Monday, April 30, 2007

Making Today Important

Don't tell me sports pages aren't good for little motivational blurbs. They have become 'de rigeur' in my inspirational world.

I believe the quality of such sports poetry/lessons has improved vastly over the recent decades because (1) coaches have to work harder: today players are increasingly harder to inspire...due to (a) the fact that they are all multi-millionaires, and (b) cynicism is rampant throughout the culture: to be motivated is to be 'hot'; and today's young and talented desire is to be 'cool'. Ergo, coaches have to work harder/better to heat up their young players. Another reason coaches speechifying has improved is that coaches are now being paid thousands of dollars to give inspirational talks to businesspeople and government bureaucrats, so they have to be constantly 'polishing the product'. They have to issue little homilies and 'bon-mots' with the best of them.

The quote that started me on all this thinking: Golden State Warrior's coach Don Nelson, in today's LA TIMES, responding to the fact that cheering Warrior fans are issuing T-shirts that say "We Believe"--especially now that the team is up 3 games to 1 in a best of seven championship playoffs: "I believe in nothing. " Nelson said. "Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's a mystery. What are you doing today?"

It reminded me of an ad Billy Wilder took out in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety years to announce his next film: he started by first re-iterating his prior three films (all Academy Award Winners, in multiple categories): "He gave you 'The Apartment'. 'Some Like It Hot'. 'Irma La Douce'. Then: "Yea...[Billy added as his ad-tagline]...What have you done for me lately?"

Then as now, in film sports or everday life, 'one-day-at-a-time' motivation is not a motto exclusively reserved for Alcoholics Anonymous!

Sunday, April 29, 2007


How much do any of us deserve to keep the benefits of good luck? Or: Does one have an unchallengeable proprietary interest in one's own good fortune?

For example: A man is born to wealthy parents (luckily, I would assume)? Should he be taxed for that good fortune when the parents die? In our society today the answer seems to be mixed: yes and no; yes, he should keep some of his money, and no, he will also be (inheritance) taxed; he has proprietary rights in being born to the wealthy...but not completre and total.

A girl is born beautiful. Does she have the right to have a greater selection of suitors than someone born less fortunate? In our society the answer seems to be: yes, she has the right to exclusive benefit from her looks and not have to share her dating list with the less fortunate.

A man is born speedy. When he wins a race does he have to share his trophy with someone not as physically endowed. Little League mothers--always worried about their little ones self-esteem--would argue "a trophy for everyone"...but most would argue: one trophy that says "Winner"; to be given to the speediest.

A woman is born in America. Does she have to share her good fortune (a good paying job, health care, free education) with someone one born in another country without the resources to offer its citizens the same benefits.

Isn't that what the whole argument about illegal immigration : does 'American-good-fortune', being born in the USA, mean you have to share those benefits with people who have come here to avoid the bad luck of being born in a more economically deprived country?

The 'keep-em-out' crowd would say: I have good luck being an American and why should I HAVE to share it (although I may want to; which is a different thing.) Even if my resources are all the result of good luck (we'll forget hard work and effort for now), why isn't it all mine? If I find a tomato patch on land no one owns, I can keep the tomato, right? Granted, I agree if someone owns that land, to keep the tomato would be poaching; but to be the recipient of good luck is benefits to whom in falls on. We are the legal benefactors of our own good luck. "Finders keepers, losers weepers'. Remember that as a child?

