Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dear IRS

Dear IRS Worker:

I know you are an accountant and not a therapist; but please find it in you to be bigger than math and listen to my lament. I won’t take offense if you make a bowl of popcorn. I’ll try to throw in some numbers because I know numbers make you happy. Make a bowl of 435 non-GMO organic popcorn kernels and pull up one chair. Here goes.

I cannot impress upon you the level of outrage I feel as I hand over this monstrous amount of hard-earned money to this government in the form of taxes; especially since Paul Ryan wants to convince me that my self-employment tax (money that I earned), that he will (if it hasn’t been squandered in bad investments) have sent back to me as a “federal benefit payment” (instead of a social security payment, as originally dubbed by FDR), is a handout from the federal government and not repayment of funds I set aside for myself. Hopefully he won’t cause the government to lose my money by investing it in cheese (he is from Wisconsin, after all) and I will still get my social security money when I retire. I wouldn’t say “no” to cheese, if I can have that too.

When I think of how egregiously my taxes will be ill-used, it makes me walk far out into the woods to scream. The predator-in-chief apparently thinks that if we are sick and starving and haven’t seen a new episode of Sesame Street lately then we won’t notice his efforts to lay waste to our precious California coastline with oil drilling, to destroy our last best hope for survival by failing to address environmental devastation, or to simply take the fast track to human annihilation by causing us to be blown to bits by a nuclear bomb. Honestly, I can’t begin to imagine what he thinks or if he actually thinks at all in the usual sense, because apparently his brain is basically full of golf balls, carbohydrates, ketchup, images of tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue, misogynist sexual fantasies, Fox News drivel, squirrels, and invective.

I did not work all those late evenings to earn money to send to the government to build that Folly Border Wall or to increase military spending at the expense of health, education, the arts, climate protection, and other essential programs. I did not sit inside in front of my computer on miraculously beautiful days to support that fake-president in using my income to promote his nonsensical concept of addressing gun violence by funding schools to buy guns to arm teachers so that even more children will feel surrounded daily by weapons, the good ole boys at the NRA can rejoice over increased profits from gun sales, and middle school science teachers will have a greater chance of accidentally shooting a ceiling tile, a beaker full of vinegar, their foot, or a student. Does anyone feel safe yet?

I am furious, frustrated, and can’t express how much I don’t want to pay my taxes to this shameful embarrassment of a sham government that has alienated us from the rest of the world, wrenching families apart, and devastating the natural environment thus robbing my children and grandchildren of a future, which is what truly breaks my heart. Why do I have to pay for this? I would say to deposit my tax check at the Environmental Protection Agency, but it seems that it would then foot the bill for Scott Pruitt to rent a condo from a friendly big oil lobbyist. (He thinks EPA stands for Environmental Plunder Agency.) Or I would say to deposit my tax check at HUD to help address homelessness, but it seems that it would then be used for Ben Carson to buy vintage dining room chairs. (No cardboard box that serves as a shelter should be without dining room chairs.) Or I would say to deposit my check at the Department of Education, but it seems it would then be used to purchase Betsy-DeVos-biblical-quote coloring books for privileged white children attending private schools. Or I would say to deposit my check at the Department of Health and Human Services, but it seems it would then be used to subsidize dissemination of abstinence propaganda to adolescents instead of offering them condoms and unbiased sex education. Everyone knows that the primary developmental work of adolescents is to have sex. So abstinence? Really? I figure that Alex Azar (formerly President of Eli Lilly and a lobbyist for the drug industry) is so busy figuring out ways for the HHS to funnel money to the pharmaceutical industry that he pays no attention to the sexual proclivities of American teenagers. Is there an anthropologist in the house? Where is the National Geographic when you need them? 

I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Where to deposit my taxes. I would want to invest my taxes in research to address climate change, except this no longer has meaning in the context of this government because the words “climate change” have been banned from governmental language as if banning the words will make climate change disappear. If that would work, then the fact that I refuse to use the predator-in-chief’s name would make him disappear. So far, I’m having no luck with that. While I can keep his name out of my personal mouth, I can’t even keep his person out of California. Where is an alternative universe capable of sucking fake-presidents out of this universe when you need it?

