Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who Are You?

When did it start? All I can think of is graphology (you know, handwriting analysis) but that can’t be it. Astrology, sure, that’s a gimme. I’m exempting psychology because it’s serious. What am I talking about? Oops, buried my lead again. Sorry, Sis!

It occurred to me today that as the Inuit are supposed to have twenty words for snow (which I’m told is a fallacy) American culture has at least that many recreational ways to analyze personality.

Are you Gap or second-hand Boho? Do you carbo-load or follow Mr. Atkins? Hammett or Chandler? Don’t laugh; I was once in a six-month Hammett/Chandler debate that ended in a stalemate from sheer exhaustion.

What started me thinking about all this was the soundtrack at the gym this morning. I had finished my workout when they started playing the original Aerosmith “Walk This Way”. So I kept going. Then I was ready to leave, when Talking Heads came on, “Burning down the House”, which is peculiarly suited to weightlifting. It ended. I racked the 30’s, picked up my towel and empty bottle, and turned wearily toward the door. But wait. Stop! Listen! I hadn’t heard the opening chords of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” since back in the day. One. More. Set. My arms are trembling as I type this, but that’s when I had the epiphany.

Forget gimmicks, fads and pop psychology. If you really want to understand someone, find out what they listened to when they were twenty.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fun! Fun! Fun!

What do you do for fun? You know, when you’re not trying to accomplish anything, nor Grow As A Person. Yes, it’s great that you love your work. Nice for you, but that’s not what this is about. I mean fun, pure purposeless fun.

Our neighbors are having yet another party. Their idea of fun involves bland fatty food and noise, both human and mechanical. There is laughter, but it sounds forced and somehow insincere. And it makes me wonder if they’re really having fun, or if they’ve defined the activity as fun and dammit they’re going to do it as loudly as they can.

I asked Robert what fun is. In his typically unhelpful way, he started singing “Whatcha gonna do when you get out of jail? I’m gonna have some fun!”

As I write this, I’m tweeting to a friend I’ve never met not to give up on a buffet just because she’s so full that her stomach is cramping. That’s fun. My dog is fun. Even getting the primo parking space can be fun. Writing to you is fun.

I give up. Fixing a nice meal and enjoying it in solitude with a favorite book is also fun. They’re making speeches next door. I'm going to fix that meal right now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Some people like unspoiled scenic vistas. Others prefer a child’s laugh or Bach. For me, one of Life’s Most Beautiful Things is a completely crossed-off ‘to do’ list.

I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t make lists. I doubt my grammar school penmanship classes contained little sheets saying: play, snack, watch cartoons. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made lists. (As an aside, I wish I’d kept them. They would be better than a diary to look back on in my later years.)

Anyhow, the only reason why I’m bringing this up is that I just destroyed a list before the activities began. You see, I make relaxation lists too. No, for me that’s not an oxymoron. I make lists of places I want to eat on vacation, parceled out over how many days (ergo meals) we’ll have. It’s what I do, and I bring it with us and cross them off one by one.

But it turns out I’m weird. (Put your joke here, I’ll wait. Choose one, we don’t have all day.) You really can’t plan spontaneity. After talking to Robert about it, I tore up the list for our next trip. Yes, I had already made it. No, we’re not going for another month at least.

It’s throwing caution to the desert winds, as well as the dessert winds. Every card will be a wild card. Oh the freedom, and oh the exhilaration, and oh the comfort of knowing that I can still make a list of where we went after we get back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So Much For Self-Improvement

Did I ever tell you how much I hated school? I hated it all, from kindergarten to university. I just don’t like sitting in a room listening to someone tell me stuff unless I know the person. (I’m going to Max Maven’s lecture next week. That’s different. That’s Max. Besides, as he pointed out at coffee this afternoon, I know him.) Taking Kung Fu was good, but forget anything else. I won’t even try the classes at the gym, though that’s no surprise.

However, I just tried to register online for a class. Adult Ed, the school is within a mile of here. Okay, it was “Ballet & Stretching”, one night a week, $50 for 6 weeks. It’s hard to beat that price, and I doubt I’d be the only klutz in a high school auditorium filled with whoever takes these things. But I said “tried” to register, meaning I didn’t. Here’s why:

Bad enough there was a mandatory section of the form that required the applicant to check Hispanic or Not Hispanic. Next they made you state your race, which got pretty specific if you’re not white. Side note: Back in the 1980s there was a movement among Jews to check “Other” to demonstrate ethnic Judaism, given that it is a culture as well as a faith. I don’t, but then I don’t state my ethnicity except for the national census or if someone starts spouting anti-Semitic bullshit. For the record, there was no “Other” on this particular form, if you can believe that. And an answer was required.

Look, obviously I’m white. My picture is up there, top right corner. I use 100+ SPF every day. Hell, I use 15 SPF at night. So yeah, I’m pale. But I don’t think that should matter, and certainly not to someone I’m trying to pay for a service. I tried to fill out the relevant information and pay, but they wouldn’t let me, not without knowing the racial stuff. So they’ll have to do without my $50, and I’ll be free Thursday evenings in June, if you want to get coffee or something

Monday, May 16, 2011

Funny Bones

When I turned 21, I didn’t head for booze; I went straight to the Comedy Store. The problem was, it was Open Mike Night. At least destiny has a sense of humor, even if the guys onstage didn’t.

