Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"What I Did Once"

When you do something right once, there is a hopeful indication you might…

Wait.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  Instead…

“Regrets Around Food”

I’ll keep this short and simple.  The recollection hovered around as I wrote yesterday’s post and it will not receive peace till I let it come out.  Or so it insists.

There’s a chance these things don’t matter to anyone but me.  Still, I harbor the hope that, though the specifics are alien to you, it will rekindle some unresolved memory in your life.   Think: A personal issue, residing in a coma. Suddenly awakening, because something reminded you of it.  Which, for me, was yesterday’s post.

The entire trauma around food preferences and their contorting consequence on one’s everyday responses sounds, in retrospect, theoretical, and sometimes, I fear, “theoretical” may be synonymous with “I think I’ll skip this”, the “this” being a motif enjoy that lacks wider appreciation.  

This time, it’s different.

What I am offering today is an example, wherein the theoretical became practical. And the practical became paralyzing.  

Returned to mind writing yesterday’s post is a situation I have regretted for some fifty-plus years. That’s a long time to go “Whoops.”

Okay, here it is.

When I was nineteen years old, attending my second year at the University of Toronto, I won a two hundred-and-fifty dollar prize for Philosophy.  Don’t ask me how.  I just answered the questions on the exam.  I guess a lot of them were right.

Although hardly a fortune, the award covered more than half the tuition – of four hundred-and-eighty dollars – for my third year of university.  (The remainder, paid for by counseloring at camp.)

Okay, so I’m the winner of the – I am making this up – “The Digby Huffington Prize for Undergraduate Philosophy.”  Which was great.

Until I received a call from Digby Huffington himself.

My heart pounded thunderously as I trudged to the phone.  I’d had no thoughts beyond taking the money.  Now, I was “Voice-to-Voice” with the august source of my pecuniary windfall.

His voice was dignified and refined, reflecting a Canadian cultural elite, defined as, “Not me, or anyone I knew.”  

I immediately felt small. 

He congratulated me on my award – which was actually his award – and I no doubt said “Thank you”, wanting to sound as gratefully appreciative as I was.  More importantly, I wanted desperately to get off the phone.

Before that transpired, however, I would endure the reason – beyond personal congratulations – for the call.

Which was this.

On behalf of his wife – possibly Eunice or Felicity – and himself, Digby Huffington, as was apparently traditional, was inviting the current recipient of “The Digby Huffington Prize for Undergraduate Philosophy” to tea, scheduled for an upcoming Saturday afternoon.

Consistent with my culinary peculiarities, my immediate reaction to this surprise invitation was,

“What are they going to serve?”

Although unfamiliar with the included offerings of the traditional “Tea”, my mind flashed on “Egg Sandwiches” – which, mentioned yesterday, I had difficulty with, or its popular alternative, “Ham and Cheese,” which, for religious purposes, is off the menu.

I immediately panicked.

“I’m sorry,” I nervously replied to the invitation.  “I will not be able to attend.”

Subsequently adding, pulling an excuse out of the air,

“I think I have a Bar Mitzvah that day.”

I could hear… I don’t know what I could hear… confusion, annoyance, a generous benefactor considering stopping payment on a check… Whatever it was, Digby Huffington did not take the rejection easily.  Neither did I, though the “discomfort inducement” was my fault and not his.

You may not find this believable because it’s crazy.  But truth be told, I turned down an honoring invitation to tea because I was worried about the food.

As I said yesterday, you do not have to visit some distant, impoverished country to offend people by refusing to join them in a meal.

You can be an incredible idiot without leaving your house.

Monday, July 16, 2018

"Just Eat It!"

I am saddened by the seeming necessary relationship between connecting with strangers and eating what theyeat.

I’d like very much to get along with everybody.  We would not have to agree on every issue – or virtually anyfor that matter.  It would be great if we could just sit down together and talk, ultimately realizing that, despite our acknowledged differences, our similarities as human beings outweigh them by a mile.

