovah's Witness more time.

Actually, my spirit is perfectly fine--it's my body that's always too fat or too stiff or in pain or seeking some sort of raison d'etre. For my next act, I am considering volunteering at the city art museum to satisfy my persistent need to "give back." It seems much less germy an atmosphere than a hospital, much more upbeat than an assisted living facility--not to mention a heck of a lot easier to say- and then there are all those fabulous paintings. Maybe I'll find myself there to boot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Twilight Saga of Harry Potter

My first novel, "Shrink Rapt," was a flop. It was pretty funny in spots, and I thought it was quite groundbreaking: A neurotic young woman and her nutty shrink finally find love as mother and daughter after he has a sex change operation. Who knew that was a snooze?

So I am now working on another novel and I think this one will sail to the top of the charts. It's about a teenage girl named Wysiwyg Bernstein. She's got a weight problem: Despite being anorexic and bulemic she is very fat, but still attractive like many fat women are, as we all would agree. Wysiwyg secretly harbors an Islamic terrorist lover, Ali Ali Aksenfree, in her family's ski condo in Aspen. Ali Ali has quit high school to become a rap star and is intent on becoming famous for his incendiary music, then blowing up all of America's treasured national monuments, starting with Mt. Rushmore. Sounds boring, I know, but here's the catch: they are both vampires! Ali Ali is also a wizard and is slowly teaching Wysiwyg many of his skills; she can now fly and is thus able to get through airline security in a snap. She can also talk to animals and communicate with the dead and the unborn and the about-to-be-born, and completely understands the writings of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and all the words to the song "Louie, Louie." Being vampires, the toothy twosome drink a lot of blood and eat a lot of meat. In fact, much of the action takes place at area McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Arby's restaurants.

Eventually Ali Ali gets a job with the CIA and learns all of our government's secrets, like who really killed JFK and where they actually shot the moon landing. He runs for president and is elected, and nobody knows he is a vampire or an Islamic terrorist. (They find out in the sequel.) Wysiwyg loses a lot of weight, writes a best-selling diet and exercise book and gets a job as a morning anchor on ABC.

I am very excited about it.

Candle in the Wind

Many years ago, back in my angst-ridden youth, I believed I had an eating disorder because I often consumed an entire box of cookies in an evening at home, alone, waiting for my married boyfriend to call. Usually they were Entenmann's chocolate-chippers. I finally sought the help of a shrink who put my mind at ease by telling me that my eating disorder was child's play compared to the anorexics and bulemics he had treated. Turns out I just had a hearty appetite. He did suggest I break up with the married guy, and for that I paid him handsomely.

These days I know my craziness is mild compared to that of others whose stories show up on the news. Still, it's the only crazy I got and to me, it's crazy enough. For example, when I leave my home to go out for the day or perhaps an evening of relaxation, soon enough I become convinced that I have left a candle burning that will surely be ignited by a curtain blowing in the breeze, thus setting my home aflame and burning it to the ground. In this scenario, my three cats--actually one belongs to my son so please don't lump me in with those crazy "cat people"-- all die. What's crazy about this particular fear is that I have no curtains in my home. And it's winter now and all the windows are closed and thus there are no breezes. Nevertheless, sitting in the symphony, I worry.

I went to a behavioral therapist about this curtain-catching-fire thing, and she told me that when I get these thoughts, I should just tell them I am not interested in having that thought right now. She even wrote it down on a 3" x 5" card for me to keep in my purse, should such a thought arise. I liked her, but I ultimately decided that I could live just as well without her advice.

I could use a cookie right now, but there are none in my house because I finally understood that they are so bad for you that I simply don't buy them anymore. Maybe I should stop buying candles.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sex, Death and Jehovah's Witnesses

I read this morning that those ubiquitous Kardashians have actually helped Americans by openly discussing some of their personal health issues, like occasional urinary incontinence, painful intercourse-- described poetically as "not being juicy enough down there"-- and anal leakage during an oil enema.

