Monday, April 27, 2009

Note to Earth

I’m sorry I didn’t send you a card on Earth Day.

I was angry with you at the time. Elisabeth, who was visiting us last week, asked me to recycle my water bottle, since it was Earth Day, and I responded with “up earth’s ass.” These words were no sooner out of my mouth than they were on her Facebook page. So I am sure you heard about it.

All I was trying to do was plant a lousy hydrangea. A two foot hole for cripes sake. But you have to go and park a boulder the size of a Camaro right where the thing was going. A simple job requiring a cute little spade became an epic struggle with pick axe and shale bar. Since it is about the hundredth time you’ve pulled this little stunt, you’d think the gag would be getting stale. But nooooooooo. I swear I could hear you chuckling.

And since I am complaining, would it kill you to lighten up on the gravity thing? This might help us both. I recently read that obese people produce more methane gas than average weight folks. If you cranked the gravity down a scoach, I would go from a chunky 210 to a svelte 160 and you wouldn’t have that nasty smell that’s hurting your popularity with the other planets.

What’s that you say? You have laws and they cannot be broken? What are you, the Planet Nazi? Today’s management style calls for flexibility.

We blame ourselves for a lot of your problems, but, frankly, I don’t think you were doing that great a job running the show before we got here. You decide to freeze everyone’s ass for about million years just for the heck of it. You can’t blame that on us because we were wandering around the savannas of Africa at the time trying to figure out what to do with our tails now that you hid all the trees.

Just ask the dinosaurs. Oh, that’s right you can’t because they’re extinct along with 75 percent of the species on the planet at the end of the Jurassic because you couldn’t trouble yourself to get out of the way of a measly asteroid. They don’t teach the side step or hitting the brakes in planet school? A little defensive driving might do you some good.

And what is with this whole fang and claw, survival of the fittest, extinction thing? A tad insensitive for modern times, don’t you think? Here’s an idea: have Simon, Paula and the gang decide which species get to move on to the next round. This might not be that much more humane but it could be a hit and put a few bucks in your pocket. We all know your resources are not what they used to be.

And another thing: ease up on the volcanoes and tsunamis. They are scaring us and not helping property values at the shore. Who ever told you that bouncing continents off each other was a good idea anyway? It’s seems pretty childish to me. Maybe it’s time you grew up. You are 5 billion years old after all.

I hope this clears the air. And about that water bottle: I did recycle it. I hope this helps.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Novel

All of my sure fire, money making schemes-the blog, the website, the wood carving-are coming up dry. So it is time to switch to Plan D: I am writing a novel.

This is classic JerThink. What better time to launch my literary venture than the worst period in the history of publishing when many suggest books are on the verge of extinction?
Hey, ya gotta start sometime.

I don’t have a plot yet, but I do have the first sentence: “The bowling ball whizzed by narrowly missing his nose.” Nose as the named body part felt right from the get-go because I thought proboscis sounded hoity-toity.

I tried many objects, however, before I decided to go with bowling ball. I chose it because it gives me a great deal of flexibility. This could be a science-fiction work about a race of aliens who make a sport of exterminating humans by pegging us with bowling balls; or one of those very popular serial killer detective stories about an embittered pin spotter who turned homicidal after his job got automated in 1956; or one of those disaster epics about a tornado that takes out a sporting goods store.

I even have the title: “Himself.” Once again, since I am sans plot, I am looking for flexibility here. This could be about anything that features a male protagonist; or it could be one of those heart-wrenching memoirs about growing up poor in Ireland (note to reader: I did not grow up poor in Ireland, but faked memoirs are huge these days).

Kathie takes issue with the name. She says that any title that has the “him” word, or any derivative, is going to lose the female dominated book club market. The only exceptions might be “He Sucks” or “Him a Jerk.” Apparently, since the advent of internet pornography, men have abandoned reading altogether.

However, she notes that books containing the words wife or daughter in their title are sure fire hits. She suggests “Himself’s Wife”, the heart-breaking tale of a valiant woman’s efforts to keep her dysfunctional family together despite the worst efforts of her violent, abusive, alcoholic, sniveling, drooling, Irish husband. She says this will not only make Oprah cry, but will get the book club ladies scampering to Barnes & Noble. I like it.

I don’t even have to change my first sentence. The opening scene can take place in a bowling alley where the violent, abusive, etc., father goes ballistic at his sensitive but unathletic son who has just tossed a gutter ball. Hellllllooooo, Oprah!

I may even run teasers and snippets of the tale in these columns as it unfolds.
Don’t expect anything soon, however, because I feel a writer’s block coming on.

You know the symptoms: You sit at the computer determined to crank out 500 words and next thing you know you are prowling used car sites and googling the whereabouts of the kid who stole your lunch money in third grade.

In fact, I think I will check out what a 2003 Subaru is worth these days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where Did Easter Go?

