Saturday, April 26, 2008

With a Little Help from My Friends

Flip is a generous person. He regularly empties his pockets into the hands of street beggars when most people would write them off as lazy. He gives from a full heart and can't do enough for strangers.

There are those who take refuge in the old saw about giving a man a fish to feed him for a day as opposed to teaching him to fish so he can eat forever. Long-term solutions vs short-term fixes, which are likened to bandaids on bleeding sores.

I think that both arguments have merit. Certainly it is important to give a person skills to sustain him and his family, but sometimes individual momentary help is also necessary. After all, life is made up of moments strung together.

The act of giving helps not only the recipient, but the giver as well. It creates a bond, however briefly, between those who have enough to give and those whose own minimal needs are not being met. It reinforces that we are all human no matter what our circumstances.

There is a story about a man walking along a beach who sees thousands of starfish stranded by an unusually low tide. He knows they will die if left on the dry sand but he can't help them all, so he continues walking.

He comes upon a child who is frantically throwing as many starfish as she can to deeper water.

"What are you doing?" he asks.

"I'm saving the starfish."

"But there are thousands of them. You can't possibly save every one, so what does it matter?"

She holds one up and tosses it back into the water.

"It matters to this one," she says.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What the World Needs Now

On Mother’s Day, a children’s book called "My Beautiful Mommy" will be released. It explains to kids that they should be happy about Mommy's plastic surgery because she'll look more beautiful and feel better about herself.

Michael Salzhauer, MD, a Florida plastic surgeon, got the idea for his book when he noticed that women were coming to his office with kids in tow. He posits that mysterious doctor's visits can be frightening for children, especially when they see Mommy with bandages.

"With the tummy tucks, [the mothers] can't lift anything. They're in bed. The kids have questions," he says.

"My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids aged four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants.

Before her surgery the mother explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better."

Um, yeah, okay. Children get new clothing regularly as they outgrow their old ones. Aren't they going to be just a tad suspicious that Mommy is pulling a fast one?

She comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.

The text doesn't mention the breast augmentation, but the illustrations intentionally show Mommy's breasts to be fuller and higher.

"I tried to skirt that issue in the text itself," says Salzhauer. "The breasts might be a stretch for a six-year-old."

Gee, you think?

The book doesn't explain why the mother is redoing her nose post-pregnancy. Nonetheless, she reassures her little girl that the new nose won't just look "different, my dear—prettier!"

The younger the child, the more mysterious and scary the mother's absence, being out of commission, or looking like she's been beaten up will be. Small children think you go to a doctor because you're hurt or sick. Future pediatric visits could meet with some resistance when Mommy comes home resembling Mike Tyson's punching bag.

Despite the marketing nickname "mommy makeover" which sounds like a trip to a day spa, tummy-tuck-and-breast-implant combos are serious surgeries with potential complications that often require additional procedures.

With breast augmentation, the initial operation is unlikely to be the last. Implants may last 10 or more years, but according to the FDA they do not last a lifetime. About a quarter of all implant patients require another operation within five years due to problems like leaking, breast asymmetry and encapsulation of the implants.

Cosmetic surgery raises body image issues -- especially for daughters. Children may think their own body parts must need "fixing" too, especially if they look like their mothers. You have to wonder if they can grow up with any degree of self-confidence when they are given the insidious message that they are imperfect before they are even fully formed.

I am not against plastic surgery if it makes someone feel better about herself. I just wonder why our society so values physical perfection that the effects of giving birth to a child need to be erased. Our bodies are meant to be used and should be celebrated, not shamed, for enabling us to bring new life into the world.

Lest I be misunderstood, I also fully support anyone's right not to have children. But if we choose to do so, we need to accept that it may change our bodies because everything in life is a trade-off and expecting to look like Barbie forever is not only unrealistic, it can make us miserable. Which is frankly, stupid.