I have made people laugh with didn’t speak English.  On a trip to Turkey, I saw a Senior-aged Asian traveler readying to take a picture of, I imagine, his longtime spouse, standing in front of a certified Istanbul tourist attraction.  I immediately ran over and smilingly stood next to her, amicably posing as if I belonged. It was a risk to do that, but it worked. They got the joke and they immediately cracked up.  

I can “connect” thatway.  But the more traditional way of bridging cultural differences:  Enjoying the offered hospitality in the sharing of a meal.

That one I am unable to pull off.

Think of the things Anthony Bourdain regularly consumed during his worldwide travels, sharing traditional “People Food” in every destinational hemisphere.  

And loving it all.

“Best ‘penguin’ I ever ate!” 

“This ‘mouse’ has been cooked to perfection.”

“More ‘yak’ please. It’s absolutely delicious.”

By sitting down and “eating what theyeat”, Anthony Bourdain was able to decimate the barriers, allowing people of disparate cultures to relax and open up to each other, comfortably revealing, “What it means to be them.” (I believe, massive consumptions of alcohol alsoloosened some tongues.) 

I am unable to follow Anthony Bourdain’s example.  Or even come close.

My dietary restrictions stopping well before “Anaconda Souflee.”

If  “Eating what they eat” is the “Litmus Test” of collegiality and mutual respect,

I cannot possibly succeed.

Which is unfortunate, because I genuinely want to.

The “dividing obstacle”, however, is what they’re serving.

Which reminds me of the Chevy Chase line in The Three Amigos, where the “Amigos” have been invited to dinner in the impoverished Mexican village of Santa Poco and, having physical difficulty negotiating the tortillas, he inquires,

“Do you have anything beside Mexican food?”

My culinary proclivities would be etiquette “Deal-Breakers” wherever I went.  And it would not have to be that extreme a menu, or that far away. I’d be an unwelcome dinner companion irtually anywhere on the globe.

There are just a lot of things I don’t eat.

Some items are outside my acceptable menu are for religious reasons.  Some are personal taste issues.  Others involve nutritional health concerns.  I also avoid dishes my nose never smelled before.

I’m not exactly a “Picky Eater.”  (Compared to Anthony Bourdain, a vulture’s a picky eater.)  I just, probably, eat fewer things than other people.  And I have witnessed the consequences.  People think I don’t like them.  When it’s just the stuff they are giving me to eat.  

Example:

I am invited to dinner. I accept.  

“Any dietary restrictions”

“Well… okay.  I do not eat pork or pork by-products.  I do not eat shellfish, or bottom-dwelling crustaceans – which may, in fact, be the same thing, that’s how much I know about subterranean comestibles.  I will eat beef, chicken, turkey or fish.  Exceptions:  No liver.  (Or other “Organ Meat.”)  No duck. (To “Donald-y.”)  Or game that tastes… “gamey.”  Nothing I’d cut into and discover a bullet.  (Writer’s Note:  I once sampled “Prairie Oysters”, but I was extremely inebriated.)

“And absolutely no insects.”

“I do not eat tomatoes. (Too acidy.)  Or eggs.  (There is something off-putting about the word “Albumen.”)  No olives, anchovies.  Virtually anything in a small jar in the refrigerator – pickled gherkins – I generally avoid.

“No fried foods, overly spicy foods, dishes smothered in onions.  I strictly limit my intake of fat, carbs, sugar.  And of fermented versions of anything.   (That one probably belongs in a different paragraph, but it just came to my mind.) 

“Oh, and I am assiduously careful about “Portion Control.”  So if my plate still looks full when I’m finished, that is no indication I did not thoroughly enjoy the meal.  As the girl said in True Grit, “‘Enough’ is as good as a banquet.”  I eat only till I’m full, and hope the chef doesn’t get angry.

“And I guess that’s it. Would you like me to bring some wine?”

