XXXmas Carols

I know a couple who once tried so desperately to get away from the Christmas holidays that they booked a vacation to Morocco, only to be awakened on Christmas morning by children knocking on their hotel room door, singing phonetic Christmas carols, and pushing a bedraggled tinsel Christmas tree at them.  Followed, of course by outstretched hands. 

There’s no way to get away from Christmas — and it’s a money maker — with no religious or spiritual connection to anything that makes a lick of sense.  Christmas is a retail holiday, commemorating a bogus virgin-birth on the wrong day and in the wrong season of the actual birthday of the historical figure, Jesus Christ.  Now doesn’t that just give you something to sing about? We should be singing Easter carols according to the theories of historians. 

There’s a lot of hoopla about how Christ came into this world, and lots of carols regaling the “virgin and child.”  Now how would ANYONE have known if the “Blessed Virgin” Mary was a virgin unless she was fully-pregnant while running around town displaying her intact hymen to anyone willing to examine it?  Or did the village elders give her a pubic gynecological exam?  Neither would have been particularly dignified behavior for the mother of the Prince of Peace.  But it would be the only way to prove her case.  We’re supposed to take-it on “faith.”  Let’s face it, Mary was an unwed teen-mother riding a donkey (which in and of itself should have broken her hymen) accompanied by an older man who either was or wasn’t the father of her child, while on their way to be taxed and tallied.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold it against anyone for having sex out of wedlock, I’ve done it myself plenty of times — but lets get a grip people — this did NOT happen as told.  The virgin birth is a fairytale wherein there is no mention of Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, or all that other rump-a-pum-pum… 

And unless the ‘blessed virgin’ was a reptile, she wasn’t a “virgin” either — as only certain species of reptiles are known to give virgin births albeit through eggs – so Jesus‘ mother was actually a reptilian Easter Bunny.  (Whoops, that might lead to new advanced theories on Darwinism throwing Christians into a religious tailspin…)  But roughly two-thousand and ten years later we’re still palming-off this unsupportable and greatly embellished mythology as an excuse to trample people half-to-death at the 3AM “Black Friday” bargain sale at Target. 

I feel personally held hostage by the holidays, and in particular by that insidious genre of music that becomes my unavoidable life’s ‘sound-track’ for as long as it takes to hawk as much useless crap as possible to any gullible fool with a credit card.

As I am writing this, tonight at midnight, countless Americans suffering financial hardships will loose their unemployment benefits through no fault of their own — due to the greed on Wall Street, enabled by our own Congress, which led to the financial collapse of the middle class.  It will also be my first Christmas on food stamps.  (Actually it’s a ‘swipe-card‘ these days, but they still call it “Food Stamps“ for old times sake.)  I was surprised to learn how in some locations potatoes are not covered by food stamps, but ketchup, however IS.  Probably because Ronald Regan declared ketchup a “vegetable” for school lunch programs in the 1980’s.  Come to think of it, Regan was the vegetable. 

But I digress — all the while I was standing in the checkout line at the supermarket, listening to ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ I was reasonably certain my groceries were in no way frivolous.  But I was surprised to find food stamps don’t cover toilet paper — so I paid for the toilet tissue out-of-pocket.  What’s a person supposed to do?  Wipe their ass with the Sears and Robuck online Catalogue?  I purchased nothing out-of-the ordinary, aside from splurging on Paul Newman brand dog food for Winnie.  She deserves nothing but the best.  Pet food is also not covered.

So,. while ‘Deck the Halls With Bowel Obstructions” plays monotonously in the background, emergency aid programs for the needy will expire tonight at midnight.   Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (talk about hoe, hoe, hoe) are holding firm to party lines insisting that tax-cuts remain in place for the uber-wealthy while unemployment benefits are considered unnecessary, frivolous spending.  It’s part of the Christmas myth of ‘tinkle-down’ economics.  The obscenely rich are causing $75,000 watches to fly off the shelves at Tiffany’s, and Neiman Marcus has already sold-out of this year’s “novelty” luxury automobile.  I’m not sure how much of that money will tinkle-on-down into the pockets of the needy, unless someone manages to pick-pocket the watch.

Christmas is now about rich people buying extravagant gifts for each other while wrapping-up the left-over holiday feast for the “help” on Boxing Day.  Hence cassoulet was born, whereupon the rich immediately took it back once the learned how delicious it was.

Christmas is NOT twelve days long like that monotonous carol claims, it lasts a minimum of 90 days – all of which is blighted with that insufferable music.  I witnessed my first Christmas TV commercial featuring “Jingle Bells” in August — granted it was for a deluxe holiday vacation cruise.  But truth be known, Christmas starts well before Halloween and doesn’t end until I’m inches from the asylum — or taken to living in the basement without any human or media contact.  Fa, la, la, la, la – LA, LA, LA…

… oh FUCK IT.

Bend over and “Quack”

I have several doctor’s appointments next week, (personal things).  And as a member in good standing of America’s recently unemployed, I’ve struggled to keep my COBRA up to date, holding my breath as to what to do about my medical coverage when it runs-out, if things don‘t start looking-up for me.  Health care reform doesn’t kick-in until 2014, (without a public option) baring in mind the republicans might still try to squash what little progress has been made.

Then along comes great-braying ass, Republican Representative-elect Andrew Harris of Maryland to point-out how out-of-touch he and his whole party ARE, and have been.  Last week Harris showed his true colors when he voiced his outrage that his personal federal health insurance wouldn’t kick-in for a month.  Benefits for new members of congress don’t take effect until AFTER they’re sworn-in.  Herr Docktor Harris is a board-certified medical doctor, who ran on a platform of opposing and repealing health care reform.  He’s un-phased by the fact that obscene wealth by way of premiums disappear into the black hole known as the insurance industry.  The lion’s share of insurance monies going neither to patients in need nor to health care providers — but rather to shareholders and executives who make unfathomable profits from people‘s natural desire to stay alive.  Heartless capitalist greed at it’s finest. 

