Change of Venue

SOB (sister of blogger) came back from visiting her in-laws and wanted us all to come over for Sunday night dinner at her house.  The usual complement of the family showed up.  POB (partner of blogger) was happy for the night off from cooking.

As I was helping my sister, I had occasion to open her refrigerator.  This is what I saw:

Nothing else on that shelf in the refrigerator.  Without these cans of non-nutritive and non-food particles, you could sleep in that refrigerator.  I was amazed and therefore, I had cause to investigate further and I found this in the freezer:

I was a little shocked to see all of this ice cream and sorbet especially when she said she went out especially to buy vanilla ice cream for my son.  Really?  Really? You mean you didn’t pick up vanilla by accident while you were buying in bulk??  Or maybe the neighborhood store threw a vanilla in your order because as part of a customer rewards program? In all that ice cream and sorbet, there wasn’t already vanilla?

Then SOB said something that completely blew my mind, as a 46 year-old listening to her 50 year-old sister:  “you can’t imagine how quickly we go through this.” Doesn’t HOSOB (husband of SOB) have a cholesterol issue?  Doesn’t SOB have high blood pressure?

AND, AND, to add insult to injury, SOB is the doctor in the family.  She is supposed to know better.  Because she is an M.D. and has mastered that air of authority, she can get away with saying crazy things.  I loved her comment, “eating fat-free whipped cream is like eating nothing”.

For the sake of family pride, I feel compelled to mention that she went to excellent schools and has incredible credentials.  Because even I, the juris doctor, know that what she was saying was just nuts (which, by the way, you could have had on your ice cream with whipped cream).

Rand Paul, the Prophet with the Pitchfork

That crazy Tea-Party-er is good for America.  You’re thinking: some crazy person is guest blogging.  Nope.

Rand Paul is a false prophet.  He is rationalizing our nation’s three-decade long drift into a selfish, ego-centric theocracy.  He is giving us a way to rationalize and even celebrate our nation’s screw-your-neighbor-because-it-is-your-G-d-given-right hypocrisy.  Yes, if we listen to him, we will surely perish.

He lays bear the essential pathos of the Tea Party movement — the fight for white supremacy and control over diminishing resources.  Neo-Nazis and Neo-Klansmen with an apocalyptic rapture.

I am over-reacting, maybe?

  • He said that the President’s criticizing British Petroleum was un-American.  Does being American mean I have to applaud and support corporate greed that despoliates the earth? (Psssst, Randy, BP is headquartered in Switzerland to avoid US taxation).
  • Then he drew a line in the sand — saying that an individual’s right to be a racist is improperly impinged upon by the Civil Rights Act.  (If a black proprietor refused to serve a white man, I don’t believe Mr. Paul would be so sanguine about the protections of the Civil Rights Act.)

No, I am not overreacting.

After thousands of years of human civilization and evolution, it still all boils down to the epic battle between good and evil.  On one side of Mr. Paul’s line is our common humanity and sense of decency, justice and fair play.  All the things that — we say — define us as Americans.  On Rand Paul’s side of that line, there are only Freud’s id, chaos and brutality.

Good versus Evil.  Yes, it is that simple.

the fancy-shmancy life

Our son’s school benefit was last night.  The school caters to kids who learn differently from the “average child”.  I have never met this “average child” and I don’t believe one exists and if such a child exists, well, then, he or she would be just so — how do I say — incredibly average.  I just believe that schools are so overloaded that they can only handle children who fall within the least challenging bandwidth of childhood behaviors and needs. But I digress.

My son’s kind of school requires a huge amount of money to keep it going — over and above the king’s ransom we pay each year for tuition.   Usually, it is a cocktail party with slightly fancy hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction.  This year, however, two children attend the school whose parents have mega-star status.  So, they invited their pals to help out with the fundraising.  As a result, we attended a gala with Jon Stewart doing a stand up routine and Bruce Springsteen giving a musical performance.  Then followed by a dinner in a museum catered by NoBu.  (The one thing you know about the dinner is that everything was tasty but you leave the table hungry and wondering when dinner is really being served.)

