Sunday, December 31, 2006

Get Ready For Form 2008R

I don’t get the whole New Year’s resolution thing. Yeah, OK, I get the intention. I used to do it, too. I made lists and I cut pictures out of magazines of how thin I wanted to look and stuck them on the refrigerator, went to aerobics classes and made plans to put away ten percent of my salary. But I don’t think I ever made one New Year’s Resolution that I didn’t break by March.

And over the last few years, it came to me: who needs the pressure? What’s the point of setting myself up for failure based on a myth that THIS is the time where I must take stock and note where I could make improvement? Why January 1? Why not the Spring Solstice or my birthday or the beginning of the school year or friggin’ Groundhog’s Day to create my list of resolutions?

Or, hey. What about this? Why not wait until you are READY to make a change? When you feel strong enough to quit smoking, lose twenty pounds, join a gym or stop running up your credit card, do it!

Because on New Year’s Eve, many of us are either drunk or besotted with carbohydrates or at least the spirit of the season, so this is not exactly the best time to make commitments of any sort.

Anyone who either got a bad haircut or a tattoo following a breakup knows what I’m talking about.

It’s all a conspiracy, anyway. Weight Watchers and Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the major health clubs and the FDA and the people who make nicotine patches and gum hired a publicist and campaigned to declare January 1 the day YOU MUST IMPROVE YOUR LIFE.

“Mghffgh?” we mumble, waking up on New Year’s Day still in your party makeup and maybe wearing someone else’s clothes, in someone else’s house, your head pounding as if someone were jackhammering just outside your cerebellum. “Last night I said I was gonna do what?”

The little angel of conscience pulls the pencil from behind his ear. “I believe that was to stop drinking and slutting around.”

You swat at it and pull the covers back over your head.

And somehow this improvement never seems to happen.


You don’t know it yet, but my secret sources tell me that this cabal of good conscience (known on the sly as the CGC) have a new plan in the works. Since you have to register your dog, your marriage, your children, your car, your boat and need licenses or other governmental approvals for so many other impositions of private life, you will soon have to register your New Year’s Resolutions. Representatives from the CGC met with Bush’s finance gurus and it was determined that if people made and kept their resolutions, it would save millions and millions in health care and Medicaid costs that could be used for really, really important things like new office furnishings for incoming members of congress or the stupendously lavish rehab of Kofi Annan’s successor’s living quarters.

So this is how it’s going go down: every household will get a form by November 1, and each adult member of the household must choose a minimum of two and a maximum of five resolutions. A nominal tax will be requested (read: required) for each resolution, to be determined by a five-page worksheet based on household income, latest credit card statements, cholesterol levels, weight, BMI and peak oxygen flow of each adult in the household. If, based on submitted evidence (signed affidavits from doctors, creditors, etc.), the resolutions in question have been adequately kept by the next resolution period, a refund will be issued commensurate with the level by which the resolution in question has been successful. If the resolution commitment level was not kept, you will be fined.

You have eleven months to think about what you want to change.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pardon Me!

OK. If the media can be crass enough to air Gerald Ford’s interview criticizing Bush’s decision to go to war before they can even get the ex-prez into the ground, then clearly I won’t be going to hell for this piece. I was going to write a little bit about what I remember from Ford’s presidency, for the kiddies, but by the time I found a picture of a “WIN” button on-line, every iota of the man’s life had already hit the airwaves. So I’ll focus on the one aspect that it seems that everyone with a microphone finds the most important from his years in office – his pardoning of Richard Nixon.

So why can’t I pardon a few people? It’s the holidays, everyone’s in a good mood, and from what I’ve seen in politics, they don’t seem to really mean anything, so here’s my suggestions of who should receive a presidential pardon:

1. She goes out in public without her underwear, gets falling-down drunk, smokes cigarettes to make her voice sound older, has the lousiest taste in men and could use a few child-rearing lessons, but because she’s too stupid to know what she’s doing, I choose to pardon Britney Spears for her crimes against good taste, media space, motherhood and general ineffectiveness as a human being.

2. He has hair like a Ken doll, was a one-note Johnny in the 2004 presidential campaign by building his entire platform on the concept of “Two Americas” when everything in the cultural zeitgeist was pointing to “can’t we all just get along?” He was criticized for having no experience so he’s been spending the last three years meeting foreign dignitaries, learning where Uzbekistan is, and learning more about poverty by teaching part-time. (????) Now John Edwards is back on the trail with a bang, digging ditches in New Orleans and really not seeming to be any different. I pardon him for his over-eagerness (became there is something suspect about anyone who wants the Oval Office that badly – for Chrissakes, even Hillary wasn’t the first out of the box and would rather die than roll up her designer sleeves and step into a ditch) So for this and other reasons, I have to give him a “free spin” pardon. Because he’s so inexperienced that he’s bound to do something that will need a pardon later.

3. She can create a lavish meal for fifty and redecorate her entire house without breaking a sweat. So who wouldn’t take a little insider tip now and again? Hey, saffron and phyllo dough don’t come cheap. For taking her lumps and coming back with more cache and more money than ever before, I give this belated pardon to Martha Stewart.

4. It really wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t help it if he got typecast as Kramer and everyone else in the quartet went on to successful second acts except for him. Maybe he just needs a good therapist. Or to shave his head and get a few tattoos. So I pardon Michael Richards for his appalling outburst just so I don’t have to hear him groveling any more. Michael…get some sensitivity training and maybe a new career before you do something stupid like throw yourself into James Brown’s grave.

5. She made stock in the Gap reach a new high and the media reach a new low. But heck, what twenty-something girl hasn’t done things she’s not particularly proud of? A much overdue pardon to Monica Lewinsky because he boss, who handed out pardons like Tic Tacs when he was going out the door was too much of a cowardly shit to give one to her.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


If I were Jerry “The Beav” Mathers or Bruce Jenner, I’d be calling my publicist about now. After making an appointment with my therapist, perhaps. I’d be trying to get myself booked on one of those reality shows where they make a bunch of “C” and “D” list celebrities live in one house so they can compare rehab experiences. Or vote each other off. I forget which. All designed so that they’d be recognized in public.

This all comes after a week of feeling not so great, and when I feel not so great, nothing cheers me up like really, really stupid television. Game shows and reality shows are terrific for this. In particular, flashy ones where I don’t have to think too hard.

“Identity” fit that bill almost perfectly. I don’t know if you’ve seen this thing. It’s been running (as a test market, I guess) for the past five weeknights on NBC (the network that’s decided it can no longer afford to run comedies or dramas during their 8-9 o’clock slots so they’ve been filling them with cheaper, crappier reality shows).

It’s hosted by Penn Jillette, the speaking half of Penn and Teller. I liked their act, but perhaps Penn wanted a break, or at least needed a gig where he could actually work with people who talked back to him. (not including the audience)

If you haven’t seen Identity, the concept is thus: twelve strangers, many with rather odd walks of life or circumstances, are set up on a stage, and the contestant, provided with a visual list of these walks of life or circumstances (eg. Opera singer, child actor, alligator wrestler, etc.), must match the person to their identity. For each correct guess, the contestant gets a particular amount of money, and for each subsequent correct guess, the monetary value gets higher. The most they can win is a half a mil, which in these days of million-dollar game shows, seems like too much work for the effort (at least they don’t have to eat any Madagascar hissing cockroaches). The contestant gets three official “outs.” They get one incorrect guess, they can ask a panel of pre-selected “experts” (so far they’ve had body language experts, private investigators, etc.), or something called a “Tridentity” where they can pick one identity and three possible suspected strangers will be highlighted. I’m not sure about this, but I think that at any time Penn either thinks the contestant is stuck, or being a complete bonehead, he can ask the suspected stranger for a bit more information about themselves (usually something like their first name (and if they are a well-known “stranger” this is enough to make the audience groan), where they’re from, etc.)

It’s not too awful except for a few things that really drive me nuts. The biggest problem is too much unwarranted suspense. After a contestant locks in a guess, Penn will hold his hands out in front of his eyes and glare down the ends of his fingertips as if to make an “unsuspecting” audience member in a box disappear, and say in those staged tones “Is……that…..(yawn)….your……..identity!” After which the camera focuses full-body on the stranger in question, while he or she tries to hold a poker face for what must feel like hours, while I take a nap or make a cup of tea of something.

Then the person either ‘fesses up (sometimes in a creative way that showcases the stranger’s skill, like the fire-eater or break dancer) or tells the contestant he or she is wrong.

I also hate that the list of identities is only put up on the screen intermittently, and my memory is too short to deal with that. Wait a minute, I’m asking myself. Was that a Boy Scout Troop Leader or a Deadhead or the Michael Jackson juror?

Another thing that has nothing to do with the quality of the show is when the contestant is faced with a COMPLETELY obvious choice and they don’t get it. Like, Miss USA 2006 is standing up there looking totally gorgeous in a bikini and heels, holding that pageant pose, and the contestant misses her completely. This is the same contestant who pegged Bruce Jenner as a ventriloquist (funny, you never see his mouth move).

But the one that actually had me talking back to the TV was on the other night. The strangers take the stage, and at the beginning, they are cloaked in dim lighting and dry-ice smoke, so you don’t get to see them clearly. But I think I recognize the tall, elegant gentleman at the top far right. Is that…could it be…? Then they post the list of identities. And ‘nuff said, “Creator of Spiderman” is among them.

Stan Lee. Stan Lee is standing right up there. (Maybe he’s trying to drum up a little publicity for the next “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?”) And the female contestant, thirty-ish and cheerleader-ish, has no clue who he is. After she knocks off the first few fairly easy strangers, she just kind of shrugs her shoulders and guesses at him, because none of the other identities match up to someone of Stan’s age bracket. “’Cause, you know, Spiderman is, like, old, you know?” she says.

