Monthly Archives: September 2015

Pet Peeves

Next to my immediate human family (consisting at present of my daughter, my sister and my niece), I love my pets more than anything else in the world. They are my family, too.  But like every family, the members have their foibles and idiosyncrasies, sometimes to the point of forehead-slapping frustration. Let me tell you what I deal with on a daily basis.

First, the boys:

I just gave Gizmo (the Shih Tzu) and Munchie (the Pomchi) some new dental chewies, hopeful that maybe these will improve Munchie’s god-awful breath (although Greenies don’t seem to help much), and I suddenly realized that Gizmo’s breath is not too bad, actually. He’s got yeasty ears, goopy eyes and itchy skin and feet that he licks obsessively, primarily due to his allergies, but one thing he doesn’t have is halitosis. That’s some consolation, I guess.  I’m well aware that Munchie’s death-breath is due to bad dental care, because he won’t let me anywhere near his mouth and will need to be sedated to have his teeth cleaned. I love my vet (shout out to All Creatures, Long Beach, NY), but they are not cheap, and I have a lot of expensive creatures.

Munchie and Gizmo are usually good walkers, although I think I could probably be accused of letting them lead me rather than having them under my control. Gizmo in particular is very jaunty, his little ears flopping as he skips down the street on his out-turned walrus feet. But lately Munchie has been pausing to sniff – and not always to “go” – every ten steps! I understand the appeal of the “odor tour”, but we barely move!  Shuffle, shuffle – sniff.  Even Gizmo seems impatient, poised like a chubby dwarf pointer looking off into the distance that he must believe he will never reach.

Another recent annoyance is cat-chasing. I swear Munchie – who spent the first four years of his life with me in a house full of cats (first 2, then 4) – was never disturbed or distracted by the cats, and he never chased them. When Gizmo arrived as a foster in October 2014, one of the reasons I decided to keep him was that, despite his many quirks (more on that in a moment), which ultimately may have made him unadoptable by anyone other than ME, he got along with Munchie and the cats with nary a grumble, as if he’d known them all his life. I blame Tobin, the foster cocker spaniel who was far more dog than I could handle, and who terrorized my cats to the point where I had to lock them away in my daughter’s room and visit them every night (for more on the Tobin story, see “The Pet Situation”, 3/17/15). [As a postscript: I finally convinced Posh Pets to find Tobin another foster home, ashamed at my inability to cohabitate with a really nice dog but truly at the end of my rope. Within days – literally days – a series of serendipitous events occurred that resulted in Tobin going to live in a beach house in West Hampton with a woman who fell in love with him immediately and who’s had cockers and knew how to handle him, so Tobin has ended up having the best life ever! Good on ya, Tobin!]  One cat in particular – Raven, my cat of longest standing now that her sister, JoJo, is away at college with my daughter (#collegecat) — is the victim of the screaming and chasing that Munchie initiates and Gizmo imitates: Yet another bad habit to add to Munchie’s peculiarities.

Munchie is a screamer. He screams mostly in anticipation of pain but it’s also his way of being a bully to others. His groomer Tammy (shout out to Grooming Tales, Long Beach, NY) told me that she doesn’t even have to touch him with the nail clipper; as soon as the clipper gets within inches of his nails, he commences to screech. Bed time is always an adventure, because Munchie screams every time Raven tries to come up on the bed, even though they inevitably will end up sleeping right next to each other. (The trick is that she has to wait until he’s sleeping.)

Munchie hates plastic garbage bags and barks at them viciously, his little doggie lips ferociously curled, but he is deathly afraid of plastic water bottles. It has something to do with the crunchy sound of it, I think. And he has an amazing ability to see/hear/sense the nearness of a water bottle even though you try your best to hide it from him. He used to cower under the bed until he was certain the water bottle was gone but now, as I’ve got my bedroom gated off because Gizmo has a tendency to lift his leg on a small ottoman in there that serves as my clothes-piling spot, Munchie’s new hiding place is behind the bathroom door.  There is no apparent explanation.

Gizmo is truly brain damaged, the result of being hit by a car, which precipitated his abandonment by people who pretended to be his family for nearly four years but who brought him to the kill shelter rather than get him much-needed medical treatment. It’s still a challenge to give him eye drops for his allergies, or to put on his leash if he’s not in the mood or cranky from being woken up before he wanted to, or to give him a bath without him biting the hand that feeds him. The bath he tolerates once he’s in it, but he DESPISES the towel, which led to a summer of a soaking wet dog “drying” himself on my living room furniture. It’s going to get tougher now that the weather has cooled, but he still needs weekly baths to help him deal with the aforementioned allergies. The last time he bit me – on my big toe – was when moved my foot a little too near him a little too quickly while trying to get out of bed. He’s completely unpredictable but I do see improvement, even though many activities still have to be done very gingerly.