I have never been to a concert.  Ever.  I know, people look at me in disbelief.  I don’t like crowds and I don’t like loud music.  So, it seemed ok that my first experience would be Bruce Springsteen having reached the age of Medicare and Social Security benefits.  At one point, he yelled at us, “loosen up, you stiffs!!”  Ok, that was embarrassing that a man nearly 20 years my senior is jamming and strutting all over the stage and we weren’t moving or standing, but we were all sucked into our fancy clothes that literally leave no wiggle room and so no loosening up could have happened without a seamstress on stand-by.

I guess it was kind of cool to have these performers in a small venue.  I love Bruce Springsteen.  I also love volume control.

POB (partner of blogger) and I are usually in bed by 10pm on the weekends.  We rolled in at 1am (and we left while others were still partying).  Our son woke up at the usual time, and G-d bless POB, she got up.  (I, however, did not.)

I was so hungry when our son ran into our room to wake me at 9am and then I realized why: we had a NoBu InSiDi (NoBu Insect-Sized-Dinner).  Had I thought of it, I would have eaten the garnish on the tables last night.  And I would have gone from table to table munching on the centerpiece flower arrangements.  No wonder I was dreaming about mutton chops (ok, I really have never eaten that) and getting in touch with my more animalistic traits deep in my genetic code.  In the end, I settled for cereal with fiber and some essential nutrients.  Nothing like beating your chest and immediately devolving into a whimper.

My son’s most excellent adventure

My son is an intrepid traveler.  His partner in crime is Cousin Gentle.

They boldly go where no one on our family has gone before — Staten Island. 

Now Staten Island — that is RED state country.  We descend from the red palette, too, but closer to the bluered (socialist) part of the spectrum.  The kind of red that would make today’s red staters would prefer to be dead (better than be red).

And these two did not just go to the ferry stop on the “other side” and then hurry back to the safety of our (Manhattan) island sanctuary.  No, these two Upper West Siders took the SIR — Staten Island Rail — to the end of the line, Tottenville.  You might be surprised that there are over 20 stops on the SIR and it takes an hour to go the length of that island.  

They stopped for pizza and the proprietor asked Cousin Gentle, “what country are you from?”  Cousin Gentle replied, “the Upper West Side”.  The proprietor nodded that he had heard of it.  Who knew you didn’t need a space rocket to visit Mars?

Apparently, Tottenville has a shore line and beach area and my son waded into the ocean not yet sullied by the oil spill.  Over dinner (back home in the bosom of our effete, white wine sipping, brie cheese eating, intellectual elitist Upper West Side), my son said, “Tottenville is just like East Hampton!!”  I looked at Cousin Gentle who whispered that he didn’t say that while in Staten Island (because those are fighting words there) and I checked that FOPOB (father of partner of blogger) didn’t hear that statement because, well, FOPOB has a beach house in East Hampton.  Honestly, I would rather risk offending FOPOB than inciting people to riot on Staten Island. 

There are so many sociological layers to my son’s statement.  I, however, will go with “my son, the pampered egalitarian”.  And leave it at that.

Justice, Souder and me

Representative Souder, a G-d fearing family values man, joins the Rogue’s Gallery of the sanctimonious hoisted on their own petards.  I am not gleeful.  I don’t relish another’s embarrassments and defeats — even those people who would deny me my civil rights.

Each one of these holier-than-thou sinners begs for forgiveness and feels entitled to redemption because aliens must have inhabited his body in order for him to behave so.  Do we as a society enable the hypocrisy by forgiveness and opportunities for redemption?  What if we required that each one of these-who-have-fallen-THUD!-from-Grace accept that he is not the interpreter of G-d’s wills, G-d’s ways and G-d’s Bible?  [That is a way lot of “G-d”s for a religious conscientious objector like me.]

If pride goeth before the fall, then humility will come after it but only if we demand it of those whom we forgive. Humility and a quest for understanding of our common humanity. And maybe we will achieve peace and justice for all.