I take a deep breath and remind myself that just like I might not recognize Fifty Cent or Lil’ Kim (and I still can’t tell the difference sometimes between Gwen Stephani and Christine Aguilara), there are some people out there who don’t know who Stan Lee is.


Anyway…who knows. Maybe this was just a one-time deal, maybe Penn and his stagecraft got himself enough ratings to score a regular gig. But forget about trying to be a contestant. I want to be one of the strangers standing on the stage. And my secret identity will be…someone who knows who Bruce Jenner is.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Word Definitions

While I'm recovering from some kind of bug (not quite bird flu), I hope you enjoy these plays-on-words sent to me by my lovely sister-in-law. Have fun! (I especially like the definition for "flatulence" below. I'm still waiting to be picked up by one.


Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.) describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's winners:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): it's, like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a serious, you know, a real bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the apple you're eating.
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Monday, December 18, 2006

An Open Letter To Time Magazine

On being chosen “Person of the Year”

You could have knocked me over with a memory stick when I found out, on Fox News of all places, that I had been chosen as “Person of the Year” for my contributions to internet content that, according to you, are helping to move control of information to individuals and away from institutions (that means magazines like you, right?).

But really. Thanks for the honor. And I mean that. Even though when someone wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer, they always tell NPR or whoever the story of how they heard. For example, the person would say that they got a call at two in the morning from Stockholm and thought it was a big joke. And just like those prizes, a personal phone call telling me about it would have been nice. No matter what the hour. But I understand that you’re probably too busy dealing with the fallout from last year’s choices, Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono, to have time for things like that.

Yeah. I can see why this year you’d go with timid, humble, yet still feisty little me, instead of the dozens of other people who make more money, get more media space, or perform selfless acts of greatness, usually in small, war-torn or famine-stricken countries. I understand that when you choose someone who is despised by half the world to put on that one, important cover in December, it probably requires a bunch of rancorous, hours-long meetings where everyone has a different opinion. And possibly, shoes are thrown. Staff members threaten to mutiny and the Board of Directors cower in fear anticipating the retributions, including loss of advertiser money and subscribers, for choosing such past winners as George W. Bush or the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Yes. I can understand why you’d pick me. The safe bet. The common choice.

But don’t think me ungrateful. I can completely sympathize with how hard the decision must have been. I can picture your panel of distinguished, worldly editors sitting around that table, looking over the list of this years’ candidates, including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, all with their pros and cons. Any one of which would create so much controversy that half of your customer service department would quit in anticipation of fielding all those angry calls.

“Just give it to her,” the Editor-in-Chief probably said, leaning back in his conference room chair at eight o’clock one evening.

So thank you. Truly. You have no idea what this will do for my likeability quotient, not to mention my clout on Associated Content or the hits this will generate on my blog. Before this, the only attention I could get when I went out on the town sans underpants was a ticket for creating a public nuisance.

OK, then. I’m sure you’re really busy, so I’ll let you go. Just tell me when the photo shoot will be, and I’ll have hair and makeup people ready. And please, tell your readers that in lieu of flowers or gifts, to please make donations to the charities of their choice. Especially those that will bring the magic of the internet, including but not limited to porn and You Tube™, to those small, poverty-stricken countries that are starved for entertainment. Oh. And maybe some food, too.

I want to close by saying that I am so looking forward to my “Person of the Year” issue, including my certificate or trophy or whatever it is you guys give out for this.

I just hope it doesn’t get lost in the mail.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Top Ten Reasons Why Al Gore Secretly Wants Global Warming

10. So he can say he invented it, like he did the Internet.

9. Won’t have to wear those stupid sweaters anymore.

8. Can work on his tan year-round.

7. Tired of nagging kids to shovel the driveway.

6. Ticked off that Obama’s book is selling better than his.

5. Property in Tennessee will become beachfront.

4. Afraid someone will find out that he failed Earth Science in 9th grade.

3. No one will be laughing at his Oscar bid then.

2.People will forget about that those little “inconvenient” exaggerations he made, like saying that people who don’t believe in global warming are like Nazi sympathizers, and that he and Tipper were the models for “Love Story,” and that he claimed to have studied at Harvard under the “first person ever in the world” to study global warming when really it was some 19th century guy named Svante Arrhenius, and….

1. Florida will become submerged. Hah. Take that, Katherine Harris.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

All I Want For Christmas...

First, a public service announcement:

After the holidays, I’m going to take a serious look at self-publishing the manuscript of “Goldberg Variations.” Except I’ve been told by several marketing-types that the title has to go. (Feh. I liked it) I’m on the fence, and can’t think of any better ideas. If you read the manuscript and have an idea for a new title, I’d love to hear your suggestions. Also anyone who's had experience with self-publishing and can recommend a house that won't rip me off or give me a problem with rights, your thoughts would also be appreciated.

Thank you.

Now back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.


OK. I’ve been…well, mostly good this year. I haven’t sent nefarious instant messages to underage males, there is no cash in my freezer, and I always wear underpants in public (especially when getting out of the limousine). I’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain only in traffic and only when warranted, and I’ve used far less foul language than, say, Lewis Black. Although I’ve only been late with a handful of household payments, I pay my taxes, vote and generally am a good citizen. So I think Santa might be open to the following list of things I’d like to see under my tree come Christmas morning:

• A job writing Jeopardy! categories (my favorite: Celebrities whose names form complete sentences…eg Britney Spears, Leanne Rimes, etc.)

• Someone to vote for instead of against

• A heated driveway that will never require plowing or sanding

• Really big breasts. For about a week. Just to see what it's like.

• A lifetime supply of Lidocaine patches

• For Michael Jackson to go away. Please. And take OJ with you. And Ann Coulter.

• Term limits for members of Congress. Starting with Ted Kennedy.

• To collaborate with TC Boyle on his next novel. If he won't do it, then John Irving.

• A mink-covered exercise mat and a personal physical therapist

• A Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun

• To be able to write for “Gilmore Girls” after the new writers jump the shark

• The ability to teleport

• An invisibility cloak

• A hot tub with stairs. In my own house.

• A device that disables cell phone usage in public places. Also mutes screaming children.

• Did I mention a Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB Gun?

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Toast To The Holidays

Many holiday seasons ago, when the lovely chocolate brown shade of my hair was not the result of a chemical formula, my younger brother and I (and sometimes my older brother) wouldn’t get home from our respective colleges until only a few days before Christmas. As we’d been too busy rushing between exams, study sessions and celebrating to buy any presents for our family members (as if there were any decent stores within walking distance of either of our campuses), we had no choice but to resort to the classic Christmas Blitz at our hometown mall. (Back before the internet, kids, we actually had to go to stores to buy gifts.)

And being part of a large blended family, holidays were a little more challenging. Usually, we’d land at Dad’s (closer to the mall), do the shopping, then wrap Mom’s gifts and go to her house for Christmas Eve Dinner (an awesome paella). Then, very late, we’d pile into someone’s car and go back to Dad’s. Gladys knew that one, everyone in their household would be asleep by the time we finished visiting, drinking our wine, having dessert and exchanging presents, and two, that we probably hadn’t wrapped the rest of our gifts. She was always nice enough to leave the wrapping paper, tape, scissors and assorted gift-adorning paraphernalia out on the table (probably so we wouldn’t wake anyone up by rummaging through the closets). And we’d take it all, with our unwrapped gifts, downstairs to my brother’s “old” bedroom, and wrap ourselves silly while watching some holiday-themed program on his small TV (could have been the Three Stooges, but my memory is hazy, and really, did it matter?).

I forget how this tradition started, and where the original bottle came from, but one year I accompanied our “wrap” session with a little Amaretto, toasting the end of another semester and the three weeks of nothing that lay before us. I don’t know about my brothers, but for me, Amaretto always meant Christmas, and time to wrap gifts and take life a little easier.

I continued the tradition well after college.

On my own for the first time, I could only afford the generic stuff. It was horrible, and tasted faintly of lighter fluid (don’t ask me how I know what lighter fluid tastes like). As soon as it dawned on me that the extra couple of bucks wouldn’t make a real difference to my life, I relegated that nasty bottle to the back of the closet, meaning to use it for, say, pancake batter or French toast or stripping furniture, and treated myself the genuine article. Husband, before he was Husband, had something to say about my little vice, but I assured him that I wasn’t going to become an alcoholic having a shot or two in my coffee while I wrapped Christmas presents.

And when we moved into our own house and I had the wherewithal for the real Amaretto and a mountain of gifts, I’d put on the Vince Guaraldi “Charlie Brown Christmas” soundtrack, brew a pot of high-quality decaf, add my shot and wrap the night away.

Now that alcohol and I have parted ways for the foreseeable future, I put a bit of almond extract in my coffee and tell myself it’s the real thing. I can live with that. It’s just a tradition that reminds me of that particular “snow globe” moment. As we started living farther apart and having spouses and children and jobs and other places to be, Amaretto reminds me of those frenetic but simpler times, when my brothers and I would reunite after months apart, and the time we spent together was fun, and easy, because we were young and thought that our lives would be fun and easy forever. It reminds me of the days when someone left out the wrapping paper for us and Christmas was more than just an excuse to eat cookies and exchange gifts but a time for family, and a celebration of all of us being in the same place at the same moment.

No matter where we wind up, no matter how far-flung we get, I hope there will always be a time, and a place, where we can all be together, even if it’s just for a few hours, even if the pile of presents is smaller than it used to be. I’ll still be a bit nostalgic for those old times, when we were a younger family with fewer places to go.

