Archive for January, 2012

January 27, 2012

It means, well, mentally slow. It’s one of those words you don’t get too many opportunities to say, so it was hard to define. Does it mean retarded? No, not exactly, the teacher said, more like if you tell someone to go this way (he gestured with his left hand) and they go right, instead.

Wait a minute there, I do that. Am I egare?

The teacher, pwofese, he’s called, backtracked quickly. No, bad example. Now he tried to come up with one that meant not really retarded but not common enough that he had to worry about another one of us being that way. The class is Haitian Creole — Kreyol Ayiseyen. It is a great language — not written until relatively recently, but good enough to allow slaves to confer, kick the French out and establish the first nation founded by African descendants in this hemisphere. Koupe tet, boule kay — cut off the heads, burn down the houses — was the great and righteous phrase that united them in that endeavor.

But now Egare — hard to define. Like Rick Perry? I finally asked, in memory of the now historical tea party hero who couldn’t count to three. The pwofese looked uncomfortable, because politics are uncomfortable. He nodded briefly and moved on. Leaving me happy to know a word with few, but specific occassions to use.


Growing Old
January 25, 2012

LAKE CLARKE SHORES, FL — The waiting room for my mother’s new Mohs surgeon is like an illustration for the aphorism “Growing old ain’t for sissies.” Nearly everyone there when we walked in today wore a big bandage on his or her face. The only ones who didn’t were the people who had accompanied them there. All the bandaged people were old and very pale. All were sitting there around a table covered with magazines, looking like nothing had happened. If that had been a room full of children wearing bandages like that the din of hysteria would have been deafening. If it had been adults in the prime of life mirrors reflecting grimaces of pain would have been part of the picture. Everyone with a bandage also had a cane or a walker, though, and this was a still life of stoicism.

The nurse called my mother’s name, she went in and emerged shortly with a big bandage. Then she sat down and waited. The way Mohs surgery — excising basal cell carcinomas — works is that the doctor removes some suspicious tissue, examines it, usually removes more, examines that, and that can go on several more times until instead of any suspicious tissue there is a great big gaping bloody wound instead, which at the end of the whole ordeal, like a graduation ceremony the doctor stitches up. My mother has had more of these than I can count, has somehow retained her extraordinary good looks, and is somehow able to make herself continue to go back and having more of these done. The alternative would be that it continues to spread, possibly settling into bone and eventually necessitate more disfiguring surgery. My mother has had this great number of basal cell carcinomas because her skin is suited to Ireland where her anceestors survived and bred, but she grew up in California. It also is her reward for living long. She is 87, has lived longer than anyone in her family that we know of, and has outlived all her relatives of her generation — her younger brother, two cousins with whom she was raised and her husband. She has reaped rewards for living that long — a great love (who sadly also predeceased her), the chance that gave her to learn to enjoy companinonship, the satisfaction of helping, well earned leisure, the chance to see the world improve in some ways and to become more open-minded on some topics herself.

In addition to the sad obsolete experience of outliving people, she has paid the prices of infirmity and some dependence. She has become a target of condescension. A waitress shouted into her ear as we entered a restaurant recently “Good morning Sweetheart,” earning a wondering glare, an entire staff at one doctor’s office spoke only to me about “her” as if she was drooling on herself in the corner, and a huge number of people who don’t know her at all tell me how “sweet” she is, which she is sometimes, but we all know what that means.

We don’t go to that doctor’s office anymore, and quickly boycott any other where we sense a hint of the same. So we like this doctor’s office because no one called her sweetheart or talked to me instead of her, or offered to help her when she didn’t need it even. All good. But some coffee, pastries, perhaps some comfortable recliners, and a less over-booked schedule that kept us there all afternoon would have been nice. Even if growing old ain’t for sissies, it merits an attempt to provide rewards in balance with its trials.

