Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"NO THANKS" Giving: Don't binge -- purge!!

    I have nothing against Thanksgiving, even though I think most of us realize that's it's just another excuse for overeating -- and another major burden on women, who are already collapsing under the weight of their responsibilities. Still, giving thanks is a nice thing to do.
    But to balance things out, I believe we need a day for giving "no thanks" -- a day that encourages people to vent the resentment, rage, irritation, exasperation, betrayal, jealousy and frustration that they are obliged to stifle in their everyday lives.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

If a tree falls in the forest: Rape vs. dementia



    If a woman with dementia -- who has lost the ability to form new memories -- tells a nighttime  aide that she has been raped, but has no recollection of it the next morning, should any "sound" be made about it? Should we care? She is eating her eggs and bacon and talking about her love of "smooth jazz." What's the problem, Sylvia? Why don't you back off, instead of making a big deal out of nothing?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Malpractice and Malfeasance: Ignore her delirum -- just shut the old lady up



    As I walked down the hall of the dementia ward to have breakfast with my mother on Sunday, Nov. 9, I heard screams, sobs and moans. When I entered her room, she was pointing at the ceiling crying, "No! No!" When I bent over to hold her, she began yelling in an indistinguishable language, grasping my blouse and pulling me close to her face. "AHHHHH, AHHHH," she shrieked. She clutched her distended abdomen and grimaced, She was crying, but then she suddenly stopped, looked startled for a moment, and then began laughing in a shrill, Wicked Witch of the West fashion. "You," she said. "Oh honey!" She pulled me down onto the bed with her, and I held her while she jerked and trembled.
    Here we go again. I had seen delirum before, and I had no doubt that my mother was in the acute phase of this disturbing condition. If it's treated early enough, it can be resolved within 8-12 hours.
    But thanks to the apathy, cynicism and incompetence of the staff at this $74,000 a year facility, that's not what happened. Now, 11 days later, she is in the hospital, pouring gargantuan blood clots out of her rectum. "End of life" options are on the table. There may well be charges of negligent homicide if she isn't saved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Just Shoot Me": My personalized health-care directive




    I have never heard anyone say he wished to become a burden to his spouse or children. Yet many, if not most, of us do become a burden as we decline. People can't help the fact that they become frail, disabled, sick or addled, and their loved ones do in fact feel burdened by this, financially or emotionally or both. Many people's lives are ruined by the demands of caring for incapacitated loved ones. Other lives are ruined by the guilt of failing to do so.
    I am drafting a health-care directive that I hope will prevent this from happening. Since it is a sincere document, reflecting my honest desires, I expect it to be implemented. I want to let everyone off the hook, and I think many of my peers would consider doing the same.

Friday, November 14, 2014

She has been a true Mother Superior


Part Two of "I Did it My Way," below

   The doctor who came over to deliver one of Mama's four younger siblings referred to the Baird house as "the sorriest shack I've ever seen." It was the first time my mother -- who was just a little girl -- had ever experienced shame. And shock as well: She loved home, as most of us instinctively do. She recalls running, with tears in her eyes, to her grandmother's house across the field, and asking her for some flower seeds. A few months later, the hardscrabble yard had blossomed into a pastel wonderland of sweet peas, blue flax, bachelor buttons, larkspur, zinnias, asters, poppies and daisies that captivated passersby (and hid the shack). That was the opening act in a life devoted to the transformative power of beauty.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Elderly Girl discovers that dressing as a man is tinglingly transformative



The "extreme makeover" emboldened our tender sweetheart to
civilize the "giant hole of putrefaction" that was 1890s Paris.
"Do join us in Paris, for a life of glittering ease and colorful divertissement!"
    Have you ladies ever considered dressing as a man, just to see how it feels? Elderly Girl cannot overstate the magic that will flood through you. Please ransack some guy's closet, and disappear into your boudoir to give it a try.
    During the Civil War, Elderly Girl -- who has been alive practically forever (but remains luscious) -- had bound her breasts, chopped off her wild, wavy tresses, and donned a Union uniform so she could fight heroically to free her beloved black people from slavery. Until she had this experience of wearing pants (what a vulgar word), she would never have imagined the exhilaration of striding about as the male of the species. She expected that she would have to "play a role," but it wasn't necessary: Once she was "in disguise," she instantly felt more comfortable and confident than she ever had in her whole life. She felt like a cattle rustler. She felt like Da Bomb. She felt like a Swat Team of one. She was cruisin' for a bruisin'. She was ready to rumble, baby! Everything changed. She stood erect! She breathed more deeply and felt a glorious competence in her hands and mind. She was engorged with a sense of possibility. It's so much more interesting to be formidable than beautiful, ladies -- we've been kept in the dark! The world was her oyster! Or -- puke -- let's try that again: She felt like "He-Man, Master of the Universe."  Elderly Girl became aggressive, rash, restless, and terribly sexy. This is a shameful thing to say, but she felt like fucking. She felt like hauling some young farm girl into a barn and just doing it! 
    It was confusing, to say the least. Please don't judge her too harshly. dear friends. She was more appalled than you must be. And no farm girls were harmed in the making of this blog post.
    She was so exhausted by the war and its aftermath, and so disgusted by the bestial horniness of all those rednecks down South, that she succumbed to the promise of a refined life in Paris. But she was shocked beyond measure when she got there. It was, as she would soon discover, 'a giant hole of putrefaction." Her work was cut out for her: Civilize Paris.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"I did it my way": Mama's graceful, cleverly defiant, dance with dementia



