Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of those, Maggie had heard only of the sonnet form, but she'd had just enough to drink to shore herself up and ask, "What's a villanelle?"

"Uh, it's a form that incorporates…" he started to respond, then broke off knowing that often when he was drunk, academia would creep in and he'd sound pompous. "You know the poem, 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night'?"

"Oh yes, it's beautiful, but so sad."

"That's a villanelle. A sestina's just a complicated rhyme form that has six stanzas, each using the same end word and a three line refrain using all the end words. It's really not so hard…oh, this is really silly, we're like a couple of college kids trying to find our way, eh?"

"No, it's not silly, it's fun…"

"I used to be pretty good at having fun also."

He was drunk and nervous now, as was she. "Will you put on some music," Ben asked, "something quiet."

Maggie rose and walked to her stereo. She switched on the tuner and the room was filled with some rhythm and blues you might hear at closing time at some bar up in Harlem. The end of the evening, with everyone filled with pigs feet, rye and beer, dancing that slow, grinding dance that leads you home.

"Is this alright?" she asked.

"Perfect," he said, walking over to her and taking her hand. He was moving slowly now, filled with whiskey and wine. He tried to keep his eyes from blinking, as if to ensure himself that she was still there. His head rolled languidly now, from side to side, and up and down, taking in everything she was. Her eyes, her nose, her lips so slightly parted in a smile almost coy showing just a hint of her teeth. He could barely see her ears behind her delicate brown hair and moved his hand to her cheek to brush the locks away in order to learn it all. Then both hands rested on her shoulders, hers gently about his waist. They looked at one another so deliberately as if to know all that was possible of each other. His hands slid down her arms, then to her torso, her waist and hips, like a blind man finding sight in his touch.

They swayed with the music, but with no steps. He moved his hand below her chin and she moved toward him. It was not an explosive kiss. It was one of gentle passion at first, then long, deep and blooming to something neither had before experienced.

He was nervous and surprised himself when he pulled almost casually away and mumbled, "the Ovarian Trolley…"

Maggie's eyes rose to him and her smile broaden into a quiet laugh. "What?"

Henry Miller, "The Ovarian Trolley," from Tropic of Cancer. He said 'Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.' It just struck me. Figures, there goes the mood, eh?"

"No, Ben. The mood's here. Nothing's changed. It is funny. I am confused too. I've never met anyone like you," she said, laughing and pulling him back in tow.

"Nor I you," he said as he kissed her again.

There was no hesitancy as they padded toward her bedroom, though she seemed to lead him, they were together as they entered the room. She flicked the switch and a small reading lamp led the rest of the way. There were no questions anymore. None as they sat at the foot of the bed beginning those first taut moves that new lovers effect. There was no grace in them as they fumbled about one another, lips finding their marks as often as missing, hands navigating the uncharted small sea of two unfamiliar bodies, legs entwined first softly with questions, then with a growing understanding of all that was theirs and what would be. I lay on her small bed, looking up at the ceiling as if Maggie were somewhere else. I remember the strait I was in. Mostly I remember that anger, that resentment, that rejection of myself for not knowing her earlier.

Penelope came to mind for the first time in more than ten years and I tried to remember what it meant. The significance was there, but it was formless. I could barely remember who Penelope was. I knew there was moment to the thought. Maggie/Penelope/Maggie/Penelope…pentameter, hell, it was even iambic, Homeric. I hadn't written poetry in years, so what the hell was I thinking about meter, let alone academic meter. And the number 30 floated through me. What the hell was 30, save the end of a news story, a jim dash. I began to feel a passion for words I hadn't felt in years.

I lay there for a long time. As I did, I began to know what was coming and then I knew everything for the moment. For one single moment I knew that I hadn't fucked her. I'd fucked a lot of women, but I hadn't fucked her. I had made love to Maggie. I had never made love before, but I knew in that instant that was what I had done.

I was astonished at the revelation. I was scared. But I had made love. It made no sense to me at all, until a moment later when I turned my head to look at her. I looked at Maggie.

I didn't see her body, nor did I see her face. I saw Maggie. I saw every day of her 29 years. Hell, it seemed as if I saw every minute of those years. I knew then everything there was to know, everything I needed to know, everything I wanted to know.

I knew that she would become the measure of my life. But I also knew I would be bound in Penelope's web, that Sisyphus would be my alter ego for a while.

We held each other for that period after making love that seems interminable, feeling that residual pleasure from love that neither had before experienced. There was no acrobatics in their lovemaking, simply, if it can be simple, a passion that was overwhelming. "I'm not sure what to say first," he said quizzically.

"Me neither," she responded.

"Time is the least of my concerns now, I suppose," he said. "Then there's always, 'Well, it's late and I've got to go,' but I'm not about to unless you kick me out. I wouldn't mind Eggs Benedict right now, but the Brasserie is 3,000 miles away and I don't know what the hell is open in Los Angeles this time of morning; it is morning isn't it? Then there's the trite, 'Was it good for you?" but that would be perfectly awful. There's always 'Oops,' but that's comical."

Her eyes were narrowing now and her body tightening, just slightly. She was about to say something, but she couldn't get a word in, as he was speaking quickly now. Even if she slipped a word in, she wasn't at all sure of what it might be.

"Uh, I guess I'm, uh, a little nervous. Well, what, what I really want to say, Maggie, is that I love you."

"Ben…"

"Please, I'm going to finish this," he said in a tender voice that was at the same time firm. "I love you. Let me tell you that I know that may sound foolish. Hell, I'm sure it isn't the first time you've hopped into bed with a guy for the first time and he's told you that. Shit, that didn't come out right, but you've got to hang on here. This really sounds fucked up. I'm not at all certain of where I'm going. I know a few things. I know Janet and I are history. I also know that's gonna be harder than I think because of the kids, friends and everything else that goes with a split. More importantly, I know right now, at this moment that wherever I'm going you're going with me. It may be easy, it may be hard, probably hard, but you'll be with me."

"I have heard it before, you know," she said. But she was almost certain that he meant it as he said he meant it. "And that didn't sound right either. But Ben, it is going to be hard. It's going to be hard everywhere we look, everywhere we go. I know that too. But I also know, well, I think anyway, that I love you too. And I know where we can get some eggs." She was smiling now. She felt it all and it was the first comfort she'd felt that she could remember.

She slipped into jeans and workshirt and he into his rumpled seersucker suit pants and dress shirt. She rolled her eyes at him and said "It's after 3. Any ideas what you're going to do about the office."

"Got an iron?"

Norm's Coffee Shop in Santa Monica was never empty. After 3 in the morning, Ben and Maggie had little company, as they ordered short stacks, bacon and coffee.

"I guess there's a lot to talk about, eh?" Ben said, with a smile that didn't hide the nervousness.

"Hey, there is, but maybe some logistics first," Maggie said. She was more composed than he, Ben thought and rather marveled at the poise, taking it not for experience, but a native equanimity that he'd grow to love over the years.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, there's my car over at the company, you need a shave and a fresh shirt, to say nothing of your suit which may be beyond any help…your wife," the latter mentioned in a far less lighthearted tone."

"Oh hell, we'll run over and pick up your car. The rest we can fix with your iron, maybe, and I'll pick up a fresh shirt at Bullock's later. No one'll notice. As for Janet, hell, I'll figure out something, we only communicate by rumor anyway."

Nothing was that simple she thought, stunned at what she believed to be borderline insanity on the outside and unmistakable almost childish fantasy at minimum. In a sense, it frightened her and it showed, as she was concerned at the frivolity of his response. Was what she had seen as depth earlier that evening nothing more but another glib man seducing her, one who appeared to fit so perfectly with her very being? Or was this just another facet, one cut deeply and without flaw, a kind of grit that was a charm?

