Friday, September 30, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh, or Die Trying

These are dark days for comedy. Jerry Seinfeld and his merry band are no longer on TV, replaced by implausible sitcoms full of cheap one-liners that are barely audible over the incessant laugh tracks. The worst offenders are black sitcoms, which portray just about every male character as an idiot and every female character as a know-it-all, sass-talking whale. Where is the NAACP when you need it most?

Then there's that annoying Kathy Griffin who is shoved in our faces and down our throats at every turn; one wonders how she ever got that first callback. I stumbled upon one of her solo shows the other night, and was mouth-hanging-open appalled. One long segment of her act was a description of a time she ate some marijuana brownies and got reeeeeeeaaaaalllly stoned. We heard just how many brownies she ate and just how stoned she got, including what she thought she heard and what she thought she saw and how she laughed uncontrollably for seven minutes over nothing. Perhaps she was listening to a recording of her own act.

So it's no surprise that The Onion, that wacky fake-news website that passes for satire, came forth with the headline that caused such a stir yesterday: "BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building." Ha ha, what a riot. That one was followed by more reports of children being held hostage inside the building. Ha ha, even funnier! Many people, most especially Washingtonians, who saw those reports on Twitter thought it was true, and panic ensued, causing the pranksters over at The Onion to scratch their heads and wonder why everyone couldn't tell it was a joke.

Here's a clue: jokes make you laugh, it's that simple. Like, a woman goes into a bar with a pig under her arm. The bartender asks, "Say, where'd you get that ugly dog?" The woman says, "It's not a dog, it's a pig." The bartender says, "I was talking to the pig." Much funnier than "witnesses reporting screams and gunfire inside the Capitol," don't you agree?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Trying to Help

Many people need help just living their lives. If you're lucky enough to not be one of them, there's that nagging guilt hanging over you--and I'm no Mother Teresa, believe me--to do something for someone less fortunate. But who? And how low are you willing to go, mood-wise?

I first volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City, allegedly to provide emotional support to family members of cancer-ridden children being treated at area hospitals. I thought it wouldn't be too bad--yes, there would be crying parents, but I could handle that. Turned out it was not depressing at all since I was a bookkeeper in the back office and never saw a soul with cancer, or even a bad cold. Ultimately, the lack of contact with anyone more miserable than myself got to me, so I quit; what was the point? Then we moved.

Once settled in our new city, my husband and I heard of volunteer opportunities at a nearby nursing home. Supposedly a group of the residents were eager to play Scrabble but couldn't remember how. We, being crossword freaks, thought that would be a fun way to do something nice for others. It wasn't. After one or two sessions the complaints started--turns out they all hated Scrabble. One mean old biddy was particularly abusive, accusing us of cheating. One day nobody showed up but us.

Undaunted and still brimming with good intentions, we then signed up for weekly meal deliveries to poverty-stricken invalids. We'd go to the senior center on Saturday mornings to pack up lunches, then, armed with a list of addresses, off we went, tooling around Washington, D.C. like Santa in his sleigh except on the ground and without reindeer, but with the same spirit of giving. Usually I waited in the car while Mitch went in and saw the horror of it all. He loved doing it and even befriended some of the regulars. At his urging I ventured inside a few times, but the images of quiet desperation behind those apartment doors haunted me, and so I went back to waiting in the car. Then we moved again.

Since coming to Maine, I've dispensed food at the local soup kitchen and visited the sick in the hospital. Both of those jobs were less than uplifting, especially the latter; I learned pretty quick that hanging around a hospital when you're healthy and not dressed in a white coat is just plain dumb. There are, after all, germs all over the place, not to mention tons of sick, dying and old people, and that's basically one losing trifecta.

I am now hoping to embark on a new "helping" endeavor that will again focus on seniors in assisted-living housing who are still healthy but technologically challenged. My assignment, should they choose to accept me, will be to teach them how to use computers and navigate the wacky web. This seems like a good idea for the elderly, since really, the Internet is all about staying connected, and you don't even have to stand up to use it. If it turns out to be a bummer, I'm moving.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Caffeinated

I've always wondered how come, despite the sinking economy and global warming and killer storms and all those kids missing their upper lips in those gruesome advertisements for the Smile Train, I'm not always trying to kill myself. Now I know: It's because I drink coffee--strong, black and lots of it--so my risk of suicide is 20% lower than women who don't. That nugget of truth was unearthed by a federally funded Harvard University study of 50,000 women who were followed for decades to assess their health risks. So this is what those researchers do with that grant money over at the National Institute of Health! (The deficit be damned--we need this information.)

