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 . . .    

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 . . .    

Don’t Save it for Good

Years ago, a wise family friend shared with me the phrase, save it for good. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. But I knew from the tone of her voice and facial expression, that saving it for good was not a great idea.

Life is short

Perhaps there are clothes hanging in the closet that you’ve never worn. Or unplanned vacations that you hope to take one day. Or friends you’d like to visit—but have yet to find the right time. Then you know all about saving for good. Waiting for that perfect moment to savor life’s pleasures.

Control is an illusion

It’s often said that life is what happens as we’re busy making other plans. John Lennon sang about it in Beautiful Boy. And so, my wise family friend was trying to convey to me that it’s a mistake to save it for good. We truly only have this moment. Not yesterday…and no promises of tomorrow.

Take it to heart

I’ve tried to be mindful of that counsel, even though I often fall short. I tend to save it for good, anticipating something better is coming. It’s like being an inverted optimist. Never quite satisfied with today and ever hopeful that tomorrow will be brighter. I sometimes wonder if I occupy that quadrant alone.

Now take a few moments to enjoy John Lennon’s beautiful rendition. http://bit.ly/2usLFUQ

 

 

Summer Movies: Or How to Survive Phoenix in July

Everyone knows Phoenix is hot in the summer. That’s when most Phoenicians plan their vacations. But for those who stay and want to leave the house in the afternoon, there’s the air-conditioned restaurant, a trip to the supermarket, or a walk through a shopping mall. And yes. There’s the movie theater.

Senior discount

I admit it. I love the matinee show as much as I love my senior discount. I know. It’s not a huge saving. But to me, it’s a big deal. For years I stayed away from the movie theater because it was so darn expensive. Call it price sensitivity or consumer activism, either way, I opted instead for Netflix. But watching a movie at home pales to the experience in a darkened theater. Who wants to sit in their living room when you can view a film on a large screen with those great theater acoustics?

Dine-in option

Unlike my friends, I dislike the dine-in option. I like to see my food. I’m visual that way. I want to make sure everything looks okay before I put it in my mouth. In the dark, that becomes a challenge. Besides, I’m a man of limited focus. I can either enjoy my food or the movie. Not both. And based on the amount of stain remover used in our house—I’m also a messy eater. And that’s when I can see what I’m doing.

Fortunes are built on meager savings

I’m often astonished by those patrons who buy out the concession stands. You’ve seen them. Popcorn and drinks and nacho chips with queso. Balancing all that food on their lap as they munch away. Forget all the calories they’re consuming, the cost of those snacks dwarf the ticket price. I often think they need an intervention by a good money manager. Where’s Charles Schwab when you need him? But to be truthful, I hate sitting in a darkened theater listening to other people slurping their drinks or munching on popcorn. When I’m watching a movie, I want to be engrossed in the film, not what the person next to me is eating.

Crabby old fart

Yes, I know. That’s how it sounds. And perhaps, that’s who I am. But I think movie theaters are for being transported to another world, not stuffing your face. There. I said it. Go eat lunch somewhere else. And while I’m at it, stop all that gosh darn coughing and sneezing. If you’re sick, please stay home. I’m trying to watch a movie!

And the Password is …

In this age of the Internet, I have more passwords then I can possibly remember. Six pages to be precise. Many of the new accounts came with the publication of my debut novel, The Intersect. Goodreads, Kindle, Apple ibooks and WordPress—to name but a few. The rest are what I refer to as passwords for living. Amazon, American Airlines, Southwest, Safeway, Culligan, Netflix, countless hotel chains and travel sites. The list has exploded. It seems you can’t do anything today without the Internet and creating a password.

Mix it up

I’ve taken the advice of the tech industry and changed it up when creating my passwords. It makes sense that no two accounts should ever have the same one. If they hack into your bank, you certainly don’t want them to have access to your electronic medical record. Though if they hack into your bank account, who really cares if they know you were at the doctor twice in April due to a nagging case of bronchitis? I’d prefer they just not touch my money. Cough be damned, I’m funny that way.

Creating a password

We’ve been told to avoid names or birth dates and to combine numbers and letters along with symbols ($#&!) to the string. The days of using a simple 123456 are over. Phrases aren’t a bad idea, but then, you have to be able to remember them. Any chance of a simple, easy to remember password, has been shot to hell. Check out this video and you’ll never do a simple password again. http://bit.ly/2uqPHM8

Ignorance is no excuse

There are fee-based password management services ready to coordinate all of this for you. Of course, they require that you create a master password. That made me laugh. And I know I should have more confidence, but with so many places being hacked—why wouldn’t a company that secures passwords be a prime target?Continue reading . . .    

Mahjong Anyone?

On July 4th, friends invited us over to learn how to play Mahjong.

Mahjong!

The game my mother and her girlfriends played when I was growing up. I remember those ladies laughing and calling out tiles as I passed through the kitchen on my way to the refrigerator. I’d hear “two crack,” “three bam,” “five dot,” as they rapidly went around the table. They’d smoke cigarettes, sip refreshments and talk endlessly. Often their voices would rise in excitement, rolling into laughter. I never knew what they were talking about—and if I happened to linger too long—I was told to keep moving.

My turn

So, it was with great interest that I accepted the invitation to join a group of friends learning the game. After all, I thought rather arrogantly, how hard can it really be?

It was hard. Very hard.

And as I played, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. How did she ever carry on a conversation and play this game? How many rounds did she endure before she no longer needed to concentrate? And why is this game so much harder than poker? 

American version

It seems that there are two versions of Mahjong. The American—which I was learning—and the Chinese—which was being played by a group of men seated behind me. I’m guessing the American version is easier—but being new to it—it was like learning Hebrew (and that’s hard). The other guys kept saying it’s like playing gin rummy. I know gin rummy. I get the comparison. But this was beyond gin rummy. If you don’t believe me, check out the video explaining the basics. http://bit.ly/2uuMSqYContinue reading . . .    

