Posts

Showing posts from April, 2010

PREPARE FOR LIFT-OFF

It’s time to go, time for the dark side of the moon. That would be the days spent in our van, on the Interstate between Florida and Michigan. Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio—here we come.

Please understand: “dark side of the moon” is not meant to suggest some unflattering opinion of these states. It just indicates that, like astronauts facing the dark side in actual terms, we will be cut off, a human caesura in the space-time continuum, floating in relative silence as we watch what lies outside our porthole. With the added bonus of not needing to read or write anything.

But first, some house-cleaning.

--I almost peed in my pants.
--Sorry.
--No, it’s all right. But when it happens, there’s no preparation, no intro for what’s about to happen. All at once comes this chesty, Robert Goulet-John Raitt broadway voice belting out something. I dropped my toothbrush.
--I’m sorry. I knew what was happening when I heard the choking sounds. You really do get hysterical, you collapse.
--What can I …

"HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE" (THANK YOU JEAN PAUL SARTRE)

If something like this never happened to you, good.

Barbara calls our cul de sac in Naples The Dead Zone. That’s because, with two notable exceptions our neighbors are either out of town most of the time, or families have inherited the property and are trying to sell it, or the residents are in town, but only so to speak. Or, they have finally succumbed to the facts of life, and are set up for the last lap of their run in the very posh assisted-living operation waiting patiently at one end of our development.

Such an atmosphere can be depressing, but for us it also has an important upside. We like our privacy, our peace and quiet, and we have had both since moving in. Then the villa two doors away sold. I introduced myself to the wife one afternoon. With flame-red hair and blazing porcelain caps, she came off as bouncy and appealing. New blood, I thought. Much needed here in The Dead Zone.

And then the New Blood spread its wings. Or so I thought.


--The new people.
--Which ones?
-…

"FIRST, LET'S HANG ALL THE TEACHERS"

Ever since the debacle that was the 2000 election—you know, the one that saw Al Gore defeated by hanging chads and five members of the Supreme Court--Florida has been an especially newsworthy state. Tea Partiers are much in evidence, and have had a lot to do with forcing Republican governor Charlie Crist to consider running for the Senate as a Moderate. That’s because he’s not “pure” enough for conservatives.

The strongest evidence that Crist is not fit came last week when he vetoed a bill to eliminate teacher tenure, and tie teacher pay to student test scores. Right wingers love this sort of thing: it’s driven by their favorite Platonic ideal--free markets. I had to write about it. NOTE: Golden Apples are awarded in Naples, Florida to top-rated teachers.

------------------------------------------------------------


In chapter four of The Dilbert Principle, “Great Lies of Management,” author/cartoonist Scott Adams examines the thirteen bogus assertions relied on most often by manag…

BOTTOM FEEDERS

Blogging affords excellent opportunities for garrulous senior citizens to hone their typing skills. As a newly retired person, I honed mine in pre-blogging days by writing letters to the editor of the Naples (Florida) Daily News. Reading the feverish rants of right-wingers did it to me. People for instance who denounced talk of global warming, then pointed to heavy snow in northern states to support their position. Reading such “thoughts” day after day, I lost patience and sent off responses.

But I came to see the futility in this: the mad hatters on the right were impervious to factual arguments (it snows when the temperature rises, you dunce you). So, I turned to other topics. Most recently, The Daily News published a letter of mine calling for a more dog-friendly policy in Naples. I argued that since the real work of dogs in our time is to serve as companions—mental-health care givers—it made sense for dog owners to be allowed to share public places with their leashed pets.…

MORE MUSIC: JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE

More and more often, the hectoring, demanding voices that deliver the evening news turn us off. Wolf Blitzer was once a fairly responsible on-air journalist. Now he’s a ringmaster, a carnival barker. The same holds true for the crew on MSNBC. Chris, Keith and Rachel—there’s plenty of talent to go around, but deploying it night after night in a ceaseless news cycle turns everything into white noise. As for Fox, the only reason to watch Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly is to prep yourself for a colonoscopy.

