Sunday, September 27, 2015

Caine and Unable

I’m turning into Captain Queeg.

I have yet to see The Caine Mutiny in its entirety but I’ll never forget the scene in the 1954 film where Humphrey Bogart’s crazed captain went bananas over some missing strawberries.

I came down with a wicked cold and I’ve been absolutely miserable, handling things in my usual way, by freaking out at everything and letting my inner Queeg chart a corrosive course through the Sea of Insanity.

It started on Wednesday, the first day of autumn, when I thought I was having trouble with allergies.

However things got worse and by the time Friday rolled around I was coughing, sneezing and wishing I could crawl under a rock for the next six months.

I took a day off from work and canceled my weekend plans, which was really annoying since I don’t socialize enough to begin with. I then sank into a ruinous routine of bad television, lousy food, and rotten thoughts.

By Saturday I was feeling marginally better, but I was out of food, so I staggered up to the local Key Food where I discovered that blueberries, a key ingredient of my breakfast oatmeal, had suddenly become ridiculously expensive. Yet another reason to hate the change of seasons.

The strawberries were a little cheaper so I got them instead. They tend to go bad quickly, but I wasn’t paying four bucks for a tiny plastic tub of blueberries.

Food shopping blows under the best conditions and it sucks even harder when you’re sick. I hauled myself up and down the aisles like a reanimated corpse and just grabbed stuff that looked vaguely edible.

A Freudian Delight

I did learn that I wasn’t the only one suffering as I overheard a woman hacking and blabbing into her cellphone about how sick she was. Actually, it was impossible not to overhear her, given the volume at which she spoke. Who says misery loves company?

And wouldn’t you know it, I had the displeasure of standing in front of this woman on the checkout line as she continued coughing into her phone.

“I take care everybody except myself,” she bellyached to some poor soul who surely deserves a medal for patience.

I got the hell out there, limped up three flights of stairs to my apartment and, I as unpacked my goods, I saw something was missing.
Of course it was the strawberries. I knew I had bought them, but no amount of geometric logic could explain where they were.

I searched through the empty bags, looked on the landing of my apartment, the whole time dreading the inevitable march back to the supermarket.

I’m sick, I whined, I don’t want to do this. I just want to go back to bed.

I started wondering if one of my neighborhoods had somehow snuck into my house and swiped the strawberries while I was putting away my shopping cart. Yes, Captain Queeg was cracking under the strain.

I finally gave in, dragged myself back to the supermarket and talked to the cashier. It seems I had left the strawberries off the conveyor belt, so I didn’t actually buy them.

Okay, so now I’ve got my damn strawberries. And it occurs to me that The Caine Mutiny is about a ship commander who is relieved of duty after freaking out during a violent storm.

It’s time to send Captain Queeg belowdecks, take the helm and get through this typhoon.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Nod Father

It seems like one minute I was happily surfing the Internet and the next minute I was on the floor.

I fell asleep in front of my computer a few weeks back, and with nothing to block my fall, my body did the whole Isaac Newton thing and hit the deck like a sack of wet laundry.

I woke up with my computer looming over me and the carpet under my nose. It was bizarre and a bit scary to just slide off my chair like that. This has never happened to me before and I’m grateful that I didn’t get hurt.

I didn’t think I was particularly tired, even though it was late, but then clearly I called that one wrong.

I’ve been nodding off a lot more lately. I don’t know if it’s age or the difficulties I’ve had sleeping at night, but whatever the problem is it seems to be getting worse.

I’ve actually conked out momentarily at the office, which can be awkward since I sit in a low-walled cubicle and anyone walking by can see me—top brass included. Luckily I have yet to tumble out of my chair.

It’s really upsetting when I fall asleep in the theater. I love going to plays and I think it would be really nice if I could stay awake until the final curtain.

If you fall asleep while watching a DVD you can always rewind, but I don’t think you can shout out to the cast of a Broadway show, “hey, could you do that last scene one more time?”