I live in a Philadelphia neighborhood that’s surrounded by teaching hospitals – historic Pennsylvania Hospital, and Jefferson Hospital & Medical College.  I’ve often heard it said there are two types of people who go into medicine: those who have a strong desire to help heal people, and those who merely want to get rich.  Doctors do well these days but not the way they once did.  All the real money is in being made by the middleman sponges in-between.

Harris, who is newly elected to congress must be the variety who sought wealth.  After all, he jumped-ship from medicine to politics to defend the world’s most ineffective and corrupt money-laundering scheme – the American health insurance industry. 

Harris, in full earshot of 100 plus people at congress’ freshman orientation is quoted as saying: “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed.” 


Most employers don’t allow health care to kick-in until after 2 or 3 months on the job, and even then people are faced with opting for the least expensive plans if they want to see any earnings leftover in their paychecks.  This flap from Harris should not be overlooked.  He, like so many who enjoy lives of privilege, resent meager entitlements that merely define society’s human decency.

We don’t have the best health care in the world.  We have the best physicians and hospitals — with the most effective Ponzi-scheme running interference between the patient the their doctor.  A vast number of Americans fail to wrap their minds around this and confuse health care providers with insurance parasites.  I would like nothing more than to see Dr Harris’ Hippocratic Oath exposed for the hypocrisy it really is.

And lest we forget the pharmaceutical industry.  “Take 2 Extra strength Alieve and be pain free all day” – but don’t be surprised if you find yourself with lymphocystic colitis (a more virulent form of IBS) that never quite goes away.  A physician recommended both Naproxen and Ibuprofen for the pain I endured when I tore my rotator-cuff lifting oddly-weighted objects at my former job.  I alternated the products as directed, which in turn ate-away at the lining of my stomach effectively leaving me incontinent — leading to more and more medication (including steroids from the prednisone family) – all but destroying my quality of life.  Don’t take either Advil or Alieve for periods longer than a few days.  Just ask me, I’m living the damage first-hand.  Both Advil and Alieve are BIG money-makers that every decent pharmacist in the world will tell you should be by short-term prescription ONLY.  The best way to control pain is to rise above it, and forget western medicine.  It’s about the bottom line, and not the lining leading to your bottom. 

As we all know, Capitalism wins.  Doesn’t matter if it’s making dangerous medicines available over the counter or turning people’s natural desire for they and their loved ones to live a disease-free life — not when there’s BIG money to be made!

Switching gears (ever-so-slightly) I live between 2 major hospitals, but my old medical plan sent me to a hospital nowhere near where I live.  Long before health care reform, I was already being dictated-to by my insurance company.  So dutifully, I went to my inconveniently located hospital about fifteen years ago for a full, routine physical. 

When I arrived, I learned my doctor’s office was flooded by a broken waste pipe — but not to worry — appointments were being “doubled-up” in an office on the ground floor of the medical building across the street.  I trekked across the street to the temporary location and signed-in.  I was guided toward a make-shift changing room where I handed-over my clothes to a nurse who promised to lock-them-up for me and would return with a little locker key on a wrist band.  She gave me a backless medical gown to put-on, and I was shown to a conference room temporarily serving as an examination area.  She neatly pulled a long sheet of disposable paper down the length of the gigantic oval table instructing me to lie-down, telling me the doctor would be right with me — and she would return shortly with my keys.  I also got a little “airline-sized” mini-pillow for under my head.

I kept waiting for my key, but she never come back…

I waited and waited…

…and waited some more .  It was very chilly in the conference room and not terribly comfortable on the hard teak tabletop.  But I waited patiently wishing I had a magazine or something to pass the time.  Instead I mentally redecorated the room, putting up an imaginary chair rail, changing the drapery treatments and lighting fixtures until I focused on a stain on the acoustical tile ceiling.  It looked a little like my home state of New Jersey as my eyelids grew heavy with boredom…  Granted, these were unusual circumstances, but WHY do doctors offices ALWAYS overbook as if the patient’s time has no value?

Eventually I started cat-napping, waking-up whenever I heard footsteps anywhere near the door.  But no one knocked, so I drifted back to sleep only to awaken abruptly to find myself surrounded by foreign exchange students, some of whom were wearing turbans and scrubs, and all of whom were taking notes presumably about me.  I actually screamed out loud when I realized I was THE all but stark-naked center-piece in the middle of a table surrounded by at least sixteen students.  I jumped-up grabbing the paper strip behind me and ran down the hallway clutching the paper runner to hide my backside.  Even Princess Diana’s wedding gown didn’t have a train as long as mine.

The hallway led me to the main-lobby waiting room filled to capacity with people wearing normal clothes and plus ME – the one irate crazy -man screaming at the top of my lungs demanding my clothes back.

“Oh Mr Whiting, there you are.” the nurse-receptionist said “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.”  Amber’s shift was over and she must have left for the day without telling anyone where she’d placed you.“ 

Swell, that’s just great.  

I complained  how I’d been there for over three hours, when suddenly someone entered through the automatic sliding door at street level sending a gust of cold air catching my make-shift ensemble exposing all that God gave me to the entire waiting room.  Some people laughed while other people merely gasped.  I was frozen in shock, and rushed to a janitor’s closet while my clothes were located.  

I hurriedly dressed amidst the slop-bucket and mops I left with my ball cap pulled down over my face with chortles coming from the other patients – never to return to that hospital ever again. 

I demanded to change hospitals during the next “insurance open enrollment period.”

Yes, Representative Harris, we have the best health care in the world.  Especially if you’re among the select few who’ve stumbled into the sugarplum privileges of congress.  But I have a personal message for Andrew Harris – wait the freakin’ month for your god-damned insurance to kick-in and shut the fuck-up until you get a brain-cell.

