Saturday, December 20, 2008

In John We Trust

Last weekend my computer had a bad case of brain freeze. I made an appointment to see a genius, the world's best job title, at the Apple store.

Two hours later, Marlon-the-Genius told me in effect that I should start planning my Mac's funeral as the hard drive could not be mounted. (Yes, I know. Animal husbandry comes to mind here.) He told me that I would have to buy a new hard drive for $350 which may or may not work, and gave me business cards for two companies that retrieve data.

The first company offered to attempt this death-defying feat for $500-$2500, depending on how much data there was. The second came in only slightly cheaper.

I've been working on two manuscripts, one for over ten years, the other for nearly two. Both went down with the ship because I hadn't backed them up.

I was devastated, but tried to be philosophical about my loss. Maybe God was punishing me for crimes A, B or C which I may have inadvertently committed. Or maybe the message was that I was not supposed to write those particular books. I believe in an orderly universe. Therefore, there must be a reason.

It can't be as simple as "shit happens." Not if you're me, anyway.

After brooding for several days (between visits to Flip's computer when the jonesing got too bad,) it occurred to me that I should get a second opinion.

I made an appointment at a different Apple store and today took my computer to John-the-Genius, who totally lived up to his title. He downloaded my manuscripts onto a disk which is sitting on my desk like a beating heart, and he solved my hard drive problem.

He said the malfunction was a fluke. It wasn't anything I did, nor could it have been prevented.

Shit happens.

It isn't lost on me that I spent a week agonizing over some lost writing when Flip is losing so much more to Alzheimer's.

The engaged couple ahead of me had met at the Genius Bar several months ago. John remembered them. I wondered if he was going to officiate at their wedding after fixing their laptops.

He made a few adjustments and gave me back my life.

Nerd that I am, my life is in my computer. I had a near-death experience and lived to tell about it.

I feel as if Christmas came early this year.

"Oh come let us adore him, John-the-Lord."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bandism for Dummies

Flip is recording today.

"I have an idea for the vocals," he said.

"Hiring me?" I squealed.


"Well, you can try out," he said.

"But, but, I know the leader. I'm with the band. Won't that get me in?"

"I'm sorry, Miss, you'll have to audition like everyone else."

"What 'everyone else' are you talking about?" I asked.

"They will come," he said. "You will see."

"And YOU will see that I am the best of all. Plus, I live here. Doesn't geography count?"

Long pause.

"What are you going to call your band?' I asked.

"How about Flip and the Flipettes?"

"Ewwww." Extending crossed fingers to ward off vampires. "I will not be a Flipette. In case you hadn't noticed, we're way past the 50's."

"Flip and the Flipette?" Hopefully.


Longer pause.

"It sucks, ok?"

Even longer pause.

"You could call it 'Susan, back-ups by Flip.'"

He looked at me in disgust, and maybe a wee bit of admiration for my chutzpah.

"Or just 'SUSAN' like Cher and Charo. And Madonna." I was on a roll.

Flip shook his head in disbelief, eyes turned upward just like my mother used to do. Great. He's channeling my mother who was born with a silver cross in her back.

Bless her heart.

I lived in the South for years. My favorite Southernism is "all y'all" used as a possessive pronoun as in "Do these be all y'all's horses?"

But I am also especially fond of "Bless her heart" as piously employed by Southern ladies immediately after trashing other Southern ladies, as in "Mah neighbor is a no-good ho' slut who lacks the brains of a head o' cabbage, bless her heart."

You can say anything about anyone as long as you follow it with "bless her heart." Like crossing yourself at the door to a church. Or warding off vampires with garlic. Those three little words are your insurance policy, your hall pass, your get-out-of-jail-free card.

Without them you could appear mean, and nobody wants that.

So I need to prepare my audition number and a great outfit. Yes, I know it's a recording session, but a great outfit would be a terrific morale booster.

First I need to lay down some rules:

'Less he be hirin' me, he be singin' the Blues all by his lonesome. In the rain. Uh huh. Uh huh. Ain't no way in. Ain't no way in. Ain't NO WAY in.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This treasure appeared on Craig's List:

craigslist > new york >
Date: 2008-11-06, 4:01AM EST

I have a huge bathroom.

I am a female in my mid 60's and I am looking for a room mate. Times are tight and I need some extra money.
I am willing to rent out my bathroom in my 1 bedroom east village home.

My bathroom is large. You can easily put a twin air mattress in there. I only ask that when I need to use the bathroom, you or your air mattress are not in it.

I do ask that when you are in the apartment, you confine yourself to the bathroom. I do not feel comfortable with a stranger walking around my living room. This might change as I get to know you better.

You may have guest over as long as they are confined to the bathroom as well. This might seem a bit odd but please remember the rent is $400 and the bathroom is large.

* cats are OK - purrr
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 907788944

Monday, December 08, 2008

Upscale Panhandling

In the last few months, someone new has become a part of the neighborhood landscape. She has set up shop on the corner by my bank and loudly claims to be collecting money to keep homeless children off the street. As there is no sign or literature or even a collection box with a logo, we are expected to take on faith that she is in fact an angel of mercy and donate large chunks of money to her humanitarian cause.

She is persistent enough to have gotten through an MBA program in entrepreneurship with perhaps a minor in street fighting.

If you decline to empty your wallet into her hands, she assails you with insults referencing your selfishness and uncaring nature and assures you that because of your stinginess, The Homeless Children will remain on the streets until they are old and decrepit. Unless of course, they die first. Which is likely.

I do not believe that she is a homeless person as she appears to be clean and reasonably well-dressed. She is extremely aggressive. Relentless. Indefatigable. You might be impressed with her zeal if there were any indication that she actually represents anyone but herself, but there is not.

Yet she persists.

An entrepreneur must possess innovativeness and flexibility. Financial expertise. Strategy. Managerial autonomy. She must be equipped to recognize opportunity and to develop a business plan in order to be positioned for success in this challenging economy.

I drop dollars into the Salvation Army buckets and help the Christmas begging nuns because I recognize their causes. I also give money on occasion to panhandlers just because they need it. I appreciate their honesty. People in need are welcome to any help I am able to offer.

However, I will not be bullied and shamed into mindlessly giving to someone who is unabashedly running a scam. Insulting me is most definitely not the way to my heart, or my wallet. I have been verbally assaulted by this unpleasant young woman so often that today I almost told her, "I won't give you money because I don't like you."

I also refuse to cross the street to avoid her. She will not run me off my preferred route and I cannot run her out of town on a rail, so we engage in our daily stand-off.

Suffice to say, no holiday cheer is being generated between us.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella (if you're not too pissed)

It's pouring today. I needed a few things from the neighborhood grocery and besides I look for opportunities to wear my rubber rain boots, which I love. Flip decided to go with me (since I have such cool boots) and we headed out with umbrellas.

The store had its umbrella pail next to the door. "I'm not falling for that again," I commented. "The last time I did, someone stole my umbrella."

The manager happened to be walking by and said, "I remember that. It was returned the next day."

He went to his special hiding place and produced three umbrellas, a green one and two black ones, one of which was mine!

I couldn't believe it.

"I decided to leave the bucket out for a few more days in case it rained again," he said. "It was down in the bottom."

"It wasn't there when I left the store that night," I said.

"I know. I looked, too, after I heard what happened. They sneaked it in there after the rain stopped." He shook his head in disbelief.

I guess the person who stole it believes that she isn't really a thief because she brought it back. The fact that she deprived its owner of something when it was needed seems to carry no weight. I really don't understand such reasoning, but I'm happy to have my umbrella back. It's much nicer than the one I bought to replace it.

"We're coming up in the world," I told Flip. "We're a three-umbrella family now."

Monday, November 24, 2008

An apple a day can kill you

I bit into an organic Macintosh apple and immediately, a piece of peel got lodged in my throat, causing me to choke, wheeze and turn blue.

