Category Archives: life

An open letter to Heather

A belated Happy New Year! And how are you? It’s been a while since I heard from you, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about our relationship. This is just a friendly discussion, though if you want to be precise, you could call it an intervention. I do hope we won’t have to take things to the next level, which might include the phrase “restraining order.” But let’s get right to brass tacks, shall we?

As I said, I haven’t heard your cheery voice on my phone for some time. I so hope I haven’t somehow wounded your feelings. I know you have a very challenging — no, a demanding job. I’d go stark raving loopy if I had to dial all those numbers and sound so warm and perfectly perky. And use the exact same words and inflections on every call!

Which brings me to the crux of this little talk. As you must realize, though you’ve “reached out” to me more times than I can count, I’ve never given your proposals any positive response whatsoever. Yet you don’t seem to listen, and what’s more, you continue to contact me. My call log is chock-full of your number!

I’ve tried to get in touch with someone in your organization, just to spare you a lot of wasted  time. Despite a good bit of Googling, I can’t seem to pin down the exact “Account Services” you work for. And since we know each other well, I don’t feel it necessary to apologize for our last conversation. That exchange, if my aging mind accurately retains it, started with you saying again: “Hi, this is Heather from Account Services.”

To which yours truly responded at slightly elevated volume: “JESUS BLEEPING CHRIST ARE YOU BLEEPING KIDDING ME??????!!!!! BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP!!!!!” I was grateful for a little old-fashioned technology that morning (seven a.m., wasn’t it?) because I felt compelled to emphasize my feelings by smashing the receiver of my desk phone against the base a few times. I found bits of plastic around my bedroom for months afterward. So much more satisfying than tapping “end call” on a cellphone!

To sum up: You have developed an entirely unwarranted obsession with me. The word “stalker” is unfortunately appropriate. So for your sake and mine, I’ve decided to end our relationship. You are hereafter “blocked” on all my communication devices.

I know it hurts, but one must nip these unhealthy tendencies in the bud! I fear that if I don’t take this step, one of these days I’ll find you climbing the trellis outside my window or sitting in the back seat of my car. We wouldn’t want to be like the actors in some low-budget film noir, would we now? And you don’t want to end up like your namesakes in “Heathers.”


Brain washday

When you reach a certain age, you get tons of unsolicited advice on how to make the most out of your remaining years (months? minutes?). Half the new-old-age barkers give you the pitch that these times are magical and blessed, while the other half say, “Son, you’ve got one foot under the daisies already. Better shape up quick.” Without even trying, you run into something like this item from AARP, the print version of which was headlined, “Cleanse Your Brain.”

WARNING! DISCLAIMER! The foregoing phrase should NOT in any way be taken as an instruction to do something spectacularly ill-advised involving a cordless drill, a funnel, and a bottle of Mr. Clean. (Know what “trepanning” means in this context? Don’t even look it up.)

The article is legit science about the glymphatic system, which is what the brain uses to clear out damaged protein, dirty fluids, and other waste. It got me to thinking: what if I could purge the memory bank portion of my brain? That’d free up space on the cerebral hard drive for all the Important Stuff I need to absorb and retain, especially how to stave off wrinkles and decrepitude.  After 63 years and a few odd weeks, it’s time for a super-duper spring cleaning!

But what memories would I unload? Things like algebra, sociology, the infield fly rule, sentence diagramming, medieval history, how to drive a stick shift, and the name of the person I just met are already gone. What’s left to lose?

Getting beaten up on the playground and being hopeless at sports. Trashing those memories – several school years’ worth – would do wonders for my self-esteem. Ditto all my romantic rejections from junior high onward, job flubs, bad life choices, and other sundry gaffes like busting up my fender in the car wash. No, that didn’t happen! I’d remember if I’d been that dumb!

Song lyrics. “Satisfaction,” “Purple Haze,” “Crossroads,” “I Will Follow,” and “Once in a Lifetime” can stay. I do not ever need to recall “Don’t You Want Me,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” or anything by Madonna, the Eagles, or anyone named Osmond.