A Particular Thanksgiving Comes to Mind

Many years back when I lived in Upstate New York I worked in a series of department stores.  All of which are since defunct or re-branded to reflect national chains.  Years ago cities prided themselves on their own stores, touting local retailers as a reason to visit such backwater cities as Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.  While living in Rochester I made the acquaintance of a little old lady named Gracie.  She was a tiny little thing full of life and spunk.  She had a slight over-bite and wire spectacles that magnified her eyes, especially at the half-moons at the bottom of each lens.  Gracie operated the display department sewing-machine at the once prestigious, Sibley, Lindsay and Curr Department Store.  She often worked late to make table-cloths or sneak-in drag-costumes for ‘staple-gun-queens’ at Halloween.  But only for the kids she’d taken a shine to.  She was good with her hands despite some arthritis.  She kept herself trim, prim and proper in the eyes of management while being a covert confident to all the employees.

As the Thanksgiving holidays approach, every person who has ever worked in retail display reaches a level of exhaustion unparalleled in the universe.  In retail merchandising, you’ve been planning, discussing and executing Christmas since June 15th, and you’re just about holidayed-out by the day before Thanksgiving.

I purposely forget holidays.  I never cared for them.

That being the case, I tend to be the “odd” person invited to various “orphan” Thanksgiving celebrations over the years.  As the ’gay-relative’ I never kept that much family close-by when I was first out on my own.

Working in a display department exhausts a person physically and mentally in the days leading-up to Black Friday — and here little Gracie, nearly 40 years my senior, sensing a lost kindred-spirit, invited me to join her family for turkey day.  I was invited to have Thanksgiving with she, her son, daughter-in-law and grandchild.  I couldn’t imagine how in the WORLD this tiny little energetic lady had sewn 175 circular tablecloths of various dimensions WITH decorative trim — fluffed dozens of yards of garland — and decorated countless artificial Christmas trees all while planning and executing a Thanksgiving dinner for family and extended company!

A few other people were invited on a drop-in basis, mostly people I knew, but Gracie warned me about her sister Roslyn.  Nothing ever pleased Roslyn.  Food was too hot, too salty, not salty enough.  The room was chilly, stuffy or too drafty.  Nothing was ever quite right.  Gracie, while widowed, had at least scored a man.  Roslyn had devoted her spinster’s life to a management career at the bank, and always dressed the part — right down to the discreet, but obviously real jewels she wore — constantly reminding everyone of their pedigree and authenticity. According to Gracie, Roslyn wore her jewels like she owned the ‘Star of India‘.

Gracie on the other hand, worked hard for a meager living, and carried a bicycle chain in her purse when she came or went from her ‘marginal’ middle-class neighborhood — just in case she had to ‘clock‘ somebody someday to insure her own safety.  On occasion, if she worked really late at Sibley, Lindsay and Curr, Gracie (well into her sixties) would would walk home swinging that bicycle chain above her head like Spartacus entering the Coliseum.  But only when she was forced to cross the Court Street Bridge on foot due to missing the bus.  The foot paths on the Court Street Bridge could get very creepy late at night.

Life was different for Roslyn.  She bought a new car every year and kept residence in an apartment where she was greeted by a doorman on the “better” side of town in one of the other blighted snow-belt capitals of Upstate New York.

Gracie confided in me she’d never asked a thing from Roslyn but that she behave herself “once-in-a-blue-moon” at family gatherings. And not comment on other people‘s weight, or wax-rhapsodic about the Amalfi Coast, knowing full-well no one else had been.  Gracie would try to keep conversation going by saying she’d enjoyed seeing the Amalfi Coast covered in the National Geographic until she turned the page and saw bare-breasted natives who were clearly from somewhere other than the Amalfi Coast.  If only Roslyn would stop being such a braggart, so annoying, so pretentious, so critical of everyone — that was all Gracie was asking.

But according to Gracie, Roslyn found remarkable ways of delivering an insult while allowing her Freudian slip to show well below the hem — especially after a nip of single-malt scotch from a flask she brought herself so as to insure it‘s quality…  Roslyn told Gracie once, that she was “glad” Gracie had married that soldier Roslyn had “lost interest” in.  But the way Gracie told it, Gracie saw him first, and Roslyn had tried to steal him from her right-up until the wedding ceremony.  Roslyn attributed her success to not falling for a blue-collar ex-serviceman thus securing her place in the world as a formidable business woman.

Flash forward.

…So after several decades of on and off “not speaking” — Roslyn was going to ‘grace’ Gracie’s table for Thanksgiving — and I was invited to join them — but with fair-warning that Roslyn took no prisoners — had NO filters — and spoke her mind even if it was hurtful.

Warning duly noted.

I was bringing a pecan pie, bought the day before from a bakery shop on the other side of town.  It was a hefty chore, since ice and sleet had already descended on Rochester, glazing ALL of Upstate New York…  Meanwhile, they couldn’t have been toastier in Toronto, but the North wind blowing over lake Ontario had triggered a sugar-coated ice-storm in the ‘snow-belt‘.  No sooner would it end than it would start-up again, never thawing.  The storm lasted for forever…

I rang-up Gracie at noon on Thanksgiving day to make sure dinner was still “on” given how ‘slick’ it was outside.  I lived walking distance from Gracie, but her family and friends were coming from Buffalo, Syracuse and Ithaca.

I was told to come over midday and was assured everyone had arrived safely late the night before — except for Roslyn who’d just called from a rest-stop on Interstate 490 to say she was coming, but only because she was well better than halfway there and would otherwise have turned back.

I said I’d be there by 3PM or so.  Gracie, already pissed-off with Roslyn’s snide remark, said we’d start dinner with or without her persnickety sister.  Gracie went on to say that Roslyn would be in particularly sour-spirits at driving all that distance for what she would undoubtedly criticize as “dry turkey” (even if it was moist) and stuffing that wasn’t near as good as what their mother had once made (even though it was their mother‘s own recipe.) 

It was then I remembered what I’d always known: “God bless and keep my family a minimum of 600 miles away for all periods of time longer than an extended weekend.”

At about 2:30 in the afternoon, I attempted to walk my dog, Autumn, who while young and chipper could not maneuver well on the ice.  Poor thing splayed herself out on the slippery sidewalk like Bambi‘s first steps.  Autumn, couldn’t keep upright on the ice.