Okay, I am 65 years old and, while adventurous in all areas of my life, I have never given myself an oil enema nor have I heard from any friend who has. If I had one and experienced anal leakage, I think I would A, clean up the mess and B, keep it quiet. As for the "juiciness" factor: Go get some K-Y jelly, Kourtney or whatever your name is, and shut up about it! What is wrong with these people? If they want to actually help, they should talk about a problem facing everyone without exception: Death, with a capital D as you may have noticed. That's surely coming to us all, and many folks would love to know how to prepare. Those danged Kardashians never even get near that subject; fortunately, others do.

Just yesterday morning a young woman knocked on my door at about 10 AM. I knew I was in for it when I saw the clipboard and the booklets, and assumed she was selling something like fresh air or clean water or save the fishies or such. Turns out the she was a Jehovah's Witness and she wanted to tell me about the Kingdom of Heaven! Naturally I was all ears and prepared for a lively discussion over scones and coffee, but things soured quickly when she admitted she had never actually been to said kingdom and all her information was only hearsay. I told her I already had my own religion based on hope, rumor and imagination and sent her scampering off to Polly's house across the way.

At least those chatty Kardashians speak from experience. As for Death....anyone?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Odd Couple

My husband and I are exactly opposites. The only thing we have in common is we have the same son. I am not exaggerating.

I am an artist and he is a businessman. He is always cold whenever I am too hot, and vice-versa. In winter I sleep with socks and flannel sweats and gloves and extra blankets and at the very same moment in the very same bed he is on top of the covers with nary a stitch on, and then has the audacity to open a window even when I am complaining that my nose, the only extremity not covered, is frozen. I have not gone into the ocean since "Jaws" and he swims out way too far while I watch, waiting for the water to turn that sickening deep red color like in the opening credits. He likes going to the movies on a Saturday night and I hate going to the movies anytime, but if I have to go I want it to be on a Tuesday afternoon. He loves red meat and I am basically a vegetarian. He is happiest when traveling and falls asleep the minute he gets on plane, and I like to stay home as much as possible and have never slept on a plane because I want to be awake when it crashes. He likes lying on the beach and getting a tan, whereas I think of the sun only as a source of skin cancer. He has tons of friends and many acquaintances and I have only a few who have to earn it. He lives to exercise and I believe going to the gym is sort of like to going to Hell. He thinks taking a plane at 7:15 AM is "roomy" while I don't really want to get to an airport before noon-ish. He flies first class all the time except when he is with me, and then we are usually in the last row of coach. He won't make a decision until the last possible moment and I decide a course of action the very moment the quandary presents itself. He enjoys scotch and bourbon and vodka and I think it all tastes like battery acid. He drives gas-guzzling, second-hand SUVs and I demand small, new sporty cars that get good mileage and are easy to park.

Despite all this we have been married for 25 years. I think it's because we both love our son more than anything else in the world, we are both addicted to Scrabble, and we both want Mitt to be the next president. Oh well--at least we don't fight over politics.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Your Money: Gone With the Wind

Imagine the revolution we could have if the scorning middle class aimed their anger at all the people who unfairly make off with their cash besides those mean old bankers and brokers who at least go to work every day and actually get something done for their hordes of clients. Instead of Wall Street, why not "occupy" the corner of Hollywood and Vine? For one thing, the weather's better, and for another, the movie industry chugs along at the expense of the little people, whereas those playing on Wall Street have far deeper pockets.

Where is the outrage that young actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Angelina Jolie and Jenifer Aniston repeatedly earn 20 million dollars a pop for looking hot in some stupid, literally good-for-nothing movie that ordinary people pay handsomely to watch, all the while clogging their arteries with twenty cent's worth of lard-drenched popcorn that costs seven bucks a bucket, often with a candy and soda chaser, none of which any self-respecting movie queen would ever be caught dead eating? Equally appalling are the salaries of our modern-day gladiators: baseball's Alex Rodriguez, like many of his cronies, earns just over 27 million in one year for hitting a ball with a bat and running around the bases as the commoners in the stands sit back and watch while slowly killing themselves with chili dogs, pizza, nachos and beer. Ditto football players, basketball stars, hockey pucks and the rest of the Hollywood elite. Talk about a money drain!

