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.

If You Enjoy Crossword Puzzles . . . You Should Write a Novel

I’ve been working diligently on a second novel with the goal of publication in 2018. That would be a year and a half to generate a second book. Or, half the time it took to finish my debut novel, The Intersect. It’s a relief to think I might have learned a few things along the way. So, in the spirit of being open, let me share a few insights.

The Learn

  1. In the words of Dorothy Parker, “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” In following her advice, I’ve discovered my hip flexors, sacroiliac, and glute muscles. Yow!
  2. Writing and speaking can be done in the same voice but not at the same time. Too much talking, and I can’t write. And after hours of writing, I’m unable to utter an intelligent sentence.
  3. If I don’t shed a tear when I’m working on an emotional scene, there’s something wrong. This should not be confused with the tears that I shed when I can’t get a scene right.
  4. If you respect your characters, they speak on their own. Dialogue is easy. If you try to control them, they rebel and make you the fool.
  5. You need to believe in yourself as a writer before anyone else will. Then, you need to hire a terrific editor to teach you all that you’re doing wrong.
  6. Eating is a major component of the creative process. Any food will do. But try to stay away from items purchased at Costco. Large quantities can be polished off in short order.
  7. If you love crossword puzzles, you’d love writing a novel. Words connect scenes. Themes carry through. And everything that you put down on paper can have an alternate meaning.
  8. It’s truly satisfying when someone enjoys your work and writes a note. It’s even better when they go to Amazon and provide a review.
  9. The arc of creation matches the bell curve. At the start, there’s excitement as the story unfolds. At its peak, you’re certain it’s all working. Upon publication, you’re sure you’ve screwed the whole thing up.
  10. There’s a seed of truth about the author’s life in every novel. Just a seed. If it were all true, it would be called a memoir.

Continue reading . . .    

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 . . .    

Why is the Medicine Cabinet in the Kitchen?

The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.

Why is the drawer full?

At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill? 

Medicine Cabinet

We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.

Expiration

Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .    

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