Thus, I see nowhere in this government to deposit my taxes because no part of this government is functioning effectively as intended or deserves the income from the good daily work of my hands. This is not my America and it probably never was my America. For a while I thought it might be, for a while I thought the country was or could be something else, but no, it’s not. The price I pay to remain in my home, surrounded by my community and the natural landscape I love, with easy access to my family, near my children and grandchildren, is the cost of my taxes and the shame of my complicity.

So thanks for doing your job, IRS Worker. It gives me comfort to know that someone can understand math well enough to figure out how to do accounting. Too bad that you have to process these payments that will be so misused (if not outright embezzled) to benefit the family and friends of the billionaire psychotic in the driver’s seat. If you’re looking for a career change, then I wish you the best of luck. Let me know if you want me to write you a reference. You’re an excellent listener.

Disenfranchised Citizen #65,844,954

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Security Fail

The people from whom we bought our lovely house a decade ago might as well be a Martian life form for all that I can understand their thought processes. They are from the species that believes that their elaborate space-age burglar alarm system and their arsenal of weaponry stockpiled in the basement keeps them safe and secure. As the story goes in neighborhood lore, they stored an Alamo of guns down in the wine cellar. (What kind of cabernet goes best with a Glock G19?) They may also have owned an antique bludgeon, a few nunchucks, and a handy purse-sized weapon of mass destruction. They had a reputation that lends itself to hyperbole (if not hyperventilation). Since moving here, I have heard several versions of a story that revolves around (or should I say revolvers around?) the paranoiac wife launching on a rant directed at the woman next door (something about planting hedges along the property line) while waving a handgun in her face. This resulted in a visit from the police, who discovered that these fine people had more than two dozen guns, rifles, and whatnot (I don’t know the lingo) stashed in their basement, some of which were not properly registered. This explains the NRA decals on the windows, mirrors, mailbox, and toilets that I diligently scraped off with a razor blade when we took possession. After hearing about that police raid and weapons confiscation, I felt as though we had been bamboozled into buying mini-Waco. (We had, in fact, been bamboozled, but not in the way I imagined.) I burned sage up in here every day for a year to chase out the bad vibes.

Once, I actually met the security fanatic previous owners. During the final days of escrow, when we had a done deal, I ran into them on the property. Perhaps they had gone to double-check that they hadn’t left any guns behind. They were delighted that I had shown up because they were eager to pass off every minute detail about their security system to the new owner. I wanted to ask them a few questions about the yard, but they brushed me off. “Oh, the gardener takes care of that,” they said. I guess they were too busy polishing their rifles to tend to the landscaping themselves. (They could have trimmed the bushes into weaponry shapes if they thought about it. Such uncreative individuals.) They took me on the tour as they catalogued the alarm system capabilities. They had security monitors in every room. The Mission Impossible team could not have dodged the laser sensors in this house. I nodded politely and didn’t tell them that we didn’t intend to maintain their security system. This house is in one of the most crime-free neighborhoods in existence. The closest thing to crime that I have witnessed in ten years of living in our neighborhood is when someone overlooked the fact that their dog did a poo in front of someone else’s mailbox. So it mystifies me as to why these people required surveillance cameras, arming and disarming codes, motion sensors in every room, bulletproof vests, flashing LED lights, beeping alerts, antiaircraft missiles, and outdoor floodlights bright enough to guide a helicopter in. Did they work for the CIA? Why were they so afraid? And how did they have sex without tripping the motion sensors and bringing in a SWAT team?

I have a theory. It has to do with the aforementioned bamboozling. Soon after we moved into the house, we discovered that these people are swindlers. They failed to disclose many defects about the house. The biggest defect they oops-didn’t-mention was that the furnace had crapped out and leaked carbon monoxide gas when you turned it on. How did the fellow who did the house inspection miss this? When I called him on it, he said he checked everything that he is required to check. Furnace turns on and off. Check. Ducts are working and sealed. Check. Everyone is still alive after breathing furnace-infused air is apparently not on his checklist. Since when is checking for carbon monoxide leakage not a required part of a whole house inspection? My realtor says we don’t have a case. Fortunately, because the furnace barely functioned, we survived the night on the first occasion that we used it; but everyone who slept in the house that night became ill from the carbon monoxide. We called the furnace repair company, which immediately condemned the furnace. Don’t tell me that the previous owners did not know that their furnace didn’t work. Perhaps they viewed it as just another unregistered weapon. You may think I’m being over-sensitive to barely escaping death by lethal gas, but remember that I’m a Jew. It cost us $2000 to replace that furnace. I won’t bore you with the other defects that they failed to disclose. My point here is that if you are dishonest, greedy, and up to no good then you are likely to become paranoid that someone you swindled, lied to, or wronged will come after you one of these days, therefore you need a super-powerful security system and lots of guns. I’m not a vengeful person so they needn’t worry about me. If I had a dog, I might take him over to their new house to do poo in front of their mailbox. But I have cats, who poo stealthily and not where you want them to. Also, I’m a pacifist so I have no plans to shoot them.

