Friday, February 28, 2014

I Was Inspired By....

I will regularly run once a month An Inspirational Person entry. This person is not someone I know personally but instead someone living or dead whose life is one I wouldn't mind finishing out mine like. I think we are so beset from every side by the scoundrels hawked by the media that there is no time spent on the worthwhile people out there. If you have anyone to suggest for this monthly feature, please leave a comment here to that effect.

Our first person is the late David Rakoff (1964-2012). He was a true Renaissance Man. He was Canadian, one of several children born of two psychiatrists in a very close knit family. He went to college at Columbia in New York and stayed there afterwards. He got cancer early in life, at age 22. Through radiation and chemo he beat it back until it reappeared in his mid 40s in even more virulent form. One could lament his early death at 47 but, looked at from a different perspective, he got an extra 25 years due to modern medicine. In any earlier times he would have simply died at 22. I think the reprieve from cancer shaped those years too so that he crammed as much quality activity into them which a person could.

Rakoff was first employed in the book publishing industry where he was considered an excellent editor. He also authored his own books and then the audios of those books.  Plus he did the audio versions of other books and many shorter audio works on NPR.  His voice was beautiful. You can still find him reading on many podcasts and You Tube programs. Most of his work was essays and they were witty beyond compare. One of my favorites is when he took a course in Buddhism taught by Steven Seagal, the movie star of marital arts fame. He was hired by a magazine to do so. This was an absolutely hilarious course (unintentionally so) given at a New Age center in upstate New York. His last book was a novel in verse form. He also frequently appeared on NPR's This American Life and even guest hosted it at times. All of his work with that show is still available in its archives. In the picture above, the title The New Tenants appears on one picture. This was the short, wonderful film for which Rakoff wrote the screenplay and acted the lead. It won the Oscar for best short film. He also acted in Off Broadway plays, notably with Amy Sedaris as written by David and Amy Sedaris. But acting was a sideline for him. He considered his true working talent was in books and other writings.

Rakoff also had many friends and regularly cooked for them and they returned the favor. He had another domestic side too in that he loved making baskets at an art colony, shown left. Only the picture in his red kitchen shows him in the final stage of his returned cancer. He kept up all of his activities during this final illness.

Rakoff constantly made his own homemade art for his friends and friends' children.  He didn't consider this work. He said it was what made him happy. He was one of the few people who leapt to Martha Stewart's defense in print, saying that she made many Americans realize they didn't need to buy everything, that they could make things instead. He had also volunteered his tutoring skills with small children in the classrooms around the city when needed. On the upper left of the above picture is shown a triptych of a wedding invitation he made for his friends. He hand lettered and hand printed every single invitation.

Despite all of these accomplishments, like many aliens holding Green Cards during the Bush administration, he became worried about being deported back to Canada. This was especially so since he was gay and in the arts as that administration was hostile to both groups. Further, he had written articles critical of it. In particular, he had written one article which contained his in depth interview of the gay leader of the gay bloc within the GOP. He painted an absolutely devastating portrait of how this man was being used, abased and humiliated by the party. Among his many publishers were The New York Times and The New Yorker. He thus became an American naturalized citizen as he thought of himself as a New Yorker through and through and meant to finish out there. I admired his absolute fearlessness in writing about gay and human rights at a time those rights were under severe attack.

When all of his friends and family turned up for his funeral, none of them had realized how many people he had befriended or touched over the years.  It was absolutely jam packed. That was when they all discovered the true extent of all the things he had made for all of them when he wasn't working. He also made many painted denim jackets for his friends' small children.

Rakoff had only one sad part to his life and he said this publicly on NPR's This American Life towards the end of his life.  He said although he was beloved by everyone, he was loved by no one.  He tried ending up with a life partner like his friend David Sedaris did.  However, it never worked out for him. He wasn't feeling sorry for himself.  He was merely stating the one thing he hadn't been lucky enough to get in his life.

I find the way he lived his life despite very bad breaks with cancer to be very inspirational in leading my own life. Whenever I get yet another medical condition and am tempted to feel sorry for myself, I think of him and it helps. Listening to Rakoff read is also incredibly soothing when I am feeling unwell.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors

Technical Note: At the time of this writing, the below recs are all available for instant download and use at Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Audible and Overdrive. Recs apply whether you are using a PC or a Mac or a mobile device, both tablet and phone. Additionally, the mobile devices have Apps for using these media items. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Audible and Overdrive are all available as Apps for both Android and Apple mobile devices. However, the Amazon Instant Video app is presently only available for Apple mobile devices. I am a top reviewer on Amazon; go here to read my reviews.


