Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Potpourri and Another Top Ten List

In the nine months that I’ve been writing this blog (!!), I’ve tried to follow up “heavier” posts with something a little more light and fluffy.  So this week, consider yourselves lightened and fluffed!

Some thoughts I’ve had recently that I’d like to share with the kind readers I’ve picked up along the way (and thanks to all of you for giving me the time of day – literally!):

My daughter is home from college this week.  While I love seeing her beautiful face, and I always enjoy her company, I’ve realized that I have really become set in my ways as a loner.  I have no sense of the loudness of the TV or my music; I eat what I want when I want; I keep the house as clean or as dirty as I find tolerable (although my cleanliness has increased by a factor of five since the ringworm infestation as I try to keep up with the unending furballs).  This will always be her home, but I think we are in the initial phase of our parent-child separation.  She will go off on her adventures, eventually setting up a home of her own once she figures out what she needs to be doing and where she needs to be doing it.  And this will be home for me and the creatures perhaps for the rest of my life, especially if I’m going to elevate the house, which is a whole new set of stresses and anxieties for me to deal with over the coming months.  By this time next year, we will hopefully have to go up and down a staircase to get into the house, but my long parking nightmare will finally be over and I can have some semblance of a social life in the summer.  Watch this space for venting sessions about finding short-term housing, dealing with contractors and watching the expenses escalate out of control.

* * *

I’ve kept a hand-written journal since my sophomore year in college, with very few gaps of longer than a few days.  My thoughts did dry up temporarily in conjunction with the dissolution of my marriage, but that’s another blog post for another time.  What I’m getting at here, though, is that I have been extraordinarily lax with my journal entries recently, which I suspect is a direct result of my blogging.  Yes, I definitely scribble the seeds of ideas for blog posts in longhand, in color-coordinated ink to match the color of the notebook (except when my pen runs out of ink before the end of the notebook and I have to (*shudder*) use non-matching color – clear evidence of OCD), but lately I can sometimes go days without writing, and that feels weird to me.

Why have I saved my journals for so many years, schlepping them from home to home?  In my fantasies, I imagine reading through my continuous journals from cover to cover, from Day 1 (September 5, 1978) to the present day.  I’ve even got journals from younger days, like my Chile notebooks [see “Viajes”, 7/14/15] and, stored away in a plastic drawstring bag that hasn’t been opened for decades, some of my earliest attempts at fiction writing.  I am CERTAIN that I will find nuggets for future blog posts in all those writings, with my handwriting changing (and yet staying somehow the same) through the years.  But when will this fantasy ever come true?  When I win the lottery, of course, but what if that DOESN’T happen?  Maybe it will have to wait until I retire.

* * *

My daily rhythms are becoming predictable, which probably means they’re natural, but unfortunately they don’t gibe with real life.  I stay up until 2:30 or 3 a.m., I wake up at 9:30 or 10 a.m.  That’s just how I seem to function best when left to my own devices.  I’ve always been – and likely always will be – a night owl.  My mother was before me, and her mother before her.  I have to believe it’s genetic.  I was happiest with my work schedule when I was a bartender, arriving at 8 p.m., closing up shop at 4 a.m., going out to breakfast, and then sleeping till 12.

* * *

I’ve been taking a pill called Belviq that my doctor recommended to help with weight loss.  Evidently, it’s supposed to make you feel fuller faster, so ostensibly you eat less.  But my problem is not overeating at meals, per se.  I’ve learned a thing or two about portion control over my yo-yo dieting lifetime.  My affliction is my sweet tooth, my addiction is dessert, and late-night, couch-potato snacking is my downfall.  Even with a discount the Belviq prescription costs $75 a month, plus a $30 co-pay at the doctor’s office for a weigh-in.  So it has turned out to be way too expensive for me to continue taking medication that has demonstrated no desired results in three months.  In order to lose some weight (for health purposes as well as fitting and looking better in my clothes), I guess I’ll have to go back to a system that actually worked for me:  writing down everything I eat and keeping track of calories.  This time I’ll add an accounting of carbohydrates (less than 30 a day) and protein (as much as possible).  But with Thanksgiving this week, and the inevitable overeating that goes along with it, I’ll just have to start on Monday!