Come on people, put your rage where it belongs: On yourself! How much of your paltry incomes have you ferried to celebrities this week? Stop frittering away precious hours in the dark for no reward. Play sports for real with your friends and colleagues and reap the benefits of exercise and extra cash in your pocket. It's time to stop hating politicians and take off those 3-D glasses to see who's really ripping off the middle class.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life is Too Short to Read "Jane Eyre"

I've tried, believe me I've tried. I swore just a few days ago that I would conquer this mountain and read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, considered by critics to be one of the best if not THE best novels starring "one of the most unforgettable heroines of all time," according to the blurb on the back. Determined, I went to my bookshelf straightaway and pulled down the yellowing Signet Classic, so old that it originally cost only $4.99 ($5.99 in Canada).

The first night I got almost all the way through page 1 before the book slipped from my hand and I floated off to sleep. I chalked it up to being overtired from having spent the day painting my living room. The next night I re-read page 1 and turned the page and read the first few lines of page 2 before my mind went numb.  I learned that young Jane was told to be quiet by some older lady who may have been her nanny, I'm not sure. So she went and got a book and next thing you know I'm reading Bewick's History of British Birds, and it was even more boring than the book about Jane.

Forget it--I don't have that kind of time. Thus far in my life I have read Ethan Frome about a million times, Bonfire of the Vanities at least three times, White Noise about half a dozen times, An American Tragedy twice--it's quite long--and each time was like the first time. If any day could be my last and if reading is optional--as opposed to chemo treatments and mammograms and the flu and doing taxes and paying bills and scooping cat litter-- I'm damn sure going to have fun doing it. Sorry, Charlotte.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Things Matter More Than Others

My son and his cronies have been preaching for some time now that civilization itself is the biggest problem caused by and facing mankind. At first I scoffed at this idea and continued on our current path to destruction. Even now, after becoming wholly convinced that they are right--what with global warming and rampant drug addiction and worldwide economic collapse and violent protests across the globe and Herman Cain running for president, I sit here in my house crammed full of objects with the washing machine running, having just eaten a piece of toast and some fruit kept fresh in the refrigerator. I try to imagine myself doing the laundry down at the marina in South Freeport, then realize I would have very little of it to do, dressing in animal skins for the most part; certainly no more of those delicate hand-washables.

While I am not suggesting that everyone toss out the contents of their cupboards and closets this instant, I am finally coming around to believing that the human race is going to hell in a hand-basket because of all the stuff we buy and all the stuff we watch while sitting on our ever-increasing butts. Just as an experiment, say for one week or one month or however long you can stand it, stop watching TV and go for a walk instead. Stop feeding the Hollywood machine and say no to movies, which are truly just mass narcotics. Avoid all shopping malls, buy only what you need to live, eat only what you must to survive and donate your extra "things" to people in need.

I know what you're thinking: that will hurt the economy. Well, after the Fall we won't have an economy, nor will we need one. We also won't need manicures and pedicures, hairdressers, bowling alleys, Radio Shacks, pizza parlors and amusement parks. Life itself will become amusing enough. I stopped going to the movies many years ago and have thus "missed out" on all of those smash hits that everyone talks about for a day or so. I am happy to report it has not hurt me one bit. Similarly, days without TV seem less stressful and more productive, and the longer I stay away from shopping malls the better I feel. I will not, however, give away my new Marc Jacobs handbag which I bought online and which cost way too much money but makes me happy every day. Actually, I'm betting it will come in quite handy when I am out foraging for nuts and berries.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Before It's Too Late

Nearing the end of another year, with 2012 just a month or so away, I am feeling less and less funny. By funny I mean amusing and witty as opposed to nauseous and disoriented, which in fact I do feel more and more often, come to think of it. The coming year has been proclaimed the last one for Earth by some people, having something to do with the Mayan calendar and warnings elsewhere of giant meteors, solar storms or super volcanoes obliterating our planet or at least all human civilization. The exact date when it's all supposed to end is is allegedly 12/21/12, although one wonders why not 12/12/12 which has a nicer ring to it.

What's sad to me is that our last year here in America will be spent with ordinary citizens pitted against one another in a deadly battle for control of the White House. The media will feed this growing bonfire incessantly, with things spinning more and more out of control the closer we get to Election Day, just a mere month before it all ends if you believe that 2012 doomsday stuff. I don't--but I do believe that our two political teams will grow further and further apart and throw bigger and bigger snowballs at one another, eventually tearing apart families and friendships. This seems like a whole lot of "not fun" to me and is probably why I am feeling less and less funny and more and more nauseous with each passing day.