At first it angered me that these scoundrels had hoodwinked us, but you know how they say that living well is the best revenge. We got the better end of the deal because we enjoy living in this house and our family and friends enjoy it with us. I have created my personal Eden in the yard, now filled with fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, berries, grapes, herbs, and other plants for all seasons that attract the birds and bees. I planted a rosemary, sage, and lavender garden in the front after I killed off the lawns. I do my own gardening for pleasure, thank you very much. Our book group meets here every month. We have hosted terrific parties, and the house fits many people for sleepovers. Even though they didn’t grow up in this house, my children claim it feels like coming home when they visit. It’s a tranquil place outside the turmoil of this crazy world (filled with gun-toting paranoiacs), a safe harbor, reaffirming. Although it required many months of smudging with sage, I transformed a bad-energy house into a good-energy house. No guns or alarms required. Although, we do have a carbon monoxide detector now. 

There is a bizarre coda to this tale, the kind of thing you can’t make up. The scoundrels’ son, who grew up in this house in the glory days when it was a weapons-stocked, impenetrably secure fortress, became a real estate agent, and he has an obsession with selling our house out from under us. He knocked on our door several months ago and informed us that he has a buyer for this house. My house. That I happen to live in. I told him we don’t want to move out. He was as relentless as gum on the shoe. He plunged ahead with his pitch, further informing me that his buyer wants our house because we have a concrete RV pad on the property. He asked me how much we want for our property. What we want is for him to go away. He apparently deludes himself into believing he can convince us to move out so he can secure the house for some imbecile drooling with covetousness for our RV pad on which to park his fuel-devouring, fume-belching, climate-changing monstrosity. What kind of person seriously fantasizes about an RV pad? I’m pretty sure there’s a biblical commandment that says thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s RV pad. That would be the New Testament. They didn’t have RV pads yet in the Old Testament. I suspect his buyer is simply another family member, and that this guy and his parents regret letting the property go out of the family. Now that we have paid to fix all the problems they dumped on us, they want the property back. Or maybe they can’t live with the idea that we let the RV pad go to waste by not parking anything on it, and that we disarmed their beloved security system, which was like a member of the family to them. We killed off their dear and loyal defender HAL. This realtor-guy came back to my door again just a few weeks ago to remind me that he has a buyer for my house who cherishes my RV pad. Past civility, I asked him, “What part of ‘we are living here’ do you not understand?” I didn’t need HAL to close the pod bay doors in his face. 

It seems like a no-brainer to me that, on all levels, global, national, regional, community, family, circle of friends, all of it, that the best security is living honestly, compassionately, respectfully, and not trying to bamboozle people. Quite simply, if you don’t let your dog do poo in front of someone’s mailbox then they have no reason to shoot you.

Oak tree in my back yard. One of my dearest friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Morning of the Living Vegan Dead: Reflections of a Healthy-Foods, Electromag-Skeptic, Pacifist Mom

It can get lonely out in front, ahead of the curve, where I have lived much of my maverick life. Exhibit A:  Vegetarian Teenager. I became a vegetarian as a teenager, back when no one was a vegetarian, when no one even knew any vegetarians, when people didn’t even know what “vegetarian” meant. (Is it your horoscope sign?) Some people thought it meant I liked vegetables and some people thought I would eat nothing but vegetables. Perhaps some people thought vegetables ate me. Some people thought I would eat fish but not chickens or chickens but not cows or turkey only on Thanksgiving. I wish I had a dollar for every time I found myself cornered by a know-it-all “grown-up” hell-bent on convincing me that my hair would fall out, my skin would dry up, my sex drive would disappear, and my teeth would explode if I didn’t eat meat immediately. Doctors badgered me. I wonder if any of these people and these great white physicians, who nowadays have read the research on the benefits of a plant-based diet, remember with remorse those tirades they aimed at a girl who could see so clearly into the future, beyond the consolidated animal feeding operation door. Probably not. They are probably all dead from eating too many junk-meat hamburgers.

