Does anyone else hate those plaques (and bracelets and tee shirts and door mats) that say “LIVE  * LOVE * LAUGH”?? I mean, is it just me?

You know how the latest feminist outrage (and I was calling myself a feminist before it was a thing, but I do get tired of the Outrage Of The Week) is men telling women to smile? Well I guess I get it because I hate that motto, which has ambushed me repeatedly of late. Don’t tell me to love when I’ve just encountered six things I hate. (Say a loose dog, a rude driver, a toddler, Latino music played too loud on someone’s car radio, a “pro-life” bumper sticker, a door to door salesman.) Don’t tell me to laugh when I am less amused than Queen Victoria.  Don’t even tell me to live. I might hold my breath just to spite you.

Admonitions to cheer and wholesomeness are like being bludgeoned about the head and shoulders by someone explaining that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

It makes me feel like this guy.

click for explanation

click for explanation


Consumer Dissatisfaction, or, I Can’t See This

I paid the credit card bill for these eyeglasses about ten days ago.



I swear it gets worse with time. First, back in 1997, I had to wrestle an optician to the mat, because she couldn’t believe that my haywire vision involved anything but “unfamiliarity with polycarbonate.” (For those who are lucky enough to have good vision, polycarbonate lenses allow you to have bottle-bottom correction without bottle-bottom glasses. Myopes like me know all about it.) No, it was the corneal dystrophy, a quaint affliction that gives you a fly-eye multiplex panorama of, say,  three stop lights or freeway signs overlaid on one another.

So I think I have the optometrist trained to leave out my astigmatism prescription (because on a given day it can make the corneal dystrophy twice as bad), and I buy a pair of giant sunglass frames that the optician swears are pure titanium (“why again do you need such durable frames?”, she said, petite and sedentary, unacquainted with hurtles off of glute-ham benches or Batwoman dangles from Smith machines).

And I take these fucking glasses home and treat them like newborn guppies since, aha!, I can actually read through the bottoms of them even though now the computer screen looks like a dog’s dinner, you can’t win them all, and then what do you know, I get out of the shower, open out the left bow, open out the right bow, it bends upward in my hand like an overboiled piece of capellini, I bend it down thinking WTF is it hinged like that?, and off it comes in my hand, not unscrewed at the hinge but parted in the metal, like a paper clip that’s been at the mercy of someone with bad OCD.

There ensued a characteristic farce in which Your Narrator, destitute of attire, groped her way wet and dripping to the dresser drawer containing about seven past pairs of glasses, dating all the way back to the real-glass days (a half-inch thick at the edges, with yellowing nosepads), and rummaged through them trying to find one that sort of worked, so that she could grab the phone and leave a semi-hysterical message on the after-hours machine at the optical practice. It brought back memories. Once, long before the days of cell phones that would have solved the problem lickety-split, I got out of the shower to find that another member of the household I lived in at that time had taken my glasses by mistake and left behind a completely useless pair of weak-tea reading glasses. Blind is bad enough; blind and naked makes you feel like a mole rat. Blind, naked and wondering where your glasses are in the metropolitan area… well, I think the phrase is done for the day.

So today they called me to say they couldn’t replace the broken frame, discontinued by manufacturer (wonder why?), and could I come out to look at some options? The optician measured the refraction in the old lenses that are better than my new ones (except for reading), exhibited some nifty frames that could be special-ordered in my size and preferred colors, and said she’d call when they came in so I could try them on and choose. That will be trip number four, and they’ll still have the lenses to grind. This is the part I hate most about being half-blind: not the expense, only occasionally the paralyzing panic (“my god, without modern technology I would have to tap my way around with a red cane”); it’s the unending fuckery.

If I am very very good in this life maybe in the next I will not be necessarily rich or blessed, just 20/20.

I Love My Home Town

From the hyperlocal news blog:

FELONY HIT & RUN / INDECENT EXPOSURE, 140815062, 1600 block of S. Barton Street. At 9:23 pm on August 15, an intoxicated and nude subject struck two vehicles while driving a motorcycle. The subject fled on foot into a wooded area after wrecking the motorcycle. Police located the man a short distance away and he was transported to INOVA Fairfax hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Note, not just intoxicated, but destitute of attire. On a motorcycle. What’s not to love?

We get something like this around here about twice a month.

The Grinner

This sort of shit always happens right before I go on vacation.

“Hey! Did you get my call earlier? Oh, okay, no problem. I just want to know if it’s OK with you that my work buddy takes my appointment. I know I’m in again in two weeks, I’m fine. He’s a mess. We’ve been working on the Ebola outbreak and how to protect our volunteers in West Africa and he’s been here late every night and his neck has locked up.”

Sure. Whatever.

They arrived together about an hour later, my client of twenty-plus years and Scott, his co-worker, the latter broadcasting a creepily grinning Joker-like risus sardonicus which I suspect he fondly thought of as an attempt to smile through the pain. It made every individual hair on my body twitch and flutter like prairie grass in the wind.

“What have you been doing for it so far?” I asked.

“Well I saw a couple other people for massage.”

“But I know you can do a better job,” chimed in my regular client.

Oh, no pressure, then.

He couldn’t lie flat on his back. He couldn’t lie on a slant cushion. I had to put him over on his face. Thank God; it took away the spectacle of that spastic rictus.

