Monday, June 29, 2015

One important point I missed.

This morning, I was taking a bath and I thought of something I missed in yesterday's post on Dr, Oz, perhaps the most important point of all.   Here it is.  When a group coalesces with the intent of punishing someone who holds an alternative view, especially if that group represents an event approved by the government, it makes Uncle Sam (the government) look thuggish. 

I can take you down.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Something's up in the Land of Oz

There's a gang of ten MD's who are hell bent on discrediting Dr. Oz and getting him kicked off the Columbia University faculty.  They claim that Oz is manifesting an "egregious lack of integrity" and practicing quack medicine and shows "disdain for science (GMO's) and for evidence-based (Big Agra, Big Pharma) medicine."

Dr. Oz was the man who used to bring dried out lungs and disease-ridden livers to Oprah's old show and make her handle them.  He would present the organs as if he were offering her a muffin.  Oprah would eye-roll but played along.  Oprah always hauled out the good doctor  to answer questions we were too embarrassed to ask our own doctor:  malfunctions going on below the waist which are plentiful.  Dr. Oz would lay it all out matter-of-factly and give us a diagram of our plumbing.  He is a mild mannered man in uniform-catalog clothes and a bad haircut.

After a while, Oprah gave Oz his own show just as she had done for Rachel Ray.  Oprah chose these two non threatening regular people with regular faces and bought them shows. They didn't disappoint her.  But now a bunch of doctors signed a letter asking Columbia University to throw Oz off their medical roster.  Is it sour grapes?  Dr. Oz makes money being on television and also makes money being a doctor.  So what?   He is trying to help us, the viewers, have a better experience in this vale of tears.  He uses  normal life situations and puts out mostly good information.  Does he sometimes give air space to "miracle" cures for weight loss? Garcinia Cambogia. Raspberry Ketones..  Sort of.  But the majority of his advice has to do with recognizing serious illness, avoiding serious illness and  swapping bad food and habits for decent food and habits without too much sacrifice.  But the gang of ten isn't focused on green coffee extract for weight loss.  They are focused on "baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops."  Whuck?????  They are mad at Dr. Oz because he has said on the air that GMO food should be labeled for what it is.  Not forbidden.  Just labeled.  It's worth noting that the doctor who signed the letter, Dr. Miller, used to work at the FDA reviewing genetically engineered drugs.  

Are you a GMO?  No. I'm Lutheran.

I would bet the doctors that signed the letter have no qualms about giving their patients expensive drugs that the drug companies tout and probably make people sicker but because they have the imprimatur of the FDA - the laziest and most compromised agency in the govt. -  they are integrity covered.  I have no basis to make this assumption but I will make it anyway.

This is off subject:  once, I bought the green coffee extract pills.  They were 9.99 at CVS.  I took them for two days.  When I didn't lose twenty pounds in those two days, I lost interest.  Here are some typical Dr. Oz attention getters: "Cut your heart attack risk in half by this one simple rule."  The rule is usually to take some baby aspirin daily.  Or "How do you know you are having a stroke?"  A couple of clues are to smile and/or give your address. (By the way, recently they added the tongue as a clue.  If it's listing to one side, not a good sign.)

Anyway, I'm team Oz.  Of all the bad things, he isn't so bad.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Clotted cream, crème fraiche, chagrinned and Andy Warhol