     The tiny woman kneels among the greens in her vast, tiered garden, which is still sparkling with dew. The luxuriance and graceful beauty of this place -- which is her greatest joy and most profound refuge -- stun her every day. She is in her mid-90s, but her classically beautiful face is unlined and radiant as she tends the neat rows, and cuts a handful of Tuscan kale for her lunchtime frittata.
    All around the garden is her larger Eden -- a landscape of massive trees, boulders, blossoming ground covers and robust flowers -- which slopes sharply down toward the stream, whose surging and cascading waters fill the air with an invigorating energy. It has taken her 50 years to create this secluded paradise, which was an expanse of hard, barren dirt when she bought it. She closes her eyes and inhales the scent of Moroccan mint and rosemary as the sun rises, and a breeze ripples through the aspen.
     "Mama," I say softly, touching her shoulder. Her head is slumped forward as she sits in the hallway of the secure dementia ward.
    "My dear daughter!" she exclaims, rubbing her eyes and smiling drowsily. "Is it time for lunch yet? I have had such a busy morning out in the yard  -- I'm quite hungry!"

Friday, November 7, 2014

Turkish Coffee and Rosewater Custard with a "Gay Mantilist"


Don't you just love these crazy kids of today?
     I had an hour to kill before my appointment, so I decided to take a walk, instead of waiting in the orthopedic surgeon's office. I did my best not to limp, as I ambled along Third South, because people give you looks of distress and compassion if they think you're in pain. It makes me feel guilty.
    The fragrance of Turkish coffee hit me like a full-fledged flashback to my 1970s afternoons at Uncle Toonoose restaurant in New York. The owner had always stopped by my table to "read" my coffee grounds (the ancient art of tasseography). He predicted fabulous events in my life, most of which came true.
    I followed the scent down a side street to "Mists of Persia," a tiny cafe that had four tables. Just one patron was there, a young man with a mohawk haircut, plinking away at his laptop. He grinned at me as I made my way to the counter, and said, "You should sit with me. Let's not be lonely." What a charming comment, from this tattooed dude with his bod mods and e-cig.
    "Are you writing the Great American novel?" I asked in passing.
    "I wish! It's a Power Point presentation," he sighed. "I'm a Gay Mantilist. I thought this gig would be pure fun, but the 'suits' are turning it into a drag. They are relentlessly 'data-driven'."
     Gay Mantilism? Oh my god, that sounded cool. My blood and brain began at once to sparkle. I love being exposed to new ideas and theories and fields of study. It almost makes me wish I were still young.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Stayin' Alive: Hospice flourishes, serving those who die at a leisurely pace

Please, for god's sake, don't die! Hospice needs all the clients it can get!
The stockholders set some almost impossible 'benchmarks' at the last meeting! "

    The young lady in the Hospice for Utah shirt was giddy and shameless. She and her fellow employees were in the process of buying the "death with dignity" hospice business from the charismatic and energetic founder, Cathryn "Kit" Jackson, for $10 million. Pretty soon this lucrative operation would be all theirs, and the sky would be the limit, she told me two months ago.
    I was having breakfast with a friend at an Assisted Living facility. The hospice aide was there to bathe and dress a client and escort her to the dining room. This in itself was absurd, since the client was already paying to be bathed and dressed by facility employees. But when hospice moves into your end-of-life drama, they take center stage,  and Medicare pays for it.
     "Where are you getting the funds to buy the company?" I asked the pleasant-faced Hospice girl.
    "That's what's so great," she said. "Every quarter, we get to split up the left-over money. You know: the allotment that Medicare sends us to take care of each client. We get that, plus our salaries! If we didn't keep the leftovers for ourselves, we'd have to send it all back to the government.  Kit's already rich, and now we've got a shot too." Kit, who is an admirable, enlightened person in many ways, is now content to bake cookies with her grandkids or ski the Alps, her website says.
    Even though I knew from my previous investigations that the vast majority of hospice firms are for-profit, it had never occurred to me that the profit they make consists of money disbursed  for patient care that is not spent for patient care. That should have been obvious, but I still find it shocking. The incentive to spend as little as possible on patient care is built into the system. More stupidity! Can't the government get anything right? 
    This is the story of how a compassionate, progressive concept morphed into one of the most fraudulent  (and painfully disappointing) (and profitable) enterprises in our economy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An all-out assault on Alzheimer's: A 'brainstormy' battle plan



    In several upcoming posts, Elderly Girl will offer a detailed proposal for waging war on Alzheimer's disease, since it seems that no one who is actually qualified to take charge has done so. We need one of those "czars," without the stupid title, who would coordinate everything. Would "Brainiac" work?
    This needs to be a mass assault, a top national priority (like the moon landing), using a multi-pronged approach. It needs to be a bit crazy and loose and collaborative and all brainstormy, making use of crowdsourcing, which we have seen to be so effective at solving so many other, very diverse, problems. Let's get as many intellects -- and as many disciplines -- involved as we can.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Beggar Wears Prada (or Why I Stopped Giving to National Public Radio)

Can you believe it? We're already being dragged through another NPR pledge drive.
(Be sure to get the "officially sanctioned" Carl Kasell doll as a thank-you gift!)
The Devil is in the details.