Nor could I.

I clung to walls, branches, hedges and gates until the dog found the right spot.  Then we navigated our way back via lampposts, telephone poles and street signs. Dropping-off the dog at home, I set-out for Gracie’s with the wind and freezing-water gathering in my eyebrows and mustache.  It took forever to walk even a few steps with each carefully calculated footfall.  Nevertheless I hit the ground HARD a couple times landing square on my tailbone.

Eventually I made my way to Gracie’s house.  Clutching the front banister for dear life, I rang the bell, but not before taking one last tail-spin to the ground.  It was then that I saw it.  The car.  A duo-tone Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado perfectly parallel-parked in front of the house.  Given Gracie’s neighborhood, either a pimp was making holiday rounds, or Roslyn had arrived.

When the doorbell didn’t rouse anyone, I knocked at the shaky, tired, peeling green Victorian screen door trimmed with a wreath backed with white iridescent polyester fabric I recognized from the store’s table cloths. Table cloths which would premiere for Black Friday tomorrow morning at 10AM when the store opened.

I admired Gracie’s red and green plaid grosgrain bows and swags.  She didn‘t have money, but she had style, even if she did swipe all her supplies from work.

As I mentioned, Gracie and I worked all hours of overtime the night before and for weeks and weeks prior…  Here I was, exhausted in my early 20’s wondering where-in-the-world she found the time — let alone the energy to have decorated her own home.

Gracie opened the door, and warned me “Roslyn is in unusually bad spirits this evening.”  She’d arrived stinking of scotch, and was working her way around the table telling everyone what she REALLY thought of them.  Other people’s families are not my problem, but a home-cooked meal was just fine so long as I wasn’t the victim of Roslyn’s scrutiny.  And why should I be?  I can be charming, and I’d never even met the woman.

Having arrived late due to the ice, the whole family was already gathered around the table and had begun eating.  I‘d missed hand-holding and saying grace – just as well…

I took my place at the table following brief introductions.

But Roslyn ignored me.

I do NOT like to be ignored.  I understand shyness, but I recognize hostility.

Roslyn looked at me with a stillness of expression that told me I was beneath introduction.  There was definitely something wrong with that woman – she unnerved me.

Once Gracie had heaped my plate with traditional dishes, I glanced across the table at Roslyn who was still glaring at me eye-level — it made me determined to be all the more courteous to a fault.

But there was that stoic, almost ‘other-worldly’ face glaring back at me.  Smiling sweetly, I asked Roslyn to pass the gravy as a way to break the ice.  At which point, she promptly slumped over and died.  Face-first into the gravy boat with little tufts of yellow-white hair thirstily absorbing the thick, oily, floured liquid.

There was a beat of time wherein no one fully absorbed what had just transpired.  Had she passed-out drunk…?  Or fainted…?  Wiping the gravy from her sister’s face, Gracie lifted Roslyn’s head and put a compact-mirror by her sister’s nose and mouth, but couldn’t tell if the condensation was coming from the gravy or from her breath.  She didn’t look to me like she was breathing, and I said so, which threw everyone else into breathless bedlam.  Cell phones didn’t exist back then.  Neither did 911.  So I took it upon myself to ‘dial’ the operator from the kitchen phone and told the woman to contact the police and emergency and gave her the distressed address.

Before the paramedics arrived and declared Roslyn dead on the scene from what later proved to be an aneurysm, it was the human reactions that fascinated me.  Gracie was guilt-ridden for having made such a fuss over Roslyn’s many faults.  But while it was all unfolding, Gracie’s daughter-in-law was removing jewelry from the body.  The choker necklace I could understand, but relatives were pulling the jewelry off her fingers and earlobes while other guests continued in a surreal way to pick at their plates.

Gracie was nothing short of bewildered.  After all, there was a corpse at her holiday table other than the turkey.  And in an indescribable moment of awkwardness offered me left-over’s to take home as the medical team hoisted Roslyn onto a gurney.

Ever the gracious host.

Gracie signed a form bound for the coroner‘s office.  I declined accepting the “goody bag“ she offered.  Just my mind’s-eye memory of Roslyn’s facial expression and her yellow-tinted hair soaking-up gravy through capillary action had put me off my appetite.

I had done my part by contacting emergency and after an awkward silence I bed my farewell.  This his had become a family moment where I felt compelled to leave them to sort things out on their own.  Through befuddled goodbyes, no one was even feigning tears.  I made my exit to allow Gracie and the family to pick over the carcass of their spoiled celebration.

Bracing myself against the cold, damp wind, I slipped and slided my way home to the barren refrigerator in my little apartment.  All I had in the house were ketchup, stale bread and 2 frozen pork chops. 

Still a bit shell-shocked, I let the dog out the back door to pee in the yard on her own, and popped two frozen pork-chops under the broiler.  Away from the “scene” I was suddenly hungry-as-the-devil in spite of what I’d just witnessed.  The broiler door jammed so I forced it shut with my foot, catapulting the pork chops into an irretrievable space behind the oven where they were left to thaw and stink-up the apartment for months to come.

Turning off the oven, I ate two slices of stale bread covered in ketchup and went to bed.  I had to go to work the next morning for ‘Black Friday’ in the event that any of the displays collapsed under the weight of ‘shoppers stampede’.

Poor Gracie got a week off for a death in the family – though she confided in me she still hadn’t cried, but she’d been left everything as next of kin.  There was no will.

Have a “blessed” Thanksgiving dinner everyone.  Hehehe…

A Depression Deserves Musicals

Aquamusicals.  Now there’s a term you don’t hear very often.  Esther Williams was the key starlet of those camp classics.  They were Busby Berkeley’s “swan song” and final dive into absurd motion picture fantasy spectaculars following the formula of his earlier successes that saw a depressed population through depressing times – THE Great Depression (of the LAST century).