With such dietary proclivities there is almost nowhere on earth I would not piss my hosts off. There are someplaces it could trigger a war.

I don’t know…

Why couldn’t it be Ping-Pong?  Not that I’m good at it; I’m not. But I would happily play Ping-Pong anywhere in the world.  I might stink up the place.  But we’d laugh our heads off and then permanently bond.

I’d be “The Anthony Bourdain of ‘21 to 0.’”  People in grass huts would go, “Remember that idiot?  And “That idiot” would be me. 

You see, thatI could do.

But invite me for bacon and eggs or barbecued eel?

I just sighed.

I’m a wonderful person.

I just don’t eat any of that.

Friday, July 13, 2018

"Saddlebag Fantasies Watching A Hopalong Cassidy Movie (Which, Incidentally, I Got Scheduled On Television, But That's Another Story)"

Here’s what I saw…

In a moment of thrill-packed excitement, “Gramps” grabs Hoppy’s barely capable sidekick Red’s gun from Red’s holster and, getting the “drop” on them, makes his getaway on horseback.  Hoppy instructs Red to ride into to town and keep his eyes peeled for trouble while Hoppy pursues Gramps.

And here’s what I immediately imagined.

RED HESiTATES BEFORE HEADING FOR HIS HORSE.

RED:  (STILL HESITATING)  Ahhh…

HOPALONG CASSIDY:  Yeah?

Well y’know, Hoppy, Gramps rode away with my gun.

I know he took your gun.  That’s how he got the ‘drop’ on us.

That’s right.  Y’know, it’s kind of embarrassin’, old-timer grabbin’ my gun.

Well you oughtta be more careful next time.

I will.  The thing is, now that I don’t have a gun, I was wonderin’ if I could maybe borrow one of yours.

What’s that, now?

Well, I mean, you have two guns…  

I always have two guns.

… right.  And I don’t have any.  So…

You want me to loan you one of my guns.

I’ll return it when you get back to town.  I don’t cotton to the idea of ridin’ in there unarmed.  What if some bad-‘uns start in “hoorahin’’’ the citizenry?  I’m “slappin’ leather”, but there’s nuthin’ to draw.  What do you say, Hoppy?  Will you loan me a gun?

I don’t know, Red…

It’s just for a coupla hours…

These guns came all the way from St. Louis.  Who knows? If I loaned you one, you might lose it.

Why would I lose your gun?

You lost yours.

Okay, but think about it. What are the chances of losin’ two guns in one day?

I can’t believe you don’t have a “spare.”

Who has spare guns?

have spare guns.

You do?

I keep an extra rig back at the bunkhouse.

So let’s see now.  (GESTURING TO HOPPY)  Four guns.  (GESTURING TO HIMSELF)  No guns.  And you still won’t part with one gun?

Look, how’s this?  If I give you the money for a new gun and you can pick one up at the gunsmith’s.  That’s just as good, isn’t it?

I s’pppose.  It just seems easier, you loanin’ me a gun. Spare all the uncomfortable blather.  “What happened to your gun?”  “Old man got the ‘drop’ on me.”  “Haw! Haw!  (CALLING)  Hey, townspeople, wait till you hear this!” Come on, Hoppy.  Lend me a gun, and I’ll go straight to keepin’ my eyes peeled.

HOPPY HISTATES, TORN.

What is it, Hoppy?  You afraid if you I borrow your gun, then everyone around’ll want to?  You afraid you’ll look lopsided?  You afraid you’ll have a run-in with outlaws and you’re stuck with half the available firepower?

I ain’t afraid a’ nuthin’!

‘cept goin’ around with one gun.  

HOPPY BRISTLES.

And an empty holster, flappin’ in the breeze.

Now you listen ta me. Not to be blowin’ my own horn or anything – ‘cause that’s against “The Code of the West” – but I don’t have ta prove nuthin’ ta nobody.  I’ve cleanup up dozens of cow towns.  I’ve helped of ranchers’ daughters whose gunned-down Pa’s refused to sell out.  I’ve saved my fair share of youngsters trapped on runaway buckboards.

