Thursday, September 30, 2010

Daydream Island

One of my on-going daydreams is about living on an island. It is an island that is difficult to reach so that anything you bring there requires enormous effort. You have to be extremely selective about what you consider a necessity.

I used to truly believe that I would leave my television set behind but that changed when I became a NASCAR fan. Now I'd simply have to go to whatever lengths it took to be able to watch the pre-race, race and post-race shows. Thank God, modern technology has made t.v. watching more user friendly.

I always resented the television because I saw it as a dictator and that's somewhat true, even today. Say, you're interested in learning about World War II but the History Channel decides the subject is to be the Revolutionary War. It's their way or no way - but the abundance of stations available now has given watchers more control, especially if you have a satellite. My friends who are into horse racing and rodeo can access channels dedicated to those two sports. That certainly wasn't true 20 years ago.

The television also used to be able to force you to tolerate inane commercials and determine when you could safely run to the kitchen for a snack. DVR and TIVOs have fixed those problems for those lucky enough to have them. You can fast forward through commercials and pause when you need a potty break.

Having said all that, with books, you are the master and they are your attentive servants so my island would have to have a direct line to  Periodically, the UPS plane would fly over and drop a skid of books.

I'd have to have high speed internet, of course. That way I'd still have a source of communication and music and knowledge of the world outside my island, even if I chose not to pay much attention to it.

I'd have a cell phone but only nine people would know the number. I'd give the same nine people the GPS coordinates to the island so they could come and visit.

Other than the television, a coffee pot is the only appliance I couldn't live without. I'd leave almost all my clothes behind except for a few loose-fitting caftans and some sandals. No bras. I'd never wear a bra again....ever. No huge bag of make up or myriad nail care products or small, medium and large curling irons and brushes/blow dryers/diffusers/straighteners/kinkers. No permanents or dyes.

And certainly no clocks - a golden sun and a silver moon would be all I'd need to tell least, close enough.

I would leave all my collectibles behind. I don't need candles or angels or teapots - just an occasional perfect shell washed up on the beach or maybe an especially graceful piece of driftwood.

I wouldn't have to take any prescription pills on my island because I would no longer be stressed enough to irritate my ulcers (well, except when watching the races, of course), my blood pressure wouldn't be high and I'd be forced to be on a healthy diet since fresh fish, mangos and coconuts would be the only foods available - so no blood sugar fluctuations.

I haven't decided about cigarettes yet. Commonsense would dictate that a deserted island would be the perfect place to quit with no Village Pantry down the block but, man, I'm giving up so much else to be here. Maybe I could just smoke for a while at first, then taper off.....

I have a dog with me on my island, a black and silver German Shepherd, and a long-haired black Maine Coon Cat. Their names are Shiloh and Santee. There are wild horses there too. I don't want to ride them, just watch them, along with all the other wildlife.

There aren't many laws on Daydream Island because without people you hardly need laws. I'm taking my Glock for self-protection but I'm the only one here who has a Second Amendment right.

I'm not sure exactly where this island is. It is washed all around by an ocean but other than an occasional exciting storm for show, there are no hurricanes or tornadoes or volcanoes. It is as warm as the tropics, a cozy fire in the fire place is all that's needed to stay snug in the hut. Many startlingly colorful birds along with southern birds like pelicans and frigate birds make their home here but it is characterized by topography more like the American midwest - green grass and clear creeks, maple trees and lilacs. There are no poisonous plants or snakes or bugs.

I imagine myself sitting on the verandah of the hut, watching blue waves sliding into shore, hearing trees rustling in the breeze and the squawk of seagulls, with my faithful dog at my feet and the cat in my lap....because everyone needs a place of perfect peace even if it's only in day dreams.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stupid Human Tricks

- I don't want to eat genetically altered salmon, the first living creature to be played with in such a way or at least the first one for which geneticists are trying to get approval from the F.D.A.

Humans are so breathtakingly arrogant about screwing with other species. We used to create our desired changes via breeding. We produced cows with udders the size of hot air balloons for more milk, hogs with less fat because we prefer lean bacon, chickens with the brains and maternal instincts taken out of them to turn them into egg-laying machines, roosters for lethal fighting instincts.

We bred pets for traits that pleased us - dogs with noses so flat they could barely breathe, or skin so wrinkled they develop mold if not properly cared for,  so vicious they have to be caged and muzzled. We bred them for speed so we could gamble on their prowess on the track. (Of course, if we couldn't breed for the desired changes, we simply butchered for them, cutting off dogs' ears and tails).