Gizmo barks at EVERY SINGLE DOG he sees on our walks and seems disinclined to make any canine friends whatsoever. (I’m told he’s protecting me but, oddly, when we’ve brought foster dogs INTO the house, he doesn’t seem too bothered.) He and Munchie both bark at everyone who walks past the house or parks in front (he’s got the right idea on the parking, though); one will start and the other, like clockwork, will join in. But Gizmo also barks – all freakin’ day, pretty much non-stop – at his own reflection in my bookcase and sometimes the kitchen cabinet when the sun is shining on it just right and he catches a glimpse of himself. I frequently work from home and he’s been known to carry on when I’m on the phone trying to be a professional. In addition to his own reflection (I actually bought him a little mirror, like a lonely parrot in a cage), he also barks at the light reflected on the ceiling and wall off the shiny metal parts of my desk chair. Every time I move my chair and make a “ghost”, he barks at it. I’ve reached the point where I barely notice anymore; it’s just constant background noise.

I clearly need to bring the dogs to see my friend Marty Aynat, who runs a dog-training collective here in town called LB Dogs. They do some fantastic work, but I think we need a few private lessons first before subjecting those well-behaved LB Dogs to the incessant squawking of Muncho-man and Gizbutt. Neither of them listens to me at all.

Now to the girls:

Raven has been with us since December 2004, a few months after we moved into our house. She is, generally speaking, a very calm cat. She keeps to herself, primarily in my bed, and will occasionally call me in to give her a few pets before she decides she’s had enough and attacks my hand. But when it’s time for me to go to sleep, that’s when she wants the most attention, and she will bite my nose to let me know she is dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of my affection. She also hacks up hairballs on my bed instead of jumping down to do it on the floor, in spite of my constant reprimands. (She doesn’t seem to care, evidently.)

Luna, Savannah and the newest member of our family, Mimi , all have their annoying proclivities as well, but I find many of them kind of charming. My office area is always a mess because Luna takes up so much valuable desk top real estate, all spread out on top of my papers. Lately she’s been trying to sit in my chair WHILE I AM SITTING IN IT, which causes me to end up perched on the very edge of the chair, which isn’t terribly good for my back.  But Luna is by far the friendliest of all the animals and always greets the dogs when they come in from their walk.  Even though I often have to move her around to get at the documents beneath her (or shove her off the chair so I can sit), I love having her in arm’s reach for a little tickle.  Sometimes she grabs my petting hand (gently, nails in) and hugs it close to her.

Savannah, my favorite cat (yes, I confess, I have a favorite! I’ve had a lot of great cats in my life, and in fact I have some pretty great cats now, but she is by far the best – my “soul cat”, if you will), has to follow me into the bathroom every single time I go in there, and then she tracks up the bathroom sink with her dirty little paws, head butting me adorably as I try to brush my teeth. (In point of fact, I am almost always accompanied by a 3-beast entourage when I go for a sit-down in the bathroom. One of these days, I’m going to take a video of Munchie, Gizmo and Savannah trailing through the partially closed or closing door, one after the other, and then they all want pets, and they sometimes even pet and rub up on each other, which is actually really cute.)  But Savannah’s biggest issue is that she is a finicky eater.  Due to a tendency to get bladder stones, the vet gave me these Chinese herbs in a capsule that I’m supposed to sprinkle on her food, which of course she refuses to eat. One of my huge cat frustrations is that I cannot for the life of me find a type or flavor of canned food that all of them will like (and sometimes NONE of them will like something they all liked the week before). Savannah and Luna were shelter cats, for goodness sake! They ate whatever they got and they had to fight for it! Now they’ve gotten spoiled!

(Munchie also has bladder stones:  After a $2,000 operation, getting him to eat his special — and pricey — urinary health kibble was nearly impossible. He would eat Gizmo’s premium grain-free allergy food, and Gizmo would eat Munchie’s.  I’ve finally resigned myself to feeding them the same thing, a mixture of both, and hope that Munchie’s bladder stones don’t return.  I told you I had expensive pets!)

