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In the Fading Light of the Coffee Klatch

Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

coffee klatch. (kŏf′ē-klăch’) A casual social gathering for coffee and conversation.

A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth (just ever-so-slightly pre-dating Real Housewives and miniature superhero lip balms), human adults gathered at a place called a coffee shop and they talked…to each other…using words they generated with the use of tongues, uvulae and lips; nary a clacking thumb in the mix. For real. People made eye contact and words came out of their mouths.

Some of these groups can still be found today in the coffee “roastery,” “café” or “house.” (Along with the proud tradition of verbal communication, the pedantic “shop” has apparently lost its appeal in favor of more shicky-Mickey words.) I personally know of two such groups, although rather than an espresso emporium, one of them convenes at a Greek restaurant that serves Italian, Japanese, German, Laotian and Texas BBQ 24/7.

My dad is part of a group of men who worked in advertising, who have gathered once a month for the past 35 years. The group had no nickname when they began getting together to talk about trends in the business, their own personal art (each was an artist outside of his professional work in the ad trade), scrappy clients and award-winning work. Now, as the gang has dwindled from 20 or so to six, over plates of lasagna and sauerbraten, they continue to discuss art and trends in advertising, but they have added medicine, healthcare and funerals to the mix. My dad and a couple of the fellas fondly call the meeting “old farts.”

The youngest old fart is 86. They all have smart phones, but as my pops points out, the guys are so old that no one takes his phone out at the table. What does that even look like, I wonder. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided to leave our phones at home when we went to dinner. In the middle of a controversy over crustaceans (we can debate absolutely anything), we did what any reasonable persons embroiled in such an analytical enterprise would do and we reached for our devices, sure we’d each unearth scientific evidence of our correctness. But no. We sat there like dummies; me, certain that the woodlouse is not in fact a crustacean, and he, equally certain that it is. (I should have known he was right. Who the hell makes a pronouncement about woodlice unless he totally knows the woodlouse is a frickin’ crustacean?)

I began to wonder whether the very shape and architecture of conversation had changed due to the accessibility of data. In olden times people might discuss the happenings of their day, leaving little room for research and all the room in the world for…talking.

“Pendelworth was fired today for embezzling from the employee picnic fund,” one’s partner might say, which sparked theories of intrigue and speculation on the amount of eggnog Pendelworth imbibed at the office holiday party. Today, we’d both whip out our phones to see whether Pendelworth had any priors, as though it would matter, until August, when the employees gathered around a splintered picnic table in a public park found themselves eating generic wieners instead of Monte Cristo sandwiches on brioche at a country club.

My boyfriend has been part of a coffee group for over 40 years. The venues have changed. Faces come and go, but a few of the stalwart remain. Occasionally I will join them on a Saturday morning at a local roastery; mostly, to observe. The reason for this is because the philosophical and intellectual nature of most of the discussions, pathetically, gives me the giggles and an overwhelming urge, when Marx, Chomsky and Normal Mailer are mentioned in the same breath, to ask whether anyone has seen the week’s cover of People Magazine. “I find Princess Markle to be both brilliant and contradictory, magnetic and dangerous,” I say with highbrow assuredness. (I hope they know I mean the English definition of brilliant, as in “those stilettos are brilliant on you, darling.”)

Back in the day, when the bf’s coffee group met at a coffee counter within the confines of a family-owned drugstore (paleontologists will eventually unearth such sites once Walmart and Starbucks have crumbled), someone could tuck away behind the New York Times until a juicy tidbit caught his ear at which time the paper would be lowered slowly, revealing the face—eyes in particular—of the person about to enter the conversation with a well-formed opinion. Imagine the cinematic charm of the scene. Now picture a person with crepey Google neck, furtively glancing up from his iPhone.

Also lacking in charm, thanks to technology, is the manner in which ideas are volleyed. Instead of relying on wits, intuition, education and memory, we scan a bottomless pit of electronic data until we find items here and there to shore up an argument, and like a machine playing an unemotional game of chess we state our case with conviction, but no heart.

A couple times a week I find myself in a coffee place. While waiting for my order I look at the people all around me, of every age, and I notice small groups here and there—people who obviously elect to meet at a specific time and place so they can…ignore one another. The person whose nose isn’t buried in a laptop, tablet or cell phone stands out like a burka at a Trump rally. My cousin in Croatia, where “have coffee” refers to any gathering of two or more people for the express purpose of verbal communication, assures me the love affair with electronic devices hasn’t poisoned their culture…yet.

My cuz and her dad visited for a week last summer and while we enjoyed sightseeing, family gatherings and evenings out, not once did she or her pops pull out their cellphones for any reason other than to take a picture, then the devices were returned to the dark recesses of a pocket or purse. At no time was a comment fact-checked. They didn’t consult Google Earth to learn exactly where we were at any given moment. We were together, and that was enough.

I can’t watch a film with my boyfriend without the annoying flare of his iPhone as he researches the director, the box office, who the stars studied with and the cinematographer’s philosophy of visual storytelling. He glances at the movie in a perfunctory way, glimpsing only enough to be sure it is still playing, and then to see whether there are any bare breasts on the screen, in which case he Googles whether they are real or store-bought.

I liked it better when we sat in the dark, eyes glued to the screen in a semi-somnambulistic state, riding the waves the filmmakers created; the spell of which goes poof with the light of a cellphone. I think looking someone in the eye when having a conversation is more important than quoting chapter and verse about arthropods, criminal records or saline v silicone.

In baby steps to beating my internet addiction, I’m off of Facebook now, which has freed up screen time for more important pursuits. I’ll let you know when I figure out what they are.

 

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How to Survive Current Events

Reading a great book

Night terrors have morphed into day terrors, which have metastasized into all-the-fucking-time-now terrors brought on by the solid possibility that I will be blown up, shot, poisoned and/or beaten to death and raped by an incel wearing a red baseball cap. I am not alone in my anxiety. Millions of people, not only in the United States but all over the world, are on edge, grasping their mental health like a flimsy vine as they dangle thousands of feet over a valley of obese fake-tan doom.

