Saturday, November 6, 2010

One of the awesome things about having grown old is being able to differentiate the battles you might be able to win from those you haven’t a prayer of winning. I have realized this week that it’s futile to rage, rage against the dying of the light of American voter intelligence, have heard the grass growing, have read the writing on the wall. It’s every person for himself now, and I will tender no apology for having slinked over to the other side last night while most of my neighbors were watching wrestling.

I have spent the past 12 hours since joining the Sarah 2012 campaign feeling not only unashamed, but in fact lighter than air. I’d had no inkling how liberating it would feel to embrace someone with as clear a vision as Sarah’s. In the past, I have always had grave doubts when she has spoken of common sense conservatism, because it reminded me of Ronald Reagan. But now, as I look back, I realize that the Reagan years really were very good ones for America. I still had my looks in those days — oh, did I! For the first half of his presidency, I was very happily married to a woman I’d fancied from afar for ages. I was driving a little automobile that I really liked, a Renault Le Car, and felt certain that at any moment I would regain the fame and fortune that I’d enjoyed early in the previous decade. Reagan was handsome and comfortable behind a lectern or dais, and there was no denying that I’d much enjoyed several of the motion pictures in which he’d starred — A Hard Day’s Night, On the Waterfront, Citizen Kane, and what have you.

Having a physically attractive leader buoys the national spirit, without our even realizing it. The early 1960s, when John F. Kennedy and then Don Draper were our leaders, were very happy for nearly everyone, what with all the talk of Camelot and what-not, and so were the Reagan years, during which a lot of appealing “New Wave” music of which I was fond was recorded and performed. In the same way, I think we will all of us be much better off for having easy-on-the-eyes Sarah Palin in the White House, especially if one of her key advisors is able to convince her to ditch the glasses in favor of contact lenses. (Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.) I’m not denying for a minute that Mitt Romney is a major hunkboat too, but he’s a Mormon, and that makes me hardly less uncomfortable than our current president, with his unappealingly protuberant ears, being a Muslim.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether Sarah’s antipathy toward elitism is a good or bad thing. There are those who characterize her stance (I’m getting a little hot just typing that!) as demagogic, and anti-intellectual, but I’m not so sure anymore. I myself didn’t go to one of those expensive private East Coast universities like Harvard or Yale or Stanford, but at the western university I did attend, there were plenty of cretins — plenty of them, so maybe Sarah’s not so far off base after all when she encourages the average person not to allow themselves to be pushed around by someone with a Ph.D. from one of the ivy-covered universities I feel no compulsion to identify by name again so soon after doing so the first time.

It’s pretty obvious that in 2012 it’s likely to be Sara against Hilary; B. Hussein Obama, I think, is going to be good and sick by then of everybody hating on him, and will go back to wherever he really came from with his tail between his legs, and I’m speaking metaphorically, so let’s not have any accusations of racism, OK, especially in view of my having, uh, dated Alice R. Everhart just before Reagan was first elected president. When I start canvassing for Sarah on Monday, I will ask voters which candidate has in the past demonstrated greater verve and imagination — the one who named her daughter after a goddamned Joni Mitchell song, or the one who’s given her children awesome unusual names like Bristol, Sprig, Calculus, and D’Brickashaw.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Leased Hyundais and Anger Management

I thought I’d really cracked it this time. I thought this time I’d come up with an idea for a business that would not only make me a handsome living, but get a few of my neighbors off the unemployment rolls, and restore their all-important sense of self-worth, and greatly benefit other neighbors.

The idea was this. I would, on an as-needed basis, hire big or otherwise intimidating persons to whom my actual clients could stand up to impress their dates or even spouses. Say, for instance, that Bob Fishkill had been exchanging emails with Mary Wappinger after they “met” on Facebook, or via a matchmaking Website. Say that Bob hadn’t exactly been the middle linebacker on his high school football team, but that Mary had described herself as in the market for “a guy who won’t allow themselves to be pushed around.” Well, before taking Mary to Olive Garden, say, or Red Lobster, Bob might phone me and ask that I send a big handsome bruiser in the Ben Roethlisberger mode over to hit on Mary while Bob was in the little boys’ room. When he got back, Bob would squint at my ringer Clint Eastwoodishly and growl, “Anything I can help you with, pal?” My ringer would size Bob up, look back and forth between him and Mary, swallow hard, and finally slide off his barstool, saying, “Hey, I don’t want any trouble, sir.”