Ahhhh, the Great Depression.  I’ve heard about it my whole life.  My parent’s generation survived it — along with World War II.  That generation never wanted their children to go through what they endured.  But global calamity, politics, greed and disillusion are timeless.  Now it’s our turn – at least I recognize it as mine.  In my last post I made an obscure reference to how Busby Berkeley’s movies in the 1930’s helped people through tough times.  We still have movies, but now we have TV and the internet, but I’m not sure any of those things are helping MY personal depression.

I want escapism, but find myself genuinely mired in hard reality.

I suppose I could watch Bristol Palin do the ‘Bristol Stomp’ tonight.  Even as I write this, I’m certain the Stepford child is thundering her piano-legs across the boards furiously rehearsing for “fixed“ results to boost ratings.  I won’t be watching.  Bristol‘s hoofing might make me laugh, but it won’t carry me to a safe place of fantasy and happy-endings.  I feel sorry for the girl, poor deranged thing most likely thinks she‘s graceful and making it on her own.  I saw on the news they eliminated Brandy last week, who is prettier, has a better figure and clearly steps in time to the music — but Brandy black.  Bristol’s failure to fail on her own feeds flawlessly into ignorant white America’s need to believe THEY are the rightful “Supremes.”

Now here’s MY idea of entertainment:

Susan Boyle does a guest appearance on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ dressed in fishnet stockings and a top hat recreating Ann Miller’s famous pirouetting tap-dance routine…

What is next?  Water ballet with the stars?  Or Ice Skating With the Has-Beens?  Oh, I forgot, ABC is already airing that hip-breaking injury in the making.  Bristol should go on that show too.  She might excel at ice-skating, given her icy upbringing – but her legs are better suited for hockey.  I have never made it through a episode of “Dancing With the Stars.”  Or American Idol, or the granddaddy of them all “Fear Factor.”  One can only hope that was canceled.  I don’t watch much TV.

Depression is deperssion.  Period.  It doesn’t matter what short-term delusion we tune into on TV or at the movies, as a people we’re not that naïve — except at the polling place.

The economy is terrible, and everyone is doing things they‘d never have dreamt of at one time…  For example, Annie Lennox has a new Christmas album available.  You know they either held a gun to her head and made her huff chlorofluorocarbons — or offered her a whole LOT of money.  I still love Annie, but I won’t buy the album.

Depression is more than economic, it‘s an ingrained wrinkle in the collective psyche.  Now we’re in a brand-spanking new depression, and there’s NOTHING great about it — except for the distant hope of emerging from it.  Hopefully stronger.

A Fine New Boxed Vintage: Lame Duck Wining

New from Duck Vineyards, Winnie and Beihl proudly introduce a new boxed wine to compete in the early Christmas line-up of desperate retailing marketing schemes. 

Try Lame Duck Wine.

Even if nothing happens, at least you won’t be forced to face it sober.

I’m not a big fan of the holidays.  And these days ahead are Lame Duck holidays — during a depression — following 2 years of congressional constipation.

With 2 more years of congressional constipation yet ahead…


The republicans are pro-tax cuts for the affluent while voting-down unemployment extensions for the struggling.

Just in time for my unemployment to (hopefully) kick-back-in.  This coming holiday season promises to be epic even by the gauge of my own personal predisposition to despise Christmas.

I have lovely invitations for both Thanksgiving, and for Christmas dinners.  That said, this will be my first Christmas on food stamps.  Ever.  That includes my whole family so far as I know.  Making me the first — always forging new frontiers in debasing the good family name.  That said, I did pay into these same-said programs — for decades.

Goody for me.  It’ll still be the holidays.

Everywhere one turns they’ll be playing that dreadful music.  “Silver-bells, dental-drills, it’s Christmas time in the city…anesthetize yourself for the holidays…


Hear them sting…

…soon it will be Christmas day.

Guilty as charged — I have a bad attitude about the holidays.

There will be various visits to Grandma Betty at the home.  I’ll decorate a miniature tree and knock-back Crown Royal with my mother’s 101 year old roommate, Aurelia, providing any of us are still alive.

And then there’ll be mom’s Christmas gifts.  At this point, I might as well wrap-up her own underwear and give it back to her. None of it fits me.

EEEE-gad.  I forgot about the holiday parties.  I should spend the holidays in the basement.

I’m usually on the fence about attending Christmas parties until after I’ve left them…

…following a brief appearance or an embarrassing incident.

Followed by more Grandma Betty at the home.  Both of us are loosing our minds in fits and starts.  It gives us something in common.

We don’t discuss it however. Or much else.

If anyone is reading this blog, (is anyone reading this blog?) remember to BEG me to tell you my ‘Gay Christmas Holiday Story‘.  It’s all kinda inappropriate, so I’ll have to look it over with the eye of a Carmelite Nun before posting.  I have so much planned for the holidays.  I hope one of my two readers will remind me.

Oh never mind, I’ll most likely publish it anyway even if there’s no hue and cry from my “public.”

These will be very busy holidays for me.  I have a “reconciliation” foreclosure hearing followed by jury-duty just in time for Christmas week.  Oh joy, oh rapture…

I never get selected for juries.  But we’ll see.  I’ve always wanted to be selected if only for the real-life material.

Jury duty pays $6.95 day plus a lunch coupon for Reading Terminal Market – been a while since I’ve had one of those.

I think I might have earned $100 workin’ the polls as majority inspector.  Wonder when that check’ll arrive?

Probably so late that I’ll shred it as junk mail unopened.

I should get on the mailing list for focus-groups.  I wonder if focus-groups still pay? — or in honor of the economy they merely offer burned coffee and stale donuts(?)  These are rough times.  I skew focus groups anyway.
No one would pay for my blood or semen.

My body is no longer marketable as a sex-object — I’m well past my shelf-life.

Unlikely I’ll marry well.  I don’t care for other people underfoot.


I scoured Springarden Avenue earlier today looking for the place where I sign-for and pick-up my food stamps.  I was called and told via telephone-interview that I’d been accepted into the program.  

It was a real ‘Bob Barker”‘ moment.

