Monday, January 15, 2018

Device and Conquer

         “In my day we had two tin cans and a string,” Reuben, 83, said. We were discussing electronic devices for children.
         “I tried those,” I said, “but the service was always down.”
         Reuben and I met at the local Coffee Bean and bonded over my dog, Joey. He’s there every day and I’d seen him either snoozing in the corner or talking with other old guys. One day, I tied Joey up to a meter and went inside to order my double cappuccino. He started to bark. Came outside to find Reuben feeding him something he'd dug out of his pocket: cookies and chips. Joey was captivated.
         We three sat on chairs outside and got to know each other. Reuben is from Romania. He’s been here 48 years and has two adult children living in Calabasas, a 45-minute drive which he can no longer do. His daughter brings the grandchildren over, which used to delight him. They'd play games, run around the yard. Now 9 and 11, they're only interested in their smartphones and don't interact with him.      
         I see very young children with these phones and even toddlers being pushed in their strollers with a smartphone or an iPad attached for their viewing pleasure. This is not a recent development. Thirty years ago I was horrified when a pediatrician friend hooked up a video player in her minivan for a road trip with her two kids. Two years later you could buy a car with its own screen. No "are we there yet?" for those parents. During that same period, I bought Suspense radio shows on cassette and played the stories on a drive to Utah with my sons. They had to use their imagination to visualize the scenes. When I pulled over for gas, they asked me to keep playing the tape.
         I’ve read complaints dating back 60 years about the corrupting influence of watching too much TV. True, our black & white TV was a babysitter of sorts. But we only had three channels in Santa Fe and at least two of them stopped broadcasting by 10:30 p.m. My mom worked nights and I waited up for her. I was forced to pick up a book and read.
         Posted an abbreviated version of this piece on Facebook for discussion and got a variety of responses. Here are three of the best:

“We have two grandkids the same ages. If I don't play their video games or can talk them into going for a bike ride, I am just an old adult, Grandpa, who they have a hard time relating to. The question that I ask is not, "When is introducing the 21st century tools too early?" Now I ask, "How can I interact with them and have us all engaged?” Mushroom Montoya.

This how we end up with a ‘media mogul’ as president!” Tom Pa

“It's the future get used to it. Human/machine integration will be commonplace.” Carlos Encinas


Monday, December 04, 2017

And Then There Was White

And Then There Was White

White eyebrow hairs. Mom said this would happen.
White hairs at hairline. Sophisticated look for the distant future.
White nostril hairs. Crap.
White pubic hairs. OMG.
White eyelash. End times.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Love Yoga

The old lady in yoga looked familiar. She’d lived on Maui she said, and her name was Shifra which means beautiful in Hebrew. Her name resounded in my memory. 

She arrived for yoga class every week with a longhaired dude whose clothes reeked of weed. Another trigger. Forty years ago, a beautiful hippie with flowers in her hair approached me on the beach in Maui. “Bud?” she said and smiled. 

“I think you sold me some weed when I was in Maui,” I told her today. She laughed and reached for me to give me a big hug. I had to stoop over to squeeze her. She whispered in my ear, “I can still sell you some.”

Saturday, November 25, 2017


The new light streaming through the windows at dawn colors my quiet time. Family still comatose, but I hear stirring, like static on the consciousness line. Alone, the world is as I imagine it. No other agendas. Made room for restless spirits when my children were young. Then, the moody years arrived and just as quickly were gone. My empty nest is filled with a resurgence of my senses and a recognition of blessings: a husband I love, adult children making their way, new friends saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Suburbicon Movie Review