Here’s the thing: They weren’t funny. They should have been. As I found out, the same guys showed up every week and told variations on the same material. I know because I started showing up every week too, because I could. It was free, and it was interesting, and it didn’t take long before I had the comedic equivalent reaction of “My 5 year-old can paint better than that!”

Well, I don’t have a 5 year old. (Jonah is ten, and for those of you who don’t know, he’s a dog.) And if this blog has taught me nothing else, I’ve learned that funny isn’t something you can do on command, the way some people can burp or make fart noises with their armpits. Not that burping or farting is particularly funny. People seem to think it is, but it isn’t. Then again, after all these years, and all the jokes, I still don’t know what Funny is.

Maybe I’ll give up and buy a whoopee cushion.

Friday, May 13, 2011


You all know how superstitious I am. If you’re new, welcome, hi, and by the way, I’m superstitious. I don’t think demons will steal my soul if I yawn without covering my mouth. Nor do I believe that walking under a ladder will somehow cause unfortunate things to happen either to me or to people I care about. But I knock on wood so often that I have a wooden keychain, just so it’s handy.

It’s all about self-fulfilling prophecy. You know, the neurosis that causes us to sabotage our own lives. I make enough mistakes. I don’t want my subconscious to have an excuse to make more. So I’m superstitious as a psychological precaution. That said, I never noticed that today is Friday the 13th.

You’d think I would. I wrote some checks this morning, so I knew it was the 13th. The Friday part was obvious. But I didn’t put the two together; I had to hear it on the radio. The funny thing is it didn’t faze me. Nothing bad happened. It was an otherwise ordinary Friday.

A less disciplined mind might rethink the whole superstitious thing, but I’m tougher than that. Knock on wood.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


What do you think about when you’re alone? This isn’t rhetorical, nor is it abstract. I mean you, honey. Don’t look behind you. No one is reading this over your shoulder. I’m writing to you.

Now that we’ve established that this is a conversation, I ask you again, what do you think about when you’re alone? Can you just sit – not in traffic, not waiting for the dentist, just in a room or somewhere – and not be bored?

I don’t do it a lot, but I can. However, I often spend an hour on some cardio equipment or other without a book, TV or headphones (trick statement, I never use headphones for anything) and just think. Apparently it’s unusual enough that I thought I’d ask you about it.

There are so many ways to get into or out of our heads: zoning in, zoning out, or my personal favorite, the hypothetical conversation. Lordy me, I’ve had some beauties. Usually with people who are either dead or otherwise unavailable, so it’s safe. But most of the time I just think.

There was a line I heard once, “When you talk to yourself, who answers?”

In this particular case, it’s easy. You do. I just can’t hear you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Howdy Do

People used to say, “How do you do?” This looked like a question, but wasn’t. You know it wasn’t, because the answer was a reiteration, “How do you do?” It was basic, it was polite, and it was complete. I miss it.

Now we say, “How are you?” This isn’t a question either. It isn’t because the one who asks it first is the one who answers it. Trust me. It’s true.

Here’s the scenario: “Hi. How are you?” they say. You say, “Fine, how are you?” And you do say it. You may have had cutesy-pie stock answers in the past, but by now you’ve given up. So after you say, “Fine, how are you?” what happens? Exactly! They answer as if it had been a real question. They do, you don’t. The one who asks first, is the one who answers. Q.E.D.

Sure, when I’m with friends, I want them to answer. I want to know how they are, how that thing turned out, what happened after I saw them last. I’m not talking about friends, I’m talking about all those people we don’t know but we end up talking to every day. You know who I mean.

Sometimes, just to break the pattern, I say “Fine, thanks.” This ends it, but borders on rude. Or if I try to do an end run and say it first, I come up against someone who doesn’t follow the form and actually answers, usually in graphic, clinical and anecdotal detail. (For some reason, this tends to happen most often in Ladies’ rooms. Sociologists, feel free to use this data without attribution.)

I’d switch to “How’s it hanging?” except I don’t really want to know.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's New?

I may not watch much TV but I’m not immune from marketing. The message is “NEW IS GOOD!” --- And they mean each and every capital letter.

Yeah, yeah, we get it. If it’s broke, replace it. If you’ve argued, end the relationship and start over with someone new. Toss that antique your Grandma gave you and head to Ikea. Don’t even think of clicking “Get used” on Amazon.

Sure, learning new things prevents Alzheimer’s. And the mattress commercial on the radio, you know, the one about the dust mites, is scary. But someone ought to stick up for the status quo.

I’ve said before that if I want a change, I’ll go counter-clockwise around the post instead of clockwise. It took me years to upholster the comfy rut that is my life and I don’t want anything to mess with it. In case I get a choice, it’s the one I already made. I’m fine, thanks. (Knocking on wood, I’m also superstitious. See previous posts.)

It seems like nothing is good enough anymore. Everything requires improvement, or updating or modifying. Perfectly good movies are remade, books are reissued, and actors aren’t the only ones getting new faces and new bodies. I miss adequacy and satisfaction. I miss “good enough”.

“Happily ever after” isn’t even an option. It can’t be, because five minutes later it would be outdated. Well, they can’t have mine.