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 . . .    

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.

Are You Too Old to Change? Why You Should Reconsider.

Years ago, my mother rebuffed the news of my coming out by explaining that she couldn’t deal with it. Her exact words. “I’m too old to change.”

But you’re only fifty-five?

It rarely happens in life when you have extreme clarity. But at that particular moment, it was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I made a vow to open my mind to the possibilities of life. I’d do my best to never be, too old to change.

Change is hard

And it has been a challenge. Over the years, we’ve moved from city to city, from job to job. My career in healthcare has had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, until the last move to Phoenix. But even then, I realized early on that I’d landed in the wrong organization. The thing about change is that sometimes we need to be careful about what we wish for. And to recognize when it makes sense to say no thank you, and move on.

Career as a Writer

I’m grateful for many things in my life, but none more than that one insight from my mom. She suffered a lot of emotional pain with that too old to change. And though it’s a wonderful thing to hear affirmations from those we love, sometimes, it’s the judgments that force us to envision whom we choose to be. My mother offered that gift, and to her, I’ll be forever grateful. By learning to change, my life has turned out to be a lot better than I ever expected.

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 . . .    

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: http://bit.ly/2xRQJjA

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 . . .    

Smartphone Etiquette – Stop Looking at Your Damn Phone

It has finally happened. I was at dinner with friends and within five minutes of being seated, we were all looking down at our smartphones—Googling, Facebooking, and God only knows what else.

Nomo what?

Nomophobia (fear of being without your mobile phone—no mobile—nomo—get it?) is the new frontier of addiction. It’s so sad. Time lost with loved ones because our attention has wandered to the technology in our hand.

I’ve heard it said that the generation raised with smartphones is struggling with the development of their social skills. To be honest, it hasn’t done much for people my age either. We now all text. It’s so much easier than having a real conversation. And Facebook gives us the false sense that we’re in touch, even though you can’t actually touch anyone. Facebook friends create the illusion that we’re loved or important or part of something bigger than ourselves. In reality—we’re really sitting alone—observing other people’s lives. I guess that’s better than nothing.

I’ve fallen into the trap 

To be a successful writer, we’re told to expand our reach. People need to know who we are in order to trust that they might enjoy our work. I doubt Hemingway or Fitzgerald had an ongoing relationship with their public—but then, I’m no Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Still, can you imagine those two literary giants texting? Now, Dorothy Parker—she’d have excelled at tweeting in 140 characters. Still, being witty 24/7 is a challenge for any modern author. Best to say nothing at all. At least then you can retain some semblance of quiet intelligence.Continue reading . . .    

Death & New Orleans

A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.

1987?

But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS  in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.

Startled by the recall

As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.Continue reading . . .    

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