Apparently four cups of java daily puts a serious spring in your step, and while not really preventing depression it does offer a "protective effect." As for you decaf drinkers--a self-righteous bunch if ever I saw one--be forewarned: While you'll enjoy a better night's sleep, you may have fewer of them in the long run since it's the caffeine that does the trick, not the bean itself.

If I didn't drink so much coffee and were suicidal from time to time, you can bet I wouldn't attempt it by setting myself on fire like two young Tibetan monks in southwestern China did recently. The men, ages 18 and 19, were doused quickly and hospitalized with only slight burns, although they will definitely need new robes. Apparently there has been a spate of self-immolation among the monk population, who are despondent about religious freedom and the Dalai Lama and mounting pressures within the monastic community. Anyway, it's obvious they need to lay off the green tea and get with the Starbucks plan. Hopefully those monastery bigwigs will read today's Wall Street Journal and put two and two together like I did before more of their young people suffer needlessly. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Candidate with Broad Appeal

What exactly  does it mean to be President of The United States? We all know he can't do anything without approval from Congress, yet we make such a big deal about who gets to fly around in a fancy jet and meet a lot of celebrities and live in a free house and never have to carry a wallet. POTUS is surely our biggest celebrity, and thus those whose own lives are empty, lonely and devoid of excitement spend much of their time criticizing his every move, watching and waiting for him to make a mistake or else genuflecting when he does something positive. Sometimes despite no mistakes being made, there's still criticism from the leeches who earn their living sucking our politicians dry.

Take Laura Ingraham, a conservative political pundit with her own radio talk show who occasionally subs for Bill O'Reilly on his conservative TV talk show. Sometimes she nails the issue and I applaud her common sense, but other times she seems to be grasping at straws, desperately scrambling for something to rail about before air time and coming up empty but railing anyway.  Last week I tuned in for a rant about how Michelle Obama was unduly messing with our taste buds by strong-arming the owners of The Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants to lower the fat content of their menus. Laura was incensed and outraged, saying it was our prerogative to eat badly if we want to, and likening Michelle's intervention to Sharia law.  A few of her loyal listeners phoned in to register their agreement, saying they know bad food is bad but they like it anyway. One woman, teary over the fact that her favorite lunch place had bowed to government pressure, wailed, "I miss my McDonaldland cookies."

Which brings me to today's subject: The Republicans are seeking a winner, lacking one at the moment, and rumors suggest New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is once again being urged to join the race. How appropriate if the fattest nation elects a major tub o' lard to run things. The man is so fat he could be a circus act, and Washington, D.C. is surely a circus, so he'd be the perfect ringmaster. On the plus side (ha ha), he's so fat he could literally squash the competition; all he has to do is fall onto Obama at one of their presidential debates and that would be that. As for his agenda, I bet Christie would get those cookies back ASAP!

With 33.8% of Americans classified as obese, Christie's got a clear shot at winning the fat vote, obliterating the black, female, Latino, Jewish and youth votes and landing him right smack dab in the middle of the Oval Office, which might have to be renamed the Rotunda. Once that happens we'll all be swimming in gravy, with a Kentucky Fried Chicken in every pot. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Facebook: The Drug

Come on, admit it: You're hooked on Facebook. Who isn't? That Zuckerberg kid didn't get to be a billionaire for nothing.

Look at us! It's pathetic, really. Especially now, with all the annoying and invasive and meaningless changes he's making that we all hate, and aren't afraid to say so on our Facebook pages: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is quite popular. Also, just a general aura of disgust concerning the new things, which is commonly registered as ARRRRRRRGGGH! right there on your Facebook page, for all to see. The outrage has even caused a few people to sign up for Google Plus, or is it Google +, just to teach those folks at Facebook a lesson. Of course, you have to go to your Facebook page to try and convert everyone to the new playground, or else what are you doing over there? So despite all our grousing and grumbling, which has been so loud it made the TV news, nobody has deactivated his or her account.

Basically, the Zuckster and his minions could do anything short of abducting our children and we'll stick around. Why? Because we're addicted. At least, everyone I see there is. The people you don't see who have accounts--they are not addicted. The ones you see more, they're on the way to complete dependence. But the people you now see regularly--you know who you are--they are addicted. (I won't name names, but everyone else can see them too, so it's pretty much a known fact.)

It's the expectation-- or is it a desperate hope-- that something said or discussed or shown will make your day better, or else why go? It is volunatary, after all. Then there are the other people who "use it as free advertising for their business or art or craft or personal blog," like, hey, this one you are reading right now, but really they may not want to admit it but they are also hooked, they're just writing it off their taxes at the same time.

