Friday, August 29, 2014

Hypocrite's Nightmare


It’s no fun being a hypocrite.

OK, there is some fun to it.  Most of the enjoyment comes from the fact that you get to say all the good things about yourself that you want to say.  And you get to believe those things too. 

Then, you can to do all the stuff you like to do without worrying about any contradictions to your professed beliefs. 

It’s nice.  Uncomplicated by conscience.

I can take the high moral ground.  I can lord it over those whose convictions are lowlier than mine.  I can feel superior all the live-long day.

Then, I can do as I wish. 

Case in point.  I’m an animal lover and a meat eater. 

How is that possible you might ask?  Thanks for your inquiry.  It gives me the opportunity to explain. 

Here’s how it works:  First, you just love the critters.  All the critters.  You believe in their intelligence.  In fact, you hold a strong conviction that animals truly are smarter than people are. 

Humans can learn from animals, you say.  Animals, on the other hand, have nothing to learn from humans.

On some days, you feel a special kinship with the animal kingdom.  You imagine that you and all God’s creatures are tuned to the same cosmic vibration.  If you find a lizard in your yard, you commune. 

Your family calls you “The Cat Whisperer.”  You hold your dog’s paw when you meditate.  Kum ba yah.

Your guppy comes to the glass when you’re in the vicinity.  Squirrels pause when you’re close by and make eye contact.  When you play your bassoon by the roadside, cows in the pasture gather round to listen. 

Then, around noontime, you snarf down a double cheeseburger.  Voila. 

It’s a good life, unencumbered by qualms.

I know.  I’m not eating every kind of animal.  It’s just that karma thing lurking.  It’s begun to creep into my consciousness.

You might remember a video that circulated not too long ago.  It shows a giant great white shark caught somewhere down south.  That beast weighed in at almost 2000lbs and he looked to be 15 feet long.  His bloody snout brushed the pier where he was strung up by his tail, hanging lifeless – a trophy.

Tourists were taking turns standing next to him with the proud fishermen who caught him and having their pictures made.

In the video, somebody’s mom sidles up next to the behemoth shyly, pulling her shoulders up, happy, squinting into the sun.  While she waits for her husband to find the shutter button on his smart phone, the shark lurches to life, flexes his body toward her and works his jaws in one last futile attempt at revenge. 

Oh yeah.  That mom must have had fish sticks for lunch.  Sharky was tuned in on his way out.

This kind of thing is worrisome to us devotees of ichthyology who also love our Mrs. Paul’s.

It’s one thing when a self-righteous teenager calls you out on your hypocrisy, but the animals themselves?  Oh no.  We can’t have that. 

This all rushed to the forefront this week when the New York Post reported that a Chinese chef preparing a delicacy – cobra flesh soup – was killed by the snake he was getting ready to eat.


Peng Fan set the Indochinese spitting cobra’s head aside while chopping its body for the soup.  Then, when he tried to toss the reptile’s head in the trash 20 minutes later, it bit him, injecting him with its fast-acting venom.

There it is.  Mark it.  Another sign that the living creatures have had it with being eaten by the hypocrites.  Their heads are watching.

“All reptiles can function for up to an hour without the rest of their bodies,” a herpetologist said after the incident, as though this would somehow be helpful.

The report goes on to say that diners in Fan’s restaurant heard screams coming from the kitchen:  “Suddenly there was a lot of commotion,” one woman said.  “We did not know what was happening . . . After we heard that, we did not continue with our meal.”

I’m glad that last bit was included.  It shows that we hypocrites aren’t stupid.  We know when to slip away – before there’s a full rebellion from the menu.

Men's Health Lists

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No hair cut for old women

 I have attained the Javier Bardem stage of hair growth.

Unfortunately, I do not refer to Javier Bardem as the animally magnetic Felipe in “Eat, Pray, Love;” the one you want to languish over apricots with under the Tuscan sun. 

No.  It’s Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men.”

You remember Anton don’t you, the singularly focused, methodical, relentless, psychopathic assassin? 

Joel and Ethan Coen, along with three hair stylists and a wigmaker, created the uniquely comic and creepy look of Anton’s coif.  It’s haunting.  And not in a good way.

We don’t learn Anton’s backstory – a flaw in that critically acclaimed screenplay – so we can only speculate; but it seems plausible that it was the haircut that drove Anton to distraction and unfriendly behavior.  Just sayin’.

Now it’s my hair:  Comic.  Creepy.  Haunting.

