Conde Nasty

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Conde friggin’ Nast. Try this again and I’ll ask for a restraining order.

What happened was, I was about to leave the house to buy food, just trying to get through the day, when a last check of my e-mail informed me, via PayPal, “You just sent a payment to Conde Nast,” a notorious publisher of overpriced, useless magazines, for the gulp-inducing total of 89.99. Seriously?

My first thought, of course, was that someone had hacked my account, though God knows why you’d do that just to buy some crappy magazines, and by the time I had tied myself completely in knots, been put on hold, been unable to change the password because you can never change the password when you need to, locked the account and called the associated credit card company on my other phone, a nice man with a delicate Bombay Welsh accent came on the line.

“You do not have to worry that someone has got into your account today,” he said. “I see this was pre-authorized in July.”

And I immediately knew what happened. Because all summer I have been getting rid of broken, frayed, splintering things around the house and replacing them, mostly from a discount site called Wayfair, which I like because they will sell me cheap, attractive rugs with skid-proof backings that I can throw into the washer. When you limp yourself, and have clients so tottery from afflictions like MS that it’s not strange for them to do a full face plant every week or two, you like that skidproof feature, and with six cats around the house, the washing machine thing is primo. Your cat can barf at 9 a.m. and the rug is ready for clients at noon.

And the last time I started getting unwelcome magazines in my mailbox — some stupid damned Southwestern cooking magazine — and the time before that — a really disgusting fashion publication, rife with ads for ten thousand dollar watches and reeking of migraine-inducing perfume — it was because I hadn’t unchecked a little tiny box way on the other side from the order details of a Wayfair checkout form. At least I wasn’t charged, they were “trials,” but both times I lost twelve or fifteen minutes I’ll never get back telling Conde Nast I didn’t want their magazines. Not any of them.

(Wayfair, we’ll get to you. There have to be better ways to keep your prices low than this scam. But first things first.)

Who the hell even reads magazines any more? As far as I can tell, they exist only to leaven the boredom in dental waiting rooms and possibly absorb the goo in the bottoms of kitchen wastebins. They are forty per cent advertising. They harbor loathsome inserts that either reek of synthetic scents, or merely fly everywhere and create litter to pick up. And who in jeebus’ name at Conde Nast thought anyone shopping for a thirty-buck rug was going to make an impulse purchase of a ninety-dollar subscription to some friggin’ thing or other that I will never actually know what it even was?

It’s bad enough you buy a perfectly useful piece of software like a PDF converter or  a tune-up utility and it tries repeatedly during the install to foist some clunky antivirus or toolbar on your machine. Now they’ve honed the art of the involuntary dead-tree subscription.

(Let’s not get started on the paper catalogs you get because you bought something from some other catalog. Ever try to stop them coming? It’s your whole afternoon if you were actually to go through with it.)

“Do not feel bad,” said Bombay Dafydd as he signed off, having cancelled everything. “If you don’t mind my saying so, you need a magnifying glass to see these things they use to sign you up. I cannot see that well myself.”

Now I still have to go shopping, and if it weren’t for the lyric sound of Dafydd’s voice, I would probably be at risk of mutilating some idiot woman or out-of-control child in the grocery aisles. Dafydd knows not whose life he saved today.

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The Revenge Of The Phone

It was bound to happen. When I upgraded from a FartPhone(tm) I was dead cert something would go south and drive me up a motherfracking wall: yet months went by and the little bugger performed like a trooper, storing way too many cat photos, occasionally allowing me to check blogs on the fly (on a crappy wet day the gym bike session can run forty minutes), supplying me with endless news-bites via Twitter, which in the era of global PTSD (Post-Trump Stress Disorder) has become a lifeline to events as they happen. So I was living with a false sense of security when I fired it up several evenings ago, ready to surf the news from my favorite after-dinner chair.

It’s an Android, by the way. I know people who have iPhones are loyalists for whatever reasons, but I just hate Apple; during the ghastly eight month interregnum when I opened my cellar guest room to a hapless millennial with a case of ADHD on steroids, there were constant panics about things like lost charging cables, which at Radio Shack cost twenty seven dollars. (A knockoff cable finally turned up at the Seven-Eleven for nine even.) Since you can get a basic USB-to-mini cable cheaper than a Starbucks sugar bomb, I decided I wasn’t letting the ghost of Steve Jobs jack me for more.

So it did its little Androidy thing, month in and month out, until the fateful moment when I powered it up, began shuffling through the Home screen and a popup suddenly appeared — it lacked only the black border of a death notice — announcing mournfully, even tragically: “Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.”