What’s that got to do with loanin’ me a gun?

I don’t know.  And now I’m sorry I mentioned it.  I don’t want to be loanin’ my guns, that’s all.  It’s just somethin’… I don’t do.

You've sure been mighty tight-lipped about it till now.

Well, I’m just naturally tight-lipped.  Besides, the subject never came up.  I’m sorry, Red.  I can’t do it.

Fine.  I’ll ride into town unarmed.  Facin’ bullyin’ ridicule and possible death.

RED TRUDGES GRUMPILY TO HIS HORSE.  AND THEN, FINALLY…

HOPPY:  Oh, all right.  (EXTRACTING A GUN FROM HIS HOLSTER, AFTER MOMENTARY DIFFICULTY DECIDING WHICH ONE TO GIVE UP.)  

That’s okay, Hoppy. 

Go on.  Take it.  

No, sir.  I changed my mind.

You’ve been pesterin’ me about it.  Take it! 

I can’t.

Now you take it, y’hear? 

I am not takin’ yer gun.

(MENACINGLY)  And I’m sayin’ you are.

What are we goin’ to do?  Shoot it out?  I’m not carryin’ a gun!  (OFF HOPPY’S EXASPERATION)  Look, Hoppy. I wantedto borrow your gun.  But then I got to thinkin’ about things.  You know me, Hoppy; I’m not that reliable.  Suppose I do borrow your gun, I’m eatin’ pancakes and I get molasses all over the trigger. What if I get throwed into a horse trough and your gun gets all rusty and now only shoots water?  What if somehow a big pinto bean gets stuck way down in the barrel?  Keep your gun, Hoppy.  I can’t handle the pressure.

Are you sure about this? 

It’s too much for me, Hoppy. I’m not that great with responsibility.   That’s why I’m only a sidekick.

Okay, then.  If you say so.  

HOPPY HOLSTERS HIS GUN. YOU CAN ALMOST SENSE THE RELIEF.

Now, I’ll get Gramps and you hightail it back to town.

Right you are, Hoppy.

THEY EACH HEAD FOR THEIR HORSES.  HOPPY STOPS AND TURNS.

Oh, and Red.  

RED STOPS, AND TURNS.

I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention any of this.

Don’t worry, Hoppy. My lips are sealed.  (MOUNTING HIS HORSE, TO HIMSELF)  As if anyone would believe it.

HOPPY AND RED SPUR THEIR MOUNTS AND RIDE OFF IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS.

FADE OUT.

Recently Discovered Editor’s Note:  “That scene was originally in the picture.  But we cut it out ‘cause it slowed down the action.  And because the star asked me to.”  

Wow.  Is that a coincidence, or what?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

"Genus Envy - Part Two"

I spoke yesterday about a duo of pollsters who, in the course of a series of interviews, discovered that Trump supporters (“Genus Extremicus”whose votes were widely believed to have been fueled by partisan emotion, had instead, it turned out, made a rational choice, selecting the candidate they believed most likely to win, and, having done so, to then push through their conservative agenda.
                                                                                                                   
Though I have, as yet, not mentioned this alternate perspective to people I dearly love and respect (invariably “Genus Extremicus ”on the other side of the spectrum) I can predict they will respond, as they do at any allusion to their ideological “polar opposites”,

“They’re racists.  And if they’re not, they’re frickin’ idiots.” (And they wouldn’t say, “frickin’”.)

Leaving me wondering,

“Hey, guys!  What happened to, ‘All you need is love… brup, buh buh-buh-buh’?”

When I perceive the two sides,  

I see passion.  

I see unity.  

I see molten anger.

I do notsee civility.

I do not see opens minds.

And I do not see,

“I’m proud to be me
But I also see
You’re just as proud to be you.”