I was more than vegetarian; I also believed in eating nontoxic, high-quality, real food, such as whole grains and fresh eggs from chickens that wandered in the yard and played dominoes. While in college, I baked my own bread because I couldn’t find anything in the stores in the 1970s that resembled actual bread. All of it was stripped skinny with no wheat germ or bran. I used to bake two loaves every other week and freeze one of them. I made a sandwich for my lunch every day with my good bread. I was the only grad student in my department who didn’t buy pizza slices and soda at the student union for lunch. I quit baking bread when I met my husband Ron, who would eat one of my fresh-baked loaves within 24 hours and make short work of the other one in a few days, all the while exclaiming “Wow, what is this stuff?” He was raised in the ghetto on Wonder Bread and other delicacies of the culture of poverty (such as government-issued blocks of frozen chili). You may recall that you could take a slice of Wonder Bread and roll it into a pellet the size of a pinto bean. The advertising geniuses in the back room came up with the slogan that Wonder Bread “helps build strong bodies 12 ways,” which leads me to believe it was a Styrofoam vitamin pill blown up into the shape of bread. Ron loved my real bread so much that I couldn’t keep a loaf in the house with him around. So I baked much less often, for a treat. I didn’t have the time to invest when it disappeared so quickly. In my grad student days, I could buy enough food to last me a week at the Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis for $10 (it’s still there). That must be why we call it our “salad days.” Ron missed the bread, but he also enjoyed my vegetarian cooking.

Things got tricky when I embarked on parenting. When children are small, they don’t know much outside of what we do at our house, so I could get away with feeding them all “health food.” They ate yogurt, fresh fruit, tofu, soups loaded with veggies, beans and rice, veggie-cheese burritos, and broccoli quiche. I banned sugar at the door of my home. Instead I baked treats with honey. That lasted only until the children got old enough to figure out what I put in those homemade desserts. When they discovered that I put pureed stewed tomatoes into my chocolate cake they refused to eat it. Sadly, children want what their peers are having. They wanted birthday cake from a cake mix out of a box with sprinkles and they wanted hot dogs. I would cook them delicious gourmet vegetarian meals, and they begged for tater tots and pizza. My daughter once said, “I’ll eat tofu if you promise not to tell anyone I eat it.”

Now, as adults, my children gleefully exaggerate the organic healthy foods diet on which I raised them. They distort the truth so much that I sometimes wonder if they even remember what I actually fed them. Or have they obscured the truth with their imaginative exaggerations of what I cooked? They’re lucky I didn’t know then what I know now or I would have been even more careful about what I let them put into the sacred little temples of their bodies. Recently, my daughter sent me a photograph of a sign in a café selling vegan cookies. She said that nowadays those honey, oat, butter, and flaxseed cookies I baked for her when she was a little girl would sell for $15 each in L.A. That chocolate cake with the honey, stewed tomatoes, and rich cocoa powder in it would be a delicacy today. But back in their childhood, my children rolled their eyes and groaned. They dreaded their mom’s turn to bring soccer snack. However, all of them (and their partners too) are “foodies.” They love to cook and they love to eat excellent homemade food. Theirs may not always live up to my high standard of purity and nontoxicity, but often it does, and I’m glad they enjoy the slow process of cooking a delicious meal together. Just last week my youngest son and his girlfriend cooked me a super-delicious lunch largely made from ingredients they had procured at the local farmers market, which the girlfriend manages and promotes (it’s her day job).

