Saturday, April 30, 2016

Brian Wilson and Me

The songwriter shopping, in the old days.
I keep looking for a place to fit where I can speak my mind. I've been trying hard to find the people that I won't leave behind. They say I've got brains, but they're not doing me any good. (I wish they could.) Each time things start to happen again and I think I got something good going for myself, it goes wrong.

Sometimes I feel very sad.  Can't find anything to put my heart and soul into.  Every time I get the inspiration to go and change things around, no one wants to help me look for places where new things might be found.

Where can I turn when my fair weather friends cop out? What's it all about? I guess I just wasn't made for these times.

(Lyrics to "I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times")

Friday, April 29, 2016

What Should I Do With My Life?

An article in today's paper woke me up with a jolt this morning with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance: "Prayer is in all action." The author went on to explain, "No farmer wakes at mid-morning and says, 'Gee, I wonder what I should do today.'"

That concept of mindful action hit close to home as I struggle with the quandary daily, being unemployed. (No matter how menial, a job does fill up one's time, which is one big reason why so many people want one even when they don't need the money.) And since I'm not given to prayer, at least not in the conventional sense -- dovening over a bible or counting my rosary beads -- I cast about for some sort of meaningful activity to justify my very existence.

Farmers may work hard, but in one sense they have it easy. Milk the cows, plant the crops, feed the chickens, harvest the corn. No need for yoga classes, YouTube or Game of Thrones when you've got a list of chores a mile long waiting for you each day.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thank Yelp

Jackson, are you singing?
As I do every now and then, I checked the Internet to see if Jackson Browne, my favorite performer of all time (except for all the dead ones) would be heading my way anytime soon and struck gold. Yes, in fact, he is giving a concert right here in Portland this June! Visa card in hand, I was eager to buy tickets while I still could, but then I stopped and considered the venue: The Maine State Pier? What's that?

Turns out to be an actual pier, "a municipal-owned deep-water marine facility and music venue" right on the water in downtown Portland, where they put out bridge chairs and erect a stage and jam it full of people, many of whom pay to be in what is called the "General Admission Standing Area." Thinking that could be iffy -- a sudden rainstorm, annoying seagulls overhead, drunken throngs lined up at the porta-potties, passing trucks belching pollutants all but obliterating the quiet troubadour's angelic voice and soft guitar -- I needed more information before I plunked down hundreds of dollars for a potentially disastrous experience.

That's where Yelp comes in, the tell-it-like-it-really-is website with reviews written by real people with no agenda. And what I learned was that, according to numerous reports (certainly enough to convince me), attending a concert at the Maine State Pier is fraught with problems, including all of my imagined worries and then some.

Unlike so many of our politicians, Yelp delivers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Country Life, In Case You Wondered

Garrison Keillor would have a field day around these parts. Like last week over at the college in Brunswick, just about ten miles from Freeport as the crow flies, a group of students had a tequila party. Some of the attendees got into the spirit of things and wore sombreros. That turned out to open up a hornet's nest, with several of the school's Hispanic students finding the sombreros to be offensive. Next thing you know the school officials are dreaming up punishments for the students who came up with the sombrero idea. Who knew hats could be racist?

The big news over in Yarmouth, seven miles south, is that the old Handy Andy's general store is now selling Holy Donuts. You might not know, but Holy Donuts are a real big deal down in Portland, a clear twenty miles away, so to be able to get them in Yarmouth is worth talking about. They put out about 250 donuts first thing in the morning and I'm not sure when the last one goes, but by noon there's not a donut in the place. The thing about Holy Donuts is that they're made from potatoes, which is what they grow up in Aroostook County here in Maine. Lots of potatoes. In fact, they grow so many that the schools close every year for a few days so the kids can help with the harvest. So it's lucky they can find a good use for them, especially since Mrs. Obama decided that French fries could no longer be included in school lunches.

We got about four inches of snow yesterday. It started at about nine in the morning and came down steady until almost three. Our vegetable garden, newly planted with peas and carrots, was completely under snow, and several of our blooming plants that were forgotten out on the screened porch didn't make it, what with the overnight freeze. But then today the sun came out and temperatures went up to where they should be this time of year, and finally the pansies and primroses that were buried under the snow poked out again, none the worse for wear.

One Teeny, Tiny Question for Hillary Supporters

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton scream at her supporters for close to an hour in what was supposed to be her victory speech after winning four out of five of yesterday's primaries in the Northeast. Shrieking is her first language, let's face it; around our house we call her Shrillary. It is beyond my comprehension how she is considered to be the one and only Democrat who could be our next president.

Hillary's entire televised rant was about how much things suck now and how much better they will be when she gets into office. Again and again she screeched about how bad life is for the poor, how pathetic things are for the middle class, how unfair it is that the wealthy get all the money. She will raise the minimum wage! College debts will disappear!! Everyone will have a job!!! Every last immigrant will be welcomed!!!!!! Instead of a wall keeping them out, she will install water slides at our borders so they can get in easier and have a damn good time doing it!!!!!!! The government will provide health care for every last person still breathing!!!!!! Social Security benefits will rise, every one of our students will be brilliant because all our teachers will be excellent, and best of all there will be no more racial bias, and in time under her rule we will all be the same color!!!!!!!!!!