I wonder what we'll do when they start charging us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fat Sells

Nuttiness abounds, and in our society at least, it seems to be rewarded. Later today, Dr. Mehmet Oz, that impish but evil medicine man spawned by Oprah Winfrey who we all confuse with Dr. Sanjay Gupta--even though their names are completely different they're exactly alike--will exploit "The Fattest Woman Alive" in front of millions of his viewers. Apparently the lady now weighs 700 pounds but is aiming for 1,000 to get into the record books. (Who buys those books?)

Not surprisingly, the woman loves to eat and enjoys being fat. No stranger to the mixed metaphor, she says on her website: "There is a bit of rebellion to being my size. I mean after all aren't we taught that you aren't supposed to be fat? I love marching to my own beat and thinking outside of the box." As for Dr. Oz, he certainly knows a cash cow when he sees one: Last season he had another 700-pound woman on his show that he tried to "help" through a televised "intervention." After his ratings spiked through the roof, he had her back on his show again, and again. As everyone knows, fat sells. (Not to be confused with fat cells, see photo.)

As for the current Miss Fatty, who consumes 20,000 to 30,000 calories a day in her quest to reach her goal before the Grim Reaper gets her, I'm betting those network bigwigs are putting out quite a spread for her appearance. Lunch might include ten rotisserie chickens, two dozen cheeseburgers, six Kosher all-beef hot dogs from Katz's delicatessen, five large mushroom, anchovy and black olive pizzas, eight gallons of Edy's Apple Pie ice cream, four boxes of Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies--the soft kind--a couple of Drake's Coffee Cakes, a large box of Mike & Ike's (original flavor) and a Starbucks grande latte, extra hot.

At least that's what I'd want if I were going for the gold--and out of my mind.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Politics in a Nutshell

Even though everyone is pissed at Obama for ruining the economy and ramming that health care bill down our throats and vacationing among the elite on Martha's Vineyard, he still might get another four years when you consider the opposition. The whole lot of them on the other team are losers.

Superstar Michele Bachmann doesn't stand a chance for two obvious reasons. First of all, her fingernails are ridiculously long and always noticeably manicured in very showy colors, and she tosses her hands around just so we can see them. Next, her hair is much too straight and much too shiny. She must spend hundreds on hair products, not to mention hours getting it fixed just so. Is that who we want in the White House? I think not.

As for the rest of them, oh please. Rick Perry's accent is far too strong and a tad phony if you ask me. And no matter how smart they are, those Texans just sound stupid. (All southerners do, for that matter.) Ron Paul has some good ideas, but face it--he looks like a puppet on a string, his head and arms are all floppy--he's simply too gangly to be president. Romney's okay if you like Mormons, but that full head of hair at his age makes me suspicious that he's joined the Hair Club for Men, like my old editor John Montorio who was well on his way to bald 30 years ago and today could be one of the original Beatles. Jon Huntsman's father was a billionaire, so he's not even worth considering since he knows nothing of pain and suffering. Besides, what's with spelling "John" that way? How pretentious. Herman Cain has some good ideas but nobody's going to vote for another black guy after the one we have now screwed up so bad, so it's goodbye Herman--too bad, so sad. Newt Gingrich, once a shining star, now seems sort of ditzy and out of it, and besides, he has clearly let himself go, obesity-wise. As for the others I'm forgetting, they are obviously not memorable enough to go further than that last debate.

That leaves Hillary, but does she have the balls to oppose Obama? If not, maybe when she goes in for her next eye-job or jowl-lift she could get a pair; these days, anything is possible. (Just ask Chaz Bono.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Real Life General Hospital

My latest volunteer position at a local hospital has me visiting the sick. Acting as a liaison between the patients and the administration, I go from sickroom to sickroom, sanitizing my hands on the way in and the way out each time, determining if all is going well and if not, why not. It's interesting and depressing at the same time, which might also be a description of life itself on some days.

This morning I met a loquacious woman who absolutely hated the food, especially the hamburger they brought her for dinner last night. "It was terrible," she all but shouted. "How hard is it to make a good hamburger? My father works in a crummy restaurant and he makes much better hamburgers than they have here. And for dinner the day before, the pork loin was wet! I make great pork loin, that is so easy to make, I know that for a fact. You just throw it in the oven. How hard is that?" Leaving her with a promise to talk to the chef, or at the very least the volunteer coordinator, I went into the next room and asked the man in there his opinion of the hospital fare. "I didn't come here for the food," he said, putting his hand over his heart. "It's the ticker that's the problem. But they do make a pretty good burger."