Film: Argentine Noir with a romance and a triumphant finish I could have used a bit faster pace on this film in the first hour but as I got more and more into the film, there was no doubt that it was well written, acted and directed. The detective in chief for the case works under a woman, Irene. He tries to solve the murder of a beautiful young woman while at the same time being unable to stop himself from falling in love with Irene. Unfortunately, she is engaged to another man. The time shifts continually, from when he first gets the case to many years later when he is retired and Irene is still working in law and is married with a husband and children. He still wants to solve the case. He also has a sidekick in here in the earlier time and most of the humorous scenes are when he has his sidekick in tow. There is a lot going on in this film but the back half is so strong that the resolution is positively resounding on every level. This film unusually succeeds as both a film noir AND a romance.


Novel: another winner by Unger  This book is about a troubled college senior, Lana, who is there under an assumed name because her father murdered her mother. The father will soon be executed. Lana is a very troubled person and is in continuous therapy as well as continually medicated to handle her condition. She is studying psychology and her abnormal psych prof, also her adviser, may well be in love with her. He helps her get a job to babysit a troubled youth who is going to the school for emotionally troubled youth affiliated to her college. She is close to her two roommates but one of them goes missing one night which makes the police inquire more into her background. This is the second coed to go missing and the first one turned up dead. There are a lot of layers going on in this book and just as one is uncovered, another comes to light. To say anymore would be a spoiler and you want to be able to enjoy the whole process of figuring the story out. I have read all of Unger's prior books. She is a big talent in the mystery field. I recommend it.


Music: In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra  Frank Sinatra made a series of albums in the 1950s for Capitol which were arranged by Nelson Riddle. These albums are among the finest recordings he ever did. His voice is in perfect form plus he brings deeply nuanced emotion to every song. This is one of my favorite albums from that grouping. There are sixteen songs, every one of them impeccable. The vast majority are love songs and ballads. Although he started as a singer in the forties, it is the following decade where he really comes into his own as a mature singer.


Audiobook  Half Empty, written and narrated by David Rakoff. Although this book starts off comedic, by the time it hits the last two essays, it is as serious as can be. Although i enjoyed all of the comedy, as per usual, it is those last two which endear this book to me. The second last is his handling the death of his longtime therapist. The last essay is about his contracting cancer again. He was in remission for twenty five years. He had a much worse case this time and he died of it shortly after this book was published.

This makes this book all the more hard hitting with the last two essays. I both read and listened to the audio version of this book. Although excellent in either format, Rakoff had one of the most beautiful voices I've ever had the pleasure to hear. So, the audiobook is especially worth seeking out. The below link takes you to the CD but once you are there, there is a link to the Audible version which you can download at once. Amazon owns Audible. I also found this audiobook for free on my public library app called Overdrive which links to my three public libraries. Librarians loved Rakoff because he did readings for them of just about anything, just like he did for NPR.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Driving the Senior Husband to Surgery

I have had some weird flu bug all week, I think.  It remains low grade and bothersome but hasn’t evolved into a full scale attack.  The reason I say I think is because I am also facing an ordeal of a lifetime so my symptoms may be entirely psychosomatic.  This ordeal is that for the first time since he was an infant, Jim is going into the hospital for surgery. It is cataract surgery.

Remember, he is Felix Unger from the Odd Couple so this means that this is being micromanaged down to the tiniest detail. As he read his instructions last night aloud, we got to the point where he isn’t allowed to take a taxi to and fro.  He has to be with a responsible adult (me). Ah, so there are other couples where a last ditch bailout was tried but Cleveland Clinic clipped their wings.  I might have known.

He also made a few announcements.  He will be doing the driving to the surgery.  I just need to do the return driving.  I knew this before it was announced.  There is no way the world’s worst back seat driver was going to let me drive him to it. Complete radio and CD music silence will be maintained so as to maximize safety, of course.  (Gosh, I wish I could strap his yapper with the seat belt, as pictured to the right, for this drive home.) 

