Tuesday, May 30, 2006

North American solidarity

Oh my, I just love a hint of scandal. I especially like it when I am not a participant in the scandalous behavior, and then I can act all morally superior and not feel even slightly hypocritical.

And, while homegrown scandals are fun in their own right, it's when you get a scandal with potential international complications it really gets inspiring. The couple pictured to the right are, for example, already setting tongues a-wagging on both sides of the border. For Americans who might not be aware of whom the babe on the walkabout with Bill is, please let me enlighten.

Her name is Belinda Stronach. She is the gazillionaire hottie who, for a few brief minutes in the time of the universe was the 'resident hottie' of the Canadian Conservative Party. She, still wet behind her pretty little ears, even made a stab at the leadership of the party. She tanked. She then stamped her pretty little Gucci-shod foot and crossed over to join the Liberal Party, wherein she saw her bright future as resting. The Liberals were very excited. Now the high end (in a few respects) Belinda was their hottie. Alas, the Liberals got smoked at the last federal election, Belinda's decision to switch-hit just might not have served her so well in terms of her political future.

OK -- that's who she is.

And, we all know who Bill Clinton is. We even know a little bit about Bill's former problems with his zipper. The scandal is, however, that Belinda and Bill seem to be great pals. They have been pals for quite a while. If he's in Toronto, he and Belinda, it is reported, step out and break bread together. Just recently Belinda was in New York, and she and Bill linked up yet again.

New York (the state, not the city per se). Isn't that where Hillary does a job of work? Isn't that where Hillary has been honing her political creds? Isn't that where her late-night planning to run for the presidency on behalf of the Democratic Party next go-around is taking place?

Bill's suggested shenanigans with Belinda are taking place pretty close to her turf. Not quite as close as Monica in the White House, but you get the idea. Others have gotten the idea, too. It has become newsworthy, not just in scandal crap like the Daily News, but also the august New York Times has sent a good-sized team to follow the madcap kids around.

Of course, it could all be quite innocent -- of course, Bill said that about Monica for a time there, too -- and it could be we're being quite unfair about it all. I mean, I have female friends with whom I might break bread on occasion, yet it's all innocent. Innocent, I tell you! It might be just the same with Bill and Belinda.

The only thing is, Bill has a birthday coming up. If Belinda goes on stage in a white dress and, in breathless voice, scarcely above a whisper, croons "Happy birthday Mr. former President," then Hillary would be right to be left with a feeling that perhaps she should have worn Depends that night.

Monday, May 29, 2006

All we have to fear is fear itself -- gee, that's easy

The following is another excerpt from another chapter in my book manuscript, called 'Who is That in the Mirror?' Hope you find it interesting, and any comments are appreciated, as always. If you are a publisher, please feel free to buy my MS and make me very rich.

When I worked as an addictions counselor I would periodically ruminate on what might be the most significant factor that led a person into a life of substance abuse.

All other factors notwithstanding, including the obvious need to escape reality, I concluded that fear was the salient motivator. Overwhelming, mind-boggling, pants-wetting stark terror with life and all its travails, threats and uncertainty must be the culprit. In group and individual counseling sessions I regularly turned the discussion to fear in all its manifestations, and how it predictably compelled the client to return to the bottle, pipe, needle or joint, despite the best of intentions to the contrary. Since I was dealing with a group of adult males, I initially thought they might be loath to admit to harboring anxiety at such a 'running away' level. After all, the clients of the rehab were often streetsmart tough bastards, many of whom had done time inside assorted penal facilities and had been exposed to situations that might make most of us cry for our mothers.

But, I was wrong about their reluctance to address the factor of fear in their lives. The majority was candid about the knot of anxiety that had settled in the gut at an early age, and had never gone away until their first foray into substance use brought about temporary, yet almost mystical relief. No wonder so much mythology has developed around drugs.

"Wow, man, the world just seemed so much better. There was no way wanted toto go back to the way I was, so I just kept using and using."

The dope and the booze were irresistible to the budding addicts because these substances, as if by magic -- and there is a magic therein, and it would be disingenuous to deny it -- made the fear go away. Decry mind-alteration by psychoactive substances as we might, we cannot disregard the fact that the shit does what it promises to do. It enables the victim to actually spend a certain part of his or her day away from white-knuckle terror and paranoia. If he has access to enough, he or she can be 'altered' all the time.

Of course, there's a downside to all of this. The stuff is addictive, it's illegal, it plays hob with the health, and it can either kill the abuser, or lead him or her down paths of dishonesty and depravity that they would never have, before the addiction, gone to.

But, there is a wondrous and chilling rebound effect with all drugs, including booze, and that is whatever emotion it obliterated chilled out during intoxication, will return with a greater vengeance. This leads, of course, to a dependency on larger and larger quantities of the substance. Talk about a double-edged sword. The distress you were trying to get away from, comes back wearing brass knuckles.The majority of addicts made their initial steps into indulgence at an early age. Often (though not always) they were children who felt 'apart', and were lacking in emotional resources to challenge a life they perceived as being fraught with peril. Consequently, they discovered that their first indulgence, whether it was a beer or a joint, evoked a calmness that had been alien to them theretofore. The next time, the result was the same: peace, merriment, loss of sexual inhibition, and sometimes even bravery.

Thus the spiral began.

While most addicts and alcoholics began their behavior early, not all did. A sizable minority of addicts comes about their involvement later in life. Usually at a crisis point, when the forces of daily existence assume a magnitude that conventional mechanisms of coping no longer seemed able to address. Work, economic and domestic pressures assumed frightening proportions, and a substance that had formerly been a social lubricant became an essential coping mechanism. And, if the beer or scotch no longer make it all go away, then something more virulent, like cocaine, just might. Not only might it -- it does -- for a time, until the world falls to pieces, and former fears turn to mindless paranoia about virtually everything.

One of my clients was in his late fifties before booze caught up with him. He had always been a slight social drinker. But at one point, his older wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. As he watched his beloved partner fall to pieces, he took to the sauce to escape the obviousness of her deterioration, and to allay his fears of being alone when the inevitable happened. By the time of her death he was in his early sixties, and was a full-blown alcoholic. In the year following her death he ended up as a street-rummy, living with a hooker (who regularly robbed him) and panhandling for the dollars to buy him his next bit of liquid salvation. Fear had been the essential factor in putting him there.

Combine that fear with abject loneliness and loss of a love, and you have the potential for much ugliness in the human soul.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Graduating from what? To what?

I'll remember always ...
Graduation dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

I know it's high school graduation day because I saw the limos parked along the street when I came back from shopping mid-afternoon.

That's right. This is high school graduation; not college, not university, just bloody high school. Meaning not to be cynical at all, but why is this an event worth commemorating? I mean, it seems to me these days that you surely must graduate simply by attending a certain minimal number of classes during your three years. Other than that, there's not so much to mark, as I see it. I don't think there was ever so much to mark. You will end up with some sort of certificate that will tell the world you put in your time -- that is, unless you pulled down a stunning GPA. Otherwise, Wal-Mart and Home Depot await, kids.

When I graduated from high school, shortly after the end of the Hundred Years War, nobody made much of a deal out of it. My parents certainly didn't, considering my amazingly shitty performance over the previous 36 months of my life. More time devoted to fruitless lust, rather than equally fruitless logarithms. But, otherwise, some guys bought new $69,95 suits, and go haircuts, and girls got nice little dresses -- possibly costing more than $69.95, but not much -- and sported either flowers or little tiaras in their hair. They looked very nice. Zits amazingly gone, as a little victory for Clearasil, and a certain patina of self-conscious sophistication. We then wandered up past assorted school board types (none of whom we knew, or cared to know), got a handshake and a curled bit of paper from the asshole who had passed himself off as our principal -- no, my regard for him wasn't adolescent spleen, he truly was a world-class asshole -- and that was about it. I think there was a cliche-ridden valedictory speech, and a stultifying speech by some other guy who nobody knew, and who was probably a friend of the asshole principal's. Then we had a dance, after which probably many people got drunk and puked on themselves, and virtually nobody got lucky. At least, I didn't. And, that was about it. The following Monday it was off to the crappy summer job, and grad was forgotten about virtually in an instant. That, to me, is as it should be.