Being able to accommodate the legitimate possibility of “Two sides”, I feel better than the people who don’t.  (Don’t worry.  Humbling Comeuppance:  To Come.) This revelation concerning the Trump voters being practical rather than emotional? – I enjoyed hearing about that.  Learning something I had never considered before, the illumination widened my perspective.  It occurred to me, that, maybe, like Fagin in Oliver! (though without the singing soliloquy),

“I think I better think it out again.”

Now maybe I’m too malleable. Just because random pollsters said something on television does not automatically mean it’s a “breakthrough.”  It couldbe an issue of inadequate “sampling.”  Perhaps the interviewees were an unrepresentative sliver of outliers the pollsters wrongly inflated into a “Pronouncement.”

don’t know what’s correct.  

But my natural impulse is to listen.

And go “Hm” when I hear something new.

Nevertheless, I confess to a soupcon of envy for the extremes, because they invariably have certainty.  And company.  I have questioning doubts.  And less company.  But what can I tell you?  I was not cut out for the “Passionate Extremes.”

Why?

Because I am congenitally “Medium.”  

My shirts are all “Mediums.”  I like my steaks cooked “Medium.”  Though show business is a big risk, I took “medium” risks once I got there.   I do “moderate” exercise. 

Just this morning, I drove Dr. M to the airport.  Coming out, I was unsure of which way I would have to turn.  I naturally gravitated to the middle lane.  And it worked out just fine.

That’s me.

Always “The Middle Path.” (Including writing for network TV, where, at least in my day, the troubling extremes were comfortably unavailable.)

Any argument – I quickly identify with both sides.  I have philosophical preferences.  But no unwavering certainty.  (Exception:  “Capital Punishment.”  No!)

I feel virtuous, wielding an uncertain mind, ever open to view-altering adjustments.  I find that a praiseworthy characteristic.

If it were true.

(We now welcome “The Turn.”)

At a recent doctor’s appointment, seeking anything to forestall the possible announcement of “bad news”, the conversation meandered to the murky business of “Conspiracy Theories”, which he encouraged me to take seriously and I summarily dismissed.

And there you have it.

A reflexive reaction to the position I’m not, my knee-jerk rejection of the untrusted “Extreme.”  

Who does that remind me of?

Oh yeah.

Everyone I claim to be better than.

THUNK.

Let me be clear on this. I still champion the ever-flexible “open mind.”  There’re just signs I don’t have one.

Could I, in fact, be the most judgmental of the bunch?  I can imagine who probably thinks so.  It’s quite likely my “moral inferiors” hold their ideological polar opposites in (begrudging) higher regard than they hold me.

“They’re dead wrong. But at least they’re something.”

Where does that leave me?

“Genus Moderaticus.”

Maybe right.  But aloneicus.

“Indecisive”, say some.

To extremists, he’s numb.

Could this man be a “Phonus Bolonicus”?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Genus Envy"

Specifically the “Genus Extremicus.”

There is a price for everything, I suppose.  (Not, really, “I suppose.”  I actually believe that.  I just wanted to start “folksy.”)

I recently belatedly dropped in on a C-SPAN show on which a collaborating duo of pollsters with branded conservative credentials reported on a series of interviews they conducted with a sampling of unwavering backers of the current president, which they subsequently turned into a book.  

(Note:  To me, “affiliated pollster” conjures the stench of “affiliated umpire.”   Though confined to the immutable standards of “gathered statistics”, how could their partisan bias not inevitably seep in?  (More about that when my partisan recognized bias seeps in, which, though, hard as I try to exclude it, will not be difficult to detect.)

What I heard from the prejudiced pollsters – sorry, the people doing their darndest to remain carefully objective – was an illuminating perspective.  Meaning, I never thought of it before, though this view could, in fact, be widely disseminated.  (I discard a lot of my mail – “e” and otherwise – unread, and am embarrassingly sloppy concerning my phone messages.)