We bred horses to run fast as well or trot fast or pace fast, based on our preference. And sometimes we simply bred them so we could harvest their urine to make hormones for menopausal women.

Because we think extremes are cute, we bred miniature dogs and cats and horses and goats. We bred them to have excessively long fur or to have no fur at all.

We bred wild animals so we could fence them in and allow Bwana Big Hero to "hunt" them so they could hang heads or pelts on their walls and brag to their friends.

We removed the taste from of fruits and vegetables so they'd stay looking good during shipping.  We bred for showier blossoms without fragrance.

We bred other plants to have more seeds or larger ears although in the transition, they lost their resistance to blight or other enemies.

When we didn't breed mutations, we did it in other ways - by cloning them. (Remember, dear Dolly, the sheep?)

And now we're fucking with genetically altered salmon to make them bigger, twice as big in fact as natural salmon.

And why do we need to do that? Why because there are too many of us, of course. We need giant fish and abnormally productive apple trees and humongous ears of corn and enormously uddered cows to feed ourselves. Because while we're good at altering other creatures for our purposes, we seem to have no tolerance at all for altering our own self-destructive natures, one which is very definitely self-indulgent breeding of our own.

It's been a long, long time since God told us to go forth and multiply. Maybe it's time to stop worrying about dogs and cows and corn and salmon and starting breeding some commonsense qualities into ourselves.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emotional Firewalls

It's too bad people don't come with natural virus protection to detect infected files trying to invade our system, because a lot of us seem to muddle through our lives as vulnerable as a computer without a firewall.

Our tendency is to believe the innocent-looking message that comes through Facebook or via e-mail until, by clicking onto it, we discover ourselves in a world of hurt. Like our computer's hard drive, our lives can be twisted by a betraying lover or insincere friend, or a deceptive salesperson,  if we don't learn until after we've allowed them entry that they mean to do us harm.

Often, in my job, that's what I feel like - the computer repair person trying to set things right again after the system has been corrupted by a virus.

The hacker may be a hit and run girlfriend who gains your love and has your baby, then leaves you high and dry owing at least 18 years of support on a child with whom you are denied a relationship.

Or a smiling buy-here-pay-here salesman who swears the POS car he just sold you at twice the going rate is in perfect condition. When it falls to pieces 30 days later, too bad so sad, you still owe the balance and don't think you can get out of it. Their specialty is writing contracts in such a way that you don't stand a chance.

Or the friend that says, "oh, these are temporary guardianship papers, just 'til you get back on your feet."  You're so grateful until you discover temporary isn't all that temporary unless your hire a lawyer and go back to court and even then, proving you should get your kids back once you've signed them over to someone else may not be that easy to do.

Maybe your nice new landlord assures you that he'll repair the furnace and fix the leaky toilet and replace the dirty carpet, just go ahead and write him the rent check and move in. Don't think you can withhold payment when he doesn't follow through. Rent is due no matter what, just like support is due whether your ever get visitation with your kids or not.

I see so many clients who would have been saved if only they'd had an inner "ALERT!" to protect themselves. So many problems in life are due to blind trust given and betrayed.

Um, doesn't she have other kids on whom she collects a weekly check while withholding visitation from the fathers? What makes you think she won't do the same to you? Conversely, doesn't he have other kids that he's never paid a nickel to support? Why do you think yours will be any different? Oh, s/he loves you. Uh huh, I see.

Did you even read your rental agreement/sales contract/guardianship documents? Did it state in black and white that the landlord would make certain repairs? Did it lay out in writing what happens if the car blows up after a month? Was there an end date written into the guardianship agreement?

No? Well, then, you're probably screwed.

Do you think I'm too cynical? You don't want to believe the world is that predatory? Computers are a lot like life. The majority of messages you receive and websites you visit are just what they seem to be, but let your virus protection expire and see what happens.

It is a matter of balance. You don't want to set your firewall so high that you deny even loyal lovers and faithful friends and responsible salespeople in. On the other hand, you don't want it so low that you make it simple for the hackers to invade your life either.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Dismal, Depressing, Denying Democrats

Well, Democrats, you had a chance to elect two wily old political veterans who'd already fought the Republicans to a standstill once before (and incidentally, put us on the road to surplus as well). I thought that was exactly what we needed, a warrior, a pair of warriors, really - the Clintons.