So, before and during dinner Barbara and I often put on some music. One night, we were listening to tunes Johnny Mathis had recorded over fifty years ago. The quality of his voice and the orchestrations were remarkable to us, a comfort that brought solace. We needed some, after news of a horrible natural disaster (the earthquake in Haiti), and two that were man-made: a male pinup elected to the U.S. Senate, and a stake driven by the five conservative members of the Supreme Cour…

POP CULTURE: THE LIMITS OF GREATNESS

Barbara enjoys popular music more than I do (I prefer keyboard jazz), but we have both remained fans of the great names from our younger days--The Beatles, Stones, Carly Simon and others. Especially we share a love of Ray Charles. How is it possible to listen to, say, “Georgia” or “Hit the Road, Jack,” and not be moved or made to smile?

Getting old with music and musicians makes these associations all the more affecting. Over drinks, we recently listened to a CD of duets Charles recorded before his death, “Genius Loves Company,” released in 2004. As always, the music touched us. But whereas some artists’ voices age wonderfully, taking on rich, new qualities, others don't. It can be painful when favorite singers at the end of their careers test your loyalty. And make you think about your own future.

--It’s really a great album, don’t you think?
--Yes, I do. Very good. Now this is who?
--Diana Krall
--They must’ve been fighting each other to be paired up with him. I mean t…

HEROES IN WORD AND DEED

The Masters is over, but the most recent controversy surrounding Tiger Woods is not. This one has to do with a stark black-and-white Nike ad, in which the voice of Woods’ deceased father Earl demands to know of his son whether he’s learned anything lately. The commercial ends with Woods, somber-faced and saying nothing, still squarely centered on the viewer’s TV screen.

Although the ad’s been called weird and creepy, it’s also been described as one more from Nike that does what good ads should, gain attention and create a buzz. Either way, it provokes questions.

The first has to do with exploiting a dead father’s voice to help shore up a son’s shaken reputation and lucrative contract with Nike. Is this OK? On one hand, nobody made a fuss when Natalie Cole sang duets with her long-gone father. That, too, had to do with a child’s career being enhanced or promoted by using a dead parent’s voice. On the other hand something tells us a mute Tiger being admonished by his recently de…

BREAKING NEWS: GROWING OLD WITH JESSE

--How do they do it?
--Do what?
--Get Jesse Jackson so fast.
--You mean this thing with the governor of Virginia.
--The governor, the tea partiers smearing Obama. Any race-related breaking news story. Within hours--no, within seconds Jesse’s in a network or cable news studio.
--Providing grave-faced observations.
--For years. Decades. I’ve grown old with Jesse.
--We all have. First the Civil Rights Movement, then globe-trotting to trouble spots. Running for president
--That’s our Jesse.
--He’s no fool, though.
--He most certainly isn’t. I haven’t really heard much of what he says for the last ten or fifteen years. Because he’s a rerun for me now, and I tune out. But the very fact he’s still in there punching, still on every TV news operation’s Rolodex is a testament to longevity.
--It’s really true. You have to be built to last to be on after all these years. Even after you’re overheard saying you’d like to cut off the future president’s balls. Even after that, they’re still setting a…

WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM FOR CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH

There’s no point in repeating what’s been said about how half the population of his state—that is, the 500,000 slaves who lived in Virginia at the time of the Civil War--somehow slipped Governor Bob McDonnell’s mind when he proclaimed April Confederate History Month.

And it shouldn’t need to be said that informing people about Confederate history is a good thing, or that using a state’s history to promote tourism is a legitimate role for a governor.

But something does need to be added: no politician of high rank, certainly not the governor of one of the fifty states, is ever solely or even principally responsible for what he does or says. What this means is that we must assume the 500,000 slaves either slipped the minds of all those who make up McDonnell’s circle of advisors and handlers, or it registered with them, but got shelved. Those are the only two ways their boss could have been allowed to blunder the way he did.