According to an article in The Week, naps are the answer. Whew, ‘cause I was pretty sure being submerged in a bubble bath for the duration of the foreseeable future would be as detrimental to my skin and overall health as crawling into a bottle of Grey Goose. A combination of the two, however, still strikes me as somewhat sublime. But I digress.

Naps are good, if somewhat impractical for many of us. One employer I spoke with said she didn’t think it was unreasonable to dock the pay of any employee who crept off for 40 winks during the workday, and I personally would find it alarming to walk into a grocery store, for example, only to find the produce person asleep in the kale.

If it ain’t nap mats and graham crackers after recess, then what is to be done about our astronomical case of the willies, recently coined by psychologists, believe it or not, as Trump Anxiety Disorder:

“Although ‘Trump Anxiety Disorder’ is not an official diagnosis, the symptoms include a lack of sleep, a feeling of losing of control and helplessness in an unpredictable sociopolitical climate, along with endless negative headlines, and excessive time spent on social media.”

This has also been theorized in the 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which contains sciencey essays from 27 psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health professionals to the “clear and present danger” that US President Donald Trump’s mental health poses to the “nation and individual well-being.”

In other words, the wing nut is making us crazy.

My pops turned 90 in December, and his dying wish (although his doctors have told him he stands a very good chance of living another 10-15 years) is to introduce a word he invented into the common English lexicon, and if ever a word summed up the kind of wackadoo that the current president has infected us with, it is this: lunacidal. Allow me to use it in a sentence:

After reading Trump’s 3AM tweet, in which he threatened to rain nukes on California if Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t stop saying mean things about him, I tore off my bedclothes and ran around in the snow like a lunacidal maniac.

Running naked in the snow isn’t as crazy as it sounds, btw. For someone with hot flashes and who has been driven lunacidal by an orange madman with the nuclear codes, flinging one’s pyretic body into a snowbank with a sizzle is actually quite refreshing.

Other than that, I only have a small handful of suggestions as to how we might survive the next weeks, months and (bite-my-tongue-shoot-me-in-the-head) years:

1. Get off Facebook. (Read a book.)

Nothing will mercurize your blood pressure more readily than reading the posts and comments of bots and trolls. It is their goal, their entire reason for living to cause you pain of the mental variety. Take away their power! Delete your FB account. There are such lovely pieces of writing out there that will set your imaginations free and perhaps even spark a bit of happiness in the process. Called “books,” these marvelous little inventions allow us to escape the false reality that social media feeds us and give us a better, more literary fake reality. (May I suggest Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale to start?)

2. Pet your dog.

Studies have proven that spending time with Fido is good for our well-being. Ever notice how when you cry your dog tries to lick away the tears in an act we anthropomorphize as compassion? If you are stressed about North Korea, for example, or because the Tetons are slated to be leveled for use as a Walmart parking lot, Fido does in fact understand where you are coming from because even a dog knows batshit crazy when he sees it. Just be careful not to rub his fur completely off in a moment of lunacidal self-soothing.

3. Sex.

Research (not sayin’ whose) has shown that this activity can improve your mental outlook and increase blood circulation to your skin. The resulting rosy glow easily masks the inner turmoil and angst that returns within a nanosecond of “the therapy” (yes, that’s what we’re calling it). It could be the most productive three minutes of the day.

And what of my friends and family who support the current president, and do not believe him to be incompetent, unstable and crazy as a bed bug? I guess we’re gonna have to agree to covfefe.

Loves ya. Always.

Pam

Please share on Facebook because I deleted my account so as to avoid lunacidal actions. Thanks!

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As the New Year Is Upon Us…

Police_station_in_Rome,_Italy

I’ve learned a few things the past few years that I think might be of some value to my friends. When I was younger I worried about completely different things than I do now, like whether I am getting enough fiber and if doing crossword puzzles can actually stave off senility. The list below is short–the first item is not funny, but my wish is that you share it with your loved ones, do your research and become empowered to make the best decisions for your healthcare even in an emergency. This one is from the heart big time.

After that, well. Laughter is the best medicine!

In case of a medical emergency…

Many of you either knew my mom because you had met her or because you’ve read any of the countless stories that center around her big heart, personality and zest for life. The end of her life, while at the age of 89 may not have been entirely preventable, was certainly sped along by a fall which resulted in a broken hip which resulted in…her spinal cord accidentally being severed during a routine hip pinning procedure. If you’re WTFing right now, you’re not alone.

I’ll tell you why what happened to my mom is a critical piece of information that may save you or a loved one from a similar fate, but first let me explain why I should have trusted my instincts when the ambulance took my mom to the nearest hospital. Less than a year earlier I had broken my foot and I went to the same hospital—a facility known as an “outlier,” i.e. a hospital lacking Level I trauma verification, usually outside a major metro area, and without a 24/7 staff of physicians who specialize in othro, neuro, cardiac, etc.

“Outliers” basically have an emergency room doctor, although I never saw one even when my x-rays revealed two fractures, but instead I was diagnosed by an invisible radiologist and then some sort of administrator who showed me the x-rays, handed me an air boot, told me to get up and walk out, and to call an orthopedist “when I had time.”

Unable to walk even with the big boot on, I was denied crutches because the “home care boutique” was closed for the night and “we don’t give out crutches for free.” The next day an orthopedic surgeon at a major medical facility told me the air boot was the exact wrong thing for my fractures as it was necessary to keep all weight off my foot so that the broken bones didn’t “displace,” or move around, in which case I would have required surgery with rods and pins.

When the ambulance carrying my mother pulled into the ER at the same outlier hospital, I panicked, but my mom was in a lot of pain and we wanted her to have immediate care–not suffer through a bumpy half hour ambulance ride to a hospital with Level I trauma verification. Because outliers don’t have specialists on premises, an orthopedist had to be summoned. When he arrived hours later the operating rooms had shut down for the day, so my mom was scheduled to have her hip pinned the following morning.

