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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bowling

I'm sure some of you will be every bit as excited as I am to hear that Groupon has bowling tickets. My parents used to laugh when I was a teenager and a potential date announced he liked bowling. He was immediately scratched off the list.

My mom is amazingly good at bowling, quite athletic, really. She could (and probably still can) run lightly up to the beginning of that long aisle, execute a little half bow while simultaneously sliding a foot gracefully behind her, and gently send the heavy, horrid thing sailing lightly down it to score a perfect whatever-it-is when you knock all those pins over.

I almost always had gutter balls. Sometimes they waited until they almost reached those little pins and then they would unexpectedly turn into the gutter. It was usually quite inevitable.

Of course I could never mimic my mother's grace. I would awkwardly stand there, shifting from one foot to the next in an agony of indecision, looking self conscious, as I got ready to launch the ball. If the pins had been alive, they would have seen me coming and said "Alright, then, time to have some tea."

Occasionally the ball would take pity on me and it would take out a pin or two as if to console me for my dismal losing streak. This was actually the cruelest joke of all, as it would give me enough encouragement to continue to soldier on through the several more gutterballs that followed.

Of course you can never say enough about the rental shoes. Part of the thrill of bowling is to never be able to wear comfortable footwear. And as you sat, waiting for your turn to feed the gutter, you would stare at those awful shoes, wondering what really lurked within: Athlete's Foot? Worms? Some new form of flesh eating bacteria? Those shoes never fit, they always smelled funny, and they were never anything you'd remotely consider wearing in public.

Although there were exceptions, the type of people who frequented these bowling alleys all reminded me of Fred Flintstone. Even the women looked a bit like him, although some had mustaches that were much more impressive than the one he sported when he was "in disguise". I often wondered if they all would really be as excited about their weekly Bowling Night if it didn't involve the beer and pretzels at the concession stand and their chance to occasionally wear coordinated pepto-bismal pink shirts with their names embroidered on the left pocket.

At some point the bowling alleys decided to create something a bit sexier and they advertised Glow Bowling, which is the same as bowling, except with lurid black lights. That meant that if it was dark enough and you had enough concession stand beer in you, some of the women who looked like Fred Flintstone might magically morph into a more acceptable Wilma and Fred might start to look a bit less caveman-like. Other than that, nothing is different: The shoes are less noticeable, of course, but what lurks in them remains.

Some people lament the shrinking bowling alleys: Many are being mowed under and have been replaced by shopping malls. All I can say is that if you're in a shopping mall, you have the opportunity to wear good footwear and there is a zero possibility that you will have a gutterball. Your chances of encountering Fred Flintstone are also somewhat reduced, as he has now moved on to the one remaining bowling alley or local pool hall.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Why I Married a Man Who Was Much Younger, and Why it Didn't Work

People are naturally curious. I live a relatively cheerful and open life with my friends and family, so it's not uncommon for people to ask me about my failed marriage. The most common question is "Why did you marry someone so much younger than you?" The second most common question, for those who know the circumstances, is "Why did you choose someone who was a bit mentally slow and had no education? Didn't you get bored?"

The easiest answers are the direct ones. But this isn't a case of easy answers, despite the appearances.

I fly a great deal for my job and that's when I catch up on my reading. Although I had intended to dig into something meatier this weekend, I realized (in the air of course) that I had forgotten to download a particular book into my Kindle before take-off and I was stuck with a selection of novels I had downloaded "just in case." So as I flipped casually through my selections, I ran across The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had loved it as a teen, and this was a good opportunity to re-read it. Oh, as an adult, do I see so much more there than I did as a child. And so I will let Baroness Orczy explain my choices. Her voice speaks for me just as she speaks for Marguerite:

"He seemed to worship me with a curious intensity of concentrated passion, which went straight to my heart. ... But it has always seemed to me that it must be heavenly to be loved blindly, passionately, wholly. . . worshipped, in fact--and the very fact that [he] was slow and stupid was an attraction for me, as I thought he would love me all the more. A clever man would naturally have other interests, an ambitious man other hopes. . . . I thought that a fool would worship, and think of nothing else. And I was ready to respond... I would have allowed myself to be worshipped, and given infinite tenderness in return. . . ." [Chapter 7]

Some people have mistakenly referred to him as a Trophy Husband, and there is no doubt he could be a very handsome piece of arm jewelry. However, I was not, and never will be, in a position to be able to afford to support a Trophy Husband and certainly that played a part in our demise... yet I did not marry him seeking a Trophy Husband.  

