Friday, February 22, 2013

Last wishes playlist

I remember when my grandma announced that she had finalized the plans for her funeral.   

I was about seven years old and wearing her pheasant-feathered pillbox hat with a beaded necklace and matching brooch pinned to my t-shirt.  I had selected her “rose luster” lipstick and drawn it on mostly within the confines of my lips.   

Completing my ensemble was her stole, made not just from the hides of a couple of hapless minks, but from their pelts intact, replete with tiny mink feet, claws, and a head with beady black eyes and a mouth that was converted to a clamp so it could bite its own tail and hold itself in place. 

As you can see my grandma had flair.  All her Sunday dresses boasted matching shoes and handbags.  She kept her waist-length red hair braided just so and curled around her head forming a crown befitting her status in the family.   

She appreciated the finer things.  She would have been among the first to avail herself of the newest advances in the field of funeral science.  And the last to be lowered into the ground without her face on. 

Grandma never settled for the mundane; she served every meal on her best dishes.  Franciscan.  Dogwood pattern.   

I’m pretty sure she ironed her sheets, so it follows that her dainties must have been wrinkle-free too, though I never saw them.  I can assure you they were not exposed to public viewing on the clothesline with my grandpa’s formidable sox and boxers.  

If I caught her in the right mood, as I had on this day, she’d let me noodle through her closet at will.  On this particular morning, she’d been preoccupied with papers and brochures at her desk, licking the tip of her pencil, erasing and rearranging items on a list.  

I was just slipping into a pair of open-toed black suede platform pumps when she made her proclamation.   

Even at seven, I knew it was weird.  But she wasn’t going to leave such important details to discussion or debate.  And no one else was there to hear it.  She’d picked her dress, shoes, jewelry, even her nail polish.  

Did I mention that my grandma wasn’t ill?  Not disabled.  No, she was bright and perfectly healthy, if a little odd-turned. 

She had an excruciatingly screechy voice.  But she loved the Lord and every Sunday she showed it by singing louder than anyone else in the congregation.  So it was no surprise to me that she also picked the hymns to be played when she would inevitably be laid out for viewing. 

(“Gladly the Cross I’d Bear” was first on her program.  To her dismay, I said I’d never heard of a cross-eyed bear.  With a harrumph she scratched it leaving only “Amazing Grace.”)   

You can see why, when I read about the latest Swedish casket technology, the first person who popped into my mind was my Grandma, even if it came along too late for her to benefit:  Stockholm music and video equipment store owner Fredrik Hjelmquist has designed a coffin withbuilt-in speakers linked to a music playlist that can be updated by the living.  That’s right.  Wi-Fi for the dead. 

Grandma would have loved it.  So I’m including it in my funeral plans.  It’s not that I’m ready to tuck it in, you understand.  I’m forward thinking, that’s all.  Like Grandma, I don’t want anyone else planning my parties.   

And, like her, I have some detailed last wishes.  For one thing, don’t let just anyone do my hair.  I’ve been with Mr. Paul for so many years now; no one else can cover the gray like he does.  Light mascara.  Clear polish and Chapstick only. 

I wish I could still browse through Grandma’s closet.  My wardrobe just doesn’t have her panache.  Best to stick with the classics, navy blue skirt and sweater.  Crisp white blouse.  Perpetuity and all.  

It’s the playlist that’s worrisome.  Must have Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.  Perlman!  I can listen to that for years.  But eternity?  No, I'll want some variety, please!  I love my Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Throw in some Stevie RayVaughn for goodness sake.  Bonnie Raitt.  Black Keys.  Oh yeah.  That’ll work 

And yes, Grandma, of course - Amazing Grace.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Repent! Or pass the Cracker Jacks!

Whenever I need to cheer down, I have a look at the End Time Headlines for “News from a Prophetic Perspective.”  A family member turned me onto this website.  She wants me to be mindful of all the disasters that are about to befall me.  And the world at large.  And the United States in particular.  So thoughtful. 

I probably sleep too well anyway. 

Let’s have a look…  OMG!  Huge spiders are raining down from the sky!  In Brazil, it’s raining really big spiders. 

Well.  Not exactly raining.  They’re sort of falling. 

Actually, to be completely accurate, when you check it out online, you can see a video of admittedly large spiders constructing giant “sheet webs” to capture insects in an unfortunate town in South America.  They float from tree to post on gusts of wind.  It’s what they do, those crazy sheet-web-building arachnids.   

It is pretty freaky.   

But it’s not a sign of the end of the world, unless you want it to be.  In that case you can denounce any and all scientific explanation and refer to for confirmation of your greatest fears. 

Here’s an excellent example of something the End Times wants us to worry about:   Obama Has Put in Place a Secret Database with ‘Everything on Everyone.’ 

Oh man.  That could be bad.  He’s bound to be making a list, checking it a couple of times.   