As Brad Pitt so memorably asked of his Jewish recruits in the film "Inglorious Basterds," after describing how they were going to murder every last German they could find, "Sound good?" Sure does, except for one teeny, tiny detail: We already have a Democrat in office and have for the past eight years. In fact, Hillary herself was part of the current administration when she botched Benghazi as Secretary of State, and as a Senator before that. She helped create the very problems she now says she will eradicate.

So my question for the candidate and each of her compliant, complacent, cracked and confused followers is: Did you all forget that the very party Hillary claims will fix all our country's current ills is already in power and has been for the past eight years?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Finding Joy

Finding joy on Mt. Everest: She looks happy!
Today I tried two different approaches to improving my health. The first was calling my traditional, med-school-trained family physician to discuss the fact that I'm not any better than I was two weeks ago when he told me things might "resolve themselves." (Without going into the gory details, let it suffice we are in the realm of digestive issues.) Of course I never spoke to the doctor but instead recited my symptoms to the nurse who answered the phone, at least I assumed she was a nurse but she might have been part of the cleaning crew. She said she would tell the doctor what I said and then asked for the best number to reach me. Six hours later his annoyingly unctuous flunky called and said the doctor had gone home but he recommended I "cut back on dairy, beans and onions and take Miralax," which I have been taking religiously since the last time he told me to take Miralax.

The second was visiting my non-traditional, alternative medicine acupuncturist. He stuck needles in various places, and at least a couple were in the abdominal area so one could only hope. After leaving me on a table with needles here and there for about an hour or so, listening to odd Gregorian chants, he returned to discuss my current symptoms and possible treatments for a good long while, during which time I had his complete attention. Feeling slightly improved, I made another appointment. As I left, he gave me a homework assignment for the coming week: Find joy. In something. In anything, just find some joy, dammit!

Right away we can all agree that the acupuncturist trumped the physician hands down. However, he had given me a difficult prescription, not easily filled at the local CVS: Where the heck does one find joy these days? The last time I had a whole lot of it was when my son was born in 1987. Oh sure, I've had plenty of good times, fun vacations, lots of laughs, memorable evenings, etc. since then. But as for finding real joy, I'm stymied.

I can think of some paths to joy that will probably not happen. Like, for example, I could starve for two weeks and then finally have a decent meal. Even one week would do it. I bet I'd feel joy then. But since I have trouble fasting for the whole day on Yom Kippur, that's highly unlikely. Perhaps one of the seventeen literary agents yet to reject my manuscript will email and say they loved my latest novel and want to get it published and sell the movie rights.  I could rescue an abandoned kitten I find by the side of the road and nurse it back to health. Ditto a puppy. My son could get a recording contract or become exceedingly happy for any other reason. Hillary Clinton could quit the race and disappear. My dead shrink could come back to life and bring Freddie Mercury with him. I could summit Mt. Everest (if I were twenty years younger). I could go sky-diving (if I weren't so afraid of free-falling from great heights). All of these would work.

Or I could just find a new doctor.

Now Trending

Ever since I blocked the possibility of readers leaving comments on this blog, I feel so free. I should have done it long ago. Now if I could only figure out how to stop caring about what people think of me in person, I might really get somewhere.

It's got me wondering why we all worry about what other people think of us. Why everyone wears the clothes that are deemed "in" and watches the TV shows that are "must-see" and goes to such great lengths to be just like everyone else, especially when everyone else is doing the very same thing. Just who is everyone trying to be?

For fun, take a break and stop trending. Free yourself and just be yourself. Who knows, you might even like who you really are.

A Plan to Make America Great Again

Say goodbye to tummy aches.... and bulging tummies.
Imagine if food came in a pill. Everyone would be so fit and healthy! There would be no doctors doing stomach stapling or tummy tucks or liposuction. Instead they could use their talents to actually help people with real health concerns. There would likely be no more colon or stomach cancer. The incidence of tooth decay would plummet. No more indigestion or heartburn. Also, no more garlic breath. Bye, bye Tums, Pepto-Bismol, Rolaids, Prilosec and Tic-Tacs.

No more restaurants where people sit for hours yammering about nothing over huge plates of empty calories. And so many restaurants: In Manhattan alone, the number of permits issued for restaurants, bars and cafes rose to 23,705 as of July 2015! Instead, those countless hours spent preparing mediocre food -- an army of servers ferrying it out to the bored and affluent diners who were never even hungry to begin with but just wanted to "go out" and "do something"--  could be spent devising solutions to our country's most dire problems. We could literally make America great again!