"Easily said, eh?" she said with a shade of skepticism.

"Yeah, it is. What the hell can happen at the office? And Janet, well, it's hard to imagine her more pissed off than she is now."

"It just isn't that easy, I know it isn't. You said and it's true. I've seen this before."

Ben was feeling uncomfortable now.

The logistics were simple for him, as he drove over to Westwood with Maggie to pick up her car. All he needed was a clean change of clothes. The next time he'd have something to change into, he thought, as he knew there would be a next time. How do men handle these things, affairs, he wondered. Ben knew it wasn't an affair, not a tryst or an assignation. If he could hold her, he thought, until his separation was complete, it would work.

There was always the catalyst woman theory, the transition woman theory. It crossed his mind, as he was new to this sort of thing. But it couldn't be, he thought, believing he was different. As it turned out, he was. He was far too distinct for the good of either at that time. He was reckless, improvident but with a slight degree of caution, which amounted, as it turned out, to simply lying to his wife.

They slept for a couple of hours at Maggie's apartment. Ben woke and used the shower cutting himself appropriately with her razor, emerging from the bathroom appearing as if beset by facial stigmata, except that he had bits of toilet paper stuck to the wounds.

"What else will you need beside a tourniquet and an aspirin?" she asked with a smile.

"Three aspirin, a razor, toothbrush, clean shirt, new life. Oh, hell. I'm going in now. I'll see you there later, alright."

"Yeah, fine."

"Oh, if I didn't mention it, I love you," he said kissing her lightly on the lips.

"You did, but I really thought…"

"Yeah, you thought it was whiskey, uh, wine talk. Nope. I love you. And we should probably talk about this. We can either do it now, or I can go in and we can keep up appearances and do it later. Your call."

"Go in, believe me, you've got enough problems there now."

"Fuck 'em. Where's the nearest place to buy a shirt?"

"Go, we'll take care of it there."

Ben had underestimated his hangover until he started his car. The glasspack like sound of the Triumph's mufflers coupled with a blasting radio sent it home. Nausea, throbbing head, the shakes. He felt like he'd been on the road for 40 days covering a campaign. But things weren't moving as they did then, not by rote, not by a long shot.

He began to sweat as he wondered what the hell he was going to do in the office. More than that, he couldn't get Maggie off his mind, nor did he want to. Nothing was in place. He'd never been a planner, never thought of contingencies. Strategies for life were as alien to him as this new love he felt for Maggie.

He pulled into the garage and made his way to the office, barely acknowledging the blonde bitch of an office manager who greeted him. It was too early, he thought, wondering what the hell this woman was doing there at that time. Part of the cabal, he considered, barely able to hope he could hold the job for a few more months.

The phone was ringing when he entered his office. Not what he needed before 8 in the morning at all. Probably "the man," wanting something inane as always.

"Rogel," he tried to say firmly into the speaker, as he punched the button.

"This is Janet, where the hell have you been?"

"Spent the night here, gotta go. I'm busy."

"I called there at 1, and you weren't there."

"Fuck you. I didn't answer the phone," he yelled, hanging up the phone.

It was too much. Way too much now. He dialed his friend and lawyer in Washington, Bernard Martinwitz.

"Bernie, this is Stan. You got a lawyer out here. I want to get a divorce."

"Yeah, I know. We talked about it. But we haven't since. Why now? I mean this minute?"

"It's a short story, but it's not for this line, alright?"

"Yeah, call Melvin Abrams," Bernie said, rattling off a number in Beverly Hills.

"Will he give me a break on fees? It's not going to be easy."

"Just tell him I told you to call."

"Thanks, ace, I'll call you soon."

"Stay healthy, will you."

"Yeah, yeah, I'll try," Ben said, hanging up the phone.

He was into it now. He knew it and he knew he could only move forward. He dialed the number Bernie had given him.

"Melvin Abrams, please. This is Ben Rogel calling. Bernie Martinwitz suggested I call."

"Mr. Abrams is engaged," the prim voice of a gatekeeper replied.

"Get him unengaged. I want to talk with him now," the frustration of the hangover had taken over.

"I'm sorry, sir, I can't do that."

"Do it or I'll be in your office in ten minutes and I'll be fuckin' angry."

"I beg your pardon."

"Don't beg any pardon. Bernie told me to call. I'm fuckin' certifiable. Put him on the phone. Do it. Do it now."

"You've got to be the nut who lost his White House credentials for…" Melvin asked with a laugh.

"Yeah, that's me. Can you meet me for lunch today?"

"I can't today. I've got something…"

"Look, you're a friend of Bernie's, I'm a friend of his. I've got a hangover, I'm fucked up and I need to see you today."

"I'll clear it. Where?"

"Beverly Wilshire, noon."

"Fine."

"Thank you, Mel. I mean that."

"Try not to come to the office. I think my secretary's ready to kill."

"Sorry about that."

"See you."

As he hung up the phone, Maggie walked into the office with a cup of coffee. He looked up, trying to smile, holding back the hangover's nausea.

"Morning. How you doing?" he mustered.

"I'm fine, coffee?"

"Actually, a coke would be better. Stomach's off."

"Okay, wait a minute," she said.

The intercom rang. Ben picked it up.

"It's your wife on one."

"Tell her I'm in a meeting. Ah, tell her it's off site and I'll be out most of the day. Thanks."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year’s Eve

It is just three days until New Year's Eve and many will go a bit nuts welcoming in 2012. I'll be grateful to be above ground, and just a few days before my 69th birthday.

Welcoming the New Year isn't what it once was for me. Sure, I'll have a drink or two; watch the ball drop (early) in Times Square (for the past two years a disappointment – it ain't what it used to be – far to fancy and commercial), then perhaps watch a Thin Man movie.

Cynic and pessimist that I am, I see nothing especially positive coming next year, save that I'll probably be around.

It is a quiet week for me this week, with little to do for clients. I'm going to resign one as a New Year's gift to the client.

My firm provides strategies to clients that will make them more visibile to their prospects; even make them at least modestly famous. Of course, we're know for getting clients out of trouble; managing them through crises.

But there's one, a law firm, run by a woman who at this point I can only describe as a "Publicity Whore." Well, I don't want to get into to the kind of strategies and tactics we use and exactly what we do; she's now gone from a "respectible" and reasonably successful middle-class law firm to the kind of firm that might post billboards for $99 bankruptcies and the like. By the way, stay far away from those firms – if you are in a personal bankruptcy situation, pay up for the service.

Now the woman, who has about 15 lawyers working at her firm is paying for a call in radio show. Please, that's just what you want: Two bit callers, looking for free advice from an attorney over the phone, then maybe coming into your office only to find they can't afford your fees. In this firm's case, they're reasonable.

Her bill for a couple of months was the smallest bill my firm has sent out in years, less than $500 and she held it up. Please. Once the check, which I'm told is being mailed "later this week" is in our hands, she's gone.

But you don't really care about that. I just felt like writing it out.

Do you care about the Iowa Primary/Caucus, whatever? Frankly, I'm tired of the GOP. I'm tired of the "debates." How much do we really need to know about these "candidates?" And does anyone really care.

Frankly, I think at this point folks only care about what's in their pockets, whether or not they'll keep their jobs; if they can feed their families…just put gas in their cars.

Washington, our government doesn't seem to have those concerns, not at all. And that makes me yearn for the old days, when politics was politics; but governing was governing and done for you and me.

Happy New Year to all, just in case I don't post again before then.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fleeting Season


Christmas is over and while I enjoyed it, it's a one day "event" that, as I've mentioned before, in somewhat banal terms, there seems little meaning of it in old fashioned terms; the embracement of it it as Dick Cavett describes in Deck the Halls With Boughs of Nutty.

