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I can’t get into the particulars on any of it.  Quite honestly, I’m not qualified to do so. Also – I’m going to write a lot of things here and not cite any sources. This is not to say I’ve made any of this up. I’ve read it all sometime, somewhere. But I lack the energy right now to link to everything single thing I’ve read, and surely enough people aren’t reading this who will care. Suffice to say, I am confident that if you Google search anything I am talking about, you will find that I’m not completely full of shit.  If you find the opposite to be the case, please leave me a comment and I’ll look into it. I have no intention of spreading misinformation.

I’m a casual reader of internet news – I lean towards the reputable sources (Boston Globe, Washington Post, New York Times), and despite what most people think, still believe that Buzzfeed is a a reliable and trusted news source.  However, a lot of articles are very long, and there is only so much reading I can do on my phone while at my desk pretending to be working.  I try super hard not to only read things that confirm what I already think – but unless I seek out right wing or conservative bent news outlets, it’s unlikely at this point that I will see anything that will make me question my current opinions.

As stated somewhere earlier on this blog (probably back during the 2012 election) I am an unapologetic  Democrat and Liberal. A far-left liberal.  This is for social reasons as well as fiscal ones. I believe in taxes. I’m probably not far off from becoming a socialist. I believe in the greater good. I believe education and infrastructure are worth investing in. I don’t believe that some people deserve to be so wealthy that they practically throw money away, while there are other people who have no idea where their next meal is coming from. Among many things, the gap in income inequality drives me insane. It’s probably the #1 reason I will never vote Republican. One of the first things I had heard President Trump (ugh) would do in office would be to cut taxes for the richest Americans. I will never understand this.  Surely they don’t even notice when they pay more in taxes because they have so much money? Not more taxes, mind you. Just the same percentage that you and I pay.  And if they paid the same rate of taxes as the rest of us, surely the money from only a few of them would make a significant difference to things that desperately need funding in this country?   Hasn’t it been proven over and over again that “trickle down” economics just doesn’t work? Indeed, some of the wealthiest people I know are also the cheapest. They’re not spending it because they have it – they’re holding on to it with their tight selfish fists, and the middle and lower classes can suck it.

Besides taxes – I believe in equal rights for everyone, especially the LGBT community.  I believe in a woman’s right to choose, regardless of my own personal feelings about abortion.  I think racism is rampant in this country, and, contrary to what I ignorantly used to argue, even in my lovely hometown of Boston.  In the Black Lives Matter movement, I sympathize with the protesters who have been made to feel that their lives don’t matter – and why would they feel any other way? They’ve disproportionately been gunned down by police officers more than any other race.  How is that not a problem?

I am consistently confounded by people who align themselves with the Republican party. True story – the head of the company where I am currently a temp is a very wealthy man. He has homes in a few states and is probably worth a few million dollars.  He’s not making a Forbes list any time soon, but he has a lot of money.  He was an unapologetic Trump supporter, but I kind of get that. It’s in his financial best interest to be that way. Also, he and is wife are originally from the mid-West and are Christian, and I think their values are very conservative (also, his wife is big into guns, I think?  Different topic for a different day. I can’t even right now.).  So, ok, sure, this guy who I like a lot supports the guy who will allow him to remain as wealthy as possible.  I don’t love it, but I get it.

On the other side, I will point to a few of my cousins. Now, they definitely fit the mold of the fragile, uneducated white male who voted for Trump. This whole “Make America Great Again” to me was really a thinly veiled way of saying “Make America White Again.” The country was doing GREAT under Obama. GREAT.  Unemployment was way down. More people had health care than ever before. He ushered in marriage equality.  He took steps to protect the planet from climate change.  What’s so bad about that?  So when you start to think, “what’s so great about how it used to be?”, the only thing I can come up with is that it used to be whiter. People look nostalgically back to the time in the 50s when someone without a college education could get a job that would pay him/her (but probably him, let’s be honest) enough money to support a family and own a home in a lovely little community.  So I guess people want to get back to that? Guess what? It ain’t gonna happen, not matter what President Jackass says.  There’s just too many damn people in this country. You want to get ahead? Go to college. Go to graduate school. Work harder at it. It strikes me as incredibly hypocritical that a lot of the people who rail against welfare and “entitlements” are often the same people who feel entitled because they are white. They can’t stand seeing other people or races get ahead of them, but are refusing to do anything about it.

