Archive for November, 2013

“Excuse me, sir, but I believe you dropped this.”

“No, I don’t believe so. It’s a book, isn’t it? I wasn’t carrying a book.”

“Is your name Richard Harrison Broadwell?”

“Why, yes, it is. Why do you ask?”

“Well, sir, that’s the name on the spine of the book…The Life of Richard Harrison Broadwell. I’m certain I saw the book fall beside you as you were walking toward me. You say you weren’t carrying a book, yet I saw it fall beside you as you were walking, and you say that the name on the spine is the same as your own name. Doesn’t that seem rather peculiar? My name is John Spooner by the way”

“Well, Mr. Spooner…”

“John, please.”

“I’m Richard…Well, John, I don’t know what to say. Would you mind opening the book?”

“No, not at all. That’s strange…the pages are all blank.”

“No, John. When you were leafing through the book, I saw writing on every page. Perhaps I should look at the book.”

As Spooner hands the book over, there is a slight blue arc of electricity that passes from one man’s hand to the other. Both jump back and the book falls to the sidewalk. Spooner is the first to speak.

“Ouch! What’s going on here, Richard? Look the book is open and the pages are blank.”

“No, they’re not; I can see writing.” Broadwell picks up the book, closing the cover as he does so.

The men stare at the book which now seems to glow in Broadwell’s hand.

“I think I need a drink,” says Broadwell.

“Sorry, this town’s dry,” responds Spooner. “There’s a Starbuck’s right there. We could have coffee and try to figure out this whole thing. C’mon; I’ll even buy. This is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. You must feel a bit weird, Richard. How many Richard Harrison Broadwell’s do you know?”

“Frankly, I don’t know anyone with that name but me, and not only is it strange, it’s just a little bit frightening.”

Off the two men go to get their coffee and to find a small table. For now, that concludes the preface to our little story. Put yourself in the shoes of Richard Harrison Broadwell. You’re sitting at a small table in a pleasantly aromatic café. A complete stranger is sitting across from you. He…or maybe it’s a she, has stopped you on the street and handed you a book. On the spine and on the cover are the words The Life of…and it’s your name. To this stranger, the pages were blank, but you saw writing as he was fanning the pages. When the book fell to the ground after giving both of you a shock, you couldn’t make it out, but you saw writing once more. Now the book sits facing you. Will you have the courage to read it? Dare you turn to the end? If this is your life in this book, will it also tell you when you die; how you die? What about your family… your Mother and Father, your sisters, Judy and Marion; your brothers, Ron and Gary? What happens if something tragic happens to them? Certainly, it will profoundly affect your life and would have to be mentioned. Do you really want to know?

Have there been times in your life that you’d just as soon forget; how about the times when something absolutely spectacular happened? What about the time you first saw the person who would become your spouse? Where was that? How did that happen? Did you know that was the one for you immediately? How about when Allyson, your first child was born? Will all of that be in there? How about the tour of Afghanistan; the second tour; the IED that killed six of your buddies and almost cost you your own life?

What’s in this book? Do you really dare to open it? What if it goes beyond where you are right now, sitting at this little table? What if it is not only your life, but what if it also takes you to the end of your life…is that something about which your really want to know?

I certainly can’t answer these questions for you. The only thing I can say is that when I walked into Starbucks, ordered a latte and a chocolate croissant, and found a small table, there was a book there. The pages were empty, but on the spine and on the cover, it read, The Life of Richard Harrison Broadwell. It’s really strange; a cover with about three hundred blank pages. Well, not my concern.

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It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

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Can you imagine what it must be like to be a turkey this week? Figure it out; last month, the house where you live was filled to capacity. I mean, man, it was at the point of being really overcrowded, so much so that you even considered going to the farmer and letting him know if things didn’t clear up pretty soon, you were going to move. He must have heard your thoughts because over the past couple of weeks, the population has really shrunk.

When you got a peek outside one day recently, you were pretty damned happy you didn’t say anything to the farmer, not the way he and his buddies were handling those who, you guess, must have complained. I mean, it was bad enough that they picked them up by the legs and stuck their heads into a funnel, but when they brought them out without heads and let ‘em run around ‘til they dropped from exhaustion, that was just plain nasty.  And how about those others who got plopped into the boiling water and had their feathers plucked until they were nothing but skin and bones…can you imagine what they must have said to the farmer?