  (Oct. 8, 2013) The twice yearly public radio pledge drive is finally over. Thank god. If you listen to those fools pleading, cajoling, making "rational" appeals and glorifying their role in your life long enough, it can make you physically ill. Switch to a rock station and listen to Eminem's "Berzerk." It'll drive you less crazy.
    But if craziness is your thing, consider this: Just weeks before NPR's nationwide panhandling fest began, its seventh CEO in seven years announced that he was leaving his $700,000 a year job for one that pays $2 million. The staff was "stunned." They feel OK about making only several hundred thousand dollars a year.
    I don't feel OK about bankrolling these vain, elitist, self-important people, who have ensconced themselves squarely in the top One Percent. They expect the rest of us, who earn far less and don't likely have  rewarding, prestigious jobs, to pay for their fancy-pants lifestyles. That's not my kind of charity.

Friday, May 16, 2014

This Magic Moment


It took me by surprise.
      I am coming to realize that I am in the midst of a Magic Moment: A tipping point between youth and old age. I am still young in so many ways -- in how I feel and behave, and in my tastes, energies and attitudes. By most measures, though, I will soon be a senior citizen. I am stunned by this. Every time I think about it, I am stunned all over again.
    In a couple of weeks, I will be 65 years old. This moment is magic because I have all the considerable benefits of age, but I am not yet impaired by it. I am enjoying a "sweet spot" -- an interlude in which I have the best of both worlds. I am ever-mindful that it can't last. My sense of triumph, and even joy, will probably seem like naive hubris before long.  Most of us go downhill as elderliness creeps in and takes over, and I can already sense that I will not be one of those lucky ones who remains vigorous, sharp and competent into my later years. I'm getting arthritis everywhere, although so far I'm able brazenly to ignore the pain, push right through it, and do everything I always have. Ha, ha, you bastard! I do seem to be falling down for no reason, but I just laugh (after lying there for a while) and theorize that my bruises and sore muscles will upstage the arthritis. Ha, ha, again, you bastard! I can sense the specter of Alzheimer's leering inside my head. I leer back. Because right now, in many respects, I am the best I've ever been.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Big Data: Is it Artificial Intelligence or Authentic Stupidity?

I didn't like a State Fair oil painting, so I became an enemy of Big Oil. Wow! That's astute!

  
    It's chilling, and quite entertaining, to see firsthand how the Big Data process is manifested. Just for fun, maybe you should Google yourself and find out if a grandiloquent, power-mad computer mastermind named Kalev Leetaru has created detailed profiles about you yet. If not, just wait awhile.
    He has posted several delightfully inaccurate web pages ABOUT ME, and the extent to which I pose a threat to Big Oil (and other energy giants) even though all I ever do is sit here quietly, hating Big Oil and other murderers of the environment. He claims I am "associated" with the Dalai Lama, Anderson Cooper, and Beyonce. I love that!
    He swears his analysis of more than 10 billion people, places, things, and activities -- connected by over 100 trillion relationships -- enabled him to predict the "Arab Spring," as well as where Osama bin Laden would be found. So I bet he knows where you are! Like hundreds of profit-crazed data-collectors, he intends to learn everything about everybody, so he can forecast the future for his clients. But it only took me two days to reverse-engineer his algorithm and find the fatal flaw in his surreptitious machinations.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diary of a Mad Vaper


A colorful, sometimes slightly grotesque, new cultural phenomenon.
    I dove into the delicious waters of the e-cigarette tsunami as a journalistic endeavor, and unexpectedly became a participant, not merely a detached,  note-taking observer. Oh, those tasty treats!
    Like everything I do, I did it to death -- and now I'm through. But it was a great ride. I briefly became a breakout starlet on Spinfuel magazine's news blog, as my stories reached number ten, seven, four and one, out of hundreds of fine articles. I kind of felt like a spokesmodel  -- quite a thrill at my age -- although I wish I could have been spotlighting animal rights, class warfare or ongoing racial discrimination, rather than the charming but relatively trivial "art of vaping." In any case, it was an excellent adventure. It remains for me a provocative topic on many levels: cultural, political, scientific, technological and entrepreneurial.
    The media will be covering the e-cigarette issue relentlessly for the foreseeable future. Lots of people have opinions, some of them reasonable.
    I have removed all but two of my posts from this page and collected them in the tab above: http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/p/the-e.html.
   