Send Me A Dream

I was at the theater with my sister and auntie recently when things started to go blurry. I dimly heard my sister whisper “nudge him!”—or at least I think heard her—and then my auntie was poking me.

“Next time I’ll sit next to you,” my sister said, after the lights came on.

We usually go to Saturday matinees, which is one of my gym days and I’m wondering if the workouts are a part of the problem. The last time we all went to the theater my auntie reminded me not to overdue it.

“Don’t get too sleepy or dopey,” she said.

“You just named two of the seven dwarfs,” I replied.

So what do I do about this--guzzle gallons of Diet Coke? Strap a joy buzzer to my butt?

Now it is true that two days a week I get up ridiculously early to attend a 7AM gym class. But I thought I’d be okay by the time the weekend rolls around.

I know that I worry a lot and that disrupts my sleep so I’m waking up periodically during the night.

And I stay up late on weekends watching junk on TV or screwing around with YouTube just because I can.

This morning I caught the last bit of some TV preacher’s sermon about insomnia. The minister told his listeners “you can sleep because God will be awake all night.” He might be on to something.

Perhaps I can reschedule my gym class whenever we go to matinees. And I’ll make a sincere effort to get more sleep at night.

And if I do any late-night net-surfing I’ll be sure to wear a crash helmet.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Up the Auntie

To give value to others, you have to begin by valuing yourself.” ― Tim Fargo

My Aunt Marie has a singular way of expressing herself.

I’ve been keeping a list of some of my mom’s sister’s best lines and I’ve found her observations to be both funny and insightful.

For example, a few years back, my auntie, sister and I were going to a St. Patrick’s Day concert at a church in Bay Ridge and my aunt had brought along some health food bars for us to snack on.

Being a hyper hypochondriac and demented fitness fanatic, I immediately asked if the ingredients were in fact good for me.

“No nothing bad!” my auntie breathlessly declared.

“Wow,” I snarked, “they’re really good for you!”

I was teasing her about the momentary language lapse, but the more I thought about the phrase “no nothing bad” the more I liked it. It’s a good way to look at life.

I am notoriously negative so the idea of pushing the positive beyond the grievous grasp of grammar appeals to me no end. What do I want in my life, my heart, and my mind? No nothing bad!

Last year the three of us went to Cold Spring to enjoy the fall foliage and my auntie caught sight of a young lady who had rather optimistically squeezed herself into a tight pair of slacks.

“She’s got too much ass for those pants,” my aunt said—out of earshot, of course.

Rock on With Your Bad Self

We got such a kick out of her words that we toyed around with a song inspired by that phrase.

But my favorite line from my auntie came at the end of one of her classic rants about the ills of modern society. I honestly forget what particular issue had set her off, but Marie was going long on this one.

“People today have no sense of self,” she thundered. “They have selfies, but no sense of self!”

This line was so powerful, I posted it on Facebook and it got a record number of likes.

“Oh, she’s very wise!” one of my friends exclaimed.

Yes, she certainly is. But like all good lines it also got me thinking more about my own sense of self. I started do some research and I came across some intriguing ideas.

Mental health experts recommend that in order to develop a sense of self you take several steps that include believing in yourself, keeping promises to yourself, setting boundaries, and being kind to yourself.

In other words, a whole bunch of things that I don’t normally do or that I don’t do often enough.

I’ve had trouble making decisions and I find that far too often I’m burdening friends and family with their thoughts on what I should do.

Of course it’s important to consult with people you trust and respect before making a major move in your life, but I feel that I’m abdicating my responsibility to make a decision and essentially asking people to tell me what I should do.

It’s unhealthy for me and unfair to those around me.

I’m a crossroads in my life now and so this is a good time to create that sense of self, to discover who I really am and, go forward showing kindness to myself and to others.

It’s all about building on the good stuff and coming away with no nothing bad.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Narrow Bridge

I wanted to stand across the street from the Freedom Tower at 8:46 this morning, but I didn’t make it.

I was stuck in traffic on the BQE somewhere near 26th Street when I looked at my phone and saw that it was the same time when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center 14 years ago.