As he hurried away, glancing nervously back over his shoulder, Bob, glowering, would immediately look a great deal sexier to Mary. She and Bob might wind up having mutually pleasurable sex, and embark on a long relationship that would make them both better people, and the big bruiser would go home with a few bucks in his pocket, and some of the self-respect that was unceremoniously snatched from him when the construction industry went to hell two years ago restored.

It sounded good on paper, at least.

My first client was a divorced ophthamologist with a typically Jewish surname who took his date to dinner at the Culinary Institute up in Hyde Park, expecting to be able to appear to intimidate the parking valet. The problem being that the guy I’d hired, Adolfo, hadn’t seen fit to mention on his application that he was narcoleptic. When the ophthamologist and his dental hygienist date emerged from the restaurant, Adolfo was sound asleep behind the wheel of a leased Hyundai Sonota he’d been in the process of parking, and the ophthamologist got into a shouting match with the real parking attendant, who’d dropped out of a series of court-ordered anger management classes a couple of years before to puruse a career as a welterweight boxer. He broke the ophthamologist’s nose with one punch. That Adolfo and the dental hygienist announced their engagement last week gave me no consolation whatever.

I have to date had only one success story. Rob, who has had a crush on a barista, Celeste, at the westernmore of our two Maine Street coffee houses, asked me to arrange for a pair of belligerent butch lesbians to give Celeste a hard time this past Tuesday afternoon, when passions were running high because of the elections. Rob happened to wander in just as the bigger and meaner of the lesbians was telling Celeste that, if cappuccino-making ability were saliva, Celeste wouldn’t be able to dampen a postage stamp. Celeste appeared on the verge of either bursting into embarrassed, angry tears or hurling a potful of hot American decaf in her tormentor’s face when Rob, “overhearing,” stepped into the fray’s midst and asked the lesbians, “Hey, why don’t the two of you drive up to Massachusetts and get married or something?”

As it happened, the lesbians had been thinking of doing exactly that anyway, and took Rob’s inquiry as an omen that the moment was right. Rob and Celeste were seen holding hands at last weekend’s farmers market down by the river, where they pretended to be interested in overpriced organic produce and exchanged knowing smirks when one of our local folksingers began braying one of the Pete Seeger classics for which the area is, for better or worse, known.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Speaking of Tiresome

If you’d been Pat Burrell, and you’d struck out 11 of the 13 times you’d gone to bat over the course of the four games in which you played, would you have felt right about jumping up and down jubilantly with your fellow San Francisco Giants on Monday night at the moment they won the World Series? I’m not at all sure I would; I’d have been worried that at any second one of my teammates would have snarled, “What the fudge [there’s more born-again sanctimony in baseball than in any other sport] are you doin’, Burrell?” But that’s just me — or, to be grammatical, I.

Spontaneous expressions of jubilation by victorious baseball teams always amuse me mightily, as they’re so un-spontaneous. Intent on demonstrating that they’re absolutely overcome by joy — in exactly the same way they’ve seen previous big game winners be overcome by joy — players jump up and down like poorly coordinated three-year-olds, or hurl themselves atop each other. If they were shown a group of florists, hairdressers, and interior decorators behaving identically on Christopher Street or in the Castro, the ballplayers would surely go apoplectic with revulsion. In a sport in which, after being struck by a 95 miles-per-hour fastball in the shoulder, you’re not allowed to rub it for fear of being seen as a drinker of pink tea, as Ty Cobb liked to put it, and in which players are expected to slobber and spit implacably even if they’ve never had a shred of chewing tobacco in their mouths, this cannot fail to be seen as pretty goddamned funny.

As an enthusiastic watcher of ESPN while I cook, I have now seen the LeBron James What Should I Do? Commercial 750,000 times — that is, even more than I have seen the one about how sexy former Eagle Scout and extremely Regular Guy Mike Rowe’s ass looks in his jeans, whose brand no one can force me to name. What should you do, you spectacularly tiresome egomaniac? Ask Nike to have a heart and take the commercial off the air.