But the funny thing about people like my relatives aligning themselves with these super wealthy people is – they are betting against their own interests. Why would they identify with billionaires over people in the working class? I think its because of the dangling carrot of capitalism. That whole idea that if you work hard enough, you can be wealthy like me!  The problem with capitalism is that it’s a bell curve. In order for someone to be THAT wealthy, someone else has to be THAT poor.  These fools identify with the wealthy because they think that will be them some day. Meanwhile, the wealthy are doing everything in their power to make sure that’s not the case, because that means there would be less for them.  Greed.

Can we talk about Immigration for a moment?  Let’s not even delve too deeply into the shades of Nazi-ism rampant in this immigration BAN (they can deny they called it a ban all they want, but they have literally been recorded on video calling it a ban themselves), but how about the anti-immigrant sentiment in this country? I guess it is part of wave of nationalism that is sweeping the globe – wasn’t that what Brexit was ultimately about? And elections in France and Italy are examples of the popularity of nationalist politicians even in those countries.  And I guess all of it is in reaction to the amount of refugees coming out of Syria?  But I think that’s one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever encountered. These people need help!! And all anyone wants to do is close their borders? What the F?  No one was moved at all by the photo of the corpse of a young boy who washed ashore, drowned on a beach? Or the little boy, covered in dust and debris, shell-shocked in the back of an ambulance? Or, an imagine that will personally haunt me for the rest of my life, of little children running from building to building while being shot at, in an attempt to safely get out of the country. They were terrified and crying. What if that was your child? Why the disassociation?  Why do you feel like they deserve it but it would never happen to you?  They did not make the choice to live in a country that would ultimately be torn apart by war, destroying their very way of life. Who would choose that?  Why aren’t they deserving of sympathy, empathy and compassion?  In most cases, these people have nothing. Imagine having to leave behind all of your possessions, anything that gives you any amount of comfort – just so you can survive?  It’s heartbreaking.

So I don’t understand people who want to build walls and stand behind bans that won’t allow people into this country. Unless you are 100% Native American (also another story for another day – how we’ve treated those people since we got here), your family came here from some place else too.  You wouldn’t even exist if this type of shit was going on, because your family would have been denied access to this country. The British people didn’t want the Irish people coming over – remember the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman movie, and the whole “Irish Need Not Apply” thing?  And once Irish people made their way and got comfortable, they didn’t want Italian people competing for status.  My grandfather, who loved everybody, hated Irish people, and the only reason for that was because we he came to this country as a very little boy, all the Irish kids at school would pick on him and beat him up for no other reason than because he was Italian and learning how to speak English.  This is not a slight against Irish people, obviously. It’s human nature for people who have fought hard to get where they are to feel threatened by the next group coming in on their heels, and to treat them poorly because of it. I saw this story a few months ago and found it eye opening, to say the least.  Maybe that’s part of the reason there is such prejudice against Latinos in this country, and talk of walls and rapists.  There was some statistic a few years ago about how soon, white people will technically be the minority in this country. And people started freaking the f* out. Why?  So what?  Demographics shift.  This country is supposed to be a melting pot.  We are evolving. Deal with it.

Further disillusioning me against the Republican party and President Ass Hat – the fact that before the election, they blocked Obama’s Supreme Court replacement for Justice Scolia, so that they could ensure they keep a conservative bent in the Supreme Court. And as outrageous as that is, it happened. Now the Republications have a majority in the House and Senate, so of course all of Trump’s disgusting appointments will be confirmed.  They are all rich, privileged, and white. And there’s maybe a racist or two among them. Yay America!   It’s so frustrating to watch this and feel powerless. Our only hope is to really come together in the mid-terms and hopefully get some balance back in there.  I also worry about Steve Bannon being the Rasputin behind Trump. None of this sits well. He’s very smart, and it feels like he’s playing a game and we’re all playing right into his hands. He’s most likely also smart enough to know how to play President Cheeto like a fiddle, and kisses up in exactly the right way, so President Moron’s ego is sufficiently stroked, and Bannon gets exactly what he wants. This is a man who advocated for a holy war while at the Vatican not so many years ago!

