Friday, March 31, 2017

"Two Things I Can Do"

“Everybody’s unique.”

An encouraging sentiment generally expressed by somebody who has in one way or another been recognized as unique to somebody or a group of low self-esteem somebodies who are concerned they might not be.

We are all unique.  We’re individual snowflakes – no two exactly alike.  Except for identical twins, for which there may be no snowflakal analogy, though it’s possible, I am no expert on snow beyond the kind that seeped into my boots and made me go to Los Angeles – although come to think of it, even with identical twins, there are subtle distinguishers, don’t ask me what they are, I am no expert on identical twins either.

(I am no expert on almost everything.  Write that down, so I do not have to mention it again.)

The thing is, some areas of uniqueness are demonstrably beneficial to their possessors, while others are entirely useless.  I shall now provide – using myself as a random “Test Sample”, as I am the closest experimental subject at hand, and I enjoy endlessly talking about myself – one example of each.

The Beneficial Uniqueness:

I can write. 

Consistently and reasonably effectively.  Hold on.  I have to check something.


I just referenced a statistic on my blog “dashboard” and…  You know, just typing that last sentence fragment, I have already forgotten the statistic I looked up.  Hold on again... just for a second…

Okay, I got it.

During my tenure at this address, I have written… well this right now is my 2368th blog post.  (Applause entirely unnecessary, but thank you.)  A small number of posts were “reprises”, but safe to say, I have provided more than two thousand original and distinct literary entries.

When that statistic is mentioned – admittedly sometimes by me – I have, more than “occasionally” but less than “frequentl”, been asked,

“How do you do that?”

My unequivocal response:

“I have no idea.”

And frankly, I do not like thinking about it, concerned that the mere mention of that accomplishment would tempt the “Powers That Be” to “turn off the spigot”, inducing immediate “Writer’s Block.”  (For that reason, I have deliberately restricted myself from placing an adulatory adjective before “accomplishment”, such as “impressive” or “prodigious”, which may arguably be appropriate, fearing a retaliatory backlash.  Hopefully, the “Powers That Be” are too busy ruining other people’s lives to take time for these brackets.)

I don’t know how I do what I do.  I never did.  But it’s a unique talent.  I am not bragging, “Powers That Be”, simply using the official categorization of the American Immigration and Naturalization Service, “Unique Talent” being among a handful of criteria granting “Green Card” “Permanent Resident” status in this country. (Although things may possibly have changed.)

I myself deliberately did not apply for my “Green Card” under the “Unique Talent” category in order to avoid the crushing anxiety of having a uniformed Immigration and Naturalization Officer with a gun going, “Unique Talent, huh?  Okay, ‘Mr. Funny Man’, make me laugh.”  And if I didn’t, it was back to Canada, and possibly Law School. 

(An attorney I hired advised me to apply for “Permanent Resident” status under an alternate category of “Small Business” owner, so if the guy with the gun said, “Okay, ‘Mr. Money Bags’, where’s you ‘Small Business” license?” I could say “Here”.  Oddly enough, the actual guy with the gun said, “How come you didn’t apply under ‘Unique Talent’?”)

Anyway, I can write. 

I can’t draw.  I can’t dance.  I can’t consistently drain baskets from beyond the “Three-point” range… and many other things, literally not figuratively, too numerous to mention.

I do one thing that is measurably valuable, and that’s writing.  I have no idea how I do it but I can, and that was thankfully enough.

On the other side of the ledger – the entirely useless “unique ability”…

I can do this.

Wait, I won’t show it to you yet.  (And I am proud to announce that I took, emailed and transferred the accompanying photograph myself.  It feels good in the 21st Century.)

People can do unique things with their bodies.  Some people can touch the tip of their nose with the tip of their tongue.  Some people can wiggle their ears.  Staying with the face, my stepdaughter Rachel has the ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem inside her mouth.   It is actually quite impressive.

Others can make their “pec” and/or abdominal muscles do a “flex-and-relaxing” synchronized dance.  Still others can deliver “America The Beautiful” in burps.  There are all kinds of useless abilities.

I myself can do this one.

I don’t know how (or why) I developed this ability.  It’s not like someone else said, “Can you do this?” and I tried it and I could.  I just spontaneously “went for it” one day and there it was.  Not that it made me “popular a parties”, or anything.  It’s just a personal attribute.

And now, without further stalling – which is what I’ve been doing the last half-dozen or so paragraphs – and please note, I will not be offering this again.  So call your friends and alert them to this historic “Opening” and “Closing” Night.

