Saturday, March 29, 2014

What is the best part of living alone?

(What if instead of interviewing starlets and celebrities, we interviewed ordinary people?  Today I am interviewing someone who lives alone.)

What is the best part of living alone?

The biggest plus?  I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s food.  The second plus no one asks me what I have planned for the day.  Oh, and I don’t have to tell anyone when I leave the house or when I’m coming back. Oh, and if I’m watching some low-brow, mindless television show, I can enjoy it.  There are people who find it intolerable to be alone.  They need compassion.

What is a big downside?

What? Not appropriate?
One downside is that no one stops me from leaving the house looking less than my best or even my medium best.  I know if there was another human with seeing ability, he/she would bar the door until I changed my outfit.  One other downside is that when you have a hellish encounter with the pharmacist (as I did yesterday) you don’t have anyone to whine about it to for an hour.  But that is what curse words are for. 

Why does society see living alone as such a social failure?

Society is full of it.  Society has all kinds of crazy parameters that don’t hold up in a serious investigation.  Society tells us there is only one implication to living alone: that we couldn’t attract another to live with us, that we are social losers.

Do you think of yourself that way?

Occasionally but not because I live alone and less and less for any reason.  Mostly, I think I am OK. 

Do you ever get lonely?

I used to get a little lonely, especially on Sunday.  Sunday has always had that effect on me.  I suspect it is because I was a boarding school child and my father visited on Sundays.    Lately, I have mastered Sundays. Sometimes I deliberately talk to strangers in the supermarket.  I ask them how they would cook something but that is because I want to see how others are putting their life together even if it’s just with a piece of skirt steak.   I love talking to women in the supermarket although I only do it once in a while.  I have a lot of children and grandchildren and they are around me frequently.

Do you make an effort to interact with people?

As a writer, I interact with people in my head all the time but I suspect you mean something else.  Twice this winter I offered to volunteer a couple of mornings a week so as to have more interaction with the outside world.  I asked to stack books at the library and the woman said,  “Do you know the alphabet and can you bend down?” I said, “I know the alphabet and if there’s one thing I can do it is to bend down.”  Even though I was startled I bent down and got up a couple of times.  She said she would call me but it never happened.   Maybe I should have recited the alphabet instead of bending down.

The second attempt at volunteering was at the local organic farm.  I liked the farm because they were providing fresh organic produce to the local food bank. In the dead of winter the struggling families of East Hampton could have fresh organic vegetables.  The most surprising part was that the vegetables in the greenhouses were growing as if it were July instead of December.  Beautiful kale, carrots, lettuce, broccoli were all growing to maturity.  My job was going to be to weed and feed the rabbits that provided fertilizer.  The day I started, the weather turned wicked and it has remained so ever since.  Lots of snow and frigid temperatures. I tried twice to go there but the deep ruts and mounds of ice and snow were wrecking my car.  One day I made a turn and went right into a ravine obscured by snow.  I thought, “How am I going to get out of this?  Even if I call AAA what address am I going to give them?  I’m out in a freaking vast rutted field.”  I tried to gun the engine in reverse.  Nothing.  Then I gunned the engine forward and that worked.  I decided to wait until spring to volunteer.

Would you ever consider living with anyone?

Yes.  I would consider it.  But even if I found the perfect person to live with I would ask them to buy the house next door so we could live side by side.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hey, Weezy.

The other day I was talking about Bette Davis looking around Joseph Cotton’s house and exclaiming “What a dump.”  It got me to thinking of other famous movie lines. Why do we love them so?  (Two of them are from my favorite philosopher, Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) from Gone With The Wind

What a dump. 
Sometimes I get up and say that to my house especially if it’s in disarray and I have just visited a person who lives in a really good house while I still live in what the realtors like to call a ‘starter house.’  That’s realtor speak for “Let’s face it, that’s all you can afford.”  My house can hardly be called a starter house since I have already had all the children I can have and they are out in the world with their own kids.  I should be living in my “finish” house with all the money I accumulated.  Where is that money by the way?

Most times I LOVE my house especially in winter when the big fat iron radiators are scalding hot and the rooms are like a sauna.  When I come home after a trip I say, “Hello, my friend.  I missed you.”