Lastly, dare to imagine a pill with only positive side effects! Instead of dizziness, bloating, nausea, fatigue, internal bleeding, suicidal thoughts and actions and erections lasting more than four hours, people would feel energized and tip-top! In addition, it would be so much easier to feed the hungry, and soon enough there would be no hungry.

Someone should get on this right away.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Facing Your Fears

I am tired of being afraid of nameless things. With the clock ticking, ever ticking, it's time to face my fears. The evil Anonymous has struck again, and this was the last straw, causing me to write the following Open Letter:

Dear Richard Jester, Joyce Jones, Mary Doner Baron, Linda Tarlow and Joanne Matuzas:
     I have to assume that one of you is the awful "Anonymous" who left the hateful comment regarding my recent post (April 7, The End of the Road) describing how our friendships ended. Because of your cowardly actions, I have taken the drastic step of closing off all comment capability. If you would like to reach me and say something mean with your name attached, please use my email, which you all have.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Our Iranian President

Oh, how we all laughed!
There was all that talk so many years ago about Obama being from Kenya. True or false, that never bothered me one bit. But lately it seems clear that, wherever he was born, Obama must be of Iranian descent. That would explain why he is so hot to help Iran build up their nuclear weapons capability.

His latest deal, wherein "the White House" agreed to buy thirty-two tons of Iran's heavy water to "buttress the Iranian economy" and help them stick to the no-nukes-for-ten-years agreement they signed last year, seems ill-advised at best. I readily admit to knowing next to nothing about any of this except what is reported in the news, which is likely just the teeniest tip of a gigantic iceberg. Still, it seems to me that nine years from now Iran is going to have one mother of a nuclear bomb. (I guess by then Barack will be living over there, so he's likely not too worried about being burned to a crisp or blown to smithereens, whichever happens first.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince, I Hardly Knew Ye

Farrah Fawcett, 1947-2009
Everyone knows that the news is made by TV producers, which is why nothing ever happens on a Sunday. A slow news day is instantly revitalized by a dead celebrity. That happened yesterday when The Artist Formerly Known As Prince died, truly becoming the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Judging by the media reaction you would think a meteor was about to strike Earth. Last night all the major networks and cable news channels were blabbing about it, the occasion of his death apparently a welcome relief from another boring night of Trump/Hillary/Cruz/Kasich/Bernie bashing.

I understand, but still.... Prince was just one person and someone who has not even been in the news for anything at all in decades. (I'm embarrassed to admit he went to his grave without me ever seeing him perform or even hearing him sing. I kept meaning to listen to "Purple Rain" but never got around to it.) For celebrities, when you die is almost more important than how you die in terms of news coverage, and isn't that what their lives are all about?

Like Farrah Fawcett, a one-time international superstar turned fading actress whose death from cancer at age 62 would have been a huge story except for Michael Jackson dying much more dramatically later that day. Poor Farrah basically got no coverage and was instead just dead, like any other mortal. The same thing happened to legendary film director Federico Fellini, in his seventies, who had the dumb luck to stroke out on the same day in 1993 that the rising hot young actor, River Phoenix, overdosed on drugs. (Quick, name something River Phoenix did.)

I have so much to thank God for it's crazy, but one thing on the list is that I'm not famous and can just flatline when the time comes without my death being analyzed, criticized, ridiculed, misunderstood or, at the very worst, just plain ignored.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What God Looks Like

The sun rising over the ocean on planet Earth, a daily occurrence. (Heidi Minetti Ayala)

Even though I grew up as an enthusiastic member in good standing of the Kosher Jews, I am not today a religious person. I still remember all the rituals, and one of the biggest is coming up this weekend: Passover is huge, lasting a full eight days during which no bread is consumed, replaced by matzoh. The kick-off is a big dinner (called a seder) or maybe two if you are really religious, each with many celebrants at the table reciting the history of the persecution of the Jews. This retelling is accompanied by a serious onslaught of food including but not limited to gefilte fish, beef brisket, roast chicken, roast turkey, all kinds of veggies in their most delicious and fattening forms, chicken soup with matzoh balls, and of course copious amounts of red wine. Desserts are fabulous and vary from tribe to tribe. (My grandmother made a chocolate angel food cake smothered in strawberries to die for.)

I don't do that anymore, mostly because all my closest relatives are gone and my husband and I live in Maine, and if there are any Jews here, I wouldn't know. It's sad, but I'm not worried I won't get into Heaven because I'm already on Earth, which if you ask me is the closest thing to Heaven, maybe better. And while I'm not one for rituals, I am a firm believer in God or Something Greater. How could I not be, with flowers and babies and zebras and peacocks and the sun and the moon and the mountains and the oceans, to name but a few examples of life's great mysteries smacking us in the face every day? According to scientists, over seven million species of plants and animals live on Earth, in addition to another five million species of insects.

Atheists, who flatly deny the existence of any deities, and agnostics, who aren't sure, think all this stuff just got here, somehow. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, "agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist." Really, Bill? (See photo.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.


He says everything is alive --
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.