But, nope, you were all about youth and hope and change and togetherness. "Nah", you said," those cynical old party stalwarts are behind the times, their day is done. Ignore the seniors and the blue collars in the working class neighborhoods in West Virginia and Texas and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. It's the 21st century now - we've become the party of minorities and college students and affluent young professionals. We'll move to Washington with Barack Obama and start the Kumbaya Revolution."

So, how's that working out for you so far, Democrats?

From the looks of things right now, Obama is down in the polls and barring an unexpected improvement in the economy, you Dems are going to take a bath in November. Maybe lose both houses of Congress. Short-lived revolution, wasn't it?

I knew it was going to happen and I don't see how anyone who watched the Republicans leading up to and during Bill Clinton's impeachment could have not known it was going to happen. Where did you ever see the slightest, remotest hint that the R's would bow and smile and let Obama have his way with the people? Now Barack says they've talked about him like a dog. Well, of course, because that's what the Republicans do! Have you not got that through your heads yet?

Do you really think they crucified Clinton just because he was Bill Clinton and that they wouldn't have found some hook to try to hang whoever had been the Democrat president at the time? Don't tell me that Bill gave them ammunition. It wouldn't have mattered. If they'd had to, they'd have made something maybe they would have accused him of not being a U.S. citizen.

So, as far as I'm concerned, what you did, Democrats, was throw a Cocker Spaniel into the ring when you should have known the Republicans were going to send pit bulls after him. You remind me of the flower children of the Sixties, sticking your little daisies in Republican gun barrels. Now you've discovered to your dismay that daisies only work unless your opponent decides to shoot, then they'll be blown to smithereens.

And Republicans have no hesitation whatsoever about pulling the trigger.

I've mostly sworn off politics since the presidential election. I felt like my age and my sex and my class were disrespected by my party and the media. I turned to NASCAR instead. Now I watch cars go around circles, knowing that skill and courage will prevail, not fuzzy feelings.

I thought I'd got over all this a little bit. I'm surprised to discover how angry I still am.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Almost Autumn

The other morning when I let Caesar, the Pomeranian, out at 4:00 a.m., there was a crisp portent of on-coming fall in the air. After all the heat-drenched, humidity-heavy mornings that preceded it, I stepped out the door to delight in letting the cool surround me.

My friend, Brenda, has always hated autumn. She calls it the dying season, when all the plants begin to turn brown and shed their leaves or wither away.  Being a more positive person, I don't consider it dying as much as resting. They've worked overtime producing fruits and vegetables and flowers and seeds and now its vacation time. See ya' next April.

And the trees at least wave us good bye with a celebratory burst of color - champagnes and bronzes and golds and coppers and crimsons. And the garden invites us to stock up on last harvest tomatoes and squash and potatoes until the laid-off workers are recalled and the assembly line starts up again next spring.

For a while, the house will be unnaturally quiet after the air conditioner signs off for the year but before the furnace clocks in. The silence is the sound of....savings. Sometimes it seems as if, instead of electricity or gas, the a.c. and furnace are fueled by stacks of dollar bills.

It used to be at this time of year, you had to think a lot about your car. Had you better get a new battery so it will start when the temperatures drop? Is it time to take it down to have antifreeze added? What about buying snow tires? Cars are more reliable and user friendly now.  I'm old enough to remember that dreaded "rrrh...rrrh....rrrh" sound of a low battery but I haven't heard it in years. And whatever they put in the car now must be year-around stuff. And I use the same radial tires even in snow season. Can't remember the last time I had a flat tire either.

I love sitting on my front porch to read but I abandoned it during deep summer when the air was breathless and the heat sat on you like it contained actual weight.  I'll begin to venture back out now that's it's more comfortable.

My energy level rises in direct proportion to the falling temperatures. When it's 90+ and sultry, I have the metabolism of a slug, dragging myself along heavily, like every inch is a milestone. By contrast, when the heat-index drops, I feel as light as a butterfly. I start to think of long-delayed projects needing to be done. Straighten my books so all the volumes by the same authors are together. Sort my clothes and take the things I never wear to The Lighthouse Mission. Clean the cupboards and the closets.

I'm a Leo so I'm supposed to be a sun person but I'm not. I'm beaten down by an overbearing sun. Maybe I have some other sign rising or something. My birth month, August, is actually my least favorite month (with February a close second). August has almost nothing to recommend itself, not one single holiday. (Even February has Valentine's Day, which if it isn't a day off work is at least a lovable day).

So I say, "bring it on, Mother Nature, I'm ready to rock on into fall!"