I have no idea why they x-rayed my mom’s head, shoulder, elbow, knee and hip…but neglected to have a look at her back, which she had broken a few years prior and of which they had been made aware, because now we will never know how or why during a routine hip pinning procedure, my mom left the OR completely paralyzed—her spinal cord severed. She ended up being transported to a hospital with a neuro and spine ICU—a Level I trauma center—where she died 18 days later.

Here’s info you’ll want to digest and discuss with your loved ones:

If time and clinical stability allow, go to a hospital with Level 1 Trauma verification by the American College of Surgeons. (Find the nearest ACS verified Level I trauma center.)

In the event of possible stroke or heart attack, time is of the essence and an outlying facility can triage and administer first line interventions to stabilize the patient and then transfer the patient to a major medical center for a higher level of care. The patient (and family) can seek to establish the urgency of proposed interventions (surgery for a broken neck or back, for example) and inquire about transfer to a major medical center. There are sometimes issues of unreasonable distance, cost and insurance authorization that preclude transfer but the more you know ahead of time, when you’re not in crisis mode, the better.

In situations of medical emergency, there are also contributing factors of panic, confusion and fear so open a conversation with your loved ones now as to where you and they wish to be taken in the event of a non-life-threatening condition. For example, my family and I would not, if possible, wish for care at the hospital nearest us. This is important as it gives us leverage in the event I or a member of my immediate family is dazed or unable to speak for ourselves.

It’s also important to recognize that we need to advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. I would be fine with stitches at the local hospital but would definitely not want any significant surgery to occur at that institution. It’s hard to be an informed consumer in the middle of a health crisis, but empowering people to ask questions is a good start.

 

3 Lessons That Changed My Life for the Better

1. Just say no.

I finally understand the magazine clipping my mom kept on the fridge, held in place by a magnet that said, “Think I’m not a goddess? Try me.” Slightly crumpled and stained red from a cranberry food processing explosion one Thanksgiving, the clipping read, “I learned in my 50s that ‘no’ is a complete sentence.”

A friend asks, “Can you pick up the food, drinks and decorations for Fido’s barkday party tomorrow? I have a conflicting nail appointment.”

“No,” you reply.

Your friend will narrow her eyes to slits and it is possible her lip will curl, but you must stand strong and refuse to utter another syllable even if you are asked, with great incredulity, to repeat yourself. Understand that once you add words you are opening the door to some sick and twisted rabbit hole of negotiation out of which there is no escape.

“I’ve got so much to do tomorrow,” you make the grave mistake of offering.

“But you said you love my Fido,” she accuses, pointing at your head with what appears to be a perfectly manicured forefinger. And you’re sunk. But just say “no” and leave it sitting there like a dead trout and there is literally no rebuttal. Let’s practice, shall we?

Woman in your kid’s carpool: “I know it’s late notice, but will you please bake 500 cupcakes for tomorrow?”

You: “No.”

Awkward silence during which you mentally recite and repeat a recipe for the perfect margarita.

Her: “Uh, okay. I guess we’ll find someone else then.”

You: “Great.”

So simple.

 

2. You will never change someone’s mind about religion, politics or sex.

 “I believe god to be a rabbit, I believe Candidate Happy Pants to be the finest person alive, and I believe a girl can get pregnant by jacuzzi water.”

No matter how many facts in your arsenal, you will not convince this person that god isn’t a furry mammal, Candidate Happy Pants is batshit crazy, and the only way to get knocked up by jacuzzi water is if there is a man named Jacuzzi Water.

Your only options for recourse are to walk away (and in my case, delete my Facebook account) or change the subject, careful to avoid anything climate-related. Safe topics include favorite colors, kittens and lawn care.

 

3. Trust your instincts.

Every single time I second-guess myself it results in unmitigated disaster. If only I’d have gone with my gut when my first two husbands proposed—and shook out the bed linens before hitting the hay in the cottage on Spider Lake.

For some reason we have “evolved” to the point of basic stupidity. Cave people sensed danger and hauled ass in the opposite direction. What do we do? Talk ourselves out of it.

With enough love, time and money I can turn a deadbeat into a functioning member of society (and a darn fine mate). I’m sure they named it Spider Lake because it’s shaped like a spider, not because the place is overrun with arachnids the size of badgers.

Several years ago, I was travelling in Europe with my cousin Colleen. We had just boarded a flight from Prague to Rome when a Middle Eastern gentleman glanced out the window and started shouting in Arabic at the luggage being fed into the plane on a conveyor belt.

Certain pieces of luggage really got him going and all I could think was that he was fixin’ to meet his maker thanks to something he had packed, and that I was utterly unprepared to die.

“That’s it,” I told my cousin. “We are outta here.” I asked the flight attendants to let us out. We were informed the jet way had already been removed, at which time I became, shall we say, hysterical. The jet way was reconnected and we were escorted off the plane.

We took a train to Rome (for some reason no one would sell us tickets for another flight). On the train three men got into the compartment with us, covered their faces with kerchiefs and that is all I remember until Colleen and I came to and discovered our purses and cameras were gone. The ladri di treni (I learned the Italian for trainrobbers while the polizia grudgingly made out a report) may have taken our travelers checks and cameras, but they had not gotten away with our suitcases, and do you want to know why? Because, thanks to my finely-honed instincts, our luggage was on the other side of the country, on a carousel at Rome airport.

There’s no telling why the man was so excited to see his baggage being loaded onto the same plane as he. Perhaps he had flown Skywest Airlines in the past. We’ll never know. Instinctually speaking, however, my gut is never wrong and we were eventually reunited with our dirty laundry, an array of shoes that we packed but never wore, and a stinking package of prune kolache that had turned by the time we claimed our suitcases.

Happy New Year! Wishing you magic, joy, peace, love, happiness and laughter in abundance.

Loves ya,

Pam

(As you know, as of midnight tonight I am off Facebook, so if you like the blog I’d appreciate it if you’d share with your friends.)

 

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I’m Getting Off.