He says it doesn't matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn't matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn't matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

                    - Roger Keyes

Avoiding the Second Arrow

It can't be healthy to hate part of yourself, although it's certainly better than hating all of yourself, a common situation among humans that explains the existence of ISIS. I am lucky that I only hate my high blood pressure, since there are so many other things I could be down on as well. But no, I am supportive of most of my inner workings, outer coverings, thoughts and feelings. It's just that damn high blood pressure that I thoroughly despise and wish to disown.

Of course, not being an idiot, imbecile or moron, three words I am sure must be very politically incorrect these days and may even have been struck from most dictionaries, I understand that my very hatred of my high blood pressure causes it to stay high, and that just bugs the hell out of me. Which in turn makes it go even higher. This morning, for no reason I can identify, it decided to go through the roof.

If I were more enlightened, I would allow it to be high, in fact nurture it and not freak out about it. Just let it be. But letting things be is in not in my nature, which might explain why I never liked that Paul McCartney song. So, instead of just "letting my blood pressure be" 195/92 I swallowed extra pills, cancelled my morning workout, grabbed a bottle of water and a stalk of celery and got comfortable listening to an hour-long meditation podcast entitled "Avoiding Self-Blame." Afterwards, I confidently checked my numbers again and they were even slightly higher! Now that's just plain rude, if you ask me.

It's all got to do with the second arrow. When you experience pain, be it physical or emotional, that's the first arrow. But when you blame yourself for it, thus making it worse, that's the second arrow, and it's way more damaging than the first. I am very adept at shooting those second arrows, and even thirds. If only knowing and doing were not two such different animals, I'd quit it. Until then, I guess I'll keep trying and practice ducking.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Generation Gap

Even though they tweet and text and God knows what else, I certainly don't, many of our smartest young adults have such deep thoughts, usually sprinkled all over Facebook. Like "Why are we here, and what is the nature of existence?" They delve and debate, probing, ever probing into philosophical conundrums, seeking, always seeking, the Truth. Whereas people my age ask different questions, like "How many prunes are too many, and do copper bracelets really work for arthritis? Should I get a new hip? Is a better orgasm, or any at all, worth risking breast or cervical cancer?" Things like that.

That's one big reason why it's hard for Baby Boomers and Millennials to get along. That and the fact that most of them have never heard Mel Torme's velvet voice and so believe Taylor Swift is a major talent. Anyway, I wish them all well and hope that if any one of them discovers what happens when we die, they will tweet about it so we can all find out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It's Not All Pepperoni

Even though we all know better, most of us spend inordinate amounts of time trying to be happy, as if that's the reason we're here. Obviously it is not, or else why would there even be things like earthquakes and disease and betrayal? Still, we run around looking for fun, a good time, ego boosts, self-satisfaction, call it what you will, instead of just accepting our fate: sometimes things suck.

Being an ordinary human, I have experienced long periods of sucking in my life, peppered, of course, with moments of pure ecstasy.  Naturally I have bemoaned my fate and wished for less sucking and more ecstasy, instead of being grateful for whatever it is I get to experience during my allotted time here. It's a bad habit, and one I am trying to break. After all, when you order a pepperoni pizza, it's not just wall-to-wall pepperoni covering the top of the pie. There are plenty of spaces that have no pepperoni at all. We accept that; the spaces between are good too. In fact, hardly anyone chooses to sit down and chomp on a log of pepperoni, at least not in public.

Enjoying the spaces between is something I am trying to do in life. It takes constant attention, since it's a whole lot easier, and in some ways more comforting, to wallow in misery than stoically tolerate loneliness or disappointment. FYI, I don't even like pepperoni. But out of the 2,193 adults surveyed online in a Harris Poll conducted last January, it's America's favorite topping, so I figured more of you could relate.

Funny thing, the same survey found that the least favorite pizza topping is anchovy, which happens to be my favorite. This is yet another example of my particular life sucking, since nobody ever wants anchovy when you go out for pizza. My one close friend who liked it as much as I do, the two of us often indulging our shared desire at lunch, was brutally murdered in a robbery thirty-two years ago. (See what I mean?)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Film Review: 45 YEARS

A typical moment with Kate and Geoff. (Get used to it.)
Oh my God. What a drag. Obviously the title 45 Years refers to how long it feels sitting there watching it. One good thing was that I saw it in a movie/cafe sort of place so I had a hefty glass of Cabernet to keep me company and make it more palatable. If you choose to see it, bring along a flask of whiskey or something, I beg of you.

The two British leads -- Charlotte Rampling, the formerly stunning young star now a fading bloom, and Tom Courtenay, ditto -- are an elderly retired couple, Kate and Geoff, about to celebrate their forty-fifth anniversary. A party is being planned. Geoff gets a letter about his long-dead girlfriend's frozen body being found in a crevasse in Switzerland where she fell while on a hiking trip with him long before he met Kate. This news sends him into a tizzy. He starts smoking again and thinking about what might have been. Kate gets jealous (of a dead woman?) and takes long, foggy walks in the country with their dog.