Other people’s madness
January 22, 2012

LANTANA, FL — I don’t think I’m the only one who left the last meeting of our homeowner’s association feeling good about our community. It was a model of protocol. We not only had a quorum, but every single person there behaved with consideration and decorum.

We did of course catch a few lucky breaks. The one resident gets particularly loud and belligerent by the time of evening we continue to hold our meetings apparently got too drunk to show up. The resident who could have taken the most offense at some of the proceedings (we were discussing his unsuccessful lawsuit against the association, and our plans to sue him back for attorney’s fees) has become increasingly distracted and wasn’t paying attention during that part. Also, though, some people made a real effort. One old woman, who has in the past issued such comments as “why don’t you go have another drink,” and “shut up,” held her tongue. The resident who on the last meeting I attended charged on another elderly woman with a balled fist, kept his seat during the whole meeting. And the resident who second guesses the board at every item at every meeting did so without actually saying “you don’t know what you’re doing,” as he has in the past.

So I couldn’t have been more impressed with our little community. I admit to being invested in that pride, having just become our community’s First Lady; the main squeeze was elected at the end of the meeting to succeed the outgoing leader (who completed his term, although, his wife shared with us, he had been urged to step down sooner by his doctor). Then the next day the new president shared with me a new resident’s impression of the meeting: “He said it was madness — sheer madness. He wanted to know if they were always like that.

How embarrassing. We had become, as people everywhere do, inured to our own madness, and think our best day is good enough.

I thought about this when wondering how to answer an African friend of mine who just wrote to inquire about the political scene here. I take it he has picked up some hints that our Republican brothers and sisters face a difficult choice — which of their prejudices to surrender. It would be easy to point to their madness when I respond to my friend — a different mean-spirited, unprincipled incompetent has won each of the primaries they’ve held so far. But then I think how unfair. To them, perhaps, each of those forays into democracy represented progress — as they got rid of the woman who said HPV vaccines make you retarded, the guy who can’t count to three, the one who upon dropping out of the race immediately began to trash his former boss (and who is one of the two who believe in magic underpants), and having already lost the one who doesn’t know where Libya is, but sure would have handled things differently than our president, if he did.

The distinctive appeal of Ikea fills store like Disney Land
January 16, 2012

SUNRISE, FL — It was the special appeal that a classically basic, $49, full-size bed frame had for me, with my exceptional eye for quality, integrity and a bargain, that drew me to join the masses who pulled into the Ikea store in Sunrise, Florida this afternoon.

A map of the location could be next the “Way the Hell and Gone” entry in the dictionary, which was one more thing that made me feel clever and industrious for going there to get a simple basic pine bed. My uniquely simple classic thrifty quality taste led me there. Only to be ushered in by no fewer than half a dozen of those guys with torch-like things who lead you to parking at major outdoor concerts (and easily more; I stopped being surprised enough to keep track). It’s not a store, it’s an event, it turns out.

You line up to get on the elevator, to walk through the front door, to walk through the place. If you forgot something in your car, like I did my glasses, it doesn’t occur to you you can go back and get it.

Your fellow Ikea goers push carts with big yellow bags stretched across the handle, so they don’t have to forgo any of the new necessities they discover along a trek that is actually reminiscent of a tour of the Guggenheim Museum. There’s only one way to go, one way out. The occasional store maps, which illustrate the maze you are in, show “short-cuts” the name, in this context seems to hint at “for losers,” but even if you are tempted to bypass the education in how to live in a room that has every necessity, and looks comfortable and completely unembarrassing, for a total of $750, or how to live in 230 square feet — it turns out those short cuts aren’t there. Perhaps no one used them, so they closed.

But discovering one of the little disillusionments of Ikea is reassuring; you already knew it was too good to be true. What a minor falsehood a missing short cut is.