* * *

I’ve been hearing a great song recently on my favorite terrestrial radio station WFUV that features a trio of singers:  two men – one of whom is Elvis Costello and the other of whom has a gravelly and slightly atonal voice – and one country-tinged woman.  After some consideration, I guessed that the gravelly voiced guy might be Kris Kristofferson, and I was right.  Even though I hadn’t heard Kris Kristofferson for years, he has such a distinctive signature sound.  The woman turned out to be Roseanne Cash, and the song is called “April 5th”.  It evidently was written by the three of them (plus Cash’s husband, prolific songwriter and producer John Leventhal) and will be included on an album being released in conjunction with Costello’s memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.  Interestingly, Costello, Cash and Kristofferson couldn’t figure out what to call themselves:  CCK looked too much like a former Soviet republic; KCC looked like it could compete with a certain fried chicken franchise.  CKC seems like a keeper, but that might get them in trouble with Calvin Klein.  Even if they can’t figure out what order to put their initials in, the three of them (four, including Levanthal) are unquestionably talented and enduring songwriters.  Unfortunately, none of them made this week’s Top Ten List of Nan’s Favorite Songwriters.

Of course, this list is subject to change, and I’d love to hear other people’s favorites.  But when I’m fighting boredom making inventories in my head of the song-meisters who have created more of my favorite music than anyone else, these are the ones I come up first:

  1. David Bowie: I may have mentioned that I finally got my Five Years Bowie collection, which consists of his first six albums, all of which I had lost (on vinyl) in the flood:  David Bowie (which features “Space Oddity” and some other folksy nuggets); The Man Who Sold the World (which introduced the world to the shimmering Mick Ronson); Hunky Dory (which contains one of Bowie’s most whimsical songs, “Kooks”, which he dedicates to his infant son Zowie, who later changed his name to Joe, then Duncan, and who is now a film director); Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (genius – my favorite of Bowie album of all time); Aladdin Sane (covering a range of sounds from hard-rocking “Panic in Detroit” to saccharine-sweet “The Prettiest Star”, the latter of which was allegedly written for his wife, the fame whore Angie Bowie); and Pin-Ups (an album of covers with a painted photo cover of Bowie in his red-headed rooster phase and human stalk and iconic Sixties model Twiggy; Bowie actually calls her “Twig the Wonder Kid” in “Drive-In Saturday” on Aladdin Sane).  The collection also features a couple of live albums and some alternate versions but, very disappointingly, did not include Diamond Dogs or a very early collection of his embryonic songs on a double-disc import album I once owned on vinyl but lost in the flood.  I LOVED that album (each song’s title was colorfully illustrated in a comic panel), but this Five Years collection doesn’t have a single one of the songs from that collection.  [See “Some Thoughts about David Bowie”, 4/7/15].  In any event, Bowie carries on, even approaching his seventies.  He’s releasing a brand new album in January called Blackstar, which, from what I’ve read, to be a little more jazzy and experimental.  But even if I don’t love the whole album (as I ALWAYS did back in Bowie’s early days), I’m sure there will be something memorable and singularly Bowie on it.
  2. Lennon-McCartney: Need I say more?  They are inextricably linked with each other (even though their writing styles later became very distinctive) and are the godfathers of all pop songwriting.
  3. Billie Joe Armstrong: I believe the Green Day front man is the modern day equivalent of Lennon and McCartney.  He is punk personified but can write anthemic show tunes with the best of them.  The majority of his songs are little pieces of perfection.  Fellow Green Day-ers Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool certainly make a contribution, but Billy Joe makes it all work.
  4. Jagger-Richards: In my mind, never the equal of Lennon-McCartney although they were contemporaries, but their sheer longevity and some of the most catchy hooks and lyrics EVER put these guys on my list.
  5. Nick Cave: Dark genius, and a true poet.  He’s also written some incredibly creepy fiction.  If you dare, check out And the Ass Saw the Angel.  It will stay with you (and not necessarily in a good way).
  6. Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow Puppets fame): With his command of language, he can turn a phrase like few others.  He’s a contemporary and lyrical compatriot of the other UK Alex . . .
  7. Alex Kapranos (of Franz Ferdinand fame): One of my clients is a huge Alex Kapranos fan.  He once quoted a Franz Ferdinand song when speaking at an aircraft industry conference, rightly assuming that it would complete go over the audience members’ heads, because of course people at aircraft industry conferences do not appreciate Alex Kapranos’ brand of pithy poetry.  But my client does, and I certainly do.
  8. Tobias Sammet: Little known outside of prog rock circles, introduced to me by a law school buddy, this incredible German singer and composer is a virtuosic talent, having written at least three metal operas under the “Avantasia” banner, as well as having a more accessible rock-band outlet called Edguy.  Check him out by all means.  You will not be sorry.
  9. Tilbrook-Difford: Not only did their voices – Tilbrook high, Difford extremely low – meld together in a unique way, their joint writing style was responsible for some of the catchiest, most expressive songs of the ‘80s.  (“Pulling Muscles from a Shell”?  “Tempted”?  Really??  Who doesn’t remember loving those songs?  Our favorite in college was “If I Didn’t Love You”, but we loved pretty much all of them.)  I am so looking forward to seeing Squeeze Acoustic at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on December 17 with my friend Sue (part of my birthday present)!  Sue and I went to see them back in the early ’80s at the Malibu nightclub right here in Long Beach, and we were at the venue so early that we actually saw (and spoke very briefly to) Glenn Tilbrook in a car in the parking lot!
  10. Marc Bolan: Yes, many of his songs sound alike, BUT THEY ALL SOUND AWESOME.  They are timeless ear worms of the first order and bring on involuntary boogying.