They have the anniversary party. Geoff says to their unbelievably enormous crowd of friends who have all managed to stay alive well into their dotage that marrying Kate was the best thing he ever did, but she's still pissed because he had already admitted that he would have married the dead girl if she had lived. So even though he's all happy and sweet to her at the party, quite adorable really, dancing to the old love song they played at their wedding, she won't forgive him and harshly snaps her hand away from his, like that's supposed to mean something incredibly deep. The end.

That's it, folks. I mean really. Don't bother.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Laughter is the Best Medicine, and with No Side Effects

I just watched a 38-second video of a baby polar bear falling into a pond and being rescued instantly by his mother, a much bigger polar bear. It was so heartwarming that I watched it three times. I have also enjoyed numerous other videos of talking parrots, mischievous kittens and inquisitive puppies in all sorts of adorable situations. While this might be seen as a total waste of time by some people, I argue otherwise: anything that makes me smile, laugh out loud or feel good about the world in general ups my body's production of serotonin and lowers my eventual need for antidepressants. That can only be good.

Still, watching "cute" videos is considered juvenile, moronic or even downright imbecilic by many, certainly far less valuable than watching those televised debates between presidential hopefuls. Yet those offer the hapless viewer absolutely nothing but rising ire, increasing our body's production of bile and causing indigestion, constipation and insomnia, to say nothing of fear and loathing. The other evening I turned on the TV and saw Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going at it like two barnyard animals, hurling insults at one another, claws and fangs out. I could stand only two minutes of it and switched to a rerun of "Everybody Loves Raymond."

Let the intelligentsia watch politics, with the incessant replays of the ugliest moments by pundits grasping for higher ratings. They can also take the antidepressants; current estimates show 10% of the U.S. population popping prescription pills for depression and anxiety. I'll stick with the kitties, puppies and Raymond, and a good night's sleep.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Bright Side of Trump

I feel sorry for Donald Trump. Everyone is always picking on him, saying really mean things. Don't they realize he has a ten-year-old son who hears this stuff about his father? I mean, so what if he's a bit of a braggart -- is it so terrible to talk up one's good qualities?

For example, last night in a TV interview the topic of coal and other forms of renewable energy came up in a question posed to him: How would he handle it as president? Donald's answer, "I know more about renewable energy than anyone else on the planet," surprised me. I wondered how and when he had found the time to gain such expertise as a real estate developer in Manhattan. And "more than anyone else on the planet," even scientists who devote their entire lives to research on the subject. Admit it, that's pretty impressive.

Trump snuggles with his son, Barron.
When asked about his past negative comments regarding women, Trump explained, "Nobody respects women more than I do." And as for charges of racism, he confided that "I am the least racist person you will ever meet." Trump is going to build "the greatest wall" on our southern border. In his administration, there will be "millions of jobs" for college students. In fact, "each graduate will have about four or five great jobs to choose from."

Considering all that, he sounds like a great guy. Someone would have to be a complete idiot not to vote for him. Really. He's going to be great, maybe even our greatest president ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wake Me When It's Over

Okay, raise your hand if you are sick of politics already. And it's only April; imagine how we'll all feel come next November. About the only thing that keeps me watching is to see if Hillary ever wears the same outfit twice; so far that has not happened. (Her clothes closet must be the size of Loehmann's dressing room.)

My ennui stems from all of the candidates being such doofuses. My favorite is John Kasich and he is a major doofus as everyone knows, just like everyone knows his father was a mailman. Still, at least he's a grown-up, while all the others are big babies. (Not Bernie, but that's not happening.) It's all so tedious, making me feel sorry for my son, a Millennial in the burgeoning bloom of excitement about life's possibilities. I wonder, where are the inspiring, brilliant, charismatic leaders he deserves? Oh right, they all have real jobs in the private sector.

This phenomenon was explained long ago by Alexis de Toqueville, a French sage and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution, and quoted in a Letter to the Editor published in today's Wall Street Journal:

"In the United States, the pursuit of wealth generally diverts men of great talents and strong passions from the pursuit of political power; and it frequently happens that a man does not undertake to direct the fortunes of the state until he has shown himself incompetent to direct his own."

Sound familiar? He goes on: "In the United States I am not sure that the people would choose men of superior abilities even if they wished to be elected; but it is certain that candidates of this description do not come forward."

Those words were written 180 years ago and apparently nothing has changed. Yawn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Perfect Pancreas

The human pancreas.
Yesterday I learned that my carotid arteries might be too narrow. I never even knew I had them, or where they are (my neck), or that they could be too narrow, so naturally I was surprised by the news. Afraid to find out too much before next week's ultrasound of my carotids, I refuse to Google this condition, but it put me in touch with the fact that it's just one more effed-up body part, thanks to the glorious aging process. Instead of dwelling on the negative, I will list the body parts I have that have never given me any trouble and be thankful for those. I may even take them all out to dinner someplace nice.


