The Game of Life: What’s Your Score?

There’s been a strange turn in our local newspaper, the Arizona Republic. Let me explain. They’ve recently relocated the obituaries to the back of the sports section. Yes, that’s right. You can now check game scores while you peruse the passing of your neighbors. How convenient!

Smile for the camera

The redesign of the obits started weeks ago. First, they enlarged the photographs. I get it. You want to see the face of your loved one. But most of the photographs aren’t professionally shot. The enhanced size looks grainy. And as we older folks know, it’s hard to capture a flattering photograph. We need proper lighting and a bit of photoshopping. Aunt Gert looks as if she was caught by surprise. Uncle Milton seems to be in the middle of chewing. So why, for heaven’s sake (I had to throw that in), make the photograph larger?

The whole thing has got me thinking (uh oh)

By placing the obits in the sports section, is the Arizona Republic confirming that life is but a game and there are winners and losers? Is your age at the time of death the ultimate score? If you’ve reached 80, 90, or 100—have you officially won—making death the eternal booby prize? Or, are the winners determined by the length of the obituary and the scads of relatives who adored you (though they never came to visit)? Does your obit dominate the page, attracting the most attention? And if you’re dead, does any of this truly matter?

I guess winner is a relative term

Few obits seem to provide the most interesting highlights from a life well-lived. I’m not referring to the marriages or the children or even the jobs held. Those are facts. Our lives are shaped by our challenges, hardships, and lessons learned. If you were a parent, what tips can you pass on about raising children? If you were a caretaker for an elderly parent, how did you sustain your enthusiasm? If you succeeded in business, what secrets did you learn about working with people? Just imagine what a terrific read that might be. To capture a snapshot of the living, breathing, thinking human being—and not just some vital statistics.Continue reading . . .    

Late Night Buying Spree…What’s Your Pleasure?

I was up the other night unable to sleep. It happens. Not often, but enough to know that late night television is jammed with 30-minute infomercials. Celebrity promos encouraging us to purchase all sorts of products. From Cindy Crawford’s Meaningful Beauty (let’s just agree the woman is gorgeous and even after 30 years she looks practically the same) to Leandro Carvalho’s (I have no idea who he is but he’s very enthusiastic) Brazilian Butt Lift, which finally answers that burning question of why everyone from Brazil has such a firm hiney.

Stair Stepper

In 1990, before anyone ever heard the name Kardashian, I purchased a mini stair stepper promoted by Bruce Jenner. It looked like a wonderful piece of exercise equipment and sure enough, I stepped my way to the nightly news for three weeks until it started to leak grease all over my carpet. By then, the little stepper was making a high-pitched, whining noise. It sounded like I was killing a cat. I wrote Bruce an angry letter complaining about the poorly built stepper and wondered how an Olympian could ever promote such a piece of junk. Needless to say, he never wrote back. As I learned later, his wife Kris had negotiated the deal. So, in a way, I was an early-adopter of the Kardashian business model. No comment.

And I Should Have Learned My Lesson…But I Didn’t

Next, I fell victim to a very senior Hugh Downs. This was well after his retirement from the prime time news magazine 20/20. He was promoting a two-volume edition of alternative medical treatments. The pitch: cures the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know. As a healthcare administrator and part-time hypochondriac, I couldn’t resist. At 2:00 a.m., I placed my order. When the books arrived, they were essentially bundled scientific research papers. Pretty much unreadable to even a guy who had a B.A. in Biology. Continue reading . . .    

Fast Food for a Slow Eater?

It’s true. I eat fast food every now and then. You know the places. Sticky tables, dirty bathrooms, and lots of screaming kids. It happens mostly on road trips. And though I’m a picky eater, I have to admit the food is pretty good. I guess there’s no accounting for taste (I couldn’t resist that little play on words. Forgive me).

What’s the deal with the soda?

Most fast-food joints offer patrons free refills even when sodas are sold in a small, medium or large size. So why would anyone buy a large drink when they can refill the cheaper size? Perhaps it has something to do with walking back to the fountain for a refill. Or maybe folks just prefer the large cup. I’m sure they’ve done lots of market research on this, but frankly, it has me stumped.

Say it’s not true

Now, I don’t particularly like soda. A small cola is more than enough. To be honest, the carbonation gives me heartburn. Or maybe it’s the burger and fries. Thank goodness they don’t offer free refills on the fries. Especially at McDonald’s. Those fries are damn good. But you have to eat them quickly. If you allow them to cool, they take on a rubbery consistency. But piping hot, stand back. It’s french fry time!