We exchanged gifts, nothing remarkably extravagant and made "Merry," (were I Groucho Marx, I'd probably comment something to the effect that "And Merry enjoyed it every bit as much as I did").

We ate out, as we usually do, at a lovely first rate restaurant on Christmas Eve, then had Chinese food on Christmas Day.

The conversation was somewhat tedious as my sister was here and no matter what one says, it becomes about her or someone she knows. I endured it, however, "tuning out" to most of her comments and gestures she'd make reflecting that of a three year old.

Speaking of three year olds, I spoke, of course, with my Granddaughter, which was delightful. She received legos, among other things for the holiday. I thought it appropriate to consider the inherent karma. On this holiday 35 years ago I bought the same gift for my sons, who'd leave bits and pieces of the set about the house so I walk on them. I don't know if they've rounded the edges on the toy these days, but back then, I receive many surprise indentations on my feet.

My wife and I started to watch "It's A Wonderful Life," which we have on disk, but didn't have the chance to finish it. I hope we will this evening. I have much entertainment to occupy me in this very slow week: I recorded 7 "Thin Man" movies on TCM. We started watching the original, aptly titled, "The Thin Man." It occurred to me, whenever I see William Powell in one these movies, that were I to be anyone else, it would be him. How elegant, suave and urbane he is in these portrayals.

I hope all enjoyed the season and wish you all a safe and happy year to come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Goodbye, TBird

I said "goodbye," better still, "good riddance," to my Tbird yesterday. How awful that car turned out to be. Okay, so it had 99,000 miles, but still, I expect cars to last longer than than. It was well maintained and I had it since 2002.

We got a 2007 Town Car, so that'll avoid my wife having to rent a car for her business so frequently, if at all…and got just what I expected for the Tbird, $5000.

Surprisingly, to me anyway, I like this new car. It's remarkably quiet and smooth and has less than 30,000 miles on it, just less.

I just hope it's maintenance free.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Android Phones


I'm fairly sure why the Android system is the most widely used mobile phone operating system: It's probably cheap and Google (which is my primary search function) wants the business.

But it is absolutely the worst cell phone operating system ever. To have to go to Google Contacts, which the company has now for some unknown reason made a different venue than gMail or the Calendar, to enter contacts online is absurd.

But forgetting that, Google now regularly requires some sort of numerical code to get into the damned thing.

I don't have an Android, but my wife does because of a relative at Sprint so she's "friends and family," with a remarkably low monthly rate, the employee rate. And she got the phone because of her fingernails, it has a slideout keyboard, and she didn't want to become accustomed to texting with the pads of her fingers.

All of this to say that I have spent more bloody time with Sprint tech support and online with the so-called Google sync functions (Contacts and Calendar) than I have with any tech support in the past five years and probably in the aggregate.

Yesterday, all of her contacts were gone, as well as her calendar. Well, a few days before that, I looked around and found a program, CompanionLink, that makes the Android do what it should for most people who are in business, or rational people who don't use online mail like Yahoo or gMail, both of which are garbarge. It syncs with Outlook, which, of course, is what the iPhone does automatically through iTunes.

Now, CompanionLink (and I have no association with the company except I bought the $50 app), while it does what it's supposed to, also requires the Android to have another app, DejaOffice, which is free. I must say, that CompanionLink, which I installed the other day and for the first time sync on her Android, was just great, though it seems to work through the DejaOffice app.

All of this to say that none of this should be necessary. You buy a bloody smart phone and expect it to be "smart." The Android isn't.

But after all of this, there is some positive: My wife has decided to get an iPhone in April, when eligible for the upgrade.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Car Redux

Taking my wife to work a little while ago, my car "overheated" and started to chug along, but it couldn't have overheated as it cooled down immediately. In any event, I limped back home to drop my wife off and limped over to Meineke where the car now sits.

It occurred to me that I could rent a car for my wife for a few days and she could go to work, which would outstrip the cost of the rental. Besides that, I use Enterprise. No, I'm not affiliated with Meineke or Enterprise at all. I just pass these along as good customer experiences.

Our local Enterprise store is great. We've used them often for my wife's business and we always get not only an upgrade, but also a discount.

I think this is because I always treat the employees as human beings…and besides, they got my Christmas cookies this year.

What a pain in the neck cars are.

My Car


I am so tired of car problems. Yesterday, on my way to pick up my wife, some light on the dashboard came on reflecting an oil issue and the car all but stopped. 

Fortunately, I was across the street from one of those quick oil change places and we limped into it. I asked a fellow in the lube cave to take a look and he said my oil was "overfilled." Clearly my fault. By way of background, the car has an oil leak and I add oil periodically, though my Meineke shop around the corner would almost always "top it off" for nothing.

Well, for some reason, the car ran fine after that, despite white smoke (does my Tbird think there's a new Pope on the way) from the exhaust often on startup and sometimes on acceleration.

I ran into the Meineke shop at 7 this morning and they changed the oil. I'm sure there's one of these in your neighborhood, there are nearly a thousand throughout the nation. If there is, and your lucky enough to have great guys in it, as I do, I find them quite good. Actually, more than that – very professional, friendly and courteous.

Anyway, they a quick oil change for me, less than 15 minutes and I'll take it back after I drop my wife off to let them check further into the issue.

My car has a will to live, and right now, a new one is out of the question, as is a new engine, or rebuilt one.

I've railed frequently about abhoring cars and this is the reason. However, this shop somewhat eases the issue.

George Whitman, Paris Bookseller and Cultural Beacon, Is Dead at 98


Shakespeare & Company 1998 - My Photo

From The New York Times: PARIS — George Whitman, the American-born owner of Shakespeare & Company, a fabled English-language bookstore on the Left Bank in Paris and a magnet for writers, poets and tourists for close to 60 years, died on Wednesday in his apartment above the store. He was 98.
He had not recovered from a stroke he suffered two months ago, his daughter, Sylvia, said in announcing his death.

More than a distributor of books, Mr. Whitman saw himself as patron of a literary haven, above all in the lean years after World War II, and the heir to Sylvia Beach, the founder of the original Shakespeare & Company, the celebrated haunt of Hemingway and James Joyce.

As Mr. Whitman put it, “I wanted a bookstore because the book business is the business of life.”
Overlooking the Seine and facing the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the store, looking somewhat beat-up behind a Dickensian facade and spread over three floors, has been an offbeat mix of open house and literary commune. For decades Mr. Whitman provided food and makeshift beds to young aspiring novelists or writing nomads, often letting them spend a night, a week, or even months living among the crowded shelves and alcoves.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Five Pounds of Flour

"I've got five pounds of flour, some shortening, salt…all I need to make biscuits," my friend told me.

"Isn't spaghetti easier, quicker," I responded to him. "Yeah," he said, "but not as cheap. I can make biscuits forever with what I've got, jam's cheap and I don't use much butter, if I use that at all. Margerine's cheaper."

"What about meat, protein?" I asked. "Oh, I can buy a pound of black beans for less than a buck, sometimes I buy ground beef, if it's on sale; but beans are healthy, full of protein."

And so it went for this fellow, who was, at one time, a fine architect who built churches, among other things. Now he goes after grants for public sculpture, pieces cities put in parks. He plays the banjo and piano and picks up a few bucks.

He owns his house in the midwest; a very small town. It was a "fixer upper," he told me; though I saw it as a "tear down."

We're not talking about someone without talent here. He's a professional and life for him, like so many others is very tough.

Some are getting through. Well, I suppose you have to make it through the day to get to tomorrow. If you don't, there's just nothing.

Lest We Forget

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Holiday Season

I am not a fan of the "Holiday Season." When I was younger, a kid, I suppose I was; and when my children were growing up, again, I suppose I was. 