Eating Fat Doesn't Make You Fat

Despite the fact that no reports of ill effects have been proven in the human population from ingesting genetically modified foods, a certain class of people remains freaked out about GMOs and insists that the government ban them. These people will only eat something stamped NON GMO on the package, usually right next to where it says GLUTEN FREE, which has also been proven to mean very little unless you have coeliac disease.

These instant adopters of any and all warnings are usually the very same people who want the minimum wage to be raised to $15.00 per hour, even though that will result in massive firings and many businesses closing, ultimately making far fewer jobs available to those who need them most. These Jump On Any Bandwagon types can often be spotted driving a Prius, feeling holier-than-thou (or at least holier-than-my-husband who drives an SUV) as they  believe they are saving the planet. Actually, according to Wikipedia, "the Prius battery contains nickel mined in Ontario. The plant that smelts this nickel is nicknamed 'the Superstack' because of the amount of pollution it puts out; the area for miles around it is a wasteland because of acid rain and air pollution."

If only people would do some research before they spout off, things might get better around here. And by "around here," I mean the planet we all want to save from destruction. Even, believe it or not, Republicans.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Buried Thoughts

Finally, my blog readership is dropping. This is good news since it means the only people reading are those who really enjoy my writing. Still, there is the occasional Anonymous asshole who stumbles in, but those are rare, thankfully, and to be expected in a world so overpopulated.

What I am working towards is few to no readers, at which point I can really let myself go and say whatever the heck I want. I tried that this past weekend at a meditation retreat. The instruction came from the retreat leader, who called the exercise "journalling." We were told to pick up our writing instrument and then after a signal from him, write non-stop whatever came into our heads and out our hands, without self-censoring. This was quite liberating, and actually unearthed a couple of thoughts I had no idea I was harboring.

One involved someone I know who reads this blog, and I might as well tell her here and now that I am uncomfortable buying that t-shirt you asked me to get for you. I don't really want to lie about it and then have to trot off to the post office and mail it to you and have you reimburse me when you might just as easily--actually it's a lot easier-- order it from the source directly and leave me out of it.

Funny how the mind works. I had no idea I felt that way.

Something to Talk About

Participating in a meditation retreat, I recently spent two days on the campus of a small private college here in Maine. The students are affluent and high-achieving. Seeing them up close in the dining hall, it was clear that all of them had everything anyone could need or want: youth, health, food, shelter, cars, clothes, and of course access to an excellent education. Apparently this surfeit of goodies, robbing them of the romance of despair young people so desperately seek, forces them to seek new frontiers of misery and desire well beyond the pink and purple and green hair and disfiguring piercings and ubiquitous tattoos that are already so old hat as to be unremarkable. And so they have entered the Wild World of Genitalia (WWG).

In the WWG, people are dissatisfied with their gender. Either they want different reproductive equipment than they've already got, or they want nobody to know exactly what it is they do have, or they want no gender at all. They want to have sex with boys or girls or boys and girls or maybe even a third gender, or no sex at all. They want to use their own bathrooms or your bathroom and my bathroom, depending on the mood of the moment. 

Coincidentally, I learned about all this in the bathroom. I had chosen the one marked "W" since I am old-fashioned and still present myself as a woman, and in there, taped to the back of each stall, was a poster listing all the students on campus who had been trained in dealing with gender issues, so in case any arise there's someone to call for help. It was produced by the campus branch of the  LBGTQIA. I had to look it up. In doing so, I found out that I am a cisgender. This means I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth. The term was created for referring to "non-transgender" people without alienating transgender people.

College is so educational. Even going there for just two days, I learned so much.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Hillary Does New Yawk

Oh my God!!!!!!
 Yesterday Hillary Clinton rode the subway in New York City. This momentous event was covered by the media with roughly the same excitement and intensity as the 1969 moon landing. It was played repeatedly on TV, reported all day on the radio, and this morning I found a photo suitable for framing of Hil exiting the subway at 161 Street & River Avenue in the Bronx on the front page of my newspaper. 

With the April 19 New York primary approaching, the stunt was Hillary's bald-faced attempt to convince New Yorkers that she's a real New Yorker, like Bernie Sanders actually is and of course she is not. Not only was she stumped by swiping her fare card, failing the first four times (which might be understandable since she has not ridden the subway since 1993), but she got off in the Bronx, which any real New Yorker knows is asking for trouble unless you're going to a Yankees game. Thankfully she had an entourage and several bodyguards with her -- just like your typical New Yorker.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The End of the Road

I am not considered an expert in anything, but one area in which I can claim superior knowledge is the ending of friendships. If you are stuck in a dead or dying friendship that is draining your energy but don't know how to get out of it, following are a few methods I have used that are guaranteed to get results.

1. Mock Their Religion
This worked for me with a good friend of thirty years. Over time he had become increasingly religious, and when I literally laughed at his belief that the crackers and wine they hand out at church are the actual body and blood of Christ, saying he must be crazy to believe that Christ's body could be available in gluten-free, whole wheat, low-sodium and regular options, it was too much for him to bear. He never spoke to me again.