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Welfare Princess of Liberty Park

      
Alana had turned the inside of the shack into a place of sparkly wonderment for her children.
    (sept. 19, 2011) The “For Rent” sign remained in front of the shack three doors west of my house for a long time after Heroin Chick and Harley Dude moved out. Neighbors continued to grumble about its “disgraceful condition” and its effect on the property values of our tidy, charmingly landscaped Liberty Park-area street.
    On one memorable day, a few months after the former tenants and their cuddly parrot moved  out, I was invited inside by the new tenant. This spirited, brave woman, who was being torn apart by her past, had transformed a filthy, chaotic dump into a place of magic and beauty.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The rambunctiously rich rewards of the "Thrift Shop" lifestyle


The thrill of the hunt is part of the Thrift Shop experience.
Macklemore bagged a luxurious beauty, if you don't mind animal slaughter.
    Watching the video for the Grammy-winning "Thrift Shop" was like viewing a rousing, witty tribute to my 95-year-old mother, and to the values she instilled in me in the 1950s. I have been plowing through stuff that others have discarded all my life. I have found countless treasures amid the trash. I left plenty for you.
    In today's frantic, acquisitive consumer culture, my Mama's motto is more relevant than ever: Living well, on almost no money, is the best revenge. Looking hip and strikingly original in an outfit that you "curated," using items that cost you between 49 cents and five dollars, is very rewarding.
    Just as the Grammys were being handed out, New York was gearing up for Fashion Week. Did anyone else notice how many of those designer geniuses flagrantly plagiarized Thrift Shop chic in their collections?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nursing-Home Netherworld: Putrefaction, pain and poop


Let's face it: Most of us will wind up here, for weeks, months or forever.

      I wretched. I couldn't help it. I wretched again. David, I'm sorry! He had asked me to remove his diaper and clean up the mess in his nursing-home bed. Feces extended from his mid-back, down his buttocks, to his knees. It was still  pouring out and piling up, surge after steaming surge of porridge-textured poop. It was a nightmare, like "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
     "Don't call anyone," David said. "I think they're mad that I keep doing this."
    I was up to my wrists in it, but it was all so slippery, and he is so massive, that I couldn't get the soiled diaper or drenched mattress protector moved, in order to wash him.
      I said, "David, I'll be right back."
      Then I went into the bathroom and vomited. I puked my brains out, but I did it quietly. I felt ashamed, but there was no holding it back. Five-star nursing homes can do that to you.

Your purgatory awaits you, Cream of Wheat included

        Say goodbye to everything you know. If you have dementia, it's over.
 
         (June, 2012) Each day when I come to visit the nursing home, there is a massive, bloated young man in the lobby who is strapped to his semi-reclined wheelchair, and who writhes and flails constantly, his head thrown back and his eyes seeming to roll in different directions. I am told that most of his brain was destroyed in a car accident, and he has been classified as "unresponsive." As one nurse puts it, "There's nothing upstairs but drool." He has what the insiders call "blunt force dementia," she says. Even so, I don't feel right just ignoring him.
        So finally, I stop. I lean over and whisper, "Good morning. Do you mind if I touch you?" I put my hand on his shoulder. I think I sense a slight relaxation in him, but I'm not sure. I gently place my hand on his cheek. "Ahhhhhhh!" he cries loudly. "Ohhhhhh!" I take his hand, which is curved around in that cerebral-palsy way, and hold it. He is laughing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Eve with "The Filthy Boys"

He looked pretty darned clean to me.

    I was just about to knock on the door to Apartment 1B when I heard a terrible sob.
    "Please don't -- not again!" a young man cried.
    Then I heard a whack. And another one.
    "I'm sorry I was bad! I'll do anything you say," the trembling voice pleaded.
    Then another voice -- this one harsh and cold -- shouted, "Shut up, or I'll put the gag back in, you worthless piece of shit. Give me those ropes. Hands behind your back. Now bend over."
   "Oh God, not the whip again, Daddy. I can't bear it." There was a struggling sound. "Not the whip!"
    I had forgotten to breathe. My hand was still frozen in knocking mode. What should I do? I was concerned. I was scared. And, frankly, I was curious. So I did knock, as if I were a pert and determined Avon lady.
    The two guys were flushed, breathless, smiling. One wore a diaper, the other a scanty, black leather outfit. "May I borrow a corkscrew?" Couldn't I have avoided saying "screw" somehow? "Come in!" they replied.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Elderly Girl's secret passageway to the role of Global Icon


(Soon to be a major motion picture? The first option expired, but they've bought another.)
         Can you imagine frolicking with your sisters through the endless rooms, secret passageways and tropical underworld of this neo-Byzantine castle? Can you imagine wearing anything you wanted from any of the cool boutiques inside? Isn't it like every little girl's dream come true? You may think it helps explain Elderly Girl's confidence, her splendor, her sense of freedom, style and beauty. But the truth is much more complicated.
    Elderly Girl was conceived, born and lived in the Kronstantinople Bazaar, the most splendid mall on Earth. It's hard to believe, but she was a rather stupid child. Her three big sisters were brilliant and brave -- true originals. So why was it she who became a Planetary Phenomenon? It's an epic tale that will captivate the human race forever. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Regarding Alzheimer's: Let's blow Big Pharma's mind, and expand our own