But I’ll still have my Amaretto. Even if it’s just almond extract in a cup of decaf.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Makes You Wonder...

Maybe I’ve seen too many Oliver Stone movies or read too many poliblogs, but the timing is just too suspicious on this one.

Bush had promised to deliver a speech to the nation by the end of the year outlining his new strategy for Iraq based on the findings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Iraq Study Group.

And yesterday, knowing that the Democrats planned to take control of spending on the war, he decides that he needs more time to formulate his response, and will not be rushed…and then suddenly, democratic Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota has a stroke…and if he’s incapacitated, then Mike Rounds, the Republican governor of that state will appoint a Republican to replace him, flipping the control of the Senate over to the Republicans. Destroying any chance the House would have to impeach Bush (like it would ever happen, though) and more importantly, eliminating any chance the House would have to control or even cut funding for the war.

It’s just too weird that probably the only way the Repubs could have grabbed back the Senate was for one Democratic Senator in a state with a Republican Governor be unavailable for service. Of course, that same set-up could have happened in New York, but Hillary undoubtedly has a full legion of bodyguards and Schumer, now for all intents and purposes the only working Senator in New York, is probably moving too fast for anyone to do anything to him.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m cynical, maybe my medications need to be modified, but if I were, say, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, I’d want a full blood screening on Tim Johnson. I’d want alibis for Cheney and Karl Rove. I’d want to ask Putin if maybe he got a package deal on the polonium.

Perhaps Bush couldn’t wait until June, when Dr. Kevorkian is slated to be released from prison.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Modest Proposal

I heard on the news this morning that this particular holiday shopping system is being plagued by a more pervasive and more creative brand of retail shoplifter. Target, in addition to other brick-and-mortar businesses, is taking aggressive measures to stop or at least slow down this plague. They are using a sophisticated video surveillance system, and partnering with local police departments to catch these scofflaws in the act.

But I don’t think they’re going far enough. With a few well-placed Draconian measures, we could stop this problem in its tracks and let the video system continue to be used to catch consenting adults doing things in the dressing rooms, and let the local cops return to busting up drug gangs and giving out traffic tickets for things like blown-out license plate bulbs and talking on cell phones.

For example:

Maybe Hammurabi had it right. Forget those useless signs posted around stores announcing that shoplifters get a free ride in a police car. Those are about as effective as telling kids that drugs kill. But a few strategically-placed signs around stores warning that shoplifters will have their hands removed without anesthetic might give a potential five-finger discounter pause. Not to mention fewer fingers.

Public embarrassment. This is a colonial city, and the powers-that-be are continually announcing festivals, reenactments, et al that celebrate our rich history. And part of that history that has yet to be celebrated is the public stock as a system of punishment. Catch someone red-handed, and lock them up in one of these jobbies in the parking lot for day or so. Cream pies and rotten tomatoes will be supplied to those who care to employ them. And, for those of you who are wondering why we don’t go all the way and simply burn people at the stakes, there are far too many laws against public burning to even try to get this through the city government. Also, there is current legal precedent of public embarrassment as a form of punishment: a judge in Atlanta has sentenced people to hold humiliating signs over their heads in public areas.

Boy, their arms must be tired. But that’s all part of the rehabilitation process.

The Putin Solution. You know those security tags that supposedly contain an ink capsule, so if you try to remove them from “your” Hermes scarf you will be covered in tell-all blue? Fill those ink capsules with Polonium. Your store will never have a problem with shoplifters again.

So get into the holiday spirit and go visit a mall or two. Just don’t forget to pay for your selected items on the way out. Or believe me. You will pay.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Secret Christmas Lists Found In Congress and Senate

As the 109th Congress blows out of Washington for their extended “winter vacation” (some more extended than others), it was decried by one Democratic congressman that “quite a mess” was left behind. It was more than the unpassed legislation, the bills passed so quickly that they contained more pork than Ohio, the name plates from office doors, the desks sitting out in the corridors. My secret sources tell me that some other things were left behind in the members’ rush to get on a plane and go anywhere below the equator. For instance, several Christmas lists were found, the handwriting analyzed by my secret sources’ secret handwriting analysts. And the tentative results (we’re waiting for final corroboration from Dan Rather) were as follows:

Hillary Clinton
1. Curtains for the Oval Office that match my wardrobe
2. A new rug for the Oval Office
3. A personal GPS to track Bill; barring that, one of those leashes people put on toddlers.
4. FBI files on Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Al Gore (just in case), and for God’s sake, there has to be something on Obama. There just has to. I know it.

Barack Obama
1. A new middle name (note to self: forgive Mom – how was she to know “Hussein” would not be desirable thirty years down the line?)
2. Polish for my halo
3. Really don’t need anything else – give the rest to a worthy charity free of scandal.

Mark Foley
1. That new software they have that eliminates your instant messages.
2. A new job
3. If can’t find one, to join the priesthood

Ted Kennedy
1. One of those educational video tapes where they show you how to pronounce difficult names and enunciate clearly – note: ask Bush where he got his.
2. A rehab center at the Vineyard compound

Nancy Pelosi
1. Business cards on better stationery than Hillary’s.
2. The name of Hillary’s decorator.

Barbara Boxer
1. A class on how to think before speaking (note: ask Maxine Waters and Cynthia McKinney if they wants to attend, too)

Orrin Hatch
1. A tie that fits
2. Software that will remind me to eliminate all traces of my Donnie and Marie MP3 downloads.

John Kerry
1. A better publicist
2. One of those books on how to tell a joke
3. For Ohio to be flattened by a meteor

Chuck Schumer
1. New running shoes (as I’ll now be New York’s only senator)
2. A vial of polonium for my next tea with Hillary

Dennis Hastert
1. The book, “What Should I Do With My Life.” (note: multiple copies for Bill Frist, and Mark Foley)
2. One of those “Adopt a Highway” signs for my “Prairie Parkway.”

Maurice Hinchey
1. A gun that doesn’t set off metal detectors
2. A bumpersticker that says, “Honk if you hate Karl Rove”
3. The name of a good therapist (note: ask Howard Dean for recommendations)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bird flu...

Hope to be bloginating at you again in a few days...recovering from having my nerve endings burned off...

Take care and keep warm,
Your penguin hostess with the most-est

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time in a bottle

As the calendar turns to the last month of the year, it makes me think about the passage of time, and how I’ve slipped in the commitment I made to myself to do more writing. When I don’t write regularly, as those near and dear to me know, I start getting cranky. All those words building up in my head. It’s not a matter of “not enough time;” I simply haven’t made the time. I’ve let my days and weeks tire me out from cookie-baking (Snickerdoodles for a neighborhood cookie-swap), on-line holiday shopping and those endless, endless appointments. I dread weeks like last week – every day, a different doctor, a different therapy. They drain me, emotionally and physically. Shoes off, shoes on, shoes off, shoes on, clothes off, bathing suit on, clothes back on. It’s overwhelming at times. (Although I did learn that while you can’t wear a lidocaine patch in the pool, you can remove it, place it carefully on its original plastic backing, then reattach it afterward.) I start to feel poked and prodded and invaded until I want to curl up into a ball with the blankets over my body. And I think, “how has my life come to this?” A whirl of exercises and ice packs and therapy?

It’s certainly not the life I’d imagined for myself. The wide-eyed, pigtailed four-year-old dressed in a plaid smock her mother made never dreamed that one day she’d be unable to twist herself into a pretzel or sit upside-down on a sofa, with her feet in the air and the ends of her braids brushing the ground.

The fourteen-year-old high school freshman, who read Shaw and Perls for fun, opening her mind wide to the possibilities of the world, never thought that one day she’d be unable to sit in her own bathtub and on a first-name basis with her pharmacist.

Having to be shot full of cortisone and then having her getting her lumbar facet nerve endings burned off is definitely not what the college sophomore wanted, even as she blithely wrote her obit for a journalism class that predicted her early demise would occur when hit by a car while jogging, then really was hit by a car while jogging. (But despite her injuries, was jogging just two weeks later)

It’s not even what the 25-year-old woman dreamed of, newly emancipated from the oppressive relationship she never thought she’d succumb to, roaming the nooks and crannies of Boston with her camera, that one day she’d look so sad in photographs.

It’s not even the life I pictured for myself two, three years ago. Well…maybe in some karmic way it was. After all, my goals were to quit my job and become a writer.

Wish I’d specified something about my health in those plans I’d made.

But regardless of how I turned out, it’s the life I have. The only life I have. I can spend it wrapped up in my sorrows (which at times, is very attractive), or I can get up and do something about it (which, at times, seems the hardest task in the world).

And sometimes I think it’s never going to change. That I’m caught in a vortex of medication and pain and exercises and doctors and I’ll never, ever escape its grip.

But then again I wasn’t a powerless, clueless five-year-old forever.

I wasn’t a starry-eyed teenager forever.

I wasn’t a flat-broke but unfettered twenty-five-year-old woman forever either.

But the only constant in the universe is change. And one day my situation will change, too.

After all, if it’s true what those t-shirts say, that “Fifty is the new thirty,” then forty-five is the new twenty-five. And I had it pretty good at twenty-five.

Even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

Calm your fears that George W. Bush, in his last two years in the White House, will do something to undermine Roe vs. Wade.

Yes, I’ve heard the arguments. That he could appoint Supreme Court judges to overturn it. That, as a lame duck he has nothing to lose, so he’ll do as he pleases.

But this won’t happen.

For one, any politician who would dare to touch that third rail would be a dead duck. Women as a body would rise up and smite the party that touches that amendment and the Republicans would find themselves out of power not just for a presidential term, but for a very, very long time. And for all their bluster, politicians know this.