As the new century bulldozes forward, my desire to live a nontoxic life has extended beyond food and into my environment, which suffers further infiltration every day from electronic energies and electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Thus Exhibit B. From smart meters to cell phones, I live in an inescapable soup of invisible detrimental forces. My older son thinks I’m deluded because I turn off the internet router in my house at night so I don’t expose myself to the router’s sleep-disruptive (in my opinion) EMF. I like to sleep in a room with nothing glowing, emitting, flashing, humming, buzzing, chomping, hollering, pounding, debating, yowling, pulverizing, revving, slurping, ringing, kvetching, or generating energy. Sometimes when people complain of tinnitus, I wonder if they have nothing at all wrong with their ears, but instead they have internalized the hum of their refrigerator or the buzz of the streetlamp outside their window. I like to sleep far from the reach of phones, tablets, e-readers, marching bands, zombies, and computers. I switch off my bedside lamp when I finish reading and the room goes dark; and it’s peaceful. There is no bulletproof research yet about the impact of EMFs on our sleep, but I guarantee you there will be. Just as it took a while for the benefits of a plant-based diet to emerge and reach into the general consciousness, it will take time for science and our knowledge of the functioning of technology to “discover” the impact of all this radiation and electromagnificence on our health, mood, cognition, sleep, and wellbeing. Meanwhile, I must endure my son suggesting that I wear a rubber hat to bed instead of turning everything electronic off. The way he makes fun of me, you would think I was suggesting that the government spies on me through my microwave. (No, I’ll leave that fantasy to the national press secretary.)

It was challenging for my children to act like everyone else when they had a health-food mom, who talked to the vegetables growing in the garden, wrote “love and gratitude” on their water bottles (alà Hidden Messages in Water), packed them teriyaki tofu for lunch, considered watching TV the eighth deadly sin, and eyed technological advances with animosity and suspicion. Furthermore, Exhibit C, I am a pacifist, who would not accept toy weapons as gifts for my children at their birthday parties, returning Ninja swords and toy guns to the baffled gifters. (My boys made guns out of Legos and pretended to zap one another dead with laser beams from sticks they picked up in the forest in which we lived.) Pacifist-mom could not handle horror films either. No movies for me with violence, torture, deranged robots, slimy aliens, dangling guts, gore, and overly suspenseful music. They had to watch that stuff with their dad. They still try to convince me to watch certain films in the horror genre. “C’mon Mom, it’s so campy. The blood is so fake. It’s funny. You’ll laugh. That’s not a real chainsaw. It’s plastic.” They coax me and I flatly refuse. My attitude surely contributed to my older son recently imagining the kind of horror flick I would make up. He said it would be called Morning of the Living Vegan Dead, and the opening scene would depict a living vegan dead grandmother carrying her baby grandson around the back yard and showing him all the fruit trees. I’m down with that kind of horror movie. When my baby grandson was last here with me, I did take him around the back yard and we did talk to all the fruit trees together, which my son thought was sweet and also another example of how his mother is nuts, and that it would make a good opening scene for Morning of the Living Vegan Dead. In the next scene, I imagine hordes of vegan dead would sweep through a sleepy rural community like locusts and eat all the cabbage, tomatoes, and other veggies out of everyone’s gardens because that must be what vegan dead eat. Losing the summer’s vegetable crop is pretty horrifying in itself without resorting to aliens and gore.

I sinfully hope that all those doubters and naysayers who harassed me over the years, as well as relatives and friends who have lovingly “humored” me with a condescending pat on the head and jokes about seaweed smoothies and my brain bursting into flames from too many magnetic impulses, that they all live long enough to discover that science proves me right on all accounts. I have been right with my prescient ideas about organic produce, plant-based diet, no harm in eating eggs from properly cared-for chickens (oh those cholesterol vigilantes make me livid), detrimental aspects to microwaves, dangers of demon sugar, acid rain, recycling, importance of eating good-quality fats, ag soil preservation, environmental toxins (and the evil corporations that manufacture them), big pharma poisoning us with dangerous medications, pure water, cat energy, burning sage, walking in the woods, thinking positive, caring for the planet, and so forth. Science is still trying to catch up with me, but I have a long stride. One day I’ll be proven right about electronic gadgets and invisible electronic impacts. I’ll probably be long gone by then, but my descendants will hopefully find me in cyberspace on my blog and will laugh at my silly humor, even if it has become dated and obsolete. I imagine with glee a beneficent artificial intelligence (AI) version of me giving the orchard tour to my great-great-grandchildren. Robot Safta (Grandma) Amy will take them outside to commune with the trees. You can bet that I will remind them to turn Robot Safta Amy off at night so as not to disrupt their sleep patterns with my magnetic or electronic emissions. The possibility of Robot Safta Amy gives me comfort. Morning of the Living Vegetarian AI Safta.