The only other thing inside the white popup box was a live link reading: “OK.” Things did not seem OK at all, but I tapped it, only to find myself in an endless cycle of lather, rinse, repeat.

We consulted Dr. Internet. Dr. Internet advised us that the phone could be run in Safe Mode, which involves a simultaneous depression of various buttons that you need to be an octopus to do exactly right, though I sorted it eventually. This means that virtually no apps function. If you want to follow Twitter, etc., you have to log onto the phone’s dedicated Internet browser. Fine.

We hunted around a bit more. Various sources recommended a factory reset, in which you restore your phone to the condition it was in when you opened the box. Some hundreds of photos transferred to PC and a few days and drinks later, we held our noses and jumped (by now the Engineer was all over this project).

The phone whirred and screens succeeded other screens. Apps and programs updated at cumbersome length. At one point, the little green Android man

Android

appeared on the screen, announced he was performing a system update, waggled his antennas several times, and then keeled over prone with his casing faded to a jaundiced yellow and his entrails exposed, followed by another tragic caption: “Unfortunately, Android could not update at this time.”

This did not bode well. However, somehow, the phone began to run again, I had my app logos back, I keyed up Instagram to see how many kitten photos I had missed, and then once again the blazon appeared:

Unfortunately, TouchWiz Home has stopped.

Did anyone ever tell the developers how fucking rude something called “TouchWiz” sounds? It sounds like someone trying to pound his pud and somehow wetting himself instead. Which was kind of what the phone had done.

I got back on the Net.

TouchWiz, as I had found out on my first surf, is the “launcher,” the software that kicks up the Home screen and determines its interface. And generations of Samsung users –apparently it is the pet launcher of Samsung — have reported this problem and hated it. Finally, I drilled down to a blog post that suggested a third party launcher, a thing called Nova, which I was able to install from my PC, at least the store said it was installed,  but I had to restart the phone — NOT power it down and then back up, which didn’t help several times — before I got the option of selecting it.

Problem solved. So far. Everything is working. I feel like a smartphone stud, sort of.

There is nothing about this in the phone’s manual.

Sometimes I think we are all participating in an uncontrolled study of who will be allowed aboard the lifeships when Planet Earth finally roasts in its own effluvia. I’m working on it.

 

 

Baked Bugs

Here we go again. (Please note: this has nothing to do with the people who say you need to learn to eat insects to save the planet. It has no relation to cuisine whatever. )

What it is, is that after dog years — or at least my years, because we shopped there when I was four — the grocery at the bottom of the hill has been pulled down to make way for an ever so adorable urban village center thingamajig. I think that is supposed to be progress. It has me and the Engineer lunging around the domestic hearth seizing whatever weapon comes to hand, like a laundry basket or a one-and-a-half-liter jug of Malbec, to slaughter giant diasporetic motherfucking waterbugs that totter out of the bathrooms and come to the attention of the cats, who are our lookouts. Jesus Christ on a ten-speed racing bicycle.

This happened one other time, shortly after we had The Skip out on the street; that involved an address two lots down, where a longtime serious hoarder had turned up her toes and in due time the family sold to a house-flipper who ripped the place out to the studs. Gross insects fled through the municipal water pipes, emerging into my kitchen sink in the dark of night to be rinsed down, come morning, into the garbage Dispos-all with a vengeful roar on several days each week. I bought death-dealing thingummies to salt under the stove and pantry shelves, or roughly anywhere cats could not find them. Eventually the bastards stopped. I stored the remaining baits in the linen cupboard.

This time, the access points are less obvious. They are coming in through the cellar, mainly, one or three a week, and dear God, apparently fancying the dryer. Twice now I have extracted a load of sheets from the dryer only to find a very dead, very baked bug at the bottom of the rotating drum. Die, you chitinous fucker.

Getting tired of running sheets through the wash twice.

I drove by the Food Star today — in its last incarnation, the grocery was known for boffo fresh local vegetables, but smelled so strongly of something like dirty diapers that I would sooner graze off my lawn than go in there — and the whole lot was leveled and nothing could be seen but Virginia red dirt. The County warned of rats fleeing the demolition, as they did of the neighboring military base back in the day.  I can easily imagine that in its time, the business entertained a sub rosa population of arthropods whose numbers I don’t care to imagine. Maybe the bugs will taper off now that the wrecking balls are done.

I will bake, macerate, and bait them into extinction, so help me God. Die. Die. Die. Die.

Charlottesville

A terrorist murdered and maimed people in my home state today.