It hasn’t affected my state of mind.  Yet.  But people around me have begun tiptoeing. 

They have gone from straight-on staring through a series of more surreptitious viewing strategies beginning with the sideways glance.

I told myself at first they were innocent squints out of curiosity.  I had also dyed it red, after all.

But their looks progressed from the inoffensive once-over to the stealthy peek followed by a sincere but quizzical search of my face.  Kind of a “What is she thinking?” sort of thing.

And now, the more thorough reviews are undeniable.  It’s as though folks are mesmerized by the halo of a forest fire.  Their gaze fixed just above my eyes; their noses lifted, expecting to catch a whiff of smoke.  Children tug their parent’s pant legs and point.

I’m just trying to grow it out!  Sheesh!

Cut me a little slack.  I’ve been through some radical revisions!  It’s not easy changing a long-time hairstyle, you know.  I wore the long blonde for a long time.  Now when I look at those pictures of me I barely know her.  And equally disconcerting, the reflection looking back from the bathroom mirror is also only vaguely familiar.

One of the ways I gave myself permission to cut my hair-that-had-always-been-long was the assurance that, if things didn’t work out to my satisfaction, I could just let it grow. 

“Hair is like paint,” said my hairdresser, Edwina Scissorhands, eagerly twisting her palms.  “If you don’t like it, you can always change it!”  she said. 

Ha ha ha ha!  No worries!

So I took the plunge.  I threw caution to the
wind.  I abandoned fear, acted brave and as custom dictates, in the springtime, like the sheep in the field, I let myself be shorn. 

People told me how youthful I looked.  I’m a sucker for that sort of thing.

I felt free without the weight of the mane.

But at last I had to admit, it was a little too Jamie Lee Curtis for me.  So, after a fair trial, I wanted it a little bit longer.  Just a tiny little bit.  And therein the trouble began.

From a flattop with fenders, I graduated to a pixie, only wanting the tutu, the dust and the magic wand. 

The back grew faster than the sides, so inevitably, a mullet emerged.  All business in front; and a party in back.

And now, Javier.

If you haven’t seen “No Country” you may not be able to call the effect to mind. 

Just picture a classic “Moe,” as in Moe, Larry and Curly.  Moe was the cranky stooge and one can see why.

It was the hair.  

A review of the Stooges’ playlist reveals a pattern in Moe’s behavior.  He’s always trying to bend others to his will.  He routinely resorts to violence to bring his point home.

And that’s what I want to do now – poke someone in both eyes at once.

But I won’t let it go that far. 

No, I’ll just go get a trim.  I’ll let her shape it up so it grows out evenly, even if it is at the pace of a teenager crossing the street in front of your car. 

We’ll feather it and add some product, some highlights, or lowlights, or layers or shape.

Yeah.  That’s it.  That’ll help.

Apricots anyone?


Men's Health Lists

Friday, August 15, 2014

Star struck blues

In my imaginary life when I encounter Jon Hamm in a crowd outside say, the Ahmanson Theatre in LA, I just smile and give him a coy little wave.  You know, the kind where you duck your head and waggle your fingers.

He waves back.  Smiling of course.  Glad that at least some of the public are composed and know how to act around celebrities.

When I’m flying First Class, which is never - except in my fantasy life, I wind up seated next to Oprah, the powerhouse, enormously influential mogul of an all-around high profile person.  But I’m cool.

When I’m seated next to her?  I do not ask for her autograph.  No.  Instead, I ask just the right question in precisely the right way.  Something like, “No really, how ARE you?” 

See?  See how that works?

She is drawn in, is Oprah.  She cannot resist my direct yet unassuming eye contact.  She’s relieved, actually, to not have to be ‘on.’  Here is someone, at last, she must be saying to herself, who is not so dumb struck as to be groveling. 

In our cross-country flight, somewhere over Oklahoma (poetic isn’t it?) she leans toward me and begins a sentence with, “I’ve never told anyone this, but…”

Oh yes.

I hold my own with the celebs.  A day’s work.  No.  Big.  Deal.

I saw Elvis once. 

I was nineteen, hanging around the gate to his mansion in Beverly Hills with a rumpled and torn “Map to the Stars’ Homes” in my hand.  (When I balked at the map’s $5.00 price tag, the sketchy character who sold it to me said he had a torn one he would let me have for $2.50.  Then he turned his back and ripped the corner.  It was a good deal.)