No FB

Buh-bye, Facebook. Don’t let the door hit ya, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Dosvedanya Vladimir, infowars, bots, trolls and all the bad actors who have contributed to my mental illness. (Please forgive errors of omission. The list of people and organizations associated with FB in a nefarious context is much too long to reprint here.)

Before I am accused of making light of “legitimate” mental illnesses I would like to explain what my addiction to Facebook has cost me. Time. So much time. Oh sure, some of it was delightful; looking at cute videos of doggies, kittens, a friend’s grandkids, baked goods, artworks and weirdly, ads for shoes and bras that I had Googled once in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and which suddenly began to appear and reappear on my FB newsfeed as though someone had been reading my mind…or my search history.

I once used “private” FB Messenger to chat with an old school chum during which I casually mentioned a mutual friend had recently moved to Slavonia. Damn if I wasn’t immediately bombarded by ads for “cheap flights to Croatia” and “discounted Slavonian rooms.” Imagine how foolish I felt when I’d gotten it wrong and learned that our pal had actually moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Then I began to feel insecure about my finances, I mean, why was I being sent ads for cut rate crap? I know the answer to that, but how on earth did Facebook?

Earlier this week I posted on FB that my pops had deleted his account. He never quite got the hang of it. Every message, inquiry and post to his wall for the past several years had gone unattended as he forgot his password the same day as he created it. Thousands of messages and posts had piled up of which my dad was blissfully oblivious. Facebook did not interfere with his life. It cost him zero time. He was as normal as my dad gets without paying the least bit of attention to what someone he had never met had eaten for lunch.

My dad is not what you’d call a skimmer. When he becomes interested in a subject he goes deep. A few years ago, he developed a profound interest in grammar and punctuation, so he bought a few books on the subject. He read each twice. Today he can answer any question you may have about semicolons, the purpose of the em v en dash and why it is imperative to use one space rather than two between sentences.

My dad may be unaware that his second cousin thrice removed is live-streaming from her dentist’s office while awaiting a root canal, and he is perfectly okay with that. The question is, am I?

I have over 3,000 FB friends. I don’t know most of them, and yet like watching a train wreck I am unable to stop reading a post from “a friend”  whose boyfriend has been caught cheating on her with a stripper named Crystal who has fake boobs, scraped up ho shoes and a car in need of a new starter, which, if someone’s boyfriend “thinks he gonna pay for” has another think coming as well as the promise of all his possessions, including his childhood baseball cards, being hurled out the window of the apartment they share onto the “greazy sidewalk” below. In the time it took to read that post I could have learned about alternative subjects and verb agreement. Instead, I have to ask my dad and then I have to ask myself “isn’t there a better use for my time?”

People who only use FB to keep up with old friends, promote their novels (which had been my original goal in accepting thousands of friend requests) and a desire to help find homes for dogs and cats have my complete admiration and respect. I wanted to be one of them. Instead, I see a post that is factually inaccurate, or a complete fabrication (usually tweeted by the current president), and I am physically unable to detach, let it go…walk away from the keyboard. I am an addict.

It’s 3:45AM. I wake up to pee. I return to bed. I glance at the phone, upside down, on the bedside table. Like a crack pipe, cigarette or one of those mega Toblerone bars, it proves irresistible.

I salivate as I click on the FB icon and feel a rush of both adrenalin and dopamine when I see there are 45 alerts. My heart pounds and I feel the bile being generated in my liver and gallbladder because I know the political commentary I posted before bed has caused several people whom I do not know to lose their minds.

“I eat bitches like you for breakfast,” a man I don’t know posts on my wall. How dare he! I think. The gall of this shmuck! 

I’ve never felt so alive. I’m pissed. I’m amped up. I am an addict.

The man who wants to marry me in spite of my addiction has never been on Facebook other than to look at my wall. After an hour of “who is that?” and “how do you know her?” I began to understand my problem. At first, I was frustrated and grumpy. “Quit asking me that,” I’d snap…over and over and over. “I don’t know her or him or her or her or him…”

“Then how does she know you’re an elite libtard snowflake, and what is an elite libtard snowflake anyway? he’d ask. There was no point in explaining that I’d taken the time to write a little screed about why the use of the word “libtard” is offensive to people with disabilities and those who love them, and that I keep that little memo in a folder on my desktop so I can copy and paste it whenever anyone posts the word. Had I told my betrothed any of this I would likely be back on match.com faster than I could type “in a relationship” into my Facebook status. I am an addict and hiding this shit is no different than stashing empty bottles in the back of a cabinet or shooting up between the toes.

A couple of days ago, in the same post where I told my Facebook “family” (just writing that is cringe-worthy) that my dad had deleted his account, I posted that as of 11:59P on December 31, I am out. I’m getting off. I quit. I will no longer be “Facebooking.” (My sweetie invented that term just to antagonize me—I’m sure of it.) I did not expect much of a response. Who cares, really…right?

I know I’ve got to do it for my own sanity. For one thing my creative output has suffered because FB is a huge distraction, but I was surprised when my messenger inbox exploded. People began posting on my wall that they also had been thinking about it. Could they delete their Facebook accounts? Would they? What if we all did?

I do not want to come across as preachy, but a lot of people said they get their news on FB and it’s their main source of social interaction. All is can say is that any “news” on Facebook is suspect. Get a subscription to a paper with journalistic integrity. Not sure how to find that? Check out this article from Forbes.

In terms of social interaction, ask the lady in front of you at the check-out at Trader Joe’s where she got her glasses. Tell the Uber driver he’s got a nice smile. Ask your dad where he developed his thirst for knowledge.

I’m going to miss a lot of the sweet stuff I’d come across on Facebook—birthday reminders, anniversaries, accomplishments, births, weddings and even deaths. My heart will always be with anyone who loses a beloved pet. I support with the strength of 10,000 tons of steel the right of every woman to have dominion over her own body and to be paid the same as her male counterpart. And and and.