I can see for miles and miles.
                                                                               by Alphacoder
       (June 6) Despite billions in taxpayer dollars, pharmaceutical companies have failed spectacularly to provide any real hope to the millions among us who suffer from Alzheimer's and other dementias. Their best efforts have not only been ineffective -- they have also come, of course, with terrible side-effects and outrageous price tags. 
    Screw them! We don't need them! Remedies that enrich and enliven the brain have been out there for thousands of years. But Big Pharma isn't interested in these liberating substances, because they can't be patented.
    Among other strategies in our war on Alzheimer's, we should investigate the use of  MIND-EXPANDING DRUGS in order to defeat a MIND-SHRINKING DISEASE. Does this not make perfect sense?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A final act of love: Slamming the door on Morticia

A dignified, loving farewell, no morticians or toxic chemicals required.
    Our mothers cared for us from the moment we were born, attending to our needs in countless ways. We emerged from their bodies, and that intimacy was never eradicated by time or distance. They devoted themselves to nurturing, protecting and supporting us. They would have died to save our lives.
    So when a mother -- or any loved one -- dies, how should we feel about having his or her body briskly zipped into a plastic bag and whisked off to one of those dungeons known as mortuaries, to be stripped naked, and then (among other indignities) punctured, clamped, drained, and glutted with chemicals?
    We do have options. We can keep our loved one with us, at home, and take care of the body ourselves, in one final act of love. There are networks all over the country that can help us through this process. Not everyone would want to do it, of course, and even among those who wish they could, it might be too complex and traumatizing during a time of grief. But for those who are able to cope, it can provide the rewarding sense that you bestowed upon your beloved the warm, all-embracing farewell that was so well-deserved. -- rather than one that was sterile, lonely, cold and invasive. 
(This article also includes info on intriguing alternatives to burial and cremation.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Our future: Everything in modulation

 Don't worry. Be happy.

  In a recent post, I documented the desperate -- even ruthless -- effort to gain acceptance of vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of depression. The medical-device industry is investing millions in order to reap billions in the burgeoning field of neuromodulation. But if you're not depressed: "Don't worry. Be happy!" Before long, they'll be peddling something that may change your life, too. Your brain is their playground.
  If you have any of these conditions (among others), just be patient. The finest minds in science are at work as we speak: Anxiety, sleep apnea, depression, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, stroke, Tourette's syndrome, addiction, "phantom pain," obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson's and other movement disorders, obesity, tinnitus, incontinence, PTSD,  fibromyalgia, hearing loss, bladder dysfunction, migraine, IBS, asthma, eating disorders, chronic pain, heart disease, systemic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. They will also perk up your memory and cognition. All you'll feel is a little tingle.
  But the more you know about the industry, the more uneasy you'll feel about them messing with your mind. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The E-Cigarette Seduction: Are We Blowing It?

Oxford English dictionary has named "vape" the "word of the year for 2014."
E-cigarettes are fun and flirty, hip and tasty! They're diabolical!

    After having smoked since high school, I finally gave it up 10 years ago. I broke the habit. I was free. I was sad that I had to give up this comfort, but I was gratified that I had moved on.
    Enter e-cigarettes. The moment I first saw someone on TV exhaling a cloud of vapor, a little devil in my brain (or maybe it was an angel who felt deprived of simple pleasures) cried out, "Oh boy!"
    Was it really possible that I could smoke again? I still missed it. Not inhaling actual smoke, which I now found disgusting. But here was this substitute that would allow me once again to enjoy the languid pleasure of taking in and releasing a fragrant and tasty breeze. Smoking is so relaxing! I felt uneasy but excited.
    I bought a starter kit of a simple, generic style (Fin). They'd sneaked some vanilla into the menthol, which seemed kind of presumptuous. But when I fired up that first cartridge and took a deep draw, and blew it out my lips and nostrils, I was immediately in a billowy Heaven. It was the most enjoyable smoke of my life.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Restroom gig: A process of elimination

This is part two of a two-part series
Part One is "The black gentlewoman in the marble dungeon."
 It's "potty time" at the disco, y'all!"

    "Do you think I'd be doing this crap job if I could find anything else?" the young lady at a local dance club exclaimed. She was pretty, with magenta streaks in her glossy dark hair. The vest of her neon pink uniform had the unconvincing motto, "Flushed with Pride," embroidered in silver above her breast. She was the present-day incarnation of the "powder room" attendant. Unlike her predecessors from a more refined era, who gracefully presided over elegant accommodations and served "the upper crust," today's "loo" lieutenants must cope with drunkenness, drug use, vomit, sex in the toilet stalls, feces in the urinals, and disdainful patrons, as they attempt to eke out a living in the nation's hip, jam-packed bars, trendy eateries, and throbbing, rowdy dance clubs.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Howler breaks free, and screams into the wild


