.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Talk is Cheap

When you have nothing to say

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hoping for Special

I couldn’t sleep.  My intention was to go to the computer and write.  Instead, I discovered that there were nine Mozart symphonies being distributed in honor of his birthday by a Danish radio station.  They had to be downloaded, categorized and tagged, of course.  They also have to be trimmed to cut out spoken commentary and audience applause at the end.  

There was also my curiosity about a movie I watched.  I had to add my comments to the IMDB.

That was over two hours ago.  

I spend hours in front of this damn computer, totally engrossed in one thing or another, and yet to what end?  

I’m avoiding.  

When my sister Sharon doesn’t want to deal with her situation, she throws it out to me.  Yesterday, she pondered why she was getting weaker.  Of course, she is afraid the MS has progressed again, but she is afraid to say so out loud.  I already noticed the weakness and have been heartsick.  I told her it was because she was getting fatter but neither of us really believe that.  

The recognition churns up the memories of her homecoming during the last seige before she had to be --  I was going to write “institutionalized” but couldn’t.  But there it is!  My sister lives in an institution; I’ve lost my best friend; and my life is in the homestretch with little to show.

I intended to do so much more.  I was going to succeed.  I was going to have a good life, filled with friends and fun and laughter.  Hah! I’ve had a mediocre life filled with sorrow.  I can’t believe how ordinary I am.  

That’s the worst part.  Hoping for special and getting anything but.  

Now I feel sleepy again of course.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wasting Time and Energy

What was I saying about 500 words a day? [Clears throat.]  I guess life got away.  I mean there was a blizzard.  According to some, the worst blizzard since they kept records of those things.  And then there was my cold; the second one in three months, which is kind of weird because I don’t get a lot of colds.  There was Bonnie’s fall; and the fight we had about Sharon yesterday.

So all in all, I have some excuses.  But not really.

I saw a putrid movie about the difficulty of writing the other evening, The Shadow Dancers.  In it Harvey Keitel (whose talent seems to get worse rather than better with age) plays a J.D. Salingeresque writer hiding out in an absolutely stunning Tuscan village cum Cicely, Alaska or Stars Hollow, Connecticut.  This Italian village is simply lousy with colorful characters who are devoted to Harvey.

Shitty movie, yes, but the plot hinges on his inability to sit down and write something more after the phenomenal success of his first novel.  They showed him weeping at the sight of his portable typewriter.  Me? I just screamed, “Just start typing, you fucking moron!”

That’s my theory.  That’s why I’m here.  I’m just typing and hoping something will emerge.

[At this point in the narrative, I decided I needed a shower.]

Ah yes, clean.  Now I’m clean and hoping for something to trickle down these fingers and onto this page.

Hmmmmm….I think I’ll call my sisters.

[I did. Another 45 minutes with nothing written.]

Where was I? Oh yes, the movie.  There’s a better movie that I saw this week.  Oh hell, I’m hungry.  I’ll meet you in the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mourning, Moaning, and Morning

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time bemoaning the deaths of people I don’t know.

Two days ago, an inanimate object on which I’ve become dependent died and I got even more upset.  No, it’s not one of my computers.  It is my gleaming white Ipod which has died.  I was making some useless point about the 21st century’s new media delivery paradigm, grabbed my Ipod out of my purse to punctuate, and it flew out of my hands onto the floor.  Unbeknownst to me until much later in the day, I squashed the hard-drive.  

I spent a sleepless night after discovering that fixing the hard drive costs almost as much as a new Ipod.  So I bought a new Ipod; but I’m mourning the death of this one.  I have combed the Internet looking for answers.  I may try to revive it.

What does that say about me?

Today I accompanied my sister to the dentist and witnessed her being tortured by a 30 year old sadist who refused to tell us her name lest anyone report her, she said.  I thought she was being facetious.  She wasn’t.  She was telling the truth.  

I was both appalled and afraid.  She yanked out two of my sister’s teeth with barely enough novacain.  I watched helpless as my poor sister screamed in agony.  I didn’t want her to hurt my sister any more than she was already doing; but I was incredulous.  There shouldn’t have been any pain at all.

“Why is she in so much pain?”


“Perhaps she needs more anethestic.”


The teeth were out.  I asked again.  This time this sadist said it was the infection.  The pain medication doesn’t reach infection.  Bullshit.

I let it go.  

My sister was in shock, literally.

