Category Archives: men and women

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.

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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.”

Recognize this!

Didn’t I warn you? A few posts ago, I got to griping about how intrusive and annoying technology has become, and predicted cars would join the parade and start acting like people.

Well, I hate to say I told you so (no, I don’t), but according to a recent article, our SUVs and vans and sedans will soon be able to read our facial expressions! The recognition software has been around for a while, but the geniuses who gave us lemons like the Edsel and the Corvair are taking it to a new level.

(Warning: This computer has detected signs of an imminent attack of geezerhood on the writer’s face. This incident may include a long-winded, probably unfunny rant about the modern world. Read at your own risk.)

The article says once the system recognizes you, it’ll adjust your seat for maximum comfort, choose a driving mode, and suggest a destination based on past behavior.  Sounds good, but what if man and wife get in the car together and somebody’s “behavior” yields a destination like a strip joint or a Motel 6? Or if my bad back requires me to sit in a certain position, and before I can stop it, the seat adjustment squashes my spine? This thing has LAWSUIT written all over it.

This is the scary part: “Watching a driver’s face can also give a car important clues about the person’s state of mind.” If the thing spots road rage on my visage, it could “potentially quell annoying bells and chimes in the car and play some mellow jazz to soothe you.”

If “mellow jazz” means “Fine and Mellow” by Billie Holiday, it might work. If it means Kenny G, look out, ‘cause I’m ragin’ like a Cajun and am liable to switch off the system with an ax.  More to the point, if the folks who invented this mess ever had a relationship with another human being, they would NOT try to build human features into a car. Do you really want to ride around with something watching your face every second and obsessing about your feelings? Especially if the system can vocalize, like Siri.

Car: A penny for your thoughts.
Me: I’m not thinking anything.
Car: We never talk anymore. Don’t you care about me? Can’t you at least tell me what I’m doing wrong? And watch out for that red light!

This lunacy reminds me of “My Mother the Car,” a famously bad TV sitcom from the 1960s in which the main character’s late mother is reborn as a talking antique car, which takes over the poor schmuck’s life. I don’t need Big Mama reading my mug while I drive.

(Warning update: Your writer’s face suggests he’s run out of things to say. The danger has passed, at least until he gets another one of his so-called ideas. He ought to know by now that he has no talent and WAIT DON’T PUSH THAT POWER BUTTON!!!!!!)

Holiday greetings for 2016

Author’s note: My wife and I relocated in 2016 and we do own an old sword. Most of the rest can be taken with a few grains of salt.

***********

Hello all! This won’t be a typical holiday letter because we sure haven’t had a typical year! As you know – if you read my earlier message, and we so hope you did, otherwise why am I WASTING MY PRECIOUS TIME and few remaining brain cells writing this stupid – sorry, we’re still a wee bit touchy after all we’ve been through!

What I started to say was that we’ve had a big, joyous experience in our lives: moving and downsizing! We sold our old house and are settled in a lovely, smaller one in a new city. We just couldn’t feel more sublime! But of course, it’s been challenging too, at times, in a few small ways. Rather than bore you with details – and there were a ton of details, plus about EIGHT TONS OF JUNK THAT NEARLY FRICKIN’ KILLED US (oops, sorry again) – we’re focusing on a few special moments in our year, our journey of change and discovery.

We started with a moving sale – a wonderful way to clear out clutter and meet people! Until one of our neighbors saw the antique political buttons we were selling and compared Trump to Spiro Agnew, whereupon another neighbor tried to run him through with my grandfather’s ceremonial Masonic sword! Our discovery? Nobody wants used sweaters with fresh bloodstains on them, even if they’re really pretty small. But we persevered!

Next we had to move out, find a new house, and move in there. But there was no despair, just more discoveries along the road! For example, we found that after all the work, travel, decisions, and slightly stressful days, we can fall asleep any time in any old place, including the line at Starbucks. And the dentist’s chair! And any hotel in the world, except that one with gunshots in the parking lot at 2:00 a.m!