Last but not least, Mimi is a chill and sweet old lady. I fell in love with her a year ago, when she was first brought into the shelter (I think her prior owner was either an ill or deceased old woman) but it took me a while to risk bringing in a fifth cat and possibly upsetting the two-pairs-of-sisters balance.  I needn’t have worried as Mimi has fit right in.  Mimi had some digestive issues – it took a lot of poopy litter boxes to sort through what kind of “limited diet” she required, and it turned out Natural Balance Duck and Green Pea did the trick, so that is what she will eat from now until the end of time – but I also think a lot of it was stress. She was always a purr machine, craving pets and chin chucks, and letting out a cackling quack whenever you stopped and tried to move along to attend to the other kitties.  I always dreamed for her that she would find a home where she could sleep on a comfy couch in a patch of sunshine in some old lady’s house. Well, it turns out that old lady is ME!  At night on my way to bed, I distribute cat treats (and the dogs each get a biscuit slathered with peanut butter), but Mimi gets more than anyone because she is just so damn INSISTENT!  She becomes obsessed, entreating me in no uncertain terms, in her Patty Bouvier 2-packs-a-day-for-50 years-smoker’s meow, that she requires more cookies IMMEDIATELY and don’t even THINK about stopping.  Even though she’s black and white and not striped, Mimi reminds me so much of the B. Kliban cat, who was ubiquitous back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. (My sister had the sheets; I had the hilarious comic books, which gave my college roommate and me hours of amusement.)  She often has that “look” on her face, equal parts bemused and disgruntled. What do you think?  (I think Mimi’s favorite word is actually “wackawacka”.  She is truly one of a kind!)

Mimi or Kliban CatB Kliban Cat Words

Why do I put up with all this insanity? They’re my fur babies, my beloved companions. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

A Hodgepodge and My First Top Ten List

As much as I am enjoying writing a blog, and as much as I’ve been as disciplined as I can possibly be to post something EVERY WEEK FOR OVER 6 MONTHS NOW (!!), every once in a while I feel like I’m at a loss for what to write about. I mean, if I had the time, I would troll through my multitude of journals because I know that I have deposited many, many nuggets of blog ideas in there that could be developed into a full blog post. Sadly, “no time” is one of the reasons I lack focus this week – I’ve been busier than usual. My daughter was in town for a couple of days, and I actually went into the office two days this week rather than my usual one, in this case for an all-day semi-tortuous meeting with our client and a negotiating partner of long-standing, the latter of whom employed tactics I haven’t seen since the schoolyard (“If you’re not willing to move on this point, I’m packing my things and going home”). It underlined for me how ridiculous I find a lot of legal wrangling, over things as important as which party is willing to take on the largest risks associated with a transaction or as petty as where to put a damn comma. Most of these prolonged debates involve “what if” scenarios that will NEVER HAPPEN, but of course lawyers exist to provide for all contingencies (and justify their own existence).

Never mind – I certainly don’t want to talk about WORK. The less I think about WORK the better I feel.

I guess I could talk about some current event, but the big media wave this week was about the inane “clown-car” GOP debate, where very little was said about legitimate policy proposals and inordinate amounts of time were wasted on bullies fighting amongst themselves and spouting outright lies. So, ‘nuff said about the GOP debate.

So instead of whining about work and presidential politics, I’ve decided to populate my blog this week with a hodgepodge of items in order to maintain consistency in my routine (see “Random Filler and the Self-Discipline Required to Maintain a Blog”, 4/29/15). I’ve also included the first of what may be many of my “top ten” lists.

* * *

NHL training camps opened this past weekend and the pre-season showcases have begun!  Soon there will be REAL GAMES!! Every spring when the Rangers are eliminated (and in the past few years, they’ve gotten tantalizingly close), I promise myself that I will try not to be so preoccupied with hockey. It is a true obsession for me: While it gives me great joy at times, it also brings its share of utter frustration. But when September rolls around, the hockey yearnings return in earnest and I can’t wait for the season to start. I’ll watch every game (sometimes multiple times, if it was a particularly good one), including pre- and post-game shows; I listen to Marek v. Wyshynski podcasts daily; and I read all the available articles (about the NHL in general and the Rangers in particular) that I can find. So, here goes the whirlwind again! I fully expect to emerge on the other end crowing about that long-overdue Stanley Cup for King Henrik and the boys!

* * *

As I think I’ve mentioned before in my blog posts, I often think about winning the lottery. It seems to be the only way I will ever be able to live the life I dream for myself. If I won the lottery, literally all of my problems would be solved: I could find work that satisfied me without having to worry about how much I was getting paid; I could even just stay home and write all day, every day; I could volunteer more; I could give money to causes I care about. I would only do good and pay it forward; I wouldn’t be selfish or greedy or piggish. I just need the chance to make that dream come true!!

* * *

Sometimes when I’m bored – for example, standing in Penn Station waiting for a train, or sitting in traffic – I’ll play a mind game with myself where I try to come up with my “top ten” favorite things, usually music-related but covering other categories as well. This week, it was “Top Ten Perfect Pop Songs”. The highly unscientific criteria for a “perfect pop song” (at least in my opinion) is an amalgamation of clever and/or deep lyrics, sing-along-ability, a satisfying melody (meaning that the progression of notes goes where you aesthetically WANT them to go), catchiness and memorability (according to spell check, that’s not a word, but it should be) and, finally, longevity, which is why all of the songs on my list are older. A song like Passenger’s “Let Her Go”, for example, might end up on the list in a few years if it still meets all the criteria.