More serious, as you wind your way around to where the tour is getting serious is the discovery in relatively small print that some of the beds that are on sale require the purchase of an additional mid-beam. That is substantially more crucial information than adjusting the store map for closed short cuts. This means you could get your bed frame home, put the whole thing together — add the slats, that, incidentally, they also don’t make a big deal of telling you your bed frame will be incomplete without (but at least that information is online) — and have the mattress fall right through the frame and onto the floor. Then you would have to go back to way the hell and gone, line up to park, take the elevator, walk in the store, through the exhibits of how to live in 230 square feet, or like a oxymoronically tasteful yuppie for $750, just to get a mid-beam. It seems like it would be simpler for everyone, including the call center customer service reps dealing with legions of new enemies on a daily basis, to put it in the box with the rest of the bed.

The maze had wound all the way to the “self-service” (as if there was some other kind of service, in other words, as if you were taking a clever, independent, plucky person’s option, when that is the only place the maze leads) when I saw that “this needs a mid-beam sign.” It put a chill through me, and I tried to file it away, but let it slip my mind in the midst of locating aisles 28 and 30, (by common aisle definition they are one and the same) for, respectively, bed frame and slats.

Then, on the cart jostling, warehouse store type check out line, one customer after another hit some kind of obstacle that halted their progress and led to dialogue with the great cheerful guy whose function I had once dreamed was only to pass the scanner over cartons of goods, and tell people when to swipe their credit cards. Two guys up three carts ahead got into a discussion with the cashier that lasted at least 20 minutes while everyone behind them began to gesture, make faces, slap the boxes of wood stacked up on their own carts (everything but talk, on the whole because Ikea draws an international crowd it turns out, who can’t count on complaining in the same language.

I told him, the young woman with an ornate Italian sounding accent said, this is the cash register, not the information counter, no?

So I went up and said, why not call a manager to work out the details, we are all waiting.

And the big cheerful cashier said nonchalantly I’ll get to you shortly.

And when he did, what do you know, I got the same individualized attention. He said, This bed might need a midbeam. To which I said, if I have to get back on this line, I’m leaving everything right here. To which he said, then your mattress will fall through right on the floor, which showed he hadn’t been listening, so I explained no it wouldn’t because I wouldn’t have a bed. Then while we waited for someone to call him back to tell him if the Fjellse bed needed a mid-beam we passed the time discussing ways to make that addition less of an ordeal . . .

And then it turned out it didn’t — that I had cleverly picked out a $49 double bed (plus $20 for the slats) that didn’t need one more extra piece — and I completed the transaction, wheeled my cart out, leveraged the lead heavy box of bed bits into my car, and felt very uniquely smart over the whole adventure.

Hard Times
January 5, 2012

Everywhere — The first big news today was that Willard “Mittens” Romney, the guy who has managed to maintain a belief in magic underpants, but not in people’s right to healthcare, got eight more votes than Rick Santorum,whose name is a synonym for, well, for santorum, who has been steadfast in his contempt for human rights, and who brought a miscarried fetus home to meet his kids. This “win” and “second place” apparently was good news for both of them, like in Kindergarten when everyone gets a star so long as they weren’t in time out.

But Michelle Bachman has been in time out ever since, at least, the time she shared that she had just learned from a reliable source (a woman she met a few minutes earlier) that the anti-HPV vaccine can make you retarded (apparently not having gotten the memo that Sarah Palin doesn’t like when you use the word “retarded” lightly). So she read a long speech that ended up being about that she’s not going to run for president anymore, and that Republicans need to unite against healthcare, which is going to make it tough for anyone who followed what she was saying to unite behind the guy who won, by eight votes, but so what. None of the rest of it made any sense either.

The survivors of what I would call, forgive me, Retard Island, who with the exception of the magic underpants cultist, cite Christ more than the constitution as the basis of how they would run things, are coming to Florida soon, to persuade Jews, immigrants, unemployed people — and that pretty much sums up the population here outside of the very rich — that it is in their interests to vote for them.

2011 in review
January 1, 2012

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.