"Heimlich maneuver," I gasped to Flip and turned my back.

He put his arms around me and I tried to cough it up. It was clear he didn't know how to do one, so I quickly looked it up online. While choking. Luckily I can type fast. It could save my life someday, assuming I live through this one.

Step 1: The directions said to ask the choking person to stand if he or she is sitting. (Check.)

Step 2: Place yourself slightly behind the standing victim. (Check.)

Step 3: Reassure the victim that you know the Heimlich maneuver and are going to help. (We can skip this one. I know better but my options are limited.)

Step 4: Place your arms around the victim's waist. (No, not like that. You're saving my life -- it's different. Cough, cough.)

Step 5: Make a fist with one hand and place your thumb toward the victim, just above his or her belly button. (Didn't go so well. First I had to roll down my sweat pants to find my belly button, not the C-section indentation that resembles it. I kept trying to force his hand into a fist and he kept opening it.)

Step 6: Grab your fist with your other hand. (I grabbed his other hand and tried to grasp his fist with it. He resisted. In fact, he was beginning to get angry and told me to drink some water. That's his cure for everything. I was afraid it would lodge the apple peel further down my esophagus. Coughed some more, unproductively.)

Step 7: Deliver five upward squeeze-thrusts into the abdomen. (The angle was wrong. Flip is very tall. I am not. I wondered if these directions actually help anyone who really needs them.)

Step 8: Make each squeeze-thrust strong enough to dislodge a foreign body. (Right. We don't even dance well together. See above. I said, "Forget it" and tried to give myself a Heimlich Maneuver. It can't be done.)

At this point, I gave up and began looking for the bright light to go into, which seemed imminent.

There is more.

Step 9: Understand that your thrusts make the diaphragm move air out of the victim's lungs, creating a kind of artificial cough. (I'm still coughing. Nothing is being dislodged, though.)

Step 10: Keep a firm grip on the victim, since he or she can lose consciousness and fall to the ground if the Heimlich maneuver is not effective. (Get away from me, loser. I'm choking here.)

Step 11: Repeat the Heimlich maneuver until the foreign body is expelled. (Heimlich can kiss my ass. I should have used this time to make my Will instead.)

Checking further, there are instructions for doing it to yourself by leaning over a chair and driving your fist towards yourself with an upward thrust. This sounds a lot like Hara-kiri for Dummies. It didn't work either. Impressive bruises, though.

Flip suggested I make an appointment tomorrow to see the doctor. I'll get right on it.

The Least We Can Do

No matter how we feel about the war in Iraq, we should not forget the men and women who are serving there.

The Xerox Corporation has offered to print thank you cards and send them to American soldiers currently serving in Iraq.

All the cards were designed by American school children.

If you go to this web site, you can pick out a card and it will be sent overseas. You cannot choose who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services. You can either select a pre-written message or write your own.

It is free and only takes a second.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The TV Gods Are Messing With Me

Akkkkk!!! Cover my eyes! I can't stand her, yet I stare in fascination the way a mouse observes its feline assassin.

If one watches TV at all, it has become impossible to avoid commercials for "The Starter Wife," starring Debra Messing. They feature her mugging incessantly as it seems the woman is incapable of even drinking through a straw without putting her face into overdrive. She is like the old time silent movie heroines whose expressions had to be exaggerated because there was no soundtrack.

In one commercial, she says "Yeehaw" as the rest of the cast ogles her adoringly. I have lived in the South. You can't fool me. That is the most insincere "Yeehaw" I have ever heard.

I will never, ever watch the show because through endless commercials, I have already seen her entire repertoire of facial expressions and they make me want to smack her. Her Hamminess struts around acting larger than life while I cast about for things to throw at my TV screen.

I read the plot synopsis online. Her character has everything anyone could ever hope for, according to the writers: Marriage to a successful Hollywood producer, a fabulously decorated McMansion, rich friends, and best of all, whenever she enters a restaurant she gets the best table because she is the Wife Of someone powerful and famous.

Then he divorces her and none of her friends will speak to her, party invitations become non-existent and worst of all, she no longer gets the best tables because she is now (gasp) only a Starter Wife.

Oh, gawd.

Anything but that.

Speak of hell on earth.

That is so unbelievably sad.

The sub-plot may well be the shallowness of life in the movie world, but the message is probably lost as the lead character exercises every one of the 98 facial muscles which humans possess.

I am a live-and-let-live kind of person, so I really detest having something shoved down my throat. Yet every commercial break, there she is, sometimes twice, mugging and whining.

"You're ruining my life!" she wails in one of them while waving her arms ineffectually for extra drama.

Ms. Messing's features are most attractive in repose, but I suspect that she even makes faces in her sleep. If my mother were living, she would doubtless tell her, "Your face is going to freeze like that."

She is even more cloyingly adorable than Tina Fey's Sarah Palin.

They need to call a moratorium on Debra Messing. My critical mass has been reached. The whole gag-inducing cyclorama should be put out of my misery. Now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh, Come All Ye Spendful

I am already tired of Christmas. The commercialization of it has always offended me and it gets worse every year. This year, store decorations were up before Halloween, totally skipping Thanksgiving while going straight for the jugular, our wallets.

When I was young there was a rhythm to the year, bounded by holidays. Each one was given its due, and it was reliable. Even if one didn't especially enjoy a holiday itself, there was comfort in the orderliness of it.

Mercantile greed has done away with all special occasions that do not bear fruit which means that Christmas has taken on the enormous task of keeping the economy afloat while assuaging all the guilt we have accumulated during the year. Treat someone badly? No problem. Give a nice present and all will be forgiven.

Lest I be confused with Scrooge, let me say that I love giving presents to my near and dear. Where they are concerned, it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, although the receiving ain't half bad either.

But I prefer to give presents when the urge hits me, when I see something that screams the name of one of my loved ones. This joyful experience doesn't necessarily occur in the weeks immediately preceding December 25th, however. And watching people shop aggressively with grim determination is not conducive to spreading holiday cheer in my heart.

The custom of gift-giving originated with the Pagans thousands of years before Jesus was born. In fact, his inclusion in celebrations of the winter solstice, when the sun is farthest from the equator, did not occur until long after his death. Even his "birth date" was arbitrarily assigned by the pope in AD 320 because Mithraism, an early folk religion, marked the birth of Mithras, the Persian sun god, on December 25th. It was easier to convert people by keeping things as familiar as possible.

I am not a Christian, but I endorse the Christian plea to "Keep Christ in Christmas" because it is an anti-commerce sentiment. In this context, "Christ" should be loosely interpreted as giving meaningfully of ourselves to others, no matter what our religious beliefs or lack of them, because in caring service lies our true freedom. Helping or forgiving someone is a gift which costs nothing and which also brings the greatest return.

And then there is mistletoe, which the ancient Druids considered a divine plant, symbolizing love and peace. Kissing is pretty divine, too, so let's Keep the Kiss in Christmas.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Save the Kiribatis

The President of the South Pacific island nation of Kiribati has outlined an unprecedented plan that would scatter his people throughout the nations of the world before rising sea levels submerge the islands they have called home for centuries.

Kiribati was first settled by early Austronesian-speaking peoples before the 1st century A.D. Fijians and Tongans arrived around the 14th century and merged with the older groups to form a unique Micronesian culture.

President Anote Tong said that the sea level rise over the next century predicted by scientists would submerge much of the land on which they live while salinization of ground water would make even more of it uninhabitable.

Kiribati is made up of 33 islands, mostly coral atolls, that straddle the equator in the vast South Pacific Ocean.

"Most islands are so narrow that if you stand on the ocean side and shout, people on the lagoon side will hear you," he said.

