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.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

The 'Godfather of Bull' Whips Up a Fairy Godmother

Tiao Maia received the Consular Legacy award for Humanitarianism last week.

     It wasn’t until we were at 51,000 feet in the Lear jet that I realized there had been a terrible misunderstanding.
     I thought Tiao Maia -- the 52-year-old Brazilian cattle baron sitting next to me -- was taking me directly to Salt Lake City, to spend the holidays with my family. But after we reached our cruising altitude, the billionaire produced a map and pointed out all the places we would be going first -- a two-week adventure that included a stay at a luxury resort in Acapulco. My stomach convulsed. The word “parachute” entered my mind. I didn't know this man at all!
    How did I keep getting into these uncomfortable, sometimes dangerous, situations? I was saying “Oops, I Did it Again” ten years before Britney Spears was even born.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

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

Get ready to change the channel -- it's almost time for NPR's Spring 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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your crime: dementia. Your sentence: solitary confinement

This should be our next civil-rights battleground
Don't feel bad. He doesn't even know he exists.
    Do you ever envision yourself as old and alone? Can you imagine that you -- that active, attractive, sociable you -- might someday essentially be a prisoner in an institution that runs your life? And that nobody will care -- you will be forgotten?
    Maybe your memory and your volition will have deteriorated, but you will still be you. No one seems to realize that. Each day at the nursing home, you get washed off, spoon fed, strapped into a wheelchair, and abandoned in your darkened room. Deeper and deeper you sink, into inconsequentiality.
    You grow pale and gaunt. Your eyes are increasingly haunted. You will be here until you die. Someone needs to be shouting: "WAIT A MINUTE ! THERE'S A PERSON HERE!"

Friday, March 7, 2014

Is it Artificial Intelligence or Authentic Stupidity?

    Maybe you'd better Google yourself and find out if this crazy, grandiloquent, power-mad computer mastermind named Kalev Leetaru has targeted you yet. If not, just wait awhile.
    He has posted several detailed web pages ABOUT ME, and the extent to which I pose a threat to Big Oil, even though all I ever do is sit here quietly, hating Big Oil. 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!
   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 deranged machinations.

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 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?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

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

Puff the "Magic" Draggin'
The power of blissful, wishful thinking.
   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 -- from cartridges which can contain nicotine levels as high as 24 mg -- 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"?

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. He never knew. I felt ashamed, but there was no holding it back.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Elderly Girl Helps Win the Civil War, and then Conquers 1890s Paris

    After chopping off her fabulous hair, binding her bounteous breasts, and gluing a mustache above her oh-so-kissable lips, Elderly Girl distinguished herself as a Union soldier during the Civil War. Her fellow troops were so drawn to her heavenly essence, that they theorized they must have been "turned gay" by the stresses of mass slaughter, and they pursued her relentlessly, even during the Battle of Bunker Hill. What a disgrace! While fighting off her own comrades, she avoided killing the enemy by dazzling them into helplessly shooting themselves. She then went South to help with Reconstruction, and was such an adorably tireless advocate, she was named an "honorary Negro," which was the greatest distinction of her life. The rednecks down there leered at her as if she were a meaty ham hock, and smacked their lips as she walked past.
    Exhausted  by the wanton callousness of American men, she boarded a ship to Paris, hoping to discover a whole new world of civility and provocative ideas. Oh dear, that poor girl. It was more of the same:

    All those Romeos called her "Juliette" as a nod to her Shakespearean grandeur, but she really was the same exact Elderly Girl to whom we still look for advice on beauty, fitness,  interior design, conversational brilliance, lying with conviction, mindful eating and sanitary protection. It's a dirty world, ladies. Beware.

Friday, December 27, 2013

How I "made up" the Biggest Lie of my life...