Here is the image my daughter sent me (she put the "just like mom used to make" title on it). 
I think it should say gender-neutral instead of genderless. But that's just me.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

This Is Not a Drill

A few weeks ago, the people of Hawaii received the following emergency alert text on their cell phones from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency:  Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill. It took 38 minutes for HEMA to “revoke” the alert and announce it was an error. This incident prompted a conversation with my husband about what we would do should we receive such a warning. The warning says to seek shelter. The best shelter we have is probably that old metal wheelbarrow in the garage, which seems to withstand anything. But I don’t think it’s up to the task. We can’t both fit under it anyway. And, while we’re resourceful people who own a lot of dusty power tools we no longer use (but must keep because said husband might get a wild hair and decide to build a gazebo or an ark or something), we couldn’t build something capable of sustaining a nuclear blast in 15 minutes from the materials we have on hand. Although the label doesn’t say it, I have a hunch that duct tape is not resistant to nuclear explosions. We have a basket of ornamental acorns in the front hallway, but not nearly enough of them to build a bomb shelter, and definitely not enough glue. So we’re kind of stuck exploding. Which takes us back to the original question about what to do in our last minutes of life.

“I suppose,” I said to Ron, “that if we’re lucky enough to be at home together, and we know the end is coming momentarily, the thing to do would be to go to bed and have sex.” Ron replied, “Oh, wow, no pressure.” I could see his point. “Well then,” I suggested, “we could make ourselves some really, really good sandwiches.” He was down with that.

The week after the Hawaii false alarm, a false alarm happened in Japan, which now begs the question “how do we know if an alert is real?” Actually, it’s likely that I would have no inkling of an impending nuclear blast, real or imagined, if the best communication emergency services can produce is a flimsy text message. Sending an end-of-the-world communication via an electronic device is kind of like writing that you are having a heart attack on the bathroom mirror with a marker. I want to hear an astonishingly loud warning signal emanating from the fire department. Or else have a hysterical woman call me on my landline and scream the news as if her shoe collection is on fire (a robocall might be OK depending on the quality of the screaming). If our emergency alert people send a text with such a warning, I will remain oblivious to the danger because I don’t have a smart phone, and I don’t turn on my dumb phone more than twice a month (unless I’m traveling), and even if I do turn it on I’m too deaf to hear it beep or ring or whatever it does (I have no idea because I can’t hear it). On the off chance that I had my phone on at the moment that such a text went forth, and that I glanced at it and noticed a text had come in, and that I read the message, and believed it, then, hypothetically, what would I do? I would take shelter under a graceful old tree because it would comfort me to be blown to bits in the company of such a wise and ancient soul. I happen to have such a tree in my backyard.

I come from a generation that has been there and done that with this nuclear bomb nonsense a long time ago. I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, after which my father built a bomb shelter in our basement. I sat and talked to him every evening while he piled the cement blocks on. It was a good place to store bicycles in the winter, but it wouldn’t have resisted a nuclear blast any better than duct tape and acorns. At elementary school, we learned how to duck under our desks to assume the nuclear holocaust safety position. (What were those desks made out of, and where can I buy some of that material?) If I had had the spunk and defiance as a child that I have as an old lady, I certainly would have refused to crawl under my desk. Deluded lunatics hold human survival in their hands; and the imbeciles who think they can survive a nuclear bomb under a desk or in the high school basement voted those same deluded lunatics into positions of power. Pass the Swiss cheese and mustard.

How infuriating to still be having this discussion. This is, and always was, a no-brainer. But the men with the nuclear codes have no brains. Sigh. I went to jail to protest nuclear weapons in the 1980s. I was righteously outraged, but truly all I accomplished with my arrest was a slight personal weight loss since prisons didn’t provide anything a vegetarian eats in 1983. The biggest reason why I won’t participate in nonviolent civil disobedience today is that the thought of eating prison food gives me a panic attack. Yes, I realize that people generally don’t go to prison to experience fine cuisine. But if a nuclear bomb may drop at any moment, the last place I want to spend my final 15 minutes is in prison, far from a decent kosher dill pickle.