(reposting this from Feb. 21, 2014 because I love Andy Warhol's diaries)
Clotted cream, crème fraiche
Last night a friend brought a dessert that was everything that I find delicious.  First it had lemon in it and also cream and it was all real (home made) no funny stuff.  I think the cream was what the British call clotted.  If you want to sound smart and sophisticated in any conversation just use two phrases.  Even if they make no conversational sense and you are eating a pork chop say, “clotted cream” or “crème fraiche.” Those around you will start re-computing your IQ and EQ.  You can also throw in “chagrinned.”
As for my love of lemon, once I made rice with only lemon juice and no water.  Don’t try this at home because you will get rice gum (it tastes fantastic to a lemon freak but your guests might pause or even leave).  Lemon tends to gelatinize things I found out.  Oh, and by the way, I finally learned something useful from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.  She said that using mustard in salad dressing helps to emulsify the lemon and oil.  I tried it and it is true.  Previously, I couldn’t get the lemon and olive oil to end their stand-off however mustard does the trick.
And Andy Warhol
A person I would be happy to live with full time would be Andy Warhol.  I was reading his diaries as I often do for inspiration and comfort.  I realized that we share the same blurty, ADD, hard to follow thinking process that makes perfect sense to the speaker but annoys and confuses those around us.  Here are a couple of examples from my favorite book The Andy Warhol Diaries.  Andy dictated the diaries every morning to his assistant to keep a record of his activities and the expenses they generated.  His assistant compiled all the entries into the Diaries.
The entry below is from May 22, 1984. 
“Jean Michel came down to the office early.  He was reading his big review in the Voice.  They called him the most promising artist on the scene.  And at least they didn’t mention me and say he shouldn’t be hanging around with me the way the New York Times did.
I opened up one of the boxes in the back that’s being moved and it had ……letters from Ray Johnson the artist and I think my bloodstained clothes from when I was shot.
I realized the reason Tony Shafrazi hasn’t gotten even one of the artists in his gallery into MOMA is because Tony’s the person who defaced Picasso’s Guernica.  But that’s not fair.  Keith Haring isn’t at MOMA.  And they have just one thing of mine, the little Marilyn.  I just hate that.  That bothers me.
Then in the afternoon I went to Doc Cox’s (cab $7) and I protested over the thermometer that they used because it just sits there in water and everybody uses it, it’s not right.  And Rosemary took my blood pressure but I have a feeling they just throw these tests out.  And they have a new heart machine so now I don’t have to run up and down the stairs in the hallway to get my heart going – it’s a big improvement.  And Freddy won’t take your blood if she doesn’t know you.
….After dinner ($120) at Hisae and drinks at Jezebel’s we went over to Stuart Pivar’s because he was having people over and I wanted to learn about art.  I brought a small bronze and Stuart said it was a piece of junk, so tomorrow I’m returning it.”

An Amazon reviewer gave the book one star and commented “Incoherent ramblings for 1,000,000 pages.

They are perfectly coherent to me.

Another one-star review called it “Boring and Self Indulgent.” 
“Warhol's prose is horrible considering the creative mind he posseses (sic). I bought it used (thank God) and was bored to tears reading about taxi rides and what so-and-so was wearing. It was like reading a dreadfully boring gay man's blog. A bio on this character would be much more enlightening and a much less waste of time.”
A wise patient person commented on the bad review and said, “This isn't a bad book, you just weren't sure what to think of it: it confused you, so you don't like it.”

Monday, June 8, 2015

One of those frozen, hectic instants that you just know has a whole happy life attached.

 (I wrote this post three years ago.  I think I was smarter three years ago because this short post is more thoughtful and necessary than some of the drivel I write today.  A snipet of clarity is far better than five paragraphs of whining.  Jennifer Egan's writing is chock full of snipets of clarity therefore, I'm re-posting this)

I've gone nuts over Jennifer Egan. I want to share some of her smartness with you from her novel, A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer:  One of those frozen, hectic instants that you just know has a whole happy life attached. 

Consuelo:  I do know. I've seen many of those moments and I think:  "Oooh, happy life attached."   

Jennifer: “I felt no shame whatsoever in these activities, because I understood what almost no one else seemed to grasp: that there was only an infinitesimal difference, a difference so small that it barely existed except as a figment of the human imagination, between working in a tall green glass building on Park Avenue and collecting litter in a park.  In fact, there may have been no difference at all.

Consuelo: This seems harder to believe but I believe it. Comparisons are all in the internals, after all.

This last revelation can be used to dismantle almost all of the values hogging airspace today that most fail to grasp.  If you study the internals and discount the prevailing agenda, there is almost no difference between telling the truth and lying, between being generous or stingy,  between living a life of virtue or one of sin.  Almost no difference between sin and good works.  There was a book written a long time ago titled, It's All Zoo.  It is all zoo.  Don't take this to mean I'm a pessimist.  The opposite.  I am childishly optimistic.  I expect miracles every day.  There is an abundance of miracles.  

Monday, June 1, 2015

experience therapy

Whenever I have to leave my car at the mechanic, I take the bus home.  The mechanic, who is honest and helpful,  offers a ride but I prefer the bus. Taking the bus is orderly.  You wait on a bench. Sometimes the sun is warm and it feels good to sit and wait even though the bus is always late. There is nothing pressing.  Someone else is going to be in charge.  Once you put your fare in the box, you have no responsibilities.  When the ride begins you are free to scrutinize the passing scene.

One thing, I know.  I'm different from the other passengers. They don't take the bus for experience therapy.  They need the bus to get to their jobs or to a necessary destination. 

The Suffolk County Transit seems to hire eastern European drivers for the East Hampton route.  They begin their sentences with the verb and seldom elaborate.