I tried to comfort her but also tried to keep her awake.  Talk about gruesome.  It was beyond gruesome.

The three of us went back to Sharon’s room.  I told Bonnie.  We discussed what to do.  Bonnie told the medical director.  I’ll have that woman arrested before she touches my sister again.

I’m postponing calling my dentist for a much-needed cleaning.  

Monday, January 30, 2006

Construct Reality

Death is an inevitable part of life.  I know this to the core of my being.  Easier said than experienced, however.

Not ten seconds ago, I learned that Wendy Wasserstein died at age 55.  I find myself crying. I am not sure why but I notice that a lot of my contemporaries who have mattered to me intellectually are dying.  

Call it survivor’s guilt, but I look around at people like Wasserstein who is 5 years younger than I, and who has left a young child an orphan, and I wonder why she and not me.  

It’s not fair.

The deaths of popular cultural icons of my youth come at a time when I am questioning my spiritual beliefs in a serious way.  I don’t know what to make of G-d or religion.  Note that my indecisiveness still adheres to the silly superstition of not including the “o” in the spelling of the deity.

I want to believe in an afterlife.  I want to see my parents again.  I’d like to sit down and discuss things with my father; and I’d like the adult me to meet my mother for the first time. I know so little about either of them or their life together that matters.  I’ve been an adult for longer than they were alive but not a day goes by, I don’t think of them.

A friend of mine is convinced that a psychic she consulted was in touch with her dead mother.  Whatever the psychic told her was enough to convince her that her mother is still with her.  My head tells me to be skeptical but my heart feels tremendous envy.  I miss my father and I ache for my mother, even in ectoplasmic form.

Religion is looking more and more arbitrary and silly as I ponder whether souls are palpable entitities or silly superstitious constructs invented by humans to ward off the fear of death.  

Though religion claims to instill altruism and morality, neither has anything to do with it.  That I have known for a long time. Yet I also know that the world is a wondrous place filled with goodness and beauty.  I choose to believe that the goodness and beauty part is innately human nature; though I am aware that the opposite nature exists in equal measure.

What more does religion do then, but promise eternal life?  

As I watch my contemporaries die and wait for the inevitable myself, I realize that life is to be lived and enjoyed.  Regrets are wasteful but hope never is. I still hope; I still dream; I still learn.  

I’d like to believe, I really would but athiests are making a helluva lot more sense than the rest.  

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Movies As Metaphor

Movies are the metaphors for my life.  

This Sunday morning after breakfast, I dozed on the couch and woke to Reunion at Fairborough (1985), in which an aging Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr play wartime lovers reunited after 40 years.  Art imitates art because it also marked the screen reunion of the two actors, who had last appeared together in Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957).

Like a weird mental time capsule, movies freeze time permanently.  When I am watching, I too become whatever I was, wherever I was.

Watching Heaven, I am an 11 year old on a Saturday afternoon at the Globe Theatre on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, New York. Watching Fairborough, I am in Washington, D.C. watching television on the rust-colored velvet couch in my living room in Glover Park.

Of course, in actuality, I’m the same age that Mitchum and Kerr were supposed to be in the Fairborough movie and both of those actors have already been dead for years.  

Last night, while channel surfing, I glimpsed another Mitchum movie, Not As a Stranger, an overwrought Hollywood version of the A.J. Cronin novel that I was reading on the night in January 1962, when my father died. In the moments it took to surf to another channel, I was again a 15 year old high school girl who was convinced that reading about someone dying in the novel was a harbinger of my own father’s death.  

My sister’s birthday celebration this week was like that too. There was a cake and presents and each of the celebrants had known each other for several decades, since childhood and therefore knew what part the other was playing, what had gone before and what was coming next.

Yet as much as we laughed and talked and felt like we always had; despite the appearance of time frozen, if anything, time was entirely too fluid and changeable.  

For starters, this small celebration took place in a nursing home.  My sister’s multiple sclerosis has made her both paraplegic and ravaged by the medical complications wrought by kidneys that no longer function properly.

How can my thoughts still feel the same as they had when I was still a girl but be lodged in a mind that is thinking in a 60 year old body?  

I look down at my hands typing on my computer keyboard and I am again in junior high school learning how to type. I hate the classroom and the teacher who fails anyone looking down at their fingers.  Fat lot of good anyway.  The key letters are blanked out.  