            Matt Damon and Julianne Moore starring. George Clooney directing.  A Coen Brothers script. What’s not to like? Well according to most reviews and the effervescent Rotten Tomatoes, quite a bit.
            Thank goodness I didn’t read any of the reviews before going to the movie. The game for me with books and movies is if I can guess what’s going to happen next. The twists in Suburbicon took me by surprise, not just once, but several times.
            I liked the movie. There weren't a lot of laughs, but I left the theater smiling.
            The plot seems straightforward. Set in the 50s in a "planned" community, twin sisters, Rose and Maggie (both played by Moore), sit on the Lodge family backyard porch with Nicky (Noah Jupe), Rose’s young son. A black middle-class family, the Meyers, has moved into the house on the street behind them and their backyards converge, separated by a short, flimsy fence. Neighbors have voiced their concern over the new family. They’re worried about a rise in crime and devaluation of their homes.
            A boy, about the same age as Nicky, steps out of the Meyers’ house with a baseball glove and ball, and tosses it into the air. Nicky’s Aunt Maggie tells him to invite their new neighbor to play catch.
            Nice, huh?
            Well, don’t get too comfortable with your assumptions. The movie unwinds with what seems to be a tale of two families: the black family and the white Lodge family. But except for the boys who become friends, the two families never cross paths. As unruly crowds gather in front of the Meyers’ house, a robbery and murder occurs in the Lodge home. The perps are white, and one of them is scary mean (Glenn Fleshler). They chloroform the entire family, holding the cloth on Rose’s face for a long time. She dies, leaving a grieving husband, Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and Nicky.
            Aunt Maggie steps into the role of caretaker for the family, only she quickly transitions into mean Auntie, all the while speaking in her soft, amenable voice. Moore’s acting is brilliant. She comes across as compliant, even when she’s grinding up lye for a white bread sandwich. I’m not gonna tell you who the intended victim is . . . that’s one of the surprises.
            The murders in the Lodge home multiply while the police fight off the angry white mob at the Meyers home. We see evil played out on two stages: Unthinking mob violence on one and Coen Brothers inspired psychopathology on another. The black family doesn’t fight back or seek to incite confrontation. The white family tries to solve its problems with more murders.

            In the end we’re left with the innocence of children, who guilelessly reach out to each other again.


Monday, November 06, 2017

Circe: A Reinterpretation

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This is a mischievous rendering of the goddess Circe. She had a wicked sense of humor, and used her magical powers with an ironic twist. Yeah, she turned her bff Scylla into a sea monster, but the girl was always stealing her lovers and bragging about it. She’d slap her ass and say, “They can’t get enough of this, but it's head the homeboys want.” Then she’d tilt her neck back, suck in her cheeks and in a grotesque mime pump her closed fist in front of her mouth.

So Circe made a magic potion which gave Scylla six heads, each with three rows of teeth, and banished her to the sea. Naturally, this put Scylla in a very bad mood and she became a peril to all sailors who passed near her. Whenever a ship passed, each of her heads would seize one of the crew. They truly received head.

Back to Circe. Besides Scylla, she got a bad rep in The Odyssey. The sailors had been at sea for a very long time. "Let's party!" Circe said, "your vice is my command." They heard the word vice, and acted like pigs at a trough party, and presto chango! can you say oink oink? It was all a huge misunderstanding and Odysseus and his men returned to normal and spent a year with Circe, long enough for her to get knocked up.

She had a kid with Odysseus, Telegonus. Like any single mother, she didn’t stop him when he wanted to meet his dad who was back in Ithaca. He got there okay, but Whoops! accidentally killed his father. It happens. He brought the body back to his mom and took Odysseus' widow Penelope and son Telemachus with him. Circe made them immortal and married Telemachus, while Telegonus made Penelope his wife.

Shite sometimes works out.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

LitCrawl 2017: Nerds* On Surfboards and in Bikinis* Read Their Prose.

I'll be reading at the Kahuna Tiki (link below) along with some great talent.

Malibu Writers Circle | A Cool Buzz and Some Tasty Words

Date(s) - 10/25/2017
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Kahuna Tiki

11026 Magnolia Blvd - Los Angeles

*I am a nerd
*My bikini is in the shop