Oh yes, we have a tree, a wreath and some decorations and I guess it's festive in a decorative sort of way, but not spiritually, emotionally.

To me, this is a season of excuses: Excuses to spend more than one has; Excuses to frequently purchase gifts that will be rapidly discarded; Excuses to be "happy" without foundation.

If there is, indeed, a "Holiday Spirit," it should not be constrained to a short period. It should be, in my opinion, spread through the year.

It is not even a respite from the ills and woes of the world and so many in it. The dwindling middle class will spend a bit of money, then be concerned in January about buying groceries or gasoline, to say nothing of the ranks of the poor or working poor.

For me, well, I'll go to a shelter where I'll cook and serve food. It is not a higher calling; it is just what I do; and I do it regularly, not this time of year. Perhaps it'll make me feel "good," though it rarely does. It should, but this existential distress that I carry about 24/7 is difficult to break through.

To paraphrase Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, "…the world is not with me…" He enhanced that phrase with "In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff 'tis made of, where of it is born, I am to learn And such a want-wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself."


 

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Perfect for women," my lawyer, a world class drunk, had commented on the room, "they love this high tech look and with that bar…" Hell, it was office furniture, too many chairs, darkly upholstered in a modern pattern and a sofa to match, with black Lucite all over the place. Looks like a doctor's office. The room was comfortable enough for me, even though it seemed somehow empty and out of order. Too many chairs, too damn many chairs.

Stale cigarette, pipe smoke and odor of the whiskey and gin hung to the furniture. The usual cross breeze that cleansed the air when the deck doors were open and the windows did no good as the still air outside seemed not to move anything.
I looked at at the neatly arranged crystal decanters on the glass shelves of the bar, the collection of liquor on the counter reflected in the mirror, then stared out the open glass doors leading to the patio. I often did this to ensure everything was real, with the checkpoints being the two palm trees in front of his building. As long as they were, there was reference.

When the 757 touched the tarmack at Dulles, my concern was focused on how to get out of the airport, rather than my Mother's funeral two days off.

I'd flown in an out the remarkably unaccessable venue dozens of times over the past two decades, but only attended it via taxi. Now the adventure for the geographically challenged ex-reporter was to not only drag his wife's huge suitcases, mercifully equipped with wheels to the Alamo shuttle, then negotiate roads that hadn't existed a decade ago, the last time he'd been in Washington; then for his Father's funeral.

The humid air hung about him like the pall that he thought no doubt covered his mother, as he through Nita's huge bags and his lightweight Tumi in the trunk of the Toyota and headed out the the airport built for art rather than convenience.

Despite the dozen years he'd been away from Washington, once he crossed Memorial Bridge the lay of the land, as his father would say, returned and in a few moments the attendant at the Madison was emptying the car.

"I'd like a Coca Cola," Nita said, picking up the phone to call room service. He swung around quickly and hung up the phone. "There's a 24 hour drug store around the corner; we need to stretch our legs anyway," he told her, grabbing her hand and the room key simultaneously.

Despite his propensity to spend a buck at the drop of a hat on anything that required batteries, room service was always out of the question. Especially with an all night drugstore and Starbucks on every corner.

As they trekked the three blocks to the store, he noticed Nita clinging tightly to his arm.

He rose from the kit built, teak Adirondak chair and walked through the French doors into his living room from the apartment's expansive balcony that looked out over Los Angeles. He glanced at the clock on the VCR. One of the few things, at this point in his life, he could handle. No flashing 12:00. It was early morning, 3:30, and twisted the dial on the CD jukebox until the readout displayed 'Round Midnight by Miles Davis.
The small wet bar beside the stereo had crystal decanters and glasses. Fine crystal, he thought, remembering when he could afford them. Not now. He'd bought the glasses in pairs over the past few years. Waterford, Baccarat, Orrefors, Louis France. Ben opened a deck of Marlboros and tapped one out. He almost smiled when he pulled out his Dunhill Big Boy lighter.

He dropped a few ice cubes into his low ball glass, and refilled it with Scotch and a touch of soda. Bye Bye Blackbird was playing as he inhaled and walked back out on the balcony.

The deck was large, 35 feet long, covered with Astro turf, giving him room to pace, and frequently stub his toes in the darkness, because of it's narrowness.

He often sat here, music piping through his wireless speakers and generally the same Miles Davis tune.

Ben liked old things. Pushing 60, he should like them. Days were better then, he thought. Not simpler, just better. Sitting on the Adirondak chair, he rested his drink on his stomach and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember when? If? What? Who? It was growing harder each day to do so; to grind out that anxiety that tightened every muscle in his body and just remember.

His ex-wife, a new age fruitcake was working for a sawbuck an hour in an ice cream store up north and taking more than a third of his paycheck. One of his incomprehensibles. He'd think about it for hours.

After all, he had custody of the kids. It didn't seem to make anymore difference to that judge in the Santa Monica Muni Court that they were in their 30s than the fact that she was a trained mathmatician with nearly 20 years at IBM. The Court still imputed only 12 grand annually of income to her. Hell, Ben thought, where's women's lib now that I need it.

He looked at himself in the mirror over the switch lighted fire place. He didn't look old, he reflected, maybe thicker around the middle than the 150 he would have liked. He looked tired. Ben turned to look around the 1500 square foot apartment and began to feel stronger. His mouth widened into his half smile as he panned the paintings, the furniture and thought of how it could just have well been the 70s when he lived alone with his kids.

I had my car repopped. I'm on the verge of filing bankruptcy and a woman I thought I loved was as nuts as my ex-wife, Allison was holding up the proceeds from the sale of my home, wanting it all. My income had gone from a half million to a hundred grand a year, my business was gone and I was babysitting a drunken blond. What could be better?

"Why are you being so mean to me?" She barely screeched, stumbling into the living room, hair flying away from her head in dry mats, robe opened enough to reveal her breasts and a thong. "Why am I here? Where's here?"

I sighed, thinking once again that Don and Diane needed the break and I didn't need anymore baggage.

"I don't want to live anymore."

"Kid, go back to bed."

I got up to help her. She looked toward the empty bar. Sad eyes, looking older. She turned and headed back down the hallway. "I want a drink," she mumbled. "You're mean to me."

My eyes felt red, almost weepy. The chair was getting old fast. It was an intrusion I had to accept. I sat for a half hour or so, thumbing through old New Yorkers and checked on her, before returning to my chair.

It would be a long night. Babysitting a blonde and broke. Four years off of 60, a hundred bucks in the bank, three years of bad choices and I wondered how the hell I came to this stage in life.

There was probably more coming. I don't think it matters now.

"I need a little something to calm me down," the blonde whispered, now staggering naked save the thong, into the living room. I caught her just as she walked into the floor lamp next to my chair. She passed out in my arms. Her skin was remarkably cool, dry, soft. Not what I'd expect for one so sotted with booze. Should be sweaty. Hell, she even smelled alright. I dragged her back her bed and returned to the living room.
It would be a hard night. And a hard week. I was due in court in just four days to let the remarkable system of community property in California take another piece of my life. It looked tonight so differently than it did even a year ago. I was alone. Babysitting a drunken blonde. And I was broke.
___________
The smell of burning sage choked me as I walked through the front door. It was 85 the house, a touch warmer than outside. Sweat formed almost the moment I passed through the cool of the garage stairway into the foyer - its walls glistening with beads of dampness. The entryway was filled with the sulfurous odor of the homemade herbal tea Allison brewed constantly in a small, oddly shaped, small, earth toned ceramic cauldron designed, she claimed, for such utility.