In 1995, Kiribati moved the international date line to the east so it would be the first country to welcome the dawn of the Third Millennium on Jan. 1, 2000. In 1999, the tiny nation gained UN membership.

Kiribati faces oblivion because of climate change. Tong's plan to relocate 100,000 people was born of his realization that the situation is urgent. Unusual natural events such as higher tides, coral bleaching and a recent 12-month drought have already been observed by residents of the island chain.

Although Kiribati is one of the world's lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, it will be one of the first areas to feel the effects of changes caused by industrialized nations. President Tong is frustrated that those nations are interested only in the economic impact of curbing global warming. If scientists are right, his country faces a humanitarian crisis and the world refuses to notice.

"While it may be a matter of economics for some of you, for us it's not economics; it's a matter of survival," he said.

Though it may be too late to head off the sea level rise that would spell disaster for Kiribati, Tong urged other nations to take preventive measures. Kiribati has created the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a California-sized ocean wilderness of pristine coral reefs, underwater mountains and fish populations threatened by over-fishing and climate change. PIPA conserves one of the Earth's last intact oceanic ecosystems in a nearly uninhabited region of abundant marine and bird life.

"This is our contribution to humanity. We are waiting for a contribution from any country of a piece of land so we can move to it," Tong said.

He knows that this is unlikely to happen, and that anger won't help the situation. His plan provides for groups of Kiribati citizens, perhaps 1,000 per year, to receive job training and seek skilled jobs in other countries. They would form a dispersed resource that others could turn to as the environmental situation worsens at home. Job training is important because it would allow the dispersal to occur with as much dignity as possible so that his people will not become environmental refugees.

Implementation of his plan has already begun with small groups of nurses moving to Australia and New Zealand for further training.

"Hopefully, our people will spread out so that when the time comes they will assist with the integration of the rest of the people into their communities, and also make it easier on the host countries."

I think of the many people in our own country displaced by Hurricane Katrina who became environmental refugees in one day while the world refused to notice. And I think of President Tong and his people knowing that their beloved home for thousands of years will one day lie under the ocean, their culture extinct as they try to assimilate into the diaspora of nations.

It seems that we are constantly given opportunities to help each other and to heal the earth while we respond with indifference and weak economic excuses.

I know it's naive and unrealistic, but I don't believe that any society should advance at such enormous cost to others. The industrialization of one nation should not be allowed to spell doom for another. I fail to see why scientists cannot find ways to stem climate change. If we have the technology to bring about such drastic conditions, we possess the ability to reverse them.

As self-appointed stewards of the earth, we need to make a serious commitment to protect, nurture and repair it. Now. There is no more time to waste.

The waters are rising and we are our only life boat.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Reflections on the Voting Booth

I've been thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. today. And his dream.

I was a Civil Rights worker in the 60's, going door-to-door in Harlem, NY, registering people to vote who had never voted before.

Many invited me into their homes. I remember one elderly woman named Addie whose tiny apartment was poor but immaculate. A vase of plastic flowers adorned the checkered red and white oilcloth-covered kitchen table where she gave me ginger snaps and tea. On her wall was a picture of President Kennedy, right next to Jesus.

Her voice was so soft that I had to lean in to hear her. She spoke with quiet passion of her slave ancestors who managed to keep hope alive under circumstances most of us cannot imagine. And she agreed to vote so that her children's children could have a better life.

I attended the March on Washington on August 26, 1963 with my two-month old daughter in my arms along with about 250,000 other people. It was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation's capital.

1963 was a time of racial unrest and civil rights demonstrations. The police in Birmingham, Alabama, had turned attack dogs and fire hoses against protesters, many of whom were children. Dr. King was arrested and jailed during these protests and wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham City Jail," which advocated civil disobedience against unjust laws.

A Civil Rights Act was stalled in Congress.

The purpose of the march was the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation, elimination of racial segregation in public schools, protection for demonstrators against police brutality, a major public-works program to provide jobs; the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring; a $2/hour minimum wage and self-government for the District of Columbia, which had a black majority.

The heavy police presence turned out to be unnecessary as the march was noted for its civility and peacefulness.

Today, a part of Dr. King's dream which became the dream of so many of us over far too many years, will be fulfilled.

Even the weather cooperated in San Francisco as sunny blue skies replaced nearly a week of heavy rain. I realized that I was smiling the whole time I waited at my polling place.

I strongly support Barack Obama and believe he will win, but the democratic process is more important even than any individual candidate. I am mindful of the fact that in many countries, citizens do not have the right to determine their own government.

Obama's victory would represent for me as for many others the coming full circle of America, a black President in my lifetime which has included seeing black people denied their right to vote. His candidacy has already performed a feat even more remarkable than the first airplane, piloted by Chuck Yeager, to break the sound barrier, traveling faster than the speed of sound.

There is no barrier quite as hard to penetrate as bigotry.

Long ago, on that historic day in Washington DC, Dr. King concluded his electric speech with these words: "And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"

I hope and pray that today is that day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Coulda Been a Contendah

Flip owes me money.

Last night, I peeled off a tiny one-inch band-aid, wadded it up and flung it into a waste basket about 15 feet away. I didn't think it could possibly go in from that distance, considering its puniness, but I had to try because that's what I do.

I have a little-known talent. I can toss things into receptacles from across any room and nearly every time, make a basket. I am the Queen of Net. Flip has called me Wilt-the-Stilt for years. I'm sure he's jealous as he is over 6'3" and cannot do this, while I appear to be 5'1" but am really a tall person traveling incognito.

He said, "If you make it, I'll give you $100."

"Good," I said. I added a dab of saliva to the band-aid and threw it.

Ping! It went in. We both heard it hit the bottom of the waste basket.

I walked over to make sure, and there it was. I fished it out and showed it to Flip.

"You owe me $100," I said.

"It's probably just something that looks like a band-aid," he muttered. I hate it when he welches on bets with me.

"You wouldn't say that if I were a big mean burly guy with skull-and-crossbones tattooed across my chest, would you? Or the man at the grocery store today."

We saw a certifiable giant. His belt was exactly at my eye level, and he made Flip look short.

After he checked out ahead of us, I asked the clerk, "How tall do you think he is?"

"I asked him once," he said. "He's 7'2" and played basketball in college. He's not very friendly."

I already knew that. I had smiled at the guy when he caught me staring and he glowered at me. Men don't usually do that unless they know me.

I told Flip that he didn't have to pay me off instantly because it was his birthday and that wouldn't seem right. But that was yesterday. Birthday's over. I want my money.

I will need it for basketball boot camp. I am going to send my resume to the Globetrotters, who will absolutely want me on their team.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Spend or Not to Spend,

That is the Question.

Golden Gate Bridge officials have voted to hang stainless steel nets from the sides of the world-famous span in an effort to stop people from jumping to their deaths.

Mental health experts have long argued that a barrier would prevent impulsive suicides.

The exquisitely graceful bridge, a California icon with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, has lured people intent on ending their lives since it was completed in 1937. More than 1,200 have plunged to their deaths; the exact number is unknown because most events were unwitnessed. Thirty-eight people leaped last year and 19 so far this year, according to bridge officials.

The bridge may be the most popular suicide spot in the world. Many have traveled to San Francisco specifically for that purpose, taking a bus or taxi to the site or rental cars, which police find abandoned in the parking lot. Currents beneath the bridge are very strong, and some jumpers have undoubtedly been washed out to sea. The water may be as cold as 47 °F (8 °C) and great white sharks, which congregate around the nearby Farallon Islands, are often seen under the bridge.

Opponents believe that a barrier will not prevent people from killing themselves and that they would be better served by additional funding for mental health treatment.

Besides, there is another perfectly good launching pad, the Bay Bridge, right across town. It lacks the mystique of the Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps, but once they're dead, does this matter?

