Bath Bombs

I dreamed I was giving a massage to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was nothing salacious about this. Bodywork is my skill, my calling, my career. I fix stressed, injured people. Probably it was easy for my dreaming mind to imagine that Mr. Mueller could use some destressing. The odd thing was that I was using the dining room table that lived in the house(s) I grew up in, one that was made for the family by a Maine artisan related to a family friend, out of solid oak, not a nail or screw in it, all wooden pegged with a longitudinal strut that I used to sneakily rest my feet on. No clothing was off. I kept getting interrupted between this extremity and that, so that when people started arriving expecting to be served some sort of repast on that table I hadn’t done Mr. Mueller’s feet yet. I held out. Feet are important.

One of the chattering, irritating, girly arrivals had come with a supply of “Bath Bombs,” I’ve read of the things, blobs of bath salts or bubble stuff with usually obnoxious aromas. These, though differently colored and composed, were all pecan-scented.

My Southern relatives, whom I repudiate to the extent that I would carve their DNA out of myself with a blunt knife if it were possible and survivable, owned many pecan orchards. They would probably vote for Roy “Lolitaphile” Moore if they were still living. Don’t know about subsequent generations. I cut them off.

There’s just something wrong about dreaming politics. I’m glad the next segment of the dream involved an old client of mine coming into possession of a hot pink convertible.

 

 

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I Thought It Was Just A Song

Pfizer denies fumes from Viagra factory are arousing town’s males

Updated 12:40 pm, Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Villagers of Ringaskiddy, County Cork, Ireland, say air pollution from a factory that produces the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra are affecting the menfolk.

“One whiff and you’re stiff,” local bartender Debbie O’Grady told the Sunday Times.

If it’s not the fumes emanating from Pfizer’s plant, then it’s the water that is getting the men’s Irish up, some believe.

“I think that Viagra must have got into the water supply,” Fiona Toomey, 37, told the paper. Toomey used to work at the Pfizer factory.

“I’m convinced that’s what happened at the very beginning before they were so closely regulated,” she said.

It’s not only human males who are aroused. Toomey says that dogs “walk around in a state of sexual excitement.”

Life imitates art.

Can We Talk About George?

In the fire-hose of stories about men (well, mostly men, there was Mariah Carey, who I gather is a popular singer) abusing their social and professional leverage to inflict themselves sexually on relatively underpowered members of the gender of their choice, the George Takei story seems to be provoking wind in the grass, and crickets.

It bothers me. The story, the denial, and the silence. Briefly, a model and actor named Scott Brunton suddenly went public with a story he claimed to have “been telling [privately] for years,” in which Takei secured his phone number during or shortly after a breakup Brunton was enduring, later invited him over for drinks, and then, while Brunton was in an intoxicated haze — seeming to suggest a Cosby-like drugging — committed what we shall call manual sexual interference. Brunton says he pulled himself together, resisted, objected, and left.

Takei’s response is right out of a familiar playbook. He is “shocked and bewildered,” he has “wracked his brains” trying to remember who Brunton is, and such conduct is “antithetical to his nature.”

I want to believe Takei, the creator of a beloved sci-fi character, snarky gay activist of a dozen PSAs, hero of the Resistance to Trump’s America. But I can’t wriggle away from the observation that he sounds like the Mayor of Casablanca here. Or like scads of men with moral, social and political leverage who have discounted accusations of sexual bad behavior.

Let me hasten to remark that the world is not black and white. In my teens, I was a little on the ruthless side. The Bard College Campus Christian (we only had one) could have lodged a complaint against me for sexual harassment. His evangelizing was obnoxious and his bony frame was toothsome, and he oozed dick-in-a-knot sexual thwartedness at every pore. But really, it would have been classier not to put the blocks on him after he said he wasn’t interested, even if he kept sending mixed messages. On the other hand, I was nineteen, and had imbibed the myth that all men really, really want to get laid, just as some men have apparently internalized the idea that all women really want it. I grew up.

Takei, at the age when this allegedly happened, was forty-two or -three. At that age I was going through a divorce, had had a lot of time to grow up, and would not have forced myself on a carrot.

So if the story is true in whole or substantive part, even if it was half a lifetime ago for Takei, and something he would never repeat — part of a past self, say — it is something that a man should own. Maybe it’s not true and Brunton is an opportunist or has been put up to it, but then, that’s what Roy Moore says about his accusers. Maybe I will be able to go on enjoying my fondness for the man who satirizes homophobes and inspired a terrific musical and fenced his way through the Desilu sound stages. But I don’t like the story so far. And no one is covering it past the moment it broke, not even to the extent of the apparently well loved Kevin Spacey’s misdeeds (seriously: contemporary pop culture has long gotten away from me; I know he was something in something). This should not be the case; we love it when a Christian tightass founders, but a hero of social justice? Sorry, all flesh is grass.