The heavy scent of lavender joined the party as I walked up the carpeted stairs to my bedroom. My lungs, now thick with humidity and scent craved the clean, albeit hot air of the Santa Monica Mountains outside. I slid the wide French doors open in the bedroom. My throat was closing as I flopped down on the king size platform bed and gazed out at the mountains through eyes that were tearing from the heat permeated with the rude conglomeration of new age scents. Pressing two fingers of each hand against my eyes to rub away the rawness, I drew myself up and changed into a pair of jeans and T shirt. I filled the sink with cold water and bent into, blowing bubbles for nearly a minute. My eyes were filled with water, my nose touching the porcelain. Staying here, under water, head floating forever. A good thing I thought for a moment before I ran out of air, withdrew my head and shook it quickly, spraying water across the mirror. I dried off and walked down the hallway, feeling my T shirt dampening in the few short moments it took me to reach Allison's room.

"What the fuck is going on?" I shouted through a combination of now raw coughs and harsh sneezes.

No answer.

"Allison, what the hell are you doing?"

Nothing.

She was lying on a futon, down quilt over her slender body, she know believed to be "frail" because of her various healers' conjectures that her immune system was weak and her adrenals weaker. She seemed to know what that meant. I supposed she simply had an allergy and no heart for life. On the other hand, she hadn't worked for years and I'd seen some otherwise intelligent women reach that point of inertia where the job market doesn't want them and the simply turn stupid. Allison, at once bright, had now made that turn. Yeah.

Cloaked in sweats, as usual, over the flannel nightgown she rarely removed until noon. The ubiquitous Walkman headphones was plugged into her ears, now a part of her anatomy. The room was dark, shades over the windows drawn closed. The futon rested but a few inches from the floor. Her eyes were closed and her lips were barely moving; the sounds emanating were unintelligible. She was speaking in "tongues," again. Probably her first language now.

Smoke from the smoldering, dried sage bouquets placed about the bed gave the room a Los Angeles midsummer's day haze. Allison smelled as if she'd bathed in lavender, drank it, then used it as a cologne. Scattered on the bed about her were scraps of paper covered with geometric patterns, each with a smaller piece in the center, carefully folded four times. There was writing on the them. Symbols. Couldn't be Aramaic, she hadn't a clue as to what that was. Pig Latin…or Esperanto. Tiny prayer sheets, filled with affirmations of the "new age," mostly asking for peace, and wealth, material wealth. Grand amounts of money, jewels and journeys.. Weird. Different. Way too different, even for me. Pathological. Yeah. Cassette tapes imprinted with the lost voices of her channels were strewn around the bed on the floor. Several vials of brackish looking liquid herbs dotted the nightstand, surrounding one of the urns of burning sage. Two more urns were on the floor at the foot of the bed.

"Allison, what the hell is going on?"

"Isis told me that these are healing things and…"

A fruitcake. Perfect. If my house could be bottled, I could sell it as am emetic and recoup some of that hundred and a half she just spent on Isis, her new channel, over the phone no less, to guide her to greater spirituality and me into insanity, if not poverty, a condition that, because of my Samuel Johnson-like demeanor, "'tis better to live rich than to die rich," is fairly easy to achieve.

Still gasping, sweaty and now quite aromatic I walked out of her room, rolling my eyes and shaking my head, gestures now so natural around her friends wondered if was inflicted with Parkinson's. Downstairs, then, through the haze, past the tiny alters on the window sills filled with totems and notes to Allison's "higher self," crystals adorning the bookshelves along with "wish boards" cluttered with cutouts from magazines of things she wanted and scores of meditation tapes. An olefacts new age paradise. Better back in graduate school with cinder block bookshelves, mattress on the floor and an old Voice of Music stereo. Hell, Book and Candle. My own special hell.

I ramped the air conditioning down to 60, glanced around the cedar living room that rose nearly two stories. Oh God, those damned art deco leopard skin couches. A whore house hell. The Eberle sisters. Chicago in the 30s, my favorite period an eyesore. In smoky haze I caught my shin for the thousandth time on the heavy glass coffee table that separated the couches. It rested on three large gold ceramic balls. Brass balls. Neat to see them rolling down the driveway out into the canyon….bowling for cars and coyotes. Allison's follies. I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed the laptop computer and walked out on to the deck in the early California evening air.

My litany. Work on the novel. Getaway money, Pop used to call it. Nowadays its "fuck you" money. The world has become such a harsh and hard place. No one says please or thank you. Carry on writer…doctor…nurse. Where are those great Brit comedies these days? Where are those days?
___________

The laptop open, firing up with the sun disappearing over the mountains that faced the broad redwood deck surrounding the house, I dropped my fingers onto the keys and began to tap out words with what seemed to be an unconscious effort. It's always been that way. Maybe not always, but as long as I can remember. The words come and go. A little comfort in the graying teak Adirondak chairs I'd built. Did it from kits, but built them all the same. You need clear gratification sometimes. You know, a lot like masturbation…washing windows…wire service reporting. Gotta see results quickly sometimes when the world's gone awry for you. Everything seems erroneous and just one thing has to be right, has to be true. Wash a window, build a chair, beat off, file a story.

My eyes flickered and closed, Lids fluttering for a moment or two, then opening in the setting sun to see mountains blurred through the slants of the lids. Massing in. Wish I could paint. The browns, grays and greens of the hills blended together in large forms. Can't draw, gotta tin ear and lots of paints and instruments. Maybe that tells me something. Yeah, it tells me I've no patience for painting or playing music or neurosurgery. It tells me that I'll do just about anything to avoid what I do, write.

Concentration was off. Look at the trees, watch the hummingbirds. Can't fight it. I am, indeed, essentially a lazy man when it comes to writing. It had always come so easily and it will now, or later, or whenever. Getaway money. Everyone in this town is writing something. Screenplays. Money there. Eh, there's money in this. Getaway money.

My thoughts drifted to the nightmares of the past, nightmares and joys, old times. God, how I love old times. Increasingly perplexed about them. Thinking mostly of old times. The divorce was wandering through the labyrinth of legalities, emotion, history and explanation. Closure only weeks away, my life was a maze, a maze of mazes. Old times seemed about all I could hang on to. The puzzles grow more complex as I grow older. Finding one solution seemed to lead inexorably to another puzzle, always more complex. My divorce was plotted cleanly. The end was logical, definitive, legal, pragmatic. A few months from now, my house would be sold. There'd be a new life. A small house or a flat by the sea. Something cheerful, light. A place where I could write, a respite, q quiet place of ease, peace, but a temporary place until I could make our run to France. I had thought of Spain, following my parents' lead of long ago, but Paris appealed to me more these days. The 30s again, lost generation, Left Bank, art, music. Yeah, it would be my last gig, our last.

Some dream, Maggie, leaving this house of redwood, cedar and glass nestled against the hillside, so beautiful, comforting in the fashionable Brentwood area of Los Angeles…fingers tapping words that strung to sentences, paragraphs. The light now fading, but the screen bright, I looked across at the mountains. Beaux Arts. Yeah, I'd be looking out on Rue des Beaux Arts.
_______

The deck, the canyon, the comfortable Adirondak chairs and the writing were my only safe harbors these days. the Hotel Bel Air. No life at all save this orchestration of a divorce from 17 years of marriage. On the other hand, the orchestration of Maggie, in so many ways was as problematic, more so perhaps as I had no control. Eh, my entire life wound into this evening ritual anyway: the return to my writing, the letters to Maggie. The novel, my second in thirty years or so, had promise. The letters to Maggie, reflecting my journal, were long and filled with the days thoughts and moments.

I had been dreaming and writing for about a half hour when Allison burst through the French doors onto the deck.