Board members said the steel nets, which would hang 20 feet below the bridge and extend about 20 feet from each side, would prevent suicides without harming the bridge's appearance. "This is a vote to save lives," said one board member.

The project will cost about $50 million. The lone dissenter on the board said he was worried about cost. "I want to ensure if we build it, we're not indebting our children," he said.

I cannot imagine a more horrible death than jumping from the bridge as I am convinced that most experience a change of heart on the way down. The deck is 245 feet above the water and after a fall of approximately four seconds, jumpers hit the water at about 88 miles per hour (142 km/h.)

The issue of suicide is extremely disturbing to me because I deeply want to be here forever to see how it all turns out. I don't know what the right and humane answer is. Perhaps there isn't one.

Am I my brother's keeper? Are we all our brothers' keepers? Should we be? Should there be safety nets to formalize this arrangement? Is it then but a short step to legislation which forces us to be our brother's keeper even though it takes away certain freedoms in the process?

The Catholic Church considers suicide a mortal sin, a violation of the fifth commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” I consider it a waste, perhaps an insult to God by throwing this gift of life back in His or Her teeth. But still, I would not condemn a soul for doing so because it is clear that such a person is in torment and deserves our compassion.

Fifty million dollars could perform a lot of real live miracles. Many people could eat or take their children to the doctor with that money so they could live. While I sympathize with those who want to end their lives, I think our greater concern as a society should be with those who are intent on living. I don't want to be heartless, but in today's painful economy there is simply more bang to the buck in helping those who treasure life enough to hang on tooth and claw through adversity, not those who have already given up on themselves and the future.

Besides, if we can build a society in which more people enjoy greater mental health, fewer will come to regard death as their best option.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

This is Fleet Week in San Francisco. The main event is performances Saturday and Sunday by the Blue Angels, the US Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron, executing utterly amazing maneuvers with their warplanes.

They begin to practice two days before, which means that we are treated to constant ear-splitting, heart-stopping noise for about six hours today and tomorrow, longer on the weekend. It sounds as if we are under siege.

It transports me to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as I imagine how the people in those buildings must have felt. I also think about cities being bombed during World War II, Honolulu, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, London, Dresden, and about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur, all the many human habitats destroyed to make a point, to subject one people to the will of another.

It gets old.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder without having been bombed in any of those places because I feel a cellular connection to people everywhere.

With all respect to our brave service men and women and nothing but the greatest admiration for the fliers who put on these fantastic shows, I wonder how much the fuel costs to astonish people around the country nearly every day of the year. It seems like a flagrant waste of money that could be spent on something more beneficial, like health and education.

Two years ago, we went to the show and I admit that I was thrilled to be there.

Last year, we took our frightened cat in the car and drove considerably south of the city, out of the airplane traffic patterns, and walked on the beach. I feel for all the petrified cats and dogs and babies who are subjected to four days of fighter planes roaring close to the ground, causing structures to tremble and windows to rattle, with no conception of what is happening.

I'm thinking we'll go back to that beach which does not require a passport or even a full tank of gas and ride it out until Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

in which a gentle opinion is expressed

Senator McCain, I am not your friend, you slimy snake-oil salesman, no matter how many times you claimed I was.

I especially enjoyed hearing you contemptuously refer to Senator Obama as "that one." Nice. You're a real class act.

If you had an iota of humility, I could almost sympathize with you as the underdog because you lack Barack Obama's intelligence, dignity, wit, and the fact that he embodies both substance and charisma. But you insisted on hurling the same mudpies over and over even though they missed their mark every time.

You should use some of your wife's inherited money to perfect your golf game and leave governing to those with the energy, education and creativity to bring meaningful change to this country instead of endorsing the same old policies that have driven it into the ground while claiming to be a maverick.

I am not impressed.

McCain thinks that health care is a responsibility. Obama believes it is a right which belongs to every American. So do I, and the sooner, the better.

I wonder if it was a capricious programming error that the presidential debate, with McCain as last speaker, was followed by a Viva Viagra commercial in which a guy in an organ grinder monkey's suit carries his wife over the threshold of their bedroom.

"You never carried me over a threshold," I pouted. "I bet we aren't really even married."

"Well, if you could get me a suit like that, I might," said Flip.

"It will never happen. Besides, they lie. Nobody could get lucky in that suit."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Sheriff in Town

Yesterday we saw a new neurologist. The doctor we've been seeing for the past year is a lovely man but his approach to Flip's disease is completely laissez-faire, what-will-be-will-be. Sitting in his presence for a few minutes every three months feels like a coffee klatch without the coffee, so I sought a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer's.

Dr. G is personally quite repulsive. He creeps me out, and not only because of his attire: Blindingly bright turquoise nylon shirt so tight that his belly bulges between the buttons in flaccid bits and a tie that looks like Salvador Dali vomited. He walks like a chicken and his hair appropriately resembles a cock's comb. Let's just say that he is old enough to know better.

He enters the room, strutting, and informs us that he doesn't have to work -- he does so because he loves it. I think this is meant to be reassuring but it falls far short of its mark.

I am uncomfortable that he makes eye contact only with me the whole time he is with us. To be fair, I have done most of the talking because Flip's disease is impeding his verbal skills. Since doctors allot only so much time per patient, it is more ergonomic for me to explain what is going on. But if he is going to treat Flip as a nonentity, then he is not our man.

He touts himself as being on the "cutting edge," an expression which I have found usually indicates a huge ego. And while some degree of ego is probably necessary to accomplish anything, too often it controls the beast and blinds it to its own faults.

He has one of his assistants, of which there are several, make us copies of the particulars on two drug trials he is running. The sheaf of papers is a good two inches thick. I have my reading material for the next millennium right there.

One drug is an hour-long infusion by needle which is given every six weeks, followed by an MRI to monitor swelling of the brain which is a possible side effect. He minimizes the seriousness of this for us, but I am a lay person. Swelling brains do not sound good to me.

The other medication is a daily pill, the possible side effects of which are: headache, diarrhea, rash, head cold, dizziness, problems with balance, nausea, tiredness and muscle pain, vomiting, abdominal pain, cough, sore throat, itching and visual disturbances, as well as intestinal blockages requiring hospitalization. Confusion is another, although I am not sure this could be determined in a patient with Alzheimer's.

Either of these regimens could have been an important part of Dr. Mengele's repertoire, or the Marquis de Sade's. It seems that quality of life should be a factor.

Flip asks me if there is a third party regulating these trials, and I tell him there is not. Basically, I am all he has. Unfortunately I am not a trained medical person, but on the plus side, I am reasonably intelligent, I can read, and I am absolutely devoted to protecting him.

I hate that the doctor must be considered an adversary. We are between that rock and hard place in that seeing Doctor #1, who is a nice man and seems genuinely regretful when he tells us there is nothing he can do, has begun to feel too much like giving up. Our visits to him are basically a quick conversation after which he pronounces, "Yep. You've still got it."

I need to feel more proactive and less resigned even if we are fighting air or tilting at windmills.

Doctor #2, on the other hand, may be on the cutting edge but he is also clearly in the pocket of the drug companies. He is probably being paid for every body he brings into the studies so there is no way his first concern is for the patient. It is obscene that drug companies and insurance companies control medical care in this country.

While I understand the necessity for drug trials, I am extremely reluctant to subject someone I love to them. I want a drug that will erase all symptoms of the disease with no side effects, a drug that will spring fully formed and armed to the teeth like Athena from Zeus' head. I want to know that no animals, human or otherwise, were harmed in the making of this drug.

Is that too much to ask?

This disease is a maelstrom whirling faster and faster. As rational beings, we want to make sense of our life's experiences. Understanding them is second nature because we have no other way to navigate the future. Accepting that perhaps there is no sense to be made here goes against all our conditioning as reasoning beings.

