Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another Weekend Sports Rant

ESPN is all a-buzz this morning about the fact that just as Tiger Wood was about to make a shot yesterday, a photographer took a photo, causing his camera to click in a way that may have distracted the World No. 1, and may ultimately cause his 2010 earnings to be only 75,000 times yours or my own, rather than 75,020. I was struck yet again by the fact that in the posh white sports, the country club sports — golf and tennis — onlookers are expected to maintain reverential silence, whereas in sports played by the rabble — basketball and football, the international kind — it’s expected that at game-deciding moments the crowd will scream themselves hoarse, wave banners, and blow with all their might into their vuvuzelas.

And let’s be honest — not just game-deciding moments, but moments that may determine whether a young athlete lives or dies; in some of the hotter-blooded countries, young footballers who’ve missed crucial penalty kicks have been assassinated. And if they’re not gunned down, they have to expect that for the rest of their lives people will spit on their shoes in disgust when they’re introduced.

Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. How much money does anybody need? Why can’t one of these guys just once, instead of putting on a hair shirt to appease their corporate benefactors, say what they really think about having been caught with their dicks in a bunch of sluts? How about, instead of enrolling in classes that will supposedly cure him of his sex addiction, Tiger says, “Like most heterosexual men my age, I really love pussy, and variety too. Luscious young hotties of a sort who wouldn’t even talk to ordinary guys are likely to keep making themselves available to me because I’m fantastically rich, and fantastically good at a sport a lot of other men play, and I’m likely to keep shooting them full of hot frothy semen, so deal with it.” As I’ve said in these pages before, I think Nike and Chicken of the Sea and all the others would probably fire him as their spokesperson, but countless million of American men would think more highly of him than ever for being forthright.

While we’re here, I object to golfers being referred to as athletes. I was about to write that only sportsmen whose opponents are actively trying to confound and even humiliate — a defensive lineman who tries to take off a quarterback’s end, for instance, or a pitcher who tries to blow a 96-mile-per-hour fastball past a batter — qualify as athletes, but that would leave out gymnasts and sprinters and so on, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

But it will open again as I address the herd mentality that’s so prevalent in sports. I would bet my last cent that if, in 1995, you’d told professional footballers, for instance, that they’d commemorate one another’s terrific plays by jumping up and bumping chests in midair, they’d have taken your head off for impeaching their sexuality.

I have been watching the Little League World Series with interest. I just love when the team from Chinese Taipei (as opposed to what, Peruvian Taipei?) humiliates American teams, because the American boys remind me so vividly of those who picked me begrudgingly for their teams at school when I too was 12. Weep, Jared, weep!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Love at 83 - Part 4

[Please read Parts 1-3 first!]

In my long lifetime, I’ve seen lots of different kinds of couples getting stared at and jeered walking down the street together. When I was young, a man being smaller than his wife was all it took to inspire wisecracks. Later, a white person with a Negro, as they were called (with respect!) at the time, was enough to make steam come out of rednecks’ ears, and cruel epithets out of their mouths. Nowadays, you can’t walk a block without seeing an interracial couple, often with gorgeous like mocha kiddies, but if a queer couple should venture holding hands out of their own part of town, they’re apt to get bashed.

I’ve come to be able to sympathize retroactively with all these different kinds of couples since Consuelo and I started dating. If a black man and a white woman caught a world of flak in 1965, I can’t imagine that it was an awful lot more than a girl in her early 30s and a fellow of 83 caught in 2010. A fair number of people either didn’t notice, or pretended not to, but you should have seen the disgusted scowls on the others, and heard the things they said, one of the gentlest of which was, “If she was my daughter, I’d break both his arms.” They called her a gold-digger. They called me a cradle-robber. They called both of us perverts. I was glad Consuelo didn’t understand a word of it, though I couldn’t dare hope she failed to understand the hateful expressions.

My kids were predictable skeptical about the romance. Todd set up a conference in Yahoo Messenger for the four of us. By the time I figured out how to use the damned thing, they’d started without me. They agreed that Consuleo must be after me for my money. It was very heartening knowing the little brats didn’t think a woman could be attracted to me for anything other than my savings account. When I said I wanted to rent a little place for the two of us, it was as though I’d told the kids I intended to have their mother’s remains dug up and used to fertilize the back yard. But I held firm, and they agreed to my withdrawing three months’ expenses from the family trust fund.

It was hard finding a landlord that would rent to us. They all figured I might kick the bucket at any moment, and that they’d be left trying to collect any money owed them from someone who doesn’t speak English. I had in the end to pay for three months in front.

We got into a routine. After breakfast, Consuelo would help me out to a green plastic chair beside our front door in which I’d sit until late afternoon, until she got back from her new job as a wet nurse at a child care center. Then she would have a long cry because she missed her husband and children back in Honduras so much, and fix us some dinner. I’d usually fall asleep while eating, and then she’d spend the evening watching one of the Spanish language channels. We had a choice of three.