I was instructed to pick-up my card at the same place where I’d applied for it.  On arrival, I was immediately sent away, and told to go elsewhere and elsewhere and elsewhere.  It was like entering a life-sized bureaucratic pachinko machine.  I gave-up in defeat after endless blocks of walking and asking people where to go — when I should have been telling them “where to go”

I’ll try again on Monday.  

“Silver-bells, shot-gun-shells…It’s premature Christmas in the depression… 

Thanks republicant’s.  For nothin’.

Gotta give ‘em credit for a ‘cold’ duck voting record.

Have fun being ever-so-comfortable and shootin’ things in your stocked gaming forests.  Roast peasant anyone?

I’m having a glass of “Lame Duck” wine,  and I feel “entitled” to it even if I sound like I’m wining.  Where’s Busby Berkley when you need him?

To Grope or not to Grope. That is the question.

There’s finally a job at the airport where you get to feel people-up and tell ‘em to turn their heads and cough.  And I go on record as not wanting that job.  Only because I’ve spent time at a nudist colony, and I’m here to tell you most people in general are not very appealing.  I’m waiting for the first lawsuit that arises from a security guard suing an airline as a result of catching bed-bugs or scabies from a passenger.  Who in their right mind wants to touch the general public?

I wonder if anyone has ever been arrested for groping their way through Walmart?

What a grotesque concept.

Everyone thinks someone else is going to get their jollies by seeing or fondling their genitals during a cavity search.  Perhaps people think they’re more attractive than they really are.  Most people’s genitals are unappealing at best.  I’ve seen more than my share, and that’s plenty.  I did exhaustive research when I was younger.

I don’t think you could pay me enough.  The vast majority of Americans don’t land on the covers of glamorous magazines.   And even so, after the advent of my latest comical medical development, “Low Tee”, I don’t find ANYONE attractive.

It’s a relief.  I’d be perfect for the job, I’d just never agree to do it.

I did exhaustive research on other people’s genitals from the hip-sixties to my own late fifties.  I had a hell of a midlife crisis.  Like old light-bulbs and candle flames that burn brighter before burning-out, the flame is gone.  I am actually relieved to have a decreased sexual desire.

Am I healthy enough for sexual activity?

Not on your life.

I’m lingering on the verge of early fatal heart-attack and thrilled by the prospect.

Something new and unfamiliar to ,look forward to.  Speaking of which, one way tickets are now available to Mars.  Buy ‘em now and leave ‘em to your children, as you probably won’t live long enough to see the project up and running.  That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a ticket, only that you won’t be able to use it during your own lifetime.  Kinda like buying a star.  Or the Brooklyn Bridge.

Which begs the question:  If you do get to take a one-way ticket to Mars does that, or does that NOT come with a full body pat-down?

Chandelier Earmarks

My life has only ever fallen apart in interesting ways.  It’s the Chinese curse from the year I was born: “May you live in interesting times.”

I take a testosterone supplement because medical science has decided FOR ME I’m not man-enough to take care of bio-physical matters all on my own.

With the help of medical science/advise, my testosterone level has dropped from a normal 500 count (like fine imported linens) to a terrifying 80 count in under a year.  My body absorbs the Androgel-hair-conditionerish “product”, and tells my testicles to stop producing the goods, because we’re now outsourcing.  My brain gets the message that we’re relying on outside vendors for something we have in-house capabilities to produce – but my body doesn’t actually absorb or use the testosterone.  Then why am I still horny?

Friend of mine had her leg cut-off and told me the foot still itched.  Understood.

I have no idea where the synthetic goes.  Like the economy.  Money doesn’t disappear.  It merely goes somewhere else.

OMG – My body is the messenger.  I am the Cassandra of my time.  Like the squid who predicted World Soccer tournaments — MY body predicts the American financial environment.  Both are in deterioration by a careful blending of benign neglect, blatant ignorance and the willingness to believe other people know what they’re talking about.

Now I’m on some-sort-of 5000x testosterone solution that comes in a blunt syringe with the instructions clearly printed on the tube “For Oral Use Only”, but with an attached tag which reads: “For External Topical Use Only”.  I figured I didn’t want to eat it the shit, so I rub it into my shoulders. 

I am a medical miracle.

I’d consider a sex-change, but it’s honestly too much effort, and I’m oppressed enough as a fagot.  I don’t want to be a woman.  I’ve got enough internal workings and emotional problems for the lifetime of one living organism.

I have a stomach condition that’s a result of recommended over-the-counter medication for pain.  I have a mortgage in foreclosure without ever missing a payment.  I’m out of work for working too hard.  I lost my unemployment for demonstrating work-initiative, and Mitch McConnell is suddenly against earmarks. 

Where did that come from?

Michelle Bachmann is against them too — but in her own inimitable ‘village-idiot’ way stating her opposition to earmarks while trying to preserve her personal “stash” by finding a new name for “EM’s.”   This, of course while talking about abolishing other people’s right to benefit from earmarks unless they’re citizens in her own district (a.k.a. of the “ward”).

Mitch McConnell is the ‘Ear Mark Queen’ — poking her turtle-like head into any pot that contains money.  But in-comes fellow Kentucky Congressman, Tea-partyish Republican’t Rand (crazy-as-a-shithouse-rat) Paul who ran on ending earmarks without really understanding  how useful they’ll be to his future re-election campaigns.

We all know about “bridges to nowhere“ — that‘s congress in a nutshell.  But what earmarks really are, is the way various districts compete for federal financial assistance ranging from infrastructure to vital research — all of which (when properly administered) lead to jobs.

Whadda we need?  


When do we need ‘sm NOW!

JOBS – not the ‘Book of Job.’

But to listen to the “energized” Republican’t Party, people have starved and struggled since the beginning of time so why stop a good thing now?  

Whenever a single-digit percentage of the population owns the double-digit share of the wealth, it’s bound to give a person gas…

…or oil for that matter…

…or indigestion…

…or severe depression…

…or heart disease…

…or want and despair…

…or a stroke…

…rarely of genius.

Mitch, Rand and Michelle have benefits and wealth for life.