I spend a decent amount of time on Facebook. More now than I would care to admit, because I get sucked in by everyone’s political posts.  There are a lot of people of late who complain about the amount of political posts on Facebook. I think this is such a childish thing to do.  Facebook is essentially a microblogging site where people post the things that are important to them. It could be a picture of their family. It could be a picture of their meal at a 5-star restaurant. Or it could be how society as we know it is crumbling around us and we need to stay vigilant if we have any hope of getting out of this unscathed or on the brink of nuclear war.

Some final parting thoughts on our new president: He is probably a psychopath. I don’t mean that to be sarcastic, I mean that, clinically, he probably fits the definition. A few years ago, a British journalist named Jonathan Ronson wrote a book called The Psychopath Test. I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my list. It’s basically about how the traits that make someone a psychopath can lead them to be a homicidal maniac, or lead a Fortune 500 company.  No fear, no empathy, stuff like that. In research either conducted for the book or publish relatively soon thereafter, they found that the percentage of psychopaths in general society to be a much lower number than the percentage of psychopaths who are CEOs.  When I finally read the book, I’ll include some information about it. Anyway, at best, he is a psychopath. He is a narcissist with tiny hands and a pathetically fragile ego.  He is not qualified for this job, nor do I believe he even really wanted it. He mostly wanted to prove he could have it if he wanted. And here we are. God help us all.

#notmypresident

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Not that it matters, since I seem to be down to writing once a year, which is very, very sad. Although now I seem to have all sorts of time on my hands, so maybe I will be writing more. I promise nothing.

Why should I re-name the blog? Because none of the writers live on the west coast anymore. That’s right – twynne (i.e., me), native New Englander and Hater of Winter, has moved back home to Boston.  After 13+ years in Los Angeles, I made the pilgrimage back home.  As I sit and write this, I am in the office in my parents’ house, where I and my dachshund are living, looking out the window at a blooming dogwood tree that I had suggested my parents plant over 17 or so years ago.  They don’t listen to me often, but they did then, and today I am happy for it. It’s a lovely tree.

Why did I move?  My six-year relationship ended pretty much out of the blue one day in January, and it really made me question my life and where I am in it.  I just turned 40 (woohoo!) in October.  My job at the movie studio I called home for over 12 years (10 years in my job and then an additional 1 year before that as an intern while in school) was nice, but a lot had changed and I found myself going nowhere fast under new management who didn’t see the value I added to the team. I believe this is what is called a “cross roads” in life.  With no prospect of moving forward at work, and no relationship keeping me tied to a specific location, I thought to myself, “Where do I want to be?”  The ex and I had been talking about moving to Portland, OR, sometime this year. It’s a place we had visited last year and I totally fell in love with it and really pictured us living there and enjoying life.  But it wasn’t something I envisioned doing on my own. If I wasn’t going to be in LA, then I wanted to come home.  After my divorce in 2009, I did the whole “starting over” thing. It was tough, but I did it. I learned a lot about myself (I thought), set myself up in my own apartment, and made all new friends because my ex-husband somehow stole all of our mutual ones and I found myself with very few people in my life. I don’t think it would have been this difficult this time around. My ex and I have a lot of mutual friends, and I don’t think any of them were going to take sides like that. And honestly, if they did, they would have been on mine since most everyone agreed he had made a grave mistake.  I’m not even sure if that’s true anymore, I just knew I couldn’t handle the thought of finding another place on my own (but also with my dog – obviously she is my baby and stays with me) and constantly worrying about social engagements.  After getting an invitation, asking, “Will XX be there?” What if he starts dating someone new and I had to see him and his new girlfriend hanging out among all of our friends? The idea of it was just unbearable. This all went through my head in a span of 10 minutes, by the way.  After he finished his whole speech about not being in love with me and not wanting to spend the rest of his life with me, I think the first words out of my mouth were, “I’m moving home.”

There just seemed to be something really cathartic about coming home again. Maybe I’ve seen too many Hallmark Channel movies.  I still really, really hate Winter and am not looking forward to it. Luckily I got here at pretty much the beginning of Spring, so I have a while before I need to deal with it and plenty of time to mentally prepare.