We did not have curvy roads like that in Tulsa, so it took my girlfriend and me a lot longer than we thought it would to weave our way up the hillside, gawking at Lucille Ball’s house and George Burns’ house – and the houses of other big name stars our parents knew and we cared about on their behalf.

We barely arrived when the gate began to swing open.  A black Cadillac El Dorado rushed forward and paused until the opening was just wide enough; then it swooshed in. 

We saw him behind the wheel.  He looked good.  Like Elvis.

I’m not sure how poised I would have been if he’d looked my way.  I hadn’t worked out a cool fantasy conversation in advance so on that inevitable occasion Elvis would see I was different from all the others.  Poor planning.

Not like with Jon Hamm or Oprah in my dreams.  Now I’m ready.

Ted Turner shook my hand once.  I was in a reception line at the Grand Ole Opry hotel in Nashville.  He was the keynote speaker at an event I attended with students I coached in debate.  It was a national tournament and they qualified, so we got to meet TT.

I was tired and hungry and my shiny new ‘attend-a-keynote-dinner-with-Ted Turner’ shoes had rubbed a flaming blister.  So, bedraggled and limping, I offered my hand with an apologetic smile, my moment less than I had hoped. 

I think I said, “I admire your work.”

Oh brother.
He gave me a quizzical look and said thanks.  Doubtful he’s retelling the story. 

 I didn’t practice for Robin Williams either; even though it seemed possible I might run into him sometime.  After all, he lived close by.  Once, he even shopped for a vacation home up on the remote north coast right where my family hangs out.  So we had some anticipation.

From what I hear he was pretty easy to talk to.  No pretenses.  Gentle.  Normal-seeming in the moment.  

But not normal.

He was not a regular guy on this planet.  Maybe it was lonely for him in the face of all this ordinary life.

I wonder if he rehearsed his conversations, hoping to seem natural with his paper boy or the guy at the bicycle shop…the retired high school principal.

Too late now, of course, but I wish I could tell him he didn’t have to try so hard.  We really did love him anyway.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Love letter to Byron Farquhar

We cleaned out the desk of Byron Farquhar today.

Byron Farquhar, man of mystery.

You can learn a lot about a person from the contents of his desk.

As might be expected, in that beautiful burl wood roll top, we found office supplies – multiple boxes of American Standard staples (no stapler, by the way), paper clips, pencil leads, funky pink parallelogram erasers, carbon paper (!), batteries, Diamond strike-on-the-box matches, and a small canister of crushed red pepper.  OK…

In the file drawer, bottom left, we found documents cached long past the recommended ‘save until’ date per the IRS’s mandate:  Bank statements and W-2’s from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Photos of colleagues atop empty picture frames.  Nesting dolls?!  Rubber bands linked, perhaps the product of a meditative mind.  Boxes of business cards from each stop along his progression up the ranks in his professional life.

Then, in the top right hand drawer, at-the-ready, glasses.  No, not reading glasses.  Not even old prescription bifocals kept in case the new ones were lost or stepped on.  No.  These are plastic frames without lenses but sporting a rubber nose complete with fluffy black moustache.

Now we’re getting down to the real Byron Farquhar.

It’s a pseudonym, of course.

Byron Farquhar exists only in the mind of a 94-year-old born on April Fool’s day – my facetious father-in-law, Lloyd Plath.

He first called himself Byron Farquhar when he set about unraveling the puzzle of how he wound up on so many mailing lists when he had subscribed to only one magazine – Forbes.

His sleuthing compounded the problem, getting him onto duplicate streams of multiple mail-order solicitations, the first in his own name and the second sent to the attention of the illusive Mr. Farquhar.

Lloyd never trusted Forbes after that.  At the flea market he found a framed picture of a chimpanzee studying the New York Times and hung it next to his massive desk – his new financial advisor.

I first met him in Tulsa when my husband and I were courting.  We took him and my future mother-in-law to an outdoor arena for a live musical performance of “Oklahoma!”  The master of ceremonies informed the audience that senators from around the country were in attendance that evening and asked them to stand and be acknowledged. 

To my amazement Lloyd stood and accepted the round of applause graciously even though he never was a senator from anywhere. 

After I became a Plath, people started to ask me if I am related to Sylvia Plath, the well-known award-winning, if ill-fated author.  Once this happened at a party when I was standing next to Lloyd.  He said yes, I was, by virtue of my marriage into the family.  He said that Sylvia was his cousin and he went on to recount an anecdote from their childhood times together, playing in the kitchen.  A recollection made melancholy, he said, by her choice of exits.