For two, it could happen not by any move from the White House, but by the states, with cost-cutting done to balance their budgets. It could be done by hospital closures and that worst threat of all, consolidation of services.

Every once and a while there is a rumble of this in my area. There are two Catholic hospitals, one on either side of the river, in cities where there is also another (and on the eastern bank, two other) non-denominational facilities. There have been no closures but there have been consolidations and partnerships. The sticking point always comes in the fact that the Catholic hospitals do not perform abortions.

But the state is in trouble and the noose is getting tighter.

At noon today, Albany is set to release a report by the Commission on Health Care Facilities that will strongly recommend that nine hospitals in the state will be closed, and several others will disappear through consolidation. This also includes a number of nursing homes.

According to an article that appeared this morning in the Albany Times Union, this measure is necessary in order for the state to cut “excess” health care beds and save taxpayers millions in Medicaid costs.

In the Capital region, this calls for the closure of Bellevue Women’s Hospital, a facility that is celebrating its 75th year.

Also according to the article, “The commission also requires Ellis Hospital, now with 368 beds, and St. Clare's Hospital, with 200 beds, to unite under a single governing structure. The recommendation would bring together a Catholic institution with family planning constraints, and a non-Catholic facility that provides abortions.” (read the entire article) The report specifies that unless a Governing Board is developed to cut expenses for these two facilities, one or the other may be closed completely, putting the abortion services available at Ellis in jeopardy.

Situations like this one exist throughout the state. Locally, on the west side of the Hudson the Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals will be forced to merge. It is claimed that the Catholic hospitals will then be “forced” to provide abortion services. And we all know that isn’t going to happen. They’ve tried it before.

The president of Bellevue said that they have no empty beds and don’t understand why they are being targeted for closure. A grass-roots campaign is already beginning to support the necessity of the hospital.

Governor Pataki, a Republican and a lame duck, has until December 5th to recommend the report, as a whole, to the State Legislature, which has until December 31st to either accept or reject the plan as it is. A close aide to Pataki says that he’s certain to recommend it.

There’s got to be another way for New York to save money other than slashing services available at already-taxed hospitals and healthcare facilities. Not only might it put facilities that provide safe, legal abortions out of business, but already, fewer and fewer doctors and hospitals will accept Medicaid patients and this will only make their plight worse.

If you live in New York, or know someone in New York who might be affected, I’d urge you to take action. Contact your state representativeor your state senator to make your concerns known. And if this is happening in New York State, it could be in the works in other states as well.

Don't let them get away with this.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Let's Keep The "Thanks" In "Thanksgiving"

I’m protesting.

I’m protesting the utterly ridiculous commercialism and consequential lunacy that has taken over this country, fueled by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Best Buy and Target and all the other big-box retailers that have followed their lead.

I’ve blogged before about the advancement of the Marketing and Advertising Calendar, how all of the holidays have been accelerated so that Back To School happens in July, Halloween happens in September, Thanksgiving happens in October, and so on.

But now it appears that Thanksgiving has disappeared altogether. It’s become a rushed parade of “How To Make The Perfect Turkey” spreads in women’s’ magazines, stacks of jellied cranberry sauce cans and holiday TV specials that are more about stunt-casting for sweeps-week than the holiday. What I adore about this simple, non-religious holiday where we give thanks, eat tons of food then spend the rest of the weekend stuck in airport security lines is in danger of becoming lost in a swirl of Black Friday sales, mall traffic and stores opening at ungodly hours when we should all be sleeping off our turkey and pumpkin pie.

I have nothing against Best Buy and Target. I spend (or used to spend) a lot of money there. But first, why the hell are lunatics standing in line (in the rain, by the way) in the middle of the night in front of these stores to buy an overpriced videogame system when, if they had a modicum of common sense, they could have pre-ordered it on-line or…oh, my God, actually WAITED to buy a product that I guarantee would have been available somewhere after the craziness has passed.

Trust me. The world will keep spinning around if your kid doesn’t get the new PlayStation for Christmas. I didn’t get everything I asked for, either. Of course, I’ve been in therapy for the last two years, but that’s beside the point.

But why are these stores opening while it’s still dark outside? And what’s wrong with waiting until the leftovers are gone to start your holiday shopping? (and in case you haven’t heard, Wal-Mart employees will now be greeting you with “Merry Christmas,” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Get ready for the picketing to begin.) Have we become that crazed with multi-tasking that we no longer know how to relax, kick back for a few days? Or are we so programmed to do what all of our other fellow lemmings do that once the parade of sales are announced, it kicks off something in our brain that repeats, over and over, “Must go to the mall…must go to the mall…” The parade of cars pointing toward Wal-Mart makes me think of aliens being called up to the mother ship.

So I’m protesting. I have not, nor will I go to the mall this weekend. I’m spending the holiday watching football and recovering from sugar coma, the way it should be.

Call me un-American. But I can live with that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Few Words of Thanks…

I’m going to be preoccupied with various things including making a couple of vats of cranberry sauce over the next few days (recipes will be supplied upon request), so in advance of the day we commemorate our forebears’ gratitude for surviving one especially tough winter, I wanted to list a few things in this world for which I am thankful. After my family, friends and faithful readers, of course…

• Lidocaine patches
• Even if I don't start a new novel for a while, the knowledge that a number of them still exist inside my head (and damn, it’s getting crowded in there).
• On-line shopping
• My physical therapist
• The New York Times Crossword Puzzle (except on Friday and Saturday)
• Spring peepers
• The occasional well-written sitcom that sneaks through the ratings guillotine (in other words, network execs are COWARDS for canceling “Arrested Development.”)
• Hot showers
• The way trees sound immediately after the rain stops
• The following writers, in no particular order: TC Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, John Irving, Anne Tyler, Tom Perrotta, Michael Chabon, and, for fun, Janet Evanovich.
• Herman Edwards is no longer the Jets’ coach
• Cars that start
• That writers can now get their words in front of a lot of eyeballs without the traditional “gatekeepers”
• National Public Radio. Especially Garrison Keillor.
• Those three little words: “Two More Years”
• Any movie with Sean Connery
• Vanilla candles
• That I live in a country with indoor plumbing, basic human rights, no worries that I’m going to step on a land mine on the way to the grocery store, and that we are so fat and happy that watching people eat Madagascar hissing cockroaches for money actually passes for entertainment.

And what could be better than that?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mighty Casey Has Struck Out

When Shea Stadium is torn down, the last seat removed and the last hunk of grass unearthed, when the Mets’ new home is constructed just beyond what used to be the outfield fence where John Franco nurtured his tomato garden, it will be called Citi Field.

As an urban baseball park costs more than the owners were willing to pony up, especially in New York where the unions demand top dollar, Citicorp stepped up to the plate. The designers claim that with this park, as is becoming more common, they will return to the “retro” look of baseball parks, emulating the Brooklyn Dodgers old Ebbet’s Field.

Except with a big fat “Citicorp” logo slapped upon it. Citicorp logos on beer cups and placards and possibly, tattooed on each players’ rump.

Just kidding (Christ, I hope so), but I suppose corporate sponsorship has become a necessary evil in these days of construction and maintenance costs spiraling out of control. Except for a handful of holdouts (Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Jacobs Field, Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium among them), few parks are still named after their team, their geographic location or their owner.

When Husband and I first saw the earth movers over the outfield fence, we hoped that the name of the “new” Shea Stadium would stay among them. He suggested “Metropolitan Park,” which incorporates the full name of the Mets and still has that “old time” feel. Or (we hoped) that the name would commemorate some beloved personality from the Mets’ history: Casey Stengal, Tommy Agee, Tug McGraw.

But, as usual, nobody listens to us.

When the announcement came out, I was disappointed but I suppose it could have been worse. At least “Citi Field” sounds like “City Field” which is almost like “Metropolitan Park.” Kind of. We could have had a different sponsor and then had to bear with something completely stupid, like “Trump Park, The World’s Greatest Baseball Field Ever.”

Then I got thinking about how much worse it could have been. We could have been stuck with:

Gotti Field
Flushing Field
Head On Head On Head On Park
The Other New York Stadium
Number 7 Train Park
We Try Hard Park
John F. Kennedy International Airport Stadium
Waste Management Field
We Don’t Suck Park
Nathan's Hot Dog Field

So I guess Citi Field isn’t so bad after all. It would have been more fun to simply call it “Yankee Stadium.” After all, it’s been working well for “that other New York team” for decades.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This Sewage System Brought To You By Proctor & Gamble

Picture this: The St. Louis Golden Arches. Painted yellow and slapped with the McDonald’s logo.

Don’t laugh. It could happen. We’ve already got a toe on the top of that slippery slope as it is. It starts with renaming perfectly adequate structures such as our three local bridges spanning the Hudson: The Kingston-Rhinecliff, The Mid-Hudson, and the Newburgh-Beacon. The names work, right? In all cases, a traveler from out of town knows where they are, in two cases, they’ll know the cities the bridges connect. But no, this wasn’t good enough. There must have been too much money in the budget (or else our Congressman has been too busy “bringing home the bacon” grown from tax dollars we’ve already doled out), so suddenly the bridges have shiny new names and shiny new signs to commemorate their shiny new names. Now they are, respectively, the George Clinton Bridge (named for the first Governor of New York, and not a relative of the former president), the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge (he lived nearby) and the Hamilton Fish Bridge (a beloved local politician who had something to do with the Newburgh/Beacon area, or so I’ve been told).

And for a small donation, your company or organization can “adopt a highway” which means that you get your name on a little blue sign that implies that you are somewhat responsible for that stretch of asphalt. Around here, these organizations include the Boy Scouts, the Vietnam vets, and my favorite, the Lesbian Visibility Project (although I’ve yet to see a single one anywhere near the parcel of road they’ve adopted).