After I married him I discovered that he approaches anything he desperately desires with that same dogged devotion and intensity: Cars, boats, and (in our case) me. But once he gets what he wants, he quickly grows tired of it, like a spoiled child with a new toy. And so, unlike Marguerite and Sir Percy, our marriage was not worth saving and there was nothing hidden under the surface. Even his devotion faded as quickly as a flower picked at noon.

I bet when you saw the title of this article that you thought I was going to say our marriage didn't work because we were from different generations. But he was a big 80s fan and knew more about the 80s than I did, even though he was born the year I graduated from high school. Still, he was from The Entitlement Generation. There is no doubt that there are many people from that generation who, because of their parents, have grown up cossetted and spoiled, never having to pay for bad decisions, and always rewarded for simply existing. However, I have friends from that generation who are hard working and dedicated to their careers and their relationships. 

Some people have told me (in so many words) that *I* was the true fool. And there is some truth in that. I have learned from this, and I have learned that marriage must be between equals. But is it ever truly foolish to desire to love and be loved? And how do you stop a train wreck that has started? I could have walked away many times, but I was often stopped by pity, or love, or hope. 

A year and a half ago, just after my divorce, my father (a retired college professor) peered at me over his glasses and asked "So what have you learned?"  What indeed. To this day, I honestly don't have all the answers, but I will share some of them here. The rest are in a book that I am getting ready to publish.

1. There is a reason that the Bible teaches we should be equally yoked, and I don't think this is merely about faith. We are to try to find people who are similar to us in our values, our outlook in life, our choices. I know many women who hold the men they're with to lower standards than they hold themselves. We cannot continue to give out hall passes in the game of life.

2. Although a handsome face is a nice thing to see first thing in the morning, if there is nothing below the surface, it quickly loses its value. Conversely, men who are not conventionally attractive can open their mouths and become sexy and desirable.

3. Know the character of a man before you marry him. Find out what his family is like and what they say about him. I remember when his cousins were talking about him one day as we sat around the breakfast table, drinking coffee. As carefully as they could, they were warning me. Listen to what friends and family say and don't dismiss it casually. His cousins still stay in touch with me periodically. He has not changed: He never will.

Ultimately, the biggest error was to marry him without our both having the same definition of true love. I do not believe that love is merely a feeling and when the feeling is gone you can leave. Love is behaving lovingly and devotedly, even when you don't feel like it. If we merely indulge in feelings and the whims of the moment, we are doomed before we start. Love is more like values and principles than it is that heady punch-in-the-gut moment you get at the beginning of a new relationship. To me, the definition of love is simple. I wish it were that simple for others.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I stood in line behind a woman at The Dollar Tree. The girl who was ringing her up finished, and said "Happy Holidays!"  "Merry CHRISTMAS," snarled the woman in the true spirit of Christmas. "Er, Merry Christmas," the salesgirl agreed.

I know it's trendy to denounce "Happy Holidays" but I love saying it, even though I celebrate Christmas. Why? Because I have dear friends who also celebrate Hannukah. In fact, right now it's more appropriate to wish everyone a Happy Hannukah because it's currently happening, and goes through December 24th. Christmas doesn't happen until AFTER that.

I understand the "Keep Christ in Christmas" mantra and I completely agree. But this is not Santa vs. Christ, it's Christmas vs. all the other celebrations that happen this time of year and I think it's perfectly fair to say "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" to all of you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dash it All

Then there's my colleague who called La-a and asked hesitantly "Is La Ah there?" The mother said "Yes, but her name is Ladasha. The dash isn't silent." 

I can't make this stuff up.

Add This to Reasons to Pick up Coffee on the Way Into Work

Yesterday I walked into the break room to see our beautiful young secretary angrily mopping the counter and muttering to herself. "What's up, hon?" I asked.
"People are SUCH SLOBS," she growled. "Some idiot made coffee and took out the pot and let it spill all over the counter and the floor, too." "That's awful," I agreed, as I reached for a coffee cup. She then bent over and wiped up the floor before she stood up once more and began to wipe down the coffee pots with the same rag.
I think I'll pick up Starbucks on my way in from now on.

Zoolander: Eat Your Heart Out

The guy who answered the phone snapped "We're not interested." "Whoa, whoa," I said. "You don't even know what I'm calling about! I'm not a telmarketer!"
"Modeling and acting, right?" the guy answered. "Er, yes," I said, startled. "We don't want it," he said and hung up.
Finally someone who really understands our subtle plans for world domination one runway model at a time.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Should we stop flights from Ebola-torn countries?