Easter used to be a big deal, but not so much anymore.

We went up to Boston (Natick, actually) to visit the kids and grandson. I even managed to get out of going to church on Easter morning, thus cutting my annual church attendance in half. There were two masses offered at the local church at 7:00 and 9:00 on Easter morning. Elisabeth and I told Kathie we would accompany her to the 9:00, but count us out for the 7:00. She opted for the early mass, thus giving us an extra two hours of sleep while damning our souls to perdition in the process.

She reported that most of the attendees were elderly people. We had brunch at a local café where most of our fellow diners, young family groups mostly, were wearing the usual assortment of faded jeans, rumbled t-shirts and greasy Red Sox caps; not a lacy dress or pill box hat in the crowd.

That’s the way it seems to be for us anyway: Easter is just another Sunday.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was growing up, Easter was right up there with Christmas on the holidays-to-look-forward-to list. Of course, you had to get through Lent first when you were expected to give up something you liked and keep a Lenten box that you filled with leftovers from your allowance and turned in to the nun on the last day of school before Easter vacation. If you filled it up, you received a glow in the dark statue of the Infant of Prague. It was pretty neat actually.

My sister and I each got a new set of clothes and my mom got a new hat. My Dad’s standing joke was that he got a new pair of shoelaces. I don’t recall if I got a new suit every year, but I vividly recall getting a handsome grey suit with pink pin stripes when I was ten or eleven. This was a very hot color combo in the fifties. We were going to my aunt’s for Easter dinner and while waiting outside for my parents I got to running around with some friends in the vacant lot next door. I fell and tore the knee out of my new suit.

I don’t recall if I was punished but remember that my mother cried, the worst form of punishment I could receive.

We believed in the Easter Bunny, although not with the fervor with which we embraced Santa Claus. A large rabbit who delivered candy and colored eggs was a stretch even for naïve children of the fifties. Still a basket of candy appeared every Easter Sunday morning and we sure as hell weren’t asking any questions.

We made a big deal about it when our kids were little: dying eggs for the bunny to hide, putting the baskets out after they went to bed, and getting dressed up for church. Kathie didn’t get a new hat and I didn’t get shoelaces since I always preferred laceless shoes.

I can’t imagine kids still believe in the Easter Bunny today, though they might say they do. I miss the big fella. Here, on the day after Easter, there is not a piece of chocolate or a hard boiled egg to be found; no sugar egg that you can hold up to your eye and view an Easter scene; no marshmallow chicks or jelly beans.

I guess to recapture the Easter spirit I will have to get in touch with my Inner Rabbit. He says his name is Harvey.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hold the Phone

We got a mini cam for the computer.

This was my son’s suggestion. They have a camera built into their Mac and he thought if we were similarly equipped we could have video chats with our grandson.

Seemed like a great idea, but I don’t have $1,800 right now to drop on yet another computer.

He thought I might be able to get a mini cam that would work on our Dell laptop at a reasonable cost. Sure enough, a visit to Best Buy hooked me up with a cam with a built-in microphone for under 100 bucks.

I clipped the camera to the laptop screen, loaded some softwear, turned the thing on and a wrinkled visage that was a composite of the worst of Yoda and Joba the Hut was staring back at me from the screen. Holy crap, do I really look that bad. This was a vision that would surely stunt the growth of any one year old.

The next step was to go on the Skype site and download the free software. Skype is the web site that enables you to have video conversations with anyone else who is also signed up. It is free.

This all went pretty smoothly and soon we were having very nice visits with our grandson and his family.

I am amazed by this technology and pretty pleased with myself for pulling it off. However, I am sure it has been around for awhile. Usually by the time I hear of something like this it has already peaked and is on the slippery slope to obsolescence. Given its ramifications for the phone sex industry, I’ll bet it has already been explored and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry with its own trade association. In the process I am sure it has already put out of work hundreds of ex-truck drivers who had been posing as dominatetrixes.

Still I don’t think it will replace the good old voice phone. The cordless phone was a bigger leap because it freed us to do other things while talking with friends and business associates. Who hasn’t chatted with dear old mom while seated on the crapper? This would be awkward on the video phone.

Also, one can no longer use the stress relieving hand gestures we have all grown used to. No more flipping the bird while talking soothingly to that angry client berating you on the phone, or tucking it under your chin and firing a double bird as he rants on. Who hasn’t held the phone away from their ear and executed the universal blah-blah-blah sign as Aunt Matilda wound on for another hour about the novena she had recently attended?

I read that the next generation of phones will produce a life-size 3-D image of the person with whom you are speaking right in your home or office. Excuse me, but I thought the point of talking to people on the phone was to keep them out of your home or office.

Now that annoying insurance salesman will appear sitting with his legs crossed in your favorite chair asking for a martini.