Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bullet Points

No rhyme or reason to these; just things that hit me this week.  I would have posted a more organized essay, but a nasty fall down the stairs thoroughly scrambled any more coherent thoughts I may have had in the works.  I'm fine; just too achey to be much in the profundity department.  Here goes:

• My favorite quote this week comes from Stephen Colbert: "Wisconsin should love Rick Santorum.  He's a big wheel of Colby cheese:  white, not too sharp and holier than thou."

Aquaman is one of the best comic books being published.  And I never thought I would put those words together in that order in a sentence.  It's actually better than Green Lantern.

• A note to Pennsylvania drivers:  If you have to swing over into another lane to make a turn -- especially if it's the lane I happen to be in at the time -- and you're not driving a 1937 Packard, maybe you ought to reconsider driving at all.  Seriously.  Stay the ƒø¢# home.

• To whomever is making the bomb threats at my daughter's university:  you really need to stop.  It's not a prank.  It's a federal crime.  And the FBI will seriously mess up the rest of your life when they catch you.

• Thank you, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for making filing taxes electronically (A) the only way to file at all and (B) as difficult as possible.  My daughter's taxable income was TWO DOLLARS last year, thanks to checking account interest and the complete lack of summer jobs for students, AND SHE STILL HAD TO FILE.  And it took over an hour.  If there is a Republican administration that isn't a bunch of morons, I have yet to live under their rule.

More as I think of them....

Saturday, March 24, 2012

There Is Some Hope

I almost skipped completely any writing this week.  I found the past week's news to be horribly depressing, what with the considerable -- and growing -- popularity of a Republican political candidate whom I consider to be positively dangerous in both his ignorance and his obdurate religious fundamentalism.  Yes, Mr. Santorum, I mean you.  How anyone who has a mother, a sister, or a daughter can possibly stand behind this man is a complete and utter mystery to me.  And yet he keeps on winning, or coming close to doing so.

Then there's that charming lady in Georgia who until recently was selling the following car sticker:

I heard this hideous excuse for a human being interviewed on NPR and she was insistent that this is not racist.  Right.  How this offensive piece of excrement could even be made here in the 21st Century is, again, a complete and utter mystery to me.  I am thankful that she finally removed it from sale on her website.  But I have to keep reminding myself of what George Carlin said: "Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of them are even stupider!"  Guess which half I'm putting her into.

There's been a lot of other horribly depressing news -- the Afghanistan killings, the jihadist in France and his killings and ultimate suicide by cop, and on and on, ad nauseam -- and added to the fact that I have personally been in horrific physical pain this week -- something about autoimmune disease and spring allergies can make for an absolutely deadly combination -- and it's no wonder I've been prone to looking at my bottle of painkillers and trying to come up with a reason not to swallow the whole lot of them.

And then last night, on network TV no less, I stumbled on a hidden-camera program called "What Would You Do?" that put ordinary people into situations that called for them to make some kind of a moral choice, and then watch what they do.  They did the usual trite stuff, like dropping money outside of a bank to see if it would be stolen or returned, and hiring kid actors to try to get someone to buy them beer.  Mostly people reacted the way we would hope they would, including a homeless woman with seven dollars to her name returning the hundred dollar bill she found to the bank, and the middle-aged chef demanding the phone number for the would-be beer purchasers' parents.  But the one that really got to me, that really gave me hope, was in the bridal shop in New Jersey.

"What Would You Do?" staged a scene in a bridal shop where an actress feigned finally finding the perfect wedding dress -- a pretty emotional moment, I think -- only to have the saleswoman refuse to sell it to her upon discovering that the bride-to-be was a lesbian.  Whereas in the other scenarios there were always a couple of people who made the "bad" choice -- a couple of people bought beer for the kids or kept the hundred -- EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the bridal shop, EVERY SINGLE TIME they staged the confrontation between the bigoted saleswoman and the gay bride-to-be, either spoke up in favor of the bride, or walked out of the store to go shop somewhere else, or some combination of the two.  Every time.  And they let the saleswoman know she was wrong, too, every single time.  The most moving one for me was the young black woman in the store with her mother.  They made it very clear that as far as they were concerned, it was a civil rights issue, and they were in tears on behalf of the gay bride because of how her special "yes to the dress" moment was ruined by something she would have to carry in her heart forever.  The mother mentioned how she grew up in Utah and likewise would have been refused a dress if it had been discovered that she was marrying a white man.

And all this in New Jersey, a state where the legislature approved same-sex marriage last February only to have their Republican governor veto the bill when it came to his desk.  It showed me that random folks seem to get it, and seem to realize that same-sex marriage is  a civil rights issue, and that loving one another and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is where our hearts should be.

For the first time in a while, I'm proud to be from New Jersey.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Keeping the Romance Alive

Last night I mentioned to my wife that I planned to shave off my goatee today.  I started growing one about six weeks ago mainly because I was bored with my standard Uncle Fester look, but I have been feeling like it does nothing to enhance my looks, and in fact makes me look older than I am.  Making me look older or look like my father were deal-breakers in the goatee experiment.  And the hot weather is coming, a time when hair on the face is not exactly welcome.  If the non-winter we just had is any indication (sorry, House Stark, Winter isn't Coming, at least not to Pennsylvania this year) then I can expect a deadly hot and humid spring and summer.  Sweating out through even a small beard is no fun -- I used to wear a full beard until it started going grey and a well-meaning woman in the Wendy's asked me how old was my granddaughter?