This is Part Two of "Going Down, Please"
Hiding in plain sight is a sexy art form indeed.  / by Salvador Dali
     I've been having all kinds of crazy, pointless fantasies about what I might do that would distract me from wanting to die, since I'm such a baby about suicide. ("Just say yes!" Nancy Reagan is shrieking.)
     It has occurred to me of late that if I were on the lam, I might regain my will to live. I haven't been pursued in a while. Maybe the titillation of being featured glamorously on "WANTED" posters would distract me from my morbidity. Interpol agents would be competing relentlessly to capture and subdue me. It would require all of my wits and dramatic talents to evade them. Wouldn't it be fun to leave behind taunting evidence -- a citrus-mint-scented handkerchief, an empty absinthe bottle, a note from Julian Assange offering financial support, a Deviant Art magazine -- which proved that they had just missed me? Ha, ha!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Going Down, Please

A FAREWELL FANTASY FROM A TIRED, SAD IMPOSTOR
Part One of a Two-Part Memoir

      "You will make a wonderful secretary," my junior high school guidance counselor told me, after we all took standardized vocational aptitude tests in the mid-1960s. "Your clerical speed and accuracy are the best we've ever recorded. Plus: You're a smart dresser."
     I was incredulous. My plan had been to become the Paris-based correspondent for NBC's  Huntley-Brinkley newscast.  I was both furious and hurt. Oddly enough, the thought that maybe I could become an elevator operator at a local department store called "The Paris" lifted my spirits. Up and down, in and out, back and forth -- it seemed suited to my psychic swings, which had already become a foreboding aspect of my character. "Going down, please," I practiced, aiming at a modulated resonance. I'd have to be a real Renaissance elevator operator though -- I was raised  that way. I could unsettle my captive audience by reciting disturbing literary passages --  from Poe, for example. Pits, you guys! Pendulums!
    I always thought that if Poe were alive, maybe the two of us could shack up. In a menage, with Salvador Dali. We'd live in a spooky mansion, and we'd play out our bizarenesses together like it was jazz improvisation. Cool! And we'd love each other for what we were, ain't that right Edgar? Evermore!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lupus: A Rash Quest for the Truth


An Andy Warhol-inspired depiction of my Fiery Flare.
       In spite of all the dire warnings I received from doctors, I refused  to take the medications that were prescribed for me after my diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. My decision to do the best I could to take care of myself was quite liberating, and I was at peace with it (most of the time).
    I have become more convinced that probiotics are helping me, and I have found medical evidence that supports my inadvertent discovery. I will elaborate below. I believe I am also benefiting from the supplements black currant oil, oil of oregano and Omega-3s, for which there are persuasive scientific explanations.
    I endured a florid, unsightly and uncomfortable rash under my eyes for nine months, starting in May 2010. Like so many of you who have responded to my original post, "A Lupus Mystery" (which I've reprinted at the bottom of this one), I have no idea how sick I am or how sick I may become.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Elderly Girl's lusty Dad conquered everything, until he met the fiery Islamina

 Daddy was from a swashbuckling, hard-fighting, hard-drinking breed of Cossacks.
His story will be part of the planned movie based on "Elderly Girl's Secret Passageway."

      The genesis of the Kronstantinople Bazaar is unquestionably one of the great mysteries of American history. Actually, it is one of the very few authentic mysteries that even exists in this coarse, materialistic,  literal country, which has such a short and stupid memory. There is no magic here! SUVs and greasy bags of "fast food," dumbed-down TV and sports. There is no wonderment, no nuance. There is no soulfulness, except among our beautiful black people.  
     You go to other countries, you will find depth and passion, conviction and pride, even among the simplest peasants. Each of them actually has a philosophy! They know their place in this throbbing universe, and it gives their lives a humble majesty that few Americans can even comprehend. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

IMPATIENT: Just give me the stethoscope, and get out of here

Since you're all so busy
I'll take care of MYSELF!

  Under today's greed-driven, production-line health-care system, doctors apparently don't have time to take care of patients properly. I have the time, and I have the Internet. I want to be the Doctor In Charge of Me. If I screw up, that's my problem. But I really think things are already about as screwed up as they can get.    
    Medical care has become a numbingly impersonal, sloppily organized, hugely bureaucratized, scarily negligent, and thoroughly exhausting process.
    I understand that most people are too busy to take charge of their own care, and the majority wouldn't want to, anyway. But I am tired of feeling like a slab of diseased meat on a factory-farm conveyor belt. I want to be cured --  at least as cured as cured meat! -- and I want the right to do it my way.