But now! My heavens. I've already mentioned the limos. What about the dresses that must be purchased for daughter? This is a very big deal, and a very big expense. Seventeen-year-old girls want to be decked out in Versace originals, and God forbid that somebody has the same thing. "A designer original, Mom. That's what I want, a designer original!" And Moms, who have frantically been running around and incontinently turning their undies amber with the stress, are desperately trying to oblige because, there is no way my kid is going to be upstaged by the daughter of that shyster lawyer across the street. Dads, meanwhile, are wondering if they really can swing a third mortgage, and instantly feel the ulcer kick into action, when they realize that there are two more daughters just down the pipeline, and once grad is done, there will be weddings in the future. "Why, oh why wasn't I more serious about that vasectomy?"

Parents of boys don't get off quite as badly, but there are still outfits well beyond the ancient $69.95 to be purchased. And, no, 'not the family car. Not my car. Can I rent a limo, or maybe your could rent a Beemer ragtop and let me use it. '

And, so it goes. And it's farcical. And what about the po' folk. Are their kids to be left with even less self-esteem than they already have from living in the trailer park? Well, I guess they are. And it's all in the name of graduation from bloody high school.

Are the kids to blame? Only in the sense that they are young and susceptible to our bullshit. The bullshit of parents. The bullshit of schools, The bullshit of advertising that tells them what they must have and cannot live without.

Well, as a friend said, let them have their moment of glory. The real world awaits, and that is not always a pretty sight. If they do get into a decent college or university, the grad at the end of that will be truly inconsequential, since then the 'real world' they've deferred will genuinely hit them between the eyes.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Quoth the Raven: "Nevermore!"

If you look up above the curved part at the top of the rose arbor, that is where the robin's nest is. And that is where the materfamilias of the little family of turdi domestici had established their nursery. I had mentioned about them in an earlier blog. We thought they were, as the saying goes, "safe as houses" way up there above the lawn and obscured both below and on top.

Not so secure, it seems. Two days ago we heard huge outcries from the garden, and looked out only to see a huge raven pulling out from what we can only guess was some sort of a bombing run, or at least strafing run on the nest. The outrage robins (Mr. and Mrs.) were in full pursuit of the marauding raven, heedless of size discrepancy.

But, the raven, alas, seems to have prevailed, the thuggish airborne bastard. Oh, the parental robins seemed to be OK, but I guess the next just wasn't as well placed as we thought. We're very disappointed. We liked the idea of the nest in our back garden, in amongst the roses. We welcomed the little family. Hell, we even offered to babysit when the time came.

As big and imposing as they are (like crows on steroids), ravens do not have many redeeming virtues, unfortunately. Poe certainly found them to be frightening, and prophets of death; North Coast Indians refer to the raven as 'the trickster' in their totemism, and found the creature untrustworthy; their cousins the crows detest them, because ravens assail their nests and kill their young; eagles detest them for the same reason, and little birds live in fear of them. Farmers scan their fields for them because ravens, as lovers of shiny objects, will actually try to pluck out the eyes of a springtime lamb or calf.

Ravens and their ways abound in mythologies from many cultures, and they assuredly are imposing avian presences. But, if you want an example of the harshness of nature in the raw, you don't need to look much farther than this particular harbinger of airborne doom

Oh, I wish our neighborhood raven no ill, and I do not yearn for the day that rampant development removes the remaining big trees in which ravens position their handy lookouts. I'd actually miss their odd cries.

At the same time, however, we're really pissed about our resident robins, and only wish the raven had taken off after somebody else's robins. Robins of inferior quality to ours, no doubt.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

All the young dudes -- Ha!

"Fools' names and fools' faces, often seen in public places," was what my grandmother used to say if it seemed that somebody was calling too much attention to themselves. She had a great ability to cut vainglory to the quick, did old Grannie.

But, I thought, what the hell. I'd not only run a picture, but I'd offer some thoughts about being in my 'prime' and just what that might mean. As for the picture, it was taken on a beautiful day last July. Why not? I like seeing pictures of my blogger pals, so I thought it was my turn. As for the 'being in my prime thing', I offer as follows a chapter excerpt from the manuscript of my (I hope, one of these days) pending book that concerns a guide to life for middle-aged men. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, then please push all your publisher friends and let them know they should buy my manuscript and pay me a lot of money for it.

As she strolls down a street of your town, you catch her passage from the corner of your eye. Perhaps you've seen her a dozen times, but her exquisite packaging always evokes a sharp intake of breath. You don't know who she is, and it doesn't matter. She's a symbol. She is the twenty-year-old classic heartbreaker.
Her lower torso is decked in tight, white pedal-pushers, clam-diggers -- or whatever they call them these days -- and a discreet perusal of the twin globes of her poetic ass indicates the distinct outline of a thong, of the sort that adorns (you've been led to believe) the nether parts of many young females today. Meanwhile, the sleeveless top is tight over criminally firm breasts and the chopped off blonde mane sways with each step of her flip-flop adorned, enamel-nailed, toe-ring accented tiny sweet young feet.
It's almost too much to bear as she bops along past your line of scrutiny. She is a female symbol of the sort that has since the beginning of time ensured the continuation of the human race. She advertises her nubility and her newborn sexuality, so there's nothing unnatural about your subtly lecherous (you hope) ogling, or even the fantasies the ogling elicits within you.
Enjoy the vision, not to mention the fantasy, for it's nothing more than that. Take grim solace in the knowledge that the form will not last for more than another decade before age, childbearing and gravity will take their toll. Nature and the calendar are brutally honest in the changes to be invariably invoked on such tender manifestations of divinity. Her youthful beauty is but a tiny moment of joyous time. Let her bop down the street, humming a little song, turning heads all the while, aware without mistake that she is 'da one' -- for this instant in time.
Be happy for her -- and for you, for that matter. At her end there is the joy in her youth and her full recognition of the exquisiteness she offers the onlooker. At your end there is a blessing by way of a freedom in understanding that you don't need to worry about any of this. You're merely here, by this time in your life, to enjoy the show. It's not that you've given up on all aspirations, it's just that you, if you are reasonably well adjusted, are on your way to becoming a realist.
That is because you are finally of an age that lets you know she is not for you. She is not for you unless you possess a high six-figure income and were not whacked by 9/11, drive a black or silver something at the top of an exotic vehicular line, have access to at least a fifty-five-foot floatable device, a condo in Hawaii, and are regularly given to taking youthful protégés to winter in Monte Carlo. It happens for some -- but not for you. If such things are happening for you, then why are you reading this rather than indulging in something more poetic?
At one level it does all seem unfair. Unfair in that you couldn't have the likes of her when you were her age, because you were poor, unsophisticated and terrified of females of her pulchritude, and you cannot have her now because you're poor, unsophisticated, terrified of females of her pulchritude -- and also highly married, and getting just a teeny bit into the age neighborhood of her father, or maybe even her grandfather. How would you like her grandfather to be ogling your daughter? He probably does if she looks like the subject in question here. All men can be swine once in a while.
But, maybe you are still distressed by the aforementioned scene, and you still feel cheated that you can't be an active part of that pretty waif's scene. Acceptance of your chronological reality only applies if you have gone through your changes and come out the other side -- a mite bloody and slightly bowed.