Okay… drumroll or no drumroll… okay, drumroll.

Presenting my unique talent besides writing...

I know.

But it's what I can do. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

"I Don't Need Much - Uhn Uhn- Satisfaction"

It’s funny.  Just now, typing that title, I got a suddenly contrary perspective to what I was planning to deliver.  But enough about unconscious illuminations…

I considered a while back what it would be like for my writing to “sound 72.”  Recently, I found at least a partial description of what “Writing ‘72’” characteristically included.

As you get older, I have noticed, you become more….

Hold on, I will get the word I am trying to think of in a second.


Which is another thing about “72”.   You, at least momentarily, “blank” on the word you are attempting to access.  I have a trick for retrieving elusive words and recollections.  Who knows?  It might work for you too.  And then it will be not just a hopefully amicable exercise, this post will simultaneously be useful

Wouldn’t that be excitingly “Win-win”?

What I do on such occasions – when I am unable to think of something – is that, instead of forcing myself to remember it, I counter-intuitively say – out loud or in my head –  “I can’t think of it.”  Then, more often than is reasonably imaginable, shortly thereafter,

I do

My guess is, giving up diminishes the pressure to succeed, and my brain, grateful for the relief, rewards me with a recollectional cookie.

Okay, let’s see now…

“As you get older you become more…”


I still can’t think of it. 

(For the moment.)

Anyway, what came to mind on a recent “Thursday Walk” – and by the way, although there is the palpable sensation of spring in the air, I saw leaves wafting lazily down from numerous trees.

Spring and autumn at the same time.  Wacky, wacky California.

Anyway, a second time…

What popped to mind was an anecdote that…

“Reflective!”  That’s the word I was looking for! 

Alwright!  The strategy works again!

(Okay, that was a “Simulation” (based on actual events.)  But take a shot at that “surrendering” strategy.  I find it surprisingly effective.)

Anyway, for a possibly record-breaking third time…

Feeling in an age-appropriate reflective frame of mind, what floated to mind was a story I once heard from (now) Senator Al Franken, related to him by comedian Chris Rock whom I once met – dropping two names superfluous to the story in one sentence, which is likely also a record.

Anyw… no, I can’t do that.  Four “Anyways” is like, “finger down your throat.”

The story I heard concerned a major league ballplayer who had this detectable flaw that the entire league eventually caught on to and subsequently utilized against him.

It was observed that when that particular ballplayer got a base hit early in the game, satisfied that “I got my hit”, his “success rate” at the plate invariably dropped off as the ballgame progressed. 

As a result of this noticeable proclivity, opposing pitchers allowed – as best as natural “competitive fire” will allow trained athletes to concede anything – the opposing pitchers allowed this easily satisfied ballplayer to get his hit during his initial “at bat”, believing – and statistics bore out their hypothesis – that, by delivering the ballplayer early success, they would neutralize his effectiveness for the remainder of the game.

That’s interesting, isn’t it?  It was to me when I heard it.  Becoming even more interesting in the habitual “reflective” posture accompanying my early eighth (“Holy Cow!”) decade on this earth.  

The related anecdote led me to ponder whether I had engaged in a similar behavior.

Consider the evidence.

I had moved to California, trading my glacial surroundings for enveloping sunshine and palm trees.  I’d had substantial early success, working on the most respected sitcoms of the day.  (Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, Cheers.)

But then I arguably “took my foot off the pedal”, as it were, having, similar to the ballplayer, “gotten my hit.”  Leaving my “career aspirations”, such as they were, comfortably satisfied.

It occurred to me that wondered that that ballplayer’s cautionary trajectory might apply equally applicable to meOr, as came to mind at the top of this broadcast and in sync with an earlier post suggesting I might possibly be “normal”, that I did not require tons of success – just an acceptably sensible amount of it – and that I was actually – another concept I am generally not associated with…

… happily content.

I am honestly not certain which one it is.    

Fortunately, I am old and have little to do beyond doctors’ appointments and avoiding imagining what they might find,

So I can think about it some more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"interim Report On My Personal News Boycott"

Concerning my having not watched the news – cable news or any kind of news – since November the 8th  2016, a friend who reacted to the recent presidential election outcome more proactively observed, “You can stick your head in the sand, I suppose…”

That’s exactly what I’m doing.

They meant it as a criticism, but for me, it is a deliberate plan of inaction.

As in,

“If you don’t give him any attention, maybe he will stop behaving that way.”