I didn’t line up a job before moving home.  A very good and smart friend of mine suggested maybe I should just pick a day and go, regardless of employment. Her point was this: at the end of my apartment lease, if I still didn’t have a job to go to in Boston, what would I do? Find another place and have to move within LA before moving home? Her words were, “Can you move home without a job?” And as soon as she said it, I realized I could.  Because of all of my health problems, I’m always nervous to not have health care, and I was spoiled with great health care through my last job. But now with the Affordable Care Act, that’s less of an issue. I had money saved (for that tropical vacation I’ve been dreaming of for 15 years…someday), plus a refund from my taxes, plus an unexpected bonus from work. So I have a financial cushion to live on while I job hunt and get myself settled, and a back up health care plan to help bridge the gap.  I plotted my exit from work carefully and planned a road trip from LA to Boston with a good friend that took 9 days and cost a whole lot more money than I had wanted to spend, but you don’t get many chances in life to make a trip like that (although, truthfully, I had done it on the way out to LA).  My dog and I got here almost 2 months ago. My parents are thrilled.  They really are gems, and I am so lucky to have them. I am 40, with no job and not a whole lot to my name, and rather than making me feel like a loser and failure, they welcomed me with open arms into their home, which they made sure to point out is my home now too. Very lucky indeed.

Of course, without a job and my own place to live, I don’t need anyone else to make me feel like a loser and a failure because I feel like that all on my own. Hopefully I will get a job soon, figure out my living situation and shake off the funk before Winter gets here, because if I don’t do it by then, I’m totally screwed.

So new blog names? My East Coast Mid-Life Cris? 40 and Nowhere? I’ll think on it.

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It’s graduation season. That means that all over the country, countless grads will be sitting through really boring graduation ceremonies with people giving them advice about life.

No one has asked me to give them life advice. I don’t have children, so it’s unlikely anyone will ever look to me for words of wisdom.  My sister has three kids, and I can imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where I try to give them advice and they smile politely while inwardly rolling their eyes that Auntie is rambling on again.

Anyway, if anyone were to ask me for life advice for young adults starting out in the real world, here’s what I would say.  As the old saying goes, this and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Except now a cup of coffee is, like, $4.

  • People are dumb, and likely they are dumber than you. If someone says something to you that does not ring true, chances are it’s because it’s either not true or it’s just plain wrong. Never trust someone else’s advice or opinions over your own intuition, even if they come across as confident and you are crippled with insecurity.  Coming across as confident is half the battle, and you would be surprised at how many people get ahead on confidence alone.
  • Act as confidently as possible.
  • Always look out for yourself. You will get to a point where no one is going to advocate for you but you.
  • You know when you feel conflicted about something and you grapple with it in your head, or seek the advice of friends? You know the answer. If you are 100% honest with yourself, you will realize you’ve known the answer all along. The problem is usually that the answer is something you’d rather not do or face, so you’re waiting for someone else to tell you something different.  You always know the answer.
  • You get one body in this lifetime. Be nice to it.  Exercise, not because you’re trying to have a “beach body” or want to lose weight, but because it feels good and it keeps you healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables for the same reason.  There’s a lot to be said for feeling good from the inside out.
  • Be a Lady. Or a Gentleman.  We’ve lost some decorum along the way, you guys, and I think we should try to get it back. When I was growing up, raised by repressed Catholics, pre-marital sex was a sin, and women weren’t supposed to swear or be drunk in public. Of course, like many women of my generation, I rebelled against all of this by doing the exact opposite.  Learn from my mistakes. Don’t have so much casual sex. Drink less. And swear less. Having class and taking the high road is  empowering. You will find you are not stooping to baser levels when your instincts are telling you otherwise, and it actually feels good. It’s ok to be offended by things that are vulgar, and to voice it if you need to. No one gets to offend you.
  • This one is for the ladies – if anyone ever makes you feel like the stereotype of a “hysterical woman” or a “nag” for voicing your opinion or dissent with a situation that you know is wrong – ditch them immediately. Your feelings and concerns are valid and they suck for trying to make you feel like that.
  • In a similar vein, never put up with anyone treating you badly. Family, friends, colleagues – no one.  Nothing will ever feel as good as getting up and leaving a situation that is toxic and makes you feel crappy.
  • An old friend of mine (and by “old” I mean someone I haven’t talked to in almost 20 years) once said, “Let us not complain about that which we can change.”  It was an obnoxious comment, and usually came after I was complaining about something, so it was usually the last thing I wanted to hear. But, she had a point. If you can change it, change it. Stop complaining and do something.
  • At the end of the day, you are the one who has to go to sleep and feel ok with with you said or did or how you acted that day. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t cave to peer pressure.  If you know it’s right, do it. If it’s wrong, stop.  I was thinking about how, living in California and experiencing the drought we’re going through, I felt compelled to cut back my water usage.  I mentioned this to a colleague who looked at me like I was a moron and said something like, “It’s the businesses that have to cut their water consumption. You won’t make a difference.”  I beg to differ.  I know that my 5 minute vs. 7 minute shower isn’t going to save us from the drought, but I firmly believe that if everyone just sits there and waits for the next person to change, then nothing will ever get done.  You need to be a part of it too.