You can’t handle the truth.
My first response is, “You’re right.”  I can’t handle the truth. There are all kinds of truths.  Some truths are always changing and some never change.  If the truth has to do with my self-delusional mistakes where I wasn’t paying attention or just let whatever happened happen, then I need a shot of whiskey before absorbing it. After about a minute, having fortified myself, I would let the truth wash over me and seep into my consciousness and if I don’t die on the spot I guess I can handle the truth.

You done had a baby, Miss Scarlett and you ain’t never going to be no 18.5 inches (in the waist) again.  Never.  And there ain’t nothing to do about it.
The speech Mammy gives to Scarlett after the birth of Bonnie is a good reminder that once we’ve had a baby we will probably not ever have Gisele Bundchen’s butt no matter how many squats go down.  More important, our girlish consciousness will be replaced by a gritty (grim?) confidence.  We have been to a strange place.  Even Snookie got it.  “It’s different now,” she said.

Mr. Rhett you is bad!
What’s that rustling noise I hear? “
Lawdy Mr. Rhett that ain’t nothing but my red silk petticoat you done give me.
Nothing but your petticoat?  I don’t believe it, let me see … pull up your skirt.”
 Mr. Rhett you is bad. Yo lawdy hoo hoo!”

We love a bad boy.  Always have, always will.  I’ll take a bad boy anytime.

I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ babies!”
Who hasn’t exaggerated on the resume only to have it come back and bite.
Prissy could have walked a little faster to get the doctor.

You complete me.
I have never heard this quoted with any seriousness.  It’s always a joke as it should be.  We come into this world complete and we leave it complete.  Any missing parts have to be self-generated.

(This notion that we need another person to complete us is one of the more misguided myths alive today. The origins of the “soulmate” are found in the writings of Plato who surmised that there was once a “super race” comprising both male and female in one person. They were getting too powerful so Zeus cut each of them in two. This forceful separation left both halves desperate to be reunited.)

Love is never having to say you’re sorry.
This ridiculous idea is exactly what was wrong with the Fifties and even the Sixties and Seventies.  The truth according to MGM.  Wrong. Unrealistic. Delusional.

Hey Weezy. 

Oops how did that get in here although if there’s a better example of a good working marriage than George and Louise Jefferson's, I can’t think of it.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What time do the cows come home?

I have never had a dentist look into my mouth during a checkup and exclaim: “Wow.  You’ve really been taking care of your teeth.” 

You can floss till the cows come home but the dentist always shakes his head with disappointment and asks, “Do you floss? I see a lot of plaque.”

It’s as if your teeth and the dentist have an understanding and your teeth grow special plaque for the visit.

As I’ve said before, dentists choose that profession to be legally aggressive.  When they scrape around, it sounds as if they are digging a new subway.  You would think by now there would be something better.

By the way, what time do the cows come home?  Probably around seven p.m., at dusk in the summer.  They stand around and eat all day and then amble home to sleep. 

What do you think?  Is it time to start home?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Am I an ignorant uninvolved jackass? Yes. (Redux)

This is a re-issue of a post I wrote seven months ago.  It may seem redundant and dated because many have written about their feelings pro/con for FB.  I've tried to ween myself completely but I still look forward to being annoyed. Christopher Walken says, "More cowbell."  Even though it's now moronic to still like FB, I say, "More FB"

While scrolling FB  I can categorize my feelings toward the “friends” I’ve collected.

1. FB re-discovered lost friends and relatives:  In the first flush of re-connecting with so many relatives and friends I’ve completely sentimentalized their persona and “like” everything they do because I think I love them and wish I lived next door, etc. In their episodic, truncated FB life, they seem innocent and vulnerable.  I also - and this is hard to admit - feel I’m more worldly and sophisticated than they and - this is hard - it is a condescending and patronizing affection.  Now that I’ve dug this thought out of my subconscious, I feel like a slug and - I’m willing to admit - delusional.

2.  Re-computing the FB profile of acquaintances:  this requires a mental “huh? “as in ‘I never thought this man/woman would ever mature but it looks like he/she is doing okay and I’ll give him/her a nod - wait - he/she seems fully engaged with the world while I am still a bystander and maybe I’m the immature one - and look - he/she has dinner out with friends and goes to weddings and posts iphotos of sunsets, etc that are boring to me but possibly of interest to other people who aren’t bystanders. Is he/she living “life to the fullest” while I keep treading water?  Crap, maybe.