It’s really a pretty good thing that you didn’t complain. The coop – that’s what you and your friends call this place – is looking so empty you can see from one end to the other without seeing anyone you know; it’s actually kind of spooky, and all, especially with that Thanksgiving thing they all talk about coming up later in the week. You wonder if you’ll get some kind of special meal for that day. The way the farmer talks, it’s gonna be a big day for him.

Ah, here comes the farmer now. Wonder what he’s looking for; maybe it should be, “I wonder who he’s looking for?” It doesn’t matter to you; you’ve got plenty of room to move around in n…ow! Herbie, the farmer’s son, he’s got his hands all over you, and here comes the farmer. What the heck is he doing? Hey , he shouldn’t be grabbing your breast like that; doesn’t he know you’re not that kind of girl. I mean, you do have a pretty big breast, but I probably shouldn’t be telling you that. Uh-oh, they’re putting you in some kind of cage…now into the back of some kind of truck. Too bad you can’t see, it’s so dark in there. Hmm, that trough smells good…wow, that’s good grain, you think…better than the stuff you’re used to, and there’s even a water bottle attached – hey, watch the pot holes guys – a water bottle attached to the side of this boxy thing you’re in.

Oops, they’re opening the door…darn, that’s bright. Here comes Herbie. I hope he’s not taking you to that funnel thing. You look pretty good with your head on and everything. What’s that Herbie’s holding in his hand? That looks like the leash for the dog. Wait, he’s opening the boxy thing and putting the leash around your neck. What’s going on here anyway? No chance of escaping anywhere now, not with that leash around your neck. Well, if they’re gonna take you for a walk; if you’re going to that funnel thing, you’re going to walk tall; walk proud; walk with your big breast sticking out. Don’t scratch the ground; that’s what common turkeys do; you’re better than that.

Oh-oh, here comes an important looking group. You wonder how important they are. Hey, Herbie, get your hand off her ass…oh, sorry, you were just picking her up to put her on that table. One of the important people is stepping forward; don’t peck him for crying out loud; you might get your head put in the funnel if you do that. Okay, I can see it in your eyes; you’re wondering who the Black dude is with the lady and the two kids. Man, they are really manhandling you. What’s that man saying? Well how about that; he says they can’t kill – KILL; WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT KILL – wait a minute; calm down; this guy must be the head honcho around this farm; he says you can go back home with Herbie; he says he’s ‘rescuing’ – what’s that mean – he’s rescuing you from his table. You may not know what it means but everybody’s clapping – stick that breast out a little more, sister; you are top turkey in town; hot damn!

Oops, here comes Herbie again. Yeah, that’s right, grab her by the ass and walk her back to the boxy thing; in she goes. He’s taking off the leash and closing the gate. What now? I guess this means you’re going back to the farm and just hang around for another year. Funny, the trip home didn’t seem as long as the trip to that farm with the big white house on it. Okay, they’re fiddling with the door again. Here comes Herbie to take you back to that big coop. Wait a minute; that’s not the leashy thing; that’s a rope. He’s putting it around your legs, not your neck. Uh, he’s not heading for the barn; he’s heading toward that funnel thing.

Ouch…ooh, I bet that hurt.

I wonder what time dinner is on Thursday…yep, damn fine breast!

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“I have to take fuzzy britches out.”

“C’mon Muttley.”

“Hey Widge!”

“Let’s go dog.”

Cripes, it’s a wonder that the dog will come to you when you call it by its right name. Of course, if you happen to call the dog by its right name, you’d be breathless by the time you finished and the poor freakin’ dog wouldn’t know what the hell you were talking about!

Our new pup comes from a top breeder of Cairn Terriers. No one planned it that way. Our last two dogs have been Cairns and they’ve been wonderful. This one’s full American Kennel Club (AKC) name is – now get this – ‘Tin Top Cairn’s Winchedon’s Widget, Wicked Witch of the West,’ summarily named ‘Widget.’ It just fits; no, no, no, not the whole damned thing, but she is a Widget. For those of you ignorant of the origin of the name, Mr. Webster says…”a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.” Okay, okay, so it doesn’t really fit; blame the breeder. She names her litters by the letter of the alphabet and this litter had to begin with ‘W.’ Therefore, for AKC purposes, her name had to begin with that letter. Then you have to take into account the fact that Winchendon is one of Juli’s favorite towns in Massachusetts and that her favorite movie is The Wizard of Oz – and with all those ‘W’s’ in there, Glenda just didn’t fit – and the naming process becomes exceedingly transparent…right?