Alzheimer's is the best reason I know for living in the here and now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Odds and Ends, mostly Odd

My healing has progressed enough that I attempted a walk today, despite being a bit wobbly. Besides, I had library books to return, which I enlisted Flip to carry for me.

We passed a tiny princess and her mother on the street. The child, who was 5 or 6, was decked out in full princess regalia, which elicited "awwwww" from all who were not too brain dead to notice her.

Someone asked, "Is she in a play?"

"No," said the mom. "She just likes to be a princess every day."

"She's a very pretty princess," I told her. To Flip, I said that I would like to be a princess, too.

"You were one," he said.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

"Exactly which day of my life are you referring to?" I asked.

He backpedaled. "You must have been one."

"Because I'm Jewish?"

"No, because you were a child."


"I think you mean I should have been, but my parents weren't having any of that."

"That's too bad," he said. "My father wrote a song called 'Little Princess' for my sister." Flip's father was a famous Western swing band leader and his sister is still a princess. It's not something a woman outgrows or forgets how to do.

It is some consolation that I am self-sufficient, but not nearly as comforting as you would think. More precisely, every woman should be able to take care of herself, but how wonderfully luxurious if now and then she didn't have to.

Another mother came along with the ubiquitous double stroller. All babies come in twos these days. She was chewing gum and teaching her progeny to say "Ba ba ba ba ba" as if they were genetically programmed to become sheep when they grow up.

I was embarrassed by baby talk when I was a child so I never used it in conversations with my own children. It also seemed unfair to teach them a language which they would only have to unlearn later when they discovered the real words for things. They were all highly verbal at a young age. Perhaps all babies could be if adults did not speak to them so condescendingly.

Mine knew the unflinchingly correct words for body parts and their functions, which some adults found upsetting to their delicate sense of balance, so easily thrown by a two-year old stating that he had to urinate instead of making a weewee.

At one corner, about a dozen shopping carts filled with various kinds of garbage and many old suitcases had been abandoned. San Francisco has a large homeless population, which is not surprising when you consider how expensive it is to live here. It is normal to see people pushing overflowing carts along the sidewalks and carefully guarding their worldly goods, so I'm puzzled.

Has there been a *Harmonic Convergence to which all the shopping cart folks have been called, or has the **Hale-Bop comet returned and spirited them from their earthly cares to Heaven's Gate?

And why was I not told?

*The Harmonic Convergence was an event in 1987 when people calling themselves "light beings" gathered to usher in a new era of universal peace, beginning the 26-year countdown to 2012, which the Mayan Prophesies stated would be the "end of history" and the beginning of a new 5,125-year cycle. All the evils of the modern world -- war, materialism, violence, injustice, governmental abuse of power, etc. would end at that time.

** Comet Hale-Bop
Heaven's Gate was a UFO religion based in San Diego, California whose group suicide coincided with the appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. They believed that their souls would board a spaceship hiding behind the comet and thus be saved from the imminent cleansing of the planet Earth.

I have never used footnotes in a post before! I feel so scholarly. So.. um, pretentious. Let's blame it on painkillers, ok?

Flip, team player that he is, has brought home a giant bag of pretzels. I love pretzels but am not allowed to eat anything crunchy for a week following my oral surgery.

The only time I was drunk in my life, I ran around a bar confiscating baskets of pretzels from all the tables and piling them on mine while my date watched in wonder. It never occurred to me that anyone would object, and they didn't. So pretzels and I go way back. The best ones are made by Quinlan's on the east coast which are called Rold Gold in the west, but they can't fool me. I know my pretzels and they are the same. A rose by any other name.

It was clear that either pretzels or screw drivers would have to go, and I preferred my oj straight up anyway. I probably wouldn't confess this if I were not a bit looped on prescription drugs. Usually my dirty little secret is protected by other people's assumptions that I don't drink because I'm a recovering alcoholic. It makes me feel so worldly-wise and sophisticated, almost like a grownup, that I just smile into my cranberry juice or virgin bloody mary and pass for normal.

So I sincerely hope what happens here stays here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walking Wounded

Today I turned myself in at the oral surgeon's office for excavations.

It was ... interesting.

The silent TV screen overhead offered a nice, restful beach scene but its benefit was lost when they covered my eyes. They enclosed my hair in an elasticized blue surgical cap, which can't have looked good, and then placed heavy fabric over my eyes for the duration of the procedure, probably so they wouldn't have to see them wide open in abject horror. I thought briefly of executions in which a black hood is lowered over the subject's head before hanging or shooting, doubtless for the same reason. It's easier on the bystanders.

When I was suitably disguised, they brought in the chain saws. One of the teeth slated for demolition had to be deliberately broken. Deliberately, as opposed to accidentally, and removed in pieces. At one point, the doctor requested forceps of his assistant, which made me think of high forceps deliveries although I have never experienced one except in movies. A lot of sharp implements were used, most of which I had never heard of before. I'm pretty sure a battering ram was employed against my jaw bone.

The doctor kept up a running commentary, although I was able to respond only in gurgles.

Afterward, my wisdom teeth were disposed of as hastily as you would remove a dead mouse from your dinner plate. I did not get to pay my last respects.

I was fitted out with two kinds of huge pills which require a mortar and pestle and applesauce, a lot of gauze and a sheet of instructions for my care and feeding, then released on my own recognizance.

Six hours later, I am still bleeding profusely, which has reinforced my loathing for vampires. Blood has a vile and nasty taste, even my own, although it is a pretty color.

Not only that, but someone is eating all the medicinal ice cream. Round up the usual suspects.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Close Encounters of the Turd Kind

Things are heating up in the 'hood.

I was standing in line at the local grocery store at 5:00 pm, peak time, very long line. A woman placed an overflowing hand basket on the floor behind me, bumping my ankle in the process, and wandered off to collect more items.

I had to move several times because she had blocked off the access lane to the front door, so I nudged her basket back about six inches to make room for people to get by.

A man came along and said, "Who does this belong to?"

I indicated the woman, who was at the deli counter, ordering. Periodically she came back to her basket to make more deposits.

"I don't think it's fair," I said. "I would move up." Which he did.

She came back and said, "Are you together?"

"No," he said.

She raised her voice, "I was next in line."

"You weren't here."

"Are you going to make a big deal out of this?" she sneered.

"I would expect more courtesy and consideration," he replied.

"You're an asshole," she yelled. Everyone turned to look.

"You're still shopping," he said reasonably.

"Am I supposed to stand right here and have them bring my things to me in line?"

(No, you harpy, you're supposed to collect everything you want and THEN get in line.) I didn't say anything, though, because he seemed to have things under control.

Nobody said anything for several beats and then the man inquired, gently, "Do you have everything you need?"

She didn't respond.

"Because I would hate for you to forget anything."

Facing the other way, I smiled to myself.

She suggested that he commit a physical act on himself which is impossible except for circus contortionists.

He didn't bat an eye. "There must be something in the store that you missed. Wouldn't you like to make sure?"

At this point, I was full-throttle laughing.

"I could hold your place in line if you want to check out the back room," he offered.

By now, I was at the check-out stand. "Hi Ishmael," I said to the checker. I parked my hand basket on the counter to take up as much room as possible so she would have to wait to unload her stuff. I can be passive-aggressive with the best of them.

I stopped to pet the most adorable dog I have ever seen on my way out, and then it hit me. I should have invited the man to get ahead of me in line so she would still be directly behind me, but he wouldn't have had to wait for Her Highness to buy $200 worth of groceries. I wish I had thought of it.

Sadly, I'm sure there will be another chance. There seems to be quite a run on rudeness these days.

Mother of the Year

A toddler trundled out of a coffee shop and headed, wobbling, for the street as Flip and I passed by.

I stopped and looked around.

"Wait a minute! I don't see an adult with this child," I said.