Honorable Mention:

Ray Davies:  From the raw “You Really Got Me” to the sublime album (also lost in the flood) Schoolboys in Disgrace to the impeccable “Rock and Roll Fantasy,” Ray Davies has a magic touch with words and music not many can match.

Neil Young:  I prefer his earlier stuff to his more “political” recent work, but his earlier stuff – from Buffalo Springfield days, through CSNY to his solo career – is without peer.  His Decades anthology features all of his best tunes in one place, although it leaves out my favorite Neil Young song, “Tell Me Why”, which is on After the Gold Rush, which was sadly also lost in the flood and must be replaced.

Finally, I must add a newbie to this list:  Adele.  Not only does the woman have an otherworldly instrument, she writes or co-writes most of those heart-wrenching songs herself.  It amazes me how much we enjoy this woman’s romantic suffering, but she makes it all so deeply felt and gorgeous, how could we resist?

Unfortunately, her most recent single, “Hello”, is going to be ruined by overplay, but the first time I heard it, it literally brought a lump to my throat.  I love when music does that, thanks to genius songwriters like those on my Top Ten List.

All the Madmen

It’s often said that the other side of genius is madness, although it is more likely that the artistic lifestyle and not a psychological disorder causes afflictions like depression to affect artists ten times more often than the general population.  [Hara Estroff Marano, “Genius and Madness”, Psychology Today, 5/7/07,].  Artists are the lucky madmen, even if they don’t always see it that way (and hence we lose them by their own hand far too frequently).  At least they have a potentially positive outlet for their insanity, giving it form in a way that also produces something meaningful for the rest of us to appreciate.  But then there’s the destructive side of madness, which not only destroys the madman but also everyone around him.

I read an article on The Gothamist website the other day [Rebecca Fishbein, “Study Says One in 5 New Yorkers Suffer from Depression, Mental Illness,” Gothamist Daily, November 13, 2015,] citing a new study by the NYC Health Department that concluded that there is a mental health “crisis” in NYC that takes a multi-billion-dollar toll on every aspect of society:  schools, crime and prisons, homelessness, and of course the entire over-burdened health care system.  I’d wager that it’s an even higher percentage than one in 5 but, because it’s so shameful to be mentally ill, people have devised ways to hide the craziness – at least most of the time – until the lid of the pressure cooker inevitably explodes.  For instance, there’s a woman who works as a secretary at my law firm who wears eye liner so thick she resembles a cartoon bandit, scans the company trash for rag-baggy treasure (I’ve been told she’s a hoarder and, while I have no proof of this, it would not surprise me in the least) and talks to herself out loud in two different voices – her normal voice and a high, squeaky one.  And yet she managed to convince someone in HR – probably more than one someone – that she was fit to work in a respectable law firm.

Mental illness manifests itself in drug addiction, or sexual obsession, or lashing out at others with varying degrees of violence, or, in its ultimate form, suicide.  One can only hope that, if it gets to the point of such hopelessness, the sufferer doesn’t take anyone else with him (which of course does not take into consideration the pain he leaves behind in friends and family members who wonder what they could have done differently to save him).