There you have it.  That’s pretty much all I know. That and some random trivia that can be mildly impressive when watching Jeopardy in a room full of people but otherwise serves no real purpose.

If you follow any of this advice and it goes badly, let me know and I will buy you a $4 cup of coffee.

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It’s been months since I’ve written, and years since I’ve written about music (don’t you remember my wildly popular “Listen to This” series? No? Oh.).  I write today to talk about music that should not be listened to. Well, that’s awfully dramatic.  You can listen to these songs. But keep your kids away! I am not a parent (unless you count my puppy, but she doesn’t understand lyrics, so I’m safe), but if I had a child with me, I would absolutely turn the radio off when certain songs come on, because some things are just not appropriate for children.  Children will be adolescents before any of us are prepared to deal with it, and adolescents will be confronted with sex, drugs and alcohol also before any of us are ready to deal with it. So there is really no need of speeding up the inevitable by talking about sex, drugs or alcohol in a way that glorifies the behavior. Their friends will do that on their own in, like, five years.

The first song that made me think about this is actually one that I love.  It’s Doses and Mimosas, by Cherub.  The beat is infectious and it makes me want to dance.  And then I listened to the words, and for a minute, I thought, “Wow, that’s actually sort of empowering.” The lyrics are something like, “To all you bitch ass hoes, who hate me the most, I hate you too; to all you punk ass thugs, who just want to talk shit, I hate you too; to all that high class ass, that’s too hot too fast, I hate you too.”  Here’s what I think is awesome about those words – people talking shit and making you feel like they hate you? F* it! Hate them too.  I love that.  But then comes the chorus: “Doses and mimosas, cocaine and champagne, that’s what gets me through.”

Now, as much as I adore the message of not giving haters and jerks the time of day, I don’t necessarily think that drinking and drugs are the way to get through it.  Isn’t feeling empowered enough? How about being high on life? Does that make me sound old and uncool? Hmph.

Recently, I heard a song being played on the radio by someone called Tove Lo. The song is called Habits and is essentially about a woman who is no longer with her significant other, and has to stay “high all the time, to get you off my mind.”  Not only is she “high”, she sings of going to sex clubs, binge eating Twinkies and then throwing them up in the bath tub – gross – and “drinking up” all of her money.  Hey, that’s neat.  So someone broke up with her, and her response is to mope around feeling sorry for herself and using it as an excuse to stay drunk, high, promiscuous and bulimic.   I think the singer is from Sweden, so maybe “high” is supposed to mean drunk, and video only shows her drinking, but “high” to me generally means drugs. Is this song merely an ode to self-pitying substance abuse and other vices? And an eating disorder?

I thought maybe I was just being an old fuddy-duddy about all of this, but at a work party a few weeks ago, the song “Chandelier” by Sia came on. One of the guys I work with, who has two young girls, said his daughters adore this song, and love to sing along to it, and then one day he realized it was about getting drunk. The “chandelier” of the title is meant to be swung upon after she “throws ’em back ’til I lose count.”  Then, “the sun is up, I’m a mess.”  So at least she lets everyone knows what the consequences of all that drinking will be – a crappy hangover! It’s practically a PSA.

I must be turning a corner in life. I’ve always been a champion for artists’ self expression, but I can’t help but feel that that self expression has taken a turn and we are now glamorizing co-dependent, self-pitying behavior, as well as a plethora of vices as a way to deal with said self-pity. Don’t pick yourself up by your bootstraps and shoulder on like a strong, independent young woman! Spend all of your money on booze and hang out in sex clubs! I can only imagine if I was driving around in a car with my sister’s kids, and one of these songs came on, I would immediately change the channel to Radio Disney or something safe where I can be reasonably sure that none of the songs will have the words “cocaine,” “high,” or “sex clubs.”  Think of the children.