I think everybody expected that I’d be the first to leave the relationship, owing to natural causes, but it turned out she left it, because of unnatural ones; a few nights after we celebrated our one-month anniversary, she was killed by a stray bullet when a few little hoodlums started shooting at each other in the Laundromat where she took our laundry every week.

The kids had a hell of a time getting me back into Golden Years, not that I was in any great hurry to go back. In fact, not three weeks after they re-admitted me, I’d died of boredom, though on the form they blamed pneumonia. If people told the truth on those forms, even heartless little brats like my kids would hesitate to put their parents in such places.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Love at 83 - Part 3

[Please read Parts 1 and 2 first!]

Our first date, on which Rosa accompanied us to translate, was to the food court in the mall. Consuelo had heard they had Honduran food, and damned if she wasn’t right. The restaurant, if that’s the right word, had a name I couldn’t pronounce and wouldn’t be able to spell to regain my continence. I’d never seen Consuelo look anything than miserable enough to burst into tears at any second, but you should have seen her fudge-brown eyes light up at the sight of this place. And the pair of grizzled little Central American indigenous types behind the counter — the only food court employees over 18, from what I could see — were no less pleased to see us walking toward them. There were long lines for most of the other restaurants, if that’s the right word, but not a single diner seemed interested in such Honduran delicacies as tripe soup or fried Yojoa fish. The food was a lot spicier than I’m used to — at Golden Years, you get the impression that the cooks are under strict orders to make every dish taste exactly like every other dish, and for no dish to taste like much of anything. There was steam coming out of my ears after a couple of forkfuls, but I interpreted Rosa’s kicking me under the table as a suggestion that I not risk insulting Consuelo by leaving so much of what I’d ordered.

As I asked Rosa to pose the question, “So tell me about yourself,” to my intended, a trio of punks sat themselves down at the adjoining table, and began heckling us so loudly that I could hear them even after I turned down my hearing aid. They were making fun of what we were eating, and then of the fact that the three of us were together in the first place. “Dude,” the loudest of them said, “it just don’t get no grosser than two greaser bitches and an old fart.”

In my time, I’d have bashed their three heads together, but that was before the arthritis and rheumatism, before the shoulder replacement surgery, and the hip replacement. I looked around for a security guard, hoping that he or she would be armed, and lend me a firearm or even nightstick. But while I was doing so, Rosa was getting a cup of hot coffee from Starbucks, hurrying back with us, and throwing it in the face of the mouthiest of our antagonists.

Oh, how that boy could scream! But I took less pleasure in his suffering than displeasure in the fact that I’d had to have a gal intervene on my behalf. Where I come from, a fellow does the fighting, while gals cower fearfully in the background. I derived some small consolation from thinking that maybe it was different wherever Rosa came from. The most important thing, of course, was that Consuelo didn’t seem to think less of me for it. She actually put her hand atop mine when a pair of security guards — unarmed, I noticed — hurried onto the scene and whisked Rosa away. My guess is that she must have been calling them every name in the book, but the book was in a language they didn’t understand.

I got the impression Consuelo knew what I was after. I could see it in her eyes. And if not then, when? I panicked for a moment, realizing I’d left the Viagra I’d bribed one of the English-speaking groundskeepers to get me in my underwear drawer. But as my beloved rose and offered me her hand, something told me I might need it.
We walked from the food court. I hadn’t walked so fast in years. I so hoped there would seem to be a spring in my step, as well as a tiger in my tank.

We found a Lane Bryant shop. I thought for sure they’d shoo us away, as Consuelo might have been the last person in the mall at that moment who’d need oversized clothing. But the salesgirl, who was pretty skinny herself, just scowled at us, and went back to her text-messaging. We slipped into a changing room. I pulled the curtain shut. My life was about to change.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Love at 83 - Part 2

[Please read Part 1 first!]

Oh, yes. I remember now. That girl I’m in love with, the little Mexican one. No. I beg your pardon. Honduran, as in from Honduras. Tegucigalpa, to be exact. And don’t think it didn’t take me a good couple of weeks to memorize that particular mouthful. The Goosey Gulper is how I remember it. I know that doesn’t make a damned bit of sense, but neither does 80 percent of the American public thinking President What’s-His-Name is a Muslim. People didn’t used to be so stupid when I lived out in the world, where everything isn’t beige, like in this goddamn hellhole.

There. I’ve said it. Hellhole. It’s reasonably clean, I suppose, and I can imagine that less expensive places probably smell worse, but I can tell you that after a month or two surrounded by all this beigeness, by all the artificial flowers and pleasant music and taped birdsong and tasteless, texture-less beige food, those of us who have any hair left are darned near pulling it out by the handful.