Everything I ever learned about manners and etiquette. Useless in today’s world. Go to a restaurant and see how many people never look up from their phones during dinner, even when the maitre d’ politely informs them the place is about to be engulfed by a volcano.

Sports trivia (a redundant phrase anyway). The games I saw from the stands in college? I’ll keep ‘em. The name of the backup quarterback on a 3-13 NFL team, so lousy I had to get tanked every Sunday to watch them on TV? Not so much.

Old TV shows.  I remember “My Mother the Car,” “Men Behaving Badly,” and many episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Why?

Certain web surfing moments.  Not that I ever actually checked out “Vixen Virgins of Vegas” and the like, but if I somehow got there by mistake, it’d be helpful to truthfully not recall it.

A stately DISPLEASURE dome!

One of the problems of growing older is that you’re supposed to be smarter too. People think you’ve absorbed all of life’s lessons and can face any situation with Zen-like wisdom. The senior years should be rewarding, free of the challenges that trip up the younger set (which these days means anyone born after about 1970). Sorry, but what you get from being old is a bunch of new ways to find yourself saying, “Oh, for dumb.”

The other day I wound up in an urgent care clinic at the beach in Florida. Was I there because I imbibed a few dozen too many beers, wiped out on a boogie board, scorched myself while setting off fireworks, or got slapped silly by a beauty queen from Mobile? Not in this lifetime. On a warm, sunny morning, I sat in a waiting room trying not to feel extremely foolish because part of a hearing aid was stuck in my ear.

The piece in question is the dome, a little rubber cap that covers the receiver, which slips into your ear canal. It looks like a UFO but as you can see, it’s a lot smaller.

Hearing aid dome

Rogue dome

I suddenly realized I couldn’t actually hear very well in my left ear even with the aid in place, and when I took it out the dome was missing. Cue the sinking feeling. So I headed off to the clinic, where a nurse practitioner with a blessedly steady hand reached in with alligator forceps and extracted the thing.

The sympathetic doctor said he’d taken out three or four others. I still felt like a putz, yutz, mope, and dope because after all, this is the kind of thing little kids do, lodging various objects in inappropriate places.

At least I’m not this guy, who had a toy traffic cone stuck in his lung for 40 years (or the guy mentioned in comments on the article, who had a light bulb stuck in a different spot). Nor am I one of those preening peacocks of both sexes who try to look and act like they’re 20 when they’re closing in on their second century (see Hefner, Hugh, the late).

Truth be told, even when I was younger and hopefully studlier, I never got close enough to any beauty queens to get slapped anyway. What if I somehow stockpiled my karmic klutziness for my later years? Maybe I should guzzle a couple of cases and launch a whole arsenal of fireworks while riding a boogie board! Or maybe just go look at the beach again. Yeah, that sounds good.






















Bring back the plain brown wrapper!

The other day, one of those typical catalogs landed in our snailbox.* It’s labeled Garden, Home, Pest Control, and is sort of a cheaper Skymall, with a raft of goodies to gussy up your house and simplify your life.  There’s a tool that will “Easily Cut Through Everything from Delicate Fabrics to Sheet Metal!” Want to be environmentally correct and show off your artistic vision? “Solar Frog is Also a Mosaic Sculpture!”

Another gadget “Illuminates the Toilet in the Dark” (by making it glow like a radioactive salamander).  And no home is complete without “What My Family Should Know,” a notebook for the “important details”– medical records, insurance, bank accounts etc. – in case of one’s departure from our mortal coil. This is described as “A great gift for your parents!” Unless they get the notion you’re hoping to hurry things along.

Son: “Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Look what I got you and Mom.”
Father: “What YOUR family should know is you’re dumber than mulch, and as of now you’re out of my will.”

Then you come to page 54. WARNING: For readers of a certain age, this may harken** back to page 27 of the paperback version of “The Godfather.” For readers of an uncertain age, go look it up at the library. You won’t be sorry.*** There, in the middle of all this regular, boring stuff, are two pages of the very latest adult entertainment devices.