Thus I have decided, for the Earth's last year of life or for this run-up to our next election, to avoid all political discourse and try, once and for all before it's too late, to read Jane Eyre all the way through, which I may never have done or if I did I've forgotten and have no idea what happens and why it's considered to be such a great work of art since every time I've tried it I fall asleep on the first page, and get into yoga which, again, everyone says is the best and I have deplored it, and really, finally, once and for all lose those last stubborn ten pounds you hear about so often.

What will you do before it's too late?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Black Friday

Once again I am out of step with 152 million of my countrymen and women who have already begun celebrating our newest holiday. I had no idea it was now official, but moments ago I heard two network news bimbos, both showing quite a lot of leg and one with hair teased to the sky, say "Happy Black Friday" to one another. Who knew? They then proceeded to roll footage of rioting at various Wal-marts nationwide showing shoppers eager to get good deals on Christmas gifts for their loved ones.

Here's my problem: Sometime this morning I will leave the safety of my home to purchase a specific item for my visiting son, who is leaving in a few hours to return to his own home. I will be patronizing a teeny little shop just a mile away and owned by a literal Mom and Pop, but today is Black Friday while tomorrow is Small Business Saturday! Should I instead drive to the Wal-mart 15 miles away and risk getting beaten, stabbed or trampled by the mobs in order to be a good American, not to mention get the damn thing for 50% off?

The worst part is that my son is mocking the whole thing, thanks to me being such a a bad role model. Unlike many of his generation he is not occupying Wall Street or even occupying Black Friday, but at 9:49 in the morning he is still, defiantly, occupying his bed. I'm so ashamed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Letter From Herman Cain

I picked up the mail at the post office today and was quite surprised to find not only a large platter of chocolate chip cookies placed next to the recycling bin--'tis the season already-- but a letter from Herman Cain, addressed to me! How he found me, I have no idea.

I skimmed it quickly but after spotting several typos on the first page I stopped reading; poor grammar and spelling errors really turn me off, I don't care who you are. And besides being wrong, his mistakes were so dated, like when he called himself the "frontrunner" as all one word but in the very next paragraph he was the "front runner" in two words, which is silly since everyone knows he is more like the caboose these days.

Herman stressed that he was "not running as a black American but as a proud American." Then he listed the reasons why I should vote for him, and the very first one was that he is "a descendant of slaves" and that as such he can "garner a large share of the black vote." WTF? As further enticement, he added that he has traveled the globe many times and he believes in Jesus Christ.

I am not writing back to him and I certainly hope he doesn't write to me again.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Laughing Man

Last night my husband and I went to see a play called "God of Carnage." It was a Broadway box-office hit in 2009, but then it starred four seasoned actors, one of whom was James Gandolfino, a.k.a. Tony Soprano, always a hoot to watch. Naturally we lowered our expectations somewhat for Portland's finest thespians, but still-- nothing could have prepared us for what happened: The man sitting directly next to Mitch was in possession of a disturbingly loud, raucous, honking, persistent and downright imbecilic laugh, which he employed at random moments during the performance, very few of which were even funny. (I personally smiled a couple of times, and once I may have chuckled, but overall the play was not as funny as even a bad TV sitcom.)

Laughing Man sounded like Paul Bunyan laughing. He was the Jolly Green Giant, the Incredible Hulk, perhaps the Loch Ness Monster of laughing. Each laugh had the effect of a gunshot ringing out, bringing to mind Abe Lincoln slumping over at Ford's Theater. The thing is, Laughing Man looked perfectly normal and even had a date, and she never once told him to "pipe down." (A wife would have.) Fortunately the people in the row behind us were going nuts too, which gave me some solace that at least Mitch and I hadn't been singled out by God for the suffering.

I grew more and more pissed-off, but my husband, Mother Theresa, charitably pointed out that laughs come out of you and that's that, whereas I wondered: can the sound of our laughter be controlled or is it just the way it is, like our height or hair color?