I haven’t been in Charlottesville since the late Seventies. I went down there a couple of times to hang with a guy I dated in high school and off-and-on through my twenties, who was fucking brilliant — 100% scores on his SATs, double major at an Ivy, could play Bach while necking without missing a note (his mother never felt like she had to come down to the rec. room), He also, alas, was addicted to the buttoned-down conservatism of William F. Buckley, whose racist dogwhistles were under my radar then (I suspect I was more aware of the parallel sexism, cheering when Germaine Greer got under Buckley’s skin on Firing Line). It was sort of a case of pervert-to-convert, it just never took entirely, despite his acquiring a taste for Bertrand Russell. The last I saw of him, he was whoring on Newsmax, giving a split-screen interview which seemed to be all about repeating the cant that Black Lives Matter consisted of “thugs” who were being “encouraged by Obama,” all pseudo-validated by the fairy dust of his academic credentials. Funny, considering how when we were still dating, any ethnic epithet used to bring on a prissy fit. I guess times change, or maybe people stop trying to pretend.

One evening in C-ville we were walking back to his apartment in the student district and I became aware of four young black men strolling along behind us. We crossed to the other side of the street. One of the men called out, something like “Hey, scared to be on the same sidewalk with us?” And I couldn’t say anything, because I was. One side of my family came from red-dirt, redneck Georgia, and I had grown up on a steady admonition of “Don’t go downtown [in Washington DC] because the n—–s will knock you on the head.” I could scoff at that all I wanted, and did, but some part of it stuck, like a tick that took a long time to dig out. I’m not saying people haven’t been mugged by groups of young men who followed them, but I know I wouldn’t have crossed the street if they’d been white, and I’d hazard a guess they were just going for pizza. I’m still learning how much more people in various shades of brown have to fear from white people than we do from anyone.

I had to go into an appointment just after learning that one of the Charlottesville victims had died, still gobsmacked from seeing cell phone video, and I’m glad the client was one of those who just wants to go into the zone because tears kept coming as I scrabbled for something to think or feel about it — tears that I know are a luxury, because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t at risk, all I can do is try to find a crowdfund helping the injured, because we still don’t fucking have a decent health care system in this country and the Virginia legislature won’t stand for taking Medicaid money to help poor people, God forbid. I can’t even stand up indignantly and say This Is Not My Country, because I’m afraid it is. Maybe some day that won’t be true, but what can you say when hundreds of angry white men, faces contorted in hate, assemble in a peaceful college town waving torches and swastika flags, and vilifying people of color, Jews, make a list, because of an ill-defined sense of grievance?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police:
We must love one another or die.

As usual, Auden was on it.

 

 

 

As I Was Walking On The Green

In the first volume of C. S. Lewis’ under-celebrated “space trilogy” — which I choose to regard as a passionate personal narrative riding under the banner of Christianity, rather than the didactic allegory I suspect Lewis himself thought he was writing — in Out Of The Silent Planet (that’s us), one of the three Martian races, the most arty and poetic (they look like glossy upright seals), tries to explain to the hero Ransom — a stand in for Lewis’ friend J.R.R. Tolkien — how there is a distinction in longing: there are things that everyone longs for in memory, though not in the same sense as one longs for a thing to manifest presently in one’s life (“no one longs for it in his senses”).

I miss my late and ex sometimes. The Engineer has been out of town for several days, and it lets my mind wander that way. No, I don’t want him back in my living room, with his freight of dysfunctionality and copelessness; but I long for a conduit back through time, to his wit and budget of knowledge of everything — recordings, films, basefuckingball even, and of nuggetty aphorisms that have receded on the tide that runs only into the past.

A few times, he alluded to a quatrain which I cannot find mentioned anywhere on the mighty Internet.

As I was walking on the green
A tiny English book I seen.
[something something lives of? grammar?] was the edition,
So I left it laying in the same position.

That third line. I can’t think of the title, and it’s maddening me, because that’s a bit of my past that’s slipped its moorings. Is anyone else familiar with the cantrip? Anybody?

 

The God Of Panties

There, that’s going to lure a stream of fetishists. Whatever.

What it is, is the most popular, ever, post on this blog, attracting readership over a span of eight solid years, was my tirade and jeremiad about the Betrayal Of Beaucoup Butts committed by Victoria’s Secret in the late oughts. Once upon a time, I could buy the perfect pair of underbritches for five bucks a pop in bulk. I wore them year in and year out. They hit me right where you want an undergarment to hit, at the elusive (you can feel it though no one else can exactly point to it) “natural waist,” they didn’t grab my crotch like a sleazy old perv on a packed subway car, they didn’t crawl into my crack. They were perfect. And of course, when you find that one perfect shoe or bra or pair of underwear, they stop making it.