My list, which is ever-evolving, is as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Green Day, “Basket Case”: Billy Joe Armstrong is a perfect pop song genius. This just happened to be the first song of his that really stuck with me. His recent tribute to Amy Winehouse, “Amy”, is a two-minute paragon of pop that might someday make the list but deserves special mention here as an example of Mr. Armstrong’s prodigious talent.
  2. Back Street Boys, “I Want It That Way”: Saw a great documentary about the Back Street Boys last week called “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of”. I’ve always been fond of the Boys; their voice blend distinguishes them among boy bands, which is maybe why they’re still making relevant music 20 years on. I especially love Nick Carter, who is actually one of the cast members of “Dancing With the Stars” this season, which I NEVER watch (except for that one time when ex-NHLer and personal hero Sean Avery was on, but he got kicked off in the first week so I didn’t bother watching after that). In Nick’s first dance, he managed to make both his partner and judge Julianne Hough blush when they admitted to having his poster on their walls when they were teenyboppers, and he also popped his pants and KEPT ON DANCING! Go, Nick! I can never get too much of him. I even remember watching his silly half-season reality show called something like “I [HEART] Nick Carter”, which featured him and his wife-to-be in the months leading up to their wedding. I wonder if they’re still married. She was unremarkable but he was clearly smitten with her. Even though I’m literally 20 years older than he is, I confess that having Nick Carter around to fantasize about got me through the break-up of MY marriage! “Incomplete” is also a pretty damn good song but “I Want It That Way” is timeless.
  3. Bowie, “Space Oddity”: I could probably come up with a few more Grade-A examples from the early Bowie catalog – “Starman”, for one, is a great sing-along tune — but this is perhaps the one with which he is the most associated. I am beside myself with excitement about his Five Years album collection being released on September 25!! (See “Some Thoughts about Bowie”, 4/7/15, in which I bemoan having lost my entire Bowie LP collection to Superstorm Sandy.)
  4. Beatles, “If I Fell”: Again, many options here – the Beatles were the original kings of the “perfect pop song” – but this is my personal favorite.  Any time I hear it on the radio, I have to immediately stop what I’m doing to listen and sing along.
  5. Rolling Stones/Marianne Faithfull, “As Tears Go By”: You know it’s a great pop song when two wildly different artists can both make such timeless versions. Mick wrote it for Marianne but he and the boys do quite a moving rendition of it as well.
  6. Black, “Wonderful Life”: Just heard this song again the other day on a blog I follow called “Eye Will Not Cry” [], which combines specific songs with the poetry it has inspired. The post also included the video, which I had never seen before: black-and-white, very “arty”, featuring close-ups of Black with a contented little smile on his face.
  7. White Town, “Your Woman”: an impossibly catchy early techno ditty, the “shocking” twist being that it’s sung by a man.
  8. Concrete Blonde, “Joey”: a gorgeous tune plus Johnette Napolitano’s pristine alto ensured its place on my list.
  9. Erasure, “A Little Respect”: Another of my favorite musical groups of all time, Vince Clark and the angelic-voiced Andy Bell are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year! (Geez, I’m old.)
  10. Cat Stevens, “Wild World”: This was probably his most popular song, but the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens crafted many perfect pop songs. The movie Harold and Maude (which I love and have been meaning to watch again) features a whole slew of them.

Honorable Mention: Van Morrison, “Wild Nights”: Whenever I hear this song, I always picture a camera panning down First Avenue in NYC’s East Village on a summer night in the late 1980s.

I’d love to see some “top ten perfect pop song” selections from my vast readership!

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

When I was a kid, I could remember my dreams with such vividness and detail that my parents thought I was making them up. They were mostly happy, or at least thought-provoking, but I did have two recurring nightmares. In one, I was in the back seat of the family car plummeting into the Narrows from the Verrazano Bridge, and I had to kick out the windows to save myself and my younger sister, then we were swimming, swimming, swimming to reach the surface . . . and I always woke gulping for air. In the other, I stared out of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the old Jones Beach Restaurant facing the ocean and watched in horror as a massive wave came to drown us all – again, waking with a gasp.

Nowadays my dream recall is nowhere near what it was, and I don’t gasp when I wake up, but I suspect I spend most of my so-called “sleeping” hours snoring and breathing in fits and starts, because when I wake up at a reasonable hour in the morning – say, at 7 a.m., usually prompted by the pressure on my bladder, when I probably SHOULD just stay up in order to have the most productive day possible: go for a power walk, maybe, or do some yoga, or, gods forbid, WRITE SOMETHING – more often than not I feel utterly exhausted. All I can think about is crawling back into bed when I return from the bathroom.