(That's one way to look at the problem(s) Karl Marx had with property ownership, by the way. He felt all accumulated wealth was fundamentally the result of luck...and therefore should be only owned and shared in common. From each according to his (lucked-into) ability, to each according to his (unlucky) need. The problem was...became: the Soviet (the most advanced economically of the Marxist-styled countries) workers became dis-incentivized to fully develop new resources (they didn't seem to want to work so hard. Why work if luck is at the basis of it all?...although their proponents might argue: the whole system WOULD have worked if there had not been a military challenge from the capitalist USA; the Soviets would have made it...with a lot less overall resources, granted--due to a lot less work...but happy; a la Cuba...happy in their sharing but semi-productive collectives. )

America/Capitalists on the other hand seems to come down on the side of individual-hard-work-contribution-to-accumulated-goodies as the primary source of all accumulated wealth. "You make your luck." Or: "Luck is the residual of good planning." The theory of hard-work as the basis of wealth has a pragmatic value to the whole society as well, they argue: it incentivize us (all the workers) to produce more...therefore collectively we can all keep more (even if it does take a little time to trickle down to the masses.) "A rising tide lifts all boats;" eventually.

Personally, I'm torn.

I wish someone could come up with a magical formula: a measurement of how much luck plays in each person's success and how much hard work plays. The economic rule would be a nationwide (why not worldwide?) formula: everyone keeps what they derive from work; BUT..they share with the unlucky what accrues from their luck (that includes the original luck of a genetic it their "head start"...which includes the inherited disposition for hard work and tough will). Simply put, every individual would be required to subtract the $$$luck-amount from the $$$effort-amount to determine what wealth they are allowed to keep. (Sound an awful lot like the arguments over tax rates and deductions, doesn't it?)

Its very confusing and complicated.

How do you measure the contribution of luck Vi's-a-Vi's hard work to each individuals success? How the hell do you accurately and FAIRLY assign genetic (and geographic-luck) weight to inheritance to create a desired level playing field to support all human effort?

It's beyond me.

I suppose, in the meantime, we just have to live with Republicans and Democrats battling out from their respective philosophical sides: Republicans saying the more fortunate (sounds like more 'lucky' to me; doesn't it?) deserve to keep their wealth, whether it is derived through luck or hard work, because it inspires them to work harder and more creatively. (And moreover, why should they be punished...or hated...because they are more fortunate. Envied, perhaps, but...didn't God, who is all loving, create the human system to include a factor of luck in human activity. Ergo, it must serve a higher and nobler purpose!)

Democrats would argue that if God's intended a disparity of fortune it was because: God loves us all equally but we humans are charged with handling the individual disparity between good luck and bad luck with charity; share the wealth. That is God's test for all of us to attain Heaven...where, by the way, luck ends, true? I mean, in Heaven we will all be equally lucky? We won't have bodies, just spirits, and spirits don't have genetic differences, do they? Or the need for food, clothes, automobiles or medical access? Just the equal good fortune of the sight of God?)

I'm still very confused. Make a choice, Cliff. Where do I come down on all of this?

To be honest: it depends on what minute of what hour of what day it is. of April 30, 2007, at 4:48 PM, I want to keep all that I have, whatever the source derived, good luck or hard work (however, I do think I've worked very hard!). Sharing is taught in kindergarten because it is seems foreign to the human make-up; but I really do want the people who emigrate here (legally or illegally) to escape their bad luck. But I don't want those new arrivals, anyone illegally coming to America ("Read my lips: no new taxes!) to lessen my standard of living or to lessen my aging body's access to an emergency room when I need it or good education for my grandchildren?

Such an internal struggle. My union-organizing liberal Mother does memory battle with my two-jobs-a-day "fuck-em" Father? I choose......the American solution: NIMBY Economics: Not-In-My-Bank-account-YoYo...take money from the wealthy (they're too lucky, obviously) and give to the poor (let's call them the VERY unlucky)...and our economic nation will balance out social equity WITHOUT ANY EFFORT ON MY PART (other than a residual of little guilt and confusion). I can live with that...for now...until a batch of economists, geneticists and mathematics professors...inherently bright and hard-working, whatever the mix, come up with the formula of "luck-balanced-with-un-luck" measure of the distribution of social benefits that I propose above.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

On Feminism

From a prior Cliff Osmond on Acting blog:

"Feminism, gender equality, role reversal and woman's equality, etc., were made possible because of two fundamental discoveries: the forklift and the pill.