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Dear Internet,

 

I get it.  You liked “Breaking Bad”.  It was a really good show, not quite as perfect as you collectively think, but that’s not the point I here to debate.  Still, really good television, no doubt.

Is there any way you can stop calling Walter White an “anti-hero”?  He’s not.  He’s a bad guy.  I feel like Vince Gilligan has spent five years trying to convince his audience not to like this guy and the audience has spent the same amount of time (and twice the effort) looking for ways to love him.

Just because you have kids doesn’t give you carte blanch to build a drug empire  You aren’t allowed to murder scores of people because you have been diagnosed with cancer. Walter White the character is build on the strength of Bryan Cranston the thespian, i.e., Walt is a fantastic actor.  He vacillates between various mutations in each episode but each permutation is to manipulate someone.  And he was so good at it he ended up manipulating the audience.

Spoiler to follow.  Gilligan, who wrote the final episode, basically spells it out when Walt tells Skylar that he didn’t do it for her or their kids but because he enjoyed it.  That is the moment of truth.  That is him finally saying what I have been saying for years.  He’s not an anti-hero, he’s a selfish narcissist who does horrible things because he doesn’t care about anybody else.

I think a fitting ending to the show (besides the ending that we got which I enjoyed) would have been for Walt to somehow catch Junior hitting the meth pipe.  Like if his work was so effective that he had ostensibly turned his own son into a junkie (and he had no time or opportunity to help) would have been a good price for him to pay for the millions and millions of dollars that he made.  The cost of that is that his kid is now Skinny Pete.

An anti-hero is redeemable.  There is some modicum of humanity in an anti-hero.  Walt has/had none of that.  Walt is a monster but the worst kind of monster; he is a monster that looks like the father from “Malcolm in the Middle”.

 

Thanks,

MT

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I’m torn: where to start? My co-host accepted my invitation (of me, by me) to join her in a kind of transcontinental commentary tag team, each of us writing about what mattered to us right then: snapping gum, Mom, Italian food, Italians, “What It All Means,” “Why Have All My Women Left Me?, mileage running, the increasing uncertainty of finding a bargain-priced cross-training shoe at the New Balance outlet, and fried dough foods. Fried dough may unite us all. Did you know that almost every people on earth have some version of a fried cake? We call ours doughnuts. In Tajikistan, they call their’s Chiburekki. Things that mattered to us, anyway, right then, and one of us wrote it down and published it here and you’ve been enjoying her stylings and snapshots ever since.

Me, back here in the oldest part of the old East? Nah, I was/am living words overheard years ago at a San Francisco gallery crawl: “I have it all worked out in my head. It’s not like I feel the need to put it down on paper.” I’m guessing the speaker’s output was visual, not written, but I both got it and didn’t, instantly. Thinking that me knowing something was enough; knowing enough to think maybe that idea needed a little reality testing if it was gonna catch on. Besides, some of it’s been pretty funny and I owe myself, if memory fails, to have a somewhat reliable record of what life was like before I lost touch with it completely. If you enjoy reading this, great; if you don’t, think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s mantra: Try to learn from the mistakes of others because you’ll never have the time to make all of them yourself. Consider yourself lucky – I get to make the mistakes and you get to learn from them.

So, enter Coast Right, me. The name is unimportant, geography is the Beacon of Milk and Water and the Flower of Hope, the topics will be varied, the viewpoints are superficially the same but different. Your co-host and I met about 15 years ago standing outside smoking. We worked for an organization and in a city and state who’re serious about smoking cessation, and years later – three or four for me, maybe five-six-seven for she – the propaganda and a couple of brief dances with the reaper got us to stop. But it’s sometimes a cold state, occasionally an extension of the Arctic, and smoking then as now requires a commitment, a kind of hardiness as in both fit and fool, for half the year. Smokers bond tightly in our climate. You have to: it’s just so fucking cold outside sometimes. That, and you know you’re swimming upstream, so to speak, like salmon on the ladder headed towards spawning and then exhausted, death, even as the noxious chemicals and carbon monoxide swim into your bloodstream from your lungs, leaving a tasty coating on once pristine cellular surfaces. You know you’ll stop but not when or how, nor if you’ll win or the ciggies do. The nicotine, our shared stories, her beauty and kindness, my worldly – as in bitter – POV, and the bench in front of the shrubs that shielded us from the Russians on the second floor built ties so strong between us they’ve lasted years even with an entire country between us and she, now, is a much better visitor here than I ever was there. It’s been years since either of us had more than a drag on a Marlboro Light at Christmas or moved into the slipstream of someone smoking on the sidewalk. I can’t speak for her but the memories come back to me with every lightly scented breath I take as I weave in and out of a smoker’s wake.