If you haven't accepted your 'afternoon' yet:
Truly, if you haven't taken that sorely needed, difficult and time-consuming reality check, then you will remain distressed. Unresolved middle-age issues are why you sometimes feel sad, regretful, even resentful that your life hasn't worked out in any 'really special' way for you. Or, if it was exciting and dynamic in the past, it doesn't seem to be any longer. When you and Mick Jagger begin closing your days with Ovaltine instead of Courvoisier, life has surely lost an element of charm. But, from what you read, Mick is still Mick, and you're not. Yes, the old Mickster has gotten kind of pathetic -- not quite at the almost frightening HughHefner level of pathetic-ness -- but he's still hanging in there.
Yes, life is passing you by, and with each day the chances of carnal oblivion with somebody soft and tender, yet firm at the same time, fade into the ever-increasing mists of your days. And sexual regrets are only part of the equation. You've also had to accept the fact that your chances for wealth, fame and power seem just as far away today as they ever have, and maybe will never arrive no matter how many lottery tickets you buy. Maturity didn't bring the things you thought it would, like largesse, self-confidence, contentment, and a feeling of accomplishment.
What it brought instead was thinning hair, a paunch, chronic heartburn, diminished erectile function, and the need to pee five times a night if you consumed more than a tablespoon of liquid in the three hours prior to bedtime. And, even when it is bedtime, you can't get to sleep. If you do finally get to sleep you wake up before the birds! You wanted to be Cary Grant, and you ended up Rodney Dangerfield -- like most of us.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Not quite a Mood Indigo, but it will do

I love my garden. Tending its wants-and-needs put me in touch with whatever Higher Power I might be subscribing to at the time, whether it is God, Mother Earth, or that great Cosmic Muffin. Getting my fingers dirty, pulling weeds, pruning and trimming render my immortal soul feeling just a little more, well, immortal for a time.

Actually, the maintenance stuff is kind of wearying, if truth be known, which is why I really, really like my wife to do it. Wendy is much better at the task in any case; she is actually 'neat' about it.

No, what I really cherish is growing stuff. All manner of stuff. Even stuff that won't grow in this climate. A couple of years ago I tried to grow watermelons. I know they'll grow nicely in the heartland, but they are dicey on the coast. But, you know, I actually got one of them to grow. It was great. It was a lovely mottled green skin, and when sliced open it was a rich and juicy red. It smelled heavenly. But, and I guess it was something to do with the damp climate, it was about half-way between golf ball and tennis ball in size. It was actually very cute.

Other years I have tried to grow such esoterica as celery, okra, and even tobacco. Afraid I didn't get enough okra for a decent gumbo, and I love Louisiana cuisine.

Anyway, every year I try to grow something different, and just a bit exotic. At one time I read about the magnificence of blue poppies. They look just like the standard red or pink oriental poppies, but they are a wonderful shade of blue. You don't find them often. And when you do, they're quite expensive. But, about four years ago I found some plant sets at, of all places, Wal-Mart. They looked healthy enough in their tininess and, best of all, they were for sale at Wal-Mart prices. I guess the harvesters of poppy seeds in the high Himalayas (where blue poppies originate) aren't paid very much, and that might explain the price.

So, I took them home. I wasn't really expecting a great success. It was for more of a lark than anything. Furthermore, from what I'd read about blue poppies, the amateur horticulturalist's chance for success was about the same as the chances of Britney Spears earning a Harvard PhD. But, I stuck them in the ground to see what would happen. And, you know, the damn things grew. They grew to a goodly size. But, there were problems. One of them, the weaker of the two, fell victim to the ferocious slugs in these parts. I put down veritable pounds of slug-bait, but it seemed that the slimy bastards were just using the bait as a spice for their main course, one of my blue poppies.

Eventually the poor #2 poppy gave up the ghost. But, its compadre soldiered on, and got big enough that the slugs no longer bothered with it. It got to be about waist-height. Yet, it showed no sign of forming a bud of any sort. I surfed the Net and found that they don't blossom the first year. Damn! But, gardening is all about patience. If I didn't die during the ensuing year -- possibly from having a hit put on me by Britney in retaliation for being rude about her.-- Hey, it was all in fun, babe -- I stood a reasonable chance of seeing the fruits of my labors, provided the puppy made it through the winter.

It did make it through the winter. And the next spring it began forming buds. Many buds. And eventually those buds bloomed. They were beautiful. A delicate blue, with vibrant orange centers. It really was quite mind-blowing. It rewarded my pains in its special place in my garden. And, it would be back every year forever -- Not!

Blue poppies are supposed to be perennial, just like ordinary poppies. Not mine. It gave me my show and left that sort of message (I've heard) that one might get from a beautiful woman who agreed to make love with one: "OK, Buster. You've had it. I hope it was good. Now, piss off and don't bother me ever again." Yeah. It was sort of like that. With fall the poppy faded away, determined to never return.

So, one day I decided to paint a version of it, from the many photos I had taken of it at its moment of glory. It's not necessarily a wonderful painting, but it captures a bit of what it was, and what it meant. Anyway, it's all the poppy deserves for having left me so abruptly. But, like the beautiful woman, the memories are superlative.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why, it's just a big dumping ground

Surrounding the island of Rarotonga well off in the tropical South Pacific is a crystalline lagoon called Muri. Muri Lagoon is what you have always dreamed such a lagoon should be -- clear, warm, and pulsating with finned creatures the colors of the rainbow and more; angel fish, Moorish idols, wrasses, trevallies, puffer fish, cornet fish, parrot fish, the odd ray, and even sharks and barracudas in the darker depths. The decor is punctuated by corals of again magnificent hues. It's heavenly.

On the far side of Muri is a network of tiny islands -- known as 'motus', in Maori -- and they look like everybody's image of the tiny tropical desert island: white sand beaches surrounding a dense jungle of palms, hibiscus, frangipani and hundreds of other tropical plants.

We took little kayaks over to one of them on a particular day. When we disembarked we stood on the beach and practically orgasmed over the absolute stunning beauty of it all. How could it get better than this? We knew not how.

Since the motu wasn't so very large, we decided to walk right around it. We pulled the kayaks well up the beach towards the jungle so the tide wouldn't catch them. We then beat a hasty retreat back towards the water, since the mosquitoes were attacking us in droves -- hey, even paradise can have a downside, like dengue fever and malaria, and we weren't about to take chances. Anyway, back closer to the water, the 'mozzies' were no problem. We set off on our trek.

On the Muri side the water was still and serene, but as we rounded the bend we could hear the ever-increasing roar of the open Pacific. The Pacific is hardly 'pacific'. It roars. It sounds like a 747 taking off. Energy spawned by thousands of miles of water finally finding a point of land tends to lead to a thundering presence that is mind-boggling. You could not sleep on such a beach, so great is the magnificent crashing of the waves.

We wandered along in sheer delight, but then I noticed there was a downside in being on this open ocean side. The ocean is not clean. All along the beach there was garbage, the effluvia of humanity. I don't shock easily, but I was shocked, nevertheless. How could this be? The Pacific is so massive. Hawaii is five hours flying time to the north, and the mainland of North America five hours more. French Polynesia is a few hundred miles to the east, but it's pretty small geography-wise, so it couldn't produce much. Australia and New Zealand are a few hours to the south and west.

I looked at the crap -- cartons, bottles, disposable cigarette lighters (lots of disposable cigarette lighters), even tampon injectors. Those that had discernible labels had writings from around the globe, Asian languages, English, French, German, Russian, Polish. And, even more distressing, fish nets. Tangled and ugly fishnets. We were in heaven on earth and were also up to our ankles in the shit of earth. And, I could only conclude that this shit is all coming from ships. Our waterborne transport believes it has the right to jettison it's crap into this exquisite and huge ocean. Problem is, even it ain't large enough to handle our 'disposables.'

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary concerning an expedition made to the northwest Hawaiian Islands by a Cousteau group. And there, on Midway, Laysan, Hermes Reef and French Frigate Shoals, it was the same old shit. We, with impunity, fill the ocean was stuff that is not only unsightly, but a huge risk to wildlife. The beautiful green, sweet and benevolent sea turtles, with eyes too sweet to ever be in the head of a reptile, think that plastic bags are jellyfish -- a mainstay of turtle diet. Plastic bags aren't jelly fish. Turtles eat them and either choke to death, or tie up their guts. Makes you want to weep, those of you who have ever swum with turtles.

Wayward fishnets, meanwhile, snare dolphins and turtles, and even whales, since the hideous craft that deep net fish (often illegally) will cut off the nets rather than risk arrest. If that isn't their fear, they will also cut them off if they get snarled.