When I took the bus last Friday, a man came around and gave every rider two dollars as a present.  I shook my head but he pressed the bills on me and it would have been rude to turn him down.  I thought maybe it was like those stories you hear of a millionaire throwing money into a crowd at Christmas.  I didn't want to touch the money because, although I like to ride the bus, I am phobic about touching strangers' hands even in church.  Also, dollar bills are probably one of the premier germ-laden objects along with the handrails in the subway.  The man who gave the money wore madras Bermuda shorts, a pullover with a shirt underneath and  good sneakers. 

The two dollars are still
You will need me one day
on the table. Unfolded.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Whatever you have done, let it go. Let it all go. It's all right.

( This is an excerpt from my book, One Hundred Open Houses.  It has a hopeful message in it.  Some readers don't like this book but the ones that do, like it a lot.)
Given my present thought process, something really strange happened in church on Sunday. Father O’Connell is on vacation and this other priest said mass.  He was quite old and we could hardly hear him.  
We were prepared to just sit through it, the way we did when we had a substitute teacher.  Almost in a whisper, he began talking about reconciliation – that’s what they call confession now.  He said,  “Whatever you have done, let it go.  You aren’t children anymore with a laundry list of sins – I hit my brother, I told a lie, I stole some candy - in order to be okay with God.  Just get rid of everything – let it go and you will be closer to Jesus. If you’ve had an abortion, if you’ve been abusive to your family – just let it go. Let it all go.  It’s all right. One of you,  “he emphasized, “sitting here today, will be transformed.” 
The entire congregation remained still.  Almost dumbstruck.  We weren’t prepared to actually hear something we could use never mind being transformed.  After church, I saw this young handsome man – not your typical devoted Catholic - go up to the priest and say – “I’m not from this parish but that is the best homily I have ever heard.”  There was a long line of people and they were all saying much the same thing.  They had been longing to find a way to get rid of all the things they were ashamed of doing and this brilliant old priest had told them it was okay to let it all go. He was telling us that he was certain – without a doubt – that this was not only okay, but also necessary.
After mass, I did something I seldom do – something all of us seldom do – I sat in the living room.  I sat on the couch I had bought at the Bloomingdale’s outlet store.  There was nothing to do in the living room except look around.  You couldn’t cook there or eat or watch television. The living room, I have to tell you, is a useless room that we have been told is necessary.  I felt as if I was visiting and all the stuff in there was new to me.   After the “letting go” talk, if you take it seriously, you have a lot of space in your head to think about other things.
It has resulted in putting me in a strange state of lethargy.  I feel all dry and papery.  I’m made of parchment paper. I keep thinking that contrary to my current fervor for staying alive, there might be something to dying.  No more humidifying and dehumidifying.  No more coughing at night or worrying about anything.  If nothing else, the weight issue is moot.
When you send the e-mail down to your psyche saying, “hey, it’s time to open up, we want some life changing moves up here,” it reacts.   I had stated a purpose and begun a plan and although it wasn’t frontal lobotomy or entering a non-speaking religious order, it was change and there’s nothing like change to make the psyche squeeze out a miserly bit of self-revelation.
What was revealed to me on that chilly for June Sunday morning was that no matter what I did or where I lived or if I chose to pitch a tent in the Mojave dessert there was a fist sized hunk of worry smack in the center of my chest and if I didn’t address it, I was not going to really move. 
There was no media noise so I was aware of the silence in the house.  In my Sunday morning clarity, I knew that it was a hunk of heaviness that had been sitting in my chest for a very long time.    I went into my default site of things to worry about, the kids’ safety, my health, mental illness and plumbing problems in a town where plumbers are the new rock stars.   If you’re not going to follow the blueprint for the American Dream, you have to fight hard not to think ill of yourself.
This wasn’t about the kids or the house. This hard impenetrable thing was a hunk of worry about me, Rebecca, and what had happened to her.   I bypassed my instinct to find some quick answer and thought about what my life was like from moment to moment. What I said to certain people and what I said to others.  Was I authentic with anyone? Did I have enough friends? What mattered to me? Did anyone really love me?  Was there anyone who couldn’t live without me?  Do you even want someone who can’t live without you?  No, you don’t!  I’ll give you a profile of that man without even meeting him.  Needy, needy, needy.  And possibly in need of long-term therapy.  You want someone who can live without you but would like to spend some time with you. 
I had an m.o.  As long as I could find the irony in everything that happened, I could make a case for an existence that resided on the sidelines while everyone else was actually living. Being ironic was no substitute for living but so help me I thought it was.   Louise was living all of the time.  She knew at least a dozen couples that she and her husband saw on a regular un-ironic basis.  She had friends she had known for forty years. She played tennis with her friends and went to baby showers.  She had a sequential life.  She definitely did not start over every morning.