A few doors down I chatted with a very old woman who had a tube up her nose, several more coming out of her arms and a distinct twinkle in her eye. Since we volunteers are not permitted to ask personal questions, I had no idea what ailed her. She offered that things were going great, and that the hamburgers were fine but the vegetables were too mushy. "They cook them too long, that's what it is," she explained. She seemed pleased that the nurses were attentive and her doctor had come to see her every day, but she was quite annoyed that on last night's "Dancing With the Stars," transgendered son-of-Cher Chaz Bono was the last contestant. "I had to watch the whole damn show when all I wanted was to see her, or him, or whatever he is. Here I am sick in the hospital and I need my sleep. They should know that everyone just wanted to see her...or him. He should have been on first. Or her."

I knew this work would be eye-opening.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Perks of Aging: A Short List

What is it about being with old friends that can't be beat? This morning I met up with a friend from high school I had not seen since graduating in 1964. Why we drifted apart, who knows, but magically--several marriages, births, careers and divorces later--we ended up sitting across from one another in a small cafe on Route 1 in Freeport, Maine. The conversation was effortless, and it was surely the most fun I've had in a long time. Breakfast was good too.

Along the way I've lost many friendships--some through death, some though disuse, more than a few through disrepair. The ones that remain today are priceless to me, especially since they are rare and few. Still, those shared memories from growing up in the same town--attending the same religious institution and the same schools, the same Sweet 16 parties and Friday night basketball games--provide a base for friendship that is so much stronger than any other. Stumbling upon one of those relationships late in life is possibly the number one perk of aging, since you can't really have an old friend until you're--you know--old.

Happily we live just two hours apart, so there's a distinct possibility we'll accompany one another into our twilight years as successfully as we did into adolescence all those years ago. As my grandmother would say, "I should live so long." Elaine, seeing you made my day!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Nicest Thing

When writing a blog, it is generally assumed you can say anything you want: There's no boss, no advertisers, no nothing. You can pick any topic and say anything about it. Sometimes you might even take a suggestion tossed at you, like the one from my husband, moments ago, that I write about something "nice" instead of my usual complaining. He said, "try writing about the nicest thing that happened today, or something that makes you happy or that you're grateful for."

So far today, the nicest thing that happened to me is is that nothing bad happened to me, or to anyone, for that matter. There were no mass shootings, plane crashes, protesting looters,
destructive weather conditions, or plague outbreaks. It's just a quiet Sunday, at least here in Maine. (That fatal Reno air show disaster was days ago, I am so over that.) And while I know people died today, I didn't know anyone personally who did.

The second nicest thing about today was finding a beautiful head of lettuce at the local organic foods market, which I bought and took home for dinner. So while this day was not one for the record books, still, all in all, it was a pretty nice day. I'd gladly take another one just like it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"O" Please.

Recently, while waiting in a long line at the supermarket checkout counter, I picked up a copy of "O," Oprah Winfrey's self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, self-named periodical which always has a cover photo of her that has been photo-shopped to death so she looks 20 years younger and 40 pounds lighter, with glowing skin and smooth hair, very unlike the way she looks in all other pictures you see of her everywhere else. On this month's cover she is arm-in-arm with Rosie O'Donnell, everyone's favorite pudgy, pissed-off, potty-mouthed lesbian. Rosie is wearing a fancy dress and gold lame high-top sneakers, which I guess is supposed to be funny and irreverent. Oprah sports a tight red evening dress exposing considerable cleavage and with a slit high up one leg. They make quite the pair.

Skimming, I came first upon a full-page feature entitled, "Books That Made a Difference to Kevin Spacey." I wondered if it were a joke, decided I didn't care and moved on. Next came a giant Q and A, the Q being: "Is it my imagination or is my dandruff worse in winter?" Not having dandruff in any season, I put the magazine down, paid for my groceries and left the market, none the wiser for my brief foray into "O."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laugh Before You Get Here

I finally figured out the problem with Maine: Despite its awesome beauty and majestic woods and rocky cliffs and 24-hour access to duck boots, it's just not funny, which is a bummer since laughter is definitely one of the best things we humans have going for us. That, and our thumbs. But here in Maine, the natives simply do not have a sense of humor, unless you think saying "lobstah" instead of "lobster" is a laugh riot, because if you do then you'll love it here since they say that all the time. It's funnier in summer when vacationers from away come for a whiff of pine, so from June to September you can count on a laugh or a smile from someone. Otherwise forget about it, and don't even think about laughing up here in winter--it's just not done.

It's no surprise that there is only one comedian in the whole state and he is also not funny, despite being a big hit with the locals. His name is Bob Marley and you can check him out on YouTube and see that I am telling the truth: not funny. It's possible his jokes are only understood by Mainers, which would explain his popularity.