And I’ve fallen off on my flossing.  That doesn’t make a good impression.  

I wonder what he’ll think of my TV viewing habits?  After the morning news it’s either murder and mayhem or Comedy Central.  What does that tell you?  Wait.  Don’t answer that. 

But I love a Twilight Zone marathon.  That should count for something. 

Here’s one story worthy of consternation that would have slipped right past me if it were not for our vigilant friends at End Times:  Twitter Explodes with Fears of Armed Drone Strikes Targeting [fugitive] Chris Dorner.  Yeah. 

The Prophetic Perspective includes “Signs in the Heavens 2013-2015.”  In this section, we discover “how signs from the heavens are once again happening [and] preparing us for coming Wars, Prophetic Events and the Soon Return of the Lord Jesus Christ.”   

It’s good that they’re tracking this stuff, right?  Otherwise, the thread would be lost.  With no one monitoring and reporting the dark doomy news, we’d all probably trail off into photos of natural beauty and unfettered optimism.  

I think I’ll let the End Times folks carry the lead, though.  I’ll peruse other sites for newsworthy items - things to distract us in the meantime.   

Here’s one:  Puck Daddy reports that the Bakersfield Condors, a minor league hockey team, suffered an unfortunate incident this week when their mascot turned on them.  The California condor named Queen Victoria escaped from her handler and wobbled and flapped her way across the ice to the penalty box where she began pecking the players.  Only mortification and minor injuries were sustained before her highness was corralled and escorted to the locker room.  (The Condors went down in defeat to the Las Vegas Wranglers, 4-1.) 

Oh, and the Pope resigned.  God love him.  In a perverse way, I’m looking forward to what the Prophetic Perspective on this will be.  Maybe the President’s new database had something juicy on the pontiff and he stepped down to avoid exposure.  

After an engine fire, the Carnival cruise ship “Triumph” is drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, powerless; its 4200 passengers experiencing ennui.  Certainly this sort of thing isn’t out of the ordinary.  Next comes a reality series episode on each cruise itinerary. 

Darn it, the End Times has gotten in my head a little bit.  Torrents of spiders, endangered birds behaving badly, the Pope punts, cruise ships running amok.  Who can’t add these seemingly random and unrelated events together without concluding we could have some prophetic events on our hands?!   

Throw in the President’s database and armed drones targeting fugitives on American soil, well, I’m sure you recognize the omens.  It could be bad.  Signs in the Heavens.   

I just want to be prepared, that’s all.  Maybe I’ll dig a hole.  Crawl in.  At the least I’ll worry!   

Or… I could stay out here and watch baseball.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Peter Pan lied!

Let me just say what a swift kick in the britches it is be as old as I am and still such a complete and utter work in progress.  

I may even be getting worse.   

What are the hallmarks of maturity, anyway?  How can you tell you’re grown up? 

That’s right.  I have to ask.  I don’t just know, like, automatically.  (Maybe I’ve spent too much time with teenagers.) 

So, in my saga of self-improvement I’m developing a checklist.  Here we go: 

Age.  Sure, if you’re the literal type.  And I can be.  So of course, age is one facet of maturity.  The concept applies to cheese and to people.  So, check!  Like a succulent Gouda, I have aged. 

My mom used to say that a grownup can carry money without spending it.  Oh hooray.  I’m a big girl now. 

Ripeness.  OK…this could be delicate.  Ripeness implies reaching the fullness of one’s potential.   

Part of me wants to believe I’m still rising in this regard.  Still on the upswing.  In this roller coaster ride of life, I’m still grinning in wild anticipation of what’s to come.  Gravity pulls me back in my seat as I look at the sky and the car ticks its way up the steep, steep grade toward the peak of ripeness - that moment of weightless glee at the top. 

But another part, or perhaps I should say parts, of me must acknowledge that I may have crested the summit a while back when I wasn’t paying attention.  Maybe I missed my peak experience.  Or, maybe, in the continuum of peaks, mine was a middling one, unremarkable in contrast with the surrounding Himalayas.   

Ripeness for me could very well be in the rearview mirror.  Come to think of it, 35 was a excellent year.   

Yep, I may be overripe.  In the vernacular of food preservatives, I could be going bad.   

Uh oh.  That actually explains some things. 

For example:  Some evidence indicates that I’m edging my way down the slope of wisdom, having spent too little time at the pinnacle soaking things in, as it were.  I’m less wise, which is as we know, a gentle way of saying I’m dumber than I used to be.   

This may be an unintended consequence of holding a know-it-all job for so many years.  Whether I ever actually knew anything is subject to debate, but in the role of principal, pretty much everyone treated me as if I possessed oracle-like abilities, especially when they wanted to pass off their freshly created debacle.  Or, folks shuddered in disbelief when I didn’t know the particular thing they thought I should know; the classic case of a lose-loser situation.  