"Ben, I've found a way to cure my hot flashes and our sex problems," she said excitedly. Allison had always been slender, proportioned, attractive with a soft smile. Now she was almost gaunt, with small eruptions of her face, a result no doubt of the myriad of esoteric herbs she ingested almost constantly. Unless she was leaving the house, her dress was old, haggish, layered as if she were living on a glacier. That she had become physically unattractive was not an issue as I'd learned long ago that a woman's beauty was momentary thing, a flash, a brief look, no more as it faded into tedium. Allison had acquired a flaccidity that seemed to permeate all of her being. Her personality had taken on a syrupy quality and her intellect dimensioned now only by the new age metaphysics the understanding of which required a lobotomy, which I thought she may have secretly had effected via psychosurgery from one of her healers. For her to intrude these days was unusual. She knew the marriage was disintegrating - that we had no interest in the other, save that which might have been construed as economic and perhaps a bit of history together.

"What are you talking about," I responded harshly, as the topic was inexplicable considering our relationship and that she knew better than to disturb me with such issues. After all, there'd been no sex in a year. It had been a year and a half since I moved her from the master bedroom to the guest room. I'd long ago lost my taste for the little physical pleasure she might afford.

"You know, my hot flashes and our sex problems," Allison said, pulling on a sweater over her sweatshirt, which covered a blouse, a T shirt and a turtleneck. In 75 degree weather she imagined herself cold, in 90 degree weather…there was always an ailment.
"We don't have any sex problems. We don't fuck at all. Turn up the air conditioning, you won't have hot flashes. It's 85 degrees in here all the time."

On the hottest of days, she'd keep the air conditioning off, pointing out that anything less than the current temperature would give her a chill, which would in turn give her the sniffles, which would lead to a cold, which would run down her body, which would lead to beriberi, chronic fatigue syndrome and possibly an immaculate pregnancy.

She would all be alright, according to Renaldo, one of her channels, who could cure anything. She had told her sister that she had a cancer, which Renaldo had found and dissolved the tumor over the phone.

"You know I'm menopausal."

"Right, and last year you had chronic fatigue, the year before hypoglycemia and you've been menopausal for ten years. And didn't you think you were pregnant a couple of years ago, you know, and had it aborted by a psychic healer?"

"That's not fair, you know we have sex problems."

"Nah, no, no we don't. I just had a headache for about a year, maybe more."

"I know what my body says."

"Does your body ever say anything rational?" I asked. "You know, like it's alright to eat oatmeal, or exercise, or eat a peach?"

"I've got a way to fix it all - Thea."

"Who the hell is Thea?"

"A spirit that Jean channels up in northern California. She'll give me a great deal - ten 90 minute sessions for $1,000."

"Why do these spirits always have to make a buck? You know, Christ didn't charge for his services."

"Even spiritual people have to earn a living. And how do you know Christ didn't charge. You don't know everything."

"You've got to be kidding." My eyes rolled so I thought my brainpan was coming into focus as exasperation began to make me faint, a little dizzy and desperately in need of a large measure of scotch.

"No, you don't know he didn't charge, no one does. And I want to do this 'intensive' with Thea."

"You mean Christ might have charged for the miracles?"

"Well, he could have. You don't know."

"You mean a liter of water to a liter of wine for a half a buck? More maybe for something vintage? What'd he charge for the fishes and loaves?"

No question, I'm in the asylum. Thea might just suggest a meat cleaver to solve the problems. My home, the abattoir.

"I supported you and the kids when we got married. I did it for five years."

"So, what've you done for the past 12? Listen, spend the fuckin' money, I don't want to hear about it anymore." There was a clarity in it all.

It was a movie. The only answer. All a Bobby Ewing dream and I'll be up soon. In Paris. Yeah, that's where I really am. Paris. Yeah, a dream…

"You'd feel better if you came with me to The Ecclesia next week," she said speaking of her latest near cult experience with a latter day EST group that promised prosperity as it got richer from its students' "contributions."

"Just fuckin' shoot me now. I told you I don't want to hear about any of this."

"Why do you keep using the 'F' word."

"Because you're driving me fuckin' crazy. Just leave me the fuck alone."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It was more than 60 years ago. There was no rain, no thunder, no sun to prophesy my arrival in Greenwich Village, that quarter century before Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart discovered a murderer 125 West 9th Streetfrom their rear window just east of my apartment.

     Mother, a psychiatrist and the Regina of Jewish American Princesses, suggested to her internist father that she was in labor. As she was prone to histrionics, my soon to be grandfather declined her offer of delivery.

     He did so in Yiddish, classical Greek and, for mother’s benefit, sharp English. A physician of the old school, he felt best to let me arrive, as I now recall, on my own timetable.

     My schedule, mother later told me, was some 22 hours different than hers. Apparently she labored hard and long to release me. Grandfather, of course, finally recognized that mother was also a trained physician, though a woman and certainly without his experience, and, indeed, was appropriately ready for this task.

     He and my uncle, a Noel Coward clone and a surgeon, helped mother down to grandfather’s medical suite, just off the living room downstairs in our Greenwich Villageapartment. Fortunately, Grandfather hadn’t yet lost leg to diabetes, which certainly might have produced more confusion than the fact that neither Stanley, nor Grandfather were obstetricians. Of course, that wasn’t as much of a challenge as their constant thought that mother, though often self-characterized as the“surest bet south of 14th street,” was a virgin, as neither could even consider someone, even her husband, straddling the woman to let forth some combination of genes that included hers.

     But Grandfather had the challenge well in hand, so to speak, as he had a proclivity whether coincidental or with great purpose, to deliver babies throughout the Village, most of whom later became waiters, or in some cases restauranteurs. In both events, most were happily beholden to Grandfather who reminded them religiously of this act of kindness whenever we dined at Rattner’s, Moskowitz & Lupowitz, Marta, Peter’s Backyard and a raft of others throughout our lives. Though the delivery was eminently successful, mother died about 60 years later.

     I never thought about lighting a Yahrzeit candle for mother. It’s not so much that I’d never thought about, but perhaps that I never considered the time when it would be required. In retrospect, I suppose, I had never thought about it for my father, either, when he died a dozen years earlier.

     We had talked about Yiskor on several occassions, in our time together. It had been just a few years more than three decades since his hand jumped out from beneath the choopa and tapped me lovingly on top of my 16 year old head, flashing a mischevious smile, “I told you the first thing I’d do when I married your mother was to give you a hit on the head.”

     I remember him telling me “You must always say Yiskor for your family. It is all we have.” Odd how I equate those words with a movie; Ron Liebman responding to Sally Field’s question in “Norma Rae,” “Why are Jews different?” “History,” Liebman responded. I suppose there’s not much that hasn’t been said before, eh? And if someone says it well, give ‘em credit and use it.

     I suppose I am not a good Jew; a “mensch.”I have history, though. Some would say “Too much.” I believe it is not yet enough.

     Yiskors’ are problematic for me. Do you start the night before, the next morning, sundown on the day of? The Evangelical Christians make death a lot easier.

About the only Kaddish I can read is that of Allen Ginsburg. Even the transliteration of the Hebrew prayers eludes me. I get as far as “Vyiskadal, viyiskadash…” and revert to a Sid Caesar bluff language. And then there are candles. Until recently they came in those glasses that served so well for juice; now they’re in little tin cans. They’re supposed to last 24 hours, but generally go 26 or 27. It’s a reasonable lack of precision, but I often wonder if the extra hours violate some Talmudic law.

     I lit the candle at sundown with reflection that continued as I walked my dog that evening. How odd it seemed that I no longer had parents, only sons, a wife and a friend or two who would watch my back on a night patrol.
Chapter 2

She drank my drink and then she stole my hat. My life was like that, always I think.

Maggie was a perfectly dreadful woman. I didn’t see it immediately. In fact, it was difficult to see it at all, unless you’d had the remarkable bad luck to have her in you life for a couple of decades or more. You might see flashes of it, but they were ephemeral enough be perceived as aberrations, but they never were.

