Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallows Eve

Once upon a time, when I was young and wanted to be goth, Halloween was the ultimate, the knees of the bee, the meow of the cat. Okay, I’m not quite that old. But Halloween was cool.

Then I got older and Halloween became a mere pain in the ass. Where we used to live, “Trick or Treat” was an understatement. Forget toilet paper. Those kids used spray paint, but never on our house. I always insisted on giving out good candy. It worked.

Ten years ago we moved back to the land of my birth, Los Angeles. If you ever have the opportunity, you must spend Halloween evening on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s indescribably, bizarrely wonderful. We don’t do it anymore because of the little dog, but it’s great.

Tonight we stayed home and gave out candy. Yes, the good stuff, though I had to run to the store because three jumbo packages weren’t enough. The multitudes invaded. Vans (one stopped right in front of our house) disgorged groups of mostly adults with some kids. The adults were in costume, with bags of their own. At one point two grandmothers with bags accompanied a single child. We heard one person say, “This is a nice neighborhood, I’ve never been here before.”

The cynic in me would have snorted. I couldn’t, because of Robert (aka @AlphonseBunter.) He had more fun giving out candy than the greediest child did taking it. For the first time since I stopped dressing up, Halloween was cool again. My mother was here too. Although I became the default designated adult, between the two of them they brought back the magic of the holiday. As I type this, I’m keeping one eye on the window in case the Great Pumpkin flies by.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The New New Age

There was an ad for a psychic phone line on the radio yesterday. When was the last time you heard one of those? Aside from the obvious stupidity --- if they were any good, they’d just call me instead of wasting money on marketing --- the thought occurs that we may be undergoing a navel-gazing resurgence of the New Age-y 90s. No, dear, I don’t care what it said in your history books, the 60s don’t count. That was a fashion statement. The 80s were a do-over. The New Age came of age in the 90s.

Look around. We’re increasingly inundated with predictions and forecasting. Sure, a lot of it involves politics and/or economics, but the mindset is there. Suddenly it’s supposed to be possible for some people to see the future. It doesn’t matter if they use a computer program or a Ouija board, it still ain’t gonna happen.

With Warren Buffett retiring soon, who’s to say he won’t be replaced by an old woman with too much silver and turquoise jewelry and a dreamcatcher hanging from her rear view mirror? Even though I’m tired of those old bumper stickers, I’d put her “I Ching” coins up against Wall Street any day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where'd It Go?

This morning, as I sat reading the newspapers with coffee in hand, I thought about what I had to do before I left. Driving to the first gym, I wondered if I’d have time for an errand before the second gym. You get the idea.

Fuck the equanimity that comes with age. I want to know, where did the moment go?

“To the Zen monastery,” you say. Ha ha. Very funny of you. Facetious as that was, it’s not a bad point. Neither one of us is a Zen master. If we were, we’d handle our schedules better. Then again, if we were, we’d meditate half the day and rake sand artistically for the other half, so never mind.

This afternoon, after tending to the various tasks that occupied my un-Zen consciousness, I sat and finished a book I like. I’ve read it before, and it’s fairly awful so I won’t tell you what it was, but I read the last page twice and smiled. Then I sat there for a moment, feeling rather calm and pleased with Life. (Knocking wood retroactively, just in case.)

The answer to the question of where the moment went is this: It was on the couch in my living room.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mother Love

Some nights the passage of time doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s Sunday, so I had dinner with my mother. For a typically diminutive 83 year old widow-lady, she kicks serious ass. I’ll spare you biographical details, mostly because I tend to feel puny by comparison, but it’s nice to know that at that age, with all the concomitant aches and whatnot, she can still toss back a Bloody Mary at dinner and have an insightful conversation, not to mention a good laugh.

My favorite part was that when we came back here so she could catch up on this blog, I tweeted a line of hers from the restaurant. That’s not the great part. The great part is that she corrected what I had originally typed. That’s class. Why? See for yourself:

“If you hadn’t seen me drunk that drunk you wouldn’t say I was drunk.”

I’m still chuckling, and I bet so is she.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ha, Ha, Huh?

There are people who never have a good belly laugh. Oh sure, they chuckle when they hear a joke, but everyone knows what a joke sounds like. “And it was the chicken!” Ba dum bum. Har har.

But the rest of us can also laugh when there’s no joke. Laughter is an audible form of amusement and maybe even happiness. There’s joy in it, even when it’s something silly and meaningless. Our little dog has taken to carrying around one of Robert’s size 14 slippers and it’s funny as hell. Some things are so fun they’re funny, and there are people who just don’t get it.

They’d be mortally offended if you pointed that out, though. No one wants to be humorless. It’s possible to be nice and cheerful without a sense of humor. But the epiphany I had today, and the reason you’re reading this, is that those people, the ones who don’t laugh, never seem happy. The best I’ve ever seen in any of them is satisfaction. I don’t mean to impugn satisfaction, I’m a big fan. I still prefer joy. I don’t know anyone who can feel joy without laughter nearby.

Imagine going through a day without being able to appreciate the intrinsic absurdity of our lives. Which reminds me of my favorite joke: What’s green, hangs on a wall, and whistles? The answer is a herring. It isn’t green, someone would have to nail it to a wall, and it doesn’t whistle, but you can’t have everything. Heh. Cracks me up every time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Whenever I sit down to write to you, I can’t help but think about what I ought to be doing instead.

The good news is that the older I get, the shorter that particular list gets. I no longer feel that saving the world is an option. Yes, there was a time when I did. It wasn’t recent and I might have been a little tipsy. I was inclined to lift the elbow in those days. There may be a connection.

Now the list is more pedestrian. There’s a plot that’s giving me trouble, I can put the story together but not in an interesting and funny way, and it has to be both. There’s always laundry. Believe it or not, I still write paper letters and mail them in envelopes with stamps. Not many, though, and I’m good for this week. I’m writing to you instead.

It’s your turn. What should you be doing instead of reading this? The big things can be put off. That project you’re working on can’t be done in an hour, an afternoon or an evening. The little things aren’t important. You can procrastinate until they don’t need to be done anymore. Everything else you’ve probably already done or you’d be doing it now. Just like me.

So here we both are, instead. It’s a pity I don’t drink anymore, this calls for one.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Let’s do something different today. I figure you’re sitting at your desk right now. Aren’t you? Oh sure, you might have a laptop balanced on your tummy while you do something else, but I doubt you’d be reading a blog in that case. No, you’re probably killing time at work. A desk it is.

Look at the piles of crap you have stacked all over the place. If your desk is perfectly organized and tidy (yeah, right) then you can look at the neatly sorted piles of crap. Now see how much of your personality some alien archaeologist could discern from the various objects. Include anything stuck on your monitor.

Me, I have a fat wad of business cards (random excerpts include my casino host, the electrician, a car repo guy from my gym, a dead magician, an acupuncturist, my dentist, two living magicians, a waiter and for some reason a wedding picture of a cousin I haven’t seen in years.) That’s actually a pretty fair list, if you know me. The bottles of Advil™ and chlorophyll are also indicative both of my personality and lifestyle. The enormous crystal ball was a gift. I should measure it. You’d be impressed by the heft. And of course, there are the obvious: a calendar, a dictionary, a cd/tape player (rarely used) and the ubiquitous Magic 8-Ball™. I’m sure you have all of those handy too. There are oddball items I either can’t describe or I don’t want you to know about, but they’re extraneous to the game.

Seriously, try it. You’ll be amazed how you can tell what’s important to you by what you keep near to hand. Besides, it’s more accurate than phrenology.