As you can no doubt see, holding such a job for any length of time has the effect of creating a crackpot.  The only difference is now that I’m retired, no one listens to me!  Back in the day when I spouted off, it meant something.  Today, pfffft! 

Yet I’m still cracking wise…Is that maturity, or immaturity?  I prefer to think of it as freedom, but again, no one cares what I think.  It’s an extremely frustrating conundrum.  

I’m less adept on so many levels these days.  Once noted for my poise and serenity in dicey situations (run with me on this), I’ve become fretful and inept.  If I could just stop blurting.  It’s not cute anymore.  Apparently.   

Even as a child I somehow knew the right thing to say and when to say it.  My elders nicknamed me the “Diplomat.”  But those days of respect and elevated status are long gone.  Now at reunions, when my cousins see me coming, they sort of squint and turn their faces to the side, like you do when you hear a first grader playing the violin.   

Remember Mork from Ork?  He arrived on earth as an adult.  And as time passed, he got younger and younger.  The subtext of the script was that children are smarter than adults are.  We should all strive to be more childlike.  Robin Williams has made a good living doing just that. 

But outside of Hollywood, maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Take a pill!

I saw a post on Facebook this week:  “I've been pleased to find that I can pretty much hide the ‘greens’ taste of kale in my morning juices.  No more ‘squinchy’ face!”   

It’s the little things, isn’t it?  Doesn’t take much at all to make most of us happy, even if we do come across as a bit simple-minded. 

But really, her day seems to have been made.  She can gracefully navigate the vicissitudes of life having beaten the squinchy face.   

More power!  And by all means, keep us apprised! 

Of course, some of us beat the “greens” thing a while back by leaving the kale entirely out of our morning juices.  It’s another way of looking at it.  A new perspective.  I call it the “take a pill” approach. 

You could take a kale pill with your morning juices.  That’s an idea.  I’m sure there’s a kale pill available at GNC.  Look for it alphabetically on the shelf right next to the Krill Oil, between the Horny Goat Weed and the L-Tryptophan.  

What?  Not familiar with Horny Goat Weed?  I’ll confess; I just found it myself when I was shopping online for this column.  Suffice it to say that Horny Goat Weed can be found in the Men’s Health and Vitality section. 

And there’s the L-Tryptophan, available in a tablet or capsule so you don’t have to eat a Thanksgiving turkey to get a good night’s sleep.   

It begs the question as to why anyone would put kale in her morning juices to begin with.  In fact, let me just come right out and say it:  Enough with the kale!   

According to World’s Healthiest Foods, you’re going to need to camouflage two cups a day, five days a week to achieve the maximum, though admittedly prodigious health benefits of this invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-looking plant.  It doesn’t form its own head; that’s why it wants yours! 

I say consume your cruciferous vegetables the way God intended, steamed until limp and smothered in cheese.  That’s the most effective method for cloaking that “greens” taste and to avoid the “squinchy face” which could last all day.   

Or, you could take a pill. 

And while we’re here, what, pray tell, are “morning juices”?  I have a sneaking feeling this a concoction akin to a martini – that combination of unpleasant liquids dressed up in a groovy glass so the consumer can pretend it’s fun to drink even though it produces a squinchy face all its own.   

I’m thinking “morning juices” comprise a Molotov cocktail of murky stuff that’s “good for you” but so unpleasant as to need dim lighting, costumes and makeup before it’s approachable.   

I speak from experience on this:  In the ‘70’s a cousin of mine took up selling supplements in hopes of building a pyramid of personal wealth off his family.  I had a job and so felt compelled to help him out and buy something.  That something turned out to be a jug of aloe vera juice.  He pitched it for its soothing, healing, restorative powers.  Why it would flow through you and right all your internal wrongs. 

And all it took was a capful!  Keep it in the fridge.  Shake it up first thing in the morning; pour it into its own plastic shot glass and slug it down.  I envisioned myself glowing with a sort of fluorescent green well-being.  (He was a pretty good salesman, my cousin.  I wonder where he is now?) 

Day one:  Shake it up.  Drink it down.  Say, that was kind of thick.   

Day two:  Shake it up, swirl it around the cap, drink it!  Hmmm.  Not so much thick as slimy.  Bleach-like.   

Day three:  Pinch your nose and think of the Queen.  Eeeeyah!  Oh!  Oh!  Oh!   

Day four:  Cue the soundtrack from “Jaws.”  Open the fridge.  Bright light in a dark kitchen.  And as God is my witness, when I picked up the bottle the hair on my arms stood up.  

Enough with the aloe vera! 

In retrospect, he did say I could mix it with my orange juice.  But it would take more than an innocent orange to wrestle the healing powers of aloe vera to the ground. 

Don’t do it, I say!  Step away from the kale!  Take a pill.