Excuse me, did you just call me a whore???

Ok ok ok ok ok ok .

I was nearly getting beheaded on the subway by the Grizzly Adams-sized backpack being wielded by a tall, outdoorsy-looking tourist (why is he in NYC, do you think?).

Then I take a cab and after repeatedly asking the cab driver not to talk on his cell phone, because my head was pounding (concussion?), and having him slam the divider shut, I got angry.  I opened the divider and told him that as a matter of law, he had to stop talking on the phone.  He denied he was talking on the phone.  Maybe he was talking to his demons, but I am not a shrink.  He started speeding to my destination because he was angry at me.  I yelled “Stop!!” followed by a heart-felt “WHAATTT IS WRONG WITH YOU???”

He called me a whore.  Ok, no one has ever called me a whore (or at least not in such a dismissive, contemptuous tone).  I started yelling that he needs to learn how to drive, etc., but no cursing.  I was being as polite as possible under the circumstances.  He jerked the car forward and started to call me things related to my womanhood in a very condescending way.  Such denigration of women was so foreign to me that I was a little gobsmacked and so I didn’t end up denting the car.

I believe that people can find common ground, but right then I wanted to haul him over to the police and have him stripped of his hack license (assuming he had one).  I think I would still want to kick him you-know-where even when I calm down.

I lodged a complaint with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.  I am ready to appear at the hearing.

WikiLeaks made the world way more dangerous.

Mr. Wikileaks, the self-appointed arbiter of world politics, is a cyber-terrorist and not a crusader.   But the information is not revelatory; but its publication is like yelling fire in a crowded theater.   

And really, is the world a safer place because we know that a diplomat thinks Silvio Berlusconi is feckless and a womanizer? Or that Quaddafi travels with a voluptuous nurse?  This suggests that Mr. WikiLeaks is out to embarrass people and not to save the world.

And does the world (and specifically terrorists) need to know that the US is SECRETLY (oops, WAS SECRETLY) trying to secure some of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal?   And did anyone doubt that the Afghan government is corrupt to its core?

To review.  Before this weekend, we knew, among other things, that:

  1. China is our biggest creditor;
  2. China can be an immense military and economic enemy if threatened;
  3. China views North Korea as a buffer between it and the Western sphere of influence in the Korean peninsula;
  4. South Korea is one of our biggest trading partners and buyer of US goods and thus key to our economic recovery;
  5. North Korea is ruled by lunatics and they have a nuclear arsenal; 
  6. Iran probably has or is about to have nuclear weapons making the Middle East evermore the powder keg of the world;
  7. Secretly every ruler in the Middle East hates Ahmedinejad and wants Iran disarmed;
  8. The US cannot afford to fight another war; and
  9. Hamid Karzai and his merry band of traffickers run one of the most corrupt governments in one of the most ungovernable areas of the world.

Now we know that:

  • The US and South Korea are planning for a united Korea (assuming North Korea implodes) allied with the US which will freak out China;
  • Some Middle East countries (other than Israel) hate Iran enough to want the US to attack;
  • Iran is really close to having nuclear weapons; and
  • Karzai’s brother regularly shakes down countries and is paid millions of dollars in unmarked bags.

Net Gain:  Zero Information. 

Net Loss:  Now countries may have to respond with harsh words, sanctions or firepower because delicate diplomatic balances have been disrupted and bonds of trust breached.  Gee, just what we needed. 

Ramifications:  In this world, this diplomatic crisis could as easily result in political breakthroughs or peace or devolve into war and/or global economic collapse.  

My sister-in-law, the keeper of the flame

SILOB (sister-in-law of blogger) and I don’t have much in common.  I don’t know that much about her, mostly because BOB (brother of blogger) has banned potentially touchy topics, such as sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, religion, politics and the first-coming-versus-second-coming discussion that can be VERY tricky among Jews and Christians.  So, there isn’t much of interest to talk about, except our kids (my nephews are FABULOUS in case anyone wants to know).  I may have failed to mention that I curse like a sailor which may or may not be offensive to her.  BOB insulates her so well from us that we assume that she really doesn’t like the New York family.