Four or five years ago I had a sleep study done by a pulmonologist who diagnosed me with sleep apnea, thanks mostly to my being overweight (and top-heavy at that). When I would lie prone in bed, my neck is so thick that it would force the soft tissue in the back of my throat to collapse while I’m sleeping — ergo, I stop breathing, which means I’m not getting enough oxygen and I’m not getting enough SLEEP.

The sleep study itself was so uncomfortable and counter-restful that I’m amazed they were able to get any data at all. For starters, when I went for my initial study, I had a terrible head cold and was coughing and congested, so breathing was even more difficult than it normally would have been. Then, they covered me in sticky electrodes with wires coming out, which in turn were hooked up to a console, which sent zig-zaggy waves to the observer who was assigned to watch me all night. If I had to pee (which OF COURSE I did, because I’m old and I also drink too damn much soda), I had to buzz for the observer guy to come in so he could unhook me from the console, and then I had to carry all my wires into the bathroom, being careful that none of them fell into the toilet (which wasn’t as easy as it sounds). I also have a long-standing bad habit of falling asleep with the TV on, mostly for nightlight purposes (although I have it on a timer to turn off after a few hours), so it was weird for me to not have my normal routine.  I was certain I hadn’t slept at all.

But evidently I had produced sufficient data for the doctor to analyze, because he advised me to buy a C-PAP machine. In order to prepare me to use it — and presumably to assess its effectiveness — they had me come to the clinic a second time and sleep (or, more accurately, TRY to sleep) with the machine on to see if it helped with the apnea.  So now, in addition to the electrodes and the wires, I was hooked up to the C-PAP machine.

For those who aren’t familiar, let me tell you about this lovely device.  The C-PAP – short for continuous positive airway pressure – effectively forces air through your nasal cavity and down your trachea to keep your airway open. But it is incredibly cumbersome: There’s a noisy water unit that makes bubbling sounds, and then a too-short tube that connects the water unit to the mask that goes over your face. Some people have the full mouth and nose mask; I just had a nose one. For someone like me, who’s a side sleeper and a tosser-and-turner, flip-flopping myself and my pillows all night to get to the cool side, the C-PAP machine would regularly wrap around my head and pull free of the water unit.  Even the rhythm of my breathing took some getting used to, as I had to learn to relax to prevent my mouth and throat from closing up involuntarily.  As you might imagine, while the air being pushed into my nose might have helped me to breathe, the whole crappy C-PAP set-up did nothing to improve my restfulness.

As if the awkwardness and unmanageability of the unit weren’t hassle enough, it was also a pain in the ass to clean. The water – distilled, of course – was supposed to be changed every day, and you had to clean the tubes and the mask every other day. Who has the time??

Despite paying over $300 for the stupid C-PAP machine (insurance helped, but it was still a lot), it wasn’t long before I stashed the unit in its handy-dandy traveling case (yeah, like I would ever TRAVEL with that thing!) in my bedroom closet, where it fell victim to Superstorm Sandy and was never replaced. Good riddance.

Since that time, I’ve lost a little bit of weight, but not nearly enough. And since I sleep alone, there’s no one around (other than the creatures, who aren’t talking) to tell me if I’m snoring excessively or if I stop breathing during the night. The only evidence I have that I still may have sleep apnea is that god-awful tiredness and lack of desire to leave the bed. The dogs and the one cat (Raven) who share my mattress aren’t in any hurry to get out of the cocoon either, even in the summer when the cocoon can get awfully warm and sweaty in my non-air-conditioned bedroom. (A good old oscillating fan can only do so much.)

Sure, it could be the sleep apnea. But, on the other hand, this also sounds an awful lot like depression to me, although I’ve never been officially diagnosed.  Despite being well aware that I have no choice but to start my day, and admittedly being more awake than asleep at that point, and having a multitude of creatures who require my care and attention, it can sometimes take hours of setting and re-setting my iPhone (which has an annoying robot voice that makes the dogs – my proxies — bark at it in anger) to pry myself out of the sheets.  It’s like this every day, even on weekends when I usually don’t have work hanging over my head. I often experience an inexplicable dread when I wake up in the morning, especially if it’s a day when I have to go somewhere and/or do something, or if it’s raining. Is that depression? It’s clearly a feeling that comes upon me without any intentional act or thought on my part. I can’t control it – or I might be able to eventually control it, if only I had the strength of mind to change such a thoroughly ingrained behavior.

Worst of all, I don’t seem to be able to remember my dreams very well, although I will occasionally retain a snippet, a vague sense of place – usually locales with multiple rooms, like hotels and schools and shopping malls – or an emotion, whether it be joy or sadness or curiosity. I miss my dreams, even the scary bridge and wave ones.