The rest of us are falling apart in fits and starts, and the republicant’s have found a new life-theater wedge-issue.


How about using earmarks to create jobs?  It would suit MY body chemistry.

To Screen or Not to Screen…?

Oh for the Love of Pete.

Who gives a rat’s ass what you look like in an airline scan monitor?

Is our collective ego so insecure that we value genital privacy over life and safety?  Sure, no one wants their children groped.  But no normal person straps explosives to their children…  or their grandmother for that matter.  What we’re screening-for is abnormal people who are perfectly capable of looking just like anyone else.

YEARS and years ago, a friend named David Lortz drove me from Rochester, New York to Toronto, Canada so I could exhibit a dollhouse I’d completed (now in a museum collection.)  I had secured a prime exhibit location at a gallery across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum in time for the Christmas holidays.  But in the weeks before transporting the dollhouse, I had nightmares about delivering the miniature to Canada.  It was during those drug-infested Vietnam War days of hippie paranoia.  I worried that my dollhouse was going to be torn to pieces by Canadian customs agents looking for marijuana hidden in the dollhouse or in some of it’s packed contents.  In my nightmare all my hard-work would be destroyed by a bogus destruction of my treasured project by a search for non-existent contraband.

I voiced my psychic-night-terrors to David, who while shaking his shoulder length hair from his face assured me he would not be carrying any drugs.  “lotsa people with long hair cross the Canadian border everyday.” he told me.  “It’ll be cool.”

But I was a born worrier.  

David was the only one I knew who had a van, and my late lover Danny had set-up the transport for me — telling me to stop being so “un-cool”.  “Cool” had more meaning then.  No one had discovered “awesome.”  I’ve always worried too much.  I come by it honestly through Grandma Betty.

On the date of the transport I sat nervously awaiting David’s arrival so I could pack my precious project into his van for exhibition in Toronto.  When he actually showed-up, (late) I was surprised to see his mother sitting in the passenger’s seat of the van.  I was told I would have to ride in back and secure the dollhouse on the floor so it didn’t bump-around.  His mother had decided on a whim to join us and have a day-trip to visit an older widow she knew on the other side of Lake Ontario.  I was relieved seeing her in a blue pillbox hat and matching nubby Chanel-ish suit.  She drove David crazy on the whole trip up.  She gave him grief about his hair, his girlfriend, what he was going to do with his life, and on and on and on…

It calmed my nerves to see this domestic clash of generations, as it was the same experience I had whenever I visited my parents, Bob and Grandma Betty.  I could never do anything right in Grandma Betty’s eyes, or if I did, I never did-so standing-up straight.  I recognized the drama, and was relieved to be spared the cross-hairs of the critique.

When we reached the Canadian border I’d reached a quiet fantasy-neurosis that I was a Vietnam draft dodger-come interloper escaping the country.  After all, I was riding on the floor sitting Injun-style with my legs falling asleep feeling every bump and dip in the road.

Reaching the border, the crossing-guards waived us through barely glancing at anything, let alone me.  They asked how many occupants were in the car, and the length of our visit and it so was done.  Away we drove.

When we got to Toronto, Dave’s mother pulled-out the bricks of hash she was hiding under her skirt, gave them to David, who delivered them to a head-shop on Yonge Street, then dropping her off to visit her friend.  In my own stupid disbelief, he then delivered me and my dollhouse to the Stanley Wagman Gallery across the street from the Royal Canadian Museum.

The moral of my story is, be an exhibitionist for the cameras, and insist on a cavity search too.  It might just be the high-point of your day.

Am I Blue or is it Just the Light in Here?

I actually decided to lift my heavy-head off the pillow and get out of bed this morning.  I even made myself shower and straighten the house.  I’ve been a bit ‘blue’ lately.  The impending holidays don’t help.  But I got to thinking about my career as an artist, if “career” is even the right choice of word. 

I began my professional life full of vim and vigor.  I held 3 jobs simultaneously working part time at two museums while caretaking an historic house open to the public where my payment was a small apartment.  I also freelanced.  Life was full of possibility, or at least it seemed so at the time.

Since those simpler, yet busy days I’ve worked in retail merchandising display, advertising, more museums, and spent decades as a freelance artist.  My career as a freelance artist, like everyone who attempts that difficult and uneven balance, was to market myself as capable of doing any number of things to keep an income generated.  I specialized for a while in hospital murals.  Another block of time has been spent as an architectural model builder, portrait painter, children’s book illustrator and art director.  I’ve worked behind the scenes on movies, stage plays, TV commercials and come what may.  But steady employment in a fluctuating sector of the economy is not for the weak of heart.  Sometimes you long for something reliable, which is how I got suckered into my last 9 to 5.  Well, that, and the fact that 9/11 had snuffed-out the freelance art business for a prolonged dry-spell.

Some years back I had a brain-storm — more like coastal damage — that I should start a specialized wedding gift business.  I called my business “WeddingMats”.  And no, they were not absorbent.  I have always hand-painted a small floor cloth for friends when they got married.  I’d incorporate things into the imagery that were special to the couple…  what kind of flowers the bride would carry – the color-theme of the wedding – a romantic spot where the couple met.  With the help of a friend who offered to back this venture, THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars were flushed down the toilet to launch and advertise this concept.  The concept, simply put was this: A WeddingMat is gift that allows the marrying couple to have the very spot where they stood and exchanged their vows as a permanent keepsake to save and frame. 

My WeddingMats were very pretty, if not a little sophisticated for the average American.  but after a launch that included Bride’s Magazine, Modern Bride, Martha Stewart Living and ‘O’ for Oprah – this was a concept the purchasing public was not clamoring to buy.  It flopped, not critically, only financially flat-lined.  The public couldn’t wrap their minds around  standing on a Ketubah.

I’m realistic in accessing that my business ventures have been esthetic successes and financial failures.  Especially whenever I attempt to reach a mass audience.  My children’s book, Wings of Love written by Elizabeth Bernet was marketed as a Christmas gift book that somehow the publisher failed to get the book to store shelves until January 6th, missing the holiday shopping season all together — and then cancelled our contract for abysmal Christmas sales figures.  It was a very pretty book.  Oh well.