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Appointment with Disappointment


Part Three of "Impatient"
    (april 14, 2013) How do people who are really sick -- who hurt, who are weak and dizzy, who are feverish and nauseated -- manage to survive the arduous process of getting help in today's vast, dread-inducing health-care monstrosity?
      It is a test of endurance that really ought to be reserved for those of us who are flushed with robust vitality. We need to march in there, and confront a doctor, and say: This system is terminally ill!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Great White Hoax: E-cigarettes are delicious, but they don't deliver nicotine

Puff the "Magic" Draggin'
The power of blissful, wishful thinking.
   (March 2014) I love e-cigarettes. They're fun. They're beautiful. They're tasty! They offer comfort and relaxation.
   Opponents argue that they perpetuate addiction to nicotine -- even though they are vastly safer than tobacco cigarettes -- and that their exuberant, stylish marketing campaigns will create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts.
    But they -- and those who see e-cigs as a smoking-cessation aid -- have been the victims of a Great, Billowing White Hoax. That fragrant vapor actually transmits virtually no nicotine to the bloodstream. Yet they are helping millions to quit. Cool!
    E-cigarettes, my review of the scientific literature suggests, are, generally speaking, a placebo. Users believe they are getting their "drug," but in fact they are engaging in an habitual behavior, and enjoying its sensual rewards. These hip, colorful, good-enough-to-eat products deliver "minimal or no nicotine."
    Is this a scandal, a killer blow to a dynamic new industry, or delightful news about our "need" for a "fix"?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Doctor Who? Doctor You!

This is Part Two of "Impatient," above.
  
It's not a stretch to assert that your body is YOUR wonderland.
     It's time we had a "patient liberation movement." Become your own #1 best doctor! Those who are well informed should be granted greater latitude in taking charge of their own health care. But even now, there is much you can do to avoid or minimize your entanglement in the bloated, exasperating, often pointless Dictatorship of the Medical Elite. You can save time and money, but more importantly, you won't feel so helpless, angry and confused, if you become the Boss of Your Own Body. It's exhilarating!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dr. Dreamy Does a Bedroom Scene

New info: More data indicating that meniscus surgery is worthless.
My doctor is dreamier: He does bedroom surgery.
     When I told the secretary on the phone that I wished the orthopedist could come to my house and do my knee operation while I was in my own bed, she didn't react. She just said, "We'll see you at the surgical center first thing in the morning."
     I went to sleep with a knot in my stomach. Going out into the world overwhelms me. Going out into the medical world is worst of all. Heaps of forms to fill out, interminable waiting. And the legitimate fear that my knee will never be the same.
    I was awakened when all of my bedroom lights came on. Standing around me were the surgeon, smiling broadly, his PA, an anesthesiologist and two nurses. My dear Joe stood there shaking his head, as usual, at what I am able to get away with.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Boy's Club: How Men Ruin Everything


    (7/6/11) Back in those golden days of yesteryear, universities had this very quaint and charming notion that their purpose was to fill the minds of young people with knowledge. They provided a brief refuge from the tumult of the everyday world, so students could acquire an intellectual foundation that would enlighten the rest of their lives.
    Somebody has really, REALLY messed things up, and I think you know who you are, gentlemen.
    My solution is draconian -- even perverse -- but drastic measures are justified.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Global Panel Selects Elderly Girl to be "The First Immortal"

"Fountain of Eternal Life" by Marshall Fredericks.
    Every couple of years, Elderly Girl is awakened from her luxuriant slumber by a 3:30 a.m. phone call. Her wavy hair gleams, her cheeks are adorably rosy, but in her eyes there is exasperation. It must be Stockholm ringing again to announce that she's won the Nobel Peace Prize. Please, people! Elderly Girl has been rousted by these annoying intrusions about 40 times in the past 85 years. Every time, she has politely declined. She doesn't like prizes. She resents them. She rejects them! They're trinkets that cheapen one's accomplishments and taint one's motivations. Her wish is to solve problems, not to be celebrated. She was preparing to say "NO THANK YOU!"  yet again, until a gentleman with an East European accent told her she had been selected to be "The First Immortal."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Model Intentions: I Got Duped, You Got Screwed


I don't have a photo of Punky, but this looks
 very much as she did in 1968 -- sweet and beautiful.
Dear Punky Fortune:
    I have wondered for so many years how things turned out for you, and even if you’re still alive. Long after I’d moved to New York, I heard that your pimp almost beat you to death. I heard about the heroin. I heard that you’d had two kids before you were 20.
    I think you must know that whatever role I played in what happened to you was unwitting. I hope you realized that I was there with the purest of intentions. Decades later, the betrayal that affected all of us, but which victimized you and your girlfriends in unspeakable ways, still makes me ill. I am so sorry.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?


My Dad donated his body to science 28 months ago. I was notified yesterday that that they
 have finally finished with him, and whatever was left  has been cremated. I am glad it's over. My
 "share" is next to my recliner in a handsome box, which I can embrace whenever I wish.


    March, 2010: The part that hurts and haunts me the most is when they tore back his face. I am crying even as I write about it. What did they do with my father's face?
   Daddy!
   He sounded so matter-of-fact when he mentioned several years ago that he would be donating his body to the medical school upon his death. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because it seemed so consistent with his scientific rationality -- he was a chemist -- and his ethical imperative to do the right thing.
    I also paid it little mind because I couldn’t imagine that anything could hurt me more than his death itself. I was wrong.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Teenager Flowers, Plath-style, in the Bell Jar of New York



       The Barbizon Hotel for Women in New York City plays a prominent role in Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar." Her protagonist spends the summer of 1953 in the legendary old monstrosity while struggling through a fashion-magazine internship, just as Plath did. Three years before her iconic, semi-autobiographical novel was published in the U.S., I came to New York for a summer job with a Madison Avenue advertising agency, and I stayed at the 23-story, 700-room Barbizon as well.  I was 18 years old.
    Each night, I hauled my bedspread and pillow up 15 flights of stairs to the roof. I did it for the magic -- for the sheer joy and beauty of lying there, surrounded by glittering skyscrapers and that pulsing urban dynamism that floated up from the street. Imagine having this place you'd always dreamed of, soaring majestically all around you as you slept.