“The surgeon said I will be awake and can talk to her during the operation and ask questions,” he continued. Wow, will she live to regret those words. He will want to know everything. I am so glad I will be in the waiting room. As I write this, I notice the headache I've had for three days is getting worse.  I need to take some pain reliever.

Later, after a shower and two big Aleve capsules, my headache is better.

I am writing this diary like entry so other spouses or significant others can study it for when they find themselves in my position. Let's face it, if you are 65 or over, this is the best you can expect for the future, i.e. outpatient surgery on body parts going to seed. I was hoping to find a joke book about one's first trip to the hospital but here are the books on first hospital trips. I'd say Jim is overdue by about sixty years for his first hospital trip.

I am going to write the rest of this during the experience itself tomorrow. Right now it is time for  a nice big Tanqueray Gin Gimlet.

I woke this morning to find Jim hovering over me asking me about my shoes. He was saying he didn't like the traction on my boots and the fact that they were slip ons with velcro.  He thought I needed lace ups for driving. It was with those words, for driving, that I realized what was going on, that he was micromanaging my shoes for driving. Even though there is tons of snow outside, I gave up my boots for our compromise shoes, my European Danskos, shown above left, which are among the sturdiest shoes ever made.  First crisis over.

We are here now, sitting in the waiting room. I just asked if he was nervous about his surgery and he said, no, that he was nervous over the drive home, mostly my driving him home. I swear, if I could get away with conking him on the head and stuffing him in the trunk with a gag, I would do it. That is how I would like to make the drive home with him.

They just took him in for his surgery.

The surgery is really fast.  He was awake during it but he was such a bundle of nervous energy, they ended up giving him the maximum amount of sedative.  He emerged goofy as hell.  Happy but goofy. While I am driving, he is driving with a pretend steering wheel in his head from the passenger seat! Both of our arms are at the ten o'clock and two o'clock positions on our steering wheels.  He's also got on wrap around dark glasses only making him look goofier.

It is our custom to always stop for a meal after surgery in celebration for making it through.  We have done this after each one of my surgeries. So we go to Moosewood in Bay Village and have our favorite Lake Erie perch lunch.

Then it is driving the rest of the way home where directions are given to me about how to drive better every step of the way. Never have I so appreciated missing a big chunk of my hearing.

We are both laying down now.  I have to take him back to the surgeon in the morning for his day after check up.  So it will be another ride from hell but at least the surgery is over for this week.  We do this same surgery on the other eye next week. My three day headache is gone and temporarily at least, I am feeling much better.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clothing Part II '70s Onwards

I thought we had hit the nadir with the '60s but I was wrong. I have looked for 1970s fashion for a long time tonight and this is the very best of it I can find. So let's start with the positive. Freedom and comfort continue to be paramount. Also, all colors are fair game and in any combination and any pattern. No color or pattern is "out" although I wish some had been. The people certainly have to have nerve to embrace this decade's fashion, especially the men, who definitely got the worst end of it.

The fashion is all over the map. One could say this is a veritable explosion of the ready to wear industry. Women clearly want to be as comfortable as possible. Pants have come in very huge and we know this will only get stronger with time. Those who are monochromatic look better than the ones in the neon colors but it is hard to pull off harsh colors.

I was in my 20s then and I thought I looked pretty good in these clothes. I think it was not the clothes. Instead, most of us looked good at that age and so the clothes managed to look good if we didn't go all out with them. It is telling when the people look better because they are in black and white instead of color. Paul Newman and Meryl Streep are absolutely gorgeous but who says they ever needed clothes to attain that state? On the other hand, now that I have experienced Burt Reynolds twice nude in Playgirl, I hope I have hit my lifetime allotment.

After one views these fashions, new respect is gained for those fantastic designers of the 1920s and 1950s who developed the classic, couture clothes and dressed their clients in them, like Christian Dior. 

Going to bed now and I am afraid to look at the 1980s in the morning!

Next morning after mentally girding myself, I start looking at '80s fashion pictures. I am in my 30s in this decade.

There are a couple of key figures who established themselves as icons and dominated the decade, none more so than Madonna and Princess Diana, seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum. One was contrived messiness while the other was polished elegance. Jane Fonda fit in handily as well. She made gym wear interchangeable with casual attire while Madonna worked on making underwear interchangeable with it. 