Before the development of the forklift and the pill, women were dependent on men for heavy lifting, and for protection from indiscriminate pregnancy (hence they made the logical choice: stay with one man; it is generally better than being at the mercy of many).

Now with those two discoveries--the pill and the forklift--firmly in women's hands, their dependence on men can be a thing of the past."

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Short Strokes

"An agnostic is an atheist whose parents are still alive."
"It often takes great courage to live the cliche."
"Life's greatest challenge is maintaining hope when there is none."
"There are only three questions: Who am I? What am I? Why am I? The rest is derivative."
"Why is a drunk always brilliant to himself?"
"Do everything in moderation; especially moderation."
"A society is only as high as its lowest member."
"Private guilt and public shame: the glues adhering civilization."
"Crowds, like the truth, are best taken in small doses."
"Religion is early science."
"He and she were perfectly matched: she suffered from verbal diarrhea; he, from mental constipation."
"Failing to achieve a distant goal is more rewarding than achieving a near one."
"Science filters life through logic; art, through imagination."

Companionship: Beyond Race and Ethnicity

Companionship choice is best not about race or ethnicity, it's properly about sensibility. Race and ethnicity are short-term at best--or false at worst--criteria when arguing for social groupings/harmony. A shared set of sensibilities is what ultimately separates--or unites--people.

For example: I like to be around (relax around) people who feel and act as I do. Like appeals to like. I like quiet. I like intelligent, complex analytical conversation (as opposed to competing, argumentative 'sound bites'). I like wit (as distinct from more base humor). I like classical music. I like cleanliness. ("Cleanliness is next to Godliness," I was brought up and subscribe to.) I like courtesy. I like consideration. I like to hear and offer the phrases: '...if you don't mind'; 'thank you'; 'excuse me'; "I'm sorry".

True, I sometimes seek--and find appeal--in the 'other'. Especially when seeking stimulation, I may (and often do) seek a wide diversity of sensibility (life styles, cultures, music, attitudes, etc); the exotic, if you will. But when I want to relax (and perhaps feel 'safe', comfortable), I always return to people and environments that express sensibilities akin to me, who think, feel, act and comport themselves in a manner consistent with me and my contextual desires.

As to my particular ethnicity and race, I am Turkish-American, swarthy of complexion, my original socio-economic class was urban, inner-city, upper-poor; but my sensibilities, my cultural desires, my desired human and physical context) are what others call 'white', or 'WASP', or 'Anglo'; and what I would prefer to call Euro-centric (Northern Euro-centric, at that).

My closest friends come from all races, and diverse ethnicity, but share and adhere to my Northern European sensibilities and desires.

I neither apologize for my groups like-minded choice, nor condemn the 'others'; that is, those with different sensibilities. "To each his own," as my mother used to say. 'Side by side,' I would add; in a free-flowing, while egalitarian, somewhat separate but peaceful harmony.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I am on vacation. I will resume writing this blog on April 24th. See you then.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Reflection Inadvertantly Cast by the Stupidity of Don Imus

To All African Americans: the era of white guilt is unfortunately over. Hispanics and Asians were not central to the slave trade. Can't trade on it's guilt in America much longer. Moreover, it has become 'enabling' more than aiding. Although sad and in some ways unfair, it is a fact. Goodbye Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Hello Condoleezza Rice and Barak Obama. Time to move on.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Short Strokes...

"Truths lie better."
"Age steals from hope."
"Patience undervalues time."
"For the ugly in love there are no mirrors."
"If truth is so wonderful, why do they kill the messenger?"
"Advice is always easier to give than receive."
"God provides; but only when man decides."
"Humor is bravery; watch it laugh at tragedy."
"Circumlocution is the verbal refuge of cowards."
"Pyschotherapy is often like unsuccessful art restoration: we strip away the surface looking for the Sistine Chapel, we find motel art."