I must confess, though, in spite of the (alleged) apnea and the twice-a-night wee alarm, I thoroughly enjoy my sleep, mostly for the dreams but also because it starts out so peacefully – the culmination of a long and often annoying day, a long “aaahhh!” as I sink into the plushy warm (or cool, as the case may be) cushions. If only the waking gave me as much pleasure!

How I Write

After decades of trying my hand at various types of writing, I’ve come to the realization that I am not a poet, or a short-story writer, or a novelist. I admire lengthy investigative journalism pieces, like the one from GQ that I cited last week in my blog post about football [“Am I Ready for Some Football?”, 9/2/15], but that is yet another type of writing that I lack the skill and diligence to produce. At my core, I’m a lazy person, I’m afraid. I can only do work – any serious, difficult work – in small doses. I do enjoy poking around on the Internet, following trails of interest, but I’m troubled by the susceptibility to viruses (based on past history) and I often can’t tell when I’ve gathered sufficient information to stop.

What I have been successful (or at least consistent) with, for all those decades, is writing journal entries, mini-essays, notes to myself. I seemingly have some talent for this – or at least I take great pleasure in it –probably because it requires a conversational tone, limited words and only as much research as I feel like doing.

I have only recently felt the need to share my thoughts publicly. I’m very much a behind-the-scenes person. The thought of having a spotlight shined on me in any way is mortifying. I think it’s because I get choked up too easily, and the throat tightens and the tears come and the words dry up. I have a very hard time “selling myself” – selling anything, really – if someone didn’t want it in the first place. One of the reasons I’ve had such a hard time moving on from my current employment situation is that I’m petrified by the prospect of introductory cover letters and interviews. One of my associate friends went through a double-digit series of interviews for his current position; I would have thrown in the towel after 2 or 3. So blogging is safer, by far.

My writing style is not fancy or pretentious; I write like “regular people”, but with a slightly larger vocabulary (which I freely admit to boosting using the dictionary and thesaurus!).  I’ve been disturbed by some of the novels that I’ve attempted to read lately. With one such novel (the title of which escapes me) by Will Self, I couldn’t even get past the first few pages because it was written in this kind of double-speak, and some phrases were randomly in capital letters and others in italics, and it was all in a strange old-timey British dialect. It made me feel like I wasn’t a sophisticated enough reader to be able to get beyond the affectation, like the author thought he was so clever that his books will only be accessible to other smarty-pants like him/her (but it’s mostly a “him” thing, I’ve found).  I’ve read articles where the authors criticize the “non-creative class” who presume to foist their “creations” upon the world via Vine or YouTube or Twitter, or the nonsensical genre of TV reality shows about people who do nothing but appear on a TV reality show. While part of me agrees with this disdain (how did the Kardashians become so ubiquitous? Why does anyone care?? That’s a whole other blog post), another part of me says, who are these elitist snobs, who feel they have to put down the great unwashed and call them no-talent delusional losers (which might even include me, as a mere “blogger”, presumably)?

When I was thinking about starting a blog, I considered calling it “The Blog of I” (actually, the first iteration was “The Book of I”, but I am miles away from bookville).  My reasoning was that nearly every sentence I wrote in my journals (and presumably would write in any blog or book of essays) began with the word “I”. Clearly this stems from a self-obsession which doesn’t necessarily derive from self-confidence. I am irredeemably trapped in my own head.

Spending so much time stewing in my own brain accounts for another facet of my personal writing style, which is that I have a tendency to jump right in, as if the reader has been in my head following along with my thoughts the whole time and now I’m just starting to say it out loud (or to send my words out into the universe, as the case may be). I believe this is referred to in drama as in media res, where the story or conversation starts in the middle of the action, as if the listener/reader has been party to the conversation in my head the whole time.

That tendency has manifested itself in my real life as well. On Day 1 of law school orientation, I saw a beautiful boy, and then I continued to see him as the school year progressed. He was in my section, so he was in most of my classes. There were lots of surreptitious glances but no actual contact beyond an occasional smile and nod. However, in my MIND, and in my journals, I had this whole fantasy friendship with him. I visualized how we would meet (multiple alternatives), and I had many imaginary conversations with him. I invented details about him just by virtue of watching his movements around campus and overhearing conversations (being an older law student, I was invisible to a lot of my fellows in that I did not factor into the overlay of flirtation and mate-hunting so prevalent among my twenty-something classmates, so I was able to almost become a fly on the wall sometimes).