Speaking of tiresome, have you noticed that football coaches and commentators don’t give their audience credit for being able to keep in mind what sport is being talked about? It isn’t just common in 2010 to hear a coach say, for instance, “We think we’ve got a very talented football team, and that we’re going to win us some football games,” which I suppose comes in handy for those who might have imagined they’re talking about lacrosse or synchronized swimming. But I won’t pretend it doesn’t get on my nerves as much as baseball managers and commentators seeming to feel compelled to insert the word “ball” as frequently as possible, as in, “We think we’ve got a very talented ball club this year, and that, if we can stay healthy, we’re going to win a few ball games.”

I’m reminded — and God knows it takes little to remind me — of my perennial dismay at the number of person-hours that are squandered in this Great Country of Ours each year on unnecessarily painting or otherwise including the word Now on signs proclaiming Now Open. As we discussed yesterday, it’s not possible to live through an election without noticing that a very large percentage of Americans are defiant nitwits, but how many of them do you suppose, if they passed a place of business with a sign out in front saying Open, would wonder to themselves, “I wonder if that means now, or as of [for instance!] next February 17?”

Bitch, bitch, bitch! It’s fun!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

American Democracy - A Rotten Idea!

The phone’s ringing off the hook, but no one I know has called me today. I think I must have received a robocall from every candidate for political office in the mid-Hudson Valley area — and her brother. Mostly, I just hang up immediately. A couple of times, though, I’ve listened while a grave-voiced announcer asks something like, “Did you know that [such-and-such a candidate] is in favor of free Cialis for child molesters, and sacrifices parochial school virgins to Satan in months that have a 6th?” Elsewhere, we’re told that this candidate, or that one, favors not only eradicating Social Security, but pushing all our seniors into a mass grave and then burying them alive — after…harvesting their corneas and removing all their gold and silver dental fillings. It seems to me that had it been made in 2010, Lee Atwater’s famous Willie Horton TV ad for George H. W. Bush — the one implying that Michael Dukakis was an habitual early releaser from prison of aboriginal-looking black rapists — would hardly have stood out enough to be noticed.

Are we, as a people, really this stupid? Do surveys demonstrate that the sort of mindlessness that spirals completely out of control in the October of every election year is really what voters respond to? In New York, Andrew Cuomo is expected to be elected governor because the Republican candidate, endorsed by the Tea Party, is a brutish, homophobic numbskull who circulates videos of women getting intimately acquainted with horses — but maybe in spite of the Republican candidate being a brutish, homophobic numbskull who circulates videos of women getting intimately acquainted with horses. The Facebook ads I keep seeing say that Cuomo perceives Albany, the state capital, as woefully corrupt, but has A Plan to Clean It Up. Which I guess is to say that he won’t be making a succession of compromises and unsavory deals, as every politician must, in the interests of pleasing those primarily responsible for funding his campaign, and likely to contribute significantly to his re-election campaign in a few years.

Does anyone really believe this stuff? If so, do you not share my great discomfort at the thought of their being allowed to operate automobiles, much less heavy machinery?

A couple of years ago, Elliot Spitzer had to resign New York’s governorship after it was discovered that he enjoyed the company of call girls. Every time I see him on TV, I’m struck by what a shame this was, as I agree with a great many of his positions. God forbid, though, that an American politician should have foibles.

I feel sure I accurately remember attorney general Janet Reno admitting having screwed the pooch in a big way late in the Clinton presidency; it might have been to do with the Branch Davidians or something, but that isn’t the important part. What is important was that polls suggested that a hefty majority of the American public actually admired her for being candid. I’m forever wondering why more politicians don’t come out from behind the crapola mists. Imagine Spitzer having said, “Yeah, after [however many] years of marriage, I do indeed enjoy sneaking off with a 24-year-old hottie whenever my schedule permits. So yes, I’m an asshole in that way, but what you should care about a lot more is that I’m an effective politician who will, if you’ll all just take a chill pill, accomplish important stuff for the state.” Is it not safe to imagine that a great many voters would have joined me in backing him?