With a little bit of lobbying and petitioning (and probably a hefty donation to someone’s reelection campaign), you can get an entire road named in someone’s honor. Locally, we have war heroes, politicians and other miscellaneous favorite sons and daughters. For instance, the road linking Kingston to Parts West is called the Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates Memorial Highway, named after a legendary African-American one-legged tap dancer who in 1951 opened a country club in Kerhonksen, New York.

OK, you say, these are not corporate sponsorships. But wait. We’ve had them for a very long time. The GE building in New York. The Sears Tower. The Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. And few professional sports organizations still play in venues named for the team, the owner, or the geographical area in which they reside. You’ve got Minute Maid Stadium (formerly Enron Field until they went bust), Tropicana Field, Comerica Park, and the Mets soon-to-be new home, Citi Field (more on this in an upcoming blog). And my favorite local example, a concert venue in downtown Albany formerly called Knickerbocker Arena, known lovingly to locals as “The Egg” for its football-like shape. For years and years it was the Knick, but now it’s called the Pepsi Arena. Something sinks in my heart every time we pass the shiny new sign on the Thruway indicating that you can get to the arena at the next exit.

And probably buy a Pepsi once you get there.

Now I hear that the city of San Francisco is having a little trouble coming up with the funds to repair and maintain the Golden Gate Bridge. (I guess Nancy Pelosi has been busy lately) You would think that McDonald’s would be the logical choice to step in but no. Wells Fargo was one of the first corporations to throw its saddle into the rodeo. I guess it makes sense, and is less tacky as far as corporate sponsorships could go. Wells Fargo was in huge part responsible for the development of the west, so why shouldn’t they be able to buy a piece of one of the most prominent man-made landmarks in California?

It could be worse. It could be the Jerry Garcia bridge, and they’ll play Grateful Dead space music through speakers all day until the toll-takers are so zoned they can’t make correct change.

But what remains of Jerry’s estate probably won’t be enough to pay for all those construction workers to stand around tripping out on Dead, whereas a corporation could merely write it off.

You think NASCAR is choked with corporate sponsorship? Just wait. There is a lot of crumbling infrastructure in this country, and a lot of companies who would gladly shell out for a piece of the rock.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Some Career Advice for Kevin Federline

K-Fed. Dude. Come on. Stop trying to win her back with your lame poetry, put down the weed and the Chunky Monkey and listen up. Yeah, I know. Getting divorced is a major bummer. But you don’t have to take this lying down. And you had to have known you couldn’t be Mr. Britney Spears forever. Just ask Jason Alexander. At least you had the job for more than a few hours. But before you fade into little more than an occasional National Enquirer crossword puzzle clue or a question on Jeopardy!, let me give you a little career advice.

1. Go into rehab. Even if you’re not hooked on anything. Better to check into the Betty Ford or wherever before the cops find you in the back seat with Divine Brown or before you slug down a pint of gin and a couple of Ambien and “accidentally” drive your Porsche into her favorite club. It builds sympathy points with the press and you’ll look not like some rank schlub loser who just got his ass dumped but A Good Father Who Has Realized The Error Of His Ways And Is Getting his Poor, Troubled Life Back Together. Just ask Patrick Kennedy or Mel Gibson. Trust me. And while you’re there fumbling your way through art therapy and making your own bed, it wouldn’t hurt to bulk up a little. Lift a few weights, do some crunches. Like, a thousand of them.

2. Send the two kids you had with Shar Jackson some money, for God’s sake. You can’t go around demanding sole custody of the children you had with Britney while ignoring the two you already had. Get with it. You’re changing your image, here. And lose the tattoo while you’re at it. Gang-banger tats don’t work on white guys. Seen Vanilla Ice lately? Huh? I didn't think so.

3. Cut another album. Don’t worry that the first one sucked. Soon you’ll be as hot as Justin Timberlake. It doesn’t matter that you can’t sing. Neither can he, and nothing seems to be stopping him. Just get yourself a few more lessons (under no circumstances let anyone know about this) and a better studio, and the best publicist you can afford. Make sure to include at least one of those heavy metal-type ballads that says, “I’m so over you, you untalented slut.” Oh. And learn some better dance moves. Please.

4. When your very expensive publicist starts getting you so much airplay that your Top 40 hit becomes a ring tone, hook up with a hot older babe. Ashton Kutcher would still be that stupid guy on “That 70’s Show” if not for Demi Moore. See if Janet Jackson or Julia Roberts is available. Then be seen everywhere.

5. Find religion. Don’t make it too obvious a stretch, like Tom Cruise finding Scientology or Madonna, that nice Catholic girl, studying Kaballah. Take your time doing research. Or have your agent do it for you. Find one that seems natural to you. Then make it public. When you agree to an exclusive interview for Rolling Stone magazine, say you’ve had a revelation that all that partying was just to replace a need in his life, and he’d been really been searching for something more spiritual for years. Unfortunately that was not one of Ms. Spears’ priorities.

6. Have your publicist get you a gig singing the National Anthem at a NASCAR race. It will show that even though you’re on your way to becoming a big hot star, you’re still a regular guy.

7. Get yourself a guest-voice spot on “The Simpsons.” If it makes fun of you, so much the better. It will show that you can laugh at yourself.

8. If you run into trouble, call Sean Penn, Lyle Lovett, or, in a dire pinch, Tom Arnold, for advice or a shoulder to cry on. NEVER let this happen in public. Unless you are all out with hot babes at the same time.

9. Now that your self-esteem is high and you’re coming into your own, hit the interview circuit and talk how much you love being a father. Stress that even though Britney is a sorry-ass flash in the pan, you will absolutely be there for the kids. That is, between dates with your Older Hot Babe and gigs and the occasional movie role.

Good luck, dude. We’re pulling for you.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Twistin’ By The Pool

I’m on guard against getting my hopes up where it regards something that might help my physical condition. After all, I’ve been burned so many times before. The meds that failed, the “miracle cure” that didn’t work, the doctors that came so well recommended. I’m starting to feel like Charlie Brown running at Lucy’s football. Or, like any child raised on Saturday morning cartoons in the ‘60s, like a certain coyote awaiting his most recent order from the Acme Corporation.

It’s the very definition of insanity, you know. To keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.

But this time, I might be on to something. And it’s the simplest damned thing in the world. I get into a tank of hot water, and with the help of a physical therapist, I exercise and stretch my way back to a somewhat normal level of flexibility.

It’s as old as the Roman baths; yet it’s one of the last things I’ve gotten around to trying. All the magic bullet pills, all the new-fangled steroid injections, and still, I’ll be doing the same thing as Nero when he got achy after too much fiddling around.

I had my pre-therapy evaluation yesterday. Got bent like the usual pretzel, filled in the usual forms. Signed the usual places that protect my privacy yet allow Homeland Security access to my information in the event of a national emergency. Though why the President would need to know my range of motion or injury history during an anthrax attack escapes my understanding, unless it would used to screen out people who can’t run away very fast.

But Christ, I thought to myself as I filled out the Medical History form and reached the all-too-small space where I was supposed to indicate what treatments I’ve tried to date for my condition. Can we talk about the ten kinds of breathing techniques? The guided imagery CDs? The physical therapist’s double-jointed spine table? The giant needles full of cortisone jabbed into my back? The unreimbursable bucks I’ve spent on massage and supplements and acupuncture? Honey, you don’t have enough paper behind that desk for me to detail everything I’ve tried.

And it all could have been as simple as the fact that man comes from seawater. Albeit this water will be chemically-treated and bobbing about with four other women who will also be stretching their tired hamstrings and stiff ilio-tibial bands, but still.


Then the stardust clears from my eyes as William, my new underwater guide, gives me the tour. (I now have a therapist on land, and in water. Next I imagine I’ll find one who works at zero G. Don’t laugh. I’m sure there are some exercise physiologists at NASA researching this as you read this.) Anyway, I get a good hard look at this pool. The stainless steel and tile sparkle as the water undulates from some unseen source.

There are no stairs. I was told there would be stairs.

My stomach tightens. “Uh. William?”

“Yes?” he says.

“How am I supposed to get into this thing?”

He looks at me like I have three heads. “Well. You sit on the side,” (the edges are raised, at a height just above my knees) “And then you swing your legs over the edge.”

It’s the swinging my legs over the edge part that I’m having trouble with. I want to tell him, “Dude. If I could do that, then I wouldn’t need physical therapy.”

Seeing my concern, he points to The Chair. You’ve probably seen these. The hydraulic lifts they have at public pools to get the truly disabled or wheelchair-bound people into the water.

I’d failed to notice it before. And I glare at it. No. No, no, no, no, no, no. It’s going to be a frosty day in the netherworld before I have to be lowered into the pool in that thing.

I can do this.


But I’m not going to think about that now. I don’t have to. There are other things I have to think about first.

It starts with finding a bathing suit. My old one fit me…oh, when I was a couple of sizes smaller. But where does one find a disposable (read: cheap) bathing suit in November by Tuesday?

Hey, if I can do that, getting into the pool is going to be a snap. If man came from the sea, then surely he can, when needed, crawl back in.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Guinness World Records Day

It is a tribute to the success or the stupidity of the human race that we have the luxury to pursue not such things like ensure the survival of the species, provide shelter and food for our families, but compete on reality shows or do dangerous or inane stunts for money or for glory.

Take for example the Guinness Book of World Records. Oh, it has gone so far beyond what we remember from our childhoods – the man who was so fat he had to be buried in a piano box, the Siamese Twins, the world’s tallest man.

Now it has become a worldwide version of “Jackass.”