Fried chicken … the guilty pleasure

And talking about good, who could resist a bucket of southern fried chicken? Friends rave about Church’s. When I was a kid, fried chicken was the only thing I’d eat at a restaurant. Back then, it was a staple. But in today’s health-conscious world, it’s impossible to find fried chicken on a menu. When we lived in California, there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken in downtown Mill Valley. That particular one, as I recall, was busted twice for drugs. I’m certain that wasn’t part of Colonel Sander’s plan, but with recreational marijuana now approved in California, I can’t imagine a better point of distribution.Continue reading . . .    

Smile … It’s 2018!

It’s the start of another year and I am feeling tremendously energized. For those who know me well, this is an odd turn of events. Typically, I’m miserable this time of year. Not only because there is another Brad birthday looming, and really, who wants to be another year older, but because the notion of the New Year requires us to focus on making some monumental improvement in our lives. That just puts too much pressure on the month of January. Especially when you can choose any time of the year to make improvements. Perhaps, every day. Okay—that’s too much for anyone. But you get my drift.

So why would I be happy?

I’ve never been one to have New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t operate that way. Instead, as issues arise, I like to make changes. It may take me a while to get there, but eventually, I figure out what to do. If you don’t believe me, you can just check with any of my former therapists. Yes, there have been more than one. I’m certain they’d all give me an A-plus rating. I was especially good at timely payment. Which proves that anything can be solved if you throw enough money at it. Mostly, your resolve to make a change.

The author’s journey

But I think the real motivator has been the insurmountable odds of ever being a successful author—and in an odd way—it’s freeing. If it happens, it happens, but it’s so darn unlikely, everyone kind of feels sorry for you. I like that. I like that a lot. Sympathy can be immensely gratifying. And I also love a good challenge. Because when you’re at the bottom—the only way ahead is up—and since everything is still new—it’s very exciting.
Continue reading . . .    

Five Thoughts from a Distracted Writer

I’ve been struggling lately with my powers of concentration. I’m not sure if it is an “aging thing” or just that I’ve been distracted by the production of my second novel, After the Fall. Either way, being anxious and uptight doesn’t seem ideal for the flow of one’s creative juices. I don’t drink, though I’d probably benefit from a shot every now and then. But I digress. My point here is that though I’ve been distracted, I’ve continued to spot things along the way that have troubled me. So I thought I’d share them with you today.

Please tell me . . .

  1. Why isn’t corned beef spelled corn beef?  Unless it’s my terrible hearing or lingering New York City accent, I’ve never heard anyone say corned. It just doesn’t happen. And why corned? Is it a nod to peppercorns? Do they even use peppercorns in the preparation? Isn’t that how they make pastrami?
  2. Why can’t they make a lightweight leaf blower to use in the house? Something that would blow all the dust into a corner, leaving the lamps and knickknacks in place? I think it would make the cleaning process go a lot quicker. My walkway always looks fantastic after a good blast.
  3. At what age is it okay to speak back to your elders?  Growing up, I was told it was never the proper thing to do. To this day, I follow the rule. But honestly, there seem to be fewer and fewer people around who are older than me. Does this mean that I can now forget all about it?
  4. Everyone has been so happy about Prince Harry’s engagement—I can’t help but feel the loss of JFK Jr. After all, he was our American Prince equivalent and it doesn’t seem as if anyone has stepped up to take his place. Maybe we don’t need such icons in America. Zac Efron and Justin Bieber…well, it’s just not the same.
  5. Does anyone really buy meat at Whole Foods? I can’t imagine shelling out that kind of do-re-me. If you do, I want to know how it compares with the meat at your neighborhood Costco or Sam’s Club. Write and let me know. Or better yet—invite me over for a taste test. I’ll bring dessert.

And Now . . . a Shameless Promo

My goal for 2018 is to get my second novel, After the Fall, into your hands. I’m hoping it might have a March 2018 release date. Of course, much work remains to be done, but I feel confident that the novel is solid. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the elevator pitch: the one-minute recap that writers use to telegraph that their novel is a must-read. What I can say is that I love the characters and I’m hoping that you will too.Continue reading . . .    

The Holiday Season is Here – Yeah!!!!

The Holiday Season is here again and there is excitement in the air. Lots of parties, Burl Ives singing “Frosty the Snowman,” and the morning temperatures in Phoenix hovering in the fifties. For those experiencing snow and ice, that doesn’t sound too bad. But for those of us who have managed through months of triple digits, fifty degrees is awfully cold. We’ve pulled out our sweaters with the full knowledge that it’s now or never.