Anyway, let the record show that Laughing Man ruined the evening for everyone, most probably the performers as well. His laugh resonated within the somewhat small theater, and instead of hearing what the actors were saying you heard that laugh, and then recovered from hearing it. Each and every time the booming laugh erupted, Mitch and I exchanged incredulous glances, shocked anew. One time Mitch toyed with the idea of laughing the very same way just to show Laughing Man how awful it was; I advised against it, saying the audience had suffered enough. These whispered exchanges cost us precious dialog, causing us to fall further behind in the story line and thus hindering our enjoyment further, although I guess that was pretty much our own fault.

Just saying--I  would have had a great time except for that guy. From now on, to be safe I am only going to attend dramas, no more comedies. Too risky.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Pictures, Please

Given the choice of fame or fortune, I'll take fortune; at least you can trade it for stuff you want or give it away to charity. But fame does nothing except bare your soul to the world and shine a hideous light on your most private moments. Despite having neither fame nor fortune, I am constantly forced to suffer people with both, and it's getting old. Suddenly--after winning the lottery or killing your child or writing a smash hit or marrying a rock star or running for office-- your beach body shows up in the tabloids and your air-brushed face graces magazine covers. But stumble just once and soon enough those YouTube videos broadcast your ignorance across the globe, while TV talk-show hosts spread lies and innuendo and comedians mine your cellulite, under-eye pouches, saggy boobs, paunchy middle, lost love, bitter divorce, plastic surgery and playful horsing around with underage boys, should your tastes run to that sort of thing, for their Vegas stand-up routines.

Last night I was home enjoying myself until I caught a fleeting glimpse of the once-vibrant Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords on television. Surrounded by nurses in a hospital setting, she sang "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in the thin, wobbly  voice of a child. Almost bald with just a few tufts at the top, she looked like a newly-hatched baby bird and seemed sort of retarded, excuse my French. In reality, she looked like someone who had been shot in the head almost a year ago and is slowly making her way back, but she is clearly not back and seemed pathetic. Seeing that one minute of footage blew the rest of my evening. I wondered who decided we all needed to see that. Why is everything our business? Does seeing another person's private hell really help the rest of us? Lately, journalists rarely dispense information we need to know in order to survive but instead focus on everyone's dirty little secrets, as if we care! I must say in no uncertain terms: I wouldn't give a hoot if the entire football team at Penn State were fooling around with every one of the Boy Scouts of America. I would care if my own son were a Boy Scout or a ball player at Penn State, and I'd hope to be informed by the proper authorities at either institution. Otherwise, Anderson Cooper and his ilk should just shut up about it!

Long ago my friend Nancy F. made me promise that if she died before me I would get to the funeral home early enough to make sure her bangs were pulled down before the viewing; she worried her forehead was too small. I argued that in death nobody cares how big your forehead is, but she continued to beg and I naturally promised. In that same vein, I ask my loved ones to never broadcast me learning how to sing, if and when I suffer a head injury, and if they insist, to please choose a different song.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not Exactly Rudolph's Red Nose

Growing up Jewish but with our best friends next door Italian Catholics, I developed a severe case of Christmas envy that lasted well into my twenties, and may have even been partly responsible for my first marriage to what is commonly known as a goy.  I distinctly remember Hanukkah as the poorest sort of substitute, wherein I opened a dreary little gift on each of eight nights in the ever-dimming light of the menorah candles, followed by some greasy potato pancakes that gave me an upset stomach; I may have been the youngest person on record with acid reflux. Yes, there was the dreidel game, but big deal-- a few spins and that was pretty much played.

It all contrasted sharply with the fantastic glow coming from the house next door, all lit up like a --well, like a Christmas tree. And inside, there was the actual tree with the sparkling special ornaments and the presents piled halfway up to the ceiling, and hot chocolate with whipped cream and festive cookies and candy canes and that drippy silver tinsel making everything glitter. Outside there were Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus all cozy in the manger and the Three Wise Men on the way bearing even more gifts, and Santa on top of it all, with Rudolph leading all the rest of them, and don't forget that bottomless bag of toys. Christmas was magical, no two ways about it.

Which is why the annual degradation of that holiday always bothers me, bringing the opposite of joy to the world. Here it is only mid-November and I'm already bummed out by this latest affront to the celebration of the birth of Christ that appeared on my Facebook page: "Join today and check out fun design objects for the holidays--like reindeer butt magnets." One wonders: WWJD?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Fish Tale

This was one of my favorite newspaper columns written back in 1997 when I lived in Salt Lake City. I'm posting it here because I can. Anyway, it's still funny.