Thursday was “Guinness World Records Day,” and people from around the globe were showing their stunts and their stuff in order to make it into print. For instance, an American man, Jacky Bibby, tried to hold nine rattlesnakes into his mouth (and almost lost a thumb in the process). A New Zealander tried to set the record by putting as many socks as possible on one foot. But apparently this wasn’t enough for him, so he then planned to eat as much raw garlic as possible in one minute. (and afterward I hope he stuffs some of those socks in his mouth). Toronto was going for the world’s largest reenactment of the video of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which included 150 “zombie” dancers. Italians in the town of Treviso created the longest line of pizzas (203.7 yards) and 6000 Parisians were performing a simultaneous lip-lock. (All right, these last two could come under the categories of providing food for our families and ensuring survival of the species, in that order.)

As long as we’re all fat and happy and have the luxury to do ridiculous things, here are some records I’d like to see attempted:

1. World’s Longest White House Press Conference – hey, maybe we’ll get some answers out of the guy before he leaves.
2. World’s Largest Buried Object – Let Rumsfeld find the supposed Iraqi jets and WMDs he claims are buried in the desert.
3. World’s Longest Chain of Thong Underpants – Let Bill Clinton organize this to keep him out of trouble while Hillary is out campaigning.
4. World’s Largest Christmas Display – I think my neighbor is going for this one. A few more lights and we’ll be able to see him from the space shuttle.
5. World’s Loudest Simultaneous Cheer – I’m not sure, but this either occurred along the length of the East Coast or in Seattle when Democrats took both houses or when Rumsfeld resigned. We’re still awaiting Guinness confirmation. And for our hearing to return.
6. World’s Second Loudest Simultaneous Cheer – will happen when Bush leaves office.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Good Reason To Kill Your Television

I guess this guy was not trying to emulate Jackass, but to win a Darwin Award. Too bad he didn't make it. But one can only hope his reproductive abililties were compromised from the blast.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Old State, New State, Red State, Blue State

So the die is cast and the people have spoken and Nancy Pelosi is gloating and Bush is probably furiously at work a speech that will contain phrases like “bipartisan cooperation.”

But that’s the way the pendulum swings.

With or without some horrible thing going on in the White House, after dancing with one party for a few years, the populace chooses to switch partners. And that’s the way it’s been since the ink on the Constitution was still wet.

But New Yorkers seem to like their dance partners very, very much. My congressman, Maurice Hinchey, ran unopposed. Our junior senator probably could have saved her entire reelection fund for her 2008 presidential campaign. And still, we’re bleeding jobs and taxes are so high that people can’t afford to retire here, let alone continue to live here, yet we keep electing the same people at each opportunity, hoping somehow for different results.

And if I remember correctly, isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Cuomo didn’t fix us, so we fired him. Then we thought Pataki would do the job. Not so much. I don’t expect Mrs. Clinton will be much help. New York already adores her, so she doesn’t need to do us any favors. Now Eliot Spitzer will be in the Governor’s office, and he promises not to raise taxes (although pols have this sneaky way of calling them “fees” or “reassessments” or “appropriations” or somesuch so they can claim they haven’t raised “taxes,” therefore keeping their campaign promises). Oh, right. Jobs. He promises jobs. And not just any old jobs, either. But good ones. Ones that will actually allow people to move out of their parents’ basements or afford to go to the doctor.

Frankly I have no clue how anyone is going to salvage New York without raising taxes, but perhaps I’m just not that smart. Maybe they’ll kick more people off welfare or build a few more Starbucks and Applebee’s. Yeah. That’s what we need. More minimum-wage jobs. Employers tell me they can’t even find enough people who want to work at low-paying retail jobs and now we’re going to create more opportunities for people to blow off their interviews. No wonder customer service is going downhill around here. Not too many people who think their job sucks are going to go the extra mile to get you the item that you can’t instantly find on the shelf.

I know, there are some very hard-working people around here, and I appreciate them and thank them whenever I happen to run across one, but more and more, they are in the minority.

As are New Yorkers who don’t consider themselves true-blue, down-the-line Democrats. Perhaps we should unionize, lest we become like the endangered Liberal of the Reagan years.

The first meeting will be held in my car.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Public Service Announcement From A Patriotic Penguin


That's all.

I don't care who you vote for. I hope you'll put a little bit of thought into it, I hope that you know what's at stake when you pull the lever (or punch your punch card, or touch your touch screen, or whatever method is used in your state).

But people have died for this right. People stood in lines for hours in Iraq, in Afghanistan, all around the world, sometimes risking their lives to do so. We should be embarrassed as a nation that the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot is higher in Iraq than here.

So go vote.

If you don't, you have no right to bitch about the results.

Unless you live in New York. Or Florida. Or just feel like carping about a certain group of politicians who are trampling on the Constitution.

Thanks for listening. You may now return to your regularly scheduled day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Abject Begging and Character Assassination

So this is what it’s come to. Get in your last licks, spend your PAC money, work the media, fax around the talking points, slam the other guy, defend yourself against scandal.

Or, just another day in America.

Alan Hevesi, the sitting democratic Comptroller for the state of New York, has been spinning like Kristi Yamaguchi for the last couple of weeks, defending himself against what he now calls “a stupid decision” to use public funds and resources to provide a driver and protection for his wife. The bulk of what was supposed to be a “debate” between him and his challenger, Christopher Callaghan, became an inquisition between him and the moderator. He got a half-hour of media time on our local NPR affiliate, WAMC (in the guise of being allowed to be a guest on a regular show, Capital Connection) where the omnipresent president of the station, Alan Chartock, let him defend himself to the voters of New York. He explained that he’d gotten threats against him and his family, so naturally he wanted to protect his wife, and his job required him to travel a great deal, and he didn’t want to worry about her when he was away, so he asked the appropriate personnel if he could have protection, and all was on the up-and-up, or so he said, until we got to the part about the fine print: that of course you were entitled to these services, if you reimbursed the state of New York for them. Which he somehow forgot to do until someone (I assume from his challenger’s camp), reminded him of this tiny little stipulation. Then he paid back some $83,000 to the state, which got more media attention, and then he was taken to task by the Ethics Commission and put under investigation. When it was found that he indeed broke the law, he lost his public support from Eliot “Golden Boy” Spitzer. Spitzer knew about the “indiscretion” earlier, expressed only the mildest of doubts about Hevesi’s “fitness to serve.” (“Concerned” was how the media put it). But as Attorney General of the state, should have known that Hevesi had broken a law. It was not until the story broke that it WAS indeed a violation of New York Code that Spitzer pulled his support.

And Hevesi was ordered to pay more money back to the state.

And now that we’ve reached the days of abject begging and character assassination, he’s using the last of his media dollars on spots where he might as well be on his knees with his hands out. I haven’t seen this much public tap dancing since a certain intern snapped her thong on the Oval Office. Hevesi – looking most sincerely apologetic - basically says that he made a dumb mistake and as Comptroller he should have known better (because, you know, that was his JOB) but he wanted to protect his wife. And if the decent and compassionate citizens of New York would be good enough to trust him with their vote, he’d be eternally grateful to them…and not the politicians.

Oh, get off it, Alan. You know you’ll win. This is, after all, the Bluest of the Blue States. If you were a Republican, you would have been drawn and quartered by now. But this is New York. So take all that money you’re spending on those TV spots “defending” yourself, and give it to a homeless shelter. Or to the guy you used to drive your wife around. Call it a tip.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Collecting Snow Globes

I was thinking this morning of times in my life when I’ve been truly happy, the kind of in-the-moment happiness when you don’t think about anything else. When the experience isn’t tinged with the anxiety of what is coming next or when the happiness will end.

Several jumped out at me immediately – the obvious ones like the day I met my husband, our wedding, and when my nephews and nieces were born, and being on my own for the first time.

But there was always more to those stories than the pureness of the joyful experience. I guess it’s the writer in me, even before I knew I was a writer, stepping back to observe, to add context, to provide back story, to flesh out the characters.

Instead of just being one of the characters and being in the moment.

When I met my husband, we had an immediate connection, but alas, we were both involved with other people.

On my own for the first time, while a heady experience, was still a partially troubling one. All these decisions to make and what if I made the wrong ones?

And at the wedding, I’m smiling at the camera while worrying if everyone is having a good time. In those deceptively-serene looking shots of the bride preparing to take the stage, I’m fretting if all will go well, hoping that no one will step on my dress or get sick or start a feud. (Hey, I’d heard worse stories)

Even as my gaze melted into the beautiful baby faces of my nieces and nephews, part of me stepped away to speculate upon their futures. The sadness of knowing that their perfect innocence wouldn’t last forever.

There is one moment that in my memory is pure and crystalline, and it’s not a particularly earth-shattering or life-changing event, none of those stepping-stone experiences that you remember forever or commemorate with photographs or celebrations.

It was when Husband and I saw “Blue Man Group” in NYC the weekend before 9/11.

Admittedly, I was fretty and distracted before the show, my mind swirling with the usual thoughts I have when we go into the city – will we make the train, how are we going to find this place, what if we get lost in the Subway, where are we going to eat. As it got closer to showtime and I got hungrier, I got crankier. But we found a place. I don’t remember what.

But what I remember was the show.

The feeling of being so completely caught up in the experience that no other thought could intrude. We were sitting close enough to the stage to be considered in the “splash zone,” so we were advised to wear provided plastic ponchos lest we go home covered with paint, water, and whatever other goo they played with during the show. At one point, toward the end, they used strobe lights and sent rolls of toilet paper streaming over the audience and the Blue Men themselves stepped off the stage and climbed over the tops of the seats and it was just this pure, amazing, kinetic moment of sound and light and music that so overwhelmed me I could only surrender my senses to it. I broke free to glance over at Husband and he looked like kid seeing the circus for the first time, and the strobe light made him appear to glow.