I thought about my premise that a move outside my comfort zone would jump-start a new life, a new routine, new connections and a new me. I was definitely ready to re-define myself.  As what?  A spunky middle-aged woman?    Then this British guy was on Oprah and he wrote a book on happiness and he said you would never be happy if you had a destination addiction.  First, why anyone would listen to a Brit talk on the psychology of happiness is beyond me.  But I did take a little interest in his “destination addiction” theory.  He was saying that as long as you thought that your happiness depended on something that was going to happen in the future, you were a dead duck.  Or an unhappy duck. What I got from that Brit was that if I thought I was going to jump start my stalled writing career by moving to a monastic cell in New York City, I was stupid, stupid, stupid. And misguided.  And delusional.   I had to start being happy right here in Huffy The House. And while moving was a good idea, I would already be the committed reclaimed writer when I arrived.
So there was no avoiding it then.  I had to begin thinking of the story I wanted to tell.    What story was I just bursting to tell?  First of all, no writer is bursting to write anything.  Most are bursting to keep from writing.  Writing is incredibly hard and beside it, everything else appears incredibly easy.  But this particular moment, I kept still and continued thinking until I had an “aha” moment that sounded so simple, I didn’t trust it but since I had nothing else, I went with it.  Maybe the story was me!   The routines, the bad habits, the small pleasures, the calls to the utility companies, the yanking of weeds, the phantom tandem life that I was going to live one day.  Not this life but something better. Maybe this was the better life – maybe what I was writing down in my journal would make a fabulous story. Maybe my life was the story of the century.  Every single day of it  – Louise and Shana and the rep for the Dubai place and Itzonlyphil were what was in my life and if I shaped what I was writing in my journal into the odyssey it had become, I could make sense of it for myself and maybe for others, too.  Maybe what was in my head was not the jumbled thoughts of a textbook AADD but LIFE.  
 I had just read an article in the New Yorker about the dictionary of mental disorders (I’m thinking someone is sitting around saying:  there’s stealing and let’s call that kleptomania and there’s unsubstantiated euphoria and let’s call that manic behavior) There was a phrase in the article that I liked.  It said someone had an unruly inner life.  That’s what I had to document!   My unruly inner life.  I would shape what I had been writing in the journal into a book.
 It was Sunday morning and my instinct was to turn on the television and watch Meet The Press. Anything not to test my new theory that, at best, seemed weak.   I went to the computer instead.   I wrote the date and Chapter One – 9-G I wasn’t looking for an apartment…
 I started and before I knew it, Meet The Press was over and so were the McLaughlin Report and even Lydia’s Family Table.  I had just plunged into the story in an unruly way.  I introduced the old priest and what he told us and Ms. DuBois at the bank and KooKoofor$ and also Ben and Harry and even my mother and my fear of the voodoo she might be doing on my life.  When I was done for the day I felt spaced out the way you do when you spend a day at the beach and the bright sun glinting off the water makes you feel surreal.  And the salt air makes the indoors feel too quiet and unfamiliar. And your eyes can’t adjust.  I turned off the computer and had a cup of coffee.  There was no milk so I put some Turkey Hill vanilla Ice Cream in it.  I drank it slowly, in the living room. Just me sitting there.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Virginia - you've got it, girl.

On one of my periodic clean-up/dispose missions, I found a box of books that I had planned to sell on the internet two years ago when I was on a previous clean-up mission.

The books had pristine colorful jackets. There was Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (the infamous Oprah's Book Club edition.) Remember Mr. Franzen capriciously said he didn't want to go on Oprah. Television was too banal. That was the day that his publisher, Farrar Straus and Giroux, flew their flag at half mast as they saw a couple of million dollars drift into the ether. By the way, since this is a post about good writing, I will point out that although The Corrections was the most lauded novel of 2001, it only drew a 3.2 average  rating on Amazon.  Many of the Amazon customer reviews called it a "tedious piece of crap."   

Another book in the box was Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full  (a snarky critic re-titled it "A Man So Dull").  Nestled with the bestsellers was a modest student edition of To the Lighthouse by the venerated Virginia Woolfe.  I opened this book to Chapter One.  What kind of writing does it take to separate an author from the pack and give her iconic stature forever?  I was curious to read her prose because she was part of that high strung, literary aristocracy, the Bloomsbury group. Here is one of Ms. Woolfe's paragraphs from To The Lighthouse:

"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsay.  "But you'll have to be up with the lark," she added.
To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and a day's sail, within touch.  Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss.

And then came Hemingway with his simple declarative sentences.