Lately I’ve been confused about the double standard concerning fish. Are we supposed to take care of them, like the whole “Save the Dolphins” thing, or just torture them before swallowing, like the standard “All-You-Can-Eat-Fish-Fry” thing? Around our house, we do both. For example, take the fish in our backyard, which live in luxury in our three nice ponds; my husband is obsessed with their welfare. He starts each day by going out for a gill count. Then he feeds them, turns on a little waterfall so they won’t be bored, changes the water and generally fusses over them like a mother hen. But then last weekend he took our young son Zack fishing and came home with a dead trout in a plastic bag, blood still dabbling from its once-lively mouth.
      "What is that?" I yelled.
      "A fish! Actually a spotted trout, what do you think?" Mitch said proudly, holding it aloft for inspection.
      "I guess I meant, what happened to him?"
      "Dad caught him,” Zack said. “He was flopping around in the bag until just a few minutes ago, but there was a lot of traffic, and I think he died at the STOP sign on the corner. His name is Floaty," he added. “Can we have him for dinner?"
      "I made a pot roast for dinner," I said, shielding my eyes from the horror of the recently deceased Floaty. "From an unnamed source."

Somehow Mitch is able to throw a worm-covered hook into a river and trick an innocent creature—two if you count the worm- into an untimely death, yet he still carries on like a proud papa over his backyard babies--and I do mean babies. Not long ago, the pond fish got weird. Seeing them thrashing about, jumping in and out of the water in frenzied abandon, I hurriedly called my shrink friend, Dr. Laura. (Not the Dr. Laura, a different one.) Although she usually deals with nutty people, I figured she could spot a neurosis whatever the species. I was right; she saw mine immediately. Then she agreed that the situation at hand was not psychosomatic, declaring that I indeed had a pond full of "sick puppies." We decided to seek even more expert advice.

The first guy, a.k.a. Expert #1, was a clerk at the local pet store. He said flat-out, "They’ve obviously been poisoned by some fertilizer in the neighborhood which has drifted over into your pond. They’re as good as dead.” Ignoring him, I called Expert # 2, the owner of an aquarium shop, who said, "Fish are tricky. You never know with fish. Could be anything." Still hoping for a miracle cure, I called a third expert, a salesman at a local nursery, who said, "They might have a parasite which is making them itch. You could try either feeding them medicine or adding antibiotics to the water."
      "What’s the difference?" I asked.
      "About a hundred dollars."

I opted for the less expensive but still costly--don’t ask--treatment, which seemed to work, and the next day everyone but me returned to normal. One month later there were countless newborns, indistinguishable from specks of dirt, except for the swimming. Mitch has bonded with them already. He has designated the smallest pond as "the nursery" and is determined to save the babies from the natural course of events that decimated the last Guppy Boom: getting eaten by their parents. Mitch says the mother did it, I say the father--but I digress. He now has his hands full fishing out the babies with a net every morning. Despite that, he thinks nothing of blithely saying, just before throwing a hunk of salmon on the grill, "I moved three of the babies to the top pond today. I think they’ll be safer up there, don’t you?" Do you see my confusion? 

In case you wondered, Floaty ended up in the freezer where he remained until garbage pick-up day, at which time I sent him packing, causing Zack to exclaim, "Mom, how could you throw away Floaty?" The obvious moral of the story is: Never name your garbage.

Ah, Sweet Mysteries of Life

No matter how much I read, study and ponder, there are still things that escape my understanding. And while they don't keep me up at night, they do add to my confusion during the day, causing me to feel slightly "out of the know" as opposed to "in the know." I'm not talking about those run-of-the-mill mysteries of life that most of us marvel at, like why a talking gecko with an Australian accent, or how does pushing a few buttons in California alert your Aunt Sophie in Toledo--or maybe even Tuscany if she is vacationing--to push another button and suddenly hear your voice, or why is marijuana illegal but all those cold medications with deleterious side effects are not, and exactly what do they do for you in the hospital if you have an erection lasting more than fours hours and manage to get there?

