Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween with the King

My husband quit wearing his pig mask.  For years he kept a full rubber headed, blunt-nosed, cigar-smoking pig mask near the door on Halloween.  When the tiny Tinker Bells and Bat Men approached in innocent anticipation and rang our bell, he’d rush into position; sweep the snouted face over his head, swing the door open, and growl.  What pig growls? 

The tiny trick-or-treaters, stunned mid-sentence, could only step back and stare.  Their parents would press forward just in case the need arose to swing into protective action.  But it was all in good fun, ha ha!  We kept lots of Snickers and Milky Ways in a large jack-o-lantern bowl, and never rationed the kids.  It’s the least we could do to compensate for the confusion.

Now, that mask, wadded up and stuck to its latex self, jams a corner in a box in the attic along with residual spider webs, my witch’s pointy hat, and a life-sized, glow-in-the-dark plastic skeleton.  It’s just as well. 

Our claim to Halloween glory, my husband’s and mine, was the year we won the costume competition dressed as “Pat.”  You remember Pat, don’t you?  The androgynous character from Saturday Night Live who creeped everyone out because you could never be sure:  Was Pat female or male? 

Pat had short-ish curly black hair; so we bought wigs.  Pat was heavy; so we padded ourselves – this was back in the lean days, you understand.  Pat had breasts, though it was never clear if these were man breasts or woman breasts; we incorporated accoutrements for the illusion. Black horn-rimmed glasses, matching blue plaid snap-button western shirts, Wranglers, and boots completed the ensemble.  

But the crowning touch was Pat’s wheezing, whining voice.  My husband perfected it.  He spoke for us both all night long.  The voice, and the self-caressing gestures that made the judges cringe, blink, and pull away as though they’d just inhaled a big whiff of yellow onion, secured the trophy. 

Aahh.  Those were the days. 

In my heyday, I dressed as Andy Rooney, the Living Dead, even punk rocker Sid Vicious – or at least someone he would have hung out with.  One of my students spiked my hair in what he called a “Statue of Liberty,” and lent me his heavy black leather jacket.  Ripped black nylon hose, chains hanging and safety pins everywhere; black lipstick and black fingernails.  Man that was fun. 

One year I wore a Superman costume complete with boots and cape.  I flew all over campus that year.  The kids loved it.  Not sure what my boss thought when I attended a meeting at the District Office in full Man of Steel regalia.  I felt powerful.   

I kept the full-body panther suit handy and wore it for many years, whenever the mood struck me, not just Halloween.  Where is it now?  No matter.  The moths have had their way with it. 

It’s not important.  The past few years, the number trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood have dwindled to single digits.  We still stock up on just-in-case candy, but wind up sending it to my husband’s office the next day.  The kids don’t visit houses anymore.  They wear store-bought costumes prescribed by Hollywood merchandisers and patrol stores downtown or at the mall, moving from merchant to merchant with their parents, working a pattern for maximum take, minimum interaction. 

Gotta be this way.  I understand.  Still… 

Gone is the excitement for a teenager, face painted, costume pulled together out of mom and dad’s closet, carrying his pillowcase, and running through the darkness with his friends, thrilled with the imaginary world that’s only open once a year.  This year, teens will dress like Snookie.  They’ll buy false six-pack abs and make like “The Situation.” 


The next step in homogenizing Halloween?  Government takeover!  Connecticut lawmakers have a bill pending that will move the event in that state to the last Saturday of the month instead of the 31st.  OK.  Why not?  Civilize it.  School nights.  I get it. 

But I’m not done.  I don’t have to give it up.  I’m not a kid.  And I still have an Elvis in me.  I’ve got a hankering to dress up like Elvis.  I know.  I should settle for Priscilla Beaulieu, but she’s just too easy.  Anyone can tease her hair into a rage and line her eyes with a magic marker.  