At the height of the Clinton attempt at health care reform I muraled a number of hospital interiors.  But suddenly hospitals, in a mistaken reaction to the public sentiment, stopped commissioning murals for a while as if such interior frivolity represented a wasteful use of money.  They’re now doing them again, but the market is flooded, I’m older and tired, and not so sure I want to reenter those waters.

I’ve been an artifacts mount-maker for a museum.  I’ve worked on an oil-pipeline.  I’ve done house construction and worked as a mason’s apprentice.  I’ve done it all except taking my clothes off in public — and only then due to a lack of demand.

With my talent for offering-up product ideas the public is not clamoring-for, today I’ve decided to launch my latest product idea on a stellar path to nowhere:  The Bob and Elizabeth Dole His and Hers Viagra-Pez Dispenser.  This is THE perfect gift for those stodgy old republicans who get out the vote to send the country forward toward a backwards future.  I don’t actually mind Bob and Liz, but we know they use the product.  He was the Viagra spokesman after his unsuccessful bid for the presidency.  In hindsight, they weren’t bad as old republican go.  So this year when you’re shopping for the perfect stocking “stuffer” for elderly republicans, Keep the Bob and Elizabeth Dole Viagra-Pez Dispenser in mind.  Come to think of it, I’m removing this product from the market – the republicans had already had too much of a shocking “up-swing” in the last “poles.”

Ten Cents a Dance

I’m in a much cheerier mood today. 

I missed posting a WinnieToon yesterday because I was so depressed I could hardly get out of bed except when forced to run errends delivering legal documents back and forth from one end of town to the other to determine my fate.  Every email I receive, every phone call, every letter that comes through my mail-slot are depressing harbingers of my eminent decline.  Being the subject of three simultaneous law suits is no barrel of laughs, especially when one of them hinges on whether or not I’ll be able to keep my home of 27 years.

A little better than a year and a half ago, I was fit, slim, happy — looking and feeling younger than my actual years.  Sure I had some aches and pains, and money was tight.  But money being tight is one of the prerequisites of being an artist – you get used to it and adapt.  The aches and pains turned out to me more, cascading me into a physical decline that led to the loss of my income when my job denied me “reasonable accommodation in the workplace” following a gradual shoulder injury that led to surgery.  Surgery which was only necessary as it was a result of repeated and unreasonable physical strain brought on by my job above what my contract determined I was required to do. 

I was renegotiating my mortgage through all the above confusion, as well as caring for a declining parent — And have since found-out all sorts of horrors, like my mortgage had an “ARM” of which I was completely UNAWARE.  ALL discussions with mortgage brokers were about FIXED interest rates ONLY, but some kind of mortgage shenanigans took place, right under my nose — and without ever missing a single mortgage payment, I found myself in foreclosure about a year later.  My last mortgage payment was refused by the lender and returned.  a “reconciliation” court date is set for right before Christmas.  “Reconsilliation” – sounds so romantic, doesn’t it?  In reality it promises to be a real trip down Rabbit Hole Lane.

Meanwhile In a parallel universe, I was denied my unemployment benefits 2 months ago because of monetizing my WinnieToons blog.  On paper (in a paperless society) WinnieToons earned about $250 before Big Brother Google decided my blog was a hotbed of suspicious activity and UNmonetized me without ever offering any explanation — or a means whereby I could actually TALK to a living human being to get to the bottom of the problem.  I have lived for the past 2 months devoid of ANY income whatsoever.  In reality WinnieToons only earned a whopping ninety cents – ten cents short of a dollar.  That was the test-amount Google deposited in my account, and never a penny since.  In essence, I lost my unemployment benefits for earning ninety cents and being honest enough to report it to the state.  I am allowed to earn $150 per week above my unemployment without it effecting my unemployment.  WinnieToons was “enjoying” about $35 a week in Google’s pretend “play” money before all incoming monies were shut down.

Enter two University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate students, Adam Schwartzbaum and Pat Nugent.  Pat and Adam did research on my case and Pat appeared with me in the presence of a mediator in a public court building on Springarden Avenue. 

It was argued that I had a pre-existing EIN number (employee identification number) which by virtue of my having applied for it well prior to loosing my job and used to monetize the blog — so I was entitled to be reinstated under the states own statutes.  I notified them of the EIN number when I first applied for unemployment. Most of the people you talk with at unemployment know even less than the confused callers begging for clarification.  As it turns out, I am in fact allowed to have a monetized blog so long as I report my earnings.  The mediator seemed sensitive to the situation and reasonable…

…but on Wednesday of this past week I received a letter which I interpreted to mean my appeal had been declined. Legalese is a language derived from pig-Latin and can only be read backwards in special mirrors and translated into Aramaic to be interpreted by a sibyl with a Ouija-board.  This misinterpretation was further confused by the copy-store clerk who I entrusted to fax the letter over to the Penn students, didn’t notice that page one was double-sided.  Truth to tell, neither did I.  On the back of page one were the much-anticipated words that reinstated me.  Page one and three read back to back without the benefit of page two have an entirely different and grim message.  Everything has since been properly deciphered.  this means I have a huge check due me, with great thanks to Pat and Adam without whom, I’d have laid down on railroad tracks and given up.  

This was Pat’s first time arguing a case for a client, and he won.  That bodes well for his future in law.  I need to have them all over for a glass of wine just to thank them.  Observing the unemployment ritual was another student who’s name escapes me, (and I hope he will forgive my senior moment), but I do recall that he had a bit part in the film “Mean Girls” starring Lindsay Lohan.  He is invited over for a glass of wine.  Lindasy Lohan is not.  I’m not taking the fall for her next relapse.

To wrap things-up, I was defended by two graduate law students who proved to the State of Pennsylvania that I was beyond a shadow of a doubt, ten cents short of a dollar.

I could have told them that myself. Do I have a witness?  Amen.