I don't write this is a rabid environmentalist, and I do get tired of those who would politicize that which should just be common sense among the less than brain-dead, but goddamn, when I see the disrespect we have for a huge body of water, and the way in which we violate it, I am saddened and can only conclude we deserve whatever is coming our way.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Or -- the 'Lewinski Code' might sell better

On Friday I made a list of things I didn't want to do this weekend. The list included: Not slashing my wrists; not harboring untoward carnal thoughts about Lindsay Lohan (who might arguably be seen as more dysfunctional than the entire Culkin clan), and especially to 'not' see The Da Vinci Code. In fact, I made a further vow, and was to not ever see The Da Vinci Code. None of my motivation in eschewing the flick had anything to do with the 'present in entirely too many movies' Tom Hanks weird hair syndrome, but everything to do with my belief system. Anyway, Hanks had much weirder hair in Forest Gump (contender for the most overrated movie in history). Back to my belief system. My belief system regarding Code is that I don't give a shit about the findings of a half-baked novel. Because, that is all it is. It's not the arrival of the anti-Christ, it's a trowel-it-on semi-researched novel. Nothing wrong with that per se. Kudos to the guy who wrote it and sold it. My point is, such mental, pseudo-theological ramblings have nothing to do with what I believe or disbelieve. Those things are 'mine', and not to be interfered with. Is the premise of Christ and Mary Magdalene blasphemy? Of course not. Maybe it even really happened. I don't know. Neither does anybody else. Clues in Da Vinci's The Last Supper? How so? Why would Leonardo Da Vinci know more about what was going on than, say, Leonardo DiCaprio? Well, maybe a little bit more, but you get my drift.

So, I'll put Da Vinci right there alongside those who through the ages have surmised that somebody other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays. A wag once suggested that the plays of Shakespeare were in fact written by another writer of the same name. But again, what does it matter. What if the plays were written by a guy named Melvin? Does that make Hamlet any less magnificent? Not to me it doesn't. The point is, they were written and they have gone down through the ages as a true gift to humanity. The story of Christ is deemed by the devout to be a true gift to humanity, likewise, and no pop-culture nonsense is going to defuse the beliefs held by those people.

However, I have the germ of an idea brewing for a novel and ultimately, I hope, a film. I call it by the working title: The Lewinski Code. In this one Monica, as the Mary Magdalene character, comes to the realization that Bill Clinton is actually the anti-Christ and that her Christian quest is to ultimately disgrace him, and to force him to spend the rest of his days knowing that he induces titters in certain sections of the crowd when he is on the rubber-chicken speaking circuit. The moment of truth comes near the end when a penitent Monica utters, in Aramaic, as a nod to Mel Gibson, the immortal lines of Freud: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Friday, May 19, 2006

If you are seeking gender differences, look no further

Males and females are very different and I for one applaud those differences. Females are smooth and soft and indent where I jut out, and jut out just where they're supposed to. Females smell nice, have soft voices, and walk in a manner that catches my attention. It's all just so darn nice, and I believe that is just the way it's supposed to be.

There was a drive afoot in certain strident educational circles a number of years ago to nullify gender differences, and the more dedicated to this cause were determined to prove that little girls were no different from little boys, and that ultimately, when the teachers' union 'ordained new order' arrived, there would be a blending of both sexes. Of course, this new order would follows a stalwart feminist agenda, and boys would be profoundly discouraged from such erstwhile male bastions as nose-picking, urinating while standing, and audibly farting. This followed the assumption that little girls never indulged in such practices. And, of course, they don't. My wife has told me so.

That new order never did fully arrive, but there has been in recent years a certain 'blending', or at least compromise between the sexes that seems quite healthy. Males are still allowed to be boys in certain behaviors, and girls can be as 'girlie' as they like, as long as both groups concede that equal rights should be accorded at all times. I certainly acknowledge the changes, and endeavor to act accordingly. One gesture on my part has been to put the seat back down at least 70 percent of the time. Not bad, considering I was born in a different era, and was raised in a house with a lone female and four males.

However, there is one area in which the twain shall never meet. That is at the dining table, or the grocery store. Choices in acceptable foodstuffs are simply miles apart. Take zucchini, for example. Females actually like zucchini. They will march into the produce section, and exultantly note that zucchini is on special. Another such thing is eggplant. If it weren't for females, there would be no eggplant. Even Greek males wouldn't eat eggplant dishes, despite the fact Socrates extolled its virtues. But, we know all about Socrates and his predilections. Actually, I made that up about Socrates but, since this is 'my' blog, I can do that. Anyway, the obnoxious looking dish above is, if you can believe it, a zucchini and eggplant lasagna. That's right, both of them in one sorry dish. Lasagna is a wonderful treat, but it is a treat that virtually all males would see as something that involves liberal lashings of meat and cheese. On the other hand, many females of my acquaintance would suggest that maybe this dish has a place in the world and, "wouldn't it be nice to try something different?" No, not really. Let's face it, if men had complete sway, there would be no such things as zucchini and eggplant -- or courgettes and aubergines, for my more European constituents.

Truly, food seems to be a gender-specific thing. Not that both sexes don't indulge each other periodically, but generally speaking men favor dishes that involve a lot of meat, and a paucity of vegetables. That is not to say that males eschew all veggies. For example, potatoes and corn on the cob are generally fancied by guys. That's because they are sort of like meat in that they call for a lot of gravy, or butter or some other sort of animal by-product to be at their best. I used to have a friend who staunchly maintained that potato chips and ketchup were vegetables, and such items would easily satisfy his daily requirements.

Women, on the other hand, are partial to things like salad. Men like salad, too, provided it has the term 'potato' in front of it. Women gravitate towards fish much more than males. Men like fish a lot if they have caught it themselves, but otherwise they look to mammalian origins for their fodder. I suspect, in my generalization here, if the bulk of grocery shopping was carried out by males, produce sections would be very small -- containing mainly varieties of corn and potatoes, with a few onions, some garlic, and maybe fresh asparagus thrown in. There would assuredly be no broccoli or cauliflower areas, and Brussels sprouts would appear only at Thanksgiving and Christmas, as a suitable accompaniment for turkey, mashed potatoes, and Niblets corn -- all of which must be drenched in gravy.

Now, for my female friends who might be concerned about my cholesterol intake, be assured that I have moderated my attitudes towards veggies, and even fruit, for the sake of healthful eating. I will, however, cut no quarter in the direction of zucchini and eggplant. Final question; why is it called eggplant, anyway? It's got nothing to do with eggs, which are another wonderful item in the masculine lexicon of desirable foodstuffs.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The cycle of life continues, always

We have a robin nesting in our rose arbor. She's quite content to be where she is, regardless of the fact the sprinklers come on overnight, and that I mow the lawn beneath where she is sitting, in the process of bringing her tads into the world. It's nice she feels safe and comfortable so close to all the ruckus that accompanies a household. But, her instincts drive her to perpetuate the species. that is what she must do.

Meanwhile, I just came in from putting on the barbecue, and in doing so, I noticed a little mass of golden movement on the sideboard of the barbecue -- minuscule pinpoints of life in their thousands. Baby spiders. Many baby spiders. Cute little baby spiders. Actually, I don't know if 'cute' applies, but I like to think that all creatures are cute in their infancy -- even spiders.

The cycle of life. Right now the cycle of life has a sad poignancy in this neighborhood. Prior to putting on the barbecue, I was talking to the grown daughter of our next-door neighbor. Our conversation consisted of my asking how her mother was doing. Her mother is dying, you see. And the two daughters are spelling each other off doing what is basically the "death watch." Her mother's life is at an end, and she is accepting that, and hoping it will be over soon -- for all concerned, and especially her mother. We are saddened because she is a sweet and pleasant lady only in her early 70s. But, cancer is a ruthless leveler, and she has been fighting it off and on for nearly 20 years, daughter said. She moved into the house not all that long ago. The house is a lovely one, with exquisite gardens, and it was the gardens that drew this widowed lady, shortly after the demise of her husband.

"It's really sad," said the daughter. "She was really looking forward to the garden and just the peacefulness of the neighborhood, and then it just went away, and there was nothing anybody could do about it."

And, as hard as it is to accept, that is the truth. Ultimately, there is nothing anybody can do about it. But, soon there will be baby robins, and every day young moms are pushing prams full of infants up and down the street, right past her home. At this moment a bunch of kids is playing Little League ball in the park across the street. The kids are full of life, piss and vinegar.