I don’t care if the guy who services my brakes has sex with prostitutes, so long as he ensures that my car stops when I need it to do so. Why should I care in the slightest if a politician patronizes call girls, if he, for instance, fights effectively against corporate greed and malfeasance, say? Is Barack Obama now droppin’ his g’s and takin’ great care to refer in every other sentence to “folks” because his advisors tell him that Americans want him to sound as stupid as they themselves are? How does it make sense that we wouldn’t want someone far better educated and erudite than ourselves making the most important decisions?

Living in America makes me increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of democracy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Epigram That Time Forgot - An Oversight!

I have just realized with horror — because it is one my most luminously wry — that I neglected to include this in my catalog of epigrams the other day:

You're not getting older. You're getting bitter.

You may feel free to deploy it at cocktail and other parties with full attribution.

Oh, and while we're here, I think I'll throw this one in too:

You've got your whole life ahead of you, except for the large portion irretrievably squandered.

My Teabagger, My Love - Part 2

Trish admitted on our second date — we went to Chili’s for dinner, and then to see Secretariat — that I wasn’t really her type. She’d been thinking more in terms of a Mike Rowe type — a gentile former Eagle Scout in an adjustable baseball cap, a Ford truck, and Lee jeans, the sort of man who, when his truck breaks down in the middle of nowhere on a cold, rainy night, just chuckles, as though at the antics of an attention-demanding toddler, whistles while he opens the hood, and then has the thing back on the road, actually running better than before, within 45 seconds. I pointed out that the other afternoon, when suddenly both turn signals began flashing simultaneously, and wouldn’t stop doing so even after I turned off the ignition, that I had manfully managed to disconnect the battery when I got home, to preclude its being drained. She laughed and said a real man would have figured out how to turn off the hazard lights without having to disconnect the battery. She wasn’t impressed when I pointed out my having done so first thing the following morning, after steeling myself at length for the daunting task of locating the requisite information in my owner’s manual. “Can you picture Mike Rowe being intimidated by an owner’s manual?” she laughed with our server, a buxom young woman with a tattoo on one of her breasts, and I’d never felt more humiliated in my life. Naturally, I loved it.

Trish’s favorite recreations include golf, tennis, and yoga. She admits she was a little iffy about the latter until her gym dismissed its original instructor — who apparently had a red dot on her forehead, and an unpronounceable name — and replaced her with a blonde named Babs, of all things. She is rooting for the Texas Rangers in the World Series because former president George W. Bush used to play for them, and because San Francisco is famously tolerant of ungodly behavior. As a former long-time resident of that city, I am able to attest to this; one New Year’s Eve, my daughter and I saw men embracing and even kissing each other as the clock struck midnight, and it was just disgusting.

Trish works in Human Resources at a media company that owns three of the country’s five highest-rated Christian rock radio stations, though she listens to none of them while driving. Trish enjoys listening in her car to audiobooks like Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue, Angelina Jolie’s reading of which should win her the audiobook readers’ equivalent of the Oscar. We’re accustomed to Meryl Streep nailing strange accents and vocal affectations, but who imagined that Mrs. Pitt was comparably sensational at it?

Trish finds Mitt Romney “cute,” and will vote for him if the Republicans don’t nominate Sarah, even though she is troubled by the rumors of the Mormons secretly regarding Satan as a prophet. She has admitted to me that if she were a lesbian, she would be on the next flight to wherever Marie Osmond lives these days, but of course she is no lesbian, and neither, to the best of my knowledge, is Marie, whom I at one point wanted to make gasp and moan, albeit not converse with, for fear that she'd be one of those who, in response to my slashing wit, mewls, "You're so cynical!"

Trish used to have a better-paying position in a PR company, but resigned when she was asked to get a coffee mug like everyone else’s — one that said Damn, I’m Good! — rather than asked What Would Jesus Do? She wears blouses with gigantic bows, and goes to a hair salon whose specialty is the Laura Bush bob, though she prefers the time-honored coiffure she sports in the accompanying photograph. She has tiny crosses painted on her fingernails every week at a nail salon whose mostly Filipina employees are slowly being poisoned by the fumes, but she will not allow her daughters to wear makeup until they are 15, or to date until they are 16, and then only with a non-Mormon chaperone driving.

Sunday night was Halloween. Instead of Reese’s Pieces or bite-sized Butterfingers or bags of M&M, Trish handed out miniature Bibles, but only to children not dressed as witches or tampered-with Tylenol bottles or members of ZZ Top or Barack Obama.