25th Reunion

I have 5 weeks until my 25th college reunion.  I have 5 weeks to be slim, prosperous, toned and, maybe, un-gray.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute.  I was a crammer in college — I was still buying the books from the class syllabus three days before the final exam.  (And my GPA showed it.)

I am 46 and, with 5 weeks to go, here is my status:

Slim:  I am much slimmer now than I was in college, even though I have gained “more than a few” pounds in recent years.  I call it the Recession 8.  Better than the Freshman 15.  (I had come in with the pre-Freshman 30, so I don’t have college to blame.)  But, in truth, I look pretty slim.  So, in that box.

Prosperous:  Ok, things were better a few years ago, before people on Wall Street got stupid and greedy. But, while I don’t stack up to the crazy high-profile entrepreneurs in my class, I am really fortunate.  So, in that box.

Toned:  I want to be buff.  I don’t look bad, although there is a certain sag to the skin on my legs from my fat days.  And gravity does “weigh down” some erstwhile perky parts.  So no short shorts and no tank tops for me.  Anyway, after a certain age, a person looks ridiculous in that kind of outfit.  I lost this last week to having injured my hip and back (a little arthritis in the hip leads to compensating with other muscles that spasm which leads to crippling pain), and so I think buff is out of the question, but quietly toned is still possible.  So, X in this box (with an “*I don’t care anymore because I am not so shallow” followed by “**Does anyone outgrow that infantile sour grapes attitude? Surely not I”).

Un-gray: I am unconvinced on this.  Covering the gray requires upkeep even after the reunion. That is a huge commitment.  Still under advisement.  So put a ? in that box.

My son just walked in and kissed me.  He really wants to use the computer, but the kiss was also real.  That’s the things with kids — they take you as you are and they don’t put on the artifices that we adults do as naturally as we get dressed in the morning.  POB (partner of blogger) calls out to me and wants to know what we want to do for dinner tonight.  I remind her to call her dad about coming over for dinner tomorrow night with my dad and assorted relatives.

Now, I think, do I care if I am thin, prosperous, toned and un-gray?  Yes, but not because of reunion.  I am happy and I don’t envy anyone or want to be envied.  I simply want my family to be happy and healthy and safe.  I have that.  Add new box and put √ in it!!! (with an *”still would like to be slim, prosperous, toned and less gray”) .

[break for dinner out during which my son has a mother of all melt-downs and tests my resolve against spanking as a disciplinary tool.]

Ok, so my son was temporary invaded by an alien life form, and all because we cannot go to his choice of local restaurants (there were no tables available).  This is not my son (usually).   The following race through my mind: (i) aliens are clever, (ii) my parents grew up poor and would not abide such behavior in us, (iii) we knew not to exhibit such behavior and (iv) what have I done to create this monster?

Am I still happy and blessed?  Absolutely.  Am I pissed?  You betcha.  But keep the new box with the in it, and don’t forget the all-important asterisk.

If you love someone

If you love someone, then don’t make him or her executor of your will.

It is one of the most thankless jobs.  Sifting through the detritus of someone’s life is bad enough (you simply don’t need to know some things), but, then, you have to file tax returns and speak to the IRS because one never really leaves one’s affairs in order.  And there are clerical errors and the wrong tax identification numbers are submitted and life gets complicated and you remember that you love this person who died peacefully knowing all was in your care, and you know he or she would never have asked this of you had he or she known what it really meant.  [SIDEBAR: Ok, that was one of those crazy long sentences reserved only for established writers who look elegant in smoking jackets and cravats.  I am just a journeyman lawyer.  If I were Hemingway, I would continue on: “That was a damn good sentence.  A f@#$ing good sentence.  They opened a bottle of wine — a damn good bottle of wine —  and took turns taking swigs from the bottle because they were too proud of that f$%^ing sentence to move from the table.”]