Broadcast News and Flashdance were major movies. Flashdance built on the Jane Fonda and Madonna gym and underwear styles. Perhaps the major look that survived from the era is that everything you wore to the gym then, you wear just about anywhere today. Being seniors you probably do not wear your underwear as your outwear though although your grandchildren might.

Nancy Reagan is dressed and styled the best here. One thing I have learned from going through all of these pictures is that simple, elegant, understated is rightly the default look. She embodies this here. The giant hair, giant shoes, gilt dress, cleavage and shoulder pads on the rest of the women have faded into oblivion. Overall, the men fare much better than the women in the '80s. All of the men would look just fine right now.

1990s  I am in my 40s in the '90s and will hit 50 in '98. I lost interest in fashion gradually as I drifted into middle age. These were the most popular tv shows in the country in that decade. There is no uniformity to the way they look.  The women all work. Elaine is the highest employed of the women and she is the most eccentric dresser. The skirt length varies tremendously. The hair can be short or long, permed or straight, back combed or not. Quite a bit of retro fashion is mixed in as well. The short kilt was big in the early '60s, the bobby socks in the '50s, the maxi skirt in the early '70s. The freedom which began in the '60s continued right into the '90s as people are mixed and matched across all lines so that they felt and looked good.  Today in 2014, that is still going on. Except for what may be required in a business setting or "black tie" event, everything else is wide open. Bryan Cranston, the huge star of Breaking Bad in the 2000s, played dentist Tim Whatley on Seinfeld so I also included him in this collage.

The movie stars of the '90s, seen here in the best movies of that decade, look minimalist compared with the tv stars. There is almost no experimentation here.  It is just relaxed, simple, classic.  The best cinematographers, makeup artists and costume designers in the world became expert at not gilding the lily. Less is more indeed. In 1998 I turned 50 and became less and less interested in fashion and totally interested in ease and comfort.  So this is a good place for a senior to end the study of fashion.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Me & My Ancestors, Dressing in Our Primes Part I

Today I thought we would look at the fashions worn by both our immediate ancestors in coming of age and then our own.  Let's see who really had it good or not as far as the leading looks of the day when they were in their prime. It is natural of course to think we had it best but visuals do not lie.  












1900-1919  These are our great grandparents. They don't look bad but they do look overdressed. It makes me tired even to think of putting on all of those clothes and underclothes. The men look a bit priggish but they at least had it easier. Looks great in a period play or film but who really wants to wear these clothes today? 










1920s  Our parents are being born or are quite young and their parents, our grandparents, are living it up here. This was a time of affluence and freedom and it shows. Clothes are beautiful. Some of the greatest clothing designers emerge in this era.










1930s  What happened to all that incredible style and elan from the prior decade?  The Depression, that's what. Plus they are now smoking openly too. Stress. This is a time that is dangerous to use many movie fashions because those were fantasies.  No one but movie stars and rich people were wearing the extravagant outfits like Fred and Ginger.











From 1941-1946, the dominant look for men was a serviceman's uniform. You were either too old, disabled or working on the bomb or other critical item if you were in civilian garb. The women were working and dating servicemen so they went from fantasy wear to business like coats and hats. From 1946 forward the clothes began to adapt to our post war affluence with all men employed (or finishing up college on the VA) and putting down roots (VA home loans). This is where we come into existence, a veritable onslaught of babies. Our parents looked like this as we arrived.

Because we are now here, we will take a much bigger look at clothes of the 1950s onward.











But it is not until we get into the 1950s that clothes become personal. Because we were there, I remember these with a sense of nostalgia and not as something I've seen only in a book or a film. I personally wore the cowgirl outfit like the little boy. I rode in the back seat in a green car which was a convertible like this one. I was in the restaurants which had the jukeboxes and served the hamburgers. I remember my mother in the stylish clothes and my father in the hat.










There is one thing shown in these pictures that is now completely dispensable for both men and women.  This is the hat. People still wear hats but if they choose to never wear a hat again for anything, no one will think it the least strange. I remember the A&P grocery stores and those fabulous Dior dresses that made up "the look".










And a few things creep in which we've never known before. Houses in the suburbs instead of towns and cities, cars as absolutely essential for daily use, and the tv set as the center of the house in the living room. Our clothing conforms to those three things so now we have casual clothes.











