Monday, October 26, 2009

Everyone Wants My Body

Do I look like a goner to you? Today's mail brought an invitation to a cremation-- my own -- because "Death is what makes our lives so precious, exquisite and magnificent."


I'm glad we cleared that up. I hadn't quite made the connection and tended to attribute all that precious, exquisite magnificence to life itself. I feel so stupid now.

"We offer basic cremation services because our clients are smart .... smart enough to know how best to choose a plan that fits their own agenda." Actually, my agenda does not include dying. I really want to know how everything turns out, so I believe that I will be best served by being here forever. That's basically a no-brainer.

Smart Cremation even has the nerve to quote Winston Churchill, although I doubt that esteemed gentleman was referring to funeral planning when he spoke these words: "Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning." It was during the Second World War, so I suspect he was strategizing how to keep England and her Allies free and non-German speaking.

This company is located in Washington State so I'm not sure how they intend to get my body up there to the raging bonfire, and aren't there laws about transporting dead people across state lines? Further, would they be taking the scenic route up the coastline, or simply loading me onto an airplane? When my mother died in Florida, we had her flown to New York for burial next to my father, who had been waiting for a very long time. Since I do not own a funeral plot and have never enjoyed burning myself in the kitchen, I see no alternative but to live forever.

Their stationery is decorated in a leaf motif. (Which is kind of a nice leitmotiv.) The letter itself has leaves along the sides that could be birch while the RSVP is definitely decked in maple. Is this a subtle way of telling me that they use woodfire in their ovens, like California pizza? (Hold the sprouts and pineapple.)

My cat's ashes reside in a Japanese urn on our mantel. Since I have three children, I would have to be divided among them if they couldn't agree on where to fling my remains, which brings to mind portioning out a chicken when they were young. Who would get the drumstick, and who the breast? White or dark meat? And how could they tell as one assumes that all ashes look alike? They shouldn't have to deal with Mom on a platter.

The ghouls good folks at Smart Cremation are awaiting my response. I hate to disappoint them, but they really shouldn't be taking anything for granted, like my demise. Nobody will be more surprised than I if I die, but I refuse to arrange for it because I know that what you focus on grows. And while I am growing older, I am not dead yet so any thoughts of disposing of my mortal remains are decidedly premature.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Can't Keep a Good Souse Down

The following article appeared in the Duluth News Tribune:

DULUTH, Minn. A Minnesota man has pleaded guilty to driving his motorized La-Z-Boy chair while drunk. A criminal complaint says 62-year-old Dennis LeRoy Anderson told police he left a bar in the northern Minnesota town of Proctor on his chair after drinking eight or nine beers.

Prosecutors say Anderson's blood alcohol content was 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, when he crashed into a parked vehicle in August 2008. He was not seriously injured.

Police said the chair was powered by a converted lawnmower and had a stereo and cup holders.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Heather Sweetland stayed 180 days of jail time Monday and ordered two years of probation for Anderson. His attorney, David Keegan, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Let the good times roll!

Monday, October 19, 2009

So Many Fools, So Little Time

Walking home from the neighborhood grocery, I heard a man say "Hi!" I turned around to see a man on a bicycle who wasn't addressing me but a very attractive young woman walking behind me. He dismounted and wheeled his bike onto the sidewalk to walk with her.

"What's your name?" he asked.
"Josh," he said, extending his hand. She shook his hand and kept walking.
"How was your day?"
"Not very good. I'm a teacher and..."
He finished her sentence: "The little rascals."
She continued, "my mother is sick."
"Did you have a good weekend?"" he asked her.
"No, I just found out my mom has cancer," she blurted. "I really have to go." She walked faster. So did he. Without missing a beat, he said, "What do you do for fun?"

At this point, "we" were at my corner, walking abreast. Nicole and I exchanged the kind of look women understand which cannot effectively be translated verbally, but which means, basically, "This guy is a jerk with the finesse of a moldy boiled turnip and I don't want him to know where I live."

It seemed obvious that she was only being polite because she was in shock from her mother's bad news, and because she is very likely a kind person as well as beautiful. I considered inviting her to my place as if we were friends so the guy would leave her alone, but with strangers there is always that hesitation since I couldn't know for sure that she wanted to discourage him. I would have liked to offer my sympathy and say something hopeful about her mother but hesitated to interrupt, no matter how it seemed. But I do hope that all you gentlemen out there, in a similar situation, would realize that this woman, and all women, exist independent of your amorous intentions. The jackass was so hot for Nicole that he couldn't even manage the basic niceties, which, strangely, might have given him a better chance with her. Even though I'm pretty sure he wasn't riding the bike for exercise, but for transportation.

Can you say "stupid," children? I knew you could.

Friday, October 16, 2009

No Shortage of False Prophets

I am deeply saddened that once again, Native American culture and spiritualism have been used for fun and profit, with horrifying results.

James Arthur Ray, author of "Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want" and other self-help books, runs seminars for which people pay thousands of dollars to hear business executives, fitness experts and motivational authors exhort them to achieve material success beyond their wildest dreams within the framework of New Age spirituality. I think that spending vast sums of money to hear people speak is the exact opposite of self-empowerment, but it seems to be paying off for Ray, who is probably worth billions by preying on the dissatisfied and gullible. Clothing material lust in the trappings of spiritualism is a brilliant ploy to gain the hearts and wallets of baby boomers, many of whom are aging 60's hippies, by enabling them to reconcile a bornagain desire for wealth with their former non-materialistic values. (In my view, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with money, only with its misuse to have power over others. And there is certainly nothing wrong with changing our beliefs over time; otherwise, what would be the point in still being here?)

On October 8th, Ray conducted a sweat lodge as the culminating event of a 5-day Spiritual Warriors retreat near Sedona, Arizona, which participants paid $9,000 to attend. Native Americans have done sweat lodges for centuries - I have participated in a few - but the purpose is cleansing, not profit. The sweat lodge is typically a tent with large heated stones in a pit at the center on which water is poured at regular intervals to create steam, similar to a sauna. It is a profoundly spiritual experience and has nothing to do with material gain. It is also carefully controlled in that people are allowed to leave through a flap in the tent if the heat becomes too intense. Normally, the sweat lodge holds no more than a dozen people at a time.

In this case, however, 64 people crowded into a 415-square-foot space during a two-hour period Thursday night. Ray led eight 15-minute rounds of various spiritual exercises and while no one was forcibly restrained, participants were strongly encouraged to remain for the entire time. According to the Yavapai, Arizona, sheriff's spokesman, there was no permit granted for the construction of the temporary wooden building in which two people died and many others were taken ill.

Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, of Milwaukee died after being overcome in the hut. Nineteen other people were hospitalized with symptoms ranging from dehydration to kidney failure. Ms. Brown was a hiker and surfer described by her family as being in top shape and the kindest person anyone knew. Mr. Shore was also in great physical condition and the doting father of three children. Both attended this event to continue on their paths of self-improvement as a means to better help others.

Ray has issued a statement through his publicist that says, "I am shocked and saddened by the tragedy that occurred at Spiritual Warrior in Sedona, Arizona, Thursday evening. I wish to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives as well as offer my prayers for a speedy recovery for those who were taken ill." He has declined to comment further because there are "more questions than answers." He refused to speak with detectives on the fateful evening and left the state hours later. "He's interested in getting to the truth and will speak to the right people at the appropriate time," said his publicist. One can only assume that the appropriate time will be when he has concocted a story which exonerates him from any responsibility.

I knew there was a reason I was unable to finish reading his book and donated it to the library book store.