It works with other bullies.  Why not with this guy?  (Although when you’re 70, you may be set in your belligerent ways.  Especially when they succeed.)

Truth be told, I have never been a major “Network News” aficionado.  The last national news broadcast I watched regularly, John Cameron Swayze was sending gift cartons of Camels to our forces in Korea. 

Which leaves cable news. 

Which is exactly what I did… leave cable news.  By which I mean, CNN and MSNBC, who, by their metrics of evaluation, got everything right. 

Except the outcome of the election.

And, incredibly, all of them still have their jobs.

All those commentators, pundits and expert prognosticators, who, had they been surgeons messing up that egregiously would be unable to show their semi-concealed faces in any Operating Room ever again. 

If they’d been equally negligent police officers – best case scenario – they’d be placed on indefinite “Restricted Duty”, taking “My cat’s up a tree “ reports for the rest of their careers.

And if they ‘d been a screw-up member of a team of acrobat brothers, their duties would be limited to holding the big pole with the seat on top of it that the other acrobats flip up into and be permanently demoted to “cousin.”

Cable news anchors?

Nobody got fired.

(And, had it been scrupulously embedded in their contracts, some of them might have actually received raises.)

Look, we all make mistakes.  The thing is to learn from your mistakes and educatedly move on.

And I don’t think they have. 

(As reflected in the arrogance of ad campaigns heralding “Now you need us more than ever.”  A more superior slogan, I suppose, to “Trust Wrong.”

Not that getting it wrong was their biggest or most important liability. (One which, I have a feeling, there are entirely unaware of.)

What is the mandate of cable news?   To identify the story and to explain its implications.  What happened in this case? 

They missed the story and had no clue about the implications.

Yes, it was an unusual election – one side playing by the rules, the other side playing to win.  Using a boldly counterintuitive M.O.

Normally, being caught in a falsehood –let alone serial falsehoods – and bragging about permissible gropings would be pretty much, politically, “Game Over.” This time, to his supporters, it made the candidate “refreshingly candid.” 

Cable news missed that.

“And you didn’t?”

Of course I missed it.  Because I was listening to cable news!  

I don’t get it.  At some point, these newsgathering organizations must have understood that the 2016 presidential election was demonstrably not “Business as usual.” 

Where was the reportorial “reboot?”  Where was the critical “half-time” adjustment?  Something unprecedented was going on, a veritable tsunami of visceral outrage in some quarters, for which the rebutting tools of reason, evidence and coherent argument were screamingly inadequate.  

Since those were the only weapons they had – and because they had always succeeded in the past – cable news stubbornly continued to use them.

Every night, I’d watch really smart people say the equivalent of “This shouldn’t be happening”, and it kept happening anyway.  What was their reaction?  A daily – with variations in content and always credibly articulated – repetition of “This shouldn’t be happening.”  And when things got shockingly crazy, “This really shouldn’t be happening.”   

That’s not an answer.  (Or a satisfying explanation.)

To repeat…

It’s not that they got it wrong. 

It’s that, because of who they are and the way they are conditioned to process information – and I do not mean with a “liberal bias”, I mean with an intellectual bias…

They didn’t get it at all. 

And, if they are professionals, garnering giant paychecks and unlimited “Face Time”…

They should have.

Will I ever watch cable news again?


As soon as they give me a good reason I should.

(Which will have to be relayed to me, because, as far as cable news is concerned, I have permanently “Gone fishin’.”)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"Crisis Mode"

We just lived an old joke.

We were informed shortly ahead of time that on an upcoming Sunday, they would be turning off the electricity.  When that Sunday arrived and they did, we immediately went “What was that!

We thought we had blown a fuse.  (Warning To The “Heading Towards Old”:  “Short-term memory – Don’t count on it.”  Advises a man known to touch the bristles of his toothbrush to check if he has already brushed.  Helpful Hint:  If they are still wet, you have.)

The information concerning the upcoming “shutdown” explained that our electricity would be off for only an hour.  As it turned out, however, with were without lights, landline telephones and other electrical amenities for an entire day.

Not long enough for the refrigerator food to go bad.  But long enough to drive some people (mentioning no names at this juncture) to the precipice of madness.

Or seemingly close to that locale.

The experience began harmlessly enough.  I was practicing the piano when the lights went out.  No problem there.  Not that I was so conversant with my piano homework that I could play flawlessly in the dark.  The electricity was turned off at twelve noon. 

