Saturday, July 26, 2008

From the Desk of Weird Thoughts

What is a body orifice so publicly impolite to be seen tinkering with in public and so scary to even consider?

You can touch your face, rub your eyes, comb your hair, touch your elbow, in public, and all that's OK. But don't--at least in public--pick your nose, pick your teeth, scour out the wax in your ears, or, heaven forbid, wipe your rear end. Is it because the outer array of activities is dealing with your external parts, and the latter is tinkering with your inner?

Why are hearing aids more secretive, less talked about than eyeglasses? Is it because hearing aids are worn by old people, and nobody wants to talk about, or admit to, old age? Perhaps, but in truth, I think people should be less embarrassed about hearing aids because hearing aids reveal an old person falling apart, whereas most glass-wearers appear to fall apart much, much earlier--even very young. I can't run very well now that I'm old, that's understandable, even acceptable but imagine if I couldn't run when was young. That's analogous to someone wearing glasses at twenty. (A sidebar of full disclosure: I am increasingly putting on and taking off my hearing aids in public. I am learning to be proud of them. My ears are as wonderful as my eyes. Both are falling apart with equal beauty.)

I think revealing hearing aids in public have a higher public embarrassment factor because they go into the ear--an orifice, an inner hidden part of the body--as opposed to eyeglasses which are hung outside on the nose. To wit: we have designer glasses. We are proud of our eye problems. As part of the Hearing-Aid-Pride movement, I vote for designer hearing aids...yellow wrap-around with beads.

We talk in hushed tones about tampons yet half the world wears them. Why hushed; who are we kiddng?

Because inside the body is private, by definition; secretive, personal and hidden.

Perhaps orifices have a public stigma about them because they are burdened with the mystique (reality?) of disease: warm, inner places where bacteria and germs can hide and develop. As such, they must be shunned in public, like lepers and open oozing bloody wounds.

But now, thanks to commercial chemistry, we have utensils to clean anything: douches for the vagina, Q-tips for the ear, mouthwashes and dental floss for the teeth...believe me something is soon to hit the market with something aimed at our rear-end hygiene. Perhaps when that happens--when the final most stigmatized orifice is as free of disease possibility as is our elbow or thumb--our inner life will gather the same respect as our outer life; and orifices will no longer be seen as scary overgrown dark places, but rather a magic garden where fairies and elves live...for all the world to experience in common and tinker with in public.

Monday, July 21, 2008


It was 6:45 PM. I picked up my files and classbook to go to work. My Grandaughter asked me worriedly: "Where are you going." "I have to go to work," I said, "to teach." I don't want you to go," she said, and ran to the door. "I'm going to lock you in." She stood between me and the door. Of course she wasn't big enough to lock the door and keep me in. And I couldn't stay.

I picked her up, explained to her I would be home later that night, and I would be in bed when she came to wake my in the morning, and that I loved her. I kissed her frowning face, put her down, left the house, went to the car, started the motor and drove to work. I was a very, very happy man.

Noes from a Granddaughter's Visit

She was going to sleep the first night of her visit. My wife and I were accompanying her and her mother to my study, to the pull-out bed my wife had prepared which faced a wall of pictures, most of which are of me during my long-time acting career. My granddaughted looked around the room and frowned; then she seemed frightened. "Who is that?" she asked her mother, pointing to several of the pictures. My daughter said: "Grandpa." She stared at the pictures. "Why does he look that way," she said. "That's when Grandpa was young." She then hid under the covers. That was the way she fell asleep.

The next morning over breakfast she stared at me. "I don't like you young, Grandpa," she said with a firm frown. "I'm sorry. Those pictures are from when Grandpa was an actor."

"I don't like them."

"I was just pretending in those pictures; petending to be mad; and silly; and confused. Just like you shout at me and like me to 'be scared'. You like that, don't you? It's fun. It's make-believe."

"I don't like you young," she said, adamantly.

"OK," I said. "I promise you I will never be young again. I'll always be like Grandpa."

She accepted that.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Small Marital Moments

My wife went out of the house yesterday to pick up a few things from the market. Before she left I had asked her to buy me a tube of shampoo and a separate tube of conditioner. She called me from the market: "Can I just get you a combined shampoo and conditioner in one?"

The inner circuits of my mind whirled. You know how it is: you're about to say something, but the mind asks for a brief review.

Still holding onto the phone, I looked at the night table by the bed. There stood my wife's body moisture creams, and her separate tube of the anti-itching cream. Her body lotion cream was nearby, and the cream for her cuticles, plus the cream for the backs of her hands. Down the hallway I could see into the bathroom; on the counter were her eye creams, her forehead cream, the collagen cream, the calming cream (behind it the ultra calming cream), the dry skin therapy cream, the positively radiant cream, the anti-wrinkling and anti-aging cream, the lemon revive and purifying cream and the aroma therapy cream.. There was even a special cream that removes all the other creams.

"Two in one is fine, honey."

A final thought passed through my mind. "Remember, Cliff; she didn't marry you for your beauty."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Women keep men from flying; men keep women from drowning."

Nocturnal Voices

The bastards never shut up. The ghosts of the past have lousy voices: shrill, nagging, like a spouse who really doesn't like you and can't wait for you to make a small mistake so they can tell you everything you've done wrong in the history of your life.

These voices come to me most loudly late at night, when alone, especially after drinking a little too much (why I drink of course was to shut them up in the first place). They invariably gain control over the conversation.

Initially they pretend to be my friends; Casper the Friendly Ghost. The pudgy, sweet guy is going to help me solve some of my little problems of the day: my writing, my teaching work, paying the bills, etc.

I will research your brain, he says, to find a solution. So start thinking.

So I think...and eventually the Trojan horse emerges. The voices take over the entire process of helpful rumination. Casper becomes Caligula. The inquiries go beyond their original charter; they venture into my past. But...and this is the devious, cruel, reality of these voices...they never never research my good past, the successes, the completions, the happiness. Instead they dredge up from the 'lower depths' of my horrific soul all the uncompleted stuff: the French course I never finished, the girl I loved but never she went off and married someone else. The voices chatter about the mother I didn't call for a month before she died, the father I had cursed for twenty years and died with my tear-stained name on his lips...

The voices discuss these events over and over in my mind, at first seducing me into thinking that the nocturnal review will change my past, the alchemy of memory will turn the unfulfilled shit of my life into new gold: I will take a new French course starting tomorrow, the girl who married someone else is now a widow and looking for me and my forgiving Dad died knowing I always loved him in spite of my asshole treatment.

But these dreams--hopes, aspirations, life course corrections--never FULLY play out; not even in my dreams. They are stories of beginning and middle without end. The voices of recall simply mock me with their false seduction. Completion never ever occurs. Dream stories become perpetual loops, repeating over and over again the key I cannot find no matter how rigorously I scour the room, the hallway that never reaches the distant door, the face that will only show me one eye, one ear, and refuse to speak.

Only more drink shuts them up, or a double sleeping pill, or blessed morning and the start of a new, bright--and hopeful--day.