Except for my mother.  When my mother died, SILOB said simply and beautifully that she was the daughter-in-law that my mother never expected (not Jewish, GOP, Texan) and my mother nevertheless threw her arms around her and made her welcome.  POB (partner of blogger) could relate; my mother — having had two girls and one boy — never expected to have TWO daughters-in-law.

Families are complicated.  Love isn’t as complicated.  What is complicated is what you do about the things you don’t like — or don’t know — about the people you love.   My mother seemed to have bridged the divides with her daughters-in-law well before her death.  So much so, that SILOB walked 60 miles in San Diego for the Susan G. Komen organization in my mother’s memory.

So, EIGHT years after my — OUR — mother’s death, SILOB keeps the dream of a cure for breast cancer alive.  She literally walked the walk.  She keeps my mother’s memory alive in a positive way (SOB (sister of blogger) and I try to, but sometimes, we just wallow in self-pity.)

It is a testament to SILOB and my mother and their relationship that eight years on, she fights breast cancer “for Elsie” [our mom].

I haven’t tried very hard to get to know SILOB these past 13 years.  I have allowed every inadvertent or intentional rebuff (mostly from BOB) be an excuse not to try harder.  But there is something very basic we share — the memories of Mom.   And that is one of the strongest ties I have to most people in my life.

To SILOB, the keeper of the flame and the fight for a breast cancer-free world.

Thank you, Bristol


Dear Bristol:

I was having a really bad few days.  But your trials and tributions on “Dancing With the Stars” made me realize that I take life and politics too seriously. 
I have never seen the show but popular culture has a way of seeping into my protected sanctuary.
And we learned again that good looks and popularity only get you so far.  And not always to the winner’s circle. 
And, Bristol, dear, no one hates you.  We don’t conflate you and your mom.  We hate HER. 
Most teen moms don’t have the resources you have, so they couldn’t be away from their little ones to go on, let’s say, for example, a television contest show.  Maybe, that will be the focus of your energies — bringing opportunities to young mothers. 
Use your fame for good, not for your mother.
Anyway, thanks for the levity. 
~ Blogger

Carly Simon and music-to-fling-yourself-out-the-window-by

Dear Mom:

These days have been rough with Dad.  Your mind was strong and your body was weak; his body is strong but his mind is fraying around the edges.  After a day insulating him from predators, I had to listen to Carly Simon, about life being eternal and love being immortal.  And then I had to self-torture more with her song about the death of her mother.  Not satisfied with this self-flagellation, I had to listen to Joni Mitchell sing the Circle Game.  Then, I had to go back to Carly and listen to Anticipation.  You get the gist of my emotional day.

Dad is in good hands, I promise.  We are protecting him.  He is relieved and grateful for us.  I said to him, “Remember when you said to me once, when the world was too much with me, ‘take my hand and you will be safe’ as we walked to the all night pharmacy so I could get some sedation and sleep?”  He said, “yes,” although I am not sure he did.  So I said, “Dad, you take my hand or you run to my office and we will protect you.  It is our turn now.”

The circle is complete.  Dad has to hang around until 120 because that is how old G-d let Moses live and he has to balance out your dying at 76.

I don’t care how crazy or forgetful he gets.  He needs to be in the world.  And you know how he pushes ALL my buttons and makes me crazy.  And I lose patience.  And he knows that I love him and SOB (sister of blogger) loves him and BOB (brother of blogger) and POB (partner of blogger) and WOBOB (wife of BOB) and his grandchildren and his nephews and nieces and friends all love him.  And he is not alone.  And never will be.

I miss you more than you can know, Mom.   It would be great if you could do something about the START treaty and the DREAM Act.  Also, whisper in Sarah Palin’s ear that she should stay a reality TV star.  Given the day, I know I will see you in my dreams.


Dinner on a Saturday night in the big city.

It is Saturday night and POB (partner of blogger) and I have a babysitter, so we can have dinner out.

We take a long walk and happen upon a new-ish Italian place.  It is a double store-front sized space, with tables too close together to meet fire safety standards.  We know it will get crowded at prime time which is within the half hour.  But we are in the patch on the West Side that is a restaurant wasteland.