Unfortunately, being funny myself, almost 100% of my material is wasted on a daily basis, especially when my husband is out of town. I have lived in places where my humor was appreciated, starting in Manhattan where the street vendors do stand-up and the beggars spew one-liners. For a while I lived in Baltimore, and Baltimorons, or whatever they are called, are pretty funny too. And years ago I lived in Salt Lake City; believe it or not, Mormons are much funnier than Mainers. (Read "The Book of Mormon" if you don't believe me.) As for my second home town, Washington, D.C.---oh please, that whole place is a joke! Everyone is a comedian there, and not just on Capitol Hill.

Fortunately I have funny friends: Sue is a scream but she lives in Pittsburgh. Patsy is quite funny but I see her for like a day a year, so that's not much relief. Gabby lives here now, but she's from New York originally and she's hysterical. Deb isn't funny herself but at least she can tell when something is. And even my neighbor Dagmar, from frickin' Germany, is way funnier than any Mainer, and that's saying something. Anyway, it's pretty weird.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Shaggy Cat Story

I've often said I would give my life for my child. Now it seems as if I have, and I must say, it sucks. The problem is that I am not dead; if I were, I'd probably feel better. What's happened is this: I agreed to take Zack's cat--again--while he is In A Period of Transition. (My son, not the cat.)

When Big Lurch spent three weeks with us last spring he barely ventured out from under the guest room bed, so I had little fear for his safety. This time was different, since he arrived with the likelihood of becoming a permanent member of our household. My son was considering moving to an apartment in a busy urban area, not a good place for a Maine Coon accustomed to going outside frequently.

After almost two weeks of confinement, I took Lurch outside last Sunday, a warm and sunny day, and off he ran into the surrounding woods, taking along the shredded remains of my peace of mind. He returned early Tuesday morning for breakfast, which I had left on the back porch, the door propped open to let him in along with all the flies and mosquitoes we intended to keep out by having the porch re-screened a month ago. Immediately after eating, he began crying to get out. It was such a mournful cry, and my own cat Daisy hisses at him, and the renovators in our bathroom make an awful racket, and so I let him go.

In the interim I have cried, gotten up during the night to call for him, walked the perimeter of our property shaking a can of cat treats and making meowing sounds like my son makes to get him back, all the while checking incessantly to see if the food left out for him had been eaten, and cried some more. What have I done? My son loves his cat and I threw him to the wolves! Literally, since there really are wolves in our woods, along with other creatures that I hear tell eat cats. I was filled with remorse. My husband, always a source of comfort, said, "Maybe you shouldn't have let him out."

But wait--isn't he my cat now? If so, I have too many cats. I hate keeping animals trapped indoors. I feel like a slave owner, except they don't do anything for me and I do everything for them. And while they are not free, neither am I. Who ever started this whole domesticated animal business anyway? Finally Lurch came back, and I realized my blood pressure can't take any more of this. I called Zack today and said he better come get his cat. He's working on it. I'm hoping that all this aggravation has a least caused me to lose a few pounds, which is always a nice consolation prize in difficult times.

Pieces of a Life

Many people sign on for boring, unimaginative, paper-pushing 9 to 5 jobs early in life and plug away at them until old age. This does make the weekends and holidays more fun, when you have "free time," whereas for artists, writers and the unemployed, it's all one day and all time is "free." What to do with it, after all? Read books, go on a diet, exercise, shop, read, plant a garden, do a jigsaw puzzle. What's that--do a jigsaw puzzle? How dorky can you get?

The answer is pretty damn dorky. We received one as a gift after my husband's recent shoulder surgery, from friends who admitted that they would "never do such a thing," and were happy to pass it along as a form of therapy for Mitch. It's something you can do with one hand only, which is what he had operating all last month.

Since the Oxycodone wasn't working, he gave the puzzle a try. It seemed to take Mitch's mind off his pain, and with the addition of a fine red wine, it's a fun way to stimulate the brain cells and stave off Alzheimer's. An added bonus: when you finish it (see photo) you feel a real sense of accomplishment. Depending on how much wine you drink, this can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Our second puzzle is now spread out on the dining room table, along with another bottle of wine. Hoping we don't turn into a couple of drunks.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adding Insult to Injury

Imagine you're walking down the street and you spot seven dollars on the ground-- a five and two singles. Nobody is around, it's the middle of nowhere. How would you feel? Pretty lucky, I'm guessing. That would put a spring in your step. Now imagine you find 70 dollars! You might want to tell someone about your good fortune, possibly buy a friend dinner or get that new whatever you've been wanting.

So what if you found $700? That would be totally crazy, like, "Oh my God, this is a great day!" What if you won the lottery and got a check for $7,000? Or you won the jackpot and got $700,000? These are huge numbers. Chances are you would want to pay off some bills and then give a lot away to charity.