2. Criticize Their Spouse
After fifteen years, my very best friend married a moron. I put up with him as long as possible, but then one day we had it out and I told her to call me when she came to her senses and got a divorce. I never heard from her again, not even after she left the guy.

3. Undermine Their Core Values  
This was another twenty-year relationship, during which time I vigorously supported my sexually promiscuous friend during her six abortions. When I finally had a baby of my own, I said that for the first time I could understand how those "right-to-lifers" viewed abortion as murder. She stormed off in a huff and we never spoke again.

4. Be Honest
After the first few months the bloom was off the rose. Still I faked it for a year until I couldn't do one more evening with this couple, who considered my husband and me great friends. I wrote the wife an e-mail saying my blood pressure simply couldn't take one more boring bridge game peppered with her pompous political rhetoric. It worked. (I got one of those emails myself from someone once and I can attest to its instant and permanent effectiveness.)

5. Unfriend Them on Facebook
Never fails.


How Ironical Can You Get?

How are we supposed to believe in our leaders and our leader-wannabes when they don't practice what they preach?

For example, Hillary Clinton did not dissuade her daughter from spending $11,000,000 on a Manhattan apartment, to be inhabited by just two people and a baby, despite constantly barking about the poor and disenfranchised. Even if Chelsea had bought a place for two or three million, the remaining money could have been used to build a homeless shelter. (Seriously, the Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Home for the Indigent would definitely improve her chances of getting into the White House, not to mention Heaven).

Trumping that missed opportunity (no pun intended),  20,000 Ivanka Trump-branded scarves made for her daddy's campaign were just recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission because they were not fire-retardent and could burst into flames. A spokesperson for the family said, "We're seeing to it that this issue is fixed immediately." But here's the kicker: the scarves were made in China. Really, Donald? 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It Takes Two to Tango

"What was your name again?"
Over the course of my life I have taken tap, ballet, ballroom, modern jazz, African and line dancing classes. I've enjoyed piano, painting, yoga, spinning, swimming, water aerobics, step aerobics and pilates lessons. I currently attend a weekly tai-chi class and work out with a personal trainer for an hour, three times a week. Looking back, I can say I got a lot out of each experience.  So when recently a friend invited me to a five-week session of Argentine Tango lessons here in Portland, I said yes.

Last week, when the first class rolled around, I was miserably sick so I missed it. Now the second class is coming up and I've got another excuse, certainly a 100% valid one, yet easily enough I could likely figure something out and attend the class. But somewhere down deep I realized this: It takes two to tango, and I'm only one. (My husband can't commit as he is almost always out of town on that night.)

The flyer says "No partner necessary, singles are welcome." Well, thank you for that, but I'm not sure I want to learn how to "feel more relaxed, sexier, and less depressed" while I help "increase testosterone levels" in a complete stranger. But then, that's just me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Another Nail in the Coffin

The bow is gabardine, got it?
Signs abound of Man's ever-increasing slide back to the primordial ooze. First off, there's the current fiasco we call electing a president. Add in the hot debate over which public bathrooms people with what genitals should use, whether or not GMOs are bad for you, and the fact that the average American woman today weighs the same as the average man did in the 1960s, and you can surely spot a downward trend intellectually. 

Not convinced? Well then, consider a printed correction in today's Wall Street Journal, that long-esteemed, business-focused, English-language international daily newspaper published six days a week by Dow Jones since its inception on July 8, 1889. Having the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, the Journal has won 39 Pulitzer prizes through the end of 2015, with more to come no doubt. Anyway, they got the following fact wrong and apologized for it:

"An article about Burberry's new fragrance, Mr. Burberry, in April's WSJ. Magazine incorrectly said the bows on the fragrance's bottles are satin; they are gabardine. A correction published Monday incorrectly said the article had reported that the bows are silk."

So we learn, to our collective horror, that their first correction of this very important fact we all need to know contained a wholly different error. I for one, as a paying subscriber, certainly hope heads rolled.

TV Land

I made a mistake this morning and flipped on the TV while I was having my breakfast. This was wrong because you're supposed to just eat when you are eating and not do anything else, in order to be mindful which is the best thing to be at all times. I know this but I forgot, momentarily. It wasn't all bad, though, because I learned a few helpful things:

There's a new kind of frying pan that's called a "flip pan" that will apparently revolutionize your life, or at least your cooking prowess. The heat doesn't just stay on the bottom of the pan, so your food turns out better. (I do this by stirring, but perhaps this means you no longer have to stir, freeing you up to do more important things, like finally reading War and Peace.) The Flip Pan comes in lots of fun colors, although the very popular "Mint Green" is sold out but will be available again soon, they promise.