But where does all this depression and mental illness come from?  The Gothamist article follows on the heels of a report – featured on the November 6 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher – that middle-class whites (especially men) are dying in greater numbers at a younger age than at any time in recent history.  [Angus Deaton & Anne Case, “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century,” PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), Sept. 17, 2015,]  Bill Maher and his guest panelists had an interesting discussion about why white American men are drinking, drugging and otherwise propelling themselves to an early death at greater rates than in any other advanced country and at any time in the past 100 years.  One guy on the panel (David Frum, conservative political pundit) said the higher death rates were due to the lack of religion and religious communities.  The one woman on the panel, Jillian Melchior of the Independent Women’s Forum – who actually held her own with the men even though it was her first time on the show – agreed with Frum and pointed out that researchers have shown that there is a correlation between decreasing religiosity and more frequent self-imposed death (by way of drink, drugs and suicide) among white people.  The third panelist, disgraced politician and infamous dick-pic-er, Anthony Wiener, and Bill Maher, who is zealously anti-organized religion, of course took the tack that religion has little to do with it and the rising mortality rates are due to white folks feeling more powerless than ever in the face of an oligarchy that has no respect for them except as pawns in a rich man’s game.  Maher also referenced the “more pie for me” greed that drives a wedge between the 1 percent and the rest of us, with little hope (apart from the lottery) to rise out of the economic hole in which the middle class has found itself.

All of these explanations offer a little piece of truth, and there are quite a few rationales they didn’t mention – most significantly, that white male entitlement is being chipped away as the Caucasian Christian populace becomes even more of a minority in the world and historically oppressed groups are no longer content to remain quiet when faced with injustice.  And, as epitomized by the farce that is Donald Trump, there’s rampant narcissism among this population:  The world is supposed to revolve around ME, privileged white guy, but of course it doesn’t, so the privileged white guy lashes out in anger and impotence.  There was an entertaining  article on the Vanity Fair website the other day [Henry Alford, “Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist?  Therapists Weigh In!”, Vanity Fair, 11/11/15,] that assessed Trump’s textbook narcissism.  Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis defined it thusly:  “Narcissism is an extreme defense against one’s own feelings of worthlessness.”  And who made little Donald feel so worthless that he developed such a full-blown narcissistic personality?  Why, Daddy Trump, of course (and probably Granddaddy Trump before him, ad infinitum).  [Another great quote from Michaelis:  “He’s applying for the greatest job in the land, the greatest task of which is to serve, but there’s nothing about the man that is service-oriented.  He’s only serving himself.”]

Mental illness is passed down through generations and the cycle needs to stop somewhere.  It’s like domestic violence – the abuser’s father inevitably abused his mother, and his father’s father abused his grandmother, as far back as anyone can remember, even though no one ever questioned it because women were considered lesser beings and deemed to be little more than property until only about 100 years ago in this country.  Women continue to be treated like second class citizens in other parts of the world, which is further evidence of the absurdity invoked by man’s religion that women have bought into with seemingly little resistance (although, to be fair, the subjugation has been deeply inculcated).  Why would women willingly wear thick black burkas that cover everything but their eyes in 100-degree weather, or hold down little girls while they’re being mutilated so they can never enjoy sexual pleasure, or voluntarily sequester themselves when they menstruate because they’re “unclean” and force their daughters to do the same?  Why, it’s because their mothers did it to them, and their mothers’ mothers, and so on.  It’s not only men who perpetuate these inhumane attitudes; it’s also the women who have had these attitudes (sometimes literally) pounded into them for generations and have, regrettably, internalized it rather than fight back.

How can we put an end to the madness?  I think it needs to start in school, both on an education basis and also from the perspective of screening for mental illness and dealing with it as soon as it’s discovered so we don’t end up with a monster like Adam Lanza, barely more than a boy himself, chillingly murdering children for reasons we will never comprehend.  By law, all children must go to one school or another (and even the home-schooled need to check in with the State Board of Education), so it might be our best opportunity to reach as many people as possible to identify the mentally ill and help them before they destroy themselves and, perhaps, innocent others who are guilty of no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even more important than screening to unearth mental illness early is treating it effectively when it’s identified.  Instead of wasting billions of pharmaceutical R&D dollars on helping men maintain their erections, we need to find better ways to treat – and cure – dysfunctions of the brain that cause human beings to snap and shoot up movie theaters and shopping malls and elementary schools, or to seek out and follow psychotic Svengalis who are shrewd enough to tap into those mental illnesses and cause impressionable and controllable young people – those most lacking in healthy identities, due to whatever mental illness may affect them – to become fanatical accomplices in death and destruction on a mass scale, even to the point of blowing themselves to oblivion in the service of an unprovable sham and a reward that will never be realized.