To those of you who have said you will miss my posts, I will do my best to blog once a week and I hope to fulfill some expectation of laughter and hopefully a wee ray of light.

‘til then, I’ll see ya at Trader Joe’s. I’ll probably ask where you got your glasses.

Loves ya,

Pam

Wanna stay in touch outside of Facebook? Subscribe to my blog. I post no more than 1x per week. I send one email letting you know there’s a new blog post. I would NEVER share your deets with anyone. Email me any time – I would LOVE to hear from you!

Lastly, if you are one of the lucky ones who can adult on social media without becoming an addict, please share my blog with your friends. I’d be most grateful.

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Is This the New Face of the Resistance?

US First Lady Melania Trump looks on as her husband President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting with administration on the opioid addiction crisis at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

In a strange twist of fate it appears that the only human capable of putting the narcissist-in-chief in his place is a Slovenian mail order bride who exchanged a small grim life of Eastern European “lingerie modeling” for a more lucrative position (although she had no reason to think it would ever in a million years include living under a political microscope). While living under a corpulent wallet on legs had its obvious appeal, Melania was no doubt aware of her old man’s predilections. After all, he hit on her while on a date with a different woman, after cheating on his first wife with his second, then cheating on his second with pretty much everyone, and so forth, to the tune of three marriages, five children, porn stars, Playmates, Russian prostitutes with bulging bladders and a growing number of beauty pageant contestants who claim to have been groped with the child-sized vagina-grabbing hands of the President of the United States of America. (If you just threw up in your mouth you are not alone.)

Anyone else who even looks at the president sideways learns via Twitter or through the blowhole of Sarah Huckabee Sanders that they have just resigned, effective immediately, which makes Melania the most powerful person on earth. Only she is able to dominate, shun, humiliate and shame the most powerful man in the world without recrimination. If ever there was an alpha bitch in Yves St. Laurent sheep’s clothing, it is Melania.

I’ll admit I am not a fan of women like Melania; females who sell their souls for a life of creature comfort, but I am pretty sure there is some kind of unwritten code (and a prenup) that specifies what they will and won’t have to endure. Affairs, yeah, sure, of course. Hookers and porn stars, only if necessary. Creepiness with the daughter…what now? But to become FLOTUS…

Look at Melania’s expression on the night her husband was elected. My dog looks happier when she’s having her anal glands expressed.

Once he became leader of the free world all the smarmy, crappy, low, base, vile, nasty, immoral, unethical and illegal stuff that is the cornerstone of how he comports himself both personally and in business became public knowledge. We will never know the depth of Melania’s humiliation before her husband was elected, but now that his despicable actions are broadcast in a 24-hour news cycle, her degradation is on display for the whole world to see. The good news for Melania is that she has found a way to level the playing field and there’s nothing he can do to shut her down because his base simply would not tolerate anyone belittling his beautiful and shapely immigrant migrant worker alien wife.

The MAGA moonies fervently defended Melania’s honor when nude photos of she with another nude woman locked in a passionate embrace surfaced on the Internet (passionate in Melania’s range of expression looks exactly like she’s under anesthesia with her eyes partially open) even though these same people lost their minds when Michelle Obama went sleeveless. Any time anyone is critical of this FLOTUS her husband’s supporters froth at the mouth and say Michelle Obama is really a man, and Benghazi. So, nope. He can’t ridicule, smack down or silence “the babe” at 16oo Pennsylvania Avenue.

Melania is well aware that the hand swats, cold shoulders and gonad-shriveling daggers with which she looks at him are going to be meme-ified tout de suite. Whether it’s Botox, permanent Zoolander-face or steely resolve that prevent her from forming any expression other than abject acrimony, there is a flash in her eyes that indicates she is not taking this sitting down on a gold toilet. 

In her most brazen act of revolt yet, Mrs. President just unveiled the child-welfare platform she plans to champion, using some pretty ironic language in her statements. “I do believe children should be both seen and heard,” she began. “And it is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they’re using their voices, whether verbally or online, they must use their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion.”

It’s a great cause, of course, but in her choice of words Melania managed to point a laser beam right at the orange head of the worst imaginable role model for these values, or any principals really. And it’s the gift that will keep on giving because every single time she mentions her cause, free press all over the world will reference her husband’s abusive comments on social media, his screes against adversaries, his aversion to the truth and his ridicule of the handicapped, heroic and dying.

“I am well aware that people are skeptical of me discussing this topic,” FLOTUS told a room full of tech execs and Internet-safety advocates at the White House in March. Pretty much every time she makes a public appearance, swats his tiny hand or opens her mouth she is shining a light on her husband’s bottomless well of character flaws, and there’s not a thing he can do about it.

These are troubling times, when a fourth-rate underwear model from a country most people didn’t know existed sees her approval rating nearly double her husband’s in the wake of a porn star scandal. All I can say at this point is, you go, girl! A humiliated nation thanks you.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms out there! Loves ya!

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What’s Right with Facebook

COMPASSION

So…I haven’t written a blog in a long time. All the things I feel passionately about have the effect of agitating readers; both those who agree with me and those who do not. Then today I was deeply moved by a post on Facebook and I realized that common ground is closer than we think.

A lovely young woman fell in love with a puppy she saw on a breeder’s Facebook page. Ashley, the breeder, insisted on meeting “Tina” (not her real name) in a well-lit Panda Express parking lot because she didn’t want to be ripped off…or worse. They met, money was exchanged, and Tina mentioned that the dog seemed a little sickly, which the breeder explained was the result of the deworming meds the vet had given the entire litter, and the fact that the 10-week old dog was anxious being separated from its pack for the first time.

Two days later, one of the puppy’s litter mates was dead from Parvo virus and “Chanel,” Tina’s puppy, was dying. Turns out the “breeder” is a scam artist, or a ghost, and her Facebook page has already disappeared. She knew all along the dogs she was selling were deathly ill and highly contagious. Ashley will suffer a painful, ignoble existence just short of the relief death offers because…karma.