Winchendon is a lovely little town….more on that later.

Anyway, as amazing as it may seem, Widget will come when called by name…the shorter version that is. She also knows what to do when you tell her to go to ‘poop hill.’ This really requires no edification, but is merely a dictate of the intelligence of Cairns in general and Widget in particular. It was difficult for me to teach her to ‘stay’ and ‘down;’ Juli, of course, had that down to a science the first time the dog attempted to become entangled in Juli’s legs as well as the first time the dog attempted to jump into her lap – Juli good dog trainer; Dick good chew toy, ugh!

It’s somewhat difficult to describe the manner in which the dynamic of the household has changed since we’ve gone from being dogless for six months to now having a pup – she’s now six months old – in the house. There is, however, a definite change. When I get up at 4:15 am to go to the gym, I do now speak or acknowledge Widget in any manner despite her whines of “I’ve been in this crate the whole night; my legs are crossed, I gotta go so badly. C’mon, bud, let me out.” There is a very good reason for me not to let her out to go or even to acknowledge her in any way. No, it has nothing to do with my cruel personality. Assume for a moment that there comes a day when I do not wish to go to the gym for whatever lazy excuse I may wish to use.  I do not wish to hear a Joe Lieberman whine – that’s what it sounds like – coming from the kitchen just because I elected not to stay in bed that day. It’s amazing what and how quickly dogs can learn…and no, I do not leave the kitchen light on when I leave! And yet, despite my refusal to acknowledge her as I leave, when I return and Juli has taken her out, her tail and entire body wag and wiggle at the sight of me. Perhaps it’s because she knows that if I’m wearing a hoodie, there will be treats in the muff.

I will grant that there are people who do not like dogs or cats or any pet at all. There are times when they are a colossal pain in the ass. Here in New England we seem to have a proclivity in the period between autumn and spring for things called blizzards. They can be extremely unpleasant and if one has to take one’s pet out of doors for biological reasons, the unpleasantness increases a hundred fold. When the pet has finished its ‘business,’ however, and said pet curls up in your lap or at your feet…you realize just how stupid you were not to dry its paws!

Oh, and about Winchendon…check out the town’s web site and stop expecting me to do all the work!

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The time has come for me to make the big apology. So, to you Aaron, Beshamai, Donnell, Ernie, Jaime, Julian, Tanya, and to my other many Black friends, I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I guess I can now officially call myself a ‘racist.’ I am so pissed off at the gangs of Black, yes, Black teenagers who are trying to prove their manhood by knocking out unsuspecting civilians with one sucker punch that I’d like to kick the crap out of all of them. “Oh, wait a minute,” you say, “it’s not all Black teenagers who are doing this.” Let me answer that one in this manner: “Not all Black teenagers who are doing this but the only documented cases that I have seen, read, or heard about are when a Black teenager assaults a Caucasian person.” If a child of one of the people mentioned above ever did that, God help that child.

The game being played has a variety of nom de plumes…”One-hitter quitter,” “knock em’ and drop em,” “point em’ out, knock ’em out” and “punch a Jew” are just a few of the names given to this deadly game where a gang will walk past an unsuspecting subject, then one will turn and hit the person on the side of the head. The intent is just what it says, knock someone out. It’s vicious, violent, dangerous, and has proven fatal in cases in Syracuse, St. Louis, Chicago, and Hoboken, New Jersey. Everyone who has been arrested has been a person of color. Boys — seen in video from a security camera after the incident — have been charged with the murder. They are just 13 and 14 years old.