I planted myself in front of her and squatted, "Where's your mama?"

She tried to continue her lemming-like trajectory toward the nice moving cars.

I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, "Let's find your parents" as I guided her gently toward the restaurant. We met an angry woman with a stroller coming out who glared at me and said, "Get away from her!"

"She was nearly in the street," I said.

She snatched the child roughly, shoved her into the stroller and strode off in the other direction.

Point taken, lady. You would rather see your baby become roadkill than accept help from a stranger. It takes a village indeed.

Quick! Get the license number on that stroller.

(And you thought this was going to be about Sarah Palin, didn't you?)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Send in the Tooth Fairy

"Shake my hand, rip my teeth out," I said.

The oral surgeon had the grace to look disconcerted as we shook hands.

The certificates on his wall proclaimed that he is a medical doctor and also a dentist. It crossed my mind that he might be an undertaker too, but there was no documentation to that effect.

It seems that at my ripe old age I need to have my wisdom teeth, which I had thought to keep forever, removed. They are doomed. I should hang a sign that this property is condemned.

There is a lesson in impermanence here which never occurred to me.

While waiting for the doctor I studied two before-and-after photographs of patients who had maxillofacial surgery. The man in the top picture had no chin while the woman below him on the wall had a pugnacious prize fighter chin. In the after pictures, he was bulked up while she was minimized. I wondered if they took some of her excess equipment and gave it to him.

I was read a laundry list of Things That Could Go Wrong, although I was assured that most were unlikely, then asked to sign a release which felt like promising my firstborn child to Rumpelstiltskin. I admit to what could be an unhealthy attachment to my own body parts as we have all been very happy together for a very long time. And now some of us have reached the end of the road.

I told the doctor's scheduler that I needed a few weeks to get used to the idea and she suggested the second week of September. I opted for September 11th since that day is already living in infamy. How better to commemorate the destruction of the World Trade Center than to host a search and destroy mission right in my own mouth?

The doctor gave me a choice of Vicodin or Darvocet and I chose the latter because the name reminded me of Darvon, which I was given after my third child was born by emergency C-Section. It was a very nice drug and under its influence I dreamed of flying across the Atlantic on a Milk Bone dog biscuit.

I will have to eat soft foods for a week and have already arranged with Flip to make his killer mashed potatoes. Every day. I am going to be the Star Patient and in return he has graciously offered to take any leftover drugs off my hands. Flip is helpful that way. It would please us both if he could take all my drugs for me.

"Will you be able to talk?" he asked.

"I might not for a day or two," I said.

A flash of pleasure crossed his face which he quickly controlled. Flip is a married man. He knows better.

"I won't be able to cook either," I said.

His smirk disappeared instantly.

The oral surgeon seems like a lovely person but I wonder how he sleeps at night, divesting people of their personal parts, as he does, by day. It also doesn't seem right that this will cost so much when I am providing all the materials.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Call me Lady Godiva

As we headed home from the chocolate shop I asked Flip, "Do you want me to carry the rest of your truffles in my purse?"

I licked my fingers on which a little dark chocolate dipped candied orange peel had melted.

"Can I trust you?"

"You married me. There is an assumption of trust."

He paused, then handed over the aromatic little gold Godiva bag, which I stuffed in with my wallet, keys and his other glasses.

Men only get married so they can use purses without carrying them.

"Are you sure you won't eat my chocolate?"

I shrugged. "If you died, I would eat your chocolate in a minute, no question. But you're still living. That changes everything."

"It warms my heart," he said.

He reminded me for the 5th or 6th time today that he is a good-looking guy. He claims that I never tell him so, which is not true, while he tells me "all the time" how good I look, also not true.

I finally put it to him. "Overweening ego and Alzheimer's is too much on the same plate. I can't deal with both, so take your pick."

He's thinking about it.

I softened the blow. "You are a good-looking guy," I said. "I'm lucky to be seen with you."

He got all misty.

"Of course, they don't know you're balmy."

As soon as we got home he turned on the television. Flip is on intimate terms with every "Law and Order" episode ever aired.

"Alzheimer's is in all the ads," he remarked.

"Oh, good. I'll take three."

I watched, too, for a minute. "It's becoming epidemic. It will be much more common in a few years as the boomers age. You're a pioneer, a trailblazer."

He studied the actor in the Aricept ad, who was much older than he is. "He's pretty good."

"You'll have to work hard to top that," I said.

Some of the commercials are really sneaky. They cut to them seamlessly and mimic the lighting in the shows, sucking you in before you can put the remote on mute. (And I do mean sucking.)

There is a test to let you know if you've been watching "Law & Order" too long:

If you see a woman's face with closed eyes and assume it's a cadaver but when you look more closely you realize it's an ad for face cream, you might have a problem. It makes me uneasy that I've grown so used to seeing dead bodies that I automatically process corpses over cosmetics.

There is also the matter of the very flowery commercial which shows a sweet-looking older woman getting married in a lovely gown and -- Depends. I think this scares me even more than becoming one of the corpses because if someone kills you, you're dead. It's over. But Depends is forever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How do you say "Milli Vanilli" in Chinese?

China dazzled the world with its $100-million Olympics opening ceremony which sought to present the image of a Utopian China replete with the perfect baby teeth of a little girl who sang a powerful ode to her country. Except the exquisite voice was not hers. It was the recorded voice of another little girl deemed less pretty than the one lip-synching on center stage.

The charming image of Lin Miaoke, nine-years old, "singing" her heart out in a red dress, appeared around the world while the unseen real singer, seven-year old Yang Peiyi, was replaced at the last minute because a senior Communist Party official thought it more important to feature a prettier child.

"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," he said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."

You would think the Olympics would be about authenticity, competitors from every country doing their personal best. How is it possible, then, to justify choosing a "prettier" child over a genuinely talented one to represent her country?

In 1964, when Warner Brothers made a film of the Broadway hit show, "My Fair Lady," Julie Andrews, who had originated the role and garnered multiple awards in the US and Europe, was not cast as Eliza Doolittle because studio executives didn't consider her gorgeous enough. The role went to Audrey Hepburn, whose immense charm and beauty could never be disputed, but she was also tone-deaf. Her musical numbers were sung by Marni Nixon, for decades the movie voice of every actress who couldn't sing.

I had hoped we were past such superficial lunacy, but extreme reverence for physical perfection seems to be a worldwide phenomenon which won't quit. It is particularly disheartening when it trumps ability and sends young people the unhealthy message that no matter how hard they work to develop their talents, they will never be as good as those who were accidentally born beautiful.

In the words of Confucius, that other Chinese dude, "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Death is your body's way of telling you to slow down

My cold hit with hurricane force: Sore throat, fever, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, runny eyes and a general malaise. If I were in a Victorian novel, I would be suffering from ague. I am not a well girl today.

I have commissioned Flip to drive me to the store for Kleenex and chewable vitamin C.

The roads are littered with hapless tourists who take seriously the fable that in California, pedestrians have the right of way. Stupid people. That is a myth, a cautionary tale, a caveat. A warning. Damn uppity tourists. In their deluded minds, they think it is all right to stroll slowwwwwwly across streets, jaywalking with impunity.

I think they shouldn't push their luck today. Luckily, I am not driving. Flip misses all of them.

I feel unproductive. I am bored. I whine.

Flip offers to sing me a lullaby.

"As long as it's not a funeral dirge," I tell him.

"Bubbaly, bubbaly," he chants.

"What in the hell is that?"

"It's 'lullaby' backwards."

"Oh, Jesus."

He sings it again.

I'm a tough crowd. "I want my money back."

I fix myself a cup of tea, which I can't taste. This would be a good time to load up on everything I don't like that is good for me.

A lot of trees have died for this cold. I have my personal 280-count box of Kleenex on my lap which tells me in French and English that it softens the blows.