Tina simply did not have the money to pay for Chanel’s hospitalization, which required a hefty 4-figure deposit, so they sent her home with the dog and instructions for her care. Parvo virus in such a tiny dog—a 10-week old Yorkie—is a 50/50 proposition in terms of survival in a veterinary hospital, and it is an agonizing illness. Her chances of survival would be maybe 30% at home.

I don’t know Tina, but somehow through the ether we are Facebook “friends” and I had been reading Tina’s posts about the dog with a mix of horror, sadness and anger. When Tina posted this morning that Chanel had taken a turn for the worse I was hit by a tsunami of grief. My throat tightened and my heart seized exactly as it had on the various days over the years when I would learn that a beloved dog of mine was sick and about to leave this earth. I wept.

No matter on which side of the political aisle we align, I believe our humanity transcends tax cuts for the rich, entitlements and even morality or intelligence. I believe most people, if given the opportunity, would do just about anything to help a sick dog, or a friend with a sick dog. Those of you who know me or read me or follow me on Facebook know I am an unapologetic atheist, so I don’t think being compassionate has anything to do with a god, or an eternal reward, or a ‘get out of hell free’ card. But compassion is redemption that washes us clean of a lot of the filth we stew in when we forget our humanity.

I messaged Tina and told her I’d pay the hospital and vet bills. I picked her and the dog up thirty minutes later and off we went – two strangers with puffy red eyes and a tiny sick little dog, hauling ass to the veterinary hospital, cry/laughing like sisters.

In the hours we were together I learned a lot about Tina and her life. She’s made some bad choices, but so have I. The key difference, as best I can tell, is that my bad choices weren’t exacerbated by a tragic medical diagnosis which destroyed my financial security. That’s pure luck. Even so, I’ve had plenty days that I felt sorry for myself. Those are the days that made me less human than a day like today, when I met someone who has managed to rise above all kinds of adversity—who beat cancer and is facing down MS with a fierce determination, but who has been brought to her knees by a sick little dog. In all her weakness and strength, fear and bravery, sadness and laughter—in all the things that seem to work and then to fail—Tina represents the best of humanity. She loves with all her heart.

We don’t know whether Chanel will make it. As of right now she is improving and the vets are guardedly optimistic. Her mom Tina started a Go Fund Me campaign to help with the vet bills because I can’t really afford the medical bills either, but I’ve been a little luckier than some. Whatever your belief system, maybe offer up a positive thought for Chanel and Tina. What could it hurt?

 

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Like Putting Socks on an Octopus

dylan cover

I’ve been a little lax in writing the weekly blog. I have been working on a photography project for an exhibition that opens July 20 and I just learned that my project has already been done by another photographer. I am also making a film, by which I mean I have descended into a surreal world of jugglers, dogs that play poker and melting clocks where I spend my time pushing a massive piece of granite up a Teflon hill.

The film is from a script I wrote called Bob Dylan Stole My Wife, which is about a man who neglected his wife and when she doesn’t return from a Dylan concert where she was spotted getting into Bob’s tour bus, the hubby assumes the worst. He must join forces with a small town music critic who claims to know the bard, and who further asserts he can help get the dude’s missus back. The entire film takes place between Kewaskum, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota—arguably the whitest swath of America this side of the Mason Dixon.

Trying to raise the money to make the movie is like getting your first job out of college, or putting socks on an octopus. Investors want to know which stars will be in the movie before they pony up, but the stars want to see the money before they agree to be in the film. My producing partner and I figured we should start with a casting agent who could help us navigate this great divide.

The first casting agent we contacted was in Los Angeles. He allegedly read the script before proffering tips as to how we might make the movie better. I spent a hundred years making TV commercials so perhaps I am unfamiliar with the wily ways of Hollywood. Even so, it seems forward and a bit presumptuous for someone whose job it is to find actors to fill a role written by a screenwriter to send the screenwriter “notes” about the screenplay particularly when the “notes” suggest a major retooling of the entire plot.

Specifically, we were asked whether we might consider making the male leads lesbians, and if that was too “out there,” how ‘bout we make them black? In addition, he wanted to know whether we were married to the title Bob Dylan Stole My Wife because Chance the Rapper is on fire right now and Bob Dylan is sort of…yesterday. Oh, and could the story take place in the Bahamas?

I’d give my right eye to work with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jodie Foster or Chance the Rapper, and hailing from the fine state of Wisconsin I would relish the opportunity to spend a few months in a tropical paradise, but the reality is that I wrote a story about a clueless ostensibly tone deaf white dude in Kewaskum, Wisconsin who believes his wife to have run off with an aging, Nobel Prize winning, poet laureate of rock n roll. Next, I fully expect someone to suggest we animate the whole shebang with dwarf non-binary lobsters from Bed-Stuy who speak Italian because…Fellini.

As I have often said about the process of having a book published, the writing is really the easy part. It’s all the crap that comes after that causes you to sweat. But we soldier on.

This week we scored our first star for one of the supporting roles. Mind you, Bob Dylan Stole My Wife is what we call a buddy road pic so other than the leads, i.e. the buddies, the supporting roles are smaller, yet respectably well written and meaty. When the actress learned we planned to shoot in Wisconsin, which is not the same as Minnesota although almost equidistant from LA, she said she was “going to need more pages,” by which she meant she wants a larger role with more screen time. I can’t wait for the eight-year-old who plays a visually impaired altar boy to send us his contract rider. At this rate the movie should clock in at a tidy 9 hours.

I apologize for being remiss in blogging especially when there is so much to say about gun violence, politicians who are bought literally lock, stock and barrel, boycotts and teenage revolutionaries, but I am swimming hard as I can just to keep this world of make believe afloat. Comparatively speaking, it’s not so bad being surrounded by jugglers, dogs that play poker and divas. Come to think of it…cue the lobsters. Miss Thing is ready for her close up.

See ya at the movies!