Ours is a very traditional diet. We eat a lot of tuna casserole, and a lot of chicken a la king. Thursday night is pork night, and Saturday steak night. We usually have fish sticks on Fridays even though neither of us is Catholic. Trish doesn’t mind other cultures as long as they don’t try to intermarry with and dilute our own. She prides herself on her daughters’ never having tasted Chinese or even Italian food, and on their not knowing a tortilla from a hole in the ground — unless, of course, they’ve fallen at their state-funded school under the influence of the children of illegal immigrants. One day when her younger girl was seven, Trish caught her playing at day care with an olive-complected girl, and burned her Barbies in the fireplace. It didn’t smell good, but Trish feels that it was well worth enduring an unpleasant aroma for a couple of days to teach Patsi a lesson she wishes someone had taught her.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Teabagger, My Love - Part 1

During my three excruciating years as a member of what was called support staff at the biggest fascist law firm in San Francisco, which had offices on multiple floors of three different buildings, I fell hopelessly in love with one of the telephone operators, solely on the basis of her voice. Compared to her, Kathleen Turner as Jessica Rabbit sounded like Sara Vowell on This American Life. She would growl, for instance, “Mr. Phelps. Please call the operator, Mr. Robert Phelps,” and I would lose all sense of where or even who I was. Hearing her, I could picture her reclining tauntingly on a bed in a black lace corset, seamed stockings, and gleaming stilettos, washing down bon-bons with champagne, smoking through a long, rhinestone-bedecked cigaret holder, and sneering. I always imagined that she was going to say, “…if you dare, little man,” at the end. From the sound of her, there’d never been a femme quite so fatale. I’ve always found scarily self-confident women in corsets quite irresistible, and conspired to meet her.

She turned out to be presentable, but hardly gorgeous. As any boy who’s ever been to what used to be called junior high knows, though, you don’t [copulate with] the face, and I thought that just hearing her voice in my ear as we made love would more than compensate for her being a bit stumpy for my taste. I was still a couple of years from losing my looks back then, and got myself invited over to her condo in moribund Rohnert Park. It was clear from her voice that she smoked, but it hadn’t occurred to me that she might smoke so much as to foul her own nest, to make her condo absolutely reek of cigarettes — albeit not as badly as it reeked of cats. I was there for only a few minutes before remembering urgent business elsewhere.

Much more recently, I fell in love with another speaking voice, that of the woman on my TomTom GPS, but was unable to persuade anyone at TomTom to reveal her contact details to me, or even her name. I had reconciled myself to living out the rest of my life in solitude when, at last Wednesday afternoon’s Tea Party-sponsored Common Sense Conservative Solutions for Problems We Don’t Begin to Understand rally at Pete Seeger Park here in Beacon, I met someone — someone wonderful, someone who has transformed my life.

Her name is Barbara, but she asked me to call her Trish, to preclude my calling her Babs; she finds Babs preciously retro, as I have always found Trish, but I have said nothing. She is the product of a broken home that her carpenter father was unable to fix because of his alcoholism. Both her elder brothers became substance abusers, but she found Jesus, and became a wife at 18 and a mother at 19. She and her husband Todd divorced last year when she was 33 after discovering that they were, in her words, “two different people,” as I’d have hoped for them to notice even on the verge of adulthood.

Trish’s younger daughter was 15 at the time of the divorce, and more than old enough to become a latchkey child, so Trish returned to school to get the degree she’d promised her parents she would pursue, though her dad had probably been too drunk to remember. Proving that feminism can walk hand in hand with conservatism — though not very far, in the high heels in which most fellow prefer to see their gals — she successfully sued her college for sex discrimination when she wasn’t chosen for the cheerleading team, though all the other cheerleaders were female, and actually dated the second-string quarterback briefly, at least until he came out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, which is contrary to her own personal beliefs, to which she is entitled.

She believes that it’s fine, and even desirable, for such persons to reside together, in a marriage-like arrangement, because domesticity keeps them from preying on defenseless young persons. But she believes that to officially sanction such relationships would be in contravention of Scripture. One of her bumper stickers urges, “Let’s keep the holy in holy matrimony.”