Should we stop flights from Ebola-torn countries? Here's a reality check: The economic impact of Ebola, if it spreads in the US, is bigger than most people realize. We will find ourselves plunged into another Great Depression, with little way to recuperate from it in our lifetime. “How?” sputter the current administration’s apologeticists in righteous indignation.  Here’s how:

Our healthcare system, already plunged into chaos and financial difficulties due to new government mandates, will come to a staggering halt when faced with Ebola. The insurance companies that weathered the new standards of Obamacare will be faced with bankruptcy as medical costs soar for patients who must undergo expensive treatments. Many of these patients will die (50%, if statistics hold true, but I’ll even give you 40%) and they will not be able to pay their portion of those costs. Hospitals will also be bankrupted and strained beyond capacity. Some healthcare workers will quit, rather than have to work directly with such a plague.

Transportation will grind to a halt. Therefore, the supply of goods and services, even basic ones such as food and water, will be impacted.

Some people will refuse to go to work, but most people will continue to go to work, terrified on a daily basis but unable to afford to stay home. And if they did stay home, what then? They must venture out to get food, or have it delivered, and no one can ever be completely free of contact with the outside world. This trepidation will cause a decline in purchasing power. People will sit on their money and their savings, waiting until the dust settles.

So, can we afford to stop flights from Ebola-torn countries? We can’t afford NOT to.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sociopathy in Mankind

People are scandalized, and deservedly so, by the continued atrocities of the Muslim terrorists overseas. A third man was recently beheaded by sociopaths who are only too happy to do so.

This is not uncommon. We saw it in the Japanese, Germans, and Italians in WW2. To pretend we didn't is to do a disservice to history and the needless sufferings and deaths of many. Throughout history, it was repeatedly shown that murder and torture come easily. Because of that, I always avoid the term "humane", since it implies that humanity is, as a whole, kind and good by instinct. There is nothing further from the truth. Sociopathology is more prevalent than we'd like to admit, and we are all capable of it, as the infamous Milgram Experiment showed us.

Human nature is why so many of our ancestors were either the victims or the inflictors of various forms of torture and horrific deaths since the world began. There is only a thin veil between civilization and the primordial beast, and although we don't always understand why a sociopath chooses to step over to the other side, we know that they never return. If a pit bull, who's always been friendly, suddenly snaps and kills a child, we don't try to rehabilitate it. We put it to sleep. We know that the dog has crossed the line, and there is no turning back. Some decisions, whether by man or animal, are irrevocable.

The biggest mistake that we can do is to not study history, or take it seriously.  As George Santayana famously said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Although we are horrified by the terrorists' actions, we should not be surprised. Nor should we be surprised to see the articles that discuss the terrorists' recruitment of US youth. The terrorists appeal to anyone with sociopathic leanings. You can whitewash their attraction with the labels "mesmorizing", "deceiving", "gullible", but the fact remains that every American knows what terrorists are and what terrorists do. If they are signing up for the program, it is because deep down inside there is a ravening bloodthirsty beast who wants to dominate, has no regard for the lives or feelings of others, and enjoys mayhem, torment, and subjugation.

If we are able to stop a recruit from going overseas to join the terrorists, they should immediately be locked up and put under psychiatric evaluation for that very reason. If you are willing to go to such lengths to become a terrorist, there can be no room for you in a civilized nation any more than there is room for fire ants at a picnic.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Flying the Somewhat Friendly Skies

I fly. A lot. And as I was thinking of all the wonderful people and stories I've heard in airports and from fellow passengers, it hit me that I should start a compilation. Their observations and stories should be shared. They're tales of joy, hope, fear, and possibly finding love at the airport:

TSA Employees Need Better Customer Service Skills

I sat next to a young woman recently. She was bulging with a 7 month old baby (a.k.a. "fetus"), and happy to whip out her cellphone and share all the latest photos. Now that they're 3D (as opposed to the standard sonogram type we had in my era) the little girl really 'came to life' on screen. That is, with the exception of one unfortunate shot that made her look like Skeletor. I was quick to point that out and we had a laugh. But then the conversation turned serious.