Obama. President Obama. Not a Muslim. Not really a Christian either, I don't think, but not a Muslim, for crying out loud.

Three weeks in here and I’d figured out I had two choices. I could go gentle into that good night — that is, let all the beige and artificial flowers and pleasant music sedate me into not knowing for sure if I was alive or dead — or make the choice to live. And nothing says you’re alive so much, at least if you’re a fellow, as wanting to shoot a female full of sperm. I saw on the National Geographic channel just the other night that nothing makes clearer to a zoo that a pair of animals is adapting well than their conceiving offspring.

Deciding that I’d much rather die while screwing at 82 than of boredom at 87 or 88 was the easy part. The much harder part was figuring out whom to screw. I could have had any of the female inmates in a heartbeat — after 75, the gals outnumber the fellows by about eight to one — but the sad fact is that I could picture it feeling like screwing my grandmother. I may actually be older than a lot of them, and I might have cataracts, but when I look at them, it’s through the eyes of the 27-year-old version of myself. I don’t want someone of my generation. I want that actress — you know, the one with the lips.

I began looking at the help in a new way — first, of course, at the few English speakers, because I thought a lot of things would be easier with them. After dinner one night, I worked up the nerve to ask one of the little waitresses if she thought we should go into the darkroom and see what developed. I guess that in this era of digital photography it was stupid of me to imagine she’d have any idea what I meant, and she didn’t, so I tried asking instead if she’d consider a roll in the hay. As she put two and two together, a look of horror that ought to have been on a movie poster set up camp on her face. She shrieked, “Eww!” and dropped her armful of plates. She looked, as she scrambled for the kitchen, as though she might upchuck.

I thought maybe I’d better stick with immigrants, who were probably more likely to be impressed by my having a few bucks in my wallet — not that I was very often able to remember where I kept it hidden. (Angelina Jolie, by the way. The lips.) But of course I’m speaking metaphorically. I did indeed misplace everything, but I had no need of a wallet in Golden Years, and didn’t carry one. What I had was a nice chunk of change in the bank.

In any event, I asked a laundress, Rosa — whose English wasn’t sensational, but a whole lot better than my Spanish — if she’d be my translator. I told her what my intentions were, and I think her feathers might have been a little bit ruffled by the fact that I had no designs on her, but come on now; she was as wide as high. She asked how much I had in mind to pay. I guess the days of anybody doing anything out of the goodness of her heart are long gone.

It occurred to me that even immigrant girls might respond better to a more subtle approach than I’d used on the little white waitress, so what I had Rosa ask the first two she approached was if they wanted to go out after work some evening to grab a bite. Rosa didn’t understand “grab a bite” at first, and seemed to think I had mayhem in mind.

To spare myself embarrassment, I asked Rosa to talk to the girls when I wasn’t around. One of the first two had a boyfriend back down in Metlatonoc, and the other dated only Catholics as devout as she, and I haven’t been to confession since the early ‘70s. Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Love at 83 - Part 1

At my age, I had honestly begun to despair of ever finding love again. Where once, when I sauntered into Carlos ‘n’ Charlie’s on Sunset Blvd., lovely young women would pout and stick their breasts out as I passed, no woman I haven’t paid has seemed so much as to notice me the past 15 years. I blame the fact that my ears and nose are almost twice their original size now, and that the hair that no longer grows out of my scalp is growing out of them in profusion. I blame no less the fact that my neck resembles poultry’s, and that, however much Old Spice I might douse myself with every morning, it isn’t nearly enough to make up for the stench emanating from the diapers into which my incontinence has forced me.

But the old Dean Martin favorite turns out, to my infinite relief and delight, to be true; somewhere there really was, and is, a someone for me. Her name is Consuelo. I am unable to pronounce her last name, as it isn’t familiarly Spanish — not Gomez or Lopez, not Ramirez or Martinez — but a weird Indian one. She is from Honduras, not entirely legally, I don’t think. She speaks no English, at least that I can hear, but that isn’t saying much, as my hearing took a powder at approximately the same time my continence did. I have a hearing aid, but it amplifies everything, rather than only that which you’re trying to hear, and is unpleasant to wear. Consuelo and I communicate primarily with our eyes.

She is a member of the staff here at Golden Years, to which my sons and daughter had me committed after each of them had taken a turn trying to accommodate me in his or her respective home. Todd’s brat children couldn’t bear the way I smell. Eddie’s prima donna wife Janet got bent out of shape about having to help me out of the bathtub a few times, and about my peeing in the kitchen sink that one time, and Ella got even more bent out of shape about my going for a walk on the freeway one afternoon when I was supposed to be looking after her two kids, who aren’t much more palatable to me than Todd’s.