My plan was to start praying the Rosary at that time and place in memory of all the people we lost in the 9/11 attacks.

But traffic was abysmal, which is not surprising given all the activity in lower Manhattan, and I should’ve used my head and taken the damn train instead of the express bus.

And then in an attempt to console myself, I decided I would take my place on Cortland Street next year.

Next year? If there is any lesson to be learned from the waking nightmare of 9/11 it’s that nothing is guaranteed, not next year, not even the next minute. All those people who were killed on that day in 2001 had plans for the future, too.

I did my praying on the bus and in some ways I think it was good to be isolated under the sullen gray sky.

When I finally got to Manhattan I made my way to Liberty Plaza and stood at the spot where I saw the second plane hit the South Tower.

I thought of how we all ran when the flames shot out across the street, how people screamed and called out to Jesus.

I thought about the towers coming down, the vile dust filling the air, the terrifying walk over the Manhattan Bridge with fighter planes flying over our heads.

New Morning

I remembered this Japanese man whom I had helped that day. He wasn’t physically injured, but he was in shock and I had to lead him around by the arm like a child.

He could barely speak English, but eventually we got to a large apartment building and the staff let us use their phone. I wonder whatever became of him.

And I thought of my father who turned 80 years old on that day and who’s been gone now for eight years. It had all seemed so distant when I got up this morning, but now the memories were coming back as I stood on that familiar spot.

After work this evening I stumbled upon a memorial ceremony that the City of Hoboken was conducting at Pier A Park. By that time the sun had come out and the weather was almost as beautiful as it had been on 9/11.

Rabbi Robert Scheinberg of The United Synagogue of Hoboken, gave a particularly moving speech where he quoted Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav.

“The whole world is a very narrow bridge,” he said. “The important thing is not to be afraid.”

Rabbi Scheinberg acknowledged the two seemingly opposing concepts here, where the first line describes a very scary place, but then the second line says don’t give in to the fear.

I’ve been walking on a pretty now bridge lately and I’m feeling quite fearful about the future.

But I reminded myself that no matter had bad things may get, it’ll be nothing compared with the pain and suffering that the 9/11 victims’ families endure every single day.

Rabbi Scheinberg ended his address by quoting Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Let us be thankful and be sure to rejoice every morning.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Don’t Look Back

Oh, summer, how can you do this to me?

It’s suddenly Labor Day Weekend and the bright, seemingly endless supply of beautiful summer days have dwindled down to a precious few.

I must confess this has been a great summer, with a lovely vacation in California and nice nostalgia ride to Coney Island.

But as usual I’m shocked at summer’s swift departure and I now dread the coming cold weather.

And, as usual, I’m making my annual threat to pull up stakes and finally move the hell out to L.A., something I do with the same dependability as geese flying south for the winter. Except the geese actually leave—as opposed to yours truly.

My late mother and I shared a strong aversion to the end of summer. When we vacationed at my aunt’s house in the Berkshires, where the fall starts even earlier, I remember my mother shaking her hand at the rapidly changing leaves.

I went to the Chase branch on Fifth Avenue yesterday, where my mother worked for so many years back when it was the Lincoln Savings Bank.

I made sure to stop at the spot where her desk used to be to say a prayer and recall the good times. The bank was nearly empty due to the holiday, so I really took my time, just standing there and remembering her.

I feel like there are some major changes and some severe disruptions heading my way, and while they may do me a world of good in the long run, they could suck beyond belief in the short term.

Sometimes a fabulous gift can come to you disguised as swift kick in the cojones.

We Gotta Make it Last…

And while I was standing there in the bank, thinking about my mother and worrying about my future, a line from the Eighties song “If You Leave” by OMD popped into my head.

I need you now, like I needed you then…”

At first I couldn’t understand why this song and that particular lyric was playing through my mind at this time and place. But I realize my subconscious was reaching out to my mother, asking for her guidance and support.

I really do need her now like I have so many times in the past.

I have been talking and talking and talking about California pretty much since I entered into this life. I used to talk to my mother about it and she told me I should go if that’s what I really wanted.