Hanukah Anyone?

Growing up in New York City, I really don’t recall a big buzz about Hanukah. It always seemed to be the poor step-sister to Christmas. The gorgeous tree in Rockefeller Center. The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes high-kicking in their Santa suits—but of course Santa wears pants, not tights. There was no big hoop-de-doo around spinning the dreidel—though everyone loved potato pancakes and the Hanukah gelt—those chocolate shaped coins covered in gold foil.

Yes, Christmas is for Everyone

No matter your religion, cultural affiliation, or whether you even believe in God, Christmas is just a magical time. Heck, if Ebeneezer Scrooge can find the true meaning of Christmas, there’s hope for us all. So to everyone reading this today, I wish you the best of the Holiday Season. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Sleigh bells ringing. The Hallejuah Chorus. And to my Jewish friends and family, remember that Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas.” Hey, that holiday spirit is just contagious.

Why is the Television so Darn Loud?

There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.

Yes – I know

If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.

Commerce in Action

I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .    

If the Sky is Up, Why Are You Looking Down?

I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time looking down. Is this a matter of safety, not wanting to trip, or a reflection of my innate personality? Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Avoiding potholes?

It isn’t that I’m afraid of falling. My balance is okay. Of course, there are nights when I stumble along in the dark to you know where. When I first step out of bed, my feet are stiff—curled tightly—like claws. Eventually, the muscles relax. I must look like a parrot walking along on the tile, shifting left to right. But no one else is up to see me. Except for the dog. Move, and he’s awake.

It’s not about shoes  

I’m not looking down because I’m fascinated with shoes. I could care less. Though in Phoenix, flip-flops almost pass for formal wear. And then there’s the occasional lady in high, spiky heels. It’s amazing to watch her balance on stilts. It’s like watching a circus act without a net.

New York City kid

I think the real reason I look down is based on where I was raised.  In New York City, you don’t make eye contact with strangers. Not unless you need something. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. No one wants to be on the end of a hey man, what are you looking at? Best to keep your gaze downward—avoiding the dangerous elements populating your world. Little boys have been beaten up for much less.Continue reading . . .    

Ever Walk into Your Beloved? Are You Clumsy? Or is it Something Else?

It’s odd, but it seems our house is just not big enough. Oh, there’s plenty of square footage. Certainly plenty of space for two men and a dog to navigate. And still, we’re constantly bumping into one another. I can’t quite figure it out.

Points of contact

The foot traffic is swift in the hallway. Living in the Sonoran Desert,  you drink a lot of water. It’s not unusual for us to nearly knock each other down crossing back and forth to the bathroom from our adjacent home offices. But our most popular rendezvous is in front of the refrigerator. Here is where we have real fender-benders. Squeezing by, accusing the other of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile, our dog hovers, standing guard at his bowl, hoping we’re engaged in a struggle to feed him.

Navigating corners

Blind corners are also a hazard. There’s nothing worse than being frightened by the sudden appearance of the only other person in the house. It often seems that Jeff has materialized out of thin air. After I jump, he’ll say rather indignantly, “I live here too.” Perhaps because we both work out of the house, we’ve become oblivious to the other. Talk about focus and powers of concentration.

Footsteps on the path

Years ago, a friend said he’d seen us from a distance and we were standing very close. If that’s true, perhaps that’s why we keep bumping into each other. I guess if you walk through life together, it’s expected that sometimes your foot lands in the same spot. Or maybe, we’re just clumsy. Hmm. I wonder.

For musical inspiration on men walking, click on this link:

Why is there a Poodle in the Bathroom?

Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, a poodle lived in our bathroom. Pink, with black eyes and a white bow permanently sewn to its head, it sat atop the back of the toilet tank, beady eyes watching our family during the most intimate of moments. By now you’ve probably guessed that the crocheted body with four tiny legs and a bouncy tail, concealed the extra roll of toilet tissue.

Is this for the company?

When you live in a one bath apartment, there is a decorating dilemma. That single bathroom serves both family and guests. And so along with the poodle cozy, there were decorative hand towels that we didn’t touch. And now that I think about it, I never did see that poodle lying atop the tank disemboweled. That stuffed poodle was a permanent fixture. The order of the day: reach under the sink if you needed to refill the roll.

Toilet training?

Years later, the lessons learned in my childhood are hard to shake. And though we don’t have a poodle cozy for the extra roll of toilet tissue, I remain unwilling to use the decorative hand towels. Why should I have this reaction in my own home? It must be the result of my early toilet training.Continue reading . . .