The young mother-to-be told me that she'd been up against a TSA employee who kept insisting that she had to go through the scanner and she kept telling him that she couldn't because she was pregnant. "Oh nonsense," he scoffed. "That won't hurt the baby." Incredulous she asked for the supervisor, who allowed her to avoid the machine altogether. "But can you imagine what would've happened if he'd been talking to a young mother who didn't know any better?!" she said to me. Yup. Everyone would've had a chance to see Baby Skeletor. But, as it turns out, it probably would've been harmless to the baby. To read more about this, please see Jim's correction at the very bottom. If the TSA agents had taken the time to explain this to the young woman, she might still have opted out, but she wouldn't be spreading this as a tale of potential disaster.

Some TSA Agents Don't Know What Service Dogs Are

And in the small airport of backwater Little Rock, Arkansas, I had a young woman sit down next to me with the tiniest dog in her lap. Being a dog lover, I felt that I'd died and gone to heaven. I had just been subjected to intense scrutiny because I had a laptop and metal rivets on the pockets of my jeans. Another woman had the agents pull out every tiny bottle she had in her luggage and painstakingly swab each bottle. We were joking about how they were all in training and feeling that power rush when "Emily" shared her story. Her dog ChiChi is a service dog that alerts when she has seizures. The little dog goes with her everywhere. When she came up to the agents in Little Rock, they stopped her and told her that the dog had to be in a carrier. "No," she explained patiently. "It's a service dog."

They acted like they'd never heard of a service dog before. "Well you still have to have her in a carrier," the agent said imperiously. "No, I don't," Emily said patiently. She is a softspoken little thing. They went round and round for a while and finally she asked for a supervisor. She handed over the documentation to the supervisor but "I felt as if they were just play acting, you know, like if you give a toddler a book to read and they pretend to read it but it's upside down," she said. Eventually they gave up and waved her through. Without a patdown. Without residue screening. So let's hope no terrorists have service dogs in Arkansas.

The Snotty Baby

Most people tell me that when it comes to seat companions they have two fears: 1) They'll get someone obese who should've bought two seats but is cheap enough to try to squeeze into one and lap over into their neighbors, or, 2) they'll get a screaming baby.

I got the screaming baby, complete with, I am only guessing here...Ebola. OK, I'm exaggerating a wee bit, but this child was a mess. It also was completely undisciplined, so it was allowed to stagger about, whining and screaming, wiping copious amounts of snot everywhere, while the mother would speak coyly to him. She would loudly say things like "Oh come on, Dantainerius. No one wants to hear THAT," and then would look about the cabin for approval, as if to say "Oh isn't he PRECIOUS?!" Everyone would steadfastly avoid eye contact.

In between us sat a young man that could put Adonis to shame. My friend and co-worker, "Amber", was sitting in the next row in front of me and she kept gesturing to Adonis, who calmly put his headphones in, pulled his cap over his eyes, and appeared to sleep throughout the chaos as the little monster repeatedly snotted all over his knee caps.

It was a two hour trip. It felt like four.

Finding Love

My friend "Marcie" flies with me. She's wracked up so many frequent flier miles she could probably travel the world for free. Twice.  She's a gorgeous older woman in her late 60s with an ebullient personality, and madly in love with her husband. As I'm single, she gave me hope one day: "Don't worry, honey," she said. "You won't be single for long. You may not be looking for anyone, but there isn't a time that goes by that I'm not asked out by some guy I just met in the airport."

Don't forget I told you this story: Some day there may be a sequel.

A Correction

My friend, Jim, is an expert. He writes:

The body scanners don't use x-rays. The TSA agent was right, the woman is misinformed. The scanners use radio wave frequencies, somewhere between cell phones and infra-red. X-rays are above ultra violet. Visible light is above infrared and below ultraviolet. So nowhere close to X-ray. 

Oh another thing - you are exposed to about 50 times more "radiation" in one hour inside that metal tube flying at 35,000 feet. But nobody seems too worried about that.


The supervisor was also right. Anyone can opt out of the body scanners because various people made such a big deal out of "naked scanners". Also a lot of people don't understand the difference in ionizing radiation and light. Both are actually radiation, but one is not harmful. So they think that radio waves and cosmic rays are the same. Well they sort of are, in the regards that both have a frequency and wavelength. 

Anyway you can request to opt out and the TSA is supposed to say "ok", then send you to the "machine alert" line for a physical pat-down and/or hand held metal detector screening. Which is slower and more intrusive, thus the push to get people to use the machine. It is faster for everybody involved. 

But the passenger was still ill informed. But whatever the case, anyone can request to not use the machine. 

If you fly often apply for global entry. It gets you into pre-check.