Today is the Wisconsin Primary, which will definitely be a deciding factor in the outcome of the 2016 election, just like every one of the past primaries was supposed to be but were not. All the usual suspects are hanging out in Wisconsin, just waiting to give us the latest vote tallies when the polls close. Apparently Donald Trump has to win or he's out! Ditto Ted Cruz. It's very exciting, at least to those people who get paid to be excited about it.

You can now "look younger than ever" with a revolutionary new skin cream available only by calling the number on your screen. (I wish I had written it down but as I mentioned earlier, I was eating.) I found it pretty hard to believe that a person can look younger than they did when they actually were younger, but that's what the manufacturer of this exciting product is claiming.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Silent Retreat

According to an old saying, 
"If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." 
If everyone did this for just one day, things sure would quiet down. 
Who knows what would come of it.
Try it.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

So Much to Learn

          Marc Johns
Yesterday's post, in which I criticized Donald Trump for his recent gaffe on abortion, called out Ted Cruz for his anti-gay values, and excoriated Hillary Clinton for her general dishonesty, ending with a resounding endorsement of John Kasich, elicited a decidedly snide response from my old friend Anonymous. He (or she) declared me an "uninformed woman."  Now I'm wondering just what part I got wrong, although right off the bat I'd say "absolutely nothing."

Nowadays it's pretty hard to be wrong about anything if you have access to a computer. Anyone with movable fingers can summon up a laundry list of Clinton's misdeeds from the past, both distant and recent. I must assume that Anonymous is one of those lefties who flip out at even a timid hint that either they or their candidate could be wrong on any issue. Just not sure why they lack the courage of their convictions and refuse to attach a name to their opinions.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Our Next President

It's probably best to clip these in private.
Good thing Donald Trump isn't going to be president or I might end up on Death Row. You know, that whole abortion thing making the woman pay, although he did retract his ridiculous statement after giving it some deep thought for about fifteen seconds. Admittedly abortion is a thorny issue. It surely is murder, that cannot be denied, but of what?

No matter, the procedure has been legal for years and there's no turning back since it's become quite popular, with many women using it as a form of birth control. Outlawing abortion now would be like making the act of clipping your toenails illegal, which it probably is in some indigenous tribe somewhere for all we know. It certainly is frowned upon in public right here in the USA, and several years back one unlucky New Yorker got a ticket for littering when he clipped his toenails while sitting on a Central Park bench.

Back to poor Donald: He had a great run, but it's likely over. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," or something like that. Bear in mind that Ted Cruz is no fan of abortion; he means it and is even worse than Trump. So, with Hillary so hated, and with good reason, I think we're looking at a President Kasich.

Remember, you read it here first.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's A Scary World

I am what is commonly referred to as a scaredy-cat. I am afraid of many things. According to a succession of shrinks, this is because I was kidnapped at the age of four and kept overnight, by a total stranger. She didn't hurt me, at least not physically, but apparently I was permanently and emotionally scarred from this event, or so they say. Following is a list of some of the things I am afraid of:

1. Spiders
2. Terrorists
3. Getting sepsis from a manicure or pedicure and losing a limb or dying
4. Having a stroke from my high blood pressure
5. The furnace in my basement exploding while I am sleeping two floors above
6. Getting a flat tire on a dark, lonely country road at night
7. Falling asleep in my hot tub when my husband is out of town
8. A home invasion by a maniac
9. Riding the subway in NYC or DC
10. Getting stuck in traffic on a hot day and running out of gas
11. Being diagnosed with an incurable, painful and rare disease
12. That stuff you drink the night before a colonoscopy
13. Driving in snow
14. Swimming in the ocean and getting eaten by a shark
15. Eating bad sushi and having a parasite take up residence inside me
16. Vomiting
17. Driving over bridges
18. My cat going missing
19. Roller coasters
20. Getting food poisoning
21. Driving fast directly behind someone who has a heart attack at the wheel
22. Being behind a multi-car-carrier and having whatever mechanism holds it together fail and having all the cars roll off onto mine
23. Thunderstorms

On the other hand, I am not afraid of death, dentistry or public speaking, the top three fears for most people. Go figure.

Where's My Kool-Aid?

Every night when I go to bed, I pray I will wake up a Democrat.  It must be so nice. To not have to think about things at all, but just accept the wisdom of the elders and Rachel Maddow and snuggle into the comfort and security of knowing you are always right about everything, and thus will going to Heaven someday.

I try so hard to be one, but it just doesn't work for me. Each morning when I wake up, there are still the doubts. And it's true for so many of my dear friends, too, who insist on questioning, always questioning, and actually seeing the other side of things. I tell myself, "Shut up, brain!" But dammit, those pesky questions keep nagging at me.

Take Hillary Clinton. Is she really any more "presidential" than Donald Trump? Doesn't she lie and obfuscate just like all the rest of them? What about all those past scandals? And the new ones too? And all her rich friends? And if pictures are any indication, isn't she more than a little nuts?

There I go again. ("Shut up, brain!") Hillary is fine, she'll be a wonderful president, really. Now, where's my Kool-Aid?

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 ...