I live my life so government stays far away from me, even as I am willing to pay more in taxes for better education, health care, etc.  I believe in Obama’s presidency and what he wants to accomplish because all of my grandparents were immigrants who struggled to provide a better life for their children, my parents.  And my parents embody the American Dream.  And I represent downward mobility or “regression to the mean” (which means that subsequent generations will achieve the stupidity of Joe the Plumber).  I support the “system” because it really can work (witness my parents and their entire generation in our extended family); I just work hard not to rely on the “system”. Yet now I have to deal with the government for the taxes on the estate of a person whose life is now reduced to a spreadsheet of dividend distributions and capital gains.

Ok, worse is to be guardian of a mentally incapacitated person.  I know someone who took on that burden and I believe there is a place in Heaven waiting for her after what I hope is a long, happy and healthy life on Earth.  But I digress.

POB (partner of blogger) believes that, in light of all of this, we need to rethink our financial future so that we give everything away except for two nickels at the second in time immediately before our deaths. That way, no one needs to do anything for us except have a little shiva cocktail party and light a Yahrzeit candle every now and again.  But the two nickels are really important to her.   I think she never wants anyone to say that we didn’t have “two nickels to rub together”.  Which is why I love her so.  She doesn’t want a “pot to piss in” because that is too crass.  She also expects “a roof over her head” so that doesn’t factor in (although she would consider a reverse mortgage so that there is no fuss about the homestead when we “go”).

She picks her aphorisms and saws to conjure a picture that we timed it all with precision and aforethought.  And she wants to live — and die — by them.  Of course, being the disaster planner that I am, I need to have only “two nickels to rub together” but also a sack of gold just in case.  Don’t tell her I have an extra stash, ok?

I guess the point — and I do have one — is that I am one of the lucky few who can be generally self-reliant and avoid government.  And, I have no expectations of an efficient government because I believe that is frankly impossible to achieve and unrealistic to expect.  If we were looking for efficiencies, we would ascribe to the Wall Street model and we know how that turned out.  No, government is tedious, hopelessly inefficient, and sometimes catches the do-gooders in the web of bureaucracy.  It is easy to complain about government.  It is hard to defend government.  There is a lot of paperwork to get benefits, but remember you are asking for money from the government.  It should be hard to get.

So, SOB (sister of blogger), because I love you, I will relieve you of the executrix role.  You are asking, “no, really, why?” Ok the answer is: (i) you’ll torture me for it and I will never get the last word for ALL ETERNITY and (ii) Mom would not want this to come between her two girls.  I believe BOB (brother of blogger) is also protected because Mom would not stand for that either.

Did you think there would be a point to this? Are you a new reader?

Don’t cry for me, Argentina . . .

No, not “Evita!” the musical sensation of the 1970s about Eva Peron.

South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is living out loud and proud, trying to patch things up with his girlfriend.  It was all a misunderstanding — when we heard Appalachian trail, he said “Argentinian tail”. [see]

But, at least he isn’t lying anymore and he maintains contact with his government on his weekends away.  If only other “family values” candidates would be open about marital issues, gay issues and the tough stuff of life that affects all of us, maybe we can re-calibrate expectations of our politicians and ourselves.  I am not saying that infidelity and lying are ok. I am saying live the truth so you don’t have to lie.  So many less lives get shattered that way.

He behaved like a child but he is trying to live as grown-up now.  It is a good start.

Some questions actually tell us so much about ourselves

Poor Solicitor General Elena Kagan.  Just because she is single, unattractive, overweight and intellectual, she must be a lesbian.

Laura Ingraham is single and, to some, intellectual.  So, she isn’t unattractive or overweight.  Is she . . . .?

So, former Secretary of State Condi Rice is single and intellectual.  She is not unattractive or overweight either.  Is she. . . ?

Ok, I get it.  If Elena Kagan were hot — or at least not unattractive and overweight, it wouldn’t be an issue.

If she were a man, like Justice Souter, no one would raise the issue.  How do I know?  Because no one did (loudly, anyway).

Has anyone looked at all of the unattractive and overweight women who are married and heterosexual?  Has anyone looked at all the gorgeous heterosexual women who are single?  And all the gorgeous lesbians who are “married”?