 

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Sexual misconduct: art v the artist

 

david copy

A former employer who had no case other than he was butt hurt because I had quit my job and he had money to burn recently sued me. Used to be bullies were the kids with nothing to lose and everything to prove. Today, as an adult, all you need to be a big fat bully is a $350 court filing fee and a gripe. Grown up bullies have the financial resources to crush any employee who disagrees with their politics or religious beliefs, quits their job, or who refuses to touch the boss’s pee pee, watch the boss touch his own pee pee and/or have conversations about pee pees and/or va-jim-jams.

If Louis C.K. were a stage hand who asked an aspiring comedienne if it was okay to masturbate in front of her, said female comic would likely go to the union rep or whomever was the dude’s boss and get him reprimanded, if not fired. But when the person doing the asking has the money, and in our culture that means the power, then the underling has little recourse but to either participate in something that makes her throw up in her mouth, or she can take her chances, walk away from her job and hope her career isn’t hindered or tanked by the person with the power.

The other day a friend of mine, an artist and former museum curator, expressed outrage that an exhibition of artist Chuck Close’s work at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. had been cancelled in the wake of multiple sexual harassment allegations against him. My friend’s objections seemed to stem from two equally important factors, a) that we must separate the art from the artist, and b) for the love of Mike, Chuck Close is in a wheelchair.

Does the mere fact that Mr. Close would be unable to tackle a woman, hold her down and grope or otherwise sexually assault her make it somehow okay to make grossly inappropriate comments about her genitals? These women had come to Mr. Close for employment as models for his work, which required that they disrobe. It is not unusual or wrong or horrible for women and men to pose nude for artists. What is wrong is that the artist holds not only the chisel, paint brush or camera in his hands, but since he is paying the models he wields the power, and with that power comes a responsibility to behave if not legally, then ethically, morally and professionally like a frickin’ human and not some slobbering Neanderthal, whether confined to a wheelchair, or not.

Imagine if Michelangelo had sexually harrassed the model for David, arguably the world’s most famous sculpture, for having, as Keith Richards referred to his pal Mick Jagger’s male appendage—a tiny todger. Geez, if the dude ever wanted to work in Florence again, he had best just shrug it off. Had Michelangelo been sexually inappropriate with a paid employee, and had the world then been such a place where that sort of thing was verboten, as is finally occurring now, a mere 500 years later, would it have been acceptable by today’s standards for the Vestry Board to refuse to exhibit the sculpture? Before you answer, think of the millions of souls that have been forever enriched and inspired by gazing upon that magnificent piece of marble.

The question then becomes, should artists have special dispensation? It’s a no brainer when we think in terms of Picasso and Michelangelo, but what happens when the artist’s work doesn’t pair with our individual, peculiar understanding of art? Artists are by nature provocateurs, but what inflames me may be vastly different than what pushes your buttons and that doesn’t give either of us the right to deny anyone access to art that moves them deeply.

The Nazis labeled modern art “degenerate” because it was Jewish, considered communist or was just plain “un-German.” Artists were forbidden from creating “modern” art, teachers were forbidden from teaching it and masterpieces were banned, burned and blown up. Music, film, plays, books and entire careers were destroyed and even today we remain outraged. And yet major galleries and museums, TV and cable networks and other entertainment venues are doing the same thing right now, but with fewer flags, fires and fanfare, undoubtedly hopeful that advertisers and patrons will continue their support uninterrupted.

What it comes down to is whether we, as adults, can be trusted to digest allegations, accusations and even convictions against artists and then decide for ourselves if we wish to patronize their work. Unfortunately, gallery and museum directors and network executives have decided we are not to be given dominion over where we choose to cast our eyes and ears. It’s not so much political correctness that’s driving the freight train of censorship as much as a desire, I think, for executives, curators and entertainment overlords to give the appearance of being #MeToo sympathizers when in fact they are simply hedging their bets that this #MeToo stuff means money at the box office and ticket counter. In addition to being run-of-the-mill consumers who represent a massive market share, women are also formidable benefactors and investors.

I feel for the people who have in any way been sexually assaulted, harassed or abused by someone in power, be the offender an artist or the President of the United States, but #MeToo is a big loud voice and we have options in terms of how we deal with exploitation in the aggregate. For one thing, we vote. And for another we have the right to protest. Perhaps it would be better for the National Gallery to proceed with the Chuck Close exhibition, and let #MeToo show up in all its glory—in a big, beautiful artistic act of solidarity with the abused. Then the abusers will answer directly to us, and not someone’s bottom line.

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Shame on…everyone?

 

topiary

Shaming has become the great American pastime: slut shaming, body shaming, shaming over what we eat, how we feel, who we sleep with and what we drive. I’ve seen cell phone shaming, headphone shaming, shoe shaming and even landscape shaming, as in, “The rest of the lawns in our neighborhood are manicured to a perfect 3.25” height once every 5.75 days. Your grass looks like the savanna.”

Shaming is sport on Facebook where we are admonished to “share if you love Jesus,” the implication of which is that to not share is to diss the Christ in Christmas (and just what kind of succubus are you?). “Share if you support law enforcement, the national anthem and the elderly,” is counterbalanced by demands that we “share if you hate cancer, bullies and the president,” again the implication of which is that to be stingy with one’s shares is to be against cops, country and coots while the latter proclaims we are in favor of disease, oafs and imbeciles.

My female dog Zuzu stands at will over her male counterpart Alfie in a show of alpha-ness. People often snicker when I say Zuzu is the alpha female, aka an “alpha bitch,” (and also because that is how I often refer to myself) which supports my impression that many humans are unfamiliar with the term, erroneously thinking “alpha male” is just…natural, while alpha female, or boss lady, seems somehow made up. But I digress.

The point is, as she asserts her dominance, Zuzu “shames” Alfie by positioning her crotch over his scruffy little head. That is exactly how it feels when some nitwit suggests my footwear is better suited to a younger woman, say in her 20s, or a stripper. (I will admit some of my heels sport rather suggestive architecture.)