Now imagine the number $700 MILLION! That's how much was just spent to pay homage to the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center. That money could have fed a lot of people, built a few hospitals, fixed a lot of problems in our crumbling cities. Instead, all that money went into a couple of big holes in lower Manhattan, along with waterfalls and a museum detailing the events of a horrendous moment in history. They must be having quite a laugh over at Al Qaida headquarters about it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Something Good About Fat People

Today I went to lunch with my thinnest friend. She is a wonderful person and I really enjoy her company. I am also fascinated by her ability to resist foods that I cannot. For example, her entree arrived with a mound of delectable-looking homemade potato chips, the kind I tell the server not to bring me because I know I will eat every last one. (I have little self-control where potatoes are involved.) There they sat on her plate for the entire meal, whispering my name as I ate my healthy tuna nicoise salad.

They beckoned me the whole time, especially since she never ate even one. I realized in a panic that the whole lot of them would be tossed in the garbage back in the kitchen, unless some furtive busboy grabbed a handful first. What an ignominious end for that poor potato--and with all those people starving in Third World countries! That seemed to be all the justification I needed: As the waitress came to remove my friend's plate, I intervened and said, "Wait, I'll have a few of those." I ate four or maybe five--okay, six--stopping only out of shame.

I don't have these problems when I dine with my fat friends. They eat all their own bad food, so I don't have to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

He's Watching So We Don't Have To

My husband is in the next room watching all the 9/11 stuff on TV. There is a choir singing "Amazing Grace" at the Pentagon. Dignitaries have gathered. V.P. Joe Biden is there, looking old but quite trim and with a full head of hair. Wolf Blitzer intones: "184 people died, including 24 victims from the plane that crashed into  the building." Benches have been built, one for each victim. It's hot there, as many spectators are fanning themselves with papers, and it's only early morning.

People at the podium are now talking about what happened to them that day ten years ago. Sacrifices were made. The names of the dead are streaming across the bottom of the screen. A little girl whose mother died that day just said, "Mom, you will always be my hero." Children are crying. There is maudlin violin music playing.

Over in NYC at Ground Zero (which it will forever be called), James Taylor is singing at the site of the downed towers, which is now a big hole in the ground with water flowing into it. Survivors are reading the names of the dead, complete with their middle names so it will take quite a while. "The reading of the names, so simple and so emotional," says the TV reporter helpfully.

Now some ordinary citizen is describing what happened to her that day. I saw her on another TV interview yesterday telling the same story: She says her life was changed forever that day. She refused to get angry and sit around moping and "just take it." Instead she baked cookies with her two daughters and brought them to the local firehouse.  She did something. I think I may have eaten some cookies on 9/11, but I didn't bake any. I basically sat around watching TV all day. Now I feel like a fool.

Wolf Blitzer says: "It was a seminal moment. No one will ever forget." So don't even try.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dumpster Diving in Vacationland

One of the best things about life in Maine is the relative lack of crime. Along with that, naturally, comes a level of relaxation unknown to residents of large cities. It's quite enjoyable. But since there's no such thing as a free lunch, the flip side is that there's not much excitement, so things that are normally unnoticed anywhere else might raise an eyebrow here.

The following report comes from this week's "Police Beat" column in our local paper:  

FALMOUTH, August 30 at 7:55 PM- Residents of McDermott Way reported that a cottage on the road was being used by several juveniles as a party location. The callers reported they had found two condoms in the trash and believe the cottage is being frequented by relatives of the building's owner.

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Can't Go Home Again If You Never Lived There

My friend Fran posted this on Facebook: "Your sister is your first friend in life. No one will ever understand your crazy family like your sister. Even if you don't get together or talk as much as you would like, she'll always remain your friend. Your sister will hold your hand for a little while, but will hold your heart for a lifetime. It's "National Sister Week." Re-post if you have a sister you love!"

I didn't re-post, for several reasons. First of all, who says it's National Sister Week? I'd like to chat with that person, please. Next, how does one celebrate if your sister made your life a living hell--robbing you of your childhood, dogging you for money as an adult, calling you at all hours with insane paranoid ramblings, coming at you with knives and broken shards of glass, trashing your room when you were growing up in the same household--how? Just asking, for all of us who missed out on that great sister bond, despite having had a sister. Well, it's too late for me now, that's for sure...

The whole thing reminds me of the Lake People. Several of my friends grew up in families that had summer houses on various lakes in scenic places like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and upstate New York. Strangers to one another, yet they all share childhood memories--which are the best kind after all--of hot summer days swimming in the lake and cool summer nights tucked into flannel sheets smelling like pine cones. They all had summer friends, met their future spouses on the water, sat around roaring bonfires toasting marshmallows and sailed on the lakes in motor boats or sailboats, water skiing their way to adulthood where they now watch their kids and grandkids doing the very same things in those very same houses. (Their sisters are probably all there, too.)