We came out of the theater laughing.

And then we resumed the rest of our lives.

I’m told it’s a learned skill, the mindfulness of being in the moment. And as much as I practice it, I haven’t quite gotten it by the tail yet.

I keep working on it. I go for a walk and think about how the air feels against my face and the way the trees look and the crunch of the leaves under my feet and then I think about jumping into piles of leaves as a kid and other things about autumn and I’m into another story and I’ve lost my place.

In the shower I can’t just think about how the hot water hits the back of my neck and how the shampoo smells. The heat and water get my mind working and I’m thinking of something I want to write that day.

I get the idea, the mindfulness thing, but for a writer, it’s like herding cats.

The one place I’ve been the most successful is while washing dishes. I concentrate on the heat of the water through my gloves and the way the soap bubbles look trailing down a dish.

Guess you’ve got to start somewhere.

But I’ll get it. And someday I’ll have another pure little nugget of life captured in a snow globe, to put on the shelf with the others.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Waxing Nostalgic

I was on the phone with Gladys last night, and we started in on the effect that computers and the web are having on our lives and our culture. There is a lot of press about this topic lately, whether the magic of the technology is a good thing that makes us more efficient and more connected, or a bad thing that makes us more isolated and more stressed.

But there is a part of the revolution that is rarely discussed: what we’ve left behind in our zeal to move forward.

When Henry Ford started rolling out his Model T’s, he also started a revolution. But one that would put the whole of the horse-and-buggy trade out of business. This was no small segment of the economy. Horses had to be bred, fed, shod, housed, and tended to. Buggies were designed, handcrafted, repaired…not to mention the manufacture and maintenance of the hardware that connected one to the other. This wasn’t just a few blacksmiths put out of work. This was a whole way of life.

Similarly the computer changed the way we do business and the way many people earned a living.

For instance, the graphic design and printing trade, which I’ve been a part of for the past twenty years. As late as the mid 80s, if I was designing something that would eventually be printed, I needed to first sketch out the design, and plan where the text and graphics would be placed. I’d take a typewritten copy of the text, mark it up by hand with secret code for the typographer (this was called a “spec”), send it out to a type shop, wait for it to come back, proofread it for errors, send it back again, until it was perfect. The final type galley came back on impervious photographic paper. I’d prep the mechanical (tape an appropriately-sized piece of white illustration board to my drafting table and with a blue pencil, t-square and triangle, trace out the dimensions of your printed piece), then either run my type galley through a waxer or put rubber cement on the back, then trim it out with an Xacto knife, and paste it on to the board. Ad nauseum, until all the type was in position. Photos were merely indicated by red squares marked “FPO” (for position only), and the transparencies were given directly to the printer along with the completed mechanical.

The printer worked his magic and voila, my brochure or catalog or book cover was born.

No more. I can now create the entire document, color-corrected images included, FTP it to a printer’s server, where it is spit out directly into a printing plate.

No longer are the craftsmen of the printing trade needed. This encompasses a whole host of occupations: typesetters, negative-strippers, color-correctors, plate etchers.

I was an assistant art director at an ad agency at the cusp of this revolution. It was the mid-eighties, and we still created mechanicals by hand, although we were lucky enough to have an in-house type department. I remember my boss coming back into our office after a meeting with the president. He flumphed into his chair, looked at me dishearteningly, and said, “I have to go to this conference about ‘desktop publishing.’ What the heck is desktop publishing?”

We were all soon to find out.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful for the change in the industry. At least as far as my job was concerned. No more sweating out if my crop marks were exact, no more worrying if the type would fall off the board on the way to the printer, no more contorting my body over drafting tables and light boards or slicing my fingers with the Xacto. No more breathing in benzene (from the solvent used to thin or clean off rubber cement) or coming home with bits of border tape stuck all over my elbows.

But with one mini-Mac and mouse placed atop a desk, then another, then another, a whole lot of people who couldn’t fit their specialties into the new world lost their jobs. These were artists—craftsmen—but that’s the way it went. The blacksmith had to find something else to do, too.

We were warned – evolve or become obsolete.

But a lot of people couldn’t evolve. Especially the older guys, who’d been stripping negatives or color-correcting plates for years. Or the ones who just couldn’t take to computers and longed for their drafting tables. Some left the business altogether. Paste-up artists became desktop publishers. Typesetters became data-processors, and eventually, some became web designers (HTML is remarkably similar to typesetter’s code). A color-corrector I knew went back to school and became a Pilates instructor. Some just retired.

I'm heartened to see that there are several museums dedicated to this part of American culture. After all, Ben Franklin was a printer. He hand-set metal type and operated a printing press. True, the majority of printing presses used in the US were German, and are now often Japanese or Korean, but everything involved in the printing business was a huge part of our economy for many years.

So every time you make a greeting card on your computer, or retouch a vacation photo on Photoshop, remember how it all started.

I'm considering writing a book about these lost arts. Ironic that it would be printed in the very manner that put them all out of business.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics Is Ugly, Part 1

Whichever political pundit coined these few weeks before Election Day as the “silly season” definitely had it right. And it seems that each year it gets sillier and sillier.

For example, in New York State (those of you not from New York or those of you who don’t care about politics might want to go power-wash smashed pumpkin and shaving cream from your front porches), the race for Attorney General is getting downright ridiculous. The seat is being vacated by Eliot “The Anointed One” Spitzer, who will probably win (in a humiliating landslide) his bid to become our next Governor. Battling for the position of Attorney General is Republican Jeanine Pirro and Democrat Andrew Cuomo (son of the former Governor). Not just Spitzer but Bill Clinton himself have thrown their support to Cuomo. No wonder. He started his political career working on his father’s campaign, and then in his administration, then served as Clinton’s HUD secretary in both terms of his administration. His resume looks good on paper, but as far as experience relevant to the position, Pirro has much more. She has been a prosecutor since 1978 and served three four-year terms as Westchester District Attorney, while Cuomo has mainly ridden his family name (straight into the White House), and worked for non-profit organizations. He calls himself “a fighter for social justice.” Which is all fine and good, but as Spitzer should know, the position of New York Attorney General requires someone with a lot of legal experience who is going to come in and kick some serious ass, and not a lightweight like Cuomo. And because this is the Bluest of the Blue States, he is going to win.

But wait, there’s more. There’s always more. Both candidates come with closets full of skeletons, all of which are being rattled, Pirro is under investigation. Not for anything as heinous as misusing public funds or sending subordinates pornographic instant messages. No. She is being investigated because of her unfortunate choice of mate. Hubby is a convicted felon who spent 11 months in the can for tax fraud. But her signature was also on the tax forms. Beyond all of that Geraldine Ferraro-like inconvenience, she suspected her loving husband of cheating on her and hired a private detective to investigate him. And somehow this makes her the bad guy?

Cuomo isn’t so squeaky-clean, either. He endured a messy tabloid divorce from his philandering Kennedy-family wife. He’s been accused of taking $87,000 in funds for speeches he made while HUD secretary, and, most recently, of accepting campaign contributions from Mark Green’s brother, who is backing racetrack expansion in New York, something Cuomo claimed to be fervently against.

And we still have a week to go.

Politics Is Ugly, Part 2

Brace yourself. It’s no secret that I’m not one of her biggest fans, but I’m defending Hillary Clinton. Because her opponent, John “Why Are You Wasting Your Time” Spencer, crossed the line. He told a reporter, in reference to Ms. Clinton’s days at Wellesley College, “You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew. I don’t know why Bill married her.” He added quickly, “She looks good now,” but credited it to “millions of dollars” in plastic surgery.

For one, this is a vicious personal attack beyond words. And anyone without a prayer in the world of winning an election should know better than to give himself even less of a chance. I guarantee that among the few people who will be pulling his lever, none of them will be women. It’s just unforgivable and cruel to bring somebody’s personal appearance into play. No matter what their politics.

For two, who the hell CARES if she had plastic surgery? The only reason I would get huffy about this is if she used taxpayer money to foot the bill (which she did not). It’s her own damned business and everyone should just shut up about it.

There are plenty of other things to get huffy about – her record in New York, the fact that once she gets re-elected, she will begin her campaign for the White House, which will leave the state with one (very busy) Senator – but her appearance – anyone’s appearance - is and should be off-limits. Yes, this is a shallow culture and appearance is everything and people are getting BoToxed until they can no longer blink, but HANDS OFF. Nobody rakes men over the coals about their personal appearance, and if they do, the end up sounding petty and ridiculous. Why should it be different for women?

And, sadly, we still have a week to go.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Let Them Eat Fat

I am truly conflicted about KFC’s decision (one step ahead of an FDA crackdown) to substitute a “healthier” soybean oil “blend” instead of their usual trans-fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, or Crisco, to those of you of a certain age).

The healthy eating advocate in me is, while not turning cartwheels just yet (fat is still fat, and there are oils that are better for your heart), a little happier than before the decision. (And feels much better about the occasional piece of Original Flavor I do eat, albeit with as much of the Original Flavor as I can scrape off.)

But the Libertarian in me is stronger. She’s standing on the steps of some public building, with a firm chin and one upthrust hand, clutching a can of Crisco, saying “Let them eat fat!”

And, unfortunately, she’s probably up there alone, while politically-correct types scuttle away to some trans-fat free zone, and a pigeon circles gleefully above her head.

Hey, I’m a big girl, I’ve been out there on my own before.