The good doctor should also make a t-shirt which says, "My Mommy got a shitload of plastic surgery and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday Funday

Yesterday we set out for Home Depot to buy tomato and herb plants, but halfway there Flip complained that the intermittent pains he'd had for about a week were back, and crippling. He was gasping for breath.

I was driving so I headed for the hospital. Turning around to backtrack isn't easy in San Francisco because most of the main thoroughfares do not allow left turns, and traffic is also heavy on Sundays. We ended up taking a slow detour through Golden Gate Park before I was able to get back on a main road.

The young woman who checked Flip into the ER told me that she loved my makeup. I wasn't wearing any makeup. I hoped that the medical personnel would have more astute observational powers.

I also got to choose a religion for Flip in case he expired. I have had more heartening conversations in my life.

We waited in the Emergency Room, which really ought to be renamed the "Unconcern Room," for three hours before Flip was given a gurney in a freezing hallway where we loitered for another 4 1/2 hours. He was X-Rayed, CT'd, IV'd, and various bodily fluids were collected.

A nurse was dismayed that Flip's legs were hanging off the end of the gurney.

"He's tall," I said.

"His legs are hanging off," he repeated.

"Yes, he's 6'4" and he's lying flat. Maybe he could sit up a bit."

I helped Flip to sit up while managing to avoid dislodging the tubing in his arm, and his legs and feet went back where they belonged. The nurse seemed less troubled. I was glad I could help.

The long wait was caused by a log jam. There were a dozen people awaiting hospital beds which were not available, so they were being stored in the ER. The daughter of one patient told me that her mother had been in an ER bed since mid-day Saturday because there was no room for her to be admitted.

It was truly a no-room-at-the-inn situation. Does that mean that Flip is Jesus? I must ask him when he wakes up.

He has a kidney infection and possible kidney stones.

It ended up a fasting day for us, although nothing else was remotely fast, because we had planned to get brunch somewhere and hadn't eaten since Saturday night.

The hospital cafeteria was closed so I binged on junk food from machines. All the stuff I have avoided my entire life was there. I had only a ten dollar bill but the change machine gave me some quarters and eight large gold dollar coins with Madison, Monroe, Jefferson or Liberty on them. They were so tacky that I thought I was in Vegas, except that there was no place for me to sit. I think slot machines have chairs so people can spend all their money before they get tired.

For my first course, I bought a bag of yogurt peanuts and scarfed it down in seconds. The next course consisted of Welch's fruit drops, which are like gummi bears and gummi worms without the interesting animal shapes. I shared them with Flip, who was hooked up to an IV. He liked them, but he is easy. He likes anything sweet. They had no taste at all. My main course was a Fig Newton with a side of Rold Gold mini-pretzels and a cup of tea I scrounged from a nurse who was a ringer for Carlos Solis on Desperate Housewives. There was no dessert.

I didn't see any cadavers, which leads me to believe that Gray's Anatomy and ER may be overstating things a bit.

We were finally discharged with three prescriptions including Flip's favorite, Vicodin. A good time was had by none.

This morning at 4:30, he awakened in pain so I walked to the all-night pharmacy to get his meds. I was not alert enough to drive.

The patient is flying high feeling somewhat better, so we went for a short walk. The owner of a Mercedes had just gotten a parking ticket around the corner, even though his meter had not expired. He was yelling obscenities at the meter cop, who yelled back, "Sir, read the sign behind you."

The sign decreed that there be no parking during certain hours for street cleaning. Several people on the sidewalk could not resist grinning with pleasure as everyone who lives here has been stung more than once by the outrageous parking fines in this city, which easily rival the Iraq War budget. I think I heard a few cheers from the gallery.

Schadenfreude in San Francisco.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Me: I don't feel well.

Flip: I'm sorry.

Me: (Cranks it up a notch.) I don't feeeeeel well!

Flip: I'm sorry.

Me: No, you're not. It's just an automatic response like "I love you" or "Heil Hitler."