Kid you I do not! There’s the “Adonis Extender,” which promises an extra two inches and a “comfortably articulated head.” We also have “The Climaxer” and “The Wild G” with six (!) different speeds. The one called “Butterfly Dreams” is billed as “perfectly sized for both beginners and advanced users.” How much practice does it take to become advanced?

There’s also “Triple Tease,” not to be confused with the Nipple Teaser, and last but not least the “Raging Bull Couples Massager.” It has a “dual enhancer ring” for him and I swear, for her a vibrating protrusion shaped like a bull’s head, horns and all. Who knew?

Seriously, I’m not making judgements about these gizmos. I’m just wondering what in the name of capitalism prompted the catalog company to put them in with the mops and reading glasses. With no notice or advisory of any kind, which could cause an embarrassing moment or two if the kids read it first. It’s not as noxious as what’s happening on the New York subway, involving photos of men’s, uh, turnstiles, but still.

All I want is a little truth in advertising. Instead of Garden, Home, Pest Control, it’d be Garden of Frenzied Ecstasy; Home of Stuff That’ll Get You Hot, Hot, Hot; and Control Those Pesky Passions with the Touch of a Button. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go cut some sheet metal and find my library card.

*My word for snail mail box, i.e., “all the dead-tree junk that comes by USPS.” Isn’t “snailbox” a lot snazzier?
**Do I have to define everything ? “Harken” means “to give heed or attention to what is said, listen.” You wouldn’t use it like this: “Dub had 17 beers and harkened all over his wife’s new car.”
***Or just click here and visit pages 17-18. You know you want to.


Shrinkage: the other kind

I’m not the man I used to be. No matter how hard I try to live a proper life in all ways physical, intellectual, and emotional, I am a lesser person.

How lesser am I? About an inch. Relax: this has nothing to do with the “Seinfeld” that so eloquently portrayed the shrinkatory effect of cold water on the male, uh, exclamation point. The missing inch came out of my height.

This became clear when I was going through old papers and found a medical report from my college years, which listed my height as six feet plus half an inch (6’ 0.5”). At my last visit to the doctor a few months back, I checked in at 5’ 11”. Even if that means 5’ 11” and a quarter, a half, or two-thirds, I’m going through a slow but undeniable vertical fail. This isn’t fake news! I can’t argue with cold, hard science and real-time medical technology (like a measuring stick).

Why do we self-condense? Over time, the discs between the vertebrae dehydrate and compress, or maybe collapse from osteoporosis. The spine can get curved, or muscle loss in the torso can give you a stoop. Even the gradual flattening of your arches can leave you shorter.

The loss can start as early as age 30, which is about when my hair started vanishing. I’m used to that, but this plunges me into the tar pit of male insecurity. All my life, I’ve considered myself a Tall Guy. Can I honestly think of myself that way if I no longer top the six-foot baseline? Will I get busted by the vanity police?

My wife often asks me to “come here and be a tall person for a minute” when she needs something off a high shelf. Can I still fulfill her desires? (Not THOSE desires. I already told ya this ain’t about the meat and the motion.)

The worst kind of shrinkage is the kind that’s going on in my personal hard drive, also known as my brain. After 60+ years, it’s critically overstuffed with useless facts, and seems to be sending some of them down to the minors, for recall only when needed.

Just now, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of a Cajun band I saw at a joint called Tornado Alley in suburban Washington DC about 22 years ago. I remembered other Cajun musicians: the Balfa Brothers, D. L. Menard, Bruce Daigrepont, Terrence Simien and the Mallet Playboys, etc., before finally hitting the holy grail of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.  This is what’s known as a “senior moment.”

I try to limit my cranial clutter by weeding out nonessential info, like the name of the person I’ve just met, but it’s a losing battle. Now if you’ll excuse me, whoever you are, I’ve got to go put on some high heels.