But Elvis.  Elvis!  Now that’s Halloween!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet the New Boss ~ Same as the Old Boss

Occupy Wall Street has drawn our attention, but trying to understand them feels too much like trying to find Waldo:  Lots of details and no center of focus.  We’re unclear where we should be looking.   

When asked by news media what their cause is, protestors at each location have answered with a remarkable range of hopes, dreams, frustrations, and non-sequiters.  One said, “We’ve got to get the money out of politics.”  Another said, “These corporate dollars should be going to schools.”  A third said we should be growing corn for ethanol!   

Even those who seem to be targeting the unpunished bankers of Wall Street haven’t articulated what they want.  In the unlikely event that a Fat Cat in a high rise had even the mildest inclination to inquire, who would step forward and speak for the protestors?  What would she say? 

No doubt there is unrest in the United States.  Something’s wrong and Americans don’t like it.  At the very least we know that Washington’s infuriating partisan charade has settled into our living rooms.  While politicians play-act, they seem to mirror the malaise drifting across the countryside, through our towns and businesses, tugging at us, weighing us down, contributing to our economic doldrums.

But the thing is, most of us don’t understand the conglomerated behemoth of a financial system that has swollen and continues to swell.  What does it want?  More?  Shouldn’t it be on our side?  After all, if it saves us, we save it.  Right? 

We do know that we resent “them” and blame them for the joblessness sleeping on our couches and standing in the kitchen in front of the fridge at midnight.  We feel them reaching into our pants pockets when we know they have money of their own.  We don’t like the arrogant, indifferent attitude that shrugs its shoulders and looks away when asked what has gone wrong. 

Even the analysts don’t seem to understand our economy; otherwise it wouldn’t be so easy to find “experts” with views diametrically opposed.  They’re giving it their best guess, God bless them everyone, but “black is white” and “up is down” just aren’t helpful.  Have the banks flexed and the government flinched?  Who’s in charge?  What are the rules?  Who’s the enforcer? 

When pelted with fact after conflicting fact, that is, opposite statements which all may be true, we cannot surrender just because we’re unable to spell out our own internal certainty that we’re being messed with on a national scale.   

That’s where the Occupy protestors come in.  But they didn’t think it through.  They haven’t done their research or planned their arguments.  They don’t have a spokesperson or a point to stay on.  So they camp out and shout out the Tommy Smothers retort, “Oh Yeah?” 

They know they’re right about the gut of the American people:  We know in our hearts and minds that those whom we’ve trusted are screwing us over, either through their greed, their cynicism, their self-interest, or their incompetence. 

We know our protestors mean well.  We also know the road to hell.  One of several fates looms for Occupy Wall Street.  First, they and their affiliates could slip into that pale corner of the conversation inhabited by those who failed to plan and thereby planned to fail.  They could become the shooting star, the flash in the pan, the limp noodle of grass roots movements. 

They could, God forbid, lose control, vent those frustrations borne from their own lack of focus, lack of leadership, lack of response, and ineffectiveness.  They could be put down the hard way.  Ill portent for all involved. 

And a third, most intriguing option presents itself:  Occupy Wall Street has amassed a mountain of food and supplies, filling a cavernous space near Wall Street with those donated goods to sustain their movement.  

Even more interesting, they have collected $300K and opened a bank account.  That’s right.  Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States, is the repository of Occupy Wall Street funds. 

Who signs those checks?  Who will be paid to do what with that money?  Will the cities “hosting” these occupations be repaid for the added sanitation services, for example?  Will Occupy Wall Street redistribute these funds among the other Occupy groups across the country?  With no stated goals and no pact with anyone, the imminence of irony arrives.   

Will “Occupy” go corporate?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goodday Australia!

Hello Innaloo!

So great to hear from you!

Keep reading!

TDP ~ Carolyn

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dad, Can I Sell Pot? Go Ask Your Mother!

What you permit, you promote.   