Year two began, and he was again in a few of my classes.  One day, for some reason but seemingly without any premeditation on my part (apart from the entire fantasy friendship with him that I had created in my own mind), as we were walking out of the room after class one day, I spoke to him. I complimented him on his shirt, which was a pale purple. I said something like, “That’s one of my favorite colors, but it takes a confident man to wear pale purple.” As if we’d been friends and having conversations all along!!  But it was his reaction that was most surprising of all: Not only did he not cringe away in disgust – “Why is this creepy old lady talking to me?? Do I even KNOW her??” – he actually laughed and said, “Thanks . . . I think!”  And with that small conversation starter, with me stepping out of my black-and-white head and into colorful reality, almost like Dorothy emerging into Munchkinland, we became REAL LIFE friends. We spent the entire graduation ceremony together, thumb wrestling and making each other laugh, and had one glorious bar exam study session at my house in Long Beach. We still correspond occasionally now via Facebook, but I’m always reminded of that story when I think of how I like to just jump right into my writing sometimes – as if you’ve been a party to the conversation in my head all along.

I wanted to start a blog so that I could rant and/or rave about things that interest me, releasing my thoughts from the prison of my brain and offering them to the universe in a way that is familiar and comfortable to me, because I have been writing this way for as long as I can remember. I never want to shy away from naming names, whether it’s hockey players or celebrities or authors or artists or songwriters, although when it comes to naming names of real people in my life, I’m not always sure where to draw the line. I’ve made a sort of self-imposed rule where I won’t publish someone’s first and last names unless I know they’ve got a “public” presence, on Facebook or otherwise. But there are certainly people from my past who I would LOVE to read something I wrote in my blog about them.  If they somehow discovered me via the blog post, and saw what I wrote about them, I would hope that they would be flattered and proud and it would make them feel good. So I will occasionally give a shout-out to people from my past (and present), but most of the time I will keep things anonymous and readers will just have to wonder.

In any event, I would never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause them shame.  This blog is meant to be rife with positivity in the hope that it will occasionally inspire people to be nicer to one another. That’s the real purpose for me starting this blog – and maybe my purpose in life.

Am I Ready for Some Football?

I used to love football as much as I love hockey. It was another “dad” thing, watching the New York Giants with him in the late ‘60s and 1970s, when the Giants weren’t very good. I’d always need a back up team to root for when the playoffs started.  At different times, it was the Chiefs, the Vikings, even the Cowboys, I reluctantly admit. I mean, they WERE “America’s Team” for a reason, after all. They were a largely likeable lot, with Coach Tom Landry in his fedora and classy ex-Navy QB Roger Staubach and the smooth Tony Dorsett – even Bob Hayes, at one time the fastest man on earth. It was tough not to root for those guys even though they were the Giants’ direct rivals. They only became obnoxious when Jerry Jones became the owner and Jimmy Johnson, with his lacquered helmet of hair, became the coach, and don’t get me started on Tony Romo, one of the few professional athletes whose misfortunes (of which there are many, often self-inflicted) I relish.

In college I graduated from keeping stats for the JV football team – a role which I lobbied for with my freshman advisor, Trinity College’s beloved swimming and JV football coach, Chet McPhee – to working with the “big club”, although the largely clueless head coach Don Miller never quite understood what I was doing hanging around. On the other hand, lovable curmudgeon and unanimously feared equipment manager (and my dear mentor) Frank Marchese fully understood that the only reason I was there was because I wanted to be part of the team. He respected my motives and took me under his wing, which led to my being his proxy equipment caretaker for all the away games. I thoroughly enjoyed two-a-days in August, just me and the players on campus, tooling around in the golf cart, positioning the tackling dummies, filling up and delivering the water bucket and then gathering the discarded paper cups that inevitably missed the trash can, focusing my attention on a different group – the DBs and their tip drills, the linemen pounding the sleds – every day. During the season, down in the trenches, I thrived on getting filthy, spat and bled on, although I knew enough to get out of the way when a large tangle of bodies would come my way. I also kept statistics and was the guardian of the kicking tees (which I had to run on the field to retrieve) and the footballs – both game balls and practice balls, the latter of which were far more vulnerable. The guys always thought they could get one over on me and walk off with a souvenir, but I was as aggressive about reclaiming those footballs as I’ve been about anything in my life, before or since. They were Frank’s footballs, and they had to be protected!

In the years after college, though, there was something about football that changed for me, lessened my enjoyment of it, that didn’t have a parallel with hockey. For a while, I blamed my ex-husband’s violent scissor-throwing fanaticism for turning me off to a game I had previously loved so passionately. But there were clearly other factors at play.