Every once in a while, when I hear about yet another horrific act of terror and the murder of innocents in the name of “God” (“God is good!” they yell before detonating the bombs that kill themselves and as many other random human beings as they can possibly kill), I wish there actually WAS an all-knowing, all-seeing deity who would finally say (as He seemed to do quite frequently back in the day, if one is to believe the Bible and the other holy texts), in a booming voice clear enough for everyone to hear and understand, “Enough is enough!  You fools have perverted my words for the last time!” and smite all the bad guys with one appropriately named “act of God”.  Because by any spiritual measure, human beings and the planet we live on are amazing miracles designed and created by something, and how could that something want its incredible magnum opus to be so callously destroyed – in its name, no less?  Religion is the creation of humans (men, almost exclusively), but the creation that is life in all its forms came from something else, and it’s an insane abomination to destroy it in the name, and as the imagined instrument, of the perceived creator.

As long as there is both good and evil in this world, I believe mankind’s most diligent efforts should be directed at curing evil, because evil is really nothing more than the most serious mental illness there is.

Some Thoughts on Fashion

I am a big fan of “Project Runway”.  I wasn’t on board from Day 1 but my friend Sue raved about the show so I started watching in Season 4 and I’ve been hooked ever since.  This season, a miracle occurred when a designer who creates chic clothing for “real women,” not pin-thin models and socialites, finally won!  Ashley Nell Tipton had her ups and downs and probably shed more tears than anyone I have ever seen on “Project Runway,” but she was a most deserving champion.  I am certain we will see much more of her beautiful, innovative designs in the months and years to come.  She is a true talent, at age 24, unafraid to use vivid colors and unique materials and bold enough to put crop tops and sleek catsuits on big girls.  Big girls deserve to look cute too, you know!

My fondness for “Project Runway” is a bit contradictory, though, as I am probably the least fashion-conscious person of anyone I know.  As mentioned in last week’s blog, my personal style could be most accurately described as ragamuffin. On any given day, I could be easily mistaken for one of the Little Rascals.  Frankly, it’s highly unlikely that my distinctive non-fashion, which I’ve been rocking for nearly my entire life, will ever be supplanted unless a friend or family member arranges an all-expenses-paid “make-over” for me on a show like “What Not to Wear” or “Ellen”, in which case I’d suffer the re-do with a smile on my public face but would inevitably fall back to my old-standby style a day or so later in the privacy of my own closet.

The primary wardrobe concern for me is COMFORT.  If clothes are not comfortable, I do not want to wear them.  It boggles my mind how women torture themselves in a misguided attempt to “look good”, but evidently there are psychological and sociological reasons at the root of the teetering high heels and skin-tight skirts and push-up bras that working women seem to feel the need to wear every day.  (And that doesn’t even take into consideration “evening wear”; I wonder sometimes if these women have to stand all night in their stilettos because they literally cannot sit.)

Not long ago I read the first volume of an impressive, meticulously researched tome by Marilyn French called From Eve to Dawn:  A History of Woman in the World, Vol. 1:  Origins (The Feminist Press, 2008).  At the risk of handing over the reins of my blog to a far superior writer, here is French’s assessment of women’s fashion:

“To escape this general disparagement [from men, primarily, but also from other women], women try to present themselves as above criticism or contempt.  Such presentation is fostered by apparel that is clearly not designed for everyday life ….  Women who adopt uncomfortable attire are desperate to distinguish themselves from the scorned common run.  High fashion turns women into works of art, and women have always been willing to sacrifice freedom for the appearance of transcendence.  What power is to a man, illusion is to a woman.  You can count on this:  in any society, in any period, whatever style emerges to distinguish the elite from ordinary women will physically constrict.”