Every man has a “Maggie” at one time or another. Easy to bed with strings that you never see coming and are pulled with great, but decreasing subtlety and for a long, long time. Maggies are transition women; sometimes the affair where you get a blow job riding up 101 or in some dark bar. We all know them and we all think we love them and we all learn that their cost is almost incalcuable.

Maggie was around for two divorces, a year or so living together and nearly 25 years in an out of my life; with a price tag that probably topped a hundred grand, to say nothing of a dozen stitches or so.

When I first met her, she was a lithe, long haired, brown eyed, not quite drop dead gorgeous California girl living in a borderline rundown two bedroom with her young son in Venice, California.

I was an ex-reporter, with a witch of a wife and two kids, just in from the east coast and who’d just picked up a flack job in LA. She worked for me and when I first saw her I saw the pen in the company inkwell, as is often said.

Three decades later, I began to reflect on where Maggie had taken me.

On the 35 foot balcony of my Santa Monica apartment, I had plenty of room to walk about and a sliver of a view of the ocean. It was not far from where Maggie had lived years before. By now, she’d moved to the Pacific Northwest.

 It was a couple of years before my mother died that I realized I was on the shank of my life and the bad parts were flying in like Maine black flies in a July dusk. But it wasn’t Maine and it wasn’t dusk. It seemed the end of things and hard to see. I’ve mostly been an observer of others and never looked much at myself.

The dampness of the air fell around me as I paced the balcony. And I was still sore from the kitchen knife Maggie had caught me with in Tuscany a few months earlier.

Strong scotch in hand and my bones cranking from the dampness, I wandered back into the apartment. Probably should have collapsed in one of the Adirondak chairs on the deck. Inside there were mirrors everywhere. My landlord, a gay decorator was the exception to my philosophy that men die of stupidity. He’ll shuffle off due to vanity.

Staring into the one above the fireplace I saw tired eyes and my face, drawn hard, framed with short graying hair. I’d gone from white blond as a kid to gray early. Mortality. It had become an issue. Not the issue, just one to pile up in the stack. I was piling up issues now. No longer a sense of discernment or priority. I began to wonder if I was about to experience that one synaptic misfire that would send me over the edge.

Increasingly worried now about the remainder of my sanity, I breathed deeply and walked to the den where the computer continued to flicker a psychedelic pattern in its sleep. It was dark, save the screen. The plastic utility bookshelves stacked double deep with the library collected over the past 40 years were shadowy monoliths looming in the somber room. Books, papers, unfinished sketches and poems scattered about the two desks; the room too crowded with a couple of occassional chairs which, like almost everything else in the apartment, rescued from my business shut down more than a year ago.

Stumbling over the wastebasket into the secretarial chair in front of the computer, I wondered why I’d not just flicked the light switch. As the charred tobacco from a pipe resting on the desk spilled to the floor when my arm swept across the desk to regain my balance. I tapped the space bar to wake it and sat staring at the screen. It’s not time to write now, I thought. Never seems to be as my shin, bruised from the fall, ached when I walked back to the living room.

Dichotomies

"Stocks are soaring in early trading after major central banks acted to avert a credit crunch." Do you really care? This will have absolutely no impact on what's in your pocket.

"200+ arrested at Occupy Los Angeles, 50 in Philly"

What a dichotomy, eh? The rich continue to get richer; the poor, poorer…and arrested. Perhaps the "Occupy [you fill in the blank] is contemporary societies version of the Civil Rights Sit Ins of the 50s and 60s.

No matter what it's characterized as, to me it is the clear outset of that oft tossed about phrase, "Class Warfare."

As you're probably aware, there is little, if any Middle Class left and notwithstanding the consumer spending spluge on "Black Friday," incomes are way down, and with that, of course, disposable income is down. Look forward to another raft of personal bankruptcies next year.

Sure there's so-called "good news" out there, but it's really not. It's quite superficial. For example, that "Jobless Claims" are down could be extrapolated to mean simply that companies/businesses need a minimum number of employees to continue in business.

We could have a ton of new jobs if President Obama had started his term with, well, some sort of job stimulation legislation. Sure, the "Stimulus" is reputed to have saved and/or added a lot of jobs, but had he focused on rebuilding our infrastructure, roads, bridges and so forth, there would have been many, many more and longer term on a levels of work, from the laborer to manament professional.

By way of disclaimer, I still support the President and will vote for him in 2012. However, if an intelligent, moderate, middle-class, ingenuous Republican with a strong, long-term Congressional background were on the other side, that would cause me pause and futher consideration.

My business used to be quite good, strong, and frankly, quite lucrative. No longer, but it gets us by. Clients with dough, however, are late pay. What are you going to do? Dun them? There's little loyalty there, save one or two.

My wife's business is doing okay though…she undercuts everyone on price, but she's not getting the "personal shopping" and "errand" business she wants – again, there's not much discretionary spending out there.

I don't really fear that our nation is becoming a "third world" member, but it seems it's getting damned close.

I used to think the economy was, in a sense, organic and notwithstanding the efforts and actions of the government, would generally right itself.

That is no longer my feeling. There are far too many to make whole these days. We are heading, or even in a very dark place; a place where, and I don't mean to be histrionic here, we could see some rioting in cities, if there are any cities left…Detroit, after all, looks like a deserted war zone.

I am grateful that both my boys are working and do well. I am probably grateful to be "above ground."

However, I am constantly and inordinately despondent about the state of our nation; angry with our so-called Legislative Branch (Congress) and disappointed in our President.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Facebook

I am astounded that people post on Facebook ten or more times a day: Working on abs, switching it up, going to the drug store. I'm on there only because of clients, and my kids…it's a wonder to me how egocentric folks are. Well, perhaps I'm not so astounded.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

It is Thanksgiving and for me, as I am sure others, brings back memories. The most recent are the easiest; those are the ones for which I did most of the cooking.

I cook turkeys on a Weber Kettle Grill, with "indirect heat." The grill, of course, limits the size to under 20 pounds. But they were always great; the last hour or so I'd throw wet hickory chips on the coals for a smokey flavor.

There are few memories of growing up and Thanksgiving…that was long ago. However, I remember some of the best were when I was a single parent and sole custodian of my boys. I did the whole thing then and we ate together, just the three of us, though sometimes we'd have a guest or two. At that time, I wasn't baking pies, which I do now and quite – none of those pre-made crusts, by the way…and I make a helluva pumpkin pie.

This year will be very different, as we're going out to dinner. My wife decided that's what she wanted. I suppose it's fine, but I wouldn't have minded cooking a bit. Why bother if there's a dissent.

I'm not at all certain we need to have a holiday on which to be thankful. I am so, daily. Mostly for my boys and my parents, grandparents and the few close friends I have.

I must say, there's not a day that passes, however, on which I'm not thankful, grateful for having extraordinarily wonderful parents and sons.

All the best to all on this day…but be thankful daily, if I may suggest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Facebook: Do You Really Care? And Are You That Self-Centered?

What is it with Facebook? Okay, I'm on Facebook primarily for photos of the family, posting rarely and then only news items of interest. Yes, I have about 50+ friends, I know 'em all and fairly well, mostly from my client base.

I'm sure that no cares where I am at a particular moment, yet I see from my wife's feed the following drivel:

"So excited to start my new training today!!! Yesterday was an unhappy day for me. Time to work it out!!!"

"Momma needs a good night sleep! Have a great Monday everyone"

"Cardio today... Trimming it up!"

"So excited to start my new training today!!! Yesterday was an unhappy day for me. Time to work it out!!!"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Days Seem To Just Pass

It seems as if I had a lot to say over the past few days, yet I didn't. Nothing, as usual, of great moment.