Long story less long, I mentioned to my wife that when I did my weekly haircut, as I usually do on a Thursday morning, I was taking off the whiskers.

She objected.

I was a bit surprised, because up until now she hadn't really weighed in on the whole "to grow or not to grow" issue.  I asked her why she thought I should keep it.

She said, "Olivia [our daughter] likes it, and I think it gives your face a little character.  It keeps you from looking like a roll-on deoderant."

(Italics mine.)

She then backpedaled a bit, no doubt due to the pained expression on my face.  She commented that I looked better with it than without it, because without it I had the whole Uncle Fester thing going on. (And she's right, without it, I do.)  She said that at the Oscars, Kevin Spacey and Tom Hanks were sporting new goatees, and Peter Gabriel, a musician she finds infinitely sexy, has worn one for years.  So there's that.

And apparently, I also won't be mistaken for a vintage tube of Ban.  That's how we roll here in Chez Borror-Hayes -- keepin' the romance alive.

Not a roll-on or an Addams!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Time Flies

Wow, this week has just flown by!  I know our sense of passing time changes as we get older, which is why high school takes FOREVER but our kids grow up in about two weeks.  But I swear, this week was only two days long, and now it's time for Olivia to go back to the University of Pittsburgh to finish her freshman year.  It's been a treat watching her get so mature so quickly this year, but I know that she found college-level courses like advance biology and calculus to be real eye-openers.  It has finally dawned on her, I think, that success now is going to be a major determining factor in her success later.

And I can only watch.

My job -- our job, really; please don't think I'm denying my wife any of the credit that is due her -- is done.

This is a hard one to accept.

I can't do anything whatsoever to shape her any more, because from here on out it's all up to her.  I can still help with the bills and offer a shoulder and a door that's always open, but that's it.  I often think of that Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner as a dad who would do anything to spare his son the travails of childhood, and somehow changes bodies with him, fully knowing that he has to go through the bullying, the teasing, the hassles of being small all over again.  I don't know any parent who doesn't feel the same way.

But I think we did a pretty good job raising Olivia.  It's going to be interesting watching the woman she becomes.

And not in a Chinese curse way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Entropy, My Nemesis

I'm sick of fighting entropy.

Whether it's cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, or struggling to be well, it seems like my entire waking life is spent battling entropy.  I'm defining entropy here as the tendency of all things to have a gradual decline into disorder and chaos.  It will ultimately result in what physicists call "the heat death of the universe."

So why am I bothering to dust the mantle every week?

Well, apart from the obvious stuff like how nobody wants to live in filth or wants to use a disgusting bathroom, I have no real answer.  It seems like the only answer IS the obvious stuff, the short term and fleeting pleasures of clean sheets or a shiny faucet.  But I'm still having trouble getting my brain wrapped around the "why bother?" factor.

It's partly because of little things, like my health issues causing me to run out of steam earlier and earlier each day.  And like the various elements of pain starting sooner and sooner each day, and becoming more and more intense.  (On a side note, I would like to personally thank La Niña for not having to shovel any snow this past winter.  If you knew just how much I hurt every day, you would know how intensely grateful I am for this fact.  Now if only there were a similar natural phenomenon to hope for so that the grass this summer will grow to be two inches tall and then STOP.  Oh, wait -- it's called "drought," isn't it?  I refuse to hope for that.)

My life really is getting ridiculous.  By the time I'm finished cooking supper most nights, I'm so crippled up with arthritic and neuropathic pain that my evening consists of whimpering in the recliner until I deem it time to take the pain medication to which I refuse to become addicted or even just dependent.  (I do splurge on the nights we have to go out, but only with the non-opiate stuff.  I don't care to drive while under the influence of opiates, and if you are on the road here in Pennsylvania, you don't care to have me drive that way either.  And I'm not supposed to use things like Motrin, because of how it interacts with Crohn's Disease, but if I take oxycodone to go out, I can't go out ... so Motrin it is.  And please don't suggest Tylenol -- I agree with my friend Phil:  with Tylenol it's best to skip the middle-man and just drop the tablets directly into the toilet, for all the pain relief it offers.  But I digress yet again.)

Exhaustion, pain and depression do not make a good combination for fighting entropy.  Like the heat death of the universe, it makes me wonder why I bother.  If one day in the future, the universe is going to be a dark, cold uniform expanse of expended matter; if one day my home is going to be torn down or destroyed; if one day I'm going to be ashes in a jar anyway, why not just swallow that entire bottle of little white pills and simply be done with it?  It's not like I'm afraid of what happens when I die, or like I'm worried about an afterlife:  one of the true comforts of being an atheist and a humanist is the sure knowledge I have that when I'm dead, I'm dead, and there is nothing else beyond my life.  Not for a dandelion, not for a stink bug, and not for me.

And that is precisely why I do fight entropy, instead of giving up.  Because I believe in no afterlife, because I believe that this life is all I'm ever going to have, I am reluctant to give it up so easily.  I want to live it and learn and enjoy and simply be for as long as I can.  Like Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said in Cat's Cradle, "Think of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around!"  We are the lucky mud that got to sit up and look around.  Even hurting, even sad, I get to sit up and look around, and it's completely worth it.

Speaking of  mud, I need to go and do something about that hall carpet.