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"



A movie option on this story is pending.
  I had boozed my way through much of the very Deep South -- which truly was a jungle, another country, a bygone era -- conducting interviews of extraordinary young black professionals for the Rockefeller Foundation Journal. It was priceless material, very moving and colorful. I had seen and heard things I knew would surprise and dismay our readers.
    I was exhausted, but I had one last stop, to spend time with a "rising star" of the civil-rights movement. If I had known what my visit would do to his life, much to the delight of the white establishment, I would have headed straight back to New York City.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mad Men, Bad Women: A Summer in the '60s New York Ad World



I Dreamed I Got Some Great Pointers in my Maidenform Bra
     During my freshman year in college, in 1968, I sent a letter to Jane Trahey, who had gained fame as the first woman in the country to own a major advertising agency. I  brashly told her that I was a "goldmine of potential," and requested a summer job.
    I had become intrigued by Jane, an eye-rolling wise-cracker and a cynical curmudgeon.  I felt that I could glean priceless insights about the ad world from her, and that in return, I could cheer her up with my oh-my-gosh enthusiasm. I got the job, and the most memorable summer of my life. But I never did cheer her up. She remained totally exasperated.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Elderly Girl's Hidden Garden of Red Orchids

In your tummy, there is a lush shrine to the bittersweetness of life.

                                                             Painting by Danuta Kania
   As Elderly Girl has informed you dear women before, she insists on having her "time of the month," even though she has been post-menopausal for eons.To be honest, it is pretty much always her time of the month, and, to quote the great soul songstress Ella Fitzgerald, "It Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own."
    She believes it is her biological prerogative to burst into tears, punch holes in walls, lay up all day with the covers over her head, and walk out on an irritating man, slamming the door behind her (preferably after throwing a drink in his face). Then she screeches off in her yellow convertible Miata. To quote the great blues songstress Billie Holiday, "Ain't Nobody's Business if I Do."

Monday, February 20, 2012

"The Absolute Rulers of Society's Garbage Can"


THE WARDENS of RIKERS ISLAND
Warden Theodore West, in his crisp beige summer suit, strides through the noisy clusters of black and brown bodies like a British gentleman appraising his safari staff. He knows well that the natives are dangerous, perpetually angry, but it would only inflame them to show concern. So he glides through them, pointedly defenseless, eyes straight ahead—aloof, casual, immaculate—amid their defiant and rumpled chaos. He and his fellow wardens, he tells me, are "the absolute rulers of society's garbage can." That was 40 years ago. It's not a garbage can any more. It is utter hell.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jogging Jubilation: Don't give up your 2012 resolution

     I jog through the decades of my life as I move from one radio station to another, and I know so many lyrics -- along with every lilt, moan, growl and scream -- that I wonder how my brain has room in it for anything else. I get a special thrill when I jog to music from my high school and college years, because I know I lacked the physical strength and endurance back then to do this for five minutes, and now -- at the age of 62 -- I hurtle through the air for 90 minutes every morning. If you give exercise a chance, it will truly change you and how you regard yourself. You will feel like the gorgeous, fearless Queen of the Jungle!
    It's beautiful. It's life on a different plane. But every new person who appeared on my running route at the start of 2012, obviously having made a New Year's resolution, has given up already. Don't do that -- try again! Start out easy. You can do it. Before long, it will be a joy, not a chore.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Delilah Paradox: Elderly Girl Takes It All Off


    "Don't cry, Mama, it will grow back in no time," Elderly Girl says, holding her ever-tinier old mother in her arms. God, that woman's tears can rip you to shreds. Elderly Girl does not enjoy having to be maternal. It gets in the way of her lust for drama.
   As most of you are are aware, Elderly Girl had perhaps the most beautiful and celebrated hair on Earth. Even so, the urge to liberate herself from it has stalked her for decades. It was a complex impulse -- Elderly Girl's favorite kind. Now that she has succumbed, she has been Born Again. Her radiance is positively blinding.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's with the Generalissimo: on the rocks, with a twist

     Harris called me "flat ass." I took it as a compliment, even though it was intended as a playful insult. I was glad he didn't flirt with me. I wanted a father figure, and that's what he became.
    He was also a mystery. What, exactly, did he do in our office, anyway? He strode around in full military regalia, covered with ribbons and medals.What was up with that? Our young staff  regarded this middle-aged black man as a lovable, blustery eccentric who lived in a dream world. On New Year's Eve, I would discover just how neurotically grandiose he apparently was. And when he died, I would finally learn the real truth.