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Recent E-mail to a Friend of Mine:

Yes, narrow mindedness still exists--everywhere. But is it racism? Or is it something else?

There are narrow-minded Christians, narrow-minded Muslims, narrow-minded women, narrow-minded blacks (who think that Obama is not black enough!) And if I started 'squire-ing' around an eighteen year old sex Goddess, nibbling on her ear in Starbucks, guess what narrow-minded look you would give me (age breeds narrow-mindedness, too, no?)

As to your experience with people looking at you because of your race: attitudes shift. I offer this hypothesis: the problem with blacks today is more cultural-ism (economic) rather than racism. I must admit I shrink when I first see a young hip-hop black guy walking down the street. Not that I'm afraid he is going to marry my sister, or beat the shit out of me, but because I'm afraid he is going to give me 'attitude', or whip-out a loud CD boom box. My prejudice (pre-judgement) is cultural, not racial. I like the quiet life; and a lack of 'attitude'...from any source.

By the way,I also shrink from 'white trash' and urban women with 'attitude', too. And they shrink from me when they find out I teach acting. Life is often a case of 'like' attracted to 'like'; and repulsed, either mildly or strongly, by 'other'. Cultural diversity is a goal, an is rarely a seamless reality. (It's similar to why they teach 'sharing' in kindergarten: because most human beings do not have an actual proclivity for it.)

But when someone first talks to you, my friend, their pre-judgement is soon banished; they see your 'professorial' manner, and soon discover they are talking to a man who reads History and speaks without a 'black' accent. The true fact of the matter is you are not black; you are a shade or two darker culturally non-black (at least measured against what we traditionally call 'black culture'). (Tell you the truth: you sound so good, I would have introduced you to my sister. But she has a prejudice about being a non-millionairess.)

I'm not saying the world doesn't suck...prejudice (mine yours and included) is (1) about ignorance and fear of 'the other'. (2) Prejudice transcends race. (3) It looks backwards instead of forwards. (4) The quickest way to end it is to end it. A person who spends all his time looking backward trips on the better path ahead.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Problems or Issues

People don’t have problems any more; they have issues. I find that semantic change telling. Issues eradicate a sense of guilt from the adjudicating equation. Issues neutralize the blame game. No fault divorce; no fault insurance. I guess its good. However, I think something has been lost in the desire for a guiltless view of contention: namely, the corrective benefits of personal responsibility.

The acceptance of personal responsibility accelerates the quest for solutions. Whereas seeing contentions as issues make them stand alone; they are something over there, something neuter, dispassionate, removed. Issues require only discussion, not solution. Issues are cool; problems, hot.

In the physical world, however: light comes from heat. Perhaps that is why we have so many unresolved issues today (compared to problems yesterday): no one today is willing to take issues/problems personally, to take passionate responsibility for contentious issues, to take the heat, to resolve the issue in a blinding—and perhaps final--sense of dually revealed light?


The title of this essay is: THE (PRIMORDIAL) IMPULSE TOWARD STASIS; or, My upside/down reading on one of Newton's primary laws: 'A Thing in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion (I see that as death)...'A Thing Stationary Tends to Stay Stationary (I call that life)

San Francisco is a most beautiful town. I think it is the most beautiful town in America. I am always happy to be there: it is so filled with human and architectural diversity. The world...nay, the universe...seems to be represented there.

Last week I went to conduct a seminar in SF. Prior to class I was sitting outside the huge, grey-cemented Ferry Building, right down at the waterfront, along the boulevard known as The Embarcadero. I was having a Peet's cup of coffee, killing time before class, scheduled to be conducted in a nearby building. (Lucky, no? Working in such an environment?) I sat on the northern bay/water side of the building, on a wooden bench. It was 5:20 PM. I had 40 minutes to kill before class; time to think; and watch.

