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Showing posts from 2016

EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL

There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…

I PREFER CHOCOLATE

"Man is a perpetually wanting animal." This is a quote by Abraham Maslow, 20th century American psychologist and mystic. And it goes for women too. Ah, the days we could be unabashedly sexist. Maslow was best known for his theory of psychological health. And to a much lesser degree for dying of a massive heart attack while jogging in Menlo Park at the still tender age of 62. He wasn't sexist at all, though he did marry his first cousin when he was twenty, and they stayed married until his coronary. Probably because they were related before relating. Or because they didn't have kids. My  bad: they had two.

Maslow's theory, called the hierarchy of needs, is cleverly dubbed as it is based on the fulfillment of basic human needs. These needs, among which are physiological needs (such as food and water, and arguably sex), the need for safety and love as well as the need for self-esteem, culminate in what Maslow called self-actualization. Each yearning, once satisfied, …

THAT NAMELESS THING

My second favorite John L. MacDonald potboiler is A Bullet for Cinderella. And if you aren't acquainted with this fine author's oeuvre, I suggest you start with the 1958 novel The Executioners, on which both versions of the excellent film Cape Fear were based. In the former quick and satisfying read, which is obtainable on Kindle for the reasonable price of under a dollar, one restless character says to another: "I've always been looking. Like that game where you come into the room and they've named something but you don't know what it is and you have to find out. I've been looking for something I don't know the name of. Ever feel like that?" 

The other character answers in the affirmative. 

"You don't know what it is, but you want it. You look in a lot of places for it. You try a lot of things, but they aren't it. This time I know I'm going to find it."

If you have ever looked for the car keys only to find them in your pocket, …

SIMPLY I(RRESISTIBLE)

As a child growing up in an atypical American household, I was taught to eliminate the ego, or at least to be very suspicious of it. But what is the ego? A glance at the dictionary indicates that this word has many meanings, not all of which are synonymous. 

The ego can be a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Which is healthy and not to be eradicated, lest you become a yellow-bellied, spineless, mind-benumbed basket case. Sound like anybody you know? One would hope not. 

In psychoanalysis, the ego is "the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity." Again, not something we'd want to do without in daily life. Personal identity is important, or else we'll find ourselves in the post-apocalyptical world envisioned by Ayn Rand in her prose-poem, Anthem. A world in which individuality is replaced by collectivism, where the word I is struck from the vocabul…

INDIVIDUALITY IS EVERYTHING

Individuality is everything. When I die, put these words on my tombstone. But before you do, be sure I'm cremated.

Ah to be a kid again! Remember those worry-free days? As a child, my thoughts took the form of daydreams, heady imaginings, idle fancies, call them what you will. I remember in the seventh grade, my most persistent concern was how to wear my hair the next morning, whether to blow-dry and spray my bangs in place or part to the side with gel. But then something happened. Actually it happened before I was 13. As a fifth grader, the teacher began assigning us homework. Suddenly our after-school focus was no longer exclusively on fun but had to make room for the 2 hours of busy work including grammar, algebra, essay-writing and Bible studies we were made to do each night before bedtime. How could I enjoy myself even while at soccer practice when I had a test the next day? But at least as children most of us get the basic tasks done for us. Our meals are prepared, room is cl…

GET THE MOST OUT OF VICE

A vice is an immoral or wicked behavior, often involving criminality. Which begs the question, what constitutes immoral behavior? Immorality does not conform to the accepted standards of morality. Morals are principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. A particular system of morals is held by an individual or society. Which means morality is subjective, and there are as many opinions as there are people to hold them. 

For example, you may be against cigarettes, calling them cancer sticks, but are okay with a hit or two off a doobie. The tobacco smoker may take the high road, calling you the druggie, since carcinogenic chemicals notwithstanding, at least cigarettes don't alter one's consciousness, slowing reaction time and in the parlance of a friend of mine, merely making the user "horny, hungry and tired." I can see his point.

Drinking a bottle of wine and then driving your kids across town gets classified as immoral behavior…

YOU CAN CALL ME A CAB

My friend was trying to convince me to get a smartphone. I'm one of the 30 percent of American adults without said technology. But I do own a cell phone - a trusty 2006 Blackberry without Internet capabilities - I just never use it. Or only when I leave the house, which is rare, and only in the event that I need to make calls or send texts. Mostly the only calls I receive are from telemarketers. Each voicemail they leave robs me of one of my minutes. Which peeves me, because I pay as I go. I don't like plans. (How do you make God laugh? Make a plan.) Nor do I like monthly fees. It works for me.

My friend's argument was this. If I were her only lifeline, her emergency contact, and she got mugged and needed a Uber and called me, I wouldn't be able to rescue her without a smartphone, so I'd have to call her a cab, that overpriced throwback that smells like smoke and never comes on time. Imagine failing to come through and in a matter of life or death! Never mind that t…

SOUL CYCLE

This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …

ABDUCTION IN PARADISE

or, HOW I BECAME THE SAVIOR OF THE HUMAN RACE
I was in Brazil, my reason for being there I won’t get into, but suffice it to say that the trip had gone all wrong, my traveling companion and I were at one another’s throats, and I could not have been more miserable. I was a man adrift. I suppose I had it coming, for trying to convert a lesbian.
What do I mean by this? Simply that Marisol had a preference for girls, I am not a girl, and I was bent on persuading her to have a preference for me. Well, I failed miserably.
One night, when I was feeling particularly down, I even wished death on myself.  I said, Take me. It may have been Kill me. I really can’t remember. At the time I was very drunk, or more accurately, in that no man’s land between supreme intoxication and a blistering hangover. Its synonyms are oblivion and . . . but I drift. I am a man adrift. A stranger in a strange land to which I had come with the very specific intention of writing a novel based on my romantic conquest. Sad…