In about six weeks I'll be a year away from 70; 69 years old and I now begin to wonder, and I do mean wonder, if I'll hit 7 decades. Frankly, I never thought I'd get this far.

Don't misunderstand this statement, as it's neither a suicidal thought, nor a "cry for help." That noted, I question increasingly about the worth of life these days. I know surely that many, if not most have "fun," or "a good time," or find things, hobbies, in the vernacular, "whatever," that brings them joy, or happiness.

I believe my boys do that, though we communicate infrequently: We're believers that an occasional "Hello," "You okay," etc. is just fine via email or texts, unless there's something important to discuss, or just too much time, perhaps a couple or three weeks pass without verbal communication. I love them, and they me, so I don't worry about that.

But the world, the nation; as I think about them, seem awful, bringing little to my life and the life of others who truly consider our state these days.

I try distractions: My guitar, my banjo, but age has gotten to me a bit with these as a touch of arthritis is apparent in my hands. Hours of playing are no longer available to me. Once magic was a hobby. In fact, for a long time I was quite good a close-up magic and still have to kits of effects, as well as a collection of antique larger effects at the home of my youngest son.

Aside from work, I'm left with reading and television, the latter mostly mindless but keeps my attention. As for reading, I treat myself with fiction, mostly mysteries or thrillers. But, as I grow old, more and more, I've turned to classics that I get for my Kindle from Gutenberg. And, I have many of them in my library anyway. How odd for me that all these years of reading books have now turned to an electronic device. Don't get me wrong, I bought the original Kindle, the larger one (my analogy when people ask is whether or not you mind reading paperbacks – I'm not particulary fond of those), the week it came out.

I didn't figure that I'd actually like it and I think it was $400 or so at the time. But Amazon allowed for a 30 day return. Wasn't necessary at all, as I adapted that night. I enjoy it. I guess I've had it for almost five years. Yeah, I'd like an iPad 2, but there's no justification for it for me. I mostly use my desktop and have a laptop on which I work from time to time.

Well, that's it for me at this point…Again, nothing of moment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cars, Warranties and STP

So, there I was at Pep Boys picking up a couple of quarts of oil and STP oil treatment (my car has a sporadic oil leak and blows white smoke every now and then when I start it, so there's either a problem or my car thinks there's a new Pope) when I spied a remote to open the car.

Some time back, my wife had not only lost the remote, but also her key, which cost $60 to replace (programmed). In any event, I bought the remote last week, with the oil. It was $44 and fortunately I hadn't yet opened. When I got home, I checked Amazon and eBay, which is where I always (well, apparently almost always) look. Yeah, I'm one of the retail sales problems – I don't like stores much. On eBay, I found the remote for $12 and bought two.

They came today and I programmed both of 'em in about five minutes, something for which Pep Boys charges nearly $15. I like Pep Boys; they've been around forever and they've always been helpful, but I thought this was a bit much. Once I had to replace a tail light, which in my car is a royal pain (Tbird). One of the guys there came out and did for nothing. It took him about ten minutes and I tipped him a ten for his trouble. Would have done the same thing on the remote…

Now, I like my car, as far as cars go, but I think they're generally a pain in the neck. Mine's approaching 100,000 miles. Getting back to the "white smoke," in early August I thought it might be a good idea to pick up an extended warranty. Yeah, I know, never do that. However, I did for six years or an "additional 75,000 miles," whichever came first.

When I spoke with the scammy salesperson for the warranty I asked specifically if the company wanted to inspect the car. He said no and explained the terms of the policy, which seemed fine to me. For the first month, you can't make a claim if anything goes wrong, and that apparently covers them. The fellow didn't ask me if there was anything wrong with the car and, given that, I felt no need to tell him about the occasional white smoke.

So, in early September, the policy went in effect. Three weeks ago, my airbag light came on and one of the cigarette lighters didn't work…and, of course, I had the white smoke problem. So, I was sent a claim form to fill out and told to go to any certified AES mechanic.

To make a long post a bit shorter, the "Warranty" company said that my claim had to be reviewed by the "Fraud" department. Of course, I asked why and was told it was procedure. In short, they denied any claim, even the lighter and airbag issues.

I told them I wanted a refund. "It will be pro-rated and we'll send you a form to complete." Well, I completed the form, returned it and, much to my surprised, they issued a refund. However, it did not included August, when one could make no claims and a couple of weeks in September. The funds were credited to my credit card. I lost about $200 on the $1500 deal.

Well, they called and said, "You didn't fill out the 'Waiver of Litigation.'" I told 'em I didn't plan to and in the interim, before they called about that, I found a couple of major class action suits against the company – and applied to join both.

Now I've had a couple of extended warranties in the past; one on our refrigerator from Best Buy, which I renewed and one on our washer and dryer, same place, which I renewed. But you can only renew once, unfortunately. They were great and held to everything in the extended warranties.

But these auto guys, I "shudda" listened to a couple of people who told me not to. Granted, there was an issue before the policy went into effect, but they didn't want to check the car, nor did they ask me.

I'm equivocal about the moral issue of not volunteering the information, but what the hell, they wouldn't have paid anyway.

So, still a little white smoke, but no oil leak. Just in case, I can top it off in the garage and I've got some STP Oil Treatment which friends tell me stops almost anything.

And, on a worst case basis, my "shade tree mechanic" told me I get a rebuilt engine for about $2500 and he'll handle it for another $600.

So, that's it for me today.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My “Wife”

All I really wanted to do was watch some movies today that I recorded. However, even while working, my wife's intrusive. While I "complain" here, I do it in order not to be intrusive with my friends. The fact is, unless it's the ridiculousness of Congress or some foolish politician, or something along those lines, I rarely complain.

It's complicated that while I do so with regard to "public" issues, personal ones, no. If one can't do something about a problem or issue one's experiencing, then I believe you just let it go, put it aside…

My wife, absolutely not. Daily she complains about her job. Now, she wouldn't need that job if she hadn't hocked some jewelry to buy designer clothes, but even that doesn't matter.

She's been suspended at least twice and today she called. First, "Oh, I'm so tired, I didn't sleep well…" I don't care. Then, she forgot to put her car in "Park" and it started to roll while she was getting out of it. Last week, she scratched. She's a limo driver and I'm surprised they don't can her, which they'll probably do today – the last call I got was that they were taking her for a "drug test."

Okay, it may be okay to marry an alcoholic…however, here's my advice: Don't get old and lethargic with one. Get out of it while you're young enough to do so. I could do it, but, as I've written before, it's just too much hassle at this stage of my life.

But, who knows…

Aside from that, there was a bit of Paterno talk today on the weekly news shows. My view, once again, whatever he did that was "good" is now thoroughly eradicated. What's more, he should have an asterisk by his name in the record books, as should Penn State.

That's it for now…I recorded "Harry Crumb," perhaps it'll make me smile.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paterno – The Newest of Scumbags

I find it extraordinary that there is any support at all for Joe Paterno. Well, maybe not considering the amount of dough football brings into colleges these day. But look at 'em all going down the drain: USC a few years back, Miami on the verge and Penn State being flushed now.

In "Personal Foul at Penn State," Maureen Dowd draws an analogy to the Catholic Church's cover up.

But my issue is more than that. I don't give a damn how much Paterno donated to the school, if his ballplayers were decent students.

I give damn about the fact that he let all of this go; that he covered it up. He should have resigned when the story broke and I hope the guy is implicated in court.

Hell, we should call college sports what they really are, "Pro," and just pay the players. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the players, the students and certainly not the school.

The NCAA should immediately cancel the seasons of any school that violates the rules like the three mentioned. "PaJo," they called Paterno – better "Pederast Support Pat."