Monday, August 15, 2011

Oldie, 7/24/10: More Orderly, Less Hoarderly

I absolutely love shows like Hoarders, Hoarding: Buried Alive and Clean House.  Not sure why, since I don't have bulging closets, narrow aisles of stuff throughout my house, or even a cluttered car.  I guess what intrigues me is the mindset that gets someone locked into that type of behavior.  My father had a bit of that tendency.  He got it into his head, in his early 60s, to start trying to recycle aluminum cans.  But since he worked full-time during the week and drank full-time on the weekends, he didn't have a lot of time for separating them from the rest of the trash.  And it is quite telling that no one came up with a better plan...like installing a "Recycle" bin for cans only, or having my mother or me take on the task of sorting out the cans.  The result was a growing pile of plastic garbage bags in the garage, which were eventually discovered by field mice.

Oldie, 5/27/10: My Summer of Death and Religious Craziness

It was the third of September.
A day I’ll always remember, yes I will.
‘Cause that was the day that my daddy died.

-Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “Poppa Was a Rolling Stone”

~
My father could hardly have been described as a rolling stone, but he did happen to pass away on September 3rd.  He was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer the year before, but kept it a secret until he couldn’t anymore, in the spring of 1991.  If it had been up to him, he would have died alone, with no fanfare.  He was signed up for Meals on Wheels and Visiting Nurse services, and those kind people were the ones who found him helpless on the floor and called to let me know, over his strong objections.  While his oncologist predicted his death by early summer (and with good reason -- by the time I learned the truth, he weighed about 70 pounds and could be transferred from couch to bed by two slightly built women using a sheet as a sling), he hung on for another three and a half months.  He endured the indignity of having strangers in his house, his living room turned into a sickroom, and most of his personal autonomy taken away.  None of this could be helped -- he was too fragile to move to my home or even to a Hospice facility, and the heavy pain medications made it impossible for him to manage his finances or make decisions for himself.  He and I didn’t get along spectacularly well by that point, so it was awkward on both sides for me to be taking over the checkbook.  But there was nobody else.  Mom had died the year before, and I was the only child.  

It was an extremely stressful time.  Religion didn’t help things at all.


Oldie, 5/14/10: The Oil Companies Can Go Bleep Themselves

Anybody ancient enough to remember the old show from the 1970s, Barney Miller?  It starred Hal Linden as a police captain in Manhattan.  Steve Landesberg, Max Gail and Ron Glass were among the ensemble cast, and beyond the first season, the stage set was confined to the precinct room along with its barred holding cell.  

Along with The Odd Couple, another classic series that ran (also on ABC) during roughly the same time period, Barney Miller’s draw was its dry comedic approach to New York and its denizens.  The writing was almost impossibly crisp -- making Seinfeld’s plots and dialogue look downright clunky by comparison -- with an air of authority to it.  

I remember one episode, and would really love to hear from someone who can corroborate, because I know it’s not my imagination.  I’ve searched archives numerous times but come up with nothing.  So far.

Oldie, 4/14/10: Surveys and Dream-Teasers

Sorry for the looong absence -- just nothing worth writing about.  However, two worthy topics sprang to mind today:  Surveys and dreams.

I take a lot of online surveys, purely out of greed.  Periodically, I'll get a surge of ambition and sign myself up for anything and everything that promises an incentive.  I've been doing this for somewhere between 5 and 8 years and have done reasonably well with it.  If I spent more time and took more risks, there might be even more to brag about.

Harris Interactive is one of my all-time favorites.  They let you tell them how often you want to be "invited" to take a survey.  The shortest interval is every 3 days, which I've signed up for, but usually it's more like every 10 days.  So when Harris shows up in my inbox, there's no rolling of the eyes or "not this again."  Their surveys are well-constructed; they're not too long or too short.


Oldie, 3/29/10: 54? She was a baby!


Excuse the long absence.  Nothing to write about.  Until this morning.

So...how do y'all feel when you hear of the death of a classmate or other contemporary?

My first such experience was at age 18.  A young man that I'd dated in senior year of high school became a homicide victim shortly after the beginning of his freshman year of college.  That one shook me on so many levels.

First, there was the obvious:  The whole "forever" aspect of death.  GT and I had broken up the day we graduated from high school, and in the intervening months, I weighed whether or not I wanted to try and re-establish contact.  Our breakup had been the result of teenage immaturity and that old classic, "communication issues."  I always felt there was unfinished business, and his death brought home the fact that there would never be a chance to test that out.

The loss also made me obsess over the question of whether something like that could happen to me.  I didn't worry about someone murdering me, but just dying in general.  What would people say about me -- would I have died without anyone truly knowing "the real me?"  Talk about being voiceless!  I had accumulated an impressive stack of diaries and journals by age 18, and it alarmed me when my parents, remarking on GT's passing, expressed the opinion that any such writings he may have left should be destroyed.  My silent thought:  Would they have said the same about Shakespeare?  Dickens?  I wanted people to read what I'd written (notice the past tense -- 33 years later I'm not sure that would have been the greatest idea...).  I just wanted to be known...understood.  It bothered me when people talked about GT and painted such a superficial picture of him (nice guy, good student, friend to all, blah-blah-blah).  I didn't want that for myself -- didn't want to be just another nice dead person.  I'd have much preferred to have people speak the truth about me after I was gone, even if it sparked controversy.

This experience made me realize that it can take a very long time to recover from a loss, even if the deceased isn't someone you were close to at the time.

Oldie, 1/10/10: The Hour of Toad

Although my parents encouraged me heartily as a reader, and their efforts bore abundant fruit, their personal choices in which literature to send my way were not, as I've discovered, typical of a child of my age and gender.  They leaned heavily toward more contemporary material, such as a Little Golden Book called Make Way for the Throughway.  My mom also couldn't resist anything having to do with kittens.

If traditional fairy tales or bible stories found their way into the house, they were probably brought in by Dad.  His work took him to various gathering places in the Bronx and upper Manhattan; now and then someone would pass him a volume, which ended up in my hands.  Mom tended to turn her nose up at those.  Probably because they came from Dad, which made them instantly suspect.

What also didn't make the cut was the type of literature you will normally visualize in the hands of a soft-focus Thomas Kinkade-rendered little girl in a crinoline dress, seated by the fire.


Oldie, 09/09/09: Of TV and Comedy, Pratfalls and Walnuts


[Edited to add, months later:  Apparently I'm the only person on the planet who didn't know what "jumping the shark" means -- I could have trimmed this post considerably by simply using that phrase.  Live & learn, I guess.]

My husband Carl watches reruns of Family Matters in the mornings. The sound effects are unmistakable -- the dulcet tones of Urkel and the audience members with their high-pitched "Woooooooooo!" every time two cast members kiss or even make reference to the topic of sex (in this case, the key word was "lipstick." Whatever...).

Hearing those sounds this morning gave rise to a lot of random thoughts about comedy and TV.