No, I'm talking about new questions that have arisen in the past few days, like how could a man still be a football coach at the age of 84, and why was a 10-year-old boy taking a shower at Penn State in the first place, and how did everyone find out about it so many years later? And what kind of a woman says, in describing a man making a pass at her, "he reached for my genitals" instead of saying crotch or panties? Who in their right mind could possibly explain a complicated health care plan for the nation in 30 seconds or less, and why would anyone make such a request? What did Steve Jobs see on his deathbed that caused him to say, "Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow," and is a deathbed different from a regular bed or is it the same bed until you are sick and then it's a sickbed first, sort of like when you are pregnant and your gynecologist turns into your obstetrician, then after the baby is born he turns back into your gynecologist? And the most perplexing of all: How is it possible that out of 157.2 million females in America as of October 2010, the only one running for president is Michele Bachmann, with her changing hair and big earrings and fussbudget husband who tries to make gays go straight?

Actually, now that I think of it, it's a wonder any of us fall asleep at night.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daddy for President

Sold a bill of goods by my ex-husband and a succession of psychiatrists, I bought into the fiction eons ago that I was unduly nervous. Now, after serious consideration and years of self-reflection, I think I am right on the money. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if you are not totally freaked out at this very moment, then something is drastically wrong with you. If you're drunk or on drugs, you're excused; otherwise, if you are actually calm, cool and collected in the year 2011, you must be nuts.

Why? Try earthquakes everywhere, sex offenders in Ivy League locker room showers, presidential contenders sticking their hands up women's skirts, missing tots killed by their parents, police warring with protesters around the country, nukes in the hands of nutcases across the globe, and heads of state resigning all over the place. As if that's not all bad enough, new reports show that your home--yes, your home--could go up in flames in three minutes or less owing to today's more flammable furnishings and building materials. And lest you forget, AIDS still runs rampant, our Attorney General is a dingbat, and Pentagon probes reveal that body parts of dead servicemen are regularly lost or misplaced. Still calm? Think the falling Dow and rising unemployment.

Amidst all this turmoil, "President Gingrich" has a nice ring to it. He is such a grown-up.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Brain in Maine

Our newspaper delivery guy must be a native Mainer. About once a week he skips a day and delivers two papers the following day. When this first happened many months ago we thought our paper had been stolen, a common occurrence back when we lived in Washington, D. C. But since it only happens on Mondays, and none of our neighbors give a hoot about reading the Wall Street Journal, instead choosing the local paper for the movie schedules and local bargains, we realized that was not the case.

At first I was quite angry and considered calling the guy and giving him a piece of my mind. But I didn't get around to it, and soon enough my ire was replaced by concern over what might be the cause of his faulty performance. Did he get stinking drunk every weekend and oversleep on Monday mornings?  Did he have another job, desperately trying to make ends meet? Was that the day he took his wife for chemo treatments? Was he stuck at home with the baby once a week? What could it be? And did he think we didn't care, assuming that a double dose of news on Tuesdays was compensation for our dumb Mondays? Was that the "Maine way?"

Whatever the cause, I actually don't seem to care anymore and now chalk it up to a bit of local color. After being here for over two years, I am increasingly aware that life in Maine does have its benefits, and they just might make up for what's missing. I'll gladly skip my Monday paper if it means I can walk outside at night without quaking in my (duck) boots. Even better, the total absence of that relentless thief of time, bumper-to-bumper traffic, has already extended my useful life, so I am actually younger than when I moved here. (All you summer visitors should know: you bring that traffic with you.) And while I'm still not accustomed to driving 25 mph around town, with a few more warnings from one of the dozen cops on the local force, I'll get it eventually. Anyway, what's the big hurry; it's not like there's anywhere to go that won't still be there tomorrow.