Even before the stomach-turning video of Ray Rice punching and dragging his wife (for which there is NO excuse) and Adrian Peterson’s child abuse charges (for which there may have been an excuse, but the episode was still a harsh reminder of the violence that always underlies the game, even for a charming and seemingly stand-up guy like Adrian Peterson), I think the incident that made me re-think what football is doing to the young men who play it for a living was the 2012 murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher. It was not lost on me that the shooting took place in the parking lot of the team facility, in the figurative shadows of the goalposts. There’s seemingly only the wrong kind of support for football players from their teams and the league, from the time they’re in the pee wee leagues until they’re multi-millionaires, with ready women and drugs and, worst of all, guns. Plaxico Burress, a local hero after winning the Super Bowl with the Giants, shot himself in the leg with a gun in a nightclub. What a completely idiotic move, the death knell of what promised to be an amazing career. But who was there to tell this man that bringing a gun into a club is NEVER a smart move, let alone to carry it in such a way that you could risk shooting your own damn self by accident?

The other thing I have come to hate about football are the injuries. It seems like every play ends with a player limping or being helped off the field. The Giants in particular have lost an insane number of man-games to injury over the past few years and, probably not coincidentally, they haven’t made the playoffs, either. But those visible injuries – even those involving the dreaded cart coming on to the field – pale in comparison to the ongoing tragedy of chronic traumatic encepholapathy (CTE).

Not surprisingly, CTE was originally detected in boxers. There was a short time in my life when I enjoyed boxing, probably climaxing with the 1984 Olympics, when the U.S. boxing team won gold in nine weight classes (plus a silver and a bronze), but extending to the early careers of people like Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar de la Hoya, who somehow retained their gorgeous faces despite the barbarity of their profession. But I can’t bring myself to watch boxing now, or even the more edgy MMA (despite the impressive pulchritude of Ronda Rousey), because I find myself cringing with every landed punch.

A few years ago, a writer named Jeanne Marie Laskas wrote a powerful piece in GQ [“Game Brain” GQ (Sept. 14, 2009), describing the work of a Pittsburgh doctor named Bennet Omalu to solve the mystery of why ex-footballers like popular Steeler Mike Webster and others (and later many more, including household names Dave Duerson and Junior Seau) literally lost their minds, often ending their lives in some form of suicide (whether it was officially called that or not). What he found in all of their brains was CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions. (CTE has likewise been discovered in the brains of hockey players who had also died horribly young, whether at their own hands or otherwise, like Bob Probert and Derek Boogard, who also happened to be fighters who had a tendency to get frequently punched in the head.) So fascinating is Dr. Omalu’s story – as well as the utter rejection and denial he and his findings have suffered at the hands of the NFL – that it has been made into a movie called “Concussion”, due out in December, starring Will Smith. (The trailer looks fantastic.)

As far as I’m concerned, the only conclusion to be drawn is this: The constant head battering of football players – both in spite of and because of their state-of-the-art protective gear (and perhaps, it has been surmised, in combination with performance-enhancing steroids) – from the time they’re ten years old till the sport has taken its final toll on their still-young but preternaturally aged bodies, is giving them all irreparable brain damage.

Author Steve Almond has eloquently captured the reasons for my failing love affair with football in his recent interview with Ramon Ramirez [“Why You Should Quit Watching Football,” THE KERNEL (Aug. 30, 2015), “It is insanely beautiful. It is balladic. It is the miracle of the body at play. It is Barry Sanders absolutely making a shatteringly beautiful move and breaking free in the open. It is your team rising up and wining against great odds. It’s the strategic density of the game. It’s the primal oomph of seeing a really good hit laid on the other team’s quarterback. . . . But if you’re gonna have that, then you also have to realize it is this other thing, too – this insanely greedy, cynical industry. It is absolutely sanitizing and normalizing violence and misogyny. It’s making you see the world through a really distorted racial lens. And it’s valuing people under very limited conditions and causing you to suppress your empathy all the time.” Almond has also written a book called Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto [Melville House, 2014]. Full disclosure – I have not read it yet but I definitely plan to, because it promises to address a lot of my concerns.

Almond actually gave up watching his beloved Oakland Raiders cold turkey. I don’t know that I am ready to completely stop watching football (although I may be after reading his book). Whereas just a few years ago, I would immerse myself in football every Sunday, from ESPN’s Chris Berman-led panel show Sunday NFL Countdown, to the early game on CBS and the late game (usually involving the Giants) on FOX, then of course (especially if the Giants won) the 11 p.m. local news highlights, followed by the Sports Extra – it was pigskin, pigskin, pigskin, all day long – now I can barely sit and watch an entire Giant game, kickoff to 0:00, especially if the running game is going nowhere and then Eli throws a bunch of needless interceptions. I’m almost tempted to scream at the TV, “BORING!!”

Much like with my mixed feelings for hockey (see my blog post “Hockey: An Obsession”, April 21, 2015), there are still things I enjoy about football, although I certainly have no interest in the fantasy aspect, which I believe has become a bigger driver in football viewership these days than any pure love of the game. But I may be able to content myself with having it on in the background on autumn Sunday afternoons and just watching the four or five big plays from each game on a continuous replay loop and be satisfied with that.