Flip: If I could take it away from you and put it on me, I would.

Me: Oh, GOD, no. That would be worse. For me.

We get into bed.

Me: My feet are cold.

Flip: Your feet are always cold.

Me: No, they're really, really cold.


Me: I'm freezing to death through my toes.

Flip: Keep them over there.

Me: You know how many guys would kill to have these feet on them?

Flip: Over. There.

Me: Millions. (Places freezer foot on his legs, which are practically steaming.)

Flip: (Unintelligible pain sounds)

Me: Ahhhh.

Flip: Some day, when you least expect it... POW!

Me: You can't hit me. I'm a GIRL. (Plants second icy foot between his legs.)

Flip: Just get it over with.

Me: You hate me because I'm Jewish, don't you?

Flip: (Buries face in pillow)

Me: It's too hot in here. (Throws off comforter.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Right Time, Wrong Place

I've been had. Along with thousands of other people who went to see the Olympic Torch Relay in San Francisco yesterday, the only North American stop on its 85,000-mile trip around the world.

The Mayor and the President of the Olympic Committee changed the route and even provided a decoy torch, which completely defeated the purpose of it being here in the first place. The actual torch was only seen for a few minutes before it was transported to San Francisco International Airport for its trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the next leg of its tour.

Desmond Tutu was in San Francisco to receive the Outspoken Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission for his work on behalf of gay and lesbian rights. In accepting the rights award Tuesday evening, Tutu questioned why the Anglican Church (which includes the Episcopal Church in the United States) is "obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when people all over are facing massive problems: poverty, disease, corruption, conflict."

He also attended a candlelight vigil the night before the torch relay, but we didn't get to see him at the ending ceremonies because few knew where they were being held.

Richard Gere was in town as a longtime supporter of freedom for Tibet, and Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.

He said: "This torch is going through China and the world co-opting the idea of harmony to push a political position. The harmonious society (Chinese president) Hu Jintao talks about is a fraud. There can be no harmony without freedom of religion and culture."

Gere also read a message from the Dalai Lama, reminding the protesters to steer clear of any violence during the torch relay: "It is the legitimate right of every Tibetan to struggle for their freedom and rights. On the other hand, it would be futile and not helpful to anyone if we do something that would create hatred in the minds of the Chinese people."

We didn't see him either.

We did see a man take off all his clothes on the platform which had been set up to fool us into believing that the ceremonies would take place there. He was quickly whisked away by two policemen.

We did not see what for me would have been the highlight of the torch relay: a woman runner from New York who suddenly pulled a small Tibetan flag out of her sleeve and waved it before she was pushed out of the race by several Chinese runners.

Everything that could be protested was represented: Tibet, Burma, Darfur, Sudan.

Here is a sampling of photos I took. There will be more on my other blog, "The World Around Me."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bridge of Dreams

Police arrested three pro-Tibet demonstrators today after a protest at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge ahead of the Olympic torch's run through the city this Wednesday.

The three climbers were detained after climbing down from the landmark. Four supporters who assisted them were also detained.

Workers at the bridge cut down banners unfurled by the protesters which read "One World, One Dream" and "Free Tibet 08."

Mixed Message

What do you make of a person who cuts me off at high speed, requiring me to brake suddenly and causing an entire back seat of grocery bags to fly all over the car, and then flashes me a peace sign?

His driving says "fuck you" but the peace sign means -- what?

1. Thank you for not shooting me with your dashboard bazooka after my exceptionally asshole move?

2. I can do whatever I want because the rules don't apply to me?

3. I know I nearly killed you and caused unbelievable carnage inside your car but I was only kidding?

4. I'm confused. If you can catch up with me, I would appreciate your help in sorting things out?

5. I saw this hand gesture in a 60's flick and thought it was way cool but it has nothing to do with who I am?

6. ???