The thing I noticed most were hundreds of people were scurrying past my bench, on their way to the various ferries taking them to Tiberon, Sausalito, the East Bay. Also, in an open area to my right, I saw scores of pigeons scurrying about, darting hither and fro to find pieces of bread and discarded snacks. (Pigeons--like people--are beautiful things to watch--forget the droppings of both; they are sleek, rounded, head-bobbing, alert, ground-bound or air bound, graceful and quick.)

As I watched the scores of pigeons, and the hundreds and hundreds of rushing people, and I thought of other life forms near me, the fish in the bay, and the airplanes overhead,and the trees planted nearby; and I thought: why is life so different in form; and even more provocatively: what do all these different forms have in common?

One of my students in LA named A. would answer: God create the universe. That's what all life forms have in common. To which I would say: But...pigeons? Pigeons...? Are they nothing but an over-effusion of transcendent creative energy? God created pigeons to....what purpose? Once again: Why are there such a diversity of life forms?

Forgetting A. and faith for a moment, I thought: 'Evolution'! But then after a moment, I thought further. If, as scientists would have it, evolution brought all these universal forms to this point, the same God-or-Godless-question applies: WHY? Why did the evolutionary process create so many pigeons and people? And grass, and rocks, and CO2 and H2O, and elephants and automobiles? Yet once again: Why is there so much diversity in the universe? (San Fransisco is the place to ask that question! San Franciscans loves diversity.)

Then I thought: The Big Bang started it, right? The tangible universe (that according to the prevailing wisdom in scientific circles) started with the Big Bang--and the universe of manifold atomic forms is forever moving out from there, ever expanding into who knows what and to who knows where.

And, if so, then, the universe (in substance, at least) must have--at its origins--been a tiny ball (relatively tiny, no?) of--forgive the non-scientific phrase--pre-Banged material. That is, all universal forms that now materially exist in the universe started in common, undifferentiated, unified, small, tight, pre-Banged ball...until the explosion happened (why the Bang happened we don't know...Perhaps A. is right: God) and the tight ball exploded, and the universe and all its molecules started expanding outward until they resulted in all these different progressively complex molecular/atomic compositions; until eventually, at some point (this point, for example) the molecules settled/re-arranged into manifold various forms (Why? To survive? Survival of the fittest?): called earth, H20, pigeons, porcelain, people, etc. still moving outward into the universal void.

But, once again: WHY SO MANY FORMS? And: why so many 'survive-able' forms? And..more to my original point: what do all these forms, pigeons and people share in common? Maybe...nothing besides survival?! That means, we forms are doing these different things because we're only doing the same thing: pigeons scurrying around looking for food, ferry travellers scurry for ferries at 5:20 rushing home after having spent all day in the downtown SF office buildings, me scurrying (or in my case, NOT scurrying but thinking) to survive?

Suddenly, someone on the bench next to me sneezed. I realized it was more of the same thing! Those germs set free by the sneeze are other set of molecules set in motion by the little bang of the sneezer sneezing; they are yet another echo of the original Big Bang. Germ molecules are flying out of him and are now now going to expand, seek to feed upon me, to enter my system through my mouth and nose, finding parasitic nourishment in my universe, my nice, warm, comfortable coffee-drinking body: they are trying to transform in me, into another form (perhaps disease) to survive!

But: THE question remains: how do I reconcile all these forms into a single universe? Different path to survival? What we basically have in common then; not wanting to die? That's why pigeons and people eat? They eat to survive, to maintain their present form. That's why the tiny viruses are seeking me out: to find a receptive survive.

Maybe that's why all universal form is all about: surviving by retaining form; achieving a constancy (what we call ongoing life). The quest to survive is a mirror image of the pre-Big Bang desire for constancy.