Likewise, to hear that a woman “had it coming to her” because she wore a miniskirt and push-up bra when she was sexually assaulted makes me see red, then I weep with pity for the male of our species because according to “what did she expect with that outfit” logic, menfolk are just too weak and intellectually impaired to control themselves when they see lady bits. Poor little snowflakes dears. I don’t think people thusly debilitated should be allowed to vote, really. Or drive cars. Or serve in the military.

When I was a kid we didn’t call it shaming. We called it bullying and picking on and we were generally instructed to to walk it off, but in the trenches we knew what happened when the bully was bigger or more powerful than the person being bullied. The little guy got her ass handed to her.

All the sticks and stones platitudes in the world didn’t prevent me from being smacked down every 6th grade recess by Tom P.  Having been held back about a dozen times in the third grade, the dude was like 30 years old–a dangerous combination of grown-up gigantic and smart as a box of hair. My folks told me to ignore him. I was afraid to go to the authorities for fear I’d make things worse and he would escalate from knocking me down and pulling my hair to strangling me in my sleep, as he had often promised.

One day as Tom P hurtled in my direction, shoulders poised to knock me into next Tuesday, I braced myself against the building, thinking it would keep me from falling to the ground. The impact of being slammed into a brick wall by a speeding troglodyte shattered a bracelet my grandpa had given me, which then cut into my wrist. Without thinking I spun around and slugged Tom P in the stomach. I will never forget his eyes just before he crumpled to the ground and started crying like a bitch. He looked exactly like Alfie when Zuzu stands over his head—slightly bewildered and totally submissive.

An hour later I was called out of class and told to report to the principal’s office where Mr. and Mrs. P sat facing Sister Benedictine, our principal. “Did you hit Tom?” Mother Superior asked.

Knowing Sister Benedictine and the baby Jesus would want me to apologize, I said, “I’m sorry I made him ugly cry.” Mr. P winced and I immediately knew the beat down I gave the boy was nothing compared to what was going to happen to him when he got home. He had let a girl get the best of him. He had been shamed in the worst possible way.

I have a scar on my wrist from the incident, and have long since learned that only in grade school can you teach a bully a lesson by hitting him back. In the real world—Facebook and Twitter—there is no amount of “hitting back” that stops someone from shaming, or bullying. All I can imagine is that the people who feel better about themselves by trying to make other feel less than were abused themselves—be it physically, emotionally or by being given hundreds of millions of dollars with which they could go repeatedly bankrupt.

So I will do what I always do when someone tries to shame me. I will slip on 5” heels  and lie on my neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn, forcing her to mow around me. The resulting grass topiary shall serve as a beacon for anyone who refuses to let the dogs of shaming stand over her head.

 

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In the true spirit of giving…

Red heart in child kid and mother hands on old blue wooden table in vintage retro style

The other day a man on the street gave a homeless person a dollar, and I smiled at him. “What can I say?” the man told me, puffing up his chest as he got into a new Mercedes. “I’m a generous guy this time of year.” It got me to thinking…people seem confused about generosity.

Rosalind Russell stars in the 1958 film “Auntie Mame” as a wealthy eccentric with a heart of gold. In the stock market crash of 1929 Mame loses it all—including her new job as a clerk at Macy’s. Demoralized and broke, she foregoes a warm cab ride home and opts instead to drop her very last dollar into a Salvation Army bucket.

In flusher times Mame might have handed the bell ringer a couple of Benjamins, but it would not have been a fraction as benevolent as giving away her last dollar. Generosity is not conveyed by tax breaks for charitable contributions or crowing about giving someone less fortunate a couple of dollars. True generosity requires a bit of personal sacrifice—and comes from a place where we actually care about people irrespective of social station, income, religion or race.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am not blanketed in warm fuzzies when I see gratuitous Christmastime TV ads touting the “generosity” of a company that donates a few pennies on the dollar to charity “in the spirit of giving.” It doesn’t strike me as particularly giving to donate money simply to earn a massive tax break when your workers don’t have affordable healthcare. #ScroogeMart

In a decidedly ungenerous move, and for reasons beyond my comprehension, a swath of the American public has decided to jump onboard the “restore Merry Christmas” crazy train, ignoring the fact that, quite simply, we have a proud multi-cultural history and not everyone believes in Jesus. Considering Christmas, the birthday of said Jesus, is the penultimate celebration of generosity, it seems disengenuous to cram one’s religious beliefs down people’s throats by insisting they get with the ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ program, then label them un-American when they won’t.

This year I decided to try something new—something perhaps…charitable. I ask, “Do you celebrate Christmas?” When people say yes, then I wish them a merry Christmas. When they say no, I tell them happy holidays. There is a brief pause as the person digests the question, then come the words, “Thank you for asking.” Boom.

There are so many ways to express generosity, from helping an elderly person across a busy street to honoring someone else’s culture. Among the same group that is leading the Merry Christmas Goddammit assault, there is the argument that if African American persons refer to one another with the N word, then why can’t the rest of us? (This proposition reared its head at a Christmas party, which seemed ironic somehow.)

We could go round and round debating the roots of systemic racism, which would be the right thing to do if we were really interested in learning anything, but that would demand logical consistency and factual accuracy. Instead, in the spirit of Christmas, I propose that persons who are not African American simply accept that persons who are African American really don’t like it when persons who are not African American use the N word. Can’t that be enough?

To suggest white people should be allowed to call African American people by the N word because African American people use the word is to insist upon calling Richard ‘Dick’ when he has specifically asked to be called the former. It doesn’t matter whether Richard’s family calls him Dick, or what his race is. Unless you are in Richard’s family, and assuming you have half a brain, you will call him Richard. Otherwise you are the real dick.

Was that ungenerous? My bad. (Your appreciation, or acceptance of my sense of humor and language is quite generous.)

This holiday season I want to thank you—for sharing your stories with me, letting me know what you thought of a blog, laughing with me, crying and raging against the machine with me.

Here’s to all of us, honoring whatever tradition, belief or non-belief we subscribe to by being tolerant, kind, compassionate…and you know. Generous.

Happy holidays. Loves ya,

Pam

visiut pam at huffpo

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