But what of those who are NOT elite, who fall into the “other” categories (including, in the words of French, “fat women, old women … women with pendulous breasts or bellies or buttocks” and “little old ladies in tennis shoes“)?  Well, if they’re not being subjected to ridicule, they are otherwise completely unseen.  In a very amusing article I read recently, “The insults of age:  A one-woman assault on condescension” [The Monthly website, 5/28/15,], writer Helen Garner points out that such invisibility carries hidden benefits:  “I had known for years, of course, that beyond a certain age women become invisible in public spaces.  The famous erotic gaze is withdrawn.  You are no longer, in the eyes of the world, a sexual being.”  But Ms. Garner finds this oddly liberating:  “Oh, the relief! You have nothing to prove.  You can saunter about the world in overalls.”

I long ago decided I didn’t care what I looked like.  It might have something to do with having sworn off romantic relationships but, truth be told, even in my “randy” years, my outfits may have been edgy (and of course comfortable) but not in any way sexy.  I’ve always had slim legs, so I didn’t mind wearing short skirts, but high heels just weren’t in my repertoire.  They’re still not.  I prefer boots in the winter, sneakers for walking or working at the shelter, and flip-flops basically from April through October.  I only wear stretchy pants that you don’t have to hold your breath to button, although I recently purchased a pair of Jennifer Lopez “boyfriend” jeans that are at least two sizes too big, so I don’t even need to open them to pull them up and down.  T-shirts – both short- and long-sleeved, depending on the weather – and sweatshirts are my go-to top wear.  And the less said about bras, the better – the ones I wear offer little to no support because otherwise they would be too pinchy and restrictive; even with my loose, saggy bras, the first thing I do when I come home after wearing one all day is to TAKE IT THE HELL OFF.

Even though I’m admittedly on the large side (especially in the breastal region), I have a tendency to wear clothes that are oversized and baggy, perhaps figuring that big clothes will somehow make me look smaller than I actually am.  It might even be a subconscious attempt to make myself – or my body, at least – disappear into a mass of cloth.  My body has always felt alien to me – not in a Caitlin Jenner kind of way, but that’s another blog post for another day.  The idea of exposing this strange corpus to the light of day is mortifying!  Ergo, the larger the clothes, the more I am swallowed up and the better I feel.

And please don’t get me started on clothes shopping, not only because I despise spending a lot of money on my attire (and yet I’m also troubled by the fact that the cheapest items of clothing are made by children in Southeast Asian sweatshops) but also because the fashion industry seems to think that fat women only like to wear loud prints and vertical stripes and pants in varying shades of black made of fabrics not found in nature which make skin-crawling squeaky sounds when the ladies’ legs rub together (as they will).

So thank the stars for Ashley Nell Tipton and her plum-colored crop tops and lacy rompers and flirty little skirts with comfy waistbands!  Finally, a designer who thinks that even big girls – ESPECIALLY big girls – should feel good in their clothes!

Random Thoughts on Election Day 2015

Ringworm has taken up residence at my house.  Well, technically, ringworm has only taken up residence on Luna and me (at least so far), but major steps must be taken to prevent any of the other creatures who share my home from contracting the nasty bugger, which is not only a rampant, itchy annoyance but also an absurdly designated fungal infection that is neither a ring (although it sometimes does appear as a round shape) nor a worm and which also goes by the more familiar – and “sporty” – names of athlete’s foot and jock itch.  According to our vet, ringworm is transmitted by infected hair follicles that can live up to a month even detached from the host, so I’ve had to do a massive clean-up.  I bought a moderately expensive new vacuum cleaner that actually works (unlike my wimpy cheapo cordless), but even with the new vacuum it took an awful lot of elbow grease to make a dent in the layers of hair on my living room sofa and chair and the dust bunny colonies in every hidden corner of the house.

As part of this cleaning process, I also took all the dog and cat beds to a nearby Laundromat (which the guy who fixed my broken washer on two separate occasions told me to do so as not to gum up my plumbing with fur).  I managed to squeeze in some errands – including voting at the elementary school a couple of blocks away – but while I was waiting for the dryer to finish, I overheard some of the locals talking about the present election, which, admittedly, is a particularly un-sexy one.  Only some judges, state and county legislators and, significantly for Long Beach residents, city council members were up for consideration.  One guy was saying he never votes, and questioned who the candidates were, and wondered if they even lived in Long Beach.  The Laundromat attendant said she only votes for the president.  I cringed a little at this exchange and almost opened my mouth to comment but thought better of it.  These folks are just indicative of a larger problem:  The reason why our elected officials are such jokes is because John and Joan Q. Public (who, it must be said, are very good at complaining about nefarious and yet nebulous “politicians”) don’t make their preferences known when given the opportunity.  True, a lot of people don’t bother to vote because they feel like they don’t have much of a choice (i.e., between bad and worse), they don’t know the candidates, or they have no clue what legislators and local executives or city councils even do.  So the people who get elected are the ones who have been most successful at mobilizing their cronies to vote for them on Election Day while everyone else stays home.