A general belief – a shameless euphemism for my ownbelief – is that the current president’s supporters voted with their gut and not with their minds.  (A belief particularly affirmed by the people who voted with their minds and lost the election.)  The prejudiced pollsters – sorry again – the participating pollsters reported that a prominent sector of Trump enthusiasts had, in fact, been thoughtfully practical in their selection.

Electoral experience had revealed to them that the conservative candidates they  previouslysupported never delivered on their promised conservative agenda, either because, when they were elected, they immediately abandoned their “bedrock beliefs”, or they maintainedtheir “bedrock beliefs” to the end but were never elected.  (Arguable Reason:  The majority of voters preferred candidates with markedly differing bedrock beliefs.)

Determined to be sensibly practical this time around, Republicans voted for the only candidate proudly proclaimed his conservative bedrock beliefs – if you ignore his pronouncements before entering politics – who promised to “Be their ‘Voice’”, and had the perceived best chance of winning the election.

Which, to everyone’s shock and dismay, including that of the unconventional candidate himself – he eventually did.

(LAST NOTE BEFORE MOVING ALONG:  One of the pollsters revealed that although few Trump enthusiasts endorse his personal behavior, they view him akin – no pun intended – to their crazy Uncle Harry who said – and did – unwelcome things, but hey, “That’s just ‘Crazy Uncle Harry’.” 

To which the “hypothetical” that bubbled to mind was, “What if “Crazy” Uncle Harry groped your mother? Because he could.  What if he walked into your daughter’s bedroom while she was changing her clothes? Because Uncle Harry’d paid for the house.  What if your Uncle Harry spread scurrilous lies about your father?  Because the two were embroiled in a serious legal dispute. 

Where, I am wondering, is the immovable “Line”, where Uncle Harry rises from  goofy “Family Character” to flagrant “Monstrous Degenerate?” 

My hypothetical was never responded to because the show was on C-SPAN and I was sitting alone in my house… muttering angrily at the TV. The president, one show’s guest reported from the collected interviews, receives an untroubled “pass” on such matters. Hence, the sobriquet, “prejudiced pollsters”, for not asking the pressing “follow-up” question, staring them screamingly in the face.) 

Anyway…

Here are these passionate people who, despite his acknowledged deficiencies in decency and deportment, opted to support this eventual winner, who said all the right thing and had no previous record of letting them down.  They were scarily ferocious in that support – “scarily” to those sensitive to the historic resonance of choreographed crowd roars of “Lock her up!” – and have continuedthat steadfast support despite accumulating evidence of ignorance, incompetence, instability and unprecedented self-interest.

Which theycount as further evidence of “colorful uniqueness.” 

The point is, they are unequivocally “All in” for their (now governing) candidate.

On the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, a side so equally “Genus Extremicus”, if the continuum were looped into a belt the two would meet at the bellybutton…

“I guess we have something in common, after all.”

“Yes.  The only difference is we’re right, and you’re wrong.”

(Who said which? “Dealer’s Choice.”)

You know what?  

I’ll do the opposite side of the spectrum tomorrow,

Including my own offered position, as well.  

Assuming I have one.

Ithink I have one.

If “Genus Moderaticus”is a recognized perspective,

Not an equivocal, fence-sitting punt.

See you, hopefully, manana. *  

(* My computer does not do the  “n’yuh.”)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"The Right Not To Know"

Any Jew I know who’s checked into their ancestry discovers they are related to the medieval Chief Rabbi of Warsaw.

That guy must have had a truckload of children.

I do not get the appeal of knowing about my past.  Drumroll:  “The Indignant Uproar.”

“Don’t you care about your ancestors?”  (Read in the same tone as “Don’t you care about abandoned pussycats?”)

Full Disclosure: Grandparents, sure.  Great grandparents, a little.  After that, 

Not at all.

“You could be descended from a noble lineage.”

Or eminent scalawags.