As New York State Assemblyman, James Tedisco freely admits, “I know that many of these kids come from bad situations and that the gang is their family. That makes no difference. This isn’t some television show where the person assaulted is going to get right back up. This is dangerous and deadly.” He added “Killing or injuring a person with one punch is no game and the state’s criminal penalties to prosecute these dastardly individuals should not be a joke. These twisted and cowardly thugs are preying on innocent bystanders and they don’t care if the victims are young, old, a man or woman. Life isn’t a video game. These are real people whose lives are not only being put in jeopardy but in many cases destroyed,”

Tedisco has announced he is introducing new legislation, the “Knockout Assault Deterrent Act”, to protect innocent bystanders from being victimized by the so-called “Knockout Game” – a brutal new trend whereby gangs of youths target unsuspecting people and sucker-punch them in an attempt to make them unconscious. The bill would amend New York State’s penal law to make any person regardless of their age who is convicted of knock out game individual assault or gang assault to face up to 25 years in prison (currently it’s between 4-15 years depending on the age of the defendant). The legislation would ensure that youth who “play the Knockout Game” are sentenced as adults. Those who are there and take part in the action also would be held liable.

The time will come and probably not in the too distant future when someone will be ready for such an assault. As the gang member turns, he will be facing a loaded gun. When he and several of his friends are “Goetzed,” Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the rest of the usual crowd will start screaming “racism,” when the fact of the matter is that these gang members are the original racists because of their actions.

According to CBS This Morning, the victims are always alone and stand out as being an “other,” the name given by the gangs to an unsuspecting person. In a USA Today story, Will Marling, the executive director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, says this trend is not an epidemic.

“But it could be the start of one,” he says, because the attacks have a social media component that could go viral. “As experience shows, other kids will see this is an easy thing to do and then it becomes group think.” He says the attacks are an example of why there is a need for a deeper conversation with young people about respect.

Michelle Boykins, a spokeswoman for the National Crime Prevention Council, says what is so disturbing about the trend is that it is so random and the intent is to hurt someone seriously. She says that the instances often involve someone walking alone, so she suggests the tried-and-true ways to stay safe: walk with a friend and always remain aware of your surroundings.

Dr. Fahd Ali, a trauma surgeon at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, says troubled children often don’t understand the real consequences of acts of violence. “These kids don’t see the victims who never wake up,” Ali said in an interview last year. “They don’t see the people on ventilators or the people who die from bedsores or pneumonias that eat their lungs out because they can’t breathe. They don’t see the kids long forgotten by their friends on the streets, the ones who’ve lost the ability to wipe the corners of their mouths when they drool.”

Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, points to the fact that the “knockout game” has racial underpinnings that the “mainstream media” has failed to describe. The game, which “has been played for years,” often targets Jews, “whites in general or people of Asian ancestry,” he said in an op-ed for the New York Post. He describes an attack in Milwaukee where attackers were heard saying, “White girl bleed a lot.” In Illinois, the game is often called “polar-bear hunting. ”For Sowell, the key is to stop the attacks altogether, fearing they will spread.

“Some in the media, as well as in politics, may think that they are trying to avoid provoking a race war by ignoring or playing down these attacks. But the way to prevent a race war is by stopping these attacks, not trying to sanitize them,” he wrote.

Finally, I must include a response that appeared at the end of one article I read: This is just plain ignorance; these innocent people doing nothing but living their lives are being hunted as if they are prey. This gives credence in my opinion to the stand your ground laws, as these idiots are hitting with deadly force thus we need to fight back with deadly force. I am a Black woman and all I have seen thus far are young Black males walking up to people mostly Caucasian and knocking them out. I hear excuses being made for this type of behavior, I am not making one excuse these are nothing more than wild worthless pieces of feces who should have been sewn back into the women that bore them and never let out to become the curse on society that they have become. They are useless waste of life and where is the liberal media, where is Sharpton, Jackson and the rest of these so called self appointed idiots that claim leadership of the Black community, I would never allow any of those idiots to lead me nor would I ever follow them. Why are they not speaking out, the President can force healthcare down Americans throats but not say anything about this while he has gotten involved in other areas like Trayvonn Martin and who can forget the beer summit yet he is silent on this one why because he can’t stand up and lie to America about it? It’s time for stand your ground laws.”

So, my friends in the Black community, perhaps you may think of me as a racist for opening this can of worms. Then again, if I know all of you as I think I do, you’re just as pissed as I am…so maybe it’s not racism that fuels this writing, just the fear that it could happen to me or members of my family.