I received a swift demonstration of this lesson when I was a high school principal.  During Breast Cancer Awareness Week I chose to ignore a student’s T-shirt sporting a smiley face declaring, “I Love Breasts!”  He was a good kid after all.  Happy go lucky.  His shirt reflected breast cancer awareness, right? 

Next day, a half dozen of his buddies donned similar shirts, now depicting happy hands reaching toward the breasts they loved.  By the end of the week, awash in inappropriate references to healthy breasts and all that affection, I learned another lesson:  It’s a whole lot easier to loosen up than it is to tighten up. 

It looks like the federal government is about to be schooled in those two truisms.  

The Justice Department practiced benign neglect when Californians, and voters in other states, made it legal to cultivate and sell medical marijuana.  They did nothing, thereby promoting the actions of enterprising vendors who established dispensaries across the country. 

Sure enough, business boomed and expanded into lucrative markets.  “Research and Development” introduced new, improved products.  All aspects of the marijuana industry flourished, from cultivation to sales.  One Northern California dispensary reports selling $51million dollars’ worth of medical marijuana between 2004 and 2007.  It paid no sales tax citing the state law exempting prescribed medicines. 

Even President Obama declared he had little interest in going after state policies related to legalized cannabis in spite of the fact that they contradict federal laws.  Why?  Civics 101 taught us that states can make laws stricter than federal laws, but not more lax.  Yet Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder gave the issue low priority.  OK.  Just look the other way. 

Now, after15 years of inattention, the Feds have wakened from their benevolent snooze.  And they woke up cranky.   

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said, “[Prop.  215 was intended] to allow marijuana to be supplied to seriously ill people on a nonprofit basis, but it has been hijacked by people who are in this to get rich.” 

You can see she’s shocked.  Seriously. 

This week, the Justice Department notified dozens of California’s dispensary owners, as well as residential, commercial, and agricultural property owners involved in activities deemed to be drug trafficking, warning them to cease such operations within 45 days or face consequences including bank account and property seizure, civil lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions.   

“These actions should surprise no one,” the Justice Department intones, “[the DOJ is] simply making good on the threats they’ve been issuing for years.”  Like the permissive parent who warns and warns and warns a child, but fails to follow through, they’ve now reached a threshold and lost their temper.  Let the punishment begin.  

That’s the unpleasant business of tightening up.  Reason doesn’t always prevail when you’re trying to save face. 

In the name of logic, and at the risk of showing my naïveté, I wonder aloud, why isn’t medical marijuana dispensed from pharmacies?  No other drug prescribed by a doctor can be sold from a dispensary unless it’s a licensed, regulated pharmacy. 

In every other case, a doctor sees a patient, diagnoses a problem, and issues a prescription.  The patient takes his prescription to a pharmacy; the pharmacy dispenses the drug, which the patient takes home and ingests.  Why is medical marijuana different? 

Even those who might object to recreational use of the drug accept its medicinal benefits.  At the very least, the medical community itself endorses marijuana as an alternative to mainstream drug therapy. 

So, why is it OK for those patients to acquire their medicine out of a storefront?  Why is it acceptable for those patients to fire up their Maui Wowie on the premises, essentially getting high in public?  Oops…we can all stop at the drinking fountain and take our pills.  We can even get high at the brewpub without so much as a fare-thee-well.  Best not cast those stones. 

The better question is:  Why must they buy their prescribed treatment in sometimes unsavory and unsafe circumstances?  If my grandma has glaucoma, why does she have to traverse the unkempt masses to secure her legally prescribed remedy?  (Why do so many medical marijuana patients seem unkempt?)  That’s just wrong. 

Somebody needs to step up and be a parent, er, leader.  Define your terms:  what’s legal, what’s not?  What’s medicinal, what’s recreational?  Set clear expectations and realistic, enforceable consequences.  Then do what you said you would do.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Is Time Running Out for the Beautiful People?

Here’s the beginning of our ignominious end - NBC News anchor Brian Williams teased viewers this week with the headline of an ominous lead story coming up on the nightly news:  certain hip replacements are failing and will have to come out. 