Or – most likely of all – 

Ordinary people. Nothing to be ashamed of, but not worth paying somebody good money to dig up.

“He had a store.  That’ll be five hundred dollars.”

Thanks, but I’ll pass.

AN IRATE GATHERING OF POMERANTZ PREDECESSORS

“A man doesn’t care about his ancestors.  Who does he think he is?”

“How should he know? He refuses to find out.”

“I say we disown him!”

THE GATHERED POMERANTZ’S VOCIFEROUSLY AGREE.

“Gentlemen! Please!  A man has a right to live the life that he chooses.”

THE POMERANTZ CLAN CLAMOR SUBSIDES.

“Wise words from the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw.”

I mean even if I were related to the Chief Rabbi of Warsaw what does that make me?

Still a consultant on According To Jim.

Shameful Confession Numero Dos:

As I am – ignominiously – disinterested in my past, I am equally uncurious about my future.

During my occasional “Saturday Morning Walks” along the Venice Boardwalk, I see signs advertising experts, promising accurate forecasts of your unforeseeable – except by them – Destiny. 

For a fee.

(This compensation issue keeps cropping up.  My brother wrote an aphorism about me:  “He would never buy anything from anyone trying to sell it to him.”  That’s not literally true, or I wouldn’t have anything. But, you know… they have an agenda.)

The Venice Beach walkway is prominently festooned with hand-painted signs promoting:  Palm reading.  Tarot cards.  Crystal balls.  

I am availably open to alternate avenues unveiling the murky “Mysteries of Life.”  But who exactly are these Swami-wannabes?  Where are their credentials?  

Don’t you think these practitioners vary wildly in their “clairvoyance”?  What if you get a substandard prognosticator?

“I’m sorry.  I forgot to shuffle the cards.  You’re not going to die.  That was the customer before you.”

Even if their abilities are “Top Drawer”, why do I need the aggravation?  If they say what I want to hear, I’ll be skeptical.  And if it’s horrible, I’ll be depressed.

Which brings me to doctors. Who have credentials, and proven healing abilities, though their inherent value is less appreciated when they pay inordinate attention to “Worrying Indicators” revealed in “The Testing”, terrifying the patient as they punt them to specialists for “Further attention.”  And then,

SPECIALIST(AFTER SUBSEQUENT EXAMINATION)  “You’re fine.”

“That’s great.  But what do I do with my adrenaline?”

I am not an idiot. (At least not in all cases.  I don’t think.)  I understand the idea of “Catching it early”, although I am unclear on the precise boundaries of “Early.”  More and more, people are opting for screenings for future chronic diseases.  To me, this procedure seems questionable.

“My tests came back. I’m going to get (PLACE “TERRIBLE DISEASE” NAME HERE) when I’m sixty.”

“How old are you now?”

“Thirty-seven.”

“Well, enjoy the wait.”

Ican handle it.  What am I missing here?  

“Get ready to be sick in twelve years.”

Tell me in eleven-and-a-half.  (Or better yet, never)  Why extend the anxiety? 

You know what else seems overrated to me? 

“Getting your affairs in order.”

First, I am not exactly sure what that involves.  Cancelling magazine subscriptions?  And second, how long does “Getting your affairs in order” actually take?

“I finished in two hours. Now what?”

Okay, I’m a little hyper today.  After a routine checkup, my “Primary Care” physician recommended a “follow-up” with a urologist.  I cannot predict the outcome of that impending appointment but at the very least I anticipate the unwelcome visit of a probing finger.  

I understand “Bad news” is an inevitable part of human existence.  But I tell my doctors, “No more than I need to hear, and no sooner than I need to hear it.”

You know what?

They don’t listen.

Ancestors.com.  

Soothsayers, “Savonarolas” and scarifying sawbones.

I have my hands full with the concept of “Be Here Now.”

Who needs the added responsibility of “Be Here Then” and “Be Here Later”? 