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We are entering – once more – the season of insanity.

Thursday, November 28th is the fourth Thursday of this month and, by tradition, a day on which we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Defined, it is often referred to as “…an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.” Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. George Washington named Friday, November 26th, 1789 as a day of “public Thanksgivin,” and until Lincoln, every President made a declaration of when Thanksgiving should be celebrated. The Sixteenth President declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. That was fine until…

…In 1933 and again in 1939, November had five Thursdays. In ’33, some retailers asked President Roosevelt if he would move the celebration back a week indicating…”You will appreciate the importance that an additional week incorporated in this great holiday season will have upon the distribution activities of the entire United States and the added impetus that will be given thereby to the efforts of the administration and the N.R.A.1 to increase employment and purchasing power.” Roosevelt declined but in 1939, he did relent and move the celebration back a week. It was until 1941 that a Congressional declaration set aside the fourth Thursday in November as the official date for Thanksgiving. Two things become clear here: (1) Retailers pushing for more shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t a new thing; it’s been going on since the nation was coming out of The Great Depression, and (2) Congress has been sticking their fingers in the pie as far back as 1941 [the pie, of course, being mince or pumpkin].

Today, retailers are even more aggressive in their approach to relieve consumers of the contents of their wallets, and while most appear to desire green, any color will do if it happens to be plastic. The Friday following our day of thanks for the bounty that we, in some cases, have is known by many names, among them “retailer-salivation-day,” “come-on-suckers-and-bring-your-cash-day” “Ooh-have-I-got-a-deal-for-you-day,” and by its more acceptable terminology, “Black Friday.” This term has been applied because it is supposed to be the biggest shopping day of the year, and the one that will put retailers firmly in the black. Saturday is now being named “small-business-Saturday.” Thanksgiving, the day when families are supposed to be gathered around the harvest table and giving thanks is now being called “Brown Thursday.” It would appear that some retailers’ greed exceeds their consideration for family togetherness and therefore, their doors will be open on this national holiday. Woe befalls the employee who calls in sick or declines to work this day. Managers and supervisors need only remind them of the seven point three unemployment rate in the country or some other bullshit story, and they will be at work.

I don’t shop on Black Friday and I can tell you right now that I sure as hell will not be shopping on Brown Thursday. Next thing you know, we’ll have mauve Monday, taupe Tuesday, and Wisteria Wednesday…and those will be before Brown Thursday. This year, the day after Christmas is going to be renamed “Take Back Thursday” while “Find Bargains Friday” will follow.

I’m happy that our economy is on the rebound. I’m delighted that the Dow finally broke sixteen thousand. I’m pleased as hell that the United States is no longer dependent on foreign oil. I’m happy as a clam at high tide that I have a roof over my head, heat in the house, a new ‘smart’ television set, a car – albeit thirteen years old – in the garage, and a new puppy that is already housebroken. I’m even more delighted that I have a wonderful partner with whom to share all of these things plus all of the joys of the holiday. The pup was an early Christmas present to her and Widget has already brought great joy to both of us.

However, I’m mad as a son-of-a-bitch at the greedy bastards who have decided to open their doors on November 28th and who have pressured their workers to come in. I’m madder yet at the idiots who will elect to go shopping on that day. If you are one of them at least have the courtesy to apologize to the sales person who is ringing up your purchases. But, for cripes sake, don’t wish them a “Happy Thanksgiving!”

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My telephone doesn’t ring much anymore.

I finally decided to remove the land line or house phone or whatever the hell you wish to call it. That saved some $$$$ I’ll tell ya. It had stopped ringing about five years after I retired. When the children lived at home, it never stopped ringing. Of course, that was in the day when children didn’t have their own cell phone before they could talk. Today it appears that a cell phone is something you give at a baby shower. Oh, and not just any cell phone…that would be gauche…it has to be the brightest, shiniest, and the absolutely-just-off-the-shelf-latest-model. Call me old fashioned, but when a kid in kindergarten just has to take a call from his or her broker, something seems very, very wrong.