Okay, so there's not a scrap of pastrami in the entire state and no bagels worth a damn. But according to my husband, Paleo Man, bagels are poison, and certainly pastrami cannot possibly be good for you--just look at it. Besides, our son is planning to move to Brooklyn so I'm guessing there are bagels in my immediate future, and maybe even a bialy or two. But he'd better ship them here, because I'm not leaving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mother of the Year

Among the things I worry about--and there's a long list, as anyone who knows me will attest--is the fear that I have already or might still somehow damage my only child through bad parenting. This is not based on anything concrete, since at age 24 he is wonderful and I would not change one thing about him. Okay, maybe one thing--but nothing big. Okay, one or two big things--not really, I am just joshing. Okay, I'm not really joshing but anyway, I often wonder if somehow I inadvertently, or even advertently, contributed to whatever phobias or failings he may secretly harbor or may yet develop. After all, it's always the mother's fault, right? (Which is why, when my son was born, I got rid of all my see-through nighties, push-up bras, crotchless panties, sequined body suits and lace teddies. Naturally my husband balked, but I was adamant that our child's welfare came before his sick and twisted needs.)

Apparently not every mother is saddled with these concerns, as this very recent photo of the famous entertainer Cher illustrates. Here she is, posing for the paparazzi at last year's Video Music Awards ceremony, where she presented an award to Lady Gaga, who was dressed all in meat; I guess you've got to try harder when your competition wears strips of bacon and slabs of beef.

Anyway, Cher is exactly my age, which is old enough to get Medicare, which she damn well needs since she undergoes a plastic surgery procedure about once a month. Her daughter, the former Chastity Bono, is now quite publicly a male called Chaz, albeit without the requisite plumbing but with everything else necessary to warrant a female partner on "Dancing With the Stars."

I can't help but wonder, as I have before and no doubt will continue to do in the future, if Cher's questionable mothering practices played a part in her child's decision to change gender.  I'm not so sure I could accept a similar decision from my child, but if he did I'm sure I'd still love him. But I would definitely ditch that outfit and re-think the hair.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Again

I quit another job yesterday. By now I am really good at it, and in fact if there were a job opening for someone who quits jobs, I would definitely be the top candidate with the longest resume and the most references.

The thing is, you simply must quit a job when it becomes apparent that it is doing you more harm than good. Whatever the pay, if your soul is dying when you go there, you gotta leave. This last one of mine qualifies: Not only was the task inane--teaching seniors how to use computers--but the venue was bleak. I was working in what was euphemistically called an "assisted-living residence." Other terms might be minimum security prison or nursing home or get me the hell out of here.

On the face of it all looked good, but scratching the surface I discovered ineradicable tarnish and a one-way ticket to Nowheresville. I am now petrified of growing old and in fact have to stop writing immediately and go for a run while I still can. Oops...I just remembered I already can't due to an arthritic hip, so I'll just go for a brisk walk.

Note to self: Make every day count.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Survivor Does Wall Street

Don't believe everything you read. I learned this important lesson anew just moments ago when I opened up today's Wall Street Journal and saw their version of this letter I sent them a week ago: "Jaqueline Siegel and her husband David, whose shameless and self-indulgent lifestyle was profiled in your paper ("The Wild Ride of the 1%" Review, Oct. 22-23), represent the very worst of the human condition. They and their kind are the problem, not the banks or the politicians or Congress. Reading about their decision to build a 90,000 square-foot, single-family home at a cost of $50 million because, as Mr. Siegel said, "I couldn't spend all the money I was making," sent shivers down my spine. The fact that they they are passing on their greed to their eight children is an even more horrifying thought. One wonders what would happen if the Siegels were magically transported to the heart of the Occupy Wall Street protest and left there to explain themselves--now that's a reality TV show I would happily watch!"
Harsh words indeed, and I meant every one of them!  But here is what appeared in the paper today:
David and Jaqueline Siegel, whose shameless and self-indulgent lifestyle was profiled in   "The Wild Ride of the 1% " (Review, Oct. 22), are the problem, not the banks or the politicians or Congress. Reading about their decision to build a 90,000-square-foot, single-family home at a cost of $50 million because, as Mr. Siegel says, "I couldn't spend all the money I was making," sent shivers down my spine.
Gone are their eight children who surely will inherit their greed and spread it, procreating with the offspring of other greedy folks. Gone is the statement that they represent the very worst of the human condition, a fact that should never be forgotten by anyone who envies their lot. Worst of all, gone is one great idea for a reality show pitting the Siegels against the "Occupy Wall Street" protesters. I'd watch that--wouldn't you?

The Higher You Bid, the More It's Worth

Alligator handbag with gold finish by Cartier: $27,000 People value strange things. Especially rich people. For example, a woman's ...