3. Cats:  as it stands now, unless there’s a cat out there who nursed a wild boy who grew up to be president and the cat can also play classical piano well enough to accompany Itzhak Perlman with the full consent of Zubin Mehta, I can live without ever again seeing a cute cat on FB. (apologies to my e-friend Molly who is bats about cats).
There.  Are you satisfied?
 4. Just shoot me now category:  the stuff that is presented to me proudly as funny or spiritually instructional is not funny or inspiring. Not even a tiny bit. Most of it is in a frame, precious and priceless.   I beg FB to hide all of this stuff even though they put me through the Spanish Inquisition to justify my reason for hiding it.   It’s as if FB is saying: “How can you not like this?  What the heck is wrong with you?”

5.  Activist posts:  Ok I get it Monsanto is the devil.  Here’s the thing. If you didn't get me to fly to St. Louis to deface the Monsanto headquarters the first 50 posts, you probably won't motivate me ever.  If I’m to be honest, I don’t care.  What????? Am I an ignorant uninvolved jackass?  Yes.  Am I part of the problem?  Yes.

6.  Covert bragging category:  I'm oddly ok with this.  Life is hard enough without having to shut up about the good parts. Just be aware that only about 8 people in your life will love your successes and the other 92% don't care.  Sometimes I prefer overt bragging as in:  Hey, everybody. Stop what you are doing and look at my handsome boy using the potty!  A covert brag that I kind of liked went like this:  The mailman delivered the fat envelope and the letterhead says:  Lux et veritas.  This is both covert and elitist because only the cognoscenti would decipher that the writer’s loopy son Jason got into Yale.      

6. Pictures of my grandchildren or short videos of my grandchildren:  FB was made for this activity.  I don’t care if you scratch your eyeballs every time I share a video of Gwynnie playing tennis or Kate in the sailboat or Penelope singing Happy Birthday or James jumping waves on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean or Margot toddling and grinning with movie star sunglasses.  These are extraordinary people and milestones and you have to look at them.  If you hide them, I will hunt you down.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You are a little piece of Velcro in the conga line of life

You know that line in Beyond The Forest. Betty Davis says to Joseph Cotton as she looks around his house?  “What a dump.”

Often I go around my house imitating Betty Davis and other goofy endeavors but yesterday I had a good grown-up revelation  Yesterday I figured out that EVERYTHING is connected.  Everything.  If you think that you are a little island of activity with a buffer zone around you that isolates your actions, your thoughts, your emotions from all other things (including ants, my personal favorite insect,) in the universe -nuh uh.
You like me.  You really like me.
 All is connected.  It might or might not be sequential I haven’t had that thought yet.  It might or might not be direct and timely. Time is a whole other mystery.  Again, the thought I had was about connection.  This is a simple idea and almost a throwaway line.  It is not simple or throwaway.  I’m not smart enough to parse all the parameters of how everything is connected and the certain consequences, I only know it is a very efficient system.  Nuanced, reliable and inevitable.  If you think about it, it has to be that way.  The whole enchilada that is life has to be completely connected down to the last sigh, glance or step

So what does that mean?  It’s scary. You have to be alert to the larger picture and get out of that merry-go-round pattern in your head.  It puts a lot of responsibility of what you do and especially what you think because you are a little piece of Velcro holding on in the conga line of life and let’s face it we want to be in the section with the good dancers.  

Meditation is helpful. It makes you stop, clear the desk and take out a clean sheet of paper so to speak.  (BTW I was surprised to learn that Jerry Seinfeld meditates every day.)  I used to meditate all the time when I began writing.  I used to meditate to get myself out of plot problems.  That is not what they recommend.  They recommend thinking of nothing.

Following is the conversation I had with myself after I had these revelations.

Do you ever think ill of people?
I have several horrid thoughts a day.  I suddenly think of someone and say: ‘That (f word adj.) moron.  I hate him.’  Or  ‘That (f word adj.) bitch.  I hate her.’ It comes out of nowhere.

That is not good.  Can you make some wiggle space around those thoughts and think from the other person’s point of view?
No.  I like hating them. (pause) Wait.  I don’t know now.  You’ve ruined it.