The house phone used to ring a great deal shortly after retirement. Old associates would call with questions…“What would you think about…” or “If we decided to change this, what would be the consequences…” You know the type of calls I’m talking about. You think you’ve left your responsibilities in capable hands, but you’re really rather flattered that you’re still being called. Then somebody new comes in or people finally figure out that much of what you did was, for the most part, common sense and they start using their own…and the ringing of the phone slows and eventually comes to a halt. A very – very few – call to ask how you are and how things are going, but that also stops altogether. One day you look at the silent telephones; the one in the kitchen, hanging on the wall; the ugly brown one in the family room, taking up space on an end table; and the blue one in the bedroom, crowding the night stand. So, you think to yourself, “Hey, these are costing me a dinner out per month. Why do I need these and this thing in my pocket?” Yes, I broke down and finally purchased a cell phone; a flip phone.

Getting rid of a land line can, of course, be a pain in the ass. You have to notify everyone who never calls you anymore anyway and let them know that the only way they can still reach you is by your cell phone. It’s a pain in the ass except for not notifying those people you never wanted to hear from anymore anyway.  That’s the good part. For a while the cell phone rings with people confirming that this is your new number. Some, very few I noticed, even wonder if you have financial problems. These are also the people who, when you tell them why you’ve eliminated the land line, usually say, “Geez, that makes a lot of sense.” Suddenly, you’re not the old retired fossil they thought you to be. You’re ‘brilliance star’ rises once more…for about fifteen minutes. Then you get the braggarts who tell you that they removed their land line years ago, as if to say, “Asshole, what took you so long…you are just sooo slow.” I have two words for those folks but, for the most part, I restrain myself.

Having a cell phone has its own share of problems. My children…and their children all have cell phones that are capable far beyond an instrument used for speaking with another party. Their phones connect directly with the Internet, allow them to listen to their favorite music, watch movies, take and transmit photographs and video, text back and forth because e-mail is too slow, and on very rare occasions actually talk with someone on the other end of the line. In other words, what was at one time the primary use for which the cell phone was invented has now become a secondary feature of the instrument.

My little old flip phone is good for reminding me of appointments; yep, it has a calendar. I can take still photos with my phone, but it’s primary function is to make telephone calls to another person, place, or, as is the case with most folks over 70, to a doctor’s office.

Call me old fashioned if you like but I really don’t need to be on the Internet when I’m sitting at a restaurant. I certainly don’t need to text while I’m driving. I’m not a selfie who is into taking pictures and posting them on Facebook or Instagram, and, quite frankly, I won’t even answer the friggin’ phone if I’m driving. When there was no such thing as a cell phone, I survived, and I cannot see any reason to answer a cell phone while I’m driving today. If the world is about to come to an end and someone is calling to share this information with me, fine. By the time I get my phone out of my pocket and answer it, the world will have already ended so what does it matter. If they’re calling to tell me someone died, fine; leave a message. If the doctor’s calling to tell me I have 24 hours to live and he forgot to tell me yesterday, don’t bother me; maybe I can stretch another day out of it.

Cell phone usage is ridiculous. It’s no wonder parents and children don’t communicate well. Mother pulls out of the driveway to drive the kids to school and she has her cell phone attached to her ear. Meanwhile the kids are either playing video games on their I-pads or texting a friend on their cell phone. The only sound in the car is from a CD to which no one is listening, but it replaces any need for conversation. Mom drops the kids; tells them she’ll pick them up at whenever and either drives away with the phone still tucked between shoulder and flapping gums or stops talking long enough to make plans with another Mom who is still talking on her cell phone. I’m telling you, it is absolutely incredible.

Let me ask a simple question…what did people do before the advent of the cellular telephone? Yes, they have given us the freedom to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime…but at what cost? The populist will tell you that it allows us to multitask, something we have always done, just in a different manner. Cell phones keep us up to the minute, we are told. Why? So what? Who really has a need to be “…kept up to the minute?” Don’t get me wrong, I love my cell phone. I don’t have to go from one room to another to answer it. As long as I remember to charge the battery, I merely have to take it from my pocket when it rings…on those rare occasions. I will not, however, worship the goddamned thing the way so many people appear to do. It’s a telephone. If you didn’t have it with you, what’s the worst that could happen…hello, hello, hello? Oh, shit, I think someone just fainted!

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