"Donnez lui de la douceur!"

I have always wanted to know how to say "dab, wipe, blot and rub" en Francais. I spend a few minutes reading the English blurb along with its French translation. I feel so much smarter now.

I do not understand people who enjoy poor health. I just want to go to sleep and wake up in another universe.

Flip sits beside me and places a sympathetic arm on top of my comforter. "I can't believe you're trying to feel up a deathbed person," I hiss.

There should probably be a "caveat emptor" sign on me. Let the buyer beware.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Memory

Today we lost our cat, Truffle, in a room with a mural of a doggie and kitty floating on clouds in an impossibly blue sky and several teddy bears with wings propped in corners. Our home is empty of its brightest spirit.

It may take a day or two but I know she'll be back, nesting in my hair as I sleep.

Friends part only to meet again. You haven't seen the last of me, Truffie.

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,

For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.
Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,

A new dance turn.
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,

And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.

William Butler Yeats

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Could I Be Mellowing?

The Chinese bank teller in the peony-colored blouse said, "You got beautiful teeths" at the same moment I said, "What a pretty color that is on you!"

She smiled. "I got many pinks, but afraid wear."

"Why?" I asked.

She leaned forward and cupped her hand around her mouth. "Gay peoples," she whispered.


I think she is taking a chance here. How does she know I am not gay? I even wear pink on occasion.

She is waiting for me to respond. It is clear that she will not perform my transaction until I do.

"You're a girl," is what I manage. "It's different."

And I hate myself for a moment.

I find that I carry my soapbox with me less often these days. It isn't up to me to educate others on my convictions because they are prejudices, too. I am prejudiced in favor of certain values like equality for all and deeply believe that I am right, but does that entitle me to inflict my views on others?

In private conversation, yes, I think it does. But on strangers in public places with a line of people behind me, probably not. And it would be pointless as well.

She has her prejudices, too.


I finally understand that I am not responsible for the earth spinning on its axis. For minds and hearts embracing the principles I hold dear. That standing up and being counted does not mean rubbing noses in others' misconceptions, no matter how grievous, like puppies that have peed the carpet.

We all have the right to be stupid in whatever way we choose. But couldn't some of us be a little less flagrant about it?

“Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”
-George Carlin-

Friday, June 27, 2008

It's a Bird. It's a Plane. Uh oh, It's

Truffle has given up her litter box for a Lenten season that never ends. She displays a distinct preference for peeing and pooping on Persian rugs under furniture, probably because she can no longer get into closets due to a lack of thumbs. All our closets are firmly closed with "No cats allowed" signs at her eye level and Flip's. (I do not need reminding because it was my shoes that had to be thrown out.)

Her um, "thinking" outside the box prompted us to take her to the animal hospital in the first place, setting off a course of treatment involving three different antibiotics for a UTI which a urine culture eventually proved nonexistent, plus a smorgasbord of procedures concocted by six vets in as many visits.

I have discontinued the daily subcutaneous fluid injections which I deem extreme measures, and now believe that we are dealing with simple raging senility.

I just spent several hours scouring the bathroom floor and the litter box and have bleeding raw hands to prove it. I installed fresh litter, removed the privacy lid as it might be difficult for her to climb in and out at her age and discarded the two mats that had developed a tendency to collect rank-smelling liquids.

I then carried Truffle into the bathroom and chirping encouragement, placed her tenderly in the box exactly like a lady-in-waiting setting the Queen on her throne. I didn't have to wait long.

She gazed at me blankly, stepped out of the box and went back to bed. It was clearly a case of "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it."

Like Superman, she leaped onto the bed in a single bound and immediately fell asleep from her exertions.

Now I'm going to leave for several hours in the hope that Truffle will find Jesus (and make an Immaculate Exception) while I'm gone.

I don't ask much, but it would mean a lot to me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Woke Up This Morning

Flip is wearing sunglasses to do the dishes.

I said, "Do we have a blind musician thing going on here?" Blues musicians nearly always sport a disability as part of their names, and sometimes a piece of fruit, too: Blind Flip Parker, Lame Melon Parker, Crippled Lemon Parker, Blind Little Crippled Lame Lime Flip Parker...

"No, it's a cool thing," he said. "For someone who lived in Greenwich Village in its heyday, you are not cool."

"Why am I not cool? Because I don't wear sunglasses indoors?"

"You just don't understand," he said. "I understand. And I'm not even from New York. Such a waste."

He poured some more Ivory liquid into the sink.

I resisted the urge to tell him he looked very cool washing dishes. Like the Grand Opening of a 99 Cent Store. Or a Rolls Royce hood ornament hanging over the bed like a statue of Jesus on the cross.

I understand cool, too. I do. It's just a matter of interpretation, and dishpan hands.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Lady Named Sally

When I was about five years old, my father invited one of his clients to visit our home. My father was a criminal defense lawyer, and to this day I cannot imagine what crime she might have committed because she was a beautiful, charming, one hundred-year old lady with cumulus cloud hair and a radiant smile.

She bent down to look into my eyes and said, "Call me Sally." Then she took my hand and said, "Show me your room. Show me everything," and sprinted up the stairs, pulling me behind her.

I think at that point, the course of my life was set. I wanted to grow up to be just like Sally.

Today is my birthday. I am not 100 years old yet, but I am well on my way and with a great deal of luck I will reach Sallyhood one day. In the meantime, I remember her bright spirit and still aspire to be like her.

I never saw Sally again, but it's safe to assume that she is no longer passing out joy like lollipops to little children.

Rest in peace, Sally.

Live in peace, my friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Cat is Still in the Closet and Needs to Come Out

My cat, Truffle, would make a nice pelt.

We have logged six visits to the veterinary hospital in two weeks, so far. Bigtime ka-ching. Truffle has been given three different antibiotics for her UTI, none of which seem to be working. We inject subcutaneous fluids into her every day from a bag which we hang from one of Flip's boom stands so gravity will do its stuff. We have more drug paraphernalia than most junkies. The injections will continue for the rest of her life.

So far I have stabbed myself only once. I removed the needle from my finger and without thinking, inserted it into Truffle's upper back. Luckily, I have no blood diseases.

If Truffle were a dog, she would be 126 years old. I'm not sure what the ratio is for cat lives, and that's not even considering that they have nine of them.

The most recent visit was because of my concern that she wasn't eliminating wastes as the litter box was always clean. I was worried about uremic poisoning. They assured me that she would be dead if that were the case, and she isn't. Yet.

But today I discovered a whole nest of juicy little turds contained in one size 6 satin slingback evening pump. Black. Great instinct for camouflage.

I handed it carefully to Flip from inside the closet. He emptied it in the toilet and brought it back to me.

"Can you salvage it?" he asked.

It had pee stains and a very rank odor.

I hurled it in the garbage, the other one too, although it was relatively pristine.

Why tempt fate by keeping ONE shoe?

Flip: "You're her mother."

Me: "I never shat in my mother's shoes."

Flip: "Otherwise, she's a very nice kitty."


The latest antibiotic is a tiny pill. She took the first one in a "pill pocket," a soft treat which can be wrapped around medicine. Last night she also accepted her chicken a la pill, but tonight she got wise to us. She scarfed the pill pocket right down to the pill but refused to eat it. I put another one in her food, and she went on a hunger strike. So Flip held her tightly while I forced her mouth open and tried to insert the pill, just the way the online article said to do.

She peed all over both of us and our beautiful, handmade (dry-clean only) Tibetan quilt and our comforter (which I just washed a few days ago.) It was easily a gallon of saved-up cat urine.

Flip threw out our bath rug yesterday and also two new bath towels that had fallen on the floor, where Truffle christened them. That was when she still had a distant relationship with the room which housed her litter box.