So I occasionally call them by Todd’s kids’ names, or Todd and Ella! You’d think they’d admire me for being able to remember any name at all, but no. They act approximately as Mary Ellen Lavis did when I swallowed my pride and applied for a clerical job at San Francisco’s biggest fascist law firm in ’65 or ’75 or whenever it was; I'm pretty sure there being a 5 in it. She had me put a bunch of index cards in alphabetical order — real difficult! — and then had me fill out this Minnesota something-or-other “inventory” to make sure I didn’t believe aliens were trying to communicate with me through the fillings in my teeth, and only when I’d passed both with flying colors did she finally offer me a job, and I, trying to be sociable, trying to do that Dale Carnegie thing of pretending to find someone else interesting, asked when she was expecting, and she wasn’t expecting at all, but was just big-bellied, and you should have seen the hatred in her eyes!

I guess there were legal reasons she couldn’t retract the job offer just because she felt insulted, and it was a good thing, because with three children and a wife who every afternoon like clockwork went through a fifth of gin, and was absolutely nobody’s idea of a “good mother,” may God rest her poor, troubled soul, I badly needed that paycheck.

But weren’t we talking about something else?

[Continues tomorrow.]

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Roommate, My Murderer - Part 2

[Read Part 1 first!]

But then, after three months Faroukh was laid off — in his view because he was a Yemini, and Yemenis were conspicuously involved in the campaign to drive a knife into America’s still-ailing heart by building a mosque near where the Twin Towers had once stood. He went into a deep funk, leaving his bed only to use the restroom, and sometimes not even that. I had to resume doing my own cooking. I’m an enthusiastic, but not gifted, cook. I tried to lighten his mood by offering to point out to his estranged employers’ human resources department that one of the most beloved characters in Disney lore was Yemeni Cricket, Pinocchio’s conscience and sidekick. His scowl suggested he either didn’t get my little joke or didn’t find it amusing.

I got home one afternoon from the gym to find him sacrificing a goat in the middle of the living room floor, and made no secret of how alarmed I was. He assured me he’d clean up every drop of blood, and suggested I take a chill pill. I surmised that he was trying to invoke voodoo to induce an inoperable tumor in the person he blamed for his firing. I have always hated being urged to take a chill pill.

I got a disturbing phone call from his girlfriend Ashlee, a primary education major up at Vassar. She said he'd given as the reason they would no longer be dating that she was the whore of Babylon. Once again, I hoped a joke — that the whore of Babylon sounded a lot more dignified than the whore of Poughkeepsie (or, as the locals prefer it, P-Town) — might help. Once again I was wrong. She begged me to have a word with him, and I said I would, but every time I tapped on his door he told me to sodomize myself, or to have sex with a ewe.

What he was busy doing, I discovered when he ran out of chick peas and had no recourse but to dash over to the Sunoco station on Route 9D, which was owned by Egyptians, was building a bomb according to instructions he’d found on the Internet. When I confronted him about it, he claimed first that he’d been doing it only to keep himself busy, and then would admit only that he’d been thinking of trying to blow up the new Welcome to Beacon kiosk that volunteer laborers have been building, very, very slowly, at the foot of Main Street the past few months. When I pressed him, he admitted his ambition was to get better and better at bomb-building, and eventually to take the train up to Albany with other disgruntled Yemenis to blow up the state capitol. I reminded him our rental agreement precluded his building bombs under my roof, and he called me a Zionist thug.

I advised him, as New York law requires, that I wanted him to vacate my home within 30 days. He, in turn, advised that I could go have sex with a ewe. I phoned the FBI, and was surprised to find myself listening to a succession of prerecorded menus, much as when I try to get in touch with someone regarding my health insurance. After making multiple choices, I was told to say or click 4 if I had a tenant who had expressed an interest in blowing up the capitol building in a state other than Arkansas, either of the Dakotas, or Wyoming. Finally I got to speak to a live person, whose accent suggested he was somewhere like New Delhi, even though he claimed his name was Jack Williams. (That ruse is familiar to me from my days selling Life magazine to white people — we weren’t allowed to accept black people’s subscriptions — over the phone; the idea was not to give the sucker a difficult, or even vaguely ethnic, name.) When I said Faroukh had spoken of blowing up the New York state capitol, Jack gleefully asserted, “I can assist you with that,” before taking my address and so on.

Not 90 minutes later, a pair of square-jawed former college offensive linemen types in Ray-Bans and FBI windbreakers appeared at my front door, accompanied by a SWAT team. They sprayed Faroukh with something that made him nauseated and docile, and took him into custody. I did an interview that evening with Beacon Tonite, and was asked for my autograph when I stopped at the Sunoco station to check my tire pressure. Someone from the Justice Department phoned to say Farkoukh wasn’t likely to reappear any time soon to ask for his security deposit back, but what used to be Claire’s study floor is streaked with goat’s blood that laughs at bleach, and I miss the hell out of the guy’s falafel smoothies.