So we squeeze in between two tables and are close enough to share their food and, unfortunately, their conversations.

POB and I focus on each other and our conversation but the random bits and pieces of the surrounding conversations threaten to enthrall me in the way that bad movies are so horrible that they become intriguing.  Just a flavor of the conversations:

The guy at the table to my right, who cannot afford school or dinner (prior soupçon), says to his date, “I am trying to diversify myself,” in trying to explain why he can’t finish any particular course of study.  (I, of course, want to suggest remedial English because using big words in the wrong way is not really a career advancement technique.)  He goes on to talk about how netting $1million after taxes each year is barely enough to cover living expenses and school for your kids.  Hence his self-diversification because he is thinking really, really, really big.  Makes me wonder whether dinner will stay in my tummy.  But enough scatological musings.

A woman to my left is discussing a terrible tragedy about a family.  However, her point is that she is so personally affected by it (and so her friend should soothe her) because her cousin’s best friend’s sister lives in the same town.  Ok, somehow the tragedy is all about her.  I am staring at this woman a little too long with this gobsmacked look on my face, so much so that POB has to say, “Eyes on me.  Bring the focus back.”  In this instance, she is not out of line.

But, I digress . . . .

Back to the freakish restaurant. The food is quite tasty and the service staff is earnestly incompetent.  So earnest, in fact, that you think they are trying to get everything wrong. For comparison purposes, service staff needs more experience to reach the level of practiced, aggressive incompetence that would qualify for a job at Duane Reade, Rite Aid or CVS.

Luckily we are not in a hurry.  In fact we are taking our time because we need to make sure our son is in bed and falling asleep before we come home, or we lose one of the perks of a night out — no bedtime drama, etc. So, the earliest we can get home is 9:30.  If the service were not so head-shakingly bad, we might have stayed for dessert.

When we try to ask for the check, we end up pleading for someone to ring up our bill.  We couldn’t get anyone’s attention for twelve or so minutes.  I am handed someone else’s bill, for about 1/3 of what our bill ought to be.  It takes me another seven or so minutes to get someone’s attention to get me the right bill.  After ten minutes, I am given the right bill.  I pay cash but I need some change.  We wait, and wait and wait and wait — ten minutes.  I cannot imagine that in their earnest incompetence, any of them expected a 25% tip (if I didn’t get change).

I am finally able to flag down someone in this small (did I mention tiny?) restaurant to ask for my change.  The service person nods, and five minutes pass, and — viola! — I am handed the first bill again.  AAAAAaaargh.  The service person tries to dash away.  At this point, I yell in an annoyed, commanding tone, “WAIT!! STOP!! COME BACK!! I want my change.  I do not want another person’s bill AGAIN!!”

Then three people come over, each wanting to handle the problem.  All of sudden, everyone wants to pay attention.  I tell everyone to go away and designate someone to bring the change.  Finally, the change comes.  Another five or so minutes have passed.

Then I start to calm down and feel bad that they are so inexperienced at their incompetence that maybe they need the bigger tip to take some classes to perfect their art.  Really, I feel bad.  I turn to POB and ask, should I leave 20%?  She laughs at me.  She wonders if I have reached the tipping point of dementia.  She reminds me that we have spent more time waiting for and paying the bill than ordering and eating.  I remind her that we couldn’t go home anyway because our son is not yet asleep. So, they did us a favor by forcing us to stay and giving us a bloggable moment.

I still say the bigger tip was in order.

The Tipping Point

Over the past 15 years, I have, sadly, observed at close range the effects of disease on those I love.

There seems to be a tipping point at which the disease starts to win.  It can’t be determined purely as a medical, or scientific, matter.  It is an internal psycho-social-spiritual moment in which that person stops living with, say, cancer, and starts dying from it.  From the outside, that formerly healthy-person-fighting-a-deadly-invasion starts looking and behaving like a sick person who is defined and constrained by the disease.