Another time, I discovered some old muscle relaxants when I was sore from moving boxes and since they’d “expired” I took six all at once. I’m told I staggered into the living room wearing wifey’s pink thong (and nothing else), said “Haaar oooom glub shrog iffshaam zowk,” then walked right through a (closed) screen door and plunged into the pool! Thank goodness our brilliant real estate agent, who saw the whole thing, was an ex-lifeguard! Of course, we had to pay for her ruined dress and shoes but we persevered once more! Hooah!

It’s been hard – why can’t we stop saying that? – but speaking of muscles, we discovered some we didn’t even know we had. We’re a real Power Couple! My back is so much stronger – well, I don’t usually use those words; it’s actually “tighter than a cable on the Bay Bridge.” A little massage would fix that IF we can find the damn massage book or EVER FIND ANYTHING IN THAT WRETCHED PILE OF BOXES AND – but we digress, again!

Do come see us for the holidays and remember, if we fall asleep, it’s not the company!

The night the bed fell: 21st century update

If you’re about my age* and had good English teachers in high school, you might have been assigned to read a classic James Thurber piece called, “The Night the Bed Fell.” I won’t even try to recount this delightfully loony story, but I will shamelessly appropriate the title for my own true (!) tale of woe.

The background: My wife and I had to have the floors in our new house redone before we could bring in our furniture. In the meantime, we could either stay in a hotel or camp out in the house, using a cheap futon for a couch and sleeping on a brand-new, high-tech inflatable bed.

I won’t tell you where we bought the thing, except that it’s a gigundous corporation whose name rhymes with “Paul Blart.” However, it’s light-years ahead of those old air mattresses people used to use for camping, rock festivals, etc. It has a frame that keeps the mattress off the floor, a pump that starts automatically if the air gets low, and the whole kit & caboodle** zips up in a wheeled bag you can roll around. (IF you’ve got a strong back, because it weighs approximately as much as a boxcar full of lead.)

One night we climbed into bed after a long day of meeting with contractors, shopping for appliances, hanging light fixtures, and the like. This gets tiring, especially for us non-spring chickens, so we were definitely looking forward to a good night’s rest.

But after a few minutes I noticed the mattress felt softer than before. Instead of being on it, I seemed to be sinking into it, rocking and swaying as though it were a waterbed. (If you remember those, you’re no tenderfoot either.)

Neither of us spoke right away, not wanting to admit the ugly truth: Our 21st-century rest and relaxation station was leaking like an email server, and with us still aboard it was falling like a rogue soufflé. We tried pumping it up, but before long were sagging toward the floorboards again. By then it was nearly 11 p.m.

Put yourself in our state of mind: tired, sweaty, mad, frustrated, wanting nothing more than to sleep and having no bed. We also were too beat to go to a motel, so we dragged ourselves and our mattress pads into the den and switched the futon from couch to bed mode. We were so worn out that we slept reasonably well, though the futon was as wide as an ironing board and not as soft.

Needless to say, we got a refund for this amazing contrivance and won’t buy another one. I won’t take the comfort of a real, well-made, mattress-and-box spring bed for granted either.

_______________

*Classified information, though I admit I’m old enough to know the words to “Land of a Thousand  Dances,” which are: “Na na na na na, na na na na na na na na na, na na na na.”
**The lot, pack, or crowd. “Canoodle” is quite different! Send any post-millennial types (i.e., kids, children, young ‘uns, squirts, sprouts etc) out of the room before you look it up.

The armies of life

It’s nearly Labor Day and the dragonflies are back, zipping over the deck against a bright blue sky. Somewhere south in the Gulf of Mexico is a storm that might (1) give us some rain and wind, (2) miss us altogether, or (3) come ashore as a full-on hurricane that would send us running for the hills.

This kind of uncertainty isn’t fun, but it’s a pretty good metaphor for the life my wife and I have been leading for months now. Fifteen years after moving from Washington, DC to Atlanta, we decided to move again: to sell our house in the Atlanta burbs, buy a smaller one in Birmingham, Alabama, my wife’s hometown, and divide our time between there and the Florida panhandle where we are now.