This year’s election was even more of a “throwaway” for a lot of people because they are focused (and have been for some time) on the circus that is the 2016 presidential and congressional elections.  I’ve previously discussed my political leanings in this blog (see “OK POLITICS”, 6/30/15).  I remain a fan of Bernie Sanders (I like Elizabeth Warren even more and believe her time will come), but I would be satisfied to support Hillary Clinton for president, which is exciting from the perspective of knocking down yet another barrier to American public service at the highest level – first an African-American as president, and now a woman.

I am curious to see how the Republican bozos shake out, because they’re all so insane.  The best that can be hoped is that they’ll split the vote,  because the Republican Party as currently configured is hopelessly fractured, and none – NOT A SINGLE ONE – of the GOP candidates has said anything worth listening to.

On the other hand, Bernie speaks such common sense, it’s inconceivable to me how anyone could choose not to be on the Bernie bandwagon.  But no, opponents of Bernie’s common sense platform fall back on the juvenile tactic of calling him a communist and saying he’s unelectable.  Why is Bernie unelectable, even among Democrats?  Because he’s too old, too “East Coast intellectual”, too progressive, too Jewish?  Just consider Bernie’s 11-step economic plan:

  1. Invest in schools, roads, bridges and airports
  2. Transition from fossil fuels to renewables
  3. Make it easier for workers to join a union
  4. Raise the minimum wage
  5. Equal pay regardless of sex or gender
  6. Reform trade policies that send jobs overseas
  7. Make college affordable
  8. Break up the big banks
  9. Make healthcare available to all
  10. Expand Social Security, Medicaid and food stamps
  11. Reform the tax code and close corporate loopholes

Other than the ridiculously rich (who are seemingly never satisfied with their excess of money but instead do everything in their power to get more), and with the possible exception of items #3 and 10 (which are legitimately debatable but only in so far as the scope), who in their right mind could argue against any of those points?  No, please, don’t make college affordable!  And whatever you do, DON’T INVEST IN ROADS, SCHOOLS, BRIDGES AND AIRPORTS!!  Doesn’t everyone love potholes and crumbling bridges and children who can’t read?  It’s mind-boggling to me, especially when I hear middle-class folks clamoring for Republican candidates (especially Donald Trump).  What will Trump or any Republican do for YOU, dear fellow middle-class person?? Not a whole hell of a lot.

I’m exceedingly frustrated with the whole electoral process, from the campaign finance juggernaut, to gerrymandering districts to ensure desired results to the electoral college system itself, which might have made sense in the time of the forefathers but ignores the fact that the popular vote – and ONLY the popular vote – should be the deciding factor in a presidential election.  (Just ask Al Gore what he thinks about that.)

I still consider voting a privilege and a responsibility, and I will never NOT vote, even if my choices are between terrible and not-quite-as-terrible, and even if it’s just a local city council election.  After all, it’s those local elections where the man on the street has the loudest voice.  These are our neighbors, our colleagues, the parents of our children’s classmates (although the Laundromat guy might have had his doubts about that).  We should all vote in these elections, because it’s the actions of the city council or the county legislators or the town supervisors that will impact us the most in ways we can see, at the local level, with tax hikes (or reductions), rules and regulations for property use, and funding for pet projects in their own towns, such as playgrounds, roads, transportation, services for seniors, libraries and, most importantly, schools.  But isn’t it often the case that it’s in those local elected offices that we see the most corruption?  Maybe it’s because everyone stays home on Election Day in the odd-numbered years except for those people who have a vested interest in seeing their chosen (and paid for?) candidates elected.

What about the people who run for office?  Are they in it for the fame, the potential windfalls or future patronage?  Local politicians should be in this game because they believe in making their communities better places for themselves, their friends and neighbors and their children.  It seems so simple, doesn’t it?  But sadly, I think trying to get the populace more invested in local elections is fighting a losing battle, like trying to stay one step ahead of ringworm.