The comic Louis CK — another showbiz person I wouldn’t know if I sat on him — issued a mea culpa that resonated over Twitter and hence into my news feed, to the effect that yes, he’d been an asshole; yes, he realized now what damage he’d done; yes, he was going to retreat and reflect. I don’t know if that’s redemptive, but it at least amounts to owning your own shit. Again, I don’t know the facts of the Takei case, but I may be the only person to react (on his Twitter feed) by saying that an apology of this sort would be the best stance if there is any truth in what Brunton said.  It all seems to be either “we love you George” or “you are a lying POS.” Meanwhile, most media seem asleep.

We live in a moral jungle, in which people are told that their sexuality is wicked and damning — the more so if they are gay or otherwise nonconforming — while other forces demonstrate the wink, the snicker, the implication that everyone says one thing and does another. Shit like this is going to happen until we have a social order in which an enthusiastic Yes is okay, a definitive No is respected, and everyone has learned the responsibility for seeking and abiding by the distinction.

George, I want it not to be true. But if it is, fricking own it. No one gets knee jerk exoneration, not Roy Moore, not Donald Trump, not you.

 

La Rubia

Thirty-some years ago, stuck for the weekend in the apartment of a guy who was really kind of a dud, I read from end to end a novel about the last days of Leon Trotsky.  I recall very few details now, but what made me sit up was the near postscript involving the Corrido del Leon Trotsky (probably one of several; you can find a version on YouTube), describing, as a news service to those without newspapers or radios or basic literacy, how Trotsky, something of the celebrity resident, was killed in Mexico City by a coerced assassin using “un zapatica alpinista.”

I loved the idea of the corrido, a cross of sorts between the town crier and the folklore of culture heroes, legends, and adventure tales. They are still made, even in these days of widespread literacy and the Net. We need our hard news, but sometimes you want music and poetry to tell how the news makes you feel.

I have a new hero, and she is the mayor of San Juan in Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulin Cruz. I suspect that in this case the line forms to the left. Three days ago I had not even heard her name, but Thursday night she burst onto the news clips and everyone’s volleying retweets with eloquence, anger, and poise, using every journalist willing to turn his camera or mike toward her as a megaphone to plead for her constituents and the whole Commonwealth.

If you have been living under a rock, Federal aid to Puerto Rico, an American possession, which has just missed following the island of Atlantis to the bottom of the ocean and is struggling without power, drinking water, fuel, telephone service in most places, or sufficient food, is not just a day but about a week late and a damn sight more than a dollar short.  A few leaks, as yet unconfirmed, claim that the administration went silent after receiving estimations of the aid that was needed, suggesting no plans to help the island at all. The governor of Puerto Rico, probably knowing what kind of person he was dealing with, has been kissing White House ass, the government representatives on the ground have actually been calling the situation a “good news story,” and Yulin Cruz is having none of it.

“…I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles. So, mayday, we are in trouble… I am begging. I am begging anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”

For her trouble, she got called names by our Tweeter In Chief, who seems to think that people on the island would be fine if they just put in a few hours work and stopped asking other people to “do everything for them.” Those Tweets hit the Internet at about the same time as a photo of Yulin Cruz up to her beltline in filthy water going from door to door looking for survivors. In another clip, she thanked a religious charity for solar lanterns which she was distributing to people searching for water in the dark.

This is not a bright shining moment for the United States. I’m embarrassed as hell. A whole island is stripped and broken, people are waiting all day for gas and cities of sixty thousand are getting deliveries of two thousand meals, hospitals have no power, while the administration here in DC took eight days to lift a bureaucratic rule about foreign ships putting in at the Port of San Juan because “the shipping industry likes it.” Celebrities and bush pilots and international chefs and members of the “Alt-Gov” Twitter collective are flying in with food and out with sick, desperate people, but our own Navy’s hospital ship was only got under way on Friday.

There will be a lot of heroes when this is over. They will all deserve a corrido, if that tradition has spread to the other Spanish speaking Americas from Mexico,  but my imagination is starting with San Juan’s mayor. In my fantasy, the ballad is called La Rubia, the blonde lady, and like the best ballads, it will tell of the mayor performing supernatural feats: carrying a pallet of water on her back over a road too broken for trucks, shedding light from her bare hands, towing a boat full of survivors, or lifting up a child at the brink of death only to hear a healthy cry. And in the last verse, it will say, “No one person can do these things? No, you are right, one person cannot. It is done by you all, you are all heroes. But a single person with a big voice can breathe on the flame of courage, to be sure all these things are done.”

I can’t write it though. It has to be written in Spanish, by a Puerto Rican citizen, who’ll know how to put those sentiments into meter. But I will hum along.

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.

 

 

 

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.