Enough with my dilemma. What do you think about my dilemma? Which Coast to start on? We’re both from the same one, the one abutting the Atlantic, way up in the right-hand corner, almost in Maine but not quite. Is it that I’m lazy, happy, stupid, easily pleased, well-remunerated (all things considered), used to the weather or oblivious to it, lack imagination, or a combination of all these and have thus never left? Inertia plays a part, too. Meanwhile, she needed to get outta’ town, so to speak, to be who she could be. Something she’s done in spades 2700 miles from what was her home because she’s an Angeleno now.

Miss her as I do, I’m so glad she did because she gets to play on a bigger stage and in a way, looking West, sees the future sooner than we do here. We think the west coast is behind us and, sure, on the airline schedules you have to add or subtract three hours to figure out how long your sentence is and whether it’ll be hard time in row 33 or up front in the big leather seats where mAAmma’s good to you, all depending on whether or not your upgrade came through. In truth, you can peek into tomorrow from LA because it’s closer culturally, not just geographically. It’s closer to Asia and the other Americas and proximity means fusion when you let it fuse. It’s freer, not just because it’s newer (Los Angeles had dirt roads 100 years ago: dusty dirt roads and hitching posts on Hollywood Boulevard in front of Musso and Frank and no roads at all 100 years before that) but because it attracted people from everywhere, everyone from Frank Lloyd Wright and Aimee Semple McPherson then to an Austrian bodybuilder who did soft porn before becoming governor more recently to a governor who was an actor who eventually came to run the whole show at a time when 1: we really were the whole show, and 2: he was slowly but steadily losing his grip to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Putting that thought aside for a moment, it still brings ‘em through the turnstiles. The dream is still the attraction, even though the natives think it’s turned out to be a nightmare. Don’t believe me? Read Kevin Starr.

Here? Us? We’re just here. We’re here because we were born here and never left or came here and never left. We’re here because we’re pretty much, Sharon and Newton and Swampscott being the exceptions, either Irish, Italian, or a mix of the two. We have a smattering of Poles, some Lithuanians, enough Greeks to warrant an archbishop and enough Portuguese for a couple of churches, enough Armenians for two or three, and for a city of it’s size, relatively more Hispanic residents and fewer African-Americans than you might expect. It’ll all pass away: I had a Haitian nurse, maybe 25, with a better Dorchester accent than Donnie Wahlberg at the Brigham the last time I was sick and the world comes here too; to get well, to go to school and college and grad school and med school and business school, to work in biotech and venture capital and aquaculture, and a fair number of those who do want to stay, so in some ways it’s always changing and in others, it seems like it never does. But it does, it always does.

We’re here to work, though: no palm trees, not so much sunshine; snow, potholes, shoveling; a shortage of great weather and decent deli: no Canter’s or Langer’s or Nate and Al’s or Junior’s of blessed memory. We have Rubin’s if you’re observant and Zaftig’s if you’re not and they’re within a mile of each other on Harvard Street. Otherwise it’s a deli desert from Vernon, Connecticut to Montreal, PQ. Vide LA, some of us here think it’s turned into a nightmare too, but a different one, one that lacks deli.

But we endure because back East, most of us don’t notice, don’t know, and don’t care in anything more than a vague and general sense what’s happening west of Dedham or south of DC: our lives here are quite full, thenkuverymuch. There’s frequent, if overpriced and uncomfortable air service to warm places 50 – 60 times a day; the guy from “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston, has sold out every show at the ART during his run in “All the Way,” the Sox and the stars are again in alignment, and we’re wicked smart, too, what with Harvard and MIT. So we’re seen as full of ourselves which is a nice way of saying something else without saying it. I’ve used the F-word once already and don’t want to overdo it unless it serves the narrative. From which I’m straying.