Several times I have been invited to these lake houses as a grown-up, and observed aloud how nice it must be to have had that in your life. Hey, maybe I'm not too late for that! A few years back, I asked my friend Betsy, our hostess for the weekend, if there were any houses on her particular lake for sale; it would be nice to have a second home there. She said instantly, "You can never be a lake person if you didn't grow up here. Or else, you can marry into it." (I wonder if Ralph Lauren knows that.)

So, no lake house. No sister. Poor me. "White whine," my son would call it, but there it is.

Real Life Sucks

You gotta love my husband. Yesterday he asked, "Who is Kim Kardashian?" His query stemmed from one of his Facebook friends posting the picture above, with the comment: "When I heard the screaming fans outside my door I thought I had finally made it, but it was just Kim Kardashian."

I answered Mitch as best I could, saying she was a reality TV star in a family consisting of three sisters, a mother and a step-father named Bruce Jenner.  Mitch instantly recognized Jenner as a former Olympic athlete and one-time professional ball player. What kind of ball, he was not sure. (Turns out he was a runner who got the gold medal in the decathlon.)

Here's what else I know: They are very rich. The sisters, in their 20's, all have long, dark hair, big facial features, big boobs and even bigger butts. I think they live in California, possibly Orange County. One of them was recently on the cover of People magazine in her wedding gown, which cost something like 20 million dollars, or maybe that was the price of the wedding; I'd believe either. She married a man named Kris. (All their names start with a K: one of the others is named Khloe.) The mother has short black hair and is the cutest of the bunch. The dad, Bruce Jenner, looks freakish from too much plastic surgery and tanning, like a white Michael Jackson towards the end of his life. They dominate the tabloids and the Internet and sometimes even make the mainstream news.

The other day at the supermarket, I overheard the stringy-haired checkout girl say to the girl at the next register, "Kim Kardashian is my idol. I wish I could be her." The other girl answered, "Me too. Real life sucks."

Thursday, September 8, 2011


It's Fashion Week in New York City, so take a moment out of your busy day to thank all those tireless designers who spend hours and hours deciding what women with expendable income should wear. If not for them, all those trust fund babies so often maligned by ranting liberals would be forced to wear last year's outfits. And lest you think it's not important how the rich and famous cover themselves, here's what top designer Tommy Hilfiger has to say about how his work contributes to solving global problems: "We live in a world where we have no control over natural disasters," referring to Hurricane Irene. "We have an unstable economy, unfortunately, and we just all have to keep moving ahead." To that end, his new collection is "bright and spirited, influenced by 1960s pop art." (That ought to stave off the next hurricane.)

And that's not all. Some of the other new trends that will benefit everyone when they trickle down to the racks at K-Mart, Target, Macy's, Gap, T. J. Maxx and Kohl's include:
1. Skirts will be fuller. This does not impact me directly as I do not own a skirt and have not since before my son was born, but I'm glad to hear it. Maybe now all those women with misshapen thighs will look better, making the world breathe a collective sigh of relief.
2. Clothes will be more chaste. Longer hemlines, higher necklines and less skin showing overall will likely have an impact on the number of unwanted pregnancies, rapes and abductions, and thus lower our abortion rate.
3. Colors will be more saturated. I have no idea what that means but apparently it's good. One bold designer even plans to use colors that are supersaturated.
4. Clothing will be about hope. Designer Diane von Furstenberg's own hopeful collection was inspired by "modern Africa, not Colonial Africa." It uses "airy colors."
5. Dressy shorts will continue to be a category all their own. Thank God, I was worried.

So as you can see, designers are not just all about fleecing the rich: They have brains, and even hearts. In fact, some of them whose fashion shows are scheduled for the dreaded anniversary of 9/11 are going to make a contribution to the Families of September 11. They even said so on their invitations, just so everyone would know how charitable they are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rethink Possible

An article in today's Wall Street Journal bemoans the fate of many older Americans who are forced to put off or even postpone retirement because of huge debts, the largest one being a home mortgage. The dilemma brings to mind two questions, both of which deserve further examination.

1. What's so great about retirement?
Doing nothing every day is not my idea of a good time. I know, I know--there's golf to be played and movies to be watched and all-you-can-eat buffet lunches to be eaten and cruises to be taken. Except for the golf, which seems like an excellent way to spend time, exercising in the great outdoors and stimulating the brain as well, the other pursuits should be kept to a minimum. Then what? Seems to me that having a reason to get up in the morning and a place to go and contribute to the world outside your own four walls is the only way to stave off dementia, sagging muscle tone and creeping ignorance of today's culture.  Yet retirement is the goal of so many, and not just old folks--we all know people who start dreaming of it in their thirties. If you have a job you enjoy, that's a leg up for sure, but really, how hard is "work" anyway? (See photo.)