When I was done, however, I did, out of habit or stupidity – take your pick, though my personal preference is the former – flip off the light switch (to surprisingly no consequence) in the “Piano Room.”  (Which is actually our basement “Family Room.”  I did not want to leave the mistaken impression of “Ooh, they have a ‘Piano Room.’”) 

Okay – one hour with no electricity.  (Or so we originally believed.)  No television.  No Internet.  A dormant Bose FM-radio/CD player, which, for an hour, would be entertaining us with neither.

Okay, I could read.  Courtesy of the afternoon sunlight, imminating in through the windows.  (I figured if there is a word “emanating”, why not a word “imminating”?  That’s stupid?  Hey, “emigrating,” “immigrating”, okay?)

I picked the brightest room in the house, and I lay down – the “brightest room” being a bedroom – for a read.

The book I selected – which I had already started and was thoroughly enjoying – was “‘The Daily Show’ – The Book” – a compilation of “First Person” experiences offered by participants who had at some point worked on that wonderful comic illuminator of duplicity and deceit.  (I would say the book cribbed the template of my “Cowboy Book” but my “Cowboy Book” has never been published, so never mind.  Except that my “Cowboy Book” came before it.  After the SNL book whose template I cribbed, so never mind again.)  

The thing is, with that kind of a book – like reading the phone book from beginning to end, or the dictionary, anything without an actual storyline – you can only read so many “First-person” experiences at one sitting.  (Or, more accurately here, one “lying.”) 

The problem was that, with no electricity, there was little available otherwise to do.  We could have left the house, I suppose, as the blackout was specifically localized, but we were tired from numerous weekday nights out and our Sunday afternoon plan was to stay home, and who was the electric company to alter our itinerary?

Trudging optionlessly ahead, I read way more of “‘The Daily Show’ – The Book” than I wanted to, covering two presidential “election cycles” – 2000 and 2004 – and continuing on to the 2006 “mid-terms”, though with diminishing enthusiasm.  But what could I do?  It was keep reading or take a nap.

I finally gave up and took a nap.  (Or as my three year-old version of daughter Anna once explained, I deliberately “goed” myself to sleep.)

When I awoke, the day’s daylight was rapidly receding.  I returned to my book, keenly aware that time was precipitously running out.  I felt like a pioneer of yore, reading by natural sunlight, and quite soon, I imagined, only by candlelight.  Me and Daniel Boone, reading the same way.  Cool.

Where was Dr. M during this limiting blight to our alternatives?  Playing “Solitaire” on her iPad, electronic devices being immune to blackouts, which is how, via an outgoing cellphone “S.O.S.” we learned that the interruption in our electricity had been extended to eight hours.

Or so they told us.  These were the same people, remember, who had assured us that it would only be one hour.  What if they were lying to us?  What if they had no idea themselves?  What if there was an irreparable difficulty with the “grid” and our relied-on electricity would not ever be coming back?

At least that was my fulminating concern.  Like the hypochondriac presenting recognizable symptoms – and therefore not entirely crazy – I was reacting to a demonstrable happenstance.  Illogically, perhaps, but the eventuality was possible. 

The “Electronic Age” as we knew it might conceivably be over!

And what then?  The end of “civil society”?  Panic in the streets?  Survival of The Fittest?  The Bubonic Plague?

The “Dark Ages” are upon us!  Our Toto electronic toilet seat won’t work.  I know because I stood in front of it and nothing happened!

I realized – or at least the sane part of me did - that I was like a kid placed in a closet for a necessary “Time out” but the closet was not locked and I could walk out whenever I wanted to.  Still, the anxiety felt palpable.  Like I was actually locked in that closet!

We had tickets to a play.  (We decided to leave early – because there was nothing to do at home – arriving at the theater an hour-and-a-half before “Curtain.”) 

I went upstairs to change my clothes, unsure if they actually matched, as I was dressing in the dark.  As I imagined they did in “Cave Times.”  Though with fewer haberdashial alternatives.

Before driving out, a 72 year-old man climbed a ladder to reach the elevated switch enabling us to open our electric garage door “manually”, mirroring a similar procedure employed in “Cave Times” if they had had cars.  I am telling you, it was a nightmare!

Driving back to our neighborhood after the play, we kept our eyes peeled for telltale signs that the electricity was back on, dreading the alternative of going to bed without television.  Fortunately, we discovered it was.

I began to breathe normally again.  Life as we knew it had thankfully returned.  But it hadn’t been easy.

Even though it actually was.