(...and then finally did an About Face)
    A friend who's known me for many years recently threw out this casual remark: "You used to be so pretty, Sylvia. I mean, you were really stunning."
    He didn't hurt my feelings. Actually, I laughed. I was never beautiful, or even cute. I aggressively, desperately, painstakingly camouflaged my natural homeliness with makeup. Ha, ha, Fred: I fooled you!
    Beginning in my mid-teens, and continuing through my mid-40s, I embraced a career as a fine artist. Each morning, I approached the bland, blank, quite icky canvas of my face, and painted upon it the most striking portrait I could muster. From sun-up to sundown, I was in "full regalia," forging through life disguised as good-looking girl. My time-consuming labors served me very well. I got pretty much everything I wanted.

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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mommies become the secret spokesmodels (with benefits) for Corporate America


Are they scoring -- or whoring?
        It seems like only yesterday that our buying decisions were being manipulated by cynical advertising executives, who used focus groups and psychological research to analyze our aspirations and insecurities.
    Now it's the housewife next door -- the spokesmodel in sweatpants -- who's calling the shots. A multibillion-dollar industry has sprung up that presumes to identify the "influencers" among us, who can be bribed into becoming "brand ambassadors." A program last night on the Live Well Network gleefully described how women can get "unbelievable tons of free stuff" -- from wrinkle creams to laptops to vacuum cleaners and pricey toys --  merely by agreeing to place helpful customer reviews on Amazon, Target and WalMart; on their "mommy blogs"; and via Facebook and Twitter. Some of the biggest corporations in the world are clients of these firms, which seduce ordinary women into providing the best advertising there is: word of mouth. This begs the question: How trustworthy are all those reviews that had seemed to provide such a democratizing resource for consumers? Those who write the best reviews can receive thousands of dollars in the coolest new products, and even trips to some of the most exotic resorts in the world. So we who want to make intelligent buying choices are still being screwed -- just by greedy women instead of ruthless men.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

StoryCorps' predictable plot



Here we go again: A charming upstart becomes an insatiable Fat Cat.
                                                             "Fat Cat" 2010 by ira upin
    (Oct. 30, 2013) During this past month, StoryCorps -- a favorite feature on NPR -- celebrated its 10th anniversary. Its founding premise was simple: Put two friends or relatives into a cozy, private booth -- along with a microphone and a box of Kleenex -- and magic will happen.
    Magic did happen, according to series creator and CEO David Avram Isay, as tens of thousands of ordinary people experienced an extraordinary emotional intimacy, thanks to this modest format.
    The real magic, though, was in the bank account. Astonishingly, StoryCorps has evolved into a $10 million a year enterprise, with 140 employees. Your tax dollars make up a third of the budget, and foundations pay most of the rest. So how does Isay manage to blow 11.4 percent of the budget on his full-time fund-raising?
    In many respects, StoryCorps -- which portrays itself as a unique medium of heartfelt Truth -- has become an elaborate fiction. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Few, the Proud, the Masters of Manipulation

PROTECT YOUR KIDS from the Military-Seduction Complex
Being an American soldier is like being the Daddy to all the world's adorable children!
   The commercials are more moving and stunningly tender than any ad campaign I've ever seen. First, there's the music:  a radiant, expansive, heart-rending hymn of somber violins that sounds worthy of a beloved president's funeral. The visuals are of noble young Americans: Beautiful, brave, principled, determined, competent and strong -- an idealized profile of what this country is supposed to be about.
    The few. The proud. The Marines. I have seen this series of ads over and over again the past 18 months. Even though I despise war, and believe that our military-industrial complex is the world's biggest, most dangerous source of corruption and suffering, I never tire of watching them. They stop me in my tracks every time. They pour forth with the poignant  power of superb human beings doing what they believe is truly righteous. There is grace and magnetism in the way these clean-cut kids hurl themselves out of planes, surge through forbidding terrain and leap with awesome fortitude over one barricade after another.The ads use sophisticated psychology to lure today's peace-loving kids into our "humanitarian" military. Watch out!

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, September 3, 2013

What happens in my Vagus stays in my Vagus

Get away from my neck, you medical-device vampires!