I began retelling the stories of my famous cousin-by-marriage, until I learned from Lloyd’s flabbergasted wife one day that this too, was another of his pranks.

The good news is that we have the roll top desk now not because Lloyd Plath has passed away, but because he decided to move.

He decided.

He called us and his other offspring and their spouses and insisted that we come and collect all the things that he’d made us claim years ago when his wife of 57 years passed away. 

They just won’t fit in his new apartment, he said.  It’s a one bedroom affair on the ground floor of a fresh new complex in his tiny, picturesque town.  No more stairs.

He figured it was time to make a change since he took a fall and banged up his knees. 

He gave us the gift of making this decision himself, no matter how stress-laden or painful it must have been.  He’s always been, and remains, his own man. 

So we brought home the desk and the glasses, but not the portrait of the chimp. 

Lloyd wants to live long enough so that on April Fool’s Day, 2020, he can send that picture to Willard Scott for display on a Smucker’s jar labeled:  “Byron Farquhar, 100 years old.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Confessions of a counterfeit culprit

I tried to forge my husband’s signature today.

But my life of crime was cut short since replicating a smashed mosquito proved more than I could manage.  The best I could do was a ball of twine.  Too easily detectible by the signature police.

My spouse is one of those “what you see is what you get” kinds of guys, so his deliberate sprawling scrawl of an inky splat on the page is out of character.  Not to mention illegible. 

His signature contains nary a recognizable letter. 

It looks more like the wild script of a frantic person who’s trying to force his pen to write in an emergency.  Maybe the pen’s been in the back of the drawer for a couple of years and has lint stuck in that ball of ink gobbed on the end, so he has to scribble irrationally on a cereal box (the closest thing to the phone) in hopes of writing a number down before he forgets it.

Could he have had a momentary loss of his fine motor control?  Maybe a bee landed on his thumb and he gyrated wildly to avoid being stung?!  That must be it.

A study published by the American Psychological Association says that “in writing or artistic expression man not only communicates his conscious thought but also his underlying thought, a bio-psychological pattern … by which graphic movement becomes a ‘diagram of the unconscious.’"

Translation:  There is a deep-seated reason why a perfectly laid back, fun-loving, up-front fellow creates such an outrageous wad of tangled threads as a representation of himself!  Loving husband on the surface – below decks:  mysterious man of knotted nuance. 

No sense asking him about it – the APA says he is ignorant of his own internal bio-psychological gobbledygook!  In other words, he’s just not that deep. 

Because of this major discrepancy between man and monogram, I did a little research.  We’ve been married 24 years now, but I may not know my own husband!  Best to check with wikiHow and learn the secrets of personality revealed by his autograph.  A wife can’t be too safe.

Ah, here we go:  How to Analyze Handwriting (Graphology). 

Step 1.  Look at the pressure of the strokes.  A high pressure means the person has high emotional energy.  People with high emotional energy have a lot of enthusiasm for life and are often very successful.  People with a low emotional energy find most situations draining and will try to avoid them. 

OK.  I can make a clue out of this.  His moniker, written with a burst of energy, appears to have no pressure.  That fits.  All these interwoven lines might be tracing the path of protons gone wild, but they orbit a central nucleus of dog-like acceptance of the world.  That’s so him.

Step 2.  Look at the size of the letters.  Large letters mean the person is outgoing and extroverted; small letters mean the person is reclusive and introverted.

OK, there are no letters here, but it is a sizeable conglomeration of formless strokes.  Extroverted it is.  Check.

Step 3.  Look at the slant of the strokes.  A right slant means the person is assertive and confident.  A left slant means the person is quiet and reclusive.  No slant means the person is reliable and consistent, but reserved and constrained.

Hmmm…we have your right slant and your left slant combined with your no slant at all.  So, he appears to be an assertive and confident recluse who is reliable.  Yes.  Yes.  I’ve seen it over the years.

Step 4.  Look at the connection of the letters.  Connected letters mean that the person is logical and judges things according to experience.  Disconnected letters mean the person is imaginative and judges things according to intuition.

Again, we are wanting letters, but his doodling, squiggle-ish, complex flourish does appear to be formed by one continuous line.  Therefore, according to this pre-imminent authority, we can conclude that I married one logical guy with a crazy signature.

By the way, I did a quick review of my own lilting left-leaning mark and found that I am an enthusiastic and outgoing person who confidently asserts her intuition.

Now why would I need to forge his signature?