Saturday, April 05, 2008

California Reamin'

To whompa-whompa wench with huge bazongas in the sheer peasant blouse: You really need to stuff those things into a bra, honey. I'd give you one of mine but I know it would shred like confetti if you tried to squeeze into it. You may be voluntarily blond but St. Pauli Girl you are not.

To the guy in the rusty Beamer cranking your radio and bellowing loudly: Tune up or die. You were "singing" so loud your eyes must have been closed since you nearly hit me as I crossed with the pedestrian signal. How much dick-ier could you be?

To the old woman dragging your lame dog at a pace quite surprising for a person of your age: You should slow down if you want him to live. He was trying so gamely to keep up with you but it was obvious that every step hurt him. Was your mah jongg game so important that you were willing to whack your loyal companion to get there?

To the scumbag who casually blew cigar smoke into my wet hair as I passed by, minding my own business: You deserve a special medal for being an offensive asshole. Thanks to you, I had to go home and wash my hair again before it was even dry the first time because the stench was knocking me out.

To Father of the Year whose three children were careening down the sidewalk on bikes scattering pedestrians but you didn't notice because you were on the phone, here's a news flash: You do not own the sidewalk. It was not included in your Trust Fund. If you don't want your progeny to grow up as arrogant as you, you need to teach them to heel.

To darling Flip who just said, "You're not going to believe this," to which I replied, "What did you lose?"

"My new Spiderman pen."

Try me. Spiderman may have special powers but you do not. You lose everything. What, exactly, in our long history has even suggested that I wouldn't believe you had lost something?

It's days like this that make me wish I were a drinking person.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Natural Woman

Last night I had a hot flash. I'm rethinking this whole cremation thing.

When a girl reaches puberty, it's called "becoming a woman." When she reaches menopause, does that mean she is no longer one? And if not, is she suddenly a man?

I have always believed that to be a woman is to conspire in the absurd. You spend your youth worrying every month that an event which is both inconvenient and unpleasant will fail to occur, and when it finally stops forever you are convinced that your personal end-of-the-world is near.

I reached puberty at 11. A year later, my mother, in a hit-and-run incident, left a pamphlet on my bed while I was in school called "As One Girl To Another" from the Kotex company, thereby discharging :) her responsibility to make such essential facts available to me.

It was a user’s guide to menstruation, which was never mentioned directly but referred to as “that time of month,” “falling off the roof,” or alternately, "the curse." The book tactfully overlooked the whole idea of blood, so those who read the book before the fact must have felt blindsided when "Aunt Flo" came to visit.

Since I read the book after the fact, I believed that I was bleeding to death from a wound I couldn't show anyone.

The book contained old-fashioned illustrations of all the things girls were not supposed to do at that time of month. Washing hair was forbidden as were tub baths because girls were "more prone to colds" then. Swimming was perilous and also running. A girl must not walk in the rain. Mud puddles could be fatal. She was not supposed to do anything physical at all, and I knew girls who literally took to their beds for a few days every month, maybe because with so many restrictions it was too boring to stay awake.

I was not one of them. I washed my hair defiantly every day, sloshed merrily in mud puddles whenever I encountered one and was generally a pubescent scofflaw. I didn’t die of this.

I will never see 35 again except on other people, but a man in a very bad tie leered at me in the supermarket today. His head did that revolving Linda Blair thing. He stalked me through the bananas and cucumbers and actually licked his chops as he watched me select heirloom tomatoes. He brandished a pair of cantaloupes at me.

"Did you see that?" I asked Flip, who was pushing our shopping cart.

"You've still got it," he said.

"I used to attract a better class of pervert."

"They check you out, too."

He raised one eyebrow and smirked. "Did you notice his tie?"

Of course I did. I'm not blind, legally or illegally. It looked like the aftermath of a dogfight. Puked up Lobster Thermador.

When we got home, I examined my chin in the mirror. No sprouting man-hairs yet. I guess I'm safe for now but maybe I should buy a dress, just in case. Plastic surgery is out, though. I'd rather look old than deformed.