After all, the small ball didn't want to explode in the first place!! That's it!! Poor ball!! The outward thrusting energy of the universe, changing form as it goes, is host to an unwanted energy caused by the initial explosion (akin to the pre-Banged ball's death). The whole universe is striving for constancy (survival) because the ball wants to survive, to get back to being a ball!! All particular packages of molecules are trying to stay like the way they are, in the form in which they originally exist as separate entities: as a pigeon, a person, H2O or a porcelain dish, because they are an aspect of universal need for a pre-Bang return. No one or nothing wants to be Big Banged--'energized'--out of it's formal existence.

Therefore, the universe--all molecular life--is nothing but a thrust unwillingly out of its pre-Bang form; like even a human child, unwillingly born out of the constant floating womb into an inconstant world, seeking forever thereafter constancy, survival, maintenance of form, eternal life. People scurry for ferries, pigeons look for morsels of food, the reason I teach acting; we are all common as an echo of the simple desire for the small, universal, primordial 'thing' to get back to its original--and unexploded--state of primordial stasis.

What that meant for the rest of my life I don't know; and I didn't have time to find out. The clock in the tower on the Ferry Building tolled six. I scurried. Late, I had to maintain my survival as a teacher. I know, A.: God helps those who help themselves.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Automated Responses and Me

Help me figure something out, will you. Years ago, when I needed some help from a seller (corporate or governmental), I call them up and a PERSON answered. Now...I no longer get a person, but an electronic voice: a pleasant, sweet, caring--albeit--disembodied--vocal clone of a person. I follow the clone's directions. I press one button...and then I'm told invariably to press more buttons...and more buttons...and more buttons...until an hour later... Soon after I throw the phone across the room--after having screwed up for the seventeenth time the 'button menu' protocol/procedure and had to start all over again with a new call--I have a thought (and I think an enterprising graduate student might want to do a thesis on this): Has anyone ever measured the average amount of time (and brain power) it takes to complete the average the task 'menu' on one of these automated response gizmo's compared to the time it used to take to ask a real person a question? I have the hypothesis that could initiate the graduate student's data gathering toward a thesis: It takes more &%#@$#&% overall time to get a question answered today than it did pre-automated response!

I know the standard rejoinder (to my automation frustration): the new world of automated responses saves the corporations $$$ which they pass onto me in lower prices!!!...(minus, of course the extra taxes they might have to pay to fund unemployment payments and re-training classes for the hundreds of thousands of laid-off telephone operators).

Today I spent an hour talking on the phone to a manufacturer's clone. I got an answer (I think) to the question (I think) I remember asking (after an hour I can't be sure). Anyway, let's assume I an answer, and it was helpful; but...what I would like the graduate student to consider in their thesis is the overall economic impact of all this (to me, of course).

When I teach, I charge about a hundred dollars an hour for a private lesson. So when I spent an hour on the phone today with the corporate clone, it costs me $100--which, when added to the $29 cost of the purchased article (a teapot that used to cost $79...pre-automated response--to the consumer) the cost of my new teapot is $129.

The corporation is NOT saving me money?!!! The teapot only cost $79 before automation!!!! Digital progress has cost me $50!!

Wait,you say (accusingly, to me). Let's be fair; you needed corporate help in the old ($79 teapot) days. You would have had time to spend on the phone then, right?

I agree...but, in the old days, with a real human being on the other end of the corporation phone line, without menu after menu after menu of press button anxiety and mistakes and re-dials, the Help!!-call would only have taken me (and the real corporate person) ten minutes to consummate!! Twelve at the most!!!

Twelve minutes of my time (ONE-FIFTH of $100) equals a Help! cost of $20 in the old telephone days. So the teapot then--with full (help!!) questions answered--would have cost me $79 plus $20 phone time, or $99!!! NOT $129. now dealing in this age of automated responses, I lose $30. Time still equals money...mine...lost: $30 per teapot.