Think about it: think about all the meetings and chalk talks, a…

OF BIRTHDAY CAKES AND PEEPS: ANOTHER ADDRESS TO CROSS OFF YOUR LIST

In a few weeks, Barbara and I will leave Florida and return to Michigan. There, a really daunting task awaits us: trying to sell a tatty old four-bedroom colonial full of charm but with few other inducements. That is, inducements to buy, which assumes there are people still alive who can qualify for a mortgage. If the whole country is punch drunk from the collapse in real estate, the Detroit area is down for the count.

Perhaps as a way of persuading ourselves there's hope, late last fall we started looking at apartments. If nothing else, we thought this process would get us started imagining ourselves in different digs, digs demanding a huge, sudden leap in the level of rigor and self-discipline we bring—OK, fail to bring--to the world of stuff.


--Thanks for baking me a cake.
--Well, it’s your birthday.
--Thank you for making me a real homemade cake.
--So to speak. A real mix made at home, anyway.
--You know, you’ve never said a word about those apartments we looked at.
--Whic…

THE NEXT GENERATION

For what seems all too few spring breaks, we have enjoyed the company of two of our grandchildren here in Florida. But time is the evil genius that brings adolescence, and we have reluctantly waved goodbye for a few years, as they extend their range to places like New York City.

But we’re resourceful. For four days, we had company, friends from Florida’s Panhandle. Like us, they have grandchildren, and we arranged for them to bring theirs, so we could have our own spring break from ourselves.

There were three, all different, all high energy. It was great fun, not only having them under but also raising our roof. When at last our revels ended, they didn’t want to leave. When you’re old, that’s one of the better compliments you can be paid: a little girl you met three days ago plops down next to you and asks if she can stay.


--The peace that passeth all understanding.
--I feel stunned. Do you feel stunned?
--I feel exhausted.
--The house seems so big to me. Empty. No one’s her…

EASTER TEA PARTY PROMO

“Addiction” refers to a battle between reason and dependency, in which dependency wins. Regrettably, the term applies to me: reason tells me it’s a waste of my evermore precious time to read the letters-to-the-editor page of the Naples Daily News (or to contribute to it, for that matter). But I am addicted.

Lately, in addition to the letters, the paper has taken to fleshing out its pages with numerous “guest commentary” pieces. Like the letters, these articles often give voice to right-wing positions and enthusiasms. One of them, the Tea Party movement was taken up by a man who, like many in Naples, is retired but once ran Something Big.
Knowing better, I read his rant, then went through withdrawal.

--Were you saying something in here?
--Yes, but not to you.
--Oh. Just thinking out loud?
--So to speak.
--Uh oh, the paper.
--I was reacting to news that “unbridled progressive demagogues” have been inflating the size of government and creating endless new entitlements through health …

MERCANTILE AMERICA CONCLUDED: A FRANCHISE IS BORN

--Thanks for cooking again tonight. It’s really my turn.
--Happy to.
--There’s something about a man in an apron.
--You always said it turned you on to see a man on his knees with a bucket and rag.
--What’s that on your chest?
--I’m sorry, it’s drool. I was testing the sauce.
--That’s OK, I don’t mind.
--Motherhood gets you ready for almost anything, doesn’t it? Even drooling men in aprons. It’s not such a big thing, is it?
--Of course not.
--Think of Pavarotti, think of Satchmo. Both of them were big droolers, always with a handkerchief.
--Exactly. When I start my reality show about being a movie extra, you can open a boutique. Drool Hankies. It would be a small shop, like those Tie Tack stores they used to have in malls. Or the Sunglass Shack. You could be in all the shopping centers, it might catch on with rappers and hip hop culture.
--Very enterprising, I like it. Bling-related handkerchiefs. I would market Drool Hankies as a high-end fashion statement. I could have P Didd…