Cats are mysterious. I know that inappropriate urination is caused by her UTI, but pooping in a shoe in the back of a closet took some deliberation. She is probably expressing anger at the injections, for which I can't blame her. But passive-aggressive behavior is so-o -- pussy.

"Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose."
Garrison Keillor

Monday, June 16, 2008

Here Come the Brides!

In May, the California Supreme Court ruled that state marriage laws which discriminate against gay and lesbian couples are unconstitutional. Chief Justice Ronald George wrote that the state constitution’s guarantees of personal privacy and autonomy protect "the right of an individual to establish a legally recognized family with the person of one's choice” and “properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.”

The ruling opens the doors to same-sex marriages throughout the state of California. San Francisco anticipates couples from all over the world coming here to have their ceremonies in the historic location where the fight for equal rights began: City Hall.

Tomorrow, marriage licenses will be issued to same-sex couples. However, one special couple will be married at 5 p.m. today.

Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who have been together for more than 50 years, were the first same-sex couple of thousands married in 2004, the Winter of Love. All the marriages performed at that time were later ruled invalid.

Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco and a dedicated advocate of equal marriage rights, will perform today's ceremony.

"What we want, the narrative coming out of it, is about them and what they represent - their story, their history. This is really where it all started," Newsom said of the couple.

Ms. Lyon said it was "heartwarming" that the city wants her and Ms. Martin to be the first couple to marry, but that they are just a small part of what will happen as same-sex marriage begins in California. "Hundreds of thousands of couples will be getting married this time, and that's the important thing," she said. "It's something that has been due for a long time, and thank God, it's here."

The couple met in 1950 and moved into a Castro Street apartment together on Valentine's Day 1953. Two years later, they and three other lesbian couples founded the Daughters of Bilitis, which historians call the first lesbian organization in the United States. They also published The Ladder, a monthly magazine which was influential in the LGBT rights movement. Both women were inducted into the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Hall of Fame.

A San Francisco medical organization founded in 1979 as a clinic for lesbians, Lyon Martin Health Services, bears their names.

Lyon said she and Martin "hoped we would see this day" of equal recognition of marriages for same-sex couples. "It means a great deal that we can get (a license) like anyone else."

Mayor Newsom said the couple provided him with much of the inspiration to order the county clerk to issue licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. "This is why I did it four years ago. It's personal as much as anything else."

They were married Feb. 12, 2004, and more than 4,000 same-sex couples flocked to San Francisco to marry before a court order ended the ceremonies on March 11 of that year.

The San Francisco City Attorney and several civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the state that won marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, credited Lyon and Martin's lifetimes of activism with bringing the LGBT rights movement to this point. "At a time when being openly gay cost you everything you cared about, they were. And they took risks and spoke out from the 1950s on in a way that I certainly do not believe I would have nor would most of us."

She said the couple being the first to marry "is the absolute least we can do to acknowledge how critical their legacy is to the lives of all of us."

So I asked Flip, "Would you marry me if I were a guy?"


This made me a little sad. I know that we're straight, but I have believed for a long time that love is not necessarily a matter of anatomy, and that we fall in love with a person's soul which makes everything else, including gender, secondary.

Still, it's a wonderful thing to be loved and accepted, and acknowledged by the world as a committed couple. Considering that I have never personally had to fight for that right, I am perhaps unreasonably happy that it is now available to everyone. I wonder if there's a word for reverse schadenfreude, rejoicing at another's well-deserved good fortune. If not, there really should be.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Winning Ways

This morning I received a phone call from someone at Radio Station KPIG to inform me that I had won a t-shirt, which I could pick up at the hardware store in my neighborhood.

I vaguely remembered putting my name in a ballot box for something while buying nails, but couldn't have told you what it was.

I promised Flip that he could have the shirt since it would probably be a size Large, and I picked it up. This is what it looks like, dorsal and ventral:

I found that KPIG actually sells this "Classic Pigshirt" for $30.

"Our classic light gray Pigshirt features the " Pure Pork" logo on the back and has the 7-color Pigsticker design on the front. There's no better way to tell the world "I'm a pig- and proud of it"."

Flip suggested we give it to a homeless woman who sits on the sidewalk outside the drug store, but I thought it might hurt her feelings because well, it's a PIG.

I would have preferred to win the Lottery.

The last time I won something was in North Carolina, a long time ago.

My 13-year old daughter and I had left our Vermont home in a chartreuse Plymouth Duster that hated me, pulling a horse trailer with two ponies. Our large dog had just died but we had a gray wolf and a black cat in the car with us. My older daughter and son were in college.

I had never pulled a trailer before, but quickly figured out that backing up required turning the wheel the opposite way from what you would expect. We spent the summer driving down the East coast, "camping" in the car or under the stars after exercising the ponies. I would be surprised if my daughter has ever voluntarily gone camping to this day.

We arranged to be in Chincoteague, Virginia, for the annual pony penning made famous to three generations of children by Marguerite Henry's "Misty" books. We watched the ponies being herded across the channel, swimming from Assateague where in 1620, a Spanish galleon carrying a herd of horses was wrecked on some rocks. The horses swam ashore and have been there ever since.

Assateague also has laughing gulls, whose cry, 'Ah ha ha HAAAAA" sounds like an inebriated man laughing. I think it would be impossible to feel depressed, ever, in a place with such merry birds.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia, 23 miles of alternating tunnel and bridge, is considered one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World. I have always heard that it is among the loveliest scenery in America but I barely saw it because I was catatonic nervous about taking my eyes off the road for even a second as passing semi's constantly moved our car and horse trailer over several feet.

We camped in the Ocala National Forest in Florida for two weeks through three hurricanes, taking shelter during the worst of them in the caretaker's cottage on the Bernadette Castro estate. They kindly allowed us to stable our ponies in their barn.

Eventually, we backtracked to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, where we lived until my daughter graduated from high school and left for college.

My car had died a few days after arriving, and I noticed that the local Toyota dealership was sponsoring a "Hand-a-Thon." Twenty people including me were selected to compete for a new car. We were arranged around the stripped down tan Tercel with stick shift and required to have one hand on it at all times. If we wanted to face the other way, we had to ask a judge to watch us so we would never have both hands on or off the car. There was a 5-minute Port-a-Potty break every four hours around the clock.

One by one the other people dropped out, several of them hallucinating. A factory worker raised both hands to perform his assembly line job because he was disoriented and thought he was at work. His family led him away into the night.

Five and a half days later, I was the last one standing. I had to ask someone to drive the car home for me as I was in no condition to get behind the wheel. I was cautioned not to sleep more than a few hours at a time for a week because I could go into a coma from sleep deprivation, but I was too exhausted to care.

The president of the Toyota agency told a reporter that the contests usually take only a weekend at most, but "these people down here are tough as nails." I didn't tell him that I was a New Yorker, newly relocated to his state from Vermont, because they don't cotton to Yankees. I was afraid he would take away my car.

I always knew that I would win. I surely needed a car more than anybody else in the contest, and I never considered that there could be any other outcome. Also, a psychic had told me that I would win "a house, money, or a car." He had cautioned me that I shouldn't feel as if I got something for nothing, though, because I would work for it.

He was right.

The same psychic also told me that I would die at the age I will be on my next birthday, which is this month. It's considerably younger than I've always planned on, and I have tried for many years to put it out of my mind because I know about self-fulfilling prophesies. Some of his predictions were wrong but because he was right about winning the car, I worry.

On a happier note, I would be delighted to send the pig t-shirt to anyone who would like it. Since there is only one, I propose a contest: If you are interested, write to my email address and tell me why you'd rather be a pig. The deadline is June 24th, which is also my birthday.

"Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a pig?

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His shoes are a terrible disgrace
He ain't got no manners when he eats his food
He's fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don't care a feather or a fig
You may grow up to be a pig."

"Swingin' on a Star" lyrics by Bing Crosby