Never, since the beginning of time, has it ever been different, nor will it ever be. That's because it's meant to be the way it is, despite all our protestations.

She's got a ticket to ride, and she don't care

The rumors began when Paul (aka the 'cute' Beatle) took a trip to France by himself. Personally, I don't know why he took a mere vacation in France. Why doesn't he simply buy France, since he could easily afford it? McCartney is so rich that periodically the Queen hits him up for a fiver so she can pay the milkman. But, that is beside the point.

What is the point is that Paul and Heather are splitsville and divorce lawyers are rubbing their hands. Why did this turn out badly? It's anybody's guess. Maybe she was just a day tripper. Maybe she no longer wanted to be part of the 'Macca' magical mystery tour. Maybe it's just something as prosaic as being just another day in the life. But, I read the news today and, oh boy. I was gobsmacked. This means, if nothing else, that a bonding experience on an ice-floe is just not ideal marriage therapy, despite the advice they might have been given.

So, what happened? In the first place, it's no secret that McCartney's kids hated Heather's guts. Maybe they had reasons, or maybe they just saw her as another Anna Nicole Smith salivating over the estate she was going to be left when the old fart joins Lucy with her diamonds way up in the sky. Or, maybe Heather discovered that McCartney, adept a tunesmith as he might be, was really an excruciatingly boring guy.

Let's face it. Paul is really, really boring. Have you ever heard an interview? Excruciating. Lennon may have been a self-indulgent prick, but he was never boring, even when he was firmly ensnared in the Ono clutches. But, Paul was boring. He was an English front-parlor on a rainy November Sunday afternoon of the sort that makes you wonder whether you want another cuppa, or to get drunk, or to slash your wrists in the upstairs loo. But, you might ask, if he is so boring, how could he have been so successful? Well, he was a successful collaborator. Working in tandem with Lennon, some really good musical things happened of the sort that provided an exclamation point for an era. But, Paul solo? Did you ever really listen to Wings? Did you ever listen to Wings more than once? Exactly my point. Remember, this was the guy who penned Ebony and Ivory, for which the far more talented Stevie Wonder should hang his head in shame for having agreed to be a part thereof.

Paul was always boring. Let's face it, despite the sadness of Linda's premature death, she was boring, so they were a good match in that regard. Their obsessive veganism was boring. I don't care if somebody wants to eat library paste as a lifestyle choice, just don't ram it down my throat (figuratively speaking). No, Paul and Linda had their little farm, and Maggie the sheepdog, and lived like country squires when they weren't pontificating about how superior their lifestyle was to everybody else's. Well, maybe, and not to be callous, but Linda is no longer with us, whereas Keith Richards is still falling out of palm trees.

Aside from that, who is this Heather Mills? Well, aside from the obvious fact that she's allegedly a bit on the abrasive side, she is, just like the late Princess Diana (whom she resembles only in 'blonde-ness', and not much else, like being charming, etc.) she is obsessed about landmines. That's a good thing. While landmines and their evils are pretty much motherhood, it is a good cause, nevertheless. Otherwise, she lost a leg back in the early 1990s, and that's sad. I mean, it doesn't excuse a cranky disposition, but it's sad, nevertheless.

What did McCartney see in her? That's hard to say. I mean, this is a man who could snap his fingers and attract some of the more dazzling females on the planet, but he chose Ms. Mills. He obviously saw something, and it's not for us to judge. But, whatever he saw, it obviously didn't have much staying power, since they've only been married since 1994. Mind you, I was once married to someone for 11 months, so who am I to judge.

How is Paul reacting to this sad turn-of-events. Reportedly he is distracting himself with household chores, and it is said he is currently up on his roof -- fixing a hole where the rain gets in. Just to stop his mind from wandering -- where it will ...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It doesn't have to be this way

I love the late spring in virtually all its manifestations, except for one thing. Maybe it's a carryover from when I taught high school, but late spring means the end of school. The end of school means parties -- lots and lots of parties -- in homes, at the beach, in the woods, and anywhere else a bunch of young people want to gather with their buddies, drink lots of beer, puke on their shoes, and maybe, just maybe, get lucky.

But that's where my antipathy comes in. No, not with the partying -- I did lots of that myself --but with any subsequent driving. Why must school ending be punctuated by tales of horrendous road crashes that decimate one, two or more teens just at the point they are entering 'real' life?

In my esteem it doesn't have to be, and if those a little older or a lot older would wake up to a few realities, maybe it doesn't need to be.

I only offer my thoughts based on feelings that arose when I taught teens, and liked them very much, as well as from my experiences of having covered the drug scene as a journalist, and interacting with cops, parents, social workers, ER personnel, etc. What follows was included in a series on drug abuse in the community I wrote a few years ago.

Parents are justifiably frightened by the possibility of a child becoming involved with illicit street and party drugs, but they often neglect to consider that alcohol remains the drug of choice for many young persons.

Furthermore, health care providers, not only in this country, but worldwide, are becoming increasingly distressed by the ubiquity of alcohol consumption among the young. Indeed, the United Nations recently decried the fact that the alcohol industry seems increasingly geared towards enticing the young with its beer advertising especially, and the proliferation of so-called 'pop' beverages, which are especially favored by young females.

Likewise, a British survey polling young females on vacation found it to be common practice for them to consume on a seven day jaunt, the same amount of alcohol that might (by a normal drinker) be imbibed in a five-week period. Remember, even though we consider alcohol to be a 'legal' drug, it is still a hugely addictive drug, and for minors it is not legal for consumption in
any other form than sacramental wine.

Booze, by the same token, is not going to go away. But there are steps that can be taken to put the matter of liquor consumption into healthy perspective with the young. I offer the following, in my best Rod Serling voice, for your consideration:

1. Drastically increase the penalties for bootlegging offences to at least a $1,000 fine for a first offence, and significant jail time for subsequent offences.

2. Return the legal drinking age to 21, as has been done in all states of the U.S. but has not been done in Canada, primarily because governments don't want to lose that juvie-boozing revenue.

3. Render the providing of alcohol to minors, including by the parents within the home (except for religious or ceremonial purposes) as subject to the same laws as bootlegging.

4. Any minor involved in an accident, regardless of how minor, where alcohol consumption has been a factor should lose his or her license until age 21.

5. Make alcohol less of a feature in the home environment. Not all festive occasions need to involve alcohol consumption, even by adults. Set an example.

6. If a parent or parents have a drinking problem, then address that problem. Either get outside help (if the problem is severe enough), or drastically limit consumption. Parental example has a significant role in influencing youthful attitudes to intoxicants.

7. Parents or guardians should never regard youthful abuse of alcohol as 'unimportant.' If a child is abusing alcohol, then the matter is 'always' serious. And never fall into the trap of feeling a sense of relief because the substance was "just booze, and not drugs." Alcohol is a drug.

8. If alcohol is a problem in the home, and a young person expresses his or her concern to you -- as a friend, relative, teacher, pastor or counselor -- then encourage the young person to address the concerns to the parents (if possible), and to also to maybe get involved in Alateen. Keep in touch with the young person.

9. Any school programs that look to discussions on drugs should also address alcohol abuse in a frank and candid manner. Teachers and counselors should make available to students complete information on alcohol abuse and its consequences. And be as draconian as hell in any discussion on drinking and driving.

10. Don't pussyfoot! Be frank and graphic in your discussions. There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation (once the young person is of legal age to do so), but booze kills our kids by the score everywhere, and it's horrifying to think that a young person on the verge of adulthood should make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of having made a terrible judgment call, getting loaded with a bunch of friends at a summer beach party, and then driving home. Your role, by the way, is to never-ever drink and drive yourself.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Gimme a head with hair -- long, beautiful hair ...

I got my hair cut today. At my age, I am grateful I still have hair to cut. I get it cut very short. Nothing to maintain, and somebody told me a while ago that short hair makes me look younger -- that is frosting on the bonus cake. Also, should I happen to have an unexpected opportunity to do some tropical snorkeling arise, then I am prepared. Long hair is a pain when donning a face mask.