2. Why do so many people buy homes?
Just like the idea that a college education will to lead to a charmed life, somewhere long ago the idea was implanted that having your own home is the realization of The American Dream. Whose dream, exactly? What's wrong with renting a nice little place, or even a nice big place if you can afford it, and letting someone else fix the plumbing and pay the property taxes and replace the roof and--well, you see where I'm going with this. Watch "The Money Pit" for the rest of the story; besides being the funniest movie Tom Hanks ever made, it puts home ownership in the proper perspective.

None of the preceding applies to the rich, for whom retirement means travel to exotic destinations, or to coal miners, who surely deserve to stop doing that and lay around as much as they want.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Nine Eleven

Get ready, it's coming: That giant white cloud of smoke and ash squeezing around the corner between two skyscrapers will be filling your TV screens in just five days. It's that time of year again, when we celebrate a dark moment from the past, in part to make money for the advertisers. And the other part? I'm clueless, so please fill me in.

This year's 9/11 celebration promises to be bigger and better than ever: It's the 10th Anniversary! There's some new footage, the memorial is almost, not quite, close to being finally finished and a battery of survivors have each come out with "my story" in book form. So much to do! So much to see! Anderson Cooper is surely choosing his outfit as I write this.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hair Gets Old Too

It's hard for me to forget I'm aging since Hillary Clinton is exactly my age---okay, so she's younger, but only by months. Anyway, lately she looks really old. Every time I see her on the news, I wonder to myself, do I look that old? Add to that my 23-year-old son, who just left after a short visit, saying,  "No offense but you're old," daily for the past week, usually as the prologue to an explanation of why whatever I just said had absolutely no merit. This was troubling, since I'd rather my ideas have no merit because I'm clueless or ignorant or just plain stupid.

He's right, of course: I really do go to bed by eleven and I really don't want to go out clubbing and I really do prefer my generation's music to all others, except for Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin who I always have time for. Not only that, but I've been known to take a stool softener--sue me. Besides, the worst thing you can do is try to fake it. Be your age, dammit! It's embarrassing when I see my peers clinging to their lost youth. I want to run up to them and shout, "It's not working!" For example, lately Hillary has been letting her hair grow long. If it's a ploy to hide the scars of an impending face lift, all is forgiven and I envy her courage, otherwise she should just take a good look in the mirror and see that her flowing blond locks just don't cut pun intended.

Yesterday I had most of my hair buzzed off. Now, instead of matronly and dowdy I look trendy and maybe a tad gay. Either one is better than grasping.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Child is Father to the Man...or Woman

My son has been visiting for the past few days, which is a treat but also sort of a downer. He is 23 and, wise in the ways of the world, has no qualms about pointing out how little I know. He loves me but makes it quite clear that I am old and nearing the end of my useful life as a teacher. That's fine with me, since I hate teaching but remain an eager student.

One thing Zack taught me yesterday is that it is simply not cool to write anything personal on Facebook; it is merely a marketing tool to sell one's art or business or what have you. This suits me fine as I rarely divulge anything there, and instead just post a link to this blog, so I guess I'm pretty sharp in that area! Another thing he is trying to teach me is the ins and outs of hip-hop. This is good, since he writes and performs hip-hop music, and I must admit I am stymied as to how to appreciate all those songs by famous and successful hip-hoppers with lyrics like "Fuck that bullshit, nigga," which I find less than melodic than say, "Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars."

It turns out my mistake was in thinking it is a genre of music, but it is not. That was yesterday's lesson, and that's all I know so far, but it certainly helped, since lowered expectations often significantly improve any situation and make it seem better, as in, "Oh, this is supposed to taste bad. Well then, it's perfect."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I May Throw Up

There is a new apartment building in New York City that has an elevator for your car, allowing you to drive to your front door even though it's in a skyscraper. The "En Suite Sky Garage" saves the wear and tear on your leg muscles caused by walking from a traditional parking garage elevator to your apartment door, adding perhaps days to your life in the long run. But perks like this don't come cheap: Units in the building are in the area of six million. Film star Nicole Kidman bought one, which is surprising since you'd think she would have exhausted her fortune on all that plastic surgery--her top lip alone could probably pay for my son's law school. (No, he's not going but I can dream, can't I?)

I wonder how people think this stuff up, then how they have the guts to share their ideas with someone, then how they all decide to go forward with the idea, when half the world is starving. Does having oodles of money totally wipe out three-quarters of your brain along with all of your conscience, or just all of your conscience?

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 ...