Sounds like a snap, right? Seniors embracing change like youngsters, living life to the fullest,  being mobile and flexible, and all those other well-known ‘Murican buzzwords (sorry, I mean “values”).

Let me be very clear: I’m not complaining. I know we’re lucky we can manage this financially, and a lot of people would love to have our problems. But this much change takes effort, will, creative thinking, optimism, and plenty of energy, both physical and emotional. And we’re 15 years older than last time. It’s tough.

We started by clearing out our house and giving away many things we’d no longer need. Then we staged the house for sale, making it look like a model home where no one actually lived. I missed my big, comfy recliner in the den, which we turned into a Potemkin dining room. Then we moved out – which, due to mistakes and neglect by the people we hired to assist us, turned into a horrible last-minute scramble. We felt like we were being evicted from our longtime, much-loved home.

Next came the trying process of searching in a different city for a house that retains the good qualities of the old one – location, location, location, trees in the yard, and a living room suited for music. We found a place but are far from settled.

The new home and new city are good things. They’re things we wanted. Why does it all feel so hard, like perpetual PTSD?

A phrase keeps running through my mind, from Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” his elegy for Lincoln: “The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d, And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d, And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.”

I don’t know how much weight we’ve lifted, how many miles we’ve driven, or how many hotels we’ve slept in, usually badly. It’s not over. I still sometimes think I just can’t do this for one more day. It’s still tough.

What’s kept us going and will get us through to the end is each other. If you have any sense, you don’t go swimming in the ocean alone or head into the desert without loads of water, so you don’t attempt something physically and psychically earthshaking without a strong partner.

For 16 years and counting, we’ve been together until death do us part. Backaches, U-Haul trucks, hot and cold running contractors, and Matterhorns of boxes will not us part. Our possessions are scattered across three states, and our emotions at any given time are less predictable than that storm, but our hearts are still as one.

There’ll be a house with music and friends again. It’s not even officially ours yet but it already has love.

Anti-social security, or “Ten things to know about getting old”

Dear Sir,*

We’ve received your application for Social Security. We welcome you to the ranks of the senior beneficiary retirement subgroup, or as some of our younger staff call it, “Geezer Gulch.”

Before we can start payments, we need you to answer just a few questions to be sure you’re eligible. After all, we wouldn’t want to eviscerate the millennials’ future accept more money than we’re entitled to, would we?

  1. How long have you had that white hair exploding out of your ears and nose?
  2. Are you binge-watching “The Golden Girls” on TV Land and thinking Blanche was actually pretty hot?
  3. Do you understand these song lyrics? “When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps; Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps.”** If so, please explain them and define “Mugwumps” (Note: Calling us and singing over the phone are grounds for immediate, permanent loss of all benefits).
  4. Is your current bedtime earlier than your bedtime as a kid? Can you even remember that far back?
  5. Can you still put away the Rolling Rock, Canadian Club, Stoly, Moet, and Purple Jesus like you used to?
  6. If so, is your drinking just one more sad attempt to escape the emptiness and anguish of your wasted, humdrum life?
  7. Could you ever have been a contender? Or were you always a bum?
  8. Do you remember “dial-up,” “VCRs,” “cassette tapes,” “black-and-white TVs,” “leaded gas,” “the milkman,” “bi-partisanship,” “common courtesy,” and “common sense”?
  9. Is that really you in that rock festival video on YouTube, with hair down to your navel, a pink and green tie-dye shirt, and what seem to be no pants, jumping up and down on a car hood while screaming “WHIPPING POST”?
  10. Please estimate your annual Viagra intake. This won’t affect your benefits but it’ll sure make us feel better about our own TQ (tumescence quotient).

*We dug this form of address out of the archives because we know it’s what people your age are used to! See how dedicated we are?
**This is from “Creek Alley” by the Mamas and the Papas, who’d probably be the Great-Grandmamas and Grandpapas by now.