I like to imagine that I live a more protected existence here in northern Cali because it would not serve Kim Jong-un to bomb one of the places in the U.S. that is the most resistant and opposed to our present disastrous government and predator-in-chief. Although he might choose to bomb us simply because we are one of the places he can reach from his launchpad. On the other hand, I do not rule out the possibility of having my own government bomb northern Cali by accident (either really by accident or by-accident-on-purpose-cover-that-up to halt the resistance). Or my own government bomb us because the nuclear bombing systems are controlled by robots and computers and other nonhuman mechanisms, and therefore highly vulnerable to hackers, infiltrators, saboteurs, and Hal taking over for no fathomable reason. If this sounds like 60s paranoia or Cali-minded whim-wham then let me disabuse you of that notion – chalk it up to PTSD from the Cold War. Bay of Pigs. Cuban Missile Crisis. I was there. I ducked and covered, assembled in the gymnasium to the tune of a screeching siren, watched a bomb shelter get built in my basement, saw televised mushroom clouds, and read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi of the zeitgeist. I grew up in the shadow of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I spent years up to my neck in the fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons before throwing in the towel and turning my attention to more immediate concerns where I could make a concrete difference. Homelessness. Environmental protection. Sustainable food systems. Health equity. Raising children well. The all-clear siren will never sound in my lifetime. Since life is not a drill, and since we live under constant threat, the best course of action is to love well, have wondrous adventures, promote joy, appreciate trees, be kind, build a life that inspires gratitude every day, and eat a lot of really good sandwiches (no pressure).

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich. Yum.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fury and Humor. Let's Eat.

Anger is not a useful emotion. It breaks things. It does not serve me well. I do not wish to keep it. Yet, as 2017 comes to a close, I find myself unable (or unwilling) to let go of my fury. Perhaps my fury is what’s holding me together. My amusement at political jokes and cartoons has an angry edge. If it was an emoji, it would be a grinning sledgehammer. Perhaps I could sell that concept to someone at corporate HQ for Walmart. Imagine Walmart shopping bags depicting a demonic grinning sledgehammer that read “Have Another Day.” Another day of tamping down the fury in an effort to stay positive.

Warning:  political content and questionable Jewish jokes ahead.

I regularly contact senators and representatives (i.e., congressional reps) via phone, email, and postcard to speak my mind. While I do occasionally contact my own congressional reps, I usually lean on the ones most needed and most likely to make a difference with their vote. Honestly, I’m not angry at my own congressional reps, so why holler at them? I want to holler at the imbeciles who actually make me furious. At the same time, I want my actions to have strategic impact. So I carefully choose Republicans who are wavering on key issues and I don’t tell them I live in Cali, I just give them a piece of my mind in the hope that I will help tip the scales when they vote. I also regularly call the handful of most vulnerable Republican congressional reps from Cali during off hours when no one is answering the phones and leave them spit-flecked messages saying “you don’t speak for me and you are not my voice in Congress and we are going to vote you out of office,” even though I can’t actually vote them out because I don’t live in their feeble-minded district, for obvious reasons. I don’t want to live somewhere that people actually vote for these morons. This is my blog. I’ll say what I want. Don’t judge. It’s the fury speaking.

On weekends I write postcards and make calls to leave messages on machines at congressional offices. I wonder if the aides who answer the phones on Monday morning even listen to my entire message. I should probably throw in something to get their attention, such as, “Do they sell kosher salami anywhere in Kentucky?” Thus one of my improved call scripts would be something like:  “Vote no on this tax legislation that gives huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and will devastate the lives of everyone else, all of us seniors, the middle class, hardworking people, elves, Redwood trees, waffle irons, and polar bears. The only things that will trickle down to us from increased corporate profits are toxic chemical-laced food, dangerous prescription drugs, deranged store-bought politicians, yet more creative living situations for the impoverished, and tweet-lies. Do the right thing. Vote no.” (Well, they didn’t, so I need a tax accountant who is also a qualified therapist.) Actually, the polar bears will now be devastated for real since somehow the GOP has recategorized drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge as a tax issue. How they managed to lump this into tax legislation baffles me, but they wrote it into the margins at one o’clock in the morning and jammed it through. Since polar bears don’t vote, and would probably be disenfranchised even if they did (because, let’s face it, who is going to shuttle polar bears to the nearest polling place, or should I say poling place?), the GOP can’t pass out cigars fast enough to celebrate turning the Arctic Refuge into the Arctic Refugee.