Yes, I’ve heard all sides of this issue. The nurse who frets about all the young people she sees with artery blockages, the folks who are indignant about what this “epidemic” is doing to the cost of their health insurance, the ones who say that it is the least educated and poorest among us who eat at the fast-food restaurants that use trans-fats and if we just could get to that population and tell them how unhealthy this is, then everything would be fine and we could feel good about ourselves again and fewer people would die of heart disease.

OK, fine. I get it. Bad fat bad; good fat good. Evil Big Government bad for forcing bad fat down the throats of good people who can’t defend themselves.

Come on, now. Didn’t we just fight this fight about cigarettes? Didn’t the tobacco companies just lose billions and billions of dollars to lawsuits from people dying from lung cancer? Didn’t they up their budgets for public service campaigns discouraging those who are underage not to smoke? Isn’t the government still subsidizing tobacco farms?

Hey…wait a minute here…

But can’t you just imagine a scenario where instead of the tobacco companies, Frito-Lay and ConAgra and McDonald’s will be up on the stand, attempting to defend themselves against a wheezing, 200-pound ten-year-old with a pacemaker and twenty-five lawyers?

Believe me, it’s gonna happen, if it’s not already in the works.

All the while the government is subsidizing companies that create genetically-altered foods that will last longer on shelves and fill starving bellies but at a still-unknown cost to our health.

And that was the original intent of Crisco. It was developed supposedly as a cheaper and healthier alternative to butter, back when one, butter was expensive or unavailable during World War II; and two, when the Food Cops decided that butter was Bad. Here was a brand-new type of fat that kept forever in the cupboard, and when used in processed foods, extended their shelf lives.

And we wanted that once, right?

Yes, until we found out that it was clogging our arteries and raising our LDL or HDL or whatever the heck the bad cholesterol was supposed to be.

The people who want Big Government to “do” something about this problem – are they prepared to pay the cost for processed foods with expiration dates? They will cost more to make and ship, and that will all be reflected in the price of the product. Are they willing to go into a fast food restaurant and pay eight dollars for a hamburger that used to be three? And since our economy does not exist in a vacuum, managers of these restaurants will not be able to give their employees raises. And so on.

No, I don’t want to see wheezing 200-pound ten year olds with pacemakers. I don’t want to see people dying of heart diseases.

But I don’t know how anyone can escape the massive media onslaught that’s been going on for YEARS that says that FAT IS BAD FOR YOU and IT’S NOT GOOD TO TAKE YOUR KIDS TO BURGER KING EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

The people who choose to eat fatty food are doing it because they CHOOSE TO. And even though cigarettes are addictive, people who smoke can either CHOOSE to keep smoking or CHOOSE to get help if they want to quit. There’s lots of it out there.

So, the Libertarian with the can of Crisco says, leave them the hell alone.

And if enough people who want to improve their health CHOOSE not to eat at these restaurants or not to eat Doritos, these companies will make less money. And if the companies find out they are losing money because people don’t want to clog their arteries with synthetic crap, then they will CHOOSE to change their recipes accordingly so they won’t lose their market share or go out of business.

Meanwhile, I’ve made my own choice. I’ll have the salad and a grilled chicken breast. Olive oil and vinegar on the side, please.

And if you want the steak with fries, that should be between you and your arteries, and none of Washington’s business.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Homo Erectus

A very long time ago, in a college anthropology class I think, one of my teachers mentioned that the mammalian spine makes a perfect suspension bridge. And that the problems all started when we hominoids started walking upright.

I’d say that’s an understatement.

You could argue that this encompasses all manner of evil that Homo Erectus (and later, Homo Sapiens, although save for Leonardo Da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin I’ve seen little actual evidence that this species is any wiser) has perpetuated upon its brethren since it got up on its back legs and whacked the guy sitting next to him with a big stick.

But for the sake of blog space, I’m only talking about my own suspension bridge. And if it gets cranky at the idea of being a vertical column, it really, really doesn’t like being a horizontal one. This is my second day “up,” after another steroid injection and many, many structures, large and small, are telling me how much they didn’t like lying around doing nothing for four days.

“Cripes, you guys!” I tell them. “I’m moving, already. Enough, all right?”

But they still continue to remind me what a bad idea it had been.

This procedure, which was, according to the nurse, supposed to be “lots easier” than the first one (one injection versus three). But then I found out that it was only “lots easier” for the doctor. After waiting, prepped, on my stomach for, oh, 25 minutes or so (or enough to make my spinal facets knock into each other like so many incredibly painful dominoes), the doctor walked in, bitched at me for changing position (I was starting to black out from the pain, so I’d wriggled out of my blood pressure cuff and oxygen monitor and got on my side), and gave me one quick, deep jab near my sacroiliac, no local, then said, snidely, “Feel better.”

The bastard.

But that’s all behind me now (so to speak). The magic juice hasn’t kicked in yet, but I’ve done my sentence (the only thing saving my sanity through those long, dull days was an unabridged John Irving novel (‘Til I Find You) on CD…it’s quite good, and engrossing once you get into it, but I this has to win a prize for the most frequent usage of the word “penis.”).

And having had my suspension bridge horizontal for four and a half days, I now I have much more respect for the verticality of the human spine.

The problem is that the vertical design hasn’t taken into account the current version of Homo Sapiens’ lifestyle and life span.

Back when you were born as cheap labor, married at fourteen, had a bunch of your own cheap labor and died in your forties, I doubt that too many people suffered from disk problems or indeed back problems of any kind. (Possibly from diseases or from prolonged bed rest, but not much else) Physical labor and good nutrition kept your back muscles strong, and your spine straight and flexible.

Then, through medical miracles like penicillin and mammography, we began living longer. (Not that I’m complaining – I’m grateful for the invention of antibiotics, and if George Washington came back to life, he’d be SO pissed to learn that he’d died of a sore throat that could have been cured with a ten-day course of pills rather than a bunch of leeches.) And because of over-farming, our soil became depleted of nutrients. Then comes the introduction of the office chair, the couch and God save us, the television and the computer, and we no longer worked as hard. Our spine molded into whatever surface we poured it into. We slumped in poorly designed office furniture, we sat on our rumps for hours on end watching reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie” and playing “Pong.” (and boy, am I showing my age).

It’s no wonder that back pain is only beaten out by headaches as the number one reason people go to the doctor. You can sneeze and herniate a disk. (a woman once told me she’d actually done this)

And I don’t know if it’s my age or our current age, but I seem to be noticing Pain Management as a profession sprouting up everywhere – touted by leading doctors in books, clinics in every neighborhood, and this mysterious TV commercial pointing to a web site that will help me control my pain (sponsored by which pharmaceutical company, I wonder).

I don’t doubt that in a few hundred years, our spines will devolve until we can no longer stand upright without support.

And we will call this new species “Homo Viagrus.”

Kind of makes you want to sit up straight, doesn’t it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Give Up Your Guns And We Might As Well Be Canada

What in the blue blazes of hell is happening to our medical system? Are doctors so greedy for HMO dollars that they keep accepting patients until they are too busy to pay attention to the ones they already have? Or is it the rising malpractice insurance and other overhead that forces them to overbook?

I hope this is somewhat coherent, because right now I’m so mad I could shoot fire out of my eyes.

I’d already made the decision to change my primary care physician. I just wrote the kiss-off letter; it’s going in the mail today. I’ve only been going to him for two years, and in the beginning it was fine. If I had a serious problem and needed to be seen right away, I could get an appointment. If the doctor was too busy, I’d get to see one of his associates. No problem there. Now when I call (and this has been going on for the last few months), I can’t get an appointment on short notice with anyone save for a nurse or my doctor’s assistant, who used to be more thorough but now, because they continue to book more and more patients, she is missing things that I even know should be checked.

I’d put up with this from specialists. Everyone says it takes a long time to get in, and I’ve made my peace with that. But at least I know that I have an appointment. After waiting the two or three months it might take to get in, at least I know that (if I come prepared with questions) that I’m going to get that specialist’s full attention.

Now I’m starting to feel like I’m on an assembly line. Just one more chart, just one more spine, just one more minute you’ll have to wait and I’m sure the doctor will see you sometime before spiders start spinning webs between you and your chair.

Meanwhile, I wait. I wait with ice packs and pain relievers that make me sick, I wait with exercises I can’t do, I wait with sighs from receptionists who can’t do anything about it other than put me on a cancellation list.

The last straw is that now this is happening with my physical therapist. Other doctors put me off, but I know that he can (usually) squeeze me in. Now he can’t even do that. He’s so overbooked that if he sees me at all, it’s only for a quick question or something that requires a quick solution, like a vertebrae out of alignment that he can instantly snap back in.

But I’m not a quick solution. I’m still having back pain from the fall I had last Monday. When I managed to be shoehorned into his day on Thursday, it was only to snap a couple of things back in place. I told him other things weren’t feeling right, but he took off, pulled someplace else, gone to ping-pong around his four other patients that he was seeing at the same time.

And I still had pain.

And I still have pain.

And I’m having another steroid injection on Wednesday, a little lower this time, because when I had my post-shot consultation with the pain guy, that is what he determined was hurting me. So after I have the shot, I can’t go anywhere near my physical therapist for ten days.

And I called this morning to see if he could get in – somewhere – before Wednesday and there was nothing the trusty receptionist could do.

And I think it might be time to tell him we’re through. It would break my heart, but I have to take care of myself and I have to find a medical team that is responsive, that treats me like a person.

My PT once told me, when I claimed that he wasn’t listening to one of my concerns, “The day I stop listening to my patients is the day I hang it up.”

Well, he’s stopped listening. At least to me.

I still have Word open, I still have my stamps and envelopes out, I could still write one more letter.

Damn, I don’t want to have to do that. But if I have to, I will.