The Instagram life part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about the perils of living your life on Instagram and becoming a piece of content for others to look at. That idea may have seemed far-fetched, esoteric, or just out of step with the times. After all, even us geezers have online selves, right?

Well, at least one person agrees with me, though I’m pretty sure she didn’t read my post. Her name is Clara Dollar, she’s a senior at New York University, and she writes in the Sunday New York Times about “My So-Called (Instagram) Life.”

“Once you master what is essentially an onstage performance of yourself, it can be hard to break character,” she says. True dat.* Her obsession with staying on brand – “funny, carefree, unromantic, a realist” – kills a relationship and buries her genuine identity. “There was a time when I allowed myself to be more than what I could fit onto a 2-by-4-inch screen. When I wasn’t so self-conscious about how I was seen. When I embraced my contradictions and desires with less fear of embarrassment or rejection.”

When I was in college in the 1970s, we couldn’t live on little screens because they didn’t exist. More importantly, we’d just come out of the 60s, when mindless conformity was exposed as a fraud. Challenging authority, openness, and authenticity were virtues.

The “brand” I’d acquired in high school was a burden: quiet, reserved, a little awkward, certainly not cool. But the only way for me to look different was to be different: embrace change, be open to new things, and put my true self out there.

Of course I feared embarrassment and rejection. Who doesn’t? Being yourself is the only way to make good friends, the kind who see beyond each other’s contradictions and foibles. Many  people I knew then are Facebook friends now, with a connection that’s grounded in real life and memories, not a bogus image.

I don’t claim to be devoid of ego. I always try to put my best foot forward (especially because, as anyone who’s ever danced with me will tell you, I’ve got two of the left variety).

But my virtual self is no more calculated or contrived than my real one, which I hope is not much. For example, I won’t try to persuade you I have gorgeous blue eyes that remind you of Paul Newman. Of course, you can always look at my photo and draw your own conclusions.

*A New Orleans expression for “That is the truth.”


Scammer grammar hammer

I’ve found my calling. Since I retired a couple of years back, I’ve been floundering in the shallows of unfulfillment, trying to find purpose in geezerhood. And the market for over-60 male porn stars is a lot smaller than I hoped.

But now I’ve found a gig I can do brilliantly. It’ll never dry up and will leave me rollin’ in simoleons. The job? Teaching English to scammers! These hardworking capitalists have been around since the days of dial-up, but sadly, their grasp of the lingo is still a tad sketchy. Here, verbatim, is the email that plotzed into my inbox this very morning:

Subject: Due our security concern We need verified your payment activity

Dear (email address),
We need to lock your apple account for the following reason(s):

05 April 2017: We want to check your account surely not log-in with other device.
06 April 2017: Your account has been make a payment $116 using apple pay with a Payment Code: APP-X42-C22-P0.
10 April 2017: Due our security concern we need to block your account access until this issued has been resolved , we will waiting for 1 week or your account has been disabled permanently.

  2. Confirm Your identity and our system will replace with your new information.
  3. Your will be redirected and your account ready to use

It’s pretty clear why this message won’t work. First rule: send it to somebody who actually HAS an “apple” account. Besides, “We want to check your account surely not log-in with other device” is a dead giveaway. Haven’t they ever seen “Airplane?” Don’t call me Shirley! Here’s the same message with a few edits from your faithful protector of Good English:

Subject: Who the hell are you?

Dear gluten-brain:

We sure hope it wasn’t you who rented “Naughty Nymphos of North Korea” and “Pammy Does Pyongyang” the other day. We’re freezing your account colder than a Siberian squirrel’s nuts until you can verify yourself. Send us a photo of yourself (FULLY CLOTHED) and answer this security question: What’s the maiden name of your mother’s Uncle Sorghum’s fourth ex-wife? (You can also send a voice recording of yourself singing, “I Went Back with My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First-Class Fool Out of Me.”)

And from now on, be more careful about what you say online. You might get elected governor of Alabama.