Easy for him to say.  Seems thousands of bionic men and women now face the daunting prospect of enduring a double surgical procedure to remove and replace their…replacements. 

So what’s next for Jane Fonda and all the rest of us boomers who’ve succumbed to deteriorating joints and metal-on-metal replacements for our ailing bones?  Jane’s a perfect representative of the post-boom phenomenon.  She’s had knee and hip replacement along with back surgery.  She’s 72, healthy, and looking great.  But that may be more aptly attributed to her cosmetic surgery.  She’s owned up to having the bags under her eyes deflated.  

What if all manner of high-tech enhancements developed and implanted over decades of the boomers’ era turn out to have a shelf life, as it were?  What if it’s not just Jane Fonda’s hip and knee replacements that will need recycling?  What about her baggy eyes? 

More than a few folks have had similar elective procedures.  Sure they’re non-essential and totally vain.  But are they susceptible to the ticking clock, too?  Are we approaching the Y2K of the self-conscious aging elite? 

If we don’t get this under control, we could wake up to the luddites’ nightmare:  All our technology turns on us, rebelling in the most unfortunate and unattractive ways. 

Remember Eddie Murphy in the remake of “The Nutty Professor”?  He had what we all want – a magic elixir – one sip and voila!  Thin!  Sexy!  Funny!  But of course, no Fountain of Fitness can exist in the real world. 

Murphy’s Professor Clump, as his newly svelte alter ego Buddy Love, seized the opportunity to pursue the girl of his dreams, the one his flabby, unfortunate self could not hope to impress.  But alas, in a crucial, public moment, just like Jane’s time-sensitive hip, Buddy’s potion breaks down.  Before our eyes, the professor bulges back to his prodigious former self, body part by gelatinous body part. 

Given the impending expiration of our man-made yet mortal appendages and restitutions, we could find ourselves in the same discomfiting circumstance. 

What if nose jobs expired, for example?  Right in the middle of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Kim’s pretty proboscis might just revert to its original, lumpy form.  A whole new kind of reality could present itself if the Plastic Surgeons of America sent a recall notice for the scaffolding underpinning Bruce Jenner's face work.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Imagine all the serene conversations in Hollywood bistros and suburban country clubs when, out of nowhere, a timer goes off and dozens of lifted foreheads advance to their rightful, age-appropriate positions, coming to rest somewhere in the neighborhood of one’s delicately plucked eyebrows.  In Washington, Nancy Pelosi would blink, giving Republicans in Congress false hope of victory. 

Why, those eyebrows themselves would travel into real estate appropriated by tacked-wide-open eyes, creating uninvited squints even in the shade of Carrera sunglasses. 

What if Botox … oh, never mind.  It does expire.  We know already that.  The wax melts and you’ve gotta keep getting shot up if you want to maintain that expressionless guise of indifference. 

Otherwise, Joan Rivers might disappear altogether. 

Hair transplants!  That would be hilarious!  What if those perfect plugs just unplugged, on cue, like so many spontaneous champagne corks, no matter where the “plug-ee” might find himself?  Like an electrified porcupine coming undone on the fairway, or the boardroom!   

In an apocalyptic scenario, voluptuous lips would shrink back to their original, severe Frau Bluchers.  Silicon breasts would collapse leaving folds of skin and yards of unfilled fabric limp in their wake.  All those pinned-back ears would once again flap free. 

Reminiscent of the cages being flung open at the zoo, all God’s creatures would run in gleeful abandon, returning to their natural states. OK, maybe not gleeful. 

I decline to reveal where I might wind up in such a scenario.  Parts of me could be susceptible to the fall of the empire, shall we say?  But which parts and where they’ll land remains a confidential, eyes only, need-to-know Top Secret.   

Suffice it to say that I keep the joints greased with glucosamine and the clocks wound tight.  Vigilant.  Ever vigilant.