“But I shall miss you,” she would always add with a touching note of sadness.

I have to yet to make the cross-country move and it turned out that my mother left us first and we miss her every day of our lives.

I can already feel autumn in the air. The leaves are starting to fall, the days are growing shorter, and the wind is getting cooler.
I don’t want to wear jackets or gloves or scarfs or any of that other crap that weighs me down.

I don’t want to see my breath every time I open my mouth and I don’t want to guzzle chicken soup, hot chocolate, or herbal tea to stay warm. I want the weather to be warm without any assistance for me.

I’m trying to remain sane about the change, telling myself that it’s inevitable, that it’s the way nature works, and that if it really bothers me so goddamn much, then I should make like a goose and honk on out of town.

We don’t have time on our side and I’m going to have to make some hard decisions soon—or have them made for me.

The first thing I’ll do is quit talking about California. I move, I don’t move, whatever happens, I’m going to stop flapping my gums, make an honest-to-God decision and live with it.

If I leave I won’t cry, I won’t waste one single day. I’ll hold onto the memories of my mother and I won’t let go at any price.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Attila the Doctor

All right, ladies, let’s give it a rest, okay?

I just got done ranting about a pile of cyber-dreck by Sherry Francis and the incredible Dr. Orissa, who helped Sherry get back her wandering husband, and now “Julia Andrea from USA” clogs up my comment section with the story of her husband coming back to the fold.

As my mother used to say when one of us spoke out of turn, “who stepped on your button?”

Oh, and Julia? It’s the USA.

I’m sure you already knew that being such a good American and all, but I thought I’d point that out to you in case you go crashing somebody else’s blog.

I never believed that i could finally get back the happiness and the love that was gone after my husband left me totally,” Julia tells me in a totally unsolicited spiel. “I couldn't just believe that spells and magic could turn my thoughts and my dreams into reality in getting back with my husband after he served me with divorce papers…My ex husband after the divorce never showed up to me and the kids anymore, he finally made up his mind on me and said it was over. 2 years after our divorce.”

He finally made up his mind that it was over two years after the divorce? The divorce sounds pretty final to me.

I was still out trying to get him back and i did all that i knew best could make him happy,” Julia continues “and my mum and everybody around just advised i should forget about him and move on with my life, because they felt he was gone forever and was never gonna return.

Back For More

Sounds like your mum and everybody around you are pretty sharp, especially those doctors with the Prozac. Maybe you should listen to them. Or is there something more that you’re gonna tell us?

But i never gave up on trying to get him back,” Julia proudly declares, “because i so much loved him beyond what anybody could ever imagine. I met a spell caster, and what drew my attention most was the fact that this spell caster was from Africa when i contacted Dr ATILA.

Why did the fact that the guy was from Africa draw your attention? I’m sure we’ve got plenty of great spell casters right here in USA…I mean the USA. And do you really want to do business with a guy named Atlia? Sounds like things could go real bad real fast if you didn’t pay your bill on. Wasn’t Dr. Orissa available?

And that so much gave me the assurance because i have heard much more on how he has helped alot of people,” Julia gushes, just bursting at the seams, “and with the help that Dr ATILA rendered to me, he saved my marriage and reunited me and my ex husband back together again with his powerful spells. Thank you so much Dr ATILA for your help in reuniting me and my husband again, if not for you, my life would have permanently turned out to b a mess.”

Julia’s message ends with an email address, which I’m not including as I don’t want to give Dr. Atila any free advertising and have my blog permanently turned out to b a mess.

I’d like to get a spell caster to stop receiving these moronic missives. But then maybe by complaining about Sherry and Julia Andrea, I opened some kind of Pandora’s box and now all manner of lovesick losers will regale me with their spam stories.

Julia and Sherry? Please don’t take this wrong way, but I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if you and your goddamn husbands all got hit by a runaway garbage truck.

Get off my lawn, go play where you live, put an egg in your shoe and beat it. And ask your husbands how they were able to disappear so effectively. And then get lost.