I’m not looking forward to Al Franken leaving Congress, despite my disappointment in his inappropriate behavior. The Dems are throwing him under the bus to take a moralistic stand and make a point. But not one Republican pedophile or rapist is going to resign as a result of tossing out Al. It hurts me to lose Al, who has been a strong voice for me and my beliefs in Congress. Not worth the sacrifice. He should stay. He just can’t run for president, since apparently now committing sexual assault is required to qualify for that office and Al doesn’t have the credentials for that. Sigh.

I plan to change my activist tactics in 2018. It appears that delusion and mayhem work better than truth and reason. It works for Mitch and his cronies who map out how to increase homelessness on dinner napkins in the middle of the night and it works for the Predator-in-Chief to advance his catastrophic agenda. Here is my new plan. I will call Republican congressional reps and leave Jewish jokes on their answering machines. They won’t have a clue. While the percentage of Jewish congressional reps has risen in recent years, almost all of them are Dems. There are about two Republican reps who self-identify as Jewish, but I suspect they are simply confused Mormons. So, with Jewish jokes in mind, here are some I have up my sleeve. If you are not Jewish, you will probably think you get these jokes, but you will probably get them at about 60%. Enjoy as much as you can decipher. As for Jews, have fun. I am contemplating leaving these on the answering machines at the DC offices for the most morally corrupt, mentally deficient, and malicious lawmakers. This should confuse them, perhaps distract them, and, in my fantasy future, derail them. I live more and more in my fantasy future these days. Everyone there is compassionate, considerate, and helpful.

A Jewish man is on his deathbed and he whispers to his daughter, “I think I smell your mother’s delicious kugel.” The daughter confirms that he does because her mother has baked kugel. “Please bring me some to taste for one last time,” the father gasps. The daughter goes away and comes back empty-handed. “Where’s the kugel?” her father whispers. She replies, “Mom says it’s for after.”
This one from Jewish comic Billy Crystal (not a Jewish joke, just a Jewish comic’s sense of humor):  “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”
Four Jewish women are eating lunch and the waiter comes to the table and asks, “Is anything alright?”
The Jewish comic London Lee said he once had a German shepherd as his pet until it found out he was Jewish and bit him.
A Jewish grandmother comes across a beggar in the street who holds out his hand to her and says, “I haven’t eaten in four days.” The grandmother says, “Force yourself.”
All Jewish holidays can be explained as “They tried to kill us but we survived. Let’s eat.”
A Jewish grandmother is at the beach with her grandson. As she watches him at the water’s edge from a beach blanket, a huge wave comes and drags him out to sea. The woman raises her fists above her head and shouts at God, “How can you do this to me? I’m a righteous woman! I obey all your commandments! Why have you taken my darling grandson?” A huge wave comes in and when it leaves her grandson is sitting on the shore unharmed. The grandmother looks at the heavens and says, “He had a hat.”
Finally, a true story about the Jewish comic actor Walther Matthau. He and his wife were on vacation in Europe with the Jewish comic couple Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Stiller relates that one night, he and his wife heard the Matthaus arguing loudly in the hotel room next to them for quite some time. At breakfast the Matthaus were clearly still fuming at each other. The two couples went to Auschwitz with a tour group. After walking through the museum at Auschwitz, Matthau’s wife turned to him with tears running down her cheeks, and said, “This puts everything in perspective and ought to make us both realize how foolish we are for fighting.” Matthau replied, “Now you ruined Auschwitz for me.”

I imagine that after weeks of receiving Jewish jokes on the congressional office answering machines, there will be a rash of resignations by congressional aides and office workers. If I can gut their staff, maybe I can force a few Republicans out of office. You never know. They have tried to destroy us before, but we survived. Let’s eat.


If you have stayed with me through this year of fewer blog posts and the necessity to dig deeper to find humor then I thank you for your loyalty. I try my best to raise a few laughs and keep hope alive. It isn’t easy, and getting harder with each passing day. I would like to imagine that these difficult days are actually the first tumultuous years of a better world being born. In "Laudato Si," Pope Francis writes:  "May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope." The pope is a hard act to follow, but let me say that I wish you much hope, much joy, much wonder, and the shelter of peace in 2018. We will continue to care for one another and lift one another up despite the heartless and greedy machinations of this incomprehensibly mean government. Remember to keep laughing. Blessings to you and those dear to you in these stressful and uncertain times.
Image of a better world from Hao's Blog.