When I was younger I got my hair cut at a barbershop. Barbershops in days gone by were havens of masculinity. Smelling like bay rum and Brylcreem, a lad's first visit to the local barbershop was kind of an initiation into manhood. It was a guy place. Copies of the Police Gazette, or Field and Stream on the coffee table, lots of chat about sports, hunting, fishing and, in muted tones if kids were present, broads. The barbershop I went to even had a shoeshine boy (when men still shined their shoes), and some guys even came in for a shave with a straight-razor. Never had one of those.

I haven't been to a barbershop in years. For about 15 years Cindy has cut my hair. I like that. I like it when she massages my scalp when she shampoos me (barbers never shampooed a guy), I like the fact she is very cute, and very nice, and never talks about sports. She does talk about motorcycles, however. She and her husband are Harley tourers and they try to go to the gathering at Sturges, S. Dak. every year. That is something out of my realm of experience, but I listen attentively, regardless, just because she is cute and nice and has been tending to my tonsorial needs for a long time.

When I was younger I used to wear my hair long. In high school I would spend a half hour in front of the mirror getting the greasy waterfall 'just so.' No small art, that. "No, Ma, don't ask me to wash my hair. It would take me days to get my hair right again." Now I wash my hair every day, and couldn't imagine not so doing. It would be like going without a shower or change of underwear. Quite unspeakable. Later, in the so-called hippie era, I wore my hair even longer. Down to the shoulders. I looked like a pretentious asshole daytripper -- which is basically what I was. It wasn't me. I was happy when styles changed back to slightly shorter locks. I wasn't yet ready for truly short, but liked the mussy, windblown look of the sort sported by Alan Bates in The Go-Between. If that style was sufficient to melt Julie Christie's heart, it was good enough for me. I kept it that way for too many years.

So, now I wear my hair real short. Not jailbird or street-junkie short, but short enough that I have an excuse to pay a social/professional call on Cindy at least once a month.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Shorties rule -- OK?

I see where minuscule heartthrob, Tom Cruise, is evoking a certain fidgeting amongst the beancounters in the movie biz due to the fact that his MI3 isn't doing all that they anticipated it would be doing, considering the supposed bankability of the pretty dude.

But, of course, they hadn't counted on the sweetie-pie shrimp making an utter horse's ass of himself over the last year and a bit. And, they certainly hadn't counted on him alienating his primary constituents -- the female audience. Let's face it, Cruise is not a guys' actor. Guys' actors are Nick Nolte, Jack Nicholson, Bob Mitchum, Bogey, and Spencer Tracy, among others. Prior to making his boneheaded comments to Brooke Shields re postpartum depression, Virtually creaming his jeans over his passion for his little girl squeeze on Oprah, and then subsequently establishing his utter control over the hapless little thing once he impregnated her, Cruise could do no wrong with a distaff audience. My ex-wife used to get the vapors over Top Gun, and that had little to do with the airplanes.

I don't mean to be unkind here, however. I have seen Cruise do quite well in a number of films I've enjoyed thoroughly, like Rain Man, The Color of Money, A Few Good Men, etc. But, think he would be wise, finally, to just keep his mouth shut and do his job if he wants to continue with a shiny career.

But, all of the foregoing is actually off-topic, what I wanted to write about is stature. That was the primary reason for all the snide little cracks at the beginning about the runtiness of Cruise. I wrote then because that is one area with which I have some empathy. In fact, I can even feel a bit superior because I am actually a bit taller than Tommy.

When I grew to man's estate, I sometimes felt a cheated that I hadn't gotten taller. But, in being 5-foot-9 I was actually the national average for males of my generation, so I didn't feel too, too bad. And then later I was comforted to learn that such box-office primo dudes as Paul Newman and Mel Gibson were the same height as I am. And, as I said, Cruise is even shorter. Not quite so short as Mickey Rooney or Danny DeVito, and compared to 'noir' heartthrob Alan Ladd, who was about 2-foot-7, Cruise is a giant.

So, along with Napoleon, I guess Tom and I do OK. I know I'm not so short that it's an encumbrance. I can nearly fit my legs in the space in front of me on an airplane, and I don't need blocks on the pedals when I drive my car. Mind you, when I first get in after it's been serviced, I have to accept the fact the grease-monkey must have been taller than any Lakers player, since the seat is pushed back almost outside the hatchback. And, when I go to buy a pair of trousers I have to wonder who all these people are with the 42-inch legs, since that's who they seem to market to.

And for Tom, I guess there is solace in that he can look Katie right in the eye, which wasn't the case with that beanpole Nicole Kidman. My only question is, how is he going to feel when Katie gets to be the size of a grown-up in a few years?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Put them all together they spell ...??

First off, due to my warm and admiring nature, I wish to express my love and admiration to all the mothers out there on this their special weekend. And, Kimber, since you are the newest one I know on the maternal block, a special nod to you.

I think good mothers are God's special incarnations, and their responsibilities are huge in terms of creating a world in which we can all live in decency and comfort. I have known many such mothers, and continue to know such mothers, and for them I feel a certain awe -- since I never had such an experience with my own. In that I was unfortunate. I once did have a wonderful mother-in-law, and in that I was privileged. In fact, so deep was my love for her that I never did get mother-in-law jokes. They didn't apply to me. Since she died in 1987, rarely has an extended period gone by that I haven't thought about her. Even though I am no longer married to her daughter, she still figures prominently in my life. In fact, I suspect she might even understand why I am no longer married to her daughter.

Of my own mother, there is not much I can say. I've often wondered about 'Mama's Boys'. How can that be so? What does that feel like? Needless to say, I wasn't one. My mother, in the days of my early childhood, was quite beautiful. She was also funny, witty, well-read, intelligent, stylish and all that other stuff that doesn't matter much to a child. Actually, I came to appreciate those traits more when I was in my teens, and Mother and I would often make library and art gallery forays together. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

What was bad was that she was never demonstrably affectionate. I do not recall, literally, ever having been hugged or kissed by my mother. Neither do my brothers. We often felt that we were inconveniences. Oh, we were well fed, had clothing, a warm house, and it was kind of like we were irritating guests in that house.

No, she wasn't 'cold' in the sense of prim and stoic. What she was, was aloof. She was kind of like the person you are talking to at a party who is constantly scanning the room to see if there is somebody more interesting to speak to. If that happened, Mother would be gone in a trice.

What made it even worse was that she was an alcoholic. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and as she aged, the booze factor became less and less tolerable. And, like most alcoholic households, the place was filled with denial. I had long since left home by the time she got genuinely intolerable, but her alcoholism was the elephant in the living room that was always ignored. Ultimately she became ill-spirited and rather cruel, but the elephant remained firmly in place.

And then she died, back in 1992. I'm still not quite sure how I feel about that. I'm yet to sort it out.

But, to my cherished maternal friends, and even to my other ex-wife, who was a marvelous mother to her brilliant daughter, and most of all to my late mother-in-law, May, the very happiest of mother's days. You thoroughly deserve your accolades.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Goodnight Stumpy, wherever you are!

Today, out on an errand I drove past the place "where they murder cats" (the vet's clinic), when I was struck by the thought that today is the first anniversary of the untimely demise of my cat, Stumpy.

By the way, "place where they murder cats" was a waggish comment. I like our vet very much. She is kind, compassionate and remarkably easy on the eyes. If I were single, and she were single, I'd propose to her so that she could keep me in my old age, since the average vet makes about the same as most rock stars. Anyway, I digress.

I just wanted to say (as a non cat person) that I still miss Stumpy quite painfully. I miss her because she was a 'non-cat'. Nothing much feline about her disposition. She was a pure Manx, and was shaped like a butterball turkey. And she had more spunk and personality than any feline I'd ever met. She bonded with me within days after we had acquired her from the shelter, only 2 1/2 years earlier, and we were inseparable after that. She followed me like a puppy and grew distressed when I was out of sight. She amused me. She made me laugh aloud sometimes. She was ruthlessly predatory, and devoted her days to stalking and capturing garden snakes. She purred at a volume that could awaken the neighbors. She mercilessly tormented the other cat, and she charmed the bejesus out of me. She was only seven when she became riddled with cancer, and I had to have her expedited. I wept quietly on the way home from the vet's that day a year ago. Today I thought about her. I still miss her.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"Please Miss -- may I look up your skirt?"