I talked while I worked. I talked about the nonsurgical therapies that had worked for one client and another with a neck disc problem. I talked about the unlikeliness of dorsal angina (I’ve seen it once and it didn’t go away when she changed position). I talked about the muscles I was working on and why they could create awful pain just by seizing up. I pressed here and asked him to breathe, then pressed there and asked him to breathe again. Deep. Now blow.

In some ways I think the most relaxing thing I did was answer his remarks about all my body books; yes, I’ve had some of them since I was four years old; yeah, I had that Visible Woman model with the transparent exterior and all the lungs and kidneys and things that you painted and snapped into place. It was quaint and reminiscent and had nothing to do with Ebola. Here’s your diaphragm. Here’s your stuck rib. Inhale and blow out as I compress it.

I didn’t think he’d be able to take an hour’s work, but when I looked up at the clock I had overshot by five minutes.

That awful grin was off his face. “It feels better than it has in a week,” he said.

I hope it stayed that way.

It’s flattering when my long-time clients think I can square the circle, but, well, scary.

Canned Tuna Flambe, or, Every Young Man’s Dream (or, There’s An App For That)

Corporal Man-Child of the IDF was explaining to us about the canned tuna when his cell phone made an alarming noise.

This is because it was an alarm. Home on leave, he was still receiving alerts from Israel about things like incoming rockets, an app especially designed for Israeli citizens. It uses some sort of coordination between the phone’s GPS and missile alerts to shriek and tell you to head for the bomb shelter. Not knowingly under fire, he was perplexed for a moment until he flicked his screen and said “It looks like we’ve got a peace agreement. YESSS!

Six foot gangly three of 25-year-old military muscle doing a fist pump in your dining room is dangerous to the chandelier. After a moment I exhaled.

It has been a long road for the Man-Child since he put me in mind of Yeats, since I foisted bestowed my senile car upon him to make sure nothing stood between him and a job, since he texted from under the Iron Dome. It has taken him from suburban basements to a kibbutz to a hostel in Tel Aviv to the Israeli Defence Force, this young man who once read about the Holocaust as a schoolboy and said “I don’t want to be a Jew any more if it makes people want to do that to you.” In the end, in the aftermath of the Wall Street Recession, there weren’t any jobs and the US Army wouldn’t take his spinal curvature and the kibbutz wasn’t working for him and the IDF wasn’t so picky. Nothing more idealistic than that.

“What it is about the tuna fish,” he explained as we settled back down, “is you have to go on some long fucking maneuvers in training and you eat when you can in a hurry and the tuna fish is standard rations. But it’s cold tuna fish and it’s clammy and it sucks, and what you do, is you take a twist of toilet paper and soak it in the oil from the fish and put it on top of the can, okay? Then you set it on fire and you have crispy blackened tuna fish, which actually tastes like something and you have to fight people off if you have it.”

Off duty, the fare is better, I gather. There is the Arab guy who presses his own olive oil (and sells it in reused water bottles), the Russian meat guy, the four vegetable vendors on the same street with Man-Child’s off-base apartment, the fishmonger who beheads and fillets the salmon before your very eyes. “The food’s been a problem since I got back,” he said. “Many trips to the bathroom.” In other nations, but Israel particularly, they do not let you sell food laden with all sorts of chemical shit. It might almost make up for the rockets.

Well maybe. “This app is pretty good, it seems to catch everything,” he said. “Except the time I slept through it. I was in barracks and I slept through the phone and then the air raid siren went off, and the drill is you go out in the hall, because the sleeping quarters have windows that could smash in, only the hall was already full of a bunch of 18 year old women recruits that hadn’t slept through the app and I couldn’t get far enough out of my room to shut the door. And then the rocket hit. About as far away as that Stop sign way down the block?” We had wandered out front by then, to enjoy the balmy breezy Tidewater night and let the Man-Child smoke a cigarette, downwind. “And the door fucking blew shut behind me from the blast and shot me out right into a body heap of these 18 year old chicks, all of us in our pajamas.”

Every young man’s dream, except for the bomb part, I guess.

We went back inside to drink to peace. I had accumulated a stockpile of single malts, and the Engineer had a set of shot glasses, and we lined up the Glenmorangie the Amrut the Clynelish the Laphroiag in a row. “L’chaim,” said the Man-Child, who had probably been speaking more Hebrew than he realized all evening. “Well, that’s ‘to Life.’ You need Peace for Life, though.”

We drank.

“L’Shalom,” went the second toast: “Peace,” plain and simple: the desire of most of the people in uniform who do the job they’re paid to do and hope nothing ever hits the fan too hard, even if they enjoy the relative immunity of the unit that makes films and public relations announcements, like the Man-Child.

“Is your friend Ben still driving that old car of mine?” I asked, on a random thought. “Nah, it finally died,” he admitted, “the transmission went. Damn, that car took me so many places.”

“Melissa,” I invoked, raising my shot glass and enjoying the nostalgic sound of her name, which I gave to her six months before the Man-Child was born. “Melissa,” chorused the guys.

He wants to go to college, but not here. The IDF will give him a leg up, and he has a homeland now. No idealism, no zealotry: just a place he’d rather be.

He flies back a week from Sunday, no longer the Man-Child, simply a man, as good as he can manage. We get to cross our fingers while old animosities light the sky seven time zones away, because, oh yeah, that peace accord didn’t happen.

A  journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.

So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

“Pardon me, sir, I’m a journalist. What’s your name?

“Morris Feinberg,” he replied.

“Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?”

“For about 60 years.”

“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”

“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man.”

“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”

“Like I’m talking to a wall.”

Pray for us now and in the hour of our birth.