    A highly unpleasant spotlight, which turned me into a Vagus showgirl for five years, has finally been turned off. I just completed a Cyberonics, Inc., clinical trial of the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, to assess its effectiveness in helping those who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. It was a ridiculous, scandalous experience.
    I don't trust Big Pharma, and I don't trust the multibillion-dollar medical device industry. My cynicism was vindicated by the bizarre combination of incompetence and ruthlessness that characterized this study.
    In trial after trial, this device has shown itself to have extremely limited value. But Cyberonics (which sounds like a sci-fi cabal that unleashes evil robots), is determined to keep trying until it wears down its opponents and qualifies for reimbursement, so it can achieve its dream: a fabulous financial windfall. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The E-Cigarette Seduction: Are We Blowing It?

Coming soon: A sobering look at safety. Research findings are being suppressed.
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
 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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How my ravishing friend became a goddess of global Buddhism


photo
Chagdud Khadro, formerly Jane Dedman
    In 1978, one of the most beautiful and compelling friends I’ve ever had was backpacking through Nepal, where she came upon one of the world’s pre-eminent Buddhist teachers at an “empowerment” ceremony. Jane Dedman, who had recently begun studying Buddhism, humbly made an offering of a jar of honey and a white scarf to the wizened, gray-haired eminence. She asked if she could become his assistant. Two weeks later, in her dazzlingly brazen way, she would ask to become his wife.
    Today, from her home base in a fantastically colorful  and ornate compound in Brazil, she has become one of the greatest spiritual leaders in the male-dominated global Buddhist movement.

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Resolutions: Running Out of Excuses


    You can always find excuses not to go jogging. At the moment, my cat is dying. My herniated discs are inflamed. I have lots of housecleaning and kitchen work to do. I have a writing deadline looming. The temperature outside is in the single digits, and air quality is poor. I just had surgery, for pete's sake! It would be stupid to exercise.
    Anyway, who cares? Pretty much everyone else is still in bed. When they do get up, they'll be cramming themselves with sausage, pancakes with syrup, and fried eggs. Sure, it's nice to be healthy and slender, but is it worth the effort? Why pressure yourself? Why not just be a regular person, and purge yourself of those wild and crazy jogging fantasies?
    Now is a good time to kick the excuses out of your head, and hit the road. You may soon regard it as the most profound resolution you ever made.

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 19, 2012

HEARTLESS

If your pacemaker or defibrillator attacks you, that's too bad!
     Her beloved husband of more than 50 years had a defibrillator implanted in his chest to save his life if his heart stopped beating. Instead, the ultra-sophisticated device killed him. He was feeling pretty good until it malfunctioned, zapping him with 1,400 volts through the right ventricle. He cried out, falling onto the couch. As his wife ran toward him, it surged through him again. She took him in her arms. A third massive jolt slammed him.
   The defibrillator-gone-mad tore into his heart 30 more times, until both he and the battery were dead. The device had gotten so hot, it burned a hole through his chest.
     The multibillion-dollar corporation that made the defibrillator wasn't liable. Firms that make life-sustaining medical devices are exempt from prosecution, thanks to their lobbying finesse. Thousands of people every year are injured, permanently disabled or killed by their products. Sorry about that, but you're on your own. 

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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mr. Romney, You're No Mormon -- at least not hardly

"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
    In the 1988 vice presidential debate, Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen famously savaged Republican Senator Dan Quayle, who had just compared himself to former President John F. Kennedy. In a tone of unmitigated disgust, Bentsen said: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
    I am inspired to make a similar remark:
    Mitt: I've studied Mormons. I'm surrounded by Mormons. Mormons are friends of mine. Mr. Romney, you're no Mormon. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Puttin' on the Mitts

     Our nation's most enlightened political commentators have, for the most part, said Mitt Romney's religion is irrelevant to his campaign for the presidency. I respect their position, but I disagree.  
    For nearly 50 years, I have lived in Salt Lake City -- the world capital of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have been drenched in Mormonism. I have felt that I was drowning in Mormonism. Everywhere I turned, my path was blocked or controlled by Mormonism. In my childhood, I was shunned by Mormons and humiliated by Mormons, but mostly -- as I got older -- I was bored, outraged, disgusted and exasperated by Mormons -- or by their church, anyway. I guess I should disclose that I had some excellent Splendor in the Grass with Mormons as well, but that's another story.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Muscle Your Way Into Lifelong Brain Health