In a mood to indulge in some heavy reading, I just finished browsing an article concerning predatory pedophiliac schoolmarm, Mary Kay Letourneau and her child groom, Vili Fualaau in (OK, I'll confess) People. The first thing that struck me was, if she had been a 34-year-old male teacher making "the beast with two backs" with a 13-year-old girl, the cell in the joint would still be occupied, and would probably continue to be so for many years to come. The second thing that struck me (and probably the more important of the two) was what a sinister, manipulative, self-indulgent abuser she was, and still is.

Is Mary Kay loopy? I'm not qualified to say. She was found sane enough to do seven years inside for what was deemed, justifiably, a crime. She was a predator by any conventional understanding of the word. She stalked her prey, a barely adolescent boy, who was, like most adolescent males, a mass of churning hormones. "Hey, is my hottie teacher hitting on me?" And Mary Kay is a hottie (in all senses of looks and horniness), so how could he balk at the opportunity. Most boys would respond to perceived sexual overtures. And, yes, she was hitting on Vili, and yes, she got naked with Vili, and yes she screwed Vili's 13-year-old brains out while, at the same time, rejecting her husband and children in her quest for whatever that quest was.

What the quest was, was control. Relatively powerless in her 'real' life, Mary Kay chose a victim over whom she could assume complete dominance, and she used the power between her thighs to achieve that. And this is where we get into the realm of 'abuse'.

Abusive control between the sexes in dysfunctional relationships is as old as cross-gender interaction, unfortunately. Coming from males towards females the usual pattern is verbal and physical abuse, as well as all the sexual domination categories ranging from outright rape, through harassment, to manipulative seduction.

From female to male, it's subtler, and often involves the use of sexual wiles in order to gain what is wanted -- and what is wanted is a co-dependent yearning on the part of the male to masochistically keep coming back for more, as long as the hormones are still functioning. In that it's a similar syndrome to the woman who forever returns, filled with forgiveness, to the asshole who regularly punches out her lights.

Reading the comments of Vili, it is apparent he is very much a victim of abuse. He is in a situation from which he (with his limited experience and education) can see no escape. A few months ago he was busted for DUI. He has to make nice with Mary Kay's kids who are his age, and whom he suspects hate his guts. He would probably be right, and Mary Kay, in her need to control would have her kids from her first marriage hate Vili more than they hate her, because that keeps her control nicely intact.

You have to feel for a guy like Vili, who is still in his early 20s. Will he ever escape the wiles of this particular she-devil? Not if she has her way about the matter. She will grow older and less trusting, and her net around him will increase. Forecasts for a happy ending? I'd be interested to know your thoughts.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Whimsy can be a fleeting thing

Lady, lady, should you meet
One whose ways are all discreet,
One who murmurs that his wife
Is the lodestar of his life,
One who keeps assuring you
That he never was untrue,
Never loved another one ...
Lady, lady, better run!
-Dorothy Parker-

I very much like people who can make me laugh. I likewise enjoy making others laugh. A sense-of-humor is a gift from God. Humor keeps us healthy, and adds to our general weal.
I am very, very unnerved by those who are humorless, who balk at frivolity.

I admire those who can make me laugh, as well. Dorothy Parker (above) could leave me helpless with mirth. A comment from Josie made me think of Dorothy, and set me to wondering about humor and the human condition. Feel free to comment here, Dr. Deb. But, seriously, back to humor, Dorothy Parker was one very fucked up girl -- almost chronically depressed and many times suicidal, nymphomaniacal, severely alcoholic, yet she offered bittersweet gems of whimsy that have gone down through the ages all the way from the heady days of the Algonquin roundtable in the 1920s, that she shared with Robert Benchley, Alexander Woolcott, New Yorker publisher Harold Ross, Harpo Marx, and others -- great wits all.

Others have made me laugh, and continue to do so: Mark Twain (whom I regard as being nearly as important as Shakespeare), Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker series, too brilliantly written to even express my admiration, not to mention envy); the Marx Brothers, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in their glory days, Private Eye magazine, The Simpsons, the little Martian dude in the Bugs Bunny Cartoons, and so on, and so on, and so on. I can only scratch the surface.

I like all kinds of humor -- dirty, clean and in-between. By dirty, I don't mean crude (I hate crude, and potty-humor or genital humor must be very well crafted for me to enjoy it). I like satire, love irony, but hate pratfall humor for the most part -- although I make an exception for the late and in my opinion, in his genre, 'great' Benny Hill. What I do like, probably more than anything, is irreverent humor. The world is a serious, even scary place, so the Jon Stewards of the world have a vital place within.

I came to think about humor and the creation of humor the other day when I was looking at some of my old columns. I was a humor columnist for over 20 years, and I miss writing the column to this day. I was widely read, and I even won a couple of major awards for my column, one of them a national. Ta-da! At one time I even had two columns running, one in Canada and one in England.

Yet as I read my stuff, I wondered whether I could still do it. Humor moves on, and we move on. I can follow my columns from earliest days to the last ones, and they changed. I think they improved but, as they improved, they were less broad in their appeal -- I think. More thought than guffaw provoking. Just a little less obvious.

Oddly (or maybe not oddly at all) when I wrote my best stuff I was a bit like Dorothy Parker. I was in an angst time. I was going through marriage bust-ups, assorted liaisons (that were fun, but not always healthy for the emotions), and just generally not taking real good care of myself. Yet, creatively I was flourishing. Today my life is much calmer, much more stable, much more domestic (no, I didn't say 'boring', because I don't 'do' boredom), and I'd even go so far as to say serene -- at moments.

And, in this state, I am honestly not so certain I give myself permission to be as whimsical as once I was. Maybe I don't need to. Maybe I should try. Hmm. I think I am taking this too seriously. That's just not like me.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

We are living in a material world ...

"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace. And what did they produce? The cuckoo clock."
Orson Welles as Harry Lime in Graham Greene's 'The Third man'.

They (the Swiss) produced the cuckoo clock, but also the fondue set.

So, the question in this context is, what is the most absolutely useless item in your household? You know, something you either received as a gift, or that you felt was a 'must-have' during some fleeting moment of materialistic insanity, and has now sat on the shelf in the basement or garage for years, decades even? In a poll taken in the UK (but it could just as easily have been taken here) the answer is the fondue set.

When I got married for the first time, my wife and I received two fondue sets. And, in those days people had fondue parties. You would invite another couple over. You would fire up the fondue burner. You would crack far too many bottles of wine and you would eat and drink for hours and hours. Sometimes you got two fondues going. One with hot oil for cooking meat, shrimp, etc., and one with melted cheese for dipping chunks of bread. If you could muster up a third set (not difficult in those days), you could even do a dessert fondue with melted chocolate and fresh strawberries. It was fun. It was a moment in time. And, as is the case for all things that seemed like a good idea at the time -- it was a good idea at that time -- and seemingly only at that time. We did the fondue thing for a while -- maybe a year, and then the set(s) got put away, never to emerge. I don't know if my ex-wife still has our originals. I've never had any desire to purchase another to make up for the 'loss.'

But, fondue sets were not the only 'flashes in the pan' (as it were). Also topping the list were ice-cream makers (I have one of those. It sits in the garage. It made great ice cream. I never use it. I still eat ice cream.); toasted sandwich makers, and exercise bikes.

Exercise bikes. I had one of those, too. It seemed like a good idea. And, for the first couple of encounters, it was almost fun; a challenge. I would increase the tension to see what I could endure. I would chalk up miles on the sonofabitch, and watch that little odometer go up (ever so slowly). And then that was it. It got boring. It go so excruciatingly boring. I tried variations to ease the boredom. I would read the newspaper while 'riding'. I would watch television, to pass the tedious time. I would chat with my wife. I would do anything I could to keep from focusing on the inane fake riding. I thought of trying to have sex on it, but I thought that called for a degree of dexterity and athleticism that I probably wouldn't have been able to master. Finally I decided that going for a real bike ride, or just a good walk, would be doing me considerably more good, and cut the boredom factor down radically.