Even mental disease is that way, in some senses.  For a while, you see your aging loved one as a capable person with some lapses and then, one day, the lapses define the person.  But the psycho-social-spiritual moment doesn’t come from within the sick person.  It comes for the family.  We must determine the tipping point because our loved one cannot.

Worse yet, our loved one doesn’t understand that the tipping point came yesterday, and with it, soon-to-be imposed constraints on our loved one’s autonomy but not, I hope, on his dignity.

Captive audience

We all have experienced the hassles and indignities of air travel these days.  And, of course, the screaming babies, the smelly row mates, the loud talkers and the drunks have also challenged our coping mechanisms.

But on my flight this morning, I think I witnessed a new high in lows.  Two young women friends are seated in the same row (behind me), one on the aisle, and the other by the window.  A stranger is sitting between them.  The two friends are chatting loud enough so they can hear each other, and as a result, as can everyone seated in nearby rows.

The young woman on the aisle said to the stranger, apparently pointing to her friend by the window, “we’re friends, so we’re just going to talk over you.”  STOP THE MUSIC.  Whaaaat?  As if what is good for her is good for a stranger?

The stranger offers to switch seats and the young woman says, “No, I need an aisle seat and my friend needs to be by the window.”  So, what you are really going to talk over this poor woman?  As it turned out, yes, yes, they were.

I thought to say something but then decided that it is not my job (although it is my secret thrill) to correct every display of atrocious manners.  Some wrongs will have to sort themselves out without my uninvited intervention.  The real reason is that I am not sure whether reprimanding another passenger for crimes against civility would cause the TSA to take me forcibly from the plane.  And I really wanted to get to the office, get some things done and get home to my family at a reasonable hour.

So, I put in my ear plugs and fell asleep.

A true 40andover moment

I was having dinner with a friend and we were talking about early days of our relationships with our spouses.

She reminded me that there was a time when we had to wait until after 11pm for the phone rates to go down to call our friends/boyfriends/girlfriends because phone calls were expensive during the day and in the evenings.  This would be like explaining LPs to an MP3 generation.

And calling your parents “collect” on Sunday night from the payphone on the hallway of your college dorm because few people had phones in their rooms and you didn’t always have enough change to drop into the payphone??  And how you couldn’t talk for long because people were waiting to make calls and the collect call was three times as expensive as a regular call?  Try explaining this concept to someone with unlimited rollover minutes and texts who often considers the potential benefits of having the hands-free ear pieces surgically attached.

We have come so far and gone nowhere at the same time.

I still don’t get ending Daylight Savings Time

POB (partner of blogger) is an early riser.  She LOVES the end of Daylight Savings Time because now a few rays that illuminate an otherwise dark sky in her mornings.  

Except it is still dark when she gets up to go to the gym.  So dark in fact that when, on Monday night/early Tuesday morning, she gets up and goes into the bathroom and starts brushing her teeth, etc.,  I could not imagine what she is doing.  I hear her moving around our room.  Drawers opening and closing.  I sit up and see a fully clothed POB in gym gear.  I turn on the light and look at the clock and look at her.  She looks at me and then looks at the clock.  It is 12:17am.  I look at her.  She looks at me.  We look at the clock.  We take turns looking at each of the three clocks in the room, all of which miraculously show the same time.  This continues for what seems like hours but was in fact only seconds or nanoseconds (because everyone was back in jammies by 12:20am). 

Finally, POB says, “Ok, I did just get ready for the gym in the middle of the night.  But it IS usually dark out when I get dressed.”  (As a post-script, she got up and went to the gym on Tuesday morning — she is truly amazing.)

Then, on Wednesday I have to leave the house by 6:30am for a flight to Chicago.  It is barely dawn.  I spend the day in Chicago, which is an hour earlier, but still it gets dark at 4:30pm (not that that is relevant).  This morning I have to leave the hotel at 6:30am in Chicago for my flight back to New York and yes, you guessed it, dawn was just breaking.

My son gets up at 6:30am for school.  It is dark.  Most people I know get up around that time for work (I, however, do NOT). 

So, remind me again, how many more people benefit from the early morning daylight that justifies the sad feelings when twilight comes at 4:30pm?