1960s  The sixties were our puberty and beyond. For clothing it was a decade of intense experimentation and wild extremes. It had the shortest skirts possible. The elegance that was in fashion in that era was not worn by the young.


Hats were weird but beloved as in Jackie's pillbox. There was a whole line of eye makeup from Cleopatra. Perhaps what it is known for best is that you could try out whatever you wanted and see if it hit. There was nothing too experimental. If the fifties looked halcyon, the sixties looked schizophrenic when reviewed as a whole. 









I have to admit one thing.  Back then I thought these 1960s fashions looked pretty good.  As I go through them now, they look bizarre to me. I cannot imagine going back to these fashions. I think it was wonderful people at long last could experiment with their dress and work out their own looks without fear of fitting in with the crowd. However, the one problem with not following a professional's advice is results like these. Good taste in fashion is not possessed by the majority of people acting on their own. Part II is tomorrow picking up with the 1970s.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The U.S. Constitution, Love It Already

I am not someone you see at patriotic events, parades, political conventions, rallies, demonstrations or anything remotely similar. I can even skip the national anthem because I don’t attend sports either. I have mixed feelings about the law and its lack of accessibility to the average citizen. But if you want to know something I believe in, then know this, I believe in the American Constitution.

A number of factors have brought this to the forefront of my mind recently. What kicked it off was discovering that Scotland had gotten rid of double jeopardy, which is a constitutional protection in America, a fundamental of our legal system. Scotland's double jeopardy law was 800 years old. However, it had two troublesome cases before it. Those two cases assumed more importance in Scotland than 800 years of double jeopardy protection incredibly enough. The Scots will live to regret this when the people in their lives are hounded continually through trial after trial because a person can now be tried more than once for the same criminal offense. So Scotland chucked double jeopardy law for the following two criminal cases. Specifically, serial killer Angus Sinclair's saliva matched DNA found on the bodies of teenagers Helen Scott and Christine Eadie, who were killed after leaving Edinburgh's World's End pub in 1977 and he will now be tried with that evidence. His 2007 murder trial collapsed when the judge ruled the crown had insufficient evidence. There can also now be a second case against the man who stood trial alongside Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah was cleared of the 1988 terrorist attack that claimed 270 lives after a trial in Holland, under Scots law, in 2001 and can now be tried again. I was appalled  I do not want to be part of any legal system where you can be tried again and again for the same criminal offense. Fortunately, it would be so much harder to change that law here because it is in the Constitution.  It would have to first clear Congress, then the President (or Congress overcomes a Presidential veto) and then be ratified by the states. Almost impossible in other words.

Then I discovered the Woody Allen case revived twenty years later in first my Vanity Fair subscription issue and then my New York Times subscription issue. I don’t want to give up either publication but it is getting close. The fact is that Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were only in court together once and that was over a disputed custody case involving three shared children. The case was decided in favor of Mia Farrow.  Allen was ordered to pay her legal fees and child support and did so. This is a civil case heard solely by a judge.  There was no appeal. There was never any criminal prosecution brought against Allen for child molestation. He was never arrested for it.  He was investigated and the investigators dismissed the case. The statute of limitations has since expired so no case can ever be brought on it.  In short, I am presuming him innocent because that is what the Constitution tells me to do. However, many, many Americans cannot bring themselves to also support their Constitution. They are jumping on soap boxes, all but calling for a public lynching of him more than twenty years later.

a personal aside....  I practiced divorce law and it is axiomatic in that field that child molestation will often come up by one’s client as a way of winning the case. Particularly if a client’s case was weak, suddenly there came from my client, "I think X has sexually abused Y." 

Some people become the worst people they’ve ever been in pursuing these cases.  Some will never come out of it.  They go into a shell of perpetual bitterness and never emerge from it. If they have been scorned, their anger might know no limits. Unless you have handled these cases, you have no idea how much hate and anger can be at their cores. I lasted for ten years doing these cases and could take no more of them. I personally would not want to become buddies with Mia Farrow, who has stored up over twenty years of hate against her ex. The photo to the left shows her skewered and stabbed valentine she made at home and sent to Woody Allen at the time of their breakup. The photo to the right shows her dating writer Philip Roth. Her friend set her up with Roth because they had hating Woody Allen in common. I guess Americans are also willing to trash the constitutional right the defendant has to cross examine his accusers because these Americans are willing to believe this woman, hook, line and sinker without any examination, much less cross examination.  And with a history like this! How many women get fixed up based on a shared interest in hating someone?!