Move over, Mr. Tiny Pants!
     Let's all drag out our inner Schwarzeneggers and say to ourselves, affectionately but sternly:
"I am going to pump you up!"    
     Weight training doesn't just give you a toned, shapely body. It also offers powerful protection against Alzheimer's, according to a new study.
     The recently released MRI evidence is too dazzling to ignore: Strength training vividly lights up areas of the brain responsible for problem-solving, decision-making and memory. It can can prevent or delay cognitive decline, and even reverse it. Plus: You'll feel like Wonder Woman!

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Thanks, Miss Bleeding Heart"


  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, April 23, 2012

An Afternoon With the Ladies

They were true gentlemen.

     Have you ever had a chivalrous young inmate in a crisp waiter's uniform slip you a lavender-blue note, along with your fruit plate, as you dined with the prison's top "brass"? Rikers Island's House of Detention for Men was always a hotbed of intrigue, especially since my job there was essentially to spy on the administration and advocate for prisoners, but this mysterious missive suggested that a new adventure was about to fall into my lap.

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
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."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Half-Hearted Valentine to the Chauvinist Pigs of the Past

Why I (finally) stopped manipulating men
    What I remember most about my Valentine's dinner with The Colonel, at New York's venerable Luchow's Restaurant, is not that he ordered my six-course dinner for me, without seeking my permission or knowing anything about my preferences. It is that I was strangely, startlingly thrilled. How outrageous of him! How condescending! He took charge, just like that! It was done in a debonair, understated fashion.  The rush of pleasure I experienced was very confusing.

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.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What was I thinking? Christmas Eve with a Statue

    When I moved to New York City, people were friendly, garrulous and charmingly meddlesome on the street or in the neighborhood shops. Subway protocol, I quickly intuited, was entirely different: If you didn't want to be accosted, humiliated, assaulted or propositioned, you kept your head down and your eyes to yourself.
    But when I stumbled and sort of crashed my way into a train headed uptown on Christmas Eve day -- carrying a five-by-nine foot cardboard-backed photo of The Thinker -- a consensus seemed to materialize pretty fast among the other passengers: The rules should be temporarily suspended.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Penthouse Life: I was ambivalent about the view 'down below'

Publisher Bob Guccione died one year ago today.
For some real stimulation, try reading the articles.

    (11/26/11) New York was a place where magic happened all around me. One day, I was walking along Madison Avenue, when I passed an idling city bus. On its side was a huge ad, citing all of the writers for Penthouse Magazine who had won Pulitzer prizes, Nobel prizes and National Book Awards. It was a stunning list.
    I walked right over to a pay phone (remember pay phones?) and called the magazine, asking to speak with the editor (remember when you -- a young nobody -- could call out of the blue and get to speak with an editor?). When I told him I had written an article I thought might interest him, he said, "Meet me at the Oak Room bar in fifteen minutes." 
    Thus began an excellent adventure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: Helping a friend escape its brutal clutches....

...and soar into the sky, freed from his ravaged body. 

    When I learned that my middle-aged, former high-school friend and debate partner was dying of multiple sclerosis -- alone in a dismal "disabled living" facility, after being bankrupted by the unconscionable cost of his medications -- I was grief-stricken. We all thought he had been essentially cured when we were in college. I called him and begged him to let me do something for him. His response was surprising and intriguing. I could help him, he said,  to "soar peacefully" into The Great Beyond, by giving him a massage, three times a week -- but not the conventional kind. He had been a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation since his late teens, and he wanted our sessions to incorporate an ancient spiritual dimension, as reflected in Ayurvedic medicine. He aspired, contrary to Dylan Thomas's advice, to "go gentle into that good night." I didn't think my emotions or skills were up to the challenge, but he persuaded me to try.