My thesis: The corporations are making (my) money. They can downsize (fire) telephone staff, savings huge amounts of salaries, health insurance, pension plans, etc. True, there is the cost of the corporations installing automated equipment...but that is a one time charge to be amortized over many, many teapots. A socialist would say corporations are stealing time and money from the consumer (me): $30 per teapot!!! However, I'm a capitalist; so I would prefer to say (I want to hypothesize): increasing corporate profits and executive salaries are growing at the expense of individual personal income. The corporations are making the inordinate bulk of the money/profit from automated response technology. (A 'greed' warning to corporations: if they don't watch out, if they keep ripping off $30 per consumer teapot, there are not going to be enough American consumers to buy teapots at $79 or even $20. And the Chinese already have teapots.)

Anyway, that's my hypothesis. Please...some economics graduate student, before you go to work for some large corporation and demand feel you deserve that executive salary and pre-dated stock options, gather some data on the above (time lost/time saved...and for whom) and write a paper, will you?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Feminism: A Brief Twenty-Five Year Report

Feminism started off with such hope: a chance to reform the bleak landscape wrought by men. Unfortunately, all it has done is create twice as many men and double the bleakness.


Dear Ms. W:

Thanks for the dialogue.

I finally read your blog "WILL YOU GO OUT WITHOUT KNOWING". Including your retort/reference to my "Moral Compass" article on this blog (10/11/06) . We agree. (Do you believe it?!) The contemporary American loss of a religious and moral "North Pole" is probably the greatest contributing factor in the moral and ethical fragmentation ('losing our way') in today's society. How we in America get consensus and cohesion back (...I know your answer: return to the B-I-B-L-E !) is America's most pressing question. Question: Why do we have so many lawyers in America today? Answer: Without a generally accepted code of behavior (honor, truth, compassion, standards) we are left to litigating morality and ethics everyday in a courtroom! Right becomes only a matter of legal might. Tragic; sad!

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Do you think Ancient Rome was over-populated with dogs just before its disintegration?

Why are there so many dogs in America today? They (and their ubiquitous owners) are everywhere; in the parks and city streets, poop-bags poised to descend on their charge's excrement at the slightest tilt of the same charge's buttocks. The dogs all seem to come attached with long leashes which their owners always seem to string out along the total width of the sidewalk, forcing walkers of the path and onto the grass.

I am a walker; and I ingest blood thinner everyday (not because I walk; for other reasons). And every day I worry: Am a doggy-bite away from bleeding to death! I know most dogs don't bite...but all it takes is one. Many years ago--pre-blood thinner--I was bitten by a dog during my daily stroll. The dog was in the owner's arms!!! When I expressed my dismay (Dismay? Nay. Pissed), the doggie's owner retorted, in a tone somewhat between apology, chagrin and defense: "He's never done that before!" I retorted, as I was heading home, to call the doctor, and an unwanted date with a rabies needle: "I'm so fucking glad he chose me to start on!!!"

Dogs are increasingly to be found in restaurants, both inside and out, lapping at water-filled doggie dishes conveniently set us by profit seeking restaurant owners who care not who they serve as long as they serve many. I experienced a walking dog on an airplane the other day. The owner--a woman (am I allowed to cite her gender without being labelled sexist?) was walking (I repeat: not carrying...WALKING) her dog down the aisle during the flight, exercising him I suppose. She looked straight ahead, avoiding all dirty looks--mine included--armed with the defiant look of doggy-love and doggy-owner-self-righteousness. Did the dog have vein problems? A very old dog? His vet require periodic walking during flight to fight thrombosis?

I suppose a nation of more and more dogs is inevitable. The upper middle class and above are worrying about overpopulating the earth with children; and even the yuppie childless need something to love. We no longer trust our neighbor (most of us don't even know our neighbors name, do we?) so we need something (a ferocious bark) to warn us against thieves and illegal aliens. And don't forget rapists; is there a correlation, you think, between the increase in the dog population and the fact of more and more single women are living alone?

Oh well. In some ways I am a hypocrite. My wife and I have had animals (pets) in the house for thirty five years. But we always said it was for the children. Now that the children are gone we have absolutely no desire for a pet. Hypocrites?