So anyway, she’s out there and I’m back here and in general terms, we’re happy. We’re lucky and grateful too, because we both have guys which in and of itself would be enough for lot of people, never mind who and don’t look too closely at what kind of guy; but no, not us: we found guys who aren’t just guys but extensions of ourselves. Mates; people who cause us to expand, not contract or be less than who we are; guys with good manners and good character and good senses of humor and loyalty, too; good lookin’ and so refined. And praise Jesus, who both like to clean. In that sense, the miles separate us but we both stand on emotional bedrock at home. They have earthquakes in LA, and we have hurricanes, but we’re still standing and thank you again baby Jesus; not standing alone nor clinging to the wreckage.

Less vital, but helpful nonetheless, are steady paychecks; paycheck’s insufficient to all our wants but covering at least most of our overpriced needs. Paychecks that include, for a nominal sum, something 50 million people in America don’t have and that’s decent health insurance. Dental too: $3K a year towards braces, crowns, implants and the expensive fillings that don’t make you look like you bit into the Comstock Lode. Five weeks vacation, real retirement plans, drug coverage ‘til you die, and four gyms, two pools, a dozen tennis courts, a real cinder track to use for free, and towel service included. I’ve met Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu and General Powell on company time and once turned down an invitation to lunch with a white guy, the first President Bush, making a Navy guy I knew almost shit himself when I gave him my invitation and which he turned into a photo op for his Wall of Me with George Herbert Walker himself. The work’s varied, no more stressful than I’ve been able to manage for years, and at least in my lifetime, there’s not a chance my outfit will be bought by the likes of Mitt Romney and my job outsourced to China. No wonder the people in the middle hate us. If I wasn’t me and had to live there, I’d hate me. And those people in Los Angeles too, if only because they’re supposed to be getting more sex and because Cher lives there. They have it all, including the Lohans.

Living legends? They get Cher and Bob Barker and Nancy Reagan, just barely. We get Whitey Bulger, Mike Dukakis and have to share Matt Damon. All the real Kennedy’s except Caroline are dead. But the Duke still lives and breathes and goes to my barber. We’re on the same haircut schedule (every fourth Saturday morning at 6:15 am); sometimes he beats me in the door, sometimes I beat him. Either way, he still can’t stop talking and he still knows more than you do, or thinks so and says so.

So, she lives there and I live here but I used to go there, sometimes twice or even three times a month for years, and she’s back here maybe twice a year now. Our life in common predates the internet, if barely, and now largely depends on it. The allure still draws me but now by way of books, not the 9 am nonstop on TWA. Raise your hands if you remember TWA. Not many hands waving, huh? Three new books heading me west without a ticket are sitting on my desk with their spines toward me: The Collaboration and Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (every title tells a story, baby, and these two should be obvious) and Linda Obst’s more recent look at the only industry that was ever called “The Industry,” Sleepless in Hollywood. I’m here in body but my heart’s on the Coast, the only coast, come to think of it, that’s ever been noted in the august pages of the New York Times as “The Coast.” It’s OK, we call it “The Country Club” in Brookline and get away with it – let them have their fun, too.

Does that get me off the hook – I’m here but dream about being there and she’s there because she dreamed about being there? What if, as the Pattersonian says, it’s the Red Sox vs. the Dodgers? Too early to tell, but late nights, that’s what, if it comes to pass.

Until then…

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A New Additon to ECMWC

Many of you repeat readers (if, in fact, you exist) know that this blog is a joint venture between myself and a friend of mine from back home in Boston.  I’m very pleased to announce that another dear friend of mine in Boston, infinitely brilliant and an exceptionally talented writer with an amazing voice, is also going to start contributing.  Look for his posts under the username “LetBe”.

LetBe and I became friends when I got my first job out of college and we were both smokers and would take our smoke breaks together.  A lifelong friendship was born, and I now consider him and his significant other to be the family I chose, who save my sanity every time I go home for a visit by welcoming me into their beautiful home, pouring me wine, and listening to me complain about my crazy family.  Everyone should be so lucky to have friends such as these.

Enjoy his posts and, as always, comment and let us know what you think!

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