It’s not a matter of being good - an imprecise term. Goodness has nothing to do with it, it’s about being scientific.  This is a big scientific experiment that will bring you reliable outcomes.  How do I know this is true and what special powers do I have to say it is true?   I have special powers and it is true.


Monday, March 17, 2014

An obsessive loner we accept and love

(Once again Penguin Publishers has sent me several books to review and I chose Waiting For Wednesday (a Frieda Klein Mystery), the sequel to Tuesday's Gone.  I like this  series by Nicci French because of the obsessive loner, Frieda Klein.)

In the previous Frieda Klein Mystery, we had left Frieda nearly dead and still persona non grata with the police department despite her success in solving their high profile murders. I was expecting Frieda to get some kudos, more face time with her lover and perhaps a big spiritual vacuum to suck out some of the guilt she felt for the tainted results of her crime solving.  Not to be.  Not only is Frieda limping and still weak from her injuries but humiliation is heaped on her by pompous police big wigs and horrid impositions perpetrated by people she hardly knows.  And a crazed homicidal maniac taunts her with bouquets.  Frieda cannot even bathe because Josef (the angel handyman) has decided to replace her cheap tub.  Despite the chaos and public humiliations, Frieda only hears the song of her own psyche and remains the obsessive we know and love.   
This is a psychological thriller full of loners on seemingly pointless missions who have lost in the game of love.
The sun comes out infrequently, people forget to eat, many are in need of a wash. There is constant smoking and drinking.  Someone is always making tea. There is no laughter.  None.  No matter how many threads in the story and no matter how complicated the threads and unlikely the twists, I was compelled to read continuously until the end.  That’s all one can ask of a book.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You either know what I'm talking about or you don't.

Make the call.  I can’t.  What do you mean?  I mean I can not.

You know those days where making a simple phone call is not possible.  By “not possible” I mean that in your mind the necessary steps to look up a number, go to the phone, pick it up. dial the number and then speak loom so complicated and multi-layered it is beyond your ability. 

Dial me, you nitwit. What the heck is wrong with you?

Other things that loomed beyond my ability:

Looking for the hairbrush
Finding and affixing postage stamps to envelopes
Cooking that chicken I bought when I could still do things

Cook me, for godsakes!

You either know what I'm talking about or you don't.

Yesterday an alien came into my house.  He found the hairbrush, put my hair in a pony tail and drove me to town. Town is one block away.

What the heck is wrong with you?

     The alien took me to the village hall and gave the clerk my car registration and got my beach sticker

         He took me to the bank and not only turned in my rolled coins that have been sitting in my car for six months but also took out some cash for me to have as pocket money.  The alien asked who rolled the coins. I confessed that once a year I become obsessively tidy and that includes rounding up the piles of change that collect and putting the coins into bank wrappers.
      The alien took me to the Library and borrowed a Galaxy tablet for me to use for streaming videos.  (Yes, our library now lets us borrow tablets.)
       The alien took me to the gym and renewed my membership.
      When we got home, the alien took up all the small rugs in front of all the doors and put them in the washing machine.

The alien refused to cook the chicken.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Enshrined mediocrity is our national ideal

One of my favorite books is Walker Percy’s  The Moviegoer . I read it many years ago and can hardly remember either the entire plot or why I love it so.  What I do remember are certain speeches that were appropriate then and now.  I've kept them all these years and now I have a blog where I can share them.

The third quote is the most pertinent for me.  The search is everything. The first two quotes are, sadly, true, true, true.

–Walker Percy, The Moviegoer “I have discovered that most people have no one to talk to, no one, that is, who really wants to listen. When it does at last dawn on a man that you really want to hear about his business, the look that comes over his face is something to see.”

“Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions.  What is new is that in our time liars and thieves and whores and adulterers wish also to be congratulated by the great public, if their confession is sufficiently psychological or strikes a sufficiently heartfelt and authentic note of sincerity. Oh, we are sincere. I do not deny it. I don't know anybody nowadays who is not sincere.”

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life…. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

On a personal note:  I fell last week and messed up my left arm. I discovered it's nice to act feeble and sit around and look dazed.  This morning I said to myself, it's time to get up and act normal.