Monday, July 9, 2018

"Rekindled * (* Unrelated To The Reading Device)"

You think it’s finally decided.  And then…

Are you familiar with the idea of the “Variable Interval Ratio”?  If not, then you’re in for a treat.  Unless I misunderstand the concept myself, in which case, my apologies for inadvertently leading you astray.

The way I understand it, the “Variable Interval Ratio” involves a conditioning arrangement where, for example, a rat performs a task; they get a reward.  They perform it again; they are rewarded again.  They perform it a third time; and again, there’s the reward.  

The rat starts to think,

“This is a pretty good life.”

They perform the task yet again…

And receive an excruciating shock.

“Wait a second.  And, by the way, Ow!

The rat thinks there must have been a mistake.  For their overall mental wellbeing, they feel the need to understand what’s what.  They perform the task – a little warily this time – again…

And they get a reward.

“Okay!”

Things are relievedly back to normal… after some apparent “aberrant glitch.”  Predictability has now happily been restored.  All’s right with the world.

In celebration, they perform the task again.

“Zzzzzzzzz!!!!!!”

Say hello to the “Variable Interval Ratio.”

Leaving the rat wandering helplessly around their cage, a dazed expression on their face, a touching tableau of rat-like confusion.

“The world makes no sense anymore.  I may as well throw in the towel.”

As many rats, in fact, do.

Unable to handle the buffeting randomness of everyday existence.

So…  (and my apologies for returning to this well a possibly unwelcome subsequent time)…

I walk into Groundwork Coffee Co., where I was once – for a succession of weeks – treated like a king, but then, inexplicably, fell out of favor, and had now returned to being treated like everyone else.

Not a “jolting shock”, perhaps, but it sure felt like one, due to a positive expectation I believed to be permanently entrenched.  (You see the analogy there?  Wait. It gets better.)

I step inside the emporium on my most recent excursion, at the restorative halfway point of my morning “Thursday Walk”, and before I reach the back of the ”Service Line”, the Captain Picard-domed store manager swoops into view and says to me,

“Venice Blend”?  

And “just like that”,

“I’m back.”

(The “reward” returned, after several weeks of punishing indifference.)

How do I respond to this startling return to favor?

“Yes, please.”

I may be startled, but I am painstakingly polite, throughout my queue-jumping elevation, ending with a (possibly overly) sincere “Thanks a lot.  I really appreciate it.”  I was really “laying it on.”  As if I had a say in this sudden reversal, which I most certainly did not

I just didn’t want it to go away.

“What’s going on?” I exited, wondering.  “Am I in, or am I out?”

For weeks, I had lived in a muted state of accepting resignation.  “The good times are gone.  So be it.”  

How am I supposed to feel now?

It had been suggested – in a submitted comment I seem no longer able to receive – that the preferred treatment I experienced was the result of the store manager confusing me with someone who mattered, and then, discovering I wasn’t, it stopped.  

Which I accepted as a reasonable explanation.  

But why now had the specialized treatment suddenly returned?

A flurry of rationales floated to mind, none of them instigated by me because I’m only the rat. 

It is all Captain Picard.

He thought I was big and when he found out I wasn’t,

“Turn off the ‘Gravy Train.’”

Then he looked himself in the mirror and thought,

“How snobbish of me. I cut him off ‘cause he’s a nobody. But should I really blame him?  It’s not hisfault he’s a nobody.  I shall now reinstitute the specialized  treatment, even though he’s a nobody, because,  ‘Hey, Everyone’s a somebody.’  Besides, now it won’t look like I’d treated him better before I found out he’s a nobody.”

Either it’s that, or I have entered a world where I try to determine a pattern and it turns out the prevailing pattern is a disorienting “No pattern.”

Trouble is, another Thursday morning will soon be upon us.

And I have no idea what to expect.

LAB RAT:  “Welcome to my world.  A helpful hint?  Try not to defecate in frustration.  They get mad when they have to clean up your cage.”