Worse, they effed with it. They brought it back, but with a stringy elastic that sawed at your upper buns. Then with an even stringier one that fell barely above your bush. Unless you pulled it up tight so that you had anal floss, plus bush escaping from the leg elastic. Sorry, but these are the realities of underwear.

Those of us for whom nothing else would do were reduced to horrible granny panties, or scanty goose-me’s that only look or feel good on anorexic adolescents. We wore our Victoria’s Rios until they shredded.

And no one else in the vast underwear market — count the women in the United States, multiply by a decent number of britches to keep in the drawer, subtract a few hardcore nature types who want a breeze blowing round their privates (cf. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — prize to anyone who finds the reference) — no one else in that market had the focus to relieve what was clearly a nationwide experience of desperation. Look at the damn comments on that post.

No one, till now.

I have Frank to thank. Late in May, he burst upon this blog with a revelation.

Of all things, American Eagle Outfitters — which I haven’t frequented since buying a pair of cork sandals twenty years ago; I mean, they make jeans, I don’t wear jeans — or at least their girly spinoff, Aeriefinally mammyjamming figured it out.

I hesitated a bit, you know, will the size work, is this for real, and most of all how do I figure out the discount thingy on the website?, but… yesterday I extracted my first pair of Aeries from the plastic packaging and put them on.

Light broke through a gap in the eastern clouds. A distant chorale sounded. There was a release of pigeons, and a soft breeze conveyed the scent of lemon blossom into the room. Confetti fell in drifting spirals around my head.

My ass said, “We are home.”

The headlines make me bang my head rhythmically on rigid surfaces,  and the heat index today was 107 in DC, but for the first time in years, my ass was happy. Trust me. If your ass ain’t happy, ain’t no part of you happy.

Some of the other correspondents had a gripe or two — the waistband creased in the wash, there was Spandex — but the ass does not lie.

Frank, you are the God Of Panties, and I salute your contribution. You don’t even have to model them.

I ordered ten more pairs.

The Kidney Meridian

Chloe has been my client since early days. Meaning since before 1991, when I vacated my studio at the late lamented Spa Lady, which divested and fragmented and mismanaged itself out of business in all but a few metropolitan areas. She moved to the American Southwest over a decade ago, then came back to my turf over family issues, and here she stays.

She’s a creative worker. Meaning that, increasingly, she competes in what is referred to as the “gig economy,” aka “you’re on your own.” When you’re over sixty, that is not a good place to be.

A few months ago she hit a wall of some description, and ended up in the hospital with tanked kidneys. Long years of intrusive pain, lots of NSAIDs which are not balm for the kidneys, might have had something to do with this. I’m not a doctor. I just see people year in and year out.

Chloe is a natural spinster; meaning that she likes men but isn’t ready to let one dictate the circumstances of her life, at least not so long as he is any degree of an asshole, so she is on her own in more ways than one, the asshole issue being so prevalent. Our culture assumes that you will be partnered and buffered therefore and not have to face the world on your own. Yeah. Tell me another one. I didn’t find that place until a year ago, logistically, and that was altogether a fluke.

She showed up today, fresh off six days in the hospital, with its freight of neglect and humiliation: “I was throwing up, and they gave me pot roast. In July.” Hospital staff emptied the trash in her room at two a.m.; someone requiring a blood draw showed up not much later. The doctor doing grand rounds on the Fourth said: “I know you aren’t happy to be here on the Fourth of July, but so are we.” “It isn’t at all the same thing,” she told him. Good on her.

She was shaking, ten pounds lighter than I last saw her, when she got on the table. I suggested attention to the kidney points on the Chinese acupuncture meridians, though I have no robust certification in this art; just a value-added proposition. I keep an acupuncture mannequin so as to jog my memory of these loci. I’ve had acupuncture, beaucoup times, and it fixes things. Manual attention to these points has a track record. She went eep every time I dug into the kidney points. I honestly can’t say what I was doing, other than no harm. On either side of the matter, I did what was called for, work on the flanks and back exhausted by immobilization in a hospital bed.

I think Chloe is a year or two away from Medicare. At the worst, the US government has elected kidney dialysis, of all interventions, as the one that will always be funded. Dialysis sucks. I hope Chloe can avoid it. I hope to hell she doesn’t need expensive intervention of any other kind before Medicare kicks in, because none of us know what Congress can ram through to relieve obscenely, unimaginably rich people of paying taxes so that Chloe or anyone like her can live without worrying about being bankrupted by medical bills.

I had some arnica oil for the bruises from four IV sites.

And a homing instinct for acupuncture points.

It’s all I’ve got.