Farrow and Roth further had in common that each of them had written scathing books about their exes. Hers was What Falls Away about her breakup with Woody Allen and his was I Married a Communist about his bitter divorce from actress Claire Bloom. I read both books. Farrow's was dubious factually, very bitter but admittedly entertaining. Roth's was magnificent as a piece of literature. He did perhaps the most precise skewering job of another human being I've ever seen put to paper. He just about eviscerated her as the "fictional character" Eve. I would not want to be involved with either of these two.  They don't forgive or forget anything. Interestingly, there are people on the other end of the spectrum too, those who accept a breakup with grace and a spirit of adapting and moving on. They are just generally very good people who come to accept that life has just tossed them a very bad twist.

returning to the Constitution....  But my story gets worse about some people in America who think our Constitution just isn't doing its job. For awhile I belonged to an online film discussion group. Some of the people who belonged to this group worked in the peripheral film and tv jobs of the industry, such as on makeup, costumes, technology and such with a few actors who worked steadily but in minor roles. I was aghast to learn that these people had personally taken measures to right the wrongs of our legal system. They have to travel around a lot for their work and spent lots of time on location or in studios so they run into some of our more notorious defendants. They feel themselves ideally placed for righting wrongs

For example, John Landis, the film director, was acquitted of manslaughter on the Twilight Zone movie case. Two Asian children and his lead, Vic Morrow, were killed while filming when a helicopter crashed into them. Morrow was decapitated by its blades. It happened as Morrow was carrying them both across water. The entire misadventure was captured on video, above. Landis was violating California’s labor laws when this occurred by filming with children at night. The people in this online film group recounted event after event where they or their cohorts would seek Landis out at his office on the studio lot and then would catcall to him through the doors and windows that he was a murderer. But he was acquitted, I sputtered. But he was guilty, they shot back. “You’re Americans,” I said, “How can you disrespect your Constitution so, perhaps the finest document of its sort?”  They thought I was nuts. (The families of these three victims received very large monetary awards in the civil system, which is an entirely different matter from the criminal.)

After O.J. Simpson was acquitted at his murder trial of his ex wife, he tried to gain entry anew into all of his Hollywood haunts.  All of these people were waiting for him. The minute he set foot on any of these sets or studios, or even an airport they were all commonly using, the catcalls and smears would start again of “Murderer.”  If he tried to stand or sit next to someone, there was also a scene. I protested again and, predictably, they began turning against me for supporting this scum. I left the group not long after as no matter how cogent their film analyses were, I could not stand associating with people who regularly ran roughshod over our Constitution. The other lawyer who was in this film group had no problem with what they were doing.

I have never run into these former notorious defendants, of course. I believe Landis and Simpson likely did commit the offenses. However, a jury found there was reasonable doubt and acquitted. For me, that’s the end of it. Thus, put me at a party or in an airport lounge or in an airplane seat beside either one and I do or say absolutely nothing. I also do not get up and change seats. I respect the Constitution too much to do any of this. I do not want to get to know them. I do not want to converse with them.  But I will be patiently polite until we part. Since Woody Allen was never even arrested or charged with anything and was actually cleared by investigators at the Yale Center, there is no problem of any sort if I am put in the position of meeting him.  I might say at most that I admire his films. 

Meanwhile, I write my blog posts knowing that no one is coming to arrest me for writing my opinions about our law because the First Amendment protects me.  When I do an art project later in the day, no one can tell me what topics I must steer clear of so as to avoid prosecution (ditto) nor can anyone bother me for not practicing my non-existent religion on today, Sunday (ditto).  And that is just one constitutional amendment! This is an amendment our mother country, England, does not have as law to this very day.  We decided to improve on English law in forming this country and incredibly, we did just that.

We enjoy the most rights and protections of any people who have ever lived and the people we should be telling off are not Woody Allen, O.J. Simpson and John Landis. Woody Allen took his daughters with Soon Yi to the theater the other night and other theater goers started heckling and booing him, calling him a molester in front of his two teenage daughters. I was absolutely mortified.  These were presumably educated people.  How can they be so ignorant about every American's basic Constitutional rights and protections?  Or did they know them and just violate them anyway for the hell of it? Do they not appreciate their unique position of being citizens in the limited parts of the world which grant its people the basic freedoms?