The World’s Oldest Fly: Where Did It Come From?

Did you ever notice that you can’t seem to go to a deli without running into a fly circling your pastrami sandwich? It drives me nuts. Instead of enjoying my meal, I spend my time guarding my plate, swatting at the air, hoping the filthy creature doesn’t land in my coleslaw.

Other restaurants too

To be fair, it’s not just delicatessens. Many restaurants seem to have the same problem. If there’s an open patio—I completely understand. It’s just part of the dining experience. Nature will exist where man chooses to sit. You can quote me. But when you’re inside and flies are swarming, isn’t it the staff’s responsibility to eliminate the infestation? Is that really too much to ask?

Greek with a twist

A few months ago Jeff and I ate at a Greek restaurant in Palm Springs. White table clothes, soft music, and a price point that was amazing. And though the food was delicious, no one on Yelp had bothered to mention the infestation. Upon my first taste of eggplant, the flies appeared. Scarfing down the moussaka, I watched them line up on the window sill. Alfred Hitchcock could have directed the scene. The flies were soon everywhere. Did we leave? Hell no. The food was too good. Instead, we hunkered down, gobbling up our meal as we swatted away.

What are we willing to do?

And so I wonder, does anyone ever complain about restaurant flies? Is it rude to tell the management you’re leaving even after you’ve just ordered? Are we just willing to put up with the onslaught if the food exceeds expectations? And what do you do when they land on your food? Do you continue to eat?

Buck up, man

I know there are some people who think it’s no big deal. I live with one of them. So I guess I will continue to duck and dodge as I cover my food. But I still think the staff should be trained on how to use a fly swatter. Aim high, swing hard, and splat. Dessert anyone?

Where’s the Shift?

I’ve been driving Jeff’s new car. A Lincoln MKC. And much to my surprise, the whole thing is push button. The entire shift mechanism is gone. You have to literally point and touch your way to park, reverse and drive. Great for keeping your mind agile.

Change for changes sake

Every now and then, there’s an older person who plows through a crowd. That’s due to confusion between the gas pedal and the brake. And yet, with the graying of America, cars continue to change. Haven’t we learned anything? Fortunately, Ford has modified the once complicated My Ford Touch. They’ve gone back to the manual radio and temperature control system. Thank goodness. Traveling at 75 mph on the highway and trying to figure out how to make those changes was a death defying feat. Common sense has prevailed.Continue reading . . .    

Arthritis Anyone?

I’ve just taken an Aleve to calm the pain in my left thumb that an orthopedic surgeon pronounced as arthritis. Damn him!

Okay. It happens. None of us are young forever. My Dad had the same problem with his left thumb in his mid-forties. That’s when he dropped out of his bowling league. He was an awesome bowler until that left thumb started to ache. And being a lefty, well, that wasn’t going to work.

Me – I’m a righty. So this slow deterioration has come without any physical justification. My left thumb is barely used. I don’t hitch hike. And unlike Jack Horner, I don’t stick my thumb in pies. Though, if I did, I’d head over to Rock Springs Café in Black Canyon City, Arizona. Spoiler alert: best pies ever. Come visit Arizona and I’ll prove it to you.

So what good is a left thumb?

I don’t use it to type. My right thumb handles the space bar. But I do use it to hold the steering wheel when I drive. Yow that can hurt. And my left thumb is also the preferred digit for ripping open envelopes. I’ve tried using my right thumb. It just feels so wrong.

Not the worst thing

I guess this isn’t the worst thing that could happen. People are diagnosed every day with life-threatening illnesses. What’s one left thumb in the scope of all that suffering? Not much. Besides, it gives me an excuse to stop lifting heavy weights at the gym. Instead, that left thumb might enjoy holding onto something icy cold like a shake from Culver’s or Dairy Queen. Come to think of it, I’ve heard icing an ache can bring down swelling. Hmm. Now there’s a perfect solution in search of a problem.

Weather or Not … Here Comes Summer

Some people are obsessed with weather. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, sleet and hail. A simple snowstorm becomes a nor’easter. Millions without power. At least that’s how reporters ramp up the story. But living in Phoenix, we don’t have much weather. It’s generally sunny and pleasant most of the year—until it isn’t. Then it’s still sunny and hot. Did I say hot? I mean really hot.

That’s a lot of zeros

When we first moved to Phoenix, the summer seemed unendurable. That’s because the triple digit temperatures started around May 7th and lasted until October 7th. I know this because I was desperate for a time limit on the experience. As the snowbirds flew north, we remained. Air conditioner jacked up. Ice water nearby. Pool in constant use.

And oddly enough, it’s during a Phoenix summer when you see Phoenicians in sweaters. That’s because the restaurants and movie theaters are kept at the temperature of a meat locker. We’re all wearing light weight clothing to stave off the heat.  At the supermarket, you have to run past the dairy aisle. The meat counter isn’t much better. And pity the poor soul who gets stuck in frozen foods. You can literally build an igloo in that aisle.

Sand anyone?  

And then, we have the monsoon season. It kicks in around June 15th and runs through September 30th—with most of the activity in July and August. The monsoons arrive courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico, bringing rain and dust storms called haboobs. Haboobs present the most dramatic weather of the season. Huge clouds of dust are swept up from the Arizona desert and engulf the area. News stations catch the beginnings of these haboobs as they start to roll. As you wait for them to arrive, the air is still. Then the skies darken and a massive gust of wind kicks up. You’re overtaken by sand as the visibility drops to zero.  Continue reading . . .