Maybe she is; maybe she isn’t.  But if unattractive and overweight were the markers, there would be only five heterosexuals in middle America.

Who will be the first politician to own up to this attitude?  And this “litmus test” only pertains to women.  Overweight and unattractive men?  Just look at the Congress.

GOP senators don’t have gaydar.  How do I know?   They didn’t figure out about Family Research Council George Rekers, who hired a gay male escort to carry his bags on a trip to Europe.  Or that televangelist.  Or the Senator who sits wide in aiport bathrooms.

Democrats assume that the Republicans will raise the issue, so they — including the White House — are “getting out ahead of it”.  In some publications, the Democrats are being criticized for not getting out ahead of it sooner.

So, even among the enlightened of our generation — including those in the White House — it is still a “smear” to say that someone is gay.   And being gay is deviant but fixable, or so says the Family Research Council.  Maybe it should rethink its view in light of the scandal rocking its founder.

We will allow gays to serve in the military so long as they hide under a rock.  Think of the patriotism of these men and women.  They are willing to shed their blood and give their lives to a country that won’t allow them to live, fight and die in dignity.

Aint that America.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is about me as a child and my mother as the celebrated one.  The one day when we muster up $5.00 for a card and still she did the dishes.  Ok, I am living in the past.  The past is easier; ok, only when nostalgia wipes away the discord and the angst.

So, POB (partner of blogger) and I are the moms of our generation (note that I didn’t say “mothers” — the connotations can be so tragic).  And like our mothers before us, we got cards and did the dishes.  This is how you make people feel good about dishes, you call it a “tradition”.  SOB (sister of blogger) tried to convince POB to have take-out.  POB, in tribute and in astonishing similarity to MOPOB (mother z”l of POB), refused take-out.  POB opted for a horrendously, complicated — and delicious — dinner. (Note to self: block the Epicurious app on her iTouch.)

Between POB’s thinking of MOPOB and my thinking about MOB (mother z”l of blogger), we made quite a pair.  Being a mom is the best thing I do; it is just that I want my mom in the world.  Ok, enough self pity (for now; check back later).

So, we had most of the usual complement of family for Sunday night dinner.  Notable exceptions were a Cousin Hockey Player, and Cousin Gentle who visits his mother’s grave (MOCG) on Mother’s Day.  The warning was clear: be there or be talked about.  Email me if you want the minutes of the family meeting.

FOB (father of blogger) is turning 90 this year.  In an effort to have an intimate setting, the guest list was cut off on a generational level.  Grandnephews and nieces are not invited.  However, my father felt bad about certain members of that generation not being invited.  So, I was designated as the most direct and “Larry King”-like child to dispense the news.  FOB had to use the “facilities” as a ruse to find out whether I told his grandniece that he loved her but, in the interests of familial harmony, needed to exclude her from the celebration.  Meanwhile, I wondered why I was escorting FOB to the bathroom because I am not the MD in the family.  Does anyone else have this family or are we just nuts?

Back to dinner.  Dear Cousin Gentle: HOSOB (husband of SOB) is winning the race for who can eat the most.  He had two helpings on two different place mats (I won’t delve into that):

And there was your plate, sad and empty:

And did we mention the wine and the dessert?

Because you had a good reason for not coming (you were visiting MOCG), we didn’t talk about you — too much. But where were you for the bird walk lead by HOSOB?  Two family gatherings missed.  I understand through the family grapevine that you are alive and well (mother and father of Cousin Hockey Player), so HOSOB promises to let you even the score next time in the food eating contest.  You know that I need to know you’ve had at least one home-cooked meal a week.

Oh, and Cousin Hockey Player, I talked to your mother today.  Yes, I did.  But since you weren’t here last night, you’ll just never know about our conversation. Be there or be afraid.  Very afraid. (Ok, don’t be afraid; I didn’t rat you out as the incredibly hung-over Cousin in an earlier blog.   Ooooops.)