Or honest? Maybe that's what happened to Rome. Pets ARE for children. Rome disintegrated because no body wanted to grow up. Which often includes the responsibility and care primarily for other human beings!

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Cup of Coffee; and a Muffin

The old man finished his cup of coffee, took off his reading glasses, rubbed his eyes, placed the reading glasses in a case, put the case in his pocket, put on his distance glasses, arose slowly and placed his books under his arm and picked up the bright green ceramic plate that moments before had held his devoured muffin. It had been his one 'sinful' treat for the day; an overfull muffin made of oat bran and honey with little speckles of oat flakes on top. But when he finished eating and drinking and was ready to leave, a lifetime of training and practice in courtesy led him clean his table and to take the coffee cup and plate to the front counter before exiting.

He noticed standing behind the counter two attractive young women, lithe and alert, manned the food preparing and serving area. The old man did not approach them directly; instead he went to the far edge of the counter, distant from them, to deposit his soiled cup and plate. As he approached that end of the counter, his whole body shrank. He tried to totally disappear, to escape what he knew would be their possible disapproving looks. He was very old now, beyond the denial of any 'late-middle-age' euphemism; and he increasingly believed that all youth, in the flush of its own vibrancy, would be invariably judgmental, especially of him. He had been seeing the penetrating stares of pity from young eyes for many years now, and was deeply afraid these women would see something even worse than his age: the flicker of his desire in his eyes.

He worriedalso at this moment about the skin of his hands, the wrinkled gloves of pink worn velvet, no longer powerful, no longer smooth to the touch, but slowed, tentative, ungainly. He hated his own hands: they made him constantly afraid and shy, frightened of even a handshake; much less the full touch of a woman. As he carried the cup and plate, he knew from humiliating experience how badly the nerve endings of his fingertips had been dulled with age, and whatever he grasped might at any moment slip to the ground and crash. From the corner of his eye he caught the full figure of the young woman who had served him earlier. He remembered vividly thirty minutes before, when, ordering his coffee and muffin, how he had forgotten his age for a brief moment and looked directly into her eyes, hoping that he might share a peer to peer moment of human contact, face flushing as she looked up at him to take his order. He saw her stare (he thought) only under his eyes, at the darkened bags. And then, when she had finally looked bemusedly a few inches higher, into his once shiny and luminescent pupils, she stared, a flicker of a smile touched only the right side of her mouth, as if half a gesture was all he warranted. (He had instantly remembered when he had been her age, and how his eyes, 15/15, like those of the great baseball player Ted Williams had been his points of pride. Now those slightly vacant orbs could only see with the aid of thick lenses, his sight having become hazy, out-of-focus and peripherally blurred, a surprise encounter always lurking to the left and right, a world ready to startle him with an unanticipated bump.)

The cup on the plate tinkled lightly as his hand moved toward the marble counter, but he made sure the plate didn't make a sound as he placed it down. Triumphant in its silence, he turned away from the counter; while, from the corner of his eye, he noticed the young women were now distracted with much younger customers. He registered consciously that he was paradoxically relieved as well as chagrined by their inattentiveness to him. Yet as he turned, he turned with a full and awkward three/quarter move so they could not see his face, and he headed toward the door. He stared at the ground. Then, suddenly, surprising mostly himself, he stopped. He held his head high up for a moment. "Look at me!" he was ready to shout. "Look at the wisdom and experience beneath the skin! Is that not beauty, too?" But his voice remained buried deep within his heart. All he could do was laugh hollowly at himself and continue shuffling on toward the door.

The cool air outside surprised him. He was very, very hot.

Random Thoughts

Rules seek to insure humanity against chaos.

Experience distills wisdom from encroaching waste.

You never get too old to appreciate; just to perform.

A man's eye is his final sex organ.

Altruism invests short-term pleasure into long-term gain.

The aged shrink in size because they find themselves increasingly trapped in the boxes of their own thwarted experience.