Now when glance down, I see the loose skin of an old woman.  These are not my hands!  But of course they are mine.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mount Oprah, Sorry Mount Olympus

In Oprah Winfrey’s own words, “The best revenge is success.” She ought to know.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., a weak signal from WBAL provided the first glimpse of a 20-something Oprah Winfrey.  Even then, she had an air of star quality about her.  It was obvious she was going places.

When she left Baltimore for Chicago and gave Phil Donahue a run for his money, she was admirably infectious presence, full of wit, inquiry, interest and eminently watchable.  She was smart, fearless, searching and compassionate.  She enjoyed her success and I enjoyed watching her enjoy it. I loved Oprah.  

Of late, that wonderfully real person has transmogrified into a self-righteous demagogue.  The problem is that where once she asked questions.  Now she has all the answers, from parenting to dieting; from finances to home decorating; from religion to addiction; there is nothing that Oprah doesn’t know.

Two things stand out: Phil McGraw and that birthday party.  

One of the most endearing things about Oprah had always been her lack of guile.  She may be rich, but she knows what it’s like to put things on layaway.  A throwaway line about hamburger set the cattle industry on her.  They sued.  It was unfair.  She was upset. We all rooted for her, me included.  

Someone had the bright idea to get her a life coach to get through that beef trial.  Voila! Phil McGraw, a jury consultant, with a penchant for folksy aphorisms was foisted on America.  Oprah’s imprimatur positioned him and his un-credentialed spouse and offspring into paid pitchmen for just about anything and everything.  The man does commercials for Match.Com for crissakes!

Which brings me to the birthday party.  Her 40th, which she felt compelled to televise over two, count ‘em, two days so that no tiny detail of her celebrity friends in frolic and preparation would be missed, left me speechless with disgust.  It was marked by so shallow and excessive displays of conspicuous consumption that the entire populations of some countries could have lived quite comfortably for a couple of years on the food and decorations left in the trash bins.  How grateful we peasants were to see the quality folk at their leisure.

As for Oprah’s book club, explorations of the darker sides of life seem to predominate her selections.  If a book has abuse, incest, or addiction, Oprah will gravitate towards it and make its author an overnight millionaire.  I have no doubt James Frey had that in mind while typing his manuscript.  

I also have no doubt that the first response on Larry King was Oprah’s “genuine” response. She’s so out-of-touch on the highest perch of Mount Olympus on which she’s placed herself these days that reading all the critics forced her into action.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How is not the problem. Doing is!

When I first retired, I had a bunch of nightmares about the job I just escaped.  Mostly, they were emotional rants at various people who had slighted me through the years.  Nothing complicated.  In them, I finally told off a few people whom I thought were my friends but who turned out to be worse than enemies.

In the last few weeks, my dreams have taken a more disturbing turn. I dream about going back to work.  

Here’s an example.  Two nights ago, I dreamt of a kid I knew in elementary school, Steven Fredericks.  Why him? I hardly knew him. We were never friends.  I don’t even know if he knew my name.  The only reason I knew his name is because he used to play Lady of Spain  on the accordian during school assemblies and once I overheard him telling another kid about some adult who had dragged him somewhere and told him if he ever told anyone what he’d just done, he’d kill him.  

I must’ve been only 9 or 10 years old when I overheard this and, at the time, had no idea what he was talking about or why he sounded so frightened, but the desperation in him deposited itself right into the permanent memory bank of my brian.

So in my dream, there was my 10-year old classmate sans accordian. He was some sort of mogul and I was pleading with him to let me work for him.  By the time I woke up, I was positively begging for a job. Huh?

There is the play.  I worked on it for over a year. The best part about it was how much fun it was to have a collaborator. So much better than than sitting alone in front of a blank computer screen waiting for inspiration which rarely comes, especially now when I finally have the resources to do what I’ve always said I would:  write.  The worst part is that the play is probably not very good.  

It’s not like I don’t have ideas.  Unfortunately, those ideas are mostly of how to do it.  I can’t seem to work out what.  The hows, though, are great distractions.  For instance, yesterday, I tried to urge podcasting on a shy young friend who is formulating a business plan for a web hosting business.  

In retrospect, selling his services in a podcast is a ridiculous suggestion for someone as shy as he.  Well then, I thought.  If it’s wrong for him, what about me? Ruminating for a while, I came up with: For the love of my pug.  Wow, what a great idea!  That’s as far as I got.  Try as I might, I couldn’t come up with any content for that brilliantly-named podcast.  

Like I said upfront.  I know how, but I don’t know what!