One item that failed to make the list, that interested me, was electric bread makers.
"It'll be just like the exercise bike," said my ex-wife when I vouchsafed the idea of buying a bread maker. "You'll use it three times, and then it'll end up in the garage, never to be used again."

And that is what happened -- for a time. It was sort of a breadmakerus interruptus, in which it did end up in the garage -- actually for years. And then, years and marriages passed, and I found it one day a few years ago. I hauled it out. I found some recipes. I fired it up. The bread I made was wonderful. Wendy and I actually used it so often that it wore out, and we bought a newer, considerably improved one. We use no other source of the staff of life. I resent it if we are traveling and I actually have to 'buy' bread. The bread I make is so much more wonderful, and it costs literally pennies per loaf.

Thank you, Black & Decker, you can now pay me for the plug. And, I would be interested to learn about the item(s) you find the most useless.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It must be about his grace, charm and good looks, huh?

Power is the greatest aphrodisiac, it has been said. Added to which, the more affluent and powerful a man or woman happens to be, the more likely they are to drop pants/panties for somebody who has been attracted to their power and/or wealth. In other words, if you're rich, you're going to screw around relative to your position in life, and the richer you are, the more opportunities you are going to get.

So, while the rest of us fret about whether our breath is kissing sweet, whether we might think about changing our hairstyle, or worry because we don't look remotely like George Clooney or Charlize Theron, rich and powerful shits can look like toads, have the personal hygiene of a dumpster-diver, and the manners of Homer Simpson, and they will get laid left right and centre. And, they will get laid by some mighty fine looking people. Don't seem right, do it? It's one of those revelations about the lies our parents told us of the nature of "cheaters never prosper." In fact, it's mainly the non-cheaters who don't prosper, as we see around us all the time. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, can have the most charming oral sessions with thong-flashing Miss Monica, and walk away virtually unscathed. Oh, a bit of public embarrassment, but no big deal. But, for the less than affluent and powerful, the opportunities diminish notably, with the most impoverished being the most upstanding (as it were) in the carnal extracurricularity department. Does this mean that po' folk are more fastidious about their morals. Probably not. They just don't get the opportunities because their circumstances don't provide the allure.

Take the case of British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, and his girl-toy Tracey Temple (pictured on the front of the scandal-sheet above). I mean, this is a bloated 67-year-old male who would make the average mud-fence look good, and she, at 20-plus years younger ain't so bad. Do you think it was his huge charm that attracted his erstwhile (very) private secretary?
I think not, but maybe I am just being cynical. I believe her desire to carry on with the man was based by the fact that (until he's turfed as a result of the scandal) that she was attracted by the fact that he held the #2 position in the UK.

But there is more to it than that. He is no doubt an alpha male, and she is, equally no doubt, an alpha female. In terms of genetic positioning they will have intrinsic proclivities towards each other because the 'strong' and successful survive so (not that they are intending to have any if Mrs. Prescott has anything to say about it) any offspring would be equally strong and dominant.

And, the rest of us will have to persist in worrying about our personal freshness and maybe getting cosmetic surgery, or at least have our teeth bleached.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Close encounter of the dental kind

This is not the brightest of all mornings since I know that this afternoon at 3:30 I'll be sitting in the dentist's chair having all sorts of unspeakable things done within my oral cavity. It's not a comforting thought.

This is not to suggest I don't admire, respect, and possibly even love my dentist. I've been going to him for more than 20 years and he's the best in the business, virtually painless and extremely considerate of my comfort at all times. If he weren't so rich, I'd write him into my will. And, his assistant is a charming and exquisitely lovely person of the sort one has untoward fantasy dreams about. Just too bad she's married to a friend of mine. I mean, you can't express to a friend, no matter how close he might be, that "Your wife is so hot, I'd really like to run off with her. OK?" Added to which, she has seen me at my most vulnerable, not to mention esthetically unappetizing.

No, as I say, my dentist is very, very good. He was the guy who got me fully past the dental angst I brought with me from childhood, when my mother insisted that I keep going to this sadistic butcher hack, who instilled in my a lifelong dread of drills, novacaine and anything else associated with that cloying and nauseating clove smell that used to dominate dental chambers. I wondered later if my mother insisted I go go him because she was having an affair with him. I mean, I learned as I got older that the guy was a notorious lecher, and when I was about 14 I actually saw him cop a feel up the skirt of his pretty redheaded assistant.

But, I digress to a degree. I find it interesting that in our professional encounters we grant liberties to certain people that would otherwise be in hideous violation of personal space rules, and we accept it because we need such services on occasion. I sit and chat with my wife's doctor, and I think, You see my wife naked. You see my wife in intimate poses that are normally reserved for, well, intimate partners. You do that, yet it doesn't bother me, because you're her doctor. My hairdresser, Cindy, cuts my hair, massages my scalp and sometimes presses her breasts against my upper torso as she is carrying out her tonsorial ministrations, and that's OK. She's the very pretty lady who cuts my hair and does a fine job of it, so she is allowed the closeness. I go to my doctor for my semi-annual "guy" exam. I mean, this is an almost unspeakable indignity and violation, and I also know my doctor socially. But, again, it's OK. It's his job.

So, what I was leading up to is the matter of those incidents in which doctors, shrinks, chiropractors and other individuals whose calling leads them into intimate contact with either the bodies or the psyches of their clients, taking advantage of the role and crossing boundaries that sometimes lead to intimacies or violations.

It's all about trust and, in such cases, where there is prosecution, I say throw the book at the bastards. I may have sweet and kindly thoughts about my hairdresser or dental assistant, but I know both women are thoroughly professional about their duties and also thoroughly respect my privacy and integrity. Cases where some creep, therefore, takes advantage, should never go unreported.

Meanwhile, I still have to go to the dentist at 3:30. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

You can make book on this

I really and truly love to read. Sometimes, when I'm weary, I long for the end of the day so that I can curl up in bed with a book. Reading is the third best thing one can do in bed. Sleeping being another one of the three.

I'm an inveterate and voracious reader. In fact, I'm a reading slut. If there is nothing good to read, then I will read whatever is available. Awful to me is to heed a call of nature and to be positioned on the john with no reading material. At such a time I will read a shampoo bottle or tampon label. You can actually learn a lot that way.

Lately though I've been bothered a bit by my literary slumming. I was an English major in university, and subsequent to my own studies, I also taught high school English for a number of years. In those years I read assorted literary works, and managed to wade through even Moby Dick (I have no desire to ever repeat that experience). I liked good literature and fine fiction. I've done Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Graves, George Orwell (every damn word the man ever wrote in his truncated life), Huxley, and so on and so on.

But, for some reason, somewhere in middle age, I seem to have kissed fiction goodbye. There was something that began to irk me about fiction. I think it was the fact that it's not real. So, I started to read non-fiction voraciously -- especially biography and diaries. I've continued with that mode and, in being a bit of a memoirist myself, I have an admiring resentment of writers like Augusten Burrows (Running with Scissors, Dry) and Rick Bragg (Ava's Man) because they are so damn good at their craft. I'd likewise envy old and far too charming codger Frank McCourt because he is such a storyteller. I don't even care if not every scrap of Angela's Ashes is the utter truth, exactly as it happened, I'd just like to sit in a Killarney pub with a pint of Guinness and listen to the man spin his tales.

Lately my reading has taken me to true crime stuff, and especially Ann Rule's sagas of the most despicable excuses for humanity you would ever want to meet -- Ted Bundy, the Green River Killer, etc. etc. -- and marvel at both the energies of a woman her age turning out the number of books she does, and also her amazing skill at her craft. A skill that leaves her so readable that I am sucker-punched when she publishes yet another tome that I will feel compelled to buy.

But, you see, here is my quandary. I have literary guilt. As an erstwhile English student and teacher, I feel guilty. I feel that I have allowed my horizons to limit themselves when I realize that I read the Globe and Mail books section each weekend and my eyes simply pass over the fiction categories so I can get to the reviews of 'real' stories.

Oh well, if literary slut I must be, then at least the literary part has some validity in a post-literate age.