The people who should be singled out in public are these fellow Americans who are quite willing to all but shred everyone else's constitutional rights and protections. Put me at a party with them and yes, I may well move away from them after I tell them what I think of their actions and what ingrates they are.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Totally Empty Restaurant; She Wants to Share Your Booth

There must be something about me which attracts the odd. I am sure most people go about their lives with very few oddball things happening to them.  Not me.  I’ve always been like this.  If something strange is going to happen, it will happen to me.  Of course, the fact that I am very assertive fans the fire of oddballness. Most of these happenstances would come and go a lot more easily if I didn’t feel impelled to respond to what is going on. So put a gag on me and maybe nothing odd would ever happen. But, of course, try gagging me and I’ll sue you before the sun goes down.  See what I mean?

So today my old fashioned, book reading, anti cell phone self collided with the young, non-reading, cell phone obsessed younger person (thirties). After doing my rec center bit I headed to Subway for my flatbread super veggie BMT for lunch. It is mid afternoon when no one else is eating lunch. I had my iPad mini with me and had just started a good book, Koko by Peter Straub. I have never had a problem eating alone because I am a reader.  I was eating and reading away when all of a sudden a woman glides into my booth sitting down opposite me. “You don’t mind if I take half your table do you?” (The restaurant was completely empty.) If you know me, you know typically it would take me three seconds to tell this woman to get the hell up and out of my booth and find her own seat in the empty restaurant. Being decrepit and in my dotage has done nothing to diminish this stance. But…but…well, there’s a problem.

Let me pause here for a confession. The problem is that the woman is black. If you are black, asian, native american, gay, lesbian, transgendered, Jewish, handicapped, etc., it always gives me pause.  This is because I believe in civil liberties and civil rights. Maybe there is some past act of discrimination which is making this person’s behavior unusual. After all this person has a terrible history of bad things being done to him or her. In which case, I need to suspend judgment for a little while, to give her the benefit of the doubt. I would never do this for a white person of any of the usual persuasions.  I would have been on her like a wildcat in that case.

But I did spot the cell phone in her hand and, of course, I am reading. I may be in an indulgent mood but I do have standards and limits.

“Ok,” I tell her, “but I am reading so I need absolute quiet so that means no noise, no talking, no cell phone use and so forth. If you start doing any of those, you will have to get up and leave.”

There is such a look of shock that crosses this woman’s face that I almost laugh.  But I don’t because this game is in motion.  What could she possibly be up to, I wonder. Why would you force yourself upon another, much older woman in a completely empty restaurant? I can think of no good reason but I am determined to give her the benefit of the doubt.  As I look up from my book while eating my sandwich, I notice that she now looks like a deer caught in the headlights. 

She starts eating her sandwich very fast. I have never had anyone eat a sandwich faster than me. I take after my Dad in this, who was nicknamed The Flying Fork. I think of myself as Daughter of Flying Fork. Jim has never beaten me in finishing food first. (You just try eating faster than someone like me who was brought up in the real estate business.) This woman beats me.  I have never seen anyone eat a subway sandwich that fast. Within three minutes she has finished, is packing up and leaving. Moments later I notice she is in her own booth and on her cell phone. She avoids looking at me for the next half hour while I continue reading and is on her phone the entire time. I finish and get up to leave. She is still on the phone.

I leave, realizing I will never know for sure what was going on.  Whatever it was, she obviously regretted picking me as her seat mate. I can only assume she was going to try to sell me something or get me to join something or worse. Oh, dear, could she have picked a worse person for such an exercise? My parents were both highly successful brokers who could sell anyone anything and it was the highest compliment in my mother's book to tell me I had the most natural sales resistance of anyone she had ever met. Of course, this also meant I did not have their talent for sales. You have to be a believer to be able to sell well. 

I do feel slightly buoyed by one thing though as I drive home in the milder weather with sunnier skies.  I have finally gotten some of my own back against these cell phone addicts. They have done their best, after all, to ruin restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, the swimming pool lounging area, the roadways and every other aspect of my life outside of the interior of my own condo and car. I notice then that she is no longer black in my mind.  No, she is one of them, a cell phone abuser, and as far as I am concerned entitled to only outright war.